Comparing 9th level casters


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The question this morning about a 9th level casters prompted me to start this comparison of the 9th level casting classes. Maybe eventually I'll add archetypes.

Comparing Casters

I don't want to get into a huge argument over one class vs another, but rather give a sense of where each of their strengths (and weaknesses) are. In each category I'd like to have one (or more) classes rated a 10 -- hence these comparisons are only among 9th level casters.

For now I'm only looking at vanilla instances of these classes, i.e. without archetypes and without optimizing for a particular feature. In particular, sorcerers range from awful to highly competent at combat.

And let's be clear. This summary contains somewhat ridiculous comparisons. Which are better, Bloodlines (7!) or Mysteries/Curses (only 6!). My vague rule of thumb here is to ask: If I could trade (e.g.) witch hexes for arcanist exploits, which would I rather have? Then I made a wild guess at ratings from there.

All of these classes can be great and wildly enjoyable. Except maybe Shamans. It should be clear I don't know much at all about them. But I imagine they're a fine class too.


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SheepishEidolon wrote:
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Fixed. Thanks


No Psychic?

EDIT:

Ok a fouple of notes now that I've looked at it properly:

- I'd rate Shaman Hexes and Mystery/Curse higher than a Bloodline. This may be personal choice, but you can certainly get more choices and versatility on one character with Mysteries and Hexes.

- You've given Sorcerers a higher combat skill than Oracles and Shamans. Oracles can make incredibly effective front-line combat characters, and Shamans aren't bad either. Or maybe I'm misunderstanding what that column means.

The rest of it seems unfinished so we'll wait.


Wow, good luck with that. There are so many different metrics in which to measure how good something could be at any of that, that I'm thinking my guide to the Mystic Theurge will look simplistic if you hammer all that out. And that might before you handle archetypes.


MrCharisma wrote:

No Psychic?

EDIT:

Ok a fouple of notes now that I've looked at it properly:

- I'd rate Shaman Hexes and Mystery/Curse higher than a Bloodline. This may be personal choice, but you can certainly get more choices and versatility on one character with Mysteries and Hexes.

- You've given Sorcerers a higher combat skill than Oracles and Shamans. Oracles can make incredibly effective front-line combat characters, and Shamans aren't bad either. Or maybe I'm misunderstanding what that column means.

The rest of it seems unfinished so we'll wait.

No psychic -- Oh good. You found a class I'm less familiar with than the shaman. :) I'll add them.

Shaman hexes -- They're flexible, but always seem a bit underwhelming. Like you can do lots of stuff, but all a bit poorly.

Mysteries/Curses -- Yeah, I upped them to an 8.

Sorcerer combat -- I was thinking of rage/reach abyssal stuff. But yes, oracles need to be upgraded. Where would you rank shamans in all this?

Unfinished -- I sketched out some scores for the classes other than shaman & psychic (where I'm hoping some generous soul will volunteer).

Open question: Given how varied any of these classes are, how useful is this? I mean, maybe this is just not a particularly useful way to think about classes.


DeathlessOne wrote:
Wow, good luck with that. There are so many different metrics in which to measure how good something could be at any of that, that I'm thinking my guide to the Mystic Theurge will look simplistic if you hammer all that out. And that might before you handle archetypes.

I'd like to keep it about as simple as it is now, where it's roughly an overview of where these classes strengths are. But that's so dicey, since choice of mystery/bloodline/whatever shifts these capabilities so much.

I have no intention (at least not currently) of drilling into choices within the various classes. E.g. a witch with the hexes Protective Luck & Soothsayer can buff the party very effectively (add in Fortune if there are any characters that focus on critical hits), while one without those 2 or 3 specific hexes is completely mediocre at buffing.


Northern Spotted Owl wrote:
Shaman hexes -- They're flexible, but always seem a bit underwhelming. Like you can do lots of stuff, but all a bit poorly.

Ah, well. Considering that Shaman is one of my all time favorite classes to play, I'm going to have to say I disagree with your assessment of it. But, I have no idea what metric you are using to measure how 'poorly' it does things.

Quote:
Open question: Given how varied any of these classes are, how useful is this? I mean, maybe this is just not a particularly useful way to think about classes.

I think you'd have to create several distinct categories in which to rate the classes.

For instance, we all know the that the Sorcerer is generally the king of elemental damage, purely from the ability to add +1 damage to every die rolled through the use of bloodlines or mutations (multiple ways to stack these too). They would easily get the 10 (or S rank) in my opinion, though that implies they choose to take those very specific options, otherwise they are no better than any other caster with elemental damage spells. The witch and arcanist would be close (A+) because hidden in their archetypes, they get an option for the same effect if not to the same numbers as the sorcerer. Wizards (and Arcanists) have ways to get a flat damage bonus, rather than one that scales with the number of dice.

Judging the versatility of a class is extremely hard because it is all so niche. A Shaman (or a spirit guided oracle) can force saving throws to knock the target down with spells in addition to the spell effects, with a single Hex/Revelation choice. That turns even simple spells into control spells above and beyond their normal effects. This ramps up their ability to perform battlefield control quite a lot.


DeathlessOne wrote:
Ah, well. Considering that Shaman is one of my all time favorite classes to play, I'm going to have to say I disagree with your assessment of it. But, I have no idea what metric you are using to measure how 'poorly' it does things.

I am really pretty ignorant about both the shaman & psychic. I've looked through their hexes, but that's about it. I'm completely open to your thoughts on these ratings.

Generally my metric is simply to assign a 10 to whichever class is generally strongest in the area, and then scale others down from there. My only real comparison is the mental game of "if I could swap a druid's abilities onto an oracle in places of mysteries/curses, would that improve or weaken the oracle?" From there you get into the question of how strong a class is at "control" when a number of choices go into whether a given character is better or worse at that.

And again, I'm open to the idea that this isn't necessarily even useful.


Northern Spotted Owl wrote:
Generally my metric is simply to assign a 10 to whichever class is generally strongest in the area, and then scale others down from there.

I would honestly advise against that… doing that can very easily skew the results massively for some classes… it would be better to start at the bottom and rate upwards from there, or create a frame of reference to compare them all with. There are and should be categories where none of them score a 10.


Chell Raighn wrote:
Northern Spotted Owl wrote:
Generally my metric is simply to assign a 10 to whichever class is generally strongest in the area, and then scale others down from there.
I would honestly advise against that… doing that can very easily skew the results massively for some classes… it would be better to start at the bottom and rate upwards from there, or create a frame of reference to compare them all with. There are and should be categories where none of them score a 10.

I get what you're saying, but I'm really just trying to compare casters with 9th level spells with one another. Clearly none of them would rate a 10 in "combat" when rated more broadly.

It's probably dubious to rate these classes (with all their variety) with a single number in each category. But if I'm going to do that, I'm not too concerned about scaling the metric.


What's the intended audience?

IMO the simple ranking has some merit for players who have little experience with PF casters so far. It helps to narrow down the class choice, and more details might be too much at once. Further the (totally valid) argument "with this archetype / trick the ranking no longer fits" is weaker for such players, because they are (in average) less willing to dig through all the options.

Some of them might not be familiar with all the used terms, though. "Control" is probably the easiest to misunderstand. So if you intend such players as audience, some explanation should be helpful. Even if the terms seem totally obvious.


Even when comparing within such a limited spectrum my point still stands though… one class might be better than all the others in three specific areas but even it’s prowess in those three areas combined might be dwarfed by another classes prowess in one specific area. A class that performs great in areas that are generally useless shouldn’t rate better overall as a result of being the best at all the least useful aspects… or if even though it does this aspect better than the rest, but how well it performs it is still mediocre in practice… it is better to rate based on how it performs in practice rather than simply how it performs compared to the rest of the options…


SheepishEidolon wrote:

What's the intended audience?

IMO the simple ranking has some merit for players who have little experience with PF casters so far. It helps to narrow down the class choice, and more details might be too much at once. Further the (totally valid) argument "with this archetype / trick the ranking no longer fits" is weaker for such players, because they are (in average) less willing to dig through all the options.

Some of them might not be familiar with all the used terms, though. "Control" is probably the easiest to misunderstand. So if you intend such players as audience, some explanation should be helpful. Even if the terms seem totally obvious.

I added a key, that's simple and useful to some. Given that I've left the scores for psychic & shaman blank, perhaps I'm part of the audience here.

Considering it more, I think that over time it could be worth adding certain archetypes that significantly shift the base class' rating in one or more categories. E.g. an Invoker or Scarred Witch Doctor play much like a base witch, while a Gravewalker plays very differently.


Chell Raighn wrote:
Even when comparing within such a limited spectrum my point still stands though… one class might be better than all the others in three specific areas but even it’s prowess in those three areas combined might be dwarfed by another classes prowess in one specific area. A class that performs great in areas that are generally useless shouldn’t rate better overall as a result of being the best at all the least useful aspects… or if even though it does this aspect better than the rest, but how well it performs it is still mediocre in practice… it is better to rate based on how it performs in practice rather than simply how it performs compared to the rest of the options…

I think I get what you're saying. E.g. 10/10 control is much more important than 10/10 blaster. Perhaps you're suggesting that blasting should be scaled down to a 1-6 or 1-7 range rather than 1-10.

If I was trying to create a single composite number to rate the classes (which would be even dumber of me!) I think I would scale down healing & blasting. But that's not on my agenda.


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Another problem you'll face is that whether a class gets a 10 in this area or that depends which archetype/bloodline/mystery/domain/school/discovery/feats/etc you use. So while one wizard build might get a 10 in blasting, a 1 in melee and 5 in battlefield control, another will get a 4 in blasting, a 4 in melee and a 10 in battlefield control.


even if you work statistics on opinion data, it is still just an opinion.

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I don't see how you can rate arcanist/wizard/witch as 1 in combat when sorcerer gets a 6. With the right ability scores, feats, and buffs, any of them can be built for melee and do a passable job at it.

Wizard list has better buffs than the oracle, for instance because it has Enlarge and Haste and Mirror Image on it.

Druid list has better crowd control than the cleric, with a lot of wall and cloud and terrain spells. Druid also has better utility than the cleric, and at low-to-mid level should score higher than cleric on the spell list overall (at high level the cleric wins).

Spells are overall better debuffs than hexes (this is why you get finite spells and infinite hexes) meaning witch is not two points higher than everybody else. Seriously, wizard and cleric list have nasty area effect debuffs on them.

Sorcerer can get +3 per die on blasting spells, if you call that a 10 then other classes should be much lower than 9. This is a huge difference, unless you take a one-level sorcerer dip on anything else.

HTH.


Kurald Galain wrote:

I don't see how you can rate arcanist/wizard/witch as 1 in combat when sorcerer gets a 6. With the right ability scores, feats, and buffs, any of them can be built for melee and do a passable job at it.

Wizard list has better buffs than the oracle, for instance because it has Enlarge and Haste and Mirror Image on it.

Druid list has better crowd control than the cleric, with a lot of wall and cloud and terrain spells. Druid also has better utility than the cleric, and at low-to-mid level should score higher than cleric on the spell list overall (at high level the cleric wins).

Spells are overall better debuffs than hexes (this is why you get finite spells and infinite hexes) meaning witch is not two points higher than everybody else. Seriously, wizard and cleric list have nasty area effect debuffs on them.

Sorcerer can get +3 per die on blasting spells, if you call that a 10 then other classes should be much lower than 9. This is a huge difference, unless you take a one-level sorcerer dip on anything else.

HTH.

Fair points all around.

Sorcerer combat -- I think I had bloodragers somewhere in the back of my head. Downgraded to a 2 to account for a the ghoul bloodline, probably 1 or 2 others.

Buffing -- I kind of struggle here. But I think you're right that the wizard/sorc spell list is superior. Then I think I rate prepared casters a bit higher because a spontaneous caster will likely just have one or two buff spells (e.g. haste) that they always go back to.

Debuffing -- Witches have most of the good area-effect debuff spells (sleet storm, black tentacles, etc), with their hexes on top. And once SR becomes a factor, hexes really shine. That said, if I'm missing something (debuff spells that I'm just not thinking of, whatever) please let me know.

Blasting -- Downgraded wizard/arcanist to an 8.

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Northern Spotted Owl wrote:
Debuffing -- Witches have most of the good area-effect debuff spells (sleet storm, black tentacles, etc),

Witches don't get e.g. Grease, Slow, Wall of Ice, the Create Pit line, or Phantasmal Web; so I'd say the wizard list has the upper hand in area debuffs.

Northern Spotted Owl wrote:
And once SR becomes a factor, hexes really shine. That said, if I'm missing something

Well, area effect debuffs are much more effective than single-target debuffs. And while hexes bypass SR, people tend to overlook that the most popular debuffing hexes are mind-affecting; and that's a common immunity.

So this means you could consider a separate grade for "endurance", because how often you can use an ability is distinct from how powerful the ability is. On a very long day, a witch's infinite-use hexes outlast the wizard's; but on a regular day, wizard is better at debuffing.


Kurald Galain wrote:
Northern Spotted Owl wrote:
Debuffing -- Witches have most of the good area-effect debuff spells (sleet storm, black tentacles, etc),

Witches don't get e.g. Grease, Slow, Wall of Ice, the Create Pit line, or Phantasmal Web; so I'd say the wizard list has the upper hand in area debuffs.

Northern Spotted Owl wrote:
And once SR becomes a factor, hexes really shine. That said, if I'm missing something

Well, area effect debuffs are much more effective than single-target debuffs. And while hexes bypass SR, people tend to overlook that the most popular debuffing hexes are mind-affecting; and that's a common immunity.

So this means you could consider a separate grade for "endurance", because how often you can use an ability is distinct from how powerful the ability is. On a very long day, a witch's infinite-use hexes outlast the wizard's; but on a regular day, wizard is better at debuffing.

Seems we're in a gray area between debuffing & control. I think I screwed up earlier when I listed sleet storm & black tentacles as debuffing spells. Generally I think of them as control, along with grease, walls & pits. However, they clearly do both.

In all, a 3 point advantage for wizards in control and a 2 point advantage for witches in debuffing seems reasonable. And while I don't want to misrepresent these classes, if one class is better than another at everything then I have to ask why people would ever play the weaker class? If there are reasons to play it (other than flavor), did I mis-rate that seemingly inferior class?


Grease, Slow, Wall of Ice, the Create Pit line, and Phantasmal Web are control spells not debuffs… well most of them anyways… Slow would qualify as a debuff… but to say wizard is better at debuffing than witch would be a disservice… the witch’s spell list is primarily buffs and debuffs. They have the best buffs and debuffs from nearly every spell list.

When it comes to 9th level arcane casters Wizards excel at Control and Utility, Sorcerers make the best Blasters, and Witches are the best Buff/Debuffers. The reasons for this are that prepared spellcasting in general is bad for Blaster builds, while spontaneous is generally bad for everything but Blaster builds, and as stated the Witch’s spell list is tailor made for buffs and debuffs.

Divine spellcasters don’t have nearly as cut and dry niches carved out for themselves though… They all try to do it all equally…


I'm shocked to see Druid rated as low as it is in some categories. Explosion of Rot is an excellent Blast/Control spell. Spontaneously Summoned Nature's Allies work fantastically for Control and Utility. Their buffs are very practical like Air Walk, Deathward, Ironskin, and Freedom of Movement.

Speaking theoretically, it's well understood that Wizard is the best class in the game. Practically, I can think of no class but Druid at the top.


Scavion wrote:

I'm shocked to see Druid rated as low as it is in some categories. Explosion of Rot is an excellent Blast/Control spell. Spontaneously Summoned Nature's Allies work fantastically for Control and Utility. Their buffs are very practical like Air Walk, Deathward, Ironskin, and Freedom of Movement.

Speaking theoretically, it's well understood that Wizard is the best class in the game. Practically, I can think of no class but Druid at the top.

The druid gets 10/10 for wildshape & animal companion, as well as 10/10 in combat -- at least among casters. I love druids, my next character will probably be a druid, but I just don't think it's tops for blasting nor control.

That said, I should account for spontaneous summoning. But where? You have damage (though I wouldn't call it blasting) and action economy (control or debuff?). I'm starting to think each class should maybe have its own sheet to fill in detail. Thoughts?

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Northern Spotted Owl wrote:
I love druids, my next character will probably be a druid, but I just don't think it's tops for blasting nor control.

Not for blasting, but Druid has some of the best control spells in the game. I'd say they're on the same level as the wizard in terms of zone/wall/cloud spells, and they're clearly well ahead of the cleric.


The problem with this kind of list is that you have to first define the parameters...

The cleric is a class example of what I mean here - the combo choices of race/domains/deity/archetype/FCB choice can have dramatic impact on the final outcome and thus any "rating".

A human vanilla cleric with armour, shield, mace, spread stats, an extra skill point/level and crap domains is a poor caster in just about every category imaginable.

A minmaxed samsaran Ecclesitheurge of Mhar with Ash and Caves domains, Dreamed Secrets, access to the Adept spell list from Mystic Past Life and extra 1hp/level has quite possibly the overall best spell list access in the game and is effectively a D10 HD caster to go with it.

An extreme example yes.... but you get the picture

All the casters can encounter the above problem but with cleric the issue is magnified more than most!

So what basic parameters are you setting things by??


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Here's a thought: Rather than giving each class a single number they could have a range.

The base Oracle for example might be a 5/10 for combat, but with the Battle Mystery, a good Curse to go with it and maybe a martial-focused archetype it could be 8/10. So instead of just saying the Oracle is 6.5/10 as a middle-ground we could say 5-8/10. Sorceres are the best blasters if you choose the right bloodlines/archetypes/etc, but without those it's not quite as good so giving it a 7-10 might be appropriate.

The entire purpose of a guide like this one is to keep it simple so you can't include everything, but giving low-high range tells a lot with very little info actually given. If a class has 3-9 in one area for example it tells us that it can be very good or quite bad, depending on the choices made. If it's 6-7 you know it's a fairly stable regardless of archetypes.


Arkham Joker wrote:

The problem with this kind of list is that you have to first define the parameters...

The cleric is a class example of what I mean here - the combo choices of race/domains/deity/archetype/FCB choice can have dramatic impact on the final outcome and thus any "rating".

A human vanilla cleric with armour, shield, mace, spread stats, an extra skill point/level and crap domains is a poor caster in just about every category imaginable.

A minmaxed samsaran Ecclesitheurge of Mhar with Ash and Caves domains, Dreamed Secrets, access to the Adept spell list from Mystic Past Life and extra 1hp/level has quite possibly the overall best spell list access in the game and is effectively a D10 HD caster to go with it.

An extreme example yes.... but you get the picture

All the casters can encounter the above problem but with cleric the issue is magnified more than most!

So what basic parameters are you setting things by??

This is the key, and honestly troubling, question. It's the one that's motivated me to post, "is this even productive/worthwhile?"

I am certainly leaving aside archetypes for now. I think that if this is worthwhile there should be additional entries for archetypes that materially change the way a class plays.

My general question is, "How good is this class capable of being in within this category without incurring significant sacrifices in other areas?" And even that makes me think that I need footnotes or an extra sheet per class to explain the relevant details. E.g. a witch is pretty poor at buffing unless she takes the Protective Luck and Soothsayer hexes (and Fortune, if party members focus on crits).

So, for your example,

"A human vanilla cleric with armour, shield, mace, spread stats, an extra skill point/level and crap domains is a poor caster in just about every category imaginable."

I'd respond:

Human -- sure, that's a reasonable choice of race for a cleric
Vanilla cleric -- exactly, yes
With armor, shield & mace -- generally a solid choice of gear
Spread stats -- good choices of stats for the given build
Crap domains -- nope. good, reasonable domains

Restated, how good is a cleric that doesn't exploit anything obscure?


MrCharisma wrote:

Here's a thought: Rather than giving each class a single number they could have a range.

The base Oracle for example might be a 5/10 for combat, but with the Battle Mystery, a good Curse to go with it and maybe a martial-focused archetype it could be 8/10. So instead of just saying the Oracle is 6.5/10 as a middle-ground we could say 5-8/10. Sorceres are the best blasters if you choose the right bloodlines/archetypes/etc, but without those it's not quite as good so giving it a 7-10 might be appropriate.

The entire purpose of a guide like this one is to keep it simple so you can't include everything, but giving low-high range tells a lot with very little info actually given. If a class has 3-9 in one area for example it tells us that it can be very good or quite bad, depending on the choices made. If it's 6-7 you know it's a fairly stable regardless of archetypes.

I had considered ranges of scores for just that reason. The biggest challenge is that I feel like I'd have to dig into optimizing (even without archetypes) each class across each category. I think I'm in a good position to do that for witches, just because I've really dug into them, but not for each class.


Northern Spotted Owl wrote:
MrCharisma wrote:

Here's a thought: Rather than giving each class a single number they could have a range.

The base Oracle for example might be a 5/10 for combat, but with the Battle Mystery, a good Curse to go with it and maybe a martial-focused archetype it could be 8/10. So instead of just saying the Oracle is 6.5/10 as a middle-ground we could say 5-8/10. Sorceres are the best blasters if you choose the right bloodlines/archetypes/etc, but without those it's not quite as good so giving it a 7-10 might be appropriate.

The entire purpose of a guide like this one is to keep it simple so you can't include everything, but giving low-high range tells a lot with very little info actually given. If a class has 3-9 in one area for example it tells us that it can be very good or quite bad, depending on the choices made. If it's 6-7 you know it's a fairly stable regardless of archetypes.

I had considered ranges of scores for just that reason. The biggest challenge is that I feel like I'd have to dig into optimizing (even without archetypes) each class across each category. I think I'm in a good position to do that for witches, just because I've really dug into them, but not for each class.

I can help with druids and sorcerers if you need it :D


MrCharisma wrote:

Here's a thought: Rather than giving each class a single number they could have a range.

The base Oracle for example might be a 5/10 for combat, but with the Battle Mystery, a good Curse to go with it and maybe a martial-focused archetype it could be 8/10. So instead of just saying the Oracle is 6.5/10 as a middle-ground we could say 5-8/10. Sorceres are the best blasters if you choose the right bloodlines/archetypes/etc, but without those it's not quite as good so giving it a 7-10 might be appropriate.

The entire purpose of a guide like this one is to keep it simple so you can't include everything, but giving low-high range tells a lot with very little info actually given. If a class has 3-9 in one area for example it tells us that it can be very good or quite bad, depending on the choices made. If it's 6-7 you know it's a fairly stable regardless of archetypes.

Yes a range would be a great idea I think, but you would need some clarification to go with it.

Definitely has potential for entry into "The Guides..." thread.


Northern Spotted Owl wrote:


So, for your example,

"A human vanilla cleric with armour, shield, mace, spread stats, an extra skill point/level and crap domains is a poor caster in just about every category imaginable."

I'd respond:

Human -- sure, that's a reasonable choice of race for a cleric
Vanilla cleric -- exactly, yes
With armor, shield & mace --...

But herein lies the problem, with some classes specialisation is almost mandatory.

For example, a 'jack of all trades' Druid build is more useful than a 'jack of all trades' Cleric build in almost every way. This type of Cleric is invariably built by beginners and frequently gets labelled "Healbot". The basic Druid on the other hand still gets an AC and some wildshaping to play around with.

However, a specialist build Cleric is more effective than a specialist Druid hands down almost every time, due to the myriad of combinations derived from race/domains/deity/archetype/ability score distribution/FCB.

Wizards in my experience tend to be a lot easier to design and play because they are inherently more niche. I have only ever seen a non-Int maxed Wizard once or twice in my gaming.


IluzryMage wrote:
I can help with druids and sorcerers if you need it :D

Absolutely.


So, thinking through what folks have said, it seems that we'd want a range of scores within these categories.

Then we'd want a few representative details or even builds to highlight how a given class scores particularly well in a given area, and perhaps what it gives up to accomplish that.

While a spreadsheet is well-suited to listing out the categories & score ranges, it's a poor way to showcase build decisions. So maybe we want a document with a linked or embedded spreadsheet.

I'll take a first pass at that for the witch, and post that back. If it looks promising we can build from there.

Cheers all.


This is something I have been considering doing myself sometime as well… and I still just might infact… I had been planning to do a full class and feature breakdown of all casting classes and ranting them on practical usage terms… I don’t like all the theoretical ratings some classes have gotten in ranking systems… as someone else astutely mentioned already, Wizard is Theoretically the best control class in the game, but in actual practice several other classes either match or surpass them in that field…

The most daunting part of any ranting project with casters though is the spell lists… even just getting a ballpark estimate on them is a monumental task…

I don’t think optimizations really need to be fully accounted for in something like this either… simple acknowledgments that certain ratings could go up when combined with things like <insert example here> would suffice in a guide like this…


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Chell Raighn wrote:

This is something I have been considering doing myself sometime as well… and I still just might infact… I had been planning to do a full class and feature breakdown of all casting classes and ranting them on practical usage terms… I don’t like all the theoretical ratings some classes have gotten in ranking systems… as someone else astutely mentioned already, Wizard is Theoretically the best control class in the game, but in actual practice several other classes either match or surpass them in that field…

The most daunting part of any ranting project with casters though is the spell lists… even just getting a ballpark estimate on them is a monumental task…

I don’t think optimizations really need to be fully accounted for in something like this either… simple acknowledgments that certain ratings could go up when combined with things like <insert example here> would suffice in a guide like this…

Here's a start as a document.

Comparing Casters

I tried to go for a reasonable balance in terms of detail.

Open question: Where do we account for summoning & undead? In particular, for the witch we need to account for the Gravewalker archetype with the Plague patron. Is that "utility"?


Honestly I would say summoning, undead, animal companions, eidolons, phantoms, combat mounts, and combat familiars all fall into the same category… and it isn’t one you’ve already included in your chart…

Utility is more out of combat tricks… skill check enhancements, trapfinding, the ‘detect’ line of spells, long distance travel, food, diplomacy… etc…

Though utility could be split into two categories, combat utility and noncombat utility…. And summons could fit into combat utility then… but I’d just as well keep utility as is and split summons out into their own category all together…

Summons and the like can contribute to nearly every category depending on what you summon. Creating undead follows the same trend, depending on what you raise you can add to your effectiveness in any number of categories… if you have a familiar or animal companion, your choice of feats and archetypes for them can drastically alter what they do for you.

So honestly I’d just add a new category and put summons, undead, and companions in it…


Chell Raighn wrote:

Honestly I would say summoning, undead, animal companions, eidolons, phantoms, combat mounts, and combat familiars all fall into the same category… and it isn’t one you’ve already included in your chart…

Utility is more out of combat tricks… skill check enhancements, trapfinding, the ‘detect’ line of spells, long distance travel, food, diplomacy… etc…

Though utility could be split into two categories, combat utility and noncombat utility…. And summons could fit into combat utility then… but I’d just as well keep utility as is and split summons out into their own category all together…

Summons and the like can contribute to nearly every category depending on what you summon. Creating undead follows the same trend, depending on what you raise you can add to your effectiveness in any number of categories… if you have a familiar or animal companion, your choice of feats and archetypes for them can drastically alter what they do for you.

So honestly I’d just add a new category and put summons, undead, and companions in it…

I used the term "Critters" for now. I'm open to some better term.

My initial sense here is that the Druid is our 10/10 with an animal companion and spontaneous summoning. Then I arbitrarily rated the cleric's & wizard's summon monsters series at 7/10. This likely needs a closer think than I gave it.


Northern Spotted Owl wrote:


My initial sense here is that the Druid is our 10/10 with an animal companion and spontaneous summoning. Then I arbitrarily rated the cleric's & wizard's summon monsters series at 7/10. This likely needs a closer think than I gave it.

Yes be v.careful with that...

A Herald Caller Cleric with Feather/Fur domain + Boon Companion EASILY trumps Druid in the respect of getting bodies on the field and getting ENHANCED bodies on the field quickly.


And while one of those is the best of the 9-casters at critters, they're not better than an actual [Master] Summoner. So maybe neither deserves a 10.


Mudfoot wrote:
And while one of those is the best of the 9-casters at critters, they're not better than an actual [Master] Summoner. So maybe neither deserves a 10.

Exactly.... which is why parameters setting is key.

However, if we are talking about purely within the realms of 9-casters, then giving out a 10 is fine. Its when you start talking about absolute scale vs relative scale that things things get very messy!


Northern Spotted Owl wrote:


My initial sense here is that the Druid is our 10/10 with an animal companion and spontaneous summoning. Then I arbitrarily rated the cleric's & wizard's summon monsters series at 7/10. This likely needs a closer think than I gave it.

The question here though would be… should each class be rated on their general access to critter abilities or by the overall strength of them? If it’s the latter then wizard and cleric both make sense having the same score, but if it’s the former then wizard should probably be bumped up to an 8 due to having a broader range of critter spells to select from including some of the better undead creation spells.

The First World Caller and Undead Master archetypes also can improve a wizards effectiveness with critters easily. The True Name arcane Discovery is also an extremely powerful wizard exclusive critter ability.


Arkham Joker wrote:

Yes a range would be a great idea I think, but you would need some clarification to go with it.

Definitely has potential for entry into "The Guides..." thread.

My general idea would be that the low value is the generic score for the class, and the high score is a that class specialized for that aspect.

Again the Battle-Oracle example, assume a non-archeyped Oracle with a Curse and Myatery that are fairly irrelevant to combat, but you're otherwise building for combat (decent combat stats and feats) gets a 5/10 for combat. Then the Battle-Oracle with a Curse and Mystery that help them do the murders is an 8/10. So ghe Oracle gets 5-8/10 for Combat.

(and of course I'm just making up numbers, but you get the idea)


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If we go to the basics, ignoring archetypes and other potentially balance changing optional features, I've always thought this is how paizo view it.

For 9th level casters, how good your spell list and whether you where prepared or spontaneous would determine how good your other class features where.

Core classes only

Spell Casting

1. Wizard
2. Cleric
3. Sorcerer
4. Druid

Class Features

1. Druid
2. Sorcerer
3. Cleric
4. Wizard

The Wizard has arguably the best spell list and form of spellcasting in the game, so it has the worst class features. You could debate between Cleric and Sorcerer, Sorcerer has a better spell list but it's casting style is worse and class chasis, armor availability, saves and hit dice, but the Cleric has worst class feature, although the front loaded aspect of domains gives the Cleric the advantage in most games but I think that's something paizo didn't account for at the time.

You then try to apply this formula to other 9th level classes. Take the Witch, best compared with a Wizard, it has a weaker spell list but hexes are suppose to be superior to a Wizards other class features.


Doompatrol wrote:

If we go to the basics, ignoring archetypes and other potentially balance changing optional features, I've always thought this is how paizo view it.

For 9th level casters, how good your spell list and whether you where prepared or spontaneous would determine how good your other class features where.

Core classes only

Spell Casting

1. Wizard
2. Cleric
3. Sorcerer
4. Druid

Class Features

1. Druid
2. Sorcerer
3. Cleric
4. Wizard

The Wizard has arguably the best spell list and form of spellcasting in the game, so it has the worst class features. You could debate between Cleric and Sorcerer, Sorcerer has a better spell list but it's casting style is worse and class chasis, armor availability, saves and hit dice, but the Cleric has worst class feature, although the front loaded aspect of domains gives the Cleric the advantage in most games but I think that's something paizo didn't account for at the time.

You then try to apply this formula to other 9th level classes. Take the Witch, best compared with a Wizard, it has a weaker spell list but hexes are suppose to be superior to a Wizards other class features.

Yes thats a good way to look at it.

With Witch and Druid, I would probably say that Witch has a slightly better spell list and casting but overall has slightly worse features.

Since I don't have a Google account, if I start putting some cleric stuff on here, can somebody upload it to the main document?


MrCharisma wrote:

My general idea would be that the low value is the generic score for the class, and the high score is a that class specialized for that aspect.

Again the Battle-Oracle example, assume a non-archeyped Oracle with a Curse and Myatery that are fairly irrelevant to combat, but you're otherwise building for combat (decent combat stats and feats) gets a 5/10 for combat. Then the Battle-Oracle with a Curse and Mystery that help them do the murders is an 8/10. So ghe Oracle gets 5-8/10 for Combat.

That sounds right to me. Though I'd nudge the base combat value down to just medium armor, a shield, and maybe a feat like dodge. On a scale of wizard (1/10) to druid (10/10), she'd come in at 3/10 or so. I.e. I wouldn't expect "decent combat stats & feats", because that's not how I imagine non-combat oracles are typically built.


Arkham Joker wrote:


Since I don't have a Google account, if I start putting some cleric stuff on here, can somebody upload it to the main document?

I certainly will.


Ilury & I rounded out entries for the Sorcerer & Witch.

In this doc

Please give that a look and let me know if you would like to contribute for a class you know in some depth.

Cheers.


You can't really assign a number accurately because the builds, even if nothing obscure is chosen, can vary greatly.

How a GM runs the game is also going to skew perception if you're looking for real(not just theory) effectiveness of a class. As an example some GM's will do things like try to steal or destroy a wizard's spellbook. Most don't, but it will definitely impact how useful the class is. The same thing can apply to a cleric's holy symbol.

In addition the skill of the player, and how much they're going to push the envelope is also going to have considerable impact.

As an example sorcerers have been labeled as "blasters" by some people, but they don't have to blast to be the most impactful class in most combats.

Wizards on the other hand can be great blasters, even if it's not seen as the most optimal use of the class.

Similar examples can be applied to other classes.

Knowing your goal for this document outside of assigning numbers would be useful. If you already stated the goal I apologize in advance.

If it's just to get numbers I wouldn't worry about it because the numbers can't really tell the full story. You'll get a better understanding of them by seeing them at your table.


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Okay, I'll go by (mostly) number rating column:

Spell List: This is actually subject to some variation, because Oracles, Shamans, Sorcerers, and Witches get bonus spells that are often from other lists, while Shamans also have a choice of Spirit (Lore) that has a Hex (Arcane Enlightenment) to snag more spells from other list, in all cases without using an archetype. So Sorcerers turn the Spell List Score up to 11, although they can't get very much of it in any one build.

Class Features: Cleric really don't get much without an archetype, so I'd barely put them above Wizards, if at all. At least Wizards get a small smattering of bonus feats, and some of their Arcane School powers are actually pretty good, although looking more broadly, these are all over the map (as are Cleric Domains, and at least vanilla Clerics do get 2 Domains). Note that Shamans have Spirit Abilities (initial, Greater, and True), and Manifestation as a capstone ability, so their class abilities aren't just Hexes; on the flip side, unlike Witches, they don't get Major Hexes and Grand Hexes.

Combat: All of the 9/9 casters EXCEPT Druid and Wizard get full Simple Weapon Proficiency. Druids can obviously make themselves natural weapon combat monsters, so they get the prize (once they get past the low levels) despite not getting full Simple Weapon Proficiency. For the rest, Simple Weapon Proficiency is actually a big deal in combat effectiveness as long as you have companions that are actually good at combat, because it means that you can get a Longspear to provide flanking and Aid Anothering from (usually) out of reach at low levels. This makes everybody at least a cut above the Wizard. The Arcanist/Sorcerer/Wizard spell list has several more good low-level self-defensive buffs than the Witch spell list (and the non-Arcane casters can use actual armor and optionally shields for self-defense), which raises everybody at least a cut above the Witch. So the Wizard is rightly at the bottom, but the Witch should be pretty near the bottom -- if you want to be a Combat Witch, be a Hexcrafter Magus, even though that isn't a 9/9 caster. (Note: I looked on both www.d20pfsrd.com and Archives of Nethys and don't see where either one says that the Prehensile Hair Hex or the White-Haired Witch archetype is effectively full BAB, just that Prehensile Hiar gets Strength equal to your Intelligence and White hair gets this for Combat Maneuvers and Intelligence-to-Damage on normal attacks.)

Heal: For Oracles, you don't need an archetype bo be the best healer of all -- just choose the Life Mystery, the Channel Revelation, and one instance of the Expanded Arcana feat at 9th level to fill in the holes that you would otherwise have in the unusually abundant 3rd level bad status removal spells. This means that Oracles should have a range of ratings in this column up to 10. For Witches, the Healing Patron fills in almost all of the holes you would have in bad status removal spells relative to a Cleric; this is also a good Patron in that 7 of its 9 bonus spells are off-list spells. Also, the Aura of Purity Hex gets an honorable mention as a (small) area of effect anti-disease/anti-poison shell.

Buff: I don't have anything to say right now about the numbers, but you might want to split this into Self Buff and Party Buff columns, since a fair number of buff spells and a few class feature abilities (notably some of the Arcane School Powers) are self-only.

Debuff: For Witch, starting at 9th level add Quickened Ill Omen, followed up by a Hex or a spell that has a Save. Note that Ill Omen is No Save, so if you Quicken it, whoever you hit with it can't get rid of it (unless they succeed at Spell Resistance) before you hit them with your follow-up.

Control: For Witches, the Swamp's Grasp Hex is another area of effect battleield control option. The Ice Tomb Major Hex can remove an enemy that has a bad (or sufficiently debuffed) Fortitude Save from the fight. If you want a Wall spell, the Aurora Patron adds Wall of Nausea; the Elements Patron (see below) and the Winter Patron add Wall of Ice; the Mountain Patron (already in the guide) adds Wall of Stone; and the Thorns Patron adds Wall of Thorns.

Critters: Cleric has access (without need for an archetype) to some Critter-buffing feats that the other 9/9 casters don't have, notably Sacred Summons. When you add archetypes, a Herald Caller makes Cleric summoning even better. And the Occultist archetype of Arcanist turns summoning up to 11.

Blaster: For Witch, the Winter Witch archetype and prestige class are not necessary. The Elements Patron gives a vanilla Witch to be a decent blaster -- having not as much raw power as a Winter Witch, but being more versatile. Not the best blaster of all, but not the worst either -- thoroughly serviceable if (for instance) you want to be a battlefield control Witch, but you want to be able to accomplish a decent fraction of that control by way of blasting with spells such as Dazing Fireball or Rime Cone of Cold, and as an added bonus Elements gives you Wall of Ice to use directly for battlefield control. Note that the Elements Patron is one of very few that adds exclusively off-list spells.

Utility: I don't have anything to say right now about the numbers, but you might want to split this into Divination/Scouting, Crafting, Transport, and General Utility.

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