Guild Wars 2

May 11 balance patch – The bigger picture

The preview for the May 11 balance patch is here and needless to say it has led to quite a lot of debates in the PvE scene (raids/fractals – won't talk about other scenes here) surrounding many classes.

I don't want to go in detail about every change they made but try to look at the bigger picture. In my opinion ArenaNet correctly identified certain balance problems in the PvE scene (not all!). However the solutions they came up with are lackluster and this can create additional problems if the patch goes live with the current patch preview notes.

Condi vs. Power DPS balance problem

Looking at the end-game PvE encounters in raids/fractals you can more or less divide these encounters into four parts:

  1. Encounters that strictly favor Power DPS
  2. Encounters that don't strictly favor Power or Condi DPS
  3. Encounters that strictly favor Condi DPS
  4. Encounters that strictly favor Confusion DPS (Mirage/Condi Chrono become only good options)

Now, Nr. 4 here is a problem on his own and was untouched by this balance patch. So let's not talk about that.

The big problem in end-game PvE right now is that there really is an extremely low amount of encounters that strictly favor Condi DPS – Nr. 3 above. This is less apparent while pugging raids since the phases tend to take longer but if you have followed the speedrunning scene in the last year or so you will clearly see this pattern. And no, this pattern didn't come to life because of power chrono only.

In fact I'd say go as far to say that there are only two encounters in the entire game that strictly favor Condi DPS by a design perspective:

  • Qadim the Peerless (the beloved Qadim2)
  • Sunqua Peak fractal final boss (100CM).

Qadim2 has long-enough phases that allow condi ramp-up and the boss still taking damage from condis while he is untargetable during the intermission phases makes this encounter design superior for condi DPS. Sunqua Peak final boss has so much boss movement tied to it so that it becomes really hard for power dps classes to cope with condi dps because of their low dps uptime on the boss.

When it comes to fractal content in general, the trend is clear: Power DPS is strictly favored due to the extremely fast phase timings groups can achieve in combination with the "Exposed" debuff on bosses.

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ArenaNet's solution

Looking at the patch preview notes, we can identify 3 clear points:

  1. Power DPS overall is nerfed and centered around 36-38k DPS for top cases.
  2. Condi DPS overall is heavily buffed and centered around 41-43k for top cases.
  3. "Exposed" debuff is nerfed for power DPS by around 13.3% for power DPS and buffed by around 33% for condi DPS (mainly a change for Fractals).

Each of these points at first glance would make sense reading the above-mentioned points, however each point has its own problems:

  1. Overall the least problematic part of the patch, however there are certain issues: First of all there was absolutely no reason to nerf underperforming classes like Power Weaver or Power Tempest. Secondly, the Power Soulbeast nerf is way too much. It deserved nerfs 100% but not on this scale. This quote made by ArenaNet is strictly false in my humble opinion: " We've seen that Soulbeast has extreme burst damage potential, and unfortunately in this case, this has helped create some very homogenous group compositions. " There has never been a case (at least in raiding) in which stacking only Power Slb made sense because of its burst potential. It leads to good results, but not the most optimal ones. Highest burst DPS overall was always achieved with a combination of Slbs, Guards and even Holos/Weavers in some cases. The raid speedruns that were done by stacking Slbs was because of their sustained DPS when stacked – nothing to do with burst DPS. And thirdly, these nerfs to power DPS classes come with a cost: It will reduce the overall diversity amongst power DPS classes. Holo and Slb were the most bursty classes, Guard with a smaller burst that could be utilised more often and Weaver had become more of a sustained power DPS class. This diversity will shrink after the patch since Holo/Slb are being significantly nerfed over their burst DPS capabilities.
  2. Condi DPS having higher average DPS to power dps on average is justified by the fact that most encounters are not designed for condi classes. However there are huge concerns over how the condi DPS balance will look like after the patch. If the torment modifiers for moving-/non-moving targets stay the same, this will mean that Torment DPS of every class which has access to it will increase by around 45-50% against static targets. This is a very dangerous change since not every condi DPS class has access to Torment (Ele, Engi, Ranger) and there are differences amongst classes which have access to it (Mirage, Rev, Scourge). Reading the patch preview notes you can come to the conclusion that IF the torment modifiers are left untouched this can lead to a huge mess.An example for the lacklusterness are the changes to Condi Tempest. It is specifically being mentioned that it is intended to buff the DPS of this class since certain other condi classes are being buffed due to the torment change. However reading the changes you can clearly see that the Lightning Orb change alone is enough to nerf the DPS of this class – instead of buffing?
  3. This is perhaps the most controversial change of the balance patch. While we can appreciate the effort made here to make Condi DPS classes more viable for fractals, this is just not a good solution. Specifically because there are huge differences between Firebrand and other condi DPS classes when it comes to burst DPS. Firebrand is already a popular choice for pugging fractals due to overall longer phase times and all this change will do is to basically make it the absolute meta for pugging fractals. For speedruns I don't think this change is enough so that we will only see Firebrand stack records – but fractal speedrunning is not my area of expertise so I might be wrong on this. You be the judge.
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Diversity amongst support/healer classes

Staff Mirage gaining access to 10 man might/alacrity and Scrapper getting access to 5-man Quickness are interesting additions to the game. We will need to wait and see how these new support variants establish themselves in the meta.

The first calculations however show that Scrapper will need to sacrifice quite a bit of utility slots to maintain permanent quickness with boon duration requirements of above 45-50%. People mostly agree that increasing the base duration of the quickness shared to allies from 2 seconds to 3 seconds can put it in a much better spot while competing with other 5-man quickness providers: STM Chrono and Quickbrand.

But Mirage/Scrapper are not main thing I want to focus on.

The issue here is the fact that the other healers/support in the current meta received zero changes – talking about Power/Condi/Heal Herald, Heal Ren and Heal/Condi Tempest here. These classes all have issues that can be fixed. Ventari tablet needs a complete rework due to its clunky nature and healing profile, Herald needs help with its might generation so it can reliably reach 25 Might with high BD and Tempest might generation needs to be changed as well imo.

While these changes are still waiting, the biggest problem when it comes to diversity amongst support/healer classes in the game still exists: Heal Druid. And it is the only support class amongst all to receive a change? And it is a buff to its already ridiculous CC potential?

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For the love of god can we please remove the Frost/Sun spirit offensive buffs from the game so that this particular class isn't used in almost every pug squad? Like, pls? Ever since its existence Heal Druid has been the overall most dominant healer/support in the PvE raid scene. Now I can already hear some of you murmuring the following sentence: "But if we remove offensive buffs from spirits no one will take a Druid because the healing is sub-par!!!!!!". Well, the healing is not sub-par, Druid would still have access to Spotter, amazing overall CC and probably one of the most straightforward and easy ways of healing in the game. People would still play it. 100%.


Firstly, if you've made it this far reading everything: You are a gamer.If you jumped to this part: Oh well…

I hope we can agree that ArenaNet's intentions were good but the solutions presented in the patch preview can lead to a lot of problems that would last until the expansion. And some of the existing problems in the support/healer meta are still being ignored after so many years.


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