Maneuvers: The Sublime Way
Thanks to Draz74
You have a lot of maneuvers to start out with, so go crazy. Burning Blade, Distracting Ember, Moment of Perfect Mind, and Mighty Throw are the standouts.
Burning Blade - Extra damage that scales with level, and multiplies if you make multiple attacks. Yes please. Obviously you'll want to upgrade to higher-level versions when you can, and switch tactics if you're fighting fire-resistant foes.
Distracting Ember - As a swift action, tell an opponent, "You're flanked." If you're the only melee combatant in the party, you need this. Otherwise, it's still not bad, and you can get creative with different ways to take advantage of it.
Wind Stride - 10 feet speed boost for a swift action isn't very impressive. Sudden Leap is usually a better way to do this, if you can get it. Mostly I would just use this maneuver as a prerequisite for higher-level Desert Wind stuff on a Swordsage who eschews magical maneuvers.
Blistering Flourish - Dazzled is the weakest status condition in the game. Don't bother.
Moment of Perfect Mind - Your Will save is already pretty good. On the other hand, you have lots of readied maneuvers, and your Concentration check is probably still better.
Sapphire Nightmare Blade - decent low-level bonus damage, and the "flat-footed" aspect just gets better at higher levels as you add in combos. Hard to go wrong.
Counter Charge - It's situational and defensive, and carries a risk. But if you do happen to get charged when you have this readied, it can be pretty fun to pull out.
Mighty Throw - For one turn, you're a tripper build, even if you have low strength. You don't get to do any damage (except, arguably, if you also have Improved Trip), but you do get to throw people 10 feet. This might be cyan colored if it did something about size penalties to trip attempts.
Clinging Shadow Strike - Miss chances are good, but a 20% miss chance that allows a save is a pretty sad status condition. Still, at low levels it's hard to argue with anything that gives +1d6 damage and a chance of something else.
Shadow Blade Technique - Extra damage if you roll well both times, extra accuracy if you roll poorly the first time but roll well the second time. I'll let you in on a secret: the real power of this maneuver is to help a Swordsage with Blood in the Water (and a kukri or a scimitar) score a critical threat more easily.
Charging Minotaur - This deals massive damage at low levels (if you have a decent Strength) and remains the poor man's Improved Bull Rush at all levels. I'm only making it black, though, because many Swordsages have poor Strength, and in any case they have Mighty Throw as an alternative option for moving opponents around.
Stone Bones - Great defensive maneuver at very low levels, especially since Swordsages are the most fragile initiator class. But loses its kick very quickly.
Sudden Leap - This isn't as great for Swordsages as it is for Warblades. Their Jump scores tend to be a little lower, they have more alternative ways to move and make a full attack, and they're less dependent on making full attacks in general. Most of all, they have a harder time recovering this maneuver once they've used it. Still, if you have max ranks in Jump, it's hardly a bad option, especially for a TWF-er.
Wolf Fang Strike - For a TWF-er, this lets you move and still use both weapons at low levels. For a non-TWF-er, at least it lets you throw in an unarmed strike (or a swing with a spiked gauntlet or armor spikes) occasionally; and in any case, at least it's a gateway maneuver to the excellent Tiger Claw discipline.
A really nice level for you. The best maneuvers are Flashing Sun, Baffling Defense, Cloak of Deception, Shadow Jaunt, and Mountain Hammer; you really can't go wrong with any of them.
Burning Brand - Extra reach for a turn is golden if you're trying to close to melee with a Large monster who can Attack of Opportunity you if you approach too quickly. Switching your attacks to Fire damage is situationally useful too (including against anything with DR!).
Fire Riposte - This is pretty impressive damage at the level you get it, and as an immediate action no less! And at low levels, most of your opponents will be making melee attacks. The damage doesn't scale well to higher levels, though.
Flashing Sun - For one round, you have Flurry of Blows like a monk, only you can do it with any weapon you feel like! Also, it's another [Ex] Desert Wind maneuver.
Hatchling's Flame - This is a poor amount of damage even compared to a blaster wizard at this level. The only reason it's not red is because at this low level, spellcasters can still run out of spells, while you can keep using this all day. Also, fire resistance isn't too common yet. (And at least it's four times as big an area as the Dragonfire Adept's at-will attack with the same effect.) This could be an OK choice if you face lots of weak critters.
Action Before Thought - Your Reflex save is already pretty good, and failing a Reflex save tends to be slightly less devastating than failing the other saves. Still, this is a good boost to your ability to avoid e.g. breath weapons, grease spells, or traps.
Emerald Razor - You're less likely than the Warblade to put this in a devastating combo with Power Attack. Still, it's hard to argue with making a touch attack when you just need to hit something.
Baffling Defense - One of my very favorite maneuvers. With a little investment in your Sense Motive skill (useful anyway), you can basically say "no" to an attack, including a ray thrown at you by a spellcaster. Besides, the image it evokes - parrying or dodging that's so effortless as to express boredom - is hilarious.
Clever Positioning - It's a decent effect. Make an attack, switch places (no matter how large the foe) if they fail a Reflex save (which tends to be a poor save). It's just relatively hard to engineer situations where switching places is going to have that much of an impact on the battle. But if you're a tactical genius who can put it to good use, more power to you.
Cloak of Deception - Spellcasters at this level would kill to have all-day access to Swift Invisibility. And wait, it's greater invisibility? And on a class that can also gain Sneak Attack and similar effects? And you can use it as a getaway card, too, so you can dive for cover and start using your Hide skill? Yeah, this is very hard to pass up.
Drain Vitality - Meh. Constitution damage is nice, but a Fortitude save negates it completely. I'd rather hold out to get the Stone Dragon version in a couple levels.
Shadow Jaunt - This is pretty underwhelming in combat, requiring a standard action to move around the battlefield. But for out-of-combat utility, it's solid gold. There are way too many cool things you can do with infinite short-range teleports.
Mountain Hammer - This is fantastic for anyone. Good damage (at the level you get it), useful DR-avoidance, fantastic out-of-combat object-breaking utility, no prerequisites. If anything, it's even better for Swordsages, since they get plenty of maneuvers known and can use some for situational utility, and also since they tend to have lower Strength than other initiators.
Stone Vise - Unimpressive. Mediocre damage boost, allows a save, and the effect isn't even useful if you're standing toe-to-toe with a monster. But I'll give it a Purple, just because Swordsages are skirmishing types who sometimes want to hit a monster, then run away from it.
Claw at the Moon - The damage is okay, but not great, the crit confirmation boost is usually not important, and the Jump check is probably easy but not automatic at these levels. I'd probably only use this as a prerequisite to get into Tiger Claw, especially when multiclassing to Swordsage from another class.
Rabid Wolf Strike - It's reckless. I can't deny that. But that's some sweet damage you're dealing out with a single attack.
Zephyr Dance - It's a great mental image, to be sure. And another nonmagical Desert Wind option. Whether the mechanics play out largely depends on your group's die-rolling playstyle -- if an attack barely hits you, will you know that using Zephyr Dance will undo the hit? If so, this is good. If not, skip it.
Death Mark - So situational! Obviously if you're fighting a Hill Giant surrounded by goblin mooks, or a Juvenile Dragon surrounded by Kobold worshipers, this is exactly what the doctor ordered. Otherwise, pretty weak, though at least you get to do melee damage, unlike many maneuvers involving an area of effect of fire damage.
Fan the Flames - At the level you get it, this is decent damage. It's almost Psion-level blasting. But it becomes less impressive very, very quickly.
Mind over Body - Now we're talking! This is the save you need to protect, and this is a great way to protect it. Unlike a Warblade, you've got plenty of Maneuvers Readied to spend on defensive things.
Insightful Strike - This is a great way to deal damage. Suddenly your little short sword does 1d20 damage instead of 1d6? ... yes please.
Devastating Throw - A decent tripping trick, it goes a little further than Mighty Throw and deals damage on the side. Still has Mighty Throw's same issues with size, and also has an odd movement requirement; might only be worth it for a dedicated tripper.
Feigned Opening - Why were you provoking Attacks of Opportunity again? You have Tumble as a class skill. Still, this is a fun little mindgame to play on your DM when you've got the Big Boss surrounded by your party on all sides.
Shadow Garrote - Mediocre damage for this level, an easy save for many monsters to make, and a mediocre rider effect if they fail the save. Still, neither the damage nor the rider effect is completely pathetic, and at least the fluff implies you can do this from a hiding spot without the target knowing where it's coming from (unlike Fan the Flames). Plus, bonus points for being Darth Vader.
Strength Draining Strike - The good news is, it does 2 Strength damage even on a successful save. The bad news is, even 4 Strength damage isn't as devastating as 2 Constitution damage.
Bonecrusher - The damage is mediocre, the rider effect allows a Fortitude save (and if your Strength is not great, that makes Stone Dragon saves easier to pass), the rider effect isn't great even for a crit-fishing build, and keeping track of the effect is annoying for the DM. You can do better than this.
Stone Dragon's Fury - It's not much better than Mountain Hammer, and it's way more situational. And if you're a dedicated Sundering build, I can't imagine why you're a Swordsage.
Flesh Ripper - Even a crit-fishing build is never sure enough that it's going to score a critical hit to make this maneuver worthwhile. Especially since the effect isn't amazing even if it works.
Soaring Raptor Strike - Decent damage for this level, and the attack bonus is always welcome. Only works on things bigger than you, but that's not so rare, especially given the popularity of Small races for Swordsages.
Searing Blade - Fire resistance is starting to become more of a concern, but on a build that gets a lot of attacks (TWF? Flashing Sun?) this is still a very impressive amount of bonus damage.
Firesnake - IIRC, it has an unfortunate history of being debated a lot due to poor writing. Besides, it's not great damage, and has the usual "dragon's breath" problem of "Reflex half."
Searing Charge - The damage isn't amazing unless you combine it with Pounce or similar madness, but the utility of the flight can be pretty big if you're creative with it. And at least it lets you make an attack, too (unlike Shadow Jaunt).
Bounding Assault - Gives you a bit of extra mobility and +2 to hit, but no good side effects like you could get from other strikes. Still not bad. If you're a dedicated charging build, of course, with goodies like Pounce, this maneuver becomes amazing.
Mind Strike - a bit of Wisdom damage isn't an amazing effect, unless you're fighting a divine caster. Still, I suppose your party casters can find a way to take advantage of lowered Will saves ... if the initial Will save to prevent the damage fails. Again, a Swordsage who neglects Strength will have a very low save DC here.
Ruby Nightmare Blade - Double damage is hard to argue with.
Comet Throw - Like Devastating Throw, but no movement requirement and twice the damage. That's an upgrade in my book, even if it's a higher-level maneuver.
Strike of the Broken Shield - Flat-footed isn't terribly impressive at this point. It doesn't enable your own Sneak Attack, and if there is another sneak attacker in your party, there are better ways to help them out (like, just flanking). And a save negates it. And the duration is too short to easily set up for e.g. Hand of Death.
Hand of Death - It allows a Fortitude save, but at least the DC is based on your Wisdom score. It doesn't let you attack, but at least it's a touch attack. It only works on flat-footed targets, but at least you have several ways of accomplishing such a status effect (Shadow Garrote?). At the end of the day, it's a save-or-lose effect on a melee character. Cool.
Obscuring Shadow Veil - Clinging Shadow Strike's big brother. The damage is ok but not great. The rider effect is pretty good against a melee monster but allows a save. If there weren't a save, this maneuver would be awesome but still not broken.
Boulder Roll - Overrunning is terrible. This maneuver doesn't do enough to change that.
Bonesplitting Strike - Quick, clean, simple, add 2 CON damage. No save. Nifty.
Overwhelming Mountain Strike - This is pretty similar to Stone Vise, which was lower level and already pretty bad, but at least this one has a higher save DC and adds a pinch of bonus damage.
Fountain of Blood - Flavorful, but there are probably easier ways to hit your opponents with fear effects if that's what you want to do.
Death from Above - This is already great for Warblades, with a decent amount of bonus damage, a bit of free combat maneuverability, and no annoying conditions (the target doesn't need to be bigger than you, and the DC 20 check is a cinch). But for a Swordsage, this is even better, since there are ways (like Sneak Attack) to take advantage of the flat-footed aspect of the strike.
- Teleport 100' as an immediate action. Yeah. Only works against someone who just attacked you, but in combat, that's usually what you want anyway, and can be very satisfying.
- Sorry, my patience with these mediocre blasting maneuvers has run out.
- Not enough damage. Thoroughly unimpressive compared to other things you can do.
- A minor, situational way to break the action economy. Especially nice with Stance of Alacrity. More important for swordsages than for warblades, since they can better afford to ready situational maneuvers, and since they're less likely to have Combat Reflexes. This is also a nice gateway maneuver into Diamond Mind for a swordsage that doesn't have ranks in Concentration. (Are there any swordsages without Concentration?
- The ability to daze an opponent with a melee attack is great. Almost great enough to make up for how this maneuver doesn't do any bonus damage and will probably have a pretty low save DC.
- What mage slayers have always dreamed of. Moving as an immediate action is great, especially if you focus on Counters a lot (Stance of Alacrity?).
- Cute, but lives in the shadow (pun intended) of Mirrored Pursuit.
- I wouldn't get this and
Comet Throw, they're too similar. But if you missed Comet Throw, you can get a little extra damage and distance on your tripping with this.
- Now usable in combat, in the same turn as a strike! Still amazing out of combat. Can be combined with Shadow Jaunt for double the bamf-ing.
- Like Bonesplitting Strike, but since it's a level higher, it at least has the possibility of doing 2 more Con damage if the target happens to fail the save. Nice.
Elder Mountain Hammer
- If you happen to get the chance to upgrade Mountain Hammer to this, great. There's no reason not to, and it's a good strong strike. Otherwise, this isn't really all that important, since Mountain Hammer has become mostly out-of-combat utility at this point, and there are lots of other great strikes.
- Lots of fun, but not terribly powerful. If you happen to be the rare high-Strength sort of Swordsage, upgrade this to black.
- Extra attacks with no downside. Even for a non-TWF-er, I think the lack of a full-attack requirement keeps this in "cyan" range. For a TWF-er, I might even upgrade this to gold
- A huge blessing to a melee character. Of course, if you've already got Pounce from another source, don't bother
Desert Tempest - The grandaddy of nonmagical Desert Wind maneuvers, I would take it just for the awesome dervish flavor. I have to admit it's pretty situational power-wise, though. It's only really great if you're facing a huge number of opponents.
Ring of Fire - Probably not as good as the Cleric just dropping a Flame Strike. At least it's shapeable, which could prevent friendly fire. But make sure you don't fall into it, or the flames will leap higher - and make no mistake, they'll burn, burn, burn.
Moment of Alacrity - With a Dexterity focus and the Quick to Act feature, you're unlikely to have a low initiative score without Delaying (and a low initiative score is the only time this maneuver matters). And since you aren't a Stormguard Warrior, and have fewer auto-stun effects than the Warblade, it's not as valuable for you to have the ability to go twice in a row. I'm sure there are clever combos a Swordsage can think up with this boost, but they're not exactly obvious or crucial.
Greater Insightful Strike - Great damage. Like, you should be forcing saves vs. death from massive damage by using this. Which is pretty great at Level 11-12.
Scorpion Parry - Like Manticore Parry, but at a lower level and with fewer restrictions. Unfortunately, the Medium BAB of a Swordsage keeps it from being as awesome as it could have been. Still pretty cool, especially if an NPC attacks you with a (high-damage) full attack and its lower iteratives are a low attack bonus.
Ballista Throw - Finally, a trip attack that does something really different -- area-of-effect damage, no save. Tell your least favorite monster to "go away!" and hurt his buddies at the same time.
Ghost Blade - Am I missing something? Or is this inferior to Sapphire Nightmare Blade from 10 levels ago?
Shadow Noose - Hello again, Vader. Cute follow-up to its little brother, Shadow Garrote. It's mediocre damage and a decent save-or-suck effect; worth using if your opponent doesn't know where it's coming from.
Stalker in the Night - Awesome name. I want to take it just so I can announce to my DM that I'm using it. Unfortunately, it's not that great, at least in a party context, since it uses your whole turn just to do one attack and stay hidden. (For an annoying NPC, it's much better.)
Crushing Vise - I wouldn't take this as a Warblade, but as a skirmishing Swordsage? Well, remember how I gave those other Stone Dragon manuevers Purple status because of their hit-and-run potential? This is like those, with no save. Awesome for a cowardly Swordsage who wants to get far away from his nastier opponents.
Iron Bones - Even as a more fragile melee character, you probably have better ways to get temporary Hit Points or Damage Reduction than this.
Irresistible Mountain Strike - My goodness, who named these things? A maneuver with a save should not be named "irresistible." Switch this with Crushing Vise, please! In the meantime ... it's a very powerful rider effect if the target happens to fail the save, and in any case at least there's a little bit of nominal bonus damage.
Rabid Bear Strike - Now that's a respectable amount of bonus damage, especially considering the attack bonus too. The AC "recklessness penalty" isn't as significant as it was at low levels, either.
Wolf Climbs the Mountain - The damage isn't great, but this is kind of nice for a Small (or smaller) Swordsage who's too feat-starved to afford Confound the Big Folk. Similar effect, much easier to get. I would upgrade this to blue if it was a standard action instead of a full-round action.
Inferno Blade - Fire Resistance is becoming a bigger and bigger concern at higher levels, but 23+ extra damage on every attack of a full attack is still nothing to sneeze at.
Salamander Charge - It's awesome, there's no doubt about that. Charging and literally leaving a wall of fire in your wake? Sweet. And the mere concept of a melee character shaping the battlefield is pretty novel, and the ability to charge with less restrictions is nifty. But I just don't think the wall of fire does enough damage to make this much better than Bounding Assault, which came six levels earlier.
Quicksilver Motion - It looks like action economy-breaking awesomeness at first glance, but there are actually a number of items (not to mention the Hustle power) that can give you a move action (or at least let you move) as a swift action. And they're pretty affordable by this level. If you're playing in a low-item game, this maneuver could be upgraded.
Avalanche of Blades - Without any special combos, this isn't really any better than a normal full attack, especially with a Swordsage's accuracy difficulties. Of course it gets a lot better if you combo it with Wraithstrike or Stormguard Warrior or something.
Hydra Slaying Strike - Ironically, this is technically worthless against hydras. On the other hand, it's pretty much incredible against any other melee monster.
Shadow Blink - Every character (except maybe Wizards who already have Abrupt Jaunt) wants this. If only they had initiator level 13, they would use a feat to get it. (How the heck does it not have any prerequisites? Or a [Su] tag?)
Death in the Dark - Almost as cool-sounding as "Stalker in the Night," and it does pretty decent damage at the level you get it. Too bad it offers a save.
Ancient Mountain Hammer - See Elder Mountain Hammer. Again, nice but not crucial.
Colossus Strike - As a Swordsage, you're much better off using the Setting Sun throws.
Hamstring Attack - Unimpressive effect, and allows a save (Strength-based, no less).
Swooping Dragon Strike - If you've focused on your Jump check, this is the maneuver where it pays off.
Wyrm's Flame - No. Just no.
Diamond Defense - Now protect all of your Saves with one Readied Maneuver, or protect your Fortitude save twice.
Diamond Nightmare Blade - Quadruple damage. I don't know what else to say.
Fool's Strike - Another of my very favorite maneuvers in the book, this would be a better color if it weren't paired with the Swordsage's Medium BAB. Still, a great choice, especially against foes who have lower attack bonuses on their iterative attacks.
One with Shadow - Everything should be able to handle incorporeality by this level, but maybe not if they're caught by surprise. It's a good defensive move. Also, use it to walk through walls, or to make Greater Insightful Strikes as touch attacks.
Enervating Shadow Strike - Negative levels are fun, and never go out of style. But the wizard could do this 8 levels ago, and with no save.
Adamantine Bones - Too little, too late. I'd rather use Hydra Slaying Strike if I'm about to take a full attack.
Earthstrike Quake - I'm not impressed. If you're set on knocking a bunch of enemies prone, hold out for Tornado Throw.
Girallon Windmill Flesh Rip - A very significant amount of damage for a TWF-er to add to his full attack. Of course, skip it if you're not TWF-ing.
Raging Mongoose - Four extra attacks on a full attack, or on any strike (Wolf Fang Strike? Time Stands Still?) that allows using both weapons? Halelujah. Even for a non-TWF-er I'd say this is awesome.
Inferno Blast - Eh, I'm sure the political power of being able to burn down an army, neighborhood, or village every 12 seconds must be immense. But against CR-appropriate monsters? This won't do much.
Time Stands Still - Lots of attacks are the name of the game for a swordsage, especially if you use two weapons and/or get Sneak Attack. Time Stands Still increases your output like nothing else.
Tornado Throw - Nothing says "epic monk is pwning you" like a good Tonado Throw, especially if the same opponent gets thrown over and over again (in one turn). (Hmm, use this maneuver in confined spaces?). On the other hand, the damage isn't really so impressive, and often the kinds of monsters you face at this level are too big to trip easily, or too big to trip at all, and don't come in the kinds of numbers that make this maneuver really impressive.
Five-Shadow-Strike-of-Ridiculous-Name - Too random for my taste, but I've got to admit, regardless of the random outcome (or even whether the save is successful), this will do some nasty things.
Mountain Tombstone Strike - Nice effect, no save, infamously has no prerequisites. Looks better on a swordsage, since it's not sitting next to the equally-powerful Strike of Perfect Clarity.
Feral Death Blow - Too many things can go wrong here, even though the Jump check should be easy. Full-round action. Target has to be vulnerable to crits. Allows a (Strength-based DC) save. Still, it is a save-twice-or-die effect (with massive damage coming into play), and there's something to be said for that.