The 4e classes that use Power Points intrigue me. I’ve always been a toolbox player and they offer a special kind of flexibility. I briefly played one in an ill-conceived game run by a friend of a friend and I currently play one in the Thursday game. The class is very strong, but building one can be kind of tricky.
Basic Feel: When I first looked at the Battlemind, I was struck by two things: the potency of its mark and how awkward the name is. It sounds like something from the worst live-action superhero movie ever. I also had some trouble wrapping my brain around the idea of a psionic defender. When I try to imagine a guy with a sword and mind powers, I immediately think Jedi and those guys are strikers, through and through.
Roleplaying the attack and boost stats for a Battlemind is a little confusing as well. From the class description, I expected to be looking at Charisma or Intelligence (though that overlaps a little too strongly with the Swordmage). It’s easy for me to see how an Infernal Warlock could use Constitution as an attack stat. They’re channeling otherworldly powers and the roll is to determine if they can handle the energies coursing through them. The Battlemind doesn’t do anything like this, though, making it hard to explain exactly how they work.
In play, the Battlemind most resembles the Swordmage. Both are defender classes with a strong background in controller. The Battlemind lacks the Fighter’s damage potential and the Paladin’s self-heals. The Character Builder claims that the Charisma build is more like a striker, but I’ve not been impressed with it. My experience is that Charisma is used most often with pulls and pushes, while Wisdom covers direct boosts to the Battlemind.
Races: You have a number of excellent options here, but we should start with the Dwarf, because it has excellent synergy with the class. To begin with, every defender drools at the opportunity to use Second Wind as a minor action. Tank with it for a while and it becomes really, really hard to give it up. Battleminds also have access to a decent number of shifts, teleports and speed increases, which means that you can have your grumpy Dwarf pinballing around the battlefield.
After the Dwarf, both the Wilden and the Half-Elf have reasons to recommend them. A Wilden who chooses Pursuit of the Hunter has a strong edge in staying on its mark. Half-Elves can be either flavor of Battlemind. Charisma and Wisdom are attack stats for a large number of classes, so you’ll have all sorts of interesting options if you choose Dilettante over Knack for Success. They’re also both races that aren’t commonly chosen as defenders, which can make for a refreshing change.
Human is actually a fairly poor choice here because the bonus at-will cannot be boosted.
The Character Builder puts the Dragonborn in the second tier for racial choices, which I don’t agree with. They have a clean CON+CHA pairing and the Dragonborn racial boost to healing surge value is a good fit for a Battlemind. I wouldn’t take one, however, because they’re already heavily represented as Paladins and Fighters.
I’m kind of interested in trying a Warforged Battlemind. There are enough non-boost stat powers to make not having Wisdom or Charisma as racial stats not really a problem. Having Strength might also alleviate some of the “crappy melee basic” problems. What really draws me in, however, is the imagery. I can be a teleporting ninja robot!
Hybridization: While hybridizing any Defender is a little problematic, the Battlemind stands out as one of the hardest to make functional. The nut lies is our inability to have both Mind Spike and Blurred Step. This forces us to choose between a powerful mark effect and being able to stay on our mark (Mind Spike requires you to be adjacent to activate). In my head, the conversation goes something like this:
Battlemind: You better not attack my friend! Monster: Oh, really? What exactly are you going to do about it? Battlemind: If you damage one of my friends with an attack that doesn’t include me, I can make you take as much damage as they do.
Monster: Sounds pretty strong. What happens if, say, I shift over… here? Battlemind: I have to be adjacent to you to do that. Normally I could shift to follow or even teleport (wouldn’t that be cool?), but I had to pick one of the two class features.
Monster: Why didn’t you take Blurred Step then? Battlemind: I would only be able to make an attack of opportunity and I’m not a Strength-based class. My opportunity attacks kind of blow.
Monster: Wow, you’re right. That does kind of suck, but I have a schedule to keep. Mind if I kill your friend now?
I’ve had it pointed out to me that the easiest solution to this is exactly the same as that for the Paladin: hybridize to Warlock and take Eldrich Strike. Frankly, I’m more than a little tired of how that power has effected the game. That’s a discussion for another day, just know that the option is there if you want to pursue it. Otherwise, you’re probably only going to want to hybridize a Battlemind if you’re very enthusiastic about a concept.
Another thing to consider when hybridizing a Battlemind is that they gain far fewer Power Points unless they choose another psionic class, dramatically increasing the opportunity cost of Boost 2+ powers.
Multiclassing: I was surprised at how effective it is to multiclass into Fighter. While you’ll probably never take any of the power swap feats (unless you’ve decided on a CON+STR build), you gain access to a sizable group of feats and, to a lesser degree, paragon paths. Wrathful Warrior gets you a nifty temporary hit point power (based on Constitution, so yours is awesome) on top of this. This opens up Encouraging Shield, Shielded Resurgence, Stout Shield and Unbalancing Shield Shove – all excellent feats for a Battlemind.
Multiclassing in other directions is not quite as good, but still viable. Student of Battle gives you an emergency heal (something Battleminds tend to be a little short on) and gets you at least into the martial feats. Initiate of the Faith or Student of Divine Runes gets you a similar heal and open up divine possibilities.
- Harrying Step if you took Persistent Harrier. The value of Blurred Speed will vary more, but might still be viable.
- Pursuing Step makes it even harder for the enemy to get away from you.
I’m not such a fan of the feats that boost Mind Spike. This is the Browbeat Theory. I think it unlikely that Mind Spike will get used often enough to make these feats that amazing.
Other Feats: As mentioned in the multiclassing section, Battleminds benefit from most of the same feats that Fighters prefer – minus the ones that require Strength, of course.
Notable Heroic Tier Powers:
- Conductive Defense (Level 1): This power is brutal in conjunction with another defender, as it amounts to a second mark that does not overwrite. The Augment 1 version is also good for putting an opponent in lockdown.
- Iron Fist (Level 1): I’ve augmented this power exactly once, but 3 damage off the top of every hit is nothing to feel bad about. It’s an excellent go-to against Brutes and Soldiers.
- Accelerating Strike (Level 1): This power amuses me greatly, but I play a Dwarf Battlemind. It’s especially good if your tanking style relies on positional play.
- Corona of Floating Force (Level 1): Take this power if your GM likes building convoluted battlefields.
- Lodestone Lure (Level 3): Mortal Kombat jokes aside, this power is off-the-charts good. Locking enemies into squares adjacent to the Battlemind? Yes, please!
- Ghost Jaunt (Level 6): The only weakness to this power is that the target must be marked by you. Still great for getting to the guy that absolutely has to die.
- Mental Triumph (Level 6): “I cannot be stopped! I cannot be contained!”
- Stone Squire (Level 7): Ask any artillery what’s worse than having someone adjacent to you and they will reply “having someone adjacent and being prone.”
- Aspect of Disembodiment (Level 9): The quintessential tanking power, it bollixes up the enemy and makes it easier for you to get (and stay) on target.
- Iron Tomb (Level 9): While most elites and solos will shake this off, it’s best for giving the party a turn of respite from something especially bad. It’s also possible for the party to stack sources of psychic damage.
- Battle Aspect (Level 10): An exceptionally solid choice.
- Iron Warding (Level 10): Who among us hasn’t wanted to ignore a massive critical?
Basic Tactics: Battleminds work very well when paired with a melee striker, acting as an assassination team in the enemy’s backfield. Battleminds excel at isolating a monster while the party deals with other things.
- It’s okay if all you’re doing is swatting them with a (weak) melee basic. You’re built to take damage and they’re not achieving their goals.
- Pick a pony. You’re never going to be as good at multi-tanking as a Fighter, but he’s not going to be able to ruin one guy’s day the way you are.
- Be relentless. There’s almost no circumstance in which you can’t get back on target.
I’m loving my Battlemind. Please feel free to share your stories about yours.
 There’s a card in Magic: the Gathering in which the opponent gets to decide which of the two effects on the card will occur. While this sounds powerful, having the choice be in the enemy’s hands means that you will almost never get what you want.