Patch notes for 1.3 are now available on the public test server forums. The patch notes on the public test server forums include numerous class balance changes.
The two general combat changes summarized below will have a significant impact on how every class plays in player vs. player situations.
Class Change Highlights
- Threat generation for all tank classes has been increased
- Several abilities have been altered to scale with character stats
- Tank area-of-effect damage abilities have been changed to do "smart" damage - damage that does not effect crowd controlled enemies.
- Assassin tank survivability has been reduced. Both powertech/vanguard and juggernaut/guardian tanks have had the damage of key abilities reduced.
- Arsenal/gunnery, mercenary/commandos and marksmanship/sharpshooter snipers/gunslingers were given buffs to resource management.
Notable Combat Changes
- Buff and debuff stacking has been redesigned so similar, non-stacking effects no longer add to one another. According to the PTS patch 1.3 patch notes, "This system specifically causes only the highest of any given non-stacking buff or debuff to apply."
- Relics have been changed to provide a lower stat bonus for a longer amount of time.
- Expertise adrenals no longer provide a damage or a healing boost. The boost is now to PvP damage reduction only.
Bounty Hunter/Trooper Changes
Significant changes were made to the shield tech/shield specialist talent trees in SWTOR patch 1.3. These changes are summarized below:
Powertech and vanguard tank stances have gained a threat generation increase. Both tank stances now increase threat generation by 100 percent (up from 50 percent). The tank skill trees have been redesigned to offer "smart" AoE damage through ion cell/gas cylinder. "Supercharged Ion Gas now increases Ion Overload damage by 25%. While Ion Gas Cylinder is active, Rail Shot triggers your Ion Gas Cylinder on the target and up to 4 additional nearby targets."
Tank burst has been significantly lowered due to the flame shield and static shield skills. The critical chance bonus from these talents now gives 8 percent critical chance to rocket punch and flame sweep.
The flame surge skill has been redesigned so that it provides a free flame sweep, perhaps in an effort to provide powertechs and vanguards with more sustained AoE damage. While this will be good for building threat on trash pulls, the critical chance reduction to a key ability like rocket punch is a negative change for boss encounters and PvP.
Most mercenary/commando changes were made to the arsenal/gunnery talent trees. In addition to some talents being shifted to depend on other talents, sustained damage received buffs, which are summarized below.
Resource has been changed due to changes to the way the terminal velocity/cell charger talent works. According to the SWTOR patch 1.3 notes, "while High-velocity gas cylinder is active, there is a 50 percent chance per point to vent 8 heat every 6 seconds."
This change is a buff to mercenary/commando sustained resource management by making heat ventilation and energy cell generation less reliant on critical hits. More predictable resource generation is a good change and should help with the resource management difficulty many mercenaries and commands experienced after patch 1.2.
Sustained damage has been buffed through changes to the light em up skill, which now applies an extra stack of tracer lock or charged barrel.
Imperial Agent/Smuggler Changes
Changes were primarily made to the marksman skill tree to provide better resource management, but all snipers and gunslingers have gained something for high defense and armor targets. Instead of boosting alacrity, the target acquired ability now gives a 30 percent bonus to accuracy and 15 percent armor penetration. Additionally, the amount of damage absorbed by shield probe now scales with character stats.
The marksmanship/sharpshooter tree has been altered to make resource management easier. The rapid fire skill is now a passive ability that lowers the cooldown of ambush and series of shots. Sniper volley gives a boost to alacrity and finishes the cooldown on series of shots.
Burst damage for engineering has also been boosted through changes to cluster bombs. The time between detonations has been decreased, and the imperial methodology skill gives two extra bombs.
The only gameplay change for operatives and scoundrels lowers their survivability. Survival training's healing received bonus has been reduced to 1 percent per point. This change is likely needed to bring operative and scoundrel healers closer to the other healing classes after the 1.2 healing nerfs.
Sith inquisitor/Jedi Consular changes
Dark charge received a significant bump in threat generation, from 50 percent to 100 percent. However, survivability for dark charge has been lowered. Healing from dark charge has been reduced by 50 percent and its armor bonus is now 115 percent instead of 150 percent. While the change doesn't affect the overall feel of the class, the double whammy nerf is a little painful for assassin tanks.
Wither now does smart damage, so it will not affect enemies under a crowd control effect.
No changes have been made to the sorc/sage advanced class.
Sith Warrior/ Jedi Knight Changes
Like other tank classes, juggernauts received an increase to threat generation via a buff to Soresu form, which now provides a 100 percent bonus to threat. The amount of damage absorbed by sonic barrier now scales based on character stats.
The overall damage of the juggernaut and guardian has been reduced, as well as the on-demand survivability boost from blade barricade. Changes such as the redesign of crushing blow have given juggernauts more tools to spread armor debuffs. Crushing blow, the top skill for immortal spec has been adjusted to spread armor debuff stacks and damage nearby enemies when the tank's primary target has the maximum number of stacks. However, the damage of this ability has been reduced. While this does bring more utility to the juggernaut class, but the overall effectiveness of the new utility will depend heavily on the group's make up due to the changes to the way debuff stacking works.
The single saber mastery skill from the vengeance tree has been changed to give different effects depending on what stance the character is using. This skill now gives more damage when the character is in shien form and higher defense and threat generation in soresu form. This is a good change because it makes a skill low in the skill tree useful for multiple specs. More changes similar to this one would allow more complex builds by increasing the effectiveness of hybrids - although, more skills higher up in the tree would need to become appealing for diverse builds for a truly hybrid spec to be desirable.
One pretty significant change to the gore skill in the carnage tree. Gore now costs 1 rage and ignores the global cooldown. To compensate for the GCD change, gore's damage has been reduced and the armor penetration buff's duration has been reduced by 1.5 seconds.
My thoughts on SWTOR patch 1.3 class changes
Overall, the class balance changes, combined with the changes to relics/adrenals and buffs/debuffs are good for the game, especially in PvP. The on-demand burst drastically reduced time-to-kill in warzones, and made many combats end too quickly. I prefer longer, strategic fights and I believe these reductions will help bring time-to-kill more in-line with what it was before patch 1.2, when the changes to expertise greatly exaggerated the effectiveness of synchronized burst damage.
The threat generation changes should make tanking life a little easier for the PvE side of things, but I have reservations about the "smart" damage. Part of the fun in tanking is having to position enemies so that AoE threat and damage abilities don't break crowd control. I'll have to wait to see if tanking feels a little easier than it should with both smart damage and significantly higher threat generation.
I also have a feeling the multi-pronged nerfs to assassin tank survivability may be a little too much. I can see an argument for making the assassin's base mitigation somewhat lower than other tanks due to the healing procs from dark charge and the harnessed darkness healing, but I don't agree with reducing both base mitigation and self healing at the same time, especially since the assassin's passive mitigation is already lower than other tanks.
Since 1.2, it has felt like sentinels and marauders have a significant advantage over other classes. I was disappointed that changes were not made either to marauder damage output or their defensive cooldown abilities, which outpace that of any other DPS class. I think the reductions to on-demand burst will mitigate the overpowered feel of defensive abilities such as undying rage. However, these changes affect all classes and I am not entirely convinced marauders will be in line with the rest of the DPS classes in patch 1.3.