Neverwinter DC General Guide
Neverwinter DC General Guide by Llucid
This post is to serve as a central place for information concerning Devoted Cleric Powers, Feats and Builds. While information on this topic is available elsewhere, the motivation behind this post is to create a central area for TAW members and affiliates to reference and discuss Devoted Cleric knowledge.
Just a quick disclaimer that information of this type, as in any MMO, is always in a constant state of flux. Developers are ever tweaking and reworking class powers and feats in their endless and thankless quest for the perfect class balance. With that in mind, it is my intent that this post be a “living” document- that is I will be updating this post to reflect the most recent information. That being said, please feel free to correct me or add information to it if you find this post lacking.
Introduction to Healing in Neverwinter
MMOs owe a lot to early pioneer games that helped define the genre. Games such as Ultima Online, Everquest, and Dark Ages of Camelot went through great lengths to help solidify massive multiplayer online games as a legitimate form of entertainment and a viable business.
Perhaps no MMO has had more impact on the brand then World of Warcraft (WoW). While WoW cannot be credited with creating every MMO mechanic and principle we see today, they certainly are responsible for propagating certain methods and ideas into the mainstream, while others (often referred to as “WoW Clones”) followed suit. Many players are familiar with concepts such as “The Holy Trinity” (Tank + Healer + DPS) simply because they once played WoW. For points of comparison I will be using WoW, simply because so many people have played it and are familiar with its mechanics.
Healing in many MMOs is a pretty consistent experience. Typically a Healer will stand outside of the fight, staring at their group panel and watching the green bars. When a group member takes damage, they cast a heal. That heal may be any variety of HOT (Heal over time), DH (Direct heal), Single target, AOE (Area of Effect), etc. (PBAOEHOT anyone?), but essentially it is the same thing- staring at green bars. This is often referred to with such affectionate terms like “Healbotting” and “Whack-a-mole”. Because of this, many players will create a Healer on Neverwinter with certain expectations.
Neverwinter (NW) has added its own spin on the classic Healer role. Because NW is more of an MMOARPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Action Role Playing Game. The camera behavior, dodge mechanics and player controls are more aligned with a third-person shooter than an RPG game), some of the tradition MMO mechanics had to change. These changes often cause disappointment in new players, because it does not line up with their preconceived ideas of a typical MMO healer. You often see these players roll a Devoted Cleric, try to play them like a WoW Priest, and then invade the game forums, complaining about fundamental NW mechanics and starting polls and petitions to make NW more WoW-like. This is not a failure on the game’s part. Rather, this is people not allowing the NW to be its own game.
Healing in NW is a challenging, fun, and rewarding experience. The number of “adds” (additional smaller monsters fighting alongside a larger “boss” monster) combined with the lack of group member targeting (no “mouse-click targeting” or predefined group targeting hot keys) is enough to have even veteran WoW Healers scratching their heads. Misunderstanding of Healer dynamics in NW have led to an exodus of sorts, with Devoted Cleric numbers dwindling lower and lower.
NW Healing VS WoW Healing
I’ve mentioned “Whack-a-mole” healing; the idea of staring at green bars and “whacking” (healing) a bar if it moves. This sort of behavior, while common on many mainstream MMOs, is actually detrimental to healing in NW. Burst single-target healing is lacking in NW, with the emphasis being placed on AOE healing and damage mitigation. This means that a NW healer must be constantly aware of the environment, the placement of group members, and how the battle is unfolding. It is still important to watch the life bars of the group, but this needs to supplement your visual awareness of the fight and not replace it.
A Devoted Cleric is not a Healbot, and in NW healing life bars is only part of what we do. To better understand NW healing, one should to be familiar with Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition (D&D 4e), the pencil and paper (PnP) game that Neverwinter is (loosely) based on. D&D 4e classes fall into four general roles:
- Controllers – AoE DPSers that are geared towards facing a large number of monsters at once, with an emphasis on “controlling” them through damage and debuff abilities.
- Defenders – Classes (typically melee) that focus on keeping the attention of monsters and absorbing large amounts of damage.
- Strikers – Mobile classes that focus on heavy single-target damage, but have weaker defenses.
- Leaders- Classes focused on supporting the rest of their team through healing and buffs.
While Leaders do provide healing, they are so much more than that. Leaders have a variety of skills/spells and buffs that help define the current engagement. Where we place our Astral Shield (the “blue circle” that is, perhaps, the most powerful non-daily ability in the game) will be where the fight happens. Who we debuff will be who the DPS goes after. When looking at the Devoted Cleric in this light it’s easier to grasp the true scope of the class.
Grouping Requirements in Neverwinter
Since the concept of the Leader role is more general in terms of group support, and the mechanics of Neverwinter don’t favor group member targeting, then the typical single-target burst healing play style so dominant in other game is out the window. Because of this, the following guidelines need to be followed:
- Group members must dodge out of red circles. The lion’s share of damage that the group receives is from monster abilities that are easily dodged and avoided. Pre-balance patch 100% Astral Shield created very lazy players that will literally ignore red circles and rely exclusively on healing from the Cleric. You now see these lazy players crying on the forums and claiming that the Cleric class is destroyed. It isn’t. Learn to dodge.
- Group members must use potions to recover from spike damage. If you notice a group member suddenly drop from full health to 10% (probably from standing in a red circle), do not blow everything you have on trying to heal them up. We only have 3 encounters and so much Divinity. It is not worth it to drop that Bastion of Health on a single group member only to put the rest of your group in danger while you’re waiting for the 18 second cooldown. Cryptic has made potions absolutely required in Dungeons, and if you don’t have a stock of them then you are hurting your group and your Healer.
- Proper pulling must be observed. Remember those days Pre-balance patch when you’d pull the whole room and AOE them down? Yeah, not anymore. The group now needs to carefully and systematically clear a dungeon leading up to the boss, pulling monster groups in such a way that you face as few monsters as possible. This sometimes means you have to wait a couple minutes for a roaming pack of monsters to go away, or for them to roam to a certain point where you can isolate and ambush them.
- Proper positioning must be observed. You and your group need to get into a groove where you know where everyone is at all times. Not only does this make it easier to keep tabs on people during the fight, but group positioning is important in keeping your group alive. The typical setup is the Defenders up on the front line, the Strikers opposite the Defenders for Combat Advantage, the Controller in the back lines of the group and the Leader right in the middle. If a Controller pulls agro (they will, their AOE will hit monsters that the Defenders haven’t Taunted yet), the Controller moves closer to the Cleric and begins to kite (leading the monsters around without getting hit by them). Great Weapon Fighters and Trickster Rogues always quick on the dodge to avoid red circles from the boss. Guardian Fighter keeping his shield ready to block. Most bosses have large PBAOE powers that cause the group formation to momentarily collapse into disarray while everyone dodges and readjusts. The secret is to come back together into formation as soon as possible. There’s a rhythm to it that you’ll start feeling as you gain experience. Also concerning positioning, always make sure you know the monster’s abilities and your environment before engaging. Nothing beats pulling a monster to a cliff to knock him off, only to have him AOE knockback your whole crew off the cliff instead.
- Proper timing is everything. Do not, I repeat, do not lay an Astral Shield down and start Astral Sealing everything before your Defender has started the fight. The Balance patch fixed Threat on a general level, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore Threat now. If you hit a monster or heal a group member before they’ve established good Threat on a monster, that monster will come after you. Always be aware of your Controller and what they are doing to control the adds. Don’t AOE knockback (Divine Sunburst) a group of monsters that the Controller is trying to gather to AOE. You need to get to a point where you can anticipate what is happening, never healing before it’s needed, and always providing the right amount of healing at the exact right time.
Neverwinter Healer Characteristics
While WoW-type MMOs tend to relegate the healers into a role that essentially makes them a walking auto-potion that fills life bars when they aren’t full, the Devoted Cleric in NW actually has multiple aspects that complement each other. I like to group Devoted Cleric functions into four general categories:
- Healing – Abilities that restore the life of group members
- Damage Mitigation- Abilities that prevent or lessen damage received
- Enemy debuffs – Abilities that weaken a monster or enemy in a certain way
- Group member buffs- Abilities that strengthen a particular aspect of a group member
The synergy that exists between these areas should be obvious. High Damage Mitigation equals less healing required. Debuffing enemies means they will do less damage or take more damage, lessening the amount of sustained healing that is needed in the fight. Buffing allies allows them to take less damage or do more damage, also lowering the healing needed. In NW, keeping your group alive and having a successful dungeon run doesn’t necessarily mean having to put everything into raw healing numbers. Increasing your power in one of the above areas will increase the effectiveness of all areas, and the priority you place on these areas is up to personal preference and play style.
Because Neverwinter has designed the Devoted Cleric this way, there are a variety of different approaches one could take when “speccing” (specializing, the combination of stats, powers, and feats you’ve put points into to custom tailor your character) your Cleric. I will outline some of the popular approaches in this guide, but you are encouraged to test out builds of your own.
Previously, trying out different builds was a very costly endeavor, with Respec Tokens costing around $6 a pop. Besides the 50% permanent price cut to Respec Tokens, free Tokens are now available in the Preview testing shard. There are also a variety of tools available on the internet, including Build Calculators- a special tool that imitates the powers and feats window in the game and allows you to play with different builds. Popular Build Calculator websites include:
An Brief Introduction to Character Creation and Stats
When creating your character, it is always best to do so with your ultimate level 60 goal in mind. Respec Tokens have a considerable cost, and they currently do not allow you to reset you initial stat roll. Our safety net is that it appears that major changes to class powers and feats will be accompanied by a free Respec Tokens (at least, that’s how it’s been in the past. We can only hope Cryptic continues that). As a side note free Respec Tokens are classified differently than purchased Respec Tokens. You can stack as many Purchased Respec Tokens as you want, but free Respec Tokens do not stack. If you are holding on to one, and Cryptic decides to give out another free Respec Token, then you will not get it because you already have one.
Ultimately race, much like your character Ability Score, won’t make or break your character, unless you are a “min-maxer” (a person who focuses on creating the absolute best build, to the point of obsession. They often use mathematical formulas and elaborate spreadsheets to find the best combination of stats and powers. Min-maxers are the people who establish the popular builds used by the rest of the class population, and much is owed to their laborious, and often thankless, work). There are differences, however, and I’ll briefly introduce them to you here.
The most widely accepted races for Devoted Clerics is Human, Tiefling, Drow and Half-Elf. This is because the stat bonuses from these races supplement the primary and secondary stats for Devoted Clerics. By and large, for Devoted Clerics, stats (and aesthetics, of course) are going to be the primary reason for choosing one race over the other. The only exception is Humans. Humans are given 3 extra Heroic Feat points, regardless of class. This gives humans the edge and has made the Human race the most dominate race in the game.
Stats include your Ability Score (seen on the right hand side of the Character Sheet window) as well as item stats. When creating your character, you will determine your primary and secondary stats with your class selection, and you will “roll” different Ability Score starting numbers for your character. I put “roll” in quotations because it actually isn’t a random point assignment. There are actually a handful of pre-determined Ability Scores and pressing the “Re-roll” button simply cycles through these options.
I’ve mentioned before that your starting Ability Score won’t make or break your character at endgame (the min-maxer exception is always in effect). This may seem surprising, but there are a couple reasons for this.
- Diminishing Returns (DR)- The actual impact of some stats are lessened as a stat reaches larger and larger numbers. To put this plainly (numbers are just for illustration), it may take you 2,000 of a particular stat to reach a 20% bonus, but another 2,000 would only give you 10% more of that same stat. This typically means that you want to stack a particular stat to a certain point (determined by when DR starts impacting the stat to a large degree) and then move on to another stat to focus on.
- Stat Caps-There is not a whole lot of information available on Ability Score Caps, and most people don’t worry about them since DR keeps them from stacking a particular stat too high. Nevertheless they are there, and are extremely important when your current stats are combined with bonuses from powers and feats. An example of this is Damage Mitigation, currently capped at 80%. You do not want to build your Cleric with the intent of giving 100% Damage Mitigation, as you can never get more than 80%.
- Endgame Armor sets-There is a limited amount of endgame armor sets that are available to your character. Each armor set has its own stats and bonuses. It is important to familiarize yourself with these stats and bonuses so that you can plan accordingly. There’s no reason to raise a particular ability score so high that, combined with your endgame armor, you are pushed beyond the point where DR is excessive, or even reach a Stat Cap.
- Powers and Feats- Powers and Feats play a role in Stat selection because certain powers and feats grant bonuses that can push your stats higher. This will be explored more in the Powers and Feats section, but are an important consideration.
Because of the above factors your starting Ability Score isn’t as crucial as in some other games. The common approach when rolling is to either push up a certain Ability if you know that Stat will be lacking on your end gear game, to free you up from having to use a certain item or gear set bonus when your level 60, or to go with a completely balanced build. It largely falls on personal preference.
In Neverwinter each class has one Primary and two Secondary Abilities. For the Devoted Cleric, Wisdom is your Primary Ability while Strength and Charisma are your Secondary Abilities. The in-game tool-tips provide explanations for what all the different Abilities influence, so for this section I’ll just elaborate on our Primary and Secondary Abilities.
- Wisdom- Our Primary Ability, that main impact that it will have on your character is to increase the raw healing numbers that you do. Wisdom is the equivalent to the gear stat Power.
- Strength- A Secondary Ability, Devoted Clerics care about Strength because it increases our Critical Chance. Strength is the equivalent to the gear stat Critical Strike.
- Charisma- Another Secondary Ability, Charisma influences a Cleric’s recharge speed, that is it lowers the cooldowns of our Encounters. Charisma is the equivalent to the gear stat Recovery.
The above, of course, are not the only Stats that you’ll have interest in, but they are the main ones that are going to affect how well you can heal. Tweaking them one way or the other will give you larger heals but longer cooldowns between, or being able to cast heals faster but the heals themselves being weaker overall. Like, I’ve said before, it’s largely up to your individual play style and build to determine which stat you focus on. Don’t be fooled into thinking Wisdom should take priority simple because it is our Primary Stat. I simply use the terms “Primary” and “Secondary” because that’s how they are referred to in-game.
For those newer to the class, or who aren’t interested in too much experimentation, the general rule of thumb is to try and get your Power, Crit and Recovery to 3,000, with the general priority of Crit > Recovery > Power for Critical based builds or Recover > Crit > Power for other builds. You don’t have to get exactly to 3,000 in a particular stat, that is just the level that DR is known to start kicking in hardcore. Just get to a level that you are comfortable with before focusing on the next Stat. 2,500 Critical Strike on a Cleric is perfectly respectable, and will give you around 30% Critical Chance. You also want to shoot for around 2,000 Defense. This will provide you with enough protection to take a hit without dropping like a bag of potatoes.