It seems fitting to begin by comparing a Countess to the base class she is the female counterpart to. A countess is a faster version of the Squire. Faster how, you might ask? She casts faster. She moves faster. And, she dies faster. But, her Towers work exactly the same as the Squire. These attributes make her a better builder (Not counting certain costumes that you must earn) than the Squire, but not as durable for fighting. This guide is intended to help a Tower-based Countess, or "builder." It is also worth noting that most guides published for a Squire will work for a Countess because of their similarities. I'll get more into the why and the how of choosing/using a Countess below.
So, the Countess is essentially like a Squire? What are the differences? First I'll tackle the Durability. As I mentioned above, she is easier to kill. This is because she gets less base Hit Points, but slightly more HP per point of Hero Health. That sounds somewhat balanced, but the difference is so great that it cannot be overcome without a significant investment in Hero Health. Trying to match the HP of a Squire will limit or even take away from your Tower stats as every stat has an opportunity cost - what you spend in Hero Health you are not spending in Tower Attack or Tower Health, for example.
Secondly, the Countess moves faster. A Countess with 400 Hero Speed is faster than a Squire with 400 Hero Speed. Significantly faster. This helps when trying to pick up mana while under the pressure of a timer before a wave or when trying to get from point to point to build or repair your defenses. The speed is really helpful when trying to beat a map for the first time because you usually don't have the best possible paths to each chest planned out yet - you have to learn the map before you can plan that out. The speed really sets her apart and makes building much easier.
Finally, she casts faster than a Squire. This, again, helps when you are building under the pressure of a timer between waves. It also helps when you have to repair that tower quickly and move on to the next one so the Ogre beating on them can't take them down before you've had a chance to repair them. This also impacts how long you have to stand in to complete a repair. Can you repair the tower and move out of the way before the Ogre's club comes crashing down? This is easier for the Countess to accomplish because of the casting and movement speed she possesses. (For those new to the game, there are other classes that repair via a skill that is effectively much faster than the Countess or can repair more than one defense at a time. Abilities such as a Jester's Wheel-O-Fortuna ability to heal all allies would be an example. Having such a character in use isn't always an option, so the casting rate of the Countess can be a difference maker during the early waves on a map.)
How to build a Countess
First, a brief reminder/explanation of what this guide is intended to do. This is a guide for a Builder. The Countess has abilities that make her a superior builder to the Squire (without respect to costumes) and this guide is meant to help players looking to make a Tower Builder. You can apply this guide in large part to a Tower Squire, so if you are looking for tips on where to put points this is a good place to look. The Countess can be a Melee-DPS-Type, but this guide is not intended to help with that sort of character design. Due to the lack of Hit Points a Countess will typically have, as compared to a Squire or Barbarian, she is more of a "Glass Cannon" in combat - she can do good damage, but is more fragile and dies more easily. It is this author's opinion that the Countess is better used as a Builder. I will not be spending much time comparing Tower builders in a contest of "Who is the BEST of the best?" It is widely held that you must use a combination of Builders from various classes to beat the hardest difficulty settings on the hardest maps. No one character is the end-all-be-all of building towers. That said, it is not advisable to mix Countess towers with Apprentice or Adept towers. They serve essentially the same function with one difference - the Countess/Squire towers are better when used properly. I will explain why you should prefer Countess/Squire towers over Adept/Apprentice towers later in the guide.
Where do you put your points? Tower Stats. Which ones? Tower Damage is the most important. You can put virtually all of your points in one stat now. (Guides that say you can't are outdated.) I would put all your character points in Tower Damage, unless you feel you're deficient in one of the other 3 tower stats. This might lead to you having much more Tower Damage compared to your other 3 Tower stats. That's perfectly fine. In fact, maintaining up to a 2-to-1 ratio between Tower Damage and each of the other 3 tower stats (2000 Tower Damage and 1000+ Tower Health, for instance) will give you excellent damage output and enough durability, range, and attack rate to make the towers functional. You should be able to pick up some fairly balanced gear that will provide you with enough of those stats on their own, but you can compensate by putting character points in one or more of those stats as needed. The best ratio for Tower Damage compared to the other Tower stats is based on personal preference, but it is safe to say this: you want about a 2:1 ratio, but greater than a 1:1 ratio of Tower Damage to any other tower stat. As you getting increasingly better gear, you will eventually hit soft caps on Range and Attack Rate. When that happens, increase damage about above the 2:1 ratio for both of those if you can.
It is important to note that, as a function of DPS (Damage Per Second), Tower Damage will increase your damage output by the greatest amount per point you invest. That means, essentially, if you want to kill ogres as quickly as possible then the Tower Damage stat should be as high as possible. It's also important to note that you can't always kill the Ogres before they get to your Towers, so it helps if they have enough Hit Points to survive a few hits.
If you want an order of importance for Tower stats, they go as follows:
Tower Damage>Tower Attack Rate>Tower Health>Tower Range
Why in that order?
- 1. Tower Damage scales the best. It has the greatest effect on DPS. It also expands without bound. (ie the actual damage of your towers keeps getting bigger per point you put in the stat, no matter how many points you have put in it.)
- 2. Tower Attack Rate is the 2nd most important Tower stat in terms of DPS calculation. The faster you attack with the same damage per hit, the more damage per second you've done. The problem with attack rate is scalability - or dimishing returns. As you get to extremely high Tower Stats, say above 3000, you will run into a problem scaling the stat. It will take so many points to hit the next attack rate interval (The time between attacks) that putting a few more points in it is a waste. This is due to the fact that you're trying to lower the time between attacks by hundreths of a second and, past a certain point, it is takes way too many points to actually get that next interval. A good upper-limit is at 2400 Tower Attack rate.
- 3. Tower Health is important for obvious reasons, but beyond a certain point it is wasteful. Would you rather have more HP or be able to kill the monster faster so that he doesn't hit your tower at all? Once you have enough Tower HP to take a significant amount of damage, you can stop investing in Tower Health. It becomes more important to actually kill the monsters before your towers are overwhelmed by the onslaught of enemies. No matter how much HP your towers have, the towers will eventually fall if you can't kill the Monsters fast enough.
- 4. Tower Range is important, but also scales poorly, much like Tower Attack Rate. And, like Tower Health, you only need so much range and beyond that, it becomes wasteful. Where exactly you draw the line is up to you, but it is a luxury in the begining of your time in Dungeon Defenders and it's excessive much past 2400 as you master the game.
The important thing is that you have enough DPS to kill your enemies before they can do much, if any, damage to your towers. If you aren't able to achieve that, you will have to spend more time repairing than upgrading or killing monsters. At some point, a lack of Tower DPS will become unmanagable. So, it is important to focus on DPS and get only as much Tower Health and Range as needed. Early on, you won't be getting 2000 in any stat, so where you put your stat points is critical. As you level, you will eventually rely solely on your gear to provide you with adequate statistical increases in your Tower Stats other than Tower Attack Damage. Remember the ratio of to 2:1.
Towers and Their Use.
Spike Blockades are good for appropriately-sized choke points. They can keep enemies from dealing damage to your Harpoon or Bowling Ball Turrets, but aren't as useful later in the game due to enemy movement speed/jumping and enemies that can move defenses, such as Sharken. In difficulties up to Insane (On most maps) they can be very helpful.
Spike Blockades reflect damage to the attacker, but this damage is fairly low and is not worth consideration in any dps calculations. Spike Blockades deal Physical Damage.
Blockades are not affected by the Tower Range stat.
3 DU, 30 Mana
Bouncer Blockades deal much more damage than Spike Blockades, but have noticeably less Hit Points. They also have a knockback effect. Typical use is similar to a Spike Blockade. Bouncer Blockades also deal Physical Damage.
These can be used tactically on bridges or near edges to knock enemies off, essentially one-shotting them.
The knockback effect does not work against Bosses, Ogres, Dark Elves, Sharken, or certain other unique units. Blockades are not affected by the Tower Range stat.
4 DU, 40 Mana
Harpoon Turrets are the primary offensive Turret for the Countess. Fires projectiles at ground-based or flying enemies. The statistical scaling on this tower is very good. With low tower stats they will seem extremely slow-firing and low-damage, however; with additional points in the appropriate towers stats, they quickly out-class other projectile-based towers in terms of range and damage potential. As with the other Countess Towers, Harpoons deal Physical Damage.
Harpoons have the piercing effect. They will pass-through enemies, hitting each one they come in contact with successively. This deals the same damage to all enemies the projectile makes contact with. Cone of attack is 120 degrees.
6 DU, 80 Mana
Bowling Ball Turrets fire bouncing balls in approximately a 45 degree cone of attack. This is initially the highest damage per hit tower in the Countess's arsenal. This Tower also scales well with additional Tower stats, but not as well as the Harpoon - making them inferior once you reach high enough tower stats. As with the other Countess Towers, Bowling Balls deal Physical Damage. Bowling Balls have a small-radius splash damage effect. They are destroyed on impact with an enemy or upon reaching a certain range based on your Tower Range stat.
7 DU, 100 Mana
This tower is a small radius, 360 degree offensive Blockade. It can be used similarly to a Bouncer Blockade, in terms of tactically positioning it to knock enemies off a ledge, and also at choke points to hold the points from large waves of enemies. As with the other Countess Towers, Sline N Dice Blockades deal Physical Damage.
These do better damage than either of the other 2 blockades, but they have less hit points as well. Blockades are not affected by the Tower Range stat.
8 DU, 140 Mana
For each of these towers, there are recommended uses and strategies. This guide is for tower-building strategies, but some of these towers become defunct very early on. We can break down these 5 towers into 2 classes: 1. Ranged Projectile Turrets and 2. Blockades. I will deal with the proper usage of each type and highlight my recommended uses for each member of the respective class.
1. Ranged Projectile Turrets
The Bowling Ball Turret and the Harpoon Turret are the 2 members of this class. The Harpoon Turret is by far the more versatile of the 2 turrets and, in virtually all cases, the Harpoon will outperform the Bowling ball. The primary reason to use a Bowling Ball Turret is when you are trying to get the "Master Builder" score bonus and you are able to mix in a single Bowling Ball Turret with at least 1 Harpoon Turret. This can be very effective against a single Ogre and uses up 1 additional DU. So, if you are at 93/100 DU, using this turret would allow you to get the "Master Builder" bonus. (A Harpoon Turret with 6 DU would leave you at 99/100 DU.)
Why is the Harpoon Turret so clearly better? In short, Piercing attacks are extremely useful. Instead of killing just 1 enemy, you kill every enemy in the path of the Harpoon. Harpoons are best used at the end of a long corridor. This allows them to maximize their effectiveness by attacking entire long columns of enemies with each Harpoon fired. This becomes more potent as enemies are spawned at increasingly faster rates at higher difficulties and later waves. Add to that the facts that A.) Harpoons can hit air units and B.) They scale better and will eventually do more damage per hit and you'll find no reason to use a Bowling Ball Turret.
The Spike, Bouncer, and Slice N Dice Blockades are all meant to slow or halt enemy advance. To that end, they have quite a few hit points, but no ranged attack. It is typically necessary to support them with Harpoons to attack ranged or flying enemies. By keeping the enemies away from your Ranged Projectile Towers, it allows your projectiles to kill enemies while the enemies must get through your high-Hit-Point Blockades to even get to your Turrets. In general, the Slice N Dice is never going to be as effective as a Spike Blockade+Harpoon Turret or a simple Bouncer Blockade. The Slice N Dice costs too much mana and Defense Units, has too few HP, and too short a range of attack. The Bouncer Blockade is much better early on, but quickly loses it's benefits as Ogres will fight their way through these without taking much damage and the sheer volume of enemies will wear them down too quickly. The Spike Blockade is the most mana and DU efficient and the best late-game Blockade.
Early on in your Dungeon Defenders experience, and by "early on" I mean pre-Nightmare and/or pre-500+ to your respective tower stats, these are very useful. As you get higher and higher tower stats and the enemies get more speed, more hit points, and even the ability to move your defenses, you will find that having more firepower from another Harpoon is more valuable than having a Slice N Dice or a pair of Spike Blockades. In fact, building a monk to use his Ensnare Aura for 3 DU would be more effective than a Blockade because it slows all enemies in wide radius and gives your Harpoon Turrets more time to overcome the enemies as well as making your Turrets more accurate shooting at slower enemies. (This is especially true when firing at Goblin Copters.) And, it does all that while lasting much longer than a Blockade could while taking damage without repair because auras don't take damage from enemies, but are instead drained very minimally by the number of times it effects an enemy - auras don't have anything for enemies to beat on, so they simply drain at a fairly slow, constant rate. Again, as your tower stats increase, the Blockades become less useful and alternatives such as Ensnare Aura or additional Ranged Turrets become more useful.
Why Do Countess Towers Outperform Adept/Apprentice towers?
First, in order to understand why this is true, you have to understand how to best use each Character's Towers and how to arrange your stats to match the towers. Once you've reached that stage and you farmed reasonably good gear (1000+ to all Tower stats), you will realize that you're essentially comparing the Harpoon Turret (6 DU, 80 mana) vs the Magic Missile Tower (3 DU, 30 mana).
Why do I say that? Because you shouldn't be wasting your time with any other Countess Towers because they simply aren't as effective. And, you shouldn't be wasting your time with Fireball, Lightning, or Death Towers because they fall victim to a combination of three or more of the following: they have too few HP, do too little DPS for the DU spent, attack one 1 enemy at a time, and/or enemies can be immune to their elemental effects like Fire or Lightning. But, Magic Missile Towers effect all enemies (Just like Physical Damage from all Countess Towers), fire quickly, and are a fairly efficient use of DU.
This essentially comes down to a function of DPS and Piercing vs Non-Piercing. No matter how well you tweak an Apprentice or Adept's stats, as your Countess's stats improve (Using the stat point Guidelines I stated above for your Countess), the Harpoon Turret becomes better DPS than 2 Magic Missile Towers and the Harpoon is Piercing. So, with a Harpoon Turret, you're doing more damage per second and per hit than the combined damage of a Magic Missile Tower, as well as hitting multiple targets with the same Projectile. Couple that with the fact that by making twice as many towers when using Magic Missile Towers (3 DU vs 6 DU), you must spend twice as much mana to upgrade those towers fully. The choice is clear: Countess/Squire towers are better.
I've been asked to add a section about items. Many players want to know "What is the best item for slot X?" The simple answer is: the best you can find. There is no unique item that is absolutely awesome for a Countess. There is no end-all-be-all unique item for a Tower Build with any class, really. One thing to note: if you are making a builder, weapon damage doesn't matter. You're killing the enemies with your Towers, not your weapon - so upgrade the tower stats on a "builder" weapon.
Below is a summary list of items that I feel would be beneficial and the reasons why. (I'll list several specific items for certain slots, like the familiar. You can only have one of each item-type equipped on a Countess, so choose the one that is best for you.)
- Robot Familiar - It can help due to its high damage and knockback. Kills quickly and keeps enemies away from you. This helps considering you probably maxed tower attack and not HERO attack.
- Tidal Blade - This is a high-end weapon with typically very good stats and fast swing speed. Tower stats on the sword are key and fast swing rate helps when trying to fight through enemies. Reward for completing Aquanos.
- The Light Knight - Also provides excellent stats from the Weapon slot and is relatively easy to get from King's game.
- Kobold on a Treadmill - Extremely high tower stats and that's really what you want for this character. You can substitute a Giraffe until you've got the mana to buy or the ability to farm a Kobold yourself. Using this means you probably should get a DPS character like a Jester or Huntress out during waves because you'll have a really hard time killing anything in Nightmare without investing heavily in your Weapon's Damage and Hero Damage.
- Santa Beard - (Sorry, couldn't find a Wiki page) This is very good and is given for completing Winter Wonderland, standard mode - insane or higher. Good for any class, really.
- Party Hat - Very good Brooch accessory. Again, good for any class.
- Make Sets of Armor - Getting the stat bonuses is an important part of gearing your character.
- Highest Quality Gear Available - You won't just start out with Ultimate gear, but you need to get a complete set of an armor and that armor needs to be as high quality as possible because it effects the size of the set bonus.
- Armor Resistance - If you're planning on using this character during waves, get your resistances to a good level. I personally max mine (90% in Nightmare Mode) on high-end Ultimate Armor on several of my characters. If you plan to use a Kobold and want to Maximize tower stats, then I would recommend that you use another character during waves - which makes resistance much less important and you can basically ignore resistances when upgrading your armor stats. Better Harpoons, worse survivability.
Build Layout Examples
Again, by request from users, I have been asked to add a section to the Guide. This will focus on layouts for Countess-Only builds - meaning you won't need another character to complete the build. This also will not be suitable for Nightmare mode - these builds are intended for insane and below. It is VERY important to know that you MUST eventually branch out into other classes in order to achieve success on the most challenging maps at the highest waves, so this is meant to help a beginner see examples of how they can position their towers in order to achieve maximum effect. The direction the towers face in the maps should be accurate to in-game use. More maps may be added later by request.
- Ramparts. - This is an good map and a great place for pre-70 characters to level. Follow the link to see my build.
- Glitterhelm - This is a challenging map for beginners that is great for 70-74 characters to level and farm gear and mana.
What Do Elite Players Build With?
I've said before in this guide that no one builder is the end-all-be-all of builders - they need to be used with towers from other classes. So, what other classes might you want? Well, there are 4 that everyone should have: Countess/Squire, Summoner, Series EV, and Monk. (Some would add Huntress/Ranger.) Below is a list of the other 3 classes (Since this Guide is about Countess). They are ALL essential and assigning an order of importance is pointless - get and build them all!
- Summoner eventually becomes the primary ranged tower builder because their towers do NOT use DU - they use a new type of unit cost called MU (Minion Unit) as well as the fact that these towers (Called minions) can turn 360 degrees to fire at enemies behind them. Using primarily Archers and Mages, this class features towers that repair themselves, but not towers from other classes. This helps the longevity of your builds greatly. Typically, the Archers form the frontline of defense with Harpoon Turrets and Mages safely behind them to heal and support.
- Monk Auras are a HUGE benefit. Using the combination of Ensnare, Electric, and Strength Drain Auras allows you to thin the herd, so to speak, by killing lesser enemies and letting your towers focus on the bigger enemies, like Ogres. (And, slowing the Ogres to give additional time to kill them before they get to your towers.) They also kill spiders very effectively to protect your towers.
- Series EV Buff Beams are the primary reason to have the class. They have two blockcade-like Beams that are the most useful of all blockcades and made to custom size for players that need blockades in their builds. Other than that, they make buff beams and then go back to their hole. Buff beams increase the Size of Monk Auras, the Damage and Fire Rate of Towers, and the frequently of Aura effects. Very important to have.
Strategies For Play During Waves
The most obvious problem for a Tower-Building character during waves is the need to be able to do damage and be tough enough to go out from behind your defenses and get mana, which your Builders simply won't be geared to do. Once your set up is completed, you must upgrade and repair during a wave, but you must also be able to kill the odd Ogre in a pinch and not just repair, but do so efficiently for the entire map. This leads many to use a specialized character that is fast and geared for DPS with good Hero Casting Rate, Resistances, and Health. You may also find it beneficial to use a Genie pet for this character. Genies return mana for the damage you deal, which would allow you to get mana faster and upgrade your defenses more quickly. Some classes would be good for this purpose, but they are too slow or they only deal melee damage, such a Barbarian - who is guilty on both counts. The list below are classes I would recommend for this and why.
- Jester - Jesters have very high health and can use any weapon, so they can do ranged damage. This allows them to hit flying enemies and kite ogres. They also have Wheel O' Fortuna which can repair ALL defenses simultaneously. Very handy. This character was seemingly designed for this purpose.
- Monk - Monks are pretty fast and have Defense Boost, which is an aura centered-on-self that heals all towers in the aura and increases their damage significantly. Monks can also do ranged as needed and can really deal huge melee damage as well, so they can help kill things when your defenses are getting overwhelmed. Monks do not get as much HP as a Jester, but they get enough to be effective. This should be a separate character from the Monk you used to build your Auras.
- Huntress - Huntresses are fast, they do ranged damage, and they do TONS of damage. The Piercing Shot ability also can help killl ogres really quickly. Again, low HP for the Huntress, but she can have enough to get the job done. The only benefits to using a Huntress vs another character for this purpose are her speed and ranged DPS. This should be a separate character from the Huntress you used to build your Traps.
- Summoner - There is a tactic for Summoners in which you get high Health and Casting Rate armor and two damage-dealing pets, such as a Seahorse, and use the Overlord and Flash Heal abilities to repair your defenses quickly with no risk of dying or interruption while in Overlord Mode. This allows you to kill stuck enemies and repair your defenses efficiently. This should be a separate character from the Summoner you used to build your Minions.