0.8 has been out for about a week and a half now, by the way, so I recommend updating if you haven't. For one thing, heavy armor doesn't suck any more! Also a new race (Felids) and new god (Ashenzari), neither of which I know much about yet.
I tried a few draconian crusaders. Seems like it should be nearly as good as my troll monks, but for some reason I can't seem to get them to work. I like the idea behind the crusader, a primarilly melee fighter with a stack of juicy buffs is very appealing. Should I just be trying a different race with the crusader?
If you're dying pre-lair, the only race/class combinations that will approach the survivability of your troll monks are probably Sludge Elf or Merfolk transmuters. Like I said above, Trolls are the strongest race early-game to begin with, and it is not by a small margin. In addition Draconians are, in my opinion anyway, one of the more difficult races because you have huge strengths to leverage (particularly before you become an adult) yet you still level slowly and have average aptitudes. You should stop comparing casters, especially classes with a weak early game (like crusaders) to the strongest earlygame race in Crawl, and start comparing to something that's strong but not overpoweringly so, like perhaps a Hill Orc Fighter ... otherwise you'll be disappointed with everything but maybe transmuters.
On hybrids: (the "weapon-mage" group in 0.8)
Crusaders are very weak until XL: 3 and then you have to judiciously use your berserk to make up for your lower weapon skills compared to fighters or gladiators. I'm actually not sure how they are in lategame any more now that enchantments is split up ... in previous versions between haste and silence and their other buffs they were a real powerhouse of a class if they lived long enough to get there. I suspect the same is still true, just maybe not as powerful any more. Particularly good races to try are high elves and merfolk (with merfolk you might want to approach this by playing an ice mage like a crusader).
Enchanters are the stabby class, and thus well-suited to spriggans. You get to XL: 2 however you like (yes spriggans deal low damage, but that's not terribly important at level 1) then you just stab everything. Ensorcelled Hibernation puts almost anything living to sleep eventually, and Spriggans tend to be stealthy enough to cast it one space away from an enemy and still be able to stab. Non-living stuff, you can sneak up on to stab or you can just avoid. Hope to find Petrify for late-game (particularly the Crypt) or pick up a god who will take out tough stuff for you (Nemelex is probably the best bet now that Okawaru doesn't give Might any more, since legendary decks of summoning are really strong). Spriggans are the obvious race to try here.
(more next post)
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