Posted by: Erbse | April 21, 2010

More aching Elves

You know that feeling of creating a character, taking him somewhere, shafting him just to eventually take him further asking yourself the following: “How could I have been that gay creating a character such as this?”. Now, I don’t mean to offend anyone that’s gay, but I created a male Elf in a MMO when I created my Swordmaster, I broke the biggest taboo there is in the world of nerd men. I am in shame, and will be for a long time.

Still, the appearance and gender, despite being ugly as sin while wearing dresses have nothing to do with the upcoming semi intellectual part of this post.

Back in the days when I started Cira I first shafted her at rank 17 to pick up my Swordmaster, who then made it to 27 before I switched back getting Cira to 40. Ultimately the Swordmaster, too made its way to 40, cause tanks are wanted and useful, amirite? Unfortunately I am not, as a Swordmaster is not quite what a tank should be, most definitely not compared to all other options in the game.

Granted, Swordmasters deal Spirit damage and hence are a tad better off the average tank is (mitigation wise), however, after the fixes made in 1.3.4 in regards to DoT Tactics no longer critting as well as procs no longer overriding themselves the Swordmasters damage took a huge blow. That however is nothing to complain about, I don’t feel my damage is somewhere a tanks damage shouldn’t be, however I do feel like an Assault Shadow Warrior with the ability to taunt, even in PvE. The most hilarious part about this is, that’s on spot, almost.

Now, to see where I’m coming from I’ll first explain the Swordmasters mechanic.

A Swordmaster has to ‘dance’, while ‘dancing’ refers to different stances that are triggered by using certain abilities.

You start off in ‘Normal’-Stance, a baseline attack from this stance will enable you to use an attack from the ‘Improved Balance’ – Stance, while using a ability from the ‘Improved Balance’ – Stance will enable you to use an attack from the ‘Perfect Balance’ – Stance. So, that’s the cycle: Normal -> Improved -> Perfect -> Normal -> Improved -> etc.

Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? It is not, and rather entertaining to play, but here comes my pet peeve, especially for being a tank (supposedly anyway). A perfect cycle (Normal -> Improved -> Perfect -> Normal) takes 5 seconds. By perfect I mean you aren’t allowed to slack and/or pick and choose your attacks. You have your rotation, you know what you’re doing. This leads to the following: An empty AP bar, in a matter of 3-4 cycles. Well, don’t spam your abilities then some may say, but here is why you’re forced to permanently cycle through your abilities.

Lets take a look at the Swordmasters (de-)buffs first, PvE as well as PvP:

Specifically take a look at the abilities’ durations. Exactly, they’re all 4-5s, meaning if you do not cycle through ASAP the effects will end and you’ll start taking a lot more damage. This is especially annoying in PvE. This is probably where people come and say ‘Well, but you have bubbles!’, I do not disagree with that, Swordmasters do have bubbles, but bubbles outside of RvR are useless. Phantom’s Blade, Protection of Hoeth nor Vaul’s Buffer yield any benefit in PvE, not even if they all had 100% uptime. Why is that? Foremost because bubbles only absorb damage pre-mitigation, and we all know monsters in this game, especially bosses love to hit people for 10k(+) when combining mitigated damage + damage taken. Yes, the bubbles just popped without having had any impact whatsoever. I won’t argue their benefits in RvR, but I’m talking about a Swordmaster tankability overall, and specifically PvE in this case.

Crushing Advance and Aethyric Armor look good, they give armor, armor increases mitigation, and mitigation keeps us alive! Not quite, even though that train of thought is correct. The problem is that Crushing Advance nor Aethyric Armor stack with anything. Not only does Crushing Wave not stack with Aethyric Armor but neither stack with Armor Pots either.

Not enough with that however, now lets get to the tanking tactics.

Now, of course not all of them are being used, in fact, I don’t think anyone ever runs Dampening Talon. The reason I listed that one was simply to underline the duration again, in combination with what I explained above. Impeccable Reactions is arguably a beast tactic rather superb, however it’s use is overall limited and more befitting for slow hitting monsters rather than machine gun firing monster, due to the internal 5s cooldown. Granted, that’s nothing to complain about, and nothing I’d complain about, however it takes me back to wanting to have Eagle’s Flight up nonstop so you actually have a realistic chance to Parry in the first place, which then leads back to the 5s timer and inevitable AP problems.

Perfect Defenses is another of those tactics that seem awesome, yet are utterly useless given our mechanic, lastly because there is no permanent, sustained benefit from using it. By now I’m sure you’ve already understood the need of cycling to maintain your tankability for 4 cycles (for what it is worth anyway) – now, that means that we spend 1-2 seconds in every stance every cycle. This means we only benefit 2/3 of the time from that tactic, while 1/3 of time only from the mediocre bonus and another 1/3 from the top end bonus. Neither bonus outweighs the loss of the defensive ability Eagle’s Flight or Dragon’s Talon, so simply staying in Perfect Balance isn’t an option either.

That leaves Isha’s Protection. Granted, it’s a good tactic, and given our already proven sub par tankage probably needed. Now, while we need waste a tactic slot for this, a KotBS for example can pick up an Aura, that passively increases all healing done by 2x%. Granted, it needs to be spec’ed, but it’s still AoE and doesn’t use up a tactic slot.

This brings me to group utility, for what it is worth.

Whispering Winds is awesome, no way around it, it however being that high up a tree on a tank class that overall lacks utility about everywhere adds only insult to injury. Also, the buff is rather useless unless you specifically build your group around it. If you don’t, chances are you running it goes completely unnoticed for all of eternity. When building around it however, can be devastating beyond belief. Overall I consider globally useless though.

This only leaves Blurring Shock, it looks nice, it is nice, but what’s with the damage? It only triggers on critical hits, and then only for pathetic damage. Now, you could say there’s synergy between Leading Shots and this, and you’re right, however even with Leading Shots most people won’t proc it more often than Prayer of Righteousness which has a fixed 25% for 2xx Spirit damage when the Warrior Priest is not even spec’ed into that line. Blurring Shock on my Swordmaster varies from ~76 damage / crit to ~108 damage / crit dependent on how many point I put into the tree. Neither even remotely as potent as the prayer, while statistically occurring less often on top of it. Lastly, would it be worth using this over Dragon’s Talon? Well, some question better remain unasked.

Cycle away my fellow cross dressers, the Triforce and the power of male Elves remain with Link however. For now.



  1. […] and you’ll notice who the loser of the patch is going to be. Exactly, the BO / SM. SMs arguably were already rock bottom and the free shift ability does absolutely nothing to aid them in any […]

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