Marky Mark

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I’ve been thinking about Defenders in 4e recently (in particular wondering why folks say paladins suck) and figured I’ll use this space to work out some comparisons. I think it’s useful to lay out the data side by side.

The core of the Defender is, of course, the marking ability which in some way penalizes one or many foes if they don’t attack the Defender.

Fighter
How you mark: Any foe you attack, hit or miss, may be marked. No action required.
How long?: Until the end of your next turn
Effect: Marked enemy must be adjacent. If it shifts or attacks someone else you get a basic melee attack on it as an immediate interrupt.

Paladin
How you mark: Minor Action, Close Burst 5, One target.
How long?: Until you use this on a new target or fail to engage (attack or end turn adjacent). If you fail to engage you can’t use the Divine Challenge power next turn.
Effect: If marked target makes an attack not including you they take 3+CHA mod Radiant damage (scaling up at lvl 11 and 21) on the first attack they make before the start of your next turn

Swordmage
How you mark: Minor action, Close Burst 2, one target
How long?: Until you mark somebody else
Effect: If the marked foe hits somebody else you either a) teleport next to the foe as an immediate reaction after the attack is resolved and get a free basic melee swipe at it, b) teleport the foe next to you as an immediate reaction after the attack is resolved and the foe grants combat advantage, or c) negate 5+CON mod of the damage (scaling up at 11 and 21)

Warden
How you mark: Mark each adjacent enemy as a free action
How long?: Until the end of your next turn
Effect: Two options: a) If the marked target is in melee range you can make an attack as an immediate interrupt for W+STR damage and if you hit the target grants combat advantage until the end of your next turn or b) As an immediate reaction with close burst 5 you can shift the target 1 and the target is slowed and cannot shift until the end of your next turn.

Okay, let’s look at how these shake out.

First, damage mitigation. The Fighter’s ability as an interrupt can potentially take a foe down before they smack somebody else, as can one of the Warden options. I’d say the Warden wins here for being the most proactive and dishing out the most damage that can potentially down the baddie. The Swordmage damage soaking ability is really nice but it caps out at 10 points or in the heroic tier. That’s going to soak up a lot of regular hits but not ones from big bads.

The secondary effects belonging to the Swordmage and the Warden are solid controllery functions. Moving yourself or the foe around the map is always nifty as is forcing a foe to grant CA. The Paladin and Fighter get no such secondary effects and are miffed (well, okay the Fighter gets to attack if the marked foe moves away from it, and the Paladin deals out a dash of Radiant autohit damage as a reaction, but not great consolation prizes overall).

As for how you apply/sustain the mark, the Paladin just plain out sucks in comparison. Having to engage to maintain the mark makes total sense from an in-character perspective – the job of the Pally is to get up in their grill and stay there – but in comparison to the other mechanics it’s just weaksauce. What’s the point of it being Burst 5? Hopefully something in Divine Power will fix that up a bit. Fighters seem to have it a little better – anybody they attack at least gets the -2 penalty, so picking up some kind of multi-class burst or blast is pretty sweet. But the foe still needs to be adjacent to be able to do anything more. The Swordmage has the ability to apply a mark at range – it’s shorter range to activate than the Paladin but then you have a 10 square leash to play with. The Warden, I feel, comes out on top here by having an innate Burst 1 to apply the Mark, and s/he can move away from those baddies if desired. There’s an effect (although no mitigation) at range or if you stay in close you can whack them for pretty solid damage AND do the shift/slow thing (since that’s a Reaction and not an Interrupt). Flexibility and effectiveness, and it doesn’t even cost you a minor action to mark like it does the Swordmage or the poor Paladin.

Seems to me the order of overall effectiveness runs Pally, Fighter, Swordmage, Warden. Power creep with subsequent book releases? Maybe. I’m kind of surprised that they didn’t change up how the Fighter’s mark worked in Martial Power but maybe I’m just underestimating it. To me though, based solely on marking and not looking at any of the other powers, Warden seems clear and away the best Defender.

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6 Responses to “Marky Mark”

  1. Len Says:

    I think their idea is that the Fighter’s mark may be weak compared to other defenders, but Fighters make up for it by being able to do just about Striker class damage (it seems like a whole lot of the crazy high DPR builds the hardcore minmaxers work up involve starting or multiclassing into Fighter).

    I don’t know what Paladins get in compensation, they may truly suck.

  2. Bryant Says:

    The paladin mark just doesn’t scale. The fighter ability to stop movement in its tracks is really good; he has immense control of the battlefield as a result. Note that attacking on a shift also increases your ability to lock down casters.

    • Christopher Tatro Says:

      I’m encouraged by what I heard about Divine Sanction on the podcast. Another couple weeks and this could all be a very different picture.

  3. Len Says:

    Apparently Paladins are getting a second marking ability that can be used in conjunction with their current one, which will (from the way they’re describing it, allow a Paladin to mark more than one enemy, and enemies at a distance (or perhaps enemies that you aren’t continuously attacking, they were sort of cagey about exactly how it works)).

  4. Scott (Inyssius) Says:

    Interesting analysis. But you’re waaaaay underestimating the fighter. From what I’ve heard and seen, they deserve first place or a close second.

    Shouldn’t the Swordmage one be “Close burst 2, One target”? Since it actually is?

    • Christopher Tatro Says:

      I’m starting playing a tempest fighter in the next session of our game (swapping out from my swordmage) and haven’t really seen one in action before. I have a Warden PC in the game I’m running and have been pretty darn impressed with him. I may come back to revisit this after a couple of sessions with my halfling whirling death machine.

      And w/r/t the Swordmage’s mark being only 1 target, yep. I meant that but didn’t make it clear.

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