The best way to clear endgame content like the Spiral Abyss was to tank through the enemy's damage with shielders while oonga boonga-ing your way to victory with your DPS, and in the overworld, it was no different.
But ever since the release of Inazuma in version 2.0, we've found ourselves facing enemies like the Rifthounds that deal 'Corrosion' damage, which fully ignores shields.
Environmental phenomena like Balethunder also bled through shields and dealt continuous incremental damage.
And even shields are null when facing the weekly boss Magatsu Mitake Narukami no Mikoto and her terrifying Musuou no Hitotachi signature slash.
Suddenly, the safety behind the cocoon of Geo or other elemental shields began to wane.
Now that we're in version 3.0, it begs the question: are shield characters still worth getting?
Sumeru is the land of reactions
Upon entering Sumeru, all the shield-nerfing enemies and phenomena seem to have been set aside (for now).
But that doesn’t mean Shielders are now back to rule the game — Sumeru’s unique terrain and new Dendro element requires a team built to create multiple Dendro elemental reactions.
Simply put, Shield Impact has now become Elemental Reaction Impact.
It isn’t ideal to lose a slot in your team to a character like Noelle or Zhongli, whose only elemental reaction is Crystallize, especially if you’re maining an Electro character or the newly released Dendro 5-star DPS Tighnari.
Electro got the buff it deserved with the release of Dendro due to the new Aggravate reaction, which increases Electro DMG against a Quickened enemy.
Dendro also gets the same treatment with Spread, which increases Dendro DMG on a Quickened enemy.
As such, it would be the best option to go for a team with two Dendro characters to proc the Dendro Resonance, which increases your party's Elemental Mastery, which in turn buffs the damage they deal from elemental reactions.
The remaining members of your Sumeru team should be from one of the three elements that react with Dendro: Electro, Hydro, and Pyro.
Having an Electro character in your team like the Raiden Shogun, Yae Miko, Keqing, or Fischl boosts everyone's damage, as they can either be the Main DPS themselves or increase the damage of your Dendro DPS with Spread.
Hydro adds versatility to your team, as they can trigger the Bloom reaction — which can further proc the Hyperbloom or Burgeon reactions — and provide either off-field damage or healing. Yelan and Xingqiu are great at dealing off-field damage while Sangonomiya Kokomi provides both damage and healing.
While Pyro isn't the best element to react with Dendro, you can never go wrong with having someone like Bennett around to fully max out your damage capabilities.
So where does that leave shielders?
Geo shielders like Zhongli and Noelle provide nothing but their shields, unless they're your Main DPS.
Even then, you’re giving up any additional damage a character who can proc elemental reactions will provide.
Diona, the game's only dedicated Cryo shielder so far, provides both shields and healing, but doesn't provide much else. Sure, she can also give the party Elemental Mastery buffs at C6, but that hardly makes up for her lack of reactions.
Pyro shielders in Thoma and Xinyan are in a better spot, however, since they can react with Dendro.
The release of Dendro seems to have been the buff Thoma desperately needed, as he is now viable as a shielder that can reliably proc the Burgeon reaction from off-field.
He used to be one of the most underwhelming characters in the game, but it's safe to say that Thoma has now found a niche where he shines. In effect, he's the only shielder worth running in the current meta.
Unfortunately, we can't say the same for Xinyan, as she can't reliably proc Burgeon. Her scalings also make her hard to utilise effectively.
Embrace the reactions
In short, the Genshin Impact metagame in Sumeru no longer favours shielders, even if they aren't being countered as hard as they were back in Inazuma.
You can still have one in your party for comfort if you want, but you'll be sacrificing damage as a result (unless you have a built Thoma in a Burgeon party).
But then again, and as we’ve always emphasised, play how you want to play!
With the rise of elemental reactions in the meta, shielders aren’t going to be suddenly null and void.
The added security of not being damaged while thrashing it out on your enemies will always be a welcome bonus to your gameplay.
There will always be a place for every kind of character in Genshin Impact, regardless of whether the meta favours them or not. With enough investment in your characters, anything can work.
Yan Ku is a full-time dog parent, part-time (gacha) gamer, and part-time writer.
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