the master

The value of a proper escape route, or "OH GOD IT'S EATING MY FACE"

My archmage halfling is my most successful character so far, in that he actually managed to beat the master. In playing this character, I find it interesting that despite having enormous damage output and excellent defenses, with a wide assortment of spells ranging from making stone walls to outright healing and shielding, ultimately my playstyle boils down to two techniques.

Thusly :

1. Overwhelming (literal)fire power
2. Flee

Technique 1 is my favorite, and one I use liberally against most enemies. Technique 2, so far, has only been used twice. Once against the Minotaur of the Maze, and again against The Master. The Minotaur seems to be my "that one boss". The close confines of the maze, coupled with his variety of debuffs(most dangerously, confusion) and dangerous damage output means that most of my characters have a hard time with him. Though occasionally the Sandworm Queen and Wrathroot give me a run for my money, normally I can adapt enough to defeat them without becoming too horribly close to death.

When facing the Minotaur, my archmage ended up mapping a good 1/3 of the final level of the Maze, simply because he would regularly flee with blind teleports, and then have to frantically prepare the area for when the Minotaur would inevitably chase me down, clearing enemies and lighting passages so I wouldn't be caught off guard when he made his way over.

The Master was this, a dozen times over. I literally started the level 5 spaces from him, with several undead in the room. I expected that I was going to die there, but somehow managed to survive several turns, attempting to clear the undead to try and face down The Master alone. When he started summoning more, I ran down my list of options and decided to escape, blind phase dooring past a wall, landing in a narrow, dark passage. Ideal, I thought. I had my back to the wall, the Master was "trapped"(ha! hahaha!) in the room on the other side, and I could recuperate and then attempt to clear the level before facing down The Master again.

A Duamumbleshadowthingy interrupted my nap shortly, which was less than ideal because he shrouded the area in darkness. Quite the hassle when one is concerned about line of sight. I killed it, and some other forgettable undead that tried to pester me. When TM showed up again, I was in reasonable shape, but I was surprised to see him. I had stepped away from my safe cubby hole to try and see what was nearby, so when he summoned undead I was promptly surrounded. Another phase door landed me in another passage, two tiles south of my former safe haven. I used the Dig spell to bust my way south a couple tiles, trying to minimize line of sight. This worked...technically. I was still being curb stomped by undead, and eventually fled again, this time using a charge off my teleport wand.

I landed somewhere in the far southeast corner of the map, near a room with a regular skeleton archer and an orc. Since I was horribly wounded, this was actually kind of a crisis. I managed to survive with most of my magic on cooldown, my mana all but exhausted, and my health below 100. So I sat there, manually resting with Q, watching my cooldowns in the hope that my heal would come online before something came rumbling out of the dark passage to my north. The room that had been occupied with and orc and archer was, luckily, well lit, so I knew it was safe at least. Once I had a manasurge running and my health was back up a little, I chanced heading south, praying TM wouldn't pop in with a nasty summon spell in my nice, clear room.

He didn't...yet. I didn't want to teleport away, but fighting in this wide open room was a no-go, and the north area appeared to be another room. I couldn't risk going up there just yet. Instead, I used my dig spell and cut a zig-zagging corridor into the side of the room I was in. And there, I waited, letting myself fully recuperate. I was still being careless, though. For one, I hadn't switched out my Vision rune with a wild infusion, which I needed to fix his long duration freeze. Second, I should have been using Arcane eye to watch the corridor.

As it was, when he eventually came around the corner for another round, I had to spend my first round throwing up a shield so that I could survive his inevitable freeze. It was still nearly the end of me, resulting in another charge off my teleport wand. This time, I ended in the far northwest of the map, in a narrow corridor. As before, I used some of my recovery powers and began hunting around to see what the terrain was like in this area. Instead of, you know, using the Vision rune I still stubbornly had equipped.

After a close encounter with some horrible elite wraith thing whose name I forget, and another one which had nightmare in its name(I was a bit frazzled at this point, so my tactical thoughts on being interrupted mid-cowering amounted to AUGH BURN IT) I decided to repeat my earlier strategy, cutting my way into the wall, creating a safe haven in which to cower. I still forgot about my arcane eye, but at this point I decided to equip a Wild Infusion so I could spend more time fighting than dieing against TM. This round went surprisingly well, though it still nearly resulted in my death when I stubbornly stood my ground instead of fleeing as soon as I had dealt some damage.

I landed in the dark room north of the lit room I carved the first passage into. There were a few forgettable undead in here, but nothing horrible. Or maybe by this point I was getting so used to being near-death that I no longer registered it on my OH-CRAP-O-METER. I made my way back south, recovering as I went. This time, The Master was the first to flee. With only a few hundred hitpoints left, he phase doored away. Surprised, I considered my situation and then decided to pursue. I want it to be on record that, if I had been thinking, I would have realized how foolish this was. I already knew what would happen when he died, I'd read the lore he'd left laying about and could see the predictable result. But I wasn't thinking, and I forgot about the lore. I just knew that he was near death, and I was in no mood for more cat-and-mouse.

I caught up to him in the dark room to the north. I hit him with a fireball, but was surprised when he survived it. With maybe 200 hitpoints, but alive is alive. Then he summoned some undead. Fine, I thought. Nothing I can't handle, as long as he's dead. So I blasted a flame spell through his ranks, and him...only to see his hitpoint total restore to maximum. At this point I was in a panick, and had no idea how I was going to handle this. I did the only thing I could think of, and used what I thought was the last charge of my teleport wand. And then I died. I'm not entirely sure why it failed, since it didn't appear to be exhausted. Does teleportation happen "later" in the game turn? I don't know.

Luckily for me, The Master wasn't the only one with a backup plan.

It cost me my Ring of the Dead, but I revived immediately. Still surrounded, but this time I wasn't going to trust to a wand. I had full mana and no status ailments, so I just used my own teleportation spell. If I'd been more careful, sooner, I would have been using it from the start, but I kept running myself out of mana before I would try and flee TM.

I popped over to the north-west cubby-hole, and began carefully eyeing my sustains, putting them back online as quickly as they came off cooldown. Coming back from the dead is a neat trick, but it sure makes one feel vulnerable.

At this point, I finally stop fighting like an idiot. I keep arcane eye monitoring the entrance to my cubby-hole, and the moment TM pops around the corner I greet him with a fireball. As he approaches I go ahead and start my manaflow ability, and throw up a shield. I've equipped a conveyance staff over my staff of destruction, just in case he manages to stun my personal teleport. I toss out a couple spells at close range, and then teleport away as soon as I've done some damage. The fight drags out, me teleporting back and forth between the northwest and southeast corners of the map, carefully maintaining my vigil. Eventually, I dig a complex network of tunnels in the southwest corner of the map, making sure to stay near maximum mana at all times.

It is in this network that I kill The Master, his phase door much less effective when his most likely landing point is just another place in the tunnels. The last moments of the battle were not a narrow, by-the-wire victory. He went down to the simplest of my spells, Flame. I was safe and secure behind hundreds of points of shields, his freeze was on cooldown, and I still had firepower to spare. But he was still a terrifying foe, and even as I threw out the last spell I expected him to have one last trick, one last act of retribution.

As it turns out, he did not.

And that is how I beat The Master primarily through the use of escape routes. I could have used nothing but flame for the entire battle, I might even have been able to best him using nothing but the ridiculously high damage staff I'd found a level ago, but it would not have been winnable without a means of teleportation.

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