- Sauceror: Gets an intrinsic 50% MP bonus, as well as having a higher max MP to start with on account of being a Mysticality class. Can make triple batches of stat-boosting potions. Do not underestimate the usefulness of these potions in surviving Agent fights. Gets MP from fighting (non-Agents), using Curse of Weaksauce and Soul Saucery. Has extra elemental resistance, but this is somewhat redundant since their high Mysticality reduces hacking damage to begin with.
- Pastamancer: Gets the same max MP and elemental resistance bonuses as Sauceror, but without the free MP. No potion bonuses, but they can summon Thralls to equalize either Muscle or Moxie to their Mysticality. This bypasses offstat requirements for equipping outfits (but not individual items), as well as greatly raising one offstat for damage reduction in the Agent fights. Alternately, they can summon a Spaghetti Elemental to completely block the Agent's first wave of attacks (at thrall level 5+), essentially guaranteeing the jump without worrying about being defeated on the first turn, allowing you to turn the tide by responding with appropriate skills. For those not wanting to go through the appropriate steps of the Nemesis quest, an Angel hair wisp will also block attacks starting at thrall level 5, though not as reliably. However, the wisp also gives a 5*level combat initiative bonus, which can help you get the jump on the Agents.
- A significant chunk of your stat gains can come from Agent battles, if you can win them. Otherwise, you are not going to get enough stats to advance to the next council quest without doing some leveling. You should expect to spend some turns leveling. Try to minimize them.
- Since combat stat gains are reduced, scaling monsters are no longer the top choice for leveling in Hardcore. (Not sure about Normal, where you can pull multipliers.) Clovers are effective as always, so you can use those if you have some. Otherwise, the best place to level, for any class, is the Haunted Bedroom. Every nightstand has a special post-combat choice adventure, and 3 of them have a selection that gives you 1x mainstat stats. These are not reduced by the path mechanics. So, olfact the nightstand that corresponds to your main stat (assuming that's the stat you need to level), banish some of the others if you can, and fight. Potentially consider using an ice house on the animated mahogany nightstand, which does not offer any bonus stats.
- The Haunted Bedroom can also be used to advance the Agent counter without actually encountering an Agent. Then, when the counter is fully charged, your next regular combat in any other zone will be an Agent; thus, you can be prepared.
Items of the Month
- Certain Items of the Month really shine here. These are just a few notable choices. There are many others that are still extremely helpful.
- Source Terminal: An IOTM tailor-made for this path, the terminal offers EPIC-tier browser cookies and hacked gibsons that still give stats under restrictions, alongside other helpful buffs. Among these, Portscan is an incredibly powerful skill that forces combats with additional Source Agents, giving gobs of stats to power through a stat-starved run.
- Puck Man: power pills and miniature power pills give you a +100% bonus to all stats for 30 turns. Pop one right before an expected Agent fight, and it should last for 2 Agent fights (assuming not too many noncombats in that time). Spare yellow pixels give you pseudo epic-tier food and booze, which can be skipped with the Terminal, freeing up pixels for mini-pills and overall familiar usage for other familiars.
- Witchess Set: The equipment from the King/Witch/Queen give you +x Mus/Mys/Mox per fight, which is not reduced by path mechanics. These are tough to defeat; follow Disco Lord Ross's guide or greycat's guide for tips.
- Machine Elf: Drops abstractions (size-1 spleen items) that give +100% stat buffs or +25% stat gain buffs (or +100% item drops, +100 initiative, or +10 lbs.). Also gives 5 turn-free fights in a special zone per day. Also gives you randomly chosen stats after combat, some of the time; these are not reduced by path mechanics. The boss-trigger Inner Elf effect is also highly useful for the final boss for the exact same reason that it's useful when fighting the Sorceress.
- LT&T Office offers the configurable cowboy boots, which grant +25 HP/MP, spurs that can aid in survivability, and a skin that boosts one of Mus/Myst/Mox by +50%, extremely helpful for letting Myst classes hit harder with Source Punches and Kicks, while giving Muscle classes a larger MP pool to cast those skills.
- Crimbo Shrub: Gives you tuned stats after combat, which are not reduced by the path mechanics. Also has yellow ray capability.
- Fist Turkey: Gives you randomly chosen stats at the start of combat, limited to 5 times per day per stat, not reduced by path mechanics.
- If you're buffing heavily, early on, for the Witchess equipment, it's helpful to run the Fist Turkey while you have +weight going (but not at the cost of whatever you need to prepare for the Witchess battles -- that has top priority). Once the Fist Turkey's stat gains are used up, the Shrub or Machine Elf become the best stat-gain familiars.
- If you're playing without a lot of IOTMs, the path can be extremely challenging. Permed skills help greatly, and class selection is also fairly significant especially in the absence of a large set of cross-class skills to even things out. Some notable skills and class perks:
- Wisdom of the Elder Tortoises: TT passive. Increases your max MP.
- The Magical Mojomuscular Melody ("Mojo"): AT song. Increases your max MP. You need a significant MP pool to use the path-specific combat skills. At a bare minimum, you need 25 MP to do anything at all other than run away, since the cheapest combat skill costs 25 MP. Against the ramped-up Agents, you'll need to open each combat with some 50 MP or 75 MP skills before you can even begin using your 50 MP or 25 MP combat skills. More on this later.
- Ruthless Efficiency: 50% bonus to all deleveling you do. This includes the Humiliating Hack path skill which delevels an Agent by 50%. With Ruthless, this becomes 75%.
- Patient Smile, Wry Smile, Knowing Smile, Aloysius' Antiphon of Aptitude: All give bonus stat gains which are not reduced by path mechanics. The first three are mutually exclusive facial expression skills; Antiphon is an AT song.
Path skill selection order matters, especially if you do not intend to take all of the path skills in a given run.
If you aren't running a high amount of +ML (or if you remove most of it right before an Agent), you can win initiative against the early Agents using only your regular skills and gear, so Overclocked can be delayed somewhat. But it becomes important in the mid-game, or if you are running nontrivial amounts of +ML. In the end-game, winning initiative may be impossible even with Overclocked and all of your other initiative sources. If you feel it is nonviable to fight for the jump, the Enlightenment point that would be spent on Overclocked can otherwise be spent on other skills.
- Big Guns is nice in the early game, as it can one-shot the first several Agents. It becomes irrelevant in the end-game.
- Humiliating Hack is essential to win the end-game fights, and is extremely beneficial in the mid-game and beyond. Basically, you start using Hack at the point where Big Guns starts becoming irrelevant. Especially with Data Siphon and stat buffing, Humiliating Hack is part of the way you make Agent battles MP positive.
- Data Siphon lets your Source Punches and Source Kicks regenerate MP. The MP you gain is equal to the damage inflicted, before +ML reduction; therefore, it is based on the difference between your Muscle and the Agent's defense. Use stat buffs before the fight, and use Humiliating Hack during the fight to reduce the Agent's attack and defense by 50%, or by 75% (with Ruthless Efficiency). Source Kick is always MP-positive, which makes the combo of Hacking and Kicking with Siphon essential to not running out of MP in a fight.
- Restore fully heals you, essentially doubling the amount of time you have against an Agent.
- The three blocking skills (Bullet Time, True Disbeliever and Code Block) help you to survive the initial Agent onslaught when you lose initiative. If one or more of your stats are buffed high enough at the start of the fight, you might take very low damage from those particular attacks, and therefore you might be able to delay or even bypass that blocking skill. (E.g. a Seal Clubber running around with highly buffed Muscle may skip Code Block since the Agent melee attacks will all do 5 damage anyway.) These three skills become important whenever you start facing Agents with stats higher than yours. They may also be used in the early game as a substitute for stat buffing, initiative and Humiliating Hack, but this is somewhat risky. An Agent may select to divide its attacks across all 3 types equally, in which case you dodge everything; or it may select to shoot you in the face a bunch of times, and then only 3 attacks are blocked and the rest destroy you.
- Disarmament and Reboot are only important in the end-game, if you are surviving the initial onslaught but still being whittled down by subsequent 5 damage attacks. Reboot is probably the most useful of the three, when the elemental hacking attacks combined with the negative elemental resistance of the Agents' debuff start to become overwhelming.
- You don't need the Wand of Nagamar, but you do need the 6 keys, and all the other new-style tower stuff. Prepare for the tower however you normally would, except that you can skip the Wand.
- The final boss is an Agent, with 500 attack, 500 defense and 700 HP, and 12 attacks per round, but no Latency debuff. You will be stripped of all effects, but not equipment. The fight is somewhat anticlimactic if you've been fighting high-stat Agents, but could be challenging if you've been running away from them. Ruthless Efficiency won't help you in this fight, since it gets stripped away; as do all of your stat buffs. Your sash should help, especially if you're a veteran with a high ascension count (the sash maxes at +100 to all stats).
- Humiliating Hack will take his attack and defense down to 250, so having your Muscle higher than this is extremely helpful (but not strictly necessary). Disarmament and the three blocking skills are recommended, especially if one or more of your stats will be under 250.