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.

WHY?

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:

Ice Life Balance Death Myth Fire Storm
Average Damage Per PIP (DPP) 85 85 85 85 90 100 125
Blade value 40% 40% 25% 40% 35% 35% 30%
Trap value 30% 25% 30% 30% 25% 25% 25%

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:

DPP of Ice and Storm according to how many Iceblades/Stormblades they have.

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:

Increase of a 5-pip spell’s damage when buffed by a school blade. Live realm values to the left, test realm values to the right.

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!

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Ravino

Ravino's been playing both Wizard101 as Jonathan DeathShield since 2008 and also has been around Pirate101 since its Beta days. Though mostly an introvert he is one of the most knowledgeable players around the community and is especially interested in pvp, housing and the games' lore and design.

19 COMMENTS

  • I see these kinds of changes and as a long time player I immediately recognize the DPP logic behind it. When I first read about it I knew the 40->35% debuff would be a disappointment to people who love casting the big 40s. Nice to see that point written here. Other than that, standard stuff and I don’t see anything to be disappointed about. The old school difficulty of the early arcs was definitely more interesting and diverse.

    But I think the major problem with W101 right now is that the combat is still one dimensional as you have written. We have many powerful spell but use very few. Even tough and well designed final bosses with cheats feel like they exist to give one of the forgotten spells their spotlight.

    I would love another AV/WT type utility spell world but I don’t know what is the utility of utility spells in the current meta. Even shadow is rarely used outside the 4 pip AOE. Plus with the bosses being easier and less impactful, the storyline feels like a chore instead of a challenge. The bad thing about Karamelle was that after the final boss was beaten there wasn’t a “next best set” to grind for. Empyrea was still good with its tunnel farming which was like a fun community thing that awaited you at the end of it. That kind of stuff makes me want to keep coming back to the game.

  • This is literally a non-issue. Nobody ever wants an ice or death hitter because storm hits harder with less setup. DPP does not matter when storm’s is higher for 5 blades.

  • You left out one fundamental item to your equation: Gear. The individual school’s gear all reflect the same damage boost that is reflected in their cards; i.e., storm gear has the higher damage boost, followed by fire, myth, etc., just as their respective cards reflect the ratio DPP. The gear and the changed blade values will only increase the gap presented in the school’s damage potential.

    And you analysis is flawed: You cannot put 7 or 6 or even 5 of the same value blades on yourself that you are talking about. The actually maximum amount of school blades (same value) that you can stack is 4: regular blade, item blade, pet blade, TC blade. So this limit actually prevents the merging of the damage that you are talking about. Elemental and Spirit Blades and Traps have the same value, so they are moot. The same holds true to all the universal traps such as Hex, Curst and Feint.

    • The problem is not the merging of the damage, it’s how the gap is inconsistent and becomes gradually smaller because of the blade difference. The merging is only an example of what can happen if that gap is allowed to grow. Also I admit the graph says “blades” but it’s actually blades and traps. Fun fact: it IS possible to get 7 blades: regular, item card, pet card, TC, item sharp, pet sharp, TC sharp – all these stack.

    • Sorry but your analysis is flawed. Fire has the highest damage boost from gear. Not to mention dragoon gear gives sharpen and other gear gives blades as well. Other than that yeah I get what you are saying.

  • I would like to be fair to the original poster even though I have disagreed sharply with him or her. I have been questing in parallel on my ice in the Zafaria both in the test realm and in the Live Realm. I have not noticed being particularly more difficult in the test realm. On point, the original poster seems correct. The changes do not seem to be making a significant amount of difference in Mob fights. I have yet to face a major loss in either realm on my ice, so I cannot comment on that. But I did wish to give the original poster his or her due when something they said does appear to be correct.

  • Look at the argument presented. He laments that on the current system Ice would have the same damage as Storm at 6 school specific blades. That would be blade, sharped blade, try-blades, sharpened tri-blades, and then two more school specific blades from where, I do not know (I am only in Avalon with my 7 wizards, so maybe I miss a point here). Normally, Storm would want to hit a lot faster than Ice, so this comparison seems unrealistic to me. That argument to be persuasive would need to be much closer to actual game practice for the two schools. Also, this argument seems to think that the Ice is casting 6 or more 40% blades, and Storm is casting 6 or more 30% blades. But in the game Ice would have a 40%, a 50%, a 35%, and a 45% set to start with. Storm would have a 30%, a 40%, a 35%, and a 45% set to start with. So, as stated, the argument is not clear on what is being assumed in the comparison and how realistic that comparison is.

    The argument with regard to Pierce is unclear. Pierce only works if the target has resist to your spell. Normally that occurs when you fight your own school, and that is what prisms are for. The only other place is when the target has a resist aura up, which so far has not been all that often. The poster may have a point but it is not clear and needs to be spelled out. If it depends on something in the worlds beyond Avalon, it would be appreciated if it was spelled out for those that are not up there yet. Ok, and when there are shields, but that has been getting rare post Celestia, so I need this spelled out.

    I hate to say this, but this post, like so many others on this site, ends up being just a cheer-leader for KI. I hope that this is not so, but I find such quick support for KI questionable. The poster assumes, without any hard evidence presented that KI is going to reestablish school distinctiveness. I find that in the face of Myth loosing a distinctive spell (Orthrus) so it could be given a 7 pip AoE just like everybody else to point in the opposite direction. If KI wants us to not be worried that these nerfing are going to be leading us down to needing to spend more Crowns to be able to play well and solo through the game, then they need to lay out the vision they have, and not ask us to go on faith. I do not like that when religion pulls that and I really do not like it when a business does it.

    • It’s even worse for blades. Tri blades, balance blades, and dark pact amplify all schools equally already, and so do equivalent traps, auras, and now bubbles. You’re so right, the idea that ice, life or death would find itself doing more damage over the same number of rounds as storm just isn’t happening.
      Trying to find 6 school specific blades actually took some thinking. Regular school blade, Sharpened school blade, item card school blade, pet school blade, item card sharpened used on school blade, and TC school blade. I don’t think I’ve ever seen 6 school specific blades used in one hit in normal questing. Rarely do I see more than 3. Why? It’s not needed. Other buffs like feint, balance blade, blade storm, and tri blades are often put on by support players in dungeons (where much of the buffing in pve is done).

      The hypothetical explaining why this update is happening is not practical. The devs should look at actual pve behavior, and they’ll understand why players aren’t dumb for already preferring storms over ices as hitters.

      Ice may be the best at pvp, but they’re one of the worst experiences for pve. This was an ice pvp nerf and storm pvp buff that should not have spilled into pve.

    • The example of Ice surpassing Storm’s damage is not meant to be practical, it’s only an illustration of how far the issue can go – an extreme case scenario. The real issue is the inconsistent gap between Ice and Storm’s damage which is can be observed in just the first blade where Ice goes from having 2/3 of Storm’s damage to 3/4.

  • These changes were pushed by a storm. Idc about pvp, but I’ve grinded pve in all the schools. The idea that storm should finish pve battles a round or two sooner than they do, and that death, life, and ice should finish a round or two later than they currently do… Questing as a storm is already pretty fast, and questing as the other three can really get boringly slow.
    I already really don’t look forward to team dungeoning as an ice. After this update? They can’t naturally blade or heal others, and since their damage potential is getting nerfed, what will they do? Shield spam? Frozen armor? Woohoo 🎉 people totally will need and appreciate that and definitely not resent getting a weakling ice in team up

  • Keep in mind, ice has a DPP of 83 not 85! According to the KI dev in the soell audit dev diary.

    • You’re right! I was looking at a chart which had rounded up values. I felt no need to correct it because spells also get round up and the chart is but a representation of the issue so the exact values are no big deal.

  • I wish there was some commentary on the lack of a buff for Balance, whose blade is remaining at 25%.

    • It’s a universal blade so it kinda needs to be lower than all the others

      • How does that make any sense? Make every blade the same percentage but not balance? Universal blade or not that is not a good reason.

  • I’m glad blades were standardized. I hope KI looks into base health for each school eventually.

    • The fact that storm can create a school specific blade of 150+% has not been taken into consideration in all of this, and they are the only school who can create their own percentage blade. I think nerfing the school blades is going to cause some die hard players who have been playing for well over a decade to stop playing the game. I have been playing on and off for over a decade and I have to say these changes are not thrilling my soul.

      • I don’t understand the relevance of this post, it would be of equivalence of me saying backdraft is more powerful than supercharge. They are different spells and 10% per pip is pretty bad when you can get 35% or 45% sharpened (which used to be 40% [50% Sharpen]) for zero pips. Supercharge should be buffed if anything.

        • If the devs are ok with current supercharge, it’s with the following justification: you have a high degree of flexibility with supercharge that isn’t present with traditional blades. Because of this flexibility, it’s ok if it loses some raw efficiency in the low pip ranges

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