Mirror WAR – SM v. BO
Today we look at the Swordmaster and the Black Orc, two tank classes mirrored by their mechanic of stance shifting. The Swordmaster’s three stances are Normal Balance, Improved Balance, and Perfect Balance; the Black Orc’s stances are No Plan, Da Gud Plan, and Da Best Plan. Each ability requires one stance and shifts the player into the next stance, granting the player access to abilities which require the new stance; and so the player cycles through abilities going from A>B>C>A, though cycling through the stances is not necessary if one chooses to only use abilities from stance ‘A’ or never go beyond ‘B’. Also of note – abilities from the ‘C’ to ‘A’ shift cost no Action Points, so getting to this stance is an intended goal for a ‘free’ ability. The Swordmaster’s three mastery trees are broken down into: Khaine – a focus on offensive abilities and great-weapons; Vaul – a focus on defensive abilities; and Hoeth – a focus on magical attacks. The Black Orc’s mastery trees are broken down into: Da’ Brawler – a focus on offensive abilities without an emphasis on great-weapons; Da’ Toughest – a focus on defensive abilities; and Da’ Boss – a focus on buffing your group.
- Aside from the usual challenge, root, taunt, guard, etc. the Black Orc has only one additional core ability – Get ‘Em which is a 20% increased AP regen buff for 15 seconds to all group members within 100 feet (akin to the Shadow Warrior’s Hunter’s Fervor). The Swordmaster does not have any additional core abilities.
- The Swordmaster’s Morale 1 is Guard of Steel which increases the toughness of all group members within 100 feet by 138 for 10 seconds. For Morale 2 they receive Wings of Heaven which is a 65ft leap and 60% snare for 10 seconds on the target leaped at. For Morale 3 they receive Bladeshield which is a 10s 3600 absorb shield which also deals 600 damage back to any attackers.
- The Black Orc’s Morale 1 is Quit Yer Squabblin’ which increases the dodge and parry of all group members within 100 feet by 10% for 30 seconds. For Morale 2 they receive Walk It Off which increases the groups toughness by 184 for 30 seconds. For Morale 3 they receive Deafening Bellow which deals 1360 damage to all enemies within 30 feet and silences them for 5 seconds.
- Adept Movements – Improved Stance abilities cost 35% AP less
- Dampening Talon – Dragon’s Talon reduces your target’s block and parry by 10% for 5 seconds
- Ensorcelled Agony – Ensorcelled Blow deals an additional 570 spirit damage over 5s (114dmg/s)
- Forceful Shock – Blurring Shock now knocks your target back
- Impeccable Reactions – On parry, your next attack is a guaranteed parry, cannot proc more than once every 5 seconds.
- Isha’s Protection – Heals are 20% more effective on you.
- Poised Attacks – Attacks from Perfect and Improved Balance are 10% harder to defend against.
- Potent Enchantments – Blade Enchantments also deal 590 damage over 9 seconds when they trigger (65.5dmg/s)
- Black Orc
- ‘Ave Another One – Follow ‘me Lead deals an additional 495 damage over 5 seconds (99dmg/s)
- Bring ‘Em On – On parry you immediately shift to Da Best Plan
- Can Youz Hear Me Now? – Shut Yer Face’s Cooldown is decreased by 5 seconds and damage increased to 817
- Dat Was Great! – Wot Armor?’s duration is increased by 10 seconds (30s total) and also reduces your target’s toughness by 93.
- Good Wif Shield – Your chance to block is increased by 10% when using a shield
- Lookin’ For Opp’tunity – Clobber removes 6% of your target’s morale
- Loudmouth – War Bellows deal 226 damage
- Youz see me blok’ dat?! – On Black, your morale is increased by 4%, cannot trigger more than once every 3 seconds.
- Both of these trees focus on offensive attacks. The Swordmaster has a few great-weapon restrictions in this tree, while the Black Orc has none. Instead of breaking up the abilities by career, I’ve chosen to break up the abilities by stance-shifts. The SM’s abilities in general deal around a 100 more Tool-tip damage than the BO.
- Both classes have a self buff in this tree which has a 25% chance to steal 75 stat points from any targets within 30 feet for 10 seconds and redistribute them to all group members within 100 feet. For SMs this ability is Nature’s Blade, for BOs this ability is Da Biggest – both are identical.
- For the A>B shift (Normal>Improved/No Plan>Good Plan) the SM has Gryphon’s Lash which is an attack that costs 40AP and cannot be blocked or parried; the BO has Wot Armor? which is an attack that costs 30AP and reduces armor for 20 seconds.
- For the B>C shift (Improved>Perfect/Good Plan>Best Plan) the SM has one ability – Quick Incision which costs 35AP and is a 40% snare over 10 seconds. The BO has two abilities – Trip ’em Up which costs 35AP and is a 40% snare over 10 seconds, and Big Slash which costs 40AP and is a 25 foot cleave and AoE knock-back.
- For the C>A shift (Perfect>Normal/Best Plan>No Plan after dis) the SM has Blurring Shock which deals spirit damage and puts a 10 second debuff on the target causing them to take additional spirit damage whenever they are critically hit. The BO has Skull Thumper which akin to Blurring shock deals physical damage and puts a 10 second debuff on the target causing them to take additional corporeal damage whenever they are critically hit. Both ‘on being crit’ additional values are the same, only the initial damage dealt is different.
- The SM has one ability that does not require any stance called Wall of Darting Steel, but this ability requires a great weapon. This ability costs 20AP/s, has a 20s cast time, and increases the SM’s chance to dodge, disrupt, and parry attacks by 50%; anytime an attack is defended against, the attacker takes spirit damage.
- For Mastery abilities, the MR5 ability is a A>B shift, the MR9 ability for SMs is a B>C shift while the BOs is a C>A shift, and both MR13 abilities are C>A shifts.
- At MR5 the SM receives Sapping Strike which deals physical damage and causes the target to lose 10AP/s for 5 seconds. The BOs Arm Breaka has the same effects.
- At MR9 the SM has Phoenix Wings which requires a great weapon, this ability is an AoE cleave with an unspecified range which increases hate in monsters. The BO has Not In Da Face! which increases a target’s cooldowns by 5 seconds for 10 seconds and gives group members a 4 second unstoppable buff.
- At MR13 the SM has Ether Dance which is a 3 second channeled attack that deals spirit damage to the enemy five times. The BO has T’ree Hit Combo which is also a 3 second channeled attack that deals physical damage every .8 seconds
- Tactically the SM can get: Deep Incision which grants Quick Incision (snare) a 10s DoT (72dmg/s); Balanced Accuracy which increases the SM’s crit chance by 10% in Improved Balance (‘B’) and by 20% in Perfect Balance (‘C’); and Great Weapon Mastery which increases the SM’s parry by 5% and damage by 10% when wielding a great weapon. The BO can get: Keep it Goin’! which reduces the cost of Big Slash (AoE knock-back) by 10AP and increases the too-tip damage; Gork Smash which is the mirror of Balanced Accuracy (+10% crit in ‘B’, +20% crit in ‘C’); and Guud at Big Choppin’! which is the mirror of the SM’s Great Weapon mastery (+5% parry and +10% dmg with a great weapon). So tactically the tactics are almost mirrored.
- For Morale 4s the SM gets Whirling Geyser which deals 1360 damage to all enemies within 30 feet and knocks them back; the BO gets Puddle of Muck which deals 2040 damage over 15 seconds to all enemies within 40 feet and snares them by 40% for the same duration.
- Both of these trees focus on defensive attacks for both classes. Instead of breaking up the abilities by career, I’ve chosen to break up the abilities by stance-shifts. The SM’s abilities in general deal more Tool-tip damage than the BO.
- Both classes have a self buff in this tree with essentially the same effect. The SM gets Phantom’s Blade which has a 25% chance to proc a 325 absorb bubble for 10 seconds, the BO gets Da Toughest which gives him a 25% chance to have his wounds increased by 32 for 10 seconds. Mathematically the BO can sit at a permanent +32 wounds in combat, though I suppose in the end the SMs can proc more.
- For the A>B shift the SM has Graceful Strike which has a burst damage plus a 5 second DoT; the BO has Clobber which just deals burst damage. Both cost the same amount of AP.
- For the B>C shift both classes have two abilities. The SM has Eagle’s Flight which costs 35AP with no CD and increases the SM’s chance to parry by 25% for 5 seconds, and Intimidating Blow which costs 40AP, has a 5s CD, and causes the target to lose 100 morale points. the BO has Right in Da Jibblies which costs 35AP with a 10s CD and causes the target to lose 93 weapon skill for 20 seconds (RR100 value), and Tuffer ‘n Nails which costs 30AP with no CD but has a shield requirement, and it increases the BOs armor for 20 seconds.
- For the C>A shift the SM has Dragon’s Talon which is two swift blows dealing spirit damage and the target is cursed for 4 seconds reducing their damage output to 80%. The BO has Savin’ Me Hide which increases his toughness for 20 seconds and reduces the amount of magical damage his group takes for the next 4 seconds to 80%
- For Mastery abilities the MR5 ability for SMs involves no phase shift but requires a defense, the BO’s is an A>B shift. For MR9 the SM has a B>C shift that requires a shield, while the BOs ability only requires a shield. For MR13 both classes have a C>A shift.
- At MR5 the SM gets Redirected Force which requires a defense and deals damage back generating a lot of hate; the BO gets Ya Missed Me which requires a block and deals undefendable damage and reduces the damage output of the target to 80% for 10 seconds.
- AT MR9 the SM gets Crashing Advance which requires a shield and has three effects: an interrupt, a +5% chance to block over 20 seconds, and +990 armor over 20 seconds. The BO’s ability which requires a shield and does not involve a phase shift is Can’t Hit Me! which is a 20 second channeled ability which increases the BO’s chance to block by 50%, reduces their movement speed to 60%, and deals damage back to the attacker on blocking.
- At MR13 the SM gets Crashing Wave which deals spirit damage twice, deals a 3 second knock down, and grants a 4 second group unstoppable buff. the BO gets Down Ya Go which requires a shield and deals burst damage with a 3 second knock down.
- Tactically these trees only share one tactic – both MR3 tactics increase the characters chance to block and parry by 5% in stance ‘B’ and by 10% in stance ‘C’. The SM’s MR7 tactic Lingering Intimidation adds the effect to Intimidating Blow of reducing his targets chance to critically hit by 25% for 10 seconds, and at MR11 Vaul’s Buffer which, on defense, gives the SM a 520 absorb bubble over 10 seconds and it cannot proc more than once every 3 seconds. The BO at MR7 gets Stop Hittin’ Da Runts which gives him 40AP whenever a War Bellow triggers, and at MR11 Mor’ Hardcore which grants Right in Da Jibblies (WS debuff) and Ya Missed Me (undefendable attack with damage reduction) a medium range knock back.
- For Morale 4s both classes have a morale which requires a shield and grants the group 200 action points and a 5100 absorb bubble over 10 seconds.
- The SMs right tree is about dealing magical damage; the BO’s right tree is about buffing the group. The SM’s abilities in general deal more Tool-tip damage than the BO, and most of the SM’s damaging abilities deal spirit damage while only one of the BO’s abilities deals corporeal damage.
- For the Blade Enchantment/War Bellow the SM with the Heaven’s Blade has a 25% chance to reduces his target’s resistances by 157 for 10 seconds; the BO on the other hand has Da Greenest which procs on being hit and has a 25% chance to either increase the resistance of the group by 236 against the damage that was dealt OR increase the armor of the group by 618 if physical damage was dealt.
- For the A>B shift the SM gets Ensorcelled Blow which costs 35AP and deals spirit damage. The BO on the other hand gets Follow ‘me Lead which costs 35AP and increase his defensive target’s weapon skill by 93 for 20 seconds.
- For the B>C shift the SM gets Wind of Hoeth – is a 30 foot spirit attack which also debuffs the spirit resistance of all those hit by 236 for 20 seconds. The BO gets Big Swing which is a 30 foot AoE cleave which reduces the strength of all those hit by 93 for 20 seconds.
- For the C>A shift both classes get two abilities. The SM gets Gusting Wind which deals spirit damage and, like the BO’s Big Slash in the Da Brawler tree, deals and AoE knock back; and the SM also gets Dazzling Strike which deals spirit damage and increases the build times of the target by 50% for 5 seconds. The BO gets Shut Yer Face which is a 4 second silence and Da Big Un’ which requires a great weapon and is a 25ft AoE cleave.
- For Mastery abilities there are minor similarities
- For the MR5 ability the SM has Aethyric Armor which is a simple 594 armor buff and +5 disrupt chance and involves no phase shift. The BO’s We’z Bigger is a B>C shift and deals damage and increases the armor of the BO’s whole group by 594 for 20 seconds.
- For the MR9 ability the SM has Protection of Hoeth which is an A>B shift granting the SM a 5s absorb bubble. The BO’s Rock ‘Ard is also a A>B shift granting a 5s absorb bubble but it deals damage.
- For MR13 both classes have a C>A shift. The SM gets Whispering Wind which deals spirit damage twice, interrupts the enemy and silences them for 5 seconds, and decreases the CD of your group’s abilities by 5 seconds for 10 seconds. The BO gets WAAAAAAAGH! which is a 30ft AoE cleave dealing corporeal damage and lowering the corporeal resistance of all those hit by 321 for 20 seconds.
- For tactics both MR3 tactics are the same – on the proc of a Blade Enchantment/War Bellow the character’s group is healed for 270 over 10 seconds (+27hp/s). The remaining tactics differ.
- At MR7 the SM gets Calming Winds which increases his disrupt by 10% in impvoed balance and 20% in perfect balance. The BO gets Big Brawlin’ which makes Big Swing (30ft AoE cleave with strength reduction) also snares all targets by 40% for 10 seconds AND increases their build times by 25% for 5 seconds.
- At MR11 the SM gets Blessing of Heaven which grants all Hoeth abilities to place an effect on the target hit so that when any ally hits that target they regain 116 hit points over 3 seconds (+38.6HP/s). The BO gets No Choppin’ Me which grants Follow ‘me Lead (weapon skill buff on defensive target) the ability to also buff all group mates within 30 feet of your defensive target.
- For Morale 4’s both classes have a morale which deals 2040 damage to all enemies within 30 feet and have vague morale side effects. The SMs causes the target to ‘steadily’ lose 28 morale, and the BO causes the targets to ‘lose 30 seconds of morale over 12 seconds’. I have absolutely no idea what these secondary morale effects mean in the larger picture.
Off the bat we can see that the designers intended for the SM to be a great-sword tank, as many of its abilities require a great-weapon. If this wasn’t to be made more apparent on paper, roll a level 1 SM and a level 1 tank of every other flavor – the SM is the only tank that starts with a great weapon. This is completely fine with me considering in lore SMs use only great-swords and not shields so+1 lore point for Mythic, but in the game this has some unforeseen consequences. Constantly in the SM’s career we see an emphasis on ‘great weapon’ and ‘parry’, while on the BO (and on other tanks) we see more of an emphasis on ‘block’ and ‘shield’. Due to the lack of emphasis on the defensive mentality of ‘shield and block’ and the SM’s damage potential with all of its spirit attacks, players are lead to a higher desire to spec DPS, and not defensive. I am fine with the SM dealing spirit damage, I am fine with the SM having an emphasis on great weapons, but I am not fine with the SM being pushed towards a dps path which has the potential to out-DPS DPS classes. The greatest consequence of the SM’s emphasis on the great weapon is that even if a player follows the intended path of the SM, they miss out on one of the greatest benefits of a shield – block. Simply put, you cannot parry magical damage. While the SM can attain higher disrupt values than other tanks, it is highly fluctuating depending on the stance.
Great-weapon and parry aside, the SM falls short of all other tanks severely in another department – CC and group utility. For CC the SM has the bane of Order’s existence – Gusting Wind – an AoE medium range knock back only useful for handing out immunity timers and breaking roots and staggers. The SM’s other CCs are buried deep in their other mastery trees or they can slot a tactic for another crappy knock back. The Knight punts high, the IB punts far, the BG punts super far, the Chosen can punt far, but the SM and BO not only have short range punts, but they’re AoE. Turning to group utility, every other tank has abilities which either debuff the enemy or buff an ally OR do both. The SM falls short in this department as well. Only comparing the SM to the BO we see a great gap. While the proc buffs in the left and middle tree are similar, the Black Orc’s Da Greenest is far far superior to Heaven’s Blade. Going further, the BO has far more debuffs (armor, resists, toughness, strength, etc.) and buffs (armor, resistances, weapon skill, strength, etc.), turn to the SM and they can buff their own armor, and debuff their enemy’s resistances. There isn’t really much the SM can do for their group, aside from horrible heals on tactics that a R1 healer could out-heal.
Shifting focus, both classes have a slew of tactics which are limited in utility, particularly ones that affect abstract values of morale. The SM has some decent tactics, but again they direct the SM down the path of DPS; the BO likewise has some good tactics which direct it down a path of defense and group enhancement. Even looking at morales the SM has a decent group buff for M1, but the BO has the same thing as a M2 that is far stronger. The SMs other morales are about his performance, while the BO’s are about his group’s.
Lastly, when absorb bubbles were nerfed in ages past, the SM which relies on absorb bubbles (count the number of abilities which proc absorb bubbles on the SM to see) was greatly hurt. Oddly enough Mythic in its attempt to kill Absorb-Hammer and AutoAttack-Hammer brought both back with the new Doomflayer and Warpforged sets in a form more horrendous than before, just not for the SM. The SM which has a great weapon focus relied on its absorb bubbles to counter damage it could not parry, but the absorb bubbles were nerfed to a degree that renders them useless against the new burst that is T4. The BO which has some absorb bubbles doesn’t rely on them as much due to a greater emphasis on the shield and block.
Ability for ability and tactic for tactic the BO and SM are pretty close together. They share many abilities though they are scattered across the trees and involve different stance shifts leading to the impression that one is better than the other. In the end the SM’s damage outweighs the BO’s, but the BO has far better defensive potential and, more importantly, far greater group utility. So are they mirrors? Sure, but the Black Orc definitely outshines the Swordmaster as a ‘tank’, and after all they are tanks.