Foreword: I’m making this thread purely for optimization purposes. I am very much a firm believer of “just play whatever you enjoy”, and I’m not trying to dictate what someone should or shouldn’t play, nor am I trying to discredit anyone posting builds on this forum (If anything, Strannik deserves a special mention for proving how versatile the class can be). Battlemage was my first hardcore character I’ve brought to 60, then 85, and subsequently 100 with AoM. Between massive constant absorption from Menhir’s Bulwark and Maiven’s, with a huge safety net between Mirror, Menhir’s Will and Nullification, it was, at the time, the safest character I could come up with for taking it slow and exploring everything without the risk of dying. What started off as a failed Callidor’s Tempest character eventually evolved into a somewhat cookie cutter Krieg’s Cadence build, which was later retired due to poor campaign choices (enemies with Kymon’s, Outcast & Barrowholm) and ultimately replaced by a much stronger Death Knight using the same concept.
I’ve had my fun exploring Battlemage. Now I’m trying to figure out if there’s anything it actually does better than other classes on the high end.
“If not just for fun or arbitrary reasons, why play Battlemage rather than [X]?”
Most physical builds fall flat.
Battlemage can’t compete with Witchblade, which has a much better array of bonuses than Arcanist can provide JUST between Curse & Blood. Additionally, a single point in Bloody Pox is absolutely amazing for triggering devotions (especially Assassin’s Mark).
Physical Death Knights are harder to gear due to a scarcity of acid res (which is normally alleviated by picking Occult), but still retain immense physical damage potential between additional weapon pool skills, and potentially additional resist reduction with Stonewall Defender (although I’ve not spent enough time trying to optimize the lack of resistances with a Warborn/Stonewall build). And you get yet another awesome devotion skill in Ravenous Earth.
Both of these aren’t just limited to Cadence either. Physical Forcewave is still best with mass resist reduction, from what I can tell.
Tacticians get an honorable mention, too, because you can never go wrong with Octavius set + Rune of Hagarrad. As if a basic Soldier standing inside an Inquisitor Seal wasn’t already strong enough.
The obvious outlier is The Spellscourge set (that Superfluff has proven to be effective), which marries Overguard shield builds with the nuking power of Devastation. The Aeon’s Hourglass variant of this build is strong, especially effective in Crucible, and surprisingly safe if you throw in a Mark of the Voracious One and Ghoul. It’s also clunky as hell outside of Crucible, and even IN crucible I’ve found myself wishing that I were playing a Witchblade or Spellbinder instead of some sort of questionable amalgamation between the two.
Optimizing for Cadence is difficult due to several factors, the most prevalent ones being a lack of phys res reduction making Deathstalker very attractive and thus excluding usage of Doom, as well as general gearing difficulties regarding attack speed. If I optimize for Cadence without unreasonably sacrificing Devastation, I’m only hitting an average (grimtools) weapon damage of 11k after buffs, while a Witchblade easily exceeds 17k on average (and that’s before Overguard etc.). On top of the lower damage output, the Battlemage can’t use the weapon damage nearly as well due to a lower amount of resist reduction and difficulties trying to utilize Targo’s Hammer. If I start sacrificing Devastation, the build just ends up being a weaker Cadence Witchblade with an Arcanist flavor.
And it’ll still be clunky to play because Assassin’s Mark and Flame Torrent are both competing for Cadence, while the only other option for triggering either of them is Devastation. Component skills are questionable here, too, if Cadence is supposed to be a main damage source. The conversion away from physical just hurts the damage potential.
Then there’s the option of using weapon components (with Seal of the Night being the best one, as illustrated by Superfluff) for damage, but that becomes even clunkier. While the damage on Chillspikes skill is pretty impressive for what it is, the energy cost on it is immense (if somewhat manageable), while the clearing it provides still leaves me wishing for more. Particularly prevalent in campaign, running into a bunch of trash and trying to clear it with just Chillspikes is frustratingly mediocre, while the cooldown on Devastation is STILL just long enough that using it just for trash is overkill.
Elemental damage builds are highly questionable.
While thejabrixone has proven that Discord Cadence isn’t as poorly off as I initially thought it was, Battlemages won’t be anywhere near as strong for several different reasons, so I’ll just throw that option out of the window. The gear support and resistance reduction necessary to make it competitive just aren’t there, and any dual wield memes are wanting for more WPS.
A weird melee caster hybrid that utilizes transmuted Callidor’s Tempest and elemental Blitz, while using a component skill for spam should be doable in theory, but I’m extremely skeptical as to how well it would perform alongside most other builds.
Forcewave is still great, and Arcanist has a bit of a leg-up using this skill compared to others, just by virtue of supplying 24% cast speed between Reckless Power and Mental Alacrity if need be. It still can’t compare to Tactician because Aura of Censure exists, and that’s not even factoring in how powerful Arcanor is, or how ridiculous a 22/12 Inquisitor Seal is (which is easily attained on Arcanor builds).
With Soldier as a secondary mastery, since casters generally don’t utilize heavy armor, the appeal of Field Command and Scars of Battle doesn’t matter nearly as much as it would otherwise. The class doesn’t offer any elemental resist reduction (the resistance reduction from Dreadweaver doesn’t stack when dual wielded and conflicts with Rhowan’s Crown’s Elemental Storm anyhow), and the combination of War Cry and Fighting Spirit is overshadowed by Aura of Censure and Deadly Aim, respectively.
So what about aether damage?
Krieg’s set is the most obvious and probably most effective option here. You’re trading Menhir’s Bulwark and a bunch of HP for Reckless Power, but Maiven’s makes up for it and you gain more conversion. Compared to the Death Knight build I’ve posted further up, Battlemage is essentially just trading resist reduction for Nullification, a good bit more weapon damage, and potentially more crit damage. However, I’d at best consider that a sidegrade. Who knows what Forgotten Gods brings, maybe it’ll end up outperforming DK deeper into the Shattered Realm.
Other builds run into the same issues as physical, and most prominently, elemental builds. Lack of armor limits Soldier’s potential, while lack of resistance reduction (and in the case of dual wielders, lack of WPS) makes you wish you were playing Spellbinder instead.
I’m still hopeful that Krieg’s Battlemage has the potential to outperform Death Knight if centered around Haunt, and it’s on my list for “new” character projects to play. The concept is already proven to be strong, all that remains is trying to squeeze out as much performance as possible. I also don’t want this thread to center around “Who wears Krieg’s set better?”.
Other than Krieg’s builds, my personal opinion is that Battlemage doesn’t seem to offer anything that other classes don’t simply do better. I’m including Spellscourge because any other Arcanist build that just happens to use Devastation is a lot smoother (and if you really love the spell, mass-devastation builds exist). I want to be wrong about this, and I wish I were missing something obvious, but right now I’m just not seeing it.