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Quen has interesting nuances that aren't documented, but which can be real game-changers.
- You suffer no hit reaction when attacks are absorbed by the Quen shield. This is the basic reason to use Quen: To not be interrupted while you are doing something. You can suffer knockdowns and other status effects, however.
- If you already have a Quen barrier, right-clicking to re-cast it will instead drop your current Quen barrier (at no Endurance cost). You have to then right-click a second time to cast Quen.
- There is a limit to the damage you can do with powered-up Quen (50%). Beyond this percentage, enemies will no longer take damage from your Quen barrier, even if you re-cast it. Quen cannot therefore on its own give you any kills, but can very quickly weaken enemies because it works on (large) percentages. For example, at Quen level 5, an enemy that hits Geralt just three times will have lost the maximum of 50% of its Vitality. You can during this time tear down even more with Igni.
- Casting spells does not necessarily drop a Quen shield. The spell must hit a valid target, whether the target is affected or not (e.g., by Axii).
- Re-casting Quen (which targets yourself) will drop the current Quen shield right away.
- Casting Yrden to place a trap does NOT drop the Quen shield as it is placed on the ground but not targeted at a creature. It can be pricey to do, but this is one way to re-cast Yrden in the heat of combat as Yrden takes a relatively long time to cast.
- Casting any power-up spell or attack does not drop a Quen shield until you release the effect by releasing the mouse button. At that point, if the spell or attack hits anything, the Quen will drop.
- Shrike will not work while Quen is blocking damage.
- Giant Centipedes can be affected by a Yrden trap while they are tunneling underground.
Theoretically you should find yourself using Quen rarely because preparation and tactics should not be replaced by casting a shield to buy yourself time in combat to do your preparations. That said, you need to think about how you intend to use Quen -- and whether it will be often enough to justify spending more than Bronze talents. There are various applications:
- Attack - The power-up versions of Quen can do an astonishing amount of damage. The more Vitality the enemy has, the more damage they take -- and against a boss or really tough creature, it will do damage faster and more safely than with a weapon. You can then follow up with another spell like Aard to try for a stun, or Igni to burn off the rest of the Vitality. Because the power-up takes time and drops any existing Quen shield, you really want to set this up even before the fight has begun.
- Because Igni also works on percentages and is faster and more convenient to cast, you may want to leave Quen at Apprentice level (Bronze Talents) unless you have nothing better to buy with your Silver Talents.
- Specialist, Expert, and Master upgrades are probably the only reason to increase Quen to level 3 or higher. The other specializations in levels 3-5 are not particularly important.
- Preparation - As the glossary suggests, it can buy you time to drink a potion. But it can also buy you time to do other things such as move into range, pull a lot of enemies to bonfire them all at once with a single cast of Igni, or to lay another Yrden trap.
- If you don't need Quen for very long, then just Quen Level 2 (Bronze Talents) may well be enough.
- Level 4 Fighting Style - The Level 4 fighting styles all give you a different power-up attack that cannot be started without a target -- that is, unlike a spell, you cannot charge it up and then hold it until an enemy comes into range. You must click on a valid target and hold the mouse button down until it charges up. Quen can shield you while you are waiting for the power-up. The problem with this is both Quen and the attack consume Endurance so it becomes very costly. Casting Quen might even drop your Endurance below what is required to use your power-up attack -- it's hard to tell how much Endurance the attack is going to use because unlike Signs, there's no mark on your Endurance bar to show Endurance consumption; the attack will still power-up, but do nothing..
- Retreat - Cast it and run.
- You won't need Quen for very long so even a level 2 Quen should be fine.