Nightblade stopped being a good mastery for DW melee

This is a repost of the feedback topic wiped with the test patch section because it’s still relevant

Nightblade is the only mastery with dedicated melee DW skills, so you’d expect it to be on top of DW category. You could say as much in .9.1 version but in test patch everything suddenly changed.

Traditionally best dmg types for DW were pierce and cold.

Ok, there were a lot of pierce nerfs across the board, and custom pierce Cadence was hit basically on each front. Still, it performs ok, nothing worth complaining (and important to note that it’s a soldier skill that does dmg, WPS play very small role here). But what happened to Belgo that was hit the least? All of a sudden the best pierce DW build is a… Goredrinker Tactician hybrid. Tell that to someone from .9.1

The biggest surprise is cold. Basically every build i had or played turned into a pumpkin. I’m not kidding, nothing works: none of Deathmarked, none of custom dual Chillstrife, and this pure melee Reaper, my percious, is also a brick. I added 5% phys res to it, some HP and constant 25% DR, and it still dies. Even this cold BM is the worst DW Cadence i tried, it was really hard for me to process how is it worse than acid and aether variants. At least it can survive.

Other cold DW melee i tested and they worked:

EoR Paladin - all around decent. Similar Dervish (with 26/16 fully converted BS to boot) can’t survive

RF Morgo Oppressor - relatively slow but passed survivability checks

RF Dervsih - kinda works, only just, requires very careful piloting and can’t be recommended

Morgo Ill Omen Hybrid - melee serves as secondary dmg for single target, was nerfed but still works even in realistic variant

N&O Saboteur which is also a hybrid where survivability is carried by the set procs

Acid builds are relatively ok. Acid was always carried by procs and Keeper’s Ascension+cdr (you could tell because the strongest acid DW before this patch was always Venomblade which is an ABB build with lesser impact from AA).

In fact, acid got itself, i dare say, a new leader, Dunefiend SS+EoR: decent survivability, fluid gameplay, good single target from SS and AoE from EoR. Funny how basically the best DW NB build has no WPS in it? Oh, and in case you were wondering Venomblade (@Dmt 's varranted spec) is much worse now. It’s not competitive speed-wise anymore and gained survivability issues. At least it’s not as bad as cold.

There is no plot against DW. There are strong DW builds, and some even appeared in test patch. But let’s check out the selection of best (to my knowledge) DW builds in terms of combination of offence and defence:

  • phys Cadence Death Knight
  • chaos Cadence Witchblade
  • aether Spellbinder
  • fire RF Sentinel (or Paladin but proc side is very heavy)
  • phys Oppressor
  • ele Cadence Tactician
  • phys EoR Oppressor/Warlord
  • acid EoR Dervish
  • pierce Cadence Blademaster
  • pierce Cadence Tactician Goredrinker (WoP and procs are doing more job than Cadence though)
  • chaos Rahzin Witchblade
  • probably Druid PS since we count non-AA builds too

(most of them are in archives, if interested i can provide the links and the videos are on my channel)

Cue Travolta meme: where is Nightblade? It participates in two builds with little or no WPS impact. I might’ve forgotten some builds but you get the sentiment.

Dunno the whole picture of this problem but one thing i was able to pinpoint when rewatching videos in slow motion. 3 out of 4 Nightblade’s WPS have slow animations which leads to constant misses and interruptions in a crowded environment with sporadic movement.

These are all DW WPS (with few irrelevant exceptions) tested with 191% attack speed. I watched 60 fps recordings on 0.125 speed to measure the delay between the start of the animation and the hit.

Here are the results (in seconds):

  • Reaping Strike - 0.07
  • Necrotic Edge - 0.21
  • Smite - 0.18
  • Mutilate - 0.06-0.23 (last hit)
  • Burning Void - 0.085
  • Korvaak’s Brand - 0.18
  • Markovian’s Advantage - 0.085
  • Zolhan’s Technique - 0.14
  • Amarasta’s Quick Cut - 0.06-0.23
  • Whirling Death - 0.175
  • Execution - 0.085
  • Belgothian Shears - 0.16
  • Direwolf Claw - 0.16

This translates into the feeling of gameplay, all sub 0.1 delay WPS feel superior even though they aren’t always the strongest.

0.2 sec might seem as nothing on paper. But in the game where a boss can come in close range from the off screen in less than a second (like Reaper or Kuba) every millisecond counts. The difference between 0.085 (Execution) and 0.21 (Necrotic Edge) is often enough to miss a boss who is having a seizure infront of you or for one of the heroes to interrupt you with CC.

For example, my forementioned cold Reaper with 30% chance to proc NE (0.21 delay) and 25% chance to proc WD (0.175 delay) died several times due to being unable to hit Moosi because of chain-cc from his chards. With overcapped freeze res and AS, of course.

Nightblade’s WPS are not the only ones that suffer from hit delay. But other masteries (Necro, Keeper) with such problems aren’t DW dedicated, they both have strong defences: MoT + high DR and Ascension + Resilience respectively.

Nightblade has nothing on that. It’s a pure attacking mastery with DW focus and “blade” in its name. While the strongest current Nightblade builds are pierce and cold Infiltrator casters with a gun and a crossbow. Something to think about, no?


  1. Speed up all the lagging melee animations, at a cost of dmg if needed. Shift the connection with the enemy closer to the start of the animation. Animation speed is a big problem for consistency of not only melee builds.
  2. For unique builds like Belgo and Deathmarked and build-anabling mods for off-beat specs like lightning Cadence, aether Savagery/PS, cold RF and such it’d be fantastic to have some burst support to focus the hardest enemies down. The best thing that comes to mind is 25-33 flat rr added to the main skill/WPS (like on ele Scion for 2H Cadence). It won’t bloat clearing speed because flat rr is easy to get and it only applies once, but it’ll help with burst and leech against resistant enemies).
  3. Look into enemy pathing/targeting, if there is a chance to do smth with chaotic enemy movement near the character when the selected by AI path is blocked by other enemies or obstacles. Maybe it’s possible to slow them down but keep the aggro range? Would bring down clear speeds as well.

A little on a tangent while at it. Somehow it feels like the aggro range in the game depends on the enemy speed. Swift mutator in Crucible makes enemies less prone to be stuck at the spawn while the Unstoppable does the opposite. Aggro fix for Crucible was nice but in general it just feels like all enemies became faster, and something in their AI can’t handle it.

The Crucible fights often turn into a weird mess which looks less and less like a gameplay. Grava can suddenly retreat and surpise you with a disrupt charge: unavoidable death in unlucky situations. Zantarin can suddenly trigger his oneshotting shotgun at close range which he never did before. Don’t have enough SR data, does anything similar started happening there? I’ll probably make a separate post about it.


So to make pierce and Nightblade justice, a fair shot, i’ve made this build:

It’s sort of an update of mad_lee’s take on “solo Nightblade” DW pierce with his Dervish that had a 3:48 Crucible run under its belt and (i suppose) was one of the reasons for the major pierce nerf.

The build has high WD, 100% WPS pool with two NB WPS hardcapped and a superboosted Smite which has proven to be very strong for other dmg types.

But the build is just terrible. It’s much slower than it’s predecessor, i’m talking up to 40 secs which is simply insane dmg drop. And it doesn’t survive unlucky encounters as well. Belgothian and Whirling WPS feel awful, they miss bouncing enemies, and only when the targets calm down you can see some good single target output. And even then it can’t compete with the best builds, while being tuned into single target and having 3 double rare greens.

I liked a lot of changes, they brought into viability a lot of new builds. But it needs to be said, the omeganerf o pierce across the board, and even a harder melee nerf, which took away the pillar conversion item (belt) and tons of cunning and AS from affixes, was simply a major balance miss.

NB’s WPS absolutely need a big update, including the Execution nerf reversion - the main mastery skill lost over 10% of total dmg. It’s sad that this balance thread had no impact on patch notes because it took me an unhealthy amount of time to test all relevant builds and compile the data into some sort of conclusion.


Well, that’s a good effort congrats!

DW Cold Reaper - Reaper, Level 100 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator I think it’s quite good, surely your version have much more damage and killing speed but this one is still better than other DW Cold builds.

Deathmark Dervish - I think it’s in a good place right now. Since AoE is bad, CR times won’t be great but shouldn’t be that bad either.

Acid DW parts is still depens on Nightblade which should be counted as DW archetype.

Rah’zin Witch Hunter was good enough but nothing extraordinary either, it can use some buffs.

Belgo Inf’s damage was nerfed a bit but defense is increased so can’t say it’s status change. Belgo Blademaster should be the same aswell.

On the other hand, my latest test on Deathmark Blademaster was pretty bad. Damage wasn’t great, defense wasn’t great; it was just a mediocre build. So it can use buffs.

I also like to see some DW Melee Spellbreaker variants… So far Spellbreaker is either SS or Caster; or pretty meme melee.

I can’t disagree on Execution nerf reverse, I’m sure Whirling Death and Belgo Shears can use some buffs aswell because most of DW nightblade builds counts on those for AoE but most other builds’ low performance is not really about the nightblade WPS, it’s just the gears and lack of support. And Cold melee especially suffers since a lot of enemies have high resistance on that.

And I’m pretty sure that no %100 WPS DW Cadence is sucks!

DW Sabo should have more options than Chaos and Nex & Ortus aswell, like Aether!

There was no impact on patch notes as I have not seen anything that justifies changes, although we did bump survivability on some builds, such as Belgothian.

I mean…when you’re talking about a 40s drop from 3:48…that seems…pretty reasonable?

I’m happy to review survivability further with some examples, but a 4:30 clear seems top tier to me.

I definitely don’t see any reasoning to undo the nerfs that were made.

Seems like the best builds are still overperforming then. I’m happy to review them and bring things in line if you want to point them my way.


To me as well, if the build survives, but the build above does not. And i can’t tell why. It gets chain-interrupted despite cc res capped in Crucible. The only thing i can think if is bumpung the health to like 18k at least, to have enough cushion to survive leech dips. But it meas selling tons of dmg and you’ll no longer be looking at a 4:30 (best result) build.

Well… I suppose that means that you are ok with dedicated DW mastery being subpar for DW and the best pierce and cold Nightblade builds by a large magrin being casters.

Execution is THE skill for DW. A pinnacle, a 50/50 skill of a DW mastery. It participates in one single top DW build where it’s just a part of WPS pool to have Cadence proc more often.

Sub-par to what, lol. What is even the measuring stick by which you are calling it inferior.

Compared to other builds, both to DW options and the whole field of builds. But mostly to DW, like those mentioned in the OP. Since the thread was first posted, i’ve found another couple of good DW builds, both are not NB.

What is even this question? How do we always post feedback? We compare the performance to other builds, preferably of the same playstyle. Am i missing smth?

I mean…what are the times of these other builds that are allegedly crushing NB dual wield? Where are these builds?

What is the metric you are using? I see complaints, dead builds, sub-par masteries, and nothing of substance that I can look at and go, yup, there is actually a problem here.

Since we’re talking about Nightblade DW builds; Stormserpent + Crystallum is still pretty mediocre.(can’t talk about lightning SS one) Trickster, Level 100 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator Iron Maiden and Grava is pretty unkillable with bad mutators even at SR 76. ABB conduit is only useful for + max resistance. Defense is mediocre, damage is mediocre. I know I personally asked a lot of buffs for this one, and all the items are bloating stats here. Stormserpent set has quite good for an epic set. My suggestion would be, change Aetherial Racial damage on weapons with Chthonic racial damage. And change Stormcaller’s pact bonus with +1 Nightblade so we can have enough skill points to invest WPS and Anatomy of Murder for racial damage.

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Quit beating around the bush and this discussion becomes more clear, since it seems like every 4 of 5 physical builds is capable of doing 4:1X or lower results now. Some casters were brought in line but still plenty pushing sub 4:30 as well. Shit feels slow because it is compared to top setups that didn’t have full results posted (or to be fair weren’t tested) or cherry picked subpar runs are what get shared. Hell even some gunners are overperforming which feels like crazy talk but all the buffs finally went too far!

I’m really puzzled by your questions, sir. I’m using the metrics of dmg and tankiness. As always.

Here is an example:

Choas Cadence Witchblade, 4:30 best result. Doesn’t die.

Then i try my Rahzin Witch Hunter - Witch Hunter, Level 100 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator - that i have a thread on on the forum. It’s slower and can die. The feel of playing is not comparable.

Fire Paladin and Shieldbreaker. Lucky runs, top performers. Then we have this:

4:35 and it can die to random stuff. And i grinded and tweaked it A LOT.

Pierce Cadence, lucky run. Much slower then prenerf but still good. Nightblade serves as rr and flat provider. NB’s WPS are at low ranks.

There is also a hybrid Goredrinker. Very fast in Crucible due to WoP nature:

Then i tweak and tweak and try and get the WPS based build mentioned in the second post which is slower on average and dies.

Ele Cadence, extremely lucky run, avg is about 4:40:

And then i have this: Witch Hunter, Level 100 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator - which is just a joke compared to Tactician. Tactician!

Aether DW Binder that was nerfed is still 4:30 and… well survives because it’s Binder. Similar Reaper dies

Physical DW RF Oppressor is faster than similar Dervish and is much more tanky

Every which way you look, everything you test you run into some weird survivability issues of Nightblade. And i have no clue how to fix them.

The only problem i was able to pinpoint and somewhat support with evidence is slow NB’s WPS animations. Combined with NB has virtually no survivability tools you get a vulnerable build you need to go an extra mile with to pass the survivability check. At whcih point the build will lose too much dmg.

Like my treasured cold Reaper with massive WD. I bumped health considerably, bumped phys res and got constant 25% dr. And it still dies. I had several deaths where my char (80% freeze res, capped AS) stood near Moosi and couldn’t connect a single hit for 3-4 secs because of chain-freeze interrupt.

What really surprises me is you refuse to even make NB WPS hits more reliable. This won’t even increase the dmg ceiling of any build.

well, I guess I’ll throw in my 2 cents here, though I didn’t play so many builds as banana, ofc
but still

speaking about paladin, it was before fire/burn nerfs. now it’s tanky but in 5-5:15 range which seems not too good for a double-RR class build clad in greens. but I’ve made a separate thread about it, so moving on.

ember calling sabo: Saboteur, Level 100 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator great build but not because of NB. similar spec with rahzin performs worse both in terms of damage and sustain. here beefy demo part mostly carries the build.

Vileblade WH - Witch Hunter, Level 100 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator - sth around 5 mins, easily dies.

Mageslayer SB Spellbreaker, Level 100 (GD - Grim Dawn Build Calculator - never was super-fast but I had runs with it for about 5:30 and more. Also Cuba+ Moosie is a wasted run, ofc. Also not very tanky.


I don’t really play dw melee, but gotta give credit where credit is due, I can tell you gathered lots of build links and videos to support your points


No way! Me too!

Thanks for the links. Those give me your frame of reference. How am I supposed to have any idea what you’re referring to otherwise?

That would require me to agree with your assessment, and even if I did, we’re not about to go redo animations at this point.

The frames at which the WPS strike are aligned with the animations, shifting those around would result in a disconnect between what’s happening visually and when the damage is inflicted. The interrupt frame, when you can move following a WPS, is virtually universal though.

I don’t think it would be that noticeable. But if the shift is off bounds then the only thing left is to speed the animations up with slight dmg reduction on the skills.

Proceeds to post no builds!

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I would love to if I had the time to spam a few new physical builds per evening! I already post everything of note I’ve done with a build thread :smiley: But banana posted a bunch of his efforts now so thread makes more sense

I usually don’t post bricked runs but when it’s the fair performance of not only the build but the whole category - why not?

Compared to double Chillstrife this is equally squishy but 30 secs slower:

So this means that on a melee build, it’s better to take the items with higher % dmg and -%rr and do more dmg with procs than take weapons with flat conversion and WPS modifiers to actually kill targets with melee hits.

(both builds die very often, basically unplayable for average player, so PLEASE do not bring up the timer)

Cold melee with Nightblade is in awful state right now. This build has huge WD and huge Smite/Execution bonuses but they mean nothing when you chain Shears-Whirling with puny dmg and several misses to bad animation, can’t focus down a target and have stable leech and die.

Nightblade’s WPS direly need an update.