The Archmage Reloaded

Mythic have done a lot of unusual things for WAR players since the game was released. There have been new classes within the first few months, live events right off the bat, revamps of the PvP system, new event scenarios, and mass class tweaks.

But have they taken it a step too far this time?

Lost among the 1.2 patch notes, Mythic also presented a roadmap for changes to the Archmage/ Shaman which practically mean reworking the classes from the ground up. It is a long set of posts, and they are also asking for feedback. They emphasis that this is not set in stone, it is still early stage.

So I’ll go through the proposed changes and give my feedback right here!

What’s the goal?

The goal for the adjustment is to allow the Shaman / Archmages to become viable healers and nukers, but not necessarily be able to excel at both at the same time, because to do so would make them entirely too powerful in comparison to the other RDPS or healing careers. In addition, we wanted to work in a way for the AM / SH careers to generally be a bit more survivable, but they will have to sacrifice a little DPS or HPS to do so.

So, question is, what’s wrong with them at the moment. I’ll talk about Archmages because it is the class I have played.

My AM is a good healer. But she has some issues. She’s nowhere near as strong a healer or as survivable as a Warrior Priest, and although she is closer to the Rune Priest, she is still less survivable and doesn’t have as useful buffs (she has good debuffs but they are all very short and it’s difficult to see if they have much effect). Her HoTs aren’t really strong enough to be reliable, even though she has quite good mobility.

My AM is not a good damage dealer. When I have specced Asuryan for damage, I’ve had a lot of fun playing her but it was never a patch on what an actual dps class could throw out. And frankly, if I choose to play her as a dps caster with some emergency heals, there’s no reason for her to be so far behind. The price of versatility has been way too high for Archmages, and the same punishing ‘thou shalt not be as good as a dps’ does not seem to apply to the melee healers.

Survivability is going to be shot as long as Archmages are tall glowy elves who are easily picked out of the crowd. Only a disguise skill could help with that. Shamans absolutely do not have that issue, because they are short and look like Squig Herders.

Having to sacrifice dps or heals to be more survivable seems out of line with how the other healers play, but I’d expect my Archmage to be significantly more survivable even if it’s just over short periods if I’m asked to make that sacrifice. If it’s just a ‘bit’ more survivable then I don’t see the need to sacrifice anything.

I am on board with the notion that being able to excel at both healing and damage at the same time would put them out of whack. But the mission statement says ‘viable’ heals and damage and we don’t know what that means to Mythic. It does sound as though there is to be some penalty for versatility — they’ll not be quite as good as pure healers or pure dps.

But the raw numbers aren’t the end of the story. What I hope to see is better survivability for the AM via lifetaps. And maybe even a healing style that’s just a bit different from the Runepriest.

In Just 3 Stages, I can build you a new class

In any case, the revamp will take three stages.

  • 1.2.1 Minor tweaks, base adjustments to damage.
  • 1.3 Changing the Mastery Paths
  • 1.3.1 Changing the Mechanic

As I said, big sweeping changes. Whether or not it will even feel like the same class at the end, who knows?

And although I say minor tweaks, they are talking about a 25% increase in damage across the board to all abilities. That in itself is a large change and should make a big difference to how the classes play.

It is also a sad reflection on how far behind their damage really is, and how it has been left so long when a simple tweak like this could have fixed it.  I remember saying (with all the other Archmages) for some while that we needed more damage.

Mastery Changes

The current three mastery lines are heals/dps/debuffs.

The plan is to change this, to redistribute the buffs and debuffs and to end up with three mastery lines that are closer to: heals/ dps/ lifetaps

I had always thought that a lifetap was both a heal and a nuke (it’s a type of nuke that gives the caster some of the damage done back as health), but now you’ll have to choose which types of spells to specialise in. I predict that groups will not be overly excited to have a lifetap AM when they could have had a good healer or nuker, even though it’s probably the most fun spec to play.

The proposed mastery paths are currently in first draft form. It’s mostly the same spells as now, just shuffled around. The main thing I noted is that Cleansing Flare (the AE nuke/ knockback) makes an appearance at 5 points into Asuryan (ie. EVERYONE will take it) and Scatter the Winds (the heal debuff) is in the Asuryan tree also.

So Asuryan looks by far the strongest tree at the moment, it got assigned the strongest debuffs.

Vaul loses its identity as a debuffing tree and becomes a sort of lifetap tree instead, but gets the Shield of Saphery as well, and Law of Gold (the AE toughness reducing debuff). Those lifetaps would have to get very good indeed to get anyone to spec this over one of the other trees.

Isha looks in reasonable shape. It picks up Mistress of the Marsh (not a great debuff because of being ground targetted but it is an AE snare) and all the usual healing spells. Plus Isha AMs would be able to pick up Cleansing Flare as well. That would be a fun build to play.

And .. the Mechanic Revamp

This is pretty much a complete 180. Instead of your heals reducing the casting time of nukes and vice versa, your heals will increase the power of your heals. So there’s to be a meter which swings between max heal buffs and max damage buffs. Every time you heal it moves towards the max heal. Every time you nuke it moves towards max damage. And every time you cast some kind of lifetap/ debuff it moves towards the centre.

It should make it easier for the AM to play as a dedicated healer or nuker. To encourage players to use the mechanic, base heals/ damage would be reduced when this came in. With the idea that if you were maxed out on heals/damage it would be better than it is now, and if you weren’t it would be similar or worse.

The intention is very much that players NOT be able to switch quickly from heals to damage, at least not without losing some effectiveness. So this is looking quite similar to the LOTRO Runekeeper but without the emergency switching ability.

And this is the part of the change which is least set in stone. A complete mechanic revamp is very similar to making a new class.

Will it blend?

Don’t know. People who are interested will have to try it out and see how it goes. It’s clear that nuking AMs will lose the ability to throw an emergency instant heal.

It is also clear that Mythic worry far too much about appeasing other classes.

Question: Are you considering how these changes affect other classes and that it may make them obsolete? And if so, will you be altering these other classes in the same cycle to compensate?

Answer: In short we are most definitely considering this. We have no intention to Obsolete any other career in favor of a newly revamped one. That being said please keep in mind if we go with the more dramatic mechanic changes the AM/SH will likely have their base healing reduced. Giving many of the existing healers a good solid head start in burst or instantaneous healing.

You’re trying to fix a class that is notably behind the others. Do not start by saying that they’ll never  be allowed to do anything better if you want to encourage people to keep playing them.

Everyone wants to feel that they have a niche. Saying ‘We’ll revamp your class but please don’t worry everyone else, it’s never gonna be allowed to get too good,’ is not really encouraging. And like, maybe we’ll give you a bit more survivability but it probably won’t be as good as the other healers and you’ll have to sacrifice heals/damage to get it …. again, not really setting the world on fire.

Survivability in a PvP game should be baked into healers. If one class  has to sacrifice heals for survivability then they should be able to become a freaking cockroach on the battlefields every minute or so!

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The Parody Returns

Orlock over at Warhammer Geek has got his writing pen out and created another fun-filled Warhammer parody song, along with Jethal Silverwing’s dulcet tones. This time it’s the High Elves and Crazy Elf Swordsmaster. Head on over and check it out, and if you haven’t heard the rest of the parody songs, make sure you listen to those too!

So, about that White Tower …

White Tower of Hoeth

White Tower of Hoeth

This is the White Tower of Hoeth, spiritual home of High Elf Swordmasters and one of the most historic and significant locations for High Elven culture in Ulthuan. It has stood for thousands of years.

If the perspective in that screenshot looks strange, it’s because the tower is huge and I had to angle the camera right back to take in the topmost turrets.

You won’t get to visit this tower as a High Elf unless you go far out of your way though. It features in a Public Quest on the Dark Elf side of Saphery. We don’t even get a chance to defend it. It’s lost, and no PC had any say in the matter.

Playing as Order, it sometimes feels as though any time Mythic decided to put a legendary location from the lore into the game, someone in the room said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if you got to attack location X?” and no one ever said, “It could be pretty cool if you got to defend location Y, wouldn’t it?” High Elf players and Warhammer lore fans on WHA have been sad about this.

But I look on it a different way. Yes, in a strong storytelling setting I’d have loved to play and roleplay my way through defending the White Tower, but Order has by far the more compelling storyline in the game. Destruction are a bunch of god bothering cultists, green hooligans, and semi-clad sadists. Order get to fight to defend everything they hold most dear. If it looks as though the story says we are losing, that just shows that even when it seems that we may lose everything, we don’t stop fighting.

It is be a limit of the game that neither side can ever truly win this war, and that’s frustrating because … we really do want to. But still, within the bounds of game we have an epic story to play out. It’s grim and gothic, but that’s Warhammer.

Let’s Talk Archmage Specs

Does this blue match my hair?

One of the great things about reaching the end of Tier 3/start of Tier 4 is that you finally have enough talent points available to start experimenting with abilities/ tactics that you can learn from speccing deep into your career ability trees.

I’m not planning to give a detailed discussion of every single Archmage ability and spec, there are better places to discuss that, but I am going to talk about which way I plan to go and why. An Archmage is a class that can specialise in three different ways: healing, nuking/damage, and debuffing. In practice, damage feels subpar, healing can be excellent if you spec for it, and the debuffs look good but it’s difficult to get a feel for how useful they really are. I think a damage specced archmage can work well, but if the class needs anything, it’s better damage and better AP regeneration while nuking.

In any case, I want to play my Archmage as a healer who has other ways to contribute if healing isn’t needed. So I know that in the endgame, whatever I spec, I plan to mostly heal in PvP.

Isha

There are two really good things about the Isha tree. One is that it improves just about every baseline heal you have, and the other is Funnel Essence. FE is a good, fast, flexible channelled heal (it’s supposed to be channelled, bit bugged right now) that you can break off after one tick if you need to save AP. I have it specced on Lin at the moment and I feel like a really competent healer in scenarios, as far as that’s possible. Since I spend a fair amount of time healing in PvP, this is a big deal for me.

Asuryan

Only one good ability in this tree but it’s a doozy. Cleansing Flare is a ranged AE with knockback. It is brilliant fun, very effective, gives you a good way to defend other healers/nukers, and everyone who has tried it loves it. Unfortunately you need to spec 13 points into a lame tree to get that ability. No one really wants the Asuryan tree to be lame, and even Destruction would probably prefer that it wasn’t (because that would encourage fewer Archmages to heal) but even with a full dps spec, it simply doesn’t make as much difference to our damage as an Isha-spec does to our healing.

It’s particularly sad that none of the Asuryan tactics are very exciting. They look better than they are. I’ve seen dps Archmages played very effectively but this tree needs some help. Having said that, Cleansing Flare is heaps of fun and might be worth the heavy point investment all on its own.

Vaul

The debuff tree is pretty solid. It contains the awesome Scatter the Winds heal debuff at a mere 5 points into the tree. As well as a solid debuff, StW gives you an extra DoT to help while soloing which is a nice bonus. Further up the tree at 9 points in is Law of Age which is an AE toughness debuff. It’s a good spell, and works well when you have some enemies bunched up. Like all debuffs, it’s difficult to really get a feel for quite how effective it is. At 11 points, you can buy the Golden Aura tactic which makes your best DoT affect many targets in an area. I tried this and found it mostly a way of getting better contribution scores in scenarios and PQs – unlike all the other debuffs, you can tell very clearly what this one is doing on scoreboards. Plus there’s a debuff built in. Above this, Mistress of the Marsh is a ground targeted snare/debuff, I didn’t try this one but people seem disappointed in it (probably because enemies in PvP don’t often stand around.

So where does this leave us?

Mostly it leaves me bitterly wishing that I could have all my talent points right now at 32 because it would make levelling a whole lot more fun. As it is, I spend a lot of time in PvP/scenarios and really want to heal well. For the rest, I still need to grind xp out somehow since there often aren’t groups available. At 40 I’ll have enough points to pick up Funnel Essence and still have enough left for Cleansing Flare or Law of Age. Right now I have to choose and it makes me grumpy. The advantage of going with an Isha/Vaul build is that it isn’t adversely affected if you don’t gear for dps – a debuff works the same way regardless of how much int you have on your gear.

If I am not sounding enthused about the tactics available, it’s because at the moment I am happy with the baseline ones. I’m going with the 10% heal crits, 160 AP every time a heal crits, and instant res tactic at the moment and they’re great.

What I will eventually do is pick out some combination of the abilities I most like and see which works best with how I end up playing at rank 40. I won’t personally have a build that doesn’t include Funnel Essence, I like how it rounds the class out for healing. But whether I’ll go deeper into Isha than that I’m not yet sure. So the most likely builds so far are Isha/Asuryan with Cleansing Flare or Isha/Vaul with Law of Age. I’m looking forwards to experimenting!

Things that amuse – with pics!

Spinks: Apparently the in gear for fashion forwards Swordsmasters this Autumn is the  Devastator Platecoat. As you can see, the bug is that it’s skinned to a Knights of the Blazing Sun type shape. Not to mention, made for someone smaller.

Yeah, we prefer our Swordmasters in robes too.


Arbitrary: Ok, it’s complete fluff and I’m such a girl. I know. But I will never ever delete this adorable pet book from my character. It may go live in the bank though!


Hawley:  It’s the little things you pick up.  Discovering that the chaos champion you just whacked into the ground must have been a horticulturalist, because of the watering can you’ve looted from him.  Or that you’ve just collected someone’s makeshift loincloth.  I mean, how desperate do you have to be to need a *makeshift* loincloth.  Loincloths are pretty simple things, really…  But no, my favourite thing so far has been…

A barrel of fish!

A barrel of fish!

The barrel of fish.  Every time I see one, I giggle.  It’s so cool!

Pelt of the Dark Young (spoilers)

Look what Spinks found this morning! (and yes, this is our toons posing). Go to Avelorn, head to first camp north of warcamp you fly into (Well of Whispers). Wait for nasty big Gor to attack (regular level 26 mob), kill and get Bossie Beastie tome unlock. He’s called Khurraak Might-Horns.

Iron Lion Ulthuan

The White Lion is one of the most unusual classes in the game. It’s an elf with a big two-handed axe, so right from the start there is a sense of disconnect. Elves don’t use axes, dwarves do! Far from being effete academics, the lore says that White Lions are tough mountain warriors – not forest dwellers. And although they have trained war lions to hunt with them, they also wear lionskin around their shoulders as a mark of accomplishment. So these are not your average Tolkeinesque elves, they’re a more savage culture.

And from an MMO point of view, a melee dps class with a pet is quite uncommon in itself. Pets are usually used to tank by ranged classes. So how does the Lion work out?

It’s a fun class. Even at low levels, with a nice renown axe my White Lion can put out a lot of damage very quickly. When I’m on form, I have no trouble dashing in and out of combat and downing some annoying squishy before heading back to the shelter of my local tank. The pet is mostly well behaved and does what it is told, there are issues with the UI and pathing that I’ll touch on later but I’ve been more impressed than frustrated with him.

Pet control is in three parts.

1. You can set how much you want to micromanage  the pet’s targets by selecting aggressive (pet attacks anything in range), defensive (pet attacks anything that attacks you), or passive (pet only attacks when it is ordered to attack). These settings have become quite standard in MMO pet classes. I usually put mine on passive, although I have found in RvR that setting it to defensive means that it goes after healers if no one is actually hitting me. So it has a regular PvE mobs aggro list. This may make the lion more useful than I am but I don’t mind if it is making me look good. It dashes off behind a rock and comes out chasing a shaman.

2. You can manage where it is by selecting between follow (pet follows you), stay (pet stays where it is) or attack (pet runs off and attacks your target). All of these can be mapped to keys. I usually stick the pet on follow, using keybinds to get it to attack things.

3. Pet abilities. The lion has a number of abilities which include a variety of dps moves, a snare, some debuffs, and a taunt. You can micromanage these by mapping them to keys (or using mouse-clicks) or you can leave the lion to use them itself which it tends to do on every cooldown. The trick is that it doesn’t have access to all of its abilities all of the time. You can train your lion to take different stances (trained to threaten, trained to kill, trained to hunt) and each stance gives it access to a different set of abilities and also gives a buff to you. So for example, trained to threaten (the pet tanking stance) gives the pet a taunt, a snare, and an attack that debuffs enemy armour. It also gives the pet’s master 5% extra crit chance.

So there is a LOT of scope for micromanagement if you want to control absolutely what your pet is doing at all times. But it works well enough without.  I’ve been using trained to threaten for RvR and hotkeying the snare and letting the lion do the rest on its own, but I’m definitely not done experimenting yet.

The White Lion doesn’t have much utility. And some of the utility that it does have (like the snare) is provided by the pet. I would have preferred to have my own snare, but this way does force you to work with the pet as best you can.

What they do have is a lot of solid damage moves. The three talent trees do encourage different styles of play, which is a design I like to see because it gives a class more replayability. Path of the Hunter has solid dps boosts, such as a tactic to increase attack speed by 50%. With a big slow axe, I expect that to put out some big AP-free numbers. It also encourages you to set the pet on a different target and has abilities which let both pet and master work together. But the primary focus of this line is on AE damage. Path of the Axeman is all about letting the pet tank while the elf puts out huge single-target damage. It emphasises attacks from the side or rear and contains the classes only healing debuff attack. There’s a nice baseline ability which ignores all armour when you attack from behind which is handy for those times when you absolutely have to chase down a tank. And Path of the Guardian is all about enhancing the pet’s ability to get to a target and deliver huge damage, while toughening the elf so that she is better able to tank. It has an ability that allows the pet to break crowd control which will be familiar to anyone who played a hunter in WoW.

For getting in and out of combat quickly, the White Lion has access to a speed boost that doesn’t consume AP as well as sprint, and there is a Pounce ability that you can spec for which allows a leap into combat over a short distance. It also apparently negates falling damage if you Pounce while falling, which may be a bug.

UI Issues

Sometimes the pet interface disappears completely. This can be resolved by resummoning the lion but the resummoning is on a 15s timer which starts when you dismiss it (or it dies). It can be hard to track where the pet is at all times, and it is sometimes slow at coming back to heel when called. Pathing is generally good — in particular when you jump off something, the lion jumps with you. But occasionally the lion will stand around or take a route you hadn’t predicted.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the pathing though. I was expecting worse. It’s quite usable.

Playing the Lion in RvR

I’ve never really felt I was good at playing melee in PvP. It is much harder than playing ranged, you don’t always have much time to pick our your targets and you don’t get as good a view of what is going on around you. And you always need to run in before you can start attacking. Ranged have a much larger target choice and more time to see what’s going on. And of course with the White Lion, you may need to be picking out two targets at a time, one for you and one for the pet.

One of the things I wanted to do with my White Lion was try to get a bit better at playing melee. So I have been levelling her mostly in scenarios and open RvR. I find with melee that RvR is much more of a rollercoaster. When it goes well, it REALLY goes well. The numbers are flying, targets die quickly, you get to charge after a wounded tank and kill them in one blow and you feel ‘well ‘ard’. I’ve had scenarios where I had loads of killing blows and a few solo kills to my name. I’ve had some where I felt as though I was dying constantly and being nothing but a burden to the rest of my team. I have decided that it is probably normal to feel like this and that I’m probably no worse than lots of other people.

It is more challenging to play a class that you know you aren’t particularly good with. I’m still hoping that with more practice that will change. I am really enjoying the White Lion, now into Tier 2 and looking forwards to picking up Pounce. The big axe feels dangerous. The lion feels useful and well trained unless I mess up its chances. There’s still a lot to learn.

And the most important thing: what do you call the lion? The command is /petname <name>. I named mine Kol after one of my old In Nomine RPG characters that was an angel of judgement, a man of few words.

What did you call your pet?