Content of the article: "Hey Bungie, Warlock here. I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed, again."
Hey u/dmg04, u/cozmo23, random reddiors,
Thanks for stopping by.
We're here, again. Another new release, another new subclass, another round of 6 compounding, multiciative nerfs which feel knee-jerk and untested.
I'm making this post not because the nerfs happened as such, but the way they happened.
On November 18th, u/dmg04 tweeted
We will also ship our first quick tuning pass for Stasis. Nothing major, but a collection of small changes.
What instead happened was swath of compounding nerfs targeted primarily at the Shadebinder.
Let's take a look at these for context
Penumbral Blast (Stasis Warlock melee) projectile speed reduced by 20%.
Penumbral Blast (Stasis Warlock melee) range reduced (was 28m now 16m).
Winter’s Wrath (Stasis Warlock Super) duration reduced (was 30s now 24s).
Ice Flare Bolts freeze duration lowered (was 4.75s now 1.35s).
Penumbral Blast (Stasis Warlock melee) freeze duration lowered (was 4.75s now 1.35s).
Winter’s Wrath heavy attack (Stasis Warlock Super) no longer affects players who are not encased.
So the melee loses 20% of its speed, on top of 12m from its range (greater than the current effective distance remaining now) , on top of a lower freeze duration. Further on top of this, a bug with hit detection has been introduced.
The state of Warlock Melee
Warlock haven't had the best time with melee in D2. For years we had the lowest melee speed with literally nothing to show for it.
Then we got "buffed", we still had the slowest melee speed – and still do to this day – but in exchange we had a whopping 1m added to our lunge distance.
This was considered a "flavourful" trade off and left at it. One of the constant calls from the Warlock community is just to remove this flavour all together. Bring melee speed in line with the other classes and remove the increased distance. A 1m difference isn't really enough to feel impactful, whereas the melee speed difference feels impactful everytime we get into a punch up.
Why is this relevant to Penumbral Blast?
Because not only does it makes it awkward to use now, but works as yet another multiplier to the nerf. PB is a ranged melee only, if you get inside your 6m lunge distance, the ability won't trigger and you'll do a slap instead. This has been part of PB since it launched (in the heady days of last week) but it had a much greater range and speed to work with.
So PB now has a 16m maximum range, 6m minimum range, creating a 10m sweet spot within which we have to engage moving targets. What distance can Hunters cover in a dodge again? How far can both Titans and Hunters cover in basic jumps? Cool.
On top, the popular neutral game exotic, Ophidian Aspect, because of it extends this melee distance further, now makes PB even more awkward and limited in use. Which means we now have an exotic which actually makes one our powers less impactful and harder to use. Neat.
Tracking on PB also does not appear to have been adjusted to work with its shorter range. Previously, the tracking on the path of PB would very slightly curve towards targets, but only at longer ranges. I don't have the exact numbers, but various Youtuber beg it at around >20m. It appears that this has not been adjusted for its shorter range. It's now possible for enemies to literally step out of its path. Given the slower travel speed of the ability, this works as yet another compounding hinderance to its use. Since we can't get closer than 6m without converting it to a slap, it means Dregs can and have simply ambled out of its path.
Freeze Duration, non-super freezing and Winter's Wrath
During the first week of BL I spent a decent amount of time in Comp, and honestly, Stasis freeze did not bother me. Yeah it kinda sucked to be frozen for a bit, but it didn't feel any worse than being hit by Shadowshot or Suppressed, both of which are very much "feels bad" mechanics if ever there was some. But perhaps that just me and I've learned to accept that these accepts happen to Warlocks not because of them (Why are Warlocks the only class who can't suppress people?).
Freeze Duration is pretty much 1.35s across the board, the only difference being the Winter's Wrath super.
But there is another part of Winter's Wrath that is affected by this change. The part of it can actually deal damage. Previously using the melee button on Winter's Wrath spent out a shockwave that did a little bit of damage to everything, but did actual damage to frozen targets. It's the 1-2 punch of the super. Now that little bit of damage is gone from non-Frozen enemies but the rest of the super largely works the same.
Why does this matter?
Because if you freeze an enemies with anything other than the projectiles from your super, chances are the shockwave from your super – the thing that kills people – will travel too slowly to deal them any damage at all. This means that the floaty, ranged, super of the Warlock now has a severe limiting factor to its use.
Say you made a big brain play. Enemies dives for cover as they spot you, you toss a coldsnap grenade behind the cover spot, while sending your projectiles at their location – forcing them into the cover – your big brain pays off and coldsnap hits them as they think they're safe. Boom, got'em.
But, oh wait, no.
The travel speed of the shock wave travels at a set speed. If you are greater than a certain distance, it can take more than 1.35s for it to reach an enemy. They are no longer frozen, and instead of even doing the ping damage of before, the shock wave washes over them doing nothing. Making the kit a "nombo" with itself.
This also holds true if you made any other big brain plays, involving any other freeze effect like ice flare bolts, or popping your super after a successful melee. That said, popping your super in response to a successfully freeze-play, is a suckers move. The animation time of the super means you have an incredibly small window (fractions of a second!) to use your damaging power on a frozen target unless they are right next to you. If they wave has to travel any distance, forget about it, you've just wasted super energy.
Nova-Warping, it's a verb now. You made it a verb.
The act of making changes to a subclass akin to the type and scale of those made to the Attunement of Fission subclass. Generally made within a very short period of time after release. These changes are seldom reverted or changed
I'm sure we've all seen the phrase "Nova-Warp 2.0" or "they nova-warped it", something to that effect.
This is not so much a balance issue as a player perception issue. There is a line from one of the expanse novels and on how something sticks in people's minds when it comes to people's perceptions of your actions; "Once is never. Twice is always". The gist being that if you hurt someone once, it can be written off, do it twice, and it's indicative of pattern of behaviour.
From a player trust perspective, at least for me, maybe for all Warlock mains, the question is now "Is this a pattern of behavior?" The last two Warlock subclasses released have now received punishingly multiplicative nerfs which affect every aspect of its gameplay within a week of release. No gentle re-tuning, no "We'll wait to see what happens once all stasis aspects have been unlocked" (Seriously, the sandbox for Stasis hasn't even been fully realised yet…) just deep, cutting nerfs to every aspect of the subclass.
Only time will tell if Twice is, infact, always.
Nova Warp, once nerfed, was never seriously looked at or re-tuned again. If this happens to the Shadebinder, I will – just personally – doubt I can trust Bungies internal testing ever again.
Communing with the Saltness
Perhaps the thing that has disappointed me the most, however, has been the communication on it. u/dmg04's tweet in particular really undersold what was about to happen.
In terms of internal design logic or testing, we haven't really got any substantive understanding or reasoning as to why these nerfs, why all together, how they were tested, if they were even tested together, and how quickly was that done in relation to the initial development and testing of the class. The phrase knee-jerk gets used a lot in relation to this nerf, and it's hard to argue it's not true. There simply could-not have been enough hours put into testing the impact of these changes prior to release.
That said, a promise to review and communicate would go a long long way.
The Shadebinder can't be left to be forgotten like Nova Warp, it's the flagship powerset or this expansion and the coming year.
We already know that there won't be a TWAB this week due to US Holidays, which means that even if they 100% reverted all their changes asap, the class will remain nerfed for twice as long as it was ever not-nerfed, and that period will just grow with every passing day. Obviously they aren't going to do a total 180 on these changes, but that's not what I'm asking, what I really want is a solid – dated – promise to review and re-tune the class from its current state. If nothing else, perhaps just open an dialogue with the Warlock community on these and other changes.
This all said, I genuinely hate to complain. I've been here since House of Wolves, pretty sure i'm a "whale" for Destiny and its merch, and I do love the game and it's lore. It's hard to play a game for more than half a decade and not love it. I've been a Warlock main the entire time, and most of the underlying issues which inform on these changes (community reaction, player perspective, history of balance, etc) come with the baggage of that that. But the things we love are the things that can disappoint us the most. It's because you care that allows you to feel passion towards something. With this in mind, I submit a few humble recommendations as to a path forward
- Open up a dialogue with the Warlock community and commit to a date to review balance changes to the Shadebinder (and maybe Nova Warp as well?)
- Implement some version the following:
- Remove the minimum distance from PB, make it so that it can trigger on a melee slap or its full range. Revert the travel speed to previous state. or;
- Revert the Travel speed and range nerfs to PB, maybe take range to 22m to be in line with other Warlock melee abilities.
- Consider upping Freeze duration on non-super freezes to 2s instead of 1.35s. It would go a long way to combat timing concerns in the kit. or;
- If the freeze duration is set to stay, either greatly increase the travel speed of the Supers shockwave or enable some form of instantaneous denotation of frozen targets in a radis.
Thanks in advance for reading this long ramble, I look forward to everyone's feedback and it would honestly make my day to get a Bungie replied on this.
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