A Question of Axes (or picking a melee dps)

I was trying to come up with a post that would actually help people who read it, instead of the usual whine/personal post (which no one reads, /cry). And I came up with quite an ingenious way to combine my altitis and my urge to blog. See, currently I have a 40 White Lion, Marauder and now a Slayer. Yes, somehow, suddenly, out of the blue, I found a 40 Slayer when I logged on. I think he might have just snuck on my account and made a home for himself. Would be rude to kick him out now.

In any case, I will be comparing three medium armored melee dps, my White Lion, Marauder and Slayer at lower renown ranks to find out their strengths, weaknesses and possible playstyles. I will be pitting them against each other and rating different aspects of gameplay on a scale of 1-3. The result should be a solid comparison between the three and an informative post. Hopefully, this will help new players and veterans alike decide on a melee dps career.

Edit: As I realised that one blog post for all 3 careers would be too big, I decided to split them up into three parts. Part one, the White Lion, out now! Part two, the Slayer, coming soon!

(Please note: the numerical values are only given in comparison with the other two careers. They would most likely be very different when comparing more careers.)

Quicklinks for other two careers:

White Lion

White Lions have been around since launch, a favourite of many players at the time, even though many complained that White Lions are more of a tank career in table-top games, and should be switching places with the Swordmaster. Quite a lot of the players were initially disappointed as the career was plagued by problems and kept getting nerfed. Recently though, Mythic has managed to squeeze a completely unrelated buff to make them deadlier without fixing the bugs and design flaws that have been persisting since the launch. Today the career seems to be in quite a good shape, mostly because one of the more effective builds has been buffed and is considered a standard cookie cutter spec.

Survivability:

White Lions are quite durable because they wear medium armor and, unlike Slayers, don’t have a mechanic that would sacrifice their survivability in favour of damage. They can adapt to be quite strong against physical dps with speccing into Guardian and getting Baited Trap, which includes a heavy-duty armor buff. Higher ranked players have been able to make survivability builds based on armor and parry work very well by using Flashing Claws and Riposte. In addition, White Lions’ high mobility, that will be looked at later, can prove to increase their survivability by quite a lot when used properly.

Medium armor and limited survivability tools net White Lions a survivability rating of 2 out of 3.

Mobility:

The career is famous for its amazing mobility, mainly thanks to Pounce. Melee DPS are usually quite resilient to kiting and have a number of tools to deal with the fact that they need to be in melee range to be effective. They have an activated 10 second immunity to roots and snares together with Charge, which increases their movement speed by 50% for 10 seconds. This, along with immunities on crowd control, can nearly always keep MDPS in the fight and make sure they will only be rendered helpless when a skilled kiter (a Shaman or a Squig Herder) comes into play. But throw in the mix an ability that basically teleports the player over the battlefield to the target, and you have a career that can’t be kited.

This unmatched mobility is exactly what makes WLs so unique. Almost every player will spec into Hunter tree just to get Pounce, if nothing else. Which enables WLs to be pretty much everywhere on the battlefield at the same time, and unleash their full burst potential by switching targets. Not to mention that a proficient player can use this skill defensively to get out of sticky situations and increase the careers survivability.

Even though Pounce is not without flaws, White Lions get a mobility rating of 3 out of 3.

Burst:

If you are looking for burst, it doesn’t get much better than this. This career is probably the melee dps career with the most burst out there. Simply because most of its abilities are direct high damage abilities with a high cost and cooldown. Combine that with two-handed weapons, which produce high spikes, and the newly acquired armor debuff, and the result is a burst beast.

The guy that can kill a clothie in three global cooldowns gets a 3 out of 3 for burst.

Sustained damage:

Unlike burst damage, sustained damage is something White Lions don’t excel at. The AP cost of most abilities is at least 5-10 AP higher than the cost of equal abilities on other careers. Mythic justifies this with the fact that the pet Lion doesn’t use AP and is essentially free damage (ignoring the fact that the pet scales poorly and is thick as an upgraded keep door, but that’s a discussion for another time). The important thing to note is that White Lions get only one AP management tactic, and a very poor one at that, as it only decreases the cost of 2 abilities, one of which is an AoE. This means that, while their damage for the first 15-20 sec will be extremely high, a WL will run out of steam soon after, relying on either team mates with AP regeneration abilities, AP pots or Force of Will morale 2. This is why the WLs philosophy when attacking healers basically comes down to “If you don’t kill them before you run out of AP, you probably aren’t going to”.

That doesn’t mean that the class is completely harmless when drained of AP. Their auto attack will still hit for considerable damage, especially if they are running the 50% haste tactic, and the pet adds a bit of damage aswell.

Because of the absence of AP management tools and high AP costs, White Lions get a 1 out of 3 for sustained damage.

Crowd Control:

Once again, this isn’t one of the career’s strong points. White Lions have virtually no crowd control, save for a silence, a morale 1 root, a speccable interrupt and a speccable stun. Both the silence and stun are tied to the confused pet, which leaves those who choose to walk the path of a loner without any means to control the flow of the battle. Another problem is that, while the silence and the stun are player activated, they trigger when the pet decides to do so, if at all. A perfect recipe for hair pulling moments.

But White Lions do have one unique form of CC that they share with the Marauders. It’s a single target pull ability called Fetch. It sounds good on paper, but the decision to make it tied to the pet, who has gone past the punch bowl a few times too many, makes it a highly situational ability at best and a party trick at worst (look at what mah kitty can do!).

With a straightforward “kill or die trying” approach White Lions get only 1 out of 3 for crowd control.

Utility:

On the buff/debuff front White Lions fare better, especially with the last change when they were given a high value armor debuff. If you summarise all of their abilities, they can debuff the enemy’s strength and attack speed with core abilities, can spec for an armor buff and debuff, an outgoing heal debuff and a disorient. The pet can further debuff the target’s armor and attack speed. The WL can also spec for a 25% damage buff for 10 seconds. All this sounds good in theory, but the problem is that most of the debuffs (and the damage buff) are positional, meaning that you need to be at your target’s side or rear for them to work properly. A big drawback here is that WLs actually have no group buffs.

While the debuffs and buffs sound nice, they are very hard to use properly. 1 out of 3 for utility.

PvE:

If you have any experience with PvE at all, you must have realised by now that WLs aren’t everyone’s favourite party member when it comes to dungeons. Burst is mostly irrelevant in PvE, where sustained damage is the king (there are exceptions of course). And while WLs have problems in the sustained dps department, they can rival the overall damage of other careers when in a properly setup group. A Runepriest with the AP tactic and master rune, a salvation Warrior Priest with the AP tactic and morale 2 or an Ironbreaker’s oathfriend AP ability, with everyone slotting appropriate morales will all but eliminate the need for AP. In such a group setup, the White Lion might just aswell be a Slayer or a Witch Hunter.

White Lions don’t have much to offer to their group, besides their enormous… dps. But the armor debuff will help physical dps heavy groups sweep through dungeons, while the attack speed debuff will be appreciated by tanks and healers (when it works).

PvE warriors will be happy to note that White Lions get a 2 out of 3 for their efforts.

AoE:

And again, AoE is not the White Lion’s forté. They have exactly one baseline AoE ability, which costs 50 AP and does only moderate damage. They can also spec for an AoE interrupt, that comes with a DoT, and a channeled AoE ability that deals moderate damage. The pet has some minor AoE barely worth pointing out. With their AP shortage, high costs for AoE abilities, uninspiring damage of physical nature and very little AoE utility to back it up with, they aren’t exactly an AoE powerhouse. A persistent player may enjoy such a spec, if only for reinforcing their groups AoE.

You can try, but you will most likely fail. 1 out of 3 for AoE.

Common Specs:

Here I’ll outline main abilities and tactics in specific mastery trees. These can then be combined to form a myriad of different specs, so these are just guidelines.

Hunter

Abilities and tactics that are usually bought in the Hunter tree are Pounce (hulk smash move), Force Opportunity (armor debuff), Pack Hunting (50% auto attack haste in TTH) and Lionheart (Lion’s Fury does more damage, costs less AP and doesn’t require a cursed target). It’s possible to get Whirling Axe together with Hack and Slash for a quasi AoE build, but not recommended.

In the past, this tree was usually a secondary choice, but with the armor debuff change it’s becoming the main tree for many players in order to increase the value of the new Force Opportunity.

Axeman

Most players pick up two strongest abilities in this tree, Primal Fury (25% damage buff for 10 seconds) and Cull the Weak (a heavy hit usable when target is at 50% hp). Full Grown (strength bonus for the player and hp bonus for the pet) is a viable tactic for fledgling WLs. A lot of players feel that Thin the Herd (50% outgoing healing debuff) is a bit of a waste, since healers are best killed, instead of debuffed, and are of the opinion that the career isn’t suited for a debuffing role. Blindsided! (50% disorient for Blindside) also fits this stigma.

Guardian

All three abilities in this tree serve a purpose. Echoing Roar (AoE interrupt with a DoT) is absolutely critical at any higher level of play, when the player is adept enough at spotting things like Rend Soul, Furious Choppin, various rezes and long cast heals, and will use the interrupt to turn the tables on careers that are normally hard to kill. Brutal Pounce (3 second stun) is the only real hard CC a WL can get and understandably, some players swear by it. Leonine Frenzy (pet deals additional damage with each attack) has been very powerful in the past, up to the point where the pet could solo healers. It was nerfed, but it can still serve as the main source of damage for a Guardian WL, since it scales off the player’s strength and crit chance. Baited Trap (armor and disrupt buff on Baiting Strike) is likewise a worthwhile investment for a Guardian WL, since it increases their survivability and gives the pet time to work it’s magic (if being stupid is magic).

Tips

  1. If you are planing on playing with the pet, download the LoyalPet addon. It solves many pet connected problems and makes it easier to control it.
  2. Get a Kamenra and slot it. It makes enough of a difference to warrant sacrificing a talisman slot, even at lower renown ranks.
  3. Learn to use AP potions and learn to love Force of Will morale 2. You’ll be using both, a lot.
  4. Learn to kite with the pet. It has a snare, you have Charge and Feline Grace. It comes in handy in many situations.
  5. Spec for Force Opportunity and Pounce, life as a lowbie WL will be much easier with those.
  6. Always try to assist Slayers and Witch Hunters. They don’t have an armor debuff, you don’t have a heal debuff. Together you can chew through the toughest of enemies.
  7. If you are always running Loner, it’ll be hard to adjust to the pet if it turns out you need one (who knows, maybe they’ll fix it).
  8. Pack Hunting only becomes really worth it once you have a high dps weapon, as auto attacks benefit from weapon dps a lot.
  9. Pack Synergy only becomes really worth it once you have around 15% or so crit.
  10. Do not fetch near warcamps or guards. Once the pet gets going it’s hard to stop the damn furball. You might end up killing a warband like that.
  11. Beware of stealthed Witch Elves, Tanks and melee DoKs.

Closing Thoughts

The White Lion is best described as a hit & run character, who preys on anything wearing cloth or even medium armor. When playing one, you will pounce a target and unload everything you have on it. If the enemy doesn’t die in a healthy amount of time, you shouldn’t hang around. If you have no support incoming and there is no break in the targets defenses, pulling back or picking a new target is the best idea. If focused, you will go down fast, unless you can manage a quick pounce to safety. When alone in a situation like that, your best bet is to get some AP, or kite until you can regenerate it naturally.

Whether playing Axeman or Hunter, with the pet or as a loner, that’s pretty much how it goes. But when running a heavy guardian build (which isn’t recommended for lower ranked players) you will be slower, since a good portion of the damage is done by the pet, which naturally needs time to catch up. Speed Training will help. Granted, you will need the pet as such a build simply doesn’t work when playing a loner WL. On the other hand, a guardian build is also the most versatile of the three.

I’d recommend this career to players that are thrilled at the prospect of a fast paced, frantic playstyle. Players who don’t like to always rely on their team mates and want to be powerful in their own right, but be able to fit in a group just as easily. Just remember that you will need a lot of anger management, because at times you will feel like chewing up the pet.

The good:

  • High burst.
  • High mobility.
  • In the top half of mdps by durability.
  • Good capacity for solo hunting.

The bad:

  • AP starvation.
  • Pet more stupid than the former US president.
  • Pet more disoriented than a compass at the magnetic north pole.
  • Almost no CC, what you have is tied to the pet.
  • Useless PvE tactics (75% decreased threat on pet, wth?).
  • High gear dependency.

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5 thoughts on “A Question of Axes (or picking a melee dps)

    • I do use LoyalPet and I did mention it in the post. The problem is that even lp can’t fix the pathing issues and the spacing out the pet does. I’m thinking more in the lines of a narcoleptic pet, just falls asleep sometimes and then wakes up 2 zones later.

      Where have you been mate, how come you aren’t blogging? Busy? :)

  1. Lots of hate on the pet.

    1- slot loner if you hate him.

    2- Armor debuff. With warlord armor you can knock off 2800 armor.

    I love my kitty. He’s retarded yes. But I’m used to it.

    • Also, your article doesn’t mention 75% hate reduction tactic. Combine that with Loner and you are PvE king. To be able to basically do what a BW can’t but also never being a Tank headache.

      WL are the PvE masters when it comes to it.

      • 1. If I slot loner I lose fetch and silence, two tools that are very useful when soloing. If I’m in a group with support, ofc loner is the way to go. But that doesn’t mean that the pet doesn’t need to be fixed. And what about guardians? You can’t be a guardian without a pet, and as long as it’s retarded that spec is subpar.

        2. Slayer, WL and Choppa get a corrosion proc on their warlord gear, dunno why that is relevant? I don’t really get your point here.

        I do mention PvE tactics under the bad with a WTF. Seriously no career should need to spec for PvE tactics, and no career does, except WLs. Well I don’t know any that do, a guard and detaunt should be fine.

        I don’t really know where you get the idea that WLs are kings of PvE, when BWs and Slayers both outdps them and have more utility.

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