Looking at the magical DPS jobs in the Endwalker expansion is kind of a trip. Two of them are, if I’m being honest, largely business as usual. Yes, Red Mage and Black Mage both have some important differences from their current incarnation, but Final Fantasy XIV players will find both of them to mostly be enhanced by some new abilities rather than wholly reworked. And then there’s Summoner, which feels like some total stranger just slipped into the room and is trying to convince you that you’re old friends.
It’s a touch disconcerting, if I’m being honest.
Here’s the summary of the Red Mage changes, very quickly: You now have a party-wide buff for mitigating damage and you also have another combo action. Thank you and good night. You’re done. It is basically the same job it was beforehand. Hooray!
No, no, I’m not just going to leave it there; that’d be kind of rude. The fact of the matter is that Red Mage is still a solid and well-designed job that only has minor tweaks to be made, so minor tweaks have been made but the job is still largely the same as it was before. The biggest change is the addition of Mana Stacks, which is a practical change that makes very little functional difference during single-target rotations. Each of your enchanted melee attacks (your main three-hit combo and your melee AoE) will now add a mana stack, and when you hit three stacks, you can unleash the Verholy/Verflare to Scorch to new ability Resolution combo.
This is relevant for AoE because it means that your AoE combo goes from spamming Scatter and then weaving in Enchanted Moulinet to including Verholy/Verflare and so on. But for single-target damage, it’s a change that’s not actually going to change much of anything.
What is different is also that your main melee combo is much cheaper now, requiring about 50 of each gauge rather than the 80 it requires now. That means you can unleash more back-to-back. You also get an upgrade to Verthunder and Veraero that’s basically just a slight potency jump.
Oh, and let’s not forget Red Mage’s barrier spell, which reduces magic damage and enhances healing while it’s on. Functionally, it’s not different from what ranged DPS has access to, but it helps solidify Red Mage’s role as being the most utility-oriented caster in the bunch. It’s going to see use during phase transitions and big ability busts, of that much you can be certain.
Still, all of these are minor tweaks. If you like Red Mage? You’re still going to like it afterwards.
In some ways, Black Mage has actually changed less than Red Mage, even though its big change is arguably a more significant change. You now actually have an upgrade to Blizzard II and Fire II that make both of those spells worth casting and a vital part of your AoE rotation, whereas right now they are functionally dead weight.
The short version is that players will now be using High Blizzard II and High Fire II to alternate between Umbral Ice and Astral Fire, with Flare and Freeze both requiring the appropriate status to cast these spells. At a glance, it looks like the AoE rotation will be to cast High Fire II, then Flare, then repeat, at which point you use High Blizzard II and then Freeze to refresh your umbral souls and prepare for another round of explosions. Not super complex, but understandable.
Players will also have access to the new spell Paradox, which is non-elemental and takes effect when you swap between fire and ice at full stacks. I’m not quite sure how it’s supposed to be incorporated into your rotation, although at a glance it looks like it’s going to be usable like Fire but without the same MP cost increase for its damage. Smarter BLM theorycrafters than I will probably figure it out very quickly, though.
Beyond that, though? This is very much the same core rotation from Shadowbringers again, which works. If you like the rotation of Fire IV, Despair, Fire III, and so forth? You’ll feel right at home with this particular lineup.
OK. This is where things get complicated because Summoner has basically changed into an entirely new job at this point. Gone are all the damage-over-time spells and many of your pets, replaced with what amounts to one pet (Carbuncle) and a number of different spells that lead to a very different rotation wholly unfamiliar to any existing player. At a glance, it might look like Summoner has more phases to cycle through at this point, but in practice it’s actually fewer. You’re doing mostly the same things when you summon either Phoenix or Bahamut, and similarly you’re doing most of the same things when you have one of the other summons influencing you.
The core works something like this once you get up to the top levels. You start by summoning Bahamut, which sort of works like a compressed form of Dreadwyrm Trance and Summon Bahamut from the current game. Once that happens, you can work your way through the three elemental summons. Each of those summons empowers you with certain elemental energies and gives you access to a few different attacks, but you need to cycle through all of them to reach the next phase. Each one also has slightly different changes, although there’s definitely more of a tendency for the spells you’re casting to have instant casts while empowered.
After you go through Titan, Garuda, and Ifrit, you’ll be able to summon Phoenix, which is only slightly different from how Firebird Trance currently works. Once that’s done, you can again summon the three elemental summons, with your next trance summon being Bahamut again. You alternate back and forth between them, hopefully picking the right times to summon Ifrit when you can deal with longer cast times, cycling back and forth between trances and elemental empowerment.
I admit that I didn’t play with Summoner as much as perhaps I should have because… well, Summoner has never been my wheelhouse and I had only so much time to try everything out. What I did play, though, felt much more straightforward than its current rotation. The more self-contained setup meant that there was a lot more emphasis on the summons themselves and cycling between all of them, with the various special abilities feeling… well, special.
This might be a bit of a bummer for people who really do like the current iteration of Summoner, and for that I can only offer my understanding. But it seems like people who find the current version to be too complicated and unfun will be far happier with this version, which definitely seems to be posed as a very mobile and unique caster experience.