Condition Damage for the Win?

Today, vindication is mine! Well, not exactly, and not just me. For years I have stuck to my preferred playstyle: stacking bleeding, burning, poison, and/or confusion on enemies and then sitting back, watching, and letting the war of attrition finish them off as time and conditions combine to punish them with every tick of the clock. To date, condition damage builds have been limited by that cruel game mechanic known as the condition cap. This mechanic artificially limited how much pain and suffering can be dished out by those of us who run condi builds to no more than 25 stacks. In large zergs, the lucky condi stacker could get a piece of the action and contribute maybe four or five stacks. At other times, one lucky combatant would be able to take all 25 stacks, thereby negating any conditions applied by others. But NOW! All of that is about to change.

Oh yes, burning...

Oh yes, burning…

In the recent news post, “Combat Changes: DoTs and Dashes,” Roy Cronacher revealed that the condition damage cap will be removed in the near future. Of course, this was simply the official announcement/confirmation. Observant members of the community have known that a change was in the air regarding conditions since the Heart of Thorns wyvern battle was first recorded earlier this year. After the demo map of Verdant Brink was introduced, Jon Peters opened a discussion on this as well. For those of us who play in small groups or are lackadaisical about maxing out our condi builds, the cap rarely hampered our playstyle. Yet, with this change, it feels as if ArenaNet is gearing things up for amazing group battles in the Heart of Maguuma. Combining the crowd control and area-of-effect emphasis we have seen in beta streams with this new freeing of condition damage suggests that the enemies will be daunting and the battles awaiting us epic.

In order to balance this newfound ability to cause pain, conditions will undergo some adjusting. Cronacher mentions that base values will be lowered, for example, and that the change will only affect intensity conditions. For any unaware, there are two overarching groups of condition damage: intensity (bleeding, for example) and duration (ie. blind). To facilitate some of these changes, burning and poison will be shifted from the duration to intensity group, streamlining the new mechanics. Other changes to conditions include an adjustment to confusion that will damage enemies over time as well as when they attack, and changing vulnerability to include condition damage as well as direct damage. Currently, confusion only damages an enemy when they attack, which limits its effectiveness against slower attackers. The ability to intensify newly uncapped condition damage by casting vulnerability does not bode well for our enemies.

Have my wings been clipped?

While the above changes are a boon to the condi builders, movement enhancing or debilitating conditions will no longer affect leaping movements, such as Leap of Faith. This is an odd addition as, while other conditions are being enhanced and made more deadly, in this case durations that slow a character (and boons that speed them) are being hamstrung. As a PvE-centric player, I am not terribly concerned about the outcomes of the speed change, although I can see that it will affect certain aspects of PvP or WvW play. From a PvE perspective, chances are, when facing mordrem in the dark jungle, the last thing we’ll be worried about is them trying to escape from us by leaping away. While reviewing all these changes, it is important to remember that ArenaNet is constantly rebalancing skills and what we see at first may change after the patch is live.

Since condition damage can be found in every class and is featured on many weapon sets, these changes will be far-reaching. However, there are some specific builds that will benefit immensely from this change. The burning of the fire elementalist is an obvious winner, of course. But my personal experience with condition damage builds is limited to my rangers and vampiric necromancer. From the reef drake’s confusion-inducing Sonic Shriek to the whiptail devourer’s Poison Barbs, ranger pets may become more interesting additions to battles, as most F2 attacks apply conditions. (This of course assumes that the pet AI is improved and the rangers entering the battle are adept at controlling their pets.) I’m eager to run through my pets to see if the reef drake remains my favorite partner or if, perhaps, one of the moas will usurp it. Necromancers, with their Wells and Marks, will also benefit from the changes.

Let me steal your life …

One of two conditions absent from Cronacher’s article, fear, can also play an important part in necro builds, especially when paired with terror, which adds damage to the condition, and Master of Terror, which causes fear to last 50% longer. However, as it is one of the duration conditions, it will not be subject to this game mechanic change. The second damage condition not mentioned, torment, is also an intensity condition and will be subject to the cap removal. You can practically hear mesmers plotting.

In addition to the obvious changes to the meta that are being introduced, of great interest is how the newfound importance of condition damage and the increased stacks of intensity-based conditions will shape gameplay in the Heart of Maguuma. Will specialized classes provide unique opportunities for condi builds to show their greatness? Imagine, a dragonhunter trapping mordrem left and right, herding them together so his necro companion can ground-target a Well of Suffering at their feet as the fire elementalist across the clearing casts Flame Burst on the group. The PvE game is in for some exciting changes.

The changes in condition damage may very well reach far beyond the Maguuma Jungle and this raises important questions. How will these changes affect PvP or WvW? Also, will it change the NPE leveling experience? Currently, at lower levels, condition damage can be many times more effective against higher level foes than direct damage when the attribute stat slump is in effect. Other questions are less important to gameplay but perhaps more important to overall enjoyment of the game. For example, will any condi necro ever be scoffed at again? Sadly, not all is sunshine. While the condi build stalwarts chortle with mad glee over their present from ArenaNet, we must remember to observe a moment of silence for our zerker friends. Sadly, it appears as if their meta is at an end.

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