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We're playing a 4e campaign, and last night we came up against some really annoying shift-as-a-reaction enemies. Our melee strikers (Vampire, Avenger) and defender (Warden) had a really hard time doing much against these guys, leaving our ranger to do most of the heavy lifting.

The whole encounter took a lot longer than it should have, because we spent a lot of time just chasing the enemies down. Eventually, we sort of surrounded them on all sides, but it took forever.

So, how can you counter slippery/shifty enemies? So far I've read about grabs as a way to immobilize, as well as the Bolt of Clumsiness magic ammunition.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What level? and what kind of warden? Also do you have a controller of any kind? \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle May 2 '15 at 18:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have to wonder if you're playing the rules correctly. You don't say what creatures you were fighting, but a creature with "shift-as-a-reaction" shifts after the thing they are reacting to, meaning that if the creature power is "immediate reaction: when this creature is attacked, shift one square" you get your attack before it slips away. \$\endgroup\$ – Simon Withers May 2 '15 at 23:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @waxeagle 1st level. Earthstrength Warden with Warden's Lunge, Strength of Stone, Roots of Stone. We have a wizard as our controller, and he was having some pretty rough luck with dice rolls. \$\endgroup\$ – convoke May 3 '15 at 1:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SimonWithers Entirely possible we made a mistake. I don't know what kind of creatures they were, exactly. I could ask the DM. But the shift was triggering off of us moving adjacent to them. So, we'd use our move action to get in melee range, he'd shift away, and then be out of range for our attacks. Does that ring any bells? \$\endgroup\$ – convoke May 3 '15 at 1:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you find out what monster they were, let me know. I need to induce some more movement into my encounters. \$\endgroup\$ – Washington Pearce May 3 '15 at 3:25
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A 1st level party focused on melee combat is going to have a great deal of trouble dealing with an enemy that can shift each time an a player moves adjacent.

Assuming that the monster is not being played incorrectly:

  • the shift is a reaction to the PC moving adjacent
  • the shift can be used multiple times per round (note that only in very exceptional circumstances will a creature have the ability to take multiple immediate actions per round)

there are a still few strategies that can help:

  • if the enemy is only shifting one square, a reach weapon will still hit them.
  • if the enemy is not using reach or ranged weapons, you can use a standard action to ready an attack, triggering on when an enemy moves adjacent to you. So you move up, they back off, you ready an attack. On their turn, they close in, you attack, then they attack.
  • if you can move to a place where they need to shift past you to evade your fellow PCs, again, a readied action can allow you to make an attack, as they shift away from your ally.

Another trick you can try is to not move at all, and then ready a charge attack, triggering of any movement at all. Since immediate actions can't be used on your own turn, if the monster tries to move on it's own turn, it triggers your charge, and can't use it's shifting power.

Replacing the charge attack with a Bull Rush attack, to knock the monster down, may also work to deny further shifting.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The second of your first bullets is likely untrue. It's described as a reaction which would be immediate and not accessible multiple times per round. Otherwise, solid strategy for MBA focused characters \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle May 3 '15 at 11:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is solid advice. A lot our party is pretty new to the game, so readying an action was not something we thought about. Same with Bull Rush/knockdown. \$\endgroup\$ – convoke May 3 '15 at 14:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sorry to dredge this up, but I was reading about bull rush, and couldn't find anything (other than a fighter power) that mentioned knocking the target down. It's just a slide, isn't it? \$\endgroup\$ – convoke May 4 '15 at 19:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @convoke It's just a push normally, yes. You shift into the space they are pushed out of. I believe there are a number of ways to add prone to it, but it's not built-in. \$\endgroup\$ – DCShannon May 4 '15 at 21:02
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There are two options here, and with your party composition, it looks like you're restricted to one really good one.

The option that's not really in play for you is to just keep things to ranged attacks, that's great for your ranger, but the warden, vampire and avenger are left out in the cold as you can see from your post. This is a place where a ranged striker, a controller or a leader would shine tremendously.

However, the other strategy is where the warden shines fantastically. The warden has several powers that either prevent or severely limit the ability of shifty characters to do their thing. Some of these powers need to connect, but others do not. One of the best is a daily called Form of Winter Herald that create difficult terrain in a burst 2 area. Also, depending on their build they have tons of powers that slow, prone or even outright prevent shifting.

Ultimately though, this is a problem that is difficult to solve. If you can't prevent the movement, then you'll have to play ping pong. Immediate reactions are only usable once per round, so once a creature has used the trick, they can't do it until their next turn. To take advantage of this, focus fire on one of them, this may prevent the first hit, but it should net two attacks per turn on that creature.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Our Warden does actually have Winter Herald, but we didn't use it. Does difficult terrain prevent shifting? Just looked it up, and looks like it does (provided they only have shift 1 as a reaction). Also, very interesting note about immediate reactions. Was not aware of that, and they were definitely shifting multiple times per round. I'll bring it to the DM's attention. \$\endgroup\$ – convoke May 3 '15 at 1:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @convoke Actually, you can't shift at all with DT: the Elf's Wild Step allows them to shift in DT. Ergo, we can conclude that no other creature can shift through DT, no matter how many squares they can shift. \$\endgroup\$ – Washington Pearce May 3 '15 at 3:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh interesting. I was looking at the PHB and it said: Difficult Terrain: Because each square of difficult terrain costs 1 extra square to enter, you can’t normally shift into a square of difficult terrain, unless you’re able to shift multiple squares or you’re able to ignore the effects of difficult terrain. \$\endgroup\$ – convoke May 3 '15 at 3:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @convoke yes, that's correct. So if it's, say, a shift 3, then you're out of luck, but if it's a shift 1, then you've got them with difficult terrain. Specially if said terrain moves with you (vis-a-vis form of winter's herald) \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle May 3 '15 at 4:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @WashingtonPearce see above, it's not that you can't shift in difficult terrain, it's just that typically you can't shift more than 1 square (unless you have a power that lets you), so you can't spend the extra movement \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle May 3 '15 at 4:59

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