June 21, 2019
Pirate101 Unique Gear Sets
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Variety is the spice of life” before. Variety and uniqueness can bring intrigue to otherwise boring endeavors. I’d like to discuss variety (and particularly this saying) in reference to unique gear sets in Pirate101. Generally, players of each class in Pirate101 use similar or nearly similar gear sets in PvP. Why? They’ve been proven to be the best (or nearly so) from consistent testing.
However, I’ve seen an uptick in people that decide to try out “new” gearsets recently. Some of these sets are very good, essentially functioning as upgrades to existing builds in certain matchups. On the other hand, many of them are very clearly sub-optimal.
Assuming players’ main goal is to win consistently, why would they consider these clearly inferior builds? Unfortunately, many players merely copy gear sets they see other top players using. While this is great when they start out playing, once they decide to try and change this gear around, they will be left with no understanding of why this initial gear set was good. In this article, I’ll highlight exactly what makes a certain gear set “good,” creating a list of requirements for unique gear sets to be competitive, highlighting some specific examples. Then, I’ll attempt to answer the question “Is variety good for Pirate101 PvP”?
What Makes a Gear Set Good?
Let’s say I’m thinking about making a new gear set for my pirate. What powers must be included, at a bare minimum for the gear to be competitive?
The first, and hopefully the most obvious requirement is protection. In Pirate101, unlike Wizard101, the quality of threats (attacks) and the quality of defenses (here, shields) are essentially equal. There is no real equivalent to Wizard101’s shadow spells or hyper-efficient utility spells/shield breakers.
So, what happens when your shiny new gear set, for instance a witchdoctor hybrid build with a boatload of musketeer epic talents, runs into a player packed with Valor’s Fortresses and Valor’s Armors? Sure, you can do a lot of damage quickly (you probably have upwards of 12-15 chances to hit per turn, which sounds terrifying), but their defenses are going to slow you down drastically. Your build is not so powerful, so aggressive, that it can efficiently kill through an opponent’s protection.
On your side, you’re running little to no protection. If you want to win, you’ll have to outlast their protection. However, you can’t do that since their attacks will be able to hit you for full damage a lot sooner than your attacks will be able to hit them for full damage. Thus, to win, you’ll have to close out the match quickly, despite your opponent having protection. See the issue? By not running protection when your opponent is, you make it harder to survive AND harder to deal damage.
To even consider running a certain gear set, it should (with rare exceptions) have at least 2 major protection buffs (major = Valor’s Fortress, Valor’s Armor, Leviathan’s Call for buccaneers). Privateer is the exception; they require at least 3. Most of these protection buffs should be able to shield against all types of damage (Valor’s Fortresses and Valor’s Armor do this). I tend to prefer 3 for non-privy classes and 4 for privies, but you can be competitive with my listed minimums. A quick note, I wouldn’t count your pet’s Kraken’s Lament as a major protection buff, unless you’re fighting a buccaneer. It doesn’t shield from ranged and mojo damage. Every class except for buccaneer can do a significant portion of their damage from ranged/mojo based attacks.
I’m not going to bore you by rehashing my argument. The same logic that applies to the question “Why should I run protection” applies to heals. However, you may ask “Why not run purely protection and no heals?” Let’s say you have a rough early portion of the match, and your pirate takes a lot of damage. No amount of Valor’s Fortresses are going to remove that damage. Your opponent can just continue pressuring you, forcing your back against a wall. Sure, you can spam forts, but since you can’t recover, they’ll just time them out.
As this example illustrates, Heals are guaranteed to do something. Forts, while incredibly valuable can be timed out or just attacked through. Thus, you need to have both available.
The requirements for the heals of a unique gear set are a lot simpler than the requirements for protection. I’d argue that every class should have 2 heals from their gear at a minimum (I include the spring champion heal and rally from pets here). Privy, once again, is the exception. They need 2 Revives from their gear, plus an optional third heal from a pet. Witchdoctors can somewhat use their drains + shroud as a heal as well.
One gear set that I see new-ish players falling into the trap of using is the “oops! all shields and heals” set. I’ve encountered this a lot on musketeers, particularly ones with overwatch 5. It’s also not uncommon to see buccaneers equip the Saint Fido Patch, some heals, forts, and a hide, and then expect to get carried by their high accuracy and dodge and efficient chaining. They think that all they need to do is survive, and then they’ll win by virtue of their superior stats, chaining ability, etc.
Why is this a failing strategy? Pressuring the opponent is a key part of Pirate101 PvP. It doesn’t matter how long you can survive if you’re unable to close out the match. Furthermore, the “oops! all shields and heals” set isn’t forcing the opponent to use their shields. You may have a higher quantity of shields, but they can use their limited shields more sparingly because of how focused your gear is towards defense. Finally, having your win condition be basic attacks or chain hits is ill-advised. These hits are not reliable in the slightest.
The type of attacks you need obviously vary on your class. Swashbucklers and Privateers generally need 2 Assassin’s Strikes from their gear. Buccaneer needs 1-2 Assassin’s Strikes (using a slot for a piece of Moo Tower gear should you have 1 Assassin.). Musketeers generally need a couple of extra trick shots, sniper shots, or super shots, and maybe an extra set of bombs. Finally, Witchdoctors need at least 1 extra Moursong, plus some extra AOE attacks of some sort.
A Quick Note
As you may have noticed, I’ve come down very harshly against gear sets that focus solely on a certain type of power while ignoring the others. I’ve instead advocated for more balanced power setups, as they are more effective. There’s an interesting way of describing this property of gear sets. Instead of saying that you should run a balanced gear set, we can reword it to say “Combinations of powers are better than the powers by themselves.” For instance, if your unique gear set has 7 forts and 0 assassins, this property would say that a set with, say, 5 forts and 2 assassins would generally be more effective. This property is called convexity and it generally holds true for gear sets.
Other Power Requirements
There are some powers that don’t fit neatly into the categories I just mentioned. Powers like Walk in Darkness and Purge Magic fall here. My advice is to be aware of what your class generally runs and keep note of any essential “other” powers.
For instance, a swashbuckler, buccaneer, and musketeer gear set needs to have at least one extra hide, while someone entering ranked on a musketeer or swashbuckler would be ill-advised to not bring Sprocket Key on their pirate.
Maintaining your Class’s Playstyle
This is a bit of an arbitrary requirement, but it’s arguably the most important when making reference to unique gear sets. Each class in Pirate101 has a well-designed and very specific niche/intended playstyle. Most of your trained abilities are designed to complement that. Thus, although you can somewhat deviate from what’s intended, fundamentally changing it is unwise.
For instance, forcibly immobilizing yourself for 5 rounds with gallant defense to protect a banner is not ideal on a swashbuckler. Also, easily disruptable, combo focused strategies often are much weaker than they seem on paper, due to how easy it is to disrupt their many moving parts (as opposed to normal play styles that are more resilient to disruption). In addition, changing your primary stat is generally unwise. (ex: being will-based on a buccaneer or strength-based on a swash) I’ll discuss this requirement in reference to a couple of unique gear sets.
HTL 3 Swashbuckler
Htl 3 is obviously a very potent ability. However, I don’t think it works very well on buckler (in both theory and practice). It sounds cool at first: who doesn’t like being able to get easy first strike/riposte chains in elusive? However, most of swashbuckler’s strong attacks require being adjacent to the opponent (Poisons, Assassin’s Strikes, etc). This will generally mean engaging with the opponent yourself, since no one is going to voluntarily walk into your htl3, unless they have an opportunity to close out the match. Furthermore, since bucklers have fewer trained shields than buck does, we can’t trade shield for shield and have the inevitability of htl to close out the game. (And there’s the whole issue of it being terrible against ranged classes)
Thus, your gear and your trained powers are pulling you in two completely different directions. Your gear wants you to play more passively, forcing your opponent to engage with you. Your trained powers want you to engage directly, by attacking with Assassins or Poisons. HTL3 attempts to fundamentally change that play style by asking that you don’t directly engage, as to get maximum value from htl. This makes htl3 a BAD unique gear set.
Hybrid (Burst 2) Buccaneer
I’d argue that this gear set fulfills the playstyle requirement. Why? A hybrid buck set generally changes 2 pieces of gear: they add an uncanny shot and they replace their pure melee weapon with a Dreadnaught hybrid weapon. Unlike the buckler’s htl 3 set, which requires a much steeper gear sacrifice, this setup is fairly reasonable.
In addition, it doesn’t require changing the way you play a match (and the gear that you add is very synergistic with your trained powers). A burst 2/relent 2 buccaneer is still getting most or all of their damage from melee engagement (direct attacks and/or chains). In addition, the higher base accuracy of burst fire and the extra 3 attacks a turn it gives you allow you to better pressure your opponents. Finally, the combination of Reckless Frenzy and Uncanny Shot is incredibly synergistic, with many players being unable to combat it effectively.
However, this setup does have one issue: practice points. To train burst 2, you’ll have to sacrifice a quintessential ability like Fast 2 or Witch Hunter, which can be problematic (to say the least) in certain matchups. Thus, Burst 2 buccaneer is a unique (maybe better described as ‘unconventional’) gear set that, while it ultimately passes all the tests for an alternate gear set, still suffers from issues that inhibit it from being top tier. Furthermore, it suffers from lower weapon power and increased vulnerability to reduces. In my opinion, this is the best you can reasonably expect from a unique gear set: something that is better in certain matchups, but has tradeoffs in others. Remember, the most commonly used gear sets are commonly used for a reason. Finding one that’s better in all facets isn’t realistic.
Is Variety the Spice of Life?
After discussing how to evaluate a new or unique gear set, I think it’s worth asking the question: are these gear sets even worth exploring? The answer depends on your expectations for your unique gear set.
- If you believe that you can find something truly meta redefining that is optimally competitive across the board, you’ll be disappointed. As I’ve said before, the most commonly used gear sets are commonly used for a reason. They’ve been tested for years and found to be the best at what they do.
- If you want something that’s competitive and unique, but not meta defining, be sure to evaluate your build carefully. Look at the above requirements and be sure to test it in the Spar Chamber. In Ranked, the surprise factor can make certain builds seem a lot better than they objectively are. Removing the surprise factor gives you an objective look at a build’s strength.
- There are a lot of builds that fall into this category. There are also a lot of builds that sound cool that fail one or more of these tests and will be very weak. (things like fs3 on non-buckler pirates, banner oriented strategies, etc)
- If you don’t care about being competitive and you just want to mess around with spicy meme builds, go for it. Just have realistic expectations.
I hope you enjoyed this look into unique gear sets in Pirate101 PvP!
What interesting gear sets have YOU tried out?