When the 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) Player’s Handbook was released, it introduced a brand new class. This class, called the warlord, was designed as a battle savvy tactician that could improve the fighting efficiency of allies, just by standing on the field of battle. As a leader class, the warlord provides beneficial effects to allies that increases damage, attack bonuses, defenses, and occasionally restores hit points. Tactical warlords, in particular, specialize in providing additional attacks to allies that include generous attack and damage bonuses. The one major flaw of a tactical warlord is that tactical warlords have a weakness when involved in ranged combat. When building your tactical warlord, the following optimizations will serve to make you an effective damage dealing character.
Ability Scores – Tactical warlords use strength as their primary attribute and intelligence as their secondary attribute. Tactical warlords are one of the very few class builds that can actually benefit from having a higher secondary attribute than primary attribute. This is because while strength dictates a tactical warlord’s ability to hit, it is possible to build your character in such a way that all attacks are made by allies and only your character’s intelligence bonus affects the results of that attack. In addition to these attributes, constitution is useful for additional hit points and to possibly qualify for better armor. Dexterity, wisdom, and charisma are basically worthless to a tactical warlord, with the exception of dexterity improving initiative.
Race – As a two attribute class, and in some cases one attribute class, picking your race can be rather easy. If you are looking to balance your strength and intelligence, genasi is the best race by far, providing a racial bonus to both attributes. If you are building an intelligence focused tactical warlord, tiefling, human, and eladrin are all reasonable choices, though tiefling is the weakest of the three. With genasi as your race you should have an 18 in both intelligence and strength. With eladrin, human, or tiefling, you should start with a 20 in your intelligence. If you want to focus a little more on your own combat abilities, half-orc is a reasonable choice as well, though slightly substandard.
Skills – Based on your attributes, two skills should immediately jump out as good choices for your warlord: athletics and history. The first will probably be more useful in the long run than the second, but at least both will have good bonuses, especially if you are an eladrin. For your other two choices, heal and endurance are probably your best options. Endurance is a skill that you can only use for yourself, so if you need it, another character can’t usually help. Heal is just generally useful and gives you non-power healing options. If you are eladrin, your extra skill choice should probably be an intelligence based skill, to take advantage of your high attribute.
Feats – There are a number of good feat choices, though one set jumps out as absolutely excellent if you are a human with 20 intelligence: Tactical Assault and Improved Tactics. This combination of feats gives a +3 attack bonus and +5 damage bonus to allies when they spend an action point. Eladrin should almost definitely take Tactical Inspiration for the significant increase to healing it provides. Beyond those choices, Armor Proficiency (Scale), Lend Might, Toughness, Shield Proficiency (Heavy), and Lend Strength are all good choices at heroic tier. Melee Training is also important if your intelligence is higher than your strength. At paragon tier, you want Combat Commander, Paragon Defenses, Fight On, and an Armor Specialization feat if you qualify. Finally, at epic tier you will want Epic Defenses, Learn by Doing, Reliable Action, Shared Resources, and Martial Mastery. In addition, you should probably multiclass into another class at some point, just to get the special ability of the class.
Powers – The crucial at-will power of any tactical warlord build is Commander’s Strike. This power grants a basic attack to an ally within melee range and adds your intelligence modifier as damage. With the right feats, you can also add an attack and additional damage bonus to this attack. After Commander’s Strike, you will probably want Viper’s Strike, Opening Shove, or Direct the Strike depending on your exact build. The latter is best for an intelligence build. For the intelligence build, you will want encounter powers that do not use your strength, like Powerful Warning, Vengeance is Mine (assuming you have the Melee Training feat), and Befuddling Cry. Otherwise, Warlord’s Favor, Surpise Attack, Shutdown Smite, and other powers that take advantage of your tactical presence are good choices. For daily powers, you will want powers that last the duration of the encounter or provide free attacks to allies like Leader’s Instincts or Warlord’s Recovery. The best utility powers for a tactical warlord are ones that provide bonuses to initiative or attacks, like Spur to Action, Guileful Switch, and Tactical Supervision.
Paragon Paths – For eladrin, the best choice of paragon paths is the Spiral Tactician. The bonuses from this class make it nearly impossible for an ally to miss with an action point attack. Battle Captain, Combat Veteran, and Knight Commander are all especially effective too. The exact choice from these three is more taste than effectiveness. Generally paragon paths from other classes will not serve you well because they use the wrong attribute for attacks, don’t provide benefits for allies, or require class features your character doesn’t have.
Tactical warlords should be focused on providing extra attacks and attack bonuses to allies. With the right feat selection, a tactical warlord can just about never take an action, while significantly increasing the damage output of the party. Tactical warlords work best in parties with two weapon rangers, barbarians, or fighters. Your tactical warlord will be a lot less efficient if your party does not include a melee striker or if your melee striker does not use strength as an attack attribute. No matter your precise party make up, you should always strive to maximize the benefits your can provide your allies. By increasing the damage output of allies, you decrease the damage they take from enemies and lessen the need for defensive strategies.