Then there was the Chanter. Where on Earth does he fit?
When I first read about Chanters, I immediately figured them to be analogous to the Bards of FFXI. Bards are a support class that provide an array of unique buffs: A Bard can maintain up to two “songs” on his nearby allies by rocking out on his instrument of choice. There are also some other tunes he learns that weaken his adversaries (Country? Heavy Metal? 3Hz? choose your poison, I guess).
But that’s not the Chanter.
The Chanter does have a few “Active” buffs that must be recast regularly to maintain them, but their MP cost leads me to believe that they are not meant to be chain-cast the way a Bard’s free songs can be reused ad nauseam. Chanters have a whole wealth of other tasks at their fingertips, and their subsequent role is a niche I haven’t ever seen before. So, what constitutes the niche?
- The Buffs
So what’s the game, then? Mantra management in and of itself is twofold: You need to keep the right Mantras up at any given time, and you need to get them to the right people.
First, Choosing Mantras: This can be as passive or as active as you choose. At the least, the Mantras you choose should be for the group, not for yourself. Any group you join will have at least two physical DPS (you and the tank, while not the top in dealing damage, deal almost exclusively in physical damage), as well as three option slots. Be sure to play to the strengths of the group: more physical DPS means you should be running auras for them; a group with three Sorcs in the back should set off an alarm to swap to magic-oriented mantras.
To make the job more taxing, a good Auramancer will vary auras based upon the enemies, too. If an additional mob jumps on the fight, or the one mob left is hitting like a truck, throw up your defensive Mantras. If a draining fight is finally coming to a close, swap to your recuperative Mantras. The more Mantras you acquire, the more situations you’ll encounter that require you to change them on-the-fly.
Second, Maintaining Mantras: We have this curious paradigm of floating icons above our heads to indicate being “in range” of a Mantra. Any experience in a group will quickly demonstrate that no one pays attention to the icons; the Chanter should. Especially in a mixed group of physical and magical DPS, positioning as a Chanter is crucial. Landing Mantras is a primary goal, while making sure to not stand in fire or cleave-range. Melee range on the enemy is a plus, but not always possible. Take those times as a respite, I guess: being in melee gives you even more work to do. Anyhow, always make sure that the people who need the Mantras get the Mantras – I doubt anyone’s going to come running to you to maintain their buffs until it’s too late.
Beyond Mantras, there are Words, Blessings, Shields, and Conduits to play with. I’ll save in-depth thoughts on those for later: they are far more situational than Mantras, but truly powerful and important tools in the Chanter buff-box.
- The Offense
Turns out that we need to be actively clobbering the enemy target to perform the second half of our buffing job. True, it’s now debuffing, but it’s almost as important. Especially in a melee-heavy group, which will put you in melee range of the target by virtue of your Mantra range, timely employment of your debuffs will boost everyone’s success.
Now, what makes our abilities timely? Most every Chanter special attack causes a debuff of some sort, but many are rather short-lived. The only debuff that’s likely to never fall off is the Hallowed Strike attack speed debuff (10s duration, 8s cooldown). For the others, you can’t maintain 100% uptime. The name of the game thus becomes debuffing the target at the opportune moment. To do this, you’ll want to talk to the other DPS classes of the game.
Every DPS class has a few superiorly strong chain-combos that they execute with regularity. They all come with a sort of opening strike, perhaps from another chain that sets up a debuff of their own. The Chanter’s goal is to watch for these signals: the new debuff on the target, the particular swing animation, and so forth. When the first instance of this occurs, line up the debuffs with the incoming chain and watch their pretty numbers fly.
Once the Chanter has started his chain, watching the queues of the others becomes a mixed bag that is likely best ignored: on the one hand, waiting for allies to be ready will guarantee the big numbers, but likely sacrifice total debuff uptime. Because you are unlikely to synch with a DPS at the optimal rate, I recommend maintaining your debuff rotation for maximal uptime until something else demands your attention (spot-healing, Mantra swapping, movement of the fight, etc.). Synch back in by following a DPS of choice, then return to maintaining uptime (you won’t be synched with all of the DPS, after all, so perhaps by drifting from the first you’ll end up aligning with another the next rotation).
So now that we’re in agreement that the melee of a Chanter exists, how much of a change is it actually likely to cause? There’s the Chanter’s own swing damage, which is certain to be more than nothing. Then there’s the debuff applications and their impact on every other Physical DPS in the group. This is still an unanswered question in my head, so I’ll doubtless have more to say later, but given the reduction to Physical Defense from attacks compared to the defense benefit of the Shield Mantra, the debuffs in tandem will be a substantial, if temporary, boost to the group’s killspeed.
Back of the envelope math:
Say our debuffs provide a 20% damage increase to each physical DPS in the group, with roughly 50% uptime from the Chanter
three DPS each dealing ~25% of the damage to the target, Chanter dealing ~15% of the damage to the target, and Templar dealing ~10% of the damage to the target
PctDmgIncrease = (.2 * .5) * (.1 + .15 + (d1 * .25) + (d2 * .25) + (d3 * .25))
where d1, d2, and d3 are associated with each DPS, and are equal to 1 if that DPS class deals physical damage (otherwise, it is equal to 0).
Minimum: .025 (2.5%) ; Maximum: .1 (10%)
So, we increase killspeed by something on the order of 2-10% with our debuffing abilities alone, depending upon group composition and assuming that the debuffs cause the effect that I guess (it may be more, but I presently doubt that it could be much less).
Defensive Debuffs are clutch, too: the Attack and Movement Speeds of the target can be reduced, saving your tank some pain and reducing the risk of losing a runner to another pack. Always be mindful of these tools as a Chanter: they’re crucial to optimal play, and are a big part of what a Chanter brings to the table.
- The Healing
What does this mean for our healing capacity? It’s substantial, and not to be ignored. We can heal a group through Elite mob grinding. We can heal a small team of friends through solo content (still in the market for some company once Live hits, by the way – shameless plug is shameless, I know).
We can’t compete with a Cleric in terms of sheer throughput, so I’m glad they’re around to chug out the big heals when necessary. But I definitely forsee synergy between having both a Cleric and a Chanter in the group. The Chanter HoT is superior, for instance: the tank and Cleric should always have a Chanter’s HoT active on them (Remember: Clerics can burn HP to regenerate MP, so give them the fuel they need to do so; you have plenty of mana recovery tools in your arsenal to cover the cost). When AoE damage springs up, AoE heals are still likely to be too slow to watch everyone: jumping in with spot-healing on critical allies may save their lives.
Bottom line: healing is an integral part of the Chanter game. Healing Stigmas, in particular, will enhance this game to bring you up closer to the level of a Cleric. Don’t expect to match the Cleric, but supporting him is a big part of the Chanter job; if he runs out of fuel, you’re all on your own.
- The Rest
There’s some discussion of Pinch Tanking on a Chanter, seeing as we can equip a shield and can debuff the offense of a target. We may be able to survive a few hits, its true, but your enmity generation is likely to be crap. Your best bet in the case of a dead tank is to try to get the mob’s attention with your shield on while healing whoever did get the mob’s attention. Meanwhile, your Cleric should rez up that tank ASAP (Chanters can rez in battle, too, but you’re more expendable than he is, if one of you needs to tank). I’d suggest sticking to using a staff for the rest of the time – your inability to taunt or hit ridiculously hard precludes proper tanking.
In-combat ressurection: don’t let your dps stay dead unless they really, really like standing in the fire. A Cleric likely doesn’t have the time to spare for this, but you should.
There may be some smaller nuances that I’ve missed. For that, I’m kinda glad: there’s even more to discover in the world of Chanters in Aion.
So, What’s in a Chanter?
In a way, nearly everything. You’ll hear the “jack of all trades” title time and again as a Chanter. We have a bit of everything, but not all of any one suit. This means that a Chanter’s job is best performed in supporting the other five players in your group. Cheerleader jumps to mind: keep the spirits of everyone else up, and they’ll do everything better than they thought they could.
I believe that Chanters will have a fairly strong learning curve, which is a good thing for me. I don’t want to master my class before I leave the starting town. With a Chanter, there’s always another hurtle: swap Mantras more often, squeeze in more debuffs, optimize timing to avoid clipping your attacks with heals, and more. Mastery of these considerations will make a Chanter invaluable to any group.
Hello, my name is Theladas and I’m an Asmodian Chanter. Everyone calls me the “jack of all trades,” but I’ll show them: I’m the king of all trades, baby.
(That sounds a bit more appropriate than aspiring to be a cheerleader. Then again, there is Claire Bennet…)