Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Trials of the Defiler

I spent the other half of the EQ2 holiday bonus weekend working on a new Defiler alt.  As is my habit, I named the Ogre Narache, after a Tauren newbie village in WoW.  (I dubbed the wolf Cairne, a less obscure reference, but I figure that relatively few players will be thinking in that direction, and the ones that do can't claim that it's not a fantasy-appropriate name.) 

My road to the defiler
The defiler is notoriously one of the worst solo leveling classes in EQ2, to the point where the standard advice is to start as or betray to its good-aligned counterpart, the mystic, and switch back at the level cap.  I'd actually considered a Mystic when I was trialing melee-spec priests back in the day, but I went with the Warden instead in large part because the Mystic's wolf is a ghost wolf, and I'm not that impressed with its appearance. 

In the interim, I've tried half a dozen of EQ2's caster subclasses (the fury druid, and all but the coercer amongst the mages) but none of them have really stuck with me.  If you've played a WoW mage, "root+nuke" simply feels inferior to "nuke and incidentally root as a bonus effect".  I was interested in field testing either a defiler or a templar (which also has a reputation for poor DPS) because these two healer classes rely on spells for DPS but do not have traditional root/kiting tools.  The defiler gets a nice looking black wolf and a giant spear, and is available to evil races at creation (I've been avoiding Tolkien races, I already have a Fae, and the Froglok hopping animation looks atrocious with runspeed enhancements), so Defiler it was.

Woes of a low level priest
As advertised, the DPS is pretty bad at the low levels.  In particular, all priests really suffer for DPS in the thankfully-brief level 6-10 range, because their spell lists focus on healing at a time when most characters are going to be trying to get by on solo DPS.  (The game's next patch will supposedly add another attack for all healers in this level range to try and improve this situation.)  Your damage spells consist of a DOT and a nuke, each of which has a cooldown.  If you aren't aware that casters can autoattack in between spellcasts without losing casting time or that you can combo those two spells together with the poorly described "heroic opportunity" for a bit of additional damage, you might actually find yourself failing to kill under-conned mobs.  (This was my experience on my very first day in EQ2.) 

Fortunately, the pampered Narache is not my first character.  I had Samarya, who is going to be a Woodworker, craft the new guy some pikes.  Lyriana produced some jewelry, a mastercrafted ranged slot item, and all of the spells (including a few key mastercrafts) for the trek to 20.  I was aiming Narache himself at the Armorer profession, so I powered him through the crafting tutorial and promptly crafted a full set of Defiler-appropriate chain armor.  I also picked up my first AA to acquire the dog, who serves as a reasonable off-tank and DPS.  Though a more DPS-oriented class would be even more impressive in that setup, suddenly DPS was no longer an issue. 

Overall, I like the flavor of the Defiler as a caster class.  The pet is an effective addition without requiring micromanagement or making the actual character feel like their job is to provide support for an NPC.  If attacked by multiple mobs, I can make a point of attacking a different foe from the one the wolf has chosen, relying on group-wide cures or damage wards to heal us both.  Maybe it won't scale well into the higher levels, especially if I'm unable or unwilling to keep twinking it out in the best gear.  Then again, quest content doesn't take any huge jumps in difficulty until Kunark, and level 68 would make this far and away my most successful EQ2 alt to date. 

Most of all, I think it's unfortunate that a relatively unique class, which is actually well-desired in groups besides, is hamstrung by being given low DPS in the name of "balance".  Unlike the melee healers, this type of character doesn't get to just add most of its possible to DPS for free while simultaneously healing (remember, in EQ2 you can autoattack at no penalty between casting, including casting heals).  I don't know who exactly wins by having the classes balanced in this way, but people who are missing out on the Defiler because of the bad solo reputation are clearly losing out.


Ysharros said...

I agree. Defiler is much more fun than most people let on. Maybe it's the endless focus on end-game raiding optimisation and getting there as fast as possible (among other things).

Which is a shame - the journey is actually kind of fun in EQ2, and what class you play can flavour it quite differently even the second (or third or fourth) time around.

Yeebo said...

I think in the modern MMO era, it should be expected that any class can solo adequately (and without being twinked to the gills like your toon).

Magson said...

I have a level 59 defiler, and I still think it's boring to solo with. That said, I'm told that later on that defiler's DPS actually picks up quite a bit if you can time certain spells to proc in concert with some of your AA abilities. I'm actually interested in working on that, but since I have 12 toons, including 2 at cap that I'm still working on to get even 200 AA's, much less gear them up.... the defiler's pretty low on my "to do" list.

Oddly enough, this defiler was the toon that "evercracked" me back in the month or so after the game came out. It was simply a "shaman" then and wards were horribly horribly broken, but I loved it. Go figure.

Ferrel said...

Great write up about the defiler and I'm certainly with you on the DPS issue.

From what I can tell there is no real balance structure in the priests right now. They're each a little island that someone visits on occasion but in no way compares and contrasts them.

Some are a bit too powerful and others heal fine but are dull.

Magson said...

FWIW, your post has inspired me to haul out the old defiler and see what I can do with her again. She's really low on AA so I'll probably be chrono-mentoring her down and running a ton of quests. We'll see how the experiment goes..... I'll post about it over at Nomadic Gamer once I get a little bit into it.

Anonymous said...

Thats the price you pay for the best healing class in the game. Sure the other priests can heal but nothing makes a raid or group feel safer and max dps than the tank staying in the green, or even better at full hp... a thing only a mystic/defiler can do by keeping those protective wards up.