So, it seems that I don't understand lvl 15 talents after all

I’ve played the game for a looong time, and as the new stagger go out I was sure about one thing: I have no idea how stagger really works (still don’t) but I do understand talents.
But recently I started doubting it after reading the description thread.
Can someone summarize those talents for me?
I used to think that mainstay/assassin are the top, smiter/extra AP are mid-tier and Bulwark is garbo. Is extra AP actually the best overall dmg talent?

Assassin/Smiter are top picks as they largely circumvent the entire stagger system and provide a constant melee damage buff, Mainstay/Bulwark are useless due to the very restrictive time frames during which they are applicable, EP is worth it for reaching ranged/stagger breakpoints or if most of your damage comes from DoT effects and the likes.

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I try to explain this simply as I can so some nuance might be lost.

First you got the stagger system itself (it functions regardless of what lv15 talent you have)

it goes from stages:

  • 0 unstaggered, No damage increase

  • 1 lightly staggered, enemy takes 20 % increased damage

  • 2 heavily staggered/enemy is climbing, takes 40 % increased damage

You accumulate stagger simply by smacking enemies, shoving, using heavy attacks or abilities. Bigger the weapon generally longer the enemies stay in stagger 1-2 animations.

Stagger talents in essence modify or boost the behavior of above in some ways. Vermintide wiki has an excellent table to show it very easily and I will be borrowing it here a little bit. (Stagger - Vermintide 2 Wiki)

Assasin: For basic hits (body shots, non crits), Assasin does nothing, however what makes this talent so powerful is the fact that if you crit or hit a headshot you will always be doing 40 % increased damage regardless of what the enemy’s current stagger state is. In short it counts the enemy as always being in stagger 2 state if headshot or crit happens.
Currently the biggest damage increasing talent in the lv15 row.

Smiter: modifies the stagger 0 state behavior and nothing else.
The first target you hit with your attack receives damage as if it were in stagger 1 state. This is really the only thing you need to understand about this talent, it’s extremely powerful on single target weapons like executioner sword heavies, because you will always be hitting a single target, so in theory the heavy should always deal at least 20 % increased damage unless the target is already in a stage 2 stagger in which case the damage is 40 % like normally. Useful for 1 shot breakpoints.

Do keep in mind the wording, the first target hit. So, if you were to cleave 3 enemies, only the first target you hit would take the 20 % increase and the rest would be treated as being in stagger 0.

Mainstay: This talent simply increases the stage 1-2 damages from 20-40 to 40-60 respectively. In theory this would be THE talent for massive cleaving weapons who want to stagger/unbalance lots of enemies. Unfortunately, the breakpoints are rarely there and generally you can get the same with enhanced power, with some exception’s.

Enhanced power: Increases total Hero Power by 7.5% before other buffs are applied. This does not mean however that it replaces stagger system like many people would believe. You still have the core 20-40 % increases even when this talent is in play.
Only talent that increases ranged and dot damage.

Bulwark: In short terms, it debuffs the enemies you stagger to take 10 % increase damage.

In theory excellent talent for something like shields who want to keep enemies off-balance constantly and for teammates to kill them. However, the debuff only lasts for 2 seconds and 10 % generally is not enough to really compete with the other choices.

The below table, should also help to make it bit clearer.

(Source: V2 wiki)

Anyways I hope this cleared at least something. Comments and fixes appreciated, I tried to assimilate the information pretty quickly so there might be some flaws.


@semn007 : This is a very good replyby @hgjw , sums it all up pretty well. The system isn’t very complicated at all, but the problem is that it isn’t explained at all anywhere in the game, apart from little pieces in the talent rows. Which only causes more confusion…

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Looks like Bulwark really needs some lovin’
I’ll be taking AP on a couple more careers…