This article overviews and analyzes the changes announced specifically for Madness Sorcerer and Balance Sage planned for SWTOR Update 7.1.1. I will have separate dedicated articles for Lightning / Telekinetics and all of the healer changes.

Current State of Madness and Balance Combat Styles

Madness / Balance is a bit all over the place right now. It’s considered pretty powerful in PvP right now thanks to its incredible survivability and CC. The survivability (and AoE damage) also make it a popular choice for soloing heroics and a luxury in group PvE content.

Single-target damage output is where the spec underperforms a bit, especially compared to Lightning / Telekinetics currently (and mDPS in general), though this seems to be more due to BioWare’s apparent (flawed) vision that rDPS should be considerably weaker than mDPS.

SWTOR 7.1.1 Madness Sorcerer
Image Source: Wookieepedia

Beyond its place in the meta, Madness Sorcerer / Balance Sage’s rotation has felt far too clunky for a majority of this game’s history and a lot of this has to do with the extremely limiting design of the Wrath / Presence of Mind proc, which currently has the following effect:

Dealing damage with Force Lightning / Telekinetic Throw grants a stack of Wrath / Presence of Mind. At 4 stacks, your next Demolish / Vanquish or Lightning Strike / Disturbance activates instantly, deals 25% more damage, and consumes 50% less Force.

Over the course of the game’s history, Wrath / Presence of Mind has gone through several revisions because it keeps having problems. Initially, it didn’t stack at all, but just had a low chance to grant the full effect with each tick of Force Lightning / TK Throw, similar to how Cull / Wounding Shots can trigger the proc for Takedown / Quickdraw. 

Unfortunately, this was too much RNG and because Force Lightning / Telekinetic Throw is a filler unlike Cull / Wounding Shots, it incentivized players to clip Force Lightning / TK Throw because Lightning Strike / Disturbance dealt more DPS. 

Most people didn’t like that so they switched to the stack system, but this created inconsistency problems in PvP because you need all 4 stacks to hit or you miss out on the proc, so they made it only take 3 stacks to get the full benefit, instead of 4, but that still left in the incentive to clip at 3 stacks, so BioWare had to switch it back to requiring all 4 stacks. 

(Note: I might be misremembering minor details, but the overall point that Wrath / Presence of Mind has had a lot of issues over the years remains true)

The issues of interruption and clipping have been mostly alleviated because Lightning Strike / Disturbance deals practically the same damage as Force Lightning and you have time to channel Force Lightning / TK Throw twice before Demolish / Vanquish comes off cooldown, but we’re left with an incredibly clunky rotation:

At first glance, you might think it seems okay, and you’d be right, but there’s absolutely no elegance or fluidity to be found here:

  • You are forced to waste the Wrath / Presence of Mind proc from the second Force Lightning / Telekinetic Throw.
  • Demolish / Vanquish comes off cooldown before the second Force Lightning / TK Throw has completed, there’s really only a GCD gap, so each cycle you slightly delay Demolish / Vanquish out of necessity. You can’t use Lightning Strike / Disturbance or you won’t have a Wrath / Presence of Mind proc for Demolish / Vanquish and hard-casting Lightning Strike / Disturbance before that is a no-go as well because it doesn’t deal enough damage (and would also feel awful).
  • Lightning Strike / Disturbance is arguably worse than Force Lightning / Telekinetic Throw, so
  • The duration of Creeping Terror / Sever Force and Affliction / Weaken Mind are too long compared to the cooldowns for Demolish / Vanquish, Death Field / Force in Balance, and Force Leech / Force Serenity such that you can only use them once per DoT application cycle, but it’s impossible to use those abilities on cooldown without letting your DoTs fall off and vice versa. 
  • The rotation I described above forces you to clip Creeping Terror / Sever Force and Affliction / Weaken Mind, which is extremely counterintuitive and should never be optimal.
  • You have to delay Death Field / Force in Balance if you want to respread your DoTs because its cooldown is lower than the duration of your DoTs, forcing you into a convoluted priority system in situations where Madness is strongest and most desirable to play.
  • Wrath / Presence of Mind still is still vulnerable to getting interrupted.

It’s incredibly difficult to fix without introducing additional problems to the rotation, like preventing other abilities from synchronizing properly or having a bad ratio of time spent doing fillers compared to stronger abilities (you’re either doing Force Lightning / TK Throw -> Lightning Strike / Disturbance for too long or not long enough).

Changes also can’t negatively affect balance for PvE or PvP and the interactions with other abilities and effects should be minimal to prevent wasted dev resources. That said, after spending too much time thinking about it, I’ve come up with 2 potential solutions that I’ll get to a bit later.

7.1.1 Madness and Balance Announced Changes

  • New Tactical: Killing Field (AOE) – Death Field / Force in Balance slows targets it affects by 50%. Force Storm / Forcequake deals 15% more damage to slowed targets.
  • As part of Disintegration / Critical Kinesis, Death Field / Force in Balance and Death Brand / Shifted Balance grant Vitiate’s Malice / ???, giving Force Lightning / Telekinetic Throw 20% Lifesteal for 12 seconds.
  • Force Horrors / Drain Thoughts now increases periodic damage by 20% up from 15%.
  • Lightning Barrage / Psychic Projection now reduces Force Lightning / Telekinetic Throw’s damage dealt by 20% down from 25%.
  • Tempest of Rho now correctly applies a 50% chance for Force Lightning / Telekinetic Throw to trigger Creeping Terror / Sever Force down from 75%.

Source: SWTOR Forums.

7.1.1 Madness and Balance Changes Analysis

BioWare has opted not to adjust the rotational issues I outlined with Madness / Balance and instead is focusing on tweaking its performance to match intended 7.0 targets.

Tactical Item

The tactical item is being introduced because Madness / Balance’s AoE tactical, Slow Mercy, was taken away with the release of 7.0, though BioWare has said that Killing Field will be reworked from its currently announced effect due to concerns about adding another slow to the game and slows not being effective in all combat scenarios since bosses are immune to slows.

Changes

The buffs seem to be mainly meant to compensate for the nerf to Tempest of Rho, which will reduce single-target sustained DPS by ~1200-1600 depending on whether or not you use Lightning Strike / Disturbance. The buff to Force Horrors / Drain Thoughts will increase DPS by ~750 while the buff to Lightning Barrage / Psychic Projection will increase DPS by ~200-300 depending on if you use Lightning Strike / Disturbance or not. Combined, these changes will result in a net loss of 250-550 DPS.

The introduction of Vitiate’s Malice will add ~900-`1100 HPS, which will effectively compensate for lower DPS in PvP since the boost to survivability is greater than the nerf to DPS when paired with the buff, but that doesn’t work in PvE where an extra 1k HPS isn’t suddenly gonna let you survive a boss enraging while difficult bosses are tuned to where rDPS aren’t always viable.

That said, the idea behind Vitiate’s Malice is super neat, especially if they include some sort of life-steal animation over Force Lightning / Telekinetic Throw, but I can’t say it makes sense from a class balance perspective.

BLOOM IT UP, BABY!

Madness / Balance’s survivability is already exceptional in all content, to the extent that many players are complaining about it in PvP, so it doesn’t make sense to increase it further unless they really don’t want players to take Cloud Mind, in which case this buff is more palatable. Vitiate’s Malice also doesn’t grant life-steal to Lightning Strike / Disturbance, which will create even more confusion about which one you’re supposed to use.

These changes will work alongside what BioWare has already announced and move Madness / Balance into a good position where the DPS spread is narrower (almost all rDPS would receive damage buffs). I outlined my vision for a narrower spread in more depth in my analysis of the 7.1.1 Lightning and Telekinetics changes.

Rotation Solution 1: Decoupling Wrath / Presence of Mind and Demolish / Vanquish

This is the first solution in fixing Madness / Balance rotation that will also put the discipline in an ideal position in terms of DPS balance. It would likely require more work to implement but has basically no impact on overall game balance. In my opinion, it’s also more of a complete solution overall:

  • Proposed Change: Change Wrath / Presence of Mind to have the following effect: Dealing damage with Force Lightning / Telekinetic Throw or Force Storm / Forcequake builds a stack of Wrath / Presence of Mind. At 4 stacks, your next Lightning Strike / Disturbance or Overloaded Strike / Destructive Wave activates instantly and deals 50% more damage and cost 50% less Force. (no longer buffs Demolish / Vanquish)
    • Explanation: This will decouple Demolish / Vanquish from the Wrath / Presence of Mind proc, which is truly the core issue of the spec while better integrating Force Storm / Forcequake into the rotation. At the same time, Lightning Strike / Disturbance will deal practically identical DPS compared to Force Lightning / Telekinetic Throw.
  • Proposed Change: Introduce a new proc called Clamoring Nightmare / Overwhelming Presence that has the following effect: Dealing damage with Lightning Strike / Disturbance or Overloaded Strike / Destructive Wave grants a stack of Clamoring Nightmare / Overwhelming Presence, which makes your next Demolish / Vanquish deal 15% more damage and consume 25% less Force. At 2 stacks, your next Demolish / Vanquish also activates instantly. Stacks up to 2 times and cannot occur more than once per second.
    • Explanation: This compensates for the decoupling of Wrath / Presence of Mind and Demolish / Vanquish while making Force Lightning / Disturbance an essential part of the rotation and offering another minor DPS increase (~200) that should also help to make Demolish / Vanquish more equally valuable for consuming Deathmark / Force Suppression stacks.
  • Proposed Change: Incorporate Lightning Strike / Disturbance and Overloaded Strike / Destructive Wave into Vitiate’s Malice / ??? (same 20% heal) and Lightning Burns / Rippling Force (80% chance to trigger off Lightning Strike / Disturbance and Overloaded Strike / Destructive Wave, remove Force Leech / Force Serenity from triggering the effect).
    • Explanation: This further enables Lightning Strike / Disturbance to be practically equal to Force Lightning / Lightning Strike in terms of damage output and survivability without impacting damage output further.
  • Proposed Change: Increase the cooldown of Force Leech / Force Serenity to 15s and increase its damage dealt by 21% such that it’s synchronized with the cooldowns of Death Field / Force in Balance and Demolish / Vanquish.
    • Explanation: This is a necessary change to synchronize Force Leech / Force Serenity with your other high-priority abilities. The 21% damage increase only compensates for its increased cooldown so that it doesn’t result in reduced survivability in PvP where using it on cooldown is more important.
  • Proposed Change: Introduce an additional effect to the level 51 discipline passive Creeping Death / Mental Scarring that does the following: Creeping Terror / Sever Force and Affliction / Weaken Mind tick 20% faster.
    • Explanation: This will bring the overall duration of the DoTs down to about 15s so that it matches the cooldown durations of Death Field / Force in Balance, Demolish / Vanquish, and now Force Leech / Force Serenity. Technically, only a 17.33% is required, but 20% is a nicer number that shouldn’t produce any additional adverse effects. 
  • Proposed Change: The single additional ticks of Creeping Terror / Sever Force and Affliction / Weaken Mind should bring in an extra ~1000 DPS combined, which Madness / Balance needs as part of narrowing the spread between ranged and melee DPS, so no other separate buffs would be required. 
    Make it so dealing damage with Force Storm / Forcequake will also build stacks of Fulminating Current / Psychokinetic Torrent and have the Madness / Telekinetic Balance passive that makes Force Lightning / TK Throw channel and tick 33% faster but deal 25% less damage also apply to Force Storm / Forcequake. 
    • Explanation:This is purely a QoL improvement that fully integrates Force Storm / Forcequake into the rotation, enabling players to seamlessly use AoE instead of single-target when it’s more appropriate.

This culminates in a very similar rotation:

Remember Lightning Strike / Disturbance will consume Wrath / Presence of Mind, but your Demolish / Vanquish will still deal more damage and by instant by the new Clamoring Nightmare / Overwhelming Presence proc that will feel reminiscent of the Superheated Flamethrower / Pulse Generator proc from Pyrotech PT / Plasmatech VG. 

I do not feel that the single-target rotation changes in terms of difficulty. It’s still easy and completely static, but the additional proc and more strict structure compensates for the (necessary) simplification of the Wrath / Presence of Mind proc.

That said, the Madness / Balance discipline as a whole would become easier because the convoluted AoE priority would be completely eliminated as the DoT durations would be synchronized with the cooldown of Death Field / Force in Balance. I think this is acceptable because no other DoT spec has to put so much thought into AoE and the new rotation isn’t any more difficult than many other DoT specs. 

The combined single-target DPS increases from my suggested changes are approximately 1200, minus the average 400 from BioWare’s nerf, resulting in a net 800 DPS buff, which would bring Madness / Balance right up to where it should be relative to other DPS and make it a far more competitive choice next to Lightning / Telekinetics in single-target fights.

Solution 2: Tweak Plague Master / Teachings of Rajivari 

I think this would take a fair bit less work to implement while solving most of the issues, but it comes with implications for PvP balance. 

  • Proposed Change: Change the Plague Master / Teachings of Rajivari ability tree buff to the following: Dealing damage with Shock / Project makes all of your remaining DoTs tick all of their damage over the next 0.6s. The cooldown on Shock / Project is increased by 9s (down from 12s).
    • Explanation: This will enable Shock to be used in every rotation cycle and fully remove DoT clipping by letting Shock trigger the final tick of Creeping Terror / Sever Force and Affliction / Weaken Mind and a considerable proportion of Demolish / Vanquish.
    • This change will have minor adverse effects. In PvP, it makes Madness / Balance’s burst slightly more frequent and technically out of line with the Ultraviolet Blast and Catalyzed Toxins tacticals that Agents / Smugglers have. In order to mitigate this and make it feel more fun (like Eradication Ray / Destruction Ray), I made the ticks happen sequentially so the Deathmarks get consumed. It also makes the DoT ticks interact properly with respect to Force regen and survivability. 
    • If this is insufficient, I think it would be fine to just make the ability tree buff instead only affect Creeping Terror / Sever Force and Affliction / Weaken Mind, perhaps while redistributing Demolish ticks over a smaller timeframe like 3s total to deal that damage instead of the current 9 to make that less of an issue. 
    • Unfortunately, it also introduces a firm requirement to take Plague Master / Teachings of Rajivari, which is acceptable thanks to Vitiate’s Malice / ???.
  • Proposed Change: Incorporate Shock / Project into the Tempest of Rho tactical to make it have a 100% chance to tick Creeping Terror / Sever Force, just like Lighting Strike / Disturbance (and Overloaded Strike / Destructive Wave).
    • Explanation: This change is essential to making Shock / Project a sustained DPS increase over a second activation of Force Lightning / TK Throw. Without this change, Shock / Project won’t be consistently better than Force Lightning / TK Throw because you can get 2 ticks in a single GCD out of Force Lightning / TK Throw while still having those final DoT ticks available in case of disruption.
  • Proposed Change: Incorporate Force Storm / Forcequake into Wrath / Presence of Mind, Madness / Telekinetic Balance, and Fulminating Current / Psychokinetic Torrent
    • Explanation: These are the same QoL tweaks I recommended in Solution 1 to fully integrate Force Storm / Forcequake into the rotation as a proper alternative to Force Lightning / TK Throw.
  • Proposed Change: Increase the cooldown of Force Leech / Force Serenity to 15s and increase its damage dealt by 21% such that it’s synchronized with the cooldowns of Death Field / Force in Balance and Demolish / Vanquish.
    • Explanation: This is a necessary change to synchronize Force Leech / Force Serenity with your other high-priority abilities. The 21% damage increase only compensates for its increased cooldown so that it doesn’t result in reduced survivability in PvP where using it on cooldown is more important.
  • Proposed Change: Adjust Death Field / Force in Balance’s DoT spread to overwrite the duration of your existing DoTs if they are still active.
    • Explanation: This is necessary to remove the convoluted priority that is required when you want to DoT spread since the duration of your DoTs does not get reduced with this solution.

Together these changes would make this rotation optimal:

This rotation moves Demolish / Vanquish to be a GCD earlier than what most players do and lets Shock / Project finish off the final tick of your DoTs so that you don’t have to clip them after you reapply them in the next GCD.

I think this solution is less ideal overall since it ignores the core problems associated with Wrath / Presence of Mind and is a lot more clunky with solving the synchronization issues. It also doesn’t buff Madness / Balance’s single-target numbers, necessitating other balance changes to bring it in closer in line with melee DPS and Lightning / Telekinetics.

The PvP concerns could mostly be alleviated with the additional tweaks to Plague Master / Teachings of Rajivari, but that kind of defeats the purpose of this being a quick and easy fix.

Reworking the New AoE Tactical

Slow Mercy was too busted, but I love the idea of AoE Demolish. It would be cool to build off that with the following effect:

Demolish / Vanquish deals damage to up to 4 enemies within 5m of the target and when an enemy takes damage from Demolish / Vanquish, there is a 50% chance that they will trigger a Dark Echo / Resonant Pulse. In addition, Force Storm / Forcequake can benefit from and consume stacks of Deathmark / Force Suppression.

Visually, the Demolish / Vanquish ticking animation should be much larger with this tactical equipped to show that it’s dealing AoE damage.

Author Lokzmir
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