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 Developer Update — January 2012 Skill Balances
With this update, we are making some changes to Elementalists to improve their viability in PvE. Where relevant, we are also making some changes to Elementalist skills used in PvP in order to address certain powerful options and to provide some new playstyles. This update focuses mainly on improving elite skill options and adding a global change to Hard Mode foes. Even though this update is mostly limited to Elementalist elite skills, we are also addressing some normal skills for Elementalists that we felt could use some changes and a few non-Elementalist skills that have become too powerful.
 Hard Mode
- Reduced the armor level for Hard Mode enemies.
- Raised the maximum Health of Hard Mode enemies.
Elemental damage tends to become much less effective as enemies reach levels over 20. As a result of this, some professions, but especially Elementalists, tend to be less effective at this point in the game. While one possibility to address this issue would have been to improve the damage on skills that deal elemental damage, this would have likely resulted in the damage from creatures in Hard Mode quickly becoming unmanageable. Reducing the armor of foes and raising their Health helps keep Elementalists relevant while maintaining the overall effectiveness of professions that deal armor ignoring damage.
 New Mechanics
Many Elementalist elites are surpassed by the powerful AoE skills Searing Flames and Savannah Heat. In looking to provide new options for Elementalists, we created some new mechanics that we feel can help these other underused elites.
 Doublecast Skills
A doublecast skill is a new type of spell that casts on you as well as your target. By utilizing proper positioning, skilled players can significantly increase the power level of these skills as well as the area that they cover. Many of these skills were reworked because they were too unwieldy to play normally due to conditionals or poor synergies with other skills. In the case of Mirror of Ice, the skill was providing too much power in PvP without being useful in PvE.
Double Dragon increased casting time to 1 second; increased cost to 10 Energy; increased recharge to 20 seconds; changed functionality to: "Invoke the power of the Dragon. For 8 seconds, you and target ally are enchanted with Double Dragon. Adjacent foes are dealt 5...30 fire damage each second. Additionally, when you or your ally use skills that target a foe, that foe is set on fire for 0...3 seconds."
Energy Boon changed skill type to enchantment spell; increased casting time to 1 second; increased cost to 10 Energy; reduced recharge to 20 seconds; changed functionality to: "For 36...60 seconds, Energy Boon raises the maximum Health of you and target ally by 1...3 for each point of your respective maximum Energy. When this enchantment is first applied, you and your target gain 1...12 Energy. You gain an additional 1 Energy for every 2 points you have in Energy Storage."
Gust changed functionality to: "For 5...11 seconds, both you and target ally move 33% faster. When you cast this spell, all foes near you and your target take 15...70 cold damage. Foes struck by Gust while attacking or moving are knocked down."
Mirror of Ice reduced casting time to 0.75 seconds; reduced Energy cost to 10; reduced recharge to 12; changed functionality to: "Shatter a Mirror of Ice. All foes near you and target ally take 15...70 cold damage and move 66% slower for 2...6 seconds. If you strike a foe hexed with Water Magic, Mirror of Ice recharges 50% faster.
Stone Sheath reduced recharge to 12 seconds; changed functionality to: "For 5...20 seconds, you and target ally have +1...35 armor and are immune to critical hits. When you cast this spell, all foes near you and your target take 15...70 earth damage and are Weakened for 5...20 seconds."
 New Functionality
In addition to doublecast skills, we are also allowing some Elementalist elites to have functionality usually covered by other professions. Because these skills are elite, we feel it's OK to blur the role of the Elementalist a bit, as long as this functionality meshes with how the Elementalist normally plays.
Mist Form reduced cost to 5 Energy; changed functionality to: "For 10...45 seconds, you take 33% less damage from foes under the effect of Water Magic hexes. Whenever you cast an elemental spell, all non-spirit allies in earshot are healed for 50...250% of the Energy cost of the spell."
Mist Form split for PvP; reduced cost to 5 Energy; changed functionality to: "For 10...45 seconds, you take 33% less damage from foes under the effect of Water Magic hexes. Whenever you cast an elemental spell, all non-spirit allies in earshot are healed for 50...250% of the Energy cost of the spell. This spell does not heal allies above 80% Health."
While its previous effect was fairly strong against martial professions, Mist Form had almost no effect against casters, and its one-dimensional functionality made it a difficult choice to take over most damage-dealing elites. It could also be very frustrating to use without removal. This update changes the skill into a defensive skill that also provides healing to your allies. In order to emphasize the Elementalist nature of the skill, though, the healing and damage reduction conditionals encourage offensive spell use. To prevent stacking in PvP, this skill has been split.
Thunderclap reduced recharge to 8 seconds; reduced damage to 10...50; added 25% armor penetration; changed functionality to: "Create a massive shockwave at target foe's location. Deals 10...50 lightning damage to target and all adjacent foes. Struck foes are interrupted and suffer from Cracked Armor and Weakness for 5...20 seconds. This spell has 25% armor penetration." Due to the delay in the Dazed application, Thunderclap tended to be a poor choice as an interrupt skill, and the long recharge coupled with only hitting a single target made it a poor damage skill as well. Since Air Magic already has good AoE damage options, we've changed this skill to be more of an elite interrupt and condition-application skill. With a 1-second cast time, this skill won't outclass Mesmer interrupts but will provide bonuses for skilled Elementalists who read their opponents.
Ward Against Harm changed functionality to: "Create a Ward Against Harm at this location. For 5...15 seconds, non-spirit allies in this area have +1...3 Health regeneration, +12...24 armor, and an additional +12...24 armor against elemental damage. This spell is disabled for 20 seconds."
Ward Against Harm split for PvP; increased recharge to 30 seconds; changed functionality to: "Create a Ward Against Harm at this location. For 5...15 seconds, non-spirit allies in this area have +1...3 Health regeneration, +12...24 armor, and an additional +12...24 armor against elemental damage. This spell is disabled for 30 seconds." With Ward Against Harm we are again trying something slightly different. We've given this skill a small party-healing aspect similar to how Water Magic skills function in Guild Wars 2. We hope this can provide another appealing source of party-healing utility on the Water Elementalist. Additionally, the bonus armor is now applied to all elements instead of just Fire Magic. We feel this is necessary to make it useful outside of areas like the Fire Islands. We're concerned about this skill's effects in PvP, so we've split it and may make further changes after seeing how it plays out.
 New Synergies
We're also making a few smaller changes to some skills that we hope will promote some new synergies and help make some previously nonviable builds possible.
Master of Magic reduced recharge to 10 seconds; changed elemental attribute scaling to 8...14; removed Energy regeneration; removed the following functionality: "This enchantment ends if you use a non-Elementalist skill." Added the following functionality: "Your elemental spells return 30% of their Energy cost."
Master of Magic is held back partly by the lack of good cross-elemental synergies and an attribute level that is generally ineffective at level 20. By scaling the attribute bonus, we hope to correct this latter problem. In an update further down the line, we plan to look at cross-elemental synergy skills. The "ends on non-Elementalist skill" clause was mainly to prevent Elementalist healers from taking advantage of the bonus Energy regen, so we've removed it and the Energy regen in favor of a universal attunement to make it easier to run multiple attributes. The recharge has also been reduced to make it less vulnerable to strips.
Shockwave changed functionality to: "All foes in the area take 15...60 earth damage and are Weakened for 1...10 seconds. Nearby foes also take +15...60 earth damage and have Cracked Armor for 1...10 seconds. Adjacent foes suffer the previous effects, take +15...60 earth damage, and are Blinded for 1...10 seconds." Due to the high-risk/low-reward ratio on this skill, Shockwave only has niche uses. These changes are intended to promote some synergy with other skills in Earth Magic.
Star Burst reduced recharge to 7 seconds; changed functionality to: "Target touched foe and all foes in the area are struck for 7...112 fire damage and set on fire for 1...4 seconds. For each foe you hit, gain 2 Energy."
After reworking Double Dragon, we felt that Star Burst could remain as a PBAoE skill; however, it had very little to distinguish it from other PBAoE skills like Inferno or Flame Burst. Because these types of builds tend to have Energy problems, we reversed the previous Energy loss into Energy gain. While we don't think this will make PBAoE Elementalists very common, it will provide some better options for this type of playstyle.
 Bar Compression
In some cases we found elites that could be good but didn't quite provide the level of bar compression to make them desirable over direct-damage skills.
Elemental Attunement rescaled duration to 25...60 seconds; reduced recharge to 20 seconds; added the following functionality: "You are attuned to Air, Fire, Water, and Earth and gain +1...2 to these attributes."
Glyph of Energy increased recharge to 25 seconds; now affects your next 1...3 spells; reduced Energy savings to 10...25; added the following functionality: "Your elemental attributes are increased by 1...4." Due to the change to Master of Magic, Elemental Attunement and Glyph of Energy became a little lacking. So we are improving both of these skills with a small attribute bonus while active. The addition of an attribute bonus gives these skills some bar compression as well as a small damage boost, which Elementalists are lacking in many PvE areas. We've also increased the number of charges on Glyph of Energy to make it less cumbersome to use, though in order to keep the Energy management from becoming too good we've lowered the Energy savings per use and increased the recharge. Elemental Attunement had its duration and recharge rescaled slightly to prevent fast-casting Mesmer/Elementalists from outshining primary Elementalists using this skill.
Several of the elite skills we examined for this update simply had small usability problems. Whether it was lack of damage or a downside that didn't justify the investment, these skills required much smaller adjustments to make them more viable. In several cases the major problems were eliminated simply by allowing these skills to strike an area instead of a single target, though different buffs were necessary for others.
Blinding Surge added the following functionality: "This spell has 25% armor penetration. If this spell strikes an attacking foe, all adjacent foes are also struck and this spell deals 50% more damage." While this skill sees use in PvP, its low damage makes it difficult to justify in most PvE situations. This buff is intended to bolster the overall damage a bit without turning it into a spike skill.
Ether Prodigy increased duration to 8...20 seconds; reduced damage per point of Energy to 2.
Given that the skill already has the downside of causing Exhaustion and losing all enchantments, we felt that some changes were in order for this skill. We felt that this skill had viability in PvP but was kept out of play due to the high damage on end and the high spec required to make it effective. We've made a small reduction in the amount of damage dealt on end and improved the scaling on this skill so it is more effective at lower ranks.
Glimmering Mark added the following functionality: "For 10 seconds, target foe and all foes adjacent to your target take 5...25 damage each second. Foes using attack skills are Blinded for 3 seconds."
While the damage on this skill for a single target is good, its cancel condition makes it difficult to use. To improve its use for PvE, we've added a Blind effect and increased its radius to hit adjacent foes.
Lightning Surge reduced cost to 10 Energy; reduced casting time to 1 second; added the following functionality: "Target foe has Cracked Armor for 5...20 seconds. This spell has 25% armor penetration."
While the knockdown on this skill is useful and powerful, we felt a buff was justified given the skill's long casting cost and 3-second delay before activation. With the addition of Cracked Armor and a reduction in cost and casting time, we feel that this skill can now fit into a larger variety of builds.
Shatterstone reduced cost to 10 Energy; changed functionality to: "Target foe is struck for 25...100 cold damage and is hexed with Shatterstone for 3 seconds. When Shatterstone ends, that foe and all nearby foes are struck for 25...100 cold damage." Even though this skill has good overall damage and a modest recharge, it generally stacks up poorly against other Elementalist elites that deal damage. By reducing the cost and adding a new AoE component to the end of the skill, we feel it is more justified as an elite skill.
Water Trident changed functionality to: "Send out a fast-moving Water Trident, striking target foe and up to 2 adjacent foes for 10...90 cold damage if it hits. If it hits a moving foe, that foe is knocked down."
Water Trident's conditional effect and damage were a little too weak to use in most PvE situations, so we've given it an AoE component similar to Lava Arrows as well as a small damage buff.
 Reduced Exhaustion Costs
The Exhaustion mechanic is unique in Guild Wars in that it is a resource that cannot be manipulated by any skill; this makes it one of our strongest balancing mechanisms. However, because all skills that cause Exhaustion cause the same amount of Exhaustion, it often becomes difficult to properly balance the skill's effectiveness with the fixed Exhaustion penalty. As a result, we usually see players take the single most powerful Exhaustion skill they can find and ignore everything else for fear of getting too Exhausted. We're taking this opportunity to introduce skills that cause 5 points of Exhaustion instead of 10. We feel this change will make these skills more appealing while giving us better control over Elementalist skills in the future. Due to this change, Exhaustion will now be shown as a number followed by a gray dot with a downward arrow in the UI rather than using the phrase "This spell causes Exhaustion."
Invoke Lightning now always causes 5 Exhaustion instead of conditionally causing 10 Exhaustion. The addition of lowered Exhaustion costs to the game gave us better ways to balance existing skills. In the case of Invoke Lightning, Exhaustion was intended as a metering mechanic, but given the long uptime of Elementalist enchantments this weakness almost never showed up. With a guaranteed Exhaustion amount of 5, this skill should be much more balanced for teams in PvP. Chain Lightning, a similar skill, was also changed in this way.
Mind Burn changed functionality to: "Target foe and all adjacent foes take 15...60 fire damage. If you have more Energy than target foe, that foe and all adjacent foes take an additional 15...60 fire damage and are set on fire for 1...8 seconds."
Mind Freeze increased damage to 10...60; increased additional damage to 10...60; reduced Exhaustion to 5; reduced recharge to 5 seconds; reduced duration to 1...5 seconds.
Mind Freeze split for PvP; reduced Exhaustion to 5; reduced recharge to 5 seconds; reduced duration to 1...5 seconds.
Mind Shock reduced Exhaustion to 5.
Mind Shock split for PvP. We felt the Mind skills could use some small buffs to better justify their conditional secondary effects and Exhaustion. As a Fire spell it made sense for Mind Burn to at least have an AoE component while Mind Freeze simply didn't do enough damage to justify its Exhaustion. We've reduced the Exhaustion costs on both of these skills in order to make them more usable. Mind Shock is a dangerous spike skill, which still sees use in PvP, so we've split it and only reduced the Exhaustion cost for this skill in PvE.
Ride the Lightning reduced Exhaustion to 5; reduced damage to 10...70; you can now teleport to allies as well as enemies; added the following functionality: "All adjacent foes are Blinded for 1...5 seconds."
Ride the Lightning split for PvP; increased cost to 15 Energy; increased recharge to 10 seconds; reduced Exhaustion to 5; reduced damage to 10...70; you can now teleport to allies as well as enemies; added the following functionality: "All adjacent foes are Blinded for 1...5 seconds." Ride the Lightning is a dangerous and expensive skill for the low-armored Elementalist to use and has further problems due to the lack of strong PBAoE skills in Air Magic. This change adds in Blind to protect the Elementalist for a short time in this dangerous position and allows it to target allies as well as enemies for increased movement options. Because reducing the Exhaustion without any other changes would likely make this skill overpowered in PvP, we've split the skill and raised the recharge and Energy cost to compensate.
Second Wind reduced casting time to 1 second; reduced Exhaustion to 5; changed functionality to: "You gain 1 Energy and 5 Health for each point of Energy restricted by Exhaustion. You lose all enchantments."
Second Wind is a skill that has a unique interaction with the Exhaustion mechanic. While it doesn't see a lot of use it can be fairly powerful under the right conditions. We've lowered the casting time and Exhaustion caused by this skill in order to improve its use. Additionally, it now heals the caster to provide some bar compression. Testing revealed that these changes could potentially bring back certain undesirable smite builds to PvP, so we've added a clause that removes all enchantments to prevent this from happening. Because the skill provides both Health and Energy now, we don't feel this will negatively impact most builds.
 Other Changes
A few other skills we felt simply need small adjustments to make them competitive with other options.
Sandstorm reduced recharge to 25 seconds.
Unsteady Ground reduced recharge to 15 seconds.
 Non-Elite Skills
While we are saving most of the changes to non-elite skills for a later update, we feel that there are a few worth making with this update.
Chain Lightning now always causes 5 Exhaustion instead of conditionally causing 10 Exhaustion. In order to match Invoke Lightning, Chain Lightning now also causes 5 Exhaustion unconditionally.
Churning Earth reduced casting time to 2 seconds.
Given its casting time and short duration, we felt that the activation on this skill could be reduced a bit.
Freezing Gust increased recharge to 8 seconds.
With improvements to Mind Freeze and Mirror of Ice, we wanted to tone down the power slightly on this staple of Water Elementalists in order to keep the build as a whole from becoming too powerful.
Armor of Frost reduced recharge to 20 seconds; added the following functionality: "You have +1 Water Magic." Removed "Ends if you use Fire Magic."
Ice Prison removed the following functionality: "This effect ends if target takes fire damage."
Teinai's Prison removed the following functionality: "This effect ends if target takes fire damage." The fire damage aspect of these skills ran counter to the idea that elemental attribute lines can be mixed. By removing this restriction, we hope to encourage more mixing of attribute lines. In the case of Armor of Frost, we noticed that it was still numerically inferior to skills like Armor of Mist and Frigid Armor, so we lowered its recharge and added a small attribute bonus.
 1.5 Second Cast Times
In addition to trying out lowered Exhaustion costs with this update, we are also examining the option of further gradation of skill activation times. While flat one- and two-second cast times work for the majority of skills, there are several skills that are numerically inferior at two seconds, but would be far too powerful at one second. For now we are only comfortable releasing a few skills with this new casting time, but we will be examining more candidates for this change in future updates.
Obsidian Flame reduced Exhaustion to 5; reduced casting time to 1.5 seconds.
Energy Blast reduced casting time to 1.5 seconds.
Fireball reduced casting time to 1.5 seconds.
Ice Spikes reduced casting time to 1.5 seconds.
 Reducing Armor Ignoring Damage
This update also makes some changes to some skills on other professions that deal armor-ignoring damage. Because of the higher armor in Hard Mode, these skills often mean that Elementalists are displaced as damage dealers. While we feel that these professions should be able to deal damage in these situations, the amount of armor-ignoring damage they are dealing is far higher than is reasonable when compared to Elementalist skills with similar effects.
- Mistrust reduced damage to 10...100.
- Mistrust (PvP) reduced damage to 10...75; reduced recharge to 12 seconds.
- Ancestors' Rage lightning damage from this skill no longer ignores armor.
- Ancestors' Rage (PvP) increased damage to 1...41; lightning damage from this skill no longer ignores armor.
- Cruel Was Daoshen reduced damage to 15...85.
- Destructive Was Glaive reduced damage to 15...85.
- Destructive Was Glaive (PvP) reduced damage to 15...85.
Mistrust retains higher damage because it cannot be stacked like Destructive was Glaive and requires a much stronger conditional to proc. For the Ritualist skills, rather than heavily lower the damage on any single skill, we felt it would be better to make several smaller reductions to certain key skills. In this way, the individual skills can retain their general usage, but builds that stacked them will suffer a larger hit in damage.
We're introducing several somewhat radical changes to Elementalists with this update, but we feel that these changes will help give the Elementalist a stronger place in high-end PvE as well as provide new and exciting ways to play the profession in other formats. In the next few months, we'll evaluate the shifts created in the metagame as a result of these changes and make further adjustments to skills that are not in line with our intentions. Additionally, we'll be working a second update to address issues with some of the Elementalist non-elite skills as the elites in this update settle into their places.