Assassin background and foe counters
I've previously covered the synergy and rationale behind CeAs. Points to add:
Normally if an Assassin misses with his needles, he's screwed. CeAs can simply run around a pillar, pick them up, and shoot them again! Limited ammo matches the limited number of threats that CeAs can't simply run away from.
Blowgun remains Ce's primary counter to insect threats, which tend to be fast and venomous, rapidly chewing through Ce's HP-centric defense. Given that Ce can run from most things, this is important. Pain and Corpse Rot provide additional counters.
At minimum, the blowgun counters extreme AC and rPois-. Once it's enchanted and Ce finds more ammo, it counters anything not rPois.
Bow is common, easily found, and counters mid to low EV and AC. Like blowgun, it's more effective against foes in a line.
Pain counters high EV and AC coupled with high threat. Bow prevents MP depletion due to overreliance on Pain. Blowgun increases kiting HP delta.
The combination is devastating.
Stats: increase Int only
Ce should level only Int.
Str is garbage: -3 Armor, Deformed, Armor doesn't affect barding. Large shield does favor Str, but not worth losing Bow. Ce already receives Str and Dex at multiple 3 level ups, and doesn't need any more of either stat. Fast 2 reduces defensive dependence on AC and GDR. Light armor such as Troll Leather Armor makes sense for quite a while. This synergizes with mage.
-3 Spellcasting sounds terrible but is no different than -3 Armor Dodging Stealth. -10% MP does hurt but it offset by +1 Invo. Ce will obviously worship an Invo god.
Ce's apts make him look like much more of a meleeist than a mage, but that ignores Fast 2. Ce is squishy but has the speed to stay at range. Skirmishing is much more effective when bolstered by support spells. Ce's meleeist then fulfills the cleanup role, at which it excels, thanks to hooves aux attack.
Spells allow Ce to use a protection brand to solve squishiness while still doing damage.
Spell schools: Necromancy and Charms
Ce wants to specialize in some magic school(s). Breadth is disincentivized by -3 Spellcasting.
Elemental bad, support good
Elemental schools fit poorly since Ce already has strong ranged skirmishing damage. So he's looking to complement skirmishing. Schools to consider: Charms, Summonings, Necromancy, Transloc, Transmut.
Charms is a great fit for a skirmisher, obviously.
However, Charms is broadly cross-school, which conflicts with -3 Spellcasting. Transloc and Hexes have obvious secondary value. What about the others: Air, Ice, Necro, Conjuration, Fire?
Air is only relevant for Lvl 4 SLS, which is a stretch. Defer at least. Swiftness is risky but still useful for alternating kiting with melee, and doesn't need great spellpower.
Ice has little relevance. Ice Form is mostly redundant and Summon Ice Beast conflicts with Qaz. However Ozo's Armor still helps even at low spellpower. Troll Leather Armor suits Ce.
Summoning and Necro
Summoning and Necromancy allies die in Qaz clouds. This is reason enough to skip Summoning, but Necromancy offers more than allies.
Necro crosstrains with Charms for Regeneration and Excruciating Wounds, both useful. The latter keeps a light fast polearm relevant for kiting, and is always good on a quickblade, especially with hooves aux attack.
Corpse Rot synergizes with Fast 2. Sublimation of Blood synergizes with TLA regen, and mitigates -10% MP. This is how Ce becomes a viable mage again. His primary constraint is low MP due to -3 Spellcasting.
Agony is an excellent midgame MR check that removes the need to train Hexes to exploit weak MR.
Necromancy is the all-in-one school, and a good fit for an inept mage such as Ce. It's a great start, particularly for fast characters, who can easily exploit the corpse snowball.
Hexes and Transloc
At -1 apt, Hexes struggles against MR checks, and is of interest only for low-level spells, notably Corona, a skirmisher's friend.
Translocations is partially substituted by Fast 2. Thus Translocations is similar to Hexes, with one low-level single school spell of interest: Blink. Translocations and Hexes hit a stopping point at Portal Projectile.
Transmutations synergizes with +0 UC and mitigates poor Ce defenses. That sounds tempting, but the apt advantage over other melee schools merely reflects the loss of Fast 2, innate AC and hooves. Forms still suffer from terrible Ce Dodge and Stealth apts. Moreover, Transmutations is broadly multi-school, which conflicts with -3 Spellcasting.
TSO Statue Form UC is certainly legitimate, but at that point XP is unlimited anyway.
Melee school: Axes
Axes or Polearms?
Ce must choose a melee weapon school to focus. Axes is the usual meleeist choice. Should it be Polearms instead?
Let's see the arguments for Polearms first.
Polearms crosstrains Staves and Axes. Crosstrained Staves sounds ok. Ce will generally eschew Shield for Bow, so 2h Lajatangs are wieldable. Axes are merely crosstrained, reflecting that Ce will usually run rather than cleave. Likewise, crosstrained Staves provide cheap 1v1 facetanking damage, reflecting that Ce's focus isn't 1v1 melee.
Ce's Fast 2 certainly favors Polearms, particularly after converting to Qaz, but also under Kiku with Animate Skeleton and Corpse Rot.
A +2 spear of pain will kill foes 1v1 delightfully quickly.
Now here are the arguments for Axes.
The goal of weapon skilling isn't to focus the skill that provides most of your damage. There is only one goal in DCSS: Escape with the Orb. Especially given the low difficulty setting, the focus of skilling should be on avoiding death. Sometimes the effective way to do that is to enhance strengths; other times it's to shore up weaknesses.
Ce already has excellent damage output at range from his bow. He doesn't need another source of the same with Polearms. If he can kite something, whether with polearm or bow, then it's probably dead.
However, what if Ce can't run? What if he's surrounded? Then it's an emergency. If Ce's response to an emergency is merely an unbranded crosstrained war axe, he risks death.
Suppose Ce shores up his melee weakness by training Axes to primary and branding a +2 hand axe of pain. This makes him much less skittish, since he's less reliant on kiting for survival. Less fear means better positioning, lower risk and better resource conservation. If necessary, Axes Ce can charge into a pack to assassinate a priest before retreating back again. He can cleave packs of fast pursuers without finding a corridor to funnel them first.
Axes crosstrains Maces instead of Staves. Maces is a much-stronger 1v1 weapon group. Macelikes are more common and have better brands. Protection macelikes are common, which synergize with Miasma, Pain, Vampiric Draining and tanking for skeleton allies. Aux attack reduces the damage penalty from protection brand, and the AC boost mitigates deformed body. Protection brand synergizes with Regen and Necro snowballing.
What does early Staves offer in comparison? Yiuf's chaos quarterstaff, which CeAs Kiku has little reason to use.
Therefore CeAs trains Axes to primary and brands a +2 hand axe of pain.
Early +2 dagger = Short Blades
In the early game, however, before finding a god, CeAs sticks with his +2 dagger over a +0 spear, since fast swing speed synergizes with hooves. Polearm kiting isn't particularly effective without Qaz clouds, and skirmisher kiting substitutes. CeAs does alright just throwing rocks on D1-2.
Thus early CeAs wants to find a venom dagger. Then he venom kites with blowgun, dagger and Fast 2. Poison damage scales with stacks applied.
Offensive training summary
So, CeHu Qaz trains Axes, Bows, Necro, Throwing, Charms, and a smattering of other low-level spells.
Ce's obvious primary synergy is Qaz. However, starting Qaz is dangerous. Early Dungeon is substantially a tutorial on bypassing excessively dangerous uniques. Qaz noise impedes that, without offering an adequate single-target counter. Fortunately, fast Necromancers are always effective, so CeAs can dip Kiku before Qaz.
CeAs worships Kiku first, to secure the two spellbook early boost. Fast 2 aids skirmishing around skeletons and Corpse Rotting. Necro snowballing mitigates hunger pressure from -3 Spellcasting. Sublimation of Blood synergizes with Troll Leather Armor to mitigate Ce's weak mMP.
Centaur runs all over the map with Fast 2 but is vulnerable to getting cornered, particularly after converting to Qaz, when he pulls the map. Kiku provides an excellent pain axe for when surrounded. Corpse Rot mitigates by creating landmines wherever a corpse lies. If Ce's cornered, he can plug a corridor with miasma after making a few kills, mitigating Qaz's weakness in corridors. Even if Ce is unlucky enough to miss Corpse Rot in both gift spellbooks, Animate Skeleton still works in corridors where Qaz is weak, as does Vampiric Draining.
The Necronomicon is overkill for Ce, who will go Good Gods Extended for that sweet TSO halo archery.
Stay Kiku until Lair is cleared, to avoid facing fast swarms of derived undead in the open. Burn Kiku piety breaching Lair:6 vaults and Orc camped stairs. Face Kiku wrath in Orc and Dungeon.
It might seem wasteful to stop casting Necro after converting to good gods. However, Zin enters the infinite XP portion of the game with Abyss, after doing the underleveled Slime. So the sunk cost of Necromancy hardly matters.
Qaz grants immediate cloud immunity, rendering Kiku's miasma beneficial! Ce can easily outrun other wrath effects, unless slowed.
Elemental Force doesn't convert Miasma clouds.
Qaz synergizes with Ce's noisiness and Fast 2 polearm cloud kiting and +1 Invo. The divine shield is nice too, facilitating bow.
After reaching Abyss entrance, cash out Qaz piety clearing Vestibule. Also breach Gehenna and Cocytus entrances. Qaz wrath can give transient elemental vulnerabilities, so have both options. Maybe Tartarus too, to be safe. You don't want to try to burn off Qaz wrath in Gehenna with rF–.
Good Gods Extended
To mitigate Qaz wrath, donate and wait. Then sit on Gehenna or Cocytus upstair until Qaz wrath subsides.
- Zin Slime Abyss Zot
- TSO undead then demonic
- Zig: Oka, Usk, TSO?
I'm unsure about Zigs. Ce loses most of his mobility advantage.
Oka permits sitting at the entrance with Heroism+Finesse and arrowing-down foes as they appear. A TSO-blessed bow counters undead and demons. Meanwhile, abundant specialized needles could wreak havoc on the living, supplied by Oka ammo gifts.
TSO mitigates Torment and at least give halo and shield vs natural holiness floors. But Ce can surely Statue Form by that point, offering partial rTorm. Killing everything faster is probably a better option, making TSO dubious.
Usk is always good, but killing at range might reduce clumping. Certainly Ce is no stabber.
I'm tempted to try Oka first, if only for the novelty of using him in Extended. The huge expense of raising -3 apt skills 5 SLs certainly argues in Heroism's favor.