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Addressing Weapon Mastery and Elite Spec Concerns: Part 1: Specter


itspomf.9523

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So I got it in my head to start going through elite specializations and traits as as whole to identify problems and outstanding issues surrounding the upcoming release of the weapon mastery system and the availability of formerly elite-spec-restricted weapons to professions as a whole, together with the fact that elite specializations are simply too dependent upon their weapon of choice.  Here's the first of (hopefully) several posts to that end.

Specter

Billed as a character which "harnesses the power of shadow magic to debilitate enemies and preserve the health of allies," per its in-game description, Specter has, insofar, not quite managed either of these very well, not least because of the implementation of mechanics which perform with all the alacrity of a crippled Chronomancer (hah).  The most egregious of these, perhaps, is ally-targeted weapon skills, something for which there is little to no support (albeit dependent upon your use of hotkeys).

To that end, and considering it's one of the biggest losses of overall performance to the elite -- no one wants to have to stop attacking to lob Barrier on their buddies -- I'd propose its summary removal.  Why?  Because Anet itself has already begun tweaking these effects to impart their beneficial qualities to all nearby allies, making it completely moot.

Hence our first change:

Scepter [Skills 1 - 3]

Scepter's biggest issues is that it's a complete mess.  Literal walls of text with red and blue to distinguish which does what to who, and really no mechanism to make it easy to actually click your ally when they're trying really, really hard to avoid various mechanics (and thus your cursor).

  • Scepter skills no longer target allies directly, and only retain their offensive effects.  This is mitigated with the revised Second Opinion trait (see below).

While it doesn't seem like much of a change, this lets our elite spec focus on attacking baddies and not stabbing a bunch of keys trying to figure out who in the party or squad needs to get bapped with friendly evil shadow magic the most.

Utility

Then there's the issues with Wells.  They're super cool, except really not -- repetitive effects, tiny radii, and sequential boon/debuff application means that timing is far too crucial, particularly in the heat of battle.  To that end, and in addition to the changes below, all wells now have a radius of 400u, up from 240u (giving a full diameter of 800u).

  • Well of Bounty is aptly named, and does exactly what it means to:  benefit your allies.
  • Well of Silence, meanwhile, makes very little sense when it removes conditions (though I suppose the Daze it inflicts makes some sense.  Barely).  However, pulsing 1s of Daze on each pulse, while very powerful, would not only make it far more potent against defiant foes, it would help it better live up to its name.
  • Well of Tears dealing only damage is really disappointing.  Having it apply at least Cripple (or even Slow) would better serve it, while also making it harder for enemies to get out (short of using a dodge).
  • Well of Sorrow seems to not have gotten the facelift of its friend, Well of Bounty, when these "things you don't have" skills got reworked.  Pulsing for truly negligible damage as well feels rather useless, too.  As such, the skill should be reworked in the vein of Well of Bounty, applying Poison, Bleeding, Torment, Confusion, and Chilled, in-order, over its 5 pulses.  While Slow would perhaps be a more potent final effect (and visually more suitable), causing skills to take 66% longer to recharge feels far more beneficial across all game modes over simply reducing skill activation times.
  • Shadowfall ... needs help.  It's an elite well that only inflicts moderate damage (albeit ~50% more than Well of Tears) and Pulls on each of its three hits.  After everything else, it just feels like a placeholder.  I honestly don't know how to make this feel impactful, rather than "Well of Tears but slightly better (even if you can't use it a third as often)."

Shadow Shroud

So this was supposed to be the real core of the elite spec, and while it is arguably fairly potent, its short duration combined with the fact you're sharing damage taken with a tethered ally, means that 33% damage reduction we finally got back is barely worthwhile unless your potentially randomly-chosen ally is real good at dodging nasty mechanics and attacks.  As such, all shroud skills now read:  "You and your tethered ally [...]" in relation to all of their beneficial effects (healing included).

  • Enter Shadow Shroud should require that an ally be targeted to initiate a tether; otherwise, it will be forgone while Shadow Shroud is active.
  • Haunt Shot isn't the worst, and granting up to 3x 5 seconds of Might isn't too bad, but neither is it truly inspiring.
  • Grasping Shadows, by contrast, feels extremely redundant to the effects of the Hungering Darkness trait (see below).  Condition removal once every 3 seconds is also kind of uninspiring.  As such, I'd recommend upgrading it to deal bonus damage (or perhaps additional stacks of Torment) if the target(s) are afflicted with movement-reducing conditions.  You know, because the shadows are grasping.
  • Dawn's Repose might sound like a metal album, but overall it's ... ok.  So I'll leave it be.  It also grants you barrier, so it's part of why these changes make sense.
  • Eternal Night is in the same proverbial boat, and already heals you, so it's half of the rationale behind the proposed changes.
  • Mind Shock is ... also ok.  Yay stability, I guess.

Traits

  • Specter is now moot, as unlocking specter is itself moot.  Moreover, the -3 Initiative kept over from its release means that most of us are forced to run Trickery to compensate (as you really can't be effective with only 9 initiative).  As such, the trait would only read, "Steal becomes Siphon.  Gain access to shadow force through spending initiative, and gain access to Shadow Shroud ability."
  • Second Opinion would be reworked.  In addition to its current effects, equipping this trait causes all scepter attacks (including dual attacks with a scepter) to Heal up to 5 allies around your target by some amount, adjusted by Healing Power.  Allies which are already at full health instead gain an equal amount of Barrier.
  • Shallow Grave is rather redundant (see Hungering Darkness) and doesn't provide that great a benefit with the loss of ally targeting.  As such, and as an alternative means of providing Shadow Force generation, Shallow Grave emulates a necromancer's intrinsic life-force generation by granting Shadow Force each time an enemy dies (5%).
  • Consume Shadows is and remains arguably the most contentious trait for Specter, because of its power.  Forcing you to leave Shadow Shroud early (and waste your shadow force) once full stacks are achieved is not good nor sound gameplay.  However, its effect is supremely beneficial in a fight.  To remedy this and find a middle-ground, the trait would be renamed to Bastion of Shadow and cause your Shadow Shroud to pulse-heal nearby allies (~600u) by a small amount, augmented by your Healing Power.  A fair compromise, and one that actually benefits from remaining in or popping out of the shroud as-needed, rather than its current incarnation.  Moreover, it pushes the angle (and provides an alternate means) of providing support.
  • Dark Sentry simply feels like a waste.  While its secondary effect is very useful (everyone loves extra healing), Rot Wallow Venom simply doesn't feel very impactful (at only 1x stack of Torment), particularly if your ally is running Power.  To that end, it would now read:  "Barrier you provide is stronger (+15%).  Outgoing healing to allies is increased (+20%)"
  • Larcenous Torment is actually in a good place (and I'm not saying that ironically) as of the July 18 update.  Life steal could be better, sure, but short of making it a proper mechanic (which relies upon Healing Power and maybe Expertise, for healing and damage, respectively) and rebalancing a ton of skills and effects, it does what it needs to.
  • Amplified Siphoning is another trait that gets affected by the loss of ally-targeting.  Worse, +10 shroud gain is kind of awful when every other trait is a percentage.  To make it competitive with Larcenous Torment, the trait now reads:  "Gain increased shadow force when siphoning (+10%).  Shadow force drains more slowly."  As such, the player would only lose 1.5% shadow force per second (2.5% in PvP/WvW) as opposed to the standard 3% (or 5% in competitive modes).  The idea here is that, rather than providing more with easy attacks, it gives big chunks (equal to 20 Torment applications) and makes your shroud simply last longer.
  • Traversing Dusk is doing pretty well, and resistance can potentially be rather potent.  However, to make that feel a bit more impactful, it would be changed to 1 second of resistance on each pulse of a well -- that way missing one isn't so big of a deal.
  • Panaku's Ambition is ... not good.  Barrier on stealth attacks isn't great, and allies get real weird about having stealth applied to them, particularly in combat (just look at the raiding community and its effect on rotations for that one).  Instead, and drawing inspiration from Deadly Arts, the trait now reads:  "Deal increased condition damage to foes for each unique condition on them."  More, this better fits the legacy of its eponymous assassin.
  • Strength of Shadows after the July 18 update, is doing fine, so it gets left alone.
  • Hungering Darkness would make more sense to replace Shallow Grave in its entirety, transferring conditions to foes you attack while in shroud while drawing them from your tethered ally.  That's it.  That's the change.  Otherwise it remains the same.
  • Shadestep, while oddly named, is pretty great, and remains unchanged, as getting extra healing and boons around allies is grand (mind, having this occur around yourself as well would be an amazing addition to the "support-bruiser" feel of a Shadow Shroud-focused Specter, making its synergy with the revised Bastion of Shadow even more potent when rapidly attacking).  However, if an ally was not tethered, having said effects occur around yourself would feel rather mandatory to make this trait remotely worthwhile.
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The only time targeting an ally is a little difficult is in Action Camera mode and that's only once in a while. There shouldn't have to be a lot of support to help left click a target. Don't include everyone in you're no one list, it's not a big deal. Are you saying you want to scrap things like ally Quickness and Protection for generic residual healing because you can't left click an ally exactly like you do an enemy? Please don't encourage Anet to scrap in combat options like that.

I agree, Shadowfall needs help. It can even be a lame scale up in its effectiveness but I'd like it's Control capability to actually be a factor or it needs a larger radius. 

I enjoy Shroud a lot, but Grasping Shadows needs a larger radius also maybe. It's kind of a throwaway except for it's blast and under Shadestep. 

Not sure I have much of a different take on the rest of it. Thanks for writing that all up. 

Edited by kash.9213
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Important note regarding everything involving Rot Wallow Venom: Venoms use the stats of the character applying the venom, not the recipient. So you don't need to worry about the condition damage or duration of the target - the venom will use yours.

Heal specter might be a lot better if the Leeching Venom/Rot Wallow Venom interaction bug was fixed, though.

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Just wanna add my 2 cents to your suggestions from the perspective of a WvWer.

Traversing Dusk offering all resistance at once is beneficial due to the unlikelihood that we will be spending the entire duration in our wells. The nature of most WvW fights simply doesn't allow for this. 

Panaku's Ambution is not only really great for sustain, but also for support. One of the ways Specter carves a unique niche in how it offers support is through frequent access to group stealth. I know this may not be relevant in endgame PvE content, but the trait is a massive benefit for competitive modes.

I'd honestly hate to see allied targeting removed. That is part of what makes Specter unique. I think their recent changes of giving it better AoE access is a big step in the right direction. I would rather see they make better attempts of making the UI more customizable as well as actually making the allied targeting keybinds usable. It's very frustrating to cycle through pets, minis, siege, dead clones, and NPCs, which essentially renders the keybinds useless. All we really have at our disposal is call personal target. Character-specific keybinds would also be nice considering how I feel like I need to mess with my keybinds every time I want to optimize my playtime as a Specter.

I also think that scepter skills need more LoS forgiveness when used on allies. The whole playstyle forces a massive amount of positional compromise and backpedaling, which just doesn't feel good. Having skills persist if LoS is broken as long as we are facing the target at the start of the cast would be a huge improvement to how it feels and plays as a support. By this I mean directional LoS, not obstructions from terrain/objects. 

At this point I am convinced that ANet needs to separate the allied tether function of Siphon into its own F-skill. We have so many on-steal effect traits in the core kit. The fact that *none* of them have any interaction with ally Siphon feels really bad. This would make traits like Amplified Siphon inherently better, though I don't disagree that that trait specifically needs some attention.

Edited by Impling.4170
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2 hours ago, Impling.4170 said:

Just wanna add my 2 cents to your suggestions from the perspective of a WvWer.

Traversing Dusk offering all resistance at once is beneficial due to the unlikelihood that we will be spending the entire duration in our wells. The nature of most WvW fights simply doesn't allow for this. 

Panaku's Ambution is not only really great for sustain, but also for support. One of the ways Specter carves a unique niche in how it offers support is through frequent access to group stealth. I know this may not be relevant in endgame PvE content, but the trait is a massive benefit for competitive modes.

I'd honestly hate to see allied targeting removed. That is part of what makes Specter unique. I think their recent changes of giving it better AoE access is a big step in the right direction. I would rather see they make better attempts of making the UI more customizable as well as actually making the allied targeting keybinds usable. It's very frustrating to cycle through pets, minis, siege, dead clones, and NPCs, which essentially renders the keybinds useless. All we really have at our disposal is call personal target. Character-specific keybinds would also be nice considering how I feel like I need to mess with my keybinds every time I want to optimize my playtime as a Specter.

I also think that scepter skills need more LoS forgiveness when used on allies. The whole playstyle forces a massive amount of positional compromise and backpedaling, which just doesn't feel good. Having skills persist if LoS is broken as long as we are facing the target at the start of the cast would be a huge improvement to how it feels and plays as a support. By this I mean directional LoS, not obstructions from terrain/objects. 

At this point I am convinced that ANet needs to separate the allied tether function of Siphon into its own F-skill. We have so many on-steal effect traits in the core kit. The fact that *none* of them have any interaction with ally Siphon feels really bad. This would make traits like Amplified Siphon inherently better, though I don't disagree that that trait specifically needs some attention.

That's a really good point about Panaku's Ambution. It was great with old Shadestep but it's still a work horse in WvW. It is different priorities in different modes but where I'm usually at, getting stealthed frequently keeps people off of enemy focus and the Barrier helps sustain through those probing drives but can be clutch when you know that bomb is coming. Some of Shadow Arts gives that a real boost but it's still a factor with other traits. 

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I dont meant to be a debbie downer but "remove the ally targeting feature from Specter" is a great way to probably have your feedback skimmed over by the devs who crafted it for WvW/PvP purposes, much development resources have been spent just to strip it off, its more realistic to expect UX/UI updates and improvements to ease up on how ally targeting works

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