5 degrees of Melee

U23 brought a lot of changes; some of them very good – tanking is finally viable – others not so good (partly because of broken mechanics but also Turbines propensity for adding terrible features).

One that was explicitly considered is the armor up; and in extension – Melee viability. There’s no secret that melee and especially non evasion melee had an uphill struggle since the release of MOTU. If it was not as bad in the MOTU expansion (with the change of the old AC system), it was downright obliterated with the move to even higher level caps.

If you ever saw a non evasion melee it was some kind of derivative of Bladeforged or Blitzers with a clear void of things like Horcs. U23 is set to change that, how successfully is still a question going forward as with the changes of Pally it’s still a landscaped dotted with Bladeforged rather then a diverse landscape of fleshy melee.

That said; it’s not just about Pally, in fact there’s been a clear focus on adding a few sources of things like melee power and a revamp of both PRR and the addition of MRR – a magic resistance rating lowering incoming spell damage in a more predictable way than say how evasion completely avoid some.

And that seems to be the stated goal – to make non evading melee a matter of predicted damage control and evading a matter of incoming dots of high damage. And if that’s true (and by observation it seems to be fairly close to that) melee just finally got a successful way of tanking stuff and evading melee a readjustment in goals.

I never did the whole exploiter build stuff; at the most I have a ranger with 2 levels of Paladin for Divine Grace and once that changes I will most likely TR into the previous 2 fighter and 18 ranger again, but this time go with dex for damage instead of strength for damage. Of course that effects ranged too so I want to make sure I don’t break my gameplay.

But I never got into Moncher stuff nor build an evasion build that cherry picks good stuff to exploit the weakness of the mechanics and while that’s not wrong per say it makes for boring and bland game play (in my humble opinion).

With the Armor up changes however and especially the changes to Pally there’s finally a range of viable options unlike before; not only for high end gameplay but also for anything in between. And it’s interesting when you compare notes on these changes and get a good idea out of the same quest just of effective those changes are.

Like Fleshmaker on EH. Okay, note one important thing. Like so many have stated it’s not really hard per say. Doing Fleshmaker on hard is not a melee check for the impossible. But it is an interesting study in styles and effect – especially since each fight ended up with a different feel.

First off a 2 handed fighting pure Bladeforged Pally. Built for 2 handed weapon combat and with a thunderforged tier 2 greatsword. Currently running Divine Crusader. Previously before the change it was okay but certainly not remarkable, kinda like third best in everything but average across the board of survivability, dependability and offensive capabilities. With the change of adding 2 enhancement based cleaves rather then relying on feats the build itself can use those 2 feats for better features and shift a lot of the offensive burden off feat based combat, to enhancement based (usually at the most tactical components). But it’s more than that.

With the beefing up of holy damage, melee damage and a revamping of some important features including adding more PRR and MRR, there’s a dynamic shift in both survivability but also offensive capabilities. So when I hit Fleshmaker it was clear that the Pally have become the butterknife of undead melee fighting. That was clear through the Wilderness and most of all in all 4 quests.

The 2 handed weapon Pally, with consecrated ground, work just as ordered. It’s simply a holy warrior putting down hurt. It’s efficient, it can soak up incoming hits and it provides a suitable source of important self healing and aid to allies.

And with the Pally’s strength of mind; that of much better resist alongside the Bladeforged natural resistance to stuff, it’s hard to even budge such a build with daze, stuns and such, something that turned out being a major drawback on other builds. If anything; the only noticeable slowdown was in inferno where having to light the torches and then blow them out was done by kiting elementals around and the air elementals is not dependable in the way of blowing out torches, it’s far to slow and arbitrary.

In that respect my Swashbuckler turned out to be semi successful altho a little quirkier. There was simply not one single part of the fight where the Pally didn’t dominate. It was a raging fire in all segments, be it simple mob, spammed by electric orbs or fighting orange or red named. It was a butterknife through and through.

All other melee types ended up choking in spots. The Swashbucker was fine; using dancing balls on fleshies and it’s superior single weapon focus on spots – but where the 400+ hits kept scoring big, the dread came from mobs of Flesh golems, that you can’t dance and where focusing on one for good DPS means that the rest gets to pummel you.

Of course having blur, speed and displacement helps. And the combination of DPS and protection did make Swashbuckling a better experience altho slow. The downside was the red named for once; they’re just loaded with HP, Flesh golems resists most damage and there was just something hopelessly slow about gnawing off lots of HP with a rapier. As a consequence where the Pally had a healer hireling with an almost full SP bar, my Swashbuckler ended up fighting with an healer hireling going dry – and it was something that was repeated in other melee builds.

The 2 weapon fighting halftank – a human fighter – did see a clear improvement. Some in regards to DPS but most of it in survivability. Blitzing was also made easier, no need to prep for blitzing, it was just a simple matter of hitting stuff to build stacks. The downside is of course a clearly lower DPS experience compared to before – so while maintaining and building stacks seems easier, it was never that explosive WOW experience.

The downside is little or no aid to allies. And with hirelings being broken in how they interact, it turned out to be a hireling death fest. Them dying, my halftank surviving and then having to revive. While it was very effective in neutralizing lots of threats and self healing through cocoon and the ticks from the CITW bastard sword it was a constant struggle to maintain the upper hand against heavy hitters. It’s hard to say why – if it was a matter of the weapons used or simply that half tanking is less viable (not worthless tho) then say 2 handed fighting, or maybe it’s just that blitzing made the style successful and now it’s more of a burden.

The worst experience came from my ranger. I don’t know what’s wrong with ranged fire, but it seemed like moving around made shots simply miss. Even against slow moving targets. It just felt like moving, strafing – had shots fire at a spot and miss due to either a calculating in path or that the arrow was simply ‘slow’, missing a moving target. It was to be repeated in almost all situations – with shots simply not connecting good.

On top of that – tempest fighting seems mediocre at best. It relies heavily on doublestriking but maybe this type of style is ineffective especially against Flesh golems. I mean it was not all bad; it still got the job done, but it felt like more of a struggle than a visceral experience of swift mayhem. Unlike of course Swashbuckling where the single focus slow down mob slaying but still feels like a good slap down. In contrast even with cleaves and such the tempest fighting felt tepid. Again, it might be because of the target – Flesh Golems, but going from butterknife Pally slap down to running backwards missing most shots from Multi Arrow and then running in circles self healing just to get back into the game and get smacked again, well it was frustrating.

So I did one thing more – I ER’d into a Vanguard tank on my half tank. Mind you – back in the MOTU days that was my idea anyways. The only reason why he became a half tank was because tanking as such was and perhaps still is broken. Simply put; the AC changes made AC tanking worthless. PRR, while interesting did not work as intended and as a result using Sword and board simply diminished the DPS while still hampering you with what felt like wearing a ‘kick me here’ T-Shirt. Plainly put ‘tanking’ felt like trading some lower incoming damage for less DPS potential, like a slight positive but still an overall burden. It was not worthless mind you; being able to take some punishment while aggroing everything so other people can do heavy lifting is fine, but it’s a dreary solo experience.

Now with Vanguard and a slight change around with how PRR and MRR works, it feels more tanky. Not like ‘won’t take any damage at all’ type tanking. But more like ‘controlled damage’ and competent DPS – especially with Vanguard.

And Vanguard is really the ‘big deal’ in the experience. It adds DPS – making the shield not just a source of AC but a weapon. Which in effect adds a 2 weapon experience altho with a 300+ slap of a shield together with main weapon.

But it’s more than that; Vanguard while not meant as a tanking tree adds some tactical aspects to it. Like the stunning shield. It’s an excellent adding to stunning strike altho with a slightly longer cool down. Worthless however is the 2 ‘rush’ and smack features. Both of them seems completely useless. Sure, they adds some hits, but if unlike the Draconic destiny fly through feature, this one does not knock anything down. So to be it just doesn’t serve any purpose. I’m currently unlocking Divine Crusader with the early levels, hoping to be able to get good self healing with it while adding some nifty features. Altho this particular tanking setup works fine with COTW and Legendary, heck even the pure tanking destiny.

The question is naturally how well the DPS of the enhancement part holds up with leveling. It’s true that some of that comes from good gear but also how well the destiny helps boost the benefits of that gear. And Divine Crusader is not an ideal DPS destiny eventho it adds several beneficial features.

But it’s clear that stunning and tripping is made into a potent combo with Vanguard tanking. With 2 ways to stun (stunning strike and stunning shield) and improved trip there are more ways to lower enemy incoming hits. And I am seriously considering making another cloak – currently using Min 2 all HP one. But I’m thinking about doing something similar but with con op instead. HP is nice, a reliable source of blue bar is better. Especially while using the very expensive (for a short blue bar anyways) consecrated grounds and also self heal through cocoon and perhaps other features that require SP use. It works nice on my ranger. His con op item keeps his blue bar fairly filled which is very important. Plus now and then it’ll proc some temporary HP. With a tanking build that feature is even better; some SP for measures and some temp HP.

At least for the earliest levels. All and all a interesting plan. The best part is that this toon is not fully geared. Sure, it owns lots of high end gear, but in a ER cycle it’s fairly low on level 20 or so stuff. So with an even better destiny from the getgo and great gear it can even rock the early levels moreso then it’s doing now.

Anyways, I’m going to keep playing it to see if the early experience persist. Maybe even switch to legendary for a bit just to see how things shift.

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