Cult of the Dragon's Talon

A Dragon Talon Kicksin Guide v1.1 by Malaclypse

Last updated 12/12/03

Rumored to operate out of the city of Viz-jun, the Cult of the Dragon's Talon is believed to be an close-knit organization of female assassins trained to kill with their feet. A disciple of the Dragon's Talon spends her early years practicing her kicks until she is able to strike several powerful blows in rapid succession. Any weapon she carries serves only to help balance herself as she stands on one foot, flailing with the other.

After an acolyte masters the kick known as the Dragon Talon, she will strike off onto her own, developing her skills to complement her deadly style. Many disciples drift into one or more of the three major Sects of the Cult, while others forge their own way, and new Sects continually spring up or fade into obscurity.

CotDT Assassins use Dragon Talon as their primary attack. The Dragon Talon skill has three effects: increased kick damage; increased kick attack rating; and most important; increased number of kicks.

The number of kicks you get with DT is 1, plus1 for every 6 full levels of skill, so at slvl 18 you get 4 kicks and at slvl 24 you get 5.

Kick damage bonus starts at 5% and increases by 7% per slvl. AR bonus starts at 20% and increases 25% per slvl - a Cultist of the Dragon's Talon has no AR concerns with a massive 495% AR bonus at slvl 20.

Sect of the Great Wyrm

The first of the three great Sects, the Sect of the Great Wyrm pays homage to the size of the World Serpent. They focus the nigh infinite mass of the serpent behind their kicks, pulverizing the most powerful of enemies with crushing blows.

Many followers of the Great Wyrm learn to throw deadly throwing stars with the same force as their kicks, letting them deal with exceptionally dangerous opponents from a distance.

The incredibly fast attack rate of Dragon Talon's additional kicks just screams for the use of Crushing Blow. Even a small amount of Crushing Blow makes taking down bosses quite a bit faster then without. Stack what you can to become an Adept of the Sect of the Great Wyrm.

Look for: Goblin Toe unique light plated boots (and upgrade them to battle boots or mirrored boots for more kick damage); Gore Rider unique war boots; Guillaume's Face set great helm; Rattlecage unique gothic plate; blood crafted gloves; Venom Grip unique demonhide gloves; weapons with CB including many of the mace class uniques, 'Black' and 'Strength' Runewords, Islestrike unique twin axe.

Sect of the Great Cycle

Female followers of Rathma, the Sect of the Great Cyle of Being understand the balance of life and death. They know how quickly that balance can be tipped and exploit that using the blood-fueled Death Sentry. Every enemy that fall to the Dragon's Talon is consumed by the Death Sentry and turned against the remainder of the enemy. Eventually, equilibrium is broken and the Death Sentry begins a runaway reaction destroying all enemies within its reach.
As amazing as Dragon Talon is for taking out single opponents, its ability to control crowds stinks. It is, however, a very fast way to get the first few corpses to fuel Death Sentry's corpse explosions. Not only that, but DS adds some lightning and fire damage to the Cultist's arsenal, helping versus physically immune enemies.

Even better crowd control, however, are the Shadow Disciplines of Cloak of Shadows and Mind Blast. Cloak of Shadows is a one-point wonder, used situationally to temporarily shut down ranged attackers and keep melee attackers from mobbing the Cultist. Once a mob has formed, though, Mind Blast comes into its own. Use Mind Blast on mobs to stun them for a few seconds, and hopefully to convert a few temporarily, forcing the remaining enemy to divide their attacks between the Cultist and her converts. Mind Blast is especially useful versus bosses: Mind Blast the boss pack several times, converting as many of the boss's minions as you can before running in and destroying the boss with Dragon Talon.

Sect of Dragonblood

The blood of the Dragon is Venom, and a follower of the Sect of Dragonblood knows how to annoint her boots with Venom, causing those enemies not destroyed with the force of the kicks to rapidly wither and die from the corrosive Venom of the Dragon.
Contrary to the damage display on the character screen, elemental damage appears to add to kick damage. The obvious use of this is to add Venom damage to kicks. Venom has a duration of 10 frames - see if you can get enough kicks to envenom an opponent twice with one attack!

Another aspect of this is equipping the Cultist with elemental damage items. Tiamat's Rebuke unique Dragon Shield is a great source of elemental damage. Also, many rare weapons spawn with elemental damage and would otherwise be discarded for lack of physical damage. These become very attractive to Cultists who find no use in physical damage on weapons.

Skills Discussion

Obviously, a Dragon Talon assassin should max Dragon Talon. However, if you are pressed for skills elsewhere, and don't intend on having at least +4 skills or martial arts tree on equipment, you can save 2 skill points by only increasing Dragon Talon to slvl 18 - the point at which you get 4 kicks. Slvl 20 Dragon Talon is obtainable by clvl 20, but depending on how early you want to start developing your supporting skills that slvl 20 goal may be delayed. Even if you are undecided on supporting skills, you should pump Dragon Talon to slvl 12 early - a 3 kick Talon at clvl 12 will make the first half of normal incredibly easy.

Other then 20 skill points in Dragon Talon, no other martial arts tree skills are needed - Dragon Talon is used as a main attack, not a finisher, so the strikes and elemental blade skills are entirely unnecessary. Dragon Tail and Dragon Flight might be considered for utility purposes (for crowd knockback and teleportation respectively), and Dragon Tail might be considered as a PI solution - but be warned that the fire damage is based on how much physical damage is done, so triggering Tail on PIs will result in zero fire damage.

With only 20 skill points to get the Cultist's main attack, there are a plethora of options for secondary attacks. These are discussed above under the various Sect listings. Remember, though, that the Cultist is first and foremost a mêlée combatant, so don't build her like a ranged combatant.

Burst of Speed was always the 'aura' discipline of choice before 1.10. Now, though, fade gives 1%/slvl physical damage reduction making it very nice - especially when you consider the resist bonus and curse duration reduction. Note that the curse duration reduction also affects shrine duration. Venom now works independantly of BoS and Fade - you can run one of the latter in addition to Venom. Slvl 20 Venom adds more then 1000 damage per second to your output, but the short duration means it is not a very good method of preventing monster regeneration.

Stat Discussion

Dragon Talon assassins need to carefully balance three stats: Strength, Dexterity, and Vitality. Energy can and should be left base.

Strength contributes the most to the Cultist's damage, both upping their barefoot damage, as well as contributing 120% to their boot damage. High strength also allows the Cultist to wear the heaviest of boots, and opens up the options for other high strength requirement armors, shields, and weapons.

Dexterity contributes to barefoot kick damage, attack rating, and blocking. Normally I don't advocate increasing Dex to get AR, as 4 AR per point of dex is pretty puny. However, with the ~500% AR bonus of slvl 20 Dragon Talon, each point in Dex is contributing 24 to AR. I suggest increasing Dex to maintain a happy block rate, and enjoying the improvements to AR and kick damage as bonuses.

Blocking Formula (source: The Arreat Summit):

    Total Blocking = (Blocking * (Dexterity - 15)) / (Character Level * 2)

    Blocking = A total of the Blocking on all of your items.

Vitality is of course important for improving the Cultist's Life. An assassin gets 3 points of life per point of Vitality and 2 points of life each character level. As a mêléer, this is probably the most important stat.

Assassin Initial Stats
Strength 20
Dexterity 20
Vitality 20
Energy 25
Life 50
Stamina 95
Mana 25

Equipment Discussion

As suggested above, Crushing Blow is amazing with Dragon Talon. It also works well with Blade Fury - a one-point-wonder skill. As of v1.10 kicks leech, so make sure you have life and mana leech. You'll find you don't need much mana leech as landing a volley of kicks fills up your blue ball quickly.

I recommend using a shield. You will be increasing Dex for AR and damage, so you might as well get the third benefit of blocking as well. The advantage of two-handed weapons is their damage, which is entirely wasted on a Dragon Talon assassin. Shields are also the easiest to obtain source of large amounts of resist. Try for a 3 perfect diamond large shield early on, and try to shop for a blue shield with resist all (as close to 30% as you can find) and deflecting - have Larzuk socket it and pop a couple perfect diamonds in it for a high resist/high blocking shield. Other good shield options are Sigon's (skills, high block, great partial set bonuses, but no resists and slows your running), Whitstan's (highest blocking, fast, but no resists), 'Rhyme' runeword (fast blocking, resists, magic find), Tiamat's Rebuke (resists, lots of elemental damage), Moser's (resists, with perfect diamonds in it), and Gerke's Sanctuary (resists, excellent magic and physical damage reduction).

Weapon choices for Dragon Talon assassins are interesting, as physical damage is unimportant (unless you are using blade fury, which gets the majority of its damage from the weapon). AR on weapons also appears to not help your kicks. Affixes to look for include: increased attack speed, mana and life steal, plus skills, stat bonuses, crushing blow, elemental damage, prevent monster heal, chance to cast items (especially curses like life tap and amplify damage), and stat bonuses.

Probably the key item for the Cultist is her boots. 1.10 adds boot damage, and that added damage is nothing to sneeze at. Take a look:

Boot Type Kick Damage Min Str
Boots 3-8 -
Heavy Boots 4-10 18
Chain Boots 6-12 30
Light Plated Boots 8-16 50
Greaves 10-20 70
Demonhide Boots 26-46 20
Sharkskin Boots 28-50 47
Mesh Boots 23-52 65
Battle Boots 37-64 95
War Boots 39-80 125
Wyrmhide Boots 65-100 50
Scarabshell Boots 60-110 91
Boneweave Boots 69-118 118
Mirrored Boots 50-145 163
Myrmidon Greaves 83-149 208

Now, look at the formula for determining kick damage (source: JRichard's kick damage post):

    MinDamage=(str+dex-20)/4)*(100+skill_bonus)/100 + BootMinDam*(100+str*1.2+skill_bonus)/100

    MaxDamage=(str+dex-20)/3)*(100+skill_bonus)/100 + BootMaxDam*(100+str*1.2+skill_bonus)/100

Looking at a Cultist with 120 Str, 120 Dex, wearing boneweave boots, with slvl 20 Talon:

    MinDamage=130 from stats, 263 from boots, 393 total

    MaxDamage= 174 from stats, 450 from boots, 624 total

Don't forget she gets 4 kicks, for an average damage of 2034 per kick volley!

Twink suggestions:

Sigon's boots give great damage as early as you can get the strength to wear them. Add another component of the set for the 10% life leech synergy.

Cleglaw's Brace set gives knockback (useful early on, but a detriment after later on as monsters are knocked back before your kick volley has finished), slow monster, mana leech, AR, crushing blow, IAS, resists, and poison length reduction. In addition, the sword scales semi-decently and gives you something to swing at those manaburn boss packs.

The Serpent Lord unique long staff will totally solve any mana problem you may have with its 100% mana steal.

Get into exceptional and elite boots when you can. If you like Goblin Toe unique light plated boots as much as I do, upgrade them with the cube recipes (Tal, Shael, Perfect Diamond -> exceptional; Ko, Lem, Perfect Diamond -> elite).

No-Twink suggestions:

Gamble the for the heaviest boots you can wear. Pick up and identify all rare wands - they seem to often spawn with dual leech and elemental damage.