Feedback:Skill update previews/20110210

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[edit] Dervish Update Preview

[edit] Intro

We're close to unveiling the new Dervish and wanted to give you a preview of some exciting changes that are coming with it. Updating the Dervish was one of Live Team's biggest projects to date, and we aimed to fix many of the core issues with this profession. When approaching the update, we wanted to do more than just boost the damage numbers on a few skills; we wanted to cultivate the essence of what makes the Dervish an interesting class. This meant altering or even getting rid of some clunky mechanics that were holding back smooth gameplay. When the changes were finished, we wanted to know we'd done more than just make the Dervish deal more damage; we wanted the class to be fun to play and to have its own unique style.

To realize these goals, we altered over 90% of the Dervish skills in the game. Changes range from small, numerical adjustments to complete functionality overhauls. Additionally, we changed how Mysticism works, added a new type of spell to the game, and made tweaks to scythe damage. Altogether, the Dervish update is much larger and more inclusive than last year's update of the Mesmer. It's also taken much longer than the Mesmer update, but we think that the amount of fun and innovation we've returned to the Dervish makes it worth the wait.

So without further ado, let's go over some of the changes:

[edit] Avatars and Adrenaline

Avatars are one of the most unique aspects of the Dervish class, but aren't very useful in PvP due to their poor duration-to-recharge ratio. In PvE, players must use the Eternal Aura skill to permanently maintain builds using avatars. These restrictions exist because permanent avatars would simply be too strong. We realized that we needed to rework these skills so that it's viable to maintain them permanently.

Here's an example of one such skill:

With a 45-second disable, a Mysticism level of around 8 easily allows this skill to be maintained permanently. You may notice that the skill has an additional clause to set foes on fire when you lose a Dervish enchantment. This is a trend we've carried over to all the avatar skills. Instead of being passive bonuses, they all have special features that can only be activated by enchantment loss and most of which have AoE components. This allows you to be more active when using an avatar, in a fitting manner for the Dervish core mechanic of losing enchantments.

You may also notice that the Avatar of Balthazar skill specifies adrenaline gain as one of its abilities. Normally, this would mean that you'd have to use Warrior or Paragon skills to trigger the ability. However, we changed several Dervish attack skills to use adrenaline instead of Energy. This allows us to more easily balance strong skills like Chilling Victory and Wearying Strike, which tended to be overpowered in PvP scenarios due to their Energy cost and frequent availability. Here's an example of a slightly more unique Dervish adrenaline attack:

As the only martial class that can inflict Cracked Armor, Dervishes now have a slightly better edge against high-armor targets, especially foes in hard mode.

[edit] Flash Enchantments and Mysticism

A bigger mechanic change than the avatar skills is the addition of a new type of enchantment. Flash enchantments are spells that can be cast instantly and will not stop your movement if you are running. However, flash enchantments are bound by the normal rules of enchantments and can be removed with skills like Shatter Enchantment. They also cannot be cast while knocked down or while activating other skills. This new mechanic is intended to address one of the Dervish class's major stumbling blocks: casting enchantments prevents you from continuing melee offense. With a flash enchantment, Dervishes can continue chasing their prey without stopping to cast the spells needed for their next attack. Casting a flash enchantment also disables all other flash enchantments you have equipped, for a short period of time. We implemented this to prevent large spikes of enchantments from happening all at once. Here are some examples of flash enchantments:

  • Balthazar's Rage Balthazar's Rage: Flash Enchantment Spell: All nearby foes are set on fire. For 15 seconds this enchantment does nothing. When it ends you gain adrenaline if enemies are in earshot.
  • Heart of Holy Flame Heart of Holy Flame: Flash Enchantment Spell: When you cast this spell all nearby foes are struck for 5...25...30 holy damage. You deal holy damage while this enchantment is active. When this enchantment ends all nearby foes are set on fire.

Both Balthazar's Rage and Heart of Holy Flame are feeder enchantments. These enchantments are used to power teardown skills (skills which consume an enchantment for a stronger effect). They are intended to be used quickly for their initial effect and then removed quickly for their ending effect. We are carefully adjusting the duration and recharge on these skills to ensure that it feels okay to remove your enchantments in this way, since other professions use enchantments as a long lasting resource rather than a short lasting one. Here's an example of a different type of flash enchantment:

  • Lyssa's Haste Lyssa's Haste: Flash Enchantment Spell: When you cast this spell, all adjacent foes are interrupted. While active, your Dervish enchantments recharge 33% faster. When this enchantment ends, all adjacent foes are interrupted again.

With the large number of run-boosting skills in Wind Prayers, we felt it was appropriate to diversify the line a bit more. For example, Lyssa's Haste can be used to power two consecutive interrupts or kept to improve your other enchantments.

We didn't make all Dervish enchantments flash enchantments, because that would result in a lot of blackouts for many Dervish builds. However, we do expect that most Dervishes will bring at least one or two of these enchantments in every build—and sometimes more, depending on the situation. When considering which enchantments should be flash enchantments, we looked at how important it was that players continue moving while they are active. Enchantments that increase movement speed were made flash enchantments; many defensive enchantments, especially those that provide a block chance, also became flash enchantments.

With the ability to cast enchantments at a faster pace, the Dervish is more front-loaded than before and tends to spend his energy early. The previous version of Mysticism would have caused early energy problems, so we changed Mysticism to provide energy savings up front. We reduced the cost of Dervish enchantments when they are cast, rather than having them return energy when they end. This change, along with the addition of the adrenaline mechanic, allows the Dervish to be more in control of his own energy than before.

[edit] Pious and Mystic

Another big change concerns several skills with "Pious" and "Mystic" in their names. Currently, "Pious" refers to skills that remove an enchantment or have an effect when an enchantment ends. This can result in problems when you want to remove an enchantment to get an effect, but you also have a Monk or other support caster putting enchantments on you. It's very easy to strip the wrong enchantment. We've changed Pious skills to only remove Dervish enchantments (both flash and normal enchantments) in this upcoming update. This prevents you from losing beneficial enchantments accidentally and gives better control of your own skill combos.

  • Pious Fury Pious Fury: Stance. You lose one Dervish enchantment. For a short time you attack faster. If an enchantment was lost, this stance lasts twice as long.
  • Pious Assault Pious Assault: Scythe Attack. This attack does +10...18...20 damage and you lose one Dervish enchantment. If an enchantment was lost, all adjacent foes take 10...26...30 damage and this skill recharges significantly faster.

It is appropriate to increase the power level of several of these skills, because now they only affect Dervish enchantments. Pious Fury now rewards you for stripping one of your own enchantments by doubling its duration. Pious Assault is more like its fast-recharging original version, only now it has additional bonus AoE damage. Sacrificing several enchantments consecutively results in a large amount of AoE damage.

We also changed the "Mystic" skill class for this update. Previously, "Mystic" skills scaled their effects based on how many enchantments you had. That was at odds with Dervish skills that remove enchantments, since Mystic skills lose their effectiveness when you want to remove your enchantments. We've altered several Mystic skills to have a bonus effect if you are enchanted when you activate them. Here's an example of one:

  • Mystic Twister Mystic Twister: Spell. All nearby foes are struck for 10...50...60 cold damage. If you are enchanted when you cast this spell, Mystic Twister deals an additional 10...50...60 cold damage.

Counting enchantments to deal damage with Mystic Twister was always difficult and sometimes unpredictable, given the many different ways to lose or gain enchantments in the game. We changed the bonus damage on this skill to require a single enchantment, thereby avoiding complicated enchantment counting. Unlike the Pious changes, we didn't update all of the Mystic skills in this way, since we felt that some of these skills are still effective when counting enchantments. Mystic Regeneration, for example, has many uses in its current form. However, we did rework many other skills so that they’re easier to use and understand.

[edit] Teardown and Conditions

So far, we made these changes primarily to support the idea of the Dervish "Teardown Combo." “Teardown Combos” are skill combinations that use an enchantment and a skill that removes an enchantment to get a bonus from both the skill and the removal of the enchantment. These combos have been a unique part of the Dervish profession since its creation, but have never been particularly powerful or easy to use. Previously, these types of combos were possible, but incredibly weak due to the delay when casting enchantments and the risk of removing the wrong enchantment. With the creation of flash enchantments, the change to Mysticism, and the new definition of Pious, we seized the opportunity to improve this unique aspect of the Dervish class. Besides Pious Fury and Avatar of Balthazar, here are a few other skills that benefit from tearing down your enchantments:

  • Irresistible Sweep Irresistible Sweep: Scythe Attack. Deals bonus damage and removes one of your Dervish enchantments. If an enchantment was removed, this attack is unblockable, removes a stance, and deals more bonus damage.
  • Twin Moon Sweep Twin Moon Sweep: Scythe Attack. You lose 1 Dervish enchantment and gain 10...42...50 Health. If an enchantment is lost in this way, you cannot be blocked, strike twice, and gain an additional 10...58...70 Health. Cost changed to 7 adrenaline.

Irresistible Sweep's new functionality allows Dervish to remove blocking stances, which lets them continue putting on pressure as long as they have enchantments to spend. Twin Moon Sweep was already a pretty good attack, but we increased the health gain and added the unblockable property to better compensate for the loss of the enchantment. Additionally, both of these skills now give small benefits even without enchantment removal.

Many of the enchantment skills that a player would want to remove with this updated Dervish tend to inflict conditions on foes. Here's a skill that we've changed to take advantage of this:

  • Reap Impurities Reap Impurities: Scythe Attack. Deals bonus damage. Removes a condition from each foe you hit. If a condition is removed, all other foes adjacent to that foe take holy damage.

We intend this change to capitalize on the condition-inflicting properties of many Dervish enchantments, like Heart of Holy Flame. Reap Impurities can fit into many Dervish builds to add additional armor-ignoring damage when fighting large groups.

We expect that the average Dervish bar will contain at least one skill to remove enchantments and capitalize on the power that these combos have. With an improved emphasis on condition-inflicting skills, we intend for the Dervish to become more about applying consistent pressure to multiple targets and less focused on high damage to single targets. While we know that many Dervish builds tend to focus only on damage, we feel this is a restricted way to play. It makes the Dervish a very boring character and significantly contributes to why other professions are considered stronger with a scythe than the Dervish. By emphasizing other elements of play, the Dervish becomes a more versatile and interesting character in many areas of the game.

[edit] New Skill Combinations

So what does all this mean? Let's take a look at some of the earlier skills and create some skill combinations:

[edit] First Combination

Activate Avatar of Balthazar and run into battle. Use Balthazar's Rage as you run in to get an initial wave of Burning. Once you have enough adrenaline for Twin Moon Sweep, use it to strip off the enchantment, hit your foes twice, and set them all on fire again. As a bonus, when you remove Balthazar's Rage, with Twin Moon Sweep you'll gain back over half the adrenaline needed for your next Twin Moon Sweep.

[edit] Second Combination

Use Aura Slicer to inflict Cracked Armor and Bleeding to your target and follow up the damage with an initial hit from Heart of Holy Flame. Get a few hits in on your foe with holy damage on their lowered armor, then strip it off with Pious Fury. When you strip off Heart of Holy Flame, your foes will be set on fire. For even more damage, wait until it almost runs out before using Reap Impurities.

[edit] Third Combination

Run into a group of foes and use Lyssa's Haste to interrupt them all. Activate Mystic Twister while enchanted with Lyssa's Haste to deal a large amount of damage to all nearby foes. Then use Irresistible Sweep for strong guaranteed damage and another interrupt!

[edit] And Much Much More

We think this Dervish update turned out really well, and we hope that you'll enjoy it when it's released. However, while we feel confident about these changes, keep in mind that the design process at ArenaNet is an iterative one. The skill descriptions and numerical values given here may not be final, and some of these skills may be split for PvP.

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