Blades and Traps Revised
What’s behind the change?
Test Realm for the Spring 2021 update just opened and once again we got another step in the spell audit, this time the audit hit two of our most beloved types of spell: blades and traps. The change in question is pretty straight-forward: all school-specific blades and traps are being revised and standardized at the same value, blades are now 35% and traps are 30%.
This kind of change is hard to ignore, you would be hard pressed to find a Wizard101 player who isn’t aware of these little buffs, they’re the building blocks of our gameplay in almost every duel situation, especially blades, and this update changes the value of four out of seven of our schools’ blades.
Being such an essential part of the game it’s perhaps no surprise KI thought it must evolve alongside the rest of the game. On the other hand they are also a very cherished part of a wizard’s life, we use them all the time and always want more so it also shouldn’t surprise that players hold them as almost sacred – they’re a part of “wizard culture”, if you will – and some might be naturally upset at the idea of KI touching something we use all the time and never had an issue with. “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” is a common line in MMO’s and really how could such beloved spells be broken in any way? And if they aren’t broken, why change them at all? Let’s take a look at why the change is happening and what it might entail.
That’s easily the first question that comes to mind: why change our blades and traps? There was never a outcry for them to be reworked and they aren’t causing any visible issue so what’s the point? The short answer is: for the sake school diversity.
Easily one of the most common complaints about the game is the lack of school diversity. Equalizing blades and traps are a small step towards making each school more unique… this might sound paradoxical since the effective change is making them all the same, but let’s look more closely. This is the way the game has worked thus far:
|Average Damage Per PIP (DPP)||85||85||85||85||90||100||125|
Note Storm has the weakest buffs despite their reputation for being the high damage school. The powerful buffs are actually given to Ice, Death and Life which are supposed to be low damage schools. Their DPP is indeed the lowest, but you’re about to see this doesn’t mean so much.
Storm’s base damage of 125 per pip looks much better than Ice’s 85, if you’re a math-savvy person you may have even noticed Ice’s base dpp is roughly 2/3 that of Storm’s. But let’s give them both their respective school blade and trap and the situation starts to change a bit: now Storm’s damage is 202 while Ice’s damage is 154… Ice’s damage is now 3/4 of Storm’s. The difference doesn’t stop here either, if you give them both another blade, Ice will have almost 4/5 of Storm’s damage.
Take a look at this graph to see what happens to their DPP if we keep boosting them with their respective blades:
Oh look, after the sixth Iceblade the Ice wizard becomes stronger than the Storm with the same amount of Stormblades. Oops? The exact same happens with Life while Death surpasses Storm even earlier.
If Storm focuses on damage and Ice on defense, then Storm is expected to have stronger damage than Ice… but how much stronger is it supposed to be? In their base DPP we have a clear answer: Ice’s damage is 2/3 of Storm’s. But once we start buffing them the answer changes, since Ice’s 40% stronger blade allows it to play catch-up, altering the original difference in power and after a while even removing it completely.
At first glance one might think having different blades for each school is a boon for school identity, it does sound cool on paper, but the way it’s been done in Wizard101 has the reverse effect – it erodes the identities which the DPP tries to establish in regards to damage potential. It’s self-sabotage in a way. This is the main thing addressed with this blade/trap update.
How will it affect the game?
As these are arguably the most used spells in the entire game there’re some noteworthy implications for even the slightest changes to them. Let’s dive at the main practical consequences of this update!
Make DPP matter again
The foremost impact of this change is the stacking of blades and traps no longer play a role in modifying a school’s damage potential, instead they merely amplify the damage a player already have in their cards and gear. The graphics below will help illustrate the difference:
Note with the old values, all three elemental schools grow more or less together reaching similar amounts of damage. Storm’s cards may have higher numbers written in them yet Fire’s and Ice’s blades gradually compensate for it.
But with the new standardized blades this no longer happens, everyone gets +35% when they blade so Storm’s damage keeps rising in accordance with their superior DPP. Since everyone is getting the same bonus per blade the difference in damage becomes more evident with Storm being much further ahead of Fire and Ice staying behind.
A step towards reestablishing school identity
Lack of school identity has been one of the most common complaints about the game, many players have noticed every school is played more or less the same way with the same kind of spells – blade, blade, AoE, shadow-enhanced spell. Even our stats are similar, with every school boasting 100+ damage, 100% accuracy, roughly the same universal resistance. A recent twitter poll concerning Ranked 1v1 had “lack of diversity” as the 2nd most voted option – and the issue is even more evident in PvE.
Many players have long called for a “return to basics” in regards to school identity; this is exactly what this update is delivering, albeit in an indirect fashion.
Of course this diference in damage potential can’t be the defining factor of Wizard’s schools, it’s a small first step towards a larger goal – like just about everything KI does nowadays. Future updates will likely bring new changes and features to reinforce each school’s strengths – Ice and Life’s defensive characteristics, the more manipulative nature of Death and Balance and so on – some small changes are already happening and a few more might still come out later in this Test Realm.
Impact in PvE
Despite being an important update, the actual impact of these changes in PvE will be far from earth-shattering. Have you ever heard the human mind is prone to focusing more on the bad side of things? The most evident blow so far has been to Ice, Death and Life players – not to their actual performance in the game but to their egos as they’ll now be forced cast lowly 35% blades instead of the glorious 40s we were used to. The idea of losing something, even a mere 5% in our blades, will likely be in the forefront of players’ response to this update.
As for the difficulty increase from these changes, it’ll be nearly insignificant in arcs 2 through 4, as players questing in these worlds already enjoy mobs with reduced HP as of last Summer, not to mention the brazenly overpowered rank 7 AoE’s and revised critical system which generally favors the players. At the very worst these worlds may get a little harder compared to Live Realm, but will remain easier than they were in early 2020.
Arc 1 will be affected to a greater extent but the “challenge” of these worlds is defined by increasing enemy HP which creates longer, not harder, fights. Experienced players may notice some battles taking one or two rounds longer than in earlier playthroughs, but no greater obstacle.
Finally the biggest impact will actually be for Storm players who’ll now get to use 35% Stormblades and its 45% sharpened variant. This might allow Storm to finish certain boss fights a round earlier (if they’re keeping close track of their damage) but the 5% boost is too small to affect player behavior in most circumstances, especially when most boss battles are already overcome with ease… or utterly blown away with overkills.
Impact in PvP
Much like in PvE, the standardization of buffs won’t cause a great impact for the meta in PvP – at least not on its own. If these changes had just come to Live without any other updates there really wouldn’t be anything to discuss. However there are many other PvP-relevant updates due this Spring, some will lead to meta changes which might be at least partially furthered by blade/trap changes. With that in mind I’ll use this section to simply highlight how the standardized buffs might contribute to existing PvP tendencies:
- Slight change to damage potential: Storm goes up. Ice, Death & Life go down.
If you wanna know about REAL changes coming to damage in PvP the article you should read is #ComingSoon. The impact of blade/trap changes pale in comparison to the new limit functions for damage and resist.
The standardized blades will still play a role in altering damage potential in the upcoming meta but it’ll be difficult to feel the real impact of this change next to the colossal impact of limit functions. For instance, storm will be able to use this update as a way of making up for diminishing returns imposed upon their damage stat after 100%.
Meanwhile, Life, Death, and Ice will have to deal with two changes dampening their damage, the limit function and weaker blades – these schools aren’t getting freebies to “make up” for their lost damage. However, they may benefit indirectly from the slower meta. Death and Life especially benefit, as they will be allowed more room to employ their defensive strengths, something they are struggling to do in the current hyper-aggressive meta. This may allow them to overcome their reduced damage by relying on more control-oriented strategies.
- A possible rise in popularity for spears.
While blades were standardized at 35% all spears received a much needed upgrade to 20%. This makes them stronger offensive Charms than an unenchanted blade, provided you “use” of all its pierce. In this case it’s approximately equivalent to 40% blade. They may prove to be a worthwhile spell for lower pierce players who are looking for stackable Charms and not wanting to rely on Sharpen Blade.
Furthermore, they might rise in popularity regardless of the blade changes if KI decides to nerf or ban Shadow Shrike. This was something Ratbeard mentioned in his last dev diary as being under consideration. In this case, they may end up serving a dual purpose as players who start playing with them discover they aren’t so bad anymore. And that’s the bulk of it!
How do YOU feel about the standardization of blades and traps?
Will you miss your old blades and traps?
Let us know in the comments
…and be sure to light a candle to help guide our dying spells to the afterarchive!