Epic Education 20: Tower of Despair pt 3

Hello and welcome to Epic Education – a show of tips and tactics for surviving epic content.  I’m your guide Shamgar and this is Episode 20: “The Tower of Despair pt 3” alternatively titled “Shadow Dancing”

Having defeated the Judge and the Jailor we can proceed to the next boss fight. Along the way will be some more trash to kill but they shouldn’t be a problem. After a short walk you will find yourself back at that circular platform we don’t want to fall off of. Kill the trash here and then head up the staircase.  Be careful though, the stairs push towards the side and the pit of lava.  Angle your avatar towards the middle of the stairs to counteract this.  Once you reach the top go through the door and check your buff bar.

For this boss fight we will need resist fire, resist cold, poison neutralization, and freedom of movement.  Additionally we should rebuff anything and everything that increases damage and if you have anything that reduces cold damage (like fire shield) that’s a good idea too.

The room we are in is a large open throne room with a few pillars in an elliptical pattern.  At the far end of the room is a dais with a large chair and the boss Nythirios.  He is a pit fiend like Arritrikeos who also happens to appear slightly ethereal (but don’t worry, he isn’t incorporeal so you don’t need ghost touch).  Around the perimeter of the room are 8 openings, 2 on each wall, that lead to a small network of tunnels around the main room, but currently these are blocked by magic barriers.

Once the fight is started these barriers will drop releasing several winged shadows.  These shadows each have an aura that does a large amount of cold damage.  Think of them as a walking (well flying) version of a persistent cold AoE spell.  Their aura does a large amount of cold damage even on normal.

As much as possible we want to keep these shadows away from the main party so they can attack Nythirios in relative safety.  It is possible to burst heal through a shadow or 2, but generally this is at best a short term solution and your dps will start dying or your healers (or healer if only 1 is doing so – which is easily doable against just the pit fiend) will quickly run out of spell points and then deaths will become much faster.

The most popular way to deal with this problem of separation is to have the main party fight Nythirios on the dais while 1 person kites or tanks the shadows.  The main party will rush the dais and surround the pit fiend.  Just before he becomes active the 2 barriers on either side of the dais will drop releasing 1 shadow a piece.  The person assigned to dance with the shadows needs to get their attention quickly before they reach the dais and start being hit by the 2 handed melees.  More shadows will periodically spawn in the surrounding tunnels eventually finding their way into the main room.  When Nythirios is at 60% any current shadows will die and the remaining 6 barriers will drop.  You will get a quick breather without shadows to reset yourself.  At this point the shadows will start spawning at a faster rate and will be able to enter the room from more directions.  The shadow dancer must get each new shadow’s attention lest they reach the party. Once you have their attention you have 3 options: run, tank, or die.  Let’s consider these options in order.

Kiting the shadows is the most common way of dealing with the shadows as it requires the least amount of gear or special abilities.  Most anyone can kite if they are clever and skilled, but there are certainly class options that drastically increase chances of success.  Whomever does this however should follow the same general strategy.  Grab aggro and run in circles around the main room.  Most people like running just outside the pillars to prevent the shadows from cutting the corners.  It is important to keep your eyes up though, particularly in the second half shadows have a tendency to approach you from the front.  To avoid them it is usually best to take your next turn early (like right now) and then resume your pattern from there.  If necessary you can run into the tunnels, just be aware that there is no room to maneuver. Fire shield, haste, jump, and protection from cold will all improve your survivability.

Casters, particularly self healing casters have a distinct advantage with AoE spells and the ability to rebuff on the run.  Such casters should keep persistent AoE spells like ice storm, firewall, blade barrier, and even clouds and fogs on the stairs leading up to the dais.  I myself like to drop a cloud kill on the stairs to start because of how long it lasts followed quickly by a pair of firewalls or ice storms.  Each time you pass the stairs as you are running drop a new firewall or ice storm.  As you are running it will be essential that you remain hasted, have a jump spell active and I highly recommend a feather fall item.  This will allow you to cast while jumping in the air, if you are slowed by casting the shadows will catch you (they are about as fast as a hasted character).  When the shadows reset I drop a new cloud kill and some more AoE spells on the stair.  I like cloud kill because it does not visually impair, but it does have a longer casting time than firewall and ice storm. Additionally I tend to cast extra AoE spells in front of the doorways and really everywhere.  This attracts shadows faster which I find creates more predictable approach angles and prevents a mentally challenged shadow from walking through my stair cover and slowly realizing I’m the one he wants.  Sometimes this is enough time for someone else to hit him harder keeping him on the dais.  I also like to use ray spells or DoTs to attract attention.  My goal as a kiter is to make sure I am the foremost thought on the shadows mind – and then run like hell.  Divine casters and artificers can use a similar tactic but mostly only have blade barriers as persistent AoE spells.  Favored souls have an additional advantage with their archons and they and air savants can use their leap of faith abilities to quickly escape.  Just remember to always jump to cast. I also advise that once you set up the stairs for the initial 2 shadows you back away to create some starting space between them and you.  Just make sure to face and shoot them until they start coming for you.

Other characters can also kite, though they tend to be less self sufficient.  Anyone with a ranged weapon can get shadow aggro but will have a more difficult time as they must target each shadow and lets face it, a monk plinking a shadow with a shuriken will be less interesting than the glancing blows from the barbarian’s epic sword of shadows.  If you have ranged abilities like manyshot save those for when a shadow find the dais.  Characters with speed boosts like monks and barbarians have an advantage as they are faster than the shadows (a full monk or a character using the second tier of sprint boost runs backwards almost as fast as shadows run forward).  Solid fog clickies used on the stair can be used to minimize aggro issues and I’ve even seen bards use glitter dust in the same fashion.  One at the start and one at the reset should be mostly sufficient.  Healers should be aware if the kiter isn’t self healing and endeavor to top them off each time they pass the dais.  I have also been known to run to the center of the room to toss the kiter a quick heal when not a primary healer though this most often ends with me becoming shadow food.

The second and less used method of shadow dancing is tanking. This method is similar for acquiring shadow aggro but instead of running you stand still, generally at the bottom of the stairs.  The theory is simple, like other AoE effects, exiting and re-entering the area of the shadows’ aura reapplies the damage drastically increasing their rate.  This often happens to kiters who can’t boost their speed (you can attempt to avoid this by making a sharp immediate turn once you find yourself in the edge of the aura).  By tanking you accept the incoming cold damage but at a far slower rate.  Fire shield, protections, constant healing (generally self healing), and a good cold absorption item are essential for this method.  You will take damage, a lot if it.  Mitigation, hit points and healing are your strategy. However, for a properly prepared character this is a much safer and reliable method.  While generally only attempted by casters with quicken, even a beefy melee with silver flame pots can use this method.  Don’t attempt his without gear and I would say at least 450-500 hps as a minimum though.  Failure would be highly probable.  On the upside, tanking casters can do so within range of Nythirios and chip in on the dps.  I generally assign someone who can spot heal the tank if they use this method (or harm them if they are a pale master).

No mater how good you are at shadow dancing, everyone dies sooner or later.  Experience and skill can of course increase your chances of success, but everyone has a first try.  If you fail don’t beat yourself up (though of you fail a lot take a look at your strategy).  A good party leader will assign a backup dancer and perhaps a third string.  These people ideally have persistent AoE spells which they should keep active at the top of the dais.  If the dancer dies you may not have time to cast a spell and run away, and you need to be ready to do so at a moments notice especially when the kiter doesn’t have persistent AoE on the stairs.  Characters relying on ranged weapons and a solid fog clicks make poor backups because of how little damage these things do, though it is possible.  If things really go south someone may end up kiting Nythirios too while the main party recovers and rezzes.  The backup kiter may also end up kiting while the primary is still kiting.  It is generally a bad idea for 2 people to kite at the same time, but if it happens run in the same direction so you didn’t run each other over with your train of shadows.

The rest of the party will be attempting to kill Nythirios before the shadows kill the dancer.  This is pretty much a swing for the fence fight.  Melees, ranged, casters, even healers should dps as much as possible as fast as possible (though healers should primarily heal, just cast a quick mass cure before each divine punishment).  Nythirios doesn’t do too much damage and most groups should be able to kill him in under 2 minutes on normal and maybe up to 3 to 4 minutes on elite.  We do however want to slightly backload our dps.  It becomes more difficult to kite after the reset.  This point in time is marked by some DM text.  Action boosts should be used as often as they are available, you will either win or die before you run out.  Smites and manyshot abilities however should mostly be saved for after the reset.  Basically, anything you only get to use once in 2 minutes should be saved for the second half to shorten the harder phase of kiting, but it almost doesn’t matter.  Swing hard and swing fast.

Note however that area effect spells and things like lantern archons shouldn’t be used against Nythirios. We don’t want to accidentally bring a shadow onto the dais.  Those with the feat should also turn off improved precise shot unless they are kiting for the same reason.

Healers be ready to spam heals for a short time if the dancer goes down and dancers make sure you have freedom of movement.  Nythirios likes to cast holds against targets he can’t melee.

Once he’s dead head upstairs and grab your loot.  Be careful when you shrine though lest you go through the portal to the final boss fight instead.

That will end this week’s Epic Education.  If you have any questions, comments, or corrections you can email me at or visit myDDO blog at Join me next time as I continue discussing the Tower of Despair.  Thanks for listening.

Comments (3)

  1. Sneakygits

    A great writeup, thanks!

  2. […] talks Tower of Despair in his latest “Epic Education” blog! Click here for tips and […]

  3. sirgog

    Nythirios hits like a truck on Elite, and for that reason I like to assign a sturdy melee (ideally your Horoth tank) to stand in one place and hold Nyth’s aggro while the other melees DPS from flanking. At the shadow swapover, you can hit Intimidate safely but never, ever, EVER use it at any other time.

    This helps a lot with SP conservation for divines, as you want 1000 SP at all times in case you have a shadow emergency and have to manadump heal until you are stable again.

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