Here’s an interesting facet to consider: Unlike most of the other entries in this Wisdom of Nym series about Endwalker speculation, this one isn’t relying on the benchmark trailer, as there’s nothing distinct to be said about what any of the healers are getting in Final Fantasy XIV’s next expansion. Scholar, White Mage, and Astrologian all seem to be throwing up some sort of barrier to absorb damage. This is perfectly fine, but since all three of them already have some form of barrier, it’s entirely possible and even plausible that these are refined versions of the existing barriers they have access to.
If any healer could be described as an unambiguous winner in Shadowbringers, it would definitely be White Mage. The job went from being the weakest of the healers to being one of the strongest by virtue of having a very simple basic design; it’s the healer that does the most direct damage out of its peers and it fuels that with its instant-cast heals. At this point, White Mage rarely needs to even use Cure or Cure II to keep the tank up, instead relying on instant abilities and a steady rotation of damage to keep the group humming along and the damage flowing nicely.
An upgraded barrier would only help it out in this particular sense, but in another way, White Mage kind of doesn’t need much. It has a very solid toolkit that lets it handle a lot of situations and a straightforward one that works quite well. So I honestly expect most of its improvements will have more to do with enhancements to that core kit, rather than fundamentally changing its layout; much like Black Mage, you don’t need to majorly enhance the existing abilities.
It’s not out of the question to see a new Banish and Dia spell added to the spellbook as slight improvements. In terms of actual new abilities, that barrier could easily be an upgraded Divine Benison, but it doesn’t need much. Oddly, the most interesting ability it could get would the ability to consume one of its heal-over-time effects for an instant heal, especially since White Mage has the strongest ability to keep HoT effects ticking on the tank steadily.
But by and large, I think White Mage is in a pretty good place. Expect refinement more than major reworks for its abilities. Whether or not that will sit well with everyone is another story altogether, as is whether or not it will retain its slot with a new healer in the mix.
Actually, the one thing it maybe could use is a dash to its friendly target for easier deployment of Holy or Cure III. But that might be a bit much.
We know that Astrologian is going to get some reworking, which makes its future a real question mark. It’s hard to determine exactly what it’s going to need after the rework because we don’t actually know what is getting changed in the first place!
One of the things a lot of people have asked for is for the old card system to come back, which… is not likely to happen, and probably not a great idea anyway. Replacing the more ornate card benefits with straightforward damage boosts does have its drawbacks, but it makes the job easier to play, there’s still a reason for all the cards to exist, and it removes the fishing for specific cards that became a universal aspect of the job back through Stormblood. So it’s unlikely for us to go backward; it’s more likely for us to move forward, and the cards and the benefits of same have actually been working out pretty well.
Now, given the redesign aspect, I think there’s definitely a likelihood that it’s going to be a healer more concerned with heal-over-time spells than direct heals, possibly even losing the sect options and just having regen with the sects providing a different benefit. That’ll be a bit flattening for the job, and the idea doesn’t make my particularly happy, but it is a realistic possibility.
What weaknesses does Astrologian actually have at the moment, though? Its biggest problem isn’t in terms of throughput or net healing or even its damage, actually; the biggest problem it suffers from is that it just doesn’t offer a whole lot that White Mage can’t already do quite well. It’s possible, although not certain, that what looks like a barrier is actually bringing back an ability the job used to have to enhance the duration of existing buffs on a character. This would be a huge boon for the job, both to extend its damage boosts or heal effects and possibly even to extend cooldowns on a tank. It’d really give the job more of a support vibe, to boot.
Having said it, actually, I want that now. How cool would that be? It could also use a few more MP management tools, yes, but those aren’t as fun to watch happen.
More DoTs. Give them more DoTs.
The big weakness Scholar has had all expansion is that it’s just the weakest healer, and it doesn’t really have anything it does better than its peers. Scholar is a barrier healer, and that’s great, but barriers are less valuable in protracted fights than heal-over-time effects (Medica II and Aspected Helios can heal more than Succor) and it doesn’t really have a distinct trick to add to the overall healer toolbox. Scholars work, they’re not broken, but looking at them from a meta standpoint they’re just not as straight-up powerful as White Mages or Astrologian.
Heck, the Scholar AoE suffers from the same weakness as Holy (it’s a point-blank spell) and the same weaknesses as Gravity (no stun effects, just flat damage). It’s not nearly as fun to bust out as either of the above.
Another enhanced form of Miasma, spreading DoTs, or anything of the sort would help bring back Scholar to its own distinct niche once again. It’s defensible to not want Scholar to retain the damage potential of White Mage, and that’s fair, but the job could easily reduce incoming damage with spells to be a more proactive healer that way. As long as your whole thing is weaving in casts between your fairy support, there are a lot of ways to keep Scholar aggressive without making them feel like the straightforward cannons of White Mage.
Scholar isn’t in a terrible place, but it sure has felt like the weak link this expansion. Let it have some fun tricks for the next one.
Feedback, as always, is welcome in the comments or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, we’re both not going to be bumping this until later in the week and we’re going to be talking about cash shops. Strap in.