Building a melee-centric healer in RIFT.

1 05 2011

I’m with Syp (in tune with his post here; and really also here): I am purposefully steering clear of any part of the RIFT forums that may lay out statistical analyses proving that one soul-build is superior to any other. This allows me to experiment, which means I can let my imagination be part of the building process. My goal is a pure-melee healer. (Surprise!)

Her current build (at level 29) is a hodge-podge merger of Justicar, Warden, and Sentinel. It’s a patience-game for soloing (low damage, high survivability); and it’s effective for off-healing in large groups (counter-rift committees). I am a small but consistent heal-over-time for a raid, as I can both throw out instant HoTs from Warden, and my damage heals for small but noticeable amounts thanks to Reparation (Justicar). I can also stop swinging and burn my conviction stacks (and mana bar) with Doctrine of Loyalty to quickly heal the party for a significant amount. If things get difficult, I can pull back and rely on my Warden tree entirely, HoTing and Deluging.

It’s okay; I am not a main healer with this build and I’m honestly worried about going into an instance with it. (My previous build had more points in Sentinel, so I had a straight up direct heal with a two-second cast: I found myself often using it exclusively when the tank came under duress.) I had hoped that melee could play a larger part with the Justicar’s Righteous Mandate (and associated skills), but – frankly – my character just doesn’t hit hard enough. So, I find myself today – on the road and unable to play RIFT with only my Mac (I really should reinstall BootCamp on here) trying to refigure my melee healer. Things wrong with the current build:

  • Reparation isn’t putting out enough HP; 25% of my measly damage is “nice” but not significant enough to stand on my own.
  • Righteous Mandate transferring over-heal on myself to my selected ally (very likely the tank in any given five-man) is nice in theory, but I haven’t tested it yet; again, 25% of wimpy damage.
  • The warden “big heals” – at least early in the tree – really require you to focus your efforts and pre-game a lot of HoTs on the target; it’s great for healing up the party (very mana efficient and easy) but can’t really pull its weight when trying to main-heal the tank.

It’s not like me to give up, so I found myself trying to build a new healer. The obvious root would be to throw more into Sentinel or even include Purifier for some direct-heal focus. That would be giving up, so the next best thing would be to do away with non-melee heals, go for broke, and increase my damage. Reparation heals 25% of the damage I inflict with Justicar abilities…10% for damage generated by other souls. Can I do so much damage with another tree as to make it worth it?

Well, that’s where the fun began. Here is my new proposed build, using the Shaman tree for pure melee damage. From the Justicar tree I have only enough points to get Reparation up and running; I will be putting more in so as to unlock Doctrine of Righteousness (to help with my weak point, which is single-target healing). Note that Shaman is very near the top as well…I’ll be pushing this further to get both Battle Charge (to get me in there faster and help me with battlefield mobility) and Rage of the North. The build idea is very simple: max crit chance and value. It looks like Shaman damage will be pretty simple once I get the pattern(s) down:

  • Hit with Massive Blow (Shaman) if it’s off cool-down (15 seconds); highest priority. Since this does Physical Damage, Censure isn’t important for it.
  • Apply Censure (from Justicar) to buff everybody’s spell damage against my target (including mine); keep it up.
  • Hit em with Lighting Hammer (Shaman) if it’s off cool-down; try to keep this up (low priority, I think, but useful). Benefits from Censure.
  • Hit with Crushing Blow; with Long Memory, I have better than one-in-four odds that the cooldown on Massive Blow will be reset; this means that, roughly, every fourth swing or better will re-enable Massive Blow.
  • Half mana or less? Use Ageless Ice (Shaman) or Purpose (Justicar) to replenish some; HOPEFULLY these do not share a cool-down (they may, but I haven’t tested it yet). I won’t complain too much if they do, but it’ll be AWESOME if they don’t.

For buffs, I’ll have Mien of Honor, Cavalier, and Salvation from Justicar; Vengeance of Winter and probably Courage of the Jaguar from Shaman. I say probably, because my hypothesis is that critical hits are the way of the Shaman. As I push higher in that tree, I mean to gobble up the crit bonuses, especially the one that massively boosts the crit chance of Massive Blow. If one in four swings or better is a Massive Blow and it has a 40% or better chance (all told) of critting…I’m hoping that plus Reparation means a lot of healing to go around.

There are a few issues with this. Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first: I will have to hit things to heal the party. This means that – like melee DPS – I’ll be running around to chase mobs that the tank kites (or that kite themselves during scripted events) and subject to all of the circumstantial damage that the melee DPS takes. There’s no range associated with Reparation, so I’m not sure how it selects who to heal…if it greedily uses distance to me to select it (i.e. the melee guys will reap the benefits…I hope this is the case) or if it uses some other method (whomever is hurt in some weird order, like alphabetical or party position…or even worse, random). It also means I’ll have to be more aware of my surroundings as I’ll have (in some cases) a very large mob blocking most of my field of view.

Another issue I foresee is with Righteous Mandate. Reparation doesn’t heal *me*, so over-heal from me to the tank insofar as melee goes is based entirely on Salvation…only 11% of the damage I’m doing. It’ll be ideal if it effectively stacks with Reparation’s effect on the tank; but this will largely depend on how Reparation selects its targets…and, of course, if there are any invisible barricades (if, for instance, the game bars my Righteous Mandate target from Reparation). Still, if RM works as I think it does, then the tank will get Reparation, Salvation over-heal from my melee, Salvation over-heal from my dirt-cheap self-heal, Doctrine of Bliss, and my dirt-cheap zero-point Sentinel Heal, Healing Breath. There are some nice perks though:

  • I target the tank and otherwise target the mob; the only direct heals I really have hit me and the tank; otherwise all of my healing is circumstantial. I do damage and people feel better. Can I do enough to keep the party from dying? (Topped off is nice, but not-dying is my goal.)
  • Crap hits the fan? I heal myself like crazy. Over-heal goes to the tank.
  • I get to HIT things with my MASSIVE HAMMER. I may actually be more effective at DPS than healing…which would be a bit weird for me.

The bottom line is that I’m not sure if I will do enough healing, even with this increased damage, to out-pace five-man dungeon damage on a party. I’ll have to test it. This will require unwitting guinea pigs in the way of randoms, willing guinea pigs in the way of my guild, or (ideally) me running as “Support” DPS/off-heals and I can just monitor the mount of healing. The latter is a poor test, really, as I might end up with a super-spec’d Purifier/Sentinel who’s some sort of Astral Deva of healing. I do see this build working okay in a raid environment…but by the time I get there it might be “taboo” as it’s not “an ideal cookie-cutter build” but we’ll see. Here’s hoping RIFT stays massive and customizable for as long as possible.

Meanwhile, I can’t wait to get home and try this proto-build.

EDIT: People keep finding this via web search; you may be interested to see the follow-up article (with updated spec and thoughts).

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