A Different Perspective on Mastery Combo Balance

So I had initially planned to post this in

but after rereading the original post, I decided it went too far astray of the more experience-oriented feedback called for in that post. So I’ll go ahead and post here instead.

The gist of what I’d intended to write there is that as long as we’re stepping back and trying to balance mastery combos rather than individual builds/build archetypes, I’d like to suggest the following:

Since your choice of mastery combo is permanent, and since

your choice of mastery combo meaningfully determines the theoretical ceiling of your character’s performance. That being the case, ideally we should have a situation so that for every mastery combo and every piece of game content (SR trailing off into infinity aside) there exists a spec for which that mastery combo can realistically clear that piece of game content. (This should mostly already be the case, but I think Crate and/or Callagadra may constitute some exceptions.) To be clear, I’m not suggesting that each mastery combo should have a “clear-everything” build, but rather that via the power of re-speccing and re-gearing, it would be nice to ensure that no character is barred from completing game content simply as a consequence of their choice of second mastery less than an hour into the game.

On that note, I’d also like to ask which mastery combos (if any) do people feel are deficient in this regard? (Maybe it helps to work backwards as well and establish that certain mastery combos have no trouble meeting this criterion.) Thoughts?

Edit: Even if this specific suggestion is totally out of the question for the devs, I do think that stacking up the mastery combos according to this criterion is still of some interest. It would be nice, for example, to have an up-to-date community list of content-clearing ceilings/expectations by mastery combo.

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Currently all possible class combos can finish the game on ultimate, have at least few items available and have build that can do consistently sub 6 in Crucible.

Now for gearing: Few classes lack good enough options for leveling and have only one or two working builds.

Example: Saboteur class. Nex and Ortus have non mythical version but basically before that you don’t have clear Saboteur gear. Also sets that can support this class have only level 94 version - Rimetongue and Harra. And even they are kinda squishy characters, far from top tier. For leveling also you should really focus on one class primarily, since synergy isn’t good.

Another class that is lacking is Apostate. End game featuring one vitality caster, variety of Bonemonger builds and is Chillwhisper Apostate a thing? Clearly needs more love, especially the aether side.

Example of awful class that is improved by gearing is Defiler.

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I guess I didn’t expect the sub 6 number to be quite so low, but other than that, this was more or less my perception. I think I sort tried to imply it above, but maybe I’ll more explicitly outline what I mean by “every piece of game content (SR trailing off into infinity aside)”:

Ideally, I think the full checklist of what a mastery combo (via the combined powers of its full collection of builds) should be able to do is something like

  1. clear all main game content on Ultimate
  2. go high enough in SR on hardcore so that all SR-exclusive items are obtainable
  3. clear crucible with extra spawns (not necessarily “naked”)
  4. kill all superbosses (not necessarily comfortably or consistently)

The fact that all mastery combos can clear Ultimate is both great and to be expected— there are no critical balancing issues that make certain mastery combos outright terrible choices.

The potential for consistent sub-6 Crucible is even better, because it means every class combination enjoys a certain quality-of-life assurance when it comes to gear farming potential (your choice of individual build aside).

That being said, I’m looking for a little more here— my checklist is really about the idea that if the game presents a challenge or target-farmable item, then (aside from the “infinite challenge” aspect of SR) a given mastery combo should be able to, with proper preparation, go out and do/get that, period.


I’m interested in your choice to emphasize gearing and classes with gearing issues. Do you feel like having your choice of mastery combo restrict you to a very small selection of viable gear/builds is a bigger problem than, say, whether that choice makes it extremely unrealistic to kill Crate? Or more generally if you want, how do you think mastery combos (not just builds) ought to be balanced, and is gearing variety a big part of that perspective?

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I don’t play Crate, so can’t tell you that. But superbosses offers very specific threat, I’ve never heard of balancing made around Crate or Calla kills.

About gearing, it reflects your optimal build. One class can have many possible builds but what if difference is too big? So there’s not only classes ranking but sets ranking, etc.

But gear actually is responsible a lot for classes and builds strrength, even damage type evaluation.

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Most classes are relatively well balanced, and all of them have builds that work well at endgame. But there are a few persistent issues that have been baked into the design and keep popping up again.

One clear example of a balancing problem - I didn’t say failure, it’s just a design challenge - is Arcanist’s lack of reliable RR. The simple fact they don’t have it means the class must be balanced in different ways. With the massive power swings that damage conversion, devotion choices, components, and set bonuses cause, it is more likely that an Arcanist build will be unbalanced - either very good or very bad - compared with other classes.

There is also the favorable way that damage absorption is treated. Grim Dawn isn’t alone in this - WoW players have complained about Discipline Priests forever because of their ability to absorb damage before it happens. But it’s clear that builds that use strong absorption effects such as Possession, Inquisitor Seal, Primal Bond, etc. have a leg up and other defensive forms such as health regen are exceptionally gutless.

These days, it’s probably not out of the question that you could manage most of the superbosses with most of the mastery combos. In fact, I think it’s already been proven so for Mogdrogen and Ravager. However, the original design of these superbosses was the antithesis of what you describe above. Superbosses are (were) challenges so great that from the very outset of creating a character, that character be made with conquering that single specific foe. Obviously wayward buffs here and there (and the introduction of mobility augments) have made that less than apparent, but the original intent remains the same and Calla and Crate are the best examples of that. If that doesn’t jive…well…sucks. :stuck_out_tongue: There are those of us out there that like this concept and pine for more.

The other three of your ‘requirements’ are already met.

I originally started the topic to stake out a game design philosophy/preference, but yeah

practically speaking, this is about superbosses in the end, and if I’m reading this correctly

we can agree to disagree on whether superbosses should play a meaningful role in mastery combo balancing. Perhaps we can agree that from both perspectives, though, trying to build for superbosses on a per-mastery combo-basis is an interesting kind of challenge (now that the state of affairs has changed as you note here