Can we talk about the Mana Warrior?

After extensively playing through the class, I'd like to give my take on it, what the class is, what it can be, and where it may go in the future. As well as talents and gems that I use. But let's start with the basics:

"Factory" Skills (those originating to this class) -

Arcane Charge - Charge at an enemy and deal high impact damage. 200 damage, 8 second CD
Cleave - AoE melee range attack that does 100-300 damage based on distance and an extra 100-500 damage to taunted targets. 9 second CD
**War Cry - ** Taunts nearby enemies for 8 seconds, has a 15 second CD
**Titan's Fist - ** Brief charge up then slam weapon down for 800 damage and extreme impact. If you miss, you're refunded 75% of ultimate. Comes with a built-in passive - ultimate accrue rate 50%
**Mana Strike - ** Class staple - Slam your weapon down and hit everything around you in melee range for 125 damage and grants you a damage shield equal to 10% of your maximum health as a shield (up to five targets, so 50% of maximum health damage shield) that lasts for 8 seconds. Additional passive mechanic - +750 health, heavy impact resistance, and +1 dodge charge

Strategy
So, before we get into mixing and matching abilities from other classes, let's talk about the way the class works on its own. Generally, you want to initiate with arcane charge, followed quickly by taunt and mana strike. You do not want to use cleave prior to mana strike because you'll kill everything before you have a chance to gain a damage shield from it. So always taunt and mana strike -before- you cleave. As far as your ultimate goes, because of the built-in ultimate accrue bonus, you don't ever have to worry about building that talent into your kit, since it is already maxed out. I would highly recommend saving it for elites, as I would with all ultimates in the game, generally speaking.

Gems
Because Mana Strike is based on percentage health, it's imperative to have as much health as possible, right? So grab the two health gems, Vitality Sapphire (+730 health) and Vitality Ruby (+365 health) for a quick +1000ish health. As far as blue and red gems go from there, people have their own opinions. For me, I prefer the life steal (Draining Light Sapphire and Draining Light Ruby). I've tested it quite a bit alongside my teammate that I game with. We've tried multiple builds with the Mana Warrior alongside each other and compared stats and at the end of an objective, I always had a leg up over him in terms of health. By the end of the match, simply from auto-attacking and nothing else, on average I heal my entire health bar once or twice over. It's not MUCH, but it makes a difference statistically. Some people prefer more damage - maybe they can rotate the Mana Strike and keep their armor up better and/or more efficiently and don't need that extra healing. Everyone will have their own build when it comes to the second blue/red gem, but I strongly believe the best option is to build around Mana Strike, which means having the most HPs possible.

As for gray gems, this one is very important: Reverse Knockback is, by and far, the best gem in the game in my opinion. What this means is that anything you do, impact damage, etc, that would otherwise knock the target -back-, now instead knocks the target DOWN. A downed target is helpless (really, really great against heavies and elites). I will always bet on knock down, knock back is, in my opinion, useless. I put Reverse Knockback on every class, no matter what. As for the other gray gem, my go-to is **Mana Strike Damage ** - it reduces your overall damage shield by 25% but it raises the damage of your mana strike by 60%. With the sheer amount of shield you get, it's actually pretty fantastic and in combination with the Arcane Charge talent (see below in talents), and Cleave, you can wipe a whole group of enemies with one full combo.

Equipment/Talents
What piece of gear you wear doesn't matter, all that matters is the talent that it offers. Combinations of talents are secondary, as, situationally, you may choose one talent over another so ideally you want to have a piece of gear that can provide both options for a certain level (such as tier 3 and tier 4).

Level 1 - Breach protection (breaches cannot be placed within 5m of you). This is a staple for any class. Just get it. While I think there are abilities that should fall under this that don't, and I believe we need a little more transparency as to what is considered a breach and what isn't, as well as a better definition of what this entails, no matter what you want it as soon as possible, with few exceptions (I'll get into that when I talk about the Engineer).
Level 2 - After using Arcane Charge the caster gains 30% Haste for 3s. I just haven't found anything so far that out performs this yet. It's my go-to.
Level 3 - (This tier is a bit more complicated, as there are a couple different options, I'll explain further below, but for now assume you're only using the factory settings for the class). At this tier, it depends on whether I'm seeing the VD possess elites and such. If you're noticing a lot of possessions, go with dealing damage to a possessed enemy with basic attacks applies a 10% slow for 10s. Stacks up to 4 times. Otherwise, go with Arcane Charge now creates an explosion on arrival, dealing 200 damage and moderate impact to nearby enemies. So it behooves you to find a piece of gear that has BOTH talents on it. The important thing about the Arcane Charge talent is that it provides bonus damage in an AOE around you, but it also has moderate impact (which can potentially cause an AoE knockdown).
Level 4 - Believe it or not, the standard weapon you start with is all you need. It provides both talents that I believe are the best for the class - 1. Basic attacks are echoed. More damage is never a bad thing, particularly when you are lifestealing off every hit. 2. However, in those situations where you have the VD that drops those slow crystals that can stop you to a crawl, pick up the immunity to slow talent. Then you become unstoppable and can pretty much ignore those annoying things, especially when they are placed in impossible-to-reach areas (hopefully the devs will fix that, I find it difficult to swallow that that is working as intended).

Recommended Swappable Skills
Now this is where the Mana Warrior REALLY shines to the point of being overpowered (we'll get to that).

  1. Switch out Taunt for Guard - As long as an ally is within 10m of your character, they take 80% damage resistance and you take 75% of the remaining damage. So, essentially, it's a free 25% damage resistance buff for you and an 80% damage resistance buff for your target (which I will always throw on the healer). In my experience, Taunt is relatively useless because the regular minions are killed so fast that it doesn't matter, and if the VD is possessing an elite or heavy, then taunt doesn't work anyway. The only reason to have taunt is to increase the damage of Cleave. Which leads me to...
  2. Switch out Cleave for Bastard Cleave - As you take damage, you gain stacks (up to 6). The chart is as follows: Damage 135/240/415/660/975/1360 (or 100 base damage with no stacks). The amount of damage required to reach each stack tier: 200/250/400/650/1,000/1,450. You heal for 50% of the damage done if you use Bastard Cleave at 2 or more stacks.

Comments

    1. Switch out your ultimate, Titan's Fist, for the Vanguard's ultimate, **Strike of Aegis - ** This is leaps and bounds the absolute best ultimate in the battle class group in my honest opinion. Over the course of 5 seconds, you pull ALL enemies on the screen toward you and at the end, deal high impact 875 damage to everything around you. During the charge, you have 90% damage resistance. This is leaps and bounds the most effective ultimate in the battle group, particularly when your team is starting to get overrun. And it makes a FANTASTIC combo with the Engineer's ultimate. When me and my buddy play together, we combo those two ultimates and my Engineer consistently ends up with 19-23 missiles every time. (More on that in my Engineer discussion at a later date)
      (ALL of these abilities come from the Vanguard kit, so if your interest is in playing the battle class group, that should be the first thing you purchase with gold.)

    Now you are an unstoppable juggernaut. With damage shield from Mana Strike, you can take a lot of "free" damage that builds stacks without having to worry about dropping your hitpoints. And then, when needed, unleash hell with the Bastard Cleave during those moments where you do need to self heal. Just make sure you hit as many people as possible! Guard is just one of the best abilities in the game, in my opinion. Between your damage shield a la Mana Strike and the heal from Bastard Cleave, it's nothing for you to absorb all that extra damage from the target you have Guard on, making the Guard target pretty much invulnerable and impossible to kill. In fact, there is a tier 3 talent on gear you can pick up that makes the target you're guarding IMMUNE to stuns. Yes. That is a completely viable build. I sometimes use that talent when I'm in a controlled team and not just playing by myself.

    So where do you think the devs will go from here?
    That's the million dollar question. Often times, a skill isn't overpowered on its own, but in concert with other abilities, particularly in a game where you can mix and match abilities from other classes, something that would work as intended in one kit, is entirely overpowered in another. I will avoid weighing in too much on abilities as they function within the kit (for example, it's easy to say Bastard Cleave is OP in concert with Mana Strike, but within the Vanguard kit, it is working as intended - the problem, I believe, is more on Mana Strike itself and not on the combination), but I will say this about Mana Strike: 10% hit point damage shield per target is pretty overpowered, no matter how you look at it. Resisting the urge to knee-jerk nerf something, I would recommend tailoring it back to 7% maximum HP shield at first, and test the waters. See how it plays out from there. Or even consider making it a flat amount per target, rather than a percentage of your overall hitpoints. If you make it a flat amount, it will encourage more build diversity as people won't absolutely HAVE to pick up the hitpoint gems, since the amount of your maximum HPs wouldn't matter anymore. As it stands, with the extra 1000ish hit points and the 700ish passive from Mana Strike, you're talking about a damage shield, depending on how many people you hit, up to 2000ish every 4 seconds. Keep in mind, this shield lasts for 8 seconds. I would, at the very least, reduce the time the shield lasts down to match the cool down of the ability, so you are forced to use it more reactively rather than just spam it mindlessly. At any rate, I can definitely see the devs tuning Mana Strike down, as it certainly needs it. But I would caution against the tendency to OVER under tune, or OVER over tune in reaction to an outcry from a frustrated community. Always balance in small increments, especially in a game where most of the skills, including ultimates, are swappable.

    At any rate, I hope this post helps new players and shines a light on current combos as well as, hopefully, new ones moving forward. And, well, makes me look cool for figuring all this out and trying to make the best possible combinations of skills and gems and stuff. I've spent a long time play testing which led to this post. Enjoy!

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