Viable Mage-Style Alternative for Battle Monk Combo
To recover from Priest and Battle Monk Stance changes, I spent time considering my options for changing my weapon, Talent Point allocations, spell rotation and play style. In my mind the choices were:
- Continue as before, albeit being a worthless combo for groups and deal with the fact that I have noticeably less rage generation and damage.
- Flip to playing Warrior/Priest to enjoy the improvements on that side, completely re-gear myself, re-allocate my Talent Points, play a role in groups I don’t enjoy and have a solo play style that is equally unappealing to me.
- Stop using a bludgeon type weapon even though that defines the combo and associated Elite Skills, play more like a caster instead, make minor gear adjustments, re-allocate Talent Points accordingly and have a role and gear that is consistent for groups and solo play.
I gave each of these options serious attention. After tooling around as Warrior/Priest, I discounted option two. I spent two evenings comparing option one, Battle Monk Combat (BMC) of the Priest/Warrior combo against the Caster Style Combat (CSC), more indicative of the priest class, as it exists in other games. I didn’t need to purchase any gear for the comparison. I already had three items I exchanged into when I was acting as a primary healer – two + WIS & INT accessories and + WIS, INT, Max Mana and Magical Damage 2-handed staff. The 2H staff is wicked good based on all the loot I’ve seen so far. The staff was so good for my level, I also elected to invest RMT enhancements.
All of the comparisons included killing the same exact mobs while having identical buffs. The only thing different was BMC used 1-H Axe and shield, while CSC exchanged three pieces of gear and fought with the staff. Based on comments in the Priest forum about the huge loss of defense Battle Monks experienced in the patch, combined with giving up the shield, I didn’t expect to see the results I witnessed. The results lead me to question the fundamental design and core mechanics of this combination and the Elite Skill they implemented to solidify its existence.
I won’t bore you with all the gory details. The highlights alone may be longer than I expect. I played both options with and without Battle Monk Stance (BMS). Dropping BMS allowed me to see how + Physical Attack, + Physical Defense and – healing affected each option. The increased damage and defense was more important than the reduced healing. The healing part was important to measure because BMS players must use heal over time during combat. We are a cloth-wearing class designed to stay in melee range. Each heal is mana lost. Each heal is potential DPS lost while you’re casting that heal. I needed to know how bad the increased – healing change affected survivability.
I tested my options two nights in a row against the same exact mobs. What I discovered was that BMS had only a marginal improvement in survivability against the CSC option, while reducing my healing per tick in a noticeable amount. I finished with a little more health – not much. My burst damage was higher – had more critical-hits, which resulted in a wider range of overall DPS. The range was from 150s to a maximum of 213. However, the more common result was in the high 170s. I installed a DPS meter to help with my testing.
CSC testing showed less burst damage but more consistent overall DPS in the high 160s. I ended with more mana and no real difference health. The relatively equal health is the result of the staff providing +288 healing compared to +88 healing using my axe. I expected to eat through more mana but that was not the case. I believe the increased WIS, INT and + Max Mana from my healing oriented items curtailed mana loss. More surprising was that I could fair that well fighting +5 level mobs, most of which were Mages. I tend to avoid high-level mages because they can critical strike for half my health. I selected Mages at +5 levels to understand my worst-case scenario. (Side note: ROM mobs are the same as player classes and use same spells and mechanics. The only class I fear in combat is a Mage, which sort of speaks to the fact that they are OP, which I discuss later.)
My mind couldn’t wrap around the results so I pushed things to another level. I know my class can one-on-one easily. The truer test would be surviving multiple mobs as I’d done before the class changes. I knew that four-on-one was no longer viable as a norm. I’d tried that the day of the patch. I knew I could still do three-on-one in an emergency and still win. I decided to test 2v1. The results were the same; both options could do 2v1 comfortably.
Keep in mind, that these tests where done on the caster side using spells that had ZERO talent points invested. I was a melee combo so spending points in caster spells would have been a waste. I pull using a DOT, which does have significant TP investment while all my other spells are at zero TP.
As I considered changing over to a caster-priest that only melees when the target is in range, I wondered how much better the DPS would be with talent points spec’d into the spells I was using. I mean, there would have to be an increase in DPS and reduced kill time. I used my free level 30 Talent Respec rune and saw exactly what I expected – better DPS and faster kills. Wow.
The 2H staff with +268 Magical Damage, completely offsets losing a bleed affect on Slash, which requires an axe or sword. I can sustain spell damage more continuously than melee damage because the melee burst damage is reliant on rage generation, which feels all borked now. Spell damage only requires mana, which wasn’t an issue. In fact, I could fight more mobs in a row before having to drink a mana potion as the caster versus the melee primary. My conclusion was that I gained more than I lost by changing to a caster style priest and using a 2H staff - a VERY good one.
There are factors I believe contributed to a positive result in comparing the viability of the CSC option. My STR, WIS and INT stats are close in contribution. I had initially stacked considerably more STR to support better DPS as a Battle Monk. That was great when I soloed but I felt at a disadvantage when healing. Over time, I evened them out more. Someone who has invested heavily in STR might find that BMS outperforms CSC. Lastly, the uber 2H staff and accessories significantly increase my WIS, INT and Magical Damage stats.
I was fine with the results. Caster-style combat isn’t foreign to me since I usually play casters. I will still melee if the mob is in close range using the few Warrior skills available. My white damage is comparable because the attack speed and damage on my 1H and 2H were about the same. Physiologically, what bothered me was that this style is more like a Mage, in which case, I might as well have rolled Priest/Mage.
The Priest/mage combination has superior burst damage, a deeper mana pool, elite skills to regenerate mana and faster casting time for healing. Doesn’t my caster-style-using-spell-rotations Battle Monk amount to little more than a gimped Mage? Moreover, that’s not considering the reality that the Priest/Mage is the OP combo right now. Current OP status not withstanding, going CSC means I’m just a gimp Mage who can melee instead of kite, DOT and cast spell rotations.
This brings me back to my earlier post about high-level BETA characters persisting through to release. At roughly a week since release, these findings would have me re-roll as Priest/Mage. At level 30, uh-huh - no way. I’m too committed now and emotionally invested in this character.
I still enjoy Surianah. These adjustments aren’t the end of the world. I’ve formally made the changes – allocated some Talent Points into caster spells, wear the two healer accessories fulltime, melee with a 2H staff (gave up Slash’s bleed affect), cooked some + magical damage food and avoid pulling more than two mobs at a time.
My new approach was viable enough that I back-tracked and purchased my Priest's level 25 Elite skill, which adds another instant cast spell to my DPS arsenal. I'd originally opted out since the components were very hard to come by and expensive on the Auction House. Going with more magic DPS necessitated getting that spell.
No abandoning Surianah at this stage. I've stirred myself a pitcher of lemonade instead. I’d rather wait and see what comes with the new classes or additional class balancing before doing anything more drastic.