Tactics of Dragon Heist: Doom Raiders
This article contains major spoilers for the D&D 5e adventure Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. If you are, or will be a player in that adventure DO NOT read further without your DM’s explicit permission
The doom raiders are a powerful group of former adventurers that lead the non-antagonistic Zhentarim faction in Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. All of them except Davil (who’s analyzed in a previous post on this blog) are heavily based on other official stat-blocks. I will link to analyses of these stat-blocks as I cover each of the Doom Raiders, while this article will focus on how the Doom Raiders’ personalities affect their tactics
Tashlyn Yafeera is a straightforward melee oriented fighter based on the Champion stat-block from Volo’s Guide to Monsters. Champions are relatively straight-forward, so there isn’t a need for another article to explain them.
Tashlyn will stand and trade blows with one or two opponents to make sure they don’t attack her more fragile allies. She’ll always go for the most dangerous enemy first, because shutting them down will probably have the greatest impact on her enemy’s moral, and Tashlyn’s “unfettered sense of superiority” (Waterdeep: Dragon Heist pg. 199) makes her believe she can beat up anyone.
Besides her weapon attacks, Tashlyn has one use of Second Wind, which lets her regain 20 hit points, and 2 uses of Indomitable, which lets her re-roll a failed saving throw. She uses Second Wind when reduced to half hit points so she can continue dealing an extra 2d6 damage on each weapon attack. She uses Indomitable when she fails a saving throw against any ongoing condition besides proneness or a grapple(which she can escape from easily due to her high athletics). She also uses it to avoid spell effects that deal 30+ damage.
According to the flavor text, Tashlyn hates retreating, but can tell when she’s beaten. She retreats when reduced to 30 hit points (20% of her hit point maximum), though she’ll fight to the death if necessary to let the other Doom Raiders escape
Istrid Horn is heavily based off the War Priest stat block from Volo’s Guide to Monsters. The main differences are that Istrid has significantly less Strength than the typical War Priest, lacks the Guided Strike reaction, and has Hold Person prepared instead of Prayer of Healing.
In general, Istrid will follow the same tactics as the regular War Priest: casting Spiritual Weapon at the start of combat, then charging into melee with Spirit Guardians unless the criteria listed in my War Priest article is met for a different concentration spell. (Most of the other concentration spells are pretty situational. The only one you really need to remember is to use Banishment against a target that’s singlehandedly dealing over 30 damage per round and has already failed a saving throw against Hold Person)
Istrid will use her concentration on Hold Person when her targets are dealing more than 30 damage (the average damage of Spirit Guardians) combined and she has at least 3 allies that could attack a paralyzed target. She’ll boost Hold Person up to 4th level to get as many opponents as possible, but will save her 5th level slot for a 5th level spell.
Istrid generally reserves her healing magic for the other Doom Raiders. She’ll cast Mass Cure Wounds when at least 3 of them are below half HP, and will use Healing Word if they fall unconscious. If the other Doom Raiders aren’t present, Istrid only uses Healing Word on allies that can deal more than 7.5 damage per round, and uses Mass Cure Wounds only when her 6 most powerful allies are below half hp.
Istrid is greedy and primarily concerned with her own survival. She flees when reduced to 70hp (60% of her hit point maximum), casting Guardian of Faith behind her like an ordinary War Priest. Once Istrid reaches this threshold, she doesn’t stay behind for any reason, even to save her friends.
Skeemo Weirdbottle is basically a Monster Manual mage with extra hit points and the Gnomish racial traits. In general, he’ll follow tactics laid out in themonstersknow.com’s mage tactics article. For those of you who are too lazy to click that link, here’s a quick summary: Greater Invisibility at the beginning of combat, Cone of Cold and Fireball to damage opponents, Ice Storm and Misty Step to prevent opponents from closing to melee distance, and get out of there if opponents aren’t dead after 3–5 rounds.
Skeemo usually prefers to fight with allies, which means he might run into a situation where positioning a spell to damage as many enemies as possible could also hurt one or more of his allies. As an evil character, Skeemo doesn’t really care about these allies, and will Fireball or Cone of Cold weaker thugs and henchmen without hesitation if it means dealing more damage to his enemies. However, he won’t target any of the Doom Raiders even if it means dealing less damage because they have enough power to make his life miserable. Same goes for Manshoon’s lieutenants¹ once he’s switched to Manshoon’s side.
After years of experience working with the Doom Raiders, Skeemo is slightly more willing to stay and fight than an ordinary mage, assuming he has allies. He flees when half his allies are defeated or when he’s reduced to 43 hit points (60% of his hit point maximum).
Ziraj the Hunter is heavily based on the Blackguard stat block from Volo’s Guide to Monsters, but due to a few minor changes, his tactics are almost completely different.
Unlike a regular Blackguard, Ziraj’s Dexterity is just as high as his Strength and Constitution. This, combined with his Oversized Longbow, makes him much better as a ranged sniper than a melee fighter.
Ziraj also has proficiency in Stealth, indicating that he likes to sneak up on enemies before starting a fight. He’ll sneak up within 30 feet of his enemies, then use Dreadful Aspect to frighten them before he attacks. Since Dreadful Aspect isn’t technically an attack or spell, so it doesn’t give Ziraj’s position away before he attacks.
Since Ziraj won’t be charging into melee like a regular Blackguard, he’ll use his spells differently. Blinding Smite and Thunderous Smite only work on melee attacks, so he won’t use them in most situations. Branding Smite, which can be used on both melee and ranged attacks, is much more useful for Ziraj than a regular Blackguard.
If Ziraj is fighting alongside the other Doom Raiders, he’ll Command an opponent to fall prone instead of attacking when Tashlyn Yafeera and at least one other melee oriented ally can attack that opponent within the next round.
Ziraj, like Skeemo and Istrid, is primarily concerned with his own safety. He’ll flee when reduced to 91hp(60% of his hit point maximum)
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