Part 30: Cost of BetrayalChapter 23: Cost of Betrayal
(Or, "Double ZOC Showcase Stage"
Enough pleasantries. I came to ask if you'll join my cause. But first, tell me why you have people hiding in the next room.
Wh-What do you mean?
Playing dumb, eh? You fool... How long have you been a lackey to the Empire? Was it from the very start?
Nrgh... Kill them!
Do you know how many lives were lost thanks to people like you? Draw your weapons, men, and let's punish these cowardly traitors!
Compared to the original set of Quests, I lost one Vow Proof and gained one Coral Amulet (+11 defense). Somehow I think I'll survive the disappointment.
Igraine is level 28. Getting her to level 30 before I get her Seal really isn't going to be a problem, and this is not a good level for Igraine's current combination of low MP and low durability.
Notice the +3 Move? That's level 5 Sprint. Lateral Blow 4 adds +28% damage and works for either side of the enemy, making it probably the second-most powerful +damage skill (after Fearlessness, naturally).
Notice the one point Alhambra has left over after buying Sprint 5 and Lateral Blow 4. That's with only ever spending seven points. Skill points are not terribly generous.
I wouldn't have thought Aegil would stand for "pink and frilly," personally. I guess her attendants elected to put her in that outfit before she learned the divine laser cannon, so as to accustom her to the idea (and give them time to flee for their lives). This also explains why her third tier has another white outfit; she definitely has Oratoriorae by that point.
Aegil learns Invoke Mana at level 21 and Oratoriorae at level 24. In light of that, I'm going to elect to not buy Holy Favor at all. She had 22 skill points, so six more levels will put her at 34 skill points. She has just enough for Arcane Light 3 (7 skill points, -18% MP cost), Invoke Mana 3 (7 skill points, +45% MP), Invoke Mind 3 (7 skill points, +12% to both Magic and spell power) and Oratoriorae 4 (13 skill points, 99 MP cost with AL3, 7 range).
(The wonderful thing about this team of frontliners is that I really can run a healer with more points in "death cannon" than "heal." A lot more points, even.)
Serdic gets ZOC 1 and one more level in Fearlessness (up to 4). Cotton gets a level in Faerie Fire (up to 3). Ansom is saving up for Sprint and True Arrows, Margus is saving up for his own after-promotion skills.
As mentioned last time, there's a continuous Quest available now which gives access to two more Quests that also give Chrism Proofs. It remains baffling. The other notable Quest is The Phantom Tribe, which is the first step to a massive (11 steps!) Quest chain. The only notable rewards are for the last Quest in the chain, which gives you an Ian's Medal and Hexagram Medal. Ian's Medal prevents Glass, the Hexagram Medal lowers the stat penalty for being Hurt (by either 20% or 40%, not sure which).
I don't do either, naturally.
Serdic has +46 Defense of Amulets and the Angel Medal. Margus has +25 and Alhambra has +28. It may seem absurd to give Serdic that many, considering, but, well. That's all the defense I can fit on him and still give him the Angel Medal.
You see, Serdic is going to be soloing the entire upper-right corner of the map without healer support, so it's important that he has a lot of defense.
The upper two Mages have White Dust. The lower two have Fire Raid. None of the Archers, Attackers or Scouts have any skills.
I haven't let any High Priests cast Oratoriorae yet and I don't plan to start now.
The Tesserarius might have been deeply, deeply worrying four or five stages ago. Now it just gives Serdic a reason to conserve OB, which he'd be doing anyway. I expect he'll one-shot this boss too.
An interesting detail: "Tesserarius" was a real title once. They were Roman night watch commanders, and appropriately enough, his Class is "Watchman." The Roman theme carries for all the enemies here. Scouts are "Alaris" [an "ala" was a military formation of conscripts; for example, "Eques Alaris" were a group of conscript cavalrymen], Attackers are "Optio" [second-in-command], the Archers are "Venator" ["hunter"; part of a gladiatoral sideshow, a combination between a beast hunter and a circus beastmaster], the High Priests are "Pontifex," and the mages are "Magus." Half of these are wildly inaccurate, naturally, but the consistency is a nice touch.
Our strategy is simple. Serdic takes the upper-right corner, Margus and Alhambra take the upper-left, Ansom and Cotton attack the bottom, Aegil tries to keep non-Serdic characters from dying horribly. I imagine 10%+5% health regen should keep Serdic from dying long enough for him to kill the boss. (I was using this stage to check whether the effects stacked. They do! It's quite useful.) The alternative is to cluster up and try to break through either the upper-left or upper-right side, but I'm less fond of that strategy.
That said, this stage will very rapidly devolve into a clusterfuck no matter what you do. Unless you're very confident you can protect your casters, or you don't mind if they get injured (which isn't really that big a deal, since it only really affects their Magic stat), then you might want to leave them behind. There are no safe spots on this map, no weak side that can be easily cleared to create one, and even dual ZOC can only keep the genie in the bottle for so long.
There's three conversations this time.
Alhambra and Rukia
What are you up to?
Eep! Oh, nothing... just some scouting.
Then what's that in your pocket?
If you're with Serdic, it means you're a soldier of his Divine Empire. So maybe you should think twice about doing whatever you please. ...I guess this is okay, though. But if anyone spots you, don't come crying to me.
You're the best, Alhambra! You really get it! I love you!
Quit it with that "love" stuff...
Aegil and Elmer
It only goes to show what faith he has in us.
Shows how desperate he is, if you ask me.
It may seem that way, but he's treading a difficult balance.
It's hard to interpret Aegil's last line, especially coupled with the look. My guess is that she's laughing at a "who do you mean by him?" question when the "him" is "???, the man who calls himself Serdic" -- she really doesn't know the answer to "who is he?" No one does.
Serdic and Owl
Is there a problem with that?
Nah, no problem here. I hate traitors.
Have you ever been betrayed?
Yeah... by a woman I thought I knew better than I did.
I guess Serdic interprets this as a reference to Owl's love life and is not amused. (And if his expression throughout is any indication, Owl's dislike is mutual by now.)
Quite appropriate that Serdic got another level in Fearlessness just before this, isn't it?
Ansom's job is to plug the metaphorical dike. The flood is inevitable, but right now, I need every bit of time and space I can get.
With Alhambra's very high movement, there's no real problem sending her out for short detours like this. She'll take one hit to the back, but that's what Aegil is for, and then she'll probably kill the weakened enemy en route to helping Margus out.
Margus mirrors Serdic's movement over on the left side.
Cotton moves one square downward.
(Especially since they start doing only 4 damage when they're Crazed. Cold Monarch, ladies and gentlemen!)
Alhambra takes the expected hit and an additional arrow, but she's still got nearly 2/3 her health. She'll be fine.
Serdic is able to one-shot both Scouts and interpose himself in front of the Attackers again.
For reference, Alhambra is doing about 240, and Alhambra has her offensive stat doubled. Ansom does more, but Ansom is also only ever hitting one target. Serdic's melee damage here is very good.
Margus has two roles: Slow the enemy down and weaken them for Alhambra.
Right now, weakening enemies in general is the priority. You might have noticed that the enemies are, uh, a little close to Cotton and Aegil here. And there's archers down at the bottom.
(Aegil has the smuggest damn expression when you select her.)
Cotton and Ansom take out two of the closer ones, and Aegil moves a little closer.
This is about when you'd expect the enemies to swarm my ranged units, kill both of them and Ansom, and thereby force a reset, right?
No, not really.
Rondo of Swords AI is really, really dumb sometimes. ZOC is one of its large weakness, primarily because it will beat its head against that particular wall all day. The vast majority of the enemies go after Margus and Serdic, and the ones that don't press themselves up against the block of ranged characters but can't attack. Cotton and Alhambra each take one melee hit, and Ansom takes an arrow, but that's it.
Margus has about 30 MC, so it's not MC. I don't know why, they just do. Then again, I knew the AI would do this, so I guess it follows some logic? Just not any that my conscious mind can comprehend.
[20:58:20] <Einander> AHAHAHAHAHA
[20:58:27] <Einander> Fairy Fire with eight targets and it kills all of them
[20:58:35] <Einander> I love you, Cotton. Never change.
[20:58:43] <Cirvante> :3
[20:59:01] <Cirvante> The best 8-year-old murdercannon.
[20:59:14] <Einander> She gained three levels simultaneously, which is probably going to be the record of the playthrough!
[20:59:18] <Pbao> And she flies
[20:59:21] <poorlywrittennovel> dude, spoilers, some of us read your thread (that is amazing and I can't wait to see the context)
Really, I could just end the update there; that turn just won me the map.
Margus and Serdic attack and position themselves for the enemy again. Aegil heals Margus; he's missing the highest amount of HP, so healing him gives the most experience.
Alhambra cleans up most of Margus's side. Ansom kills the Archer that moved up, keeping it from threatening Cotton.
There's not much left to do here.
It's important to remember that Fearlessness has no effect on the first enemy in a chain. If you can, always start a Fearlessness attack chain with a weakened enemy, sometime you can kill even without 30-50% extra damage.
Margus stops right above Serdic here. The nice thing about dual-ZOC is that you can set up actual walls. Normally, walling with ZOC is more a matter of distracting enemies and making them do dumb things. Dual-ZOC ensures that an enemy is not getting to certain points, no ifs-and-or-buts about it.
Sprint 5 Alhambra is a thing of joy and beauty. Sprint 5 + True Arrows 5 + 6 Card Ansom is a war crime. Sprint 5 Alhambra is available much sooner, though.
You know, I could just wait barely outside his range, but... Pfft. Serdic has 404 HP and 100 defense now. He'll be just fine.
Alhambra runs over and kills the other Mage. Aegil does some healing; she'll reach level 21 after this map, so Oratoriorae after the next map, most likely. Cotton uses her OB.
Congratulations! If you had four turns, you could kill Serdic.
You do not have four turns.
(The problem with HP-capped damage is that I have no idea how much Seven Sins is actually doing, save calculating it out myself. I'd like to see the pretty numbers.)
I'd like to mention that I went the entire map without ever healing Serdic. 15% HP regen is very, very nice.
It's probably worth putting one Champion Gem on Serdic, just in case, or for someone else to use on him -- it's the strongest level of +OB item, giving 1.25 levels of OB.
Your Highness, the Rightful Empire seems to be gathering its forces on the Mireneh Plains.
Filthy maggots... They intend to block our path to the royal capital.
It's fine, Aegil. We're on a winning streak so far. Morale is high. We'll press on and crush the Tyrant Empire!
It's safe to assume that at this point, Serdic rolls the armies of the feudal lords present up into his own. Their plan to ambush him inside their own sanctum meant that they couldn't bring the full force of their military to bear, letting him behead their army with a minimum of casualties -- meaning that he captured almost the full force of their power.
And since he did this with a small force, right in the heart of an enemy's strength, it looks a lot more impressive than it is. It'll help him build his reputation. And that, in turn, means that others are less likely to stand and fight.
Total resets so far: 12 (+0)
Next time: Three-Way Battle