ArenaNet:Developer updates/20090521

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Developer Update - May 2009 PvE and PvP Skill Balances - 21 May 2009

The major goals for this update are to address the power of certain spike builds, make pressure builds a more viable option, adjust some skills to encourage tactical use, and provide some buffs to underused skills. In GvG, we have continued to see extremely versatile spike builds dominating; they are able to split, be defensive, and output high damage spikes while still having many of the tools needed to counter other build types. They could do it all, and do it all a bit too well. We've targeted certain key skills to tone down these builds' ability to do high damage spikes and shut down other build types. We've also reduced the effectiveness of party healing as well as hex and condition removal to slightly encourage pressure builds in the format. As always, we seek to reward tactical use of skills, and some skills have been adjusted to help encourage this.

Reducing Spike Effectiveness

  • Mirror of Ice Mirror of Ice: functionality changed to: "For 5 seconds, plus 3 additional seconds for every rank of Energy Storage, you deal an additional 5..35 cold damage whenever you cast a Water Magic hex."
  • Steam Steam: functionality changed to: "Target foe is struck for 5..50 cold damage. If target foe is on fire, Steam Blinds that foe for 5..10 seconds."

Fast Cast Mesmer/Elementalists have been used to devastating effect in PvP on numerous occasions throughout the history of Guild Wars competitive play. By coupling the Mesmer primary, Fast Casting, with the Elementalist's high-damage spells, players are able to work around the typically high cast times used to counterbalance the high damage of Elementalist spells. Layer on top of that the utility that Elementalists and Mesmers bring as midliners, and you have a character that is both deadly and difficult to counter. This character plays a key role in the versatile GvG builds we are trying to address with this update. Mirror of Ice was used to further boost the damage of water spikes, which were already made more powerful by using Fast Casting to throw out multiple spike skills in quick succession. We've tied the duration of Mirror of Ice to Energy Storage, the Elementalist primary, so Mesmers won't be able to maintain it to create fast spikes at a moment's notice. Steam was too good at being both a defensive skill with its Blind and a spike skill with strong damage, so we removed its conditional bonus damage to make it less valuable for spike builds.

Castigation Signet allowed heavily defensive characters to participate in spikes without negatively affecting their defensive roles, so we have adjusted its recharge to lower the overall damage output of this skill.

  • Hunter's Shot Hunter's Shot: removed 1 second cast and functionality changed to: "If this attack hits, your target bleeds for 3..25 seconds."
  • Melandru's Shot Melandru's Shot: functionality change to: "If this attack hits, your target bleeds for 5..25 seconds. If it hits a foe that is moving or knocked down, that foe takes +10..25 damage and is crippled for +5..15 seconds."
  • Keen Arrow Keen Arrow: decreased conditional damage to 5..25.

Hunter’s Shot has been far too effective at both spiking and quickly spreading multiple conditions, so we’ve reworked the skill into a simple condition spreader. Rangers can use this to stack with poison or cover up other, more impactful conditions like Cripple or Daze. In conjunction with the Hunter’s Shot rework, we’ve adjusted Melandru’s Shot to function as an Elite version of Hunter’s shot. It applies the same basic Bleed, but it can also do spike damage and Cripple foes under specific criteria. Keen Arrow was providing too much damage on a critical hit, making Rangers a key part of overpowered spike builds, so this skill's conditional damage was reduced.

Strength of Honor is another skill which allowed defensive characters to easily boost their team's offensive capabilities without much of a drawback. By stacking this with other damage adds, it could produce overpowered spikes a bit too easily. We've significantly reduced its damage to effectively remove this as a viable option in PvP.

Encouraging Tactics

  • Heart of Shadow Heart of Shadow: functionality changed to: "You are healed for 30..150, and you Shadow Step to a nearby location directly away from your target."
  • Viper's Defense Viper's Defense: functionality changed to: "All adjacent foes are Poisoned for 5..20 seconds, and you Shadow Step to a nearby location, directly away from your target."

When an element of randomness is involved, it is more difficult to predetermine a strategy of attack or retreat. That unpredictability in the Shadow Step aspects of Heart of Shadow and Viper's Defense made the skills a little less tactical than we'd like. Changing the Shadow Step on these skills to behave in a consistent way allows them to be used more strategically, since you'll be able to predict where you'll end up and plan your strategy accordingly. The randomness allowed you to shadow step, and become unstuck, when stuck in a corner of the map; now it may be impossible to use Heart of Shadow and Viper's defense for this purpose.

  • Word of Healing Word of Healing: decreased non-conditional healing to 5..100; increased conditional healing to 30..115.

Word of Healing's base healing was so good that it was worth it to cast on recharge and not worry about getting the conditional healing. We've adjusted its numbers to reward a more tactical use of the skill and slightly tone down its overall effectiveness.

As both energy management and a heal, Foul Feast was too good. With its low recharge, there wasn't any reason to not use it whenever it recharged. We increased the recharge to slow down the ability to spam it as well as make people consider the most effective use of the spell for their combat strategy.

Encouraging Pressure

  • Peace and Harmony Peace and Harmony: decreased duration to 1..3 seconds; increased recharge to 12 seconds.

With its new functionality, Peace and Harmony was too good at shutting out hex- and condition-based builds by permanently maintaining the enchantment with the use of a 40/40 weapon set. We've decreased the duration and increased the recharge so that permanently maintaining it is no longer possible. This is intended to make pressure builds a little more viable.

Despite numerous options for party healing, Protective Was Kaolai had become the obvious choice for party heals and was used in most builds. We've raised the recharge to make other party-healing options more viable and reduce the overall ability to negate pressure builds with strong party healing. In response to this change, we've adjusted the healing reduction on Lingering Curse to prevent it from becoming a problem in an environment where party heals are already less effective.

General Playbalance Changes

Unlike other Shadow Step skills, Shadow Fang did not have an after-cast delay, so we've corrected that in keeping with the other skills of this type.

Illusionary Weaponry’s energy cost was unnecessarily high for a skill that is balanced around its damage output, recharge, and duration. So we reduced it significantly to make fun builds using this niche skill run a bit more smoothly.

  • Fragility Fragility (PvE Only): this skill now also affects adjacent foes.

As a skill built for combos, Fragility requires a bit of work to make effective. As a single target spell, it just wasn't viable in PvE. By changing it to affect adjacent foes as well, this fun combo skill can find a place in PvE where hitting multiple targets at once is very valuable.

While Strength of Honor was too good in competitive play, PvE builds that focus on buffing up a single character can be a lot of fun. To offset its removal from viable competitive builds, we wanted to try making this a PvE-oriented skill.

  • Aegis (PvP) Aegis (PvP) (PvP Only): reduced casting time to .25. Functionality changed to: "For 1..3 seconds, hostile spells and attacks against 'target other ally' fail."

Aegis has long been a concern in the balance of competitive play and has seen numerous adjustments over the years. It has continued to be a problem because of both the overpowered nature of Aegis's basic functionality and the ability of teams to work around attempts to balance this skill by bringing multiple copies. So we've taken a different approach this time and hit the reset button by changing Aegis's functionality. Since this skill has only been a problem in competitive play, the change was not made to the PvE version of Aegis.

After changing Warrior's Endurance to be a skill last year, we have observed a trend towards Warriors using only one weapon type over their other options. We've changed the skill back to a stance to encourage a more diverse spread of viable builds in all three weapon types associated with Warriors.

PvE Skills

Updates to PvE Skills are targeted at improving underused skills.


  • Low Blow Low Blow: functionality changed to: "Strike target foe for 45..70 damage. If target foe is knocked down, that foe takes an additional 30..50 damage and suffers from Cracked Armor for 14..20 seconds."

To encourage this skill’s use, we increased its power by providing a better reward for building with knockdown.

Faction Skills

  • Elemental Lord Elemental Lord: functionality changed to: "For 40..60 seconds, your elemental attributes are boosted by 1, you gain 1 Energy for every 10 ranks of Energy Storage, and you are healed for 100..300% of the Energy cost each time you cast a spell."

Elemental Lord has been given additional functionality similar to Aura of Restoration to make it a more versatile support skill for Elementalist primaries.

This skill's recharge was unnecessarily high, since the skill is balanced around other factors. We halved the recharge to more smoothly support spirit builds in PvE.


The majority of classes spend most of their time outside of touch range, making this skill undesirable for them. Removing that restriction opens up its use for a wider variety of builds.