Skip down to the bottom for the TL;DR
It has been 6 weeks since the launch of Helms Deep, and in that time, it seems that the Champion class has been forgotten by the developers. The Champions, both in beta and live, have posted numerous issues, concerns, bugs, and suggestions and have not received a single response since B3 of beta. Champions are currently the only class that has yet to receive any response from a developer since Helms Deep launched regarding existing class issues, bugs, or design concerns. I am posting this here in the general discussion forum in hopes of gaining traction in the community and raising awareness with those at Turbine regarding issues that I believe Champions are currently facing. I assert that Champions in their current state, are the worst they’ve been since launch. I don’t know how many people reading this played a Champion prior to the Book 9 class revamp that came with Evendim, but I did, and the class has that same awful, unfinished feel to it that it did when the game launched. It is my hope that I can, below, explain the various issues that I believe are currently facing the Champion class.
With Helms Deep, the Champion class saw a number of skills removed from their base skill set. While it’s understandable that some of them would be moved to specific trait lines, the volume of skills here is rather alarming. Before specializing, a champion has a mere fraction of his skills available. Below is a brief summary for the skills that were removed or changed from the Champion’s base skill set.
Requires Berserker Specialization
- Brutal Strikes – Requires minimum zero prerequisite points to unlock trait.
- Remorseless Strikes – Set Skill
- Ferocious Strikes – Requires minimum 15 prerequisite points to unlock trait.
Requires Deadly Storm Specialization
- Battle Frenzy – Requires zero points to unlock
- Blade Storm – Set Skill
- Rend –Set Skill
- Raging Blades – Requires minimum 5 points to unlock.
- Great Cleave – Requires minimum 15 points to unlock.
- Battle Acuity – Requires minimum 15 points to unlock and prerequisite Great Cleave skill. Now a passive bonus activated with Great Cleave.
- Exchange of Blows – Set Skill (also Set Skill in Martial Champion specialization as “Masochism.”)
Requires Martial Champion Specialization
- Second Wind – Requires minimum zero prerequisite points to unlock trait.
- Sudden Defense – Set Skill
- Adamant – Set Skill
- Dire Need – Requires minimum 15 prerequisite points to unlock
- Fervour, Ardour, Glory Stances – Removed. See below commentary
- Flurry of Blows – Added via traits. See notes below.
- Seeking Blades – Partial skill functionality added via traits. See notes below.
- Red Haze –Passive fervour generation is now part of Battle Frenzy. Immediate fervour increase on enemy defeat is now a Set Trait in Berserker specialization.
When looking at the sheer volume of skills that have become specialization dependent (or removed), it's a bit disheartening especially when compared to other classes like Guardians, Lore-masters, and Burglars. In total, Champions only retained 15 skills in their base skill sets, of which only 6 of them are DPS skills. Two are fervour builders (Wild Attack, Swift Strike), 3 fervour spenders (Feral Strikes, Merciful Strikes useable at 20% morale and below only, and Horn of Gondor), and one AoE that is neither a builder or spender (Blade Wall). The rest are utility skills, 2 self heals, an interrupt and a taunt (). I think that a couple of these skills can be added back to the Champion's base skill set (particularly looking at skills like Blade Storm or Rend, and Brutal Strikes.)
Areas of Flawed Design
A number of those skills that were changed, moved into trait lines, or redesigned I feel were not done appropriately, or with adequate consideration to a consistent design philosophy for the class.
Brutal Strikes – It really seems like poor design to make this skill a trait rather than base line. If you are a Champion using 2-handers, Feral Strikes is vastly inferior to Brutal Strikes because Feral Strikes only has two attacks whereas Brutal Strikes has three attacks. Therefore, if you prefer to use 2-handers, you’ll need to spend a point (or two if not specializing in Berserker) to pick up a single target skill that works with your build. If you utilize dual wield weapons, you don’t necessarily have to because the immaterial difference in damage versus Feral Strikes (as Feral Strikes has three attacks while dual wielding). Having these skills set up in this way, where one weapon-type is clearly at a disadvantage is poor design.
Flurry of Blows– This skill was removed in lieu of trait line bonuses that give a similar effect (-attack speed duration), but there were changes made in the process and Berserker Champions come out worse for it. The Berserker tree has a 5 point trait that grants (at max rank) -10% attack duration which grants a portion of the old bonus Champions received. The rest comes from a Set Trait called Precise Strikes which grants +1 to fervour on crits, and -3% attack duration on Strike skill hits. It stacks up to 5 times (-15%) and lasts 8 seconds. This grants the other portion of Flurry and gives Champions up to -25% attack speed from traits. The problem with this implementation is that the duration is too short, and the buff does not tier down when it expires. If it hasn’t refreshed after 8 seconds, the buff falls off completely, and you lose the entire benefit. In the context of current content, it’s a horrible buff. This buff benefits Champions only in situations where the target is alive for an extended period of time and time on target is relatively high. Under the old skill, it was an “Always On” buff activated by entering Fervour stance. The tiering mechanic itself is a nerf and lengthens Champion “ramp up” time on DPS, and is very unreliable given how quickly it falls off, especially in Skirmish Raids, Epic Battles, and farm runs for things like Sambrog, Thadur, Bell of Dales ect.
(Improved) Hedge – Removing this skill did not make any sense. It was highly valuable in preventing you from being repeatedly disarmed (a common occurrence when AoEing humanoid mobs), and the additional resistance and critical defense was always welcome. If you PvP, this is generally going to be an enormous nerf. Fortunately, most Reavers just spam Impale nowadays, so there’s a silver lining there I suppose.
Seeking Blades – This skill was removed and the Berserker line was given a trait called Emboldened Blades to compensate. The original skill gave a guaranteed crit on your next Remorseless Strike, and then it gave a crit chance/crit damage buff to Remorseless for a short duration. The guaranteed crit has been removed, and the new trait grants a stacking buff that tiers up to 5 stacks and matches the original buff to crit chance and crit damage. Once you crit with Remorseless Strike, the buff is removed. The removal of Seeking Blades significantly hinders the Champion’s ability to produce any reliable burst DPS (which it was never known for in the way Hunters and RKs are regarded), and this new trait we have is very unpredictable. For 2-hand champions, it’s a significant nerf due to the loss of the guaranteed crit for large burst damage. As for dual wield champions, an offhand crit (which does approximately 40%-50% of the main-hand’s damage) will remove the buff altogether. This behavior serves to undermine the trait’s utility, and it creates negative synergy with traits such as Vicious Strikes. Vicious Strikes increases the critical strike chance of your “additional strikes” which for Remorseless Strikes is the weak offhand attack. If the mainhand attack fails to crit, a Champion is even more likely to remove the buff with the off-hand attack, which is obviously not desirable and not something Champions had to contend with under the old skill.
Battle Frenzy – This skill was put in the first tier of the Deadly Storm line and was “enhanced” to give 1 fervour every 3 seconds for 45 seconds. This “enhancement” alone makes it probably the single most important trait to take in any build (in my opinion, anyway). Due to the removal of stances and the passive fervour generation they granted, along with the other fervour generating traits falling well short of providing Champions with enough fervour, this skill has become your new fervour stance. And because of this “enhancement,” the Battle Frenzy cooldown reduction legacy becomes mandatory in any DPS build. The cooldown for the skill is 1 minute, and with near/at max legacy, it is reduced to 40-45 seconds. Maximizing the legacy gives you the ability to keep the fervour generation buff up indefinitely. This is not a “tough choice” to make. To have adequate fervour, you need to invest a point in Battle Frenzy and in the legacy (a minor legacy at that).
Improved Bracing Attack – This skill was reverted back to its generic version. The improved version granted an additional heal-over-time effect and also granted its healing effect (both the initial, and the heal-over-time) even if the attack missed. That important functionality was a huge boon to 2-hand champions since the skill only had one attack for them, and thus was more prone to missing, but all Champions enjoyed the change. Giving Champions the original version which has neither of these benefits is a pure nerf. Even the Martial trait line bonuses do not provide any of this functionality. It’s a step backward all around regardless of specialization.
Second Wind – Another baseline skill that should not have been put into the trait trees. The removal of the stances and the change to how Champion ICPR works was not designed well (I’ll go into detail below), and as a result, Champion power consumption at the present time necessitates that the skill be included in any build.
Fervour, Glory, and Ardour
While technically the stances were removed, they are present (to a very limited extent) in the Champion trait lines via the first tier passive trait. Martial Champions gets Glory which reduces damage by 2% for each fervour point. Fervour is in the Berserker line, and it increases the damage by 5%, attack duration by 2%, and ICPR for each fervour point. As you have probably guessed, Ardour is in the Deadly Storm line, and it reduces all power costs by 5% per fervour point.
The problem with this design is the negative synergy with other skills, traits, and the overall class design. Champions, with only 5 fervour points, don’t exactly have a lot of flexibility with regards to maintaining a pool of fervour. Our spenders range from 3 to 5 pips each, and because these are far and away our largest contributors to DPS, Champions spend fervour as they get it within the scope of their build and what skills are currently on cooldown. So here you have a class that is built around rapidly generating and consuming fervour, and then traits are added which discourage spending fervour. Again, this is an example of negative synergy in the class.
Take for example Ardour and its synergy with Great Cleave in the Deadly Storm line. If I’ve just popped Great Cleave, all of my AoE attacks cost one less fervour point and 10% less power to execute. If I execute my skills as soon as they’re available (at 1 less pip), then I am losing out on a portion of the power reduction from the Ardour bonus compared to if I executed them as normal. If I wait and build one additional fervour pip, then I’ve delayed executing my high DPS skill and created a DPS loss which undermines the benefit Great Cleave’s skill pip reduction.
Another example would be Sudden Defense and the Glory bonus. I take less damage for each pip I have. Sudden Defense is a skill that has its efficacy enhanced by the number of pips consumed. The skill, when used, will always consume all fervour. There’s no changing that behavior for the Champion. If I build up to 5 fervour to get the maximum bubble, the consumption of all fervour reduces my damage reduction from Glory. I get a bubble, but I lose damage reduction. It’s another example of poor synergy. Adamant works the same way. It reduces damage based on Fervour consumed. I can consume 5 pips to get the maximum damage reduction, but then lose damage reduction from Glory and partially negate the benefit I receive from Adamant.
These stance bonuses in the trees simply do not work given current Champion design, and they’re a very poor substitute for what we had prior to the Helms Deep expansion.
The Skill Trees
The Deadly Storm (AoE DPS)
Overall, I think most Champions are happy with the way this skill tree came out. The couple of items that I think that need to be addressed would be the Ardour bonus mechanic, the Finesse Increase trait, and the Born of Combat Set Skill. As I noted above, I believe the Ardour mechanic simply doesn’t work with the current design. Regarding Finesse, given that it is so prevalent on gear at the moment, I simply see no value in adding a trait for it as well. Born of Combat requires that you be struck by an enemy 10 times before activating. It’s reliable in solo or small group situations where you’re probably pulling aggro with AoE DPS, but in raid scenarios, it’s not active enough to justify being the final tier Set Skill for the Deadly Storm line.
The Martial Champion (Tanking)
It’s really hard to know where and how well off the tree is when considering the current state of tanking in the game. I’ve yet to see anyone advertise in GLFF for a Champion tank, and when considering the amount of DPS other classes are doing, I have serious doubts about this line’s ability to hold aggro. A portion of it is predicated on being attacked (via Masochism), and with only a single target taunt, I don’t see Champions supplanting Guardians or Wardens in any sort of content that would even consider needing a tank. I think it works fairly well as a secondary skill tree for PvP builds to complement Berserker or Deadly Storm for additional survivability and cooldowns.
The tree itself also suffers from very poor itemization. Champion tank gear is rife with Parry rating, but with the sheer amount of Might on our gear, it’s very easy to cap Parry. More Evade rating on Champion tank gear would go a long ways in that regard. I’d also like to point out that the first two tiers need to be fleshed out a bit more. As it stands, it’s impossible to get to tier three of the skill tree without putting at least one point in the Vitality increase trait. Being forced to spend 1 point on +15 vitality is silly.
The Berserker (Single Target DPS)
As it stands now, the Berserker skill tree produces less single target DPS than the Deadly Storm line. That’s a massive issue. That has to be fixed, and it has to be fixed soon. When you look at the traits in the skill tree, two issues jump out that I think have led to this problem. The first is that the magnitude of the bonuses is far too low. +10% damage to “Additional Strikes” pales in comparison to the +100% blade wall damage, and +60% raging blades damage (for 3 points) that Deadly Storm has available. Bumping the magnitude on a few of these +damage traits would really go a long way. The other issue is the “Additional Strikes” caveat on a number of these traits. Why is the trait’s bonus only limited to the second and third (if applicable) strike of a skill? That effectively cuts the benefit of the trait. Adding 10% damage to only half or two-thirds of a skill essentially makes the trait bonus a mere 5% or 6.67% damage increase. It’s even less in cases such as Remorseless which 1.) has a weak “additional strike” and 2.) doesn’t even have an additional strike when wielding a 2-hander. It’s absolutely senseless to build traits like this.
The other glaring issue with this line is the two abysmal traits in Hamstrung and Athletic. Hamstrung is flat out worthless in every facet of game play. There’s no content that warrants investing 5 points for a 4 second root on Hamstring. It’s not even useful in PvP because it accelerates diminishing returns as you repeatedly refresh Hamstring on your opponent. Athletic would have still been respectable as a PvP trait, but it was changed from reducing Sprint cooldown by 120 seconds to only reducing it by 30 seconds. Again, this is another unjustified nerf.
And last but not least: Deadly Strikes. What an absolutely terrible DPS trait. The bleed does mediocre damage (has it ever been scaled properly?), and it does not tier up in the same fashion as Rend’s bleed. Another wasted talent that deserves zero points.
First off if you’ve made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read this post. I didn’t plan on writing so much, but the more I thought, the more I typed. I want to point out that all of these points preclude the bugs that are currently affecting various skills. These issues I raise were intended to point out the issues with the current Champion design. For additional information regarding bugs, please visit the Champion forum, as we’ve got a number of posts in there. If I've made a misstake, please feel free to let me know. It's 3:00AM here in Houston, and despite reading this post back to myself 3 times now, I'm sure there's something else I've missed here.
Conceptually, I think there is a solid foundation to build on with the Champion lines. However, the trees and skills need a serious look over and the class needs to be reassessed for cohesiveness and overall design. As it stands, the Champion is a shell of it's former self (with exception for the AoE line), and it lost an incredible amount of it's identity in the Helms Deep expansion.
Champions have lots of problems.