Fixing the Summoner

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Fixing the Summoner

#1 Post by Kilroy512 »

A few days ago I posted a thread on Reddit basically calling for help for the Summoner class and it got enough response that I feel like it's worth talking about a little more in depth. I think it;s more than fair to say that Summoner is one of the weakest classes in the game which is a problem in and of itself but particularly due to the fact that it is the only class that truly focuses on the minion master play-style. (A personal favorite of mine) Now, these are just my opinions on the subject and I'd love to hear any of yours bellow, but I'd like to get a serious discussion going about what is wrong with the class but also what could be done to fix it.

So without further ado, what are the problems facing the Summoner class? (All of this assumes you are playing on insane difficulty)
  • The summoner has no built in defenses. It can eventually go anti-mage which is better than nothing, but even then it has no access to physical mitigation which means if anything manages to get to you, you will fall over. The main issue here is that the Summoner needs some sort of front loaded defense that can keep them alive while they summon minions to then tank for them. This could in theory be manageable with just the summons themselves if you can somehow never end up face to face with an elite or higher enemy assuming they are durable enough to soak for you but...
  • Summons lack durability. Even the Minotaur and Golem which are intended as the major front-line bruisers fail to live up to the challenge of standing toe to toe with any sort of challenging foe on insane.
  • Summons do not work together very well. The ranged summons are the biggest offender here as they tend to either get completely blocked by their melee counterparts (Ritch Flamespitter) or catch them in the fray. (Hydra/Fire Drake) This creates an anti-synergy where you not only have to worry about getting as many summons between you and the nearest death dealer but also try to have enough room to place your ranged summons so they aren't bumbling over each-other.
  • There are no permanent summons. This contributes significantly to the Summoners lack of durability and strikes me as particularly odd because other classes that don't even focus on minions, like Temporal Warden and even Writhing One, pass this test.
  • Stat scaling is slightly broken. This is a bit of another odd issue that feeds directly into the others. What makes it odd is that once again there are numerous other examples of it being done better in classes that don't emphasize summoning. This problem is perhaps the easiest to solve (just change it to scaling stats based on mindpower or will) but does need to be handled with care so as not to make the class broken in the other direction through overtuning.
So these are identifiable problems, now what do we do about them? Well I have a few solutions of my own which I'll list bellow, but I'd also love to hear ideas from other people as to how the class could be improved. In the meantime, here are some solutions I've come up with in no particular order: (I would not intend for all of these ideas to be implemented but rather to form a think tank of potential solutions)
  • Allow Ritch Flamespitter to shoot over allied summons (possibly the player as well) and AoEs from summoned creatures to not damage friendly targets.
  • Change stat scaling to be more like Herald of Oblivion or Wurms That Walk.
  • Add a defensive sustain to the base kit. (probably something like Bone Shield to buy the summoner time to setup in combat)
  • Increase the overall durability of summons but particularly melee summons.
  • Redesign the class around having powerful, permanent summons with temporary weaker summons to support them. (ambitious solution but I can dream right?)
  • Add a new skill category to fill some of the gaps. (most likely as a generic category since Summoner is lacking in that department)
I also took a bit of time to come up with a generic tree that should at least stoke some ideas about how one new tree could really alter the play-style of the class:

Generic Category-Wild-gift / Summoning (Unison)
-Summoner's Bond
--Equilirium Sustain
--Willpower 12
--Level 0
--Usage Speed: 100%
--When this skill is activated, select a class skill which summons a creature. That skill is disabled and the creature is automatically summoned in an adjacent tile.
--If the summoned creature dies the summoning skill is put on cooldown and it is automatically summoned again once the cooldown ends. This skill cannot summon a creature if you are already at your summon limit.
--If the selected summon is further than X spaces away, it teleports to a space adjacent to the Summoner.
--Activating this sustain takes time but the summoning does not.
--At level 3, increase the base stats and life of the selected summon by X% and increase its all resistance by X%.
--At level 5, the selected creature is summoned as its wild version.
--(Functions similarly to Temporal Hounds but with a selected summon and only one)

-Symbiotic Bond
--Willpower 20
--Level 4
--When the bonded summon dies, gain 30/35/40/45/50% of a turn. While Summoner's Bond is active and the bonded summon is alive you gain X% all resistance for each active summon. The bonded summon counts as 2 active summons for this effect.
--At level 3, your bonded creature gains X% movement speed.

-Shared Pain
--Willpower 28
--Level 8
--When you are effected by a damage over time effect the damage is reduced by X%. Your bonded creature takes the damage prevented by this skill.
--At level 5, when your bonded summon is damaged you are healed for the same ammount.

--Equilibrium Active
--Willpower 36
--Level 12
--Usage Speed: 0%
--Instantly move up to X spaces away. If your bonded summon is alive it is moved to your previous location. If your bonded summon is currently on cooldown, summon it at your previous location bypassing cooldown with X% life.
--Unusable if Summoner's Bond is not currently active.

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Re: Fixing the Summoner

#2 Post by Boozermonkey »

Agree. Summoner is interesting in that they can melee with mindstars fairly well and taking heavy armor is not an issue. They also have access to combat superiority tree opening up a unique option to go heavy tanking with pet support when needed. I found going this route fairly effective with good survivability while going all 5s in ranged support pets. All of the ranged summons are great.

Ritch for long range nuking. Tree for crowd control and it does respectable area cold damage and freezes. Hydra is also decent with area lightning, poison, and acid field. Dragon is just amazing at tanking and aoe.

I found using the summons to setup kill fields while I retreated to work very well at clearing yard trash and also at softening up elites before they reached me for easy finishing at melee. This works but requires good positioning at all times.

The Summoners primary weakness is that odd elite that scoots past your kill fields mostly untouched OR a heavy caster like those warlocks that cheese you for insane damage bursts before you can do much to counter them or when there are multiple casters at long range.

I hesitate to say summoner is the weakest class because they can lay down some very significant damage with the summons once setup, it's almost a cake walk when you get all of them out in strategic locations in any battle, and movement inscriptions are a thing to take advantage of heavily with this class.

Any fixes should focus more on short term survivability because it does take a couple turns at least to get summons out, and if your already in combat with elites, that is a real Achilles heel of the class.

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Re: Fixing the Summoner

#3 Post by ZeroAffex »

I wrote out some suggestions yesterday and one of them was about the Summoner class although I never went into so much detail as the OP did merely just bringing to light some of its weaknesses and a few ideas to help combat them. And while I am not really a fan of necro'ing old threads, I completely agree with the OP on many of the issues they brought up 4+ years ago. I also find them to be very weak and one dimensional compared to other classes playing on Nightmare and above and truly believe out of all the classes we have now they are one of if not the hardest to win with.

Must say I don't really agree with you @Boozemonkey, I've never found this class to be a cake-walk outside of early game or have I ever felt tanky playing this class even with decent armor equipped/skills pumped into combat training.

In my humble opinion this class needs a rework similar to Necromancer's last year to not only make it more viable for higher difficulties but also to give us more flexibility in build variety along with a bump to survivability for both us and our summons.

Despite hearing people claim they’re doable on nightmare/ insane--you'll be hard pressed to find Summoner winners outside of normal on (I haven’t) and I believe there's a good reason for that. The fact is that Summoner is probably the class with the least Wins on and that says a lot. I want to see that changed.

This class isn't suited for combat at all and if you are having to rely on using your mindstars and the armor you're wearing you're probably going to die pretty quick unless you have something to break free from your enemy.

I've never had issues with getting my summons out though, in fact I can summon spam really well with this class thanks to detonate, frantic summoning and nature's balance. It's just that 90% of my summons suck, die quickly, require a turn, hurt me too and are pretty much “meh” all around.

Enemies that are fire resistant will really put a strain on you too since we basically rely on one damage dealer that happens to be fire based, two early game when we're use Flamespitter's but otherwise it’s Fire Drake all the way.

Ritch's are great early game but the fact they can't shoot past your summons mean's your SOL in tight fights and their damage falls off greatly as you progress into the game nullifying them.

Rimebarks hurt everyone meaning they're very situational and only serve to freeze enemies while your at a distance, though they can take a few hits so good but bad.

The melee summons are plain bad, minotaurs don't hit hard enough and are fragile. Stone golems are tankier but do little damage, I use them more to wall off enemies so I can run bout all they are good for.

Hydra's like Ritch Flamespitters--are okay early game but soon as you get into t2-t3 dungeons they get demolished quickly on top of doing very little 'ouchy'. They won't attack around allies either which is a real kicker.

Then there's summons that have 0 use other than for combo's/detonating like turtles and spiders. They're only really worth using during very early game then after that they'll probably never be touched aside from like I said, blowing them up or summoning them for the Grand Arrival synergy.

Really the main damage dealer you'll use is the Fire Drake. That's it. Very one dimensional compared to other classes since every good Summoner build is basically cookie cutter using the same skills except that some may choose not to go Antimagic.

Then we have a few skills we can use but aren't really that great or worth more than 1-2 points like Frantic Summoning, Detonate, ect.. Combat techniques is a joke category, summoners make for horrible melee fighters and no one is going to waste a Cat point on it over Master Summoner/Augmentation or Fungus (AM). Speaking of combat categories, this goes for Mindstar Mastery as well since mindstar's real sole purpose for Summoners is the APR that they have that your pets use. Fortunately we have the category by default but the buffs of MM Psiblades don't transfer to pets, well it does? but it's probably %.01 so there's little reason to put points into it. I've tested it and 5 points of Psiblades increased my summons damage by 1 point. 1 point!

The rest of the skills in MM are bad except maybe Leaves Tide but it's not that reliable at the end of the day. For the most part, MM encourages you to use mindstars in close range which you'll want to be avoiding at all cost so that whole category is bad in my opinion. It would be better if Psiblades buffed pets but it doesn't so yeah.

Class just needs some love all around. (Please ol’ Dark Lord, answer thy prayers!)

Summoners need 1-2 more Summoner based class categories that would allow us more build flex and survivability for both us and our pets along with trimming out categories like Combat Techniques and possibly MM. Like I said, Mindstar Mastery could be decent if it's buffs applied to our pets so it would be worth keeping around if that becomes the case I guess.

I'd much prefer something more tailored to the Summoner class verses its current super bland generic choices many other classes already use or can use. Other classes have their own unique generic tree's but Summoners don't. Even the class trees are lackluster and what skills it has now need to be revisited and revamped. The summoner class feels like it was made hastily and wasn't finished. That or its one of the older classes that hasn't been brought forward to stand along with the other classes.

May as well mention too that Summoners get punished worse than other classes when in a bad situation where you are facing tough opponents. As we know, Summoning requires Equilibrium and the more Equilibrium you have, the higher your rate of failure to summon a pet becomes. Failing to summon can be a matter of life or death so it’s important to keep your Equilibrium down.

It’s worse than say Necromancers, with their need of Souls because they have better ways of handling the lack of Souls than summons do with high Equilibrium. They have multiple skills that help with Soul gain and retention whereas the Summoner has a single skill to reduce Equilibrium unless you go AM or pump points into Harmony (Sandworm heart) but even still those aren’t very good. Oh and Necromancer uses Mana based skills/abilities unlike the Summoner which uses Equilibrium for everything.

The best way to reduce Equilibrium is through Meditation which works great so long as you’re not in combat but if you are, your summons do a whopping 50% less damage! That’s pretty brutal since you only get high Equilibrium in prolonged combat which usually happens because either your summons suck or you’re fighting tough enemies or a combination of both. You can summon a Jelly of course but they don't always reduce Equilibrium enough and also require you to waste a turn plus you need to put them somewhere where they will get hit potentially blocking a placement for another summon that would do better in that spot. They also have their cooldown and the fact that if you put out a Jelly but the enemy doesn't attack it, you just lost more Equilibrium. Unfortunately, they're our "go-to" for Equilibrium reduction in combat since as I said, Meditation is a flat 50% damage reduction which can make for a sticky situation (pun intended :D).

There should be better ways of handling this because it really causes a snowball effect when your summons die out and you’re having to recast them. It’s a real kick in the pants when this happens and feels unfair. Summoners need more options for controlling Equilibrium plain and simple. That or a change to how Meditation works, maybe make it so if we invest heavily into it we can use it without penalizing our summons. As it stands, most only put a single point into Meditation so that would be a great option to reward those who put the points into it. Another idea is to make Jelly's reduce Equilibrium regardless if they get damaged and instead gain extra reduction when they are damaged that way no Jelly is wasted and they become more useful. Like Meditation, maybe have it so if we invest heavily into it, they unlock more reduction to reward those who do because like Meditation, most will only drop 1 point into them.

Summoners are still surprisingly fun to play though and despite the fact I think they're broken as hell--I love them. Probably why I am so vocal about it because of my passion for this class and really hope DarkGod gives it a makeover someday soon to fully unlock the potential we all see in it. I think there's a lot of great ideas that's been floated around for DG to work with and am quietly optimistic that improvement to this class will be made.

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Re: Fixing the Summoner

#4 Post by Boozermonkey »

I don't disagree with any of this, but I do think Summoners are not that weak, just extremely challenging. They are in a unique niche of their own with a very different playstyle. Compared to other classes like the new necromancer, of course they are. Comparing classes is not really a fair comparison though because what other class truly compares with a summoner? None I can think of. There are other pet classes like Alchemist and Necromancer, but they are very different from a summoner.

Summoners have more of a need for good escape and positioning options more than many classes do because survivability is not great if the big baddies get to you, but that's the Summoner life. The melee pets except for wolf do basically suck. Ranged pets are all pretty good for what they do but positioning them strategically is really important due to the anti-synergy issues.

Getting summons out takes several turns usually. Dragon is an awesome summon for sure, but Hydra is also very good for damage diversity. Fire resistant enemies are usually not also lightning AND acid resistant. Ritch can be positioned in corners for optimal line of sight but gets blocked by your own summons sometimes and that is a real problem. The tree damages your summons so can really only be used as a long range block and harrass tool, although at 5/5 it puts out very good aoe damage.

Basically, if I play the kiting game with tough elites I can beat them but it takes a lot more work than many other classes.

Anti-synergy with the summons is a real problem, and yeah, what is the point of spider really? Turtle is really nice though with the aoe heal and tanking. Minotaur is just plain pure D garbage, and Golem is a very sub-par tank compared to turtle who at least heals everyone. Let's not even talk about poor worthless jelly and the equilibrium issues.

Yeah. Summoners do need an overhaul and perhaps a rethink on what niche/role they are to play.

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