The Phoenix has been in the game for quite a while. It was introduced to much debate, and many questions over "what is it good for" and "who would actually use it".
(I use references to my stats in this article. They are valid as of May 6, 2014.)
First, let's look at what the phoenix consists of at this point.
1- +(phoenix_level) attack
I'm attack 139, so with a level 9 phoenix I have attack 148.
2- +(phoenix_level)% chance to dodge hits, added to the 5% default chance
So at level 9 I have a 14% chance to dodge.
3- +(phoenix_level) fire protection
So 9 fire protection thus far.
4- +(5 * phoenix_level) chance to be resurrected. Increased to 77% at max level.
A 45% resurrection chance if killed at level 9. (Level 14 should be 70%, but auto-increases to 77% at that max phoenix level)
5- On casting Magic Immunity before shapeshifting into Phoenix, you retain the magic immunity until you revert back to natural form.
6- On level 5 phoenix or higher, the same holds true for True Sight (magic, not potion).
7- A (currently unknown) chance to not get cooldown on using an item (such as food or potions), based on Phoenix level.
I've been unable to determine a percentage on this, but at level 9 I do see regularly no cooldown.
These go along with the basic shapeshifting facts that also apply to mules... No mixing, no trading, no experience, no speed hax, no harvesting, no magic, and no equipped items.
Experience With the Phoenix
For the most part, I've just been leveling it. Many times going afk to allow it to slowly level on its own, usually parked at a populated area just to remind people that yes, the phoenix does still exist in the game.
I return from afk and look back to see lots of local chat about it, several PMs with questions... the phoenix has simply been allowed to die in the game to the point that even experienced players are clueless about it.
It's sad, if just for the fact that it's probably one of the most beautifully designed creatures in the game, graphic-wise.
As for actually using it, I do make attempts with that, to see what I can and can't do.
In my normal form as of this post, I am able to train on frost trolls, possibly yeti on good astro. Geared up I can fight the big chickens and ACWs in limited amounts, and take on the occasion single nasparliu.
Not wanting to go straight to those in phoenix form, I took on some creatures at lower levels and slowly worked up to see what I could handle.
When you're used to being able to handle up to nasps solo and an MCW or frost troll can kick your ass, it doesn't leave me with a very good impression.
There's just way too many negatives that outweigh any positives provided.
Issues With the Phoenix
During the course of leveling and testing the phoenix, I collected all the issues I found with it, trying to determine exactly where the phoenix could possibly be useful, where it lacked, and could it even be used at all in any positive manner.
As for that latter part, I'm afraid I came up empty-handed. I found absolutely no situation where I'd think, "Yes, I could definitely use the phoenix here".
The reasons were many, but I think these are the primary ones.
1- Too easy to die
Yes, there's the resurrection possibility. But players hate relying on random, and I always found myself dissing just before death, leaving resurrection not to be an issue at all. Nobody wants to die.
Why is it too easy to die? You're going from using gear that gives you armor and defense and so on, and a weapon that provides power against a creature, to being bare-naked (no defense, no armor) and only a minimal bonus in attack level. There's a dodge percentage, but it doesn't make up for the amount of damage you can take without being able to armor yourself.
Other factors weigh in as well, such as...
2- Healing is a crapshoot
Again, with the random factor. You have no magic, so you're fully reliant on the use of BRs and GHPs to heal yourself.
In battle, even the GHP can end up not being enough to heal fast enough, especially when you're so used to fully restoring with a single click with magic. With no equipment, you also don't have the additional health a RDHOLAM or CoL or even a MoL provide, just your bare naked health points.
The crapshoot comes in with the random chance of no cooldown. You're reliant on potions to heal that can have a cooldown that takes far too long in any real case to make them of any use, and you're dependant on a random factor to hope you don't get that cooldown.
In other words, whether you can keep yourself healed or not is solely luck.
3- Expenses - both the glyph and the food
The glyphs are just exhorbitantly expensive, solely because they're so rare. To this date, they still remain unmakeable. They generally cannot be found on market, bots offering to buy them for 3.5kgc which means if you did find one to buy, it would likely be higher than that.
Just for a single transformation, that's going to cost you massively in food.
The food is definitely outrageous. The cost continues to rise on it (up to 84-85gc each at last check) and the phoenix takes 2 food per 30 seconds. That's about 340gc for a single minute.
So you pay an exhorbitant amount for a single glyph, only to pay on top of that 170gc per 30 seconds, just to shapeshift into a creature that in the end leaves you much worse off than you're generally used to fighting. And that even at the maximum phoenix level.
And getting to that maximum phoenix level? Besides the glyphs, it's been calculated (according to el-wiki) to take 36,300 creature food to get to that maximum level of 14.
36,300 * 85gc = 3,085,500gc
3 million gc, and you still are worse off than not shifting at all.
4- It's Not a Tank
There was some talk that it was to be used more as a "tanking" option rather than fighting.
Sorry, but I'm not seeing that.
Tanks are generally used for way overpowered "boss" creatures that can do heavy damage.
In its current state, the phoenix simply cannot handle that. A normal player tank will be ready to constantly heal, geared up to defend against the damage, normally wearing a HOLAM for more mana and health.
A phoenix has absolutely none of this. Besides the (very low even at max level) chance to dodge a hit, it is essentially helpless. There's no way to rely on random no-cooldowns on potions to stay alive, nor is the restoration option reliable.
There's just way too much randomness involved, on top of no armor or the defense it provides.
5- An invisible rat hunter? Limited.
The bonus of constant true sight is really not enough to warrant using the phoenix to hunt invisible rats.
As such a rat hunter, I find simply using true sight along with *running* to be a much more viable means hunting those. With that you stand a much better chance of finding a normal-speed moving rat.
In a recent rat hunt, for example, I went ahead and used the phoenix to do it. For close to 4 hours. I did this mainly because I had been planning to level my phoenix up some anyway, and it gave me something to do instead of just go afk.
It didn't go so well. I was used to always hunting invisi rats running, and I ended up finding the final rat that had eluded everyone 24 hours later, using speed hax instead. And it was on a small map that I had checked twice over as a phoenix.
6- Speed Haxed?
Perhaps the option to allow speed hax to hold up if taken before shifting. Or just be haxed by default on shifting. This should not take normal food though. Emu is going to be bad enough carrying around creature food without constant running to storage.
Nobody's going to be 24/7 phoenixing, ever, so this should not be an issue.
It would be a huge boost in making it a hunter.
What Needs to Change?
Honestly, it depends on what the original purpose of the phoenix was. I have many ideas, but the ideas are only relevant solely depending on what the purpose of the phoenix is.
1- Phoenix Glyphs Need to be Makeable, with a massive price drop
You're paying a lot for something that doesn't come close to justifying the cost. This alone would both allow for more shifting by getting any glyphs onto the market at all to be used, and cause less concern with actually using one because of the price.
There's no reason these should cost any more than a mule glyph.
2- Creature Food Should Not Drop (when Shapeshifted)
Regardless of purpose. Because of the incredible expense of the glyphs with the little value provided, when that inevitable death happens we shouldn't lose that expensive shift solely because we dropped our CF.
I could consider this option moot if the glyphs were makeable and at a cost level similar to mule glyphs. But noone's gonna die, lose their food and shift, and go back and use another glyph at their current cost and rarity.
At 2 per 30 seconds, it requires carrying way too much of this just to do anything potentially useful. (And there are zero valid reasons to carry a brick shapeshifted.)
3- There Needs to be More Stability in Phoenix Usage
Even at the maximum level, there's way too much dependency on randomness and luck, no matter what you're doing. When fighting normally, you only have the randomness in getting hit to contend with, and you normally have enough health and restore capability to handle it.
There's nothing of that nature as a phoenix, you're left with complete randomness on if you'll be able to restore, especially with only your bare-naked health level, randomness on "if" you die...
4- (Much) Better Defense if it is to Tank
If this is supposed to be a tank, it needs much more defense. That tiny bit of dodge really doesn't help much when the non-dodges are done on you bare-naked (armorless). A phoenix at its best currently can barely survive a creature lower than normal training level. Even with multiple resurrections, it's still gonna end up dead long before just tanking non-shifted with gear.
Add to that creatures that normally are tanked tend to have mirror perk, and phoenix just can't hold up.
5- (Much) Better Attack if it is to Fight
As said, it can barely handle a creature lower than normal training level, with the bonus attack.
The bonus attack gives practically nothing when, due to no weapon, you still at max level do much worse than you could geared up. So if it's supposed to fight, this needs work.
6- Seriously, give a/d Experience
You're fighting. This shifter specifically is intended to do just that. Yet you get nothing out of it.
I'm not sure why exactly there is no experience given while fighting shifted, but considering the incredible ton of gc that has to get sunk into any shapeshifter, cutting off any experience is just an additional reason for people *not* to use it.
The Phoenix is supposed to be used for attacking. As a tank, or as a fighter, I'm unsure, but attacking is involved in its use.
When you go out of your way to pay such extreme amounts of gc just to use it, much less the 3 million+ it will take to get it fully leveled, you expect to get something that's in some way better than what you could do in just your normal gear.
It doesn't provide this. On the contrary, it's worse both as a tank and as a fighter. The randomness factors only add to the negative aspects.
It's simply too expensive when what you get has no real benefit to normal fighter play.
The mule shows an obvious benefit, and as well takes much less creature food and has affordable glyphs available in abundance.
The phoenix needs those things. An obvious benefit. Makeable glyphs at the same level as mule glyphs. And unless a truly extreme benefit appears, two CFs per 30 seconds is far too much, not to mention takes up way too much emu should you need to do something for a long period away from storage.
Personal Aside: As for me, I have five more levels to go. And like... oh... tailoring... despite the little use I can find, I'll continue leveling it until it's done. Partly because of the "jack of all trades" in me, but mostly because I hope the cause of finding a good use for the phoenix gets taken up, and eventually it will become truly useful.
I am aware of the tweaks that were made to it since introduced. All have been positive, but they just unfortunately didn't resolve the issue that the phoenix doesn't have that one truly good use.
I would love to see that. It would be nice to see someone flying around occasionally besides myself, heh.