So it's out there, and we've all seen it - the major changes for Hotfix 126.96.36.199 are public knowledge. Let's talk numbers to see what they actually mean in the game - fact > opinion, am I right? As we work down the list, I'm putting the factual effects of the changes in plain text and then providing some additional commentary on each one to put it into context.
Hotfix 188.8.131.52 Analysis
Sidearms, Sniper Rifles, and Fusion Rifles
No changes announced.
In light of other changes to the game, specifically the Special Ammo economy, Sidearms are actually getting a buff, but more on that later.
Decreased bullet magnetism and removed aim assist when hip firing. Aim Assist is now only active while ADS (aiming down sights) on Shotguns. In addition, mid air accuracy for Shotguns is also decreased generally, meaning it will be more difficult to pull off aerial shotgun battles.
In the "not-a-nerf-not-a-buff" column, precision damage has been removed from Shotguns (other than Chaperone and Universal Remote), and base damage is buffed by 20% to make up the difference. From the stream, Matador still seemed to be doing 22 per pellet, so we may need to actually wait and see how things work in the final release before passing judgment.
One thing that's unclear here: did Chaperone and Universal Remote get the base damage buff in addition to keeping their Precision Modifiers? If so, this could explain why Bungie also mentioned a small nerf planned for Universal Remote that they won't give us details on until the patch drops.
Moving on, Rangefinder now includes a trade-off, decreases ADS speed by 25%.
Will this affect all guns, or just shotguns? We don't know, but the implications for hand cannon rolls are serious. A loss of ADS speed there could be deadly.
Finally, the movement penalties for wielding a Shotgun added ages ago have been removed as the other adjustments have rendered them excessive
I am glad to see that penalty go as it didn't really achieve much anyway. Overall, they could have done much worse on Shotguns, but I am disappointed to see no real action taken to make higher rate of fire shotguns more appealing in PVP. Perhaps the message is that those shotguns are PVE weapons, and we should continue to rely on the Matador 64 and its ilk in the Crucible.
I'm going to preface this by saying that the percentages given by Bungie for Rate of Fire (RoF) adjustments here do not make sense to me, but I don't know how they're reaching them so I can't actually say that they're wrong. That aside, I'm assuming when they say "1 frame" they mean the burst delay between shots is being shortened or lengthened by that much.
The rate of fire for low impact pulse rifles (Grasp of Malok and Clever Dragon) has been reduced by 7.7% or 1 frame, dropping their optimal TTK to .87s, identical to that of the slower firing low-mid impact pulse rifles (Hawksaw and PDX-45). The lowest impact Pulse Rifles have also had their magazines reduced by about 6 rounds, making Braced Frame a more painful choice.
This seems to be a decent way to change them without completely destroying them, as any changes to damage might have done. That said, I liked my PDX-45 better anyway, and I certainly won't be changing that opinion now.
In addition, High Caliber Rounds are now less effective and Pulse Rifles generally have had their flinch reduced. On the flip side, Pulse Rifles will benefit from an increase to mid air accuracy.
It will take actual play in game to assess how meaningful these changes are as we got no real numbers, and stats don't always translate well when measuring the effects of flinch and accuracy anyway. I'll withhold judgment, personally.
Finally, high impact pulse rifles (Parthian Shot and Spare Change .25) have had their rate of fire increased. Bungie said this change increased their RoF by 5.5%, but that would be a fraction of a frame, so I will assume they actually meant 1 frame. The delay between shots is 13 for these guns, except for the Lyudmila which has a burst delay of 10. This reduces the optimal TTK to .7s for Parthian Shot and Spare Change; for Lyudmila the optimal TTK goes down to .73s.
This is an interesting choice for balancing these guns, as it addresses the unforgiving nature of their Rate of Fire rather than addressing the unforgiving amount of damage they do. It's a very small power bump, but it does have the potential to push some people to use these guns. If nothing else, it may make them more appealing in PVE.
In summary, I'm okay with the changes to pulse rifles, and I think the end result will be a large number of players switching back to the Hawksaw-class in PVP or else moving to hand cannons or some other primary.
Bungie says they increased the base damage of low rate of fire auto rifles (Suros and Shadow Price). The stream showed Genesis doing 35 on crits (with Focused Fire active). This matches the 1.3 crit multiplier they mentioned but does not demonstrate a concrete TTK increase (suggesting a new standard crit of 27 and base damage still around 21). We saw no evidence of this in the gameplay, so the jury is out for now.
If what Bungie said is accurate, and you can kill with one less bullet (the only way to reduce Time to Kill on an Auto Rifle, or any gun for that matter), the optimal TTK for high impact auto rifles would become .8s, and the base damage would need to be at least 22.3. I say this as opinion rather than fact, because the damage Bungie showed us does not support these numbers. As with other changes, we'll have to wait to find out where we actually stand.
As mentioned already, Auto Rifles got a general buff, moving the Crit multiplier from 1.25 to 1.3 for all archetypes. This will have mid impact models dealing around 21 precision damage, allowing them to achieve their current .9s TTK with one less critical hit (but still needing 10 bullets) or with a bit more range. Low impact models will also benefit, achieving their former optimal .8s TTK with 13 headshots (and one less bullet overall).
Finally, mid air accuracy has been increased for auto rifles - we'll have to wait and see how helpful that actually is.
This a good change for auto rifles and one I hoped Bungie would make, as the guns did not reward precision shooting effectively beforehand. I think we will see a lot of newer and casual players gravitate back to auto rifles as a reliable, easy-to-use option for Crucible play.
Mid air accuracy has been increased, alongside Auto Rifles and Pulse Rifles.
There's not much to say, but Scouts do stand to benefit considerably from this change, since they can also roll Icarus to achieve considerable mid air accuracy. Some may scoff at the SR jump shot, but I've seen skilled players do some impressive things, and I suspect we'll see greater adoption of Scouts as a result.
Initial Accuracy on hand cannons has been restored to Year 1 levels, a significant increase. However, bloom remains in effect at current levels, so follow up shots will need to be paced in order to take advantage of this buff.
To compensate, base range on high and mid impact hand cannons was reduced by 5 meters, affecting the drop off of damage and aim assist to make long range shots difficult and less effective. Hand in hand with this adjustment, max range damage was reduced from 50% to 30%, making firefights at a distance an option, but not an effective one.
This should make hand cannons considerably easier and more satisfying to use, as the lack of initial accuracy has played a big part in the frustrating experience of ghost bullets. The additional damage and aim assist drop off should be enough to keep them from competing with Scouts and Pulse Rifles at range, and as a big fan of hand cannons I'm pretty pleased with this adjustment.
Special Ammo Economy
Guardians now spawn into matches with Special ammo, but thereafter it is treated like Heavy: dropped on death and only available from Special ammo crates. Special crates now spawn every 60 seconds and the drop radius has been nerfed sharply for teammates, so like heavy players will need to coordinate pickups more carefully.
It's tough to predict what the outcome of these changes will be, as player strategies will have to change dramatically. Special crates now become a sort of secondary objective in all game modes, and playing for control of their spawns will become a more important consideration in general. Teams that get early Special control may have the opportunity to run away with matches, and it remains to be seen if the decrease in pickup radius is effective in limiting team-wide Special dominance or not.
In Elimination and Trials, players will only spawn in with Special ammo in the first round. No special ammo will carry between rounds, win or lose.
People have complained about special in Trials for years now. Unfortunately, this will cement the Skorri meta there, I think.
Invective and Icebreaker will still generate ammo as they do now, but will drop that ammo on death. Sidearms are still Sidearms though, and are immune to this effect.
In effect, all of these changes are a net buff to Sidearms, as they can completely ignore these rules. I expect to see a small number of players adopt Sidearms as their first choice for Special weapons, and a larger number begin swapping to them mid-match if they are struggling to pick up Special crates.
Going a step further, the loss of Special Ammo is also a net buff to roaming supers, which are hard enough to take down as is. Expect to see ever more Stormcallers, Bladedancers, and Sunbreakers running rampant as a result. The bladedancer nerf is likely not a big deal because no one will have the shotgun or sniper ammo to stop them.
Throwing Knife now does solar damage. Hungering Blade now restores more health, and this health can spill over into your shields, but shield regen does not start immediately. Finally, Blink now removes your radar and HUD for 2 seconds upon activation, making it a bit more disorienting to use.
I'm glad Throwing Knife now does Solar, as this will increase its value in PVE, but that's really (really) small potatoes. The change to Hungering Blade will undoubtedly reduce some frustration that non-Bladedancers have with trying to teamshoot the class down, but doesn't sound like it will render the perk useless. Will it make Stalker or Encore more attractive? For some maybe, but it depends on how much health is restored. The change to Blink will cause it to require greater skill to use offensively, and if Bungie is not walking back the weapon ready nerf already made to it, this will cement Blink's position as a primarily defensive choice for most players.
Stormcaller power melee range has been reduced to be in line with other warlock melees. In addition, Landfall now reduces the time that Stormtrance is active. Voidwalkers are identically affected by the Blink changes described above.
There a couple of questions left open here. First, this sounds like the base range of the power melee was reduced. How much effectiveness does Amplitude lose as a result, if any? Is it still the default choice, or does Rising Storm become a better option? Second, it is unclear if The Impossible Machines are also affected by the nerf to Landfall - that will play a big part in the value of that Exotic for some Stormcallers.
Juggernaut now disables after a short time in the air, and cannot be activated mid air either.
Bungie has removed the most blatant of warrior strategies from the perk without otherwise changing it - I would expect to see a few people stop using it, but not many.
Universal Remote is getting nerfed again, but just a hair.
This may be related to the Special Ammo changes, or it may have something to do with the changes to Shotgun base damage and UR keeping its Precision damage modifier, but it's hard to know for sure right now.
HCR fixed on non-pulse rifles.
High Caliber Rounds has been ineffective on Scouts and hand cannons for a while. Turns out it was glitched. The fix, once validated, will make it a top tier perk for low impact scout rifles.
Finally, Young Wolf's Howl will be easier to use (less ammo to use), various exotics that were granting Kneepads for free have had this removed (?), and Bungie is looking at Truth and Shinobus Vow to be changed as well.
These were both thrown out as the last minute, with no numbers on The Young Wolf's Howl, or which Exotics were granting Kneepads. I'm not aware of any Exotic weapons granting Kneepads for free right now, but let me know in the comments if you are.
Check back next week for an expanded analysis of the full patch notes; until then you'll find me on the Massive Breakdown Podcast evaluating these changes in even greater depth along with my co-hosts NKCougar and Mercules904.
Are you especially happy or upset about one of these changes? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!