It’s been a big week for Stormblood news — Square Enix have essentially pulled the veil off the expansion, and we know almost everything there is to know about the game without playing it.
MMORPG.com’s Robin Baird has two great posts, one of which covers his impressions of Samurai and Red Mage. I’m particularly heartened by his observation that Samurai feels fluid; it definitely feels like a class I’d be willing to main. There’s also some footage of life underwater, as well one of the expansion’s first dungeons. Both posts are well worth reading — you can find them here and here.
I wasn’t on the press tour, but I’ve had a couple of days to digest some of the news and try and make sense of the changes to current jobs. In the last few months of Heavensward it was pretty safe to say that Astrologian, Warrior and Ninja were some of the best classes in the game by quite a way. Now everything’s changing, who’s likely to emerge on top? As someone who still doesn’t know what DPS they want to play, I figured I’d do some theorycrafting. Remember: everything is subject to change. Come release, I’m going to be wrong about something, if I’m not wrong already, so don’t take any of this as gospel.
Note that I’ve written this expecting you to have some idea of the changes ahead. If you’d like to do more reading, I recommend the Gamerescape job change reviews (Here’s the Ranged DPS post, which has links to all the others). Equally, Mizzteq’s videos on youtube are extremely detailed and go through the changes to all jobs in detail, right down to each individual tooltip.
Current job changes at a glance — DPS
Dragoon looks stronger than ever. It feels odd to say this now the Dragoon-themed expansion is pretty much over, but bringing Dragon Sight to the table — which allows you to pair with a party member and, providing you stick close to each other, both enjoy a DPS boost — gives the job essentially unparalleled utility. Couple that with Disembowel and exclusive access to Blood for Blood and you’ve got an incredible toolkit to mess around with.
Monk needed a lot of love, and they’ve got it. An extra gap closer, more stances, and Brotherhood — an incredible buff to the party’s damage that has a chance to add Chakra stacks — presents a really complete package. On top of that, Monk benefits hugely from the shared melee DPS role skills with a shared aggro-reduction ability and access to Goad. Monk already had amazing personal DPS, after all. It was utility they needed, and they’ve now got it.
The flip side of all of this is that Ninja has seen better days. Losing Goad as an exclusive action will hurt its niche, and Mudras (which I enjoy, but a lot of people despise) look like they’ll play a bigger part in the job. This alone has convinced one NIN main I know to drop the class entirely. Of course, Ninjas will still have Shadewalker and Trick Attack, but I don’t know if that’ll be enough to convince people to keep going with it in raids and serious groups
In terms of ranged DPS, pretty much everything you knew about playing Bard and Machinist these jobs at 60 will no longer apply. Bard’s songs now function like stances, and all of them provide a flat +2% critical to the group. This is significant when spread across seven other players. Equally, in line with some other abilities we’ve seen on Tanks, they provide some damage mitigation that might prove to be more useful than it initially appears if encounters are designed with this in mind. Foe Requiem as we knew it is dead — it no longer synergizes with casters — but the other benefits you provide are enough to make sure nobody replaces you.
The Machinist’s heat mechanic looks super fun, and the class in general seems a good degree less complex than it did in Heavensward. My initial impression of Machinist is that it’ll be a little more selfish than Bard; Hypercharge has suffered a slight nerf, and now debuffs enemies a little less, but with new abilities for turrets and a more dynamic playstyle I’m fairly convinced they’ll remain at the top of the table.
The devs have also gone back to the drawing board with Black Mages and Summoners, though not quite to the extent Bards and Machinists have. Gone are the days Black Mages needed to juggle Ice and Fire. Enochian has been streamlined so it’s very easy to keep up, with added bonuses if you do; I suspect this means fewer bad Black Mages in Duty Finder groups, though having seen enough Ice mages in my time maybe nothing will be enough to simplify it. Meanwhile, Between the Lines, the ability that lets you hop back to your Ley Lines, should make learning fights easier. I suspect that people who enjoyed playing Bard in Heavensward (all four of us) will find Stormblood’s Black Mage an enjoyable alternative, now Bards no longer have cast times.
Summoner gets a fantastic group buff, an awesome-looking Bahamut egi, and a litany of new and streamlined abilities. Indeed, about the only thing to be unhappy about is that Tri-Disaster’s name doesn’t make sense anymore as it only casts two skills (although I suppose ‘Bi-disaster’ sounds a bit too goofy). While everything is theoretical at this point, I think it’s fair to say on balance that Summoner has benefited the most from the changes in Stormblood, and it wouldn’t surprise me if groups consider taking it over Black Mages.
Healers and tanks
I feel like the biggest changes to tanks come in their shared role abilities, which seem like they’ll make aggro management much less of a chore. Warrior looks like it’ll continue to dominate the off-tank slot, gaining a gap closer and seemingly infinite Fel Cleaves, while Paladin looks like a hugely capable main tank. I’m definitely in the minority, but it’s probably the class I’m excited about the most, if only because Total Eclipse fills the gap of an AoE melee attack that Paladin has been desperate for since day one.
Dark Knight seems to be a little underwhelming, and from what I’ve read, it’s the tank people are least excited about. They don’t seem to have gotten worse or better per se, just slightly more complicated, although certain changes — like Darkside no longer draining mana — are very welcome. It seems like it’ll still be a very capable main tank, though I’m not sure if it’ll be able to elbow past Warrior as a viable off-tank.
Playing a healer in general seems like it’ll be a lot more fun in Stormblood, and as a former Scholar main, I’m definitely tempted to give it another shot. The loss of Cleric Stance should make healing at a high level much more fluid and enjoyable. Astrologian looks like it’ll stay king, in that the job will gain some new damage tools and abilities to stack the deck in their favor, making drawing the right card a little easier. Some of the tools Scholar is getting — particularly Excogitation, which nobody will be able to say — seem like they’ll make multitasking a breeze, and, at least at first, there’s no doubt it’ll be the premier off-healer.
I was initially really excited to play White Mage, but my excitement has cooled somewhat after taking a closer look at some of the job’s abilities. Two buffs — Confession and Lily — proc at a rate of 20% after casting heals. On the face of it, that seems fine, but both abilities contribute to how much you can heal people for next time. In near-miss scenarios that turn bad, how many people will wish they had either buff up and running, and how many people will blame either Confession or Lily not triggering for any major mistakes? I think that this will come to define how people look at White Mage, and, given that it was the most straightforward healer before, I’m not sure that it’s something people who’ve played the job for a long time will welcome.
So what’s worth playing?
In terms of 8-man content, it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw groups taking two melee, with Dragoon being a must-keep. Depending on how hard Ninja falls as a result of losing some of its unique utility, DRG / MNK or DRG / SAM could reign as the melee pairing of choice. Now Foe Requiem is essentially gone, groups can take either Bard or Machinist along with a caster and not feel like they’re losing out on anything; I suspect Bard will be preferred, but it really depends on how MCH plays out. The same is true of Summoner and Black Mage. It’s all up in the air right now, but both seem like equally good choices, with Summoner just about edging ahead thanks to Aetherpact and Devotion.
We’ve not seen enough to know if Paladin and Dark Knight as a main tank-off tank combo will be viable, but I suspect groups will still be desperate to take Warriors. Healers are also in flux; it’s doubtful the changes to Astrologian will make them any less desirable, and Confession, while a cool mechanic, means that White Mage DPS relies on RNG in a way that I don’t think groups will appreciate. I’d still really want Scholar as my off-healer, as they’ve gained so many tools that make them hugely viable while also freeing their hands up to do damage on the side. Therefore I’d say that Astrologian, Warrior and Scholar are some of the safest bets if you’re still figuring out what you want to play.
I’d guess that most if not all DPS jobs will be viable, and, now Bard and Machinist don’t have cast times, we’ll see many more of them like we did in A Realm Reborn. Indeed, the only jobs that look a little suspect right now are White Mage and Ninja; people who play both classes seem fairly unhappy, but that might all change when the expansion comes out. The reality is that we don’t know how things will pan out until people start playing jobs and experimenting with them — so if you love playing Ninja or White Mage and stay informed about how you compare to other classes, but stick to what you like in case we’re all wrong, as it wouldn’t be the first time the community has lost its head over something that wasn’t that bad in the end.
One thing I would say: If any class particularly appeals to you, but you don’t currently have it at 60, I’d highly recommend waiting until Stormblood launches to level it up as it’s highly likely EXP gains for characters under 60 will be boosted in line with what it currently is for jobs at level 1-49. This is doubly true for healers and tanks; there’s going to be a lot of new Samurai and Red Mages running around, so queues, which were already good, will be fantastic.