Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood preview: Caster DPS jobs

    
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Oh, oh, oh, it's magic! Y'know?
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If there’s one field of jobs that’s never really locked me in during previous Final Fantasy XIV content, it’s caster DPS. I can understand the appeal on an academic level, but the reality is that I just never felt like it was all that cool. It didn’t help that our options were Black Mage or Summoner only for quite some time, and since roleplaying hadn’t dictated that those particular jobs matched any of my characters… well, that made it easier to step away from the role altogether.

Things are changing in Stormblood, though. For one thing, there’s obviously the simple fact that caster DPS options are getting expanded to include Red Mage, although I detail that in another piece as part of this same series. The extant caster jobs have also undergone some pretty significant changes, though, so even veteran players of Summoner and Black Mage should see their jobs feel… similar, but not quite the same. And, mercifully, far less reliant on being trigger-happy and rushing through everything.

Nuke.

Caster DPS in general

If there’s ever been a single group of jobs in need of a revamp when it comes to role-specific actions, it’s the casters. You’ve traditionally had access to one, maybe two abilities of actual certain utility, and everything else is just kind of filling space. Hell, you could be walking around with almost no cross-class skills equipped on Black Mage and no one would notice the difference.

Now, however? That’s… less the case. Swiftcast, Surecast, and Virus (redubbed Addle) are all on the cross-role skill list, so you’ll need to grab them from there if you feel the need. But the other options on the list have their own utility and should prove useful, aside perhaps from Break (which is just an unaspected damage-and-slow spell).

Diversion and Lucid Dreaming both come down to being threat cuts, although the former reduces generation and the latter outright dumps threat while adding a Refresh effect. (Useful, if caster DPS weren’t already great about handling MP.) Drain does exactly what you would expect it to do from the name, and Apocatastasis has become a cross-role option instead of being limited to Black Mage. Which might be a bit painful for Black Mages who are expecting more utility tools, since it means losing a heretofore unique part of the job.

Erase and Mana Shift, however, both provide some extra utility for the role. Erase allows you to clear off a damage effect from another party member, while Mana Shift lets you outright donate mana to a fellow member. In solo content, obviously, these will be nigh-on useless, but even in dungeons they can help provide some needed utility. (Black Mage in particular has such a steady MP regeneration that offering some to a White Mage seems just plain polite.)

I would argue that the cross-role skills here feel a little less vital and interesting than some of the others; Break in particular feels superfluous, and Surecast suffers from the same issues it always has. But there are some new utility tools in the mix, which is important, and it’s better than the current lineup by far.

Shocking!

Black Mage

The current state of Black Mage is pretty rough; it’s a matter of maintaining a complex web of status effects and dependencies for as long as possible, while not actually delivering nearly the enormous amount of damage you’d expect to provide for that much work. There’s a reason why Black Mage got highlighted and explained to a certain degree during the last Live Letter, after all.

So you probably have some sense of what the rotation will look like for Black Mage. Enochian, for example, is now just a matter of keeping up Astral Fire or Umbral Ice. But the actual feel of the job is still a matter of juggling your status effects to unleash the biggest effects you can.

Blizzard IV gives you Umbral Hearts, which reduce the casting cost increase of your various Fire spells while under Astral Fire. Fire IV, meanwhile, remains a powerful single-target spell, with Flare taking the role of a powerful multi-target spell. Foul, meanwhile, is a straight-up devastating spell; it doesn’t benefit from either status, but you have to keep your Enochian up for a while and be ready to unleash it at the right time for a big chunk of damage.

Ultimately, you wind up with a similar feel to your rotation, even though the mechanics are very different. Opening with Blizzard III allows you to immediately go into Blizzard IV, then swap over to casting Fire IV and Fire to do single-target damage before swapping back and refilling your Umbral Hearts. You’ve got single-target and multi-target variants of Thunder, too, allowing you to keep up that pattern as you need. Triplecast is also added to the spell lineup, giving you three instant-cast spells in a row; you’re still limited by recast time, but the mechanics are there.

That core act of shifting back and forth between states for Black Mage is still there, but it feels like a lot of the more fiddly bits added with Enochian have been removed and streamlined. You’ll still be swapping around quite a lot, but you’re no longer reliant on moving as fast as possible just to keep operating on a basic level.

You wanted it, and now you get it. There is a Santa Claus.

Summoner

Yes. Bahamut.

Let me assuage a few Summoner worries right away. No, you will not have to resummon your pet manually after you summon Bahamut. No, Bahamut is not just a new skin for your existing egi. No, Bahamut is not RNG reliant in the least. Yes, he’s significant and powerful.

Basically, you can think of summoning Bahamut as a sort of ultra-Dreadwyrm Trance, and the mechanics are similar. Each time you use Dreadwym Trance, you acquire Dreadwyrm Aether. When you have enough Dreadwyrm Aether, you can summon Demi-Bahamut. Demi-Bahamut will serve as a thermonuclear summon option, casting Shockwave on your target each time you use any sort of action on a target. You can also command him to use Akh Morn on your target, which has a 13s recast time; Demi-Bahamut stays out for 20s, so you can do your own evaluation there.

In other words, it’s Dreadwyrmier Trance, and it acts in the same basic capacity. If you’re happy with how Summoner currently feels, summoning Bahamut will feel like the natural outgrowth.

The other big-ish change to Summoner is going to be the addition of Ruin IV, which will show up periodically to upgrade Ruin or Ruin III when your pet uses an action. That one is reliant on RNG, yes.

So the core of Summoner isn’t just similar, but almost untouched. Apply your damage spells, spread them, stack up to Dreadwyrm Trance, unleash havoc. The biggest functional difference is that you will have access to an even more powerful version of the Trance when you’ve used it a fair bit. This also has the net effect of, again, making your job less reliant upon rushing through things; you’ll want to probably have access to Demi-Bahamut when the boss comes around, but you don’t need to worry so much about losing your stacks. Just be ready, and when the time comes, you can unleash the big primal himself.

Disclosure: Square-Enix paid for both hotel accommodations and travel expenses as part of heading out to the preview event, so if you’re wondering how I could afford this trip, the answer is that I could not. They also provided me with a nice notebook as part of the swag bag. I could have used that notebook as the one I took my physical notes in, but I didn’t. I wanted to use it for something more special. I freely admit that it’s silly. Also, it’s important to note that all of the content on display during the event was still in development and may be changed before release. This is why I’m not throwing numbers at you.