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Guild Wars 2 – Thoughts on Thief Balance (Post January 26th Patch)

stab-motion

What’s up everybody! We’re gonna have a little review of the Thief buffs that occurred in the January 26th balance patch. Now, overall I can’t complain. The buffs were all positive. I’m going to go over how the buffs augment current play styles for the better.

Acrobatics

Let’s start with Acrobatics. Technically, Acrobatics did get buffed but it feels pretty much the same line as before but a bit better. Which means if you were using it before the patch chances are that it makes your build just a bit better as well. The one thing I don’t like about the new Acro line is Instant Reflexes which is a new major adept trait. In my opinion, the trait is decent in functionality but has too long of a cooldown to make it worth slotting.

Now, I know there are some people that think Acrobatics is useless or still useless after the patch. For thief meta builds this is probably the case. However, there are 4 builds I can think of that can use Acrobatics fairly decently:

  • Bunker Thief
  • Sword/Dagger with Critical Strikes
  • Staff Jumper and
  • Condition Double Dagger

For the most part, these are not really meta builds, more like niche builds people play. Bunker because you want to survive as long as possible and you’re not too worried about doing damage. S/D with CS because of the Acro healing synergy +with CS high damage thresholds. Staff jumper and D/D Condi for longer durations of dodging and a safety net with Hard to Catch & Don’t Stop.

The last two are questionable since you’re probably giving up damage in Deadly Arts for Acrobatics but I think it’s a personal preference at that point.

Damage In Fights

Speaking of damage, let’s talk about Thief damage shall we? Lack of damage isn’t the main problem for thieves. It’s surviving in fights. Thieves are not meant for extended fighting at the moment. They’re meant to hit hard, hit fast and get out. What sucks is that you can’t stay in sustained fights unless you’re tanky, use stealth and re-engage if you can, or have a bunch of dodges. And maybe that’s the way ArenaNet wants it. This is why I think thieves got the speed buffs to melee auto attacks among the other skill buffs; to inadvertently improve thief survivability and potency in fights.

Let’s take a Dagger/Pistol build for example. This is a standard meta build. This build got buffed in a few ways if you think about it. Aftercast on Black Powder is gone, Basilisk Venom is unblockable, Withdraw has 10% more healing to names few things. Even a base thief can run the skills I mentioned. Putting it all together for an opening engagement makes it so that after you channel Basilisk Venom you can hit your burst with Heartseeker + Steal  as long as your attack lands that is. You get a few more auto attacks in while your target is locked up thanks to the attack speed increases. Withdraw if you get hit up and you can quickly stealth disengage using the Black Powder + Heartseeker combo, then rinse and repeat.

With these buffs you can see how Dagger/Pistol has become better at damaging and eluding opponents. You can add on skills like Bandit’s Defense to increase your survivability.

Staff Auto Attack Buffs

Last but not least is staff auto attack buffs. I think these buffs were made mainly for increasing the allure of bringing a thief to raids. I think thieves do the highest power DPS now. I personally love running thief in raids when possible even before the patch. However thief still lacks in other departments that other professions can fill. We’ll see how it goes.

That’s pretty much sums it up, overall I think everything was very good. It’s possible that survivability (especially to conditions) and build diversity are the things that need to be addressed down the road.

Guild Wars 2 – Balance Preview Thoughts On Thief

sky-thief

Now, as many of you know, Thief is my main profession in Guild Wars 2. Right now, Thief is in a sore spot having damage and mobility but not having enough survivability to use said damage in drawn out fights, troubles with condition damage and not enough sufficient party utility for raiding. I’m not saying as a Thief I should look at an opponent and they fall into down state. I’m saying after landing a decent burst combo and some auto attacks, my opponent better question fighting me for the next 15 seconds.

A step in the right direction for Thief was taken as ArenaNet gave us a preview of the January 26th balance changes for each profession.

Updated Skills

Alright where to start… how about Basilisk Venom (elite) gaining unblockable? This is pretty big for me as it will pierce through the assortment of blocks used these days. You can start a burst combo and can land it now. What’s good is that there is counter play to Basilisk Venom such as evading and I believe invulnerability as well.

Withdraw (heal) FINALLY got it’s 10% healing increase which was promised so long ago and took forever for some reason.

Bandit’s Defense (Daredevil utility skill) will block for the full duration & the kick knock down will be a flip over skill you can activate. I’ve been asking for this since HoT beta weekend 2. I assume it wasn’t in at HoT launch due to time constraints but it was a skill that just killed you more often than not due to the plethora of AoE you wanted to block but an enemy was in range so you auto kicked and ate damage. I know mace 4 on warrior has a similar block/flip over setup so I couldn’t see why ArenaNet couldn’t do it eventually. I’m just glad that it’s going to be in now and it could definitely can have a place on my utility bar.

Black Powder (Pistol 5) aftercast removal is huge! D/P stealthing will be a lot smoother which will help for maxing stealth duration or when getting caught out. It helps with speeding up blinding bolt combos when combined with unload or whirling axe. On the flip side it does promote the use of D/P even more as it’s arguably the best weapon set for a thief.

Auto Attack Speed

Thieves got some autoattack speed increases for Dagger and Sword for better sustain damage. Dagger I wasn’t so worried about but Sword is insanely better than it was. The Sword auto attack speed is one of the reason I didn’t use it. Now, I’m considering retrying it. The speed increase for sword results in about a 30% damage increase which is great. Both speed increases will help with sustain damage after bursting.

Also, for some reason, staff is getting some damage increases. Not sure why or where to be quite honest; staff is pretty strong as a damage weapon as it is. I think the increases will be minimal at best.

X Factor: New Acrobatics

Acrobatics is also getting a revamp. The goal is to provide a regenerative feel; endurance regen and remove conditions more frequently. I’m worried about the traits or even the trait line not being worth picking due to really long cooldowns. An example is a new trait called Instant Reflex which used to be Fleet Shadow. Instant Reflex allows you to gain evasion for 2s when struck below the 50% health threshold on a 40s CD. I feel 40 CD is way too long. However I haven’t seen the all of the traits and the new Acrobatics line is still in development so I’ll wait to make a final say.

I feel there still some things to look over on thief. Some of those are that I’d personally like preparedness (which is a Trickery minor trait that grants thieves +3 extra initiative) to be base line in order to allow Thieves to take something other than Trickery without losing out on the extra 3 initiative. I’d also like the Signet of Agility active to work as described which is “remove a condition FOR each ally near you”. Right now it removes a conditon ON each ally around you.

Overall I am happy about the buffs and we’ll definitely see Thieves come back into play somewhat. I’m hoping that Thief doesn’t become a staple pick everyone feels like they need to go for to win in PvP. I do hope that these buffs brings the people who main thief back.

Guild Wars 2 Balance Goals In Winter 2016 Update

pvp-stomp

Hey everyone! Karl McLain made a blog post today about balance for each profession. Before we get into that, let’s look at some overall points made:

  • There will be major balance update with each quarterly seasonal release
  • Quickness and slow will no longer have an effect on resurrecting allies or stomping enemies
  • Slow will be worked on to bring it more in like with it’s counter part (which is quickness)

Elementalist

  • Defense nature will be fine-tuned
  • Offense will see a bit of improvement
  • Diamond Skin trait will act as a condition removal rather than condition avoidance
  • Air grandmaster traits are getting usability and offensive improvements
  • Scepter and focus are getting good quality-of-life modifications

Engineer

  • Improve less used traits and rework some functionality for Scrapper traits
  • Core specialization trait improvements have been made to make more impactful choices for more distinctive builds
  • Defensive nature of Scrapper is being monitored; may implement a reduction in survivability

Guardian

  • Updated traits and abilities to be more useful and have more impact
  • Looking to make slight adjustments to Dragonhunter burst and disruption

Mesmer

  • Alacrity being brought more in line
  • Scepter improvements (through skills, functionality and traits)

Necromancer

  • Improving a few elite specialization traits
  • Working with baseline shroud to give it more functionality
  • Leeching Bolts now heals through shroud form

Ranger

  • Update less used traits for more allure; increase both defensive and offensive options
  • Improvements to Ranger shout utility to make it more unique
  • Looking to improve Ranger’s ties with pet and nature
  • Monitoring at Druid’s viability in group scenarios and overall effectiveness

Revenant

  • Revenant sword damage getting toned down in some areas
  • Adjusting sword abilities so auto attacks aren’t the focus and is better at singling out and attacking enemies
  • Monitoring defensive capabilities

Thief

  • Drastic improvement to thief melee auto attacks until overall sustained damage when used with initiative is dangerous
  • Improvements to acrobatics specialization line

Warrior

  • Adjusted baseline abilities, cooldowns, damage and functionality in some cases
  • Rifle gaining a more defensive nature while retaining overall purpose of kill-shotting
  • Another pass into Berserker elite specialization to improve usability in other game modes and promote more active skill use in trait design
  • Improvements to sustain in combat

So overall it seems this is a pretty decent start for the balance update. As  many know, I’m a thief main so I’m curious about the changes to Acrobatics. I’m personally hoping it will offer thieves the survivability we need for PvP fights. Elementalist Diamond skin is going to be completely new but it won’t be impossible to fight 1v1 as a condition based build. Revenant sword balance was definitely coming as the auto attacks were on the strong side. Also RIP quickness stomps.

That’s all the high level stuff. Be sure to tune into Guild Chat on Friday January 15th for a more in depth look!

Heart of Thorns Beta Weekend Event 2 Thoughts: The Daredevil

Dust-Strike

These are my general thoughts of the Thief elite specialization: the Daredevil! I was able to try out this elite specialization for the first time in the second beta weekend event for Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns! Since Thief is my main profession, I’ll be taking a hard look at this elite specialization.

Staff

Melee staff is the weapon Thieves get with this elite specialization. At first I wasn’t too impressed. After toying around with the staff and trying out combos it was a lot more fun to use. However, it’s not the most optimal weapon. Let’s go over the skills to see why:

Staff Strike: this skill chains into Staff Bash and then Punishing Strikes which applies vulnerability. When stealthed you have access to Hook Strike for a single target knockdown auto attack. These skills are actually alright. They provide a good range for hitting multiple opponents and the damage output is quite decent.

Weakening Charge: So this skill is a short range charge that does 3 strikes and applies weakness. I feel the range for this is a bit on the short end and it seems that this skill doesn’t act on target at times but charges in the direction you’re facing which is annoying when you want to get back into fights quickly. I’ve never really prioritized applying weakness before but this skill made me want to in order to reduce the damage I took.

Debilitating Arc: this skill allows to to evade a short distance backwards and removes any immobilizing conditions. This skill is pretty decent, as it acts like a shorter ranged Withdraw without the heal. At first I thought the range was short but it is okay for quick disengages and you can assess whether to fight or flee.

Dust Strike: you use your staff to sweep the ground in front of you, making a line of dust that blinds foes. I found myself using this the least due to the animation windup. The actual dust from this skill is transparent in fights so this skill needs an indicator or darker colors for visibility. I feel like this skill should have a target number of 5 due to it’s range of impact.

Vault: Leap to a location dealing AoE damage on landing. The damage is great on this skill but the animation time is very clunky making it impractical to use in the middle of an sPvP fight. This skill needs a faster animation.

Staff Wielding Animation

One thing I’d like to note with melee staff that was bugging me all weekend, and I didn’t note this with melee staff on Revenant, is that the idle and running animations while holding a melee staff aren’t good in theory. The proper way to hold a staff is to have the head pointing forwards ready or strike or defend with your hands at the base of the weapon. When running, the staff I think should be held in a fashion which the user can perform a sweeping strike as if running into combat. Right now the staff is using the hammer animations which is fine for beta but I expect a more realistic melee staff stance down the road.

Physical Skills

The physical skills I feel like are more situational for the build you want to make.

Channeled Vigor: The heal is quite good but requires you to be out of range of attacks to heal up properly and not get interrupted. This can be accomplished with Shadowstep or Vault.

Bandit’s Defense: One of the best physical utility skills. This is a skill that blocks attacks for a second, knocking down anyone in melee range if blocked successfully. But that’s not all. This skill is a stun break on a 10 second cooldown. That is amazing. I have little to complain about this one.

Distracting Daggers: A good skill in theory but suffers from interval cooldowns making it a non-pickup for me. It takes a second to equip the daggers and another second to equip another dagger after throwing one taking away from the active duration. I don’t mind waiting a second for the active but having an additional interval for throwing my daggers out is annoying. I would remove the interval or even make the entire skill instant cast on the activation and each dagger. The reason you’d want to use this skill is to on-the-spot interrupt an enemy’s skill or break a defiance bar. The intervals do not help with either.

Fist Flurry: This skill sounds great in theory but difficult to execute in sPvP. You get a lot of hits in with this skill but you need to land everything to get access to Palm Strike which you also have to land to attach the Pulmonary Impact mark. Nothing wrong with the skill but it’s not worth the pick up unless you know you can hit every strike a majority of the time. I wouldn’t use it just because I already have damage output and would rather have utilities that help me survive.

Impairing Daggers: A skill that I find is ideally good for single target burst builds. If this skill lands it immobilizes, slows and poisons. It’s a good follow up from landing Panic Strike.

Impact Strike: This skill makes me feel dirty after using it. It’s a 3 hit combo that damages & dazes on the first hit, damages & knocks up on the second. The third strike does damage and finishes the enemy if it would put them into downstate or are already in down state. There are ways around this skill like stun breaking, blocking or blinking away but you have to be really fast about it. Maybe the damage on this skill needs to go down a bit. I like the idea of the skill but if you land the first hit you’re pretty much guaranteed to get the combo off. And I’ve seen this combo hit for around 8-9k health if the person couldn’t stun break it. Oh, and I’d like the finisher I’ve equipped to work with this skill.

Dodge!

So I want to quickly talk about the 3 dodges Daredevils have access to:

Lotus Training: This changes your dodge to fling daggers to nearby enemies causing bleeding, torment and cripple. This dodge is ideal for condition builds with Double Daggers.

Unhindered Combatant: This changes your dodge to a long range dash that removes movement conditions (immobilize, cripple, chill) and grants swiftness. This is good for stealth oriented builds since you may want to dodge while invisible and you don’t want to accidentally reveal yourself by doing dodge damage. The problem with this dodge is the dash animation is odd. It seems to accelerate your running animation which feels odd to work with. A custom animation where the player literally lifts off the ground to dash would be much better and cleaner.

Bounding Dodger: This essentially changes your dodge to a mini-Vault. This is the dodge you want for dodge damage builds and will probably be what the majority of players will pick come launch. The animation is a fraction of a second longer than a normal dodge so players will have to get used to that.

Traits

With all this talk for dodging, the Daredevil specialization line naturally compliments dodging. There are traits revolving around staff and physical skills but the ones I want to focus on are Escapist’s Absolution and Impacting Disruption.

Escapist’s Absolution removes a condition when you successfully evade. This used to be in the old Acrobatics line. Right now the best way to condition cleanse in PvP is to run Shadow Arts because Fleet of Foot (old dodge condi cleanse) was removed & Pain Response (in the current Acrobatics) is fairly decent for cleansing a few damaging conditions but has way too long of a recharge time to be worth picking up. Successfully dodging with Escapist’s Absolution removes one condition but I feel like with the strength conditions have these days this should be specific to damage oriented conditions at the very least. Thieves have a bunch of good ways to break out immobilizing effects; I don’t want to dodge and remove cripple when I want to remove the 7 stacks of burn on me. Maybe it’s okay to bring Fleet of Foot back in some form in place of Escapist’s Absolution; with a fair cooldown of course.

Impacting Disruption is a great trait. This adds a Pulmonary Impact mark on players you interrupt and it has no cooldown. The one thing I forgot to mention is that Pulmonary Impact doesn’t have a visual cue for Daredevils (or their target) to know if the mark was applied. Some sort of icon in the conditions area or a mark above their head would be a nice addition.

To conclude, the Daredevil is a fun specialization bringing back dodge combat for thieves. I feel a few tweaks with Staff (wielding and combat animations), some physical skills and the Dash dodge are in order. We’ll see what the next beta weekend brings for this elite specialization.

Thief Elite Specialization Thoughts: The Daredevil

dare devil

I have been waiting literally months for this moment. This is the moment where I share the Thief elite specialization that’s coming in Heart of Thorns: The Daredevil. For those who don’t know, I main a Thief so I’m super hyped for this. Sorry this is coming out a little later than usual, I did a bit of theory crafting.

Dodge & Staff

Glamour

Game Designer Karl McLain released a blog post today giving us the lowdown on the Daredevil. Alright so rather than your F1-F4 skills changing into something different, this elite specialization grants you benefits to your dodge. Instead of two endurance bars, Daredevils will get 3 and the Grandmaster traits will give you an extra feature to add to your dodge; we’ll get to that later.

As many of you know, Thieves will be getting Staff! Staff allows for evasion and AoE melee damage. Blind and weakness are the key conditions on staff. Here are some of the skills:

Weakening Charge: Twist forward, dealing damage and weakening enemies you strike

 Debilitating Arc: Swing your staff forward, crippling enemies and launching you backwards

Vault: Leap to a targeted area, dealing massive damage to enemies struck

Physical Skills

Let’s move onto physical skills that the Daredevil will have for utilities. Some of these skills combo into another skill. Let’s check them out:

Channeled Vigor (Heal) – Channel to gain endurance and health per pulse. Gain more health if endurance is full.

Fist Flurry (Utility) – Strike an enemy multiple times. If all attacks hit, this skill turns into Palm Strike. Palm Strike strikes an enemy marking them with Pulmonary Impact. After a short duration this mark hits the enemy again for non-crit damage.

Bandit’s Defense (Utility) – Briefly block incoming attacks. Blocking a melee attack knocks nearby enemies down

Distracting Daggers (Utility) – Equip daggers that can be thrown to daze and interrupt enemies. Interrupting a skill increases the recharge of the skill that was interrupted.

Impairing Daggers (Utility) – Throw daggers at a single enemy causing poison, slow and immobilize.

Elite Skill (Elite) – A 3 hit combo that finishes on the 3rd strike. The first hit is Impact Strike that dazes on hit, the second hit is Uppercut that sends your foe flying into the air. The third strike is Finishing Blow sends a downward strike on your foe that finishes downed foes.

Traits

Dust-Strike

Finally we have traits! Traits will focus on helping Daredevils stay in fights via dodge and hits.

Minor Traits: Unlocks the elite specialization, gain endurance on steal and health on successful evades.

Adept Traits:

Evasive Empowerment: After dodge rolling, your next attack deals bonus damage.

Weakening Strikes: Cause weakness to enemies you critically hit.

Brawler’s Tenacity: Gain endurance when you first activate a physical skill. Physical skills have reduced cooldowns.

Master Traits:

Staff Master: While wielding a staff, gain endurance for each initiative point spent. Deal bonus damage when your endurance is not full while wielding a staff.

Escapist’s Absolution: Remove a condition when you successfully evade an attack.

Impacting Disruption: Enemies that you interrupt suffer a Pulmonary Impact. After a few moments, Pulmonary Impact delivers a massive blow to your foe.

Grandmaster Traits:

 Lotus Training: Your dodge changes to Impaling Lotus. While in combat, each dodge you use will throw daggers that bleed, torment, and cripple enemies. Additionally, this dodge functions as a whirl finisher.

 Bounding Dodger: Your dodge changes to Bound, which gives you the ability to leap in a direction, dealing crushing damage at the location where you land. This dodge ability also functions as a leap finisher.

 Unhindered Combatant: Your dodge ability changes to Dash, which removes cripple and chill effects from you and increases the distance you dodge.

My Thoughts?

Oh man, there’s quite a bit I have to say about this. First off, this is where the rest of the Acrobatics line (with the introduction of specializations a few months back) went. This elite specialization works very well with Acrobatics both lines being dodge-based.

The traits have various options that I’m excited to try out. The Master traits might be a toss up if you go dodge condi cleanse or stealth condi cleanse. Grandmaster traits have the three dodge options that all sound interesting and will be fun to experiment with each one.

The staff skills seem pretty great, re-positioning you for increased damage potential. It will be interesting to see what this will be paired up with. For PvE and WvW I’d imagine shortbow for range damage but for PvP this could vary if the staff provides enough mobility to swap shortbow out for something else.

The physical skills are really good. The ones I especially like are Bandit Defense for the blocks while stomping or running towards a ranged enemy, Distracting daggers for stopping stomps and interrupting from afar. The elite is very good and is really strong but I need to see it to determine if it’s OP or not. We’ll find out on Points of Interest tomorrow on Friday August 28th at noon Pacific on the Guild Wars 2 Twitch channel!