Skill update previews:February 2010

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February 2010 updates

Preliminary Skill Update Notes – 19 February 2010[edit]

As mentioned in January, we’ve been working on a very large play balance update. Currently, it looks like the update will be ready on Thursday, February 25th. Since this update is highly anticipated and since we’ll once again be making skill changes shortly before a Monthly Automated Tournament, we've decided to provide a preview so you know what to expect.

Because we’re still testing and refining some of the changes, the following list of changes shouldn’t be considered definitive. It’s very likely there will be further adjustments between now and February 25th.

This update is targeted at several areas:

Shadow Form and Invulnerability[edit]

In tackling Shadow Form, we decided to take a larger look at the issues involved. We didn’t want to simply nerf Shadow Form and cause a mass migration to another overpowered build, only to nerf that after players start using it. It’s not possible to predict all of the clever combinations that players may invent, but we’d like to establish clearer guidelines for ourselves and for players as to what is and isn't acceptable. This should help us with any future buffs or nerfs related to end game PvE.

Based on our testing, observation and discussion, we expect to make changes to Shadow Form, Obsidian Flesh, and to a skill or two used in 600-Smite builds.


Hammer Mastery in PvE[edit]

Hammer suffers from a number of issues that make it difficult to take over other Warrior weapons. High adrenaline costs, slow attack rate, and quick battles in PvE all mean that it can be hard to use Hammer skills before a battle ends, and getting blocked feels much harsher. The most effective Hammer skills have conditional bonuses when used with knockdown and Weakness, but Hammer has few ways to inflict Weakness. Hammer no longer has a monopoly on knockdown, and taking a hammer means having lower AL, which is a meaningful downside in PvE.

We are trying to improve several weak skills:

  • Auspicious Blow Auspicious Blow's cost will be reduced to 5 adrenaline and its energy gain will be made unconditional. It will be unblockable against foes with Weakness.
  • Backbreaker Backbreaker will only cost 9 adrenaline, but the extra knockdown duration will only work for character with at least 8 strength.
  • Crude Swing Crude Swing will no longer cause armor reduction.
  • Forceful Blow Forceful Blow will, in addition to causing weakness, be unblockable and end enemy stances, and it will no longer have the potential to knock you down.
  • Staggering Blow Staggering Blow will cost 4 adrenaline and, in PvE, will have a 1-second activation time (almost 50% faster than a normal hammer attack).

We’re increasing the payoff for attacking knocked-down foes with a hammer:

  • Belly Smash Belly Smash will have a 10 second recharge but a slightly shorter blindness duration.
  • Overbearing Smash Overbearing Smash, with a recharge of 20, will inflict the Dazed condition on knocked-down foes, and it will have an energy cost (5) so that it is available immediately upon knocking an opponent down.
  • Renewing Smash Renewing Smash is also being reworked. It will cost 5 energy, deal 10..40 bonus damage, and will recharge instantly and give you 3 energy back when used on a knocked-down foe. It will have a 1-second activation time in PvE.

We're also increasing the payoff for attacking foes with conditions. In PvE:

  • Fierce Blow Fierce Blow will inflict a Deep Wound rather than just dealing +10..40 damage when you hit a knocked-down[sic] foe. It will also always deal +10..20 damage.
  • Yeti Smash Yeti Smash is being reworked to combine fast attack with area-of-effect knockdown, though only against foes suffering from a condition. As with other non-elite knockdown skills, using Yeti Smash will cause you to lose all adrenaline.

Finally,

  • Dwarven Battle Stance Dwarven Battle Stance is being revised a bit. It will cost 5 energy, provide +40 AL, and +33% attack speed. Dwarven Battle Stance will still cause interruption, though only when you use attack skills. It will no longer end if you use a skill.

Ritualist in End Game PvE[edit]

With the exception of a few powerful skills, many Ritualist skills just have no place in end game PvE. We'd been examining this issue recently, and the changes we’ve made have tested well enough that we’re comfortable introducing them during this upcoming build.

We're introducing several changes to allow stronger hexes, health degeneration, and armor-ignoring damage by Ritualists.

  • Ancestors' Rage Ancestors' Rage damage will be armor-ignoring.
  • Spirit Burn Spirit Burn burning duration will increase to 1..5.
  • Destruction Destruction will accumulate 5...25 damage each second (maximum 150), rather than 1...5 damage per second.

The hex-related changes are more dramatic:

  • Anguished Was Lingwah Anguished Was Lingwah is being moved to Spawning Power and reworked to reduce energy cost and increase the duration of Ritualist Hexes. Dropping Lingwah's ashes will instantly recharge all your Ritualist Hexes. Along with this change, we’ll convert two underpowered Ritualist skills to hexes and some existing hexes will be improved.

The new hexes are Lamentation and Renewing Surge:

  • Lamentation Lamentation will cause 0...3 health degeneration and, if you are within earshot of a spirit or corpse, will deal 10...50 armor-ignoring damage up-front. It will cost 10 energy, with 1-second casting time, and 15-second recharge.
  • Renewing Surge Renewing Surge will deal 2...12 damage each second for 8 seconds and will give the caster 1...8 energy when it ends. It'll cost 5 energy, with a 1-second casting time and 15 second recharge.

As for buffs,

  • Binding Chains Binding Chains is getting a bit of a rework. It will last only 3 seconds, but will deal 1...30 damage per second to moving foes in addition to slowing movement by 90%. Binding Chains will now cost 10 energy, with a 1-second casting time, and 15 second recharge.
  • Dulled Weapon Dulled Weapon will reduce damage dealt by its victims by 1...15 in addition to preventing critical hits. Its area-of-effect will be reduced to "adjacent" range and its duration will be lowered to 5...15 seconds. Its new costs will be 15 energy, with a 1-second casting time and 20-second recharge.

We're also looking to increase options for armor penetration, cracking armor, and generally buffing the Ritualist skills that deal lightning damage.

  • Cruel Was Daoshen Cruel Was Daoshen will now provide 10% armor penetration when held. Its casting time will be increased to 2 seconds, recharge upped to 30 seconds, and damage decreased to 10...100.
  • Destructive Was Glaive Destructive Was Glaive will provide 20% armor penetration in PvE. Its energy cost will drop to 5, and it will have a 0.75¾-second cast time and a recharge of 5 seconds.
  • Gaze from Beyond Gaze from Beyond will deal a flat 20...65 lightning damage, but will also inflict blindness for 2...6 seconds if you are within earshot of a spirit. Its casting time will be lowered to 1.
  • Spirit Boon Strike Spirit Boon Strike will have a dramatic recharge reduction, from 20 down to 3, an energy cost reduction from 10 to 5, and a cast time reduction from 2 seconds to 1 second. The healing and damage amounts will be lowered to 20...65 and only "your spirits within earshot" will be healed.
  • Spirit Rift Spirit Rift will deal damage each second, rather than dealing all of its damage at once, and on the third and final second, will inflict Cracked Armor.

Finally, we have looked at several Elites and other skills that had lost their purpose with previous changes, such as the shortening of spirit cast times in PvE last year.

Tactics Rework[edit]

Tactics is the least exciting Warrior attribute and primarily sees use as a secondary attribute on other classes. There simply isn't room on a fun-to-play skill bar for the high number of purely defensive skills this attribute line has to offer. Aside from the occasional key skill used for farming or tanking, defensive skills don't have much place on a Warrior's skill bar, especially considering the high AL that Warriors get from their armor and shields. Additionally, the energy requirements for many Tactics skills make them better fits for other professions. Plus, many of the Tactics skills are very specialized in function, which keeps them from being useful in most situations.

We're shifting several defensive skills to feed into offense in some way:

  • Auspicious Parry Auspicious Parry will now provide adrenaline when it ends, even if it didn't block anything.
  • Defensive Stance Defensive Stance will also provide adrenaline when it ends, though the amount will depend on how many melee attack skills you have on your skill bar (maximum 0..4).
  • Deflect Arrows Deflect Arrows will be reworked to give a 75% chance to block all types of attacks, but it will cause bleeding to adjacent foes when you block projectiles.
  • Thrill of Victory Thrill of Victory will always provide +20..40 damage and, when you have more health than your target, will give you 1..2 strikes of adrenaline.

We've also buffed one purely defensive skill:

  • Shield Stance Shield Stance will provide 2 points of damage reduction for each rank of Strength (maximum 15).

We've made some adjustments to the Soldier's skills, giving each of them some effect even when you’re not under the effects of a chant or shout. We’ve also created a couple of longer-lasting Warrior shouts to synergize with these skills.

  • Soldier's Defense Soldier's Defense will have an additional ability: you gain 1 adrenaline every time you block.
  • Soldier's Speed Soldier's Speed has been adjusted to give +15% move speed unconditionally and an additional +15% if under the effects of a shout or chant.
  • Soldier's Stance Soldier's Stance will provide a 75% chance to block unconditionally while keeping the 33% faster attack while under the effects of a chant or shout in PvE. Soldier's Stance will be unchanged in PvP.

Two shouts were selected to be given long enough durations to work well with the Soldier’s skills.

  • "Fear Me!" "Fear Me!" will still cause foes to lose energy, but will also stay on you as a buff for 1...15 seconds, giving your melee attacks a +5..40% critical hit chance against non-moving foes.
  • "To the Limit!" "To the Limit!" will keep its current adrenaline gain effect, but will now also provide a modest health buff for 10..20 seconds after usage. The recharge has been reduced to 15 seconds so that this buff can be maintained continuously.

We've also taken a look at Tactics shout skills in general.

  • "Charge!" "Charge!" will now removed[sic] the Crippled condition when you activate it, while still providing the same movement speed boost.
  • "None Shall Pass!" "None Shall Pass!" will have its energy cost reduced to 5. Its recharge is being increased to 45 seconds,[sic] but it will have a conditional recharge reduction: 1..8 seconds faster for each foe affected by it (maximum 25 second reduction).
  • "Retreat!" "Retreat!" is being reworked to no longer require dead allies within earshot. It will provide 33% faster movement and a 50% block chance, but will end for anyone who attacks or uses a skill.

The Tactics skills that cause knockdown are also being improved.

  • Grapple Grapple's order of effects have been changed, so that you can use a stance that prevents knockdown to keep Grapple from knocking you down.
  • Shove Shove will be reworked as a sort of elite combination of Bull's Strike and Wild Blow: In addition to causing knockdown unconditionally, Shove will deal 15...75 damage and end stances on moving foes.

Blood Magic Rework[edit]

The Blood Magic line largely provides life-stealing and energy gain—it’s not particularly diverse. Restricted by the need to keep Blood Spike in check, life-stealing has limited application in most builds, and energy gain is also something we keep a close eye on. With improvements to these effects not really an option, we are exploring the idea of improving the Blood Magic line by providing additional utility to it and diversifying how it can be used.

We identified a few skills that were good in concept but needed a little boost.

  • Blood of the Aggressor Blood of the Aggressor will no longer have health sacrifice and will steal health unconditionally. When used on an attacking foe, Blood of the Aggressor will inflict weakness for 3...12 seconds. The life stealing will be lowered just a bit to 5...45 and its recharge has been raised to 5 seconds.
  • Blood Renewal Blood Renewal health sacrifice will be lowered to 15%, and its recharge and duration time will be lowered to 7 seconds. The health gain when it ends will remain the same.
  • Life Siphon Life Siphon will have a faster 1 second casting time, balanced by a slightly longer recharge time of 5 seconds.
  • Ravenous Gaze Ravenous Gaze will still be focused on life stealing, but will get a functionality change. The skill will now deal 15…30 damage and steal 15…30 health unconditionally from your target and nearby foes. Its costs will change to 8% health sacrifice, 1 energy, with a 1 second casting time and a 10 second recharge.

The big changes in the Blood Magic line come in the form of new combo-enabling skills, a few of which are focused on spell-casting.

  • Barbed Signet Barbed Signet, the most dramatic of these, is being reworked as a 1…24 second self-buff that inflicts bleeding on your target whenever you cast a Necromancer spell on a foe. This very powerful, non-removable buff is balanced by a hefty 12% health sacrifice.
  • Oppressive Gaze Oppressive Gaze is also been reworked. It will deal a modest 10…30 area-of-effect damage, but will not steal health anymore. Instead, any foes Oppressive Gaze hits who were already suffering from a condition will be poisoned and weakened for 5...20 seconds. It will cost 10 energy, with a 1 second casting time and a 10 second recharge.
  • Jaundiced Gaze Jaundiced Gaze will remove an enchantment and, as a bonus, enchant you, speeding up your next enchantment spell and reducing its energy cost.

Several of the combo-enabling skills are focused on physical attackers.

  • Blood Bond Blood Bond is being reworked as an area-of-effect hex (3...10 second duration), best for groups with lots of physical attackers. Allies will gain 5...40 health every time they hit a foe hexed with Blood Bond. The recharge on this skill will go up to 8 seconds.
  • Demonic Flesh Demonic Flesh is being changed to work best on characters that use skills frequently, such as physical attackers. It will steal health from other foes adjacent to your target whenever you use a skill that targets a foe. Its new costs will be 5 energy, with a 1 second cast time, and a 30 second recharge.
  • Mark of Fury Mark of Fury will keep its role as a hex that provides adrenaline, but with a very different feel. It'll have a 3/4 second casting time and will only last 5 seconds, but will also provide 0..2 strikes of adrenaline with each hit and will inflict Cracked Armor when it ends.

Other Issues[edit]

As always, we’ll try to address any individual balance problems with this update, including attempting to correct problems that were caused by previous balance updates.

In reviewing previous updates, we found several changes worth making. A few of these are refinements to changes made during the last update. We’ve listened to concerns about the interactions between heroes/henchmen and the self-application of Cracked Armor in Aggressive Refrain and Soldier's Fury.

  • Aggressive Refrain Aggressive Refrain will now give you -20 armor while active, but will not inflict Cracked Armor.
  • Soldier's Fury Soldier's Fury will now give you -20 armor while active, but will not inflict Cracked Armor.
  • We're also adjusting Crippling Shot Crippling Shot, removing the faster arrow speed in favor of slightly longer cripple duration (1...10 seconds).

We’ve made some other changes to bring certain skills in line with other similar skills that were changed in past updates.

  • In PvE, Heal as One Heal as One is being updated to match the PvE change for Comfort Animal (if you equip this skill, you will not need to bring Charm Animal) and it will be getting an additional boost of life stealing (5...15) whenever your pet hits. Its healing will remain the same (25...145), but will no longer require you or your pet to be below 75% health. As a dubious bonus, it may also now be eligible for a Long-Description Award. In PvP, this skill will be unchanged.
  • Glimmering Mark Glimmering Mark will join other damage-over-time hexes and will ignore armor. To balance this change, the damage will be reduced to 5...25.
  • Pious Concentration Pious Concentration will receive a nerf similar to the Mantra of Resolve (PvP) nerf we did a few updates back. Its energy cost will increase to 10 and its recharge will increase to 10 seconds.

This update will be relatively light on PvP-related changes, but a few adjustments stood out.

  • Resilient Weapon Resilient Weapon will have its duration and recharge adjusted to be more in line with other defensive weapon spells: 3...8 duration and a 6 second recharge.
  • Shattering Assault Shattering Assault will be moved to Critical Strikes and its recharge will get a small bump up to 6 seconds.
  • We may move Fox's Promise Fox's Promise and/or Locust's Fury Locust's Fury to Dagger Mastery in order to maintain a better balance in attribute distribution.
  • Featherfoot Grace Featherfoot Grace will have its condition duration reduction lowered from 50% to 25%.
  • Primal Rage Primal Rage will be shifted to have an adrenaline cost (4 strikes) rather than an energy cost. It will still have a 15 second recharge time.
  • Steelfang Slash Steelfang Slash will have its recharge time removed.

As mentioned above, this list of changes is not final. Additional adjustments, additions, and deletions may take place during our final week of testing. Thanks for reading!