Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Rift Mage: Archon

Archon is one of Rift’s mage souls. It's a versatile soul that brings great benefit to any mage that incorporates it into their build, but it's also a raiding powerhouse when used as the primary soul. In fact, the 51-point Archon is so powerful that in addition to Bard, it's one of the only two souls that are pretty much required in any 20-man raid.

This article is all about the uses of Archon from folding in a zero-point Archon tree to taking advantage of Archon talents in other builds to full 51-point Archon support.

Using zero-point Archon

The most common use of Archon is as a zero-point soul. This means something like the classic Pyrolock build that I’ve gone over before, where no points are put into talents in the Archon tree. This allows you to swap out Archon for another soul (Dominator, for example), and bring yet more versatility to your play. Zero point souls usually get two to 3 spells that they can use. For Archon, they’re both very valuable: Searing Vitality and Pillaging Stone.

Searing Vitality is a DoT which also applies a 5-minute buff to the caster, improving their endurance. Pillaging Stone is a weak nuke which improves the Mage’s intelligence, buffing it for 5 minutes and stacking up to 5 times. For this reason, it’s quite common to see Mages start fights by casting Searing Vitality and then 5 Pillaging Stone before dropping into whatever their normal rotation is. Of course, this only makes sense on long boss fights. For everything else, Pillaging Stone takes too long to build up its stacks to have a substantial return.

Adding Archon to other Souls

When putting points into Archon in order to boost other souls, there are four talents that tend to attract the most attention:
  • Soul Fire - This is a straight-up 5% boost to fire damage, and comes right away in the first tier. Pyros very often dip into this in constructing their builds, especially when they’re not going all the way into Warlock for the armor buff.
  • Exhilaration - This talent gives large amounts of mana return, based on critical strikes. Because mages stack a lot of crit from gear and from int, this talent will make them nearly immune to running out of mana.
  • Strength of Stone - This talent boosts the effect of Pillaging Stone, further increasing the Mage’s intelligence.
  • Leeching Flames - This is a DoT which also returns mana. Because it has a cooldown, it’s an ideal candidate for placing in a spam macro, providing mana returns while not requiring any of the Mage’s attention. This can be particularly useful if you take Strength of Stone, as it provides more mana return than a third point in Exhilaration and some damage to boot.
In general, that’s all that it’s worth taking out of Archon for dps or healing builds. There are some edge cases. Some of the other talents are attractive for PvP or highly specialized situations

Full Archon

Archon is, as I’ve said, one of the two most important souls in the game for 20-man raiding. There are lots of tank souls, tons of healing souls and nearly endless dps souls, but there are only two souls which focus exclusively on buffing/debuffing. Bard does so by combining healing and buffs/debuffs. Archon does so by combining dps. In neither case are they terribly good at their secondary roles, but because the buffs and debuffs are essential, every raid will need them.

The first thing an archon does, and arguably the most important, is to cast 5 buffs and re-cast them every 5 minutes or less, never letting them drop. These 5 buffs are: Shared Vigor, Tempered Armor, Vitality of Stone, Arcane Aegis and Burning Purpose. Because the last of these, Burning Purpose, has no other analog in the game, it is the most important buff that an Archon casts, providing 10% haste to everyone in the raid.

One important note about these buffs: they’re auras. This means that they can be cast when people are out of range or dead and they will automatically be picked up when the player gets in range, however, they will also drop whenever a player gets out of range! For this reason, Archon placement in a raid is critical. They must never be more than 35 meters from any other raid member (unless that raid member has to run off to deal with something, such as dropping contracts in the Sicaron fight).

Beyond their buffs, Archons still bring quite a lot to the table. Every time an Archon is at full charge (except for the first time in a fight, when they’ll cast Rock Slide) they will use Power Drain. This burns off charge in exchange for reducing the damage output of the targe. Between this debuff which gives an average of about 5% damage reduction over the course of the fight and Burning Purpose which gives about 10% increase, the Archon is already bringing as much to the raid as any other individual. But wait, there’s more!

The standard Archon spam macro contains Volcanic Bomb. This spell does damage to the target, but more importantly, it increases the dps of nearby players by 5% for 10 seconds. This spell has a 2 second cast time and a 15 second cooldown, so 58.8% of the time, this spell is actively adding 5% dps, which comes out to about a 2.9% raid dps increase over the course of the fight (ignoring haste effects, but since the Archon provides those, you would have to factor those in as well).

Then there’s Surging Flare. This spell does damage, but again has a secondary effect that increases ally spell haste within 35 meters by 5%. Since the uptime on this is exactly 50%, the net gain is 2.5%.

The third attack spell that has a buff effect is Earthen Barrage which increases all critical hit chance by 5% for 15 seconds. The uptime on this one is nearly 100%, but because of the cast time is a bit lower.

So, if all an archon does is:
  • Burning Purpose if it’s about to expire 
  • Power Drain if at full charge
  • Volcanic Bomb if it’s off cooldown 
  • Earthen Barrage if it's off cooldown 
  • Surging Flare if its off cooldown 
  • Pillaging Stone (filler nuke for charge)
Then that alone will contribute more to a raid than any other single player’s dps. Of course, your other buffs should be cast under most circumstances as well. But wait, as they say, there’s more!

Archons also bring 4 very important debuffs to the party. All of these debuffs are available from other classes as well, and you should definitely coordinate with your other members to determine whose responsibility each one is (see my buff and debuff stacking article for more on this). However, the Archon must cast the first three of these in order to refresh a self-buff, so on single-target fights, it always makes sense for the first three to be the Archon’s responsibility. 
  • Ashen Defense - Increases physical damage taken by 5% and increases the Mage’s armor. 
  • Crumbling Resistance - Increases the magical damage taken by 7% and increases the Mage’s magic resistances. 
  • Lingering Dust - Decreases target’s haste by 25% and increases the Mage’s haste by 10%. 
  • Illuminate - Adds 530 physical damage ever 3 seconds for each attacker
Illuminate conflicts with a very common warrior debuff called Spotter’s Order, so unless you don’t have a warrior casting that, you can probably ignore this one. The others you will cast at the start of the fight in order to get the corresponding buff. If you really want to be helpful and advanced, get an addon that will track when the conflicting debuffs are up and re-cast your debuff if they drop. I use kalert for this purpose.

In addition to the above debuffs and attacks, the typical Archon spell rotation involves the following macro which you can safely spam throughout the fight:
#show Surging Flare
cast [ctrl] @mouseoverui Mental Flare
cast Earthen Barrage
cast Volcanic Bomb
cast Surging Flare
cast Leeching Flames
cast Consuming Flames
cast Waning Power
cast Pillaging Stone
cast Flowing Sand
cast Crumbling Resistance

Once you have this macro set up, you can buff, debuff and then spam this during the fight, even when moving (in which case, the Flowing Sand and Crumbling Resistance debuffs will proc your Burning Purpose, causing damage to the target!) The first cast, Mental Flare, is a mana-boosting buff that you can give to any healer or other caster in your raid who is low on mana. By holding control while pressing the key this macro is bound to, you will cast Mental Flare (if it's off cooldown) on whoever's unit frame your mouse is over.

Just make sure that your buffs and debuffs stay up, and spam. That leaves plenty of room for paying attention to the raid mechanics.
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