The beauty of live service games, aside from never having to worry about how to spend your remaining minutes on this planet ever again, is that seasonal balance changes can usher in completely different play styles. Major patches represent a chance for developers to hammer down over-performers and buff unloved gear that's languished in virtual closets for years. So it goes with today's tuning preview from Bungie, which details the changes coming to exotic armor as part of Season of the Deep on May 23.
The biggest bit of news is both bad and entirely predictable: Starfire Protocol is getting absolutely bodied. These robes have been glued to Solar Warlocks for several seasons now, thanks to the frankly absurd damage output that comes from spamming enhanced Fusion nades. It's an incredibly easy DPS setup, and regularly sees Solar Warlock doing damage to raid bosses in multiple millions.
Any time an exotic becomes truly ubiquitous, you can bet it's days are numbered, and next season Bungie has called time on the Starfire meta with the following nerf to the way those Fusion grenades are regenerated: "Reduced the amount of energy gained per instance of damage from 20% to 2.5%. Empowered weapon kills now grant 20% grenade energy."
That's a big oof, and certain to curtail their use. Here's Bungie's full explanation:
"Right now, Starfire Protocol is one of the best single-target damage boosting Exotics (combine Witherhoard or Wolfpack Rounds with a Rocket Launcher with Demolitionist and you essentially get an infinite loop of rockets and double-detonating grenades) and it’s sucking all of the air out of the room. These changes are intended to tamp down on passive weapon damage giving you your grenades back too quickly (you still probably get an extra grenade or two per damage phase), while also pushing it away from single-target damage dominance and more toward neutral play."
I can't argue with any of that, and honestly I've expected this nerf for a while. If anything, I feel relieved that I'll no longer have to deal with Starfire's fugly fashion. Between Phoenix Protocol, Dawn Chorus (which is getting buffed), and especially Sunbracers, Dawnblade still has a lot of strong options.
Including Starfire Protocol, Bungie has detailed changes coming to 24 exotics, the vast majority of which are buffs. For Warlocks, I'm particularly excited to try out Sanguine Alchemy—partly because it is gorgeous, but mainly because it will now grant a 17% damage bonus to weapons that match your subclass element whilst standing in a rift. That's essentially two free surge mods worth of free damage. Also sounding interesting is Chromatic Fire, which will still trigger explosions from kinetic weapon headshots, but will now also cause weaken, sever, blind, scorch, or slow, depending on what associated subclass you're using.
My Titan buddies also have some substantial reworks to look forward to. The sword-based Stronghold gloves will grant a whopping 50% damage reduction in PvE whilst blocking, and after you stop you'll also get the restoration x2 buff (the duration is based on how many shots you stopped). No Backup Plans are also being completely reworked to improve shotgun reload speed and grant void overshields when killing powerful enemies with shotguns. There's also a damage buff to shotgun damage when your overshield is active. PvP mains will be less happy to learn that Dunemarchers are getting a nerf to the range and damage of their chain lightning.
Finally, Hunters have the least exciting changes (but no nerf to Star-Eater Scales, so be grateful for small mercies). Sealed Ahamkara Grasps will reload all your weapons on powered melee kill, plus just dealing melee damage will improve jump height and movement speed for five seconds. Oathkeeper gloves get some of their original functionality back in the form of a damage buff that occurs when you draw and briefly hold your bow shot. Could be nasty with the already incredibly strong Leviathan's Breath. And for PvP aficionados, your once beloved ST0MP-EE5 are getting another rework. The airborne effectiveness penalty has been removed, but you now only get an improvement to your jump, slide and movement speed when your dodge is full. An interesting trade off is what the reddit posts almost certainly won't say.
Honestly though, underwhelming Hunter changes aside—where the hell is my Renewal Grasps buff?—there is a ton to like in the post, and too much for me to list without writing the Middlemarch of patch analysis pieces. Suffice to say I'm excited to jump into Season of the Deep in a couple of weeks to begin buildcrafting and creating fuego new fits like this space Dracula look for Sanguine Alchemy.