Preamble : what’s an “auto-attack”?
This guide will talk about auto-attacks, especially default attack replacers and WPS skills. With that said, the first thing you want to know is “what’s an auto-attack”? Auto-attacks designate the basic weapon attack you can use without any skills (remember when you killed those zombies across the Devil’s crossing bridge with your mace at level 1, that’s a basic attack) and every skill that replaces, and empowers, that basic attack often referred to as “default attack replacers”.
Basically, Grim Down toons can be divided into three broad categories :
- Fighters who attack with their weapon using auto-attacks
- Casters who use spells
- Summoners (pet builds) who use their pets to do the dirty work for them.
While it’s easy to know which skill falls into the “summoning” category, knowing which one is an attack and which one is a spell isn’t that obvious. The most basic attack is just swinging your weapon while the typical spell will require you to spend energy (other games might call it mana) to produce a damaging effect that doesn’t use your weapon. While swinging your weapon is definitely possible and some spells definitely follow that description, many spells in GD blur the line by using your weapon damage to determine part of their final damage and even in some cases require that you are in weapon range while every attack apart from the basic one consumes energy and adds some damage on top of what your weapon does. Some spells have a cooldown and can’t be cast as often as you want but not all of them. To complicate things both can be found in masteries as well as on items and components and both can be bound to your left-mouse button to serve as your main attack.
Confused :rolleyes: ?
Well, fear not for there is an easy way to identify auto-attacks when you know what to look for. Every auto-attack will mention “when used as your default weapon attack” somewhere in the description to indicate that they replace your basic weapon attack and interact with skills that modify your default attack (more on that later). Knowing which ability is an (auto)attack and which one is a spell is important as attacks scale with attack speed bonuses while spells with no cooldown scale with cast speed bonuses so stacking attack speed is useless if you’re attacking purely with spells.
Here is a concrete example. Let’s look at the Soldier’s mastery. That mastery has 2 different attacks without cooldown that can be used as our main attack : Cadence and Blade Arc (3 if we consider modified Forcewave). One of them is an auto-attack, the other one is a melee “spell” dealing weapon damage. Can you find which one is the auto-attack?
Here is the answer, and as a bonus an example of an auto-attack found on a weapon component :
For convenience : list of all existing auto-attacks
- Basic weapon attack
- Cadence (from Soldier mastery)
- Savagery (from Shaman mastery)
- Fire Strike (from Demolitionist mastery)
- Righteous Fervor (from Oathkeeper mastery)
- Belgothian Strike (from the full Belgothian’s Slaughter Legendary set)
- Touch of Chaos (from the full Rah’Zin’s Torment Legendary set)
- Fleshwarped Strikes (from the Heart of Theodin Marcell MI weapon)
- Runic Bolts (from the Runebinder’s Spellthrower Legendary weapon - part of a set but you don’t need the full set)
- Troll Rage (from the Mistborn Talisman lvl 25 relic)
- Beronath’s Fury (from the Shard of Beronath weapon component)
Understanding default attack replacers
As said above, the most basic form of auto-attack is just swinging (or shooting with) your weapon. That basic attack (sometimes called “naked” attack) has one virtue : it’s free. It doesn’t cost you any skill point to learn or energy to use. But’s that’s all it has and most players trying to improve their fighter builds will try to replace it with a better attack : a default attack replacer, which is often a good idea.
Default attack replacers share some common characteristics : they cost energy to activate, they multiply your weapon damage by a percentage and they add some flat damage on top of it (with one exception), they can also add various bonuses (or in one case penalties). Masteries based attacks also often have several associated skills that add further bonuses to these attacks, or globally to all your attacks for a few seconds. All of this makes those attacks highly desirable for most fighter builds. Their energy cost however means that you can’t totally ignore energy regeneration even as a fighter. Besides their shared properties, default attack replacers (i will use DAR from now on) use different mechanics and can be grouped into 3 categories.
Let’s start with the easy one. Some DAR strictly follow the description i gave above : multiply weapon damage and add flat. Those are :
- Fire Strike. At 12/12 it deals 122% weapon damage, adds 38 flat fire damage and has an additional multiplier of 56% to the physical damage. It has several associated skills that adds a weaker AoE damage on top of that, adds more flat lightning damage and fires projectiles that can hit (or not) for aditional damage.
- Fleshwarped Strikes. Always deals 130% weapon damage and adds 75 aether damage with a crit bonus, a chance for even more aether and some enemy debuff.
- Touch of Chaos. Always deals 133% weapon damage and adds 33-135 flat chaos with a chance for more and some enemy debuff
All of those are strictly better than just attacking with any weapon. The only issue is that you need either a specific mastery or a specific item (or full set) and you’re forced to build your toon around some specific damage since “rainbow damage” is rarely desirable in Grim Dawn. Damage conversion can help you for that last part thought (more on that later)
Charge based attacks
We now consider a large group of 6 DAR using “charges” to determine their power, making them a bit more complicated. Those are :
- Savagery. At 16/16 it deals 150% weapon damage with flat Lightning and Bleed DoT. This looks strictly better than any of the bonus damage attacks until you see that it’s power varies with charges as this : 30% - 50% - 65% - 80% - 90% - 100% - 108% - 115% (with the maximum of 8 charges). Charge level have a duration of 2 seconds which actually means that your charge level will decay by 1 every 2 seconds unless you strike someone during those 2 seconds to either increase your charge level or maintain it if it’s already at 8/8.
- Righteous Fervor. Exactly the same values as Savagery but with flat Physical and Burn DoT
- Belgothian Strike. 155% Weapon Damage and flat Physical and Pierce. Same charges as Savagery.
- Runic Bolts. 180% Weapon Damage and flat Elemental with a chance for elemental DoT. Same charges.
- Troll Rage. Only 114% Weapon Damage, some small flat Physical and an OA penalty makes this the worst DAR of the lot. Coupled with the fact that it’s on a lvl25 relic makes it only useful while levelling (maybe!). Only 7 charge levels with maximum power at 110% and charge level decays every 1.5 second!
- Beronath’s Fury. 114% Weapon Damage and a small flat elemental but some global %damage bonuses instead of an OA penalty makes it better than Troll Rage. The fact that it’s provided by a weapon component means that everyone and their mom can use Beronath Fury once they get their hands on the Essence of Beronath blueprint. Basically a poor man’s Savagery for Elemental damage builds. Same charges as Troll Rage.
Despite the tooltip mention of “bonuses”, the charges actually affect the entire attack, acting as a multiplier on the final damage. What that means is that your first attacks will be quite weak, often weaker than your basic attacks (as long as you have good base weapon damage). It also means that you have to keep fighting to maintain the charge level maxed and can’t run around to dodge attacks or wait for your energy to replenish. If everyone’s DPS suffers from kiting, the DPS of charge based auto-attackers suffers even more. In the most extreme situations your DPS might be lower with charge based attacks compared to basic attacks if you can’t sustain your attacks! It also means that the faster you attack, the better your damage output will be. Move speed is also important when using those attacks (more so than on other toons) due to the important of hitting continually to prevent loss of charges.
This graph shows the accumulated damage over 10 seconds of fight for the different charge-based attacks as well as the basic attack (“Mastery” stands for both Savagery and Righteous Fervor as the numbers are the same, Troll Rage was too close to Beronath Fury and was removed for simplification). It considers a fast attack with 200 weapon damage and 2.5 attacks per second and a slow attack with 500 weapon damage and only 1 attack per second. Elementary school maths tell us that those 2 toons will deal the same damage over a period of time, and it’s true for the basic attack (and would be for bonus damage DAR ) but not for the charge-based DAR due to the fact that the fast attack will max the charge level 2.5 times faster.
While those numbers are artificial and the calculation was simplified a bit, it clearly shows what was said above. Fast attacks benefit from charge-based DAR a lot more than slow, hard hitting attacks. In fact, all of the slow attacks deal less damage than the basic attacks for the first 3 seconds (first 3 attacks) and for low %WD Beronath Fury and Troll Rage, almost for the entire 10 second fight. 1 attack/second is really slow of course and it’s unlikely you’ll end up worse by using a DAR instead of a basic attack unless you spend too much time kiting around and not attacking, but it’s something to keep in mind when you have a choice of more flat weapon damage or more attack speed.
Last category is a small one since there’s only one skill in that category : the Soldier’s Cadence. Cadence is unusual as a DAR because it doesn’t really replace default attacks. When attacking with Cadence you will strike twice with your unmodified basic attack. The 3rd attack will be a Cadence attack dealing 420% weapon damage and adding 182 flat physical! That attack can be further improved to hit multiple opponents.
That attack itself isn’t a DAR but rather a “spell like” attack that can only be “cast” after 2 regular attacks rather than using a timed cooldown. For most practical purposes, it’s an attack because you will benefit from Attack Speed boosts when using cadence (if you make the 2 basic attacks faster, you’ll hit more often with your steroid fed Cadence) but the difference will be important when discussing WPS so keep it in mind. Note that there’s a timer to keep track of the 2 “charges” you need to accumulate but the charge level decays only every 8 seconds giving you a lot more freedom to move around. Cadence will thus probably work better for slow attacks than charge based attacks like Savagery.
WPS and Dual Wielding : because it wasn’t complex enough
What’s a WPS?
WPS stands for “Weapon Pool Skills”. It’s a pool of skills that trigger from weapon attacks and adds bonuses and special effects to those attacks. Simple enough isn’t it? Well, not really because much like DAR, there’s a lot of stuff that can proc from your weapon (and non weapon) attacks and not everything is a WPS. Much like DAR, you need to look at the description of the skill to know whether it’s a WPS or something else.
- A skill with “activates off of default weapon attacks” in the description and the proc chance in the skill description is a WPS (be it a mastery skill or an item skill).
- A skill with “% chance on attack” written in parentheses next to the name (in the blue text) is not a WPS.
Notice how the description of WPS specifically mentions default weapon attacks, well you probably know what it means by now : you need to attack with a DAR (an “auto-attack”) in order to trigger a WPS. They won’t proc from “spell” whether they have weapon damage or not, and no matter their cooldown (or lack of). In our first example : Blade Arc will never trigger your WPS skills so investing in those is a waste if your main attack is Blade Arc.
Much like DAR, WPS skills multiply Weapon Damage by a percentage and can add various additional effect, from flat damage to Resistance Reduction and Attack Damage Converted to Health (ADCtH in short, aka life leech). In addition some of those allow you to strike multiple targets. Note that some WPS will deal less than 100% Weapon Damage but those usually strike multiple times resulting in higher total damage or are AoE attacks.
The attack pool
When you have several WPS skills, they will form a “pool” of skills, their chances added up and the default attack being left with whatever percentage is left. When you are attacking with a “default attack”, an attack will be drawn randomly from that pool. What that means is that your chance to proc any WPS on a default attack is the sum of all your WPS proc chances. If your pool is larger than 100% you will always proc a WPS but each of your individual WPS will have it’s proc chance reduced. In the case of dual wielding the default attack itself becomes a pool containing main hand, off hand and both hands attacks. Confused? Take a look at this.
OK. Let’s consider a Warlord as our first example (because FG is coming tomorrow and that combination gives us a lot of WPS skills without complicating things with dual wield yet). Our WPS skills are : Smite (Oathkeeper), Shattering Smash (Oathkeeper), Markovian’s Advantage (Soldier) and Zolhan’s Technique (Soldier). Each of those can get to 25% at 9 skill points. Now let’s say our Warlord is still in it’s infancy and have maxed Smite and Shattering Smash but only have 3 points in Markovian’s Advantage and none in Zolhan’s Technique. Here is how it’s attack pool would look :
The game will pick an attack in that pool each time the toon attacks. You can see that we have 65% total chance to proc a WPS (every individual chances are added together) and 35% chance to be left with a default attack.
Now, when our toon will be level 100 and every WPS is maxed it will have an attack pool that looks like this :
Now, every attack will be a WPS and no one will be a default attack.
Now imagine our toon have equipped Mythical Brawler’s Gloves. Those gloves have their own WPS skill with 12% chance to proc and it will be added to the already full pool pushing it to 112% which can’t happen. The game will thus “compress” the pool to make it “fit inside” a 100% “box” like this :
Suddenly our toon have only 22% chance to proc Shattering Smash and the associated Resistance Reduction even thought it’s maxed and have “25% chance to be used”. That’s what experienced players often refer to as “diluting the WPS pool” and it’s something you want to avoid, especially if you rely on a specific WPS and want it to trigger as often as possible (the Nightblade’s Execution is a well known example of a very strong WPS).
Speaking of Nightblades, dual wielding makes all of this even funnier as the default attack itself becomes a pool when dual wielding. When dual wielding you have a chance to strike with the right hand, the left one or both. For DAR the chance to strike with both weapons at once is 50% so your pool for the default attack alone would look like this :
Now, if we consider a toon with WPS skills, the default attack part of the pool will be split into the right, left and both attacks similarly. For instance if we consider an Infiltrator who’s using only 2 WPS skills : Amarasta’s Quick Cut and Execution his attack pool when dual wielding would be :
Each WPS handles dual wielding differently. From what i’ve gathered Zolhan’s Technique for instance only strikes with the main hand while Markovian Advantage strikes with both hands at once, resulting in greater damage. Nightblade WPS skills were specifically designed for dual wielding so i think they use both weapons but ultimately it’s hard to get a universal rule. Some WPS skills also strike with your shield if you have one, this is usually clearly written in the description.
WPS and Default Attack Replacers, when things become messy (for the monsters)
Now begins the fun part for the player and the ugly one for the monsters :p. Not only can WPS trigger from DAR just as they can from basic attacks, DAR and WPS stack with each other when a WPS procs from a DAR, possibly leading to really heavy hits. Flat damage are added and %Weapon Damage are multiplied.
For instance : Execution does 265% Weapon Damage on 8/8. Belgothian Strikes as indicated above does 155% Weapon Damage at 100% charge and can go to 115% charge. If Execution procs from Belgothian Strikes while it’s fully charged it will deal 2.651.551.15 = 4.72 or 472% Weapon Damage, almost 5 times a basic attack and that’s without any added %Weapon Damage from gear. Some builds can go as high as 842% Weapon Damage when the correct WPS procs from Savagery. Imagine a critical strike on top of this and we’re looking at stupidly high damage output.
Work in progress
Enough for today i think :rolleyes: Will have to talk about cadence, damage conversion, upheaval and probably other details too.