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"This will not be over quickly. You will not enjoy this."
—An out-of-context but wholly-appropriate quote from 300.
"My intricate style will confound and destroy you! Confusion, sleep, poison... Prepare to be the victim of my sinister techniques!"

The Glass Cannon uses powerful attacks to quickly blow his enemies to smithereens, but the Gradual Grinder sneers at such a lack of patience. Instead, the Gradual Grinder prefers to use abilities that deal damage over time, steadily wearing his enemies down, leaving them too crippled to be much of a threat to him - which is good, because typically he isn't much tougher than the Glass Cannon. (though Stone Wall/Fragile Speedster Grinders are not unheard of)

Most commonly, Gradual Grinders are spellcasters who specialize in curses, hexes, or other Standard Status Effects. Some Roguish characters also fight like this, poisoning or literally bleeding their foes to death while they nimbly dodge their increasingly feeble counter-attacks. More rarely, some heavily-armed and -armored fighters prefer to defeat their foes through blood loss, or debilitating spells if they are Magic Knights.

Gradual Grinders are rarely good guys, probably because a slow, agonizing death due to blood loss or drained Life Energy is viewed less favorably than a quick and comparatively clean kill. Apply this mentality to the battlefield and you likely have a case of We Have Reserves.

See also the Mezzer entry in An Adventurer Is You. Has nothing to do with Level Grinding.

Examples of Gradual Grinder include:
  • In Borderlands, the elemental weapons/special attacks aside from the explosive one allow you to do this. While they usually do less damage than a normal gun, they can usually slowly electrocute, corrode, or burn an enemy away, and can sometimes be more effective when dealing with a lot of enemies, particularly armored ones. However, enemies using elemental weapons can also do the same thing to you, and specialized elemental enemies such as chemical troopers are immune to their elemental type. Not that it'll help them once you switch to your regular gun...
  • Warlocks in World of Warcraft are one of the best-known examples. While they are capable of nuking alongside the best of Mages with the right specialization, the class's spell list includes more Damage Over Time effects ("More DoTs!"). Some playstyles of Rogue, Warrior, and Priest also qualify.
    • Of course the "grinding" strategies that are actually viable in a Player Versus Environment environment have to do as much damage as the nukers, they just do so by hitting for smaller amounts but more frequently, so even over a fairly short period of time the damage is equal. When a giant dragon is beating down the tank, the healer does not want to hear "be patient, it'll fall over eventually."
  • Likewise, Spiritmasters in Aion get more Damage Over Time than any other class, compared to their counterpart class, the nuking Sorcerers. This is specifically to keep them from building up too much aggro too quickly, allowing their spirit pet to hold the monsters' attention.
  • Runes of Magic has several characters that use Damage Over Time. The Warrior's Slash skill, the Rogue's Shadowstab skill and the Scout's Vampire Arrows skill all cause Bleed effects, and are usually chained with other skills for serious DPS. The Priest's Bone Chill skill also does Damage Over Time, and is often favored by those who prefer Player Versus Environment gameplay. The newly released elven Warden also has Damage Over Time in the form of Thorny Vines, which in combination with their pet handling skills make them quite the powerful class.
  • Mesmers in Guild Wars have quite a bit of skills of degeneration, but let's also not forget Rangers who have preparations that leave the target burning or poisoned, inflicting plenty of damage over time. One little known PvE build would inflict as much as 10 arrows of degeneration and keep the degeneration spikes going.
    • Of course, curse Necromancers have this as their hat, able to cripple opponents with multiple health-sapping hexes even over an area of effect.
  • Diablo II had a couple of these. A Paladin with a high-enough Defense aura could play Last Man Standing with large packs of monsters. The other option was a Necromancer equipped with the spell Poison Dagger. Typically the higher the poison damage, the longer it would take to kill something. On the downside, since the Necromancer was something of a Squishy Wizard, it was entirely possible to get killed by a monster that didn't know it was dead yet. On the upside, it was also possible to run away just far enough that a poisoned monster would fall over just before it got the chance to hit you, in keeping with the Rule of Cool.
    • The Necromancer has a wide variety of options for keeping enemies crippled while gradually wearing them down, with no appreciable attrition. A summoning Druid could also let his minions do the heavy lifting while slowly poisoning all opponents.
  • Several classes in Warhammer Online, such as the Bright Wizard or Chaos Magus, have DoT-specialized talent lines, and fit with the "hexer mage" archetype. A variant Gradual Grinder would be the Witch Hunter, a fairly standard rogue-ish class that can also be tooled up to do this especially well. They have a counter that fills up for every weak direct attack they do which allows their big DoT attacks to do significantly more damage. So you stealth in, whack the enemy with a few quick stuns, hit them with a big DoT and then stealth off again until the DoT wears off. Rinse and repeat to your pleasure.
  • Quite a few Pokémon use this kind of strategy ("Annoyer" in metagame parlance). Poison types are almost nothing but this - they all have moves to inflict various status effects, stat debuffs, anti-escape moves, accuracy decreasing moves, evasion increasing moves, and so on. Ghost types use abilities like Hypnosis, Confuse Ray, Perish Song, and Destiny Bond to inflict slower but painful KOs.
    • Stall in the metagame is pretty much this. The point is to use defensive Mons with every possible residual damage such as weather, Toxic (gradually increasing residual damage), and the combination of entry hazards (Spikes, Stealth Rock) + moves that force the opponent to switch out (Roar, Whirlwind, Dragon Tail, Circle Throw).
    • Hoppip/Skiploom/Jumpluff is capable of applying poison, Leech Seed, Mega Drain, and self-healing -- without using a single TM. In the generation it was introduced in, the Mega Drain was one of only two direct attacks it would learn on its own, which basically meant this trope was its entire natural offensive capacity.
    • Shuckle is also similar, since it's attack is worthless. Though it's got a nice hard shell to hide behind.
      • The big TM for enhancing Shuckle is Toxic, except against Steel types and Zangoose (against which you are pretty much stuck on "get hit").
    • Gradual Grinding was actually used by some players as their team's gimmick at one point, by applying generous helpings of damaging weather conditions, entry hazards, status ailments, and moves like Fire Spin and Whirlpool, or forced swapping moves like Whirlwind.
    • In the Pokémon TCG you've got a lot of the same poison effects and stall tactics as the games, though at least their version of Toxic was way less cheap.
    • The ability Prankster makes this moveset even more variable, as it increases the Action Initiative of status moves, allowing their users to work their strategy against even the fastest sweeper.
      • Perhaps the best Prankster user is Whimsicott. His attack is basically nonexistent, but he can completely shut down an opponent if played correctly, and slowly wear him down with Leech Seed. Nothing can outspeed him thanks to Prankster.
  • That One Boss Seymour in Final Fantasy X's second and third fight is actually easily killed by poisoning him.
    • Easily is an over-statement. Over the course of the battle, causing poison will do a significant amount of damage. It doesn't stop him sweeping you.
    • Poison does nearly a quater of the enemy's max health every tick, if the boss is vulnerable to it, or even some of the crazy hard endgame enemies, it makes things significantly easier.
  • The dancer in Final Fantasy Tactics can inflict random status effects over the whole board. Over one turn it's not much, but it adds up.
    • Also good for grinding levels and skills, since she gains xp every time it goes off.
      • This works best with the Ninja Reaction Skill "Sunken State"- it turns you invisible when you get attacked. Invisible units can't be targeted, but the status goes away if you so much as enter the "act" menu. Which you never have to do after a dancer (or a bard, which is the simmetrical opposite of the dancer) start her schtick.
  • The Harry Potter Game Boy Colour games have a spell called Mucus Ad Naseum. This spell inflicts...poison. It is a very powerful spell and even works on the final boss.
  • A strategy in Magic: The Gathering is to use spells or artifacts, such as the trusty Millstone, to defeat your opponent not by direct damage or summoning monsters, but by forcing him or her to discard cards each turn, slowly but surely depleting their deck - if a player has to draw a card but their deck is empty, they lose.
    • There are also many cards that do direct damage to players, cards that get stronger over time, and various ways to avoid attacks until then. A black/green deck and Lava Golem/Gravity Bind come to mind.
    • This is also one reason Trinisphere is restricted in Vintage; turn 1 Mishra's Workshop, Trinisphere is practically a turn 1 kill, but it may take over a dozen turns to actually die.
    • A specific deck known as Spellbomb Control, which can endlessly recycle its inexpensive little artifacts, may sometimes be forced to grind their opponent down slowly through numerous attacks by 2-power creatures and 2-damage Pyrite Spellbombs, if the player is somehow unable to use the deck's inbuilt tricks to retrieve the big finishing creatures; games have been witnessed where the Spellbomb Control player just manages to kill an opponent using a Millstone-type deck at the last possible moment, during the last upkeep phase before they had to draw from an empty library.
    • Another specific deck which draws a lot of ire from casual players when it is dusted off for action is the Blue/Red Isochron Scepter deck, which can imprint and use its suite of counterspells and the split card Fire/Ice endlessly from its signature artifact. It is one of the definitive "Draw-Go" decks that rely upon the miniscule 2-damage-per-casting from Fire/Ice to kill an opponent in ten hits, often spread out over more than ten turns as the Sceptor player has to establish a stranglehold over their opponent's ability to cast spells before they can start the slow burning.
    • The card Stasis prevents both players from reusing their renewable resources each turn, but gradually depletes the resources of the player who owns it. Chronatog allows a player to skip his own turn (normally a bad thing). Kismet prevents an opponent from using most cards in the turn that they're played. The three together allow a player to sit back and watch his opponent draw every card in his deck, one turn at a time, without being able to play any of them.
  • Truth in Television, at least in a strategic sense. Human Wave Attacks can be used to wear down an enemy that you cannot overcome in a one-to-one engagement, but heavily outnumber. This is also the linchpin of Asymmetric Warfare, an attempt to nullify an enemy's strengths while wearing away at their resolve and ability to wage war. And in Russia's case, General Winter does his part to defeat any foe stupid enough to be campaigning during the cold months of the year.
    • There's some as say that winter isn't the worst part of the year. In spring and fall large parts of the steepes turn into swamps and it is almost impossible to get through whereas in winter at least all the mud and gunk is frozen. Summer is surprisingly hot, but at least it is possible to travel. If Mother Russia Makes You Strong she does so by giving her inhabitants Training From Hell.
    • A few real life examples can be found in the worlds of martial arts. The Gracie family and numerous wrestlers have been known to build up their stamina to the extent they would commonly have matches lasting into the hours waiting for the right moment to land a pinfall/submission/etc
      • Body punching and leg kicking in boxing/kickboxing/MMA is an underrated part of a fighter's strategy to wither his opponent down to a point he can be taken out. Leg kicks severly reduces a guy's mobility, while body punches sap stamina and flat out just hurt more over the long run than a blow the head. The old saying applies here: "Kill the body, and the head will follow."
  • Gradual Grinder is a very useful tactic in Sid Meiers Pirates, which surprisingly is used with the strongest ships in the game (a Frigate or a Ship-of-the-Line). You start by sailing downwind, which makes your frigate faster than pretty much any other ship type. Then you start weaving left and right, lobbing Chain-Shot shells at the enemy, and accelerating away quickly to avoid being shot back. This gradually reduces the enemy's speed so they can't catch up, allowing more time to fire Chain-Shot at them, making them slower etcetera. Eventually, the masts on the enemy ship will break and it will surrender automatically. It can take a long time (several minutes at worst), but avoids any damage to your ship or having to risk your men in melee combat.
    • Some ships, captained by your arch-rivals, cannot surrender nor be sunk. This puts Gradual Grinder into high gear, as you can fire crew-killing Grape-Shot shells into the enemy ship until its crew reaches 1. Now, board the enemy ship, and the ensuing sword-fight with the arch-rival will end as soon as it begins. Again, great patience is required as this can take a while.
    • Ridiculously, the same exact tactic is also useful in the much-more realistic Empire: Total War, using a lone 5th-Rate Frigate. This ship is fast enough when going with the wind, and maneuverable enough to swing left and right while chain-shooting the enemy's sails off, and unlike smaller ships it also packs enough firepower for the job. Just shoot until their masts break, at which point most ships will surrender without a fight. It Gets Worse when the enemy ship refuses to surrender after being rendered immobile, in which case you switch to Grape-Shot and park yourself right in front or behind the enemy to slowly whittle down their crew. The whole process can take anywhere up to 10 minutes to force a large enemy ship to surrender (at normal game speed). Naturally, this only works against AI opponents, who are too stupid to stop chasing you. A lone frigate can beat extremely unfavourable odds this way.
  • Ultimecia from Dissidia Final Fantasy has a playstyle that lends itself well to drawing out battles until the opponoent to loses patience. Her brave attacks take a while to start up, but hit many, many times for non-lethal damage. As well, her HP attacks all have a painful amount of start-up time and awkward properties, making it hard to spam them for quick victories.
    • However, for Ultimecia's part, her main selling point is her absurdly humongous range. Out of all the characters in the game, Ultimecia is the only one that can reach the other side of an absurdly large map with certainty. Also, her vertical HP range is infinite so if your game is in the air, Ultimecia WILL kill you. Really, the entire point of her battle is that you can't touch her so no matter how much damage she deals, as long as she can consistently hit you, you won't win.
    • It Makes Sense in Context, because she is the #1 Time Mage of Final Fantasy.
  • The Pyro from Team Fortress 2 is a clear example of this, setting his enemies on fire and either keep burning them or leaving them for dead. The Scout is probably designed this way, ideally hitting enemies when they aren't looking, then dodging while bleeding them to death with the pistol or a second close attack shortly afterwards when they've forgotten about him. [1]
  • In Sailor Moon Another Story, each senshi's chapter ends with a boss fight against their Evil Twin. In most cases this is a fairly standard fight. The first such chapter, though, is Sailor Mercury's ... the boss has no real attacks but Poison and you have no real attacks period. Optimum equipment and a LOT of Level Grinding are required, and even then it takes forever.
  • This is the way that Controllers defeat enemies in City of Heroes. Unlike their Dominator counterparts, Controllers have no actual attacks but do have access to a large number of debuffing powers that can be combined with status effects that cause damage over time. A Gravity Controller crushes you to death, an Ice Controller freezes you to death, etc...
  • League of Legends has Jericho Swain, who has two damage over time abilities, an ultimate that is also sort of damage over time, and a root. He is deceptively powerful because many players underestimate the damage his abilities actually do over time, but his lack of instant damage remains a major drawback that enables champions with shields and/or heals to trivially counter him.
    • Singed and his poison trail, especially if you chase him because he's faster than you and you'll just choke on poison until he turns around and gibs you.
    • Teemo's explosive mushroom traps are this on a strategic level. Against a good Teemo, you can't go anywhere without constantly stepping on mushrooms and taking poison damage plus a rage inducing slow. By the time you are where you want to be, you're at half health. On top of that, he has poison attacks and is much faster than you so he can shoot 1 dart at you and run away, and although his damage is low, he has a blind spell so you lose a fight that looked like an easy win because your champion did 0 damage during half of it.
    • Cassiopeia, although against an immobile target the "gradual" part goes out the window, dealing about 1500 damage per second with Twin Fang spam.
    • Vladimir the hemomancer, with only two offensive spells that don't do much damage but a mountain of health for a mage, life steal and the ability to melt into an invulnerable pool of blood. The latter factors contribute to drawing out a fight for an eternity while his moderate but constant spell spam slowly chips you down. Especially in lane where his entire strategy consists of buying boots first so he's slightly faster than you, then just casting transfusion on you and running away. Between his lack of a mana resource and transfusion's life steal, he will merrily do this over and over so you gradually take damage and he remains at full health. Once you're at 1/4 health or so he towerdives you for the kill.
    • On a more general level, the Ignite summoner spell. You thought you got away from a gank with 200 hp remaining? Too bad! 150... 100... 50... 0. Doubly so if the enemy then types "owned" in all chat.
  • This is a very successful strategy in professional fighting; kickboxer Daniel Ghita is legendary for steadily destroying his opponents by targeting their legs and body until they can't walk, much less fight. Boxer Micky Ward had a devastating body attack that would wear opponents down until they were too tired to fight, and even MMA fighters like Jose Aldo and Pat Barry are known for obliterating their opponents without even having to hit them in the face.
  • Elemental Summoners and Bot Engineers in Hellgate London can summon swarms that gradually tear up opponents. Both are ranged attackers without much more strike damage than their minions.
  • In Sword of the Stars, The Hivers work this way on a strategic level. They have no FTL, so it will take them a long, long time to reach your empire. Once they reach your outer planets, they will fall upon them, gate them, and send a horde of ships in endlessly from their Homeworld, grinding down your defenders until it's theirs. And then they'll move on, coming steadily towards you, taking a long, long time to reach the next planets after that, and repeat the process. It takes Hivers a long time to conquer something, but they're nigh impossible to dislodge from any place they've already taken.
  • In Blood Bowl, this is how chaos, dwarven and orcish drives (i.e. when they receive the ball) work. They will take the ball and move it slowly towards a touchdown, aiming to score as late as possible in each half (so as to keep the other player from evening out the score) and put as many opposing players as possible in the KO or injuries box. This makes them vulnerable to speedier teams getting in a 2-touchdown lead, however.
  • Signum from the Lyrical Nanoha series uses a variant; being the most powerful Stone Wall in the series, she simply turtles and soaks up the enemy's attacks while they tire themselves out, then goes on the offensive with extremely heavy attacks when the enemy's energy is exhausted. She's had to change tactics when faced with enemies who can pierce her defenses.
  • Any ship in Star Control or Star Control 2 that has only low-damage attacks, such as the Spathi Discriminator or the Arilou Skiff, has no choice but to be this.
  • A common strategy in Magic: The Gathering decks, especially with discard and/or deck burner strategies. Your opponent can't fight if he can't keep a card in his hand long enough to play it, and once a deck burner mechanic kicks in, your opponent can lose even with 20 (or higher) life and a field full of powerful creatures.

Notes

  1. However, on a full server, Team Fortress 2 is full of classes able to deal big chunks of damage immediately and able to stop or slow attackers. Neither class gets away with Gradual Grinding in the typical encounter. In small-numbers scrim the tatic tends to be more useful.
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