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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Mythic apologises to Archmages

In a post to the Archmage forum at WHA, Adam Gershowitz apologises to Archmages (archmagi?)  for not having addressed their core issues in patch 1.2. He posted to Shamans also .

But changes are coming.

Uh, yeah. As an Archmage player who has no interest in picking up the character again until I feel it has at least a fighting chance of not always feeling like the poor healing cousin of the Order side, I appreciate the heads up.

Meanwhile let’s buff Warrior Priests again because they’re bound to need it.

For Thade, Archmage

Lasers charging

Lasers charging

Playing with Models

I’m really not a miniatures gamer. I don’t collect models — well, apart from a short phase a few years back where I picked up a few beanies (don’t laugh, the chinese dragon is cool!). Actually, I always did wonder what the appeal was of collecting models. I can understand it if you want to play a game like Warhammer with them, but go into any specialist game shop and there will be piles of models for just about any fandom imaginable.

I never did quite get it.

War Hydra

War Hydra

I say this as a prelude because I never spent much time (read: any time) looking at the Games Workshop model range. It’s just that I’m subscribed to the White Dwarf email newsletters at the moment, to keep up to date with what’s going on at Games Day and they previewed one new model a few weeks back that really made me sit up and look.

OK, war hydra, cool looking figure, right? Well yes. But I saw that picture just after we’d started testing closed beta and it was the same day that I’d tried my first public quest, in the High Elf starting area. And it has a hydra and it’s keeper as the boss mob in the third phase.

And it looked just like the model!

I know this is not rocket science. Naturally a game based on a set of miniature rules will have characters and monsters that look like the miniatures. But it was only after I browsed the models that I really figured(sic) this out. I realise that at this point the warhammer grognards are probably thinking ‘she’s a moron’ but bear in mind that like lots of other people, I’m coming to this from the MMO side of fandom 🙂

Archmage and Mage

Archmage and Mage

I’m quite lucky because I’m going with an Archmage for my main, and that’s one of the few figures that GW make as a female model (also, you can’t always tell with elves).

I know I’ll no doubt make a rubbish job of it but damn if I don’t want a model of my character now! I can imagine people picking up minis to paint as their character, or making dioramas based on public quests.

Anyone else tempted by the figs?

A picture is worth a thousand words


Defending Wilhelm's Fist

A few ranged Order classes find a good vantage point from which to rain down fire and arrows outside the unfortunately named Wilhelm’s Fist in Reikland. Order has been tending to field more healers in beta and you can see a Runepriest in action in this shot (the guy he is healing is another Bright Wizard). I was just standing around on my Archmage trying to line up the screenie and look fabulous.

You can also see that I have set the UI to show health bars over friendly players’ heads. I find this really useful for targeting and healing players who aren’t in my group or warband.

Note to self: If I ever own a castle, I will NOT name it Spinks’ Fist or after any other part of my own anatomy.

Is it a healer? Is it a nuker? No, it’s an Archmage!!

Glittery Archmage

Glittery Archmage

When I first read about the Archmage and her casting mechanic that was designed to make it easy for her to switch between healing and damage dealing, I thought this might be the class for me. About a minute and a half after creating my first Archmage in beta, I knew I had found my main.

I’m a committed role switcher. I love my alts. And I love my classes that can fill more than one role in a group, even if it means respecs or hanging onto spare sets of gear. And I love my healers that can nuke/ or nukers that can heal. Its great if, like me, you also have friends who play healers. Because I can say, ‘Hey, no worries, you heal this one and I’ll nuke instead.’ Options are good, mkay?

I’m going to expand more on that later but first, check out the robe and staff? Granted, it isn’t punk but doesn’t she look great? (Arbitrary and Hawley will confirm that I uploaded loads of shots of my archmage looking various degrees of ultra-awesome and won’t stop talking about it!)

There is a downside to being a glorious glittery healer with very obvious spell animations. Can you guess what it– urrrgh *gets stormed by band of Chosen and Marauders* Yup, get ready to be public enemy numero uno whenever you zone into a scenario, and I must be some kind of sucker because I LOVE that. I am always drawn to powerful but flimsy support classes who are high priority PvP targets. Staying up, keeping out of harm’s way, and delivering awesome healing, dps, and debuffs to help my realm mates is a real challenge. Although being an easy kill, the Archmage is fairly well designed as a PvP healer. She has a good mix of instant cast HoTs and DoTs, and an instant shield which can all be cast on the run, and longer cast time more powerful spells for when there is a tank or tree to hide behind.

More on that mechanic …

So the idea is that every time you cast a heal, you build up a point of Tranquility to a maximum of 5 points, which will bolster your next dps spell (if it is an instant DoT then it will tick for more damage, if it is a slow cast, it will cast more quickly). And every time you cast a damage spell, you build up a point of Force which helps your next heal in the same way.

2 points of High Magic

2 points of Tranquility

See, this is a screenshot after I’d just cast 2 HoTs on myself. On my hotbar you can see that the abilities that will benefit from the Tranquility are blazing with excitement, so you can’t miss them. As soon as you cast a spell, all the spells of the other type will light up and the flames blaze higher the more points of Force or Tranquility that you build up.

I love it. I hate seeing the fires blazing for too long without being used so it’s very natural to find ways to throw out a DoT after every few heals. And what’s even better? Some of those DoTs are also debuffs or lifedrains so even while doing damage you can still be doing some support.

So: healer who nukes or nuker who heals? I did a lot of healing regardless and the healing offered by an Archmage is great. She’s the best single target healer on the Order side, and has a group heal too. It’s not as good or as fancy as group heals that the Warrior Priest or Runepriest get but it does the job, and this is one of the things I love about the Archmage. Her healing is definitely good enough for any situation I was able to find. I tried a nuking spec too and loved that (there’s a very fun AE knockback in the Asuryan tree) — her strength here is in her DoTs, and the channelled single target damage. But the class is strongest when you do a bit of both and I find it fun to keep an eye on both my team and the enemy and figure out where I can help best.

More about lifetap

Champion the Wondermage!

Champion the Wondermage!

As an Archmage, you can spec for a variety of different spells (although not all at the same time). There’s a DoT which reduces healing received by the target by 50% that you can pretty much keep up the whole time (it lasts 9s and has a 10s cooldown). There’s a ranged AE nuke/knockback which is good fun. There’s an awesome looking AE buff/debuff at the top of the Vaul tree that I need to try sometime. And … a lifetap nuke.

Now everyone has some kind of spell that they just adore in every game. For me, it’s the lifedrain and manadrain. I love those spells that annoy the enemy and help me or my mates at the same time. And they work very very well with the offensive/defensive target system in Warhammer. You won’t outheal a zerg on your own using these lifetaps but they’re just a tool that I love having, even if it ain’t all that powerful. (I’d love to see Balance Essence get a boost of some kind, but it’s fun for me anyhow.)

Chipping at the NDA

I love exploring, many of the people I regularly game with love exploring. I’m fairly sure Spinks and Hawley do too. In fact, we’re the kind of players that like to see as much as we can. So we were delighted with the most recent article on Gamespot UK about lairs:

These will be out-of-the-way areas where exceptionally powerful and rare foes hide out of plain sight and guard exceptionally powerful loot.

One of the things I remember reading a long long time ago about Warhammer Online was that there would be all sort of cool places to discover, with puzzle locks and stuff. I’d forgotten about all that until I read this article again and now I’m really excited about it all over again. Continuing on the puzzle theme:

none of the game’s lairs will have any kind of duplicate content or puzzles, so there will be no one-size-fits-all solution to unlock all of them.

It’s nice to see that in an RvR-focussed game, there is still some PvE candy for players to enjoy when they want a different pace. I hope to discover and conquer as many lairs as possible!

In other news, Ten Ton Hammer has a short write-up of Mount Bloodhorn and the Greenskin starter area.  We haven’t been linking to every little bit of news coming out, but this one is well-written, amusing and takes you through some of the things you get to do when first emerging into the game on the Greenskin side.

Meanwhile, Massively continues it’s slightly sterile overview of the elves of WAR. They’re going through the spells/skills you get from 1-5 and then 6-10. I’m not really reading them, because hrrm.. I can generally wait to read spell descriptions (plus yeah, am in the beta as Spinks just pointed out to me, so I don’t need to). However, over at Player vs Developer I was alerted to one comment in a Massively guide that’s a little naughty. It comes in the Archmage 1-5 guide and says:

Just drop a DoT (or two) on every single mob in the PQ area. If there are enough people there, all mobs will die too quickly to even take a swipe at you. With your ability to DoT multiple mobs, your total damage output for the PQ will at or near the top.

Sigh. Please note – they say ‘if there are enough people there’. This may not be the best solo tactic! And this may not hold for every public quest you come across. And hey, don’t forget you can heal too.