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Merc Science! Is your mercenary RIPPING YOU OFF?

Posted by on November 10, 2013
Ethra and Lord Valkiss take on Captain Goldjaw

Ethra and Lord Valkiss take on Captain Goldjaw

It’s an exposé! It’s the kind of information SOE doesn’t want you to know! It’s probably been banned by the government! It’s Merc Science!

In the calm before Tuesday’s Tears of Veeshan release, we folks in Lunar Wolves have just been exploring, clearing things up. A mad romp through Kael, all its instances and the contested bit? Yeah, we did that. Griffin rides through the Forgotten Pools? Done and done again. A mad romp through Harrow’s End? We laughed at Drinal, and she laughed barked back.

But through most of the weekend, I had a second, more serious purpose than just plain “fun”. I was going to set merc against merc in a head to head brawl from which there could be only one victor.

I called this —– Merc Science. Guildies would ask what I what I was up to? SCIENCE!

Scatter and Kilphin scout the lay of the ship

Scatter and Kilphin scout the lay of the ship

The new 10 year EQ2 veteran reward are two mercenaries, Lady Liae Croae, a paladin of Qeynos, and Lord Valkiss Ssi’sh, a shadow knight of Freeport. How did they compare, as tanks, to the paladin from the Chains of Eternity collector’s edition rewards? Or to the ever popular Neriak shadowknight often urged upon new characters?

Finding the answers to these important questions was my goal. I have four characters at max level who have access to the easiest advanced solo zone in Chains of Eternity, the pirate ship Dreadcutter (DC). It’s four bosses, all are tank-and-spank, very small zone, it’s possible to finish the entire thing in less than five minutes.

On call was my main, the Fae berzerker Scatterfall, who would be testing out DPS classes. She has no need of another tank or a healer in DC, but in places like Siren’s Grotto, it would be nice to have more damage. Unfortunately, the DoTs cast by many of the mobs in the Siren’s Grotto instances mean a dead merc unless they can heal themselves; mercenaries don’t have player resists or health and can’t shrug them off like player characters can. But with enough DPS, all things become possible.

On Scatter’s last trip through the Tavalan Abyss, she brought along the Kerran monk from the Lion’s Mane Inn. The monk died so often that she was forced to do most of the instance without any help at all. Finding a reliable DPS merc was a priority.

Tipa and Lady Liae head in

Tipa and Lady Liae head in

Joining Scatter in the Merc Science Labs was my previous main, Tipa the Dirge. She needs a tank that will let her get in position for her devastating dagger deliveries, dolorous dirges and debilitating debuffs. Some healing wouldn’t go amiss, either.

Third in line was traditional alt Arda the Inquisitor. As a healer who can take a hit, she could partner with a tank and squeeze mobs between a hard place and another hard place, or team up with some DPS and see who kills fastest.

Lastly is Ethra the Defiler, my newest max level (no, she was not boosted up by the instant 85 service. She got there legit. In Skyshrine.) As more of a pure healer than Arda, just needs the most tank she can get for her two platinum pieces. She has the healing — and the pet to help out with both damage and healing.

Ethra and Lord Vilkiss relax after the battle

Ethra and Lord Vilkiss relax after the battle

The Lab

Merc Science would be performed on the good ship Dreadcutter. There are four bosses. Mugulg, the Quartermaster is a healer who can be a lengthy fight if not interrupted. She also is positioned near a lot of potential adds if not cleared first. Nonetheless, she will have adds, some of which will be the fun power-draining kind.

The second, Chef Blarghrot, will come with at least two adds. He frequently casts an area-of-effect stun which can be blocked and should be. The trick here is to leave yourself in a good enough position that being out of action for five-ten seconds won’t be fatal.

Captain Goldjaw has a one-shot-kill effect that he casts on a random member of the party in heroic mode, but in advanced solo mode, it seems to have no effect. He is a straightforward kill, unless AEs bring in adds from downstairs.

The final boss is the Tempest of Zek, an elemental summoned by the “deaths” of the bosses on the ship. “Death” in quotes, as in the Ethernere, all the NPCs are dead already, and “killing” them just reforms them elsewhere.

Scatterfall

Merc’s bring more to a group than just damage, tanking and healing. They bring their own buffs and debuffs that can provide benefits well beyond the numbers they parse. For Scatter, I tried to focus on mercs that would be able to make Scatter more awesome than she already was. I did not test that monk for Merc Science. That cat is dead to me.

Scatter, being an AE-focused class, typically drags all the mobs with her from boss to boss and kills them all simultaneously. Her DPS goes up with the number of mobs she is killing. In a control run without any merc, Scatter averaged 228K dps, with spikes above 1.5 million damage per second. In order to try and keep mercs on-task, with mercs, she did a little more clearing. Scatter really doesn’t need a merc for DC, but — SCIENCE!

First up to bat was Kilphin, a lizard assassin from the Temple of the Fearless. I’d tried him before but didn’t think much of him. He did fairly well in his run, for a merc, averaging 20K dps. Scatter’s DPS suffered by bad positioning with Mugulg, forcing me to fight her with few adds.

Next was Bildi, halfling troubadour. She averaged only 2K dps — a hundredth of Scatter’s — but her songs made up the difference by boosting Scatter’s dps even more. Nonetheless, the difficulties of keeping a merc out of harm’s way had its drawbacks.

Firus, the wizard, turned in a 10k parse, but had no help for Scatter, who again had to struggle to keep Firus out of AEs and aggro.

Lastly, we tested her partnered with Krivok, the templar from the CoE collector’s edition, who, at 32K, parsed the best of all the “dps” mercs. However, the run as a whole was disappointing, with Scatter’s damage down substantially. Not sure why. Likely because I killed stuff as we reached it and didn’t have crowds of adds with the bosses.

Test #1 results: the general feeling that Krivok Honorclaw, the templar, is the best DPS of all the healer mercs, seems to be born out thus far. Tests will continue on more of the “normal” mercs. Krivok, like all mercs, has no sense of self preservation and will NOT work very hard to keep himself alive and cured, leading to many senseless deaths he could have prevented if he’d just cared for himself as well as he cares for his master. Aggravating.

Arda

As an inquisitor, Arda works best with a tank who is as tough as she is. Though she has some AEs, her most powerful debuffs are tied to her encounter powers. Dreadcutter has no multi-mob group encounters, cutting out a significant amount of her damage and debuffs. Nonetheless, she is battle cleric-specced, and brings significant melee with a healing component to the table, as well as the powerful direct and reactive heals common to all clerics. Though she can take a hit, without any better taunts than her heals, she is unable to effectively keep mobs from turning and killing whatever DPS she brings with her, leading to a losing game where she tries desperately to heal mercs who were never meant to tank, or having to call them off and lose their dps. Hence her preference for plate tanks.

First up was the new ten year SK merc, Lord Valkiss. At Arda’s average 56K dps to average Valkiss’ 72K dps, it’s clear that the single-target focused of both combatants has very much hurt their average. However, Valkiss needed very little healing and his aggro was solid, such that Arda never had to worry about unleashing too much boom.

A sneaky trip into Arda’s former hometown of Qeynos got Lord Valkiss’ partner, Lady Liae. A cleric partnering with another healer, albeit a paladin, would seem insane, but the damage was nearly the same as for Lord Valkiss.

When Arda paired up with Krivix, the CoE paladin, the numbers dropped substantially. Arda’s 50K parse easily dominated Krivix’s 48K, leading to a disappointing total. If a fighter class can’t do better damage than a priest, that fighter needs a new career. And it won’t be with Arda.

Test #2 results: Both the new ten year tanks did their jobs well. Lord Valkiss’ more damage-focused build has the advantage over Lady Liae’s protection-focus when partnered with a priest class.

Ethra

Ethra, the defiler, is based on preventing damage. Many of her healing and damage abilities are strengthened by her pet, which gives her double the actions in the battle — and double the potential aggro. In the DC fights, Ethra was forced to spend time keeping her fragile pet alive instead of refreshing her debuffs and keeping on top of the class-defining Ritual of Alacrity and the extremely deadly AE Defile cloud of filth. While Arda could largely get by with innate heals triggered by her melee attacks, Ethra had to leave DPSing at times to cast regular heals.

With Ethra’s debuffs meshing well with Lord Valkiss’ disease-based attacks, this duo’s parse hit 69K, a decent result. Ethra had lesser results with the two paladins, with Lady Liae coming well ahead of Krivix Honorclaw. For fun, and I use the word loosely, I paired her with the newbie fave merc, the SK Vittia Direshadow from Neriak. At 24K DPS to Vittia’s 15K dps, Ethra utterly dominated the SK in the slowest DC run of the day. Vittia Direshadow has no place whatsoever in a max level character’s employ.

Test #3 results: When a new player asks for merc advice, many people suggest Vittia Direshadow. Guildies say she’s useful up to about level 40, but you’ll want better before then. If you don’t have access to the CoE mercs or the ten year mercs, then I don’t have, at this time, a good recommendation. But it’s not going to be Vittia. Lord Valkiss continues to shine as DPS and tank for a priest partner.

Tipa

As a troubadour, Tipa’s job was once to make other people shine. Since she became a dirge, her focus is shining her own personal star. Tipa wants someone who can keep themselves alive while she brings the hurt. As such, her usual partner is one of the Honorclaws — the paladin if she thinks she won’t need much healing, the templar when she wants to definitely stay alive, and can transfer or evade off her aggro.

I only did two tests with Tipa. I wasn’t interested in whether or not the ten year mercs were better than the CoE mercs; I knew the answer to that. I wanted to know which one would be able to be a good partner to a bard.

Hoping for the occasional heal, Tipa went through DC first with Lady Liae. At 87K to 66K, Tipa was able to get some good hits on the bosses while the paladin easily kept aggro. Heals were never an issue.

But with Lord Valkiss — it seems the ten year SK has some healing ability as well, as Tipa’s wounds were quickly closed. At 91K to 67K, Tipa’s DPS shone and the run seemed very quick.

Test #4 results: I wouldn’t want to take Tipa through Siren’s Grotto without a healer — those DoTs really need curing and Tipa doesn’t have Scatter’s stats to be able to just ignore them. But in a damage fest like DC, Lord Valkiss is the winner.

Conclusion

For a given class, the ten year mercs are better than the CoE CE mercs, who are better than the normal mercs. The one special merc I have, Kilphin the Assassin, did his job acceptably but was still outmatched by the CoE CE templar — who also brings buffs and heals to the party. In some instance groups last night with the elite merc Perrin Wanderhoof (someone else’s merc), he averaged about a tenth of my DPS, which isn’t bad for a merc, about comparable to Kilphin. Plus, he contributed some healing.

Normal mercs will help when just starting out, but when you’re max level, it’s best to get some of the quest mercs — like the ones in Skyshrine — or the dropped mercs from the CoE heroic instances, if you can’t get the ten year or special edition mercs.

Dreadcutter is a very particular instance, full of weak, ungrouped mobs. A merc who thrives in that sort of setting will shine, but may not do as well in a more traditional instance.

Scatterfall’s gear is approximately between CoE tier 1 and tier 2. I could upgrade it more, but with the expansion coming so soon, I’ve been holding off. However, CoE tier 1+ gear is easily enough to dominate any of the solo zones, even without a merc. The zones were tuned for people in CoE quest gear (because… that’s what they’re for.) Putting Scatter through the DC Lab skews the results. When I first took her through, she was there with the templar merc every time, farming better gear. Her first time through without a merc was … tense. But now, the mobs simply cannot harm her.

I do love my little ‘zerker.

Link to the full results? Right here!

2 Responses to Merc Science! Is your mercenary RIPPING YOU OFF?

  1. bhagpuss

    Welcome back! Brilliant report and very timely.

    I’ve been back playing some EQ2 of late, although not as much as I’d like. My highest level character, a Berserker, is currently 92.6, having completed the main questline for Eidolon Jungle and the first advanced solo instance in Sleeper’s Tomb. All that for point six of a level!

    In a mix of unadorned CoE quest gear and whatever he had on from the first iteration of Velious/Withered Lands he needed the help of a Merc only on the bosses of some of the Advanced Solo instances first run through but being a ratonga he likes some company so he had a merc out for the whole instance most of the time.

    He’s using Dok-Tok, the clockwork inquisitor from Tinkerfest. I have no clue what Dok’s DPS is (I have no clue what my own characters’ DPS is – the last time I used a DPS parser must have been back in Grieg’s End about a decade ago) but Dok is worth it for Verdict alone, which he uses with a will.

    I’d like to use the 10-year Merc when ToV arrives but sadly my Berserker’s on the Silver account I made when Freeport first came up. I have a 92 Beastlord on the languishing but fully-paid-up Station Access account, which will qualify for the 10-year, but at the attritional rate of progress after 90 it just isn’t feasible to level two characters in the time I have available for EQ2.

    Of course, as soon as ToV drops, all the gear I spent the last month getting is going to be out of date, but that’s Norrath for you. I’m looking forward to being able to keep a stable of Mercs, though.

  2. Tipa

    I do have the tinkered inq on Scatter and my SK, Nashuya, and in fact typically had Dok-Tok III (or whatever the name) in Scat’s back pocket for when I needed a healer. Verdict is definitely fun, and it did well in SG. I should definitely run it through its paces; would be good to know how it measures up against the Lujien templar.

    Mercs are really nice security blankets, but as I level my SK, I try to do without one. SKs have a certain amount of self-healing to begin with, and as you point out, leveling is super slow through the normal quest chains. Eventually everyone heads to Skyshrine to either get those final levels or those last few dozen AA — though where things will end up after Tears of Veeshan is anyone’s guess.