What (Guides) do You Want to See?

19 10 2009

Note: There’s a poll at the bottom – be sure to vote before you navigate away!

I don’t know how I still manage to have any free time these days. It’s getting absurd just how much work I have on my plate, yet I still somewhow find the time and energy to take one friend out for brunch, spend an hour plotting how to break into a locked room with another friend (to write a paper about the room for class, no less), and meet my parents for dinner. It’s busy as all hell, and I still manage to play a bit of Aion when my computer isn’t trying to fry itself.

Perhaps the strangest thing is that I’m not feeling stressed by everything. Indeed, I’m not here to whine or anything – I’m loving the work, and all the free time feels that much better because of the work I have to do to earn it. Rather, I’m looking for more direction in what I should be doing with this little corner of the Internet.

I set up a few stubs for guides on this website. If people are interested in learning more about any one of those topics, please let me know. I’m going to start by working on the “Character Design Guide,” which will aim to provide insight on which manastones you should use to enhance a certain element of your character’s performance. It’s not going to be a min/maxing guide, nor a guide on what a class needs to socket for. Instead, it’ll examine some more general character goals (more survivability, damage output, group viability, etc.), and discuss how to handle these goals for any class. After all, you can sculpt your character to be whatever you want – that’s the magic of manastones (and stigmas, coming soon).

Additionally, I have plenty to say about the playstyle, pros, and cons of Chanter play. It keeps creeping up between posts from my experience, which is fine, but I’m sure some viewers would love to have a single, consolidated file of all the goodness in a guide. Again, don’t expect me to explain a min/max strategy for Chanters: I really don’t believe in that playstyle, so I’ll be focusing instead on realistic, rounded performance improvement. Also, there are some quirks to keep in mind whenever playing a Chanter (positioning, balancing healing with offense, reactionary skills, etc.) – those will be covered in depth.

I even have some things to mention about the world of crafting. I don’t have full recipe lists, but I’m sure that Aion’s Powerwiki has a full compilation of those lists as it is. But understanding the inner-workings of crafting, especially those success-failure races? Yeah, there’s more than simply chance at play there. Rer of (Insert Awesome Aion Name) had some commentary on this topic a while back, and I wanted to expand upon it in a more thorough, comprehensive guide for permanent reference.

The question for you, then, is which of these topics would be most helpful for you? Generic Classes, Chanter-Specifics, Crafting Assistance, or something completely different? I’m open to suggestions – if there’s something you don’t understand, I’d be happy to investigate and provide whatever explanation I can. So, please, give me some feedback – vote in the poll for the field you want to hear about most! Also, if you fall in the “Other” category, please elaborate in a comment or E-mail (if you prefer privacy).

Thanks in advance for the input. I’ll be back in a bit with some storytelling fun; I’m aiming to keep posts distinct, so it’s time for a double. In the meantime, let me know what you want to see!


What Time is it?

27 09 2009

Short post for today: how does the time system work in Aion?

I actually spent a non-trivial amount of time looking around for some other pages explaining the time phenomenon in Aion. I didn’t find anything helpful. Maybe everyone gets it right-off, and I’m just slow. Or maybe it’s not important at all, so everyone ignores it. I think it’s a cool mechanic, though, and one that’s strongly reminiscent of my days in FFXI.

In case you didn’t notice, Aion has its own internal time system. For every five seconds that pass in the real world, one minute passes in game time. That is, time moves twelve times faster in the game: a game day is only two hours long, rather than twenty-four (as in WoW). In game days look a lot like ours, too. That is, they’re broken up into four periods:

Dawn: starts at 4:01 AM; ends at 9:00 AM
Day: starts at 9:01 AM; ends at 3:00 PM
Dusk: starts at 3:01 PM; ends at 8:00 PM
Night: starts at 8:01 PM; ends at 4:00 AM

So the cycle persists, moving smoothly from one period to the next every thirty minutes or so. Aside from being a pretty change in scenery while in the same place, what does this mean?

Fight for your faction, day ornight

Fight for your faction, day or night

For starters, there are several types of NPCs that only appear during certain time periods. The Asmodeans, for instace, take on a quest to help an Elyos-disguised-as-a-Sprigg-disguised-as-a-Shugo, and can only accept the final quest component during Dusk or Night; the NPC simply isn’t there during the other half of the day. Likewise, there are several named mobs and some mob types that spawn only during certain times of day.

While not a huge PvP element, the time also contributes to natural cover in the PvP scene. Just as size-of-character doesn’t really matter for game mechanics, neither does time-of-day. At the same time, both qualities can still be exploited to convey some minor advantage against clickers (though they likely won’t be a challenge anyways) or unsuspecting victims.

I like the mechanic: it’s a limiting element (in that there is some dynamics to the game world – NPCs aren’t all static) that isn’t restricting to any particular player (with just two hours during a gaming session, you have access to every part of the day cycle). Have you had fun with the internal time mechanic, or has it just been a hassle that you have to work around?

What do the Numbers Mean (Part 1)?

13 09 2009

This is the first installment in a series of posts I’ll be putting up periodically (They’ll be interspersed with other posts). The goal of this series is to explore the relevance of the various statistics in the game. I’ve played a lot with different characters since the second Closed Beta, and knowing which stats do what is a key component to building an effective character.

The numbers, what do they all mean?

The numbers, what do they all mean?

We all want effective characters, right? No one wants to be a sitting duck for World PvP.

So we’ll take a look at some of the basic stats now. There’s more to be discussed in the future, but that’s why this is a series.

Warning: this is a long one. Every class has these stats, but only some classes care about some stats, so feel free to jump through to just the parts you care about.

Stats that can be acquired through early Mana Stones:

  • HP (Hit Points)

HP is a fancy, video-game convention for health. Two characters is easier to encode than six – go efficiency.

This one is pretty straight-forward: every incoming attack that bypasses all of your defensive attributes deducts from your HP. If your HP drops to or below 0, your character “dies.” Of course, Daevas are immortal, so your character doesn’t stay dead for long. Nevertheless, dying is a serious hassle (You have to wait for a rez or respawn at your obelisk, suffering a penalty either way). From a downtime perspective, death is the single worst devourer of time – avoid it.

So, staying alive is good – I’m glad our survival instincts are still intact. Now, how helpful is HP at improving survivability? I’d argue that it’s the best tool available at low levels. At higher levels, this may change, but HP is extremely powerful at the opening of the game. Why? Because every attack hits it, be they physical or magical. Parry and Physical Defense can help against melee, while Elemental Defense can help against spells, but HP helps against both. Moreover, every class can access the stat: there’s no need for a shield to get mileage out of HP.

From a survival perspective, HP is the last line of defense. You’d obviously much rather resist or dodge incoming fire, but I’ll wager that 100% avoidance isn’t a possibility in this game. If you can’t avoid every attack, then it’s best to be prepared for those attacks that will break through the front lines: a poor last line will only earn you more quality time with the Obelisks of Atreia.

  • MP (Magic Points)

This is the magical counterpart to HP. Every character in Aion has MP, and every character uses MP when executing special abilities. For Warrior and Scout classes, these stats are largely irrelevant: the latent MP regeneration of all characters tends to keep pace with the rate of use (their abilities are dirt cheap, in other words – MP is meant to be a non-issue, at least for fights under five minutes in duration). For Priest and Mage classes, however, MP plays a big role in gameplay.

Running out of MP isn’t dangerous on its own. 0 MP will not kill your character, but it will place you in a risky situation: without MP, you can’t perform any special abilities. You can think of MP as the fuel of your character: you won’t explode when you run out, but you’ll have to manually push your character the rest of the way home. Again, this is less of a problem for Scouts and Warriors: their normal attacks are likely enough to get them through to a rest point. Mages and Priests use at least some magical attacks, however, and their melee abilities are far less potent (Chanters excluded).

Narrowing the scope to Priests and Mages, how important is more MP? Having more doesn’t hurt – it’s a boost to longjevity, therefore reducing downtime. However, I’m hesistant to recommend it for anything more than a healing class; for dealing damage, there are better choices.

For Sorcerers, Spiritmasters, and offensive Clerics:
imagine that you’re in a car. Think of MP as your fuel tank, and Magic Boost as your engine. The stronger your engine, the better you convert fuel into energy. Likewise, the more Magic Power you have, the more damage you deal with each point of MP spent attacking. Meanwhile, increasing the size of your fuel tank will also increase the amount of energy you can produce; You simply won’t be able to produce that energy as quickly without a stronger engine. Increasing your MP does the same thing: you’ll be able to deal more damage, but your damage per second will not improve.

For Chanters and defensive Clerics: if you’re running out of MP in your healing career, stack on more MP. As far as I can tell, Magic Boost does not influence the strength of healing spells. At all. So, until MP regeneration stats appear in the late game, more MP is the only way to improve your healing capacity.

  • Attack

For physical damage dealers, this is the bread and butter of your damage output. Attack will increase the damage of melee or ranged auto-attacks, as well as the damage of all special attacks that deal physical damage. The base damage of your physical attacks and skills will be one additional point higher for each point of attack you have. That is, if I have a physical attack skill that hits for 20-30 damage, then acquire a new gear piece of gear with +3 attack on it, the skill will hit for 23-33 damage.

How valuable is Attack? In terms of PvE content, it’s likely the most important stat for dealing damage. Attack scales consistently forever; there are never diminishing returns on the value of Attack. The only caveat is to make sure you have enough Accuracy in your gear to avoid being parried and dodged all the time (Note: you’ll never see the word “Parry” spring up when your attacks are parried, as they do when you parry an incoming attack; speciously low numbers are the best indication of having insufficient Accuracy). Physical Critical Hit is also valuable, but is not as reliable (especially in shorter fights). Crit also suffers from diminishing returns late in the game.

For PvP content, Attack becomes less important. Making your critical strikes as likely as possible will quickly outweigh the benefits of increasing the damage of every attack by a little bit. Why? Because a healer sitting on your target will be able to keep up with a steady stream of damage; sharp bursts that are less predictable are your best chance for dropping your target before the healer can react with a big heal. Attack still matters in PvP (bigger crits are bigger), but Crit should take priority until Crit starts to suffer from diminishing returns.

For casting classes, avoid Attack. Attack has absolutely no bearing on your spells, so you won’t hit any harder for having it.

  • Accuracy

This stat is a good thing: Accuracy makes your physical attacks more likely to connect. Rule of thumb: if Attack makes it harder, Accuracy will make it hit more often.

Aside for Math Junkies ahead. On each physical attack, your accuracy is compared to the Dodge, Parry, and Shield Block of the target (if applicable). I believe that each comparison is made independently; I’ll have to test numbers in PvP to get a more accurate model. For the moment, I’ll provide the best-guess equations that I’ve run across:

%ChanceToDodge = (DefenderEvasion – AttackerAccuracy)/10

%ChanceToParry = (DefenderParry – AttackerAccuracy)/10
Note: This requires the Defender to have a physical melee weapon equipped.

%ChanceToBlock = (DefenderShieldDefense – AttackerAccuracy)/10
Note: This requires the Defender to have a shield equipped.

Then, assuming that each of the above checks is performed independently:

%ChanceToBeHit = ((100 – %ChanceToDodge)/100 * (100 – %ChanceToParry)/100 * (100 – %ChanceToBlock)/100)*100

It’s a reverse equation, I realize – You’re the attacker in the above case, so the target’s chance to be hit is the same as your chance to hit the target. Again, I’m also assuming that each of these checks is independent because of a gut feeling; they could be dependant, and therefore added instead of multiplied in the last step. Something about the nature of this equation makes me doubt that, though; there’d be too many opportunities for exploitation.

To get mileage out of this in PvP, you simply need to read your opponent’s stats. take a look at some geared character models and you’ll see the kind of Evasion, Parry, and Shield Block they’re likely to have. For PvE, the problem is harder – we don’t have numerical models for them. So, time for hand-waving estimation!

for a normal monster of level X:

if 1 < X < 10: MonsterEvasion = 40 + 8*X; MonsterParry = 120 + 24*X; MonsterShieldBlock = 120 + 24*X
if 11 < X < 20: MonsterEvasion = 120 + 12*X; MonsterParry = 360 + 28*X; MonsterShieldBlock = 360 + 28*X
if 21 < X < 30: MonsterEvasion = 240 + 16*X; MonsterParry = 640 + 32*X; MonsterShieldBlock = 640 + 32*X

for an elite monster of level X:

Take the number found in the equation above and multiply by 1.5

So that’s some major hand-waving; I have no source for those numbers. They’re likely to vary level by level, and even across mob types. However, I believe the estimations are reasonable – the values are drawn from appropriate-level manastones, which I believe demonstrate part of the game’s expectation of growth.

Either way, those numbers should make a good baseline for physical DPS classes to look at: your accuracy should be enough to at least negate the chance for a monster to parry your attack (every monster I’ve seen so far can parry, even if they don’t seem to have a weapon). Once you reach that, lean towards Attack.

  • Physical Cricial Hit

A critical hit deals double damage to the target. Physical Critical Hit (PCH) increases your chance to score a critical hit with a physical attack (who would’ve guessed?). That said, how much PCH do you need to crit, say, 20% of the time? 50%? 100%?

The best-guess equations that I’ve found so far look like this:

for PCH < 450: %ChanceToCrit = PCH/10

for 450 < PCH < 550: %ChanceToCrit = 45 + (PCH-450)/20

for 550 < PCH: %ChanceToCrit = 50 + (PCH-550)/100

So, there’s a very sharp dropoff once you reach about 450 PCH. Until that divide, the rule of “1PCH = .1% Crit Chance” holds.

I’ll save theorycraft on the benefits of Crit versus Attack for another time. Both PCH and Attack are good, and both are likely to be rare, expensive stats to acquire. Your best bet in the early game is likely to take whichever is more affordable.

  • Magic Boost

For magical damage dealers, Magic Boost is your primary stat for damage output. This is how you strengthen your character’s engine, as I mentioned in the MP section. Warriors and Scouts can pass this section by completely.

I have no formulae for the conversion of Magic Boost into damage, but I can guarantee that it’s less impressive than the conversion of Attack into damage (Magic Boost is anywhere between 8 and 12 times cheaper as a stat compared to Attack, so it rightly provides less benefit per point). However, nearly every target you find in Aion is better at mitigating physical damage than magical damage; you don’t need such a strong conversion to get more power.

Note that Magic Boost only influences offensive spells; healing spells and roots/snares don’t care about how much Magic Boost you have (as far as I know). Thus, only stack Magic Boost if you’ll be casting damage spells; otherwise, look elsewhere.

  • Evasion

Evasion increases your chance to dodge a physical attack. Dodging an attack avoids 100% of the attack’s damage, as well as any abnormal effects the attack may have caused (poison, stun, stumble, etc.). It’s a very powerful stat in terms of survival. Such a powerful stat is likely to be rare, though; it’s about three times as valuable as Parry and Shield block, as far as the game is concerned.

But how much Evasion do I need to get a reasonable chance to dodge incoming attacks? For this, we can look back at the estimations I made when discussing Accuracy.

%ChanceToDodge = (DefenderEvasion – AttackerAccuracy)/10

So, every 10 Evasion you have over your opponent’s accuracy, you’ll have an additional 1% chance to dodge his physical attacks. Again, PvP values can be estimated by simply looking at your friends in other classes; whatever their stats are at a given level are good indicators of what you’ll have to deal with. For PvE estimation, we go back to my hand-wavy estimations:

for a normal monster of level X:

if 1 < X < 10: MonsterAccuracy = 120 + 24*X
if 11 < X < 20: MonsterAccuracy = 360 + 28*X
if 21 < X < 30: MonsterAccuracy = 640 + 32*X

for an elite monster of level X:

Take the number found in the equation above and multiply by 1.5

These values are purely speculation, but they’re likely to be a good model. The numbers will likely deviate from monster type to monster type, too, so melee-oriented classes may be more accurate; caster classes may be less accurate. If your Evasion is woefully below the base accuracy of these estimates, it’s probably a good indicator that Dodging isn’t a core quality of your class.

How valuable is Evasion, then? It’s truly the strongest avoidance stat in the game. being able to completely avoid attacks and their detrimental effects is amazingly good for survival. The stat is extremely expensive to gear for, however, so you’re likely to lose out on a lot of other stats if you pursue Evasion. And even fully equipping Evasion gear won’t grant you a 100% dodge chance against enemies of your level. In my experience, a reliable defense and sustained offense are the best attributes of any solo class. Dodging is great, but unreliable; the game is always going to get lucky, so preparing for those times often improves your survivability more than stacking an unreliable stat.

Scouts have a particular proclivity for Evasion. Leather gear is stocked high with this stat, and so building upon that value is likely in their best interest. Their survivability is subsequently spiky, but a good Scout won’t be targeted too often anyways. Other classes are less likely to find high Evasion on their gear; stacking the stat when it’s below the minimum needed to Dodge anything is a thorough waste of time – you won’t see any benefit!

Final Note: Dodging is Omni-Directional. Turning your back on a target has no bearing on your chance to dodge incoming attacks (As far as I have seen).

  • Parry

Parry increases your chance to parry a physical attack. Parrying an attack avoids 50% (estimated) of the attack’s damage, but not the abnormal effects of the attack. Parry is less powerful in terms of survivability than Evasion. Therefore, Parry is a more abundant stat than Evasion.

Parrying requires that a physical melee weapon be equipped; Bows, Spellbooks, and Orbs do not allow you to parry incoming attacks. So, if you’re a Mage class, you’re welcome to ignore everything that follows.

The Parry equation is identical to the Dodge equation posed above:

%ChanceToParry = (DefenderParry – AttackerAccuracy)/10

The PvE enemy accuracy estimations also hold here, if you want to have an idea of how much Parry you need to avoid incoming attacks.

So, how valuable is Parry? I personally find this to be one of the coolest stats in the game in terms of survival. Because the stat is cheap, you can exceed your enemy’s accuracy with sufficient Parry, and you can do so by a large margin. This results in a 50% reduction in a fair number of incoming attacks (not all of them, unless you stack the stat absurdly high, but some). Because the stat quickly results in a likely chance of parrying incoming attacks, this can support a reliable defense. 50% of the damage coming in is still significant, but the percentage reduction means that it will scale nicely as you progress (suck it, WoW).

The bottom line is, each point of Parry provides an appreciable chance to mitigate incoming damage from physical attacks; the damage reduction per point is the strongest available to lower-level characters. Parry is therefore a key survival stat for melee characters without a shield.

Final Note: Parrying is Omni-Directional. Turning your back on a target has no bearing on your chance to parry incoming attacks (As far as I have seen).

  • Shield Defense

Shield Defense is the shield-using melee class’s alternative to Parry. Shield Defense increases your chance to block incoming physical attacks. Blocking an attack avoids a portion of the attack’s damage; the portion’s size is dependant upon the shield. Weak shields block as low as 30% of the attack’s damage, while top-end shields block as much as 45% of the attack’s damage. Each enchant rank on a shield boosts the block portion by 2%, leading to a maximum current value of 65% blocked on an incoming attack. In all cases, abnormal statuses caused by the attack will pierce the block.

Blocking clearly requires a shield to be equipped. So, if you’re a Mage or Scout class, feel free to ignore everything that follows.

The Block equation is identical to the Dodge equation posed above:

%ChanceToBlock = (DefenderShieldDefense – AttackerAccuracy)/10

You can also look back to find the estimated accuracy of PvE enemies in the Evasion section.

So, Shield Defense is never quite as good as Parry (assuming that Parry does, indeed, stop 50% of an incoming attack). By and large, the stats are equally common, too. So what’s the appeal of Shield Defense, if it does less to keep you alive (unenchanted)? Templars have the added plus of inheriting some neat tricks in response to blocked attacks, but all classes that actively use a shield should probably look to Shield Defense instead of Parry to increase survivability.

The motivation for this is simple: The shield provides an absurd amount of Shield Defense, while the accompanying one-handed melee weapon provides only some Parry. Remember, reliable defenses will serve you better, even if they seem a little weaker up front. Because Shield Defense can get so high, it’s not unreasonable for a shield-user to block nearly every incoming attack. When every attack is blocked, you can expect incoming attacks to only deal 60% or so of their intended damage. Your HP thus has a reliable second line of defense that the other mitigation and avoidance stats can’t easily provide. It’s no surprise that Shields are designed this way: the best defenses should be reserved for the tanks of the game, after all.

So, if you want to get the most out of your shield for survival, stack Shield Block: the base boost to the stat that the shield provides should make getting a strong block chance relatively simple, so take advantage.

Final Note: Blocking is Omni-Directional. Turning your back on a target has no bearing on your chance to block incoming attacks (As far as I have seen).

End Installment 1

There’s plenty more to come in this vein, I’m sure: There’s the less common stats (Magical Accuracy, Magical Resistances, Physical Defense, and those core stats that you can’t touch). There’s also more to be said about prioritizing one stat against another when socketing in Mana Stones. I’m sure there will be more threads to follow thereafter, too: better estimation equations, different theories of stat importance, and more!

Is there something about the stats of Aion that you’re curious about? Is understanding these stats so deeply valuable, or is a gut feeling enough to get you through?

Banner: Round 2, And How to Choose a Server

12 09 2009

Apparently the world of Aion has been undergoing substantial maintainance lately. There’s always bugs to work out, for sure, so I’m glad they’re taking the time to get things as happy as they can before release. I’ve taken the free time to work a bit more on cleaning up this site.

First and foremost, new banner! Now the banner features the full Recherché team (Rycharde, Theladas, Jerricah, and Ellaria), rather than just Thel. I’ll give some backstory to them here soon.

I’m building up a roll of other Aion Authors on the sidebar, and if you’d like to join in the community, please let me know! I’ve done some haphazard exploration and put up the favorites that I’ve stumbled across, but I’m always looking for more to read. So, if you’re into the Aion writing scene, post a comment!

Now I’m trying to figure out exactly how to go about selecting a server. I’m on the East Coast, so I’ll see slightly lower latency on an EST server. Two years of playing on PST servers for WoW leads me to believe the latency is minimal, though and something I can cope with. Meanwhile, my lifestyle keeps me out until late hours; playing on a West Coast server may place me on during prime play time. More players = more group opportunities, so I’m all for that.

So, any suggestions? I’m not at all worried about finding an RP server; when I’m in-game, I generally don’t go out of my way to tell stories – that’s for blogging and the like. I’m just looking for a solid home that has potential, and will have space for another Chanter in the Asmodian ranks. Suggestions?

Okay, enough wobsite for one day – Must Chant Moar!

So, What’s in a Chanter?

12 09 2009
When I first heard about Aion, the Chanter immediately caught my eye. The Cleric, Assassin, and Templar are all cookie-cutter classes, more or less: their roles are well-defined and important, but their versatility is limited.

Then there was the Chanter. Where on Earth does he fit?

Cute, but not a Chanter

Cute, but not a Chanter

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
This one’s obvious. Every Chanter guide worth its salt will extol Chanters as the buffers of Aion. We get Mantras, akin to auras from other games (I suddenly miss pulsing pally auras in Diablo 2). But I believe that there is more to Auramancy than simply turning on the three best mantras you have and just DPSing/Healing. There’s more to the job than that, and a true chanter will employ all aspects of the niche.

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
I almost never hear about the Chanter offense: few articles touch on the importance of Chanter melee outside of solo play. Yes, we’re viable at solo play because we have melee skills and self-recovery to keep us running. But what makes us important in a group’s melee composition? Anything?

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
This subject seems to be in heavy debate from what I’ve read. We get a superior HoT early on, and we maintain our basic single-target heal from our Priestly days. We also get a healing Mantra, but I suspect its contribution to surviving will likely be minimal. These abilities are enough to maintain a tank in most situations, and certainly enough to pick up off-targets that get smacked a few times before the tank can gain control. There is no AoE healing in our basic tree to handle constant AoE damage to the raid: Clerics have the monopoly on that.

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
I’ll save Stigma discussions for later. The stigmas I see so far look cool, but I haven’t used most of them, so I don’t know how long those cooldowns will actually feel in combat.

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?

Chanter = Indestructible Cheerleader

Chanter = Indestructible Cheerleader?

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…)