The premature closure of the TC did no favors in terms of the material it left behind; be it in the front of class design and intentions behind gear designs, or all the way in the front of the dreaded class balance. While this state of affairs provides ample ground for conversation across the board, I specifically wanted to explore the Cabalist faction due to its unique circumstances. Between the unique nature of the Evokers’ interaction with, and dependence on, their focus items, and the Summoners’ apparent shift to a more melee-oriented gamestyle, I believe that properly interpreting the data left behind may be of practical use moving forward.
Initially, I’d like to catalogue the data that I feel is relevant in the frame of this exploration.
By design, Evokers never had stats that increase damage, directly (STR) or indirectly (ACC). Rather, their limitations would be set by the power of focus items, their skills’ multipliers (although notably, the initial Flagship design had skills have sfx multipliers and very few, if any, damage multipliers), and practically, their power pools’ sustainability.
Note, this design is most likely why crit builds are often preferred; once sustainability is achieved, there is no benefit in not building around ACC. It is my belief that Flagship had noticed this by the time of TCv4 through their Evil Eye.
By design, Darkform had little to no synergy at all with the usual stat investments of Summoners (predominantly WILL). Instead, the base skill introduced dependencies with ACC (+move/attack speed), STR (+damage), and STA (since Darkform in itself is a HP multiplier).
Note, it is this clash that I believe motivated Flagship to increase Drain Life’s damage by 700% and power cost by 50%; a constant skill that replenishes HP at the cost of power coincidentally fits the needs and design of a Cabalist class turned melee, but only if it is buffed enough to be worth sacrificing melee engagement for its duration.
The TC introduced a 67% “critical chance vs caste” reduction. While there is little ground to assume this change was introduced with solely Cabalists in mind, it remains highly relevant in this context. (see here for patch notes, and below for implications)
Cabalists are the only faction to have not only gotten 3 distinct, vastly different TC focus item types before TCv4’s termination, but also 3 Unique variations of each type, spread in terms of level across the early game, midgame, and endgame (presumably, and likely, to assist both classes in progressing from start to finish, instead of just in the endgame). Those differ in design and inherent properties, and, most importantly, feeds.
Perhaps most importantly, Ripshards boasted 25% base crit, which is wildly inconsistent with gear designs up to this point. The earlier Coreslicers, which I believe are also a TC addition, also follow this design pattern, and also have an odd restriction that only allows them to be Common, Enhanced, and Rare. Curiously, low level Ripshards and Coreslicers seem to perfectly remedy the huge performance issues that dedicated Darkform builds arguably face in the early game (see below for further speculation on this observation).
The TC introduced no class-specific gear, unlike the later Global, in effect only producing the need to design one TC armor “set” per faction. The Cabalist TC armor set was apparently designed in the same line of reasoning as the other 2; that is, addressing the needs of both classes within its faction.
In light of #1 and #2 above, it is not unreasonable to assume that the inherent crit bonus and power point penalty were both aimed at both Cabalist classes, while such stats as +STR and +minion hp/armor were undoubtedly aimed at Summoners.
Given this data, I am led to some assumptions, which I’ll try to support with references to the above data, the (arguably) optimal choices for each scenario, and, of course, speculation.
a) The TC armor set was designed partly to buff, and partly to regulate, Evokers.
Damage bonuses, inherent crit, and inherent power point penalties, all seem to be characteristics that are directly related to the factors outlined in #1 above.
Damage bonuses assist a class that has no stats that directly boost damage.
Inherent crit bonuses further boost the class towards a direction it was already heading at the time of TCv4.
Inherent power point penalties presumably serve 3 purposes; practically reducing the diminishing returns of WILL (as power regen per point was also reduced from 3 per point to 2, but base regen was increased from 120 to 480, the power regen “nerf” only starts taking effect after the first 360 points invested in WILL), limiting the maximum DPS potential of the class by effectively reducing DPS sustainability, and enforcing a building choice between ACC and WILL, thus between direct damage and damage sustainability.
b) The TC armor set was also designed for Summoners, but predominantly with Darkform specifically in mind.
As above, damage bonuses, inherent crit, and inherent power point penalties, all seem to be characteristics that directly tie to the factors outlined in #2 above. Moreover, the set includes +minion stats that are certainly aimed at Summoners (arguably apart from +minion damage, which the Evokers’ newly-added Spectral Serpents also benefit from), and such stats as STR (which neither class and no non-DF Summoners would benefit from), and a melee speed bonus.
Damage bonuses assist a class that has only just acquired a reliable way to deal direct damage, without absolute dependence on minions.
Inherent crit bonuses can only reasonably be used through Darkform in the case of Summoners. The endgame (which the sets were evidently designed for) offers no weapons that be reliably critcapped, and popular builds very rarely included any guns (which Flagship was likely aware of due to their Evil Eye).
Inherent power point penalties complete the hypothesis that the set was designed specifically for Darkform, as they directly contradict the class design up to that point; 33% less available power hampers minion/command dependencies considerably, while Darkform in its TCv4 form remained largely unaffected.
c) Glyphshards were intended for Evokers, Ripshards were intended for Summoners(/Darkform), and Bloodshards were likely intended for both classes.
This is probably the most crucial assumption of this analysis, so I will try to be thorough going forward.
Glyphshards have inherent range and radius bonuses, WILL feeds, and points in Evoker skills in all their Unique variants (the endgame Galactic Conquest notably offers points in all 3 Evoker AoEs). The two latter fall in line with #1 above and the presumed intentions of Flagship for the class in TCv4 (also outlined above), while the former are of particular significance. Not only are both of these properties practically useless for Summoners, Darkform or otherwise (as the class barely has any offensive spells, and +radius does not affect Elemental Nova or Dark Offering), but it also makes sense for Flagship to push Evokers in the direction of AoE; a class that cannot reliably critcap (see #3 and below) and has stricter damage caps (see #1) would naturally be more fit to make up for the relative loss of single-target damage with more AoE damage and greater radius.
Ripshards have 25% base crit, ACC feeds, points in Elementals and +minion stats in their early Unique variant (Megalodon), points in all Demons and +minion damage in their midgame Unique variant (Remnants of Grregas), and points in Blink, +STA, and +move/melee speed bonuses in their endgame Unique variant (Black Angel). The above, coupled with #3 above and Darkform’s recent, rushed introduction make me assume that Ripshards were specifically designed with Darkform in mind. 25% base crit seems much more consistent with usual “test gear” that may be used to fine-tune new content (radical, otherwise unfitting additions such as Darkform even more so) instead of with Flagship’s general direction with TCv4 (see #3 above). It similarly makes very little sense to have these focus items be intended for Evokers, both due to their high ACC feeds (assuming the speculation on their intended direction with the class thus far is correct), massive crit bonuses (when the class had already just received a boost in that direction through the TC armor set and is thus bumped to 48% with both the set and Ripshards), and chosen properties for all their Unique variants.
Bloodshards have ~300 inherent poison attack strength, STR feeds, and points in Toxic Elemental in their early Unique variant (Mordify), points in regenerative Cabalist skills and +hp % bonuses in their midgame Unique variant (Tuskull), and +hp, +TAV, +melee speed bonuses, and novas “when the player is hit” in their endgame Unique variant (The Abandoned Fist). While the Unique variants certainly do not seem to have been designed with Evokers in mind (arguably except Tuskull), and massive STR feeds certainly also seem fitting for Darkform and unfitting for Evokers, it may not be unreasonable to assume that Flagship intended it to be used by both classes. Evokers do make better use of their inherent poison attack strength (through the massive poison sfx multiplier of Swarm), and the Dessicator was still a very recent and powerful boss at the time of TCv4. It may thus be argued that Bloodshards may have been designed primarily for Darkform, but also as an option for Evokers that were willing to waste points in STR to adjust to the Dessicator.
d) Flagship did not intend to have any class be able to critcap, with very few build exceptions.
As mentioned in #3, and also suggested by base class/skill design, Flagship likely did not intend to have critcaps be an easily achieved state. The only 2 classes that are directly supported by their skills, weapons, and design in this front are Marksmen (a ranged glass cannon class, whose intended focus seems to have been single-target damage, their natural stat is ACC, and the practical cost of high crit potential would come in the form of the inconvenient Sniper skill and -movement speed penalties in the form of the TC armor set) and Blademasters (a melee glass cannon class, whose critical damage would be more limited and more dependent on STR than ACC due to feed demands and practical stat investment limitations), the former of which seems like a natural choice but comes with limitations, and the latter of which would often not choose the crit route due to survivability concerns over being melee (even more so in Hardcore mode). Thus, it may make sense to boost Cabalists in this front, but the ability to critcap (primarily through Ripshards) seems highly unnatural and inconsistent with both Flagship’s design thus far and the crit multiplier reduction seen in #3.
None of the above are claimed to be absolute, objective truth, and none of the above are meant to be used as arguments towards strong suggestions on the matters discussed, such as class limitations on gear and the subtraction of crit chance multipliers from the property pool altogether. My only intention is to evaluate the data at hand as properly as possible, and formulate reasonable assumptions on Flagship’s intentions behind said subjects. Hopefully doing so may benefit us in our decisions moving forward.