This is the first guide I've ever written, so bear with me. The information here is based upon my own experience in game and lots of talks with other Arch mages. I'm always happy to have a talk about our class with both experienced AMs and newcomers to the class. Since AM's currently a bit of a pariah class I think we also need to have a talk about which way to best utilize our class. Hopefully this post will help this along.
Standard healing tips
Like in many other MMORPGs there are a few core concepts that are equally important here. I wont focus so much on these general concepts but give a small description on how they apply to an AM.
Positioning: Staying alive means you can heal more. Try to stay out of harms way and simultaneously are able to res people safely so they have an easier time staying alive, especially since you cant heal them first 3 seconds after the res, this also helps so that you wont get rushed while being res stunned. Staying too far away makes landing spells like EoV harder to land however.
Hiding can also be a part of this. This can either mean hiding from view like standing in a bush or cannon, hiding in your teams blob or even hiding in the enemy heal backline.
Triage: Knowing whom to heal and res, and in what order, is key. Other healers, tanks and dps are usually the best order to go about this. Try not to let people die because you want to land a res. And remember that sometimes you have to let someone die to save another. Often you can lose all your minions if you try to save them both. Letting one die, focus heal the other then res, can be a perfectly viable strategy and something all healers should be aware of.
To be a bit controversial your biggest assets are not your heals! Mistress of the Marsh (slow puddle), instant res and to a lesser extent AOE cleanse are what will get you in the more selective groups. Dont get me wrong the healing helps and you will still take up a healing slot but what you bring to the table are more utility compared to numbers. There are of course some who will say they get great numbers as an Arch mage but my counterpoint is that they would usually heal even more on another healer, unless we are talking about a very one sided fight/city/sc.
To be a successful AM you will have to focus on more than health bars. Know when to land those puddles, know when and who to res. And then, if you get a spare moment, you can land those other debuffs.
Mistress of the Marsh: This skill can be used in a multitude of ways. You can use this offensively to, for example, splitting a warband in two so your warband can fall upon the stragglers, giving an important edge in the beginning of a fight. See a lot of green mushrooms flailing their arms like inflatable balloon men? Land a puddle under them and see them struggle to chop anything then. Make a funnel even harder by landing a puddle in it, seeing them struggle even more to enter where you dont want to enter. It is also possible to use it as an escape but that is tricky at best since most that catches up with you can slow you as well. Its better to not be where the enemy is but of course if its up and you are getting focused its worth a try.
I cannot state the importance of this spell enough.
Gift of Life: Your res is another very spell that becomes unique if you use the tactic for instant res. Instant casting of this offers a lot of options for fast resses, which can be key in a war of attrition, and a few other things. Like being able to res while jumping. This makes you res people that die in otherwise unressable places. And can be used to res while jumping to or in safety. Like for instance ressing in air and then landing behind a pillar. Experiment with this and learn all the nifty little tricks you can do with it.
Energy of Vaul: This spell is the heal with the highest potential (and possibly in the game), even when just hitting one enemy it is worth using and obviously the more friends you hit the better. The downsides is that it can be a little microintensive to use to the fullest, you have to be somewhat close to the enemy and the cooldown that makes it not spammable. However if grouped with an SM that gives you whispering winds, there suddenly aren't any cooldown on it at all, making it deliciously spamable, just remember to keep your tranquility up for the lowered cast time and cast while moving.
Law of Gold: This spell silences your opponent for 5 seconds. Sounds great right? Not really no. First of all in endgame it only lands about 1 in 3 against the targets you want to silence. That means you spend 3 GCD to land a 5 second silence. Surely your own time could have been spent on something more productive? Secondly it also gives cc immunity which is something you have to be careful about giving.
Cleansing Light: This spell cleanses your target and gives that target a little shield absorb. Can be enhanced by two tactics. Isha's encouragement gives the cleansed target a HOT on top of the cleanse. Apotheosis in the Path of Isha makes the cleanse group aoe in a medium circle around the target. Note that these two tactics does not stack, however the absorb does work with Apotheosis.
With ww you can spam the cleanse, which works nicely for the HOT tactic since it stacks.
So which heals are best to use? That is again very situational but a feel for which of your heals that heals the most is useful. I made this little chart showing what HPS your various skills have:
Be aware that these numbers are with the build described below and my measured GCD of 1.25 (I can reliable do 9 instant cast over 10 seconds. Meaning there are 8 GCD in 10 seconds. 10/8 = 1.25).
If this GCD is wrong I would like to know but since there are very varied information on it here on forum and in game, I'm using what I can measure reliably.
Since apparently you cant make tables here, I provide a picture instead:
A few things immediately springs to mind after reviewing this list. First of all the basic aoe heal is useless for single target heals but that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. However group aoe heals are naturally the best hps if they heal an entire party. Vaul especially have a crazy potential and brings being able to move and cast to the table. It does require you to be close and hit multiple enemies and friends in order to be truly effective however. Vaul is just about the only spell where the class mechanics actually matter, since you can cast it on the move and reduce cast time if you have just 1 tranquility.
Vaul's tooltip also seems to be somewhat bugged and I do not get the numbers that the tool tip suggest. With class ability you get a cast time of 1.2 and the heal bonus before the leech is a lot higher. Around 1072 for me. The leech part seems about right.
Blessing of Isha, the standard AoE heal, is decent HPS when it heals 2 fully and great when it heals 3 or more, compared to the other standard spells.
Secondly transfer force seems to be a great spell in theory but practice leaves it lacking a bit. Since it requires an enemy, that enemy can die or disrupt and reduce damage making the actual healing a lot lower than expected.
Also note that Funnel Essence is a bit lacking which is a great disservice to heal AM. It does bring one good thing to the table that we dont otherwise have and that it is one of the few(only) panic buttons we have, since it front loads heals and doesn't require us to wait until cast time is over for heal to land. In most other games healing are based around those panic buttons and their usage at critical time but not here.
Like EoV the tool tip seems wrong here as well as it seems to think there are 3 ticks and not 4. I updated the graph to reflect this.
Selecting which heal you need to cast is of course critical. If no one is getting focused you can prepare with hots or AOE as situation demands.
Arch mages actually have it tough here but only because there are so many good ones. The most note worthy ones are:
- Desperation. I havent talked to a single AM that doesn't bring this along. Use it and love it.
- Hurried Restore. In my opinion the class feature. Instant rez brings a lot of utility in many different situations. Ressing some that otherwise couldn't be ressed at keeps. Getting people up fast in cities. Res jumping.
- Restorative Burst. Gives AP. Whats not to like? Its useful to bring at least one AP generating tactic no matter which build you are using.
- Master of Tranquility. Crits provides bigger numbers and combines well with other tactics. Shines the most in a heal based build.
- Apotheosis. Group AoE cleanse. Quite good and very useful for organised fights.
- Wild healing. More AP is good. Very good but I personally prefer to use restorative burst and save the mastery point.
- Bolstering Boon. Morale pump. Sounds good in theory. But since it requires us to use one of our least efficient heals, that also roots us, its usage is very hard and situational. Certainly requires a very organised group. I would love to hear others experience with this one.
- Isha's encouragement. If only because it turns your cleanse into one of your most efficient heals. The effect stacks and coupled with SM's WW it can deliver a lot of hots.
- Run between worlds. I like to joke that cities are a survival horror game for AMs, this can potentially help with that but i've never brought it along for that, since I never listen to my own advice.
Using whats described above here's the build I usually bring to cities:
RoR.builders - Archmage
However once you get to be able to use that you probably already have so much experience and gear that you dont need my meager guidance anymore
Until then you need to decide which tree you want to focus on. I recommend getting slow puddle as soon as possible however. But after that you need to decide between Funnel Essence and Energy of Vaul since you cant get both until you have a lot of renown and gear, At least not without sacrificing too much in the process. If you want to see big numbers go Energy of Vaul, if you want to be able to save a single target and have a bit of a panic button go Funnel Essence.
Here are a few example builds for lower renown. Note that these are just examples. You can easily switch them around so you for instance make a heal focused Funnel Essence build. Before level 40 your best option is to stick with Isha since it improves your basic heals and gets you mistress of the marsh. I wouldnt recommend switching to Funnel Essence before being able to get both that and slow puddle.
Utility - Funnel Essence:
RoR.builders - Archmage - Utility
Heal - Essence of Vaul
RoR.builders - Archmage - Heal focused
Your biggest concern is to stay alive, there my recommendation is a build that focuses on just that. Max deft defender and futile strikes and put the rest in heal crit. If going for a more heal intensive build I suppose you could try and focus on max crit and fill the rest in futile strikes (with leftovers in deft defender).