Each module release usually affects class balance. Direct changes to powers or feats is the most obvious reason. But also content or itemization could favor some classes more than others. That’s why we periodically look at the PVE meta landscape and try to evaluate the current state. What classes top the DPS and support tiers? What specs will get you into groups? You’re about to find out!
It’s Still 4x Support / 1x DPS
Actually, not a whole lot has changed compared to earlier modules. Neverwinter is still all about support classes. Your usual endgame group will consist of four support types and only one DPS. I would go as far as saying that in a “bis” group, the class of the damage dealer doesn’t even matter. It’s much more important to get enough buffs and support. Speaking of which, the support tier has a pretty distinctive “A” choice, but other classes and specs do not trail by too much. Generally having four supports and a potent DPS will comfortably get you through any dungeon (with Castle Ravenloft being the only notable exception). That’s why, for endgame purposes, we won’t use the classic trifecta of tank/heal/damage, but group builds into a support and DPS bracket.
The Support Bracket
First, let’s look at the support bracket and start with “tanks”. I’m putting this in quotes because the tank slot is already your first buffer. As such, pure tanking specs like a Protector Guardian Fighter do not make too much sense unless your group really needs the extra protection. I personally do no longer have such a loadout, but it really depends on the peeps you play with. Usually though you should be able to tank any content with a buffing or even damage tank spec. Modern tanks buff first, look at DPS second, and protection third. It might sound weird, but that’s actually the state of the game.
As for healers, it’s kind of the same story. Healing is hardly needed and the byproducts of buffing specs are sufficient to keep any endgame group alive. That’s why the role of Devotion Paladins is reduced to a “Bane-Bot” for example, and Clerics value spells like Exaltation or Break the Spirit over Astral Shield and Bastion of Health. Having a DO and AC/DC in the group that complement each other is the foundation of a strong team, but not mandatory to beat dungeons. Here’s the full support bracket tier list:
* both the HR and GF can spec into very potent DPS while losing little of their support capabilities. As pure buffers they are ranked lower than other specs, but surrounded by four support they can easily fill the DPS role and form some of the better compositions there are.
- Devoted Cleric Divine Oracle
- Devoted Cleric Anointed Champion
- Oathbound Paladin Devotion
- Oathbound Paladin Protection buffer
- Scourge Warlock Temptation buffer
- * Hunter Ranger Perma Longstrider build
- * Guardian Fighter Tactician buff build
- Control Wizard Master of Flame buffer (Oppressor / Renegade)
The DPS Bracket
I don’t think that there has been a time where DPS builds where so insignificant. I mean, any group still needs one, but at this point a random 12k pug with training weapons could kill Strahd. Ok, I was kidding there, but it’s actually not far away from the truth. The randomness is illustrated by the fact that pretty much all endgame DPS builds looks the same. 100% Crit, ArPen capped, as much power as you can get. There are slight variations now in Mod 14 based on the fact the some equipment enhances melee / ranged / encounters / dailies, but that’s it. Anyone with the right stat distribution and the right companion (Chultan Tiger etc.) will do great damage. That being said, there are still slight differences that start to show in less than optimal buff setups. Here’s the DPS bracket tier list:
- Great Weapon Fighter
- Trickster Rogue
- Hunter Ranger
- Guardian Fighter
- Control Wizard
- Scourge Warlock
However, like I said, the DPS tier hasn’t been so meaningless since forever. The Trickster Rogues probably made the biggest step compared to Mod 13, which catapulted the little stabbers right to the top of the first tier. That being said however, could have probably reversed the ranking and it wouldn’t even matter. If you know your class and run a solid build, you’re viable.
Optimal Group Composition
While all of the above sounds pretty definitive, questions about the optimal group composition aren’t as easy to answer. It depends on personal preference, play style, and also item levels of the specs. A Divine Oracle or Mof supporter get most if not all of their buffing capabilities from feats and powers, and need little gear to be effective. It’s different with power sharing Paladins or Anointed Champions, which are more effective on higher item levels. In content with more than five players another factor has to be considered: buff coverage. The Guardian Fighter’s powers mainly benefit members of its own group, while the benefits of other classes work for the full raid. So in specific situations a lesser rated specs might actually make more sense.
More than that, the difference between the best composition and the worst is slim. Going with our tier lists from above, a group consisting of a GF(buff)/SW(temp)/CW(mof)/DC(whatever)/DPS will still stomp through Castle Ravenloft in close to 30 minutes. Don’t forget meta talk is always elitist talk and the absolute best might only be marginally better than alternatives. As rule of the thumb you probably want to build current groups around at least a DC and an OP. The rest, quite frankly, is pretty whatever for your daily needs.
It’s too difficult to go through all the different scenarios. But if you’ve clicked on this article, I assume you’re interested in deeper class theory anyway, will be able to do the research yourself, and adjust on the fly. I don’t want to leave you without the best current compositions in my opinion though. The best standard 5-team composition seems to be OP/DC(AC)/DC(DO)/HR/GF(dps). For trials you want GWF/HR/GF(dps/buff)/SW(temp)/DC(DO) in the first group and OP(Prot)/OP(Devo)/DC(AC)/DC(AC)/CW(mof) in the second. The only real downside of having so few DPS in a raid is that you don’t have backup when your main DPS dies. So there are actually weird situations in which you have to consider wiping although 7-8 players are still standing.
The only notable exception is Castle Ravenloft. The “Disarm” ability of Strahd might require a second potent DPS in your group in case the first one gets abducted. In a pure support setup the chance of wiping, should your main DPS get targeted, is very high. Here is where hybrid builds or those that can switch between loadouts depending on the situation come in handy. You could run a buffing DO that switches to more DPS for the final fight for example. Same with a SW or CW.
It’s nice to see that the devs try to force groups out of their comfort zones in Ravenloft. That said though, I still see most parties running with a classic setup (and generally succeeding). In a potent endgame group Strahd won’t even have too many “Disarm” phases to really cause trouble anyway… Groups however that have to grind through the end boss are advised to take a second DPS.
What’s your take on the current PVE meta? Do you agree with my tier list or do you rank the classes and specs differently? What’s your take on this topic? Share your thoughts and experience on our social channels, in the comments below, or visit our message board!
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