Choosing a class to play in EverQuest is an important step. You have to consider your personality, and understand what it is that this new persona you are creating does so that you can make a good “match”. Clerics are an excellent choice for some people, myself included, and are extremely valuable (and valued) party members.
Some of what I talk about here will describe what a Cleric does or does not normally do. If you are still deciding what class to play it is feasible that what I say here may influence you. However, this discussion isn’t about choosing a class. There are several good sources on the web to help you make that decision (most notably the “Picking the best class for you” essay on EQ’Lizer). If you are starting to think about playing a Cleric, I would also recommend that you read a couple of the cleric guides out there on the web. As a starting place, check out the EQ’Lizer Cleric Guidebook.
My primary focus here will be on some things I have learned about being a Cleric in Norrath, both through various readings and my own experiences. If you are already playing a Cleric and want to understand one viewpoint regarding playing that class, this is the document for you. Or if you have a cleric in your party, you might benefit from understanding my perspective on what the heck those guys who heal you are actually doing.
By no means is this discussion definitive. Yes, I have put some thought into this, and have called upon the combined wisdom of my guild, the Talon Guard (nee Talons of
the Phoenix, recently merged with Raven Guard), to review my ideas. But ultimately my strategies and guidelines are only as valuable as you make them.
What follows is an expression of my opinion. I will state things as “fact” from my own viewpoint as a player of a Cleric.
Principles of the Healer
There is a single rule that defines what it means to be a cleric:
Cleric’s exist within a party. We don’t solo very well beyond about tenth level, and become really useless from a toe-to-toe damage dealing perspective by around 20th level. This is by no means absolute: Clerics can deal some decent damage against undead at any level. But it does form a good general guideline.
Our real job is to act as a “force multiplier”. Enchanters do crowd control, Bards do group utility spells, Wizards do killing strikes, and Clerics do healing. In My opinion, these classes are the definitive “party classes” in EverQuest. Take a Cleric out of a party, and that Cleric becomes close to useless.
As a Cleric, you make it possible for a warrior to kill five monsters back to back without a lengthy break in between. You make it possible for the enchanter to break a train and get hit by five aggressive monsters a few moments later…and survive. You can bring anyone back from the very precipice of death to fighting trim faster than any other class in the game. But you can’t do any of those things if you are getting bashed on by monsters, or if you are low on mana, or if you have wandered off into the dungeon somewhere where no one can find you.
The following points, guidelines, or “sound bites” put some flesh around the rather spare skeleton of the single rule above.
Clerics are not tanks: I swing my mace when my mana is at 80% or close to it and when everyone’s health is within a bubble of full. As I go up in levels, even this becomes rarer and rarer. The only time I break this guideline is when the monster is a caster, and my meager hits might disrupt his spell casting attempts (although I usually cast a stun/holy might line spell instead). In most cases, I should be sitting on my butt regaining mana instead of trying to bash with my mace. Here are some factors that lead me to this conclusion:
Clerics are not tanks, part 2: I do not pull. I plunk myself down at a spot the tank feels is “safe”, and where they can find me when they need me. I do not follow the tank when he goes off into the “scary” areas: I let them bring targets to me. I figure healing is a great taunt: if I follow the tank and heal him when he gets a mob, I might bring two or three other mobs down on us. Furthermore, the tank will have to get the mob off of me fast: I’m tougher than a wizzie, but not much
Clerics can not heal while being hit: This isn’t an absolute. With a high channeling skill, a cleric can cast through a hit on occasion. But for the most part, neither you nor your party want you to be hit. Remember, a cleric can bring a warrior from near death to full health in the midst of combat. They come to rely on that: they gauge their health and their ability to deal with threats on that basis. If the cleric is being hit and can’t get a spell off, people may die. For this reason, tanks make (or should make) it a priority to get monsters off of the cleric fast. It is also for this reason that Enchanters are a cleric’s best friend
Clerics can not heal what they can not see: Okay, I’m lying- I heal plenty of things I can’t see. But I can’t heal stuff that isn’t in range, and that is trickier to explain. If the tank goes into the scary area, and starts to get hurt, they are probably outside the range of my heals. I will go towards where the tank last went, and try my heals again. But I do not go running into the scary area. I stay within sight of our “safe” spot (see Clerics are not Tanks, Part 2). I hope the tank is coming towards me. I keep trying my heals. But I do not go running off after a tank who is getting hurt. There are several reasons for this, most of which boil down to “clerics are not tanks”. But here is the main reason: so long as the tank knows where to find me, he has a hope. If I go wandering off looking for him, I may get lost, or I may draw even more danger down onto us. Certainly I won’t be where he expects to find me…
Clerics are not wizzies: I don’t cast spells to do damage often. If I’m near full mana, and everyone’s health is looking good (80% or so), and the mob starts to run, I’ll try a DD spell or a root…but only if we don’t have a rooting/mezzing/blasting caster on the team, or if they seem pre-occupied or low on mana. If the monster is a caster, I’ll use a stun spell during combat, again with the same rules for mana and health
Clerics are not tanks, part #3: Clerics are great taunters, second only (perhaps) to the enchanter. I get a monster on me after almost every big heal. If I am engaged by a mob and the tank/crowd control wizzies are occupied, I’ll try to use a stun spell to get the monster off me. Usually, I’ll call out “*monster name* on me”. But the thing that may confuse some people: I usually stop all my attacks as soon as I am being hit. I can’t toe-to-toe melee with the monsters of my level, let alone the red stuff we usually engage. I rely on the tanks and crowd control casters to get the mob off of me, and my meagre little hits just make that job harder for them
Know your party member’s hit points: Heal spells restore a more-or-less fixed number of hit points with each cast (E.G.: Heal restores roughly 80 points, Greater heal restores roughly 300 points). However, you don’t see points when you are looking at another character’s health: you see a percentage bar, with five “sections” or bubbles. When I heal a tough fighter with my greater heal, I might restore one bubble of health: this would tell me the warrior has about 1500 hp (greater heal restores 300 hp; one bubble = 20% = 300 hp; therefore, full health = 5 x 300 hp). That same greater heal might take an enchanter from half a bubble to full. Obviously, I should be aware of how many hit points each of my party members has to avoid either:
To be honest, this is one of my failings. I usually take a “cast and learn” approach, using small heals once or twice on someone after they have been damaged to see what it does for them. This means I usually have to go through one or two battles with a particular group before I know how which spells to use under which circumstances. Of course, I do use some judgment (E.G.: I have a good working knowledge of how many hit points a warrior of a given level should have). However, I would be better to ask everyone what their hit point totals are
Pause between heals: This is really dependent on the previous point (Know your party member’s hit points). The basic idea here is to avoid casting two heals back to back. This will really get the attention of the monsters. Sometimes you have no choice in a bad situation. But if you know everyone’s hit points pretty well, and understand what kind of damage the monsters are doing, you can let your party “bleed” for a bit longer and give yourself say a 2 to 5 second downtime before the next heal. This will significantly reduce the likelihood of the monsters targeting you. Remember, if the monsters start hitting you, you likely can’t heal other party members. You certainly can’t meditate and recover mana. The tanks and crowd control casters, if they are any good at all, will suddenly have to redirect their energies from winning against the monsters to simply getting them off of you. So avoiding becoming a target is really in the best interest of the party: learn this lesson well (I still haven’t got it down…)
Work out A healing strategy in advance: If there is more than one healer in the party, decide on a strategy before it becomes critical. There is nothing more embarrassing or potentially deadly than having two healers heal the same guy at once, while leaving a second party member in distress (one character is “over healed” and mana is wasted, and suddenly both casters could draw the attention of monsters at a time when a secondary warrior is still hurt…). This isn’t complicated: usually I take the initiative and say “I’ll cover [character A], [character B] and [the other healer]; you cover the others including me”. When I say “cover” I mean both from a healing and a buffing perspective: but don’t be afraid to spell things out
Wisdom is your friend: More wisdom = more mana. More mana = more of those precious heals your party desperately needs. Your goal should be to approach a wisdom of 200 by the time you hit about 40th-45th level, and you do this through carefully choosing the gear you wear. At 28th level I have 178 wisdom versus my “natural” 125 wisdom. This means I have an extra 300 mana points (over a thousand versus just over 700; nearly 40% extra). Without the extra wisdom, I wouldn’t have this much mana until 39th level!
Divine aura is Your Other friend: I hate divine aura…and love it. I hate it because I seem to have to use it when everyone is being hit and in need of heals. See the Cleric’s Prime Directive for why this hurts
Cleric’s can’t read buff status telepathically: I buff people to buy extra time. My buffs give better armour class and hit points, maybe add some resistance to certain spells or conditions like poison. But the main reason I put them on folks is so that I have a few extra seconds to get a heal off. Why is it so many players seem uncomfortable asking me to restore a buff? Or do they think my buffs are “tacky” or something? I don’t know, but I suggest you try to convince your party members otherwise.
Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing when a buff drops. Thus far, the idea of synchronizing my own buffs with the ones I hand out (I.E.: buffing myself at the same time with the same buffs I buff other folks with) so that I know when they drop by when mine drop hasn’t worked. I hate to waste mana casting buffs on myself. Instead, I expect the buffed person to speak up
Buff on a Priority Basis- Primary Tank First: One of the first questions out of my mouth when I join a new party is “who is the primary tank?”. I then apply the full suite of my buffs upon this lucky individual. This usually drains me of about 30-40% of my total maximum mana. Secondary tanks get buffed later, once I have recovered mana to permit it (80% or better). I buff myself sparingly, maybe a cheap HP buff or resist, to save mana for the real targets: the tanks. I’ll often put a hit point or resistance buff on crowd control casters (particularly enchanters, who seem to aggro everything as badly as I do and who are a Cleric’s best friend…), again to buy myself an extra second or two. But I don’t (as a rule) buff folks “just because”
Job Risk- Hit point bar hypnosis: When you are in my party, I watch your hit points closer than I watch my own. I don’t see the battle: I just see those red bars. I have to forcibly pull myself away from those red bars to notice people calling for zones, or telling me to heal myself (my red bar is too far up the screen 😉 ). I can’t easily monitor the health of people outside my group or pets, because doing so takes my eyes off those red bars. If I can, I stay a little way away from the main battle zone so that I’m not so distracted from watching those red bars by all the stuff going on in melee. I dream about those red bars…
Clerics are not tanks, part 4: When I have the chance to help a bit in melee, I target the main tank and use the assist key. I don’t attack stuff any other way, unless something is really weird (like the tank is gone and something pops and starts beating on the wizzies). This means I get frustrated when the main tank isn’t targeted on anything, or switches targets without telling me to re-assist
Clerics are Symbiotic with Tanks: Tanks need clerics to heal them so that they can keep fighting. Clerics need Tanks to taunt monsters off of them so that they can heal. This is a fundamental relationship. I have also been told by people I respect that Clerics form the backbone of any solid group: if they die, so dies the party. I’m still doubtful about that one, although I know we play an important role. Anyway, here is what the Cleric < -> Tank symbiosis implies:
Determining Healing Precedence based on Rate of Hit Point Loss: Okay, so I heal fighters first…but not always. It depends on who is in the greatest risk. A tank between twentieth and thirtieth level probably has somewhere between 1000 and 1700 hit points when fully buffed. A spell caster in that same level range probably has 400 to 700 hit points. If a monster comes along and bashes or casts a spell for 300 hit points of damage, who is in the biggest jeopardy? Lets say the fighter has two bubbles of health to start, and the caster is at full. After that single 300 hp hit, the fighter might have one bubble left (having been hurt in melee earlier), but so would the caster. Guess who will die the next hit?
The Cleric’s Prime Directive probably takes precedence here despite the guideline regarding a cleric’s symbiotic relationship with the tank. In the above example, the caster will surely die if hit a second time. The tank might live. I would heal the caster first
Enchanters are a Cleric’s Best Friend: Tanks can taunt an angry monster off of a Cleric. Enchanters can get an entire group of monsters off of a Cleric all at once, and make them forget why they attacked the cleric in the first place. This makes Enchanters very, very good people for a cleric to become friendly with. There are some considerations regarding this relationship: