As this game has introduced elite specs, I’ve found that their implementation in relation to their core counterparts has been inconsistent. While some offer completely different mechanics and tradeoffs to create a different playstyle, some can serve as an outright upgrade to core mechanics without giving up much. With a new expansion on the horizon, I feel like GW2 needs to rethink the role of elite specializations, and create a standard that can be applied to any new ones that are added that can serve as a check to any further power creep. I know that plenty of ideas have been floated by others on the forum, but I figured I might throw my hat into the ring.
As it stands, the role of an elite specialization is to expand the arsenal of a core profession without creating balancing problems that might arise if all skills were available to all iterations of the profession. Unfortunately, this has led to the situation where every elite “specialization” is actually a better generalist than core because they have access to all the same skills and then some. This has created a meta where core builds are often overshadowed by their respective elites because they can flat out do more. I believe that the opposite should be true. In order for core professions to remain relevant and elite specializations to serve a role befitting of the word specialization, elites need to be able to do less more effectively. By the same token, core professions should sacrifice the dedicated roles that an elite can provide in the name of the most versatility and having the widest range of skills to choose from.
In order to create a standard mechanical tradeoff across all elite specs, I would propose that equipping one removes access to a weapon and full line of slot skills. This would help to reinforce the idea of a specialization rather than simply an expansion of a profession’s arsenal. By creating this standard tradeoff, it frees devs to create more unique and powerful distinctions between specs, while also buffing elite spec mechanics/traits to compensate. This could rage from a few tune-ups to keep high-performing specs competitive, reducing the potency of established tradeoffs like the toughness penalty on berserker, to full-on mechanical overhauls like they’ve done to chrono.
Even with the removal of weapons and skills, I still feel like core professions can end up feeling like a lackluster version of each elite spec. In order to really drive home the generalist/specialist nature of how I feel elite specs should work, core professions should have access to a core-exclusive weapon and set of slot skills. These could be added via the training panel, unlocked instantly, or even be tied to newly created profession mastery lines. None of these would have traits associated with them, so they could be balanced to be pretty powerful by default. Additionally, all missing skills from the established skill archetypes in a profession should be added. This would give both core and elite specs a few new tools to play with, while maintaining a wider array of skills reserved for core.
As an example, I’ll be using the class I’ve mained since launch: the elementalist. I feel that it should gain access to a mid-to-long-range weapon that would give it reliable access to all or some of the boons it lacks like quickness, aegis, retaliation, etc. For slot skills, I feel like wells would help to give core eles the additional tools they need to feel more like a traditional caster that damages foes or supports allies from afar. I feel that this would help to carve out a role for core ele in modes like WvW, while giving pve players a more complete arsenal to take into the open world or instanced content.
As for elite specs and their tradeoffs, I’ll be focusing on weaver since I’ve played it almost exclusively since PoF launched. As an elite spec, I feel like weaver is in a good spot mechanically. The addition of dual attunements and a global cooldown on attunement swap means that the flow, rotations, and pace of the spec play completely differently from tempest or core ele. Its biggest problems, however, lie in the defensive uility and damage avoidance it possesses holding back its potential to do damage imo. In order to help push it into a better spot as a damage dealer and differentiate it from what should be a much more defensive tempest, I would be looking to reduce access to its most defensive weapon skills. I’d also remove some staple dps skills that keep weaver as king of ele dps to make core ele more viable.
Weapon/Skills removed: Focus and Conjured Weapons
Lore Explanation: Eschewing the need to summon conjured weapons, Weavers instead cycle the power of multiple attunements from hand to hand and combine them to powerful effect. Trading their use of a focus for a sword, they prefer to channel the elements through martial weapons to carve a path through their enemies.
Mechanical Justification: By removing focus, weavers would lose out on quite a bit of defensive utility that has been deemed such a powerful tool in their arsenal that obsidian flesh now has a 60 sec cooldown in pvp. This would force weavers into a more aggressive, high-risk/high-reward melee playstyle, while creating a more defensive niche for core ele. From an established design perspective, focus is a weapon that creates a significant tradeoff without eliminating any of the dual skills the devs added. Focus skills could now be balanced around the needs of only two elite specs, giving them room to revert some of the nerfs to focus in pvp over the last few patches.
As for conjured weapons, I feel like they run counter to the flow of a weaver’s playstyle. As a class built around juggling and cycling through multiple attunements at once, conjured weapons do the opposite by locking weavers out of dual skill mechanics. They’ve been in an awkward state since the game’s release, and hopefully removing their use from the dps-oriented elite spec frees the devs to streamline their functionality and improve their usefulness. This change would also make core ele more viable in endgame pve, as it would lock weaver out of a staple dps skill in fgs.
In order to compensate for the removal of potential dps and sustain from weaver, I propose the following changes to help keep them competitive. These could be combined with an overhaul to underperforming weapons and trait lines to bolster and refine a weaver's role as an aggressive melee duelist. (Note that this list is by no means comprehensive and only includes changes that would affect weaver. Not everything would need to be applied if devs deem it too op, and more could be added if it’s not enough. There would obviously have to be plenty of numbers and cooldown changes across the board that I’m not taking into consideration, and no numbers or changes I suggest are fixed):
• All minor adept/master traits will now be able to trigger on dual attunement
• Pyro/Aero/Geo/Hydromancer’s training: now grant a 10% cooldown reduction to dual skills that include each respective element in addition to their previous effects.
• Superior Elements: this trait now shares the 15% critical chance in all game modes
• Elemental Refreshment: increase base barrier by 20-30%
• Bolstered elements: increase base barrier by 30-50%
• Aquatic Stance: This skill now cleanses 2 conditions on initial heal
• Primordial Stance: the first pulse of this skill is now a blast finisher
• Unravel: this skill now creates a moving combo field based on primary attunement in addition to its previous effects
• Woven Fire: now applies 15% damage instead of 20% condition damage
• Woven Water: now applies 15% boon duration, 15% outgoing heal effectiveness
• Woven Air: now applies 5% critical damage in addition to its previous effects
• Woven Earth: now applies 15% damage reduction
• Perfect weave: now applies 25% damage, 25% boon duration, 25% outgoing heal effectiveness, 10% critical damage, 50% movement speed, and 25% damage reduction
As a whole, I feel that all but one profession can follow the general template I’ve laid out. The only one that breaks this mold is the engineer, and specifically my idea for holosmith. This idea could prove to be more controversial, so I’d want to see feedback from engineer players.
Weapons/Skills Removed: Kits
Lore Explanation: As Holosmiths learn to harness the sun and master their volatile Photon Forge, they transcend the need for traditional mechanical weapons. Instead, they project and wield hard-light constructs to provide them with the edge they need in battle.
Mechanical Justification: Some kits for holos have become very problematic at times, with grenade kit serving as the most recent example. Others have been stuck in a lackluster state for too long. Unfortunately, buffing or nerfing engi kits ends up either hurting core too much or allowing holo to overperform. Therefore, I suggest removing them from holos altogether. This would allow the devs to balance kits independently, giving them room to revert some or all the recent nerfs while buffing or reworking other kits into a better state. It would also create an opportunity to differentiate holo further from how core engi or scrapper play. Because kits effectively function as both slot skills and weapon swaps for engi, however, this would mean that holo would not lose access to a weapon.
Instead, I’d propose the following changes to compensate:
• Holosmiths can now swap weapons in combat
• All weapon skills and slot skills available to holosmith now have an additional effect(s) that trigger at specific heat thresholds
Congrats! You’ve made it to the end of my first post on the forums. Hopefully that wasn’t too painful to read. I’ve played the game since launch and frequent this place to see how everyone feels about the game, but I haven’t really been compelled to post before. I have a few other ideas about the game, so I might share them at some point. Any feedback would be welcome. Have an idea for a different profession’s tradeoffs? Liked my idea? Didn’t like it? Feel like you can salvage parts of it into something that works? Let me know!
TL;DR: In order to create an environment where core professions serve a generalist approach while elite specs are more truly specialized, elite specs should lose access to a core weapon and set of slot skills. Additionally, core professions should gain access to a set of core-exclusive weapons and utility skills. In order to compensate, devs should focus on strengthening and differentiating elite spec mechanics.