Upon acquiring a catalyst, be it a Sacred Chime, a Talisman, a Staff, a Pyromancy Flame, or even weapons capable of casting spells (see "Unique Catalysts" for a list of such items), the stat that determines how effective it is at casting is its Spell Buff. This number is determined by the amount of Intelligence and Faith of the player (and in the case of one Staff, Luck).
A Staff with 130 Spell Buff will generally outperform one that has 120, if they were to cast the same Sorcery. The same holds true in any catalyst using their appropriate spell, with exception of Dark Spells.
The only thing that directly influences a catalyst's Spell Buff are the Faith/Intelligence of the player, and as such, when upgrading a catalyst, the scaling of these stats will rise and so will its overall Spell Buff. The higher the level of the wielder's Intelligence/Faith stats, the higher the numbers of Spell Buff on a given catalyst.
A catalyst has a base Spell Buff of 100, with additional Spell Buff being added on top of this value based on the scaling of the associated stat(s). If one or both stat requirements are not met, Spell Buff will be set to a flat value of 60 regardless of other circumstances.
Spell Buff soft caps
- Staves will continue to scale optimally up until level 60 of Intelligence.
- Sacred Chimes and Talismans will continue to scale optimally up until level 60 of Faith.
- Pyromancy Flames will continue to scale optimally up until level 40 of both Intelligence and Faith.
Though Dark spells can be cast with any compatible catalyst, their effectiveness is greatly increased when casting the spell with a catalyst specially attuned to casting these types of spells (see Dark Catalysts below). They will usually scale with both Intelligence and Faith, making it a very compatible playstyle with a Pyromancer-type build.
Catalysts that are fit to cast Dark Spells will continue to scale optimally up until 45 each of both Intelligence and Faith.
The Spell Buff of a Dark Catalyst scales equally with Intelligence and Faith. Provided that both stats are of equal level, each will provide half of the increased Spell Buff above 100. When used to cast Dark Spells (Gnaw, Great Deep Soul), both halves of the Spell Buff will be used to calculate its potency. However, when casting normal spells (Lightning Spear, Soul Spear), only the respective associated stat will be used to calculate Spell Buff, reducing the potency of the spell cast.
In the case of Crystal Chime, the inverse is true. Although Crystal Chime scales with both Intelligence and Faith, it is ill-suited for casting Dark Spells, and the results of attempting as such will yield severely weakened spells.
When augmenting the power of a weapon's attacks via spells such as Crystal Magic Weapon or Lightning Blade, the catalyst's Spell Buff is factored in to calculate the amount of elemental damage that is added. Usually this is expressed as a percentage of the catalyst's Spell Buff, which is then directly added to the weapon's attack power.
In the case of special catalysts that scale with more than one stat or which scale with an unusual stat (such as Man-grub's Staff and Crystal Chime, the effectiveness of the weapon buff is severely weakened. In the case of off-stat catalysts a flat 100 Spell Buff is used in the calculation, while in the case of dual-scaling catalysts only the half of the Spell Buff which is normally associated with the spell is used in the calculation.
Additionally, Dark Blade, a Dark buff-type spell, will only factor in the Faith half of a catalyst's Spell Buff, even for Dark Catalysts. Thus, when buffing a weapon with Dark Blade, a talisman or sacred chime that scales purely with Faith will give better results than one that scales with both Intelligence and Faith.
(Catalysts that scale differently than what is normal)
- Archdeacon's Great Staff (casts Sorceries which scale entirely with Faith)
- Man-grub's Staff (casts Sorceries which scale entirely with Luck)
- Crystal Chime (casts both Miracles and Sorceries, and both will get boosted by Faith and Intelligence)
(Catalysts that are specialized for Dark Spells)
(Weapons that double as catalysts and as such can cast spells)
- Heysel Pick (Club moveset, casts Sorceries)
- Cleric's Candlestick (Straight Sword moveset, casts Sorceries)
- Immolation Tinder (Halberd moveset, casts Sorceries)
- Golden Ritual Spear (Spear moveset, casts Sorceries)
- Rose of Ariandel (Club moveset, casts Miracles)
- Demon's Scar (Curved Sword moveset, casts Pyromancies)