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 focus mechanic acts as a hindrance rather than a help.

 

 

Ascendant really is a bit of an exception to this though since you just get full focus at the start of the fight from Kitchen Stove or some other weapon ability and spam free high cost spells. 

 

 

 

sure, *-ish*. Sorta.

 

Kitchen Stove's Wild Barrage can work well sure but it's per-rest so it has the issue all per-rest abilities have -- again, it's just a straight disadvantage vs. the per-encounter casters. Also, while that works on lower difficulties and in the early/mid game,, on higher difficulties and higher levels it gets less and less possible to "alpha strike" your way into instantly full focus, even with optimized gear combos. And meanwhile, the Wizard is nuking with an Empowered Minoletta's (a valid comparison since we're comparing per-rest). 

 

Ascendant does mitigate the problems because once you fire your opening salvo (whatever it is) with your weapon and do whatever else you need to do to max your meter, usually a couple more attacks depending,  then you can usually cast 4-5 times (a little less now post nerf) and then you have to get back up to max again. When I say ciphers are "playable" that's basically the build I played -- the only full run I've done so far was with an Ascendant cipher using Kitchen Stove + (other gun) as primary and quarterstaff secondary (for crushing). It was a lot of fun initially but there was a huge dive in utility, relative to the rest of the party, after about level 12 or so, and there were multiple levels ranges where my dude was basically reduced to chain-casting the same power over and over (i.e., levels 8 to 12 were mostly "get Ascended, then Pain Block everybody, plus Body Attunement on the boss monster" etc). And even then, a lot of the abilities I relied on were significantly nerfed in the most recent patch (looking at you, Body Attunement and Time Parasite). 

 

It's easy to miss the performance difference if you are just microing your main and using base AI, because the class is playable and functions, but if you set up your scripting properly (and there are mods now to set max focus as a conditional trigger, very useful for Ascended) the difference in performance between a properly scripted cipher and a properly scripted Wizard is extremely dramatic. Wizard spells are just across-the-board more effective and in a typical fight Wizards will be able to cast many more times than even a properly built, properly scripted Ascendant will, and each Wizard spell will generally be more effective to boot (compare Ninagauth's Death Ray vs. Ectopsychic Echo ; both powers are the same tier, 3; the wizard gets Death Ray for free from a grimoire; Death Ray does more *raw* damage than Echo does crushing).  The whole time you're building up your focus with autoattacks the Wizard is dumping their spellbook, and by the time they finish, there usually isn't much left for the Cipher to cast at. 

 

Net result, though --

 

Cipher has two big issues:

 

1) too short roster of *quality* power choices, and

 

2) focus mechanic hurts rather than helps.

 

You can kinda avoid #1 by going multiclass and just splashing in the few good Cipher powers which are still worth taking, and you can sorta partially dodge #2 by going either Soul Blade or Ascendant (as both rework the focus mechanic). That's why all the best cipher builds right now do both, and go like soul blade assassin or streetfighter ascendant or whatever. If you don't explicitly build to circumvent those two big traps, you're borked.

 

 

At this point I would almost be in favor of replacing the cipher resource with the Ascendant mechanic, and working up some sort of different gimmick for the ascendant. Maybe then the class could be re-balanced around lulls and surges of power, with fast casts and hard hitting abilities. It would maintain some unique flavor to differentiate ciphers from other casters.

 

For now I'm personally playing with cipher abilities heavily modded, as I'm not holding my breath on any serious changes coming to them from patches. They're abysmally boring to play otherwise.

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Kitchen Stove is for Thunderous Report, which is per encounter and a 160 dmg nuke in a huge AoE. It's pretty hard to not max focus instantly with that  :) But this may not escape the next round of nerfs...

 

Cipher certainly can't compare to wizard for options though as you said. Even if as a pure nuker it's pretty decent just using the few good spells you have repeatedly (Amp Wave and Disintegrate). So yeah I guess Ascendant is mostly a worse Wizard. 

Edited by aimlessgun
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At this point I would almost be in favor of replacing the cipher resource with the Ascendant mechanic, and working up some sort of different gimmick for the ascendant. Maybe then the class could be re-balanced around lulls and surges of power, with fast casts and hard hitting abilities. It would maintain some unique flavor to differentiate ciphers from other casters.

 

For now I'm personally playing with cipher abilities heavily modded, as I'm not holding my breath on any serious changes coming to them from patches. They're abysmally boring to play otherwise.

 

 

 

Yeah, I'm hesitant to play with heavy mods because I like to write guides after I finish a playthrough (see https://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198024054503/myworkshopfiles/?section=guides ) and if I mod the game too heavily, my experience is no longer a useful guide to people playing vanilla. 

 

For now I'm basically just back-burnering the game until DLC's come out and they complete whatever rounds of revision they're contemplating. 

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At this point I would almost be in favor of replacing the cipher resource with the Ascendant mechanic, and working up some sort of different gimmick for the ascendant. Maybe then the class could be re-balanced around lulls and surges of power, with fast casts and hard hitting abilities. It would maintain some unique flavor to differentiate ciphers from other casters.

 

For now I'm personally playing with cipher abilities heavily modded, as I'm not holding my breath on any serious changes coming to them from patches. They're abysmally boring to play otherwise.

 

 

 

Yeah, I'm hesitant to play with heavy mods because I like to write guides after I finish a playthrough (see https://steamcommunity.com/profiles/76561198024054503/myworkshopfiles/?section=guides ) and if I mod the game too heavily, my experience is no longer a useful guide to people playing vanilla. 

 

For now I'm basically just back-burnering the game until DLC's come out and they complete whatever rounds of revision they're contemplating. 

 

I understand. I've been playing more of Battletech while waiting for more balance changes myself - the modding was mostly a recognition of how desperately disappointed I am in ciphers right now.

 

At least Arcane Knights are fun?

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What a 180 degree turn for ciphers. They went from the spell spamming class in PoE 1, to the class with the slowest build-up play and weakest caster in PoE2. Every other class can unload all class abilities and resources immediately in every fight, whereas the cipher starts out with minimal focus. Every other class benefits from the switch to per-encounter abilities, ciphers get nothing. Ironically one of the best cipher subclasses, ascendant, gets hurt by leveling up because your focus pool increases and you have to do more damage to get to max, and after you pick the few good powers, the rest don't really help. Also, you usually never hit max a second time.

In my mind it is strictly a multiclass option. The flat damage bonus is never bad, and you only have a select few good powers so you don't actually need any more points in cipher after picking those few. It's a shame that defensive mindweb is not available to mc ciphers, because I love using it in combo with borrowed instinct and a shield to create an untouchable aura around my guy at the start of a tough battle. They freaking nerfed this one too, you used to be allowed to spread the party out after casting the mindweb, now it's an aura... (edit: wrong about the aura, it still sticks after you separate)

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In my mind it is strictly a multiclass option. The flat damage bonus is never bad, and you only have a select few good powers so you don't actually need any more points in cipher after picking those few. It's a shame that defensive mindweb is not available to mc ciphers, because I love using it in combo with borrowed instinct and a shield to create an untouchable aura around my guy at the start of a tough battle. They freaking nerfed this one too, you used to be allowed to spread the party out after casting the mindweb, now it's an aura...

 

It's even worse than that. Defensive Mindweb now breaks on *any damage*, i.e., including grazes, so on PotD it's basically a soap bubble -- one Chill Fog will wipe it from your entire party in a couple ticks, every time, gone before you finish the recovery animation. It's in the same practically useless category as Ancestor's Honor and Wild Leech now.

Edited by Dr. Hieronymous Alloy
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Cipher has two big issues:

 

1) too short roster of *quality* power choices, and

 

2) focus mechanic hurts rather than helps.

 

I strongly agree with the first, and I agree that the cipher power list looks like it really suffered from a lack of attention from developers in deadfire, but I'm not sold on the second point.

 

Cipher is not comparable one to one with traditional casters like wizards because of their passives, and compared with other class' resource systems, I don't think focus looks too bad. In fact focus is pretty much just the same as wounds on shattered pillars, and in their case, people see their resource mechanic as a positive. Of course, shattered pillar is backed up by a secondary resource pool and very strong buffs and passives, but the conclusion to draw from that is mostly that monk ability choices are better and more interesting than cipher ability choices, which we already knew and isn't related to the resource mechanic itself.

 

Let's compare focus to per-level spells and martial power pools. It's true that per-level casters like wizards can cast more powers per fight, but they're highly limited in their usage of specific powers. Take mirrored image as an example. This is a really good spell, but it competes with a lot of other very strong choices at the same level, both in offense (combusting wounds), debuffs (miasma of dull mindedness) and other melee buffs (infuse with vital essence and arcane veil). A wizard might really, really want to cast mirrored image, but not really be able to because it competes with other more important choices. Ciphers will never face this problem. They'll cast fewer spells overall than a wizard, but they can cast individual spells, or spells from a specific level far more frequently.

 

Compared with power pools, focus also has an advantage. Both resource systems allow frequent use of low tier abilities, but martial characters have to be very sparing in their use of expensive skills, or they'll be unable to use any of their powers at all. A fighter that's used inspired strike 2-3 times is now fighting at half strength. Ciphers don't have to deal with that. A high level cipher can reduce most anything to its component particles very fast with death by a thousand cuts followed by recall agony, antipathetic field and mind blades, and they're only limited in their ability to do so by the remaining health of the enemies on the field. With time parasite, they can probably pull this combo off at least once every 10 seconds, maybe more considering the kind of focus generation powers high levels ciphers have access to.

 

I'm not arguing there are no issues with ciphers. But I don't think focus itself is a weak mechanic in deadfire or that the comparison with per-level resource systems is valid. Focus is still very strong. As you mentioned elsewhere, ciphers really need a ground-up rework of their skill tree in the way that chanters got. Maybe they need some way, through trinkets or a list of automatically granted powers, to get more versatility. But if they actually had a variety of fun, interesting uses for focus, it would still be seen as a highly advantageous resource system.

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In my mind it is strictly a multiclass option. The flat damage bonus is never bad, and you only have a select few good powers so you don't actually need any more points in cipher after picking those few. It's a shame that defensive mindweb is not available to mc ciphers, because I love using it in combo with borrowed instinct and a shield to create an untouchable aura around my guy at the start of a tough battle. They freaking nerfed this one too, you used to be allowed to spread the party out after casting the mindweb, now it's an aura...

 

It's even worse than that. Defensive Mindweb now breaks on *any damage*, i.e., including grazes, so on PotD it's basically a soap bubble -- one Chill Fog will wipe it from your entire party in a couple ticks, every time, gone before you finish the recovery animation. It's in the same practically useless category as Ancestor's Honor and Wild Leech now.

 

You're right, it is a joke of a level 8 power for non-ascendants. For ascendants, in tight situations it feels worthwhile to throw it down every so often, to soften blows. You have to gear your party for stacking defenses, though, otherwise it does nothing.

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. A high level cipher can reduce most anything to its component particles very fast with death by a thousand cuts followed by recall agony, antipathetic field and mind blades, and they're only limited in their ability to do so by the remaining health of the enemies on the field. With time parasite, they can probably pull this combo off at least once every 10 seconds, maybe more considering the kind of focus generation powers high levels ciphers have access to.

 

 

Is this something you've done yourself or just theoretical? Because it really doesn't match up with my experience playing a high level Ascendant at all -- like, if you have a build that can do that, I want to know about it. 

 

The only real high level "focus generation power" is Reaping Knives and it's pretty marginal unless you're a fast-casting Ascendant with a monk or other dual-weilder in the party; the problem with it is you have to spend a lot of focus in the first place to cast it, so in most situations you're better off just casting the thing you want to cast rather than casting RK first then waiting for your monk to do his thing. It *can* be useful in some situations though if you build your party for it (I used it a lot with Zahua in the first game)  That's still an instance of the focus mechanic acting as a disadvantage, it's just a disadvantage you can work around with a lot of planning and setup. But the whole time you're setting up that combo, the vancian casters in the party are just droppin' spells boom-boom-boom.

 

I will grant that there is a slight advantage in that Ciphers can chain-cast their good powers; there have been fights where I've cast four or five Amplified Waves in a row, or given the whole party Robust inspiration via chaincasting Pain Block. I'd argue that the reason Ciphers so often do that though is because of the very short power roster. If there were more effective powers in the roster, Ciphers wouldn't *want* to just chaincast Pain Block or Amp Wave -- there would be something else they wanted to cast instead.  I had Pallegina spec'd as a Herald in my Deadfire run and while she theoretically could repeat-cast the same powers over and over again, I very rarely wanted to, because there was usually a better alternative available.

Edited by Dr. Hieronymous Alloy
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I have found Hierophant to be a fun and somewhat potent. Not a min/max powerhouse, but you get good INT synergy, and big AoE. Summoned weapons build Focus like crazy and wizard debuffs can leave opponents very vulnerable to the cipher's powers. Ascendant and Beguiler both fit, and can feed off the wizard half. Plus, there is something cool about melting a mob with Death Ray and the cipher's Echo ray running at the same time.

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Is this something you've done yourself or just theoretical? Because it really doesn't match up with my experience playing a high level Ascendant at all -- like, if you have a build that can do that, I want to know about it. 

 

The only real high level "focus generation power" is Reaping Knives and it's pretty marginal unless you're a fast-casting Ascendant with a monk or other dual-weilder in the party; the problem with it is you have to spend a lot of focus in the first place to cast it, so in most situations you're better off just casting the thing you want to cast rather than casting RK first then waiting for your monk to do his thing. It *can* be useful in some situations though if you build your party for it (I used it a lot with Zahua in the first game)  That's still an instance of the focus mechanic acting as a disadvantage, it's just a disadvantage you can work around with a lot of planning and setup. But the whole time you're setting up that combo, the vancian casters in the party are just droppin' spells boom-boom-boom.

 

I will grant that there is a slight advantage in that Ciphers can chain-cast their good powers; there have been fights where I've cast four or five Amplified Waves in a row, or given the whole party Robust inspiration via chaincasting Pain Block. I'd argue that the reason Ciphers so often do that though is because of the very short power roster. If there were more effective powers in the roster, Ciphers wouldn't *want* to just chaincast Pain Block or Amp Wave -- there would be something else they wanted to cast instead.  I had Pallegina spec'd as a Herald in my Deadfire run and while she theoretically could repeat-cast the same powers over and over again, I very rarely wanted to, because there was usually a better alternative available.

 

I've done it, but just against enemies I've spawned with the console. I haven't played a single class cipher from beginning to end. So, I'll admit I can't claim to be a cipher expert. But, I also wonder to what extent your views of ciphers are shaped by your experience with ascendants. However, I don't think all the claims thrown out about how ciphers are no good add up. Some of them hold water and some of them don't. I don't buy it that focus is a disadvantage. If mental binding, for example, had no recovery time and did damage, focus would be considered an overpowered resource mechanic, not an underpowered one. The problem is with the power of cipher abilities, not focus itself. I seriously doubt obsidian decided to give wizards, priests and druids bonus spells just to make traditional casters more powerful. Rather, I expect it's because of the heavy limitations of their resource system, and if that resource system weren't attached to a series of very powerful abilities, wizard fans would in turn be blaming it for the weakness of their favorite class.

 

I don't know what kind of attack speed and damage you had with your cipher. I was testing with a dual wield build that attacked a little slower than once per second with time parasite. That by itself was enough to cast level 9 powers frequently. I didn't test with reaping knives, but was getting decent supplemental focus gain with the complete self (+5 focus on crit with cipher powers) and ectopsychic echo as well as antipathetic field.

 

Here's a point I'd like to bring up. You've mentioned that ninagauth's death ray is like a better version of ectopsychic echo. But ignoring any comparison between the two classes, or ignoring the difference in the recovery times, or the value of different resource systems on different difficulties and the number of times a particular ability can be cast, ectopsychic echo targets reflex and ninagauth's death ray targets fortitude. That alone makes a big difference. It seems that practically every nasty enemy has very high fortitude, while reflex very rarely seems to be high on enemies that don't fold instantly to weapon damage anyway.

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I don't know what kind of attack speed and damage you had with your cipher. I was testing with a dual wield build that attacked a little slower than once per second with time parasite. That by itself was enough to cast level 9 powers frequently. I didn't test with reaping knives, but was getting decent supplemental focus gain with the complete self (+5 focus on crit with cipher powers) and ectopsychic echo as well as antipathetic field.

 

Here's a point I'd like to bring up. You've mentioned that ninagauth's death ray is like a better version of ectopsychic echo. But ignoring any comparison between the two classes, or ignoring the difference in the recovery times, or the value of different resource systems on different difficulties and the number of times a particular ability can be cast, ectopsychic echo targets reflex and ninagauth's death ray targets fortitude. That alone makes a big difference. It seems that practically every nasty enemy has very high fortitude, while reflex very rarely seems to be high on enemies that don't fold instantly to weapon damage anyway.

 

 

 

Ok, yeah, I can see how a crit-build with the beams and Complete Self talent could be fairly effective. (When you said "powers" I thought you meant actives.) If you did that pre-patch, the effectiveness of Time Parasite got halved, so that's a thing (honestly, there should probably be some sort of upper limit on how much the TP effect can stack).  The two main issues with time parasite builds are that 1) in each fight you have to get the focus built up to cast Time Parasite a few times first, so you can't open strong, and 2) by the time you get Time Parasite the game is mostly over -- you've played 80% - 90% of the content. I don't really like to rely on any build that isn't "feature complete" by level 8 or so, 10 at most. Levels 16+ you're basically on your endgame victory lap by that point.

 

Re: Echo -- yes, echo is actually a decently strong power, probably one of the better ones in the Cipher's roster. I make the comparison more to show the disparity in itemization and versatility and power selection between the classes than anything else. Having to get a power like Ninagauth's Death Ray from a loot grimoire isn't a hindrance, it's a freebie, the net result is that Wizards get one of the Cipher's best party tricks, for free, with no sacrifice, while Ciphers have to surrender a power slot for it. 

Edited by Dr. Hieronymous Alloy
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I ran through PoE 1 with a melee cipher before Deadfire released to get reacquainted and finish Pallegina's quest (since I'd never taken her in my party due to NPC paladins being gimped in early patches) and the White March content. I was stoked to play cipher again, tried it as my first character... and i shelved him very quickly. Even on normal at release ciphers were being outpaced in every category by every other class reguardless of stats/build. 

 

Guess I'm a weirdo who doesn't like the charm powers much, and I rarely used them in the first game. I think I took whispers of treason just for flavor, but Mental Binding, Silent Scream, Amplified Wave, Body Attunement and hell even Mind Blades were rock solid, easily competing with other casters for damage and CC while not treading on the same territory exactly.

 

They also had significant accuracy bonuses, whereas I feel like now cipher powers in particular miss most of the time even with extremely pumped up PER and decent power level.

 

Most spells not grazing in general is kinda frustrating, but especially so for single-target or foe-centered AOE powers, which are the majority of cipher's repertoire.

 

Mental binding's relative uselessness via its extremely short duration relative to cast/recovery in Deadfire was particularly heartbreaking, since that was my bread-and-butter crit factory and failsafe for melee engagement. Chanters get a near-instant cast large AoE paralyze at the same level that I believe lasts longer as well. In fact, the treatment of chanter in deadfire is a great example of how to make a class that wasn't great in the first game unique, viable and balanced. I wish ciphers would have gotten similar attention. 

 

Tactical Meld was a great ability and its sad it isn't in Deadfire. The vastly decreased utility of Raw damage also hurts a lot, on top of all their attack spells having significantly less damage across the board. 

 

I've been goofing around with the "Deadfire Tweaks" re-balance mod for cipher powers that changes all of them to be 1.5/2s cast/recovery and that definitely helps with feeling "powerful," though it is a bit extreme and doesn't mesh with the feel of other caster classes at all. Plus it makes Ascended subclass way too powerful w/r/t spamming powers while ascended. Charm spells are fine being super slow, I actually hope their duration gets reduced quite a bit in a future patch as it is annoying to have 2-3 glasseyed mooks standing around waiting to get culled at the end of every fight. 

 

I feel like every damage spell needs to go back to PoE 1 levels, and cipher spells should be able to graze and/or have inherent accuracy boosts to make them unique from other casters. Currently the stat spread you need to be "as good" as a wizard is impossible. A lack of early/mid game speed boosts (wizards get Nimble basically on demand from level 1, monks have swift strikes ect.) really accentuates how building focus is a malus now rather than an advantage. Every 4-8 second casting and recovery cycle is that much more downtime from building focus, and all but a handful of powers that aren't buffs are average-slow. Only priests have worse problems with casting and recovery speed, but at least they have other roles they can fill in a party and can just chain-cast buffs or attack spells until they are out of ammo. Ciphers are kind of like paladins that can't hit the broadside of a barn or effectively support their party, or weak wizards who come to the fight when its 3/4 over already. 

 

The inspirations/afflictions are also too weak for cipher powers across the board. Take Tenuous Grasp from PoE 1: Frightened for 15 sec, Confused for 6 sec acc+10 vs will. Confused was extremely good in PoE 1, on par with Frightened/Terrified in deadfire. Still not half as good a power overall as other 1st level cipher spells, but way better than Deadfire, where Shaken is a minor defense debuff and Confused is borderline useless. Likewise, stuff like Wild Leech and Mind Plague, level 4 and 6!!! respectively, inflict tier-1 afflictions/gain inspirations. They should both be at least tier-2, and I would still pass them up even for amplified wave with prone being much weaker than it once was. 

 

I just want cipher to be fun again. I feel like game balance is mad decent after 1.1, except for my fave class :/

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Overall Ciphers need a slight buff but nerf to charm.

 

I would

-decrease Whispers of Treason base duration by to 12 sec

-increase penetrating vision bonus to +1 spell penetration as base and another +1 above cipher mastery (level 20 single class cipher)

-hammering thoughts should give +1 weapon penetration and +5 accuracy with proficient weapons

-decrease draining whip focus gain by 25%

-psychovampiric shield should give +10 deflection as a buff

-mental binding duration should be increased to 10 sec base

-puppet master base duration down to 15 sec from 20

-wild leech instead of tier 1 inspiration just give +8 to a random stat - makes it funny but hardly worth using still

-mind lance base damage should be increased by 25% - high risk reward as it will do good damage but enemies not always in a strait line

-silent scream base damage should be increased by 15% (raw damage>pierce)

-body attunement should be -4 ar on target and +2 ar on self

-base damage of detonate should be increased by 15%

-ring leader base duration should be decreased to 12 sec!!!

-keen mind should be increased to +20 focus from +10

-Mind Plague base duration should be increased to 15 sec

-Amplified wave base damage should be increased by 15% 

-Screaming Souls cast time should be reduced to 0.5sec 

-time parasite should be capped at +200% action speed (double) but increase your action speed at 40% per target affected and not be stackable

-Defensive Mindweb should be changed to "if critically hit" from "taking damage" to cease to work on said party member

-Haunting Chains should be a small aoe like ring leader

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-decrease draining whip focus gain by 25%

 

Most of your list would be an improvement, but I disagree with this. Draining whip is clearly superior to biting whip and is a no brainer pick for most ciphers. But nerfing focus gain is very dangerous, since the viability of all the powers is dependent on being able to generate focus to cast them. A draining whip build should be able to cast its top tier powers every 2-3 attacks.

 

Instead of nerfing draining whip, I’d recommend changing biting whip from a measly 10% weapon damage boost to a 15% raw lash. That makes it a serious choice that’s comparable with other good bonuses from martial classes, and makes biting whip really tempting for ciphers that care a lot about weapon damage.

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I agree with grasida, nerfing draining whip would reduce even more cipher performance compared to other casters. It's biting drain that need a buff to make it more interesting.

 

Random thoughs on cipher :

 

- the new affliction/inspiration hurt the ciphers because lot of afflictions don't stack or replace each other. That mean ciphers debuff/debuff don't stack with other classes spells. And own ciphers spells don't work together (whisper of treason & grasp spells, charm is a better version of confuse)

 

- Cipher can't use some of his buff on himself, like valorous echoes. Lot of classes have access to selfbuff, and the inspirations of same type don't stack together. Really annoying when you play a solo cipher or MC with one of the rares classes without selfbuff (and most of selfbuff abilities are instant/low recovery and better in other classes).

 

- Lot of spells have lost their flavor/some power from poe1. Mindwave don't prone anymore (and prone have been nerfed), silent screen and amplified wave feel less powerfull etc...

 

- Lack in spell selection, specialy as you progress in level. The PL7 feel a big let down when you're multiclassed. PL8-9 is packaged with lot of good stuff. You don't have any free spells compared to other casters. So you're 'spaming' the same spells.

 

- Design wise, I always hated that focus generation is dependant of attacking... but the class lack any active abilities that work as a resource generator. Monk are fueled by Mortification, Chanter are using chants that do something unique. As a solo cipher... you auto attack. Multiclassing with a martial class remove the problem, but that don't 'fix' a solo cipher. And cipher don't work well with other class spells.

In a dual resource system, you could put buff like valorous echoes (a better version) on another resource like mortification and have cipher generate focus when he's buffing teammate. Have an active version of drainingwhipe/bitting whip that cost resource.

 

- Spells lack of keywords. I don't know if abilities have hidden keywords, but martials abilities and cipher spells lack keywords. Soul siphon do fire dmg but don't have the fire keyword, so can't buff it with a +x PL to fire abilities items? Powerlevel is the way to boost spells, but cipher spells can't be buffed like that? (I haven't tested) And you don't have items that buff MIND, Shred, deseption keywords.

 

- The cipher selfbuff are buff&debuff in one spell, but since the nerf both effects are lower of what other classes can do. Body attunement? A wizard can apply the same debuff as an AOE. For armor buff, the wizard get a +3 AR at PL1 and it's near instant cast/no recovery spell. Of course wizard have a limited resource, but cipher focus is a bonus only in a very long fight where a wizard could run out of spells.

The focus generation turned from a bonus to a disavantage in most fight, only ascendant twist it because it allow you to 'spam' all your best spells, like if a wizard could cast 3-4 time it's best AOE spell.

 

- I like the soul annihilation 'spell'. Because it give you an ability to dish all your unused focus. In POE1 most fight ended before I could use my focus as a cipher (time to generate focus + casting time of 1 spell... barbarian & co finish last stand enemies).

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There was a lot of good discussion of specific cipher power changes in this prior thread: https://forums.obsidian.net/topic/101756-cipher-class-general-feedback-discussion/page-3

 

Really though they need a lot of new powers, the root issue is just that the power roster needs to be expanded by about a third. You could make up a big chunk of that by giving Ciphers "upgrades" of some lower level powers, like Chanters get. This is one reason the issue is hard to fix with just a mod -- the class needs a comprehensive rebuild, not just tweaks.

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The main problem of the cipher is that they just translated the class from poe1 without big changes like the dual resources system for monk. What was a strengh in poe1 is a weakness now.

 

Upgrade powers could be an option. Or ability to cast a spell at highter power level with increased effect. When you have 100 focus, casting lvl 1 spells become less appealing if you consider the cast time. Why not show spell at highter spell slot (upgraded version with new effect or just power level boost). It could be automatic or you need to spend an ability point.

 

Or an empowered like option that allow you to put more focus in a spell to boost the power. It could be a fixed amount or use all your focus.

 

But yeah, like you said tweaking the class will never fix a core issue. They need to rethink the class with the new systems of deadfire and per encounter fights.

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- Design wise, I always hated that focus generation is dependant of attacking... but the class lack any active abilities that work as a resource generator. Monk are fueled by Mortification, Chanter are using chants that do something unique. As a solo cipher... you auto attack. Multiclassing with a martial class remove the problem, but that don't 'fix' a solo cipher. And cipher don't work well with other class spells.

 

I feel like this is a clear case where other classes got a lot of attention and ciphers really didn’t. With the general increase in complexity of resource systems and damage creep in Deadfire, I agree cipher focus generation feels a little boring, even if the specific numbers are okay for characters that take draining whip. In general, between power choices and passives, Deadfire ciphers are stuck in an awkward place between martial classes and other casters.

 

The focus generation turned from a bonus to a disavantage in most fight, only ascendant twist it because it allow you to 'spam' all your best spells, like if a wizard could cast 3-4 time it's best AOE spell.

 

But I want to reiterate that this isn’t a problem with focus itself, rather that the abilities you can use with focus tend to be boring and are mostly weak. You brought up spirit armor. If ciphers had a spell like spirit armor, it would essentially be a passive for them, since past early levels the cost would be trivial and they could keep it up all the time. A wizard that casts spirit armor is making a choice and a cipher wouldn’t be. Wizards can cast this spell and only have one use thrust of tattered veils, slicken or chill fog left. Then they could cast fleet feet or Eldritch Aim as well and give up all their offensive and utility powers at that level. And then they could be hit with arcane dampener and have to burn an empower to get just one more cast of a level one spell. If ciphers had spirit armor as a level one spell, they could simply recast it immediately if it were dispelled and the cost of using it would effectively never interfere with using any of their other powers at any level. That’s why obsidian has to be very careful designing cipher powers, because if a lot of other class abilities were just transplanted directly into the cipher class, the ability to cast them with focus would make them overwhelmingly powerful.

 

I strongly disagree with the notion that focus is a weak mechanic in Deadfire. Ciphers don’t need a redesign of their resource system. They need more impactful ability choices and more instant cast or zero recovery spells to make up for the fact that weapon attacks are essentially their “recovery”. If the spell list were better, everyone would be saying ciphers are overpowered because of their resource mechanics.

Edited by grasida
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But I want to reiterate that this isn’t a problem with focus itself, rather that the abilities you can use with focus tend to be boring and are mostly weak. You brought up spirit armor. If ciphers had a spell like spirit armor, it would essentially be a passive for them, since past early levels the cost would be trivial and they could keep it up all the time. A wizard that casts spirit armor is making a choice and a cipher wouldn’t be. Wizards can cast this spell and only have one use thrust of tattered veils, slicken or chill fog left. Then they could cast fleet feet or Eldritch Aim as well and give up all their offensive and utility powers at that level. And then they could be hit with arcane dampener and have to burn an empower to get just one more cast of a level one spell. If ciphers had spirit armor as a level one spell, they could simply recast it immediately if it were dispelled and the cost of using it would effectively never interfere with using any of their other powers at any level. That’s why obsidian has to be very careful designing cipher powers, because if a lot of other class abilities were just transplanted directly into the cipher class, the ability to cast them with focus would make them overwhelmingly powerful.

 

I strongly disagree with the notion that focus is a weak mechanic in Deadfire. Ciphers don’t need a redesign of their resource system. They need more impactful ability choices and more instant cast or zero recovery spells to make up for the fact that weapon attacks are essentially their “recovery”. If the spell list were better, everyone would be saying ciphers are overpowered because of their resource mechanics.

 

 

 

I don't want to get into too much of a dead-horse-beating contest on this because you've stated your position well and it has some validity, but I think you're overstating it slightly. A cipher is limited by a resource: time. Cipher casts aren't "free": they're paid for in time spent autoattacking (or, at best, using item-based per-encounters) and any given combat only has so much time in it. For everything below PotD at least, time is the real limiting factor; the wizard's or priests' or druid's spellbook limitations are purely theoretical because the combats don't last long enough for them to actually run out of spells, while conversely the fights also aren't long enough for Ciphers to actually cast all that many powers. One reason I keep harping on Wizards is that wizards' self-buffs are mostly instant cast, whereas for a similar buff a cipher is paying a double time cost: once for the autoattack that got the focus, and then again for the actual buff cast.  The net result is that a wizard can auto-script a few buff spells like Fleet Feet or Eldritch Aim at the start of the fight and still be dropping bombs on the enemy faster than the Cipher can, because the cipher has to garner focus first. 

 

Like, in my whole run on Veteran, it was *very* rare for Aloth or Maia to even need to use an empower for more spells, and the only fight I remember actually completely running out of per-encounter casts to the point that focus gain became an advantage was when trying to tackle Nemnok while drastically under-levelled; even there, Pallegina as a Herald was far more directly useful because her Chanter heals and summons and resurrect kept the whole party going in a way that Pain Block and charms by themselves coudn't (Cipher's lack of self-heal and charm's ability to miss against higher-level targets really hurt in that regard).

 

This *might* change a bit on PotD I'll admit given the recent patch changes. I'd have to do a dedicated playthrough though and I don't really want to given the various cipher issues :p

 

EDIT: I will agree with you insofar as your statement that " Ciphers don’t need a redesign of their resource system." That's at least mostly true. I think a generalized reduction in Cipher cast and recovery times could address this problem without changing the focus mechanic, especially if there was some effort made to "graduate" the casting time scale, so higher level cipher powers took longer but low level powers remained relatively "spammable." Alternatively, significant increases in the effectiveness of Cipher powers could also solve the issue (making them "worth the wait," as it were). It's all a matter of relative scaling.

Edited by Dr. Hieronymous Alloy
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There is an issue with the focus mechanic. It's the range and cost difference between a level 1 and 9 spell. The cipher can't have impactfull spells because he can basically spam them, specialy low level spells. A cipher can get 200 focus I think at max level, and a level 1 spell can cost 5-10 focus. If you want more impactfull spell, each focus point you spend need to matter. Look at a shaterred monk, he generates wounds based on attack dmg, but the wound are capped at 5, not 200. Same with Chanter, spell cost don't go over 10.

 

Cipher could be designed around a 10-20 focus max, where each point spent mater.

 

Compare cipher to other classes that generate unlimited resources :

- Chanter have more powerfull spells, but they generate phrases slower than a cipher.

- Monk can generate lot of wounds for a variety of buffs & attacks, but spending wounds lower their passive buffs like Duality of mortal P. .Wounds attacks have less impact (primary impact). Most powerfull abilities are based on mortification that is a limited resource.

 

- Cipher can generate lot of focus, spam all their low level abilities... but overall lack the impact.

 

As a hybrid martial/caster, cipher have issues in Deadfire:

- All martial classes have access to some buffs/debuffs that are instant cast. So a martial class is ready to fight first second of engagement. A wizard can buff himself in the same time. Only support classes like priest, chanter & druid have a cast time for their buffs because it's AOE. So cipher is stuck in the support part and worse it can't full buff himself like other support classes. You have to attack with weapons to generate focus, but you take more time than other to be ready.

- You lack weapon attack abilities. If you don't take into account multiclassing and items, a cipher must use auto attack to generate focus.

- Compared to other casters you can't use all your powerfull abilities right at the begining. Your selection of power is less diversified.

 

One thing I love it's soul annihilitaion, because you have a hybrid spell/weapon attack spell. Something the dev could dig in to make cipher more unique. Core of the problem it's this hybrid nature that only multiclassing fixe. Some of the class feature call for weapon attack (soul whip, extra penetration for weapons, soul annihilation etc...) but all power are caster like abilities.

If cipher have more spells, that will make it compete with other casters. I think they should focus on giving Cipher this unique mix of martial/caster. Power/design wise, I find the rogue closer to a true soulblade, because he's delivering afflictions through weapons attacks and don't have to loose time with casting. That could be an interesting twist, that some of the cipher spells have to be delivered through weapon attacks like soul annihilition.

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Guest Psychovampiric Shield

 

Empower can replenish focus too, e.g. at the beginning of battle to get off a few spells quickly and only then make attacks to rebuild focus.

 

Yeah, but that's non optimal for a few reasons -- you don't want to use an empower at the start of a fight before you know if you'll need it, for one thing, and for another, it only gives like . . somewhere between a quarter and half? -- of your focus back, which is usually enough for, like, one cast of your top power, or 2-3 casts of lower level powers; in contrast, a wizard priest or druid can get nine spell casts back (one for each level!) 

 

Empower balance is its own distinct thing though so I don't want to go too far down that rabbit hole, i just raise it to point out the disparity between the focus mechanic and per-encounter casting. I get the reasons for the move to per-encounter and it was the right move for the former Vancians but the net result is that CIphers no longer have a niche as "the per encounter caster" and the focus mechanic acts as a hindrance rather than a help.

 

 

There is usually no reason not to use it at the start of any battle, but anyway, if it is a difficult battle, you will fail and reload a few times, before you figure it out, so you will know whether or not to use it.

 

I do not know what is maximum focus. If it is level * 10, then it replenishes about half of focus pool, in addition to whatever is the starting amount. E.g. level 10 cipher would recover ~50, while level 10 wizard/druid/priest would recover 5 spells, equivalent of 150 focus, but that is a bit misleading, because their spells may not be equally or at all useful/usable in given battle or at given phase of it, and those that are useful would still be capped at 3 casts, while cipher could cast 8 Whispers in a row right from the get go.

 

Btw, if you are displeased by battles being too short for focus to become cipher's advantage, you might want to try some mod that increases health of enemies. On vanilla PoTD, they have 1.25x more than on normal, ~2.00 is imo more appropriate.

 

 

The inspirations/afflictions are also too weak for cipher powers across the board. Take Tenuous Grasp from PoE 1: Frightened for 15 sec, Confused for 6 sec acc+10 vs will. Confused was extremely good in PoE 1, on par with Frightened/Terrified in deadfire. Still not half as good a power overall as other 1st level cipher spells, but way better than Deadfire, where Shaken is a minor defense debuff and Confused is borderline useless. 

 

In addition, it is also rather massive -20 will, long lasting debuff, counts as, I think, deception (of some importance to beguiler) but not as mind (unlike Psychovampiric Shield, which in turn does not count as resolve affliction) and, given how inspiration/affliction system works, in battles against enemies with intellect/reslove weakness gets upgraded and becomes practically instacast 10 focus charm (spoiler):

 

 

 

screen3.png

 

 

 

EDIT: btw, I just noticed that some changes are coming: https://forums.obsidian.net/topic/103043-patch-120-updates-thread/?do=findComment&comment=2064427

Among other things, Whisper of Treason has range and duration reduced. Also generally hitting charmed enemies will cancel charm. That is drastic, but will put an end to some abuse (see image above).

Edited by Psychovampiric Shield
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Single class cipher at level 13 

 

aoe wide 100-113 damage on crit (amplified wave) - spammable four times in ascendant state (1x borrowed instinct +4x amplified wave). no cheese just using correct items I would use on any spellcaster nuker. granted that is with champion of barath stats but if I was pre buffing with a certain helm and lightning damage can push up those numbers to 150 damage from 110 easy.

 

 

post-211561-0-15516300-1530399151_thumb.jpg

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