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Analysis, Thoughts and Proposal for upcoming Hybrid changes (Archmage)

Structured balance proposals should be posted here. Posts in this section will be taken into account during class balance reviews.
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Analysis, Thoughts and Proposal for upcoming Hybrid changes (Archmage)

Post#1 » Wed Feb 14, 2024 2:55 pm

Hello. I'll start with a short introduction, during which I hope to explain my background as a player on RoR, and hopefully provide a bit of perspective on where my point of view stems from. After that, I'll give a short history lesson of how the class progressed on this server, and illustrate the conclusions I've drawn from them, and ultimately give a few argumented suggestions.

So, first of all, hello. I've been playing a DPS AM ever since this server only had T1 available, and all the way until today with breaks in between. I've reached RR83, I've been there when the massive class changes were out and was making suggestions / engaging in discussions at the time, I've been there when they have been rolled back and was responsible for keeping Khaine's Touch and the shaman counterpart for as long as it did, by speaking directly to some of the devs at the time. I've played in organized 6v6 games before the ranked system was even a thing, and then played in the ranked system when it actually came out. In short, look, I've seen a lot and I'm familliar with how this whole this archetype plays, what it lacks, what it's good at and so on. If you're not prepared for a very long excursion into what the experience of playing a DPS AM on RoR was from start to finish, I suggest you skip to the TLDR section, where I get into actual suggestions:


Now, let's start with the "olden" days, which are not unlike the current state of AM, but perhaps a bit on the worse end. During that time a single target small scale AM played just as the one today, but with some important differences. First of all, the GCD was smaller, which meant you could apply your DOTs quicker and you had more control over how you timestamp them. It was alright, but it was never viable for anything but roaming solo in the lakes, and it only did noticable damage when you had the absolute top tier gear you could possibly get, and stacked copious amounts of crit. During this time, there weren't many conclusions to draw, as the class neither had the damage output to really make an impact in organized play as anything but a healer.
Conclusion: None yet.

Time went on, more gear pieces came out. There was a change that treated each dot tick individually for damage purposes, which forced you to stack maximum intelligence and strikethrough at all costs. Damage output was really bad, because of this, but you had some funny moments, whereupon each tick individually could dismount someone. Nothing much to say, wasn't the best of times for the archetype. No gameplay conclusions yet to draw, as you had a choice of either strikethrough or crit, and once again you could only have an impact at the best possible gear level and never before. This was because unlike a proper DPS, you did not have any sort of tactic to boost your base intelligence value. This will come up again later.
Conclusion: Low base Intelligence value causes class to require top level gear to even begin to breathe.

Things change, more gearsets come out, the anti-dot disrupt changes are reverted. More crit becomes available, which means more damage output becomes possible. During this time, DPS AM had to stack multiple gear sets to squeeze out as much INT as possible. Most other caster dps was already at INT cap by this time, but you were about 150 points behind in the most optimal set. Still, as more INT became available, the class began to feel better to play. It was still never viable for organized play, and we'll get into that a bit later. You began to see a strength of the class fully manifest: Initiative and crit chance reduction was the absolute king of survivability. Everyone else stacked armor and relied on the trinket set that gave a mass amount of resistances, but not you. You could survive just by not taking any critical damage, and factually DPS AM was an absolute nightmare to kill, especially with its M1 shield at this stage lasting for 60 seconds, which meant you had them up back to back and could enter a fight with one already on you. I vividly recall being focus-fired by 4, sometimes even 6 dps, and still walking out of it alive with some healer support, purely off of detaunt, pretty much 0% crit chance and fat shield.
Conclusion: Setboni don't matter, because low base intelligence forces to stack 2 pieces of gear back to back from multiple sets. Crit reduction was king for survivability.

At this point the first mass class changes roll around, this is also when squig became what it did, also the time when Blackguard had a two-handed weapon defensive channel like Swordmaster. It was a wild, very fun time. AMs recieved two main things: Dissipating Energies being twice as effective and Khaine's Touch. Both of these were fantastic, and combined together, AM finally had enough burst pressure to actually deal significant damage in an organized setting. We've done tests in 6v6 with the top players at the time, some of which no longer play here unfortunately, and it performed. You loaded up your target with dots, (layering with aoe debuffs first to prevent them being spamdispelled) made a call out that you're ready to go, and began to cast Dissipating Energies -> Radiant Lance -> Searing Touch, sometimes you had an opportunity to get a Fury of Asuryan in as well if the situation allowed you to precisely timestamp the burst to the last tick of Dissipating Energies, meanwhile your various damage sources caused removal of hots and other things along the way. It genuinely worked, and was even good, in some cases better than something like a BW or Sorc, because you were a lot tankier, though at the cost of not having any damage dealing morale ability. However, there were issues which ultimately prevented it from solifying on that scene. The main issue was: Your damage was heavily telegraphed. Enemies, after adjusting to AM, could watch for the dots popping up, the visual spell effects, or just callouts in voice that someone is being loaded up with dots; guards would be shifted, detaunts, shields etc. Once that happened, it became extremely difficult to actually score a kill, as there were a few tactical nuances:
1) Vs a melee team, the tanks had to use some of the CC they would otherwise use to peel enemy defenses, such as punting tanks away, knockdown enemy target to make them more vulnerable to burst etc. on preventing the enemy melees from just charging down your backline.
2) Because the damage was so telegraphed, it meant both tanks could just guard the same target, and if your tanks had the resources up to punt a tank away, it didn't get rid of guard, nor detaunt.
3) You required an SM to function properly, due to their double spirit debuff, which also at the time meant one of the tanks had a much more limited CC toolkit.
4) In order to compensate for the telegraph, you actually had to try and pressure enemy healers, for example via WL pull or knockdown with lion and/or AM AP drain or silence or some other combination of hindrances, which also meant the AM had to walk a lot closer to the frontline than was safe.
Conclusion: This was a good time to be a DPS AM, but even though you had weight to throw around now, you had trouble doing anything but pugstomping. A group with a DPS AM was very easily countered. We had everything we needed, but what were ultimately lacking was a way to transfer your dots from target to target, as you had no way to switch targets without losing 50% of your damage output. Optimal group setup for this was: KotBS, Offensive SM, WL, AM, RP, WP ; as you could win through sheer coordinated burst, but at times you would just run into a deadend with it. Some groups that were more defensively focused would just weather the storm and moralebomb you at the end for the win, and there wasn't a way to counterplay this with an AM.

So, the rest we can simply safely skip until today, as this sort of status quo held for a while, though AM lost a few things along the way when some of the changes were rolled back. The longer CD on Khaine's Touch made it that much more important to nail the target with sheer burst damage, but that also meant that it made it that much more impossible to win when the enemy team composition didn't allow for it. In short, it was kind of a meme, but was still playable. Some classes had it much worse in organized play, such as ranged SW.

Now we get to today. A few core things have changed. First of all, before the rollback on Khaine's Touch and on-the-move lifetaps, the biggest change is the slower GCD. Which means that our damage output is even more telegraphed, the dots are a lot less concentrated and harder to timestamp without losing your opportunity to pressure someone. It was about a 25% kill potential nerf for AM on paper, but we also had a lot more gear now, which meant AM could finally reach softcap in INT, and go above it with Magic Power, crit chance, and all of that. Obviously, in ranked 6v6 you couldn't even que as a DPS AM, as ranged dps were just removed from being able to play it entirely, but if you could, you wouldn't be viable, because you still had all the same issues, but your potential for critical moments of pressure was reduced with the GCD creating more space between each dot application and making your incoming damage even more telegraphed. Then we have the ability system change roll around and remove Khaine's Touch. In short, this isn't a complaint, as it's just a step along the way for RoR, but more so simply a recount of the situation. An optimally geared AM can put on some hurt, however, because they can finally reach their offensive stat cap by mixing 3 or even 4 different sets between each other.
However, it also caused the emergence of a different playstyle, as Radiant Lance is now an aoe with no target limit and 100 foot range, as well as the ability to apply the Dispel Magic and various other procs to multiple enemies at once. All of a sudden, even though Khaine's Touch was removed, Increased Conductivity turned it into an interesting little pressure tool. Damage output still isn't realistically any good, but the utility of removing enemy hots and buffs from DoKs and Zealots - that had some value, and at times there might even be a point in having one DPS AM in a WB for this purpose. Now, the playstyle had other issues, which is that it was very immobile and as a result it only functions well in funnel situations. It doesn't really have enough to become a proper playstyle yet, but it exists and it's interesting.
Conclusion: GCD changed caused AM to lose the ability to exert any sort of kill potential in organized play, but it still finds a place in kiting 6 man groups due to its aoe slow puddle, mobile damage output with dots and searing touch being usable on the fly, an extra cleanse and shield in tough situations. In short, the class was made to bully pugs. But bullying pugs won't win you any wars where it matters, even if it can be funny sometimes.


Alright! Now, context established, we get to the actual suggestions. I'm going to split these into two categories - 1) General Gameplay suggestions, 2) Viability suggestions. The first category is in my mind the most objective, to the point set of suggestions which focuse on dealing with game mechanics that are non-functional within the class and its role, on things that are simply necessary for bare-minimum function of the class. The second may have my own subjective views as perhaps a more firm foundation would require mathing out exact values rather than my own qualitative account, as it focuses on areas of the archetype's shortcomings and seeks to find an elegant solution to them.


I) An ability that allows the transfer of Force into Tranquility and vice versa on a 30s to 1min cooldown. AM's mechanic is structured in a way that seems to encourage a hybrid playstyle of both healer and damage dealing. The issue is that the game's systems don't support this way of playing. You can either be terrible at healing, or terrible at damage, and if you try to balance the two, you will simply end up mediocre at healing, still remain terrible at damage, and become quite squishy to boot for your trouble. In the past, making the mechanic relevant by introducing a conversion from willpower to INT and INT to willpower was attempted, but evidently became far too powerful to be balanced. So in other words, given that trying to fix the game system to fit the intended use of the mechanic is impractical, the only way for the class to make use of this mechanic is allowing it to switch back and forth every so often and benefiting from it regardless of what sort of AM you are. Such an ability should be baseline to the class, rather than something aquired in masteries, as it is something sorely lacking in it otherwise.

2) An ability that allows storing or copying applied AM dots of the target, and then applying them to a different one, all at once, on a CD of 15s to 30s. As stated in the final paragraph of the above excursion, DPS AM has two fatal flaws in its playstyle; 1) the inability to switch targets, 2) far too telegraphed damage due to the longer GCDs in the game. Without either of these abilities, it ends up at a baseline, regardless of any further aspects, being incapable of dealing damage against any group that can switch guard. In my opinion there is ample design space for this ability in the first ability slot of the Asuryan mastery tree, as a replacement for the ranged aoe punt. In truth the aoe punt is useful in one specific situation, and that is to punt people on top of walls and towers off of them. In every other case the ability is barely useful, and usually just gives free immunities to the enemy warband. Because it is such a niche ability, it's genuinenly not worth it's spot as a mastery slot ability, and you could just make it a baseline Asuryan ability. Doing so will not provide any noticable increase to the power of the class, although it could enable people who may not understand the game's mechanics to inadvertently grief RVR by providing immunities.


I) Adding some amount of INT to a core DPS AM tactic. While I fully admit that this may be subjective on my part, the fact that the optimal gear setup for an archetype like this involves mixing and matching 3 or 4 sets, none of which go above 3 pieces in any singular one seems somewhat jarring. It's as if the idea behind the design of the sets is going in one direction, while the design of the class is going in another. A few good candidates for this change are: Master of Force, Divine Fury, 10% reduced chance to defend tactic and Increased Conductivity. Of the four; Divine Fury is an automatic inclusion in any DPS AM build so would be the most beneficial option to the archetype, Master of Force is an Automatic Inclusion into a single target DPS AM build, and Increased Conductivity is most often used in an AOE DPS AM build with Radiant Burst. The strikethrough tactics can sometimes find their way in a single target build, but at INT cap and with other strikethrough items such as genesis and bonuses from specific pieces, it's may not always be needed, as well as INT enabling going deeper into sets would mean that there would be even less need of it, and sometimes you'll even take Centuries of Training instead. In short, putting it onto those tactic would be the worst option for the archetype. But for the sake transparency, I thought I'd list all of them. Additionally, this may or may not be a zero-sum game in the eyes of the devs, and so adding a further debuff to healing done or something like the inability to cast resurrection effects might be called for, depending on how beneficial an option it ends up being.

II) Radiant Burst being a standalone tactic heavily limits what you can do with AOE DPS AM. Allow me to dive slightly deeper into the topic. Given the limitations in place and the nature of Dissipating Energies, AoE AM is a proc-based playstyle. You must take Increased Conductivity with the AOE DPS AM, and you must take Divine Fury. In doing so, your third and fourth remaining slots are obviously Radiant Burst, and the crown jewel of the entire playstyle - Dispel Magic. Dissipating Energies then applies a rapid fire succession of attacks which are great for proccing things. Basically, it's not a BW with its giant fireball crits, but by itself it doesn't deal enough damage unless you put it into a group with a BW and a WP, both sporting their damage procs, and even then it will always be far behind an equally geared dps. It's really just a question of numbers here, and even then, any procs you get are also gotten by a simple BW. For that reason, there are two approaches to this:
A) DPS AM should get some sort of dmg proc buff a la BW, which would actually give it further utility in a group and synergise with its aoe, or
B) Radiant Burst should have an additional benefit added to it. For example, something akin to a Centuries of Training proc built in, or a 10-15% crit chance increase specifically for Radiant Lance, or the ability to use something like Searing Gaze as an aoe effect.
Just by itself, it's not cutting it, I'm afraid. Of note is that the latter option would also provide an on-the-move aoe option for AM, which the AOE playstyle very, very sorely lacks. That is one of the worst aspects of it, actually. Regardless of A or B; I might suggest, in addition, to make the radius 20 rather than 15, since most of the AoE caps from other classes have been expanded to 24 with the recent ability system rework.

III) Dissipating Energies being able to target anyone in your warband, rather than just your party. It's far too inconvenient and limiting. I understand the reason for the nerf being to avoid cheese, but the extent was a bit much. I'm unsure if this was more so due to technical limitations or not, but it's quite difficult to use the ability as it is now.

IV) Due to Khaine's Touch being removed, AM sorely lacks some pressure of late. Khaine's Touch perhaps ended up being a step too far, but not having it is a step too far in the opposite direction. There are multiple ways to approach a dot class. Either it is a class that drains the enemy of their resources and goes for a long form victory, or it is a class that uses the dots to cause a short burst of pressure which is what Khaine's Touch did. If we go the former route, then the dot damage has to be increased somehow, or AM has to be equipped with more powerful methods of debuffing enemy defenses against the dots. As an example; something like adding an effect onto Increased Conductivity that refreshes applied Asuryan dots and makes them tick 50% faster upon landing a Radiant Lance on the target, and then it may still not be enough because the game relies quite heavily on burst to score kills in smallscale combat. If we go the latter route, then perhaps the above mentioned damage proc in suggestion II could possibly add something to the table when coupled with dissipating energies. Maybe, as another option, while you channel searing touch at the target, it takes an additional 25% less healing, so that it becomes that the pressure is not expressed purely in damage numbers and it relies on the DPS AM remaining stationary for it.
There's a hundred different ways to approach it, but it should be noted that right now the lack of kill potential is very sorely felt. You can only really pressure targets that are undergeared compared to you as a DPS AM, which feels like a failure for a dot class. Of course, for any tactic that increases offensive capacity it seems only fair to also reduce support capacity.


Why did I decide to write something this long? Well, I often find people make suggestions without illustrating their thought process or based on a touchy-feely approach, and this is something that might be different for everyone, including the devs. I want to try to explain why I make each suggestion in detail, so that the reader can understand what problems I am trying to solve with my suggestions. Regardless of whether or not said reader agrees or disagrees with the suggestions, ultimately the first step is to clearly define the problem you are trying to solve, and form then on everyone can be on the same page, and find a way to solve that problem in a constructive manner.

Thank you for sticking with me thus far. Cheers.
Giladar - rr 80 DPS AM


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