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Playing a Cleric

Introduction

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:

The Cleric’s Prime Directive: Clerics are there to keep people alive. First, foremost, and always. Everything else should be considered in that light. This is the only rule: everything else is just a guideline

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:

By 20th level, Warriors can out-damage a similarly leveled cleric by about five to one. By 30th level, the gap is even larger: probably something on the order of ten to one

By 20th level, Warriors have 50% more hit points than a similar cleric. By 30th level, they have twice as many hit points

hitting monsters makes them dislike you. Clerics are already high on the “hate” list of most monsters because we keep undoing all the nice damage the monsters inflict on our party members. Bashing the enemy just reminds them of how much they hate you


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:

wasting mana (E.G.: using greater heal on the enchanter who is down one bubble but only has 450 hp) or

trickle healing (E.G.: using heal on the warrior who is down three bubbles but who has 1500 hp)

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…)

As a rule of thumb, I usually let a tank drop at least two bubbles of health before I start healing them. I might let them drop even further if the critter inflicting damage is doing so in nice, small increments. An obvious exception to this rule of thumb is when the fighter loses those two bubbles in a single attack (or nearly so). At this point, I may have to take a big risk and mana dump on the fighter just to keep him alive. It might also be time to consider a zone run, since whatever is inflicting that much damage (usually a spell caster) is going to be coming after me next…

As a secondary challenge when dealing with casters, there are certain levels at which a cleric will have a much harder time keeping up with damage dealt via spells. Watch for trouble around 20th to 24th level (just before greater heal), and again at around 30th to 34th (just before superior heal). In both cases, you are five or more levels past your most recent improvement in healing ability. Your spell casting opponents might be inflicting double your best healing ability (E.G.: 200 points when you are 20th to 24th level and only have an 80 point heal, 500 points at 30th to 34th level when you only have a 300 point heal). This really is illustrated well when a lower level cleric is grouped with higher level folks, or when multiple casters or a caster and a melee monster are engaged. Inevitably multiple mobs will aggro on a single victim. Suddenly its a race, and you are dealing with a half-loaded gun. Grit your teeth, start healing when you see that two bubble drop in a single attack, and pray your tanks/enchanters will control the monster’s aggressiveness


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!

For some strange reason, most of the best wisdom gear in Norrath is not Cleric-specific, nor does it really match the Cleric’s “armoured healer” archetype. Strangest of all, in my opinion, is the fact that the “class defining” clerical armour is pretty much totally Wisdom-free. To get good wisdom gear, you may have to make tradeoffs on appearance. For me, the choice is pretty obvious. However, there is nothing to stop you from carrying two sets of gear: one for looks, the second for wisdom: its up to you


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

As soon as I use divine aura, I am totally useless. I can’t heal, not even myself. I have about 18 seconds to get the hell away from whatever was killing me. Often, the monster(s) stay aggro on me, even with the divine aura in place: they can’t hurt me, but they can stun me, using up those precious 18 seconds very quickly. And its a split second decision: I go from full health to dead nearly as fast as any wizzie

I usually cast divine as soon as I get hit by something that takes more than a third of my hit points in one blow. By
the time divine is up (its a fast spell, and can often be cast through hits), I’m typically at two bubbles of health. I run like a crazy fool towards the zone when I do this: 18 seconds isn’t a long time, and when divine drops and I have two bubs of health, and several monsters still aggro on me…well, I’m dead

If, and this is a rare if, the mob has been pulled off of me by someone in the mean time, I’ll stop at the zone until divine drops. I’ll heal myself unless someone else is in more need and is in range. I’ll run back (unless I hear zone being called) and try to save the situation. By then someone may have died. I kick myself, and hate divine aura all over again

remember that divine aura can be cancelled like other self buffs. DA lasts such a short time that this usually isn’t necessary or easy to determine when it is safe to do so, but it is an option


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”

This may seem stingy but, until someone explains to me why a caster who shouldn’t be in combat at all needs an armour class buff, I will continue to work this way. The amount of mana it takes to cast that buff (that a wizzie shouldn’t need to begin with) could heal that same caster from zero to full hit points


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:

Clerics heal Tanks first: if a fighter and a wizzie are both hurt, and both are about to go down…heal the tank first. This is a tremendously difficult call to make. But it needs to be made this way because, as a general rule, a wizzie can not protect the party: a tank can. If the tank is healthy, he can probably taunt the monster off of the wizzie before the wizzie dies…and the cleric can put a heal into the wizzie after the tank is back in the game and fighting

Tanks taunt monsters off of clerics first: if a cleric and a wizzie are both being bashed on, the tank taunts the monster off of…the cleric. Again, another difficult call, but the cleric can heal the wizzie and the fighter back up once the monster is dealt with


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:

Enchanters are pretty much the only caster that can taunt better than a Cleric. Enchanters spells make monsters really, really angry at the Enchanter. Unfortunately, like most spell casters, Enchanters have few hit points and rather poor armour. Therefore, Enchanters benefit from a few buffs: not to make them “tough”, but give them enough hit points to permit time for a heal to be cast before they drop. My rule of thumb is to buff the primary tank first, partial buff the secondary tank, then drop a hit point and/or magic resistance buff on the enchanters. Then I watch them closely: they almost certainly will get attacked at some point, and they will need a lot of healing when this happens

Enchanters cast a bunch of spells that variously confuse, stun, and blank the memory of the enemy. All of these spells are “undone” if you hit the monster that is effected by them. Therefore, never, ever hit monsters other than the primary tank’s target when an enchanter is in the party. If the enchanter gets targeted, try to heal them to keep them alive, but don’t bash the monsters that are hitting ’em: that will just break the spells the enchanter is able to cast



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