With Wrathstone, we've received a full rebalance of the racial passives, and through thorough testing from end-game raiders, the PvE meta has settled in.
Surprise, Argonians don't fit in anywhere.
Okay, some other races are also facing something similar, but ultimately those races are able to still make use of what stats they have to still be extremely viable in certain roles; I'll cover those below.
So, let's talk about Argonian racial passives, why I think they suck, why I know they suck, and what the alternatives could be.
Basic Rundown of PvE Roles
Before I get into this, let me break down the respective roles in the PvE raiding scene right now, and what they require.
Tanks: A supportive role. Their most basic job involves holding aggro on the most dangerous enemies and survive the hits. In the end-game raiding scene, they are supposed to do that on extremely challenging enemies, stack the enemies together into a pile for the DPS to burn down in some cases, and provide group utility that increases the damage output and survivability of the entire group. It is a role that utilizes several different stats, namely Max Health, Max Stamina, and Magicka Recovery. It is also a reactive role, meaning that the effectiveness of a tank lies mostly in their skill and experience with the role rather than their stats.
Healers: A supportive role. Their most basic job is to heal the group and keep them alive. In the end-game raiding scene, they are also highly focused on utility, providing resource-sustain to the group and performing certain trial mechanics so the DPS don't have to. This is also somewhat of a reactive role in that a healer's skill and experience is very important in their effectiveness, but a good chunk of a healer's power also lies in one of their stats: Magicka Recovery. With more Magicka Recovery, a healer is able to dish out more heals and group utility without heavy attacking, and is also able to react more effectively by having enough Magicka to spam burst heals if necessary.
DPS: By far the most ubiquitous role in the game. Their most basic job is to deal damage to anything and everything. In the end-game raiding scene... they are still just supposed to deal damage to anything and everything. In trials, any additional jobs and mechanics they are supposed to perform will always relate, in some way, to their ability to do damage. A DPS utilizes stats that increase their damage output, so Max Magicka, Magicka Recovery, Spell Damage, and Spell Crit for Magicka DPS, and Max Stamina, Stamina Recovery, Weapon Damage, and Weapon Crit for Stamina DPS. It is a stat-based role, in that all the skill that a DPS is required to have is the bare minimum to survive and perform mechanics as well as the ability to perform their rotation of abilities. Ultimately, in the end-game raiding scene where people are reaching the peak of how much DPS they can do, their stats will determine how effective a DPS can be.
So let's talk about the meta in the different aspects of the game in PvE right now with each race.
Argonians got Shafted
For tanks, the Best-in-Slot race is definitely Nords, followed closely by Imperials. Nords have superior group utility with their hugely-reduced cooldowns on ultimates (Aggressive Horns), and Imperials have the same thing that's slightly toned down along with much more sustain.
For healers, nothing beats Bretons; their sheer sustain is equivalent to >320 base Magicka recovery (means that it's much much more than 320 Magicka recovery after buffs), absolutely unrivaled by any other race. No other race comes near to a Breton's effectiveness.
For Magicka DPS, we have a 3-way tie between Altmer, Dunmer, and Bretons; Altmer and Dunmer have a negligible DPS gap between them and currently have the highest raw damage output, and Bretons absolutely shine with their insane Magicka sustain, outshining even Altmer and Dunmer in sustained damage-output on classes that are more resource-intensive (Magsorc and Magplars mainly)
For Stamina DPS, nothing beats Orcs and Dunmer in terms of raw damage output, and Orcs even have 1000 base Max Health for better survivability. While Redguards and Bosmer can perform better than Orcs in terms of sustained damage output on more resource-intensive classes (Stamsorc mainly), an Orc can actually perfectly match a Bosmer in terms of Stamina stats just by replacing a Weapon Damage glyph with a Stamina Recovery glyph, not to mention that a Reduced Feat Cost glyph would be better anyway, and both Redguards and Bosmer can't trade their extra Stamina sustain for more raw damage.
Just to put this into the perspective of all the races and the roles they can do, I have listed them all out here. I have also ranked the roles they can do in terms of Best, Good, and Decent; whatever is not mentioned means that their stats are not good enough.
Altmer: Best for Magicka DPS, Decent for Healing
Bosmer: Good for Stamina DPS
Breton: Best for Magicka DPS, Best for Healing, Decent for Tanking
Dunmer: Best for Magicka DPS, Best for Stamina DPS, Decent for Healing
Redgard: Good for Stamina DPS, Decent for Tanking
Orc: Best for Stamina DPS, Decent for Tanking
Nord: Best for Tanking
Imperial: Best for Tanking, Decent for Stamina DPS
Khajiit: Good for Stamina DPS, Good for Magicka DPS
Last but not least:
Argonian: Decent for Tanking, Decent for Healing
Here's why I think Argonians are only "Decent" for both Tanking and Healing, and therefore not actually that good at both roles.
Why were Argonians Shafted
Argonians are only decent at tanking at this point because they do not offer any group utility. Yes, their tri-stat potion passive makes sustaining as a tank easy, but in end-game tanking, no one cares for that. I would like to reiterate that tanking, by itself, is a reactive role; this means that people don't have to be the best race in order to be able to properly sustain as a tank. In fact, this is already the case, with many people tanking completely fine on non-BiS races. The best tanks I know ran Orcs, Bosmer, Khajiiti, Nords, even Bretons, and they had absolutely no issue sustaining their own resources. Yeah, the Argonian potion passive makes it easier, but the fact of the matter is that they aren't going to be more useful with that. In that case, Nords and Imperials make for vastly superior tanks simply because of their group utility (ultimate-regeneration) that can not be obtained any other way.
Argonians are also only decent at healing. Let's start with their 6% Healing Done: it is shite. I'm not pulling opinions out of my arse here either; I've talked with healers who have Immortal Redeemer, Gryphon Heart, and Tick Tock Tormentor (the end-game raiding trifecta, as they call it), and they all agree that 6% Healing Done means nothing to them. The truth is that in trials, there's more than enough healing going around for everyone; the healers' main job there is to do just enough healing to keep the team alive and spend the rest of the time performing mechanics and supplying resources to the group through Orbs or Shards.
Besides their Healing Done passive, Argonians also have a measly 88 Magicka/s sustain from their potion passive; that is effectively less than half of what Bretons have for sustain, and sustain is very important for healers. In addition, Bretons also have superior survivability simply from their 2310-4620 Spell Resistance, which is more than the survivability that ~1000 max Health gives for Argonians.
As for DPS, Argonians aren't even anywhere close to being viable. Being a full 4-6% behind other races in terms of damage, either Stamina or Magicka, only means that they're not even considered for that role. Their Healing Done stat guarantees that Argonians will never have enough power for anything other than raw healing, and limits their flexibility and ability to do anything. Compare that to the Spell Damage that Altmer have and you can see why: Spell Damage affects both DPS and healing, whereas Healing Done affects... just healing.
Healing Done is a wasted stat that limits what an Argonian player can do. On paper, it seems like it benefits their Healing and Tanking ability because logically, healers do Healing and tanks can also make use of it for self heals, but in reality, it is entirely useless for both of those roles, since Healers don't actually need additional Healing Done at this point, and Tanks can sustain themselves just fine without that passive and without the potion passive.
Stepping back, I do understand why Argonians are this way: before Wrathstone, they were the best (easiest) for tanking because of their tri-stat sustain back when no race had any group utility passives, and they were also considered among the best in terms of healing, once again, due to their Magicka sustain (Bretons actually had slightly more even before Wrathstone, and many healers considered Bretons to be superior, but it wasn't a significant difference). Most importantly, they were considered overpowered in PvP because their tri-stat potion passive synergized well with Potion Speed glyphs and Clever Alchemist, giving them powerful burst heals, recovery, and damage.
How were Argonians Shafted
As a guy who runs exclusively Argonians, I believe that most of that Argonians-are-OP sentiment in PvP is overexaggerated; while they were overpowered, most of those cases came from people who got an Argonian opponent down to low health and resources only to be surprised when they popped a potion and got their resources back. That "surprise" psychological factor, in my opinion, contributed much to the nerfs that were brought onto Argonians, and I have no doubts that even with the current nerfs, that sentiment will remain. I believe that if Argonians had a flat 100/s recovery in their resources instead, those people would stop complaining about Argonian sustain in PvP.
There were other factors that made Argonians strong in PvP as well, mainly their Healing Done + Received passive as well as their Disease resistance; all of this contributed a lot to their PvP power, and unfortunately, many people were quick to blame the tri-stat potion passive as the main culprit rather than taking these additional stats into account.
Right now, Argonians are nerfed in small ways to each of their stats compared to their Murkmire counterparts. Personally, I'm fine with these nerfs. My biggest gripe is not on the nerfs, but the lack of buffs to what Argonians can actually do.
Inconsistencies in this "Mathematical Balance"
The thing with the Wrathstone racial changes is that most of them are great. People have more viable options for the roles they want to play, and I am entirely for that. However, what I am not fine with is that Argonians never received the same treatment; other races have been buffed to surpass Argonians at what they used to be meta in, and that leaves Argonians completely non-viable for any role in the PvE scene.
Just for comparison's sake, here are the changes to each of the races in relation to their place in the meta before Wrathstone, ranking them from decent, good, and great:
Altmer - was good for Magicka DPS - now great for Magicka DPS
Bosmer - was decent for Stamina DPS - now good for Stamina DPS
Breton - was decent for Magicka DPS, was great for Healing - now great at Magicka DPS and Healing
Dunmer - was great for Magicka DPS - now great for Magicka and Stamina DPS
Redgard - was great for Stamina DPS - now good for Stamina DPS
Orc - was decent for Stamina DPS - now great for Stamina DPS
Nord - was crap - now great for Tanking
Imperial - was good for Tanking - now great for Tanking
Khajiit - was good for Stamina DPS - now good for Magicka and Stamina DPS
Argonian - was great for Tanking and Healing - now only decent for Tanking and Healing
In terms of "the meta", only Argonians and Redguards were nerfed, but even now Redguards remain a strong contender for Stamina DPS even in terms of resource-heavy classes; Argonians aren't a strong contender for anything.
Real quick, just to cover things on the mathematical side of things, all sources of Health in-game are 10% more potent than their equivalent Stamina and Magicka counterparts; traits, attribute points, glyphs, and even food. Unfortunately, this is not reflected in the racial passives, and therefore the passives themselves also become mathematically imbalanced. For example, if a Breton wants to put points/glyphs into Health so they could emulate the stats of an Argonian, the Breton would always end up with either more Health or more Magicka.
In-game food is also a problem. They are not balanced in the same way that racial passives are, in that the more resources are spread out, the less mathematical value they have, and this creates another gameplay inconsistency in that races are not able to fine-tune their stats accordingly through food to make up for the stats that their race doesn't provide or provides too much of for individual roles. ZOS devs talk of "mathematical balance" with the racial passives, but when the same balance is not struck with the food items (11.19 set bonuses equivalent with Purple food vs just 5.17 set bonuses with Green food) as with the rest of the game, players are not able to efficiently sacrifice what extra resource pools they have for stats that would be more useful to them. Ultimately, it just comes down to "Clockwork Citrus Filet is BiS either way whether you are running an Imperial or a Breton Magsorc" simply because Clockwork Citrus Filet is the best food item for any Magicka DPS (unless you're a Breton Magblade in which case just go bi-stat and suffer from only a slight DPS loss rather than even more DPS loss from having too much Magicka sustain).
In terms of game development, balance can be a tricky thing. However, in the case of Argonians, it really doesn't have to be. We have a lot to work with in terms of different types of stats.
Q: How can we replace Argonians' Healing Done so they can become more viable for any role without making them too OP for PvP?
A: Replace the stuff that contributes to their PvP power, and/or give them stats that don't boost their PvP power by too much.
My first thought, real quick, is to swap their Disease Resistance with Bosmers' Poison Resistance; both sides were bitching about losing the resistance that the other race got to keep anyways, so swapping these would be a win for both sides, and will make Argonians have less of a presence in PvP, giving us more room to work with their stats without pushing their PvP prowess too far.
My next step would be to give Argonians +1000 max Stamina as well just to balance out their resource pools; if Khajiiti get to have tri-stat resources, then there is no reason Argonians shouldn't, too. Once we get there, we have a good baseline of where we want to be for Argonians at least in terms of DPS: Dunmer get to have the most damage but the least sustain, Argonians could have the least damage (relatively; they still need a damage buff) but most sustain and survivability, and Khajiiti could sit right in between. Basically, Argonians would still have less damage than Khajiiti.
We also have to see what goal we can set for Argonians in terms of how they can perform in supportive roles. Right now, Bretons are already overbearing in terms of their Healing effectiveness, and Nords are already best in terms of group utility. We could give them a passive that makes them more attractive for Healing and Tanking without completely overthrowing Bretons and Nords in those roles. Discussing this with a few friends (all top-tier raiders), we believe that a healthy place for them would be to still have less sustain than Bretons but a bit more group utility to make up for it.
The last step, of course, is the stats themselves. In fact, there are so many choices for different types of stats in this game, which kind of makes the whole "Healing Done" situation laughable.
Let's start with the support passives; these are the ones that will make them more attractive as Tanks and Healers without making them overwhelmingly powerful or BiS. I've discussed this with my healer friends as options to make Argonians more attractive for healing. Any single one of these could work, and numbers can be tweaked for balance.
- Any Major or Minor Buff you apply has a 2s longer duration.
- This would make the Major Force buff from Aggressive Horn last a little bit longer, though not to an OP extent. This could also be pretty good for DPS running Master Architect or War Machine. Basically, Nords can pump out more buffs, but Argonians can provide buffs that last slightly longer.
- Any player you heal restores 500 Stamina or Magicka, whichever one is higher. 10s cooldown, individual to each player.
- This equates to about 50 Stamina or Magicka restored per second for any DPS being healed; big enough to be noticeable, but not so big to be significant.
- EDIT: Forgot to mention that this shouldn't stack, as in, the cooldown on each player is global, so having 2 Argonian healers in the group wouldn't be BiS.
- Enchantments are 20% more potent. Reduce cooldown on Alchemical Poisons by 1s.
- My estimates say that enchantments that are 40% more potent would put them in a perfectly healthy place in terms of DPS, but that's too much group utility for tanks or healers. Rather, I think 20% would be a healthy place for this passive, where it's potent enough to be decent for group utility in terms of Crusher. Just to make sure it's not too powerful, it can be additive to Infused and Torug's Pact rather than multiplicative; will have to check the stats properly to see how they stack.
- I am concerned about the Alchemical Poison part, though. It seems to be a good buff to Stamina DPS, but in PvP it may be too powerful.
- EDIT: Forgot to mention, I meant weapon enchantments. If this passive applied to all of your enchantments, it would be too OP. In that case, could bring it down to about 10% or even 5%. OR we can still leave it at 20% and we don't have to go for a damage passive below.
There's also the damage passives. For this, numbers can also be tweaked, but mainly I've balanced them in a way that they will be good enough but also not too powerful whether they are paired with the above support passives or not. Can also lock these behind another event, such as granting these stats as a buff upon receiving any healing for 5 seconds.
- Increase your Weapon and Spell Damage by 200
- Just a generic damage increase; also increases healing done. One concern is that it might be too powerful paired with the Enchantment stat above, so in that case just make it 150 Weapon and Spell Damage. Another concern is that it is too generic; other races already have the same kind of damage buff. I have more below.
- Increase your Weapon and Spell Critical by 5%
- Khajiiti used to have 8%, and that was slightly too powerful; I've calculated 7% to be a bit more of a healthy number for a Critical Chance passive, but since Argonians have a tiny bit more resources and sustain, I think 5% would put Argonians at a pretty good spot. The plus side to this is that it will also not affect their PvP prowess as significantly as raw Spell Damage. Lower this to 4% when paired with the Enchantment passive above.
- Increase your Weapon and Spell Critical by 3%, and Critical Damage and Healing by 5%
- I didn't go for raw 10% Critical Damage and Healing like it is for Khajiiti because I believe it would be too powerful for PvP; a balance between Crit Chance and Crit Damage is much more suitable anyways.
Again, any of these numbers can be tweaked, and contrary to popular belief, I don't want Argonians to be overpowered. However, their current passives absolutely do need another pass.
I do care about game balance. While this post is mainly about Argonians, I'm also not going to completely leave all of the other races untouched.
Bretons: too much sustain; they have >320 base Magicka recovery right now; bump that down to a flat 258 base Magicka recovery or whatever the equivalent is so they could be mathematically equal to Bosmer. Still much more sustain than Argonians, so definitely still BiS for healers.
- EDIT: On second thoughts, people do have a point about their additional sustain making for more interesting setups with bi-stat food. I personally do still like the idea of them being better on resource-heavy classes while Altmer and Dunmer are more suitable for burst damage or sustainable classes/builds. Still, the equivalent of >320 base Magicka recovery is still too much, and I would personally bring that down to about a 290 base Magicka recovery equivalent.
Nords: could definitely use a Stamina buff to make them viable as DPS; give them 2000 max Stamina instead of just 1500, and give them an equivalent of 200 Stamina recovery, such as 1000 Stamina restored upon taking or dealing damage with a cooldown of 10 seconds; they'd still be behind Redguards and Bosmer in terms of DPS but it won't be that far behind.
Khajiit: 10% Critical Damage is too much PvP-wise and too little PvE-wise; make that 3-4% Crit Chance and 5% Crit Damage. Would also balance out those passive-efficiency curves that you get with varying Crit Chances for either of those stats individually.
Altmer: please just replace their "sustain" passive; it's on the same level as Healing Done on Argonians: niche, overly situational, and completely crap overall. Heck, increase the shields they apply by 10%; at least that would be great survival utility for tanks, healers, and DPS.
Bosmer: swap resistances with Argonians; this way, both Argonian and Bosmeri lore nuts win. I mean, it makes sense; Bosmers are cannibals and hunters so it makes sense they get to have more contact with diseases foreign to their bodies, and Argonians are mentioned in-game to have innate poison resistance. No-brainer, honestly.
- EDIT: In addition, they probably should have their base Stamina Recovery buffed to about 290. Right now, they are completely equal to Orcs in terms of Stamina power, but an Orc is able to swap a Weapon Damage Jewelry glyph out for Stamina Recovery and perfectly mimic a Bosmer's Stamina stats, but a Bosmer is not able to do the reverse because Stamina builds typically don't use Stamina Recovery glyphs. Instead, with extra mathematical power in their Stamina Recovery, they will be able to cement their positions as better than Orcs on certain classes while Orcs are still king on other classes.
Redguards: Exact same thing as Bosmer above: make their sustain passives equivalent to about 290 base Stamina Recovery. I personally haven't tested them as to how much exact sustain their passives give them, so I can't say for sure how they actually fare compared to Bosmer; I just know they're similar.
There is something to be said about why this is such a big subject for me right now, but ultimately it comes down to a combination of a ton of game design choices that ZOS made that can not be changed now. So many of my gripes with racial passives have something to do with the existence of trial scoreboards and the domination of DPS as the main role in the game. I mean, if those are removed, we really don't have to care, but while competition is still supported in-game, people will always find ways to min-max, so at this point, it is best to take better care when balancing things as Elder-Scrolls-identity-important as races.