How would you like to be nigh on invincible?
This is the third part of my character builds in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Today, we’re looking at the quintessential tank in the lineup: the Champion. This build is based on a Nightmare playthrough.
What is a Champion?
The Champion is essentially the tanking warrior of old, reborn in the fast paced combat scenarios of Inquisition. The tank is supposed to hold your enemy’s attention while absorbing all the damage and emerge unscathed.
As there are really no healing spells in this game (apart from the Knight Enchanter’s focus ability and one grenade), staying up and ensuring you let your companions bash away at things is essential.
So, enter the Champion.
Since you’re going to be the tank, you don’t need Blackwall, Cassandra or Iron Bull in the party. You can use two tanks, but I find that once you get Sera and Vivienne early on in the piece, their damage potential far outweighs any benefit you have in prolonging a fight.
The other thing I find is that unless you control Vivienne’s use of the Spirit Blade, she can be much more fragile than you imagine. Of course, you could use her purely as an elemental mage. Solas and Dorian are actually great companions because they can debuff enemies and turn that into a buff for you.
In terms of the rogue of the party, I’d pick Varric. Mainly because he gives the party an overall five per cent chance of critical hits with his Artificer passive, and increases the duration of buffs too. Sera can be good for that high level spike damage, but she can be a little fragile.
One cautioning note about Varric. For some reason, his Leaping Shot doesn’t seem to work in some cases. He jumps, but Bianca seems to jam and not fire. Not good when you’re fighting a high dragon…
Before you arrive at Skyhold and can pick up your specialisation, you really want to focus on building up your tanking ability. You’ll exclusively be picking up skills from the Weapon $ Shield and Vanguard Trees.
Weapon & Shield
What you really want are the four passives in this tree:
- Bear Mauls the Wolves – preventing you from receiving flanking damage,
- Warrior’s Resolve – gives you stamina for losing health,
- Turn the Bolt – projectiles only deal half damage to you, and
- Turn the Blade – a flat 20 per cent damage reduction from the front.
You’ll likely want to pick up Payback Strike and Shield Bash along with Shield Wall in this tree. I find that Lunge and Slash is not really all that good. If you need a good move to close with your enemies, there’s one that’s far better. I also haven’t used Shield Wall much, and it’s only useful early on. Later, you’ll want to free up space in your hot bar for something with more oomph.
This tree is essential early on, and even in the late game it’s mighty helpful. You don’t need to go very far down the tree, and in fact I’ve never ever taken more than half the skills here. What you want is:
- War Cry (and its upgrade) – which will give you guard for every enemy close to you, and taunts them to ensure they focus on you,
- Challenge – for drawing the attention of that one pesky guy that didn’t get hit by your War Cry and is now threatening your archer,
- Untouchable Defence – a flat percentage increase in maximum guard,
- Charging Bull (and its upgrade) – your distance closing skill with a low cooldown, gives you guard for every enemy hit, knocks them over and the upgrade gives you a free skill to use at the end of it. Neat eh?
- Cutting Words – a flat 20 per cent increase in damage to taunted enemies. Works well with War Cry.
I know that these two trees asks you to invest up to fourteen skill points into them. It’s likely that you’ll get to Skyhold at about level nine or ten, which means you would have at least eleven of these picked. If you’ve gone with a human noble origin, then you’ll have an extra skill point to spend.
One you’ve reached Skyhold and picked your specialisation, you’ll want to focus on the Champion tree, to give you that extra bit of invincibility.
The Champion Tree
You’ll need to pick up everything except for Counterstrike (which is optional) and the upgrade to Line in the Sand. Counterstrike is useful if you need to get out of a tough situation, but by the time you can use it properly, you’re probably a character level where you just don’t care.
Line in the Sand is only good in enclosed spaces, which is kind of few and far between, especially when you’re closing rifts, or out in a desert somewhere. I haven’t used this skill at all.
The other two active skills, Walking Fortress and To the Death are bonus survival skills you have at your disposal. Walking Fortress makes you invincible for a short time, and its upgrade ensures any hits you take gives you guard. Seriously.
To the Death makes you increase your damage with each hit against one target, though the damage you take against it also increases, but this skill’s upgrade gives you guard every time you land a shit.
These skills ensure you’re pretty much unkillable, even against high dragons.
Two Handed Weapon (Optional)
Depending on how you want to progress through the later levels, you could begin to use a two handed weapon once you have decent tier three armour. That’s because you’re tanky enough to take a hits without a shield at this stage. Personally, I chose to do this, and found it’s definitely an improvement in all round DPS. Of course, you might not care about DPS from your tank, which is fine.
So, if you do choose to go with the two handed weapons, make sure it’s either a greatsword or greataxe, because they are area of effect weapons, whereas mauls are single target only.
The skills I picked are Mighty Blow (upgrade optional), Pommel Strike (upgrade optional), and Whirlwind (upgrade mandatory). However, you also want the passives along this tree:
- Flow of Battle – critical hits reduce your cooldown times,
- Shield Breaker – critical hits reduce enemy armour for a short time, and
- Clear a Path – hitting multiple enemies recharges your stamina pool
You can still use Charging Bull with two handed weapons, which is great, and the effects are still the same, including the knockdown.
It goes without saying that you’ll want the best armour you can get. I’ll let you sort that out.
In terms of the weapons, you’ll want a one handed weapon and shield, at least until you get to about level sixteen or seventeen. You can then change over to two handed weapons if you so desire. Just make sure it’s got the highest DPS you can get.
In terms of fade touched materials, you can use either the stuff that gives you guard per hit, or the kind that gives you a ten per cent change for a short duration of Walking Fortress (which is better). You can stick this in your armour or shield (or both).
Just be aware that if you use two handed weapons, you have to make a choice, since you lose one item that can take fade touched materials.
There’s not much to say about the strategy.
Run in with Charging Bull, right into the middle of the enemies and then immediately follow with War Cry. Bash away until everything is dead. Tell your DPS companions to focus fire on one at a time, especially if they have a shield.
If you’re losing guard and health quickly, activate Walking Fortress and you’ll gain all of it back. If you’re facing a big unit, like a giant or a dragon, use To the Death to keep building up the level of guard against heavy hits.
Just keep everyone else out of the way.
The Champion actually makes the role of tanking fun. It’s reasonably dynamic and you have plenty of choice regarding how to approach a battle. Enjoy being unkillable.