Monster Analysis: Merrow Shallow Priest

  • First Appearance: 2-22 Lost Treasures
  • Armor Class 15
  • Speed 10 ft, Swimming 40 ft
  • Darkvision 60 ft, Passive 12
  • 104 damage taken, 5+9 (14) HDYWTDT by Jester and Yasha

The MM has a single entry for merrow; they are very proficient with their tridents and not at all proficient with spells. Mechanically speaking, the priest added a bit more field control on the DM’s side of the encounter, varying the elemental damage among the raw physical aggression of the monstrosities. By Matt’s own admission, the Merrow Shallow Priest had three 3rd level spells and an increased Wisdom stat (spell save DC 13), making him a 6th level druid (or, as Marisha rightly identified, “a motherf***ing druid fish”).

Standard Merrow

  • First Appearance: 2-21 Stalker in the Swamp
  • Encounter Appearance: 2-22 Lost Treasures
  • Armor Class 14
  • Suggested Average, Max HP: 45, 72
    • M1: 30 damage taken, 11 HDYWTDT by Jester
    • M2: 54 damage taken, 10 HDYWTDT by Mollymauk
    • M3: 63 damage taken, 8 HDYWTDT by Yasha
    • M4: 38 damage taken, 17 HDYWTDT by Fjord
    • M5: 50 damage taken, 7 HDYWTDT by Fjord
    • M6: 53 damage taken, 7 HDYWTDT by Beau

 It should be noted that every single merrow was afforded the honor of the HDYWTDT. Not one was seen as a trivial kill, despite having a clear leader. While the previous guards had a limited pool area to traverse, the merrow in the inner chamber benefited greatly from the mostly aquatic terrain. The party started the encounter staying to the shore and the little bit of land. Swimming in the flooded chamber forced The Mighty Nein several disadvantages, including on their attacks and dexterity saving throws against lightning. The party could also travel at only half their movement in the water, while the merrows’ speed was 40 feet (as opposed to 10 feet on land). The monstrosities also gained advantage on their attacks when they pulled the party members into the water, once again taking as much advantage of their natural element as they could.

The hooked tridents played a much more significant role in this encounter. In the first encounter, Fjord was yanked away from his safe spot into the small pool, where the guards would have had a much easier time dispatching him. In this encounter, the party, who initially took advantage of positioning against the opposition, quickly found themselves both out of position and surrounded by merrow as they were yanked into the middle of unstable terrain.

The Mighty Nein

After taking enough damage in round two to more than halve his health, Fjord opted to take himself to the Ethereal Plane, casting Blink for the first time. The spell offered him protection from both the merrow and the wrath of the DM. While this meant that he could only be attacked via held actions (an unlikely choice from the merrow, who had plenty of weaker targets to attack), this also came with the unfortunate side effect of not being able to use held actions.

Caleb’s spellcasting was limited by his inability to see. He could have chosen to cast Dancing Lights, but maintaining concentration on that would have prevented him from casting other, higher-powered concentration spells. Caleb hastened Molly, which allowed him to move easier through the difficult terrain and hit an extra time per round (until Caleb lost concentration and Molly lost an entire round due being stunned). Caleb’s attempt at Scorching Ray at disadvantage dealt 6 damage to the priest, but he got his own when he Dispelled his Call Lightning. Caleb’s Shield and use of the Fragment of Possibility kept him safe for two extra rounds, before getting too close to the battlefield drew the ire of the other combatants, who knocked him unconscious.

Despite her dice betraying her, Jester effectively split her spellcasting between damage dealing and healing throughout the battle. Toll the Dead and Spiritual Weapon landed Jester her first solo HDYWTDT plus 11 more damage in Round 4. Jester saved Beau from sinking to a watery grave in Round 3, and brought Caleb back from unconsciousness right after the battle. Jester and Yasha put their combined strength to use to kill off the Shallow Priest once at for all.

Beau and Yasha continued to do what they do best- smash and slash. Both also drew the attention of the Shallow Priest and the other merrow, absorbing damage round after round, which kept everyone on their feet longer. It’s worth noting that Yasha’s use of Healing Hands at the top of Round 5 literally kept her conscious; it brought her up to 7 hit points, and the next strike against her dealt 6 points.

Nott was out of the fight for 5 of the 7 rounds, held hostage by her fear of water and the secondary responsibility of keeping Kiri safe (protect our bird daughter at all costs). After enough alcohol and the thrust of her personal primary responsibility to keep Caleb safe, Nott dove into the chamber to deal a 32 damage to the priest in defense of the then-unconscious Caleb.

The Encounter

The Nein took the fight to the merrows’ home turf, and the amphibious monstrosities took advantage of the terrain. The watery environment provided the merrow several advantages:

  • Merrow travel faster in water than the party members travel on dry land.
  • The Nein traveled at half their speed when crossing the water.
  • The merrow had advantage on their attacks while their target was struggling in the water.
  • The Nein had disadvantage on their attacks while in the water.
  • The merrow were able to use the water to not just travel faster, but also as a place to hide between attacks, forcing the Nein to hold their attacks just so their actions would come through.

Flanking played a very significant role in this battle, on both sides. The merrow warriors initially used it in the early portions of the fight to great success, yanking the Nein out of position with their hooks and surrounding them to pile on damage. By late encounter, the party turned this back around, surrounding the remaining merrow to cancel out the disadvantage of attacking in the water.

The Shallow Priest certainly had the upper hand for the majority of the battle. The priest took advantage of his melee-oriented compatriots and the environment to allow his Call Lightning spells. Because his allies were taking the hits in his place, he had no fear of concentration checks, and only needed to recast it once, since Caleb was the only party member able to hit him with Dispel Magic. Additionally, he took 6 points of fire damage from Caleb in the second round and then none at all until Caleb was able to grab him with the Earthen Paw in the sixth, after every other merrow was taken out. However, despite downing Caleb immediately after the claw went into effect, Yasha’s proximity doomed him, even if he didn’t realize it yet.

With just the party and the priest remaining, The Mighty Nein had forced the priest into a precarious position: either accept death and try to take out a couple party members for good before they killed him, or adjust his position and knock everyone back so he could safely escape back under the water to pull in reinforcements, at the risk of attacks of opportunity from Jester and Yasha. Unfortunately for him, he was not aware of Yasha’s Sentinel feat, stopping him in his tracks before he could move in position. With both ladies landing a solid blow, his risk didn’t pay off: down for the count.