Update 6 Changes: Bad For Solo?
With the upcoming warg changes in Update 6 there has been some worry that the changes are more designed to promote pack play rather than solo play. Indeed some have even suggested that solo play is being sidelined or nerfed. I don’t agree, and here’s why …
Wargs Don’t Need Reasons To Group
First of all let’s tackle the incentives to form packs. The thing with these is that they aren’t actually going to make wargs group in packs any more than they already are. One of the things I often hear from people (usually people whining about warg packs it has to be said) is that wargs form packs to gank people and get easy kills. That simply isn’t true. I’m not saying that the ability to kill freeps isn’t part of the equation, but in my experience the primary motivation for packs is protection and support. Low ranked wargs are next to useless when solo and even high ranked wargs can find it difficult to get into mixed raids in numbers, hence the pack. If you are low ranked and getting blown up every five minutes, or if you can’t get a raid spot because raid leaders feel you bring little to the table, why not group up with your fellow wargs?
Some of the new skills we are getting will certainly be used in packs, but they themselves aren’t going to cause a huge upswing in the number of packs formed. If anything those new abilities might actually help more wargs get into mixed raids as they can now bring in some more utility to a group.
So what is good in this update for solo play? Well we get two new stances: Shadow and Flayer. A quick examination of each is in order.
Flayer stance will replace the present Shadow Howler stance wargs have. The two stances appear to be very similar in terms of what they do, but there are some differences. Flayer stance looses the +15% damage bonus Shadow Howler has, but gains a physical mitigation boost (as well as armour and tactical mitigation mitigation boosts). The cooldown has been reduced from 30sec to 10sec. The morale bubble is still present, but on a shorter refresh rate (7sec instead of 30sec), although we don’t yet know how big the Flayer stance morale bubble is. There is also a new heal mechanic attached to the morale bubble, which will heal the warg for 1% of max morale every 7sec if the morale bubble has been destroyed or 5% if the morale bubble is present. Last, but not least, there is also the new ‘Brute’ system that becomes active when in Flayer stance.
On the whole this all looks very good and is, for the most part, a nice boost to what we have at the moment. We gain physical mitigation where before we had none; we gain a new heal; we gain a shorter cooldown, and we gain a quicker refresh rate on our morale bubble. There is a downside here though … the loss of the 15% damage boost. If only there was something to compensate for that …
… wait, there is! In Flayer stance Claws becomes Raking Claws. It does the same base damage as the normal Claws attack, but crucially it also applies a stacking DoT to the target. The DoT will hit for about half of Claws base damage and can stack up to three times. Does that completely make up for a 15% damage boost? I’m not sure, but what it does do is give us a very good punch from a skill that we often spam.
Even if we only used Raking Claws three times in a fight we would have three hits from the skill itself, plus the equivalent of another use and a half of the skill from the DoTs. In other words, every use of Raking Claws is like using the skill one and a half times because of the DoT. Essentially we get a ‘free’ Raking Claws use for every two times we use it. Not only should that help with our damage output, it should also help with power.
One last point to make about Flayer stance is stance switching. Some people have been worried that they will no longer be able to use the ‘Stealth/Shadow Howler’ combo that they are currently using at the moment. I see no evidence of any changes to this from either Orion’s post or the recent dev diary. There has been no mention of not being able to activate either stance whilst in combat, only that you can’t instantly switch from one to another (hence the 10sec shared cooldown). The fact that Flayer stance is actually replacing Shadow Howler, indicates to me that it will function the same way in terms of how it is activated, etc. If there were going to be some change to that mechanic I imagine it would have been included alongside the comments concerning immediate switching of stances.
In general Flayer is looking to be a pretty strong stance in my opinion, and that’s after having just given it a cursory glance here. I think it looks like a real upgrade from Shadow Howler, which, whilst nice, was never really up to its task of providing the warg with a genuine alternative to stealth. Rather it became a sort of ‘temporary stance’ that you switched in and out of. Perhaps Flayer stance will be used the same way, but it looks more capable of being a default stance too.
Unfortunately we know relatively little about this stance compared with Flayer stance. What we do know is that it grants a boost to damage output and a boost to ICPR. We don’t have numbers for either of those buffs at the moment, but a thought occurred to me: the 15% damage boost from Shadow Howler is apparently not making its way to Flayer stance, could it have been transferred to Shadow stance? As for the ICPR buff the only clue we have is that it is ‘moderate’, whatever that means.
Perhaps the most interesting boost Shadow stance provides is that it makes some skills function as if you were using them from stealth even when you are not in stealth. Looking at the dev diary these skills would appear to be Bestial Claws and Sudden Maul. These are two of our three ‘combat openers’. I notice that no mention of Pounce/Sudden Pounce was made, but that was to be expected. A guaranteed stun/knockdown every 10sec is a bit much I suppose.
What we do have then is Bestial Claws and Sudden Maul. Again we have few details and no numbers here, but going by what we have at the moment in the current version of the game we are playing we can at least make a few educated guesses. Bestial Claws is a great combat opener because it can hit very hard (for a warg anyway). If this skill hits every time as if used from stealth that could actually represent a pretty serious increase in damage output, especially in conjunction with the damage output buff from the stance itself. Using Maul from stealth provides a longer DoT than when used out of stealth so again this would be a great boost if it can always be used like that. There is also the point to be made that Maul from stealth currently has a higher chance to crit and increased crit magnitude from stealth, hopefully those effects are retained in Shadow stance.
There are downsides of course. First of all is the fact that currently Maul/Bloody Maul place separate DoTs on a target, meaning more damage. If Shadow stance means the stealthed version of Maul is always used then we are losing access to one of our DoTs. The other downside is that Bestial Claws is described as having an ‘increased power cost’. Once more there are no numbers available so it’s hard to judge how much of an impact this will have, but it could mean we have power problems. Will the ICPR boost from the stance be enough to alleviate that?
There is one more thing to consider with Shadow stance though and it’s something I haven’t seen anyone talk about yet in the discussion threads on these changes: The Element of Surprise. When I saw that Shadow stance would make some of our skills function as if they were being used from stealth I immediately thought of this trait. Element of Surprise boosts the crit chance of damage skills used from stealth by 20%. Will this also work for the skills Shadow stance modifies? If it does then this could be a major boost in our damage output 9as well as turning a somewhat lacklustre trait into a must have).
Can We Solo?
On the whole I’d say the two stances we are getting in Update 6 look pretty decent as far as soloing is concerned. I think the key is that each stance will be best against different freep classes though. Flayer stance, even if it doesn’t have the 15% damage bonus Shadow Howler does, looks to be a stance to use when engaging in longer fights against tougher opponents. Against something like a Champion or Guardian where you can’t just batter them down quickly anyway staying power becomes more important and that seems to be what Flayer stance is going for. On the other hand Shadow stance, with its increased damage output, might be best against classes that are squishy and/or a dps race e.g. Rune-keepers, Hunters, etc.
Of course without hard numbers it is difficult to give an accurate opinion, but from what I’m seeing in the dev diary these two stances and their associated changes actually look pretty good for the solo warg. They provide more options than we currently have and allow us to tailor our playstyle a bit more based upon who we are fighting. I don’t consider that a bad thing at all. Damage output looks to be getting a fairly decent boost, and Flayer stance should provide more survivability than Shadow Howler it seems. All in all these changes are on course to make soloing as a warg a bit more fun.