BlueCrake`s VSTr of Ash guide

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Version 0.15: This article may not be up to date for the latest stable release of Crawl.

This article contains advice from other players, which may be subjective, outdated, inaccurate or ill-advised. Read at your own risk and alter to fit your play style as necessary!

A Guide on Transmutive Stalkers and the Curse

This is a guide for Vine Stalker Transmuters going for Ashenzari as a god. Other options will be discussed, but the guide mainly focuses on the peculiar details of this specific build.

I was going to shorten it drastically, but cannot find it in me to remove anything from the guide. So I guess it stays bloated and wordy. --BlueCrake (talk) 13:52, 29 August 2014 (CEST)

Starting Options

You can skip this part if you just want to follow the guide. Read it if you want to learn about similar options.



Great aptitude for transmuting, UC and Dodging, the ability to cross water and balanced stats make merfolk one of the easiest picks with a transmuter.


Biting and Tailslapping opponents around is generally awesome for UC. A strong breath attack later on helps with problematic situations during the midgame. Draconians also have high AC through their scales and enjoy a slightly greater Dragon Form.


Despite their lack of aptitudes Demonspawn make great transmuters during the mid and engame, when their own mutations start to stack up. Most of these mutations are not supressed by changes in form gaining them some unique advantages.


Spriggan have good aptitudes but lack hp. One can always play a human. Vampires have nice aptitudes but have problems staying well-fed enough for transmutations. Naga are slow and already have See Invisible so they`ll be better off with cheibriados.

Vine Stalkers

Mediocre Aptitudes and a lack of HP make Vine Stalkers seem like an even worse choice than spriggans. But this race has some unique advantages

  • Regeneration 1 (upgrade to Regeneration 2 at level 6 and Regeneration 3 at level 12.); the effect is noticeable from the start, but at level 12 you will gain around 1 HP per action. This makes attrition from groups of enemies (orc and yaks in the beginning draconians and demonspawn later) much less of a problem.
  • Permanent Spirit shield helps to offset your low HP; What were you going to do with that MP anyway? During a usual fight you won`t need more than one or two forms. (MP regenerate in addition to your normal hitpoints meaning your effective regeneration is even higher.)
  • Fangs 2 (upgrade to 3 at level 8) an auxilary attack that starts on par with draconian tail-slaps and only gets stronger. Can be used to kill even Tier-2 demons, though you shouldn`t try this.
  • And an Antimagic Bite that gains you MP. The more damage your bite dealt and the more MP you were missing the more you gain. Vine stalkers are the true vampires of crawl! Gaining life by biting things is nice in general, but do not rely on it to get you out of bad situations.
  • Also the bite works like it has the antimagic brand. Those high end casters just lost a lot of their deadliness, even if they falter only once or twice that will net you time to land those important hits.
  • Rotting resistance; kind of a niche, but makes fighting ghouls and plaque shamblers easier. Also prevents you from loosing max HP (Which is good cause you can`t use normal means to regain them)
  • No HP from potions or wands; kind of bad, but usually you should avoid situations where you have to rely on these anyway. (Barring the very early game where your regeneration achives much of to the sam effect) Potions of Magic will add as much to your resilence as a potion of heal wounds for other characters. Keep one or more on your person if possible.



The obvious choice start with your book and all the forms you need for the dungeon, lair and orc. If you have particularly bad luck Blade hands and Ice form can carry you all the way through Zot.


Gain a headstart in killing things barehanded (or is is bare-vined?) and in Ashenzari piety, but you have to rely on luck to find the transmutations that are vital for your build. Though you can just go for an unarmed medium-heavy armour fighter if no suitable books turn up.


One can build a Transmuter out of most backgrounds as you will generally need all stats and all skills aside from the weapon skills. It is generally a waste of XP to start as something else as monk or transmuter for this build, but should your wizard happen upon some early book of changes and no conjurations at all by all means turn your build around and go with it. (Use your own judgement)



Heroism and Finesse are great. Gifts are mostly useless as they`ll be either weapons or (mostly) useless armour. Not that Heroism and Haste won`t stack with UC on highest levels, though this will be more of a luxus issue by the time you are able to get both.


Gain ranged attacks and demonic reinforcements, also health on kills. Very nice for all those midgame branch ends. The HP on kills is a bit overkill, Vine Stalkers have problems with max HP and being one shot-ed, not with attrition.


Gain effectively See invis, more Accuracy and protection from negative energy. Also Cleansing Flame and Holy allys for your extended killing sprees. On the downside you will lose most of your stealth as well as the option to use such nice things as Necromutation and Regeneration. Makes for a nice switch from Makhleb or Oka as noted in his/her page.


Great Invocations including slowing opponent, irresistible damage on every opponent in LOS and a ok escape ability. Also adds lots of stats to your character, which will translate into easier spellcasting, monstrous damage and better evasion. The slowed movement and the ban on being hasty is quite detrimental to this build though. If you find yourself with acess to reliable translocations early (Teleport control+blink/teleport rings; Controlled blink) you might want to give chei a try.


Theoretically the god of transmuting, but his/her altar appears much to late and unreliable.


Many of the other gods can be quite useful for a transmuter; do not pick Trog or Zin though.


Ash has some major and some minor things going for her/him:

  • Skill boosts for cursed gear (Awesome)
  • See invis and Clarity (Great)
  • Identify Foo (Nice but more of a luxury)
  • Detect Opponents at range (Huge)
  • Scrying (seldom usefull, but when it is, it`s generally life-saving.)
  • Transfer knowledge (I can not see any real use for this with the new XP-system.)

Ash is rather passive in his/her demands as well as in her/his boosts. No need (or option) to train Invocations, no restrictions in behaviour.

The idea behind picking Ash was, the general magical boost one gains by being fully bound in jewellery. This allows to have a skill trained to 5 be effectively at 10 on high piety. This allows you to spread your experience over all the magical skills you will need as an Transmuter and still get enough out of that levelwise. (The skillboost is retained when the equipment is melded)

Detecting opponents will allow you to recover in dangerous areas by avoiding opponents (mostly). Knowing the exact location and number of your opponent before the battle starts will also allow you to position yourself much better for the ensuing slaughter.

Add 2 free and important intrinsics (both of wich Vine Stalkers lack) and pile the free identification on top and you have a great deity to worship.


This part will tell you what to do, but as always you still have to think for yourself.

Stuff formatted like this is meant with a "if possible".



  • Focus your learning on transmutation, and whatever spellschool you need to get your next form-spell castable reliable.
  • Spend the rest on unarmed combat.
  • Only learn spellcasting when you need spell-levels. (But plan ahead, you want all of the spells from your Book of Changes castable asap.


  • Focus on UC!
  • Get Fighting, Dodging and some Armour until you can stay in fight without losing to much life.
  • Pick up Evocations to around 10.
  • You can pick up stealth but dont really need to.
  • Also crank up your spellskills any time you find a new spell you want to learn.


  • Get UC high (Think 23+)
  • Pour a lot XP into Fighting and Spellcasting to get your max HP up.
  • Keep on skilling Dodging and Armour


Get at any price:

Forms are most important:

Beastly Appendage use very early, unlearn in midgame

Sticks to Snakes use for meatshields, unlearn in midgame

Spider Form use for running, poisoning

Ice Form use versus hydras, to float or against ice+poison attacks

Blade Hands main (defensive) combat form, use in every fight where no form-resistances are needed.

Dragon Form killer combat form, use when you need fire resistance, flight and whenever you want maximised offensive. (Typically in tight corridors or versus uniques)

Necromutation extended combat form (Not part of the standart build), use when you want to do Hell and Tomb. Uncurse and unequip your weapon to fight in this form.

Other must-haves:

Confusing Touch

Haste use sparringly and with a form for dangerous fights, rest afterwards to give contamination time to disperse

Repel Missiles keep always up, unlearn when you get Deflect

Deflect Missiles keep always up


Ozocubu's Armour super with Ice Form, nice with Spider Form and Dragon Form, for Blade Hands you`ll want heavier armour


Summon Butterflies can buy you time to flee or distract summoners.

Blink not that good, but cheap, unlear when you can control it.

Controlled Blink the ultimate escape spell, always play so that you can use blink to run if things go wrong.

Get if you can spare the expense:


Abjuration unlearn when you can manage the Aura of Abjuration

Aura of Abjuration

Cure Poison

Phase Shift

Mid-High level Summonings

Get if you have spell levels to spare:



Shroud of Golubria

Statue Form get this if you must do extended and have not found Necromutation




Ignite Poison

Death's Door

Dispel Undead


Early Dungeon

  • Kill things with your hands and use Beastly Appendage.
  • Grab a good branded weapon if you find one (think: venom or electrocution short sword, artefacts or unrands).
  • Grab stuff you can throw to soften enemies up at range. (If you got lots use them every occasion, but you might want to save javelins for dangerous stuff like Ogres.
  • Grab poisoned needles and curare and a blowgun. (Use on vulnerable monsters like goliath beetles and killer bees)
  • Pick up some extra arrows for Sticks to Snakes.
  • Learn Sticks to Snakes on lvl 2, use this spell, when you meet a dangerous monster and want to overwhelm or flee from it.
  • Learn Spider Form on lvl 3 and get some Poison Magic. This will be your main combat form until you can cast Blade Hands, but the movement speed is also great for fleeing during your whole game.
  • Learn Ice Form next, but get Spider Form reliable first. You`ll need it versus hydras, poisonous stuff (if you miss that resistance)(do remember that you can eat poisonous corpses in this form), float over water and ignore freezing clouds (for taht ice cave later).
  • Get Ozocubu's Armour for Ice Form as it will make fighting those hydras easier. (Also good for spider form)
  • Learn Blade Hands as soon as possible. This will be your main combat form. slaughter anything that is not a living hydra with it.
  • Get to the temple or an Ash altar when you find it. Worship her/him. Drop some scrolls of remove curse and pray on them. Curse your non-bad jewellery and any better than average armour.
  • Curse a weapon as soon as you can cast Blade Hands reliably and comfortably.
  • Earn piety and enjoy the benefits of increased magic skills and all the other stuff mentioned above.
  • Later you`ll want to use one scroll of remove curse to swap several pieces of equip at once.

Early Branches

  • Enter the Lair when you find it, kill stuff carefully. Beware of the Death Yak packs and Hydras if you cannot take them on. (Try wands or power-up potions to take them out) When you feel stuff gets to dangerous here, take out Orc:1-3 and D:-12 and return then.
  • After Lair, do Orc:1-3. If this felt easy, do Orc:4; else save it for after D:14. Avoid attacks from distortion wielding orcs. Browse the shops for equipment and spellbooks.
  • Do D:-14, then do D:15 very carefully.
  • Do the 2 easy Lair-branches: Use your Ashenzari-Monster-Detector to avoid getting overwhelmed. Make an effort to have poison resistance in your unmelded equipment, else use Ice Form here mostly.
  • For Snake:5 and Swamp:5: Use shouting and preplanned running to lure the the monsters away from the runevaults and take them out in smaller packs.
  • For Spider:5: Clear the level carefully and silently. Lure monsters by throwing stuff, retreat a bit then splatter over the ground.
  • For Shoals:5: The most dangerous featuring fast, deadly and intelligent packs of opponents. Make it a priority to always have an escape route! Explore carefully and rather silently. Skip if you don`t fell safe.


  • Do Elf:1-2, by now you should be a killing machine when using your "scythe like hands".
  • Do Elf:3 avoiding the vault. Do not try the vault without some magic resistance. Dig a narrow, bending passage at the vault entrance. Made correctly this will force the elfs into melee combat without allowing them sight of you during their approach. Draw the Elfs out of the vault, retreat to your passage when you feel in the least threatened. It might be necessary to withdraw further if things go wrong. Loot the remains of the now extinct elves and their vualt.
  • Do Vaults:1-4 carefully.
  • Do the Depths:1-5.
  • Do the Crypt, but be very careful if you have no life protection.
  • Enter Vaults:5 with Haste, Spider Form and Repel Missiles up. Blink (with a scroll if you have to) to a corridor, read a scroll of fog and run away from the Vault Guards. Usually activating Blade Hands now and switching beetween killing whatever stands in your way, killing some of the vault guards that follow you and running further works, but stay sharp. Use Scrolls of blinking, Potions of Magic, Potions of Haste, Might and Agility when you feel things spiraling out of control. Also do not forget to use your monster detection to plan ahead.


*If you are planning on extended and feel powerful enough, enter Abyss through one of the portals, descend into Abyss:3 and wander around till you find the rune. Bring food, buff-spells and some resistances. *If you are planning on extended and feel powerful enough goto one of the portals into Hell. Activate Dragon Form, Haste, Swiftness and Repel Missiles; enter and shred Geryon asap. Leave if you atracted to much attention and kill things by carefull stairdances. Clear the vestibules.

  • Do Zot:1-5 exempting the Orb vault. You want mutation resistance, poison resistance and insulation in your active gear, or pain (and death) will ensue. By this time Draconians and Dragons should have nothing on you, kill them quietly. Orb of Fires always are trouble, but Dragon Form+Haste+Repel Missiles (again) will do the job against a single one or two. If you cannot reach the Orb of Fire or if several show up, hide and/or make a run for the stairs. In general explore very carefully here, retreat (behind a corner) when you find enemies and kill them one by one. Do not enter the vault chambers until you have drawn most of the resistance out and killed it.
  • Decide for or against extended. Pick the Orb up and run for the surface or leave it and pick whichever rune seems the easiest to you to get next from the article below.


  • Extended isn`t actually a bad choice with this character. My recommendation is that you avoid ziggurats, but try to go for all runes, if you have already won a game.
  • Pan-Lord strategy (worked very well for all of the Rune-guarding Uniques):
    • Find the important enemy with monster detect, clear stuff surrounding it as silent as possible.
    • Read a scroll of fog if you are in the open, else hide around a corner. Get your buffs up. All of them! Drink Might and Agility if you can. Turn either into a Dragon (Dispater, Asmodeus, Antaeus only if you got enough rC, and all Pan-Lords) or into a Lich (Ereshkigal) and attract the enemy by shouting.
    • Wait for him/her/it to close the distance. (read another scroll of fog if needed) Close the distance if needed and start mauling ahead.
    • This is needed because you usually can not do controlled blinks to close the distance. If you already got the rune by some strange stroke of luck, feel free to just use controlled blink to get near your target.
    • Having Aura of Abjuration active and strong is a must versus any of the summoning Archdemons. (You might make it without, but that`s not at all recommended.)
  • Slime is rather easy if your defenses are good. Enter, explore, clear carefully. When you reach the Vault at the bottom (and cleared the surroundings) walk into and get your back to a stone wall (so only 3-4 jellys can attack you). Usually this should`ve attracted the royal jelly already, else shout and move closer. Kill it using all your buffs (My suggestion is to use lich form as it provides rN+++ and rC+), ignoring his spawns. Deal with the spawned jellys now or blink/haste run away and take them out, when they have scattered.
  • Enter Pan with some extra food and spare carrying capacity. Always enter Portals in a combat form and at least hasted (more buffs are better) use the Pan-Lord strategy mentioned above. As soon as you have the demonic rune (and are not one of the Unique realms) you`ll want to just search your way to the nearest next portal and move on.
  • Enter and explore the Hells in Lichform, clear the bottom level, and use the Pan-Lord strategy mentioned above. (You ca wander around Pan or Abyss if you lack Necromutation and search for it, though there are games where the Necronomicon just will not spawn.)
  • Tomb becomes rather trivial in permanent Necromutation (+Aura of Abjuration, Sustain Abilities and Haste). Clear level 1 by slowly killing the groups of enemies (beware of attracting too many sphinxes). Enter level 2 fully buffed, read a scroll of teleport (or more if the first places you badly) and retreat into one of the rooms at the edge of the map. Use this place as a place to retreat to and lure mummies into. Clear the level, clear the route to level 3, then clear level 3 by repeated stairdances. Greater Mummies can only smite you and will spend many turns summoning monster, which will immediately be abjured by your aura.

Slice, bite, enjoy and walk away with 15 runes.


In 0.15 Item destruction is gone and autoidentification has been added for all items, thus greatly reducing the charm of "Identify foo" as scrolls of Identify are more than common after the early game. In 0.13 Traps was removed as a skill. Now only Ash offers significant boni for not running into traps. In 0.9 The XP-system was changed, severly weakening Ash's Transfer Knowledge skill.