Hey guys, not a sniper this time see. Just a pseudo-sniper instead. More than a year or so ago Aak came to AK and immediately got hit by a series of unfortunate events. First of all, he’s a furry. Then, he’s a guy, in the Nian banner whom most were gunning for, and I’m fairly sure he has co…*ahem* blocked quite numerous people from getting Nian, thus unfuriated them. Then, his skill set was immediately dunked on because he’s a buffer, and buffer at the time (and kind off even now) had a reputation of being meme-only, AND, his kit also has some big effects (read: drawbacks) that people just tunnel-vision'ed on as the “friendly fire” unit, without really giving him a further chance. And thus, Aak’s reputation plummeted hard and never had a chance to recover. So what changed? Life changed, and the meme back then is now still technically a meme, but a good kind of meme.
Aak is the first of his kind in the game. First ranged Specialist (back then he was the only one, now there are 3), first to have friendly fire (like direct friendly fire, Warfarin doesn’t truly count), and still the only one to kill himself after being idle for too long. You may think he’s only for memes, but there’s more to him than meets the eyes. For one, he has solid Single Target DPS and Crowd-Control. For another, his buff is really potent, if you see past the friendly fire. Any ally that can survive his buff, will have a massive boost in performance.
Being unique, he doesn’t really have other similar operators to share a trendline. Among the ranged ST operators though, his base ATK ranks quite comfortably high. Losing out to only Ceobe, Close-Range Sniper, Siege Sniper, and the Deadeye Sniper.
His attack rate, though, is much faster, as one of the highest of all ranged operators, losing only to Trapper Specialist and AA Sniper, and tying with Drone Caster (Click). This makes his base DPS quite decent, and the attack rate does matter a lot for his talent later.
His HP is actually very noticeable, as one of the highest of all ranged operators in the game. It loses only to Aosta, and later on, Ch’en the Holungday. But this HP pool can be deceptive to his survivability.
His DEF, however, is pretty average for a ranged unit. So it’s the HP that is doing the most carrying.
He also has 10 RES, not much, but for a non-caster, non-supporter, that's rare, and only Rosmontis, Blue Poison, and Nightingale has any RES for that group.
I’d still rank him as tanky for a ranged unit, but you should wait until a bit later on to judge that yourself.
Strangely enough, he has the DP cost of a 5* AA Sniper, 11 at base and 13 at E1+.
Range, Trait, Talent
The strange similarity doesn’t end there. His range is also similar to AA Sniper.
Not prioritizing drones first though. This time it’s unique, and it’s “Continuously loses HP over time”.
Apparently he gets bored to death. This is why his HP pool earlier is slightly deceptive. While it is a lot of HP, without a direct source of healing (i.e., not regen like Angelina) he can be easier to kill than other ranged operators. I personally don’t think it’s that bad of a drawback, but out of all the times that I used him, the HP loss did matter in like 5% of the time, which isn’t small.
The HP loss is 3% Max HP per second. Which means his higher HP pools also make it harder to sustain because technically he needs more healing to counteract it. He does have something to help with it though, so again, it’s not all bad.
In particular, some units in this game can provide SP when they heal someone (I’ll tell you who later if you don’t know), and with this constant HP loss, Aak can basically receive constant SP from them, pretty fun but “out-there” strat.
First talent: Drug Cocktail Administration
Always available: Each attack will trigger one of the following effects at E0/E1/E2:
Restore own HP by 13%/14%/15% of his max HP.
Deal 130%/140%/150% damage.
Slow the enemy for 1.0s/1.2s/1.4s
Stun the enemy for 0.6s/0.8s/1.0s
This is a deceptively strong talent, because it just does everything. The chance should be 25% split for all 4 of them, but I’m not insane enough to test them in practice.
The heal is a good way to counteract his HP loss, since it also scales with his max HP. Later on, he has even more tools to help with this as well.
The crit effect is a decent damage boost because it’s an Attack Multiplier, and as said, Aak’s base ATK isn’t bad.
The slow is the Sluggish type that Slow Supporter have, 80% speed reduction that doesn’t stack with other Sluggish, but does stack with normal Movement Speed reduction.
And last but not least, the stun is a stun. ‘Nuff said.
This talent allows Aak to be a sort of a jack of all trades. He can deal fast and decent damage, self-sustain (kinda), and crowd-control. And that’s without any skill effect involved.
Second talent: Pharmaceutical Diffusion
Available at E2 – Increases healing effects on this unit by 20%.
Potential 5 increases that to 25%.
This is a big piece that allows him to counteract his trait. Any direct healing he receives, which do count his first talent, is increased by 20%. This means any heal that provides a green number will be increased by 20%, but not regen (like Perfumer or Angelina). His talent now heals him for 18% max HP per proc (it doesn’t affect the 13/14% version because this talent is only at E2).
My favorite pair is him and Saria (preferably S2), Saria alone can sustain him with this talent, and with the fact that Saria’s heal provides 1 SP, Aak basically has no trait downside and some free SP every couple seconds. Something nice to think about.
Always available – Neuroticism: When stationed in the Control Center, increases the chance of getting clues in accordance with the factions of the operators assigned to the Reception Room, but at the same time, also greatly increases morale consumption in the Control Center.
There’s still no official number on the chance increase that I know of. Nor if it’s known that it can affect operators from a faction but has no reception skill. The thing is the downside is pretty bad. It increases morale consumption by, I think, +1.5/h, which drains everyone really fast. However, if you’re desperate for a clue, you can definitely try him or Leizi. Unless HG lies to us, the additional chance is more than 0.
Available at E2 – Surgical Precision: When this operator is assigned in the Training Room to train Medics, training speed increases by +60%.
Oh yea, Aak’s also the first operator to be in a class but have a specific training skill to another class, in this case, Medics.
Worth nothing is that this is a training speed increase, not training time reduction. So a +60%, in combination with a +5% base that any trainer will get, results in a roughly 40.4% time reduction.
Stats at level 7
ATK SPD +70, 26s duration, 30 SP cost,
Auto Recovery, manual activation
M3 gives ATK SPD +100, 30s duration, 30 SP cost, 20 initial SP
You may think this skill is simple since the skill only gives ATK SPD. But it actually is fairly complicated, because of his talent.
His new attack interval is now 0.76s / 0.65s (SL7/M3), which means he procs 1 of his first talent’s effects every 0.65s. Remember that half of those effects are crowd-control. Which means, he can sluggish and stun someone really hard, and at E2, those effects last longer than his attack interval, even at SL7.
Does it remind you of some other operator though? When his skill is up he can slow and stun a single target? Yea, it’s exactly like May’s S2. In fact, it’s better. May has a long interval of roughly 1.5s, a 100% chance to sluggish for only 1 second, and a 30% chance to stun for 1.2s. Aak in comparison has a short interval of 0.65s and a 25% chance to sluggish for 1.4s, and a 25% chance to stun for 1s. So why is it better if the chances and durations are worse? Because of the attack rate. Even at just SL7, he can attack once every 0.76s which is roughly twice as fast as May S2. The difference then is very noticeable, and any “but it’s RNG” argument from someone is basically just proof of them not having used him in practice (enough time) yet.
This is a really big claim, but I consider Aak a powercrept-May in every circumstances except for these: when you do a no healing/sniperknights/4* only clear, when you need to prioritize drones that are in the middle of a bunch of units that eventually Aak won’t prioritize drones first, and in Integrated Strategy (press F). I guess you can also count resources cost to raise, but even if both are at E1 Aak is still better.
You may say “yea well, a 6* powercreeping a 4*, how shocking” but I can guarantee you not many people think of Aak in this perspective (especially back then). So by saying he powercrept May, an operator that is really respected by people ever since IS#1 came out (and I even predicted her strong usability roughly about 5 weeks after she was released while everyone was still kinda ignoring her), I can genuinely support the idea that “Aak is not a meme operator”. And I do not say that lightly, at least, in this ST Crowd Control role.
One other effect heals himself, and since he attacks so fast he can easily sustain himself with this skill up. Given that he has a really high HP pool, that makes his sustainability just that much higher, and can even be placed aggressively as well. Adding to the fact that he can also stun, when his skill is up, he will pretty much only die by hard nuke, or really, really, really, really bad RNG, which did in fact happen to me like 1% of the time (less than 10 times out of 100 times I tried to use Aak). It’s why I added the “no healing” as one of the circumstances where May is better, since while it has a really low chance to happen, it’s not 0. And people are going to deeply remember the time when RNG betrayed them like that over the hundreds of times where it’s just typical RNG that wasn’t noticeable, so a disclaimer like this is needed.
This time, the critical effect is the least of consideration since I consider this to be a Crowd-control skill, but more damage is more damage.
…wait, I just spilled everything in the Advanced Details section.
Use this skill to replace May, except for the 3 circumstances mentioned. Sure, this skill has a 10 higher SP cost, but it is offset by the fact that Aak can continue to offer Crowd-Control (CC) during downtime, and timing issues can be fixed just by shifting skill activation.
Let’s pick up the CC-comparison again. Aside from powercreeping May, it’s also very much on par with Angelina S2M3. And again, the fact that he can continue to offer CC during downtime, or heck just continue attacking. Angelina has better utilities (ATK SPD buff + healing) and a shorter cooldown though, so in a practical sense, Aak is slightly less useful than Angelina S2, but in CC sense, Aak is better. Now I think I just dunked his reputation again because Ange S2 isn’t used much anyways. Dammit facepalm, maybe I should just delete this section.
It also only needs 10 SP or 10 seconds for the initial use, kinda like Exu, while May needs to wait a whole 20 SP for first use.
Stats at level 7
Attacks an ally in range (prioritize ally directly in front) 15 times with 500 physical ATK, and then increases max HP and DEF of himself and the targeted ally by +50% for a duration, 30 seconds duration, 34 SP cost, 22 initial SP.
Auto Recovery, manual activation.
Lmao don’t, but
M3 gives +80% max HP and DEF, 30 SP cost, 25 initial SP.
I’ll spoil it now, don’t even bother with this skill unless you already know what you want to do (in which case you don’t need a guide). So I’ll take this section to prepare for his third skill, which has the same baseline of this skill, just different buffs given.
This and his third skill are his buffing skill, but while the buffs are amazing, the cost is high. Like, really high.
Before that though, I’ll have to talk about how the buff’s targeting order works. It said it prioritises allies directly in front of Aak, so the 3 tiles in front of Aak are accounted first. Then it prioritises the ally closest to him that is not in front. Then between the 2 sides, it prioritises the ally that was last deployed, so it looks something like this.
Some special notes are:
Bison/Bubble can redirect the buff away from another ally if they are in the same priority as the ally. So Bison in position 3 can redirect the buff away from an ally in position 1.
They cannot redirect fire from position 4 if they are in position 5, 6, or 7. But they can redirect fire if they are in position 4b and are deployed before position 4a.
The reverse can also happen for allies with lowered priority like a Stalker Specialist and W.
Now for the cost to receive the buff. Aak deals 500 physical damage 15 times before the ally is allowed to receive the buff. That’s 7500 total damage before defense. Luckily, DEF does work here, and so anyone with 300 DEF will only take 200 damage for 15 times, which is still 3000 damage, which is still pretty high. Non-Guard/Defender melee operators tend to have around 300-350 DEF and around 2000 HP. That means they do not have enough to survive that buff. Even some of the Guards still can’t survive the buff comfortably, especially at lower levels like E1 40 for example. Only Defenders can easily shrug off the cost of the buff.
While DEF helps mitigate the damage, it still has the minimum damage, so actually, you only need to get up to 475 DEF, since the minimum damage is 500*5% = 25, and any higher DEF won’t change that. Which means that even with infinite DEF, a maxed Haze on S2 still can’t survive the buff (why would you do it in that order anyway).
The damage actually counts as attacks. So, for allies with “Defensive Recovery” skills, which only gain SP when they are attacked, that’s a free 15 SP gained even before getting the buff. All operators with Defensive Recovery skills are defenders, so they easily take the hit as well (except for Estelle, though she will just barely survive). There’s also a defender that gives 1 SP to a random adjacent ally whenever they are attacked, and it fully works on her.
Mudrock, while invincible with S3, can still be targeted by Aak, and even more surprisingly, it won’t even destroy any stack of her shield (probably because she takes 0 damage). This makes buffing Mudrock just before she’s out of the invincible state extremely convenient because Mudrock will still have 2-3 shield stacks afterward and take no effort to use the buff on at all. Invisible operators like Firewatch or Manticore, however, cannot avoid Aak’s targeting.
The buffs actually stay if Aak leaves the field after buffing, just like Warfarin’s buff. Unlike Warfarin’s however, Aak’s buff actually lasts a duration before being able to recharge SP.
Despite benefitting from his own buff, Aak needs a target to trigger his skill. If there are no allies in his range, his 2nd and 3rd skill just can’t be used. If the target dies or immediately retreated after the buff is casted, the buff is immediately applied, instead of waiting for the full 15 hits to land.
I suppose you can use it to let Hoshi tank a Golem/Colossus for a long time. But as Normal Defenders fell out of meta due to raw defensive stats not being important anymore, so did the need to buff defensive stats of a defender. And it’s going to be a defender/guard’s stats that you’re buffing, because otherwise you’ll just kill the operator you want to use this skill on and why are you buffing defensive stats of a ranged unit. Shining on the other hand can buff anyone’s DEF without hurting them and at the same time provide extra healing for them.
And of course, the best defense is a good offense.
Stats at level 7
Attacks an ally in range (same priority) 15 times with 500 physical ATK. Then increases their ATK by +35% and their ATK SPD by +35 of Aak and the targeted ally for a duration. 20 seconds duration, 41 SP cost, 27 initial SP.
Auto Recovery, manual activation.
M3 gives ATK +50% and ATK SPD +50, 35 SP cost, 30 initial SP.
This is the strongest buff in the game for a burst DPS skill.
%ATK buff only stacks additively, and so, after a few +% from skills and other buffs, the effect becomes diluted. Like, what is +50% from a +330%? It’s more ATK, sure, but the benefits become less effective. But ATK SPD buffs in this game are few and far between. Angelina gives +7 to all allies, Ayerscarpe gives +8 to all allies around him, Elysium gives +20 to all snipers when his skill is active, Whislash gives +8 to all 3+ block units and +24 when her S1M3 is active, and +12 to all other melees, Andreana gives +12 to Abyssal only, Saileach gives +10 to allies around the flag.
As you can see, no single one even gives up to +25 ATK SPD. Aak just strolls up and gives from +35 up to +50. So while +% ATK can be diluted, the amount of +ATK SPD from others aren’t there to dilute this amazing ATK SPD buff yet (some operators can give themselves ATK SPD like Thorns S3, but even those operators aren’t numerous either)
On its own, it’s also the best buff in the game because, again, of the ATK SPD buff. First he gives someone +50% ATK, so now they do 1.5 times more DPS. But then he gives +50 ATK SPD, which means they do 1.5 times more attacks, which technically means 1.5 times more DPS. Now those 2 together, they do 1.5 times more damage per attack, and they do 1.5 times more attacks, resulting in 2.25 times more DPS overall. If it was just +100% ATK or +100 ATK SPD, it’d only be a 2 times more DPS. Though +100 ATK SPD would be quite strong because as said, +% ATK gets diluted easily.
At M3, it also has a really short initial cooldown of 5s. *cough* it’s also the same initial cooldown as Surtr’s S3M3 *cough* and Arts Guard in general has high base DEF *cough*
To kill, either allies or enemies.
Some people tend to dismiss buffers saying, “just bring more DPS”. But after some point, whether it’s because of the enemies’ stats or because of a lack of roster, you cannot bring more DPS that would outweigh the need to buff an existing strong/broken operator. Think about a roster with Eyjaf, Ifrit, and Surtr. Which arts damage operator would you bring as a “more DPS” that is stronger than bringing either Suzuran, Saria, or Aak (preferably on Surtr)? Or if you want a team of both physical and arts damage, then after Eyjaf, Ifrit, Surtr, SA, Mudrock, Schwarz, Ash/Exu, a few DP generators, and you’ll realized that bringing a debuffer/buffer enhances their performance more than a meager extra DPS unit.
Like, if you’re bringing a top tier DPS unit already, enhancing their performance by just 50% can easily be more than a 100% of a different operator’s performance. Like, are you going to bring Surtr + Amiya or Surtr + Suzuran? don't answer "it depends" imma block you
Going even further, back then Aak had very few viable targets to use this sweet buff on, with only SA, Specter, Blaze, and Bagpipe as strong DPS who can receive the buff without needing any extra DEF assistance. But now, with Surtr, Mudrock, Thorns, Mountain, Eunectes, Blemi (kinda), Kal’tsit’s Mon3tr, and the existence of Skalter’s S2 (shilling to my good buddy u/Boelthor) that allows a few ranged operators to survive the abuse, even more or all of them in conjunction with Shining’s talent, he’s more viable than ever to use the buff without going through many troubles.
When the drawback for the best buff in the game is negligible, what’s left is, well, an amazing buff with no string attached.
Do remember, Aak is still affected by his own buff. Which means, he gets +50% ATK, which is affected by his crit talent, and +50 ATK SPD, which gives him more chances to trigger his talent, both of which can support the buffed ally with extra damage, and occasional stun and slow.
Fun fact: it does affect Healing Defender’s healing mode skill like Nearl S2 or Hung S2, both their heal and their healing rate. Hung S2 is also Defensive Recovery, which means Aak also helps charge the skill up. And Hung provides Aak with +75% extra healing if Aak is right behind him (assuming people would E2 Hung LUL), further ensuring Aak’s own survival.
Aak’s reputation hasn’t recovered ever since his debut, but it is improving, from what I’ve seen of my limited sight on the community (the more active part at least). But even back then, he’s never been awful, not like Passenger at least (high bar to cross I know).
S1 is my favorite skill of Aak. I do not say it lightly when I said the skill powercreeps May. Whenever I find myself thinking I need May, I bring Aak instead. It’s a lot more reliable than you’d think.
S3, being the best burst DPS buff in the game, it certainly finds matches in operators that deal really high damage per hit and need to get those hits out faster. On nuke operators like W, Firewatch, Ch’en, and such, the ATK SPD is wasted, and so, Warfarin’s +90% is usually better. In the high-risk Contingency Contracts meta though, burst DPS typically rules the meta.
I found Aak to be a true "Jack-of-all-trade, master of none". He has Crowd-control (talent and/or S1), decent burst DPS (talent + S1), self-sustain + tank (HP stats + 2 talents + S1/S2), and the ability to buff an ally when you need more defensive cover (S2), or more firepower (S3).
There are a lot of amazing allies for Aak, utilizing many different aspects. The 2 buffs he gives are just that great. Special shoutout to Liskarm as well, who can take 15 hits and gives 14***/15 SP to allies depends on what skill she’s having. Liskarm herself can also make use of either the DEF HP buff to tank even better, or the ATK and ATK SPD buff for her S2 to kill better, while being able to give SP on demand to ally(ies).
***Liskarm S1 can only give 14 SP because of how her talent and S1 works. Liskarm only need to be hit 10 times to trigger her S1, which means the 11th hit of Aak's buff is negated, and not giving any SP, because she cannot give SP if she does not take damage (this include evasion). If you use it when her S1 is already running and lost the first block, all 15SP will then be given. This means that if you want to use Aak+Liskarm to give allies SP exclusively (i.e. not tanking something), it’s better if you run Liskarm S2, so that you can always give 15SP to allies.
The Shining S3 buff meme to ranged allies is still there, but with Skalter, it’s more than ever feasible. For example, a high level or maxed E2 Rosmontis, Schwarz, and Chalter need only maxed Skalter to survive him, that's how simple it could be. So eventually, I hope people will see it as less of a meme but more of a stretching the limit of your operators, especially, for your favorite operators that aren’t necessarily meta, or even strong (RIP Nightmare fans tho).
That should be it for Aak, the biased parts from me at least. I don’t and won’t disagree that he’s on the lower end of 6*, because his ST Crowd Control niche isn’t rarely needed, and his buff depends on allies, and while amazing, it is also overkill for most people in most content (but for real try it with Surtr as Helidrop Duo). For those that have used Aak seriously, how do you find him? How unreliable/reliable his Crowd-Control is in practice? I’ll stick with my conclusion for now, but if someone can simulate his real average CC capability using program or something that'd be nice (not that it's worth the effort).
Anyway, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time.