The upcoming Neverwinter Heart of Fire update comes with a full balancing pass that affects all classes to some extent. We’ll be going over all relevant aspects and tackle the most important points related to the current meta and builds within our extensive preview series. Today we analyze Hunter Rangers, which see a rework of their buff mechanics as well major changes to the Archery feat tree.
Before we get to the actual changes, let’s quickly go over the current state of the class in Module 14. The combat feat path offers potent DPS builds that can compete on the highest level. Hunter Rangers are also often used in a hybrid support role where builds focus on a permanent uptime of the Longstrider’s Shot buff (usually as Trapper), while still dishing out a good amount of DPS. Albeit not always the absolute best choice, both builds are very viable within the current meta.
The issue of the class is the viability of both the Pathfinder Paragon and the Archery play style. Both only play roles as niche (PVP) builds, but otherwise are heavily underperforming. Archery for example has many problems, but one of the more hilarious ones is the fact that builds have to operate so far away from mobs to be most effective that they aren’t inside most buff ranges. Which is kinda bad within the current buff heavy meta.
What the devs did to counter that is rework one of the more crucial feat of archers: Stillness of the Forest. It no longer gives bonuses based on the distance to a target, but rather for standing still. While this should allow archers to operate more closely to the group, the immobility comes with a whole world of different issues. Not to say that the feat has absolutely no value in PVP because you pretty much never stand still there. With a slightly buffed capstone feat “Predator” archers should still theoretically get more out of their builds, but the the way the devs tried to improve the feat tree still feels strange.
Players are also reporting that some of the synergy problems between archers and buffs still exist. So currently it’s doubtful that we’ll see a lot more of them in endgame groups.
Buffs and Pathfinder
The Pathfinder path in the meantime now comes with the ability to increase the potency of most Hunter Ranger buffs with a new class feature “Primal Instincts” that replaces “Battlehoned”. Whether that, and the fact that Hawkeye is a straight buff to encounter powers now, is enough to make players embrace full buff rangers remains to be seen. But it’s clear that the devs are trying to make Pathfinder a more viable option in the support slots.
Trappers got a rather controversial change to on of their main class features: Aspect of the Serpent. The damage bonus has been lowered to 2.5% at rank 1, but now melee and range ticks can stack individually. That obviously makes it easier to get AotS buffs on your powers, but skilled players that were already able to fully utilize the class feature will feel the small damage reduction. I don’t think the trade-off between convenience and damage was the best choice here. Nonetheless the Trapper’s hybrid support / DPS role will likely stay the same.
Combat builds were already strong and might get another small upgrade with an improved “Bladestorm” class feature that will proc less often, but dish out more than twice as much damage. We project the close-range specialists to still be great damage dealers although some class experts label them “poor man’s GWFs”. It’s certainly understandable because many players would have liked Archery to become more of a viable alternative. In the end you would expect “rangers” to be specialists with their bows, but even with the changes the game doesn’t seem to be able to make that play style attractive enough.
The buffing changes have some potential to produce versatile builds that can help parties on multiple levels. As some players have correctly pointed out in the feedback thread however, everything other than straight damage buffs hardly matter in the current meta. So even improved versions of Oak Skin or Stag Heart won’t see too much action. Overall this balancing pass feels like it’s missing the final 10-15%. Archery and Pathfinder might still not be viable and especially the change to Aspect of the Serpent is weird for Trappers that were already able to maximize its potential. On the other hand, just like with GWFs, the current best DPS build largely remains the same and should be able to trash mobs just like before.
What’s your take on the Hunter Ranger? Do you feel more confident about Archery and Pathfinders? Have your Combat and Trapper builds taken a hit? Share your thoughts and experience on our social channels, in the comments below, or visit our message board!
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