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Turning Red! (Not really)

So, I've been advancing Red Magea, the Redguard Red Mage, and she's now Lv.10. Not VR10...just Lv.10.

Even in five low levels of play, this is turning into a very interesting character to level. I started off with a fire staff (I found it apropos), and took some Destruction Staff abilities like Elemental Reach and Elemental Wall. I liked the 'Wall' ability because in PvP it could potentially provide some area-denial, which is nice.

However, I switched Red Magea to being a dual-wielder (both swords have Sharpened, which is +damage and spell penetration). I think this has been the correct way to go all along, because now RM is a she-beast. Starting with Dark Flare, I pound enemies with Sun Fire until they get into close range. Most PvE enemies are dying well before they get close enough to bring the dual swords to bear, but in PvP, the initial barrage probably won't mean much.

The big debate for right now, is what to do with Sun Fire? Vampire's Bane is tempting for PvP, but Reflective Light will make my PvE career easier. Similarly for Nova, Solar Disturbance is tempting for PvP...but in the sorts of large-scale battles that exist in ESO, maybe Solar Prison is better.

The Big Picture
Long story short, you can see what I've got up to this point. (Note that the Destruction Staff bar has to be hard-swapped to right now, as I'm not yet Lv.15) I've sought all of the first two 'noob island' skyshards, done the quest to get Lyra Titanborn back, and have gotten a few of the Glenumbra Skyshards.

With Dual Wield, I've sacrificed some ranged damage ability to be able to actually fight at close range, but Red Magea left unattended will be periodically debuffing and nuking like a champ. Up close she's actually really vulnerable, but with proper kiting/column-humping techniques she could be a fair guerilla fighter.

The Red Mage!

After having not really done a lot with The Elder Scrolls Online in about a month, I had a sudden burst of inspiration yesterday: what if I were to make a character who was a sort of Jack-of-all-Trades? A character equally good at fighting in both melee and at range, and could heal? I mean, Final Fantasy has had Red Mages since the 1980s. It's definently a thing.

Enter Red Magea
Red Magea on the NA Superserver is my attempt to make this happen.

I've started her off as a Redguard Templar (see what I did there?) who majors in Destruction Staves, and will take Restoration Staves later on. Of course, Staves are best for ranged combat, so at some point I'm going to switch out her setup to be a one-hand and shield user, as that's what Redguards usually gravitate to.

For her armor, I'm going 4 Light/1 Medium/2 Heavy while I'm leveling. This way, should I want to do something different with her in the future I'll have the levels necessary in different armor types, but will be able to be a respectable magic user nonetheless.

Templar was really the only choice for a Red Mage archetype. All three of the Templar's trees are focused on different aspects of the Trinity (Tank, Heals, DPS), unlike other classes (Dragon Knight is focused on Tanking, Sorcerer focuses on DPS with some interesting Utility thrown in, and Nightblade is really all about melee with some different interesting Utility abilities.) Thus, with either Destro or Resto loadout, I can fight or heal as necessary.

How far along is she?
Level 5. Not 'Veteran 5'...just Level 5.

I'm going to be playing through the game with her, and I'll see if I have any interesting adventures. I'm guessing I will; Lorrithimar, my 'Knight in Shining Armor' Templar generally tears through content in a reasonably safe way. Having to play a character who sacrifices durability for versatility (and, high amounts of damage for versatility) could end up being really interesting.

I'll let you know how it goes.

The Templar's Hundred-Hand Punch

On Lorrithimar, my Breton Templar who I'm playing somewhat like a WoW Paladin, I've noticed that I've gotten a great deal of use out of one ability: Puncturing Sweep. It hits multiple times in an area, has a knockback on your closest enemy, and heals you.

It's invaluable in solo PvE, and not bad for tanking. While the healing is hardly overpowered, it's handy for increasing survivability in tougher mini-boss and boss fights. It seems an almost requisite morph.

I've noticed in my Cyrodiil PvP encounters, though, that half of the time I can never really bring it to bear; other moves overshadow it, when stealth and suprise are the primary means of playing.

I like to think that Puncturing Sweep is what game designers call a 'first-order optimal strategy', or FOO. The point of a FOO in a game is simple: provide a useful move to help a newcomer grow used to the game.

Puncturing Sweep comes off as one to me, due to my direct experience with it. It hits hard, confers several useful advantages, but more importantly is balanced such that it doesn't give too great of an advantage. Even with the healing and knockback, if you don't dodge certain moves, or are too-well outclassed, or never get the chance to use it in the first place, you will get to see the respawn interface.

The PvP "Problem" (It's Not.)
This only became apparent when, while turning in a quest in Bruma, I got into a little duel with a Sorcerer who I beat the crud out of; he was a real sport and stood still and took it. Compare and contrast to a Nightblade Archer from a day before, whose MO was to invis, strong-attack, poison arrow, debuff, stealth, hit, stealth, hit.

While this ability is great in the early game, the fact of the matter is that there are many other viable ways of playing the game (I really like the stealth archer, enough that I rolled a Dark Elf Nightblade of my own to try it!) While there are setups that this move, in concert with others, will wreck, it's hardly the end-all be-all of the game; I've had to play with my hotbar a few times to figure out some better combinations and priorities of moves.

I called it a PvP "Problem" in this section, because it's not a problem, but the natural endpoint of any FOO: I realized that the FOO has limitations that I need to adapt my playstyle to overcome. I am on the way to growing as a player.

Now, back to playing with Dark Flare...

Farming, and Counter-Farming

Materials in The Elder Scrolls Online are important. Sufficient supply means you can craft useful armors that provide helpful set bonuses, have awesome enchantments for your build, and...well, are generally helpful.

The problem? If you want to be able to create said phat loots, you need a lot of materials!

Of course, an old institution of MMORPGs is farming. Find an abundant area, and milk that baby until you can't carry another piece of ore!

The "Other" Form of PvP
Of course, don't expect to be the only one who needs materials; your fellow players need phat loots too, for whatever they're trying to do. This naturally leads to a sense of competition when farming materials. You can't really do anything about this, except farm until you either A) can't, or B) have enough materials.

In years of playing MMOs, I've become familiar with realizing that any PvP experience is about control. This applies to farming too. I'm going to talk about some useful concepts of counter-farming.

Concept I: The Incumbent's Advantage
The first person to start farming has an incredible advantage: they control the spawn timer for the farming region. The Elder Scrolls Online, like many other MMOs, mitigates this with materials spawning in semi-random spots, but the key is that they're semi-random. Chances are good if an enchanting runestone spawns in a place, given enough repititions of a farming circuit, it will be back later.

If you come into a farming area that someone else is already farming, you're in for a slow ride until they get done. The best thing you can do is study their route, and judge whether to 'ghost' them (be behind them and look for any spawns that happen after they leave a part of the region) or precede them (find a way to get ahead of their circuit, such that you get new resource spawns.) Due to the random nature of spawns in ESO, I've found that either approach is viable.

Concept II: Bait
There's two real types of farmers: farmers with a specific focus, or farmers who are just farming everything. Farmers who are focused on a particular type of resource (e.g. metal) will focus on that and ignore everything else, which may be useful for you. However, when a greedy farmer is around, you need a way to defend against them disrupting your circuit. The best way to do this, simply is to give them what they want.

In my resource runs, I avoid chests. "This is silly!" you might say. After all, chests have equipment, soul gems, and money. These things are always useful. ...Except, they take up bag space that could be used for more resources. A greedy farmer dosen't care. While I'm way off ahead mining Orichalcum and High Iron, they're busy lockpicking and determining what crap they have to drop, because they've been cleaning out the entire region.

Concept III: Have a Goal
Farming, for its PvP-like aspects, however, is not a solid game mode. You do not get an achievement for solidly controlling a farming region; you do not get anything extra, other than simply more of the materials you were already farming. There comes a point where you could simply be doing something more productive (like, farming another location, of course!)

Sooner or later, someone will come and counter-farm you, and at that point the show will be over. To that end, it's a good idea to know from the outset what you're trying to do.

If your goal is cleaning out an entire area over and over, you're going to lose way more than you gain. As stated above, someone leaving you a chest, or a tuft of Jute, will give themselves an awesome advantage, while you're 'missing out' (which, because you're greedy, you deserve it.)

Instead, it's a better idea to be trying for something specific. Maybe you want to be able to refine a bunch of quality-enhancing materials for some gear? You already know what materials you're working with (metal, fibrous plants, wood). Only farm those. Everything else, like alchemy plants, enchanting runestones, and chests, are superfluous (ok, maybe chests aren't; after all, when deconstructing a piece of equipment, there is a chance for you to gain a stat-enhancing material. But, that's really neither here nor there!)

Also, have a hard cap on your gathering. I personally prefer to gather either one full stack of a resource, or make a certain number of passes in an area (10-20 tends to work well for me), before I go on to do other things. If you need more, you can either come back, or you can do what an Elder Scrolls game asks of you at all times: explore, and find another farming location!

Farming is a fact of life in MMOs, particularly Elder Scrolls Online. Don't be greedy, you're just going to give yourself a big headache. Have goals, have limits, and know when to fold 'em. Pay attention to other farmers, too. Not only can you gain dominance of a farming region, you may learn of other resources in the same area that you didn't know about!

Cheydinhal - An Oasis in Cyrodiil

Cyrodiil is many things: huge, scary, dangerous, full of treasure, full of quests.

Yet, as a loyal member of the Daggerfall Covenant, the Holy Knight Lorrithimar, I've found a place of respite, with some generally good, useful quests: the city of Cheydinhal in northeast Cyrodiil.

How'd You Find It?
I'd just completed a scouting mission, and turning in the 'infamous' Nirnroot Wine quest (I had completed the objectives in a previous visit.) At this point, I was riding around Cyrodiil either A) looking for useful resources like Calcinium, Ebony, or lumber, or Skyshards...or, a quick death so I could be kicked straight to my spawn point (across Cyrodiil!)

I figured, if I rode towards the Ebonheart Pact, I'd find something cool or deadly. Deadly is never hard in Cyrodiil, especially not in my 7-day Campaign; the Elves firmly control Cyrodiil. But, I figured, screw the elves! Why give them free Alliance Points? My 'buddies', the Ebonhearts, are actually managing to put up some slight resistance to the Elves.

As I was riding towards the Ebonheart lines I saw this walled city...and an enemy player fighting with a guard. While he was distracted, I slipped by under Sneak. I'd discovered Cheydinhal, and managed to turn in a quest from southern Cyrodiil!

What's so cool about it?
Unlike most of Cyrodiil's towns, it's a neutral town that is controlled by neutral, non-hostile NPCs, and more importantly, they have quests! I completed three such quests (and, landed another skyshard in the nearby ruined cathedral.) Most importantly, I got some extra money and XP, and have some Tier 5 resources I can shove in my bank when I (finally) get pwned by something.

Also, being a ruined city, it seems like a good place to set up an ambush. There's lot of Line of Sight breaks, and Sneak seems extremely effective due to all the walls and ways to make quick getaways. However, as I'm not even a Veteran rank yet, that can totally wait.

What's the takeaway?
Good XP, some more money, and a few tier 5 resources, a possible 'safe' haven, or at least a good place to perpetrate some defensive mind-screws. I forsee much fun there....