Ironically, the answer was with us from the start.
- The term "Battle Wizard" in many fantasy RPGs, usually imply a magic-using class that operates under a different criteria than compared to most other mages, wizards, sorcerers, etc.. While a traditional magic-user is most usually ranged in nature, a "battle wizard" is often described as a more close-combat style. If the typical "spellsword" type is primarily a melee-based fighter that mixes in close-range magic attacks and effects to assist on combat, a "battle wizard" is still primarily magic-based, but typically uses a variety of small but compact, efficient combat spells to assist in close range combat, and then also mixes in considerable amount of physical combat. If a traditional magic-user would blast someone from afar with a lightning spell, a battle wizard would use something like a lightning cloak, or lightning fists spell to use up-close-and-personal.
- As surprising as this may sound, our Battle Wizard Sienna is EXACTLY that. Although the lack of depiction in variety of magic spells, and the simplified definition of "spells = ranged staff attacks" sort of bothers us from seeing this fact correctly — it turns out that BW is much more of a "hybrid" than the Unchained is, with typically the ratio of melee-to-ranged combat being around 50:50.
- In other words, in order to draw out the full potential of the BW, in accordance with her given talents + unique passive + career skill — the BW has no other choice but to mix in aggressive melee combat to a very high degree, resulting in at least half the amount of combat as a BW done as melee combat.
- System-wise, the BW does not have any direct alterations that boost her efficiency as a melee combatant (in the way an Unchained, for example, is altered) but it turns out a considerable number of her talents only make sense when we presume that the BW is in constanst state of melee combat — or at the least, still "close-ranged" even if not melee.
- Her unique passive "Tranquility" is often berated as being useless or inefficient, in that it forces the players to stop using Sienna's main form of attacks — ranged spellcasting with equipped staff — for considerable amount of time if you want to take full advantage of the auto-vent effects. Many people point out that being shut-off from using spells for so long makes the BW a deadweight during the "downtime" of the staff, than compared to the Pyromancer career. Naturally, this meant that many players who tried to make BW work as a viable option in this game, tried thinking of many different stat options and build combinations to solve that problem. Well, as said in the very beginning, the obvious answer was staring at us from the start: she's a "Battle Wizard" — don't hang back like a Pyromancer. Draw out your melee weapon, and fight like crazy. Not in the way the PM draws out melee weapon in emergencies, defends self shortly, and then pulls her staff back out… but in the way how other melee classes fight –** to aggressively use melee attacks in an intent to kil**l.
The thought process was very simple: BW passive requires a certain "downtime" of her staff → she can't do anything else much during that time → the BW is lackluster → well… then LET'S DO SOMETHING IN THAT DOWNTIME SO SHE'S NOT LACKLUSTER. When some BW players, including myself, started reaching this conclusion, it was only then we started to understand what the lv15 talents meant, and why they were made that way. Although the BW does not have any direct melee combat boosting capabilities, all of the additional effects attached to Tranquility via lv15 talents only make sense under the premise that you're fighting in prolonged melee engagement.
- Burning Vigour: 40% reduction in blockstam cost, but as many people know, blockstam reduction is largely pointless in that there's rarely any danger of blocks breaking from small number of enemies. The only instances where people may be pressed to defend for serious lengths of time is during hordes with numerous incoming attacks, and against so many attacks even a 90% reduction block breaks away in mere seconds. Block cost reduction becomes meaningful only after reaching full 100%… but this requires investment into max stats for BCR on two items. It's a HUGE investment to make if you're going to only use the 100% BCR block temporarily during "cool down" periods, or only when "clutching." This talent only makes sense if you are going to a considerable amount of time in-game as a melee combatant with very frequent, free use of blocks.
- Rechannel: 40% faster charge time with staff attacks, this trait noticeably decreases max timing required to charge up staff attacks, especially when coupled with lv5 talent Voracious Conjuring… for 55% effect. However, right after this talent takes effect, Tranquility is deactivated. This means you can benefit from very fast charged attacks every 8 seconds ON THE CONDITION that you don't use the staff at all… or, your "initiating/opener" charged attack in between fights will always charge up very fast… but then nothing else, as you continue the fight with the staff. Both are totally useless from the perspective of a ranged class, typically very incompatible with the most popular ranged-oriented staff of players' choice, the beamstaff. However, from the perspective of close-ranged combat where you mix in a high percentage of melee attacks + staff attacks that have high damage/control elements that require longer charge times… then the story becomes totally different. In this case, Rechannel + Voracious Conjuring is fast enough to allow for BW to push a group of mobs with melee weapon → swap weapon and immediately back step (rear dodge) and start charging → land a full-sized detonation smack on top of staggered mobs. This talent synergizes particularly well with Conflagration, Flamewave, Fireball staves, and only makes sense when under the premise that you don't maintain a combat style that makes heavy use of spells from afar — but rather, actively mix in melee and ranged combat through quick swap of weapons and opportunistic spell casting in close-quarters combat.
- Centered: Increases the effect of auto-venting while Tranquility is active, it still does not vent as fast as manual venting, but still increases the rate of auto-venting to noticeable levels. This one is very obvious and straightforward, in that it does not offer any close-quarters combat advantages like the other two talents, but in turn, offers to shorten the "downtime" of the staff itself, so you can minimize the time spent in melee combat and get back to ranged casting faster. Sort of a "middle ground" in between a BW and a Pyromancer.
As it turns out, the choices offered with level 15 talents lead to three distinctly different combat styles for the BW.
- Burning Vigour offers the most melee-heavy combat style when properly combined with item stats to reach the 100% BCR mark. Once it does, you can make much more active use of block during melee combat without worrying about stamina. When mobs start piling up, you need not panic, your block will hold, carefully readjust your position, and actively and aggressively mix in staff attacks to lighten the load, and then get right back into melee action. This allows the BW for a very high defensive capability despite using fast weapons with low stamshield count, as well as in many cases allow the BW to act as a temporary tank when no mobs that can break Tranquility are cloe by.
- Rechannel, as mentioned supports a very flashy combat style which allows for almost full-charged attacks within very short span of opportunity in between melee attacks. Has good synergy with staves with powerful attacks and long charge times, and up to date particularly synergizes well with Flamewave staff. Spend some time in melee, and when the mobs really start to pile up, seize an opportunity to dodge away, and rev up a superfast full-chagre flamethrower into enemies.
- In comparison with the other two talents, Centered allows for a very mild and tame option, and while personally I do not find it a very attractive option it could perhaps serve as an "transitional period" type of setting for players with range-oriented mindset to adjust to the BW, when they decide to try it out.
Interestingly enough, when I realized all of the above, things really started to "click" in, and suddenly, even Firewalk began to make sense. This wasn't some escape tool. It's not to be compared with the Burning Skulls (which, btw, a 40s CD on a skill this powerful IMO is a clear mistake, and warrants at least 90s CD) which is an attack skill with very high damage, but hardly any control effects. Instead, Firewalk is a mass-control AoE stagger/knockdown tool that is on par with the FK's Valiant Charge, with only a slightly longer cooldown. In the game, there are only three career skills which hold this much control potential with this short cooldown — the FK Valiant Charge, Slayer Leap, and BW Firewalk. When I started using Firewalk as an offensive weapon, as aggressively and often as possible, it made a ton of difference. The efficiency of close-quarter combat with the BW was so good, that it actually exceeded the Unchained in that while the Unchained deals stronger hits and can take more punches, the overall stability to manage the melee combat aspect and allow for an aggressive yet safe style of fighting is definitely an advantage which the BW can claim over the Unchained.
The added fact that Firewalk doesn't break Tranquility, to me, now seems like an evidence of intentional design from the developers, and if this is true, then while not many realize it the BW is a hidden masterpiece of a career. Completely viable and insanely fun, now, at this point, no other Sienna career/build compares to the excellent balance between fun and viability. The dynamic and aggressive combat style is something that would definitely satisfy seasoned players looking for something different than the usual "laser pointer of death" play style people recommend.
If there is a downside to the BW, EVERYTHING I'VE SAID ABOVE only comes into effect when you can comfortably say, "yeah, I've got the melee combat in this game down." While very effective when used to full potential, the design of lv15 Trang-altering talents don't directly increase your powers in melee combat, and it is only when you're confident enough to stare down a sizeable chunk of hordemobs with a melee weapon in hand, in a non-tank, non-HP boosted, non-damage reduction class, and charge forward, that you'll be able to realize how the BW career was designed so cleverly. This means, BW is a career that requires highest base skill and experience as a Sienna player to use effectively, among the three career choices, and should NOT have been given as a starting career.
It is no wonder at all many people tend to mistake the BW as ineffective and lackluster — when you're given a career that needs so much finesse to reach full potential, anyone who is starting out in the game would think the BW is absolutely useless than compared to the PM or Unchained. Since from beta, this view has stayed largely the same, and the bias and misconception never went away and persists up to this day.
I seriously recommend to the seasoned players wanting something different, to grab a BW. Find the "true hybrid" combat style I've struggled to describe above… and the chances are you'll never want to go back to PM again, because as powerful the PM is, compared to the BW it's about the most boring career in the whole game.
© Post "I finally get the Battle Wizard now…" for game Warhammer: Vermintide.
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