Monday, October 19, 2009

AI: Spiritmaster Guide at 25

Last time we spoke about Spiritmastering, I had just hit 16. As of right now, I'm halfway to 27. Ten levels make quite a difference.

I suppose the biggest change is that I've now been attuned to the Abyss. I mentioned it a few days ago, but getting your access to the major PvP area of the game is big enough that it sort of changes your playstyle. This is NOT a purely PvE game. Thus, unlike my warlocking, spiritmastering takes a certain degree of flexibility. Still, it doesn't stop me from doing a little research and trying to figure out how best to play my class. So, today, I'm going to try to break down a few of the things I've learned from both research and in-game experience.

Spell Usage
Somewhere along the line you pick up the Chains of Earth dot to compliment your Erosion. This instant cast spell has basically replaced my ice chaining. You even get the second spell of the chain a bit later which causes the same knockback/stun as Ice Chain. In fact, this combo has really become my primary spell consideration. Perhaps it's a reflection of my warlock origins, but I like to get my DoTs up right away.

When attacking a PvE mob, I lead off by setting my pet up with a few of its abilities (more on pets later). Then I put my dots up. From there, I move to nuking or maintenance spells. The nuke spells are pretty much your Fire chain and summoning your "servants" (the orbs of death as I like to call them). Those abilities are pure damage, and so I usually go through a small rotation at this point: Apply Dots, Summon Servant, Fire Chain, Pet Attack... rinse repeat until death. I may leave out a step of the rotation, depending on the speed of death. I also may jump around in that rotation as the situation dictates. Like I said, this game requires flexibility.

The maintenance spells consist mainly of the first stigma you get: Absorb Vitality. This is a very warlocky spell that allows you to do magical damage and then return part of it has health. You also acquire the ability to heal your pet. Thus, I'll throw a pet heal if the pet needs it and immediately follow it with an Absorb Vitality, healing me for what I threw at the pet. This seems to work pretty well. Also, in my maintenance frame of mind is applying things like Stone Skin or having the pet Re-taunt the mob if I'm using it as a tank.

So for a PvE mob, my thinking goes basically like this:
  1. Set up my pet.
  2. Dots!
  3. Do I need maintenance spells right now?
  4. Deal Damage.
After each "rotation" of damage dealing spells, I'll ask the maintenance question again (or jump to it if things start going poorly). That's sort of how it works for me.

Pet Choice
By the time you hit 25, you should probably have each pet. A couple of the pets are drop dependant, but if you haven't gotten the drop for at least rank one of each pet, you should probably pick it up at the auction house. This will give you four spirits:
  1. Fire Spirit - After getting rank 2 of this guy, I've been using him as my main tanking mob when duo'ing with Fuu, my assassin counterpart. He has a strong taunt and pretty decent survivability. At this point, he's probably out 75% of the time.
  2. Wind Spirit - After getting rank 2 of this pet, he's my main consideration for straight DPS. His survivability and taunt are weak, so don't use him as a tank. He can put out some good damage though, so in a group environment where I'm with a tank and a healer, I'll use this guy. I probably pull this guy out 20% of the time, leaving the other 5% split between my last two pets.
  3. Earth Spirit - I've not gotten to rank 2 of this spirit yet, but for a while he was my main tanking consideration. His shield ability is pretty handy, giving him above average survivability, however his taunt isn't as strong as the Fire Spirit's. Thus, the only reason I might use him right now is in a group that lacks adequate CC. He might be able to output decent DPS while allowing a temporary tanking of a renegade mob. I haven't really had reason to use him yet. Once I get rank two, I may pull him out to tank a bit just for kicks.
  4. Water Spirit - I've also not gotten rank 2 of this spirit yet. He happens to be our lone ranged pet and is drop dependant, but it's definitely worth picking up. I tend to use this guy in large scale PvP encounters. It's nice to have him sit back and pop damage on melee classes, goading them into getting close enough for a Templar to yank or for someone to root. Also, the ranged nature can keep him off of a player's radar longer than a pet that's gnawing on said player's leg. Plus, in PvP, taunting doesn't matter, so the weak taunt doesn't matter, though he is a bit of a glass cannon if he gets focused on.
That's all the pets I've picked up at this point in time. Rank 2 of the Water and Earth pets are looming on my horizon, but I'll probably still pull the spirits out in the same situations. The percentage of usage probably reflects my percentage of type of gameplay more than anything, but it should give you a small idea of how often I'm using certain pets. Sadly, since our spirits can't fly yet, I don't really use one all that much in random Abyss encounters. Things just happen too quickly to make summoning a pet worthwhile.

The pet abilities I mentioned using above vary based on the pet you're using. Basically though, I try to use the Thunderclaw as a "pet attack" in my rotation above. The set up abilities include the two that are on longer cooldowns and the taunt. I obviously only use the taunt when I'm using my pet to tank, and in that case it's often what I lead off with. Then, I'll only reapply when I see the mob running at me, leading to a little bit of a ping-pong effect. The other abilities I just try use when they are off cooldown.

A small side note: I choose which servant to use based on which pet I used. Most of your pets weaken your target to a specific school of magic that is aligned with what they are. Thus, my theory is that it helps to use the same servant, since you'll get more bang for your buck. It's hard to really test any of these theories since I don't have a damage meter like I do in wow, but it seems to make sense from reading the tool tips.

PvP Encounters
For small scale encounters, Dots are my best friend. I try to Chain of Earth anything right away and then hopefully get a stun out of the chain. If that happens, I might throw in a nuke, depending on the situation. If not, Erosion is quick on the heals of CoE. At this point, I usually check to see how much my initial salvo hurt them for. By that, I can usually judge how much of a chance I have. At this crucial point, it's fight or flight. Either way I probably have to keep the player away from me, but if I'm doing zippo damage, I'll probably just run for it, saving my root spell for if they catch up to me.

If I'm hitting them for a good chunk, I might try to get some distance and pull out one of my servants to bother the player. Other than that, it's time for fancy evasion and keeping those dots refresh. If I get enough space, I'll try to throw in a fire chain. This strategy has served me well, keeping me alive most of the time, if not always victorious.

For a large scale encounter, the difference is that you're going to have to really pay attention to your range. The LAST thing you want to do is get yanked into the fray by some over-eager Templar. Thus, I usually hang back, looking for the opportunity to slap a dot on someone. Most players seem to dance back and forth, so I find it advantageous to focus on one person and nail them every time they get too close, leading off with my CoE to slow them. Sometimes, this delays enough that our Templar will yank them and then they're in bad shape.

Another little tactic I like to use is what I call dive bombing. You see, it seems that, as gamers, we're still trying to get used to the fact that flight is an integral part of this game at all times. Most of us are used to looking at battles in 2D, so we forget to look above us. So sometimes you can pop your wings and just fly down like you're buzzing the towers in Top Gun, dropping instant cast dots as you go. Again, you have to be careful you don't get yanked, but if you're quick about it, most players won't even know what hit 'em.

A final tactic I mentioned a bit earlier is to send you pet in to annoy a player. For melee, it's particularly effective if you use your water spirit. Some players see a spirit and run out to kill it, forgetting that they've just brought themselves within range of our Templar. It's REALLY annoying as a melee to have to sit there and let someones puny water spirit take pot shots at you. Also, just the general harassment effect of it gives me pleasure, even if it doesn't really kill anyone. Getting in their heads can sometimes goad a player into making a tactical error.

To be honest though, I'm still learning a lot about this part of the game. I've been involved in a lot of PvE, a moderate amount of small scale PvP, and just a handful of large scale PvP encounters. I really enjoy the large scale stuff, but it just doesn't always happen. I'm happy to say that, while being involved in a 100+ vs 100+ siege of a fortress, the game held up and remained playable. In fact, I had to adjust some of my display settings so I could see people because other wise it was just a mob of names and winged bodies, NOT because of slow game play. There was a bit of lag (especially when we were all assaulting the gate), but it was never unplayable.

So here's hoping that some of this experience finds other Spiritmasters out there and is of use. If you're a spiritmaster, please leave me your thoughts. Have you found some of these tactics useful? Do you know of ones I didn't mention. With such a young game, class specific help seems hard to find, but I'd like to at least relate what I've learned through experience and research here and hopefully it'll be somewhat useful.


  1. I've found that it's rather frustrating to find myself in a 100 verse 100 stand off being a melee class.

    The only option, as an assassin, is either my pathetic bow so I can do some white noise or Hide and pick off people who are out of their big mass. Either way has found me dead more times than not.

    As Ful & I have seen during our fights of smaller sizes is that if you, as a spirit master, send in your pets, this freaks the other group right out. They will retaliate on the pet or, more often than not, will run away.

    Funniest thing I've ever seen was when two Elyos (opposite faction) were sitting on the edge of an island and saw Ful's pet come flying at them, they jumped off the back to avoid taking damage.

    Just remember, your pet is braver than you are.

  2. While I'm questing with Sideshow (Gladiator), I tend to stick with my wind spirit because the DPS seems better.

    Again, without a recount to compare numbers, I don't have any good "proof."

    I have saved Sideshow (and myself) from death a few times by using my pet's taunt.... to give Sideshow enough of a breather when he's getting dangerously low on health.

    I'm still getting used to the spell rotation and spells. I've been experimenting, but when grouped up my rotation varies and doesn't need to be as tight as when I'm solo.

    (And I do appreciate your info, since you are still ahead of me!) :)

  3. Yeah, I feel a bit like I'm shooting in the dark without any cold hard data to rely on.

    The Wind Spirit is definitely better DPS, the only reason I use my Fire Spirit when questing is that neither of us can tank. Assassins aren't really meant to take a beating. I would assume as a plate wearer, Sideshow is a better tank than our pet, so your choice definitely makes good sense for your situation.

    As I pointed out and you emphasize, this game/class is all about flexibility.