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Suggested Changes for (Heal) Alacrity Specter


Lucinellia.9247

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Hello! I'm one of the few people who really want to see Heal Alacrity Specter as a more viable choice in endgame PvE. I've contributed to some guides, and while I am far from the best player at this, I do feel I have a reasonable grasp on what is needed to make Heal Alacrity Specter be in a slightly better place. With the upcoming balance patch, and hopefully feedback being considered after the preview on Friday 27th October, I thought it might be worthwhile outlining some minor changes that can be made that would substantially improve the QoL and viability of Heal Alacrity Specter in endgame PvE.

I remain of the firm opinion that healing and providing boons via single ally targeting in Guild Wars 2 is a mistake, but given the pace at which major design problems with Thief are rectified, I don't see an overhaul anytime soon. Therefore, my suggestions are on the basis that we will continue to use ally targeted abilities.

Currently, Heal Alacrity Specter is arguably the hardest healer to play mechanically. Heal Alacrity Specter is not held back by a lack of raw healing or barrier output (such as Mesmer and Warrior heal variants) but rather due to the complex combination of providing healing, barrier and boons through spending initiative with allies targeted, the tether elite profession mechanic, targeted area of effect abilities with forced movement, and spending initiative with enemies targeted.

Of these, targeting allies and the tether mechanic are particularly punishing since they necessitate a chosen ally behaving in a manner that is both predictable and conducive to boon uptime and distribution. This is not always the case and it is highly possible that an ally who otherwise stacks and positions well may need to handle a randomly selected mechanic in Strikes, Raids and Fractals. My suggested changes therefore look to alleviate these issues. Another major problem that currently faces Heal Alacrity Specter is Protection uptime, especially after losing the 6-piece Rune bonus associated with either Superior Rune of Durability or Superior Rune of the Herald. Without a viable Relic to replace these, changes are needed to ally Shadow Sap and the decreased effectiveness on allies to allow for better Protection uptime.

With that in mind, I suggest the following changes that will retain the current identity of Heal Alacrity Specter and also improve coherency of boon support mechanics on Thief:

1. Ally Shadow Sap Protection increased from a baseline of 4 seconds to 5 seconds.
2. Reduced effectiveness for non-targeted allies from Scepter abilities of 25%, instead of 50%. This would mean that the new splash baseline Protection on allies would be 3.75 seconds when considering the change suggested above. This also improves group barrier, Regeneration, Vigor and Swiftness (the latter if a player is running a Scepter/Dagger offset).
3. Increased range of ally targeted boon application via Scepter abilities to 480 units because you can't control where other players go and, with a smaller radius, boons are typically splashing to other subgroups.
4. Increased range of Alacrity and boon application from Shadestep to 480 units around the tether. Similar reasoning to the above - we can't control what other players do and this is a unique constraint for Specter.
5. Alacrity application around the Specter and the tethered target. The application around the Specter can likely get away with being smaller in area (even down to 240 to prioritise the tether as the main source), as it is mainly to compensate for the tether needing to leave the group. This would also improve consistency for boon application between Specter and Deadeye, affording better coherent identity to Thief boon supports.

These changes are primarily QoL improvements. They do not fix issues such as the ally target cap on Shadow Squall and Shadow Sap, nor do they help with Specter self-boons when there are no allies nearby (for example, kiting the Sniper shot on Kaineng Overlook Challenge Mode). These are aspects that should be considered too for future updates. Similarly, the "Nearest Ally", "Next Ally" and "Previous Ally" hotkeys still require attention to be useful for Heal Alacrity Specter as "Nearest Ally" can still select fully dead players, Mesmer clones and phantasms while "Next Ally" and "Previous Ally" extend this to issue to also selecting mini pets, NPCs and gizmos.

Thank you for considering this post.

Edited by Lucinellia.9247
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I would like to agree with Lucinellia's suggestions. They are really good ideas to improve the specter in PvE without making it directly overpowered. Additionally, I'd like to express a few ideas here on how to improve the heal specter in largescale WvW.

1) The main problem with the Specter in WvW is that he cleans too few condis as a supporter. Compared to all other (support-)classes, there is a very clear disparity here. My idea here would be to rework Shallow Grave and make it similar to Abrasive Grit from Scourge: When distributing barrier, condis are removed. Here you could think about an internal cooldown if necessary.
2) To improve the healing of the Specter in WvW I would recommend to slightly increase the heal increase of Dark Sentry (currently it is at 10% in WvW; maybe increase it to 12% or 15% - you have to be sensitive here to not make it overpowerd). This would significantly improve all healing abilities.
3) Unlike in PvE, protection is not a problem in WvW. The reason is that Shadestep does not spread Alacrity in WvW, but Protection. But here I think that Alacrity is the better boon and would say that in WvW Alacrity should also be given instead of Protection. I think Alacrity will make Specter much more useful than it is at this point. But this point can be discussed, which boon is now more useful.

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22 hours ago, Caesium.4916 said:

I would like to agree with Lucinellia's suggestions. They are really good ideas to improve the specter in PvE without making it directly overpowered. Additionally, I'd like to express a few ideas here on how to improve the heal specter in largescale WvW.

1) The main problem with the Specter in WvW is that he cleans too few condis as a supporter. Compared to all other (support-)classes, there is a very clear disparity here. My idea here would be to rework Shallow Grave and make it similar to Abrasive Grit from Scourge: When distributing barrier, condis are removed. Here you could think about an internal cooldown if necessary.
2) To improve the healing of the Specter in WvW I would recommend to slightly increase the heal increase of Dark Sentry (currently it is at 10% in WvW; maybe increase it to 12% or 15% - you have to be sensitive here to not make it overpowerd). This would significantly improve all healing abilities.
3) Unlike in PvE, protection is not a problem in WvW. The reason is that Shadestep does not spread Alacrity in WvW, but Protection. But here I think that Alacrity is the better boon and would say that in WvW Alacrity should also be given instead of Protection. I think Alacrity will make Specter much more useful than it is at this point. But this point can be discussed, which boon is now more useful.

These would be great changes to have too! They would result in a legitimate option between Shallow Grave and Consume Shadows within PvE too, adding a bit more depth to choices for Heal Alacrity Specter. Dark Sentry being buffed a small amount would also be reasonable in PvE, since we can already achieve a whole host of modifiers through food, sigils and utilities.

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On 10/28/2023 at 6:38 AM, Caesium.4916 said:

I would like to agree with Lucinellia's suggestions. They are really good ideas to improve the specter in PvE without making it directly overpowered. Additionally, I'd like to express a few ideas here on how to improve the heal specter in largescale WvW.

1) The main problem with the Specter in WvW is that he cleans too few condis as a supporter. Compared to all other (support-)classes, there is a very clear disparity here. My idea here would be to rework Shallow Grave and make it similar to Abrasive Grit from Scourge: When distributing barrier, condis are removed. Here you could think about an internal cooldown if necessary.
2) To improve the healing of the Specter in WvW I would recommend to slightly increase the heal increase of Dark Sentry (currently it is at 10% in WvW; maybe increase it to 12% or 15% - you have to be sensitive here to not make it overpowerd). This would significantly improve all healing abilities.
3) Unlike in PvE, protection is not a problem in WvW. The reason is that Shadestep does not spread Alacrity in WvW, but Protection. But here I think that Alacrity is the better boon and would say that in WvW Alacrity should also be given instead of Protection. I think Alacrity will make Specter much more useful than it is at this point. But this point can be discussed, which boon is now more useful.

I definitely need the protection output in WvW. It would be super hard to keep up with enemy output rate without what we have now with only healing and Barrier and even that will only maybe keep that small radius around you up through during a drive or bomb. 

I feel like we could also have Alacrity though, even if it's a little labored or staggered. It used to be helpful for siege users and during a fight, especially when it comes down to which side is maintaining a better pace while still being accurate. Even if the blob is lucky enough to be fully comp'd, you're Specter is going to have to respond to one disaster after another and I don't know if Anet knows those blobs actually split pretty often. I don't know what's overpowered about having Protection and Alacrity when neither is realistically sustained for the duration. 

Edited by kash.9213
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Hello fellow heal specter appreciator! You make some really great points and in such a respectful and eloquent way. I just hope the devs appreciate it as much as I do. I've noticed a lot of the same issues as you and have some thoughts of my own.

I actually think ally targeting was a good idea, though overly ambitious, poorly implemented and over taxed. Initiative cost skills are already trickier to balance than CD skills, but then scepter adds not only healing/support effects but also double the effective skills through split ally/enemy targeting. As you've mentioned, Shadow Sap is especially problematic. While a bit more protection duration would help, I think a rework would be better for healthy balance. Shadow Sap's potential potency and efficiency is limited by its spammable nature. With other initiative spenders, channel times and flip skills prevent the user from rapidly stacking the desired effects of a skill, but rather than more of the same, Shadow Sap could get a unique mechanic that better suits its theme. 

1. I suggest reworking Shadow Sap into a pulsing area effect around the specter. The specter would gain 3 sec of this unique effect per cast, stacking up to 10 sec, and pulsing every second. If targeting an ally, the gained effect would pulse barrier and protection. If targeting an enemy, the gained effect would pulse might and perhaps damage/weakness/torment? This would make ally targeting massively easier to manage as it wouldn't affect the aim of the skill; just targeting any ally at all would reliably give the same effect around you. Additionally, the stackable pulsing effect would allow for initiative to be spent at convenience without an abusably spammable result. A skill that's harder to abuse can safely be tuned up: 1-1.5 sec of protection per pulse would be reasonable I think. Enough to free up some initiative for actually healing. This skill would also have the added benefit of reliably proccing Rot Wallow Venom, opening up the possibility of a venom healing build with Leeching Venoms. All around good for QoL and unique class identity.

2. Ally targeted scepter skills should have no reduced effectiveness on additional allies, but the skills should be tuned down to compensate; probably about 20% or so.

3/4/5. I completely agree that beneficial effects should be given around both the specter and the target, but I would add the scepter skills to this and possibly leave out the extra radius. A modest radius around the specter plus the target would be more than enough to alleviate a lot of grief. It's downright painful that specter basically can't heal itself unless it's standing on top of an ally, and even then it's at 50% effectiveness. In the same vein, Endless Night shouldn't have facing requirements when targeting allies. I can't tell you how many times I've had my channel canceled by an ally suddenly moving behind me.

 

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What would make me the happiest is to have Siphon proc all of the core Steal traits when using Siphon on an ally. Some traits would have to be adjusted as simply as halving the duration/effectiveness due to the reduced cooldown on Siphon ally, others would necessitate unique "inverse" effects that capture the intention of the trait. Regardless, I want to feel encouraged and incentivized to use Siphon on an ally if I am playing support. It would allow for better control and more forgiveness over your tether target's positioning since you'd be able to freely swap your target every X seconds without sacrificing all of those important core Steal trait peocs. It is so jarring to have 2 traits in Specter to proc when using it on an ally, but have no other core traits proc. I'd also like to see Siphon ally grant (reduced) shadow force when used on an ally.

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On 11/1/2023 at 5:57 AM, Micah.3789 said:

Hello fellow heal specter appreciator! You make some really great points and in such a respectful and eloquent way. I just hope the devs appreciate it as much as I do. I've noticed a lot of the same issues as you and have some thoughts of my own.

These are all excellent points and would work really well to alleviate the issues that we face. I do disagree slightly on ally targeting being a good idea - we lose out on so much awareness of boss HP, CC bar and boons compared with other healers - but we have it, Arenanet don't seem to want to change it, so we need to work with it! I think the suggestions and thoughts you've shared would also be a very viable way of improving Heal Alacrity Specter. I especially agree with the Endless Night channel requiring facing - that is super annoying! Thank you for sharing!

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2 hours ago, Za Shaloc.3908 said:

What would make me the happiest is to have Siphon proc all of the core Steal traits when using Siphon on an ally. Some traits would have to be adjusted as simply as halving the duration/effectiveness due to the reduced cooldown on Siphon ally, others would necessitate unique "inverse" effects that capture the intention of the trait. Regardless, I want to feel encouraged and incentivized to use Siphon on an ally if I am playing support. It would allow for better control and more forgiveness over your tether target's positioning since you'd be able to freely swap your target every X seconds without sacrificing all of those important core Steal trait peocs. It is so jarring to have 2 traits in Specter to proc when using it on an ally, but have no other core traits proc. I'd also like to see Siphon ally grant (reduced) shadow force when used on an ally.

Another excellent point and something I would definitely like to see considered for QoL beyond the issues with Protection and boon radius! Ally Siphon already gets used quite a lot if a player is frequently jumping between nearest and personal targets, or needs to reset the Tether due to distance issues, so improving this would definitely add to the flow of the build in regards to forced target swapping. Thank you also for sharing!

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maybe speed up the channel of endless night? or would that be too OP?

 

also would be nice if the shadow arts grandmaster traits had a better synergy with support options.  As they are now you -need- to enter or exit stealth, which heal specter has very little of.

Edited by Lightsbane.9012
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On 10/31/2023 at 10:57 PM, Micah.3789 said:

In the same vein, Endless Night shouldn't have facing requirements when targeting allies. I can't tell you how many times I've had my channel canceled by an ally suddenly moving behind me.

 

I'm glad I'm not the only one to feel this way lol. Since its inception this has been a really big pain point for me. I very often have to just stop moving my character so I can auto-rotate to track the target mid-channel, but that in itself poses a large potential risk in positioning because...you have to be stationary for that to work. My thought is that as long as you are facing the target at the beginning of the channel, you should no longer have to face them for the remainder. This skill is so important as a support tool in WvW and is the cause of so much backpedaling. Doesn't really feel good despite the skill being amazing.

Also I'd like the same to apply for Shadowsquall when used on an ally. In addition to its weird lack of upwards verticality being fixed. 

Edited by Za Shaloc.3908
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Number 5 - yes so much! no reason for it not to work this way (alac around the specter and the tethered player).. gives the player much more control and helps when players have to spread.

also, can we get aegis? most other healers have aegis now... having it on 1 of the wells would be nice

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