It?s abundantly clear that Cryptic?s design of the devoted cleric in Neverwinter has completely changed the rules of the game for healers. It will certainly come as a shock to many players, who have gotten used to a certain style of healing in other MMOs. However, the mechanics that Cryptic have built for the cleric class are nothing short of revolutionary. For one thing, playing the cleric is anything but simple and relaxing. It?s as much of an action class as any other.
The rules have changed. So, in order to become a successful healer in Neverwinter, players must change too.
Some Background Information
A common complaint about the devoted cleric is its perceived inferiority to healing potions. After all, a healing potion can heal for 1000, 2000 or 4000, while clerics have no ability to burst heal. Burst healing is gone, and totally out the window. Instead, we have entered the era of maintenance heals and damage prevention. The best clerics I have seen in Neverwinter so far share two common characteristics: they are always looking to keep their teammates at 100% health at every given moment and they will often use their skills to prevent damage from happening to their team rather than repairing the damage after it has occurred.
What is meant by ?maintenance heals?? Since clerics cannot really burst heal, an effective player will instead stack healing and regeneration effects in order to keep the party healthy. And what?s the big deal about damage prevention? When you don?t have big burst heals, it is often better to break an enemy?s channeled attack rather than to try to heal your teammates afterwards.
Because the new goal is the upkeep of the party?s health, it is much more important to have access to one?s healing powers as frequently as possible, rather than to have each cast of one?s power be as potent as possible.
With that in mind, let us look at some relevant cleric powers (not an exhaustive list):
Astral Seal is by far the most consistent (and most consistently overlooked) source of healing for clerics. By simply debuffing each enemy with Astral Seal at the beginning of battle and then periodically maintaining the seal on remaining enemies, all party members gain the equivalent of lifesteal for every one of their basic attacks.
Sacred Flame gives you the ability to grant temporary hit points on every third hit to any teammates standing near your target. 100 temporary hit points each to 3 teammates every 2 seconds means 300 hp you don?t need to heal every 2 seconds. This at-will can reduce your healing load significantly when used properly.
Healing Word is the most obvious healing tool for the cleric. But it is limited to 3 uses in 3 seconds, after which one must wait 15 seconds for another charge to build before it can be used again. Combined with Channel Divinity, it is a very potent heal, but still limited by the 3 encounter charges, and the 3 pips on Channel Divinity.
Sun Burst is the first AoE heal a cleric has access to. However, it does not heal for much. Combined with Channel Divinity, Sun Burst can knock back multiple enemies, and interrupt certain types of charged or channeled attacks.
Bastion of Health is a large AoE heal, and can be combined with Channel Divinity for an even larger heal effect. This power suffers from a relatively long cooldown.
Guardian of Faith can be used to heal allies standing next to your target. But the heal itself is not significant, and the better use of this skill is arguably to interrupt an enemy?s channeled attack and prevent damage from occurring in the first place.
Hallowed Ground buffs both offense and (more important to your concerns) defense of your whole party within a large area. This is particularly effective in a boss room or in any fight where you expect your team to be stuck in the same area for longer than normal. Because your team will take less damage during this duration, they will consequently be easier to heal.
Divine Armor grants your allies temporary hit points, which is the equivalent of the same number of hit points worth of damage mitigated. Mitigated damage, once again, is damage you don?t need to heal and therefore is very desirable.
Minimum Wisdom Cleric: The Build
Below, I would like to share a cleric build with which I have found great success. In dungeon delves and other 5-member events, this build has never failed to outheal other clerics by at least 50%. (For clarity, I mean this as empirical evidence of the effectiveness of this build, rather than to imply that it is an optimal build). I call this build the Minimum Wisdom Cleric, because its distinguishing feature is that I actively seek to minimize the cleric?s primary attribute: wisdom.
Selected Attribute Bonuses: +2 INT and +2 CHA
Starting Attributes: 13 STR, 11 CON, 10 DEX, 14 INT, 15 WIS, 17 CHA
Important Feats: Domain Synergy, Bountiful Fortune, Greater Fortune, Healing Action
Equipment Priority: Power and then Recovery (levels 1-20) / Recovery then Power (levels 20+)
What?s the idea of this build?
Very simply, even if you max out wisdom, the healing gain on each cast of a power is relatively small. On the other hand, by maximizing recharge speed, you are reducing the recharge time of each healing power by approximately 20% at level 20 and much more in later levels if you can find the equipment. While your heals may feel weaker, simply being able to use them so much more frequently makes your overall utility to your team much higher.
Furthermore, with lower cooldowns, you can even have the luxury of using some powers like Sun Burst to interrupt an enemy channeling a strong attack and prevent your team from suffering grievous damage.
Hopefully this gives everyone some ideas to work with. When I hear complaints that the cleric is too weak or does not heal enough, I feel that the class hasn?t been given its proper due. The cleric, to me, is one of the best class designs in Neverwinter, and hopefully you might consider some of the ideas in this post and come to appreciate the healing potential of the cleric.
Yes, it?s a drastic change in what most people are used to, but once you get used to a more action-oriented style of play, it can be extremely rewarding.