Wisdom of Nym: What will Final Fantasy XIV add to its healers in Endwalker?

    
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Toss me a cure, will you?

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.

Of course, healers are tricky to balance within FFXIV anyhow because the game’s healing paradigm doesn’t simply value damage or healing; more than anything, it values being able to do both and swapping between them intelligently, spending as little time healing as is vitally necessary and contributing damage and support as possible. So let’s take a look at what the three existing healers could use aside from the still unknown factor of what Sage will bring to the table to boot.

It keeps happening, lizard.

White Mage

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.

The stars, they lie.

Astrologian

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.

I need some help.

Scholar

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 eliot@massivelyop.com. 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.

The Nymian civilization hosted an immense amount of knowledge and learning, but so much of it has been lost to the people of Eorzea. That doesn’t stop Eliot Lefebvre from scrutinizing Final Fantasy XIV each week in Wisdom of Nym, hosting guides, discussion, and opinions without so much as a trace of rancor.
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Mallus

Scholar is the weakest healer? You must be playing a different game. I have an 80 SCH and 80 WHM and IMO the scholar is better, hands down. If I was to rate the healers I would say Sch > Whm > Ast

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Hotarubi

I personally didn’t dislike the thing about AST having flatter cards. Before it was always a challenge to look for the card you needed because some were just worse, while now every card has a meaning and as a class it’s overall more reliable – and we know how much reliability counts for people using a parser, for example.
I think, and that’s what I got from people actually playing AST in Shadowbringers, the class has actually the problem of being too frenetic even compared to the past. It may be easier to pick the right cards, but you have to target way more people, use more stuff in-between, and that can make people go mad because it’s very difficult to be a good AST compared to other healers.
Is WHM easier, for example? If you want to be a good WHM yes, if you want to be a perfect one of course not, considering you’re an immobile turret. But AST is veeery frenetic even if you want to be just good. Maybe just as rewarding as WHM, but with far more sweat.

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Jeremy Barnes

White Mages suffer from the lack of Off-Global-Cooldown abilities. If they cast those insta cast heals, they still have to wait the cooldown period. In terms of doing DPS, it ends up being a drain.

Now that doesn’t matter very much if you’re not doing the most difficult of content and I’m not a fan of balancing classes for something only an extremely small percent of players actually experience.

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Erika Do

I used to main Scholar because I loved the aesthetic of being a bookish nerd healer, but was forced to switch to Astrologian because as someone who doesn’t do top-tier endgame content, Scholar is so boring now. If people are doing mechanics correctly, there’s nothing to do. Just DoT and spam a damage spell the same as the other healers but without any of the fun stuff they can do. I went through my spellbook once and outside of the minimum required number of damage spells, there wasn’t a single button in there that did not either heal or shield, or increase healing/shielding somehow. And with the fairy around doing her thing, I actually need to cast *fewer* healing spells than on other jobs! Maybe it’s more fun when people are actually getting hurt because then there’s more for you to do than stand around and spam one button.

I loved Scholar back then because it retained the damage rotation of the Arcanist and you could focus on being a DPS most of the time unless things got really bad and you needed to step in yourself. I’d love to see that return, but they basically neutered the class and cut it off entirely from its Arcanist base in the name of “balancing” the healers.

At least Astrologian has cards to play with when healing is light, but all of the healers could really use fewer healing buttons and more damage/utility ones to make the non-healing part of the equation more interesting. It would be great if they could add a damage spell that boosted your healing somehow so you could build up a resource during downtime, or maybe you could prevent damage by keeping a debuff up on the boss. Or even spend more time keeping short-term buffs up on party members. So many ways they could make healers more interesting.

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Jeremy Barnes

or… and this is crazy… healers could have more interesting healing / support to do..

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jealouspirate

As a healer main in WoW who has been trying healing in FFXIV, I have a lot of thoughts. Caveat is that while I have played most WoW healers in Shadowlands at endgame, in FFXIV so far I only have White Mage & Scholar in the mid 50 level range. I have watched lots of videos on endgame healing guides/rotations though.

In general I like FFXIV’s philosophy of healers prioritizing damage. In fact, that’s exactly how M+ works in WoW as well. My main criticisms are:

1) If healers should be spending most of time time doing dps, give them a fun dps rotation. A single DoT + spamming a hard cast single target or AOE just isn’t that fun. Let’s see some fun dps abilities if that’s what we have to do. WoW has some fun dps rotations for its healers. As a Resto Druid I can switch into cat or Moonkin form and do a fun rotation. Convoke the Spirits is a really powerful cooldown that can be used for either DPS or healing – that’s cool! You get to choose when to use it and which version. More fun interactions like that would be good, which brings me to my 2nd complaint:

2) DPS and healing kits have no synergy. Given that SE wants you to dps most of the time, it’s weird that there’s no synergy between these spells. You just dps until you need to heal, then you stop doing damage and cast healing spells (instant ones usually). Again if we look to WoW, there are some really fun healing specs that are build around doing DPS. Specifically Holy Paladin, Discipline Priest, and Mistweaver (with the proper legendary). I think FFXIV’s healers should learn some lessons from these specs. Abilities that can be used to either damage OR heal depending on who you target. Damaging abilities that also proc healing effects, or reduce the cooldown of healing spells. Buffs that provide healing based on how much DPS you’re doing. That stuff is really fun!

For example, Mistweavers have a talent allows you to extend the duration of your HoTs by using one of your major DPS abilities (Rising Sun Kick). This encourages you to spread your HoTs across the party and then DPS to extend their duration. Rising Sun Kick has a cooldown, but another DPS ability has a chance to reset it. So it creates this minigame of keeping your HoTs up on targets, extending them with DPS, and fishing for procs to do even MORE dps and healing.

A simple example of how this could work in FFXIV: White Mage has a thing where Cure 1 has a 15% chance to proc a mana-free Cure 2. That’s fine, but it would be a lot better if that proc applied to Stone instead. It gives you that added incentive to be doing dps, and adds a nice synergy between dps and healing.

(thanks to anyone who read my wall of text)

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Bereman99

A simple example of how this could work in FFXIV: White Mage has a thing where Cure 1 has a 15% chance to proc a mana-free Cure 2. That’s fine, but it would be a lot better if that proc applied to Stone instead.

Either that, or as a proc chance of their DoT.

But yeah, the mana-free Cure II off a Cure I is one of the biggest noob traps in the game. It looks like it should be beneficial, but you end up spending more time and/or mana on smaller heals trying to get the proc, just based on how much healing is generally needed and how good the rest of the kit is. And with the mana options that WHM has anyway, a free Cure II doesn’t feel like it matters that much, if at all, except in the most dire of circumstances. And even then chances are you’d have another option that was better.

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l_lenotre

I don’t mind the scholar being under powered. There’s no fight I can’t heal and I like the idea of a class rewarding proactive healing.
Placing my buffs before a damage spike coming and totally ignoring it afterwards because I “already healed” is too damn good ♥
I’d love to get a dot back yes, and bane. But I doubt that’s gonna happen.

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IronSalamander8 .

For healer, I’ve only played Scholar and only to 30 and oddly don’t like healing in FF14 at all. Normally I prefer tanking and healing, but maybe its for the same reason that I don’t like Discipline Priests in WoW anymore; the mix of damage and healing means I feel unfocused and it throws me off my game. Our main healer for our little group is a white mage.

What will Sage do for the situation to, I wonder? Tanking and healing are the hardest classes to add as they have pretty well defined things they must be able to do, and adding a 4th healer will only make the comparison between the healers come up more often than ever. I always worry when a new option (job/character/army/race/ship/etc.) is added to a game as the temptation to make the new stuff appealing can lead to them being too good and leaving the old stuff in a bad place, although I don’t see this as much in FF14 as say, most tabletop miniature games.

I’m curious about Reaper too, although barring incident I plan to focus on GNB and MCH, and haven’t started Shadowbringers yet, I’m in the between Stormblood but before Shadowbringers line right now and trying to get my 2 main classes closer in level to each other before worrying about what’s next.

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Danny Smith

I want my old AST back. I doubt it would ever happen but almost everyone i meet who still mains AST as healer didn’t touch AST till Shadowbringers. Most things i have consistently loved but AST post shadowbringers and pvp post Stormblood are both firm cases of “i used to have fun with this in an earlier version, now i don’t”.

Right now i don’t know a single AST from Heavensward to Stormblood that didn’t jump to White Mage in Shadowbringers.

It sucks because i still love the aesthetic and some of the playstyle but the cards feel like they are shaved down to the point they may as well not exist as a gimmick. Even Mudras feel more involved and rewarding.

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Knight Porter

We have a career AST who’s played it since it came out, but she does definitely still grumble about the old card system.