The tactical feat Stormguard Warrior (ToB 36) grants the use of the tactical maneuver Combat Rhythm, which says

To use this option, you can choose to make melee touch attacks in place of normal melee attacks against an opponent. These touch attacks deal no damage. For each melee touch attack that hits, you gain a +5 bonus on melee damage rolls against that same foe on your next turn.

While employing the tactical maneuver Combat Rhythm, must a creature make all of its melee attacks as touch attacks, or can a creature mix normal melee attacks and these melee touch attacks?

Discussions of the feat Stormguard Warrior usually focus on the tactical maneuver Channel the Storm with only a few mentioning the tactical maneuver Combat Rhythm. When the latter does come up, opinions seem divided, but then discussion turns back to the former because it's much more easily exploited (e.g. 2007, 2013, 2011, 2014—this last interesting but unresolved).

For an upcoming official-only-but-then-the-kitchen-sink campaign in which PCs are limited to Tier 3–4 base classes (and prestige classes that don't rocket PCs up the chart), I'm trying to mitigate my bad luck while still playing the party's lone melee combatant. I'm picking volume over accuracy and power, playing a totemist and looking to exploit the totemist's potentially massive number of natural attacks. Used normally, many of the character's natural attacks won't hit or will hit for tiny amounts of damage. However, if the tactical maneuver Combat Rhythm permits mixing normal and touch attacks, the feat Stormguard Warrior remains worthwhile for my character, allowing him to strike hard at least once this round then trade never-hitting iterative attacks and low-damage secondary attacks for cumulative +5 bonuses on damage rolls next round. A trade for volume and power over accuracy is much more palatable.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Whether or not you could mix in regular attacks, the damage bonus wouldn't apply until the next turn anyway. \$\endgroup\$ May 4, 2015 at 15:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidReeve O, I know (and say so in the background), and I really didn't mean to imply that I thought otherwise. (Should I make that clearer?) Thing is, Combat Rhythm would make me feel better next round when, if an attack hits, it'll deal 1d4+32 points of damage instead of 1d4+2 points of damage. \$\endgroup\$ May 4, 2015 at 15:18

2 Answers 2


You can mix touch attacks and other attacks when using Combat Rhythm

Combat Rhythm says it can be used “in place of normal melee attacks,” which means if it’s a “normal” melee attack, it can be replaced by Combat Rhythm’s touch attacks. It never says anything about requiring you to do so with all attacks in any given set, and it would need that verbiage. Your bonus simply depends on you doing so: a melee touch attack that you don’t take certainly doesn’t qualify as a melee touch attack that hit.

I don’t consider that the ambiguous portion of the feat at all; I think that’s quite definitive.

Somewhat more confusing is the word “normal” here – the concept of a “normal attack” comes up in the rules a few times,1 but it’s really not clear what it does or doesn’t mean – what would be abnormal. Here, it appears to just mean “an attack you would otherwise get,” rather than some new attack, but that’s far from certain. It could also mean “not a touch attack,” maybe, and I wouldn’t be shocked at a DM who felt it didn’t include natural attacks. I consider those less likely, though.

But the bit that really bugs me here is that the bonus you get is “for each melee touch attack that hits,” with nothing specifying that it must be touch attacks that you got from this feat. If you had another touch attack of some kind (dread necromancer charnel touch?), would that qualify? For that matter, what if you have a brilliant weapon? Would you get to, effectively, have your cake and eat it too?

I’m tempted to say that this is an oversight, but I’m not certain it is. The wording is pretty specific, and all it would have taken to limit the bonus would have been “for each of these melee touch attacks that hits.”

  1. Smite Evil is one such place, and as discussed in this answer I am inclined to simply ignore it in that case, since there doesn’t appear to really be a satisfactory definition for it that makes sense.

Nothing in the feat's description forces you to convert all of your attacks to touch attacks. There's a distinct lack of words like "all" or "full attack" or "for one round". In particular, it does not state (emphasized part added by me):

[...] choose to make melee touch attacks in place of all of your normal melee attacks [...]

As far as I can see, there are only two things that point towards "all attacks", neither of which make for strong arguments:

  • The feat talks about "attacks", plural.

    This is a very weak point as plural can refer to "one or more", whereas singular simply can not. Also, this line of reasoning would also preclude you from using the feat when you make less than 2 attacks.

  • The bonus does not apply to the current turn.

    This is in line with the other two parts of the feat, the theme of which is "bonus next turn".


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