Posted Wed, Feb 13, 2013 by Ethec
Like any good D&D experience, you'll start your Devoted Cleric experience with some important choices in character creation. Since the Devoted Cleric's primary stat is Wisdom, most players will pick a race that offers a nice bonus to this attribute. In Neverwinter, this means elf or dwarf, but if you want to venture off the beaten path and pick a race with lots of strength and charisma (the secondary attributes) to perhaps create a kickass Battle Cleric, go for it! Just know that you'll get two attribute points to distribute every 10 levels, so be advised that you won't be able to cover a large WIS gap fairly easily.
Since I wanted to dip my toe in the Battle Cleric waters without giving up the chance to be a primary healer in the future, I re-rolled until I got about 19/15/15 (wis, str, cha - I forget the exact numbers). Race and bonus are the only choices you'll make during character creation that affect gameplay, so have fun with the rest!
While you might think that your ability set is structured around healing, levels 1-30 offer more options for stopping or slowing down and blasting your targets with a variety of direct damage and area of effect (AoE) attacks. This is a good idea, in my opinion, since awesome heals and not much else would make for a very slow level-up process.
But you do have useful healing abilities. Early heals are of the heal over time variety (HoTs like Healing Word), a trigger heal (like Astral Seal, which heals anyone attacking this target), and one ground targeted heal (Bastion of Health) which, while useful for topping up the hitpoints, won't exactly save the day if your group gets seriously into the red.
Instead of being the group's health battery, think of yourself as a direct damage dealer with some decent crowd control abilities in addition to the heals mentioned above. Chains of Blazing Light is a core encounter skill which temporarily AoE roots the enemy group in place. Couple this with some hard-hitting dailies like Avenging Angel or Flame Strike for massive AoE damage, or while these are charging up use encounter AoEs like Daunting Light, then use the at-will attack Astral Seal for some heals and Forgemaster's Flame to snare anything that crawls out of the inferno you just created.
When all of your dailies and encounters are on cooldown (or even if they aren't), another core class ability of the Devoted Cleric you can use is Channel Divinity. It's mapped to the [Tab] key by default. Using this heightens the power of all your abilities, but I like it best for transforming your default at-will attack Lance of Faith into a powerful channel damage spell. Each use of an ability while Channel Divinity is triggered costs an action point, and you can build up a total of three points through heals and causing damage.
Finally, if you're unfamiliar with the ability terms used above, here's a quick overview: Encounters are your common spells and abilities with short cooldowns of a few seconds to around 15 seconds. At-wills are your left- and right-mouse button attacks – these are insta-attacks and casts. Finally, class features can be either passive buffs or toggle-able modes which temporarily increase the effectiveness of your encounters and at-wills.
Another crucial ability of the Devoted Cleric is the Shift power, which is simply another way of describing the defensive class ability to dodge attacks. This utility power is fittingly mapped to the [Shift] key, or you can double-tap any of the directional movement keys to dodge as well.
This mechanic is very similar to the active dodging system in Guild Wars 2. You'll want to get into the habit of using Shift to avoid larger direct or AoE attacks, the dreaded Red Circle attacks that sub-bosses and bosses use constantly. Even as a chain-wearer, you can't take many of these attacks without needing to resort to health potions. If timed correctly you'll negate any incoming damage from the attack which is indicated by the "resisted" floating combat text.
As with all Neverwinter classes, green gear drops often and, after the first few levels, should be all that you consider equipping. Blue gear may come your way if you're lucky, but is reserved for the top reward in early group-not-optional dungeon delves. Since Devoted Clerics are mostly about ranged damage dealing, secondarily about surviveability and healing, and only then about pure offense, I tended to value Power followed by Defense and Deflection in my gear, and only then would I look to stats like Critical Strike and Life Steal,
Based on my experiences playing the Devoted Cleric through level 30, including plenty of solo time and full group dungeon delves, I've put together a short list of tips below.
Starting at level 10 you'll have the ability to slot and level up a number of NPC companions. While only one can be summoned at a time, you'll still be able to slot a few that can be made active with a click of a button in your character sheet (shown below).
For the Devoted Cleric, I found it optimal to use striker companions like the Wolf or Raven (purchaseable with Astral Diamonds - the Raven has more Runestone slots and seems to gain experience much faster). These companions supplement the damage you need to do to drop targets fast, and abilities like Astral Seal compensate for their relatively low hitpoints.When your strikers are in the garage for some training, controller companions are another solid choice to debuff and pull apart groups that you'll face.
Since respecs seem to be fairly cheap in Neverwinter (at least during beta), I'd concentrate on damage-dealing feats, at least during level up. This won't necessarily gimp you for group combat - a solid damage dealer with surviveability and utility heals is an asset for any group, especially in early dungeons.
With that in mind, I picked feats from the two lower tiers of heroic feats (you'll have enough points at level 30 to fill one all the way plus a little of another. Greater Fortune, Domain Synergy, Repurpose Soul, and Templar's Domain, plus some points in Toughness and Weapon Mastery, rounded my Battle Cleric build off nicely.
Things become less clear at level 30, when Paragon points become available. I'm leaning toward the Righteous path to keep in step with the combat medic theme. Sovereign Justice, the capstone feat of this tree, procs a nice heal when the cleric is attacked. The Faithful path seems like more of a pure healing path, while Virtuous has plenty of buffs and debuffs and is suited to more of a utility healer.