Whether you love it, or you find it fishy for being so similar to our existing healers and hate it, Astrologian has had a lot of ups and downs since release. When Heavensward came out and the class was introduced, we were allowed to first play with our new healing option, but back then it was gravely undertuned. At first, we got to play around with what felt like a weakened White Mage, and then it progressed into a bad White Mage/Scholar hybrid. It had unique draw mechanics, but the buffs weren’t sizable enough at the time to do very much to compete with the utility of Scholar or the brunt of WHM’s healing, and so they were left in the dust.
Recently, Square Enix has taken to buffing Astrologian. First, we got changes to Light Speed and our healing potency, then reductions to our threat to keep us from being hateful (and dead) healers, then we got some considerable buffs to our card mechanics, and finally today an enormous buff to Nocturnal Stance, along with further increased card effects. It remains to be seen how effective the changes will be in the new raid tier, but the future looks promising.
Let’s talk about the changes of the recent patch 3.4:
Nocturnal Stance has been changed from a 5% buff to a 10% buff to base healing potency, Aspected Benefic has been boosted from 130% shielding to 170% shielding, and Aspected Helios has been changed from 120% shielding to 150% shielding. In addition to potency buffs, the Enhanced Benefic proc has been reworked from providing an instant cast of Benefic II to being a guaranteed critical Benefic II. Some cards were changed dramatically, with Balance going up to 10/20% damage along with Bole, and the area of effect (AoE) from a Royal Roaded Spire/Ewer being increased to 20 yalms from 15. As if that wasn’t good enough, the cooldown got shorter on our abilities to manipulate the cards that we get, and their held duration was doubled from 15 to 30 seconds! But this isn’t all, Celestial Opposition, which formerly increased buff durations by 5 seconds, now increases them by 10 seconds for even greater group potential.
The changes at a glance are great! Astrologian has always felt lacking and underwhelming in Nocturnal Stance. In their previous incarnation, they could already tidily outshield a Scholar through higher potency values on their shielding abilities, and keep up with WHM’s direct healing. The versatility came at the cost of their utility in doing additional raid DPS themselves. Due to not having 100% uptime on a regen effect or having a fairy, their personal DPS suffers while having to hardcast heal more often versus either two other healers. But this isn’t necessarily the case anymore, and their effectiveness in at least one stance has received a sizable buff.
Comparing basic potency versus Scholars on shielding mechanics:
Adlo is 300 potency, it heals for 3.3k for me with the relic, which is a 3.3k shield with a 22% chance to crit doing around 5k healing and a 10k shield. This is great at a glance, and means on average over the fight you could expect average and unreliable shielding of about 5-5.5k.
Aspected Benefic is about to become 275 potency in Nocturnal Stance due to Nocturnal’s potency buff, which means roughly a 3k heal and a 5100 shield. Assuming a fair amount of crit, similar to the Scholar above, it would mean around 4600 healing on a crit, 8000 on shielding. And if we roll that same amount of average crit into just shielding on average, it would be around 6.8-7k.
Aspected Helios versus Succor is rather more cut and dry due to just being a multiplier difference from Nocturnal Stance and the skill. Where your Scholar would heal/shield for 1600, your AST heals for 1760 and shields for 2640.
In comparing the two sets of numbers, Astrologian wins considerably in average shielding. In fact, it wins by so much that even while rolling crits into a Scholar’s average numbers, it would be competitive even if Astrologian couldn’t crit whatsoever. It also has the distinct advantage of having reliable and high shielding. Scholar can only pump out a 4.6-5k Adlo naturally under Dissipation and Fey Illumination, but this is every single Adloquium for an Astrologian. The amount of AoE damage reduction that an Astrologian can pump out is very comparable under buffs to what you could do with an Adlo deployment on a Scholar, except Astrologian can use that shield repeatedly where it’s a one-shot every two minutes for a Scholar.
With the way that skills interact, this means Astrologian is better at shielding in every way, unless an incredibly overbuffed shield (Convalescence+Defiance+Monk Mantra+Adlo on a Warrior, then using Deployment) is necessary. This has never been required before, even in A8S, and likely never will be.
Next, let’s look a bit at the new proc on Benefic:
It’s the typical enhancement proc that you’ve seen before, but the effect has been changed from having an instant cast Benefic II, to having a guaranteed critical for your next Benefic II. This is going to impact us both in our gearing choices and our gameplay decisions.
How many times can you think of, if you play a White Mage, have you consciously thought “I have a free Cure proc, I’ll bank this for the next damage spike”? Well, this is taken to the next level with Astrologians. Unlike White Mage, your healing isn’t restricted while conserving that proc, because you also have Aspected Benefic that you can cast in the meantime. A highly skilled Astrologian is about to be capable of both shielding, and instantly fully healing a tank through nearly any tank buster. How cool is that?
This will change your gearing choices too, as mentioned before. In the current meta, Critical Hit Rate is the most valuable stat for doing DPS and has a considerable effect on regeneration abilities. However, it’s unreliable when considering direct healing. The changes to the proc disincentivized Crit slightly for the purposes of healing, making Determination and Piety a considerable improvement to both your average healing and shielding, without costing you the ability to crit in a pinch. And unlike a Scholar critting with an Adloquium, you can plan on this, you got that proc 15 seconds in advance and you can calculate where it will be the most good. It doesn’t have to have been wasted on that DPS player with Blood for Blood up.
Finally, let’s go over the changes to cards:
Draw pulls a card, the duration before you have to use it is now 30 seconds instead of 15, and Redraw has had its cooldown reduced from 60 to 30 seconds. This effectively means that you have more wiggle room when it comes to banking cards for specific mechanics, and your ability to manipulate your next card has been greatly increased due to being able to use Redraw on any card that you pull. It’s going to become a lot more common to see things like Expanded and extended Bole instead of Soil, single target buffed Arrow for Black Mages, and expanded Balance for trash, etc.
Additionally, there were three other buffs. The AoE of Expanded Royal Road was increased by 5 yalms. Thank goodness, now you can stand even further from the group BLMs! Balance was also brought up to 20% single target, or 10% Expanded along with Bole, which received a comparable defensive buff. Balance is considerably better than Arrow now, making it the best choice among damage cards. Arrow is still nice for Black Mages, but having a second copy of Raging Strikes for example? Yes. Yes please. Not to mention that its potency can still be doubled or have its duration extended with Royal Road, and then further extended with Celestial Opposition and Time Dilation. FFLogs is about to see an entire world of absurd parses from Black Mages and Monks.
You can’t even begin to compare how strong this is versus Selene. A couple of cards will have the party (or even a single individual) doing more than Selene’s 1.5% Spell Haste would have you doing over the entire raid!
So, we have gone over all of the changes to Astro for this upcoming patch. But how much is this going to change Astrologian’s role in raids? Is this going to make me want to play them and actually use Nocturnal? The answer to this is, for the former, drastically, and for the latter, definitely. With Astrologian now being considerably stronger than White Mage while doing direct healing, and considerably better at shielding than Scholar, an entire change in healing meta is possible if highly skilled players are willing to learn new strategies. The boost to party damage opens up a world of new ways to push DPS in an encounter, and the changes synergize well with existing healers.
Astrologian (MH)/White Mage (OH): This group has access to every tool needed for a short fight. White Mages do considerably more DPS than Scholars, but they have less sustainability in the long run. As an example in our current meta, this would be the optimal pair for an encounter like A5S or A6S where there are considerable breaks that allow for mana, and situations where AoE DPS is an important factor in efficiency.
Scholar (MH)/Astrologian (OH): This group lacks the Mind bonus from White Mage, but it makes up for it in mitigation. The amount of damage that you can reduce from mechanics is crazy when you consider that you can stack Bole, Soil, Virus, Disable, Fey Covenant, Eye for an Eye, and Asp Benefic/Helios or Succor/Adloquium all for the same attack. We are talking being able to reduce tank busters to near zero, eliminating some tank swaps, and turning things like the final J-Kick of A8S into a 4k damage joke, etc. If a fight is ever tuned to the point where key mechanics are outscaling health, this is the most effective choice. It also lets Scholar show off its own considerable main healing ability, where normally your Aetherflow would be entirely used for Energy Drain.
White Mage (MH)/Astrologian (OH): Keeping the current dynamic, this group has every tool needed for a long fight at the cost of losing the fairy from a Scholar. Average party DPS would be considerably higher to compensate for the loss of healer DPS due to the buffs to cards, and shielding mechanics can be handled in ways that require less cooldown usage and strategy. You would also be able to push further in phases that do increasing amounts of AoE damage, like A8S’ J-Waves, due to having the consistently stronger shields and better filler healing.
“I encourage anybody to explore what they can do with Astrologian…”
The changes are fundamentally sound in that the existing meta continues to work, but highly skilled players can do things in ways that previously were not viable. It upsets the set in stone roles of White Mage as main healer and Scholar as off-healer by providing superior tools for a balanced approach where both healers can do part of the work without stepping on each other’s toes; although it certainly doesn’t replace Scholar’s effortless off-healer playstyle, or WHM’s brute healing superiority in Regen and Cure III. Instead, it allows room for a shift in playstyle where a shielding main healer can shine as the end all of single target healing, and still be able to provide critical AoE damage reduction that no other class has access to in the same capacity. The potency buffs can more than make up for differences between classes like not having a fairy, or having a less consistent regeneration ability.
In conclusion, I feel like Astrologian is finally in a good place. It isn’t transcended by Scholar anymore, and it has a niche that allows it to strongly synergize with White Mage or Scholar. Diurnal fits well into the current meta as it always has, and now Nocturnal finally has a real place of its own. Compared to a lot of the prior downs, this is certainly an up, and I encourage anybody to explore what they can do with Astrologian in its newly buffed state. Maybe, if you dare, you could even consider venturing into the new raids and primals as one? I know that I certainly will be with how nice this looks on paper and how the strategies that it enables are spinning around in my head.