Let’s be real about something: The Endwalker expansion for Final Fantasy XIV was always going to make healers feel a bit like “Sage and then the other three.” It’s been a very long time since a new healing job was added to the game, and to compound that factor, Sage has an immediate visual cool factor that only the Edgiest Job Ever could even hope to halfway match. The point is that Sage was going to be the first thing on everyone’s mind… which makes me a bit sad that I didn’t get more playtime with Sage during the media tour to really sink my teeth into it as much as I did with Reaper.
Very little has changed about White Mage going into Endwalker, which is perhaps not tremendously surprising. You get two charges of your barrier spell, which is nice, and an upgraded version of Glare and Holy. Other than that? Well, it’s White Mage. It mostly works the same way as it always has, and it remains the more aggressive and damage-oriented “pure” healer of the lineup.
The new marquee ability, Lilybell, seems… well, kind of overdesigned and not terribly useful. Here’s how it works: You plant the little healing blossom, and when you take damage, it pulses with healing to all nearby party members. Another smaller pulse of healing will occur for any remaining stacks of the buff when the effect expires. Mildly useful for some situations with party-wide damage, but it doesn’t seem nearly as useful as, say, just casting Medica II again and weathering it out.
I suppose it’s kind of a sign of how solid the White Mage kit really is that the job hasn’t really gotten much in the way of modification. It’s not weaker or anything, and the new upgrades to AoE and single-target damage will be welcome, but it’s not all that improved beyond some visual flare.
Scholar seems to have taken the role of being the more support-oriented of the two barrier healers, and it also hasn’t changed a whole lot from its Shadowbringers incarnation. That might seem like it’s a bit of a problem, but I suspect some of that is also comparing the option of having an Astrologian and a White Mage in a full party instead of a Scholar. What the job does have is maybe less flashy than it could be, but solid.
Case in point: Scholar gets another upgrade to its main damage spell and its AoE ability, which also means that it’s still the only healer with a solid damage option while moving. Its healing improvement trait makes Adloquium and Succor provide more powerful barriers. The job also can boost max HP for a target and offer extra healing on top of that, making a tank more durable ahead of tankbusters and the like.
The big marquee ability, Expedient, has already been something of a punchline because it’s basically just Sprint and a minor damage shield when activated. However, it also lasts for 20 seconds (which is a pretty long time, all things considered), provides a solid 10% damage reduction, and is perfectly setup for any situation where players need to stack up after being spread out or spreading after a stack to split damage. It’s one of those abilities that seems kind of silly, but you immediately start thinking of uses for it with a little consideration.
I don’t blame Scholar players who feel as if their job could use a little more flash and buff, but I think Scholar is better than it was considered in Shadowbringers, and it’s still solid in Endwalker. Pity it doesn’t get something really cool in a flashy ability, but it’s still solid just the same.
So you probably already know that Astrologian has been subject to a big rework. It now only gets barriers under the effects of Neutral Sect and from Celestial Intersection, and its card interplay has been changed a bit again. You’re stacking symbols not for your Divination but just for the self-buff Astrodyne; you also have slightly more buttons to use the minor arcana cards along the way, which I’m not a huge fan of. More buttons to do the same things, in other words.
The job’s new abilities include another buff to the potency of the job’s AoE and single-target damage spells (still weaker than others) as well as a single-target damage cut that acts like a mini-Excogitation when the effect ends. Meanwhile, the big marquee ability is interesting, working kind of like Wildfire but for healing; damage taken is stacked up and then a bunch of it is healed when the effect ends, useful for big pulses of damage or phase transitions to absorb right after something big hits.
In practical terms, most Astrologians are probably more likely to notice the card changes than anything; the majority of AST players have tended toward Diurnal sect for a long while now. The job remains the most support-oriented healer as it should be, but it has traded a touch of its flexibility along the way.
So here’s the short introduction to Sage: It’s a healer that heals a little bit by doing damage. This is not, in and of itself, all that unusual. Every healer is basically expected to weave a bunch of damage in between healing and have some form of passive heals during pulls, with Astrologian and White Mage using regen effects while Scholars have their faeries. Sage, in that regard, actually has the weakest passive healing, restricted as it is to one target and (in this build) at a lower potency than what faeries offer. But it still gives you an idea of what the job is going for. It’s the “aggressive” barrier healer.
The central mechanic of the job is picking a target to get your pulses of healing as you do damage and making use of Eukrasia, a special action that works similar to Dark Arts in concept. Essentially, Eukrasia turns your main damage spell into a DoT, your main heal into a barrier, or your main AoE heal into a barrier AoE heal. Having your barrier fully consumed gets you a resource to unleash in more damage spells, so there’s a definite ethos of trying to keep up your barriers as much as possible and using Eukrasia to swap as needed.
Beyond that, Sage gets a variety of damage abilities with according heals and several instant heal effects costing Addersgall, a resource that accumulates in a manner similar to White Mage lilies (slowly over time). You also get a couple of interesting pulsing barrier effects that apply a barrier and then re-apply that barrier continually until all stacks are consumed or the duration runs out, as well as a dash to a target party member or enemy as needed. You can also rip away your barriers for emergency heals.
Weaknesses? Well, Sage lacks any tools for mana recovery outside of the Addersgall heals and role actions, and as mentioned, its passive healing is the weakest of the healers based on potency at a glance. It’s also going to be the most reliant on swapping targets and dealing with a changing situation, balanced out by a variety of damage options and an aggressive overall playstyle.
It looks, in short, like a lot of fun. Players who want to be as supportive as possible are probably not going to be in love with it, but if you like technical classes with an aggressive edge to your healing, you’ll probably adore it.