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Waging WAR: Guide to defensive stats

Greg Waller

Greg takes us through to see the dark side of our character sheets, and explains the various defensive stats found in Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. He trudges through this week's Waging WAR with the stubborn stoutness of an Ironbreaker, and the cunning pre-determination of Tzeentch's Chosen to bring us this guide...

For every 10 tanks running around with gigantic two-handed weapons and the Focused Offense tactic slotted, there is one tank with a shield. And for every 10 of those tanks, there's that one who will step onto the battlefield and shake its very foundations with his/her ability to soak incredible amounts of damage and survive. What makes those tanks so indomitable? It is their preference for and understanding of defensive statistics. Sure, they may not hit as hard as others, but their ability to stand defiantly in the face of an entire warband is what makes them so fearsome. With confidence, these rare titans stride onto the battlefields knowing they could put up a fight against death itself and stand a chance to win.

Continue after the break as I explain the defensive character statistics of WAR.

The most basic of the defensive statistics are the passive-defensive stats. Passive-defensives work behind the scenes as the very last line of defense before your character dies to incoming damage. As simple as they are to understand when they are singled out and defined separately, there is also usually a great debate over which is more effective, for whom, and under what circumstances. Some will swear by one, while others will stubbornly advocate the other. If the life-bar were actually a cylinder rather than a rectangle (like a water well or a measuring flask), then the wounds (WND) stat would be the well's depth, while toughness (TOU) would be similar to the flask's girth.

The wounds statistic is the most basic defense. It is ever-present and often the easiest to acquire -- healing, buffs, and consumables can all add to one's wounds in one way or another, directly or indirectly. Strangely, it is also generally thought of, economically, as the most expensive. Wounds talismans and gear usually come with a hefty surcharge on the open markets. Acquiring the stat through renown training costs almost twice as much as any other statistic. Of the three defensive vendor-bought jewelry types, the item with wounds is the most expensive. At its core, the wounds statistic defines the number of hitpoints available to a character.

Toughness is a simple reduction applied to incoming damage. The more toughness one has, the less damage one will take per volume. Without getting into the intricacies and mathemagics of it all, toughness is easiest to understand as the thickness or density of one's hitpoints. With more toughness, hitpoints are harder to take away. Although toughness is generally as easy to acquire as wounds, the statistic isn't as highly valued by all careers (and thus, it is economically less expensive), due to both its nature and the circumstances by which it is most effective.

So which is better? Well, understanding the debate between WND vs. TOU depends entirely on your perspective -- whether you see incoming damage through the fleeting avoidance of a DPS career or through the hardened defiance of a tank. Generally speaking, both will inevitably extend the life of your character. The real question for each individual is this: How often am I being hit, and for how much? But before the question can be answered, there are several other defensive factors to take into account before anything definitive can be decided.

Each character in WAR enjoys another set of defenses directly on top of the passive defenses. These are the passive-resistances. When taking incoming damage from any source, you'll find that the damage is applied first through these defenses. If toughness and wounds are the last line of defense, then these defenses are the front-line against damage that is determined to be undefended or unavoidable. Most often, it is these defenses that most attacks seek to bypass. It is no coincidence, then, that these defenses are also generally static based on one's career and the type of gear one wears. These include armor and magical resistances. It should be noted that, mathematically, because of the nature of these resistances, damage is reduced by toughness first, before mitigating damage by resistance, since toughness is blind to whether damage is magical or physical.

Armor mitigates damage from physical sources, be they ranged or melee. Armor is completely ignored by magical attacks and reduces all incoming damage by a percentage per hit. Tanks often find themselves pondering which is more effective -- armor or toughness (which mitigates damage per volume) -- and which to cap out first. Again, without getting into the hard numbers, it is easiest to visualize the difference between the two as this: defense against a lot of smaller hits and sustained incoming DPS (toughness), and defense against fewer, larger hits and spike damage (armor). Both are desirable in any amount, and generally speaking, more is better. Toughness is soft-capped at 1050 (at level 40) and armor is soft-capped at 75%.

Conversely, Magic Resistance (MR) mitigates damage from magical sources, much like armor reacts to physical damage. And although the resistances are generally thought of as armor against magic users (i.e., Bright Wizard, Sorcerer/Sorceress, Archmage, Shaman, etc.), MR also provides defense against any career using magic-based attacks such as, for instance, the spirit-based Ravage used by Chosen, or the corporeal nature of the Witch Elf's poison-based attacks. To make things even more complicated, the magic resistances come in three flavors: spirit, corporeal, and elemental. When choosing which statistic to stack defensively, it is easiest to think of the difference between MR and TOU as defense against magical DoTs (toughness) and defense against magical nukes (MR). Keep in mind, though, that MR also reduces damage from magical DoTs but soft-caps out at a much lower percentage than either armor or toughness (i.e., 30%, or 750 raw stat).

Before damage can ever be determined against a target, it must first be decided whether an attack hits at all. To do so, incoming damage must pass through the final set of defenses known as the active defenses. The active nature of these defenses also implies some other benefit to increasing the statistic. These defenses include Weapon Skill (WS), Initiative (INI), and Willpower (WP).

Weapon Skill determines how much armor a melee character can penetrate with every attack. Defensively speaking, it also determines a character's ability to parry incoming melee attacks. Parried attacks are completely ignored further down the line and are considered negated, thus, no damage is taken at all. Generally speaking, this active defense is preferred by melee DPS careers as it functions as protection against the type of damage they will experience most often, and it augments their overall outgoing-damage potential as well.

Initiative is primarily used as a defense against ranged physical attacks, providing a character a chance to outright dodge incoming projectiles. While it provides no protection against magical nukes, it is also used to reduce the sheer number of incoming critical hits that a character experiences, thus making one more resilient. Initiative also works as the stealth-detection stat. This defensive stat is best described as a character's ability to see the unseen and expect the unexpected. Ranged healers are particularly vulnerable to snipers or hidden stalkers, and would do well to seek this statistic in spades.

Willpower is commonly used by healers to increase their ability to heal, but it has a secondary defensive purpose -- magical disruption. Disruption can be thought of as a character's ability to dodge magical attacks of any flavor. Any character who constantly finds himself being attacked by magic users would do well to build this statistic, even non-healers.

So, again, which statistic is best? Well, if I were to make recommendations for which defensive statistic to stack, it would be advice per each archetype. Tanks would do well to focus on toughness and armor, as well as seeking block through their ability to use shields. Melee DPSers are served well by stacking weapon skill and initiative. Ranged DPS and healers of any type should pursue initiative and wounds. Finally, since DoT attacks are so common, virtually any career would do well to look into getting at least a little tougher.

Do you have a defensive strategy that you think works better than the rest? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
Every Saturday afternoon, Waging WAR hits the cover of Massively with the latest and greatest in all things Warhammer Online. From patch news to career reviews, Greg Waller writes about it all. Email comments and questions to

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