The Squig Herder is one of my favourite WAR careers; it has loads of character and (in theory) good damage combined with excellent mobility. Unfortunately 1.4 turned up and gave them (and other ranged physical damage careers) the proper shaft by gimping armour penetration. Now I wasn’t interested enough to look into the calculations and details that explained why this gimping happened, but I know that it did because I tried playing my Squig Herder back then and it was bloody terrible. Mythic acknowledged these issues and eventually changed some things about, including adjusting a supposedly unpopular tactic so that it provides a dramatic boost to a range of DPS stats, at the cost of toughness. Combined with the lower renown rank requirements for armour sets and the excellent new item sets, this looked like it might have gone some way to making the career not suck donkey balls for any players below RR80. The question of course is has it made any difference?
Yes, it has made a significant difference and the career is very much worth playing, but it has unfortunately come at a significant cost.
I’ve had a few solid sessions in Tier 4 now with my RR52 Squig Herder, taking part in a mixture of solo and small scale group roaming, as well as some warband and scenario action. I dabbled with specs based on each of the 3 mastery trees, including variants of the old cookie cutter specs from the past, results have been mixed. In general I think the career works pretty well, has a wide range of decent abilities, some great morales and is very well defined in it's role and game-play style. Whilst not one of the big 4 that both factions have, it is a very good career and one of the most fun to play.
For the laugh I tried out playing a full on melee theme with its Squig Armour ability/stance/thing. It sucked, big time. The damage is poor compared with other melee, the range of abilities have some use but are too limited, it just feels too slow and as a result is surprisingly dull to play. It does have Bad Gas which now it's not linked to your squig actually has a chance of working and the Squig Armour does look cool, but that’s all it's really got going for it. I’ve no idea how viable it is at high RR, but at low ones avoid this at all costs.
A heavy Quick Shootin’ spec, that doesn't also have plenty of points in Big Shootin, is mediocre, not bad, but certainly not good. The abilities just do not hit hard enough and I always had to rely on Big Shootin abilities to get the burst to actually kill things. In certain situations it could be great, when kiting an enemy 1v1 for example, but all too often when multiple players and healers are involved, I found it too lacking in damage. That said, I see the heal debuff as an essential, so would always want that on my action bar. At low RR I would say this mastery tree is worth experimenting with, it might work for you, but I personally wasn’t happy with it as my main focus.
The one that really worked for me was a spec that was high in both Big and Quick Shootin. Plink still rules the roost as primary source of killing and was doing quite reasonable damage, certainly enough that I wasn’t just leeching kills from the big boys. Which wasn’t much of a surprise as this was basically the spec I used to play anyway, so the familiarity no doubt helped. To be honest I was pleasantly surprised at quite how good the damage could be, nothing silly of course, but decent. This was helped by the stats I can now reach: 1070 BS, 650 WS and I think about 25% crit, though I don’t remember how much my total ranged power was. I could easily get my crit a lot higher and run at say 500 WS too, which might be worth doing. That’s not bad at all for a mere RR52 character and I at least felt competitive.
However… This damage comes at a significant cost. A mere 6-7k wounds, a pathetic 98 Toughness and bugger all other defensive stats. Which means if anyone deigns to look at me, I am totally and utterly buggered, but to be honest I don’t mind this. I have to work harder to stay alive against the high RR people sure, but I can get solo kills if I’m clever and do very well when working with a group. So that doesn’t bother me so much as the other big problem.
Basically Squig Herders now only have 1 tactic slot. There are two tactics that between them give a lot of Ballistic and Weapon Skill, they are both absolutely essential. Then there is Run Away, the speed boost on damage tactic, this is a career defining tactic for a Squig Herder and is again absolutely essential for a low RR one due to the lack of survivability related stats. So that leaves one slot free… For me that had to be the range boost for Quick Shootin abilities which brings them in line with the Big ones. I’d like to take the tactic that reduces Plink’s cast time, but it’s not viable without other tactics to help with the increased action point cost. There are other tactics I’d also like to use, but they just can’t compete with stats and Run Away, so I find myself frustrated and feeling somewhat restricted.
All told this means that yes a lowbie Squig Herder works rather well again with certain specs and honestly it is a great laugh to play, but you’ve not got many options in play style or build. I don’t know how much that changes later on and it may not bother you anyway, but personally I would really like to feel like I have more choice in how to build my character. Ranged DPS gets some attention in the next patch, hopefully that will include having less essential tactics (without gimping things...) and making Squig Armour specs worthwhile.