ting Sun is an excellent battlefield control discipline, with a good number of tactically useful counters. This discipline is particularly useful to Dex-heavy builds by allowing you to use Dex instead of Str when making your trip checks with its throws. A Swordsage focused on this discipline can make for a very effective, if unconventional, tank.
- Counter Charge (Counter 1): A good defense for hit-and-run builds that remains useful even into high levels.
- Mighty Throw (Strike 1): Allows you to use Dex for your trip check if so desired and to toss them away from you (so even if they can stand as a free action they still can't full-attack anyone). A debuff that allows you to control your opponent's position.
- Step of the Wind (Stance 1): How useful this is depends on how much attention your DM pays to difficult terrain in your encounters - if he/she sticks you in flat 20 x 20 rooms all the time this will be a waste. One good trick is to take 3 levels of Knight so as to always get the stance's benefit against your opponents.
- Feigned Opening (Counter 3): A useful way to draw an opponent's AoO to protect a weaker ally, and generally useful if your attack is stronger than your opponents.
- Comet Throw (Strike 4): Throw your opponent into their friend to leave both of them prone, damaged and removed from your position. Excellent battlefield control.
- Mirrored Pursuit (Counter 5): Keep an opponent inside your threatened area and be sure to get a full-attack in the next round.
- Shifting Defense (Stance 5): Use to move away from a full-attacking opponent so they can't get you with their iterative attacks.
- Hydra Slaying Strike (Strike 7): Denies your opponent a full-attack, and doesn't allow a save. Just don't use it on casters - they don't care.
- Fool's Strike (Counter 8): A non-situational version of Scorpion Parry. You avoid attacks while your opponent takes the hit allowing you to stand toe-to-toe with more powerful opponents.
- Ghostly Defence (Stance 8): If you can find a reliable way to gain concealment this stance is incredible. A Master of Nine using this stance, Child of Shadow, and the Gloom Razor feat all at the same time makes for a very potent defense.
- Tornado Throw (Strike 9): Maximize your speed and the trip check on this can get obscene. If possible, toss around a few mooks as you approach the BBEG.
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Tactical Feat: Distant Horizon
This discipline focuses on stealth, maneuverability and strikes that debuff your opponents, with many maneuvers requiring you to strike a flat-footed opponent. Fortunately it also provides the Gloom Razor tactical feat as an excellent way to make your targets flat-footed. Synergizes well with sneak attacking and if you build around it this is one of the best disciplines.
Child of Shadow (Stance 1): Since Swordsages are often on the move this is an excellent low-level stance, and synergizes with both Shadow Blade and Gloom Razor.
Island of Blades (Stance 1): For a sneak attacker (such as a rogue multiclassing into Swordsage) this is an excellent choice. Without sneak attack dice Child of Shadow is probably the better choice.
Clinging Shadow Strike/Obscuring Shadow Veil (Strike 1/4): Good debuffing strikes with Gloom Razor synergy.
Shadow Blade Technique (Strike 1): As a general rule forget about the cold damage - it's a trap - instead choose the higher of the dice rolls and increase your chance of hitting.
Shadow Jaunt/Stride/Blink (2/5/7): Requiring no prerequisites these are excellent choices for anyone able to access Shadow Hand maneuvers adding a very useful maneuverability. Shadow Stride combined with a strike of choice, or Shadow Blink followed by a full-attack are excellent combos.
Assasin's Stance (Stance 3): The default stance for Shadow Blade builds, also allows you to qualify for the Craven feat (Champions of Ruin) for some extra damage.
Dance of the Spider (Stance 3): If you already have a default combat stance then this adds a good amount of maneuverability and out of combat utility.
Hand of Death (Strike 4): Your target has to be flat-footed and gets a Fort save, but if you can get this through then it can finish an encounter in a single round.
Stalker in the Night (Strike 6): Spring Attack without having to spend 3 feats on it, and you get to Hide at the end of it. Awesome.
One With Shadow (Counter 8): A good all-purpose counter, especially against creatures without magical weapons.
Five Shadow Creeping Enervation Strike (Strike 9): While it is somewhat unreliable the combination of a fistful of damage dice and ability damage is a potent attack.
Tactical Feat: Gloom Razor
- sneak attack synergy
The first point to make about this discipline is the easily missed requirement on page 81 (in that little bit of text at the start, you know, the one you assumed was fluff and skipped over?) that "Stone Dragon maneuvers can be initiated only if you are in contact with the ground."
Generally speaking this discipline is characterized by its large number of standard action strikes (which do good damage for their level) and by the small number of prerequisites required to take its maneuvers. A good standard action is missing from many melee characters, making this a good discipline to cherry pick maneuvers from.
Stone Bones (Strike 1): Very useful at low levels as almost no opponent will have an adamantine weapon making tis virtual immunity to damage for a single round. At later levels this becomes rather trivial so is a prime candidate to be swapped out.
Stonefoot Stance (Srance 1): Look in the Monster Manual at how many of the critters are large, ir even bigger. How would you like a flat +2 AC against all of them? The bonus on Strength checks is also nice - makes this a good choice for Tripping builds.
(Elder/Ancient) Mountain Hammer (Strike 2/5/7): Combine an impressive damage boost (useful against any target) with the ability to ignore Damage Reduction. The harder your opponent is to hurt the better these strikes are.
Roots of the Mountain (Stance 3): A bonus to resist combat maneuvers (useful as an anti-grapple measure - and no-one likes being swallowed whole), a small amount of DR and increased difficulty to tumble through your threatened area (useful with a reach weapon). A good default stance that will be useful in any situation.
Crushing Vise (Strike 6): Stops your opponent from moving, made good by the fact that it doesn't allow a save.
Irresistible Mountain Strike (Strike 6): forces your opponent to save or lose his standard action - meaning he can't full-attack you, cast a standard action spell, or make a standard action attack. A very nice debuff.
Mountain Tombstone Strike (Strike 9): the only 9th level maneuver that has no prerequisite requirements, making this a useful choice to fill in a gap. Best used against opponents with lots of hit dice (Giants, Tarrasque, etc) who will lose more hit points due to the Con damage. Also useful if your party Wizard uses a lot fo Fort save spells as a way of weakening them against a save-or-die.
Tactical Feat: Shards of Granite
- ability to ignore DR, combo with Stormguard (can afford to take -5 penalty on touch attacks, then ignore DR on second round of carnage, also takes the edge off Robilar's Gambit is using in-between rounds to fuel Channel the Storm)
The Tiger Claw school is characterized by its 'feral' character. In mechanical terms this translates into a focus on damaging strikes and boosts, often centred around large numbers of attacks or the use of the jump skill. If you invest in increasing your jump skill then its worth making a heavy investment in this discipline, otherwise it is more likely something to be dipped into selectively.
Jump Check Optimization:
Base speed increases: probably the best 3.5 option would be a Xeph (XPH) with Extra Xeph Burst (Complete Psionic). This also gives you access to psionic feats and classes which have potential use (notably War Mind and Deep Impact).
Run: only worth mentioning because itís a Warblade feat.
Leap of the Heavens (PHB2): No penalty for standing jumps and a competence bonus on running jumps.
Leaping Dragon Stance (TC 3): +10 foot enhancement bonus on Jump checks and all jumps are running jumps. The fact that this increases the distance you jump is very unusual, but taking the book at its word means that if you are in this stance and make any kind of vertical jump then you will jump high enough to trigger Battle Jump against a medium opponent, and it lowers the DC against larger opponents substantially (becomes a DC 20 Jump check for a large opponent, DC 40 for Huge, etc). But unless you are taking Battle Jump this is a poor stance (compared to other 3rd level stances anyway). So, take Lion Totem Barbarian (Complete Champion) for pounce and the Battle Jump feat, and then use Sudden Leap whilst in this stance and you can full attack, dealing double damage, as a swift action in addition to your usual full-attack routine.
Boots of Striding and Springing (DMG): competence bonus to jump checks in addition to the +4 for the speed increase Ė very nice.
Ring of Jumping (DMG): competence bonus on jump checks. At low levels Iíd prefer the boots, and at high levels there are better things for a ring slot.
Blade Dancer (Oriental Adventures): large bonuses on Jump checks (not just the +30 competence, the enormous base speed increase as well), but at the expense of 3 feats and the los of Initiator Levels. For a Battle Jump build the bonuses could be worth it but otherwise maintaining your IL is probably the better choice.
Leap Attack (Complete Adventurer): hard to actually combine with maneuvers (Pouncing Charge is the best choice), but if youíre optimizing Jump checks anyway you may as well pick this up as well.
Battle Jump (Unapproachable East): Potentially awesome. This feat means that anytime you drop from at least 5 feet above your opponent it triggers a charge dealing double damage. So, with a good enough jump check you can leap up as part of a Tiger Claw maneuver, go above the opponent and trigger Battle Jump. After that it becomes a matter of adding as much charge synergy to your build as possible - pounce (Lion Totem Barbarian 1 is teh ideal dip), Shock Trooper (Heedless Charge), Leap Attack and the like (and if you charged in the previous round then Combat Brute (Momentum Swing) will also be triggered by this). Note that in order to be able to do this you need to be able to hit a jump DC of 40 (reliably!) in order to jump to 10 feet in height and thereby trigger Battle Jump against a medium opponent, whilst a DC 60 jump check is required against a large opponent. The Leap of the Heavens feat to allow you to accomplish this from standing jumps, a high base speed and as many jump check boosting items as you can afford will be required - this is an all or nothing trick.
Blood in the Water (Stance 1): The bonuses from this are uncapped, so this stance is best if you intend to stay in it for an extended period of time, making it a good choice for a dipper. Dual wielding kukris is the common approach, perhaps with some Bloodclaw Master, and Improved Critical/Keen weapons as soon as you are abe.
Hunter's Sense (Stance 1): Handy as an out of combat stance to help avoid being surprised, and in a pinch can help against invisible foes. Particularly good for a Swordsage / Ranger where the tracking abilities and Wisdom synergy really kick in.
Sudden Leap (Boost 1): The main use here is as a pseudo-pounce, allowing you to move and full-attack in the same round. Combined with Battle Jump you can end up with an extra full-attack as a swift action.
Wolverine Stance (Stance 3): While it won't be first on your wish list this is a good stance to have in reserve - there are a lot of monsters with enormous grapple modifiers, so having something up your sleeve for dealing with them is never a bad idea.
Dancing/Raging Mongoose (Boost 5/8): Extra attacks can be put to good use by almost any character. The maxim that bonus damage requires extra attacks requires in reverse here - extra attacks mean you should look for bonus damage.
Pouncing Charge (Strike 5): For a charge-focused build I'd suggest a dip into Lion Totem Barbarian instead, but for a build that just wants a quick charge option added to the mix this is a good choice.
Rabid Bear Strike (Strike 6): A potent standard action strike that provides a good damage boost for its level, albeit with an AC penalty.
Swooping Dragon Strike (Strike 7): A good damage boost and a stunning effect. The stun DC is dependent on your jump check, and the maneuver requires that you jump over your opponent, so if you optimize that jump check and pick up Battle Jump this is a devastating maneuver. Of course, if you can't jump your way out of a paper bag this is a complete waste of time.
Girallon Windmill Flesh Rip (Boost 8): A good damage boost, best used if you have a large number of attacks. Using it during the warm-up round for Stormguard Warrior is one option since your touch attacks should almost all hit, but even more potent is to use it with Time Stands Still (Diamond Mind 9) on a Two-Weapon Fighting build.
Tactical Feat: Reaping Talons
This discipline is all about teamwork and assisting your allies. This includes a number of maneuvers that grant your allies extra actions - and actions are the most valuable currency in D&D. The worth of many of its maneuvers are dependent upon having the right party members to take advantage. Play it clever, tell your teammates what situations you need setting up and you'll get good results.
If you've ever looked at the Marshal and thought the concept was cool then this is the discipline for you.
Leading the Charge (Stance 1): A good source of damage boost that scales throughout the levels (dependent on having charge oriented melee-ers in your party).
White Raven Tactics (Boost 3): One of the best maneuvers in the game. Its power is equal to whatever your most powerful party member is capable of doing in a round and this gets better and better as you level.
White Raven Strike (Strike 4): Makes your opponent flat-footed, which is great if there's a rogue in the party, otherwise not such a big deal.
Flanking Maneuver (Strike 5): If you're flanking with a friendly damage dealer then this strike can deal very impressive damage.
Order Forged From Chaos (Boost 6): Reset your party's formation in response to an unexpected threat, protect weak members of the team and seize strategically important ground.
Clarion Call (Boost 7): Tactical repositioning, change formation or capitalize on the gap left by the recently slain opponent.
White Raven Hammer (Strike 8): The no-save stun effect on this one is superb.
War Master's Charge (Strike 9): This one takes some setting up, but its worth it because if you get it right it gives a good damage boost, no save stunning and free actions to your allies. Even if your party isn't set up to take advantage of it, a few summoned monsters can fit the bill nicely.
Tactical Feat: Clarion Commander
- Feral Dreadlord build