Unchained has major core issues with her design

First off, I just want to say, thanks for reading, this is a long one. ~5-10 minutes of reading? If I could go further to ask for feedback, I’d appreciate that even more.

Unchained is my favorite career by far, she probably makes up a solid 75% of my playtime (It’s a lot of hours, I’m only slightly ashamed), but the longer I play her, the more I notice the conflict in her kit. I feel like I rarely contribute much; I often find myself the last person alive. I have the tankiness to carry games when my team dies, but not the damage output to prevent my team from dying to elites or hordes. Swapping to Pyromancer, it’s difficult to go back. And with Bright Wizard, she’s just so slippery, with massive burn damage to boot and the ability to snipe specials so well she’s competitive with the crossbow/longbow.

Unchained is currently in this strange limbo. She’s the tankiest of Sienna’s careers by far when she manages her heat properly, and she can outright ignore chunks of damage - if she’s at 90% heat and takes 100 damage, 50 of that damage basically just disappears thanks to her overheat gate. Toss on Bark Skin and Enfeebling flames, and you can reduce the damage you take by 79% even with the changes to damage resistance coming soon. She is very arguably the tankiest career in the game. Use Natural Bond, and if you’re playing efficiently you can effectively regenerate about 1 ehp every other second.

But that’s not very engaging. It makes Unchained simply not care about taking damage, and while that’s can be an interesting tank role for Sienna, any unchained that’s mastered the ability to swap to her stave and press ‘r’ is virtually unkillable. Toss in Burn-Bloom and Hand of Shallya, and now you can take constant damage and never need to use healing items on yourself. It doesn’t have much engagement to it, and it certainly doesn’t hit that “High risk, high reward” playstyle the class’s core theme and kit was built around.

Speaking of kit, her kit and talents heavily conflict with both her theme and her main appeal. Maintaining high heat for high melee damage is great, but a significant portion of Unchained’s talents focus on mitigating her heat. Five of her talents -nearly two entire rows- and Living Bomb’s main purpose is removing all heat. I understand that this helps keep her alive if she overheats, but this does two things; it drastically reduces Unchained’s melee damage, as well as reducing her skill ceiling, two things that are bad for her fun factor.

By the way, I lied. It does three things. It also makes Unchained a strong ranged caster. She might lack the damage of her other careers, but her extreme control over her heat gives her one of the best sustained use of staves I can think of. Hefty heat reductions, more control over venting, and an ult that instantly vents all heat (Without cancelling whatever spell you’re currently casting btw) as well as giving you breathing room to continue casting even in the middle of a horde. It’s all a bit ironic, considering she’s the “Caution to the wind fiery melee spellsword”. Meanwhile, Pyro’s melee damage boosts are overall better - sure, crits are inconsistent, but they allow her to chew through armor with horde clearing weapons, and her ranged attacks are incredibly powerful. Unchained isn’t strongly defined with her high melee damage. She does have that raw boost, but it’s not the most competitive, and it’s a constant juggling act swapping back to staves to rebuild heat. My teammates always look at me like I just singed the Slayer’s beard whenever I do it, probably because I did.

So, for a while I’ve gone back and forth making my own talent tree for Unchained. A few of these talents stay the same, namely the best of the bunch plus those that I suppose wouldn’t make sense to change (thp generation and stagger talents). Overall though, I wanted to make something that played into Unchained’s theme, gave players meaningful options that allowed them to decided how they want Unchained to play largely inspired by Battle Wizard’s extremely fun talents, and I wanted to make Unchained more engaging.

My ideas were fairly long, so I have it as a seperate google doc for anyone interested in taking a look at that, Aqshy knows this is already too long. To summarize though, changes to blood magic. You no longer overheat from damage taken; instead, any damage that would overheat you isn’t effected by Blood Magic. It’s risk reward, and you choose how you want that to go; heat management keeps you tanky, but reduces your damage, while letting your heat ride makes you hit like a truck, but you lose out on your tankiness. This encourages adapting to your situation; if you’re in the thick of it, venting to reduce incoming damage could be good. Or, if you’re confident, keep your heat high, and be a glass cannon. This also encourages players to use Living Bomb offensively instead of hanging onto it, opening it up for new and devastating talents. Speaking of, talents were changed almost across the board, focusing on raw melee damage and setting beasties dancing.

For those that don’t feel like reading my short novel though, I’d love to hear, what are your thoughts on what I’ve touched on? Am I wrong, and does Unchained have a very defined role? Or does Pyromancer step on her feet with damage, with Unchained’s tankiness not really mattering?

6 Likes

I like most of your idea.

I really hate unchained, as a once upon a time battle wizard main, playing unchained feels miserable. People talk about her ‘tankiness’ but no career has ever made me feel so FRAGILE. Yes you can survive an overhead, no you can’t survive being poked by 2 slave rats at once. I don’t know about you but since overheads are massively telegraphed attacks that’s the ONE thing I don’t need extra tankiness against.

But annoyingly her overbearing LACK of ‘true’ damage resistance is not her only problem, the fundamental way her heat interacts with her damage resistance, melee, and ranged usage creates problems. If I run on high heat for melee bonus it makes me less flexible swapping to staff use, not to mention that trying to snipe a special quickly at high heat means a random rat poke WILL blow me up.

A simple change that could fix her is, instead of blowing up at max heat, you lose all your melee bonus, can’t use her staff for x seconds, and blood magic passive stops working for however long. This gives you a significant punishment for failing the heat management game, but not a punishment that makes you feel so stupidly fragile.

2 Likes

Not particularly fond of these changes and the more slashy approach to her. I like the live version and the BBB version has some plus and some downsides. But she is now very very flexible and with the Burning Dregs talent she is close to unkillable.

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Well no one said she is unplayable but there is no world where her output is superior to battle wizard or pyro. I mean essentially blood magic is just gromril armor… except worse because it comes with a bunch of conditions and penalties. Obviously you enjoy living life on the edge but as for almost everyone else, imagining unchained with gromril armor instead of blood magic is is a drool worthy picture. Calling her close to unkillable makes me wonder about how you must view an ironbreaker…

2 Likes

Unchained has 50 % damage reduction, 20 % more than IB and she can get 15 % more. She has a large overcharge buffer. She is only fragile when you get hit consecutively in a time frame of about 3 seconds. Even then you have an active skill to cover the slip-up. And if that is still not enough you have now a new talent which covers you a second time (and potentially even a third time). For most damage she is on par or better than Ironbreaker (minus Gromril’s Armor).

She was pretty safe pre-BBB. Now? You have to try to explode.

On cata a single hit maxes overcharge so the size is kind of meaningless, and as you say ironbreaker has innate damage reduction AND gromril, neither of which comes with any penalty whatsoever. The main point the op tried to make is that she trades far too much away for blood magic when you compare her to bw or pyro, and of course the point I tried to make is that ironbreaker gets all of his damage soaking kit at no cost.

Essentially unchained just looks bad in comparison to other heroes. Yes if i spam dodge and vent on my staff I can soak alot of damage, but if we compare her to the only other damage soaking career… does an ironbreaker need to stop doing what hes doing in order to enter survival mode? No. He can eat an overhead with gromril and keep chopping faces, he never loses output to manage his passive.

1 Like

And the point I made is that Unchained gets better damage soaking which naturally comes with some costs. I play her myself and see others play her. She is not fragile. And even then, again, there is Burning Dregs. If you haven’t test it out. It makes her close to unkillable.

Unchained has already a strong and competitive offense build even in live version. In BBB she gets one of the best defense builds and a charming support build. I don’t see much need for change here.

But I think we dont will reach closure here, so we should simply disagree and move on.

Really, test out the new Burning Dregs.

Absolutely, the new talent is inarguably the best pick in that row and gives alot more leeway on using her ult for utility. As for disagreeing, I don’t really disagree with the essence of your points, and in a vacuum unchained could be considered a perfectly balanced career.

I think Unchained is a truly unique class in that she is far removed from all other styles in the game, in Live she has a very high skill ceiling because it requires thinking completely differently than her other roles, or the other characters and classes in the game.

In Live she can be frustrating when you get a couple of little boops and blow up, but now she has a much wider safety net in the BBB with the HP transfer to Cooldown you can play extremely recklessly. I’m just about to go and play for the first time with the old Fuel to the Fire back but I reckon she could become a burst damage powerhouse in Melee when she uses her Ult and windmills into a Patrol or Mixed Horde. The wider safety net means you can use the Ult when you want to, rather than when you need to and so it gives her much wider flexibility.

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I definitely wouldn’t say Unchained is fragile. She has gaps in her defense, but Unchained players that are familiar with managing her heat will rarely have any issue with this. Even if a player ends up in the line of fire from a gunner, or hit by a gas globe, venting is fast enough to avoid overheating, with Living Bomb acting as a safety net for players that can’t react fast enough. Venting in this circumstance will tank health quickly, but with a pool of 150 and a minimum damage resistance of 50%, that’s hardly something worth considering, especially when the alternative is dying to overheating. My big issue is that she’s so easy to be tanky with Unchained, and her talents seem to focus so much on heat management and damage mitigation that they don’t feel particularly impactful in practice; players that already have a strong grasp of her aren’t rewarded through talents by leaning into her high risk playstyle, instead her talents make her playstyle easier. I dislike that her talents don’t increase her skill ceiling or give her too many options; most rows have clear best options, and her heat management talents reduce her high risk playstyle, making her easier to play instead of giving her a more difficult to achieve higher skill ceiling. For anyone searching for a high melee damage fighter, Unchained’s talents don’t deliver.

As for examples, even with the changes, row 2’s best is Frenzied Flame. It’s strong, consistent, and applies to both melee and ranged. Searing Grasp is a very interesting perk, but overall fairly weak, especially compared to Frenzied Flames. It opens opportunity for Sienna’s weapons with poor cleave to perform better, but her only weapon with poor cleave is the Crowbill, and the damage over time doesn’t seem particularly meaningful on Searing Grasp. Chain Reaction is weak, inconsistent, relies on weapons that apply burning (Most of which don’t need Chain Reaction to begin with or would actively prefer keeping enemies closer to keep staggering & dealing damage), and useless outside of hordes. On top of that, the explosion from Chain Reaction tends to knock enemies behind the players, which is actively harmful.

For row 3, Dissipate is detrimental by automatically venting while blocking (You want high overheat for more damage, I was very glad when this was removed from Unchained’s base kit), Conduit is a good all-rounder, and Numb to Pain is somewhat useless even with the BBB changes thanks to conduit giving a better and more active effect. That, and Numb to Pain only applies to damage taken from enemies; why reduce heat from enemies that you hopefully won’t be hit by in the first place if you could have just vented more to begin with by using Conduit?

The next row has Burning Dregs and Enfeebling Flames. Enfeebling Flames is a stronger support option, effectively giving Sienna about 70% damage resist. Very passive, not very interesting, but good. As for Burning Dregs, it’s amazing, but only if you overheat frequently. Players that can monitor their heat well will find very rare usage out of Burning Dregs, although it has some interesting use for allowing Unchained’s ult to be used more offensively. Unfortunately, there aren’t many use cases where you use Living Bomb offensively. There could be a combo with Burn Balm to provide the team with a steady flow of temp hp, more so than Mercenary can provide, but this has just been nerfed in a recent patch, so I’m unsure how effective this will be. This row also has Natural Talent, which I consider just a bad choice; reducing overheat generated reduces damage output, but makes heat management easier. It’s a common trend; easier heat management, less damage output.

The final row for Unchained has some interesting options, but I don’t find any of them impactful, especially compared to talents other similar classes get in this tier. Higher stagger on living bomb is very situational and I’ve found that it still can’t stagger Chaos Warriors or Bosses (Might be useful against Elites for proccing stagger damage talents?), Fire Aura’s damage is terrible making it only useful for synergies with her other perks but it only has two synergies as far as I can tell. The first is Enfeebling Flames which is an admittedly strong combo but lessened by being activated right after using Living Bomb, where the damage resistance doesn’t matter as much thanks to being at 0 heat. Reducing the damage enemies deals isn’t too impactful if you could have kept your Unstable Strength active and killed or staggered the enemies to begin with. The other synergy is with Chain Reaction, which is weak to begin with, situational, and overshadowed by Frenzied Flame. I will admit, the Fire Aura looks incredible, but I tend to avoid using it because of the complains I get from teammates struggling to see. Finally, Burn Balm is decent for recovering the health lost if you use Living Bomb in reaction to overheating, but is a very passive ability. Offering temp hp for teammates is great, but lessened by the two minute cooldown, and by most Unchained players reserving Living Bomb to prevent overheating. I honestly believe Unchained’s best ability for this slot was Heat Wave, which is soon to be deprecated. The 50% increased radius for living bomb made it clear out larger chunks of a horde, making it an excellent tool for reviving allies that go down during a horde, or acting as a great panic button if dodge dancing a boss when you get surrounded. The increased stagger talent is likely the new replacement for this, but Living Bomb already heavily staggers infantry; more stagger isn’t needed, range was what added more breathing room.

I’ll agree she’s flexible, but I think she’s flexible in the wrong way. All her flexibility makes her easier to play and tankier, instead of focusing on her high risk high reward melee brawler aspect. Her talents lower her skill ceiling instead of raising it or adding active gameplay elements to play into and be rewarded with. She has very few talents that impact her damage output; only one, Frenzied Flame. I think it’s spot on to say that she’s so survivable right now that you have to go out of your way to try to explode, and that’s my big issue with her; I don’t think it’s fun or engaging for her to be so easy to play, I think she should have greater melee damage output with far greater risk, and I think that’s she’s far too tanky as she is right now. Her core kit suggests a risk-reward melee brawler, but her talents make her tankier and easier to play instead of furthering her melee stopping power.

Unchained’s talents and core kit have some serious conflict. I’d love for her talents to keep some defensive options for those that prefer that – it’s clear that she’s excellent as a tank, and I don’t want to get rid of that playstyle, but where her core kit is just as much a melee brawler as she is a tank, I’m pretty disappointed that she only has one talent that increases her melee damage output. I guess that’s where any disagreements come from though, I expect Unchained to be equal parts tanky and damage dealer, and I’d ideally like her to be able to adapt how much of either she is to the situation she’s in. She has tankiness down perfectly, and offers some interesting support, but for me Unstable Strength doesn’t feel properly supported by her talents.

3 Likes

Thank you, your post is really spot on, and hits the nail on the head for her biggest problem. She can eat damage… and that’s all folks. Pyro melee has better dps, bw has an array of really powerful meta builds on her currently too. For the vast majority of players the high level of management she requires simply isn’t delivering on the reward.

I think the problem comes from what you want her to be:

  • a more or even pure melee centered fighter with fire dot left and right

and what she actually is:

  • a melee/range hybrid character that is meant to switch continuously between her staves and her melee options.

The reason why you have the venting mechanics is because you are supposed to keep it up by casting magic. If that isn’t your thing then the class isnt simply your thing. Then you should switch to characters which excel at this melee style.

There also seems to be some misconceptions:
Searing Grasp has a radius of up to 300 ° (I think even more in BBB) where all enemies are ignited. Even with the low fire dot it means that your dps is higher with Searing Grasp instead of Frenzied Flame during horde fights unless you are using Fire Sword. Then Searing Grasp is pointless. But yea Searing Grasp is meant as the support talent, still has higher dps then Frenzied Flame during hordes.
Chain Reaction at my last test did not do any damage at all. I have no idea what its purpose of existence is, so I agree with you that in this row and this iteration it hardly has a place.

Dissipate is actually a safe choice is you are switching often between melee and range. If you focus on melee the talent is kinda pointless. But then again the whole row is pointless. Which again should tell you: Unchained is a hybdrid career, not melee focussed (she is melee strengthened, not the same). Conduit is there if you want to lean a bit more on the casting side which is a nice alternative and Numb to Pain if you need more safety.

Burning Dregs enables strong but very egoistical play. It allows you to use your active skill more freely which means you can dish out two overcharge bars in magic right after another, with forced overcharge even three overcharge bars. This is something which Battle Wizard cant do and Pyromancer only partially. This amount of burst damage is unique to Unchained.
Enfeebling Flames is a support talent, in combination with Searing Grasp it is extremely strong versus hordes providing your whole team with an indirect 30 % damage reduction. Even without Searing Grasp it still provides help against bosses.
Natural Talent is again for the casters if you want a more coordinated and less wild range play. Currently, it has no synergy with Burning Dregs. Im trying to change that.

The final row after todays update makes it one of the most variable active skills in the game. There is Bomb Balm which gives THP, I consider it the weakest of the choices.
Then we have the returned Fuel to the Fire (thank you Fatshark). The only talent which both influences the damage and the stagger of your active skill. Specializing in it, allows you to burn Slave Rats and Ungors to Death on Cataclysm and allows you to stagger CW overheads on Cataclysm. If you want to revive a team mate THIS is your talent. Old Flame Wave only increased the stagger radius, not the stagger power nor the damage. As such it did nothing against elites (and also not against bosses). Also the damage it delivered was not enough to kill slave rats on Cataclysm. It was a very weak talent (go to live and test it). Fuel to the Fire is also your burst damage/offense talent. In combination with Burning Dregs it can easily be used once or twice, increasing power by 25 % and giving you empty overcharge so you can go wild on magic again. Incredibly powerful.
New Flame Wave has the synergy with Enfeebling Flame, increased damage and also monster stagger. If you have issues with monsters then this is your talent. It is the most defense orientated talent.

She has flexibility to be played as offense hybrid build, as offense magic build, as defense orientated build or as support build. This is more than most other careers. Her melee damage increase is meant as supplement of the melee/range switching, not as core element.

Like I said, you want her to be what she is not. Strongly melee focussed. Which leads me to the conclusion: It just isnt your class.

While that’s all fair I would point out that both pyro and battle wizard have the same melee/staff hybrid thing going on. Tranquility will cool you down while you’re meleeing so you can unload another round of fireballs. Pyro is very similar to unchained in that with her melee build you chuck the fireballs to hit high heat, enabling high crit/attack speed melee.

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That is correct. All Sienna careers are to a varying degree hybrid careers. Thematically, it is inevitable that she is NOT using ranged fire magic because it is her strongest card. You would have to make melee bonkerly broken to counter that. And I don’t see this as balanceable.

Tranquility does help you to provide fire magic in regular intervals. But ultimately it is pretty slow for venting. Unchained is better for longer burst sessions (minimum two overcharge bars).

Yes, to a certain degree. Killing a special allows her 10 seconds free fire which can result also in long burst sessions. Point here is though that Pyromancer has the choice for burst fire magic or faster attacks, not both. And she has to chose not getting affected by overcharge which means another talent sacrificed so she gets on the same level as Unchained. What I see as problematic indeed and what like to see changed is her crit values attached to melee. Pyromancer is Sienna’s primary ranged career, she should not get crit on her melee attacks. Actually, absolutely no career should get a crit chance as high as 50 %. That is just messed up and can never be balanced.

But yea, Pyromancer and Unchained are in certain regards very similar. Just that Unchained doesnt die as fast and has (in my opinion) the far better active skill. When being surrounded i take a spherical explosion over a homing fire skull all day.

I’m still trying to spread the unconfirmed rumour that we will have a BBB phase 2 where more careers will get adressed like WHC, Mercenary, Shade and Pyromancer. And then the forum will change from a burning flame war to lake by all the tears because of long overdue nerfs.

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I think if unchained ult was like a whc or merc shout by default, then perhaps I’d consider it superior to pyro ult. As is the low cd on flaming skull as well as the huge amount of thp you can get from it is hard to dismiss since it really allows you to get away with much sloppier play. Naturally neither ult even lights a candle next to bw ult which with burnout is simply… staggering :wink:

Yea, Bright Wizard should have a longer cooldown. 40 seconds for that flame sea is ridiculous. As for sloppy play. I had a harder time with Pyromancer on Legend then Unchained on Cataclysm. Pyromancer probably isnt meant for me. Not sure if it is a mindset thingy or if I am just not good with these fragile careers.

BW with Flame Sword is more of a tank than UC, change my mind.

The fact that I can get downed with more than 90% green HP just because I get chipped by a gunner or by like three gas cloud damage ticks, is just beyond me.

The overcharge mechanic is such an awful mechanic to base a tank career on it.

When they get nerfed/reworked you’ll be able to see the mushroom cloud of outrage from space and it will be glorious. All we need is Merc THP+DR Ult to be nerfed into the floor and the world will crack in half.

2 Likes

Don’t intend to. Don’t think it is necessary. If you are more comfortable with BW then it is okay. That is the charm of the game that different people have easier times with different characters.

Personally, I was glad as I finished the 100 games with both the Pyromancer and the Battle Wizard so I could put them on the “never again” pile. You have your preferences, I have mine.

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