I consider myself an average player. I have not put in the tens of thousands of hours that some of the other players of the Marauder advanced class have. My game time with that class sits just under four thousand hours. But it was my main raiding and PvP class for the majority of the game. Prior to Update 3.0, I ran early Dread Fortress Nightmare content, and I have a valor rank of 80 on my Marauder. And the vast majority of the time my Marauder was Annihilation spec.
BioWare will break from its normal Tuesday patch day and patch Update 3.2.1 on Wednesday, May 27th. (That’s tomorrow for anyone who might be reading this article on the day that it releases.) At the top of the patch notes is the Nar Shaddaa Nightlife event, followed by some Cartel Market changes, resolve changes (that I will have to comment on some other time), and Jedi Knight and Sith Warrior class changes.
These Jedi Knight and Sith Warrior changes fall into three different categories: utility changes, DoT changes, and damage output changes. Unfortunately for the developers, all of these changes have received a lot of heat from the Marauder community. You might remember the news story about a SWTOR designer being harassed by players. In no way do I condone the actions of the few individuals who took their disdain for the class changes way too far, but almost universally, the changes to the Annihilation/Watchman discipline were disliked.
Axing defensive forms
The utility change within the Marauder/Sentinel class was intended to get rid of the Defensive Forms utility, which as any Marauder/Sentinel knows is a must-have for the class if the player wants to even come close to being survivable in PvE and PvP situations.
Currently, Defensive Forms grants the player 2 Fury every 1.5 seconds if the player is actively being attacked. In Shii-Cho stance, the player would gain a damage reduction increase by 2%; in Juyo stance, the internal and elemental damage reduction is increased by 5%; and in Ataru stance, movement speed is increased by 15%. Since Annihilation/Watchman spec uses Juyo stance, it doesn’t take a theorycrafter to see why this was a necessary utility for that discipline.
In 3.2.1, the developers proposed that this utility be broken apart. The movement speed has been added to the Phantom (Force Fade, if you’re a dirty Pub) utility; the damage reduction and Fury build was made into a new utility called Brazen (or Stoic). And Defensive Roll now takes on the internal and elemental damage reduction utility.
On the official forums, Oofalong (a resident theorycrafter and all-around nice guy) pointed out the same flaws that I see in this particular change. He says that the reasoning behind splitting up Defensive Forms makes sense because there are a lot of passives in one utility. And if the class were in some way more survivable, this change would be more than necessary. But as he put it, “nothing about the Maras/Sents is too strong given the current meta.” In other words, Marauders and Sentinels already have survivability issues by just being melee; suddenly needing two different utilities to be viable just doesn’t make any sense.
Durational change for bleeds
Bleeds (burns, for the Pubs) are the primary source of DPS for the Annihilation (Watchman) discipline. In my last calculation for me personally, bleeds accounted for at least 60% of my overall damage. So changes to abilities like Rupture (Cauterize) and Force Rend (Force Melt) could change the functionality of the class completely.
The second chunk of changes in Update 3.2.1 did just that. The duration of Rupture was cut in half to 6 seconds, and damage to Force Rend was reduced and the duration decreased to 15 seconds from 18. The Rage cost of Force Rend has been reduced by a third, which could be helpful, but the cost of Rupture hasn’t changed. I would say that’s fine if the Annihilation spec weren’t Rage stared as it is — even before the aforementioned Defensive Forms changes.
Some forumgoers claim that this change alone will decrease the effective DPS for the class. And I can kind of see their point: The faster the DoT cooldown, the more there is to track. If you look at the duration of the DoTs, you’ll notice that they don’t match up nicely in a rotation. It is a priority rotation versus a clear step-by-step sequence of abilities. If your timing is off by a little bit, then you risk the chance of reducing your overall DPS.
I have not done but maybe two or three PvP matches on my Marauder since 3.0, so I cannot speak to that. But one thing I can talk about extensively is Raiding. My overall DPS took a hit when 3.0 dropped. Even though I was five levels higher, I was effectively doing 300 or so DPS fewer than before. I was forced to use timers in my parser (Parsec) in order to effectively use my DoTs, and even then I was still Rage starved. Eventually, I did raise my DPS back up to pre-3.0 levels, but that was not enough to catch the other DPSers in my raid group.
I can certainly see the effective DPS loss with the DoT changes, but I will have to see about the actual change when the servers come up tomorrow.
Devs just don’t understand
Lastly, I want to mention what appears to be a small thing, but if taken in context could be evidence that the developers do not understand the Marauder class or the people who play them.
Systems Designer John Jarynowski posted a few “tips” to Marauder players and the design philosophy behind the class on May 6th. He said, “Never overestimate Dual Saber Throw.” Essentially, he said that it was a situational utility and should not be used as a regular part of the rotation, that you’re supposed to use it only in large groups and when it’s proc’d. As a regular player of a Marauder, I will tell you that it would be a huge mistake to not use Dual Saber Throw regularly. We are talking about a priority rotation, so you will not use it nearly as often as some of your other abilities, but do use it.
Not four hours later, Jarynowski jumped on the forum again asking the community if Dual Saber throw should trigger the Marauder set Critical Chance Set bonus. I think the whole Marauder community did a collective facepalm or sarcastically said, “No, I only use Dual Saber Throw situationally, so making it a key part of set bonus wouldn’t be worth it.”
I’ve been mostly quiet on the subject of the Marauder changes because I believe the community is speaking my mind fairly well. I turn to Oofalong again to sum up my thoughts: “[The devs] sharing insights is beneficial, and my hope would be that it leads to better outcomes. However, in this case it feels like BioWare has not properly understood the realities of the [Marauder/Sentinel Advanced Class].” After about three years of raiding with a Marauder (loving it every step of the way), I’ve stopped. I haven’t quit the game, but my favorite class is no longer my main class. And unfortunately, it looks as if it won’t be anytime soon.