Strike of Perfect Clarity – More Useful Than You Think

By Ken Wai Lau

Strike of Perfect Clarity

Like a hot knife through butter…
Artwork © by Jacob

Like many others, I used to think Strike of Perfect Clarity was somewhat ‘ordinary’ for it’s level. Maneuvers such as Time Stands Still appeared to deal more damage.

The idea behind Strike of Perfect Clarity was that it was a finishing blow or an attack that ended a fight in one strike, splitting an opponent from head to foot.

But by the time you acquired the maneuver, it would be assumed that most significant enemies would have more than 200 hit points. Strike of Perfect Clarity would only be able to chip away half of that.

Time Stands Still, on the other hand has more potential, especially combined with boosts such as Inferno Blade and Raging Mongoose.

However, there are advantages that Strike of Perfect Clarity has over Time Stands Still: good damage combined with mobility.

One Hit Kill Or Overkill?

I find it ironic that those of us who called for melee combat focused characters such as the fighter to have more options other than ‘full attack every round’ would be attracted to Time Stands Still, which is essentially nothing more than two full attack actions in a single round. But here are some things to consider:

Advantages:

  • Double the number of attacks in a round during your full attack action.
  • Greater damage potential.
  • Can be combined with boosts to add more attacks and damage.

Disadvantages:

  • Full round action, so loss of mobility, limited to 5 foot steps and cannot be readied.
  • Stuck in one place, so be prepared to take it as well as you can dish it against tough opponents.
  • Difficult to use against speedy opponents who move around a lot.
  • Iterative attacks with lower attack bonuses means you won’t always deal full damage.

Unless you optimise your character aggressively, there’s no guarantee that every attack made with the maneuver will result in a hit. As a full round action, Time Stands Still sacrifices a lot in terms of mobility, although it is possible to mitigate this problem somewhat by using boosts such as Shadow Blink or Quicksilver Motion.

On the other hand, combining these two boost maneuvers with Strike of Perfect Clarity (though not at the same time) would allow you to create a quasi spring attack effect but with more damage potential. The reason for this is that Strike of Perfect Clarity is a standard action. In a nutshell:

  • Standard action – no loss of mobility and can be readied as an action.
  • Uses your highest attack bonus at all times.
  • Full accuracy means more scope to use the power attack feat.

Obviously, there are drawbacks:

  • Lower damage potential, even with boosts.

Aside from the mobility advantage, you can also ready a standard action to use the maneuver, something you can’t do with Time Stands Still since it is a full round action. If you combine Strike of Perfect Clarity with Dancing Blade Form, you could lay low charging attackers before they can get too close or even strike back at large creatures with reach using the fly-by-attack against you.

Closing Thoughts and Other Stuff

If you compare the Strike of Perfect Clarity to other standard action strikes of the same level, you can see that they are pretty well balanced against each other. Mountain Tombstone Strike essentially does the same damage as Strike of Perfect Clarity, though sometimes less depending on the amount of hit dice a creature possesses and how well you rolled the ability damage.

Five Shadow Creeping Ice Enervation Strike does far less damage than Strike of Perfect Clarity, but can also do a myriad of nasty things to an opponent. Strike of Righteous Vitality is all about healing, rather than the damage output.

So when you consider Strike of Perfect Clarity from this perspective, you’ll find that it is actually a fine maneuver. I find that mobility can be pretty important in a battle, which is a luxury afforded by the standard action strikes. But like with most things in D&D 3.5, the problems occur when you start to look beyond the Tome of Battle and select feats from other supplements in order to find killer combinations.

And as a final word: the extra damage Strike of Perfect Clarity should not be allowed to multiply on a critical hit despite what the WotC sage says. I wrote a similar article discussing (Greater) Insightful Strike and pointed out that if the warblade wielded a weapon with a x3 or even x4 multiplier (such as a greataxe or a light pick, respectively), it could prompt a rather anti-climactic end to a battle – even if the result of such a strike may be spectacular.

Click here to see what I think of the Tome of Battle.

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