Balance Discussion 12/15/17

Below, please find proposed buffs and nerfs (and the occasional bug fix) for discussion.  Comments are welcome.

High-Priority Balance Changes

  1.  Bug Fix:  Auto-camera should not reveal the location of hidden abilities (e.g. Celeste trap).  You should not be able to glean any competitive informational advantage by using the auto-camera.
  2.  Quark:  Energy gain on Radiate changed to 4 per tether (down from 8 regardless — still the same if you have two tethers connected).
  3.  PuP:  1)  Walkies now slows the target.  2)  Base hit points reduced to 140 (from 160).
  4.  Orion:  1)  Base hit points reduced to 160 (from 170).  2)  Fate Transfer cooldown increased to 4 (from 3).  3)  Base healing on Astral Fusion reduced to 8.  Still gains the same bonus from Shards.  4)  Focused Flames (1-point mod on primary) now adds 4 damage (down from 5).
  5.  Grey:  Slip Away now allows you to move Rio up to 4 squares during Prep Phase (Rio will not do damage while moving, and normal range restrictions on his targeting apply).  Then, during dash phase, dash to the chosen location underneath Rio.  (So — decision phase involves moving Rio and choosing a location under his end position.)  Rio will deal damage during Blast Phase to targets below him as usual.
  6.  Magnus:  Outer arcs of primary now deal 22 and 18 damage (up from 14 and 10).
  7.  Nev:  Mouse Trap damage changed to indirect.  If the target does not move, Mouse Trap will not deal damage to them the following turn.

Rationale:

1.  Obvious.  There should be no information inadvertently given away by the camera.

2.  Quark can amass too much energy “for free” when the fight is disengaged.  This requires Quark to keep a second tether connected to get his usual energy gain.

3.  Walkies is extremely powerful and can move an enemy up to 8 squares in the chosen direction (12 if they have haste).  Even choosing enemy pathing of up to 4 squares (8 with haste) makes it stronger than almost any other knockback.  PuP’s hit points are too high for a firepower, and make him a quasi-frontline.  With this change, PuP can be focused down a little more easily if he over-commits (essentially, making his main weakness more pronounced in light of his other strengths).  PuP still has extremely high baseline healing on his primary.

4.  Orion is simply the total package.  These nerfs are intended to bring his kit a bit more into line.  160 hp is plenty for a support and makes it a little easier to kill an Orion who takes lots of damage (and thereby has full energy and tons of power).  Fate Transfer is one of the most powerful cooldowns in the game, and increasing the cooldown on it makes Orion teams think more carefully about when to use it, as well as making Brain Juice and Refresh the Source slightly more interesting options for Orion.  Astral Fusion does 30 healing baseline (10+10+10) which isn’t bad at all, and it then scales up with shards.  If it is to become strong with shards (currently 60 with no mods or 75 with Enhanced Reconstruction) it should be slightly weaker baseline.  Focused Flames is too much value for a single point.

5.  Grey is a bit weak currently.  It’s difficult to buff her without making her oppressive, as her kit grants lots of vision.  However, one significant weakness is her dash.  Not only is it relatively predictable (she’s dashing under the Drone!), it has a long cooldown of 6 (and deals no damage).  But to make matters worse, Grey uses Rio as a significant part of her damage.  If Rio is used offensively, he becomes relatively unsafe for Grey to dash to.  While I appreciate the skill involved in placing Rio where he can deal damage and still offer Grey a decent escape, it’s simply placing too many demands on her for a relatively weak ability.  This change lets her have a bit more flexibility in positioning and repositioning Rio and should reward skillful Grey play while mitigating this weakness.  (Grey has other weaknesses in her kit, such as lack of AoE and a relatively weak ultimate, so there is no need for her dash to be one as well.)

6.  I think most players were surprised and underwhelmed with how little damage Magnus’ primary deals.  10 damage in the third arc, for something that has to be charged up in the first place, is very underwhelming and a significant part of Magnus’ problems.  Obviously not every lancer can have Phaedra’s primary, but having Magnus hit a bit harder with his primary is the first change I would make towards improving him.

7.  Basically every conditional prep phase damage ability / trap deals indirect damage.  It seems inconsistent and awkward for Nev’s to deal direct damage.  It can randomly be a detriment to the Nev (e.g. Asana’s Retribution the following turn), but more likely is a random buff for her as it can proc Titus dagger, Khita mark, etc.  It doesn’t make sense for the ability to do these things.  Additionally, there is no way to outplay Mousetrap currently.  Mousetrap is meant to punish the enemy for dashing, but it requires them to do something about it the following turn even if they do not dash.  Contrast this with Lockwood trap, Nix drone, Juno lockdown, etc. which all do nothing if the enemy outplays by standing still.  Mousetrap should have this outplay potential — not that every ability needs it (e.g. Titus Dirty Fighting is much harder to outplay) but rather, the number of abilities that cannot be easily outplayed should be fairly limited and there is simply no reason for Nev to have one.  The ability performs its intended function even if this change is made, and is much fairer to play against.

Medium-Priority Balance Changes

  1.  PuP:  Prowl Protocol no longer grants Might.  Hunting Dog effect changed (current effect removed) (still a 3-point mod):  Now grants Might for the following 2 turns when you use Prowl Protocol.  (This means you get 2 turns of might if you break invis the following turn, and 1 turn if you stay invis an additional turn).
  2.  Lockwood:  Trick Shot now deals 34 damage, but damage per bounce is reduced by 8.  Impaling Shot still deals 14 to the second target regardless of number of bounces.  Extra Tricky still increases damage per bounce by 2 (i.e. reduces penalty by 2).  New mod:  Super Duper Tricky (3 points) — Trick Shot now deals 18 damage base, and damage per bounce INCREASES by 8.  (This one for all the bounce fanatics out there, because it IS fun.)
  3.  Celeste:  Mending Mists is now a 2-point mod (up from 1).  New 1-point mod for Smoke Bombs:  Photo Bomb (1 point) — gain an additional 2 energy per target hit.
  4.  Garrison:  1)  Piston Punch now deals 22 damage to additional enemies (up from 18).  2)  Quake Slam (mod on his dash) no longer increases the cooldown.  3)  Base hit points increased by 10.
  5.  Kaigin:  Shadowstalker cooldown reduced to 5 (from 6).
  6.  Oz:  1)  Bug fix — you cannot move 8 squares after dashing if you do not take any other action.  You should be able to.  2)  New mod on Zap Trap:  Laser Shield (3 points) — Gain Unstoppable until end of turn, but you cannot move this turn.  Next turn, heal for 20% of the damage you took this turn.
  7.  Khita:  Leaf in the Wind is now baseline on Warped Arrow.  Stocked Quiver is now the default mod.  New mod:  Emblazoned Arrows (3 points) — hitting a target with Warped Arrow emblazons your bow and arrows for 2 turns.  Hitting a target with Warped Arrow while emblazoned consumes the buff to reduce your Take Aim! cooldown by 1.  (Alternatively put, hitting with Warped Arrow twice within 3 turns reduces the cooldown of Take Aim! by 1.)

Rationale:

1.  Prowl Protocol is already very good.  It doesn’t need to grant Might as well.  Hunting Dog, conversely, is not very good and kind of weird in general.  (It’s OK to have bad mods, but it seems appropriate thematically for the mod to re-grant the Might.)  Something I like about this mod is that 2 turns of Might feels good at 3 points, and you get rewarded for breaking stealth right away.  Which sounds weird, but the ability to be invisible an extra turn and scout is very powerful, so I actually like that incentive.

2.  Lockwood is the golden boy, but he’s simply insane.  The ability to do 32, let alone 36, around walls as a primary is so powerful that Lockwood would practically outclass some other firepowers if his entire kit were just the primary and a dash.  If the bounces reduced damage (yes, I know that’s not as fun), it would be a lot more fair.  Positioning for a direct shot rewards you, and abusing your ability to hit enemies who cannot hit you back gives you a damage and energy edge but not to the tune of a full attack worth of damage.  The new mod would allow players who want to bounce a lot (which is fun) to benefit from it, but the downside is that you HAVE to position for a bounce or the shot is considerably weaker.

3.  Mending Mists is extremely strong as a 1-point mod.  It’s a fun mod so I don’t want to nerf it too much, but I think 2 points is completely reasonable and at least allows other mods to be considered at high level.  I suggested a new 1-point mod so the ability would have one (as every ability must).

4.  Garrison needs a bit of help.  He’s meant to do a lot of damage, I think, since he doesn’t have a defensive utility (most frontlines have a free action that protects them in some way, but Garrison’s is his missiles, an offensive ability) but his damage is not significantly better than that of other frontlines.  His primary is actually kind of awful.  So the first change is meant to at least make Garrison suck less at hitting multiple enemies (even without taking Haymaker), which is already a fairly rare occurrence.  The second change is because Quake Slam is already 3 points and forces you to pass up some other good choices on that ability let alone using extra points to do so.  Moreover, it de-syncs your missile and dash cooldowns, which is very annoying to play with.  Garrison shouldn’t have to deal with that inconvenience when he’s already struggling to get things done.  Finally, my third suggestion is simply a small hit point buff to make his lack of defensive ability slightly less pronounced.

5.  Kaigin is in a better spot than I had previously thought, but could still use a small buff.  I like this change because it brings his stealth cooldown into line with that of PuP and Nix, and rewards clever and interesting Kaigin play.  I have, however, suggested certain other buffs previously, mostly in the nature of tweaks to Kaigin’s mods, and I still think these are all reasonable.

6.  I don’t see why Oz’s dash should behave any differently from any other free action.  Admittedly, there are no other free action dashes in the game, let alone ones that let you move afterward, and it is fairly rare that you would want to swap and sprint 8 squares, but it has happened to me before, and seems at the very least inconsistent from a design perspective.  However, the more important change is the new mod (granted, it’s 3 points, so you have to think a bit before you decide to take it).  The mod is designed to address a very specific weakness that Oz has.  Namely, there are turns where you have to position slightly dangerously, but Oz lacks the freedom to dash that other lancers have — not only because his dash is very telegraphed and can be taken advantage of, but also because dashing (even using a dash catalyst) has a very significant impact on Oz that it doesn’t on other lancers, because it alters his Afterimage position.  That means that there are turns where Oz really really doesn’t want to dash, let alone move, but is in danger, and the poor guy is so squishy that he can ill afford this without support help.  This mod, if you choose to invest in it, forces you to stay put (but keeping your Afterimage placement!) and forces you to use Zap Trap as your main action that turn, but makes you Unstoppable and somewhat resistant to damage (I’d have done it as a shield that turn, but Blast Phase same-turn shield effects are slightly weird.  Speaking of which, can we modify PuP’s ultimate mod to give him shields the FOLLOWING turn?  The way Brynn’s very similar mod works, and the way Nev and Magnus and new lancers in general work).  So you have at least something defensive you can do when you’re in trouble.  There may be better suggestions to accomplish this, and I’m happy to hear them.  One simple thought was to just increase Oz’s hit points slightly.  (I had a similar thought for Blackburn, who likes playing around with medic mods.)

7.  Khita is just a tad weak, I think.  Leaf in the Wind is a fun and skill-oriented mod, so why not make that baseline and free up a few points for Khita to have fun with?  I added a new mod in its place that allows her to be just a bit better at healing, which I think she deserves given that she can’t actually do any healing without having herself or allies hit a target enemy.  The idea is that if you’re hitting a few primaries (and not forced to dash or shield too many times in between), you can get a reduced cooldown on Take Aim!.  I didn’t want it to be guaranteed (even if the mod is already 3 points), and I didn’t want it to happen more than once per Take Aim!, so this was the compromise I came up with.  Feedback welcome.

Low-Priority Balance Changes

  1.  Helio:  Power Share (mod on shield) now reduces shield strength to 25.
  2.  Phaedra:  Damage on primary reduced to 25/12 (from 26/13).  (Wind Up still increases damage to 28/14.)  Putrid Spray damage bonus increased by 1.  Tremors (1-point primary mod) damage bonus to targets not in line of sight decreased to 4 (from 5).
  3.  Elle:  Action Roll (mod on her roll) no longer reduces maximum charges.
  4.  Grey:  Hawk Drone cooldown reduced to 1 (from 2).  Catch the Scent (3-point mod on primary) now reads:  If you hit an enemy, gain Haste next turn.  Relentless (3-point mod on ultimate) replaced with new mod:  Elusive (3 points) — on cast, reduce the cooldown of Slip Away by 2.
  5.  Su-Ren:  Swift as the Wind (mod on Shifting Winds) now reads:  If the second dash isn’t used, reduce the cooldown by 2.  (Up from 1.)  New mod on Spirit Bend:  Spirit of Gaia (3 points) — on cast, reduce the cooldown of Serenity by 1.

Rationale:

1.  Power Share is just a bit too good.  I feel sad when I see Helios take other mods.  I think a minor drawback is reasonable.

2.  A few tweaks to Phaedra to make her slightly less oppressive.  I think the damage through walls, particularly with Tremors, is a major culprit, so these changes address that without changing her overall power level too much.

3.  Action Roll is a useful situational mod (e.g. vs. Zuki) but the drawback is rather severe given that it is already 3 points and passes up the excellent third charge from Dance of Death.  I think this change would help Elle quite a bit without being too oppressive, but there are certainly other options.

4.  This is a significant buff for Grey.  I’m not sure it needs to be done, especially in light of my proposed change to Slip Away discussed above, but I do think it would be awesome and get me very excited about playing Grey again.  She relies on Rio a lot, and having it be available only every 3rd turn feels too long.  Catch the Scent and Relentless are meant to help with this, but…they’re just not very good.  And so in reducing the cooldown to every other turn, those mods don’t serve a purpose, and that means we can replace them with more interesting stuff.  I like my suggestions — gives Grey a bit more of a “Huntress” feel, in keeping with her theme, without making her particularly oppressive.

5.  These are just some quality-of-life improvements for Su-Ren.  She’s in a decent spot, but misses the 2-turn Brain Juice, so this would give her mod options to help with that.  Swift as the Wind is currently a little underwhelming because not using the second dash is relatively uncommon and reducing the cooldown by just 1 isn’t that good.  Reducing it by 2 really gives her a potential playstyle difference where you can choose to space out your dashes a bit more by taking that mod.  And if you’re only using 1 dash each time it’s up, given all of the restrictions on the ability, having a 3-turn cooldown doesn’t strike me as overly problematic.  Spirit of Gaia is a similar suggestion — if you want to invest 3 points, you can have a sort of on-demand Brain Juice for your main healing ability, which allows some nifty plays but I don’t think makes her overpowered.

2 thoughts on “Balance Discussion 12/15/17”

  1. Firm disagreement, hard pass.
    Too many details to go into as to why, but thank you for considering these things strongly, but too many drastic changes like this will hurt the game more than it will balance it.

  2. Hmm it looks like your site ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I as well am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to everything.
    Do you have any helpful hints for first-time blog writers?

    I’d definitely appreciate it.

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