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Kletian999
03-26-2013, 10:08 PM
I'm not an expert player yet, but I've found one trend disturbing. Unless I make a critical blunder like block my own units, if my opponent has a shieldmaster, I will win. Stoic's been doing a good job for the most part with unit parity but I find even if you use a Shieldmaster well, the other classes, or even another unit type, would be doing the job better.

A Shieldmaster, compared to the other Shield Varls (Strongarm or Provoker) in potential
1. Has medium armor 16 compared to 15 or 18.
2. Has Medium Str, 14 vs 15 or 12.
3. The same Will and Exertion (technically strongarm can have 9 vs 8 and 8.)
4. Has the highest armor break, 4 vs 2 or 3
5. Has the ability to (after performing a break attack) turn on a counter melee stance for 2 armor break instead of the usual 1 armor break.

In practice they can't have all max stats, so how we stat them controls their purpose.

Armor breaking role: They have the best break, and their power is tied to the stat, so how good are they at the role of breaking armor?

First they must get into melee range, being shield varls they have the toughest time doing this unless they are part of the front line charge. If they use exertion they'll likely burn their half+ their will to get into position rather then wait to be "first struck". Once there, they can EITHER turn on their ability, or use the will for 1-2 more to the target, doing a respectable 4-6 break, maybe more if the enemy chooses to melee them. Being a varl it's slightly more difficult for other melee to reach the broken target depending on where the rest of the enemy are. Having gone out front, he's the prime target for archer breaks that ignore his ability. Even maimed, he can continue to break, however later rounds pierce damage will absolutely destroy him. Also targets can always run away/around him.

In contrast to other breakers:
Backbiters out move him, doing 2 break even when not statted for it (and maybe some STR damage) or up to 6 break with a 3 exertion armor attack. Their surviviablity at 13 arm, 10 Str isn't much less either, especially when they stand right next to the archers to avoid pierce.
Siege archers can drop multiple 5 point breaks at a range, or deal 2 break and some damage with their power for just 1 will. They can usually damage a target every round, and at end game use pierce to great effect.
Warleaders (I think they're underpowered too), can do 5 breaks with longer walk range, and have a power that's situationally useful.
Raidmasters can make themselves nigh invulnerable until they are in position, then drop multiple 3+ breaks.


Str hitter role:
The Strongarm is capable of hitting as hard as a Warrior, can the Shield master do likewise? By sacrificing break, a similar 14/14 stat can be reached. However, by sacrificing break and raising STR the SM power is now useless, they can't turn on the aura and make STR attacks at the same time. Also, while Strongarm can wait in the back providing utility with it's push power, the Shield master must literally do nothing until it's time to melee something.

Position block/Team defense:
Maybe his job is to just stand there and be hit so other units aren't? His armor is lower than the provoker, and his power dissuades him from being hit by non-archers, while Provokers actually force the opponent to make subprime moves.

The shieldbanger ability is primarily to punish multihit powers like Flail, backbite, and Tempest in a phalanx. Even though the effect is doubled when the master uses his power, people already don't use those powers on Provokers and Strongarms without VERY good reason. The power itself is worthless versus archers, being StrongArmed away, or being killed. Raidmasters stonewall in contrast completely negates these abilities.

In final summary, the Shieldmaster is currently outclassed in every role by other Varl, his stats mediocre and only unique power largely useless. I propose the current "Return the pain boost" power be scrapped for a new more unique ability that'll give him a niche with his current stats. Suggestions include:

1. Something to give him much more movement- Shield Varls biggest weakness is being outrun, what if he had a power that let him dash a few squares, but instead of run through he pushed any units in his way with the shield (whether it's damage/breaking or just the move might be fine). If being the offspring of Run-through and Shield Push is a bad idea, I have others.

2. Something to encourage melee attacks vs him, complementing the Provoker like Sky Striker and Siege archer do. In grid based Dungeons and Dragon play, there's the concept of opportunity attacks- I hit you if you walk past me (presumably after activating an ability like Stone Wall is activated) Whether it's fixed Str/Break or based on stats, I'd be happy either way. Alternatively, the stance could just stop movement once adjacent to him, or he could freeze the movement of a target he hits like his current power works.

3. An "I can still hurt things when maimed/low str power" nothing fancy, just a 2str/2arm static hit to a single target, or maybe just 2 str damage to two targets directly in front of him?

So that's my thoughts for now. Have I neglected some shining feature of the Shield master? Have you found "improved return the pain" indispensable and useful as is? Are my ideas for other powers good or just hacking together the powers of other classes? Do you have a better idea for a unique niche? Please share.

Kletian999
03-26-2013, 10:13 PM
Another idea for a new power: Based on Hamedo from Final Fantasy Tactics: a stance where any melee attack made against it is pre-emptively countered with a STR hit. This would boost viability vs. Glass Cannon warrior builds.

franknarf
03-26-2013, 11:05 PM
As he is a "-master" class, I guess the ability should be an extension of return the favor. I'm not saying bring the pain should be changed, but if it were...it could be made to trigger in more situations (your suggestion #2), instead of just strengthening it (the current ability). "Opportunity attacks" to armor could be triggered on enemy movement within a certain distance, or by attacks on neighboring allies.

I can't find a use for the SM, either, but that doesn't mean he's not useful. I'm curious to hear what others say.

Butters
03-26-2013, 11:35 PM
While I personally dislike the SM, I have seen him used to great effect, so not completely convinced he needs a buff.
Roles other than breaker should be completely forgotten for him, IMHO. And as such he is not "outclassed by other varl". He does break and yes, positional defense, better than the WL (who would be too squishy if spec'ed as a full-fledged breaker like 12/9/5/1/4, expecially with his high mins in str and wp) and better than the PK (for a breaker build, I'd have a 16/8/3/1/4 SM over a 17/8/3/1/3 PK any time of the day). His defensive edge with his ability and his tendency to attract high-wp archer shots are also a big plus in his favor. Giving him more mobility would not make any sense in the context of the general balance. Of course shield varls have low mobility ; it's a defining characteristic.
Even with it, your 16/8/3/1/4 SM is almost guaranteed to land 3-4 4+ break hits, while taking the enemy a lot of turns (and possibly wp) to take down. All in all I feel he is right where he should be.

Regarding your proposals :
1. Very interesting ability... For another unit. There's a good chance this is precisely what the Berserker will do !
2. Another pretty cool idea.
3. I'm not sure a breaker needs a "useful when maimed ability". Breaking in itself is useful when maimed. That would also be pretty redundant with the WM.

Slimsy Platypus
03-27-2013, 12:06 AM
Fun fact: Shieldmasters can have the same stats as the commonly played 14/14 or 14/13 Strongarm variants.

Bring the Pain can be a tricky beast to master. But as soon as you use it to sucesfully "box out" a Raider or Warrior to the point where if they attack it is actually worse for them you will come to appreciate this little devil. He is one of the trickiest units to use effectively, because his low movement range and suceptability to be hit by multiple melee units makes him very sensitive to poor positioning. It took me quite a while to warm up to him myself, as I have posted comments very similar to yours during the beta. However, I've come around now and think he fulfills a unique anti-melee high break role that provides some interesting choices in the right matchup. (during the all melee days I had great success with him in one of my builds, and I have one subbed in my current build right now as well).

Leartes
03-27-2013, 03:14 AM
I played him with 14/10/1/4 for some time as a frontliner and he did about 2-3 big break hits every game. Also the enemy usually focused him down early taking a lot of pressure from my real hitters.

The only buff I'd consider is +1 break on the initial hit with the ability. Though, this would make the normal break redundant. Imo he can stay as he is for now.

In general, I think people should try less to remake units that are 90% - 95% perfect just for the sake of remaking them. So far all buffs/nerfs we have seen were minor stat adjustments and I doubt this will change unless a unit is seriously flawed.

netnazgul
03-27-2013, 06:12 AM
Shieldmaster should not be buffed, that's the statement. The only reason he seems underpowered is players don't stat him right and don't use him well. It may be more difficult to use him than some other breakers (for ex. Raidmaster), but he is no worse than others.

Shiri
03-27-2013, 06:51 AM
I think people are hating on him and PK right now because they don't do great against archers, and particularly siege archers.

Kletian999
03-27-2013, 08:05 AM
Strongarms do poorly against archers too, but everyone loves them because their power isn't stat dependant and useful without your opponents input. With the current class limits every team has at least 1 archer- going forward lancers and mages will likely nullify Return the Favor as well. If you stat a SM the same as a Strongarm (14/13/2/1/2), why are you using the SM- he's not good a break anymore?

Maybe Return the Favor can buff enough to stop melee's making 4+ break swings, perhaps a bump to 3 when active, or 1 str damage in addition to the 2 armor loss?

Leartes
03-27-2013, 08:50 AM
Again, I was satisfied with his performance as a frontline break. I only switched him out for a strongarm because I like the positional sheningans you can pull of with him. Even if you simply march him forward and use his ability 2 times you will deal at least 10 armor break and cost your opponent a lot of wp before he kills him. To me that was worth it quite often, so don't know why to change him.

Also, if you experience great success vs the shieldmaster, you should consider if your team is designed so that it counters them well. It might be, in expectation, that they fair well in most match-ups.

Shiri
03-27-2013, 08:56 AM
I think people are hating on him and PK right now because they don't do great against archers, and particularly siege archers.

Strongarms don't "do badly against archers" because to exploit a strongarm you don't have to bring him anywhere near archer range until the game is nearly over, at least the way people play. He's like a backup warrior. This is not true of shieldmasters and provokers if you're trying to use them for their high break.

EDIT: Oops ended up quoting my own post, meant to respond to Kletian

Kletian999
03-27-2013, 10:39 AM
@Leartes: my team is generally RM,SA,StrArm,WH,TH,BM. So 2 archers with 2+3 break and 1 raidmaster with 3+2 break, the other 3 ignore the SM. I don't think that's an imbalanced, anti-shield varl team, but two full breaks and 2 archer shots (or 3 and 1) would kill the average SM- that's often getting only 1 attack off. and I'm not losing much focusing him if he's the only non-Raidmaster unit getting into range.

@Shiri: my point. To use the SM correctly, you must put him into the way of archers, his biggest weakness. Other breaker units are less vulnerable to archers, less likely to waste turns from insufficient movement, and other varls offer more than just 4-10 points of break a battle.

Tatski
03-27-2013, 12:27 PM
My only complain with ShieldMaster is that Return the Favor doesn't trigger upon death... Other than that he is fine, He was a good pick against all Melee builds. He is still good against 2varl 3melee 1archer build. I guess he is not that good now because of 3 or 2 SA builds are very popular. Shield Master was an essential part of my previous AB build RM/RM/SM/SA/BB/WH.

Kletian999
03-28-2013, 11:02 PM
Maybe the Shieldmaster could throw the arrow back when his stance is up to do 1 break to archers.

Gramalian
03-29-2013, 01:12 AM
Honestly just make it so the shot that kills him also breaks armor. A maxed break+ rank 2 ability is 5 break with 3 extra break per time attacked and add the rank 3 he really becomes a damned if you do damned if you dont melee counter.

His 2 biggest issues outside of speed, which can be worked around, is range bypassing his ability which is already fairly weak since its reactive and requires you to be hit compared to the active damage dealing abilities and getting killed outright in large big hits that stop the ability if even active from stripping any armor.

So yea, just make it so even if hes killed he strips 1+ armor from the attacker and/or make it so while active his armor is harder to strip. A -1 to armor break to a minimum of 1. SO those 3+ break hits do 1 less but always do at least 1.

Both would fix issues with it but the 2nd one might be an issue balance wise as its a big buff.

Im currently using him and a warleader since they are not directly as good as the other options or at least as obviously good/easy to use and it forces me to position better and play smarter while I learn. However, they both offer outstanding armor break potential with 4 break each and ways to ramp it up. I use the leader to flank and drop a massive 7 break when not setting up moves with his ability ( which needs buffed bad IMO as the strongarm kinda steals the movement part of his thunder. That or a stat change as being stuck with 5 WP kinda sucks on him.). The sheldmaster on the othr hand is my anvil which I use to hold down the middle of the board and pray they are dumb enough to attack him letting my thrashers/bitter, and archer deal the real damage.

Aleonymous
03-29-2013, 05:09 AM
Firstly, let me say that I don't particularly like the SM and haven't actually used one in my builds, although I've faced quite many, generally to positive (for me :)) outcomes. Actually, my favorite build does not employ SBs at all! I find Raiders more useful (and mobile) in that regard, and, I generally have a more offensive approach to the game.

Secondly, some facts (for me):
(a) I understand that SM's special-power can be described as passive/defensive whereas both SRM's & PK's are active/offensive. That's a reason to underestimate him.
(b) I tend to agree with nazgul that the reason ppl don't like the SM is because his best use is kind-of subtle (e.g. being a punching-bag and/or "sacrifice" unit).
(c) I also accept the directive that being a master-class means that his power should be an extension of his inherent passive ability.
(d) I'm generally against making him more mobile, since that could be a considerable buff and thus fairly distinguish him from other SBs.

Finally, just some more suggestions for the SM's power, complementing or replacing the actual "Bring-the-pain":
[1] Immunity/nerfing to the archers' "Puncture"? They are typically his banes...
[2] STR-damage retaliated, along with ARM-damge.
[3] Additional ARM- (and/or STR-) damage, with a rule similar to "Puncture"?

Kletian999
03-29-2013, 07:59 AM
Gramalian, I like your ideas. Aleonymous I don't think nerfing puncture is the answer, people already loved melee so much we needed to stop 4x2 builds.

Aleonymous
03-29-2013, 09:03 AM
Aleonymous I don't think nerfing puncture is the answer, people already loved melee so much we needed to stop 4x2 builds.

I was wondering about the 3-raider description, when there were quite some youtube videos with all-melee builds.

I didn't propose an overall nerfing of archers. What I meant was that the SM's special-power, when activated, would grant him immunity to (or reduced damage from) the archers' "Puncture" (new though: and perhaps to other adjacent allies?)

d2r
03-29-2013, 10:25 AM
I think his ability already does grant him reduced damage from puncture, to the extent that it reduces ALL incoming damage by 3/5/7. But it's not meant to make him invincible; just harder to kill. Smart break can and should make his defend less effective.

Shiri
03-29-2013, 10:27 AM
I think his ability already does grant him reduced damage from puncture, to the extent that it reduces ALL incoming damage by 3/5/7. But it's not meant to make him invincible; just harder to kill. Smart break can and should make his defend less effective.
That's the raidmaster, a completely separate class. Shieldmaster is the varl shieldbanger masterclass, the one that breaks you and then does 2 damage with return the favour for the next turn.

d2r
03-29-2013, 11:30 AM
Oh, darn, you're right. Silly me.

Kletian999
03-29-2013, 11:33 AM
I understand d2r's confusion though. The raid-master is ironically more defensive than the shield master. Shieldmaster can't raise the defense of his allies nor "guard" himself, his best job is to destroy the shields of others. No doubt the biggest hesitation to a form of armor break resistance would be "that's half the Raidmaster power"

Aleonymous
03-29-2013, 11:45 AM
The raid-master is ironically more defensive than the shield master. Shieldmaster can't raise the defense of his allies nor "guard" himself, his best job is to destroy the shields of others.

Yeap. I think Kletian put it to words as well as it gets!

SM is meant for blocking wide-areas, armor-breaking and taking the full-force of the opponents' blow. RM is a more versatile unit: highly mobile, able to block narrower areas and capable of decent strength-damage.