Guide to WAR Swordmaster Class Mechanics, Part 1


This guide discusses the class mechanics for the Warhammer Online (WAR) Swordmaster (SM) class. If you want to understand how the class functions and its strengths and limitations, this is the guide for you.

This guide is broken up into several posts.

Please post comments / feedback / tips, contributors will be credited as the guide is updated (e.g. contributed by Gumby).

1. Balance Mechanic

The class mechanic for SM is Balance, and it affects which abilities are available for use at a given time.

As we use abilities, we “cycle” from Normal to Improved to Perfect Balance, and at each new balance, we have access to different abilities. Perfect Balance abilities tend to be powerful: they deliver high damage, trigger strong effects, and cost 0 Action Points (AP). For maximum AP efficiency, it’s important to use Perfect Balance abilities as often as possible. So you typically want to cycle through your balances:

Normal -> Improved -> Perfect -> Normal -> Improved -> Perfect

The balance mechanic (Career Resource) icon changes color based on balance, so you should see:

Blue -> Green -> Yellow -> Blue -> Green -> Yellow

Tip: move the balance mechanic to the middle of the screen, so you can see what balance you are currently in.

You can use a Normal balance ability at any time, and sometimes it is wise to do so, e.g. to get into Improved Balance to snare an opponent with Quick Incision. Some abilities can be used at any time and do not progress the Balance mechanic. E.g. Shatter Enhancement, Hold the Line, etc.

Several mastery tactics scale as we progress our balance:

  • Balanced Accuracy (BA): adds +10% to critical hit chance in Improved Balance, +20% in Perfect Balance
  • Perfect Defense (PD)s: add 5% to block and parry chance in Improved Balance, +10% in Perfect Balance
  • Calming Winds (CW): adds +10% to disrupt chance in Improved Balance, +20% in Perfect Balance

Therefore, remaining in Perfect Balance for extended periods of time can be beneficial due to the way the above tactics work. E.g. an SM with PD or CW slotted can stay in Perfect Balance while closing the gap to enemies and have an avoidance buff. Sometimes it is worth waiting to use Shatter Enchantment until you are in Perfect Balance as BA affects it (contributed by: CorumSM).

The SM Balance is what it is. You either like it or you don’t. Some SMs (and Black Orcs, who have the same mechanic) feel it is too limiting. It feels natural to me now, and I have a Hoeth mastery ability Protection of Hoeth (PoH), which enables me to get into Improved Balance without a target. The Balance mechanic allows me to get into a rhythm, and I plan out the next full cycle before even executing it.

2. Damage Mechanics

To play SM effectively, it’s critical to understand our Spirit damage mechanics.

SMs deal 2 types of damage:

  • Spirit damage
  • Physical damage: from auto attacks, some Khaine abilities, and some Vaul abilities

SMs have no way to debuff armor (aside from the Rank 1 morale ability Demolishing Strike).  Therefore, the damage from our physical attacks varies based on the armor of the opponent. That’s not a good thing.

The advantages of Spirit damage are:

  • Destruction players do not typically stack Spirit resistance
  • Resistances have a diminishing returns (DR) cap at 40%, after which resistance tails off
  • We have 2 abilities that debuff Spirit resistance, which enables our Spirit damage abilities to hit harder

Those 3 points combined enable an SM to hit a target hard, without a lot of damage being mitigated.

To debuff a target’s Spirit resistance, we have 2 abilities:

  • the Hoeth base ability Wrath of Hoeth (WoH), which is an AOE Spirit debuff
  • the blade enchant Heaven’s Blade, which debuffs all resistances

WoH is an on-demand Improved Balance ability. The ability has a high AP cost (55) and doesn’t deal much damage, but the Spirit debuff lasts 20 seconds. Heaven’s Blade is discussed in the next section.

As a side effect of SM class mechanics favoring Spirit damage, most SMs do not bother stacking the stat Weapon Skill (WS). We don’t benefit as much from the armor penetration aspect of WS as other classes that deal primarily physical damage (e.g. White Lions, Ironbreakers, etc).

3. Blade Enchant Mechanics

SMs can use 1 of 3 blade enchants on their weapon, each with different capabilities:

  • Nature’s Blade (NB): this is an AOE stat stealer. When it procs, you reduce a random stat (Str, WS, Tou, Init, Int, or WP) on an opponent and buff yourself with it for 10 seconds. The buff also applies to your group mates. You can have multiple stat steal buffs up concurrently
  • Phantom’s Blade (PB): this is a bubble enchant. When it procs, you have a bubble that lasts up to 10 seconds and absorbs a moderate amount of damage
  • Heaven’s Blade (HB): this is a resistances debuffer. When it procs, all resistances of your target are reduced for 10 seconds. This is very helpful for focus-firing targets

A blade enchant has a 25% chance of proc’ing from auto attack or any ability, with the exception of Throw. Both single- and multi-target abilities can proc this.

Therefore, if you want to maximize the number of blade enchant procs, you can:

  • AOE multiple targets
  • use multi-hit Perfect Balance abilities
  • use a sword with a faster speed, to get more auto attacks in

You can “re-proc” a blade enchant when it it’s effect is already up. What effect re-proc’ing has depends on which enchant you are using:

  • if NB re-procs, you steal a different stat. If you have every stat stolen, nothing happens
  • if PB re-procs, the existing bubble is unchanged (i.e. you don’t get a new bubble for a full 10 seconds)
  • if HB re-procs, the existing resistances debuff is unchanged (i.e. you don’t reset the timer to 10 seconds)

That concludes Part 1 of the guide. Part 2 of the guide covers DoT Tactic Mechanics, Bubble and Healing Mechanics,  and Crowd Control Mechanics.

Please post feedback / comments / questions.

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Posted in Guide, PVP, Warhammer Online
14 comments on “Guide to WAR Swordmaster Class Mechanics, Part 1
  1. Jalariel says:

    Hi Taugrim,

    Cheers for that, was really useful. I’m a r40 sm on Norn, but have yet (until now) seen a decent writeup of the mechanic.
    I do have a question though, do you know if the Natures Blade steals wounds? It’s the blade enchant I tend to run, but never noticed wounds.

    Nie work Taurgim, look forward to the next part,

    Cheers,
    Jalariel

  2. […] a comment » This is Part 2 of the guide. Part 1 of the guide covered the Balance Mechanic, Damage Mechanics, and Blade Enchant […]

  3. Vertie Mabon says:

    Very interesting post

  4. Ilimolaine says:

    I think u can reproc phantoms blade as soon as the absorbed is fully used. when I play with it up I swear I see the bubble pop up more often then every ten seconds.

    • taugrim says:

      I used Aura to test the bubbles, along with recording via FRAPS, back in 1.3.1. I am positive that bubbles did not re-proc until after they had expired time wise or had absorbed all they could.

      • Ilimolaine says:

        Lol oops sorry if I didn’t word what I said very well but my point was that I thought the will reproc once it absorbed all it could (which u just confirmed for me). Your guide states that it won’t make a new shield for another 10 sec. That’s what confused me.

  5. Ilimolaine says:

    Does the hitpoint regen bonuses on armor pieces apply while in combat or is it still only applicable when not in combat?

  6. […] Swordmaster and Bright Wizard Guides and […]

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