Edit: See responses to posts in this thread by going to the bottom of this post (or click PTR Feedback: Runeword's concerning approach towards class balance - #2 by Slomo4shO-1943 then scroll up)
Hi all, as I write this, we’re just a few hours into the first PTR for patch 2.6 and presumably a few short weeks away from a live 2.6 patch and Season 3 of Ladder.
At this point, we’re only made aware of the new runewords but have not been provided PTR or interim patch notes, so we do not yet know what this “other portion of content” is that will ship with 2.6.
Based on the runewords that have been announced, the following things can be observed or reasonably inferred:
- early helm runewords provide options for playthroughs (ladder start, speedrunning) to navigate around specific problems that your character may be struggling with
- early helm runewords provide easier access to farm certain areas with a lower gear ceiling - ie, Temper (fire) for farming travincal - to keep yourself or your merc alive
- Mosaic provides an avenue to improve the viability of an AoE based martial arts assassin
- Metamorphosis provides an avenue to forge a new shape shifter sub build where the druid can utilise both Werewolf and Werebear in different situations
- Hustle provides “early mobility options” but in actuality also extend out to end-game use (more on this later)
- The intention of the runewords have been stated as
To summarise, the new runewords are designed to help players progress easier while potentially opening up new sub builds and providing end-game pre-buffing options, and it’s clear that these runewords were created primarily with melee based characters in mind
On that note, I’ll try and cover these aspects in my feedback below.
Helps players get out of jams
Nothing really controversial here.
Nothing introduced from the new runewords pose a problem to make the mid game too easy to plough through for melee characters.
The helm runewords can be used for easier access into using a sunder charm until better items are obtained by players.
Early to mid game options to help characters get out of a jam so that they can continue to be competitive in the ladder race are fine.
Opens up new sub builds
Potentially opens up new sub builds, as well as makes existing but clunky ones viable.
The ones I see from these new runewords are:
- AoE based Martial Arts Assassin using dual-wield Mosaics
- Dual-form Shapeshifter Druids using Metamorphosis
These are changes in the right direction in my opinion, though aside from possibly needing separate buffs, there are still unique challenges with these builds that need to be addressed:
- Martial Arts Assassin: repair costs on claws, especially superior ones with staff mods are absurdly expensive
- Shapeshifter Druid: add the ability to shapeshift between forms without needing to go back to human form first, allow teleport while in shapeshifted form
End-game pre-buffing options
Metamorphosis and Hustle provide extra options on top of CTA to pre-buff characters.
For Metamorphosis overall, unless you’re a Shapeshifter Druid, this pre-buffing process is time consuming and convoluted and requires 2 or more extra items to carry into the battle field to use while hitting targets.
And for the Shapeshifter Druids, given their lack of AOE, this pre-buff for Druids is not substantial enough to be concerning.
For Hustle’s Burst of Speed:
- For melee builds, the pre-buff is time consuming and requires hitting monsters multiple times that it’s likely not appealing enough to use or not a big enough concern
- For throwers, Hustle cannot be made in throwing weapons, so weapon swap timing is needed to proc this. Given that throwing weapons do not have a fast attacking skill, this method of procing is not appealing enough to use or not a big enough concern
A possible exception to the above is a melee Barbarian, who can either use Frenzy for fast on striking effects with dual-wielded Hustles, or (more clunky) use Zeal from Passion + Hustle to proc the effect. While Frenzy and Burst of Speed have overlapping purposes, Burst of Speed lasts much longer than Frenzy.
For bowazons, this is where it’s really problematic.
As confirmed in the PTR this morning, Burst of speed can be proced easily using one of the following methods:
- Use a hustle bow and strafe with it until it procs.
- Use any hustle weapon and strafe with your main weapon and use weapon swap timing to land the proc.
In both cases, strafing into a medium sized group from afar procs Burst of Speed no problems. Because of this, a simple change to restrict Hustle to be made in melee weapons only will still have this issue.
And for the bowazon, Harmony is currently the best support weapon to have on swap for that Vigor aura, so Hustle will cleanly take Harmony’s place for that Burst of Speed proc, providing both a huge amount of attack speed and movement speed to the bowazon for basically for free.
Given the ease of ability to proc AND the impact that Burst of Speed has on the build, this has huge ramifications in a number of areas for the bowazon class that I’ll cover below… but is also a huge red flag that highlights a glaring flaw in the approach used to balance the classes.
Problem 1: Hustle skews and diminishes logical item upgrade paths
Currently, the Faith runeword in various bases is the top-tier bow option for any physical bowazon based character, followed closely behind by Windforce - a much cheaper option on the trading market, and overall an easier item to come by (depending on the grade you get).
For the sake of argument, let’s compare Windforce vs Faith Grand Matron Bow (GMB).
With Hustle’s Burst of Speed, a Faith GMB gets no offensive benefit, but Windforce gets a permanent 28% damage-per-second (DPS) gain! This DPS gain puts Windforce ahead of Faith GMB in DPS by between 10 to 20%. For higher character levels, this is also the case for a Windforce that is not socketed with any socketable item what so ever.
A strive item like Faith that no longer performs up to par with Windforce just doesn’t make sense for a game like Diablo 2.
The net result is, Faith becomes redundant to get for bowazons, which is very unfortunate. I fondly remember when I made my first Faith bow, and was very happy with this achievement and it increased my enjoyment of my character (it certainly helped that it rolled perfect too!)
And not only does this defy logical item progression, it also reduces item choice. With Faith now redundant, there really is only 1 end-game bow to use for a bowazon now, and that’s Windforce (rare bows are another possibility, but you’re more likely to win the lottery twice in a row before you find a suitable contender).
There are many examples where there are rare, underperforming unique items in Diablo 2 that the community has been requesting to overhaul for this exact game reason. This example just adds 1 more example to the pile.
Problem 2: Hustle makes faster item bases obsolete
Item bases that are fast but softer hitting will be obsolete for builds that use Hustle as a pre-buff option. That argument almost exists for Faith, but:
- Faith’s aura requires Faith to be actively equipped. While GMB’s are the most popular bases to make Faith in, the effects of Fanaticism don’t spill into other weapon options (like Windforce), creating a neat separation. Burst of Speed is a buff that stays on you no matter what gear you decide to change to.
- A level 9 Burst of Speed grants a much higher attack speed bonus than a level 15 Fanaticism aura, while also granting a higher movement speed bonus than a level 10 Vigor from Harmony. The degree of impact Burst of Speed has on builds is substantial
This in turn skews the relative strengths of the available item options out there, much like it does for Windforce and Faith in Windforce’s huge favour.
This also means that Faith bows in anything other than a GMB are less desirable.
Problem 3: Hustle erodes the unique aspects of the Assassin class
Fade and Venom exist as procs outside of the Assassin already as well. Hustle adds Burst of Speed to that list, which aside from being one of the two popular buff options for an Assassin, Burst of Speed is also the most iconic trait to the Assassin character archetype.
Problem 4: Hustle further complicates game balancing
With on-and-off buffs like Burst of Speed where the conditions of these buffs being triggered are subject to players finding use cases for these buffs (both currently known and not yet discovered) it potentially creates unforeseeable side effects that are also very awkward to correct down stream.
Contrasting this to balancing classes via skills, skill adjustments are a MUCH better way to approach class balance.
Solution 1: Balance classes through Skill Adjustments
If the intent is to address class balance, then this should be the very first place to start. This worked very well for patch 2.4 so why deviate from that?
Why? Because skills are:
- More flexible to tweak, as both the skill itself and their synergies can be targets for change
- Much easier to fine tune numbers with any level of precision to get balanced calibrated correctly, both baseline effects and scaling per skill level
- Much easier to localise to specific skills, so that underperforming skills can be targeted for buffs, and overperforming skills can be targeted for nerfs
- Much more predictable to determine the outcome of, and to reduce spill over effects into unintended areas (did Blizzard not see that bowazons would be impacted by Burst of Speed in this way?)
- Less permanent and can be easily reverted if later on are found to be a flawed change. Items once in the wind stick around, unless deleted by Blizzard, making affected players unhappy
- Less likely to change relative item metas, and don’t force players to build their character around specific items
- Already in the game
So really, skills are a much much better tool for addressing class balance issues than granting new pre-buff options to classes.
For melee based classes (any class where their damage from their skills is determined by their weapon), adding flat damage is a great way to help their skills. Specifically:
- +damage per level helps relieve the pain of needing to find a higher weapon option to progress through the game. Casters typically just need to level up to gain offensive power, so this goes some way to help bridge that gap
- +damage per level makes skill points and +skill gear more meaningful for melee based classes. It’s paining to put whole skill points into something like Strafe and the damage only goes up by a miniscule amount
Even something like +1 damage for most melee skills, or +2 for the severely underperforming ones would be a good start. This benefit works great for the Magic Arrow skill, so it would be nice to see this across more melee skills.
Solution 2: Help classes by making Basic Item Tweaks
There are also more basic and benign item based changes that can be done to help classes that use them, depending on what problem is being addressed.
Underused item types
Crossbows and slower 2-handed weapons are underutilised, these items can have their base damages raised slightly to make them more attractive options.
For example only, normal crossbows bumped up by 1 average damage, exceptional crossbows bumped up by 3 average damage, elite crossbows bumped up by 5 average damage.
High repair costs and poor durability
Repair costs and low durability on weapons are quite harsh and should be reviewed. It makes no sense that some weapons cost more to repair than the amount of gold accumulated during the use of the weapon.
The frequency of repair on items also detracts from actual game play. Repair costs should be made cheaper for superior items, and durability on weapons adjusted upwards.
These changes are justified considering that pure caster classes do not consume durability on their weapons at all.
Solution 3: Help classes by improving movement speeds
The following are good cases for improving their movement speed:
- Amazons don’t have any skill based movement bonuses what so ever. They also have poor teleport speeds for Enigma. Adding +1% movement speed to the Evade skill will help with this
- Shapeshifters are stifled with not being able to teleport while in shapeshift form. If for some reason Blizzard do not have the appetite to allow teleport for shapeshifters, then add a +1% movement speed bonus to Lycanthropy and add a longer duration to Feral Rage (tied to skill level)
Solution 4: Change Hustle
Hustle’s armour is too underwhelming, but weapon too game breaking. These 2 items should be changed.
For example only:
- Remove Burst of Speed completely
- Add +5 Increased Speed (oskill)
- Add a further +25% increased attack speed
- Add +250 attack rating
- Add +45 flat damage
- Add a further +15% increased attack speed
- Add +15 minimum damage
- Add +10% chance of deadly strike
So in summary:
- Hustle weapon in its current form MUST CHANGE to have Burst of Speed completely removed
- If class balance is the motivation behind some of these runewords, then that has to stop - explore skill based changes first
- Hustle armour needs some improvements
- No concerning feedback about the other new runewords; Mosaic and Metamorphosis provide potential avenues to open up new sub builds if capitalised on properly through needed quality of life changes
- Metamorphosis should be closely tested in the PTR for unintended or sharp power spikes
Thanks for taking your time to read through this feedback.
Comments welcome. Agree to disagree if you must, but any comments that display attitude or are uncivil or mean-spirited in any way will be completely ignored or in some cases reported.
PTR Feedback: Runeword's concerning approach towards class balance - #32 by Onadroig-1677 → Addressing the feedback points
- Hustle provides more options for bowazons and therefore is a positive change,
- There already are examples of class identity broken so no need to care,
- Windforce is less attainable and therefore should be a tier above Faith