Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Aion Class review: The Spiritmaster

The Spiritmaster

The Spiritmaster class is not the most natural path of progression from the Mage archetype. Unlike the Sorcerer class, the Spiritmasters of Aion no longer feel the need to continue on the path of pure spell slinging, since they've unlocked the secrets to forcing the very spirits of the land to serve their needs. Just because they may not have the full magical range of their Sorcerer brethren, only a fool would believe they can't deal as much (if not more) damage.

  • High sustainable DPS
  • Multiple pet types for different situations
  • Less gear dependent than other archetypes

  • Very pet dependent
  • Hobos have better armor
  • Slow mana regeneration

Words to live by
"Possessing a pet means never having to ask for volunteers."

Yay! I’m a Spiritmaster… now gimmee.

The first thing you’ll receive is your choice of a new weapon. Up until now, you’ve been forced to flip open a spellbook, waggle your fingers, and zap some enemies. Now you can choose between another spellbook and a new weapon type: an orb. There's no reason why you can't choose the Spellbook of Karma if you're so inclined, but the Orb is a far superior choice for the Spiritmaster.

A Different Breed of Spellcaster
If there were only one piece of advice I could give players before they choose the path of the Spiritmaster, it would be this; you are no longer a Mage. As simple as it sounds, there are still a number of players out there that treat their Spiritmaster as a Mage with a new toy. During your first few levels as a Spiritmaster, it's very easy to fall into this mindset, but if you do, it's only going to make things rougher as you go along. Your pet is more than just an added boost of DPS for you and the sooner you get that through your skull, the easier your life is going to become. For some players, this will require a leap of faith, especially since it's very easy to still act like a Mage in the beginning. Trust me when I say this is a mistake. Your pet is not just added damage. They will become both your close companion and your savior.

Whenever you receive a new spell that can be used by your pets, you'll notice that some of them have a list of the different spirit types and what the spell does for them. For example, when you first become a Spiritmaster, one of the spells you'll be able to buy from the trainer is Command: Thunderbolt Claw I. The Fire and Water pets use this as a magical elemental strike, while the Earth and Wind pets use this as a sustainable attack (it ends when they get hit). Another example is Command: Threatening Stance I which you can use at level 13. The spell has different levels of effectiveness depending on which pet it's used in conjunction with. It’s virtually useless when used by the Water Spirit, but extremely effective when used with the Fire Spirit.

The key to staying alive with the Spiritmaster is learning to use the right pet for the right job and being ready to swap on the fly.

Unleash the Beast
New Spiritmasters (and all pet classes from any game) have a distinct tendency to play in one of two ways. They either treat their pet as nothing but added DPS, or they take on the role of pet cleric. Because of the order that spells come to you in Aion, becoming a pet cleric isn't really a viable option in the beginning. By the time you do get the ability to heal your pet at level 16, hopefully you'll already have your own play style and won't fall into that trap. Avoiding the first is going to require some effort for some.

The first pet you'll receive is the Fire Spirit. This floating mass of cracked lava may not be quite at the top of the food chain in terms of hit points (though he is close), but if you're looking for a pet that's able to keep mobs off of you with its taunting abilities, there's no better choice than this guy. It's for this reason that the Fire Spirit makes a good first pet.

Since you don't have the ability to force your pet to taunt until level 13 with the Threatening Stance spell, this is the perfect time to get used to sending your pet in first and letting him beat on a mob for a bit before stepping into the fray yourself. Remember that the two of you are partners and his armor and hit points are far superior to yours. You picked the second to squishiest class the game has to offer (yes, the Sorcerer is slightly worse off), so suck it up and learn how to survive. Rule number one, you are not a tank, so don't act like one.

Despite that last sentence, the Fire Spirit makes a good first pet because you also need to learn the art of pulling agro off of him when you want to. Learning this skill takes a lot of time and patience, all of it through trial and error, but believe me, this is the time to do it. During these early levels there's plenty of room for mistakes and those you make won't be anywhere near as costly now as they will be later - literally. As you go up in levels, so does the cost to heal your soul and recover lost experience for the deaths you accumulate. The best way I've learned to teach the art of agro management to players for years (if they've asked my advice) is to play a game with your pet.

Call it Fetch, or whatever you want, but the idea is to pick a mob that's at the edge of your spell casting range and send your pet in to begin the battle. The object of the game is to time it just right so that when you pull the mob off your pet, it dies at your feet, only managing to get one or two hits on you, if any. This exercise serves multiple purposes all at once. First off, this is going to give you a very distinct feel for the way you and your pet interact together. You'll soon learn when you need to step up your casting and when you need to back off. It will also save you downtime. If you leave your pet face to face with a mob for an entire battle, it's going to take more damage than it needs to and you're going to have to either recast the pet or sit for long periods of time in order for it to heal. If you pull it off the mob too soon, it's either going to chew through your Stone Skin shield too fast (making you vulnerable until its cooldown timer is finally complete) or chew through you if it's already gone, now requiring you to sit for long periods of time waiting for your health to regenerate. On top of everything else, it's also nice to not have to move to grab your well-earned loot off a corpse. The effort required to master this skill can be frustrating, but if you put the time in now, it will pay off dramatically in the future.

You Still Have to Chuck Some Spells
Mastering the relationship between yourself, your pet, and your current mob is the most important skill to get down and although it can be rough to learn, your spells are there to help you. Unlike your misguided counterpart, the Sorcerer, as a Spiritmaster, you come into your power quickly. The best set of spells you get during your early career is at level 13. Chain of Earth I is a combination DOT + Slow spell which you'll use more often than Ice Chain. Be aware that they're both on the same timer, so if you use one, you can't use the other until the cooldown timer has run its course. My favorite spell of the bunch though has to be Energy of Fire I. The description would be hard pressed to be more bland and uninformative. It merely states, "Summons 2 energies of fire and inflicts magical fire damage on a target within a 25m radius of you." Boring!

So how could such a boring sounding spell be my favorite? Because what it actually does is summon two glowing balls of flame (we got that part already, genius) that do over 100 points of damage *each* to the target. And they cast multiple times. These two little glowing balls of barely contained hell will become a central part of your damage campaign and are what allow you to create an environment of sustainable damage on a target. They'll become the best little no-named friends you ever had in a hurry.

As you continue to grow in power, you'll gain new Spirit pets which you'll need to learn how to play with. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, but it's going to take time to master them all. If you make the effort, it will be worth it. Not only to you, but to your groupmates as well. Anyone can play a Spiritmaster in the early levels, but shortly before reaching level 20, you'll begin to see a huge difference in those that learned to play them, and those that learned to play them well.

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