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Gradual Grinder
"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. Often, a magic-oriented Gradual Grinder (especially in online games) will be a variant of The Beastmaster, able to summon minions or animals to soak up the blows while their spells eat away at the enemy.

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. In a Trading Card Game, such strategy would be known as a Burn Deck (Getting the opponent to discard his hands/cards or chewing through their Life Points through effect cards rather than combat)

Examples:

  • 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."
  • 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, and Rangers 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.
    • Curse Necromancers have this as their hat, able to cripple opponents with multiple health-sapping hexes even over an area of effect.
    • And in the sequel many classes are capable of being a Gradual Grinder. Notably, the Mesmer, Necro, and especially the Ranger are once again considered top choices for this style of play.
  • 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.
    • As a general example, the Stall strategy 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 its attack is worthless. Though it's got a nice hard shell to hide behind. Shuckle's "optimal" moveset involves Toxic (causes poison that grows worse each round), Sandstorm (damaging weather effect which Shuckle itself won't be hurt by), Wrap (prevents the opponent from switching and deals continual damage to it which is not dependent on Shuckle's Attack), and Protect (outright blocks opponent's moves). Doesn't work on everything, as neither Toxic nor Sandstorm will harm a Steel-type, but against most other things that can't break through its defenses quickly, it's annoying as hell.
    • 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.
      • Several bosses in the TCG video game can go down to this, since their A!I doesn't consider the effects of playing "draw to cards" when they have less than ten cards left.
    • 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. Its attack is basically nonexistent, but it can completely shut down an opponent if played correctly, and slowly wear them down with Leech Seed. Nothing can outspeed it thanks to Prankster.
  • 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 symmetrical 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.
    • 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 Scepter 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.
    • The Orzhov guild gained this ability in the Return to Ravnica block. Cards with their new signature ability, extort, simply drain the opponent for a single point of damage every time you cast any spell, bleeding them to death from a million tiny wounds.
  • Gradual Grinder is a very useful tactic in Sid Meier’s 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. If the enemy ship refuses to surrender after being rendered immobile, 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 opponent to lose 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 Attack's 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. note 
  • 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.
    • Malzahar's main method of attack is his purple Swirly Energy Thingy, dealing damage over time and jumping to a new target if the previous one dies while it's on them. He also has a zone-skillshot that will deal a percentage of the target's maximum health as magic damage each second, and an ultimate that roots a target in place while dealing heavy damage over a few seconds. Each of them are fairly powerful on their own, but combine the three and the 'gradual' part of Gradual Grinder goes right out the window.
    • 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.
  • In Hellgate: London, Elemental Summoners and Bot Engineers 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.
  • Any ship in Star Control or Star Control II that has only low-damage attacks, such as the Spathi Discriminator or the Arilou Skiff, has no choice but to be this.
  • Riki of Xenoblade has less-than-stellar attack power, but he's also a nigh-unkillable ball of hit points and has a monopoly on aggravated damage techniques, able to poison, burn, freeze, and bleed enemies at the same time. Enemies soon find their HP dropping like a brick while Riki dances around all their attacks.
  • In the freeware game Nestalgia, the Conjuror is a class that specializes in Damage over Time and Heal over Time effects. Relatively frail, and not able to 'Alpha Strike' as well as a standard Wizard can, also pretty slow. If they survive three turns into a fight, though, it just got much harder (or easier, depending on which side of the fight you are on).
  • RuneScape players can do this by using a sling (or ranged weapon with infinite ammo) or a Staff of Air (or other staff providing infinite Air Runes) on a melee-only enemy from the other side of an Insurmountable Waist High Fence, rendering them unable to strike back. This is referred to as "safing".
  • In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Sonic uses a combination of this and Confusion Fu: His attacks are weak, and only two of his moves have good knockback (importance to have when you can only inflict a KO through ringout). However, everything about Sonic is blindingly quick, and the proper way to use him effectively is to hit the opponent numerous times without them being able to land many hits on Sonic, then go in for the KO when weakened enough and the opportunity presents itself. This doesn't lend itself well to Time matches, however, as this approach requires more time than most other characters per KO.
    • Pit uses a similar strategy to Sonic. However, instead of using blinding speed to avoid his opponent, he keeps them back with a myriad of arrows. He's also equipped with two reflectors, and can fly underneath the stage where most opponents can't reach. Also like Sonic, this approach is slow compared to others, which makes time-outs a common strategy.
  • Planet Forte in Meteos Wars (but not the original game) can clear its entire field of blocks practically at will, but the number of garbage blocks sent to the opponent is pathetic compared to other planets. The strategy to winning with Forte, then, is either to keep chugging on until the opponent makes a mistake, or play until the timer run out and let the screen-clear point bonuses win the round for you.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, while physical/weapons-oriented stealth characters are Glass Cannons, those who use magic to dispatch their foes are more likely to take a long time doing so. Using magic is often hazardous to an assassin's continued "hidden" status (Even with Quiet Casting, a lot of spells will by necessity at least slightly alert hostiles) and there are no damage multipliers for spells like there are for weapons, so killing things is much less straightforward. A spell-using assassin will use the Destruction school by strategically laying rune traps and tricking their enemies into walking into them until their health is finally depleted, they'll use Conjuration by summoning atronachs while hidden (and staying hidden) and letting the atronachs kill the enemies (resummoning atronachs as necessary), and they'll use Illusion to induce frenzy in a group of enemies, letting them kill each other off until only one remains to be handled by the player as they see fit. Significantly longer (and nastier) than using backstabs, but just as effective in producing dead enemies and a Dovahkiin that is completely untouched.
  • Kebek from Silent Line: Armored Core is a lesser known Arena opponent, but all of its parts are geared towards whittling down your AP bit-by-bit. Insidiously, Kebek uses handguns (which deals Armored Core's version of status ailment via heat mechanics) that overheats your AC and slowly depletes your AP. His fighting skill is such that the description notes that his opponents (that might include the player) often fails to realize anything is wrong until it is too late. Kebek's AC's name? Chisel.
  • In the Legend System paladins with the Smiting track approach Gradual Grinder from the opposite direction, with most of their abilities granting offensive bonuses over time (they also have more traditional tactics in the form of stunning, defence debuffs and Wounds That Will Not Heal). As the Charisma stat determines both a paladin's defences and the size of these bonuses, Smiting paladins tend towards Stone Wall as a matter of course.
  • Arcanists and their advanced class Summoners in Final Fantasy XIV are the game's predominant Do T class. The game doesn't shy away from pointing out that they use Bio to eat away at the opponent and suffocate them by putting miasma into their lungs, but they're all exceedingly kind people and unambiguously a force for good.
  • The submissions fighters from Def Jam: Fight For NY. While other classes tend to have much flashier and direct techniques that aim to knock their opponent out quickly and brutally, (kickboxers get nasty kicks and grapples, wrestlers toss their opponents all over the stage like rag dolls, street fighters have slow but extremely powerful roundhouse punches and martial artists are Crazy Awesome Fragile Speedsters who will do anything, including bounce off the walls to find a new way to hurt you) submissions fighters will simply ignore whatever you're hitting them with while they pick out a body part like an arm or a leg and go to work until it's been weakened enough that the opponent has to give up. This tends to be a much slower route to victory because the other classes have various means including weapons to speed up getting a knockout, while the only means of getting a submission is wearing that limb down bit by bit.
  • BattleTech:
    • This is essentially the strategy of any unit that employs light autocannons or short-range missile launchers in bulk. Neither weapon type is going to do a lot of damage on its own, but both weapons are relatively friendly to the heat gauge and are either long ranged (in the case of light autocannons) or lightweight (in the case of SRM launchers). However, what they do have is the simple rule of hit charts on their side. There are no ranged weapons that enjoy any particular hit location bonus unavailable to other weapons, which means that any shot can, theoretically, hit an enemy unit in its cockpit or crew compartment. Mechwarrior pilots can only take five such hits to the head, no matter the scale of the damage, just because a head hit throws them around so violently. This means that it's possible to grind down a super-sized Assault Battlemech with steady waves of small, weak hits because probability suggests that at least a few of those hits will eventually nail it in the head, and pilots tend to pass out from injury and exhaustion long before they are killed. If through-armor Critical Hits are in play this becomes even more pronounced, because any individual hit could possibly find a weak point in armor and deal damage straight to a vital internal component. Incidentally, each short-range missile that strikes home is counted as an 'individual hit.' By the end, it can either turn into Death By A Thousand Cuts or a flat out Macross Missile Massacre.
    • The inclusion of specialty ammunition is where the Gradual Grinding strategy truly shines. It's possible to cripple enemy units through various Outside The Box Tactics as a result of the sheer diversity of atypical munitions. Inferno missiles cripple the enemy's ability to control their heat gauge and destroys unshielded infantry or vehicles. Acid missiles destroy powerful armor types at a faster rate than normal. Electronic jammer missiles mess with enemy sensors and make it harder for them to score shots in return. Smoke missiles blind enemies and makes it harder for them to fire accurately. Bola missiles tangle up enemy limbs to trip up Mechs. Armor-piercing missiles ignore armor protection and damage the vital interior portions of targets. Minelayer missiles deny terrain to enemies and can damage Mech legs and vehicle propulsion systems. Submunition missiles cripple the protective value of formations by dispersing explosives over a wide area. None of these will kill a Mech or tank individually, but anyone forced to fight against units employing these specialty weapons will have a long, painful battle ahead of them.
  • A non-video game example in Yu-Gi-Oh!: during Yugi's first bettle against Osiris, Marik set up a theoretically invincible combo where the dragon is protected by a weak monster that regenerates every turn, while Osiris' dragon grows stronger every time Marik draws cards (which is every turn and every time one of his monsters dies). Yugi breaks the cycle by resurrecting the slime on his own side, which causes Osiris to autokill it, making Marik draw more cards... until he realizes he's burning through his deck much faster than Yugi can and without damaging Yugi's life, running out of cards being a Non-Standard Game Over.

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