This week bears with it the final installment to Waging WAR's Nagaryth Chronicles, which took a long-term, in-depth look at the Path of the Scout mastery tree available to Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning's shadow warrior. Admittedly, Greg didn't have time to take his character all the way through to rank 40/40, but this past July 4th weekend's double XP and renown bonuses allowed him to level through Tier 3 relatively quickly. He's also promised us that he'll continue to play her casually as a break from his Archmage main, from time to time.
Again, I would like to take a moment to respond to some feedback left as reader comments to last week's column:
@Taawa -- According to my experience, festerbombs are absolutely deadly (think: "BOOM Headshot!"), possibly even moreso than any sort of infiltration attack by stealth-class melee-damage-per-second (MDPS) careers. If you're the type who enjoys sneaking around terrain and quietly selecting a target while taking time to prepare a guaranteed kill, you'll enjoy this build. I'll explain more after the break.
@Kyelthis -- Again with excellent feedback: the Steady Aim (SA) - Replenishing Strikes (RS) - Rapid Fire (RF) combination (a combination that had never occured to me until you pointed it out) is almost always as effective as Lileath's Forgiveness (LF). However, I feel that my use of SA is slightly more productive. I'll explain why after the break.
@Hal900x -- I'm pretty sure you're mistaking Unshakeable Focus with SA. Also, Shadow Sting (SS) is extremely short-range (45'). My ideal build (complete by rank 35) was focusing on extremely long-range, high-burst, sniping -- which is why I opted for Fell the Weak (FTW, 100') instead, since it has the same effect except instead of requiring an ailment, the "mortal strike" component requires Vengeance of Nagarythe (VoN, and is one second longer in duration to boot!). Finally, SA applies a 50% increased critical chance to damaging attacks, not to the overall critical chance of the character; thus, any attack during those six seconds has its critical chance treated like a coin flip: heads for a critical, tails for a normal hit.
So, why do I think that shadow warriors are fine and don't need the attention that everyone seems to claim they need? I'll discuss my side of the issue after the break.
Before I conclude that shadow warriors are fine, I should begin with a two-fold caveat: first, the shadow warrior, like any other career in WAR, has its own unique issues; and second, I did not have time or opportunity to explore other masteries or combat situations given the scope of this three-part series.
The shadow warrior is affected by issues related to crowd control and crowd control immunities triggered by other players nearby. Specifically, the abilities Point Blank (PB) and Whirling Pin (WP) are essential to the shadow warrior's survival. For me, Point Blank produced the "Immune" error so many times that I chose to completely replace it with Lileath's Forgiveness. To me, Lileath's Forgiveness is infinitely more useful to a shadow warrior whose focus is RvR. In the open field, it will remove snares while also providing a refreshing injection of action points (AP) that allows the shadow warrior to maintain a kiting pattern. Whirling Pin was even less effective. I think I can remember it actually holding a witch elf in place on one occasion -- beyond that, I don't remember any case against players when the ability proved useful enough to save my life. I still try to use it, but I'm never surprised when it fails, which, sadly, is more often than not. A Vengeful Takedown is far more reliable but still doesn't provide sufficient escape when I'm being followed by two or more enemies.
However, the shadow warrior is not the crippled weakling that so many people claim it to be. I suspect the career is afflicted more by hearsay and rumor than anything substantial.
As I've mentioned before, with my focus on RvR and long-range, entrenched combat, the Path of the Scout was my optimal choice. As far as I'm concerned, when played properly, the shadow warrior is the stalker-sniper supreme. After carefully choosing a mark, the shadow warrior should be spending time carefully positioning, maneuvering, and preparing long-range kill-shots. The key to this is careful setup and precision execution. Consider the following ability rotation: Vengeance of Nagarythe, Steady Aim, Festering Arrow, Unshakeable Focus, Rapid Fire, Fell The Weak. The result, if a mark is chosen carefully, and the shadow warrior's positioning and execution is precise, should almost always be the same: a dead target and a drained AP pool.
If the target is not dead at this point, a single Acid Arrow (or an Eagle Eye affected by No Quarter) should be more than enough to finish it off. In my experience, very few healers or ranged damage careers will survive past Fell The Weak, however, unless they are in a group receiving group-heal spam. This is my rotation. I have used it time and time again, with a near-perfect kill-rate. Healers simply vanish -- appearing to have been one-shot by the initial festerbomb. Others will fall shortly after. I want to state right now that this combination is highly effective, and extremely fun.
To sum up my experience, the shadow warrior is an effective, well-balanced class, capable of extremely high burst-damage. Like any other class, the shadow warrior does suffer from a few technical issues; but, given proper consideration, it becomes easy to understand how those issues serve to balance the class, rather than cripple it. Given the setting (RvR) and chosen role, this is a fun career that requires little outside support. Those choosing the Path of the Scout have a defined, balanced and effective role on RvR battlefields, and if given the proper attention in terms of care and feeding of gear and talismans, the shadow warrior is a menace to enemy healers, ranged damage careers and even front-lining melee damage careers. Leave a comment or contact me directly via greg at massively dot com with your feedback or rants. Sadly, there's a lot more to WAR than just shadow warriors, and I'll be closing the Nagaryth Chronicles for now. I hope you enjoyed the series.
Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next week with more Waging WAR!