Analyzing the Subclass Changes

2.3 introduced a slew of changes to how Destiny’s weapons and subclasses will perform in both PvP and PvE. While tweaks to weapons are nothing new, Bungie has rarely intervened to change how a subclass performs, with the Sunbreaker’s Super being one of the rare exceptions.

For this reason, it will be interesting to see how these balances play out across each meta, especially in concert with the changes to weapon classes. In this article, we’ll give you the rundown on which subclass changes we feel were inspired – and which ones leave us scratching our heads.

Hunters

gunslinger build guideGunslinger

The Gunslinger was long due for a few buffs to its PvE viability. With the Nightstalker’s superior team-play synergy, the Gunslinger’s lone niche was in damage output – and frankly, it was outstripped here by Nightstalker too. Even with Golden Gun’s damage at its disposal, the debuff from Shadowshot was infinitely preferable in endgame content.

To this end, the base damage was increased by 50% against all combatants, and an additional increase of 30% was tacked on against AI combatants. What’s more, if you select Deadeye, you’ll receive one final buff of 30%, for an additive increase of 110% damage over the previous incarnation. Throw in Celestial Nighthawk, and you start to see the usefulness.

Enemies that just barely survived a Golden Gun shot will now be killed outright, leading to more orbs, and less threats for your team. If you have a Nightstalker debuffing with Shadowshot, even the toughest enemies will have a hard time standing up to your onslaught. An excellent and much-needed buff. Time will tell if it’s enough.

Swarm Grenades were neglected, and the changes here are welcome, if somewhat underwhelming. They will now arm (read: swarm you) from 0.5 meters further out, meaning you’ll have to be more vigilant when traversing chokepoints, or rounding blind corners. Cumulatively, they will also do 7% more damage. Honestly, this seems a little low. You still need to rely on almost all of the projectiles making contact for a kill, even on a previously damaged target. What’s more is that Swarm Grenades are easily spotted in the field, and the immediate damage of Incendiary or Tripmine Grenades is quite difficult to pass up when looking to burst your targets down quickly. Of course, your foes in PvE will not be so savvy, and this should lessen the aiming burden while providing at least a tiny increase in overall damage.

Tripmines see their damage decreased another 3%, meaning that you are almost certainly never going to get a kill on any Guardian with full health. Previously, it was possible to still one-shot low armor Hunters/Warlocks who neglected to invest in Armor, but it’s highly likely this 3% figure was chosen to make even that impossible. Finally, you can no longer stick a Tripmine to a foe. This change is, frankly, a mistake. The Gunslinger neutral game has historically been weaker than its competition, and Tripmine sticks rewarded a well-timed (and better-aimed) lob with a very satisfying kill. Removing this possibility may work to limit the number of ways you can “one-shot” another Guardian, but the alleviation of this occasional frustration does not make up for the loss of memorable and – honestly – fun moments that Destiny should be trying to encourage. This is to say nothing of the impact in PvE, where encounters often take place in open areas with very few tactical surfaces on which to stick a tripmine. There was something giddy and perfect about stapling a tripmine to a Thrall’s head, just in time to see it wipe out everything around the unlucky enemy.

In a similar vein, the 10% damage reduction to Throwing Knives is equally perplexing. Bungie cites a complaint about dying to a single Throwing Knife with the Incendiary Blade augment – but again, we’re hard-pressed to track down a prevailing sentiment among the community that Incendiary Blade was in any way “broken” to begin with.

The difficulty of landing a headshot with a throwing knife is already prohibitive enough such that increased damage that consumes a perk slot is hardly an unbalanced reward. In PvE, this also might mean more instances in which you’re no longer able to take advantage of Circle of Life’s new functionality, that decreases the cooldown of Golden Gun for every precision knife kill. This is a great perk re-work that will be appealing against trash like charging Thrall or Corrupted Psions.

Of course, if that 10% penalty removes a OHK threshold on a hardier enemy like an on-level Acolyte, then we’ll be left with a change to PvP that negatively impacts PvE – a trend that Bungie should put a little more thought into avoiding. Certainly, a damage increase against AI combatants would be a reasonable offset.

The remaining passive changes are positive. Scavenger, already an underrated perk in both metas, receives a 33% bonus to its recharge procs, and Chain of Woe steals the +Recovery from Over the Horizon to further incentivize prioritizing headshots and a more uptempo playstyle.

 

Bladedancerbladedancer subclass guide

Skip Grenades were admittedly a little ridiculous in PvP, with a powerful 12 second tracking time that, on top of already making its projectiles be very likely to eventually make contact and kill, also was instrumental in forcing your opponent to flee and effectively taking them out of the fight. This amount of Crowd Control with a reliable method of delivering damage makes the 33% nerf to duration and 12% nerf to damage understandable. 8 seconds is more than enough to unseat and pick off another Guardian, but the damage penalty will give them an easier out if they’ve taken damage already and have to take the hit.

Never satisfied with Blink, Bungie has further increased the effective “cost” of using this ability, by causing its selection to incur its first-ever penalty to a stat: -1 Recovery. There is a certain logic to this: if you’re going all-in with a reckless charge, you should be willing to forego the ability to get your health back reliably.

Blink Strike has also apparently incurred the wrath of the nerfhammer, as its lunge distance receives a 0.4m nerf, Escape Artist will lag momentarily before applying Invisibility, and Fast Twitch is just a little less fast. Fortunately, a particularly annoying exploit where Backstab’s potent bonus damage would activate from just about any angle was also patched by tightening up the angle at which it would apply by 30 degrees. Did Blink Strike really need its range reduced? Maybe – but it’s going to be frustrating to acclimate to the new optimal distance, and in PvE the momentary latency before Escape Artist kicks in might mean the difference between life and death. Again, Bungie’s changes here are understandable, but it always is slightly mollifying to walk away from a new patch feeling weaker than you were before.

Finally, Arc Blade received a suite of changes that boil down to this: you will be punished for using it for movement; you will be rewarded for timing your strikes and going haywire in a group of enemies. It’s encouraging that Arc Blade will deal more damage against AI foes, but the 30% figure is a little underwhelming – especially considering your vulnerability in putting yourself in melee range of enemies that often have special abilities that discourage this very strategy. Consuming 20% less energy on hit and expending 20% more on empty slashes will all but eliminate the PvP strategy of pummeling the trigger until you make contact, and instead Bungie hopes that the base duration increase will make up for this mobility penalty. We can also thankfully wave goodbye to faulty hitboxes with the generous hit search range increase of 0.5m.

If you select the Encore perk, a kill will immediately amplify your damage to 150%! This will be instrumental in PvE encounters, and encourage Bladedancers to start a chain against a weaker enemy to then take advantage of the increased damage on scarier combatants. Combine it with Razor’s Edge for a deadlier wave of energy. Showstopper’s radius buff of 1m will unfortunately not do much for its utility, but Vanish proccing immediately on activation of Super is an inspired change that will provide an immediate boon of survivability. With the extra 2s of duration, a Bladedancer can conceivably have 3 more seconds of invisibility than pre-patch. Not bad!

 

Nightstalker

Applying to Defenders as well, Spike Grenade will distribute the entirety of its damage in five pulses rather than ten, making it more reliable in racking up the hit markers and more difficult for wary Guardians to jump out. This is a smart change, but it remains to be seen if it will be compelling enough to make Spike Grenades appealing over their alternatives.nightstalker subclass update

Shadowshot’s improvement is a blessing, and one that has been demanded since the class’s inception. No longer will you rage when firing a well-placed tether, only for another Guardian to ignore it and kill you in the precious milliseconds before the suppression applies. Instead, on contact, your enemy will receive the full impact of the tether’s debuffs. This sort of improvement is key to making a class feel reliable and responsive.

Finding Smoke too debilitating in a PvP metagame where the Nightstalker dominates crowd control, Bungie has attenuated the poison all-around by reducing the duration of several of its debilitating effects, while compensating by increasing its un-upgraded duration accordingly. Most notably, Smoke will no longer impair the ability of trapped Guardians to jump out. The descriptions are a little confusing, but Bungie promises that the balances will make it “less frustrating to play against in PvP, but more effective in PvE.” While the 34% Impact damage increase sounds impressive, the appeal of Smoke has always been its debuffs and hindering properties, so this will change very little about the way you distribute your damage. These changes are calculated enough such that it’s hard to make an assessment until we’ve seen them in action; we’ll give Bungie the benefit of the doubt for now.

To incentivize build variety, Courage of the Pack will now offer double its usual bonuses of Recovery, Armor, and Agility per stack. However, the total number of stacks will now be capped at three. This is a universally positive change, as you’ll no longer have to kill 5+ enemies to get the full positive effect of CotP; instead, you can comfortably use Shadowshot against 3 enemies and receive an even more powerful buff (+6 to all instead of +5). For Nightstalkers who can’t live without their old Smoke, Lockdown will now increase its duration by 2 seconds, with an additional 2 seconds if Snare is selected. Predator decreases the cooldown of the incredibly useful Shadowshot, but Shadestep can now only be used once every 3 seconds. PvP Nightstalkers will understandably be upset by this last change, but in a game where movement is generally predictable, jerky and confusing dodges are an incredible advantage in one-on-one situations. Three seconds is also a fairly reasonable trade-off; if you are able to make your first one count, and finish off your opponent, you’ll easily have it ready for the next time you need it. This constitutes the second of Bungie’s mobility nerfs in patch 2.3, with the recovery penalty on Blink representing the first.

Warlocks

Sunsinger

The age of the Firebolt is probably officially over. With a further decreased search radius, and an increased arming time of 0.2 seconds, your placement will have to be near-perfect if your target is moving even a little bit. Not only will a Guardian have slightly more time to move out of range, but this effect is amplified by the effective range being reduced by 1m. To further damn these once potent neutral tools, Viking Funeral no longer extends the DoT. Your opponent will recover their health that much faster, and they’ll have less health to recover when they do.

In PvP, these changes will finally accomplish Bungie’s design goal of evening the grenade playing field. The requisite perks for the Firebolt combo will also no longer be so essential, which will hopefully entice Guardians to play around with using their Sunsinger in a different role. At least, that’s the hope. Thankfully, Bungie has added an interesting debuff to the DoT when spec’ing Ignite, that will increase damage done to burning targets by 5%, stacking up to three times, and combining with either Shadowshot or Melting Point. It is hard to know if it will be feasible from a DPS perspective to maintain this debuff under Radiance, especially when you are necessarily sacrificing weapon damage to apply and refresh the burning effect. Testing will certainly be necessary on this front.

Much like Escape Artist, Flame Shield will now take an additional 0.3 seconds to apply when striking an enemy. In PvP, Bungie hopes this puts Titans and Hunters who engage a Warlock in a melee “trade” on equal footing. In PvE, you are yet again exposing yourself to a retaliatory strike for that much longer.

It’s an unideal solution, that puts vulnerable Guardians in the unenviable position of having to wait for an effect to take place, creating a disconnect between action and reaction. From a design perspective, when you press the melee button, you expect to deal damage and receive any benefits from doing so immediately. This pattern has been stamped into longtime players’ minds and muscle memory, and to lengthen it even by 0.3 seconds is to invite frustration and force players to re-learn what was intuitive.

Still, to write off Bungie’s solution as “wrong” is also not fair. Sunsingers having a straight-up advantage in close quarters in PvP was also a problem, and it’s worth giving 2.3 a chance to play out before declaring a 0.3s delay an abject failure. We’re all about not overreacting here.

Voidwalkerbest voidwalker builds

Continuing the theme of making Guardians feel more powerful with their Supers, Nova Bomb now has a base 50% increase in damage, and a further increase of 50% against AI combatants. If you opt for the precision strike of Lance, a direct hit will benefit from yet another 30% increase in damage. What’s especially nice about these changes is that Nova Bomb has always diffused its damage relative to the proximity of the enemy to the epicenter of the blast. Anything in the center was already usually incinerated, but with these buffs, AI and even Guardians caught more towards the fringe may find themselves one with the void that much sooner.

The Voidwalker’s Blink will also incur a -1 Recovery penalty, in keeping with the changes to Bladedancer.

Titans

Defender

The stalwart Titan protectors remain essentially unchanged, with only their Spike Grenade receiving the same tweaks as the Nightstalker’s.

Striker

Just like Nova Bomb, the base damage of Fist of Havoc will be amped up 50%, with an additional 50% for AI combatants. Unlike Nova Bomb, FoH  deals the entirety of its damage to anyone caught in its radius, so the effective kill zone remains more or less the same. However, very few things will survive a Striker’s wrath. One can only hope that Aftershocks benefits from the damage increase as well.

Sunbreaker

Thinking that maybe they were a little too hard on the fiery hammer-lobbers, Bungie has increased flight speed, detonation radius, and damage againt AI combatants ever-so-slightly. It’s very possible this will be a 0.4%/4% situation, but the thought sure is nice, right?

Joel

I’m aWrySharK, your resident Exotic guru and lover of all things min/max. At PlanetDestiny, my perfectionism is no longer simply a matter of form over function.

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