I cautioned extensively against people making balance predictions based on early preview mechanics before, and in the case of the jobs most frequently cried about as being dead, that turned out to be right on the money. (Surprise, White Mage isn’t on this list!) Now that we’ve actually been playing the expansion for over a month and have Savage information to look at, we can make a more comprehensive picture of which jobs are seen by the community as being good, which ones are bad, and which ones… just sort of are still there.
But let’s start with the losers. Because that makes a fun headline. Who’s on the downward path, and are they actually bad/worse, or just not as good as before?
The general perception of Warrior at this point is that it got nerfed pretty hard, that it’s not nearly as strong as it used to be. In Heavensward, Warrior was glorious; while it could be argued that it wasn’t the best tank period, if you had two tanks you always wanted one of them to be a Warrior. They could unleash great AoE, soak huge amounts of damage while dealing huge amounts of damage, and rarely regarded Defiance as anything other than “that skill you put on during tank swaps.” Now, though? They’ve lost…
Well, none of that. Warrior still has all of the same tricks. New ones, too; a new DPS cooldown for Deliverance, a charge, a trait to let you burst out with big Fell Cleave/Inner Beast combos more often. Sure, Shake it Off is a bit lame, but Warrior is still in a very good place.
More than anything, the perception of Warrior as a weaker job is a combination of gear not scaling through aggressive levels now (VIT no longer improves tank damage) and all of the new toys in the arsenals for other tanks. Having charged through these levels myself, I’m happy to say that Warrior is still just as strong as it ever has been; it just feels a little less overwhelmingly powerful now.
In the broadest sense, Scholar is suffering from the same problem as Warrior; it’s not so much that the job itself got weakened as the environment changed. A very small decrease to Scholar potencies, new toys, all of that; what you lost mostly was the swapping of Cleric Stance and what that meant.
And in the case of Scholar, it has been a big part of what has nigh-on crippled the job.
Scholar, more than any other healer, long relied upon Cleric Stance as a core mechanic, because more than any other healer a Scholar could use the faerie to bolster healing without actually healing. The removal of that option has meant that Scholar is now much weaker in terms of real damage, and that’s balanced by… still not having any real toys that improve the core healing loop of Scholar. Excogitation helps with that a little, but the core problems are still there.
Yes, Scholars are not in a great place right now. I don’t think potency tweaks alone are going to help this one, sadly; much like Paladin in Heavensward, we’re probably going to have to wait this out for a bit. Gear scaling will help, and it’s not that Scholars can’t heal through things, but the perception of the job as the weakest healer is largely accurate.
And here’s a case where it’s not just perception, it’s math. Machinists haven’t been nerfed compared to their old incarnation, and their new rotation is in fact fun. It was the second job I capped, in fact. But that doesn’t change the fact that the job, by and large, doesn’t keep up with Bard in terms of raw DPS and lags behind in terms of support. While Bard is a constant rolling 2% Crit buff, Machinist’s ability to provide a Vulnerability Up buff and a damage debuff doesn’t quite compare, and all of their other support options are shared by Bard; they certainly can’t remove status effects or offer a Direct Hit buff or anything similar.
It seems at a glance like the job had been set up to work as the more high-damage support option, but the damage just isn’t there. Part of that is down to inaccurate perception; there’s this belief running through the theorycrafting community that you’re supposed to overheat, neglecting that the overheating damage buff is clearly there to ensure that you don’t lose overall damage before you have control over your heat. (It seems like the simplest math in the world, really; 10% buff for 10 seconds followed by no buff at all for 10 seconds averages out to 5%, which is what you have for not overheating.)
But at the end of the day, Machinist is weak. It needs some potency buffs, but more than that, it needs to bring a little utility to the table. That’s the big issue; it’s neither providing Bard-level support nor doing Bard-level damage. Something’s got to give there.
I’ve seen more people complaining about Dragoon this expansion, but perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising. Dragoon already had a kind of complex and weird rotation in Heavensward, so whatever changes were made were going to have a notable impact. Now Dragoon has gone from having a three-hit combo with a bonus to a five-hit combo, Blood of the Dragon feels wildly different in design, the timer is no longer a resource… the list goes on.
Here’s the funny thing. While I’ve seen the complaints, I’m of the mind that the new Dragoon setup feels good to actually play. There’s more opportunities for interesting decisions, less chance to get utterly screwed by a badly timed boss jump, and more interesting play all around. So while I understand some of the complaints, I also think it’s a case of people being a bit overly sensitive to slight changes than the result of a real decrease.
Of course, it is a complex rotation, and it kind of sucks a little when you feel like you’re working overtime to do less damage proportionally than you previously did. Certainly there’s some room for buffs for the job; I just think it’s a matter of mild balance changes and possible gear scaling rather than the job really being in a bad place. When you got used to being among the best melee DPS in a meta, you feel every downtick.
I went back and forth between Monk and Summoner, but I ultimately went with Monk here for a simple reason. While both jobs are in a place where they have certain issues, Summoner also got several toys that have been long-awaited. The changes and potency drops are easier to gloss over when the exchange is to summon Bahamut, after all. Monk, meanwhile, is still in pretty much the same place as it was in Heavensward, with the additional ideas that seemed so promising when I had a brief hands-on having turned out to be almost nothing of consequence. You still want to be in Fists of Fire all the time, Tornado Kick is really just useful for when you’re about to lose Greased Lightning, and so forth.
Compared to Ninja, which I feel lost some of its overall identity to make room for other stuff, Monk seems to have too many ideas for what it can actually do; it has Warrior-style stack spending with Tornado Kick competing for space with maintaining your buff, it has its odd perpetual combo mechanics… it’s not my favorite collection. Even with this expansion it seems like it’s still trying to find its identity, and that’s not a great thing.
Monk isn’t terrible DPS, but it hasn’t really gotten any better or worse, and it still doesn’t bring a whole lot of utility to the table (compare that to Dragoon, where there’s a complex rotation but you also have some nice party buffs). So it’s lagging behind a little.
And it doesn’t help that if there was ever going to be a Monk expansion, this should be it.
In summary – of the jobs that seem to be occupying the bottom of the perception chart, two of them are pretty much fine and suffering mostly from perception, while the other three could use some specific love. That’s not an awful place to be, I think.
Feedback is welcome in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, like always. Next week, let’s look at the jobs currently enjoying a huge amount of love and see if they’re as great as everyone says or just getting a nice surge of perception.