Avenger – Worst Striker Ever

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on March 23, 2011

Strikers are without a doubt my favourite role in 4e D&D. In a balanced party someone needs to be responsible for excessive damage output and that’s usually me. I’ve played the Rogue, Ranger, Warlock, Sorcerer, Monk and Barbarian classes and enjoyed all of them. Although I’ve never played an Assassin, one of the players at my gaming table ran one for months the last time I was the DM so I’m well aware of their prowess (and look forward to playing one soon). Each striker class has its own pros and cons, and every one of them is rewarding and a lot of fun to play. Except the Avenger.

I’ve played the Avenger during dungeon delves and more recently I’ve been playing one in Living Forgotten Realms (LFR). After giving the Avenger a thorough shake-down I’ve come to realize that Avengers suck. They are the worst, most underpowered class in the striker family. I’d go so far as to say that the Avenger is quite possibly the worst classes in 4e D&D.

The striker’s purpose is to dish out damage. What makes the striker special is that when he hits it should hurt… a lot. All strikers get a little something extra to enhance their damage output. Admittedly in many cases the extra damage is circumstantial and if the appropriate criterion isn’t met then they don’t get the extra damage. The Avenger is the only Striker class that gets nothing extra.

Here’s a quick summary of the extra damamge striekrs can deal.

  • Rogue: +2d6 sneak dice (combat advantage required)
  • Ranger: +1d6 hunter’s quarry
  • Assassin: +1d6 assassin’s shroud
  • Warlock: +1d6 warlock’s curse
  • Monk: 2+Str or 3+Wis Flurry of Blows
  • Sorcerer: +second ability modifier
  • Barbarian: +1d6 or +1d8 from at-will power
  • Avenger: no additional damage

This is certainly a simplified way to compare the classes, I’ll admit that. Each striker class does have other abilities or powers beyond just the extra dice damage. The Avenger’s big ability is that, in some circumstances, he gets two attack rolls. As awesome as that sounds it’s really not that great. It certainly does not make up for the lack of extra dice damage.

In order for the avenger to get two attack rolls he needs to meet some very specific criteria. First he needs to designate one target as his Oath of Enmity target. This works just like a Warlock’s curse or the Ranger’s hunter’s quarry. But unlike these other classes, the Avenger cannot change targets during combat. The Avengers can select powers that allows him to change his Oath target, but who wants to give up a potentially awesome offensive power just for that luxury?

As long as the Avenger is attacking his Oath of Enmity target then things look good. Every time he attacks he gets two attack rolls. However, there are two other important caveats. The attack must be a melee attack and there cannot be any other enemies adjacent to the Avenger.

There are going to be battles where it’s incredibly easy to meet these criteria. In these cases then the Avenger looks pretty powerful. He’s going to hit a lot more often (statistically speaking) then anyone else. And because he’s rolling two attack rolls he’s also more likely to score a critical hit. If the two attack die ability was just a blanket rule that applied to all attacks against the Oath of Enmity target I’d take back all the bad things I’ve said about the Avenger. But it doesn’t so I won’t.

As a class that uses the divine power source, the Avenger can use the holy symbol as an implement. That means that that many of the class powers are implement-based, and as such are ranged attacks. Oh, guess what, none of them get the benefit of getting to roll two attack dice (except for a very select few that specifically say so). This is like a dual-class Rogue not getting sneak dice with powers from his other class. Except in this case they are all powers from your class.

It is possible to build an Avenger that doesn’t have any ranged or implement-based powers, so you can make a character that doesn’t have to worry about this issue. But the other requirement is not nearly as easy to ensure.

The easiest and probably best way to avoid having any other creatures adjacent to you (and thereby negate your best class feature) is to partner up with a really competent controller. If the controller can keep other monsters away from you, then you’ll see just how powerful the Avenger can be in the right circumstances. However, my experience is that the player running the controller wants to do more than just keep monsters off your back (assuming that he has enough powers with forced movement in the first place).

Even if you do manage to get a controller to be your best friend and you develop a great one-two punch where he keeps the bad guys away as often as possible, you then have to worry about the DM.

As I mentioned my experience playing the Avenger has been through LFR play. This means that I’ve have numerous DMs run combat encounter for me. In every adventure I’ve played with the Avenger, the DM has used his knowledge as the DM to negate my class ability. He’s intentionally swarmed me with monster to ensure that I’m never able to go one-on-one with the biggest opponents. During one home game where I was using the Avenger the DM used creatures that are immune to forced movement, eliminating any help I might get from the party’s controller.

This situation presents a real dilemma for me as the player. I hate to be critical of the DM, but this kind of action just doesn’t seem fair to the poor guy playing the Avenger. Although it may not seem like a big deal when the DM swarms the Avenger with monsters that are immune to forced movement (for no good reason other than the DM knows how to negate your best class ability) it really is. It’s like the DM always using monsters that don’t grant combat advantage when flanked for no reason other than because there’s a Rogue in the party. Without a good in-game reason for taking this action the DM is severely weakening the Avenger class.

Before the Avenger lovers try to lynch me for not giving the Avenger an even shake, I should admit that I actually really like the class concept. In fact, I find divine characters extremely interesting. I’m fascinated with the idea of a rogue loner who acts in the best interests of the church but can (and often does) blur the lines of the church’s dogma to accomplish goals for the great good. The whole time the Avenger himself sees his actions as necessary and justifiable.

From a role-playing perspective Avengers have tremendous potential. But as much as I like this side of the character, the weaknesses the class possesses on the combat side of things just to balance the scales for me.

I was willing to play the Avenger for a few levels before giving up on the class. After my recent experiences I decided that the Avenger class is the class I’ve enjoyed playing the least in 4e D&D. It’s a sub-par striker and a sub-par class. The Avenger just doesn’t excel in enough areas to be in the same arena as the other strikers or even the other classes.

Which striker class do you think is the worst? I’d appreciate hearing from anyone who’s played an Avenger at higher levels. If you agree that the Avenger is the worst striker do you think they’re the worst class in 4e D&D? If not which class do you think deserves that distinction?

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sully March 23, 2011 at 10:37 am

Very interesting analysis. One of my players just last night decided he would be playing a Shadar-Kai Avenger, and his decision was based a lot more on the awesome role-playing potential of the class, rather than the mechanics, most of which he is pretty ignorant of, as far as the bigger picture is concerned. Any suggestions on how to beef him up to make him more on par with other strikers? I think extra damage vs the Oath of Enmity target might be acceptable, and probably wouldn’t break the game.
Sully´s last blog post ..Wrath of Ravenloft Erm- I mean- Castle Ashardalon

2 Ceti March 23, 2011 at 10:44 am

Could not disagree more. I have a player who adores the Avenger and the Warlord adores having an Avenger as well.

First. The Avenger crits almost twice as often, at higher tiers rolling two dice is big. Second, he hits ~25% more often, which is guarantees a better average damage output.

In our group, the Avenger either keeps taking out small threats quickly. Selecting new oath targets as the old ones dies OR the rest of the team enable him to get to the guy they want down NOW.

3 mildewey March 23, 2011 at 10:45 am

I can see why you feel distasteful about the Avenger after what you’ve described. I’ve DM’d for a few avengers and I think both seemed relatively satisfied with the class. But then, I’m a relatively indulgent DM and I certainly didn’t go out of my way to negate their bread and butter class ability. With me DMing, I think playing an avenger was more about getting the right positioning, similar to how the rogue needs to work at getting combat advantage.

Avengers tend to acquire enough movement powers and have a good enough set of defenses that they can effectively move around the field. I remember one of the avengers I played with focused specifically on teleportation powers and didn’t particularly have a problem getting into position to get his two rolls.

It’s not a class for people who like to see huge damage numbers. And it’s easier to gimp its special abilities than other classes. And come to think of it, I realize that I dislike Avengers’ mechanics compared to all the other striker classes, but it stacks up as balanced from my perspective.

4 Kenneth McNay March 23, 2011 at 10:46 am

First, let me say, I love your article. However, opposingly, I love my Avenger.

I looked for great ways to offset the disadvantages you’ve reviewed.

I chose a maul as my weapon (2d6 damage). I selected a feat for Avengers that allowed me to treat rolls of 1-2 as 3 on the dice (Avengeing Resolution). Since I knew I’d be rolling 2d in every attack, that bottomed out my minimum at 6+MOD per hit.

As a Censure of Unity Avenger, I could get allies to pin down my Oath target, then add damage to my strikes against that foe.

I multiclassed into Invoker to be my own controller instead of constantly relying on the Wizard. This allowed him to work for the party.

For a time, I kept the feat Distant Vengeance, but later decided to retrain it. It helped for several levels when I had a hard time getting into the thick of melee without taking up a square that the Rogue or Barbarian wanted to have.

I took the utility power that llowed me to change my Oath target during combat. It is a very useful power and as an encounter power was nearly always available. It helped that I could soften a target before allies got close; then I could switch and move ahead.

I took several powers and a Paragon Path that served up lots of flight and other mobility perks. I remained highly mobile during every combat.

I took a few items and powers to keep myself on my feet even when far away from the Warlord or Cleric.

I had the Maul of Oaths Fulfilled so that after dropping one Oath target I could dish out more damage. With the Rod of Divinity, I could double dip into Channel Divinity on occassion. The very last item I received was the Golden Lion figurine so that I had an extra ally if needed.

So, really enjoying the Avenger takes work and tactics, but I found it more enjoyable than Assassin, Rogue, Barbarian, Ranger, or Warlock; because the striker feature is a ‘baked in’ feature similar to Sorcerer and Monk. As long as I’m watching for the right opportunities, I can deliver.

In addition, the divine class was much more fun to play out than so many others. I had a connection with a deity and a church. It gave me access to contacts, information, food and shelter, rituals, and so much more which I never had access to when playing an Assassin, Rogue, Ranger, or Warlock.

5 Kenneth McNay March 23, 2011 at 10:47 am

and don’t forget Iron Armbands of Power.

6 Lahrs March 23, 2011 at 10:54 am

I have never played an Avenger, so I cannot agree or disagree with your comments of the class, but I do agree with your frustration as a player when a DM goes out of his way to negate a players powers. A DM should not play dumb, but to personally penalize a player is never the correct way to DM, in my opinion.

7 Sentack March 23, 2011 at 10:55 am

Honestly I find the Avenger a bit underwhelming. Doubt the crit chance and a 25% bonus chance to hit doesn’t help when the DM is actively screwing with your one class feature. If the DM is nice and lets you get away with your class feature more then 50% of the time, then it’s awesome. But I tend to find that accuracy isn’t always a problem for players, after a fact, they get like 80% chance to hit anyways.

Over all, it’s a very DM dependent class and bad DM’s tend to love to screw with class features they have some control over. When you’re a Warlock and you can curse anything you want and then will ALWAYS do damage to that target, it’s hard for the DM to say, no. When you have restrictions on your power that the Dm can screw with, well. Guess what.

Sentack

8 hbunny March 23, 2011 at 11:02 am

A player in my group had a similar discovery. We’ve seen what you’re talking about in our combats. One thing I’ll challenge, though, is whether the DM is “out to get” the Avenger. The class design depends heavily on circumstance. As a DM, I found about half of my normal encounters unintentionally screwed up those circumstances. It happened often enough that I found even the simplest challenges were frustrating because they prevented the Avenger from setting up his combos. Normal encounters were enough to shut him down (a single enemy controller). The class mechanics almost require that you specifically design encounters to allow them to shine.
hbunny´s last blog post ..Gateways of Hope- Act 3

9 froth March 23, 2011 at 11:09 am

you have to build a paragon multiclass ranger/eternal seeker and not use any avenger powers but the oath but you can make an avenger worth playing

10 Kilsek March 23, 2011 at 11:12 am

I’m playing both an avenger and two-blade ranger in two different campaigns, and I find they both deal excellent damage.

The subtle difference is that avengers naturally are more accurate with their Oath of Enmity – that’s their “extra damage” in my view.

Meanwhile, other strikers, like my ranger, will always miss more often because they’re rolling twice to attack!

So avenger is more steady and reliable striker damage, while other strikers are more bursty, missing more often.

And flavor-wise, it’s hard to beat avengers! Their concept and style is very engaging and enjoyable to roleplay. So says my revenant avenger, who “just won’t die!” ;)
Kilsek´s last blog post ..Mount Up and Ride!

11 SilhouetteB March 23, 2011 at 11:22 am

Wrong on so many levels it’s tradgic.

12 Kilsek March 23, 2011 at 11:26 am

The other thing I find, Ameron, with some striker classes more than others is that tactical patience pays off. For a class as single-target focused as the avenger, I wait to commit and stay back as much as possible.

It’s far more an assassin style of play than a bruiser with the avenger, if that makes sense, compared to perhaps every other striker except the assassin himself.

If anyone plays the League of Legends video game (imagine two full parties of D&D characters go at eachother in a dungeon, it’s pretty close!) , that really helps highlight the differences in playstyle a damage class can still include.
Kilsek´s last blog post ..Mount Up and Ride!

13 AlphaAnt March 23, 2011 at 11:29 am

Their accuracy is their extra damage. I’ve played 3-4 encounter modules where I didn’t miss a single time, and scored critical hits 3-5 times (vicious fullblade FTW), so their damage output is definitely up there. Also, look to take Painful Oath at paragon to get another damage boost.

14 Ameron March 23, 2011 at 11:51 am

@Sully
If your game is going to be role-playing heavy then I think the Avenger is a great choice. As far as beefing him up, it sounds like there are a lot of great suggestions in the comments above. Other than making sure the DM doesn’t actively try to screw over the Avenger then he should have a good time of it.

@Ceti
I’ve seen the Avenger & Warlord work together in tandem – devastating. Assuming of course that the Avenger can get his two rolls. Everything depends on those two attack rolls. If they’re happening regularly then the Avenger becomes a much greater striker because he hits more often and crits more often. But my personal experience was that I only seemed to be able to get those two rolls about half the time. The result in my case was a very underpowered striker. Teamwork seems to be the best way to overcome this issue.

@mildewey
I’ve found that aside from a controller, mobility is another great way to try and overcome the swarming problem. Anything that lets the Avenger shift or teleport is a must-have. At low level I found moving and risking opportunity attacks was often the only way to get those two rolls.

@Kenneth McNay
I always welcome an opposing viewpoint.

My current Avenger has the same feat but wields a falchion. So the 2d4 always end up as 3 or 4. When I hit the output is good (but still not usually as high as other strikers).

I hadn’t thought of multi-classing. That would eliminate the dependence on an outside controller to move monsters away from you. Good idea.

I haven’t played an Avenger at Paragon level, but I expected that some for these issues would be easier to overcome by then. It’s getting to level 11 that seemed incredibly difficult.

@Lahrs
I don’t think every DM would intentionally gimp the Avenger as I’ve described, but it does seem like such an easy thing to do. I’m not sure I wouldn’t do the same thing (more often than I should) if I had an Avenger at my table. Communication between the player running the Avenger and the Dm seems to be the key to avoiding this situation.

@Sentack
I thought that having two attack rolls every time would mean I hit more often. In truth, I didn’t find that the Avenger actually hit all that much more often than other classes. This is especially true if you work to give him feats and items to bring up his bonus to hit.

I’ve had much more enjoyable experiences playing the other strikers that just get the extra dice (like the Ranger or Warlock).

@hbunny
It all seems to come down to teamwork. At a home game where you know the players you can develop strategies and work together. Unfortunately with LFR you don’t always play with the same people. Everyone wants to be in the spotlight and it’s difficult to get the teamwork you need for the Avenger to shine.

15 Captain Spud March 23, 2011 at 11:54 am

Your problem isn’t a bad class, it’s a*****e DMs. No enemy short of a brilliant tactician who’s had a chance to observe the party should be able to figure out how to intentionally short circuit a mechanical benefit.
Captain Spud´s last blog post ..My thane &gt Your thane

16 SilhouetteB March 23, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Why is no-one picking up on the fact that the Avengers Censure isn’t mentioned at all and seems to be completely overlooked as a source of bonus damage?

There ate more fundamental mistakes I will have to address later

17 Dan March 23, 2011 at 12:10 pm

The one aspect that many people don’t touch on regarding the Avenger is their ability to dabble in the leader role. As a divne character, it is one of the only striker classes that can back up the party’s healer because it can easily dish out healing surges via its divine channeling powers and feat selections. I’ve created a few low-level Avenger builds that can use multiple healing surge powers as MINOR actions as well, enabling him/her to effectively strike and heal in the same round. This also gives this particular striker a degree of durability than most other strikers miss out on. I agree that the Avenger is lackluster as far as pure burst damage, but the potential flexability of a divine striker is a potent addition to most parties.

18 QuackTape March 23, 2011 at 12:25 pm

A great article. I’d still vote for the Avengers being under-powered a little, but not as much as you put them here.

The do have bonus damage which is situational from their Censure. Censure of Pursuit for example will give you 2+DexMod damage as a bonus if your Oath moves away from you. This damage only applies to your Oath, but isn’t limited to melee. So you could charge in on an artillery who will want to run away from you. You might not be able to get your two attack dice, but you will get bonus damage when you try to burn him with holy fire from a far. There is also a Censure to give bonus damage for every ally adjacent to the Oath (Unity, great for a solo) and if you get hit by another creature (Retribution, this damage stacks so if you get hit 3 times you’ll get a lot of bonus damage).

The right player who really enjoys situational combat and heavy tactics will probably be as effective as any striker or maybe even more, but if you are the average player and want something easy that deals big damage you’ll probably stick to a less situational striker.

19 Aoi March 23, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Another consideration is Essentials. In my experience, my not particularly optimized second level human thief can get CA on just about every attack, and when he does he’s got a total to hit of +12, usually 13 because charges become easier to set up. Add +3 for Backstab and +4 for Heroic Effort (both once an encounter), and I’ve only ever missed when I rolled a 1 (and then only because it was an auto-miss). I haven’t taken a serious crack at a hexblade or a scout, but in my observation they dish out some serious damage at about the same rate.

It would appear to me, then, that the main source of an Avenger’s increased expected damage output, the reroll leading to increased accuracy, would be at least partially rendered obsolete by essentials classes that have crazy accuracy AND increased damage.

Just some personal observations about the mechanics. On another note, I really really like the flavor of the Avenger class. Just lots of good tropes built right into it.

20 math_geek March 23, 2011 at 1:13 pm

While I agree overall that the Avenger is one of the weaker classes in the game, the benefit of Oath of Enmity far outstrips the striker benefit of any other class. 2 Rolls is a huge deal. If you have a 50% chance of hitting the target in one roll (you hit on an 11), then 2 rolls make your chance of hitting 75%, (which is like hitting on a 6). That’s the equivalent of a +5 to hit. Is there anyone here who uses power attack regularly, a feat that allows you to trade -2 to hit for +3 to damage with a two handed weapon (Avengers do use two handed weapons)? If this is the baseline (and it’s a conservative one), then a +5 to hit is worth 7.5 extra damage in heroic, worth more than 2d6 damage dice that the rogue gets (but hard to compare to the Assassin and his shrouds). +5 to hit is the maximum benefit however. If you need a 16 to hit (25% hit chance), then the Avenger has a 44% chance to hit, which is like hitting on a 12, so more of a +4 to hit. If you already hit on a 6 (75% hit chance), now with two rolls you have a 94% hit chance, close to hitting on a 2, so close to a +4 to hit. A +4 to hit is still 6 damage using Power attack as our converter.

Note that I have not covered critical hits, I hear those are fun.

In short, Avengers not so good, but the oath of enmity benefit is at least on par with every other striker bonus and is probably the best of them.

21 Jason Dawson March 23, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Having GM’d for several Avengers over the past couple of years, the observations I have are twofold. The ongoing joke for three parties right now, in which none of the players know each other, it “Avengers never miss.” It’s a mild exaggeration, yes, but at the table it can certainly feel like the truth, to the point that I have had players in two groups ask me if the Avenger is OVER-powered. Avengers, because of the ability to roll two dice, are *CONSISTENT*. Math may say that it’s only a +25% chance to hit, but at the table in my experience it seems like it’s an event everybody notices when the Avenger misses his target. If a striker from a different class misses with an at-will, he loses [W]+PAB damage and likely his bonus damage as well. An avenger will miss significantly less often, meaning his damage output doesn’t have those dead spots very often, meaning that in the long run (over the course of an entire adventure, or campaign, I mean here) the Avenger’s output is likely going to be on par if not slightly more than another striker (Essentials Thief notwithstanding– that class is close to broken in my opinion)

As for some of your other points, I think you’re focusing too much on pure damage output and not seeing the other benefits of the class as others have already stated. Avenger powers almost always have some kind of rider effect–which also almost always happens because they hit so often– so they are not solely dependent on damage dealt to contribute to the party.

Avengers can be very, VERY hard to hit. With the right feats and armor choices, the Avenger can be almost as consistently difficult to deal damage TO as he deals damage himself. Slippery buggers, they are.

Also, I absolutely *ADORE* the roleplaying potential of the Avenger. Others have expressed this above, but I wanted to reiterate it. The cool stuff a GM can do with a player who really wants to play an Avenger in his game are rather boundless.

And lastly, as others in the comments have said, I think you’re also dealing with a DM who might realize the potential the Avenger has and is deliberately stifling that character. Speaking as a GM who has looked on in mild frustration as the Avenger hits the target seemingly *Every Single Time*, it can feel kinda ridiculous at the table that one character never misses. If you have a GM who reacts to the character by deliberately shutting down character abilities, that’s a problem with the GM and not a reason to berate the class itself.
Jason Dawson´s last blog post ..Murdering Your NPCs- March 2011 Blog Carnival

22 maverick0023 March 23, 2011 at 1:26 pm

(disclaimer the Avenger is the class I have played the most in 4e… about 40 sessions)

Avengers get their main stat to damage twice, Pain Oath. Now this is a feat and you do have to wait til paragon tier but adding two keywords and your main stat to damage is nothing to sneeze at. Plus this allows you to by pass many resistances, since most creatures are not resistant to both radiant and necrotic and it allows you to play with radiant cheese without effecting your weapon choice.

I think the Avenger requires a smarter player to get its full effectiveness. (This is not meant as a insult but a rule of thumb) Power selection is key, have powers that teleport yourself or enemies to help isolate a target to get your oath bonus. A Avenger may also want to wait a round and let the defender and party get into place before rushing in. (or wait til the end of a round I should say)

Also the Avenger has many good ways to heal itself and mitigate damage something other glass canon type strikers do not.

I see your point on the class and for awhile I agreed with you but over the last year or so many new feats and options have brought the Avenger up the front of DPR in Striker builds, just not during Heroic tier.

I would agree that possibly a weakness is many Avengers do look outside their base class for better damage dealing powers or multi attack powers but as far as pure features go I would put them near the top of the pile.

I would agree though that their best benefit is their awesome Fluff.

I do not think being a Striker means adding extra dice, I think it means doing a baseline of damage that is beyond your allies ability to mimic. (20, 40, 60 DPR at lvl 10, 20 and 30) are good baselines.

As a final note I think the Barbarian getting a couple extra damage from at wills is really weak, I think their best features are great Encounter powers, awesome rages and the ability to get free attacks via Rampage.
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23 Toldain March 23, 2011 at 1:59 pm

I have GM’ed an Avenger for more than a year now, run by my daughter. To reiterate what other folks have written:

1. He (the character is male) almost never misses. This really does mean a lot. But some people like the big damage number, though.
2. He has lots of good movement powers, and uses them to advantage to enable his Oath Powers.
3. He has taken some feats and armor that give him the highest AC in the party, tough to pin down, tough to hit, though fewer hit points and surges than the defenders.
4. He has an ability where damage that he takes adds to damage that he deals. He will turn this power on, then offer opportunity attacks to the opponents, while getting in position to his Oath target. As a GM, I will make a roll based on the intelligence and tactical acumen of the targets to figure out whether they will make the opportunity attacks or not, but the roll is biased toward taking a swing. What grunt wouldn’t?

So, DMing matters. But one of the primary rules of DMing is to let the players use their powers. They rolled that character so that they could use the powers.

That doesn’t mean they always get to use their powers. Maybe sometimes they will fight someone who knows what an Avenger is, and can shut them down. That will make the players mad at them, not me.

Of course, this also makes the party count on each other. One of the true joys is that now they are figuring out each other’s abilities and trying to set each other up. That’s fantastic, in my book.
Toldain´s last blog post ..How I Learned to Love Soluseks Eye

24 Neuroglyph March 24, 2011 at 8:40 am

I’ve also DM’d to an Avenger the past couple years, and I also like the different game mechanic this Striker class uses over extra damage. The feeling that Avengers never miss is inaccurate, but they hit often enough that they do steady and constant damage throughout the encounter and keep up with Rogues and Rangers. That +25% increased chance to hit is nothing to scoff at!

Because of this game mechanic, as a DM, I almost never ruin the Avenger’s ability to roll that second to-hit dice. To do so would be the same as making it overly hard to get CA for a Rogue character just to stifle their Sneak Attack. Avengers are awesome, and only a few canny villains should be able to tactically stymie an Avenger – and if they do, then an even-handed DM should stymie the Rogue, Ranger, and Warlock as well!
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25 obryn March 24, 2011 at 9:39 am

Wow, I have to strongly disagree, but my perspective may be based on the levels we’re looking at. In my high-level game, there’s a 19th-level Elf Pursuit Avenger who is just a nightmare on the field. I have lots of characters who are very effective, but he’s just insane… Painful Oath, Jagged Fullblade, etc. He crits every fourth round or so – and sometimes more often. When he crits, he attacks again. He doesn’t get nerfed by getting ganged-up-upon because he just steals the enemy and teleports away with him. His AC is higher than most of the defenders in the party.

He’s a fairly unstoppable force at this point. I expect my experiences might be different in a Heroic-tier game, but at mid-Paragon and higher… yowch.

26 btorgin March 25, 2011 at 12:06 pm

One thing to note is player frustration. My wife plays and I can’t tell you how much it annoys her to miss. And it always happens at critical points too. So, the Avenger has been a tremendous blessing for her. She’s much happier hitting when she attacks. In our group it’s pretty common there’s a few minutes between your turn and the next. It’s really painful when your turn comes up and you get the big *whiff!*

So, not a point for the power or underpoweredness of the class, it does allow someone who gets frustrated at missing to be much happier at the game table. :)

Cheers

27 Alton March 25, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Sometimes I feel these classes are really lacking the same punch as others, but you are right that it really is how you play your character and how you feel about it in the long run.
Alton´s last blog post ..March of the Phantom Brigade- Session 7

28 K f March 31, 2011 at 12:52 am

4 out of the past 5 times I’ve run with my avenger the dm has run my OoE target out of combat effectively neutering my character for the rest of the encounter since I cant recast OoE again until my current target dies. Is there a rule around this other than wasting a utility on this? Its really annoying and is starting to make me want to roll a new class.

29 Jason Dawson March 31, 2011 at 10:57 am

@K f– yes, there’s a way around that– FIND A NEW DM. Having the target run away and not letting you at least get the power back as if they were defeated is a crock of $#*&. That’s deliberately bad DMing.
Jason Dawson´s last blog post ..GUMSHOE Mouse Guard for your 4E game

30 Hamblin April 4, 2011 at 7:55 am

We discussed this article on the most recent episode of the Level Up podcast over at rovingbandofmisfits.com. Check it out!
Hamblin´s last blog post ..Level Up — Episode 7

31 Rabbit is wise April 4, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Hmmm as much as I usually agree with your assessment of things, I have to say I think your stance is…. (searching for a pc word) idiotic. With a reasonable DM, one that allows you to use your OoE when realistic, its an incredicble class, specially as you add feats like Avenging Resolution. If you decide to gain proficiency with the mordenkrad your damage out put will be high enough. Also is you decide to play a race with a teleportation skill, or take utilities that allow you to shift a bunch, I think that way outweighs the warlocks extra d6…. ooooh a whole d6, a d6 you can only use when you hit, which doesnt the avenger kinda specialize in that… great work, just way wrong this time

32 K f April 4, 2011 at 9:30 pm

@Rabbit
what about when your campaign considers all DrgMag feats off limits… then what?

33 Rabbit is wise April 5, 2011 at 5:19 pm

@K f, I’ve never played an Avenger, never even looked at one before this article. I assume your talking about Avenging Resolution since its the only feat I mentioned in my previous post, besides the proficiency with the mordenkrad. Warlocks curse gives an extra 3.5 points of damage, hunters quarry does the same, maybe I exaggerated Ameron’s folly, but what Im saying is the ability to hit more often leaves you to focus on getting weapons to do more damage. IF your playing an Avenger dont expect to run up in the middle of combat and then complain about how you cant get one on one with an enemy to use your OoE. Why not wait for your defender to do what he does, then pick out a target, wait till your farely confident you’ll be able to use your OoE before unleashing it on the nearest baddy and then being dissappointed. After all nothing says you have to use your OoE the very first round of every combat. It takes work for the rogue to get combat advantage right? I think you have a better case to make for the warlock being the worst striker, the warlocks curse is nice, if you can hit anything… The Avenger may not be a rogue, but its not as bad as Ameron made it sound.

@Ameron, where you at bro? Change your mind yet?

34 Ameron April 6, 2011 at 2:30 pm

@everyone
Thanks to everyone for the great comments and for keeping this debate alive two weeks after the initial posting. The discussion was picked up on an ENWorld thread and over at Roving Band of Misfits in their latest podcast Level Up — Episode #7.

Rather than responding to the plethora of comments above one by one as I usually do (wow, look at them all!) I’ll try to touch on as many of the points as I can in an all encompassing response.

Reminder
My stance on the Avenger being the worst striker ever is based on my personal experience. As mentioned in the article, I’ve only played the class in the low levels of the heroic tier. My feeling was that by level 5 you should know enough about this class to make an informed opinion. Apparently I wasn’t as informed as I believed (and many people were quick to point that out). ;) Thank you.

Doing the Math
Many of you emphasized that rolling two dice increases the likelihood of hitting and that increased accuracy will mean more damage long-term than a typical striker who hit for tons of damage once and a while. A I said in the article, I absolutely agree. Likewise it will increase the likelihood of rolling a crit, which again represents more damage long-term. I’m not belittling this; in fact this is one of the aspects of the class that made me want to play the Avenger in the first place. I just got so frustrated because I found that I was so often denied that second dice roll.

In my experience combat encounters don’t usually last more than 6-10 rounds. I’ve played many games with a variety of characters where I’ve hit every round during shorter combat scenarios. So comparatively the Avenger didn’t seem to have anything special. A Ranger that hits every time in a 6-round encounter is – in my opinion – a better striker. Of course this doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s happened enough to me that I thought I’d mention it.

Comparing the Tiers
I didn’t look at Avengers above the heroic tier because I’ve never played one at that level. From what I’ve read in the comment, there are a lot of powers, feats, items and paragon paths that will address the shortcomings I highlighted. Again, in my experience, I haven’t progressed far enough with the class to see it first hand. I suppose that raises an interesting debate for another day: Are there some classes that don’t come into their own until they reach higher levels? If the class isn’t really appealing until it reaches, say level 6 or above, then is there something wrong with the class?

Bad DMs
Many of you pointed out that part of my negative experience stems from a few bad DMs. I agree. I hate to berate anyone courageous enough to get behind the DMs screen for a public game of LFR, but in this case it’s warranted (for some of them). I suspect that my experience playing the Avenger would have differed greatly if I’d played one in my home game with a more experienced and forgiving DM.

If the DM has the Avenger’s Oath of Enmity target leave combat then as a DM I’d say that’s the same as killing it. Unless it’s just hiding or moving to a better tactical position, once it’s gone it’s gone and the Avenger should get to target a new creature. After all you get full XP for a monster that flees. As far as the mechanics are concerned a dead monster is worth just as much as one that runs. Any DM that removes the Oath target from battle and then doesn’t let you target another one is just being a jerk. Way to not “say yes,” bad DM.

Censure and other Class Powers
I had to leave some things out or the article would have been 10 pages long. Let me briefly touch on a few of the glaring omissions. The Avenger’s Censure is indeed very powerful. The Censure of Pursuit which lets you follow the Oath target is a good way to keep him from running away. The Censure of Retribution which provides you with a bonus to damage sounded good at first but it was reliant upon being hit. At low levels I spent so much focus bringing up my AC that I rarely got hit so this feature was wasted. During combat when I got hit a lot I was knocked unconscious and I found it just wasn’t worth the trade off.

Others talked about powers that allow the Avenger to shift multiple squares, teleport or push opponents out of the way – all excellent choices. Unfortunately many of these powers are not available to choose from at the lowest levels. I suspect that as the class advances, more of these powers become staples for any good Avenger.

As with many divine characters, Avengers get some healing abilities which make them excellent second-tier leaders. This is certainly another one in the plus column.

Taking a Stand
So where do I stand on this topic 30+ comments later? I think I have to alter my original positioning a little bit. Avengers are the worst striker ever… at low levels. Beyond that I’d have to see more examples of them in play at higher levels, especially at paragon. From the sound of things the Avenger become a powerhouse, surpassing many of the other strikers once they hit level 11.

Thanks to everyone who’s commented so far. Keep providing examples of builds, powers and combos that you’ve found make strikers awesome.

35 Rabbit is wise April 6, 2011 at 6:01 pm

@Ameron, not to be to hard on ya, but saying “Avengers are the worst striker at low levels in my experience” is kinda unfair. I mean rich bankers are scum in my experience ( the only banker I know of is Bernie madoff). How can any of us readers know your experiences as a gamer with rangers, warlocks and sorcerers unless youinclude that in your blog. I think the only fair way to compare them is on paper. AC att. rolls. damage, and such.
If I say “In my experience archer rangers are the worst characters ever.” But dont clue you into the fact that our second encounter teleported us to a desert planet with little plant life and no material to make arrows from, much less buy them; then that kinda makes my earlier statement about archer rangers invalid to anything except my experiences with that ranger on that planet in that campaign. See where I am going. I think if your going to compare, you have to do so in somewhat of a vaccuum, and at different levels. Invokers suck at first level, Invokers are just plain cheater at epic tier.
Afterall how good is a paladin with plate if your campaign is infested with rust monsters.
To sum up. I like your blog, and i love the discussions.
But… This post I think was pretty irrellevant when trying to decide where the Avenger fits in on the list of Strikers.

36 Gabe February 29, 2012 at 5:11 pm

So….something for you guys to consider, the 25% to hit thing isnt that amazing.

Take a thief, who can use any light blade (so a rapier cause of gritty sergeant). He has a d8 weapon.

Weapon Talent nets him +1 to hit, nimble blade adds another +1 to hit (which is a joke as they can sustain CA on their own) and thieves can also repeat/charge a target while maintaining CA (for another +1, and they shift away before the combat to avoid AOOS).

So a thief has +3 to hit over your standard Avenger, the avenger has a reroll. That difference there is that the avenger has 2 chances to crit (which ends up being 7.5%) and 10% more accurate.

The thief is also always having CA on his own, where the Avenger has to somehow gain it otherwise, which is hard given their various mechanics. On average the Thief is gonna have that +2 form CA far more often, but lets not include this in yet.

The thief can, after he rolls, use backstab (ala elven accuracy) to add +3 to his attack rolls, turning misses into hits generally up to a few times per encounter.

The thief is adding 2d8 (backstaber, dont leave home without it) once a turn, and adding another +2 damage at low heroic levels (which increases). The iron armbands that apply to MBA’s are dirt cheap as well, and accesible far earlier than what an avenger can use.

So… 3d8 (rapier/backstab) + 1(light blade expertise) + 2 (thief auto damage bonus) + 2 (iron armbands at low levels) vs the best you get out of a Avenger is gonna be 2d6 or 1d10 or so damage (without sacrificing accuracy for a d12 weapon).

The thief is way ahead, can pull of his trick far more often and is generally immune to DM screwary since they can get their own CA.

37 pXr April 20, 2012 at 11:45 pm

I think you need to give Avengers a second chance. Your problem is compounded:
1) Your DM is a metagaming dick.
2) You are a power gamer.
And next time choose a pursuing Avenger with its censure bonus and you will see how cool they can be on the battlefield.

38 Jakira February 10, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Here’s a quick summary of the extra damamge striekrs can deal.

Rogue: +2d6 sneak dice (combat advantage required)
Ranger: +1d6 hunter’s quarry
Assassin: +1d6 assassin’s shroud
Warlock: +1d6 warlock’s curse
Monk: 2+Str or 3+Wis Flurry of Blows
Sorcerer: +second ability modifier
Barbarian: +1d6 or +1d8 from at-will power
Avenger: no additional damage

-I think this summary on the avenger is completely wrong… the additional damage of the avenger depends on the type of avenger you’re going to play… and using the channel divinity class feature of the avenger makes it even more reliable as a striker… you can take the channel divinity feat from forgotten realms “righteous rage of tempus” a hit gives you an automatic critical, and with the oath of enmity feature makes your accuracy even more reliable than other strikers… you roll 2D20′s and choose the better result if you want…

-you’re not as good as an analyzer you think you are… tsk!

39 Kees February 19, 2013 at 5:06 am

I’m pretty sure, if you do the math properly, the avenger is not behind in average DPS than say a warlock or a barbarian (miss-fest barbarian). It comes down to playstyle. If you want players to say, wow you just did 1337 damage with you barbarian. But the big spikes are as often misted as they hit.

Oath of Emnity is just not only good for you, but also for you party. Leaders will love you, because they can give a good attack bonus power to another party member, because you hit anyway. This makes you team hit harder, so boosts the dps, because of you being an avenger.

Btw try a Razerclaw Shifter, heavy flail, Moonstalker PP (maybe with painful oath if DM allows). At will proning and the lvl 16 of moonstalker is just insane.

So Avenger is also about, self-sustain. Giving all the players in your party freedom of whatever they want to do. They don’t need to focus on you as much as with a miss-fest Barbarian or a very low ac/hp melee twin strike Ranger. You have HP/AC good defenses and good hit and some nice healing if you want for yourself.

I know, people tend to be like: “I’m the Striker, so the whole team revolves around me”.
If the Leader get insta-gibed, you are happy that you are an Avenger.
If would have like that all you dailies hit, you are happy that you are an Avenger.
If you controller asks help for his powerfull vs Fortitude power against a brute and the leader can actually use a +3 attack bonus power on your wizard, you are happy that you are an Avenger.
List goes on…

TL;DR version
The Avenger is totally independent and it shouldn’t be overlooked that for once, the party does not revolve around a Striker. This boostes the Total-Team-DPS, which is very very very good!

40 wolvensense March 27, 2013 at 10:41 pm

It seems to me that, on this thread, whether folks are pro-Avenger or anti-Avenger as a class build, both sides seem to pinpoint the crux of their judgment on how well or poorly Oath of Enmity works; before then considering the merits of other feats, powers, traits, etc. That’s key. I think if the Oath of Enmity fails to work either because the DMing is problematic or because the player can’t seem to get the right circumstances together at-table to wield the power, that’s not enough to base-judge the class as intended by the devs. Similarly, if the power works well and frequently because the DM does nothing to mix it up and mitigate from time to time or pursuant to a particularly crafty and argumentative player, then also such PsOV might not constitute fair critique of the class.

My less than valuable two cents is that I am playing a 4E elf ranger who just hit level 8. Feat time! I’ve never played an avenger before, but when weighing the Disciple of Divine Wrath multiclass feat that allows a PC of a different class to use the Avenger’s Oath of Enmity, side by side with native class feats, it has become very hard not to choose the former. Keep in mind when I say this that the multiclass feat limits the use of that Oath to BOTH “once per encounter” AND then lasting only a duration of “until the end of your next turn.” There’s some minor debate about whether the “regain” function of the power is allowable or not through the feat. But rest assured, my DM quite fairly ruled against the regain and STILL it is hard for me to ignore the multiclass feat option when choosing.

In essence, this means that if I took the multiclass feat, at best, with positioning and action point involved, I could ONLY gain the double roll benefit against just one target for just three attacks (two turns plus an action pointed standard). Mind you, I’d use dual wielding melee attacks which would then be six double rolls in those same turns. This all by itself, with no regain, no extra targets, no way to use it again in the encounter, no gain from said feat also granting the use of an implement because ranger powers do not use the “implement” key word, and no realistic avenger paragon paths for a ranger to select later, that is STILL a valuable enough option for strong multiclass consideration at level 8. Double rolls on double weps for just three attacks (only when possible) seems somehow more valuable to the encounter than, by contrast, the repeating plus 1s for Two Weapon Fighting or the one-time plus 2 for Manticore’s Fury.

I submit that while not having played an avenger myself makes my judgment of the class similarly unfair; if the rest of the people posting here have hit upon the Oath of Enmity sweet spot in the class as key to its usefulness, then there must exist superbly viable avenger class builds when that same sweet spot remains so attractive across classes, even with severe multiclassing limitations to its use. I think as a judgment of the class itself, those who are keen on avenger mechanics as they develop can be vindicated by this statement.

That said, I think it also necessary to point out that Mr. Myers, while opining that the class might be the weakest in the edition, did not seem to be ostensibly judging the avenger class as he was comparing it to other striker classes. If, indeed, one buys into the premise that the main commonality of all striker classes is the extra damage, then one cannot assert that an avenger with low but certain damage over time exactly fits this bill. Besides, of all the classes, one has to be the weakest. Perhaps the class itself has a largely viable mechanic either alone or in combination with other party members while it simultaneously remains outside of the shared aspect of other striker types and therefore outside of what we’d expect from a class identified as a striker. While the avenger possibilities would not seem to fit any of the other class types, WoC may have inadvertently laid the foundation for a stand-alone type to build upon in 5E. What draws us more to a PC than uniqueness?

41 Scott Duff May 31, 2013 at 11:12 am

I am having decent success with the Avenger, but I am taking a different direction with it. I recognized the lack of damage, so I made a Bugbear Avenger. They can carry weapons a size category larger. With the Oversized Maul, you can deal 2d8 for every successful hit. It makes for a pretty good Avenger. Between that, and the three major powers: Silver Shadow, Aspect of Might, and Radiant Vengeance, I can keep HP coming in, keep my AC high, and get some mad bonuses as well.

That, and roleplaying an Avenger of Grummsh is proving to be a lot of fun to play.

42 Justin September 16, 2013 at 5:30 pm

I’ve been playing a Longtooth Shifter Avenger of Bahamut for about a year and a half-long weekly campaign so far, and I’ve enjoyed it. You’re right that it’s not much of a striker class, although I do pretty decent damage with the powers I’ve picked, and my party enjoys the Divine Guidance power that lets them use my Oath of Enmity bonus if they’re within ten squares of me.

Where it’s really excelled, though, is taking the beatings that my DM likes to give my character. He’s got a large amount more HP than the only other character of the same level in my party, and is sort of a tank. I’ve got an ability that gives me regen 5 until the end of the encounter, an at-will that gives me my Wisdom mod (+6 right now, I think) in temporary HP when I use it, and the longtooth shifter’s regen 4 (now that I’m level 11+) while bloodied. Combine all that with the various “force you to move”, “keep you from willingly moving”, and “in x circumstance, you get y extra damage” stuff I’ve put in to my character, and he’s a pretty damn powerful build.

That said, I’m looking forward to when/if he dies permanently (or the campaign ends) and I get to play the Halfling Fighter that I’ve got as a backup.

43 Landon October 3, 2013 at 6:30 pm

The reason Avenger has sucked in the past is because you aren’t playing it right. For one thing the pursuing avenger can sometimes deal more damage than a ranger. The Avengers I build use the full blade for a weapon which deals truck tons of damage if properly done. The most damage I have done at level one as an avenger was 57 damage. That was Abjure undead. Here is a break down of the damage. Abjure Undead at level one is 3D10+wisdom mod radiant damage. If the target is your OoE target and it willingly moves away from you gain a damage bonus of 2+dex mod. In my case I scored a crit on the second die roll, and was able to score 36 damage initially after that I applied 5 damage (dex mod was 3) to it which makes 40 and also add 10 vulnerability to radiant damage (50) and the icing on the cake was the +1D6 from my magic holy symbol +1 (57). So the avenger can deal devestating damage if built properly.
Basically my stat array was Str:10, Con: 11 Dex: 16 Int:10 Wis:20 Cha:8.
Yes my character has low defenses, but I make up for it by shifting away from enemies and rely on cleric support since I have never been in a party with someone who doesn’t know how to play cleric yet. Another reason your avenger is getting wrecked is because you are playing with an asshole who only cares about winning and using his knowledge about the class and not the opponents knowledge of the class. 9 out of 10 times your opponent won’t think to surround the single target striker. They usually surround the defender do to its marking potential. Any way the Avenger is not just meant to be a striker. Like the warlock it is secondary controller since it can change the flow of battle.

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