Earlier I did some class guides before I got too busy to write this blog, but I am going to do some more similar guides again now. They will be different in tone and instead of spending time explaining every single possible option and its validity, I will instead walk you through building a specific class or build as I would build them. I picked up a copy of the Player's Handbook 3 this week so I figured a good place to start would be with Ardents, the new leader class that comes first in the book.
First things first: The Build
Most classes in this game don't have an obvious answer to the build question. Usually there is merit to all the choices in a given class. Your choice of build for the Ardent is Mantle of Clarity, or Mantle of Elation. Each gives a bonus to all your allies within 5 squares. Mantle of Clarity gives a bonus to all defenses against opportunity attacks equal to your Wisdom modifier, and +2 Insight and Perception. Mantle of Elation gives a bonus to damage rolls for opportunity attacks equal to your Constitution modifier and +2 Diplomacy and Intimidate. Each also gives an encounter power that is triggered when you are bloodied, one giving your allies the ability to shift or move half their speed, and the other makes all enemies within the burst grant combat advantage. Both bonuses are good in and of themselves and the riders on powers are relatively equal as well.
However, if you are going to go with Charisma as your primary ability score, and Wisdom as your secondary ability score it is going to be hard to get the defenses you need, especially AC. Ardents are a melee class so unless you have a Defender you can count on 100% of the time you probably want to try and get a decent Armor Class if you can help it. Because Constitution is used for some of the Armor feats, I'm going to go with Mantle of Elation. It'll also get me a couple more hit points at first level and an extra healing surge.
Step Two: Race
So with the build I've selected this means that my primary score should be Charisma and my secondary should be Constitution. Obviously I should be a half-elf, correct? Well, yes, that is a possibility, but it is definitely not the only possibility. The other ability score I am going to want is Strength so that I can grab some better armor feats and possibly even shield feats as I level.
This opens up any of the Strength/Constitution races to me as well. I could take Goliath, Warforged, or Minotaurs and end up with pretty much the same ability scores. In the end though, it is the Strength/Charisma combination of the Dragonborn I am going to choose because it lets me start in the best position as far as ability scores are concerned because I need to get to a 15 Strength and Constitution as fast as I can, and if possible I don't want to give up starting with an 18 in Charisma.
While my breath weapon isn't exactly the best option as far as racial powers go, the bonus to my surge value and the +1 to attacks while bloodied are both good racial bonuses.
So, 99% of the time you are going to want to put an 18 in your primary ability score. The extra accuracy with all attacks in addition to the defense bonus and skill bonuses will almost always outweigh whatever riders you are getting from raising your secondary ability score. This character will be no different and thus Charisma is where we will be placing an 18, which after our racial bonus will be a 20. This will also make it very easy for us to take a lot of the social skills and be the "face" of our adventuring group.
We will then put a 13 in our Constitution and a 13 in our Strength. Obviously this means we're only getting a +1 bonus from our ability riders, but that will be raised to +2 at level 4 and will continue to climb from there. Meanwhile the 15 Strength we end up with gives us the amount necessary to grab both shield proficiencies and both armor proficiencies once our Constitution catches up. You can put your 8 in whatever score influences your character the lease. I chose Wisdom for my Ardent, as it didn't affect any of the skills I wanted to choose.
I want to get my defenses up as far as I possibly can, and I also obviously want the Expertise feat for my chosen weapon. This means that 5 of my Heroic Tier Feats are chosen for me: Weapon Expertise, Scale Armor Proficiency, Light Shield Proficiency, Heavy Armor Proficiency and Plate Armor Proficiency (once I get to 15 Constitution). This leaves me with only one Proficiency left in Heroic Tier, and thought its generic I would probably take Toughness. It gives me some extra padding and I would prefer it to either my race or class options.
The most obvious choice for me was Energizing Strike as my first at-will power. It gives temporary hit points and scales relatively well. If I augment it, then it can bring a dying character out of unconsciousness, or even give a healing surge. Its usefulness is undeniable.
My second choice would be determined by who is in my party. If there is a character such as a Barbarian who is going to be hitting very hard with melee attacks, I will take Ire Strike so I can basically trade my weak damage attacks for his heavy hitters. It has the bonus of making the enemy more vulnerable and its Augment 2 ability is also very useful.
If I do not have somebody like that in my party then I would take Focusing Strike even though its Augment 1 is meant for the Wisdom based build. The ability to give Saving Throws out at-will is one of the best abilities a leader class can have.
The Level 1 Daily Powers for Ardents are not a very good selection. With a weak Constitution modifier, and no Wisdom modifier, the very obvious choice is Implanted Suggestion. The fact that it can add two separate (save ends) effects to the target is very nice, and one of them grants basic attacks to your allies every time the target attacks. Hopefully you have somebody to take advantage of those attacks, otherwise you can take Adrenaline Strike to get good positioning for the rest of the encounter.
My general rule on Utility Powers is to try to take Encounter Powers over Daily Powers because 9 times out of 10 you will feel like you got more use out of those powers. The clear standout for level 2 batch is Dimension Swap. Being able to teleport swap places with an ally as your move action every encounter can be very useful, whether you use it to bail from bad positioning or to step in for an endangered ally.
Level 3 At-Wills for the Ardent are kind of underwhelming. There would be a choice of options for a Mantle of Clarity built Ardent, but for me I would have to go with Unnerving Shove. Forced movement can almost always be handy, either in helping positioning or attempting to push enemies off of the edge of a platform. While it's only going to push 1 square at first, that will go up to 2 at level 4 though and with an augment you can push it even farther or have it grant combat advantage to your allies.
Level 5 Daily options are pretty good when compared to your earlier choices. With a low Constitution modifier Empowered Arsenal's damage bonus is probably not worth it, and Enlightening Pulse is meant for the opposite build, but either Fate Exchange or Persistent Veil are good options. Persistent Veil can blind an enemy, and when they save against the blind it still hinders them by giving all creatures concealment against them. My choice is going to be Fate Exchange though, which lets you swap places with an ally, each make a basic attack, and for each hit give a healing surge and a save. If you both miss then you don't use the attack. The power lets you do so many things, it is really one of the better Level 5 Daily powers in the game let alone the best for the Ardent.
Level 6 Utility powers give you several good choices but again there is a standout. Evade Attack is an immediate interrupt that allows you to teleport an attacked ally a number of squares equal to your Charisma Modifier. It can help to save a squishy ally from a critical strike or to help someone evade a really undesirable status effect every single encounter. Also, it will make your DM grimace every time you use it.
It could just be my love of making monsters attack each other, or the fact that certain monsters have absolutely brutal basic attacks but I chose Unhinging Strike as my level 7 At-Will to replace Energizing Strike. It's Augment 1 is really situational but making a monster take opportunity attacks against its allies could be very useful, and its Augment 2 is a pretty good use of 2 power points. The other good options are Rewarding Strike who's Augment 2 gives everyone who hits your target a healing surge, or Mindlink Strike which could be absolutely deadly in an all-melee party with its Augment 2 that attacks a close burst 1 and gives all allies a free melee basic as an opportunity attack against any of the targets.
Level 9 Daily's offer some intriguing options but also some duds. Dulled Reflexes can stun and restrain a target but that's assuming it fails several saving throws against its reduced speed effect, and without a party set up to take advantage of that with saving throw penalties, its best to look elsewhere. Feast of Despair could be excellent in a Psionic-heavy party, and Agony Field can help take down a large group of enemies in melee with you, but Passage of Swords is my choice because it combines a daze (save ends), forced movement, and granted attacks into a great power that could have many clutch uses.
With Strength and Constitution you could take a hammer as your weapon and grab some feats to help you do damage, but my build is more about granted attacks and damage bonuses so I went with a simple longsword just because it allows me to use a shield and has a +3 proficiency bonus. Obviously I would start wearing chainmail and as I get the proficiencies improve my armor and shield to whatever the best options are.
When you get to level 11 there are currently only 4 options for your Paragon Path. Using the Mantle of Elation limits this even more as the Psionic Binder is meant for a Wisdom based build, though you could squeeze use out of it if you wanted to. The Argent Soul would give me some additional healing power and let me crit on 19-20 for all of my powers, which could be a solid option. The Stygian Adept is all about fear powers, which also isn't my character's focus so that leaves me with the Talaric Strategist.
Its action point feature allows it to spend action points to gain standard actions as immediate interrupts. This is one of the best action point features of any paragon path. You also grant an initiative bonus, and can slide your allies around whenever you use Ardent Surge. It's encounter power is about granting your strongr allies attacks, it gives a good clutch daily utility power that lets allies shift or get a bonus to all defenses for a turn, and its daily attack power gets bonuses for each ally near the target and dazes.
Ardents have some very interesting powers. Unfortunately their necessary ability scores combined with the necessity of melee and their subpar gear proficiencies really hurts this class and makes one build nearly unplayable for me. If you have a Defender that is very very good at keeping the other melee characters from being attacked then the Ardent could be a good leader for the party, especially if he can grant some attacks to melee heavy hitters like rangers and barbarians. However, in most situations there is another leader class that can do the same thing as Ardents but better. Go ahead and share how you would build and Ardent and what you would do differently, and maybe you can change my mind about the class.