Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Archmage Review - Thoughts on class.

Level 22 RR 11
Use: PvP Scenarios and Open World PvP. Grouped and ungrouped.
Specs: All three, though I prefer Vaul.

One thing that I find about the Archmage that's really engaging is the amount of concentration and ability that goes into playing one. Finding a fine balance between DPS and healing can be hard to do, as sometimes you get caught up in the moment and forget to heal while you're tossing some nukes around, or you end up sitting back and healing and not doing any damage. It's a fine balancing act that, if mastered, really gives that extra umph to the class to let it shine.

Path of Isha
Funnel Essence - The 0 AP 150 range channeled lifetap is an awesome, awesome ability. Kudos for putting it where it is, as it's very powerful and efficient of a spell. It's perfect for harassing enemy casters or catching runners thanks to it's wonderful range, and because it hits every second (seems faster sometimes) for the entire duration of the channel, it's great at interrupting other spell casters. It gives healers a safe and easy way to deal damage, while still keeping allies and themselves alive.

Balance Essence (name?) - I'm talking about the single target 2s cast lifetap that's early in the tree. It feels a bit weak due to the subpar damage, but seeing as it's a 100% return on damage to life it's understandable. I just didn't find myself using this spell very often, mostly because if I wanted to do damage it was much more mana efficient to toss a Law of Conductivity on someone and just to back to healing. The 2s timer seems a bit excessive, and it really seems like you're better off just tossing a big heal on someone, or casting a DoT instead. I'd suggest tweaking the numbers around just a little on this one, because if we're using templates and I'm not able to break 100 damage on an equal level target, I can only imagine how atrocious the damage must be without purple gear.

One question I have though, is how does Will Power factor into lifetaps? From my observations, it looks like willpower adds to the amount of health healed on the tail end of a lifetap. In a sense lifetaps benefit from both int (extra damage, more health returned due to more done) and willpower (adds to the heal effect). Can someone confirm this? It might be worth checking into whether or not an Isha spec AM can tweak his stats into a very heavy intelligence build to up the lifetap damage (and subsequently the amount healed), but still be able to heal better than a non-Isha AM due to mastery point benefits.

Path of Ashuryan
Ashurya's Rage - The instant cast DD on a 30 second timer. 65 foot range. I feel the timer is too great here, especially for a low tier mastery abilitiy. It's great for finishing people off that are nearby or for chasing a runner, but honestly the timer feels excessive. I'd suggest 15-20 seconds, as it gives the AM some much needed insta damage that primary nukers have. The damage seems about right for the AP cost, so no complaints there. One funny thing though, is that on my computer when someone dies there's a brief 1-2 second lag time where there is no enemy body or corpse. After that a naked corpse appears like normal, but it's fun to get kills with this spell due to the graphic. It looks like a giant pure white light coming down on someone's head...first time I killed someone with this spell and didn't see a body, I thought they had just been abducted. Was great for a giggle.

Winds of Ashuryan (name?) - The instant cast 30 second cool down AE spirit debuff. Wow. No wonder this baby has a steep cool down, anything you hit with this is in for a world of pain. With all my points in Ashuryan mastery, I was seeing some big crits on damage. 589ish for a radiant lance crit on most enemies that had been debuffed with this beforehand. I've not been able to bring someone from 100% to 0% in the entirety of the duration, which is good for balance. But, if I could have a 2nd AM that I could coordinate with over voice chat that would focus on my target after casting this spell I'd wager that just about anyone and everyone I felt needed to die would in 10 seconds or less would. I can see why there's a 30 second timer on it, so please don't shorten.

Forked Lancing - The tactic sounded neat at first, but honestly I don't think I've seen it work or seen a way to use it effectively enough to justify taking a tactic slot up. First off, I believe there's only a 25% chance of Radiant Lance splitting and hitting multiple people, so that's one red mark. The other red marks come the difficulty of using Radiant Lance to begin with (2s cast time), and the fact that the max split range is 30 ft from the target. More often then not, the AM's are in the back ranks, meaning that they most likely will not have the opportunity to cast this spell into the center of the dress convention on the other side. More often than not, the target is a tank or melee character that runs towards you, so the potential AE effect really has no use. My other complaint is that the lances that split off do less damage than the main one itself - I can understand the reason for doing this, but given the limited chance of the spell splitting in the first place I think dealing the full damage of a casted lance to the extra targets would be OK.

Overall a Ashuryan spec AM will see a very noticeable increase in damage, but one thing I found was that I had mana management issues. I feel that I had to spend more time actively thinking about the most opportune time to heal, and was watching my HM counter a lot more closely. Sure I can fry someone, but when I have no mana left to heal other people I do them a disservice. One thing I'd like to see, is a tactic unique to this tree that gives all your Ashuryan spells a 25-35% chance to build 2 high magic instead of 1. I think it would a bigger emphasis on the high magic system, and would help balance the damage to healing ratio.

Path of Vaul
First and foremost, this is not a solo spec. It's a very RvR heavy tree that relies on coordination with team mates to really shine. You won't be getting much glory or RP's with this tree, but you will be doing an immense job of pushing the enemy lines back, as well as almost assuring the death of any tank that runs towards your lines. This is my favored mastery, and I think it's the least used or understood of them all.

Law of Ages - the meat and potatoes spell. I think the major adversity to this mastery branch is just that people can't quantify exactly what losing 80 points of Toughness does since we don't know the formulas involved for determining damage. I think it was stated in the past that Mythic wouldn't be releasing any of the formula for stats and what not because they were overly complicated or something, but it'd be nice to know roughly how much more damage someone takes when affected by this spell. I could try to test some numbers on a before and after basis with AI monsters, but I'm under the impression those guys have pretty standard and high amount of toughness, and if the formula has diminishing returns players might get the impression this spell is actually weaker than it really is. The neat thing about toughness is that it's involves in all resistances, even spells, so everyone that does damage can benefit from this.

There's no cool down timer on the spell, which was really the best thing that could have been done. You folks were wise enough to have it build high magic as well, so it's a very well-rounded spell that can be spammed, but also help you keep your high magic up for the heals. The AoE is just icing on the cake, since it's not hard to blanket the entire chaos team with just 2-3 casts. I've seen DoK's and Zealots drop like flies to melee characters with this debuff on them, and the Bright Wizards really seem to enjoy the added damage to their AoE effects. Like I said, it's a very team oriented spell.

Winds of Something (name?) - the -50% heal value for 10 seconds is all it takes to nearly guarantee any tank running towards you is as good as dead, since they always seem to be the primary heal target for the enemy, and the primary target of all your ranged allies. This debuff insures that all that delicious healage the enemy throws on Rambo is wasted as he lights up like a christmas tree. The DoT component gives the spell some added gusto, and helps give this mastery line some overall damage to help with solo viability and pve content. My only complaint would be the wind up time on the cast, but given how decimating this spell can be it feels justified.

Radiant Gaze - A spell I don't see used much, especially by people who don't put points into Vaul to increase the damage on it. For a 2s cast time, the damage does seem underwhelming - but the true power lies in the added protection from crits. It's a great spell to toss onto a fast melee dps character, like a Witch Elf of Marader, who relies on dropping you as soon as possible. I sometimes use this spell, though it's usually only when I'm out solo or when I get ambushed. What I would like to see is this ability instead lower your chance to hit rather than the chance to crit.

-deep breath-
Overall I feel the class really fleshes out as it grows in levels, but having the ease of a premade level 20 character helps the class avoid some of the problems found at lower level. I still do not think we have proper escape tools or ways to peel a persistant tank/melee dps class off of us at lower levels.

I'd like to see a little more from the High Magic concept. I like the free spells with 3 charges, but I hate seeing them wasted on things like the insta HoT or cleansing light. I'd prefer that we have the option to turn the use of charges off for these spells.

Also, probably a pipe dream, but I'd like to see High Magic become more of a tool, rather than just an AP saver. I'd like to have 2 buttons, one that converts all my HM points into instant healing for my target, and another that converts it all into damage. Of course the values would scale based off the number of charges you have, and the results would probably have to be weaker than actually casting a spell (trade off since it's instant vs casted) - but having 5 HM points doesn't mean much to me when I'm still at full health and trying to kill someone.


Rank: 23
Realm Rank: 9
Current spec: Full Isha (only spec skill is Funnel Essence)
Previous spec (thru Rank 21): Full Asuryan (with both spec abilities but no spec tactics)

I'm finding it hard to figure out how to work with High Magic. Mostly, it seems very situational in usage for me--not at all the career-defining mechanic that I was expecting. More details later.

Healing power seems okay for both PvE and RvR, but healing overall feels sluggish. The heals I use/need the most are the big heal and the group heal. The heal+HOT is too expensive, too weak and has too long a build-up time to help me much except to top things off after a battle. The Core HOT is just too weak and too spread out. Funnel Essence rocks, but is also expensive AP-wise. When my enemies (NPC and player) are kind enough to leave me alone, I can crank out heals just fine.

Survivability seems pretty good for a squishy, but it requires quick and careful use of the shields and heals. The new setback mechanics also help in this regard. It's hard to balance defense with offense, though. A medium-sized combat heal would help a lot. Also, some kind of /face would be nice to counter the hyper-active, button-mashing, disabling, melee strafers who take full advantage of the "target is not in cone of fire" mechanic. Maybe some of the cc spells that I see coming up will help with this, but at this point, it's rough going.

Damage-wise, I have mixed feelings. Even with full Isha spec, I can solo fairly well, which is eons better than other MMORPG healer classes I've played. But in group situations, even with full Asuryan spec, I feel that I'm lacking in damage. I like that AMs aren't confined to the sit-back-and-heal role. I just hope player perception (fueled by the min/maxers) doesn't force AMs into that role anyway.

There are many inconsistencies between the spell descriptions on the training windows and the actual spells, which makes it hard to evaluate some things. Funnel Essence, for example, clearly costs AP (I see my AP bar dropping while I'm channeling it, anyway) and heals for an amount equal to the damage done, but according to the spell description it's free and heals for 0. In general, these need to be carefully combed through. It's frustrating to expect one thing and get something else.

High Magic:
I've tried some strategies for using HM effectively, but I'm still struggling.

When I solo, I'm naturally mixing offense (usually HM-generating, except lifetaps) and defense (HM-consuming). So I get some benefit from HM, but it never builds up to more than about 3-4 before I use a defensive spell and wipe it all out.

In groups where I'm primarily healing, I've tried throwing in a few nukes to get some HM going. It's hard to gauge the cost of the nuke vs. the AP benefit of the HM, so maybe I'm just wasting my time with these random nukes. Mostly I use Searing Touch or Law of Conductivity, since they're fast and relatively cheap (if I cut ST off after a tick or so). I avoid Radiant Lance and Radiant Gaze--2s build-up is way too long when I need to be healing, they're too expensive, and they don't do much (unspecced). There are some insta-cast spells in Vaul and Asuryan that might help here, but at the moment, my feeling is that nuking (and hence HM) is a bit of a luxury.

The only time I've seen HM build up to 5 is when I could focus solely on nuking for long enough--maybe there were multiple healers in the group or my group wasn't under fire at the time. But these situations have been rare so far.

There are some things I can try to get better use out of HM, but I think basically I'm just going to need to wait until I have enough Mastery points to build up a decent secondary spec. Having more useful spells around that can generate HM will definitely help a lot, especially since one HM-consuming spell wipes out a fair chunk of HM (3 or 4 that I've seen) while one HM-generating spell only builds up 1 point of HM.

Top/Fun Spells:Funnel Essence (although it would rock if it generated HM)
Searing Touch (both of these channeled spells could use a new sound effect, though, rather than the extremely un-elvish THUD! THUD! THUD! )

Balance Essence: Way, way too little damage and healing for the AP cost and build-up time, especially since it doesn't generate HM. I respecced out of it.
Drain Magic: Also too slow and too little effect. It's not on my main 2 hotbars.
Radiant Lance/Gaze: Useful to begin a solo fight, but generally not worth it in the cost/benefit equation, even when I was specced for these (yes, I tried a Vaul spec once, briefly ).
Heal+HOT: I like HOTs in general, and I've tried to work this in, but it's just too much time and cost for too little.

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