Warhammer Online: Blackguard Impressions

Posted by makari (597 posts) -

So I got this email the other day about the public test server for Warhammer Online. Apparently, they were throwing the two new classes (Blackguard and Knight of the Blazing Sun) onto the test server for some focus testing. I like me a bit of focus testing (wait, did I just say that aloud?) so I threw myself in and had a bit of a go at the Destruction class, the Blackguard.

Blackguards are the Dark Elf tank class for Destruction. I'm sure if you wanted to know their backstory you'd look it up, so I'll just stick to gameplay mechanics. The Blackguard is the 'mirror' to Orders 'Iron Breaker' class, and shares a similar mechanic for fueling its attacks, with some slight differences. Where the Iron Breaker builds 'Grudge' points from being hit or from his Oathfriend being hit, the Blackguard builds its Hatred by being hit and by attacking. This paints the Blackguard as a more offensive kind of tank, although in practice it's not quite that one dimensional.

As the Blackguard builds Hatred, it gains access to some of its more useful and powerful attacks, which spend Hatred points instead of Action Points (AP). As well as this, some of the Blackguards AP attacks will become more potent the more Hatred the Blackguard has stockpiled. Because of the need to raise your Hatred to gain the more powerful secondary effects of your AP attacks, coupled with the need to expend Hatred to unleash more powerful attacks to aid in your DPS or damage mitigation, playing a Blackguard is all about balancing the two resources and knowing when to use the right attacks for optimum power in both offense and defense.

As I noted earlier, the Blackguard is painted as an 'offensive tank,' although in practice it's a little different due to the game mechanics. The Blackguard seems to be tooled toward being a supporing offtank rather than a maintank class, although even then the vision is slightly skewed. The main reason for this is that while, iconically, a Blackguard is armed with a two-handed weapon, the drive to actually use a two-handed weapon in Warhammer Online is a bit crazy compared to the more favourable sword+board setup. There are some that believe that the Blackguards DPS should be above that of a typical tank because of its 'offensive' nature, but I disagree. The strength of the Blackguard comes from its myriad of unique and/or powerful buffs and debuffs, that it just so happens to have to be constantly beating on an opponent to fuel. It's overall DPS is sort of pale compared to its mirror, the Iron Breaker, and is a bit harder to use successfully, but it builds its resource at a faster rate and thus can constantly pump out attacks that have some pretty nice secondary effects.

Arguably, alot of the Blackguards attacks are geared toward taking down or mitigating the strength of casters rather than other melee. One of its mastery trees is even geared specifically toward an anti-magic-user role. Highlights include a potential 15 second disorient (!!!!), and the ability to both (with a tactic) cut the healing output of a caster by 50% and reducing its willpower by a large percent. It's been really hard to guage the classes actual strength in this area, because the test server is filled with a bunch of Blackguard and Knight of the Blazing Sun toons, which results in alot of tank battles with 12-18 tanks a side in scenarios. While it is amusing, it's hardly the best environment for testing a class whos strength is meant to pertain to shutting down casters.

In the tier 1 testing phase, the Blackguard left a great impression off the bat. The class flowed perfectly with its Hatred gain/AP use, it was a pretty phenomenal tier 1 pve class, and in the tank battles of tier 1 scenarios, the damage mitigation of a mid tier Blackguard trumped the more party-focused Knight of the Blazing Sun. There were instances where I'd lure 3-4 Knights away from the main battle and simply run in circles while they threw axes at me, popping my damage absorbing Shield of Hate ability to aborb pretty much all of their damage for ages while my fellows captured points with their superior numbers. But tier 1, as anyone knows in Warhammer Online, is not where it's at. This didn't stop alot of people theorising that the Blackguard was (technical term:) OMFG OP!!11!, and subsequently, in the tier 2 testing phase they've seen a pretty harsh change.

Mythic have progressed the testing of the Blackguard from tier 1 to tier 2, and some pretty heavy changes were made to the class due to the overwhelming feedback in the tier 1 testing phase. The main point of interest to many was the Hatred mechanic, and how quickly it seemed to build compared to their sister class the Iron Breaker. Much QQ and BAW was made, and in response, Mythic slashed the rate at which Hatred was gained at higher ends from 3 points per attack down to 1 point per attack. As I surmised, however, cuts to the rate of Hatred gain of the Blackguard in its attacking capacity is extrememely detrimental to the class in higher end RvR, where their highest rate of gaining Hatred (being attacked) would be nigh on non-existant, therefore forcing them to expend over a thousand AP (the Blackguards static AP pool is 200) to reach 100 Hatred, and thats completely ignoring the use of any Hatred fueled attacks they might use. Mythic has responded to this by planning to restore the old Hatred gain numbers but hamstringing some of the high-end Hatred gaining and Hatred cost reducing tactics, which I believe is a good move. A mechanic shouldn't require the use of tactics in order to work.

The other point of contention was for the Blackguards first skill. The first skill a class usually gets as a melee is a low damage skill with no cooldown that costs 30AP. For tanks, it also builds increased hate (not to be confused with Hatred). The Blackguards version of this skill also contained an extremely powerful toughness buff that could potentially raise the toughness of the user by 45%. For a tank, this is a pretty huge buff, although in practice I felt it wouldn't be a huge thing, since a Blackguard that is trying to deal enough damage to hold aggro from, say, a Black Orc, would be expending so much Hatred to hold aggro to never see over 90 Hatred at any one time. In an rvr situation, the toughness buff would be moot since tanks are only ever attacked when there's no-one else to attack anyway. They have since moved the secondary effect of this skill to a tactic in the defensive mastery tree, but tbh i don't really miss it.

In conclusion, the Blackguard looks fairly promising. It has the potential for some fairly reasonable single and aoe DPS for a tank if specced offensively, but would require a degree of skill to manage both the Hate and AP side of the class to optimise the output. As a main tank, I don't feel the Blackguard looks close to trumping the Black Orc, the toughest Destruction main tank, but would still hold its own in a Black Orcs absence, and its debuffs and party buffs (including a party-wide AP restoring skill) would make it a great supporting offtank that can lend some pretty decent DPS for a tank. Oh, and an extra Guard never hurts ;) I believe though, that the strength of the class is in its debuffs and secondary effects of its skills, as some of these are extremely powerful in the right situations, especially against low-armored and caster-type foes.

I'll post more as the test server gets patched.

#1 Posted by makari (597 posts) -

So I got this email the other day about the public test server for Warhammer Online. Apparently, they were throwing the two new classes (Blackguard and Knight of the Blazing Sun) onto the test server for some focus testing. I like me a bit of focus testing (wait, did I just say that aloud?) so I threw myself in and had a bit of a go at the Destruction class, the Blackguard.

Blackguards are the Dark Elf tank class for Destruction. I'm sure if you wanted to know their backstory you'd look it up, so I'll just stick to gameplay mechanics. The Blackguard is the 'mirror' to Orders 'Iron Breaker' class, and shares a similar mechanic for fueling its attacks, with some slight differences. Where the Iron Breaker builds 'Grudge' points from being hit or from his Oathfriend being hit, the Blackguard builds its Hatred by being hit and by attacking. This paints the Blackguard as a more offensive kind of tank, although in practice it's not quite that one dimensional.

As the Blackguard builds Hatred, it gains access to some of its more useful and powerful attacks, which spend Hatred points instead of Action Points (AP). As well as this, some of the Blackguards AP attacks will become more potent the more Hatred the Blackguard has stockpiled. Because of the need to raise your Hatred to gain the more powerful secondary effects of your AP attacks, coupled with the need to expend Hatred to unleash more powerful attacks to aid in your DPS or damage mitigation, playing a Blackguard is all about balancing the two resources and knowing when to use the right attacks for optimum power in both offense and defense.

As I noted earlier, the Blackguard is painted as an 'offensive tank,' although in practice it's a little different due to the game mechanics. The Blackguard seems to be tooled toward being a supporing offtank rather than a maintank class, although even then the vision is slightly skewed. The main reason for this is that while, iconically, a Blackguard is armed with a two-handed weapon, the drive to actually use a two-handed weapon in Warhammer Online is a bit crazy compared to the more favourable sword+board setup. There are some that believe that the Blackguards DPS should be above that of a typical tank because of its 'offensive' nature, but I disagree. The strength of the Blackguard comes from its myriad of unique and/or powerful buffs and debuffs, that it just so happens to have to be constantly beating on an opponent to fuel. It's overall DPS is sort of pale compared to its mirror, the Iron Breaker, and is a bit harder to use successfully, but it builds its resource at a faster rate and thus can constantly pump out attacks that have some pretty nice secondary effects.

Arguably, alot of the Blackguards attacks are geared toward taking down or mitigating the strength of casters rather than other melee. One of its mastery trees is even geared specifically toward an anti-magic-user role. Highlights include a potential 15 second disorient (!!!!), and the ability to both (with a tactic) cut the healing output of a caster by 50% and reducing its willpower by a large percent. It's been really hard to guage the classes actual strength in this area, because the test server is filled with a bunch of Blackguard and Knight of the Blazing Sun toons, which results in alot of tank battles with 12-18 tanks a side in scenarios. While it is amusing, it's hardly the best environment for testing a class whos strength is meant to pertain to shutting down casters.

In the tier 1 testing phase, the Blackguard left a great impression off the bat. The class flowed perfectly with its Hatred gain/AP use, it was a pretty phenomenal tier 1 pve class, and in the tank battles of tier 1 scenarios, the damage mitigation of a mid tier Blackguard trumped the more party-focused Knight of the Blazing Sun. There were instances where I'd lure 3-4 Knights away from the main battle and simply run in circles while they threw axes at me, popping my damage absorbing Shield of Hate ability to aborb pretty much all of their damage for ages while my fellows captured points with their superior numbers. But tier 1, as anyone knows in Warhammer Online, is not where it's at. This didn't stop alot of people theorising that the Blackguard was (technical term:) OMFG OP!!11!, and subsequently, in the tier 2 testing phase they've seen a pretty harsh change.

Mythic have progressed the testing of the Blackguard from tier 1 to tier 2, and some pretty heavy changes were made to the class due to the overwhelming feedback in the tier 1 testing phase. The main point of interest to many was the Hatred mechanic, and how quickly it seemed to build compared to their sister class the Iron Breaker. Much QQ and BAW was made, and in response, Mythic slashed the rate at which Hatred was gained at higher ends from 3 points per attack down to 1 point per attack. As I surmised, however, cuts to the rate of Hatred gain of the Blackguard in its attacking capacity is extrememely detrimental to the class in higher end RvR, where their highest rate of gaining Hatred (being attacked) would be nigh on non-existant, therefore forcing them to expend over a thousand AP (the Blackguards static AP pool is 200) to reach 100 Hatred, and thats completely ignoring the use of any Hatred fueled attacks they might use. Mythic has responded to this by planning to restore the old Hatred gain numbers but hamstringing some of the high-end Hatred gaining and Hatred cost reducing tactics, which I believe is a good move. A mechanic shouldn't require the use of tactics in order to work.

The other point of contention was for the Blackguards first skill. The first skill a class usually gets as a melee is a low damage skill with no cooldown that costs 30AP. For tanks, it also builds increased hate (not to be confused with Hatred). The Blackguards version of this skill also contained an extremely powerful toughness buff that could potentially raise the toughness of the user by 45%. For a tank, this is a pretty huge buff, although in practice I felt it wouldn't be a huge thing, since a Blackguard that is trying to deal enough damage to hold aggro from, say, a Black Orc, would be expending so much Hatred to hold aggro to never see over 90 Hatred at any one time. In an rvr situation, the toughness buff would be moot since tanks are only ever attacked when there's no-one else to attack anyway. They have since moved the secondary effect of this skill to a tactic in the defensive mastery tree, but tbh i don't really miss it.

In conclusion, the Blackguard looks fairly promising. It has the potential for some fairly reasonable single and aoe DPS for a tank if specced offensively, but would require a degree of skill to manage both the Hate and AP side of the class to optimise the output. As a main tank, I don't feel the Blackguard looks close to trumping the Black Orc, the toughest Destruction main tank, but would still hold its own in a Black Orcs absence, and its debuffs and party buffs (including a party-wide AP restoring skill) would make it a great supporting offtank that can lend some pretty decent DPS for a tank. Oh, and an extra Guard never hurts ;) I believe though, that the strength of the class is in its debuffs and secondary effects of its skills, as some of these are extremely powerful in the right situations, especially against low-armored and caster-type foes.

I'll post more as the test server gets patched.

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