Monster Optimization: Shadow Dragons

by Mike Shea on 14 December 2009

Most monster optimizations require a careful combination of monsters to bring about truly devastating effects. Today, however, we're going to look at a single creature whose power is quite remarkable all on its own - the shadow dragon.

Released as part of Nightwyrm Fortress - the shadow dragon is available both on the DDI Compendium as well as the Monster Builder. Unlike a lot of other dragons, the Shadow Dragon has some really unique combination of effects.

Most of these effects use the shadow dragon's key controller power - the globe of darkness. Once a round, as a minor action, the shadow dragon can drop a burst 2 globe of darkness. Like the drow's globe of darkness, it causes complete blindness to those inside and obscurity to those outside for everyone except the dragon itself. This gives the shadow dragon a lot of options but we'll focus on two: mobility and damage.

For mobility, the shadow dragon can teleport to any other square within any other globe of darkness it has created. This lets the dragon zip all over the battlefield to shake things up for your back-row healers and damage dealers. Beyond the mobility itself, the recipient is often blinded by the cloud forcing them to move as well. If the dragon is adjacent, this means attacks of opportunity.

The shadow dragon is one of the only (if not THE only) dragon to get bonus damage to those granting it combat advantage. This is great for pounding on those blind fleeing mages it has teleported next to - but here's the real nasty:

Right before the dragon is about to let go with its breath weapon, drop a globe of darkness on the area into which it will breathe. This blinds everyone inside and grants the shadow dragon combat advantage on all of them. For an adult shadow dragon this means adding 2d6 on top of 2d8+6 to everyone it hits in the area.

One of the big complaints about the black dragon is its ability to shield itself in a cloud of darkness making it a lot harder to hit. Remember to have the shadow dragon use the cloud of darkness as an offensive weapon, not a defensive tool. Dragon fights should be about mayhem and power, not about hiding and running. Focus on using the shadow dragon's cloud to force players to move, get some free extra damage, and keep the battle moving forward.

While this optimization article focuses on the shadow dragon alone, there are some particularly nasty combinations you might find by adding a few other creatures.

Because the shadow dragon's breath weapon negates necrotic resistances, the 10 necrotic aura of the Draconic Wraith Soulravager can be particularly nasty. Ghouls, with their immobilize attacks, also grant the shadow dragon combat advantage for that extra bit of damage.

If you really want to stick it to your PCs, some Wights can really eat into the party's supply of healing surges. With the basic attacks of the wights stealing surges and the breath weapon of the shadow dragon doing the same, a party will find itself running out of health very fast.

And there you have it, a dragon of shadow who is sure to scare the iron shorts off of any dwarf. Enjoy!

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