So far, most of us should already know the following:
- Caster Altria is broken
- (Almost) everyone can loop (Shuten Douji is crying somewhere in the corner, along with a few others)
There are however several questions left to be answered, and I've seen discussions regarding this swirling around, mainly:
- Just how broken is she exactly?
- Is ‘X’ Servant dead?
These are the main questions this post seeks to answer.
The answer to this one is actually easy: 'VERY'. But that alone wouldn't tell us enough, so let me start with comparing her to the game's other primary Arts supports.
- Altria Caster at 1/1/1 is equal or slightly better than a 10/10/10 Nero Bride in terms of looping. By this point, both give 30% NP charge on the main damage dealer, with Altria giving 10% Attack buff, 30% Arts buff, and 20% NP Gain buff, compared to Nero Bride’s 45% NP gain buff and 40% Attack buff.
- Paracelsus von Hohenheim is long known as being superior to Nero Bride and Tamamo in terms of NP refund support (meaning, not counting Bride’s 30% Charge), giving the damage dealer 20% Arts buff and 50% NP Gain buff. However, Altria Caster has him beaten in this regard with 50% Arts and 30% NP Gain, and this is without taking into consideration her 50% NP Charge!
- Tamamo-no-Mae is known as giving the largest damage boost among all the Arts supports, and this still (largely) holds true. Tamamo’s 30% NP Damage buff and 50% Arts buff are still slightly superior compared to Altria’s 20% Attack buff and 50% Arts buff, though if Altria gets access to her NP, this becomes 50% Attack buff and 50% Arts buff.
To top it all off, Altria’s NP (which is very easy to access thanks to her first skill - double Altria means she’s guaranteed at least 60% NP Charge from the get-go) offers Super Invincibility (meaning an Invincibility on which Invincibility Pierce doesn’t work) as well as debuff removal.
Altria’s single greatest weakness is her LACK OF SUSTAIN, and while this doesn’t really matter in most fights, she will need to be paired with someone else for longer fights (primary candidates being Jeanne, Merlin and Tamamo).
Anyway, now that we have a good idea on where Altria’s broken-ness comes from, it’s time to dive into the topic of looping proper.
So 3-turn NP loops aren’t exactly a new thing - Skadi introduced it two years ago, and it’s been going strong until now (though as of late, DW’s tendency to use 2-mob waves have shaken it a bit). However, Altria Caster brings NP looping into a whole new level, namely:
The Black Grail Looping
If Altria Caster allows even Servants like Gilgamesh Caster (yes, with his gimped NP gain on NP) to loop with Kaleidoscope, what would to more established Arts looping Servants?
Simply put, they can now loop with 0% Starting NP.
The likes of Da Vinci Lily, Mordred (Rider), Hokusai, and EVEN FIONN! is capable of doing this (though this may include certain composition restrictions, for example, Fionn needs Nero Bride to loop safely vs Berserkers according to testing results).
This means that Arts looping has insane synergy with event CEs, and even outside of it, the use of Black Grail means they will deal a lot of damage.
For example, Da Vinci Lily with non-LB Black Grail and double Castoria+Tamamo deals a calculated (give or take) 104k damage, not including Castoria NPs. This is comparable to a NP1 Lancelot with double Skadi, taking into account his Berserker advantage. With Castoria NPs, she comes in at 149k neutral damage (slightly beating NP3 Lancelot) and 154k if the Castoria NPs are used to Overcharge her own NP (roughly equal to NP4 Lancelot).
For comparison, the other neutral-Quick damage dealer, Dantes, clocks in at ~110k with double Skadi + Nero Bride (Bride’s not exactly needed for Dantes, but I included her for the sake of comparison).
As a side note, you see how I based my ultimate comparison regarding Da Vinci Lily taking into account Castoria’s NP. Why is that?
Because with Da Vinci Lily in particular, Castoria NPs are guaranteed on the third turn, thanks to 60% NP Charge from the two Castoria’s skills and 2 x 20% from Da Vinci Lily’s first two NPs. With an Arts chain, they can come out as early as the 2nd turn.
Of course, Da Vinci Lily is an extreme example, but this should illustrate just how easy it is to access Castoria’s NP, and in extension, just how broken that party-wide 30% NP Charge is. With 60% Starting NP just by virtue of having two Castorias, a simple CE such as Dragon’s Meridian — or alternatively, simply using Castoria’s Arts cards — Castoria’s NP, and in extension, that juicy 2 x 30% Attack buff, will be available in a lot of fights.
Now, getting back into the main topic of looping: certain Arts comps can POTENTIALLY deal with 2-mob waves. Granted, this does have its restrictions: Generally, only those capable of working with BG can do this, and they may have to switch BG for another CE, such as those with 50% or more Starting NP. Those few who can do it may need specific third supports; for example, Nero Bride, who allows one Altria first skill to be saved in order to make up for the loss of one mob. I’ve done a bit of testing, and it appears that with the help of Waver (or Bride + Formalcraft), both Da Vinci Lily and Astarte are capable of looping through 2-Berserker mob waves.
These two (BG looping and 2-mob-wave looping) are, in my opinion, the best thing about the new Arts looping (of course, after the fact that Gilcaster can now loop!)
However, Arts looping is by no means perfect — it has one quite important disadvantage compared to its Quick counterpart, and that is critical damage. While Arts maintains a bit of edge in terms of sheer NP damage thanks to Black Grail, when someone like Lancelot can do crits above 50k with a single card, this can really change the dynamic of farming runs depending on how much HP the boss has.
Anyway, with that in mind, we can move on to the next question:
IS ‘X’ SERVANT DEAD?
Short answer: No.
Still short, but more in-depth answer: Castoria blows most of her competition out of the water, but there are still places for these Servants — their dynamic is generally more of a complementary one, rather than straight up competition.
If you reread the previous section, it should be quite obvious that there are multiple references to a ‘third support’. Arts looping has historically required three supports and Plugsuit, primarily because it used to be that there is almost no leeway in regards to NP looping. If you’re short by 2%, that is a failed loop.
While Castoria gives you this leeway and more, maximizing damage through the use of Black Grail more or less eats up the 100% NP Charge provided by double Castoria (compared to using Kaleidoscope). Therefore, for a majority of 0% Starting NP comps a third support is still needed, which is the spot generally filled by Tamamo/Paracelsus/Nero Bride. In this context, Tamamo is generally the go-to for Servants with better base refund who just want more damage, while Bride is the more stable option for those with worse base refund but who have access to a personal NP Charge (such as Fionn). Paracelsus teeters somewhere in the middle, as he gives more NP refund compared to Tamamo, and less damage compared to the other two. Stuff like Caster Gil and Helena can also be used for this spot.
The second major point of contention is Challenge Quests. It is my opinion that Castoria works much like Skadi in this regard… except quite a bit better.
The main point of argument is that while Skadi requires special preparation to use her NP, Castoria’s comes almost naturally. This easy access to Super Invincibility means that despite Castoria’s lack of defense buffs or heals, her runs are actually quite safe, even capable of tackling stuff like early enemy NPs and so with minimum effort.
Furthermore, Arts comps’ natural refund capability far exceeds that of Quick Servants, meaning that it’s easier for Castoria comps to use special supports such as Santa Nightingale (who gives debuff removal resistance) with minimal performance costs. This is most notable on well-known spammers such as Archer Altria.
And, of course, there’s also that debuff removal on Castoria’s NP.
Does this mean that Skadi is dead? Not really. Skadi’s still unrivalled in terms of Quick, and honestly when it comes to farming, either option works for most cases. As a single-player game, this is one of FGO’s strong points - having a stronger option =/= dead.
What about Merlin, Jeanne and Tamamo?
To put it simply, Merlin’s still the king of sustain. 5000 heals per Garden of Avalon is simply insane, and while Castoria offers solid short-term defenses, she doesn’t really do well with 30-turn fights. In general, Castoria works better with low-to-medium HP enemies with Break due to NP looping, Merlin deals better with big HP enemies thanks to crits.
Jeanne, on the other hand, suffers quite a bit from Castoria’s existence. It’s generally easier to access Castoria’s NP compared to Jeanne’s, even though the latter comes with 1-turn, instead of 1-hit Invincibility (which is a bit easier to use vs multiple enemies, but you can also Overcharge Castoria for 2-hit) and sustain. Still, Jeanne is VERY tanky, and her Stun is actually quite powerful against Servants. At NP2+, Jeanne’s NP also gives 15%+ defense up, which is something people overlook quite often.
It’s slightly more complicated regarding Tamamo. A longstanding criticism of Tamamo is the time she needs to get started, which often places high burden on the team early on. While Tamamo does have healing and cooldown reduction, Castoria’s upfront benefits and Super Invincibility (which is arguably far superior to Tamamo’s NP Drain), along with debuff removal makes this an uphill battle for Tamamo.
However, it should again be noted that these Servants, instead of direct replacements, work in a more complementary way. Caster Altria’s kit works well with any of the three, enabling them to tackle more complicated scenarios (imagine the debuff removals and sheer sustain Jeanne + Caster Altria would provide).
Caster Altria opens up a LOT of possibilities beyond what is mentioned in this take - for example, I haven’t even gotten to compare the performance of the Arts damage dealers (as you can also see, I didn’t mention Musashi at all despite her being the hot topic of yesterday, primarily because I don’t have her ;-;).
But I will leave that to other people, for my intention today is just to hopefully shed a bit of light on the potential Castoria offers. I believe we will get to explore her a lot more in the following events, and I’m especially excited about the potential Gilfest later in the year. Will she prove to be ‘just an Arts Skadi’, or will the potential offered by her debuff removal and Invincibility be enough to bring her to the forefront of the CQ stage as well? Frankly, I’m just excited to see how this all will unfold. Cheerio!
P.S. Have you heard about our lord and savior Chen God?