Disclaimer before we begin; I don’t hate Evokers. I love Evokers. There is no room for class biases when discussing game balance, so this is not an attack on my Cabalist brethren; it is CCM as an affix that I object to, not Evoker performance. More on this near the end.
Now then, before delving into the concept of CCM itself, let me contextualize this analysis with 2 key factors.
#1 SP had massively higher CC/CCM values than MP, presumably for practical reasons, and Flagship had started nerfing down both CC and CCM values by the time of TCv4. Crit-based Rounds had also already been reworked into on-hit ones.
#2 The only 2 classes that, up until the TC, supported crit builds through their skills were BMs and MMs. Even in terms of gear, and even assuming that Ferals were a conscious (if experimental at that) choice aimed at both Cabalist classes (though the set’s focus on melee may cast doubts on even that), Evokers only ever had <30% base crit chance intended to be at their disposal; Ripshards have such an inconsistent design with the rest of the foci types and numbers, and are so focused on Summoners (in terms of their Uniques’ designs), that one cannot reasonably assume they were ever intended for Evokers. They are even dubbed in the data as “Summoner foci”, along with Bloodshards, while Glyphshards are dubbed as “Cabalist foci”.
Now then, let’s analyze how the skillsets of those 2 classes handle crit builds before CCM.
The crit options of BMs are as follows.
-Surge of Wrath; up to 15% - requires 3 Surges, max 33% chance per hit to trigger, 12 seconds of duration.
-Aura of Zeal; 2 to 16% - 2 per enemy within the Aura.
-Sword Master; 50%, exclusive to Crosscutter and Sword Typhoon.
In terms of gear, the class only gets crit through Face of the Crusader and swords themselves. The only other global source of crit lies in the base 1%, plus 4% from the Surgical Precision expertise.
So, assuming a 0% base crit sword, after investing 18 points and including the 1% base and 4% from Precision, they get a cap of 36% crit for all skills and attacks. 15% of which lasts for 12 seconds unless refreshed, and 16% of which requires 8 targets to be within range. Thus the actual single-target cap is closer to 22-24% (1-2 targets in range), most of which is on a timer to boot.
The highest they can get then, using Sword Master/Sword Typhoon, is 72-86 (depending on targets in range) for a single attack (ST) that has a 15 second CD, and no other attacks. All this being circumstantial, on a timer, after conditions are met, and limited to 1 attack (which has a larger CD than SoW even lasts - unless refreshed), after investing 37 points and thus being locked out of a myriad of other survival/damage/mobility skills.
The crit options of MMs are as follows.
-Dead Eye; up to 7%, generic.
-Master Sniper; up to 10% (+200% CDB), only applicable while in Sniper Mode.
In terms of gear, the class can get up to 2% from their helmet (Somberg’s Guise or Eyes of the Maverick), 2% from SuE Steadiers, and 3% from Duellos of the Duelist.The 2 global sources, ie base 1% and 4% from the Surgical Precision expertise, are also available.
So, assuming 0% crit guns, after investing 20 points (assuming one does not max Sniper Mode and just uses it for Master Sniper), the class can get up to 29% crit chance. 10% of which comes with the direct disadvantage of having to use Sniper Mode, which comes with perks but also a plethora of drawbacks; limited field of sight, reduced armor and mobility, even reduced RoF and increased skill CDs. All very considerable drawbacks for a ranged glass cannon class, especially considering the TC-era Techa set’s further reduction of movement speed.
The pre-TC options of Evokers were as follows.
-Veiled Threat helmet; 2%.
-Balbi’s Ring belt; 3%, at the cost of (hidden) -power regeneration.
-Lenses; 8%, at the cost of fewer slots.
Including the 1% base and 4% from Precision, then, pre-TC Evokers could get up to 18% crit chance. Their skillset did not support this approach in any way, and DPS sustainability was further hampered by both Balbi’s -power regeneration and 2 notable changes by the time of TCv4; lv50 power costs had increased by 7%, and WILL power regeneration had been decreased from 3 to 2.
It is notable, however, that all of the skills of the class could benefit from crit equally.
Skillpoints VS mod slots, and affixes VS affixes.
The first issue that arises with CCM then is its availability, as well as its value compared to skillpoints and other affixes.
While Flagship had already limited specific affixes to specific mod types, the same does not apply to CCM; a 6-slot gun or a set of 2 3-slot foci can have ~200% (6x~33%), a 5-slot sword can have ~160% (5x~33%). That is before weapon/foci augments, which can also be an added ~45%.
This approach does enforce some balance between weapon types, such as 1-handed and 2-handed guns in the case of MMs, but the fact that it’s not restricted to mod types makes it available across the board.
Of course, CCM multiplies one’s base CC; if one’s CC is low enough, a ~33% CCM mod may yield less benefit than a 2% CC mod, when the former is caste-specific and the latter is global to boot.
Therefore, low base CC values that could only be increased through specific gear and skills (many of which came with drawbacks or enforced playstyles, as discussed above) kept CCM in relative check.
However, CCM could already be more valuable than skillpoints; for a MM with 29% CC, a single ~33% CCM mod could already translate to ~9.5% more CC. While this may seem fine, given the situational/conditional circumstances by which such base CC is possible, such value allows for such skills to be bypassed with 6-slot weapons; bypassing the cumbersome Master Sniper becomes very possible when 19% CC can be elevated to ~66% (under ~250 CCM). A “nemesis” (+5% CC) weapon, or any weapon with 5% inherent/total base CC, can reach ~84% CC (24x250%), to the point where Master Sniper could allow for a critcap (95% CC) but the loss is too little (11% CC) compared to its inherent drawbacks and skillpoint costs.
In short, at 19% base CC, a single CCM mod can be ~6.6 extra CC, being already 3 times higher than regular CC mods and more than half of the total benefit of Master Sniper.
What’s more, a crit build benefits more from +ele affixes than it does from any other mod affix. Since mods can have 2 affixes at once, crit builds don’t have to face the choice between using a mod to buff base damage or CC; both can be found on the same mod, and no other affix matches either in value.
Caps and CDB.
While this state of affairs may not be without complications already, what truly stresses the depth of the issue is maximum values; namely, 95% CC and 1000%+ CDB. A far cry from “regular” crit builds of other games or from Hellgate’s own CC/CDB skill values, both of those numbers are quite possible.
At the core of the latter lies ACC; 2% CDB per point allows any class to cover their feeds and then invest in ACC for CDB. While this investment would otherwise make little sense with low CC values, CCM allows this to become a profitable approach.
This critcapped state then produces magnificent results, since it can be a permanent x10+ boost to one’s damage. From comical results such as there being few class skills worth pausing autofire for (since, say, Grenades don’t crit and have fixed damage values - ones that are lower than autofire), to unregulated results such as all skills of a class benefitting from crits (such as Evokers, in stark contrast to the BM skillset design), critcapped states invariably produce the same undesirable result; absurdly high damage that cannot be rivaled by most/all other options.
Thus, it is my firm belief that CCM is an undesirable affix that should either be removed, or have its effects be further limited by reducing maximum base CC values and/or its amounts or source availability. The game already includes crit options that could be buffed if need be, within reason, without such a widely available BiS affix.
This section is an absolute necessity, as such discussions very often end up revolving around Evokers. This is the one class that seems to value crit builds the most, so it’s an inevitable presumption that nerfing crit builds would in turn nerf Evokers.
So, to reiterate, I love Evokers. This suggestion does not intend to nerf the class to the ground, but only to suggest that this way of building such a class and having it only reach such numbers this way and by no other means may be absurd. As much as we have come to accept this as a normal way of building our Evokers to their ceilings over the years, this approach flies in the face of the design of the class itself, the design of other classes with actual affinity for crit builds, and frankly the very concept of a crit build.
To me, then, logical theoretical alternatives to boosting damage would include:
- Additional “evocation” damage based on WILL.
- Additional sources of the +evocation damage affix, such as armor, mods, trinkets, and dyes, and potentially higher caps of said affix.
- Additional skillgroups, such as “Nature” and “Spirit”, whose +damage affixes would stack with +evocation.
- Damage multipliers on skills themselves, including additional projectiles and higher attack rates.
- Damage synergies between skills of the same tree.
- Additional damage in Concentrate Damage.
- Increased base foci damage.
- Potential new burst-type damage booster skills, similar to Crusader Wrath.
- Additional focused damage boosts through potential new passives and/or post-lv50 specializations and Expertises.
- The addition of debuff effects such as those of Hamper and Beacon to such skills as Spectral Curse.
- Treating such skills as Tempest and Swarm as minions, as Spectral Serpents are now, so that they also benefit from +minion damage.
- The ability/option to build the Ember as a minion more comparable to Demons, and/or modifying it to affect the player’s own damage.
- Additional damage to targets that are affected by sfx.
- Additional sfx damage.
- Modest crit options.
The same approach could be applied to any class that may face similar performance concerns; a multitude of class-bound factors can be modified to allow a class to reach a desired performance level, before us resorting to CCM for what I believe to be a bandaid solution to the shortcomings of class design.
Of course I do understand the argument that this is a popular build, and that such performance may be desirable. However, I believe that performance concerns can be tackled locally, and that popularity should not prevent us from entertaining such ideas if they have enough merit to potentially rebalance the game for the better.
My objections to CCM, and thus critcapped builds, stem from the following premises.
- Not all classes should have equal crit possibilities, since all classes come with distinctly different designs and capabilities.
- Dedicated crit builds should be reserved for classes that have some affinity for them by design.
- A crit build, by definition, should not reach such high numbers as the ones that are currently possible (95/1000+).
- No class should have its maximum potential strictly depend on crit, unless a class is specifically designed to function this way.
- Builds that are based on the design of a class should be comparable to, or at the very least reasonably behind, crit builds.
- Desirable performance levels can be made possible through class-bound means, without the need to resort to crits.
Any and all thoughts welcome, and my kind thanks for your time