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State of the Game— February 12, 2007

Balance Changes Galore!

By Christian Brellisford

Special note: Each State of the Game article presents the opinions and insights of one game observer. These observations are personal in nature and do not reflect the opinions of ArenaNet. While ArenaNet does review each State of the Game article to assure that it offers content that is respectful of all players, we intend to allow our reporters the freedom to inject some personal opinion into descriptions of the current atmosphere of competitive play in Guild Wars, and to express views based on their experience and observation.


The past few weeks have shown us a new strategy for balancing skills in Guild Wars. We have had the opportunity to test changes before they become permanent, allowing players to provide feedback into ongoing efforts for game balance.

Along with changes to Heroes' Ascent, there were changes to game mechanics and over 150 skills. Guild Wars has changed and evolved, and those changes promise to alter the GvG landscape and metagame for a very long time.


Mechanical Changes

Weakness's effect has changed so that not only does it reduce attack damage, it also reduces all of a character's attributes by one. This makes Weakness a useful Condition to apply to all character classes and not just physical attackers. Spike teams could face general damage reduction from AoE Weakness skills like Enfeebling Blood. Also, players using skills with a minimum attribute requirement like Gale may have to invest extra attribute points to safeguard against Weakness. In addition, this change effectively adds another worthwhile Condition teams will feel compelled to remove, thus boosting Condition pressure teams and the viability of Weakness-causing skills such as Enfeeble.

In another change, the evade mechanic has been removed from the game. Any skill that previously added an evade now counts as a block instead. This change won't have much of an impact on the overall game, but certain skills like Sun and Moon Slash and Irresistible Blow now have an inherent boost.


Skill Changes

The metagame is on the move, but with so many skill changes (over 150 in all) it's impossible at this early stage to accurately predict where it will go. But be assured that GvG teams will be forced to adapt. Some professions and skills saw enhancement, while a variety of popular skills suffered nerfs. No doubt this will have an immediate impact on Guild Battles.

Wither
Wither
WitherWither [Elite]
Necromancer - Curses - Hex Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 2
Duration: 5..35
Recharge: 10
Hex Spell. For 5..35 seconds, target foe suffers -2..4 Health degeneration and -1 Energy degeneration. If target foe's Energy reaches 0, that foe takes 15..75 damage and Wither ends.

Necromancers, for example, gained boosts to mediocre skills. A lot of minor Hexes got reductions in casting time, recharge time, and Energy cost. The Necromancer has now gained a stronger position in pressure builds because it can more effectively apply pressure and complement a team with AoE degeneration Hexes. Malaise and Wither were also modified. In the past a player could simply swap weapon sets and reach zero Energy to end these Hexes, but doing so now causes affected players to take damage.

The Ritualist profession also got a hefty boost. Most of the skill buffs improved the Channeling line. Channeling is the Ritualist's direct damage attribute, and strengthening it means players are now more likely to use Ritualists for damage rather than as pure support characters.

Bloodsong
Bloodsong
BloodsongBloodsong
Ritualist - Channeling Magic - Binding Ritual
Energy: 5
Activation: 3
Duration: 30..150
Recharge: 30
Binding Ritual. Create a level 1..8 Spirit who dies after 30..150 seconds. Attacks by that Spirit steal up to 5..25 Health.

One significant change was made to the Ritualist's Bloodsong spell. This spell was moved from Communing to Channeling, and its recharge time and Energy cost were reduced. Consequently, Ritualists can now use Bloodsong to fuel damage skills that require a Spirit in range without having to spread themselves into two or more attribute lines.

Not all professions received as many buffs. A lot of Elementalist skills received rebalancing, but not all were positive. Water Magic skills like Frozen Burst, Shard Storm, and Water Trident saw improvement, while other popular skills were rebalanced to the point of possibly getting knocked out of the metagame. Blinding Surge costs more Energy, Searing Flames has a shorter Burning duration, and Gale's knock-down time decreased from three to two seconds.

Dervish Avatars have prevailed in Guild Battles and still carry their weight, but the avatars themselves don't last as long and now have a longer recharge time. The recharge remains separate from the 120-second skill disabling, but it means that if the avatar gets interrupted, the player has to wait longer before attempting to reactivate it. Thus, avatars may not be as appealing compared to other useful Dervish elites.

The new skill balances also affected Mesmers, both for good and ill. Notably, in the Domination line, many "Power" interrupts had their recharge times decreased, which may revive the interrupt Mesmer—to the frustration of Monks and casters. Also, Mantra of Recovery now costs less Energy, making it a more attractive choice for Mesmers seeking to quickly pump out their non-elite skills.

Spiritual Pain
Spiritual Pain
Spiritual PainSpiritual Pain
Mesmer - Domination Magic - Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 1
Recharge: 30
Spell. Target foe takes 15..75 damage. If that foe is near a Spirit, all other nearby foes take 15..75 damage, and this Skill recharges instantly if it hits a Spirit.

In contrast, two prevalent Mesmer skills are now less overpowering. Energy Surge retains its level of damage but has a smaller area of effect. Spiritual Pain got a similar nerf. Its conditional damage now only happens if the spell hits a Spirit. This has its uses, but is certainly not as game-defining. Previously, Mesmers were very effective at AoE damage, especially at Victory or Death. But these changes may force teams to rely on other forms of damage.

From a melee perspective, the balance changes did not directly affect Warriors much, other than the blocking effect. But they did gain nice buffs to Stances in the Tactics line. This could make these defensive Stances more appealing for characters like Monks looking to avoid enemy melee damage.

Monks went fairly unchanged in terms of common builds, but there were significant changes to the resurrect skills that secondary Monks use. Hard resurrect skills got a recharge nerf that makes them less repeatable. This has a large impact on Heroes as well as teams that rely on using these resurrect skills instead of Signets. If a team incurs many deaths in a brief period, they cannot depend on formerly spammable hard resurrect skills to save them. In such a situation, winning teams can seize the advantage much quicker and swing the momentum their way.

Some other skill changes to note: Shadow of Haste now has a longer recharge time than its duration, so teleporting teams may have to resort to other methods to get around or use Shadow of Haste with more discretion. Assassin attacks also got stronger; namely there are more attack chains that cause Deep Wound, an important Condition when trying to score kills.


New Ideas

As new ideas come from inventive players and guilds, we should see corresponding shifts in the metagame. There are now a lot more viable approaches to pressure builds that should open up new possibilities, but players have not yet explored all available options, so we will have to wait until the dust settles to see the long-term impact. Hopefully, however, this new system of testing and retesting balance changes will create a more stable metagame and a more balanced and diverse version of PvP in Guild Wars.


Christian Brellisford is a college student currently studying video game design in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in hopes of pursuing a career in the field. A gamer since an early age, Christian has been involved with Guild Wars since the E3 for Everyone Event in 2004, and currently leads the Spirits of War guild. He blames Kisst for everything.