Thursday, June 9, 2011
Since our last Ask Fatal: DT Edition had to do with Tanking, let's explore the next job, Damage Dealing. I set this one up more like a Q & A... maybe it's a bit more interesting this way? At least it's conversational =)
Q: So what about Damage Dealing in Dragon's Tomb? I just blow $#@!$ up right?
A: So to speak, yes, but there's more to it than just that.
Q: But I'm a Mage, I drop Nova, I drop lag-hell (Inferno), and I'm done aren't I? I AM MAGE I KIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILLLLLL STUFF!
A: Here's where it gets a bit more complicated than you realize. Yes, the primary job of the Damage Dealing Mage is to unleash torrents of hell on the mobs, but the Mage also has an often overlooked secondary role, defense.
Q: DEFENSE?!! Are you crazy? I IZ GLAZZ CANNONZ!
A: There are four elements to how a Mage provides defense to a party:
Offensive firepower, footspeed and dexterity, Fear, and Stifle.
While your primary attacks in Dragon's Tomb will be Inferno and Frost Nova, Nova is also part of your defense. The slow effect that Nova creates is the single most important factor in the safety of your team, especially if your tank is average or worse. As most seasoned DD Mages know, you will invariably draw aggro because of the immense damage that you generate. Expecting the Tank to handle aggro on every single mob isn't realistic and will be grounds for frustration on your part if this is your expectation.
Q: Okay, so what do I have to do?
A: Being a defensive Mage also means being a mobile one.
Q: Oh, so if I suddenly draw aggro, that means I can run screaming back to the entrance?
A: NO! By being mobile, you greatly improve not only your survivability, but also that of your team. As a mobile Mage, when you draw aggro, it's not too much of an issue since it's likely that the mobs have been slowed by your Frost Nova. You're simply running circles around your AOE avoiding the hits from the mobs by staying a few steps ahead of them at all times.
Q: Why can't I just straight-line kite them? Running in circles is difficult.
A: Circling does take practice, but it maximizes not only damage (more AOE ticks = more damage), but it keeps the party together. When you start pulling mobs down a hall, you cause confusion for both the Tank as well as the Healer. Should the Tank chase after you and your mobs? Should the Cleric focus on you or the Tank? I've seen Mages literally go screaming down the hall taking hordes of mobs after the Tank was Feared. Avoiding panic is key here. For me, circling is easy as I've had tons of practice on it by now. I'm not a click-to-move player, I generally use the WASD keys to navigate the field, using slight turns in the mouse to affect direction. While holding "W", it's easy for me to just slightly turn and hold my mouse to create a consistent circle around my AOEs. It does take practice, but once mastered, it's a skill that you can't live without later on.
Q: Okay so I'm circling, is that it?
A: No, there's still more. As you're circling, you should also be kiting Magic Blast at the mobs. A single Nova cast won't be enough to kill the mobs. So again, it takes practice. Circle kiting+casting also takes quite a bit of practice and also affects how you lay out your hotkeys. For me, it's easy, I have Magic Blast assigned to "1". Thankfully my fingers are dextrous enough that I'm able to still spam it using my pinky finger while keeping my ring finger down on "W" to continue running.
Q: Cool, okay, I think I'm getting the hang of this a bit more. How big of a circle should I run?
A: Again, with practice, you'll see the difference. Some of it has to do with mob recognition. For the most part, you generally want to run just along the outside of your AOE circle. This keeps the max distance between you and the mobs. Getting too far in, you risk nasty status effects like Fear and oftentimes the Mage's deathblow, a Stun. Keeping ahead of the mobs effectively also requires the use of a Speed Scroll. For DT purposes, I run with T3 Speed. Yes, it's expensive, but it increases your and your party's survivability. Nobody said being a Mage was cheap. Keeping a mob grouping running no bigger than your AOE circle also makes life easier on the melee members of the party. Nothing is more frustrating for them than having to chase mobs, attempt to cast a skill only to have it cancelled because the mob is too far away. Keeping the mob group tight also increases the likelihood of successful stuns from the Tank's Devastate.
So which mobs require what distance? Again, you look for status effects. If it's a Kruger (Fear/Stun) or Caravan (Stun), you generally want to keep max distance as mentioned above. This reduces the chance that you get hit with a status effect. If you're battling Fire Shellas and Gargoyles, both of which have no status effects, then you can keep the circle extremely tight.
Q: Wow, that's a lot to remember. In your videos, I've seen you circling ranged mobs too. Why circle if they don't chase?
A: Again, mob recognition. Circling works well on Nerpas, but not on Flame Spirits. Flame Spirits have a single, as far as I can tell, attack, the Fireball. Nerpas have two different attacks, an auto-attack arrow as well as a Slow Arrow. What generally kills people is that Slow Arrow.
Q: Slow Arrow doesn't hit that hard, so why the need for running?
A: You're right, one arrow by itself doesn't hit all that hard, but it's the timing of it. Nerpas are able to spam those Slow Arrows. So while one may hit you for only 700 damage or so, if it's spammed, in addition to their auto-attack, damage stacks up quickly. Now remember that there's always two of them, so double your calculations.
Q: Yeah that can be painful. So what do I do?
A: With Nerpas, circling requires an even farther out circling path. Again, the Nerpas aren’t chasing you so they won't be leaving the AOE circle anyway. The key here is that you're no longer outrunning the Nerpas, you're outrunning the Slow Arrows. Again, doing this successfully is best with at least T3 Speed. Screwing this up can be disastrous though as the Slow Arrows will continually be spammed your way. You will see at times 8-12 of these things, multiply that by 700 or so damage... yeah you won’t live if they catch up to you. Oh by the way, you’ll also be taking auto-attack damage =) so remember to heal yourself. There’s also another defensive technique for Nerpas, I’ll get into that in a bit. The more comfortable you are doing, this Vs. Nerpas, the tighter your circles can become.
Q: Alright, so melee mobs covered, Nerpas covered, what about Flame Spirits?
A: Flame Spirits aren’t really all that bad. They actually afford you some time for a rest. For me, I just drop an Inferno on them, stay still and pound them with Magic Blast. Or Fear one while smashing the other, then focusing on the Feared one. If your defense is suspect, I suppose you could straight line kite them, but it may not be necessary, especially in the presence of a Tank and Cleric.
Q: This is a lot more complicated than I thought... you mentioned footspeed and dexterity?
A: Yes, those two elements in conjunction with the debuff effect of Frost Nova are going to be your keys to success in Dragon’s Tomb. Having high DEX gear is important because you want to avoid as many hits and status effects as possible here. At this point, employing these strategies, high DEX in gear becomes more important than high END. If you can find gear with both, even better.
Q: Okay, you next listed Fear as a defensive maneuver. Explain.
A: This is where situational awareness becomes important. While this is kind of a more advanced tactic, it’s something that the Dragon’s Tomb conquering Mage should know or at least start being aware of. Generally only the Tank and Healer are the ones looking at the party window, but in cases like this, the Mage needs to also be aware of the dangers other party members face.
As all Clerics know, you most often take punishment from ranged mobs in Dragon’s Tomb. This is typically because the Tank only threw a cursory Mock their way and then left them alone while focusing on closer melee mobs... which as I explained in the last installment is wrong, but typical. This is where a Mage’s awareness needs to come in to play. In this case, a Mage’s Fear is to be used to provide relief to that Cleric. By being aware, you will be able to pick out the ranged mob attacking the Cleric and Fear it, reducing the amount of damage she’s taking and allowing her to refocus on healing the party. Typically you won’t be able to draw aggro on yourself by attacking the mob, so Fear is your best bet.
Q: Okay, that makes sense. Are there other situations where Fear is useful?
A: This goes back to Nerpas. Most Mages don’t realize that when a Nerpa is Feared, his Slow Arrows become ineffective. Meaning you can just run into them since they will cause NO DAMAGE. Great isn’t it? Knowing this, you can apply this technique when Nerpa aggro is on you or when you see a line of Slow Arrows bearing down on your poor Cleric.
Q: That IS good. Okay so what about Stifle?
A: Stifle is also effective against Nerpas. Stifling a Nerpa will reduce the number of Slow Arrows he is able to cast. Stifle also works against Bosses, primarily Titan. While all of Titan’s attacks are formidable, his skill attacks are the most devastating.
Q: I noticed in your videos that you rarely ever cast Inferno, why?
A: While Inferno is excellent for dispatching mobs, the only thing it's good for is damage. The status effect on Frost Nova is so dominant that oftentimes Inferno isn't needed if your strategies are sound. For me, it's just ludicrous to stand there stationary casting Nova, then remain there longer to cast Inferno. It puts myself at extreme risk due to status effects and the proximity of the mobs. The only situations I use Inferno are on ranged mobs who will not move and when I know the Tank has the situation under control and I'm not required to be defensive.
Q: Oh hey, so what's the boss fight like? What do I do against Cornelius?
A: Once the battle against Cornelius starts, you need to establish positioning. While this sounds simple, you need to be aware of where the other party members are standing. Obviously you don't want to be next to the Tank, but it goes a bit farther than just that. Cornelius has two AOE attacks, his disarming-charge attack and his Death Breath debuff. His charge attack won't disarm you if you're not targeted, but you still can get hit with large amounts of damage.
Q: Oh okay that makes sense. So I should stand next to the Cleric then? That's probably the safest place to be right?
A: No, it's not. It's actually the worst place to be other than next to the Tank. The Tank will at some point get Feared. Typically, if there's no capable Sub-Tank, that means aggro will shift to you. If aggro shifts and Cornelius quickly hits you with a charge attack, the Cleric and anyone else who may be near you, will get hammered.
Q: Okay, so the best place is to attack the tail?
A: Nope, that's not exactly right either. While standing in the back affords you some measure of safety, it's not always ideal. So pay attention to where the Cleric is. If you're attacking the tail and she's near the head, once aggro shifts to you, you may be out of range for Heal or Cure. Get hit with a Death Breath, Charge combo and you'll be requesting a Rez. The best position is off to the side of Cornelius, away from other party members and far enough away from the Cleric that she can't get hit, but yet is in range to provide support to you should you need it.
Q; Okay, sounds good. So the Tank got Feared, what do I do?
A: 99% of Mages I've seen just stand there and spam Magic Blast at Cornelius waiting for the Tank to recover and re-establish aggro. Seeing this, I always ask myself why. Again, this is where having experience with all classes helps you better understand roles in these types of situations. If I'm the Tank, and the DD is standing there pummeling Cornie with Magic Blast, it makes it more difficult to re-establish aggro. As I'm trying my best to tip the scale towards me, I'm fighting against my own teammate who typically carries a much stronger stick. So what's a Mage to do? Me? I run.
Q: HAHAHA you run?! Like to the exit to lose aggro?
A: lol, No. I follow the Feared Tank. I also slow down my Magic Blast spams intentionally. I cast it at about half the rate I usually do. This keeps aggro on me, and not the Cleric, but also doesn't overwhelm the Tank when he's trying to regain aggro away from me. So yeah, I see where the Tank's running, and I head in that general direction or I run massive circles again never pulling Cornelius too far away from the Tank.
Q; Heh. Okay, I get it. Anything else?
A: Just as the Tank needs to reserve Devastate for the spawned mobs, so should you with Inferno. I generally drop Nova and Inferno on the Shellas and save a Chain-Casted Inferno for the Nerpas. It's okay to spam Novas as they become ready off of cooldown, but just be aware of Cornelius' health as this triggers the mob spawns.
Q: Alright, I think I understand a bit more now. Any other thoughts you wanna share?
A: Yeah, this last part has to do with teamwork and expectations. Maybe it’s just me, but as far as Dragon’s Tomb goes, I know enough that I tend to expect the worst from party members. I’m comfortable filling whatever role needs to be filled, but that’s not just pride talking, it’s fact. But my confidence in the other party members, unless I’ve partied with them previously, always starts extremely low. While this doesn’t mean I go in there barking orders at people, it just means that early on, I take time to observe a bit more. I see how the Tank pulls, where he focuses, and how he extends himself. Being that I’ve Tanked this instance many times myself, it helps me recognize things and know what his limits should be.
You also should take stock of your Cleric. Is she too chatty? Distracted? Is she complaining of lag? Or is she just not skilled? Or is she focused? Capable?
Knowing and analyzing all of that and oftentimes expecting the worst really makes you realize how much of an impact the Mage has to the overall defense of the party. As you can see, you’re not there just to blow #$!@ up like you thought.
If you find a consistent party that you feel comfortable in their abilities to carry out their roles, then the sky's the limit from there, You'll be able to push each other's boundaries to the limit and help each other grow even more.
One last thing, you should never rely solely on the Cleric's abilities to keep yourself alive. Just like solely relying on the Tank, if these are your expectations, you're bound to get frustrated. Take defense seriously and into your own hands. You play a much larger role than you imagined. Go out there, destroy, and be safe! =)