"Little is known about the eternal Duke of the Almirian Empire. Our sensors show the mask is a source of power as well as a potential weakness." — Monstrous Codex: Lord Vanaduke
Lord Vanaduke is the Duke of the Almirian Empire, a world fractured and strewn across the Clockworks. He resides in the Throne Room of the Firestorm Citadel near the Core, and is the main target of the Mission "The King of Ashes".
Vanaduke is intensely hostile to intruders who, intentionally or not, invade his kingdom. When you first step on the party button, a dialogue box will appear, with Lord Vanaduke saying, "What's this? More wolves hungry for the blood of Almire? Our great kingdom shall never fall to the likes of beasts!"
Although the heads-up display sometimes describes Vanaduke as a fiend, he really belongs to no monster family. He has unique damage protections: slight weakness against piercing, slightly strong protection against elemental, and neutral protection against shadow. But he gains complete immunity to shadow in his final phase. In addition, he does not take additional damage from fiend damage bonus abilities such as unique variants.
Vanaduke has five phases, alternating from body stage, to mask/bullet stage. His body has a slight weakness to piercing, and is slightly resistant to everything else. His mask, however, is resistant to any damage type besides Normal. Vanaduke does not appear to belong to any monster family.
PHASE 1) His first stage has two attacks. He will swing his mace overhead towards a player, which can cause fire and stun if it makes contact, and creates a mild quake that breaks overhead supports. Patches of ground will immediately light up to an orange hue at random, and debris will shortly hit those spots with a chance of causing fire and stun as well. He can also dash towards a player, and may immediately follow up with a mace. He summons four Slag Walkers to fight by his side, and will spawn more should all of them be killed.
PHASE 2) After taking enough damage, he will retreat to the back of the room, fall to his knees, and hide his face as his mask detaches from his armor and begins to float around in a blaze while shooting bullets all around. Two giant red bullets will also orbit around his mask. His mask will be immune to damage, as well as constantly shoot bullets, as long as it's on fire. Using the waterballs provided, the player must temporarily "put out" Vanaduke's mask to be able to damage it. Waterballs can also destroy bullets, including the large, orbiting ones. His mask will re-ignite in five seconds, and the orbiting bullets will re-appear in time. Any water orb striking the mask will cause a 360 degree knockback around the mask and inflict fire status on nearby knights, even if the mask was already wet.
PHASE 3) After dealing enough damage to the mask, the mask will return to Vanaduke's face. The first phase will resume, except with four large orbs of flame orbiting his body. Vanaduke's mace swing and debris can now spawn Shadow Fire around the area it lands.
PHASE 4) The mask stage will then repeat again, however with more and faster bullets. Agile Knights who get past this stage will have successfully destroyed Vanaduke's mask and move on to the final stage.
PHASE 5) The final phase is like phase 3, except Vanaduke will now have two waves of orbiting flame orbs, spawn Almirian Royal Guards instead of Slag Walkers, and can cast a fire stream attack, which causes no damage but can inflict fire if a Knight comes into contact with the flames. Although Vanaduke's flame orbs can block bullets, a gun is strongly recommended for the final stage (it should be noted that the fire balls that defend Vanaduke in his body stages can be temporarily extinguished with water balls)
Vanaduke Mask Bug
Every water orb striking the mask gets a separate countdown timer. When a timer expires, the mask lights on fire again, even if it has been watered again in the meantime.
For example, suppose you water the mask, triggering its five second vulnerable period. Someone throws water at the mask again with 2 seconds left. After those two seconds are up, the mask ignites, as if the second water hadn't been thrown. But there will also be a 3-2-1 countdown as if it were wet from the second orb.
If someone throws a third water orb to douse it right after the first one wears off, it will only stay wet for three seconds--after which the timer from the second orb will expire, causing it to reignite. And at this point, it will still have a timer from the third orb that will expire in another 2 seconds.
Thus, it is recommended not water the mask if it is already wet. If someone does, by accident, wait five seconds to reach a "clean" state before watering the mask again, or else it will be constantly reigniting early.
The hardest part of the battle is dodging the Shadow Fire that spawns when Vanaduke strikes the ground. One tactic is to assign one or more party members to fire-fighting, extinguishing Shadow Fire every time it spawns in the active battle ground to prevent accidental run-ins with it later on.
Another option is prevention, which requires the player (who has Vanaduke's aggro) to stay out of his line of sight at all times. This can be done by freezing him or kiting around to stay behind him at all times throughout the battle. Note that his aggro does shift to the player dealing the most damage to him.
A third option is "lava gardening", which takes advantage of the maximum Shadow Fire tiles that can spawn on the playfield at one time (which appears to be 25.) Allow them to accumulate in less-trafficked areas, and "weed out" only tiles near the fountains or obstructing paths around the chamber. This strategy requires better coordination between teammates and greater precision when extinguishing the mask phases, as well as all but precluding sword attacks on the body after Phase 1 (as extinguishing Vanaduke's orbiting fireballs risks disrupting the "garden",) but it is ideal when fighting Vanaduke alone or if the party does not want to designate a dedicated firefighter.
Killing the beast
Vanaduke can be held (frozen) in place by a freezing bomb, so players can simply kite around him while he is frozen. Note that in the final stage, only a Shivermist Buster can reach him from outside the radius of his orbiting fire orbs. They can be extinguished so a lesser bomb can reach, but the orbs reignite periodically without warning.
The fire orbs surrounding Vanaduke can be constantly extinguished so he is reachable by sword in later stages. However, the orbs will often respawn without warning, making this method very dangerous. The main problem with using swords in the latter stages is navigating through the maze of Shadow Fire that no doubt surrounds him. Piercing swords are recommended, and it may be better to use piercing sword charge attacks instead of normal attacks if there is a Shivermist bomber, so that Vanaduke can stay frozen for longer.
Guns tend to be the preferred DPS weapon against Vanaduke for safety, with most players either using Blitz Needle charge attacks on an ideally frozen Vanaduke for maximum damage, or kiting around Vanaduke and gunning, usually with Valiance in this case (Argent Peacemaker was a popular choice for kiting when it dealt Piercing/Elemental damage.) Vanaduke is weak to Callahan's Piercing damage, but kiting is more difficult as the gun forces knights to stop briefly while firing. Other guns such as Polaris and the elemental Drivers are also fully viable, but tend to deal less damage.
Bombs can also be used on Vanaduke for damage, however these are usually used by knights who fully specialize in bombs. DPS bombs on Vanaduke would usually be Dark Briar Barrage to take full advantage of Vanaduke's Piercing weakness. Feedback has not yet been recieved from bombers using Splinter Bomb lines on Vanaduke. Status bombs can be used in combination with damage bombs to make the fight easier, such as using Voltaic Tempest to interrupt Vanaduke's attacks and turning with shock (though Shock has the potential to release Vanaduke from Freeze at an inopportune moment.) or the Stagger Storm to increase the predictability of his moves and inflict recovery periods on him after each ability he uses.
Keep in mind that while these methods may be preferred, there are other methods which are perfectly viable if used well, and there is no need to be restricted to the most preferred weapons for Vanaduke.
Dealing with monster spawns
Some parties will designate a player to handle the monster spawns while the rest focus on Vanaduke. This is done by controlling the monsters' aggro, freezing them in place, or simply shield-bumping them away from the battle. Be warned that Vanaduke will summon more monsters to replace the ones currently in battle no matter how many are still alive.
Vanaduke is weak to piercing attacks in his body form (Phase 1, 3, and 5), slightly resists everything but Normal in his mask form (Phase 2 and 4), and gains a complete immunity to Shadow damage in Phase 5. For this reason, many players will bring a Leviathan Blade with them to the fight, as well as a Piercing gun to reach him in the later stages where he is surrounded by fiery orbs. Blitz Needle is the most popular choice for this battle (Argent Peacemaker was frequently used before its Piercing/Elemental damage was changed to pure Elemental.) Weapons are usually charged up while the player is kiting in order to release a stronger attack on him when ideally positioned.
In this battle, almost everything can and will inflict Fire on the player. Because of this, armor with a protection from Fire is highly recommended, though not a necessity. A shield with Fire or Elemental protection is also highly recommended. Vanaduke's mace and charge attacks deal Normal type damage, as do the Almirian Royal Guards' attacks; falling ceilings, shadow fire, and fireballs deal Elemental type damage, and the attacks of the Slag Walkers have a Shadow component.
Many parties choose to freeze Vanaduke in place for the duration of the battle, making the fight easier. For this reason, a Shivermist Buster with a higher Charge Time Reduction is recommended--one player will stand in place, continuously freezing Vanaduke, while the rest kite around and attack him.
For the mask phases, sometimes knights can assign one knight to douse the mask, and the other three to attack the mask, so that the mask is kept doused and will not fire any extra bullets. It is important to time the throwing of the water right, as too late and the mask will start shooting and breaking ally shields, and if too early the douser can set ally knights on fire. It is recommended for the water to douse the mask right when it reignites, or slightly after, to minimise damage done to ally shields.
Vanaduke currently has two broken elements to his fight that can doom you without any warning, and one saving grace. These are...
- Debris itself no longer does any damage. This may not be an actual bug, as the fight has been made easier and easier since launch and is perhaps intended. But there is still...
- Lava blocks spawning from falling debris. Lava blocks do not need to spawn exactly where debris has fallen, and if you're nearby, can spawn inside of you and keep you from moving at all if centered enough, even if reviving.
- Vanaduke can bodyblock you into a corner. If you are unlucky enough to get pushed by Vanaduke into a corner with him, it is just like lava spawning on you and keeping you from moving, but cannot simply be watered away.
Being trapped by Vanaduke, having lava blocks spawn on you, or even being stuck inside lava blocks can severely hamper your goal of defeating Vanaduke, so it is recommended to avoid Vanaduke's dash near corners, and debris at all costs.
- The Recon Module: Firestorm Citadel can be obtained in front of the lift right after killing Vanaduke.
- Vanaduke's backstory and even some of his battle strategies bear a striking resemblance to those of Arkus, a corrupted Spiral Knight encountered in mission 9-1, "The Silent Legion":
- Both started out as renowned, powerful beings that were known and respected by many.
- Both characters, due to some tragic loss, went insane and began to seek solace in some greater power.
- Both were transformed into monsters significantly stronger than their original forms.
- Both are vulnerable to piercing damage and have significant resistance to shadow damage.
- Both monsters are capable of summoning other enemies (Arkus can summon Beryl Greavers, while Vanaduke can summon Slag Walkers and Almirian Royal Guards).
- Both begin to be orbited by some sort of bullet in their later forms.
- Finally, Arkus's charge attack is very similar to a smaller version of Vanaduke's mace swing and, in later phases, can damage players not directly hit by the attack.
- Vanaduke's backstory also is quite similar to that of the The Warrior, a character from the Prince of Persia series.
- "Lord Vanaduke rules over the the citadel now. His soul bound to some horrific prison. He has the citadel ready for battle at all times, believing that his kingdom is still under siege. He doesn't even realize that what he is trying to protect was lost a thousand years ago." — Lost Soul of Almire
- "Like so many of its people, Law and Order have fled Almire. Only Justice remains, but she too has been twisted by the cursed flames that ravage our kingdom. Justice is now the burning scepter of our once great Lord Vanaduke. Justice is swift, unflinching, merciless." — Almirian codex text