Hyperspace Beacon: SWTOR’s 5.5 adds cringeworthy changes in the name of balance

Today, when I talk about the balance of a class, I hope you’ll understand that I come from the perspective of a PvEer and raider. I also have a tendency to favor classes that are a little bit more difficult to play. So when I say that I take issue with some of the changes that Star Wars: The Old Republic has made with Update 5.5, understand that I already believe that my favored class is starting from a disadvantage.

Update 5.5 was supposed to bring the classes into a kind of balance. To understand what balance is about in SWTOR, we will have to go back to a post that Eric Musco made back in June of this year. In it, he details the target markers for each of the different types of DPS without giving specific numbers as to what those targets are. Musco quotes the BioWare combat team: “The deeper reason for a ‘buff’ or a ‘nerf’ lies in a Discipline’s ability to perform at their target DPS.” I will be referring back to this post as I talk about the class that I favor the most: Marauder.

So let’s dive into the deep end.

My favored class

When a new patch with class changes comes out, I always jump onto my best-geared Marauder to see just how badly my favorite class has been nerfed. I have very strong feelings about the Marauder class because I believe it to be one of the most interesting to play. It’s visually interesting, unique in its concept, and challenging in its rotation. But some of the things that I find the most interesting about the class are also some of the reasons that it infuriates me.

I believe it’s been said by many people, possibly even the developers, that Annihilation Marauders (Watchman Sentinels, if you’re nasty) have the potential to put out the most sustained DPS of any class in the game. Of course, over the years, that’s fluctuated, but as a general rule, it’s true. The problem lies in the word “potential.” As you might have guessed by my earlier statement, the difficulty rotation of the Marauder will vary the actual DPS greatly. This is why you will see most Marauders take the Carnage discipline because it’s a lot easier to sustain, and when you fall out of sync with your rotation, it’s a lot easier to get back into the groove.

In this latest patch, we see a change in Annihilation Marauder that creates a significant dent in its DPS. Personally, I saw approximately a 500 DPS dip from 5.4 to 5.5, which is about a 6% drop for me. As many theorists will tell you, one or two or ten tests against a dummy are not enough to make any kind of significant speculation about where the class sits in its overall performance. However, from a morale perspective, it’s really tough to see a class that is already difficult to play get hit so hard.

Art by Airagitt

The numbers

Three core abilities were hit pretty hard. Approximately, 50% of all damage that an Annihilation Marauder outputs is through bleeds (damage-over-time). That means the initial hit is likely not that hard, but give it a few seconds and you’ll notice some significant damage.

At the top of that list with up to 30% of the overall damage dealt is Deadly Saber. This ability is tied to other abilities: When Deadly Saber is applied, the next three hits will apply a stacking bleed. Needless to say, Anni Maras will want to hit Deadly Saber everytime it’s off cooldown, and since it’s unaffected by the global cooldown, there is no reason not to hit it.

The second largest DPS dealer for an Annihilation Marauder is Annihilate. This is a straight-up damage attack, and when compared to the other Marauder abilities, it contributes to about 20% of overall damage output. That means about 50% of the total damage that a Marauder deals is between Deadly Saber and Annihilate. So when if those two abilities where nerfed, that would mean that Annihilation Marauders were over-performing in a significant way. Let’s look at the patch notes:



  • Reduced Deadly Saber’s damage by 6%
  • Juyo Mastery now gives bleed effects an additional 1% critical hit chance per stack of Juyo Form, down from 2%,
  • The temporary bleed damage bonus applied by Annihilate due to the Devious Wounds passive has been reduced from 5% to 3%

Based on these notes, it’s clear why I see a 6% or more dip in my overall performance. But what does that mean from a design perspective, and where the developers believe this class sits when compared to other classes?

Here’s the cringeworthy part

If we look at the post from June, we can see that the developers set a target DPS for all damage classes, and then created allowances based on the way that the class works. Of course, I am sure this is simplified, but an Annihilation Marauder should be able to sustain a DPS about 5% above the target DPS. This makes sense given that a Marauder has to be in melee ranged and also has to maintain constant DPS on the target given that there is no real burst DPS.

This is where I would like your help. Help me see where I am missing something, bearing in mind that statistically my math is going to be off a bit: Let’s say that my 6% dip is indicative of the class as a whole. That would mean that Annihilation Marauders were sitting about 11% over the target DPS. And from a practical standpoint — from a position of actually playing the class regularly — I just don’t see how that is even close to true. I don’t think the Annihilation Marauders were doing badly, but I also don’t believe that they were outperforming the other classes.

I honestly believe that what we are seeing here is a disparity between the raw numbers and the actual output of the class. A friend and fellow SWTOR content creator Vulkk agreed with this assessment when he did his preview video for the class changes. He has yet to put out a video about it now that Update 5.5 is live, but I don’t think his opinion will have changed.

I’ll turn it to you now. Let me know in the comments if I’m right. Am I wrong? What are your thoughts and what am I missing?

Every other week, Larry Everett jumps into his T-16 back home, rides through the hypergates of BioWare‘s Star Wars: The Old Republic, and posts his adventures in the Hyperspace Beacon. Drop him a holocom on Twitter @Shaddoe or send him a transmission at larry@massivelyop.com. Now strap yourself in, kid — we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!
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