For many of the vets of the captain class, there are a lot of things going on with the class, and also a lot of dead weight. Many are also frustrated that a supposed buffing class doesn’t do much in the way of active buffing. More of us are frustrated that we’re jack of all trades, master of none, and passed over by the majority for healer, tanking, and DPS roles.
To help address that, I believe it’s time for a fresh approach to a potential revamp - instead of trying to adapt our large array of skills, take the good ideas, and completely drop the rest of the stuff, and build around what works.
That said, what mechanics and stuff in the class should be retained?
For starters, the out of combat buffs Motivating Speech, Tactics: Relentless Attack and Tactics: On Guard should all remain largely unchanged - while Tactics: Focus gets deleted. While Focus could become a different out of combat buff, one of the goals of this post is to illustrate that there are enough other buffing options that a third out of combat Tactic isn’t needed. The two changes that must happen are the merging of the Motivating Speech’s and the Tactic’s legacies into the skills, and altering how they target. Motivating Speech should be a raid wide buff, while the tactics are single target only if a friendly target is selected, but raid wide otherwise - resulting in a great quality of life improvement for captains because we can now quickly and easily buff large groups of people without needing to play pass the captain (which is a great boon for low captain groups in the ‘Moors).
Another thing to keep unchanged are the Marks - they work really well, and each has a distinct role. Also, All of our panic buttons remain unchanged. That is, Time of Need, Last Stand, In Harms Way, Escape from Darkness, Cry of Vengeance.
Ok, so while those are halfway expected answers, the last thing that I would like to salvage from the existing class are the battle states and defeat response related skills, or the entire SL/BS => DB/PA => BoE skill chain. To me, this entire mechanic set is both unique to the captain, and a bit underused - which makes it a prime candidate to refocus the class around for a revamp.
The other paradigm shift I’d like to make is shifting active buffing away from the XBros, by refocusing active buffing away from needing to be XBro’d to something, but instead, give us stances and redefine what we think of as a Brother Skill, and have that play a larger role in our buffing abilities.
Before getting into suggested skill/trait changes, I would also like to detail what kind of tanking, healing, and DPSing “personality” the captain should have, and how we’re different from other classes. For starters, I am going to attempt to strike a balance between healing, tanking, DPSing, and buffing so that we can go in either of the four directions, remain balanced, yet become top tier in either DPS, healing, or tanking. I want to completely resolve the “second captain” problem, and to do that, captains must be able to hit those levels. This is also going to make a lone captain in the ‘Moors a bit more than walking infamy (at least, free inf to the smart Creeps).
With tanking, I want to explore how we can use our heals to help us tank - essentially allowing us to remove the concern of keeping the group up from the main healer so they can help keep us up. I don’t want to hit warden levels of survivability, but I want more tools to produce agro, and do it in a way that’s very much captain.
The only real shakeup with DPS is the addition of distributed damage to a couple of skill. It’s a mechanic we’ve seen in a few mobs, and it’s something that would be interested for a Freep class to do, and it’s something that would help captains with AE DPS, yet not detract from our single target DPS.
Likewise, healing is another aspect of the class that I largely want to leave alone. I like that we have a whole mass of AE HoTs to keep everyone else alive, yet have only one single target healing skill. Unlike DPS, our healing ability is just about right, and only needs a little more nudging to be truly on par with minis and RKs.
However, since the captain is a hybrid class, we have an innate balance problem that must be addressed, especially when we start asking for more of everything. The easiest solution for this problem is stances, and by adding in trait support for the stances, this allows the captains to choose what to focus on, yet still retaining core buffing ability that is desired by many of the groups - provided that most of the support aspects of the class are found when the captain isn’t using a stance. This gives the class four distinct ways to play (Support, Healing, DPS, and Tanking).
Now that I’ve outlined various influences and directions to take with this, time to start reconstructing the class from the ground up - starting with the way things work without a stance.
Primary Skill Chain
One of the most underused parts of the class are the Battle States. Sure, we use them to unlock various skills in our skill chains, but we have a mechanic that’s only used by 2-3 skills, at most. Also, for a class with skills based around defeat responses, I find it odd that the most reliable way to proc them is with a heavy DPS traiting, yet the traitlines that could use more RC’s (HoH and LoM) can’t proc them reliably. Another thing I’d like to see worked into the Primary Skill Chain is distributed damage.
So what skills remain unchanged? Sure-strike, Battle-shout Devastating Blow, and Blade of Elendil.
Pressing Attack changes to Distributed Damage for each swing, but Devastating Blow is retained because there are times when you absolutely do not want to AE, and having a skill that cannot AE gives you the control to keep playing your class. Pressing Attack and Devastating Blow need to be tuned where DB does more DPS to a single target than PA does, so there is still a reason to use DB over PA. PA Targets legacy is also retained, because it caps out how many targets PA’s damage is split over - to prevent the swarm situation where PA’s DPS/target drops to useless, even though it’s doing a fairly high amount of total DPS.
What is lacking, however, are traversals of the skill chain that allow the captain to produce significant threat, or significant healing. Threatening Shout and Words of Courage are two skills that are crucial to tanking and healing respectively, so those are the natural choices for alternative skills that provide a Battle-readied state (which starts the skill chain). Both of these abilities would be unlocked with the appropriate three trait bonus of HoH and LoM traits.
The next step in the skill chain for tanking isn’t so much a change, as a much needed addition: both Pressing Attack and Devastating Blow will produce some threat when you have 4 LoM traits slotted.
Following on from incorporating Words of Courage into the skill chain, Valiant Strike is a very good candidate for the battle state promotion. Like Devastating Blow and Pressing Attack, Valiant Strike will proc a Defeat Response when it crits on skill usage (but NOT on its HoT), but when it can consume the Battle-readied buff, it will produce significantly more base healing and also create the Battle-hardened state. Like the LoM addition to this step of the skill chain, this will occur at 4 HoH traits.
One of the subjects that has been brought up numerous times on the forums is the lack of active buffing that a supposed buffing class has. Following from the extensions to the Battle-readied and Battle-hardened states described above, what if they were extended to buffs that would consume the state, and give a buff. Looking around the class, two skills are excellent candidates for this - Defensive Strike and Muster Courage. Another skill, Cutting Attack, can be tied in so that each of the three skills represents one aspect of the trinity. Also, all of the buffs produced by the skills are given to the captain at 100%, and then shared with the active Brother target at 100%, and given to the fellowship per normal Fellowship-brother buff sharing rules.
To help keep this balanced, the buffs would only work when a captain is not in a stance (so we effectively have a dedicated buffing stance), which allows for us to actually sacrifice buffing potential for better tanking, DPSing, or healing on the fly - should we see that more of one area is needed over buffing. When in a stance, the skills work exactly as we know them now. To help keep this mechanic interesting, there will need to be a class trait in each traitline that does the following with the buffs:
1) The buffs work in the appropriate stance (ie: Defensive Strike buffs work in the Tank stance, but not the healing stance)
2) The buffs no longer expire after a short period of time, but instead last until a player is out of combat. However, they cannot be shared with the Brother target (and thus, Fellowship Brother).
The following table describes what each skill does with the different Battle-readied or Battle-hardened permutations.
Skill None BR BH Both Defensive Strike +Armor +Partial BPE +Tact Miti +Crit D Muster Courage +Resistance +OGH +Heal Crit +Heal Crit Magnitude Cutting Attack DoT +Damage +Crit +Crit Magnitude
To not lose existing functionality, Grave Wound will still retain the ability to produce a second DoT if Cutting Attack’s DoT is present on a target.
Generally speaking, the Defeat Response Skills are largely good as is, but only need minor tweaking.
Rally Cry gets Now for Wrath rolled into it - since we’ve all got this trait slotted almost permanently, we might as well have it as part of the base skill. Routing Cry goes to distributed damage with a target cap - which will help with our DPS. Shadow’s Lament loses it’s threat - which will help lessen potential agro problems when the DPS stance’s DPS gets boosted.
The biggest change to the on defeat skills is with War-Cry, which has it’s effect change according to the current active stance:
Stance Effect None -Attack Duration (Strong) DPS -Attack Duration (weak), +Damage Healing -Attack Duration (weak), +OGH Tanking -Attack Duration (weak), +Partial BPE
Attack duration reduction is the hallmark of the skill, so all of the variants retain this, but give something more appropriate to the stance. For the unstanced version, attack duration reduction is boosted to compensate for a lack of a secondary bonus.
The Brother Skills
One of the biggest paradigm shifts that must occur with the captain class to keep us moving forward is the separation of stances from the XBros, and returning them to a smaller part of the class.
To achieve this end, Inspire, To-Arms, and Strength of Will must change, while all of the XBros are replaced with a single new skill, Brother-at-Arms. Like what was described above Brother-at-Arms will share all of the buffs currently affecting us with one target within our fellowship, while Fellowship-Brother will extend lesser effects of those buffs to the rest of the fellow as long as Brother-at-Arms is attached to a valid target. By always giving the captain the buffs first it eliminates two problems with the current XBros:
1) We no longer lose buffs should we exceed maximum range between the XBro target and ourselves (extremely common in the ‘Moors)
2) We aren’t locked out of buffs when solo should using a herald not be either desirable or advisable.
I also want to have the inclusion of stances in the class, and the stances affect how Inspire, To Arms, and Strength of WIll funciton, so the existing mode functional of those skills is retained. Inspire will change from how it currently functions to a Fellowship HoT/PoT - while Strength of Will converts to a fellowship aura skill (like IDoME), but it has a continual power drain on it. To Arms will buff the captain, then the Brother target, and finally the fellowship via Fellowship-brother - much like the active buffing skills above. The best way to describe the new functionality is with tables, as follows:
Stance HoT PoT None Weak Strong DPS Weak Weak Healing Strong Strong Tanking Strong weak
Stance Effect None +Damage (Weak) DPS +Damage (Strong) Healing +OGH Tanking Damage Reduction
Strength of Will
Stance Effect None +Incoming Healing (weak) DPS -Attack Duration Healing +Healing Critical Magnitude Tanking +Incoming Healing (strong)
To come full circle, the effects that Brother-at-Arms gives its target, based on stance:
Stance Effect None +Crit, +ICPR DPS +Crit, +Physical Mastery Healing +Crit, +Tactical Mastery Tanking +Crit, +Crit Defence
One of the biggest design flaws with our legendary traits is not that we have bad legendaries, it’s that some are really strong compared to others, and the strength of a couple need to be brought up to that level - specifical Shield of the Dunedain and Oathbreaker’s Shame. All Shield of the Dunedain needs to be as strong as Fellowship-brother and IDoME is the ability to target yourself with it - which makes the legendary significantly better for tanking and PvMP. Likewise, Oathbreaker’s Shame should also give the captain a +Damage buff (not sharable) in addition to the +Damage buff on the target, so a DPS captain will always want to slot this trait (rather than picking IDoME and FB over it).
Stances solve one of the biggest dilemmas of a hybrid class (like the captain): How do you maintain the flexibility that the player base loves in the class without grossly OPing it?
Stances also resolve one of the fundamental gripes captains have with the traiting system - we want to be active battle managers, but to appropriately manage a battle, we need to have the incombat flexibility that we currently lack so we can keep things under control when an encounter starts to go out of control.
As loosely alluded to above, not having a stance active will function as the “buffing stance” - as well as our traits generally affecting the class globally - while there will still be a few traits that only affect a given stance (like stance/active buffing enabler traits).
As far as what the stances do, while it is incredibly easy to give penalties to stances (like a DPS stance penalizing your healing potential), I would rather take a different approach, each stance grants you a much needed ability, so there’s incentive to DPS in the DPS stance, over DPSing in the healing stance. Again, another table describing what the stances grant:
Stance Bonus DPS +Damage, +Crit Magnitude Healing +OGH, +Heal Crit Magntitude Tanking +Perceived Threat
DPS and Healing stance bonuses are straight forward, it’s the Tanking one that needs a bit of explaining. The Tanking Stance perceived threat is the same perceived threat currently attached to Grave Wound threat buff. By moving the buff off of that skill and into Tanking Stance, it shoots one of the bigger problems with DPS on a captain - we end up in a higher threat mode because we want that second bleed. Moving the buff off of Grave Wound also gives captanksaptain a better tool with their single target forced taunt.
Following on from the stance based skills and effects from above, Healing and DPS Stance do not need any further skill alterations to work. Tanking Stance, on the other hand, needs a few more tools to better aid with threat production and threat management. The best way for captains to generate threat isn’t for them to generate threat, but leech it. And a way to leech threat that just screams captain is having Valiant Strike, Inspire, and Words of Courage apply a threat leech on the initial skill usage (but not on a HoT pulse). Tanking Stance will return the threat to Shadow’s Lament - which allows for LtC tank builds to be a possiblity.
The final piece of the Tanking Stance puzzle is Withdrawal - one of the most infamous skills amongst captains. Rather than deleting it (like Tactics: Focus), this skill should remain exactly as it is in all stances except for Tanking Stance, when it becomes a skill that can be used on anyone in the raid to shred threat. By altering Withdrawal to allow us to shred another’s threat, this gives captanks a very unique and valuable tool in their tanking arsenal.
With the above, it’s also possible for captanks to swap agro, at least, a couple of times. We would lead off by applying Noble Mark to the target to swap (thus debuffing the other tank’s threat), force taunt the target, then use Words of Courage on the other tank to help us gain additional threat from them. If we still have not gained enough threat, there’s always Withdrawal.
For those counting the skill change, we end up with a net change of zero. While we lose Tactics: Focus, Blade Brother, Song Brother, and Shield Brother, we gain DPS Stance(Blade Stance?), Healing Stance (Song Stance?), Tanking Stance (Shield Stance?), and Brother-at-Arms.
What most of the changes boil down to is a complete and total rethink of our in combat buffing, combined with how we can better generate additional skill choices by using the Battle-readied and Battle-hardened combat states to do different things.
I hope that this sparks ideas in the readers, and as always...