A Struggle for Balance
This week, Guild Wars 2 has seen one of the biggest balance changes in recent history. Although not quite on the same level as some predicted, the patch came with some pretty significant changes to many of the classes, with both meta and non meta build being shifted around. The implications of the patch are fairly far reaching, with a fairly shake up to the high end raiding meta composition and also some significant buffs that are having a devastating impact in the World versus World scene. Despite this, there are still dozens of thing yet to be addressed in the game, whether it be because they are completely useless or are have been problems skills for far too long.
As far as balance patches go, this was an overall win for Arenanet in my opinion, with a few of the underutilised skills having a much better place in the game than before. The idea behind the patch was great, and the love that some of the skills got was a step in the right direction, but still leaves all the classes with many sub optimal and generally useless skills and traits within their kit that still won’t see any life. Most of the changes tended to focus on skills already strongly embedded in the meta, such as changes to Elementalist Air Overload and Meteor, or on trying to bring once strong options back in to the game like Warrior shouts and hammer. Rather than focus on a blow by blow of the patch notes themselves, we’ll go over the general impact and places that each class has been left in the aftermath so far.
Starting with the bad news, Necromancer hasn’t received anything nearly significant enough to put them back in for raids. The class remains viable in fractals due to its ease of use and sustain, but most raiding groups will kick you in the search for a more optimal class sadly. Greatsword finally got some much needed love, but it wasn’t enough to push the PvE numbers up. Some good news in World versus World for Necro mains, the already strong condition damage necromancer has become even more of a terror, shredding its way through even the tankiest guild compositions with the Deathly Chill change. The extra bleed stacks allow multiple Necromancers to apply huge numbers very quickly, before using Epidemic to drop down both the target and all nearby foes in an instant burst. What was already a problem skill is getting even further out of control, and many classes are focusing now on condition cleansing abilities in WvW to counter this.
Revenant, the flagship class of Heart of Thorns, received some pretty weird buffs in areas that it lacked strength, but nothing close to enough to push them in to a guaranteed slot for raids. Despite its ability to pump out boons, easy rotation and considerable personal sustain, revenant sits outside of the preferred classes due to its lacklustre damage. Although top guild qT have advocated its usefulness in the latest post of DPS benchmarks for classes, for now it retains a stigma amongst the LFG raiders that is hard to shake. Buffs to its healing stance, including the controversial addition of alacrity, have not made an inroad as a support class yet, but has created a strong niche in terms of a burst healer with considerable boons. In WvW, revenant remains meta, required in every party to counter the rising condition meta with its unique ability to pump out reliable AoE resistance. PvP revenant unfortunately saw no love, and sits in a somewhat undesirable place for now, strong only in the hands of skilful revenants.
Warrior was one of the most buffed classes, especially its condition damage. Not only is warrior now considered one of the highest DPS classes when specced for conditions, it also got a buff to its already required banner skills, which will now affect 10 allies instead of the previous 5. The implications of that change alone have let them take an extra utility slot just for pure DPS, and sword plus trait buffs have seen a huge spike in warrior as a viable DPS class instead of its typical boon support class. In WvW, once again due to the rise in Epidemic damage and prominence, the old Shout Warrior has been dusted off with some new buffs, so that they can once again take a warhorn to cleanse group conditions. But in general, this hasn’t become a widespread build yet, and they sit still as DPS classes with great individual lockdown and the unique ability to Warbanner fallen comrades. In PvP its yet to be seen if variants to the condition builds or the inclusion of hammer will rise up, as we wait for another season and to see what comes out of it.
Thief probably had the least impactful changes, rising in the PvE raid standings due to the falling down of Elementalist as a damage dealer. This is largely because what was supposed to be its huge change was reverted due to bugs, with Vault lasting barely 24 hours before being taken back in to the shop. There are big hopes that Vault comes in to the rotation for the class if its functionality and reliability can be improved, as well as its interaction with Quickness, which could see further changes to thief in the near future. In WvW, thief saw a buff in an area that has seen tears flowing throughout the borderlands. God have mercy on the souls of all those using the new and improved ‘Ghost Thief’ build, involving laying invisible traps in stealth, watching people step on them whilst still in stealth and losing ¾ of their HP instantly without ever seeing a thing. Whilst not having huge impacts on the game mode like Epidemic has, it can definitely be annoying for roamers or those trying to get back to commanders. Its yet to be seen if this will become a danger in PvP, but its reliance on stealth and enemies to enter your traps will probably keep players safe from seeing this in ranked play.
Ranger got some nice buffs and quality of life changes, accompanied by a bit of a nerf that slightly offset these. Condition builds now sit near the very top of DPS in raids against small hitbox bosses, and also make it one of the strongest burst damage dealers in high tier fractals. The buff to Grace of the Land has also made life as a healer a lot better and generally improved realistic raid buffs, with it being a lot easier to apply this damage amplifying buff as it now will affect 10 targets. This buff had a similar impact in WvW, making it much easier for guild groups to maintain the buff across more members. The biggest change (and my personal highlight of the patch by far) was the fixes to pet attacks, which have made all the pets significantly more viable and worth running, improving a lot of their damage. This change involved all the pets more reliably hitting attacks, which is a ridiculously welcome change that most players agree should have existed since launch.
Mesmer is still sitting in its past role of support through boons, with none of its major damage dealing skills receiving any kind of meaningful buff. WvW remains the same as well, with Mesmer having a similar role as in PvE but also bringing so really impactful CC through Gravity Well. There really isn’t a lot to say, besides the potentially large impacts on PvP stemming from the changes to condition builds and phantasms launching initial attacks which could see some new builds emerge from it in the future.
Guardian, for the first time in over a year, finally has Greatsword back in the most desirable weapon slots, being able to pump out competitive damage in PvE. This changes little for fractals and dungeons, where the Greatsword burst was already pretty great, but in WvW has given a huge boost to once popular Greatsword builds in the borderlands, with groups having a bigger spike damage on the weapon than its already strong past iterations. In the Guild Hall, where retaliation exists in its PvE form, this weapon is still a sure-fire way to get you killed the instant you press 2, which will probably ensure it is kept out of any GvG meta. In PvP, this weapon buff along with the quickness shout buffs are making a huge boost to their already considerable burst, being able to quickness spin on an enemy straight after your blink for instant burst, and standing in your newly buffed symbol being stronger than ever thanks to a large damage boost.
Engineer got the buffs it always wanted, and is now sitting (just barely) at the top DPS slot according to top guild benchmarks against small hitbox enemies. It brings a new buff that increases party condition damage, something unique to Engineer, and also got some awesome damage buffs that make it one of the best skill for reward classes in the game, without still requiring users to play Mozart backwards on their keyboard for optimal DPS. In WvW, hammer remains the best route to take, with the scrapper still being a strong single target focuser and provider of stealth and group buffs. However due to its new damage, condition engineer is making some headway with grenades in public play, but hasn’t been picked up in any meaningful comps. In PvP, these changes could see a class with similar damage output to necromancer’s condition builds and also strong sustain and CC rising up, but all of this is still yet to be seen as we wait for ranked games.
Lastly, we end of Elementalist, probably the most hard hit by the patch, but not unduly so. Elementalist was hit by some before mentioned nerfs that have put it back amongst other classes for DPS, and behind thief and the top condition classes for DPS on small hitboxes. Still the king of large hitboxes with a slightly bugged Wildfire, this change is welcome for most classes as they are no longer will feel like backseats to the eles. Whether or not the nerf was justified, given the enormous skill split between average Elementalist damage to the pro players, is still up for debate, and most ele players will tell you that the nerf was ridiculous, but as a main since launch I have to say I don’t hate the position this puts the class in, still competitive but no longer destroying the other classes. In WvW not a lot changed, healers still being the optimal pick in the guild groups, with perhaps a greater focus now on condition cleansing than before. PvP Elementalist will hardly notice the change, except for potential builds involving more cantrips with their cooldown and heal skill buff, along with a rise in the fan favourite dagger dagger weapon set after it got some nice buffs.
To conclude, this patch did shake up a lot in the PvE world, and has made some skills a lot more useful than before that were perhaps underutilised, but Arenanet has a long way to go if they want to make meaningful shifts in the meta and bring up some of the classes from the community perceived poor spot they are in. All classes remain viable choices, but will likely be pushed away by elitist comps in raids and potentially high level fractals if they are not meta choices. A win patch in many ways, but with a long way to go and some questionable choices included.