For those of you who haven't got a clue what a Bear Shaman is, you can stop reading now if you like because this post is about Age of Conan. I've got a post semi-finished about why I'm playing AoC instead of WoW but I can't seem to get all the thoughts in order right now so that'll have to wait for another day.
Melee HealerSo, my BS has just dinged 48 and I thought it was about time that I could sit down and say something sensible about the class. Being a melee healer is a game style that I hadn't seen before and it takes a bit of getting used to. In summary:
- Medium armour is good and needed for a melee class but not great at mitigating damage
- Our health points are low for a melee class so do what you can to boost your health
- Our survivability rests on as many HoTs and buffs as we can stack
- We have some kick-ass combos that really deal the pain
So, as a soloing/levelling BS your game plan for a fight is:
- Make sure you're buffed and stack your HoTs
- Open with a combo, followed by a combo, followed by a combo, followed by a combo... get the message yet? The mobs have to go down quick or you are in trouble
- If you get low on health, use a "pause" move (see later) to refresh your HoTs and go back to combos
Don't worry about your mana while levelling. I know we're a healer class and that would normally mean we need lots of mana but, honestly, while levelling I really have had no problems with mana. Really focus on increasing your health and increasing your stamina pool. You don't want to die and unless you can keep dishing out those combos you will die - so focus on health and stamina.
I haven't really noticed much benefit from strength although it may be affecting mechanics under the surface. Constitution and dexterity on the other hand do contribute directly to your survivability so favour gear that has these. Also good is anything that increases your defence rating or has melee invulnerabilities on it.
I've seen a lot of gear out there with the same bonuses but with a higher level. I don't know, yet, whether the higher level increases armour or not as there doesn't seem to be a stat for armour rating. Anybody out there know?
Melee-wise we can only use two-handed blunts which I think is the thing I like least about the class. It does mean you will see lots of blue quest rewards that you can't use (which is annoying itemisation by funcom) but it also means that you don't have to put much thought into your choice of weapon... just get the biggest 2H blunt you can get.
At level 20 we can also use ranged weapons which are incredibly useful for pulling that single mob away from the group. Get one as soon as you can it will make your life so much easier. I prefer crossbows because, although they tend to be slower, they have a bigger punch on the first hit which is all I'm really using it for.
I've played around quite a bit with this and I wouldn't say it was optimal but it works very well for me. The main combos are:
- Crush Armour - Obtained from level 7
- Internal Bleed - Obtained from level 5
- Ursine Brawl - Obtained from level 20
- Shrewd Blow - Obtained from level 10
First thing to say is don't be fooled by the tooltip on Crush Armour - it does a goodly amount of damage as well as reducing armour. I've just got Rank III at level 48 and this will almost wipe out a same level mob on it's own! This is always my opener.
Internal Bleed is my follow up to get the DoT ticking. If you're in a one-on-one situation then you may want to skip this, but most fights in AoC aren't one-on-one. The advantage of the DoT is it allows you to switch earlier to that dang ranged caster/bowman that is sitting there piling on the pain while you deal with his melee buddy. You need to time the target switch right to make sure the DoT does actually kill the guy who you left behind though. Needless to say, on bosses and mini-bosses, DoT is a must.
Shrewd Blow is my next up - this is a kick-ass combo with insane amounts of damage - nuff said. Use it, love it, take it to bed and enjoy those fatalities!
Finally, I use Ursine Brawl. It doesn't do as much damage as Shrewd Blow so I use that in preference. There is an argument for using it earlier on a boss fight to reduce the incoming damage but there are other tricks for managing that (see later on Roars). By the time I've triggered Ursine Brawl, the cooldown is usually up on Crush Armour, so, after refreshing your HoTs just rinse and repeat.
During many fights you are going to need to take a time out from dishing out the pain to heal yourself back up. First thing that will help with this is points spent in the Casting Concentration skill. There are two other goodies in the kit bag that can help as well.
First up is Ferocious Smack obtained at level 32. This is a knockback that gives you time to get that big heal off. The only thing to be aware of is that it works in a frontal cone, so you might want to position yourself so you are facing all the mobs for best effect.
Second up is Ursine Crush obtained at level 20. This is a temporary stun of all targets in a 5m radius. As such, it's easier to use than Ferocious Smack. However, it doesn't give you nearly as much time as Smack does.
Buffs and Heals
Buffs first. Pretty easy for the most part - use them all. The only question I still have is whether to use Spirit Totem: Feral for the regen or Spirit Totem: Stone for the mitigation. I vary between the two at the moment. Anybody got any thoughts on this?
Heals next and there are three main ones - Blood Flow, Fierce Recovery and Renewal.
Blood Flow is an initial heal with a HoT and should be a no-brainer before opening any fight. However, when combined with the Blood Warrior feat in the Spirit tree it does a lot more than just heal. Each cast of Blood Flow stacks Blood Warrior up to 5 times which increases dps. The HoT from Blood Flow doesn't stack but increasing your dps is a no-brainer given our play style.
Fierce Recovery is the big heal plus HoT to use just after a pause move. If you can refresh a stack of Blood Flow at the same time then all the better.
Renewal has an aspect that isn't documented in the tool tip. As well as placing a HoT it also increases the damage of the next attack. This can be increased further with the Empowered Renewal feat. This is best used just before the final move of an opening combo to add another HoT to your Blood Flow at the start of a fight. In my case that becomes Crush Armour III, UL, Mid, Renewal, UR.
Nature's Wrath is yet another HoT you can stack if you choose the right feats (see below).
Given all of those HoTs it's not suprising that a BS can be a pain to take down!
I haven't put any points into the Priest tree at all yet. As I said earlier, mana is no problem and the tree requires you to put 5 points into mana regen before you can do anything else. So, Spirits and Wrath trees...
In Spirit, I've gone for the following...
- Blood Warrior 5/5
- Empowered Renewal 5/5
- Improved Spirit of the Bear 5/5
- Deft Renewal 1/3 (so far)
Blood Warrior gives you the stacking dps buff from casting Blood Flow. A full 5-stack gives me +24.5 damage. When you look at the fact that my weapon does a base 80-108 damage that is a very nice bonus thank you very much.
Empowered Renewal increases the damage of that first opening combo if you use it as I described earlier and we need to drop mobs quickly.
Improved Spirit of the Bear increases our health pool from Spirit of the Bear buff. With full 5 feat points this buff adds almost 50% to my health pool.
Deft Renewal adds additional evade chance while the renewal HoT is up. Every little helps and I have some stuff further down this tree that I like the look of.
In Wrath, I've gone for the following...
- Nature's Wrath 5/5
- Animalistic Fury 5/5
- Improved Grizzled Hide 3/3
- Crushed Bones 5/5
- Crushed Organs 3/3
- Rupture 1/1
- Battle Roar 1/1
- Ursine Roar 3/3
Nature's Wrath gives you another HoT which passively procs from normal attacks. Animalistic Fury increases your damage - nuff said. Improved Grizzled Hide increases the defence bonus from your Grizzled Hide buff. All fairly standard stuff.
Crushed Bones and Crushed Organs both improve your Internal Bleed combos. There seems to be a debate about whether it's best to use Internal Bleed or skip it and move straight to a Shrewd Blow after Crush Armour. I use Internal Bleed so I'm going to improve it, but I could be wrong.
Similar reasoning for my choice of Rupture. I always open with Crush Armour so it makes sense to improve it.
Battle Roar and Ursine Roar I'll treat together because they're flip sides of the same coin. Battle Roar increases your damage and your health; Ursine Roar decreases mob damage. These are useful little "oh s**t" buttons for when that ranged pull brings his 4 other buddies with him. When that happens you still have time to pop both roars before starting your Crush Armour opener.
One of the "downsides" of our survivability is that we can run out of stamina quite easily and a BS without combos is a dead BS normally. Adrenaline Surge is a useful spell for this situation but you have to get to level 35 to get it.
I'm not really sure what to say here as the affects seem to be a bit patchy. So take the following with a pinch of salt.
- Put some points in climbing because some quests require it
- Put some points in Bandaging to reduce downtime
- Put some points in Recovery so that a rest will fill your stamina bar completely
- Put some points in Casting Concentration to make sure you can get those battle heals off
I'm really enjoying my BS for soloing/levelling as they are an incredibly resilient class. I'm a bit stuck at the moment because at lvl 48 I can't finish off Field of the Dead and move on to the next zone (level 50) but will push on with the grind because at 50 I can continue my destiny quests and advance my gathering professions.