-- by KaVir
As a wolf, you are unable to wield weapons, wear armour, or use any equipment other than a collar. Your lack of hands also means that you only have one defence location - your feet. Fortunately, wolves possess pretty effective natural weapons and armour, and can enhance a collar with magical bonuses in order to take full advantage of their radiation limit.
The attacks of a wolf are limited to cut damage (left and right paw) and crush damage (bite and pounce). The claw attacks are able to target high, medium or low locations, however, which allows you to focus on your opponent's less-armoured body parts. The pounce attack provides little damage, but has a chance of knocking your opponent down, while the bite attack allows you to heal damage. Also worth noting is that wolves possess natural "defensive shields", meaning that even during cooldown their feet still provide 33% defence (the blow is described as bouncing off their fur).
In terms of powers, Lupine Fortitude should always be one of your primaries, as it's your main source of damage protection. Wolf Form and Claws of the Wolf are also excellent choices, the latter providing you with greater offensive capabilities and the former giving you general all-round bonuses. Note that you will need at least 5 ranks in Claws of the Wolf before you can get Wolf Form, just as you'll need at least 5 ranks in Wolf Form before you can get Lupine Fortitude. Once you reach 20 ranks in Wolf Form you can also get Shapechanging, which will improve both your offensive and defensive capabilities.
Other useful powers which you may want to consider are: Regeneration (for healing and growing back lost paws), Shadow Crafting (to create and wear magical collars), Rage of the Beast and Extended Rage (to give short-term combat boosts).
You may also want to get one rank in Shadow Infusion (to deflect Inferno), Cloak of Shadows (good for avoiding mobs while hunting), Ears of the Bat (even a single rank can help draw your attention to nearby combat), Mind Magic (even a weak mindblast is better than nothing, when your opponent is immune to physical damage) and Summon Vermin (a good way to distract a mob while you run away). If you've ranks to spare and have 10+ ranks in Shapechanging, you might also want to consider getting a rank in Bat Form for quick escapes.
There are various talents which can be used to improve your performance:
- Evasion is a must, taking full advantage of your lack of equipment and stacking very nicely with your Lupine Fortitude in order to provide you with greatly improved damage immunity.
- Sure Footed is also a good choice, improving your natural immunity even further as well as aiding your feet defence and lowering your feet cooldown.
- Instinctive Dodge increases your feet cooldown defence from 33% to 50% (important, considering you only have one defence location).
- Unarmed Mastery is the only Weapon Mastery talent you can benefit from, so there's no reason not to take it.
- Ambidextrous removes the penalties for your off-hand, which is a small (but useful) advantage when fighting with both paws.
- Cleave and Great Cleave provide you with enhanced bypass, stacking nicely with your Claws of the Wolf.
- Endurance provides you with a nice boost to Health (particularly good if you've also got a lot of ranks in Shapechanging.
- Toughness helps you shrug off damage, and goes well with high Mettle builds (or collars which have been pumped full of Mettle).
- Powerful Metabolism will aid your pitiful poison resistance, and increase the effectiveness of your bites. If you wish to focus on biting you may also want to consider Smash and Great Smash.
- Iron Talons or Razor Claws will enhance the effectiveness of your claws.
- Feral Spirit is a weak choice, but it unlocks the Arctic Wolfkin, Desert Wolfkin and Swamp Wolfkin talents, each of which provide some very nice bonuses while in Wolf Form.
- Dragon Blooded provides you with a firebreath attack and wings for escaping battle. It also unlocks the three Dragon Descendant talents, allowing you to select alternative types of breath attack.
Wolf Form is pretty effective, although you'll be very vulnerable to attack until you've built up a few ranks in Lupine Fortitude. Your main weakness will be against heat, shock and poison damage, although the Wolfkin talents can overcome that weakness if you know in advance which form of damage you're going to be facing. Another major problem is that your damage types will be limited to cut and crush (and perhaps mental if you also have mindblast). You could use the Dragon talents to get elemental breath damage, or prepare your human form for such a situation (eg. arm it with torches), so that you can shapechange back if attacked by a swarm or spectre.
It is also worth carrying a selection of collars with you, so that you can change your tactics when necessary - in particular, you should consider having one collar pumped full of Mettle and another pumped full of Brawn. You can do this with Shadow Crafting, or by getting a mage to use Enchantment on your collars for you.