[Blaugust Day 6] [FFXIV] Why I’ve Switched to Summoner
I got into a bit of a rant in reply to a comment yesterday about how annoying Black Mage has become to play and figured I’d go into a bit more detail on it. The tl;dr of it is “The Black Mage at 60 has been completely changed in how it plays compared to how it was at level 50.” Here’s how: At level 50 you basically do the following — Cast Fire 3 as an opener to gain the Astral Fire 3 buff, then spam Fire 1 until you’re low on mana, cast Blizzard 3 to swap to Umbral Ice 3 to regen your mana, cast Thunder 2 to place a dot on the mob while in Ice phase, then when mana is full use Fire 3 to swap back to Fire and repeat. If you get a Firestarter or Thunderstorm proc, hit that too for a nice little mana-free boost. If you get targeted with an AE, move out of the way, then keep it going. No big deal. Astral Fire lasts 10 seconds, but any Fire spell you cast refreshes it, so it’s rare to fall off just because you had to dodge something because it’s always counting down from 10. It’s quite simple and since I play games to relax, this suited me perfectly.
During the leveling process you get a buff called Enochian. This gives you a 5% damage buff for 30 seconds on a 60 second cooldown. You then unlock Blizzard 4 next. This spell has the requirement that you have both the Enochian and Umbral Ice buffs up in order to cast it, and also the benefit of refreshing the Enochian buff each time you cast it, though at a reduced duration (25 seconds 1st time, 20 seconds next time, etc). Then at level 60 you gain Fire 4. This is an amazingly powerful spell — 280 potency compared to Fire 3’s 240 and it only costs 1768 mana to cast vs Fire 1’s 2120, so obviously you want to spam this one as much as possible for maximum damage to single targets. But it also requires that both Enochian and Astral Fire be up on you — and it *doesn’t* refresh the Astral Fire buff. Since Astral Fire only lasts 10 seconds and Fire 4 takes just under 3 seconds to cast, plus you need to cast Fire 1 to refresh Astral Fire and that takes ~2.4 seconds, you get to cast 2 Fire 4’s for every Fire 1. Or if you get a Firestarter proc you can cast 3 Fire 4’s, then use the proc to refresh Astral Fire 3. This is a very tight window and if you have to move in the last part of it, you will lose Astral Fire and then have to cast Fire 3 to refresh it to the full 3 stacks. If you have to move in the 1st part of it, you have to skip a Fire 4 cast and hit Fire 1 to get your Astral Fire refresh in. This has caused a lot of theory crafting in the forums and on Reddit as to what is the optimal rotation and use of Convert and Potions to squeeze in as many Fire 4 casts as possible in each fire phase.
Then of course you also have to be sure to give yourself about 7 seconds at the end of the Enochian buff to be able to cast Blizzard 3 to swap over to Umbral Ice and then get in your 3.5 second cast of Blizzard 4 in order to refresh that buff also. If you have to move during this time, then you’ve lost Enochian, and now you’ve got 30 seconds where you’re forced to just use the lower damage rotation from level 50. This can be somewhat mitigated through using Swiftcast for the Blizzard 4, but is still quite a pain. Further compounding the annoyance is that if Astral Fire or Umbral Ice buff drops out while you’re mid-cast, then the cast cancels, even if it’s only 0.1 seconds left on your cast. Additionally, a Black Mage is a “turret”and can’t move if it’s going to do damage, but all the boss mobs have a ton of mechanics that make you move all the time, so you’re constantly losing casts anyway, so further compound that with losing buffs and therefore access to your most damaging spells and it’s just an annoying mess anymore. I think that’s the biggest frustration — “Here’s a new toy, but you can only use it in these conditions and the game is designed to not allow you to fulfill those conditions.” It makes me feel like I’m fighting my own class more than I’m fighting the monsters.
Enter the Summoner. At 50 you have 3 Damage-Over-Time spells of varying durations to juggle, a pet to control (though not really, because it’s actually got decent AI scripts, so in spite of the elitists saying that you really should control it, I find that I can leave it on sic all the time — if using Garuda you only need to control it for Contagion and that’s just a mana saver and SMN doesn’t have mana issues anymore so… meh, and even the elitists admit that Ifrit doesn’t really need to be controlled at all), and you fill in dead spaces with spamming your crappy 80-potency Ruin spell. At 60 your play style is very nearly the same. The skills you gained in the 51-60 range simply gave you more AE capabilities (more than the Black Mage, actually, so another strike against the BLM), or the Ruin 3 spell (a metric crapton of mana for 120 potency so completely not worth casting). Then there’s the Dreadwyrm Trance which gives a 10% damage boost with the condition that you to build up 3 stacks of “Aetherial Attunement” before you can use it. That just means using 3 Aetherflow-powered skills, which you do as a matter of course anyway, so you’ll fulfill the conditions with your normal play, or you can pop 3 Energy Drains to gain access in a hurry if you really want to. The Trance also reduces the cast cost of Ruin 3 to acceptable levels for use during its 15 second duration, but I find it better to reapply my dot spells during it, maybe toss 1 or 2 Ruin 3’s if I’ve got space in the buff, and then cast Deathflare (AE spell, MASSIVE damage — I’ve crit for over 5000 per mob with it (though admittedly that was with a Bard playing Foe Requiem and it usually crits in the upper 3000’s), no mana cost, uses up any remaining Dreadwyrm Trance duration) with 1-2 seconds left on the timer as a finisher of sorts, rather than simply spam Ruin 3 during it.
But yeah, that’s it. It’s the same play for the class as at level 50 with the added BONUS/REWARD of more AE skills and then Dreadwyrm Trance and Deathflare in it. I never feel like I’m fighting the class to play it — I’m fighting the monsters. And that’s why I’ve made the change to Summoner. What was “unacceptably complex and annoying” compared to the BLM at 50 is now the “easier to play and lots more fun” class at 60. BLM’s do max damage under ideal conditions and when they don’t have to move. SMN’s do max damage pretty much all the time. And that’s why I’m now considering Summoner to be my main class instead of Black Mage. It felt like leveling to 60 was a reward, not a punishment.