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Catalyst; Issues & potential solutions


Jonas.2079

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Hi guys! I had some time on my hands and started to write down some issues with Catalyst and how I would go about changing the spec to feel better. These are just my personal thoughts and it may be a bit much to ask for in certain aspects. With that being said I hope to start a discussion - do you disagree with me on the issues, would you do someting differently to solve the issues, or have anything else to contribute? I'd love to hear it! Finally, I'll give a warning that this is a bit of a long read. And CMC, if you're watching....please buff ele 🙂

 

Without further ado, let's look into some of Catalyst's issues;
 

1.       Energy mechanic is clunky, breaks up the flow of the spec in real fights, and feels like a unnecessary limitation on sphere usage considering there is already a cooldown. Its current effect is to effectively limit you to using 3 spheres in a standard rotation where you try to use the spheres off CD. Personally I don’t think Cata would magically become overpowered if using all 4 was allowed – the current energy trait that allows you to do it is never picked anyway because the empowerement trait is superior. The energy mechanic is the cause of issues such as using your first sphere at 29 energy rather than 30 being highly punishing. It’s not uncommon having to pause you rotation to wait for a sphere to disappear so that you can regain energy, and it doesn’t feel very good. Furthermore, the energy mechanic makes weapons other than hammer reaaally need to work to upkeep energy, limiting our viable choices. Energy generation relies on having an enemy to strike, which can be tricky when bosses phase, etc. This in turn can i.e. cause delays to when your quickness is available when the boss returns. Basically, other specs do not have their profession mechanic and core boons gated in such a convoluted way and I don’t think it’s fun that Catalyst does. Get rid of energy and just allow us to use the sphere in every attunement – make the spec fun to play before worrying about balance. Playability should not come at the cost of balance either – numbers should do the brunt of the work there.

 

2.       Stacking buffs. Another aspect of the spec which isn’t great – you have a lot of stacking buffs to keep track of; aura buffs as well as elemental empowerment. The latter is the biggest offender though, as auras are generally quite trivial to upkeep with the combot trait. Ele empowerment, on the other hand, suffers in large part because of the grandmaster – only when you have max stacks is the effectiveness doubled. This creates a massive gap between skilled players who can upkeep this and regular players – and also makes the spec bad in terms of adjusting to boss phases and such. My solution would simply be to let the grandmaster trait always apply; “elemental empowerment stacks are doubled in effectiveness”. This way, maxing them out is still the goal that top players will strive for, but it is still effective even if you do drop down to 7 or 8 stacks. As we get to the traits, I’m also changing how stacks are generated to interact more with the profession mechanic, which should be a net gain in ease of upkeep. As a side note, it would be great if a “celestial avatar”-style bar could be added to show how many stacks you have.

 

3.       “Catalyst without hammer is just core ele with a well”: A common criticism of the spec is that without hammer, the jade sphere does not do enough to make the catalyst feel like unique. While the wording is a bit dramatic imo, the point stands. My proposition to change this, without requiring too much additional work for ANet, is to make the Hammer 3 orbs part of the profession mechanic of the spec. To do this, we first add the spheres to F1-F4, just like Tempest’s overloads. Then, we simply say that “when you deploy the jade sphere, you also get a corresponding spinning orb” – in the current design you are basically just spamming both the sphere (-1 because energy) and orbs in every attunement every time anyway, and they share a 15 second cooldown. So, I don’t think combining the two into one skill really diminishes the gameplay, and it would free up your apm a bit. F5 is now a skill that changes the radius that the spheres rotate at; I’m thinking three stages corresponding to melee, hammer’s ranged range, and staff range. This would let the orbs work well with any weapon, as a profession mechanic should. To maintain the orb cycling (rather than 100% uptime) you could add some clause saying “switching attunements when you have 4 orbs removes the orbs” in addition to their internal duration. Depending on how the new Hammer 3 skills are handled, this could be a simple autocast of grand finale as well.

 

I’d love for them to make new, full-flegded skills for Hammer 3, but it’s probably a stretch to ask for this. One idea is to have mobility skills to match the dual-range of the hammer; fire 3 is a gapcloser to target (start at range, gapclose to use skill 5), water 3 is a retreat (water already has an engage, so this could prepare for a ranged attunement), earth 3 is a gapcloser (to match it’s melee range), air 4 is a retreat. Might be too much mobility though, especially when considering PvP, and would require a lot of animation work etc. that is probably to much to ask for.

 

It could be nice that Hammer 3 still interacts with the orbs to keep that part of its identity. One very easy option for Anet to implement would be to have hammer 3 be Grand finale and have this exclusive to hammer. An attack that shoots out the orbs and returns them to you, a “mini grand finale” could be an option as well. I’m not exactly sure what would be the best option, but these were some ideas at least.

 

4.       Augments – they don’t really live up to their name in the current setup. They should be skills that augment your sphere or at least interacts with the spheres in a meaningful way – which would also help make the Jade sphere profession mechanic feel more fleshed out. Instead, they give some (not bad) effects, but the interaction with the spheres is reduced to increased duration or decreased cooldown – not very exciting. The interaction is also limited to the same-element sphere. My proposition is to make the augments better and to have them interact with the spheres to a larger extent with cool elemental combos, but keeping the baseline effects. As a bonus, the spheres could change color to show that they have been “augmented”.
 

Baseline effects:
Relentless fire: Grants unblockable attacks and 10% strike damage boost.

Shattering Ice: grants additional strikes that apply chill

Invigorating Air: Stunbreak + superspeed & endurance regen

Fortified earth: Block + some barrier if you block something

 

Elemental bonuses:

Almost unchanged for the same-element bonuses;

Fire-fire: increase duration

Water-water: increased duration

Earth-earth: guaranteed bonus barrier, reduced CD.

Air-Air: reduced recharge, instant max endurance

 

Fire-water: Steam sphere. Sphere pulses cleanse your conditions. Sphere color change: “white smoke”

Fire-Earth: Sphere eruption. Sphere pulses apply additional bleeding and burning. Sphere color change: magma color.

Fire-Air: Sphere supernova. Sphere pulses do additional strike damage attacks emanating from the center of the sphere. First pulse has radius equal to 20% radius of the sphere, second 40%, third 60%, fourth 80%, final 100%. Bright light yellow/redish color

Water-Earth: Growth sphere. Sphere heals you with increased healing for each pulse. Green color.

Water Air: Cyclone sphere. Launch/Knockback/CC. Darker blue-grey color.

Air-Earth: Sandstorm sphere. Sphere pulses blind foes. Sand color (brighter than current earth sphere)

 

The Ultimate Augment, Elemental Celerity, is in its current state is…not great. Don’t really know what I’d have there instead though. Maybe using it could turn your sphere into a multielement uber-sphere with all effects and boons? This might be bonkers actually, considering the new augments – imagine Elemental celerity > relentless fire and getting damage increase, unblockable, condition cleanse, burn/bleed pulse AND supernova damage pulse? And then you could get it all over again with another augment? Now that’s an ultimate skill! But its probably too OP. You could perhaps say that each augment effect can only be used once in the supersphere (so you won’t get two supernovas for using fire and air augment) but it still seems very strong. Might even have to limit it to “only 1 additional augment can grant bonus effects in the ultimate sphere”. Or come up with something else entirely for the Ultimate, this was just my idea and I think it would be fun and feel impactful, at least.

 

Now, the augment changes I’ve suggested here might be a liiiittle excessive, but Ele should have a lot of flexibility in return for its frailty and complexity. The augments don’t really have to be that strong either – the bonus effects I described could be nerfed substantially and I wouldn’t mind that much, as long as we get some flavor and uniqueness to the augments. 

 

I will also make a mention that I will be suggesting a trait that grants the relevant Augment effects to allies, potentially with lessened effectiveness if needed for balance.

 

Fortified earth grants aegis to allies as I don’t believe AoE channeled blocks are in this game. Could be a fun mechanic if it can be pulled off though.

 

I know % damage increasing is usually not a good thing, so relentless fire might be an issue to share to allies. That being said, it isn’t permanent like frost spirit used to be, and the percentage to allies can be tuned down to the point where it shouldn’t be problematic anymore. Same goes for shattering ice, to a lesser extent.

 

5.      Too many bad/uninspired traits. Lets suggest some more interesting options:
 

Minor traits are actually pretty good and can stay as-is.

 

Adept majors

 

Hardened Auras: A fine trait but not that exciting. Change to: “Auras you grant, also grant barrier”. The barrier amount would not be that huge, but enough to make a aurashare catalyst healer viable when geared for healing.

 

Vicious Empowerment: Again, the trait isn’t that bad, but it isn’t very exciting and has some negative effects, namely that it makes you waste your cc skills to upkeep elemental empowerment. I’d change this trait to something like; gain a stack of elemental empowerment when your orbs strike an enemy X times, rewarding you for managing the range of the spheres. Basically, a trait that interacts with the orbs to grant you elemental empowerment.

 

Energized elements: with energy gone, this trait only gives fury on attunement swap – which doesn’t seem that impressive on its own though. Going with the name of the trait, perhaps add some self vigor or might? Basically, this should be a good but selfish boon trait.  

 

Master majors:
 

Empowering Auras: Fine as it is. Simple damage trait that can be tuned for balance alongside Empowered empowerment GM. Could perhaps make add a condi damage component to it, so that condi builds also can be balanced around this trait.

 

Evasive empowerment: Not a bad idea to have a more selfish, defensive trait in this tier. Not to be relied upon in a dps rotation but could be useful in some PvP or solo play scenarios. However, a bit weak in comparison to the other traits imo. I’d add a couple of seconds of superspeed to this trait, and perhaps buff the number of EE stacks you get.

 

Sphere specialist: Wait what? I thought this was a grandmaster! Well, not anymore. It also doesn’t do the same thing anymore as I think it’s dumb that a GM trait is there for boon duration and nothing else, it’s not fun and should have been balanced from durations and gear. Spectacular sphere, which -spoiler- is now the GM, will be the trait to opt into boon support. The new sphere specialist does not give you 100% boon duration, but instead now makes your augments affect 5 allies, as described previously. The boon durations of the sphere are now instead simply reliant on having enough boon duration as it should be. I think ~40% BD (basically full exotic celestial), for of fury, quickness and might is a good place to start. Then perhaps 50% (full cele+arcane) is needed for full uptime for the defensive boons. Durations can be tuned as needed though.

 

 

 GMs:

Staunch auras: The final aura trait is a selfish one, but very nice. Basically permanent self stability, don’t feel like this needs messing with as its strong in solo play and PvP. Perhaps add a slight amount of self quickness/might to compensate for the fact that quickness from spheres now competes with this trait. 

 

Empowered empowerment: As mentioned previously, this now increases the effectiveness of EE stacks by 100% always. The percentage can of course be tuned for balance. The percentage stat increase from EE stacks themselves can also be tuned if needed.

 

Spectacular sphere: Your sphere gets increased radius, and additional boons when placed:

Fire: more might (enough to make 25 stacks possible) 

 

Water: vigor

 

Earth: stability (changed from resistance) just please give us a little bit of group stab. In principle I prefer stability to be an on-demand, reactive boon rather than a passive thing, but in the case of elementalist its difficult to rely on this because your earth attunement may be on cooldown at any given moment and its not feasible to predict in most scenarios exactly when the stability requirement will come. An alternative would be to add group stability to a core ele utility.  IMO attunement swap having a cooldown is stealthily one of the reasons elementalist in general struggles to utilize the utility of having 4x weapon skills, and a huge part of its issues-but at this point I’m not sure if it can be changed. Perhaps a future espec? 

Anyway, for these reasons I think we have to go with the mechanist approach, where the stability is only 1-2 stacks that lasts for ~15 seconds for a boon support build. This means that you can have perma stab but only if you invest into boon duration. With a more moderate investment you have good but not perma uptime. 

 

Air: Quickness. Nuff said. 

              

Basically, the goal of this setup was to make opting in to a boon support role be possible with 1 trait, instead of arbitrarily requiring another trait as well. Balance-wise, this does mean that empowering auras can be chosen as a dps boon support which might become problematic, if the boon support version is doing too much damage. Of course, the boon support would have to give up augments affecting allies for this, but it still may pose an issue. However, in the new set-up it should be possible to tune Catalyst as follows:

 

·         DPS doing good damage, but boon support doing too much? Nerf aura trait, buff empowered empowerment to compensate.

·         DPS doing too much damage, boon support fine? Nerf empowered empowerment

·         Both doing too much/too little damage? Nerf/buff aura trait

·         Nerf/buff the %stats elemental empowerment stacks give can also serve as a nerf/buff to both builds if needed, but nerfs dps build more.

·         Aura trait should give more (at the very least comparable) damage than Augments for a quick dps build – nerf allied effectiveness of shattering ice and         relentless fire if needed.

 

I think that with this setup, there should be a way to find a sweet spot where things are relatively balanced. 

To finish it off, Here's some minor issues/annoyances i've had; 
1. It's very odd that Hurricane of pain and whirling stones are not whirl finishers

2. It would be nice if water Hammer 4 healed regardless if you hit an enemy. 

3. Air Hammer 4 should be a flipover skill or something; let us use the CC without yeeting ourselves into the death pools of the world 



Anyway, thanks for making it through this long read! What do you think? Are my suggestions bad, is there something crucial I've missed, or anything else you want to add? I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

 

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15 minutes ago, Jonas.2079 said:

1.       Energy

Agree. Energy has no purpose atm. They should just remove it and balance spheres based on CDs. 

16 minutes ago, Jonas.2079 said:

Stacking buffs.

Aura ones are not the issue atm. But EE needs a rework. I would propose to make the stacks refresh on reapplying the effect. 

17 minutes ago, Jonas.2079 said:

“Catalyst without hammer is just core ele with a well”

I dont think thats the problem here. Catalysts mechanics are buff stacking and jade sphere. Just fix them up and it will be fine with other weapon sets (wvw/pvp uses non hammer catalysts atm). 

20 minutes ago, Jonas.2079 said:

Hardened Auras: A fine trait but not that exciting. Change to: “Auras you grant, also grant barrier”. The barrier amount would not be that huge, but enough to make a aurashare catalyst healer viable when geared for healing.

Agree, but without the option to make it a viable healer, we got tempest for that. 

22 minutes ago, Jonas.2079 said:

Spectacular sphere: Your sphere gets increased radius, and additional boons when placed:

Fire: more might (enough to make 25 stacks possible) 

Overkill, since every class contibutes to might stacking nowadays and based on their balance philisophy its not gonna happen. 

23 minutes ago, Jonas.2079 said:

Earth: stability

This would be op. Stab is extremly powerfull boon. No need to make it as common as might/fury. 

 

24 minutes ago, Jonas.2079 said:

To finish it off, Here's some minor issues/annoyances i've had; 
1. It's very odd that Hurricane of pain and whirling stones are not whirl finishers

2. It would be nice if water Hammer 4 healed regardless if you hit an enemy. 

3. Air Hammer 4 should be a flipover skill or something; let us use the CC without yeeting ourselves into the death pools of the world 

1st. agree.

2nd. nah, takes away the interaction. Should stay as is, it is a powerfull skill since it procs field effects. 

3rd. no no no, no more flip skills, lets just forget about this on cata. Just remove the "flying backwards" component of this skill.  

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Nice feedback 🙂 

Fire sphere giving "more might" when traited, i just figured a copy of what is already there today with no changes, not that the sphere alone would provide 25 might. 

For stability; At this point its becoming an expectation for supports to have some stability access and as long as some quickness/alacrity provides do, the ones that don't will fall behind. I don't think it neccessarily would be OP for ele to have some access. Perhaps a better solution would be to make Armor of Earth affect 5 targets (with reduced stab stacks and reduced CD), so it's a more reactive & accessible stab application rather than the non-reactive, passive uptime of the sphere solution. 

As far as the healing build goes; i don't see why it's a problem that we can have multiple healing options? I think there is a space for catalyst to fill a quickness/barrier+some heals/aurashare role as opposed to tempests alacarity+big heals.

I agree I'm not a fan of flip skills on ele - just figured if the loss of mobility would be a problem this could be a solution. But sure, getting rid of the mobility alltogether could work as well for me.  

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Overall seems like good suggestions. Not a big fan of augment sharing, sounds like a really strong buff that could give quite some problems in the SC community. 

 

Staunch aura's should be group support aswell (except for sPvP). It would open up alot of possibilities for catalyst to be viable in WvW, maybe even as a FB-like support. (Would be nice if you could take it alongside spectacular sphere).

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2 hours ago, the krytan assassin.9235 said:

Overall seems like good suggestions. Not a big fan of augment sharing, sounds like a really strong buff that could give quite some problems in the SC community. 

 

Staunch aura's should be group support aswell (except for sPvP). It would open up alot of possibilities for catalyst to be viable in WvW, maybe even as a FB-like support. (Would be nice if you could take it alongside spectacular sphere).

Yeah, the Augment sharing (and whole section on augments) are possibly a bit too strong but could maybe work if relentless fire and shattering ice's effects to allies were substantially nerfed. The idea was primarily to share defensive utilities like the cleanses of steam sphere, aegis of fortified earth and healing from growth sphere. Still might be a bit overloaded though, but would be fun 🙂 

I kind of viewed the staunch auras trait as a more selfish option that gives you permanent selfstab, while Spectacular sphere GM version would give some group stab but not nearly as much. I suppose it could work... So you're thinking that Staunch auras would give group stability, and spectacular sphere goes back to the master tier, replacing the Augment trait. Any ideas on what you'd but on the last grandmaster (where sphere specialist is today)? I fear that it would be extremely powerful in PvE and WvW to have permanent, rapidly refreshing group stability and perma quickness - does even firebrand have that much stab? 

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7 minutes ago, Jonas.2079 said:

I fear that it would be extremely powerful in PvE and WvW to have permanent, rapidly refreshing group stability and perma quickness - does even firebrand have that much stab? 

Firebrand would still have alot more stab when compared to the cata with staunch aura's. The staunch aura trait description should change abit so it only applies whenever you grant the aura instead of whenever you gain an aura. Also the amount of stacks+the limited duration should balance it out pretty well. Also the FB stability is mostly a reactive Stab whereas staunch aura's provide more of a passive support. Reactive support will always be supreme in WvW since you can properly time your boons/heals to counter a spike. Also the upkeep time (combo finishing in suboptimal scenarios, swapping to aura generating attunements) is pretty high. 

Just leaving spectacular sphere in master and sphere specialist in GM would be fine with me. All 3 are powerfull traits that can be a viable pick in all gamemodes. The -10% dps on spectacular sphere in PvE obviously has to go though and the 50% duration increase in WvW could be boosted to 100% to become a viable alternative to the other GM traits.

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