Waging WAR: The Nagaryth Chronicles, part two

Waging WAR continues this week with the second installment of the Nagaryth Chronicles -- an in-depth look at the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning's shadow warrior. We'll talk about how the career performs through tier two, identify key abilities, and open the floor to discussion about how we might begin to remedy some of the most basic issues with the career. So nock another arrow and let's get started.

First things first. I want to quickly respond to a few of the reader comments left on last week's column.

@MiloMenderBender: After you pointed out my target selection could be wrong, I started paying attention to my damage vs. the varying enemy careers. Your suggestion to pay closer attention to damage-per-kill rather than overall made perfect sense, and I'm now making more careful and efficient targeting decisions -- with satisfying results.
@Kyelthis: Your keybinding suggestions were excellent and definitely worth trying out.
@ShadowWAR: After reading your comment, it took only a moment to pay closer attention and confirm that the stances are not on the global cooldown (GCD) and skirmish stance does indeed return 1:1 ballistics to strength from items only.
@ the rest: Thank you for your contributions, and, although I'm hesitant to have this series turn into a conversation about mirrors, issues with the game in general or concerns with other careers, I want you to know that I read all of your comments and appreciate your feedback.

Moving on, let's continue with my impressions and issues with the shadow warrior through tier two after the break.

My experience with the shadow warrior has been almost exclusively as it applies to RvR. Scenarios in tier two seemed to be non-existent, whereas warbands were constantly running and available whenever I looked for one, regardless of the time of day. Because of this, my choice for mastery was the Path of the Scout, due to almost always being in a position where entrenched, long-range, burst damage was preferred over medium- to short-range mobility and crowd control. However, this path led to one of the most frustrating issues I've ever had with any of the careers I've played or sampled in WAR: My shadow warrior throughout tier two was starved for action points (AP). I had to constantly watch my yellow bar. I have no idea as to why this might be, but I can make a few guesses. It could be a combination of many factors, including: my character's youth (thus her relatively small AP pool); the high cost of Eagle Eye, which is the bread-and-butter damage skill for the shadow warrior during the lower levels; and having a cooldown on all other long-range skills, which forces multiple uses of Eagle Eye in a single rotation.

"[The] No Quarter tactic transforms this issue from being an annoyance to a self-lockdown, making the career virtually unplayable."

The ability for the shadow warrior to increase AP regeneration in her party (or warband) with Hunter's Fervor may affect other classes well, but seems to do very little for the shadow warrior herself, especially considering she has to spend 25 AP to activate it in the first place and the next three Eagle's Eye shots will effectively drain whatever AP was regenerated by it. The Replenishing Strikes tactic will serve to feed only a single Eagle Eye per activation. On top of that (hilariously), it should come as no surprise that the No Quarter tactic transforms this issue from being an annoyance to a self-lockdown, making the career virtually unplayable. I believe that No Quarter is available entirely too early in the shadow warrior's career, when every AP saved or regenerated is desperately needed.

My first suggestion to improve the career is to swap the positions of No Quarter and Guerilla Training in the Scout tree, as Replenishing Strikes did almost nothing to resolve my AP issues, especially during keep sieges, when sustained damage-per-second (DPS) is needed. Standing and waiting for my AP to regenerate while others in the warband pounded on the keep door or oil vat made me feel silly and useless. As it stands now, the very earliest that a shadow warrior can hope to gain some reprieve from her AP issues is rank 27, at which point she can acquire the Guerilla Training tactic and benefit from the AP discount it provides. Having it available at rank 17 would definitely be an improvement.

I've seen a number of players complain about arrow flight-time, and I have to disagree with the consensus. I don't really have a problem with it, and I'll tell you why. Rather than stacking instant-fire damage-over-time (DoT) abilities like Broadhead Arrow and Flame Arrow, and following up with skills that have longer build times like Acid Arrow and Eagle Eye in order to maximize damage from the DoTs, I simply reverse the rotation order. Landing longer-cast burst damage with Acid Arrow, Eagle Eye and Takedown first, followed by the DoT arrows significantly shortens the health bar of soft targets -- enough that the target will die from DoT ticks or from Rapid Fire as he attempts to run away. The idea is to get the kill from DoT ticks and Rapid Fire, rather than give the DoTs time to run their full duration. The only problem that can happen here is when a target receives timely healing after the initial burst. A single, well-placed heal-over-time (HoT) spell can usually provide all that is needed to counteract the damage from DoT arrows. Even if the target neglects to flee and is not killed off by the DoTs and Rapid Fire, then the shadow warrior is effectively depleted of AP and is often left lacking the resources needed to make the kill-shot. It is at this point that I've often sat AP-drained, waiting to regenerate while my targets were healed to full strength.

My only other issue during tier two was the necessity of abilities and morales like Vengeance of Nagarythe and Unshakeable Focus (respectively) in order to bring my output into a range necessary to properly burst down even the softest of targets. Without them, targets simply would not die. Furthermore, for targets with more than light armor (for example: disciples, marauders, etc.) these two abilities must be stacked in order to push the damage high enough to make a difference. I learned to completely avoid shooting at tanks altogether. There is simply no point in doing so. In situations where only tanks remained after a battle, I felt more effective contributing to restricting their movement, rather than trying to damage them. At the very most, I would fire an Acid Arrow at a tank, if only to assist others with their DPS.

So far I've managed to gain an intimate understanding of the shadow warrior career through to level 21. Next week, we'll discuss my experiences through tier three and my impressions of the career as it continues to develop. Once again, leave a comment if you have something to add about shadow warriors and why you believe they're thought of as the weakest career in the game.
This article was originally published on Massively.