This article is about why Thief is the strongest in HOTL3. Note that I'm very specific about picking out the Thief school instead of the Rogue class. That is because Bard school, as everyone knows by now, is well and truly broken - along with the hearts of the players who attempted to make something out of it. Along a similar line, my time spent building a Mage-based class felt like a waste of time too, because I was constantly outplayed by Thief players not less than 3 gens below me. That was when I need to reflect if it was truly game mechanics or I simply suck as a player. To verify that, I spent the weekend leveling a Gen 1 Thief and proceed to test it out.
My target mob was Lady Mara of the Realms of Wizardry. She is afraid of typeless and water. To make it worse, fire damage heals her. Fair enough. As a mage, we are expected to know everything in the book of elements. If a page or two is missing, tough luck. As such, it happens that I did not have Adv Water learnt at the moment. So my only feasible attack is Cyclone from the Wind School. Even at E7, it did modest damage. Lady Mara was healing faster than the pathetic damage I could deal, along with nice spells up such as Manashield, Counter, Reflect not to mention Complete Heal at ridiculous intervals. Ok. It was my fault that I didn't have Water damage equipped so I deserved to get my arse skewered by Lady Mara's Dagger of the Sun.
Up stepped the Gen 1 Thief. Haha! Noob. What could it possibly do? Scratch Lady Mara's eyelash? Surprisingly I could land a Double Backstab on her and brought her down to yellow, A Few Wounds. What?! Even if I used Ice Ball against her as a Gen 8 mage, I would be very lucky to take Lady Mara down to Few Wounds state within the same time frame - not even factoring in the high possibility of stopping to dispel her endless defensive spells. Alright, how did Divine Shot fare? I was able to unleash a double beauty of Atomise damage on Lady Mara. That made E7 Cyclone look like a miserable failed card trick.
I guess it's time for a re-roll.
Alright, let's discuss the disadvantages of a Thief commonly lamented by Thief players who must be either in mock horror or honestly unaware how difficult it is to play the other schools. One - high mana usage. That is true. All thief skills takes up extremely high mana and according to these Thief Masters, it doesn't seem to improve with Gen ups.
What's my take on it? If I have to cast 5 Iceballs (or any spells) to match the damage of 1 Divine shot (of the same E), would my mana usage be close? How about the AP taken to do both? You do the sums. To me, I'll take the ability to deal the biggest damage in the shortest possible time. Besides, a Thief is not designed to spam attacks to kill their mob. What makes a Thief special is Backstab, not dagger attacks. The powerful skills are just icing on the cake to finish their heavily wounded mobs. With that in mind, high mana usage is a disadvantage that should and can be managed.
The second major disadvantage I was told was that it is hard to level a Thief up, especially in later Gens. I would respectfully disagree with that because other skills can be taken up (even temporarily) once we gain a couple of slots. By Gen 3-4, a Thief should have enough alternative skills to help out in leveling. The argument is that we have to get to Gen 3-4 first and it is really hard to level a Thief especially in the first two generations. Try that argument on a Wind Mage and you have no case. I have been playing a Gen 8 Wind Mage.
Now the advantages of a Thief.
The Master of the Elements
To be an accomplished mage that can kill almost any Quest Mobs of your KP range, you need a decent mix of skills. To be fair, if you have Fire and Water, you should be able to kill most mobs. Until you meet a Margoyle or friends like that. Even so, how many slots will a Mage needs to hold up opposite skills of at least 2 schools? How about the Thief then? 22 slots - because a switch of dagger is all a Thief gotta do. It makes Wands usage looks like complete tool in comparison. What can a mage do when the mob is only afraid of typeless damage? No problem for our Thief. A modest Jewelled Dagger will finish it off. Suck it up.
Enough said. However, the biggest advantage of a Thief happens to be its biggest disadvantage in a no flee room but as I mentioned earlier, by a couple of gen ups, a Thief will have enough tricks up his sleeve to kill a mob that he cannot backstab repeatedly, at a normal pace.
A Thief's stealth ability will be as high as his gen. For a mage, cleric or fighter, that is a minimum of extra 4 slots for Invisible, and even more slots for hide.
A bit of fun
Unlike the other schools which are basically spam-the-keys type, the fighting style of a Thief provides a refreshing difference.
My conclusion - A brilliantly designed school
In my opinion, there are no other school as well designed as Thief. For a start, none of its skills are completely useless as compared to skills like Ventriloquate. Each skill is also designed for a purpose so there is no wastage, unlike in the Wind school, skills like Armor, Shield, Bark Skin and Golden Skin basically does the same thing, robbing a Wind Mage of variation. Peek is a incredibly useful skill for Spec Book hunting. You wouldn't mind having a skill like Pick Lock in your pocket. Heal blade heals for an extremely high cost but the thing is - it heals. Being able to heal, bringing a mob down to its knee before the battle starts, impressive damage, able to hide the in shadows and the fact that all but a few locked doors stand in his way, a Thief can roam anywhere and survive. Even without skills from other schools as a complement, it is already the complete package.
I love it.