A doublecast skill is a new type of spell that casts on you as well as your target. By utilizing proper positioning, skilled players can significantly increase the power level of these skills as well as the area that they cover. Many of these skills were reworked because they were too unwieldy to play normally due to conditionals or poor synergies with other skills.
In addition to doublecast skills, we are also allowing some Elementalist elites to have functionality usually covered by other professions. Because these skills are elite, we feel it's OK to blur the role of the Elementalist a bit, as long as this functionality meshes with how the Elementalist normally plays.
While its previous effect was fairly strong against martial professions, Mist Form had almost no effect against casters, and its one-dimensional functionality made it a difficult choice to take over most damage-dealing elites. It could also be very frustrating to use without removal. This update changes the skill into a defensive skill that also provides healing to your allies. In order to emphasize the Elementalist nature of the skill, though, the healing and damage reduction conditionals encourage offensive spell use.
Mist Form: reduced cost to 5 Energy; reduced recharge to 20; changed functionality to: "For 10...38...45 seconds, you take 33% less damage from foes under the effect of Water Magic hexes. Whenever you cast an elemental spell, all non-spirit allies in earshot are healed for 50...210...250% of the Energy cost of the spell. This spell does not heal allies above 80% Health".
Due to the delay in the Dazed application, Thunderclap tended to be a poor choice as an interrupt skill, and the long recharge coupled with only hitting a single target made it a poor damage skill as well. Since Air Magic already has good AoE damage options, we've changed this skill to be more of an elite interrupt and condition-application skill. With a 1-second cast time, this skill won't outclass Mesmer interrupts but will provide bonuses for skilled Elementalists who read their opponents.
Thunderclap: reduced recharge to 8 seconds; reduced damage to 10...42...50; added 25% armor penetration; changed functionality to: "Create a massive shockwave at target foe's location. Deals 10...42...50 lightning damage to target and all adjacent foes. Struck foes are interrupted and suffer from Cracked Armor and Weakness for 5...17...20 seconds. This spell has 25% armor penetration".
With Ward Against Harm we are again trying something slightly different. We've given this skill a small party-healing aspect similar to how Water Magic skills function in Guild Wars 2. We hope this can provide another appealing source of party-healing utility on the Water Elementalist. Additionally, the bonus armor is now applied to all elements instead of just Fire Magic.
Ward Against Harm: increased recharge to 30 seconds; changed functionality to: "Create a Ward Against Harm at this location. For 5...13...15 seconds, non-spirit allies in this area have +1...3...3 Health regeneration, +12...22...24 armor, and an additional +12...22...24 armor against elemental damage. This spell is disabled for 30 seconds".
We're also making a few smaller changes to some skills that we hope will promote some new synergies and help make some previously nonviable builds possible.
Master of Magic is held back partly by the lack of good cross-elemental synergies and an attribute level that is generally ineffective at level 20. By scaling the attribute bonus, we hope to correct this latter problem. In an update further down the line, we plan to look at cross-elemental synergy skills. The "ends on non-Elementalist skill" clause was mainly to prevent Elementalist healers from taking advantage of the bonus Energy regen, so we've removed it and the Energy regen in favor of a universal attunement to make it easier to run multiple attributes. The recharge has also been reduced to make it less vulnerable to strips.
Master of Magic: reduced recharge to 10 seconds; changed elemental attribute scaling to 8...13...14; removed Energy regeneration; removed the following functionality: "This enchantment ends if you use a non-Elementalist skill"; added the following functionality: "Your elemental spells return 30% of their Energy cost".
Due to the high-risk/low-reward ratio on this skill, Shockwave only has niche uses. These changes are intended to promote some synergy with other skills in Earth Magic.
Shockwave: changed functionality to: "All foes in the area take 15...51...60 earth damage and are Weakened for 1...8...10 seconds. Nearby foes also take +15...51...60 earth damage and have Cracked Armor for 1...8...10 seconds. Adjacent foes suffer the previous effects, take +15...51...60 earth damage, and are Blinded for 1...8...10 seconds".
After reworking Double Dragon, we felt that Star Burst could remain as a PBAoE skill; however, it had very little to distinguish it from other PBAoE skills like Inferno or Flame Burst. Because these types of builds tend to have Energy problems, we reversed the previous Energy loss into Energy gain. While we don't think this will make PBAoE Elementalists very common, it will provide some better options for this type of playstyle.
Star Burst: reduced recharge to 7 seconds; changed functionality to: "Target touched foe and all foes in the area are struck for 7...91...112 fire damage and set on fire for 1...3...4 seconds. For each foe you hit, gain 2 Energy".
In some cases we found elites that could be good but didn't quite provide the level of bar compression to make them desirable over direct-damage skills.
Due to the change to Master of Magic, Elemental Attunement and Glyph of Energy became a little lacking. So we are improving both of these skills with a small attribute bonus while active. The addition of an attribute bonus gives these skills some bar compression as well as a small damage boost. We've also increased the number of charges on Glyph of Energy to make it less cumbersome to use, though in order to keep the Energy management from becoming too good we've lowered the Energy savings per use and increased the recharge. Elemental Attunement had its duration and recharge rescaled slightly to prevent fast-casting Mesmer/Elementalists from outshining primary Elementalists using this skill.
Elemental Attunement: rescaled duration to 25...53...60 seconds; reduced recharge to 20 seconds; added the following functionality: "You are attuned to Air, Fire, Water, and Earth and gain +1...2...2 to these attributes".
Glyph of Energy: increased recharge to 25 seconds; now affects your next 1...3...3 spells; reduced Energy savings to 10...22...25; added the following functionality: "Your elemental attributes are increased by 1...2...2".
Several of the elite skills we examined for this update simply had small usability problems. Whether it was lack of damage or a downside that didn't justify the investment, these skills required much smaller adjustments to make them more viable. In several cases the major problems were eliminated simply by allowing these skills to strike an area instead of a single target, though different buffs were necessary for others.
While this skill sees use in PvP, its low damage makes it difficult to justify in most PvE situations. This buff is intended to bolster the overall damage a bit without turning it into a spike skill.
Blinding Surge: added the following functionality: "This spell has 25% armor penetration. If this spell strikes an attacking foe, all adjacent foes are also struck and this spell deals 50% more damage".
Given that the skill already has the downside of causing Exhaustion and losing all enchantments, we felt that some changes were in order for this skill. We felt that this skill had viability in PvP but was kept out of play due to the high damage on end and the high spec required to make it effective. We've made a small reduction in the amount of damage dealt on end and improved the scaling on this skill so it is more effective at lower ranks.
Ether Prodigy: increased duration to 8...18...20 seconds; reduced damage per point of Energy to 2.
While the damage on this skill for a single target is good, its cancel condition makes it difficult to use. To improve its use for PvE, we've added a Blind effect and increased its radius to hit adjacent foes.
Glimmering Mark: added the following functionality: "For 10 seconds, target foe and all foes adjacent to your target take 5...21...25 damage each second. Foes using attack skills are Blinded for 3 seconds".
While the knockdown on this skill is useful and powerful, we felt a buff was justified given the skill's long casting cost and 3-second delay before activation. With the addition of Cracked Armor and a reduction in cost and casting time, we feel that this skill can now fit into a larger variety of builds.
Lightning Surge: reduced cost to 10 Energy; reduced casting time to 1 second; added the following functionality: "Target foe has Cracked Armor for 5...17...20 seconds. This spell has 25% armor penetration".
Even though this skill has good overall damage and a modest recharge, it generally stacks up poorly against other Elementalist elites that deal damage. By reducing the cost and adding a new AoE component to the end of the skill, we feel it is more justified as an elite skill.
Shatterstone: reduced cost to 10 Energy; changed functionality to: "Target foe is struck for 25...85...100 cold damage and is hexed with Shatterstone for 3 seconds. When Shatterstone ends, that foe and all nearby foes are struck for 25...85...100 cold damage".
The Exhaustion mechanic is unique in Guild Wars in that it is a resource that cannot be manipulated by any skill; this makes it one of our strongest balancing mechanisms. However, because all skills that cause Exhaustion cause the same amount of Exhaustion, it often becomes difficult to properly balance the skill's effectiveness with the fixed Exhaustion penalty. As a result, we usually see players take the single most powerful Exhaustion skill they can find and ignore everything else for fear of getting too Exhausted. We're taking this opportunity to introduce skills that cause 5 points of Exhaustion instead of 10. We feel this change will make these skills more appealing while giving us better control over Elementalist skills in the future. Due to this change, Exhaustion will now be shown as a number followed by a gray dot with a downward arrow in the UI rather than using the phrase "This spell causes Exhaustion."
The addition of lowered Exhaustion costs to the game gave us better ways to balance existing skills. In the case of Invoke Lightning, Exhaustion was intended as a metering mechanic, but given the long uptime of Elementalist enchantments this weakness almost never showed up. With a guaranteed Exhaustion amount of 5, this skill should be much more balanced for teams in PvP. Chain Lightning, a similar skill, was also changed in this way.
Invoke Lightning: now always causes 5 Exhaustion instead of conditionally causing 10 Exhaustion.
We felt the Mind skills could use some small buffs to better justify their conditional secondary effects and Exhaustion. As a Fire spell it made sense for Mind Burn to at least have an AoE component while Mind Freeze simply didn't do enough damage to justify its Exhaustion. We've reduced the Exhaustion costs on both of these skills in order to make them more usable.
Mind Burn: changed functionality to: "Target foe and all adjacent foes take 15...51...60 fire damage. If you have more Energy than target foe, that foe and all adjacent foes take an additional 15...51...60 fire damage and are set on fire for 1...8...10 seconds".
Mind Freeze: increased Energy cost to 10; reduced Exhaustion to 5; reduced recharge to 5 seconds; reduced duration to 1...4...5 seconds.
Ride the Lightning is a dangerous and expensive skill for the low-armored Elementalist to use and has further problems due to the lack of strong PBAoE skills in Air Magic. This change adds in Blind to protect the Elementalist for a short time in this dangerous position and allows it to target allies as well as enemies for increased movement options. Because reducing the Exhaustion without any other changes would likely make this skill overpowered in PvP, we've raised the recharge and Energy cost to compensate.
Ride the Lightning: increased cost to 15 Energy; increased recharge to 10 seconds; reduced Exhaustion to 5; reduced damage to 10...58...70; you can now teleport to allies as well as enemies; added the following functionality: "All adjacent foes are Blinded for 1...4...5 seconds".
Second Wind is a skill that has a unique interaction with the Exhaustion mechanic. While it doesn't see a lot of use it can be fairly powerful under the right conditions. We've lowered the casting time and Exhaustion caused by this skill in order to improve its use. Additionally, it now heals the caster to provide some bar compression. Testing revealed that these changes could potentially bring back certain undesirable smite builds to PvP, so we've added a clause that removes all enchantments to prevent this from happening. Because the skill provides both Health and Energy now, we don't feel this will negatively impact most builds.
Second Wind: reduced casting time to 1 second; reduced Exhaustion to 5; changed functionality to: "You gain 1 Energy and 5 Health for each point of Energy restricted by Exhaustion. You lose all enchantments".
In addition to trying out lowered Exhaustion costs with this update, we are also examining the option of further gradation of skill activation times. While flat one- and two-second cast times work for the majority of skills, there are several skills that are numerically inferior at two seconds, but would be far too powerful at one second. For now we are only comfortable releasing a few skills with this new casting time, but we will be examining more candidates for this change in future updates.
This update also makes some changes to some skills on other professions that deal armor-ignoring damage. Because of the higher armor in Hard Mode, these skills often mean that Elementalists are displaced as damage dealers. While we feel that these professions should be able to deal damage in these situations, the amount of armor-ignoring damage they are dealing is far higher than is reasonable when compared to Elementalist skills with similar effects.
Mistrust retains higher damage because it cannot be stacked like Destructive was Glaive and requires a much stronger conditional to proc. For the Ritualist skills, rather than heavily lower the damage on any single skill, we felt it would be better to make several smaller reductions to certain key skills. In this way, the individual skills can retain their general usage, but builds that stacked them will suffer a larger hit in damage.