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March 2009 PvE and PvP Skill Balances

This month's balance update is focused on PvP issues. In cases where we believed the changes would be bad for PvE play, we modified skills in PvP only. Most of the changes apply to both formats, though. The skills that were weakened are not featured heavily in PvE, and we expect that players won't mind the improvements to the skills that were made more powerful.

There were a few different issues were wanted to address: We felt that some of the more versatile spike builds needed to be toned down, so we made changes that would make it harder to have a really powerful spike build without giving up some utility or defense. We also wanted to make split tactics more effective and viable in GvG, so we weakened key skills that can shut down attempts to split and improved a few skills that help characters be more self-sufficient. Thirdly, we've seen a few skills become problematic in 4v4 play, such as Wail of Doom, and we have modified them accordingly. Finally, we made another adjustment to Primal Rage, which has been too good in general.

Let's go over each issue in more detail.


Reducing Spike Effectiveness



Read the Wind (PvP Only): functionality changed to: "For 24 seconds, your arrows move twice as fast."
Flail: decreased duration to 1..15 seconds.

Rangers had been outshining spellcasters at dealing damage and could do so while being much more resistant to pressure damage. This made them ideal for spike builds. By removing the damage bonus on Read the Wind, we're cutting the damage they do with each attack, and by dropping the minimum duration on Flail we've made it harder for them to get an attack speed boost without any real drawbacks or costs. (Rangers can't put points into the Strength attribute, so they can never increase the duration on Flail. Warriors who use this skill should be unaffected by this change.)


Distracting Strike: functionality changed to: "If Distracting Strike hits, it deals no damage and interrupts target foe's action. If target foe has Cracked Armor, that skill is disabled for 20 seconds."

Distracting Strike was being used as a powerful follow-up in spikes. This gave spikes a versatile follow-up and interrupt. We want spike builds to choose between versatility and raw spike power.


Rend Enchantments: increased casting time to 2 seconds.
Gaze of Contempt: increased casting time to 2 seconds.

Removing enchantments from the target is a big part of a successful spike. We increased the casting time of these skills to give opponents an interrupt chance and defend themselves against a spike. We did not change the Elite enchantment-removal skill Pain of Disenchantment. Teams can still choose a more effective spike-oriented skill, but at the cost of sacrificing an Elite.


Ancestors' Rage (PvP Only): increased duration to 3 seconds; decreased damage to 1..31.

As part of toning down powerful spike builds, we also adjusted Ancestors' Rage. The skill was damaging adjacent foes too much and too quickly, so we made it last longer while doing less damage. This spreads the damage out over time, which gives defenders more time to heal and react to the damage.


Encouraging Split Tactics


The changes below are targeted at GvG.

Shadow Refuge: increased duration to 6 seconds.
Ether Feast: increased Health per Energy drained to 20..65.
Aura of Restoration: decreased Energy cost to 5; increased recharge to 12. Functionality changed to: "For 60 seconds, you gain 0..1 Energy and are healed for 200..500% of the Energy cost each time you cast a spell."
Healing Signet: increased Healing to 82..172.

To split effectively, characters typically need more self-sufficiency than they do when fighting in a big group. With that in mind, we've made a selection of self-healing skills more powerful.


Hidden Caltrops: now disables all your non-Assassin skills for 10 seconds.
Illusion of Haste: reduced the duration of the Crippled condition to 3 seconds.

Mobility is key to split tactics. Hidden Caltrops, which slows an enemy using both a hex and a condition, has been a powerful way to reduce the mobility of split characters, who rarely have the ability to deal with both hexes and conditions. When used by Assassins to slow potential victims, it wasn't overpowered; this change is aimed only at making Hidden Caltrops less effective for more defensive characters to use. Along those same lines, the 15 second Crippled duration when Illusion of Haste ended was a severe penalty for Mesmers, who lack condition removal options. This shorter duration should give Mesmers the option of waiting out the Crippled rather than feeling like they have to recast the enchantment simply to move at a reasonable speed.


Weapon of Warding (PvP Only): functionality changed to: "For 5..10 seconds, target ally has a Weapon of Warding, granting that ally +2..4 Health regeneration and a 50% chance to block. Weapon of Warding ends if that ally attacks."

Ritualists have been too good at preventing physical attackers from killing NPCs, primarily because of the power of Weapon of Warding. By making Weapon of Warding end if the character under its effect attacks, we're aiming to leave the skill just as effective at protecting players who are in danger, but remove it as an option for protecting NPCs, who would continue to attack any enemies, thus removing Weapon of Warding from themselves. This is a big change to a key Ritualist skill. We'll be keeping an especially close eye on how this plays out to see if we need to approach this issue in a different way.


Addressing Problematic 4v4 Skills



Wail of Doom: increased recharge to 15 seconds.

In 4v4 game types, shutting down a single enemy character is extremely effective. When this skill was combined with offhand and main hand equipment that provides up to a 40% chance to recharge your skills 50% faster (and sometimes a 40% chance to cast faster), it had a strong chance to shut down an opponent for 10 seconds. We felt that this was too powerful, so we have adjusted the skill to compensate.


Disciplined Stance: decreased duration to 1..4 seconds; decreased armor gain to +10.
Defensive Stance: decreased duration to 1..5 seconds; decreased armor gain to +10.
Soldier's Defense: decreased duration to 1..5.
Shield Stance: decreased duration to 1..6.

These stances were originally balanced with 8v8 combat in mind. In 4v4 play, where there are fewer attackers and enemies cannot have as wide a range of utility skills on their team, Monks using these stances have become a problem. We've lowered the durations and armor bonuses to help 4v4 teams fight through these defenses.


General Playbalance Changes



Primal Rage: increased recharge to 15 seconds.

Despite a power reduction in a previous update, this skill continues to outshine other Warrior Elite skills. Even though Primal Rage makes you take double damage while in effect, players could easily change to another stance when threatened. We like this tactic, but the skill's extremely short recharge also made it too easy to immediately activate Primal Rage again when the threat had passed. To make stance swapping a more effective drawback to using this skill, we increased the recharge time.