Lion's Arch Merchant
Revamping the Ranger: PvE balance for an overlooked class.
This one's going to be long. Sorry about that. Points are bolded if you just want to browse through it.
In the wake of the Mesmer changes and with an upcoming look towards Dervishes, Paragons, and all things Smiting, I think there has been a particular class that has been overlooked in terms of PvE viability: Rangers.
Why does the PvE Ranger fail?
Because nothing he's good at is good in PvE, or cannot be accomplished infinitely better by another profession.
Marksmanship- Flat out underpowered. The majority of bow attacks consist of petty damage boosts under par with any other weapon, usually alongside a token unhelpful ability like unblockable (which is wonderful in PvP against protection monks and defensive stances, but not against static enemy builds). Many come with bizarre drawbacks, such as inaccurate flight path, easy interruption, or disabling your other skills, despite inflicting less damage than the attacks of other classes. Single target damage tends to be rather worthless in PvE unless it can swiftly spike with enormous killing power. Which, of course, Marksmanship can't really do at all.
The saving grace of the attribute line is good access to fairly nice interrupts and conditions. Sadly, interrupt's thunder was completely stolen by the update to the Mesmer, who now outclasses the Ranger hand over fist (Compare Panic to Punishing Shot, or Migraine to Broad Head Arrow). Meanwhile, condition play, while rather helpful at times, is woefully outclassed by easier skills (compare Broad Head Arrow, once again, to Technobabble or Spear Swipe), and the Ranger has a very short list of conditions he can reliably inflict.
And, of course, there's Barrage, which can only gain one of two possible Ranger buffs (because unlike any other class that can stack enchantments or generic skills, Rangers can only augment their damage with stances and preparations, only the former for barrage). As a result, one of the only worthwhile Ranger builds is completely based on outside skills for its damage dealing potential, primarily Ritualist weapon spells.
Beast Mastery- Fluffy does not fetch well. While there are a few endemic problems in several beast mastery skills, the biggest flaw is much simpler; it has zero synergy with marksmanship. Spears, scythes, daggers, just about anything trumps using a bow alongside your pet, because they do not work together in any major fashion. The fact that Barrage doesn't really get anything out of an IAS such as Never Rampage Alone is just icing on the cake of misery.
Moreover, a lot of Beast Mastery skills have very problematic trigger design. Many of them are situational, reactive abilities (if foe was moving, if foe was attacking, if foe was casting a spell) that require proper timing to unleash their effects....timing which is irritatingly awkward with the delay on using pet attacks. As a result, even the potentially potent skills simply aren't worth the trouble, because they are haphazard and unreliable.
Meanwhile, there's a lot of overlap in support skills that makes them unnecessary. There are too many skills that revive pets, for example, as well as several overlapping and nonstacking buff abilities. Finally, several abilities just don't work, or are completely unfriendly for PvE scenarios (*cough*SymbioticBond*cough*).
Nature Rituals- Underpowered, inefficient, and ridiculously niche. The Ritualist spirit buff worked perfectly, but the same would not make the Nature Rituals viable. Why? Because Rit spirits appealed straight to the basic premise of Pve: they did damage, or they prevented it. Attacking spirits in mass form a whole wall of dakka, while chaining defensive spirits helps mitigate harm and take pressure off of the healers. Ranger spirits, however, are far less useful by comparison; there will never be a situation where “signets cost 10 energy” will turn the tide of battle. Nor will a niche skill like “doubles exhaustion” carry the day when it only impacts a handful of the skills used by one single profession. Aside from a few very select skills (Frozen Soil works exactly as it should for situations which require it, and Edge of Extinction is basically an Urgoz killing device), nature rituals simply lack purpose and the ability to impact PvE in a useful, game changing manner that doesn't royally screw over the party.
Traps- A complete flop in the standard group. Trap damage is pathetic because they stack, thus would be overpowered in groups if they were actually feasible in normal play. Stacking them requires taking several minutes of setup before each and every group you encounter. Taking several minutes between each segment of play does not appease whatever party you happen to be a part of. Traps, as they stand, are useless unless you dedicate your entire bar to trapping, bring several trapping friends, and spend triple the time for each group just sitting around spamming skills in a boring fashion. What traps do NOT do, however, is work in anything remotely resembling standard Ranger play or normal PvE encounters.
Stances- Too many ways of doing the same exact thing. There are seven different stances that increase movement speed, yet you only need three to maintain a constant boost and a chance of dodging projectiles. Beast mastery has three different IAS stances, with the only difference between them being “disables attack skills” versus “disables non-attack skills”, and everyone just uses Never Rampage Alone anyway. There are five different possible blocking stances, several of which are rendered inferior to the others due to their duration and recharge. As a result, there are a handful of decent Ranger stances, and numerous wasted skill slots which boil down to “inferior ways of doing one of three things”.
Preparations- While not a problem in particular (aside from a few underpowered ones), preps indicate a major problem with the Ranger; they have only two buffing abilities. Unlike other physical characters, they lack the ability to stack more than two of their own buffs (and in the case of Barrage, only get one) in order to make their attacks actually viable. This places them at a significant disadvantage against other weapon wielders, and forces them to rely on secondary profession skills merely to compete.
Taken together, there's a lot of problems. A bunch of specialty Ranger skill types just don't function at all in a normal group, being reserved for niche farming builds that are often inefficient. Their main strengths, meanwhile, aren't especially useful for PvE play, or are completely outclassed by superior physical combatants, more capable interrupters, or better AoE assaults. Worse yet, several of their own skills are better served by other classes, or by ignoring their own attributes in favor of a different weapon type. This is exacerbated by their dependency upon other class's buffing abilities, as they lack stacking buffs beyond the one stance, one preparation limit. Rangers are amazing in PvP because of their versatility. Yet that is there exact weakness in PvE, where you need to do one thing really, really well.
So. How to fix this?
Note: There aren't going to be any numbers in my suggestions. These are conceptual ideas, and people with a much better grasp of exactly how much balance is right on the money would be infinitely more suited to filling them in. Ergo, there are going to be a lot +X....Y..Z placeholders here. Sorry about those.
Yet Another Note: Odd as it may sound, I am not declaring that all of these proposals should be made. That's why you might not a tint of hypocrisy when I complain that there are too many ways of doing the same thing, then turn around and propose quite a few skills which are all multiattacks, or a bunch of condition inflicter abilities, or a thousand and one ways to kick an enemy while they are down. Instead, what I'm proposing is that people think about these suggestions, discard anything that is flawed, imbalanced, or completely off its rocker, and that any changes made only produce a few really good, useful skills. Because at the end of the day, only a handful of builds survive the unnatural selection of the GW community.
In my opinion, at least, the Ranger needs a major overhaul that focuses not on buffing random skills, but on choosing a few specific niches at which it should excel and revamping attribute lines in that direction. Certain skills, namely Nature Rituals and Traps, will need a complete redesign to actually work with the party properly. In the meantime, Marksmanship and Beast Mastery need a serious, top-down inspection geared toward finding what they should be able to do, then deciding how to do it.
Personally, I'd like to see something like this.
Marksmanship should be good at three things; multiattacking, condition play, and interruption. Several skills should be expanded to work alongside or in place of Barrage, as well as a few changes to make direct damage buffs actually feasible with Ranger skills alone. Conditions should not only be easy to inflict with bow attacks, but the Ranger should be able to do more with conditions than anyone else; chaining them together and enhancing their effects. Interruption should be made more feasible in the wake of the Mesmer update, with particular emphasis on the ability to take a single opponent and completely lock him down.
Let's start with a basic one. Multiattacking and raw damage.
Barrage: expand to “nearby” instead of adjacent (same range as Incendiary Arrows).
Meladru's Arrows: hits two foes near your target, deals increased damage and cripples
Crossfire: deals bonus damage based on number of allies attacking target, up to a limit.
Seeking Arrows: hits two foes near your target, unblockable.
Splinter Shot: deals damage to adjacent foes
Volley: expand to “nearby” instead of adjacent.
Simple. Basic. Melandru's Arrows gets the Incendiary Arrows treatment to allow a Ranger to inflict crippling more easily, as well as a way to deliver multiple shots with preparations against foes immune to burning. Seeking Arrows and Splinter Shot become non-elite multattacking options for use when your other skills are recharging to keep hitting multiple opponents. Barrage and Volley are given a wider area simply to make them easier to use, but their DPS remains the same.
Condition play is a little more intricate. Currently, the Ranger only has a handful of conditions it can actually inflict. The goal of this change would be to expand their options through the use of If, Then clauses; “if the foe is bleeding, they suffer from weakness” as an example. The Ranger could chain these conditions into more powerful effects, granting them the ability to induce afflictions generally reserved for the melee classes.
It would also introduce Improved Conditions. These would be generic effects that work alongside and in tandem with a standard condition by completely depending upon it. As an example, “The target is poisoned. While poisoned, the target activates skills XYZ% slower.” The second part of the skill shows up as a second effect on the bar, but since it works only when poisoned, it can still be removed if the poison is cured by condition removal, or fails if the target cannot be poisoned, etc. In a sense, it is an Improved Poison, subject to all the normal restrictions of the condition but capable of doing more. For the most part, these will be elites, except for a handful of normal skills that are contingent upon the conditions inflicted by other skills in their chain.
Burning Arrow: inflicts burning. While burning, deals fire damage to adjacent foes.
Broad Head Arrow: inflicts dazed. While dazed, all subject's skills are easily interrupted. Ends after X...Y...Z interrupts.
Crippling Shot: inflicts crippled. While crippled, subject moves 90% slower.
Melandru's Shot: inflicts bleeding. While bleeding, the subject's enchantments, weapon spells, chants, and echoe expire faster.
Poison Arrow: inflicts poison. While poisoned, the subject activates skills slower.
Body Shot: If the foe has cracked armor, inflicts deep wound.
Debilitating Shot: If the foe is diseased, inflicts; “While bleeding, the subject takes damage every second.”
Determined Shot: If the foe is weakened, inflicts; “While crippled, the subject takes damage every second while moving”.
Focused Shot: If the foe is weakened, inflicts; “While bleeding, the subject's attack skills are easily interrupted”.
Forked Arrow: If the foe is bleeding, inflicts disease.
Marauder's Shot: If the target is crippled, inflicts weakness.
Penetrating Attack: If the target is bleeding, inflicts weakness.
Point Blank Shot: If the target is nearby, inflicts blindness.
Sundering Attack: If the foe is knocked down, inflicts cracked armor.
Zojun's Shot: If the foe is crippled, knocks down.
As mentioned, a little more elaborate. The five elites help expand the Ranger's options while still remaining pseudo-conditions subject to all the normal rules of the game. Burning Arrow gains a little crowd control for raw damage, Broad Head Arrow has absolute lockdown of a single priority target Crippling Shot gains increases slowing capacity on par with Icy Shackles and the like, Melandru's Shot keeps the theme of purging the unnatural from the world, and Poison Arrow shakes up the target to allow interruptions to work their magic more easily. Meanwhile, the broadened selection of normal attacks allows marksmen to access cracked armor, deep wound, weakness, knockdown, and a handful of special abilities. Yet these conditions must be chained together or mixed with allies/secondary skills to work properly, thus making the web a little more elaborate.
Finally, we get to Interruption.
Magebane Shot: Interrupts all adjacent foes and disables interrupted skill for a few seconds.
Marksman's Wager: Changed to Bow Attack. Interrupts the target. If a skill was interrupted, it gains a random condition (list similar to Drunken Blow). If a skill was not interrupted, the target loses one condition.
Punishing Shot: Interrupts, deals additional damage, opponent's next skill activates slower.
Concussion Shot: Interrupts an action, dazes if it was spell or chant. Lessen the ridiculous cost.
Disrupting Shot: Interrupts, opponent's next skill activates slower.
Precision Shot: If attacking, interrupts. Disables interrupted attack skill.
Savage Shot: interrupts, deals damage on interrupt (change the spell restriction to any skill)
Screaming Shot: Interrupts all adjacent foes.
Magebane combines AoE interruption with Distracting Shot, while Punishing Shot helps lock down and heavily damage a single foe. A handful of other skills are changed around to be simpler or have more utility. Thus, the Ranger is capable of interrupting multiple foes in a single burst, or pinning down a single target and preventing him from getting anything done.
Beast Mastery needs to be redone so it works in tandem with the bow rather than its own tangent, playing off of the three styles listed above and taking them in a new direction. This can be easily accomplished by providing parallel abilities; brute damage from the pet that works better on foes suffering from certain conditions or scenarios, disabling abilities that allow the pet and Ranger combined to nullify an opponent together, and a host of multiattacking abilities that work in tandem with bowfire for maximum effect.
Enraged Lunge: Stays the same. May need to tweak damage output, whatever.
Ferocious Strike: Deals damage based on number of conditions on target.
Scavenger's Focus: Your pet steals life when it hits a foe suffering from a condition.
Heal as One: Lose the lifestealing, add “Remove a hex or condition from yourself and your pet.”
Rampage as One: For [insert timeframe here], you and your pet deal +X....Y..Z damage whenever each of you hits an opponent that the other is attacking.
Strike as One: add an adjustment to the AI's mechanics, so that the pet starts attacking immediately. Currently, there is a stupid delay where the pet is teleported, and immediately starts running back to you, THEN returns to attack. Kind of spoils the effect.
Disrupting Lunge: Change the way the AI handles this skill. The next time the target uses a skill, your pet attempts an attack that interrupts the target. On a successful interrupt, that skill is disabled for +whatever seconds.
Feral Lunge: Change the way the AI handles this skill. The next time the target uses a skill, your pet attempts an attack that interrupts the target. On a successful interrupt, deals +X...Y..Z damage.
Bestial Pounce: If the target was knocked down, disables its attack skills for a short time.
Pounce: If weakened, knocks down.
Predator's Pounce: If knocked down, inflicts weakness.
Savage Pounce: If bleeding, inflicts disease.
Brutal Strike: The target takes +X...Y..Z damage if it is weakened, and +X...Y..Z damage if it is bleeding.
Maiming Strike: The target takes +X...Y..Z damage if it is crippled, and +X...Y..Z damage if it has cracked armor.
Scavenger Strike: The target takes +X...Y..Z damage if it is poisoned, and +X...Y..Z damage if it is diseased.
Bestial Fury: Changed to pet attack. Hits two foes near your target and inflicts bleeding.
Heket's Rampage: Changed to pet attack. Hits two foes near your target and inflicts poison.
Tiger's Fury: Changed to pet attack. Deals increased damage to the target based on number of adjacent foes.
Charm Animal: Charm target animal. If you have Charm Animal equipped, your animal companion travels with you. Resurrects your pet (10...48...58% health). Remove a hex from your pet.
Comfort Animal: Keep exactly as it is.
Revive Animal: If you have Charm Animal equipped, your animal companion travels with you. Resurrects your pet (10...48...58% health). Remove a condition from your pet.
Companionship: You and your pet heal for X...Y..Z. If your pet has less health, heals it for X...Y..Z. If you have less health, heals you for X....Y...Z.
Feral Aggression: For …..seconds, your pet deals +X...Y..Z damage, and an additional +X...Y..Z damage against foes activating a skill.
Predatory Bond: You gain health whenever your pet hits with an attack. Your pet gains health whenever you hit with an attack.
Symbiotic Bond: All damage dealt to your pet is reduced by half, and you lose health equal to damage prevented, reduced by X...Y..Z. All damage dealt to you is reduced by half, and your pet loses health equal to the damage prevented, reduced by X...Y..Z.
Taken together, these changes streamline the pet skills and make them a little more intuitive in both nomenclature and synergy. Pounces form advanced condition or effect play that provide further options alongside marksmanship. Strikes harvest conditions on the opponent and yield pure, raw damage. The lunges are reworked so that they actually function properly, disrupting via AI reflexes instead of carrying a ridiculous delay. The three redundant stances (Heket's Rampage, Bestial/Tiger's Fury) are converted into pet attacks (because everyone with a pet takes Never Rampage Alone anyway, thus these skills are a waste of time) that thrive off of adjacent foes, combining with Melandru's Assault to give the pet more AoE options. Instead of having Charm Animal be worthless and Revive Animal serve no practical use, all of the options are giving the Comfort Animal treatment: bringing one of these three skills brings your pet and resurrects it, with the difference being hex removal, condition removal, or healing, aka Charm/Revive/Comfort, so you can tailor it to the area in which you are exploring.
Nature Rituals should take a hint from the GW2 design; some work on the party, some work on the enemy, and some impact the entire world. Allowing the ranger to passively buff the party would do wonders for providing the class with a proper reason to bring rituals, as well as make the presence of enemy nature spirits on the battlefield a tactical factor rather than a complete joke. Moreover, many of the rituals need to become scaling effects. Far too many have incredibly feats (all skills cost 15 less energy, woo!) that have to be combined with absurd drawbacks (and your recharge times royally suck, boo!). Instead, have them scale with Wilderness Survival, and perhaps Expertise for a few, in order to keep them balanced. Overall, nature rituals should be tailored to specific purposes; supporting allies to allow them to shrug off problematic effects or deal with pressure, debuffing enemies to ensure they take more damage from physical, elemental, or conditional effects, or changing the battlefield to allow other tactics to work better.
Equinox: Enemy skills have slightly increased activation time.
Greater Conflagration: Fire damage has a scaling degree of armor penetration.
Famine: Enemy skills recharge slower based on their energy cost.
Infuriating Heat: Attacking foes have an armor penalty and all creatures gain double adrenaline.
Lacerate: Bleeding creatures have additional health degen, and bleeding enemies take damage while moving.
Brambles: Enemies take X....Y...Z damage and begin bleeding when knocked down.
Conflagration: All damage is fire damage.
Edge of Extinction: Keep exactly as it is, unless they want Urgoz to be tougher to defeat.
Energizing Wind: Allies under 50% energy gain +1 energy regen.
Favorable Winds: Allied projectiles move twice as fast and deal +X....Y..Z damage.
Fertile Season: Healing skills recharge faster for all creatures in range.
Frozen Soil: Keep exactly as it is.
Muddy Terrain: Enemies move slightly slower.
Nature's Renewal: Enchantments and stances expire faster on foes.
Pestilence: When any enemy dies within range, conditions on this creature spread to any enemies nearby with a condition (or a different contingent effect for Ye Olde Balance).
Primal Echoes: Allies shouts, chants, and echoes cost less energy and adrenaline.
Quickening Zephyr: Allied skills recharge faster based on how many of their skills are recharging.
Roaring Winds: Enemy projectiles travel slower and enemy chants, shouts, and echoes expire faster.
Symbiosis: Creatures gain minor health whenever they use a skill that targets another ally.
Toxicity: Poisoned or diseased enemies take direct damage every second.
Tranquility: Hexes and conditions expire faster on allies.
Winnowing: Enemies take increased physical damage.
Winter: All damage is cold damage.
Traps, and I bet this will generate controversy, could also use a GW2 redesign: only one at a time. The ability to stack traps is what leads them to be so pathetically underpowered in the first place, and if they could be remade in the context of single shot effects that do not need timers, they could actually be made effective in a normal play environment. One potential way to do this would be to change exactly how traps function. Instead of having a brief moment of glory and then fading completely, traps could be two part functions; they initially hit the target and everything around it, and then leave a nasty little lingering effect upon the battlefield that lasts a much longer duration. This does come with a cost; you can only have one trap per type out at a time, and they can't overlap.
Quicksand: Change to Trap. Weakens, damages. Creates a zone that lasts X...Y..Z seconds. Enemies within the zone move extremely slowly, and enemies moving or activating skills lose energy.
Smoke Trap: Dazes, blinds. Creates a zone that lasts X...Y..Z seconds. Enemies standing in the zone and enemy projectiles fired into the zone have a chance to miss.
Spike Trap: Knockdown, cripple, damage. Creates a zone that lasts X....Y..Z seconds. Enemies within the zone take damage while moving or knocked down.
Barbed Trap: Adjust for non-stacking. Initially cripples and bleeds. Creates a zone that causes bleeding on any moving enemies.
Choking Gas: Interrupts and damages everything in its range. Creates a zone that lengthens casting time.
Dust Trap: Adjust for non-stacking. Creates a zone that causes a miss chance.
Flame Trap: Adjust for non-stacking. Creates a zone of fire damage for non-moving foes.
Healing Spring: Creates a zone. Allies within the zone are healed based on their percentage of health remaining. Ends when it has healed X...Y...Z health.
Piercing Trap: Adjust for non-stacking. Change the cracked armor portion to something useful, or have the skill inflict CA.
Snare: Quick cast, fast recharge. Cripples a single target.
Tripwire: Quick cast, fast recharge. Only activates if a foe is moving through it. Knocks down a single target.
Viper's Nest: Adjust for new standard of traps. Move to Wilderness Survival, because the divide for only one skill is ridiculous. Generates a serpent minion every two seconds for a short while. These minions have a single skill, a touch attack that sacrifices all their health, but damages and poisons the target.
Quicksand and Choking Gas are moved to traps; the former to provide an additional variety of elite (Spike is for offensive punishment, Smoke for defense, Quicksand for maximum containment), and the latter due to the awkwardness of balancing a constant AoE interrupt (not very useful if it can't be maintained, but overpowered if it could be). Instead, Choking Gas becomes a mirror image to Dust Trap, meant to harm a section of casters. Healing Spring is changed so that it doesn't waste itself away healing allies who are perfectly fine, and instead rations itself. Snare and Tripwire are changed to be basic, simple, easy traps that you can place anywhere for a bit of utility and recharge very swiftly (around ten seconds or less) for an on-demand cripple or knockdown(with the moving stipulation to prevent chaining Tripwires). The rest are adjusted to be capable in their own right, capable of being used alongside normal play.
As for the rest of the Ranger's skills, streamlining the redundant stances, preparations, and generic skills would do wonders for providing selective utilities he needs (for example, a way to move the newly redesigned nature spirits, or a defense against nonphysical threats), as well as provide buffs to his own skill types so he does not depend upon secondary professions merely to function.
Dryder's Defenses: Hexes and conditions expire faster on you, with an additional boost based on the number of hexes and conditions.
Expert Focus: Becomes a Stance.
Run as One: Add functionality: your pet shadowsteps to you when you use this skill. Not an amazing change, of course, but it would provide a way for a beast master to pull back his pet from trouble, to prevent accidental aggro, or if the pet ever lags behind.
Serpent's Quickness: Either make maintainable with a high cost, or provide an additional bonues: “For each skill recharging beyond the first, all your skills recharge faster for every five ranks in Expertise.”
Storm Chaser: All your nature ritual spirits gain movement speed and follow you. Low cost, short duration, but even shorter recharge, thus allowing you to maintain it easily but end it when you want your ritual spirits to stop.
Storm's Embrace: Elemental damage dealt by your attacks has X...Y..Z% armor penetration.
Glass Arrows: Your arrows deal damage and inflict bleeding foes adjacent to your target.
Barbed Arrows: remove the armor penalty.
Disrupting Accuracy: Your normal attacks (not using an attack skill) interrupt.
Ignite Arrows: balance damage to be competitive.
Kindle Arrows: balance damage to be competitive.
Arcing Shot: Changed to Skill. Your next bow attack moves 50% slower, but has X...Y..Z armor penetration.
Called Shot: Changed to Skill. Your next bow attack shoots twice as fast and is unblockable.
Dual Shot: Changed to Skill. Your next bow attack shoots two arrows at the target. These arrows deal Whatever% less damage.
Read the Wind: Changed to Skill.
Running is accomplished by Escape, Dodge, and Zojun's Haste or Natural Stride, thus giving us room to turn the other running stances into alternate skills. Likewise, Lightning Reflexes and Whirling Defense fill the dodge roll (again, alongside NS), thus tweaking WD's recharge just slightly is all that segment really needs. That leaves us with a few extras; Dryder's Defense becomes a nonphysical defense, thematically based around defending against Dryders and their ilk, who are frequently hex/condition spammers. Storm Chaser becomes your spirit mover skill, with an emphasis on being both maintainable and easy turned off via short duration and shorter recharge.
Storm's Embrace, meanwhile, is moved to Wilderness Survival and added as a synergy skill for all those ranger abilities that turn things into elemental damage. This is there to simply give them a purpose, because physical all too frequently trumps elemental in the first place.
The preparations are modified to further round out his capabilities. Glass Arrows is given a multitargeting capability that places it close to Melandru's Arrows and Incendiary arrows, but remains a preparation to allow the skill type to have a capstone. Barbed Arrows loses its ridiculous penalty (it is just like Apply Poison, except with a slightly less potent condition, so why bother?), and Ignite and Kindle just need tweaking. Disrupting Accuracy was basically a skill for Assassins wielding bows, so it's been changed to actually be helpful to Rangers; potent interruption, but without any ability to modify it with skills.
Finally, we retrofit a number of skills to be generic, helpful abilities. Several bow attacks were simply not helpful in any way, shape, or form. Instead, they've been turned into skills that modify how you shoot, ways to turn the next bow attack into something special. Arcing Shot helps damage output, Called Shot is there for when that arrow absolutely, positively must get there on time, and Dual Shot helps inflict a little bit of insidious double arrow action. Finally, Read the Wind is changed to a pure skill; you want a little more bow damage, so you take it along, just like any other physical damage dealer's generic skills/signets for increasing damage output. In particular, it's there to throw a bone to Barrage, along with Expert Focus, without requiring it to use Ritualist skills to actually get fair damage output. If this is too much if used together, might I suggest that Barrage remove weapon spells? Better to have in-house usability than to require a secondary profession merely to compete.
Finally, one more skill.
Triple Shot: For 4 seconds plus 1 second for each rank in Expertise, your bow attack skills hit two foes near your target. The extra arrows deal X...Y..Z% less damage and conditions inflicted by them expire X....Y..Z% faster.
I'm a firm believer in giving a primary class an edge with their own abilities. I like how Critical Agility was tied to Sins to make them better at being swift and deadly, how TNTF was fused to Paragons at the hip to make them masters of shouting without pants on, and I'm hoping that Dervishes will get a change that actually makes them better with their own weapon than other characters. Likewise, I propose a change to Triple Shot that turns it into a Ranger's I Should Be Better With A Bow card.
The increased arrow count would make them better with just about any style they use. Barraging, for example, gets an additional two arrows more. Condition players can inflict more pain across the board, especially with the newly refurbished elite single bow attacks. Interrupters can bring a little more disruption into the equation, and hopefully reclaim a little bit of the thunder that was stolen via the Mesmer update. At the same time, the proposed measure's limits should (and by should, I mean Feel Free To Contradict If I've Been In The Heket Skin Extract) keep it from being absolutely ridiculous. If there's a better way to accomplish this task, of course, I welcome anyone's input. But the more PvE class skills linked to primaries the better, at least by my reckoning.
And that's that. Hopefully this would make the Ranger actually competitive, able to contribute to the party in a way that no one else can quite manage but not being absolutely required to survive or stepping on another profession's toes. He can handle multiple foes in various manners or load a single one of them full of barbs and burrs, toxins and tears to overwhelm them with a wide range of conditions. His pet learns the value of teamwork and functions as an extension of his abilities rather than a redundant force. He can be credit to team by helping support everyone just slightly in a passive manner via nature spirits, augmenting their damage, boosting their resistance to nefarious effects, or providing a refreshing breeze in a tight spot that helps alleviate pressure. And finally, a primary Ranger gains an edge to make him the leading candidate for using the bow, a reason to shine among other classes in his own role.
One last thing. A few preliminary rebuttals.
"Power creep is the bane of the game. We should be nerfing, not buffing!”
Not going to happen. Not at this stage. To nerf everything properly would require scaling back all the previous balance changes to the Warrior, Necromancer, Ritualist, completely killing Shadow Form and Obsidian Flesh, and pretty much killing the meta with fire repeatedly until something like Arcing Shot's “+10...22...25 damage” is useful, which it practically never was.
It's not going to happen. Not this late in the game, and not with the current playerbase. Massively nerfing everything until an underpowered profession is useful again would drive off too many people to be worthwhile. That's not to say that a targeted nerf here and there wouldn't do the game good (it would, it so very would). Yet trying to nerfbat the entire game would require way too much time and effort in comparison to a targeted increase in a sub-par profession's capabilities. So when we're talking about a profession performing poorly, killing everything that is doing a better job (aka nearly every other profession) simply isn't going to work.
"This skill right here is completely overpowered, because it could be used with X to do Y!”
Thank you. No, I mean it. I am not going to claim anything remotely resembling perfection regarding skill balance, especially when it comes to synergy. Instead, most of my ramblings here are designed as food for thought, possible inspiration towards making the Ranger conceptually better and more fun (ie, crackpot ideas). That means, of course, that there are probably quite a few items of mine that I propose which contain disastrous complications I did not foresee. In which case, of course, they should be changed or ignored. So if you do see something, I whole-heartedly thank you for your insight.
"This is bad and you should feel bad!”
Less helpful. If anything here actually needs tweaking (or needs to be purged with fire), say why. I know this document is long. I know it might get a little dry. But if you think something is borked, or you think you could do better, take a few moments and explain why. The discussion can only help matters, either by pointing out flaws that could be avoided, or by presenting new ideas that might be even better.
"This change here would kill this farming build!”
I really don't care. That may sound harsh, but turning a skill into something that is actually useful in the normal game is better for Guild Wars overall than having it be only useful in a single instance in a single farming build. It also might be nice if certain foes that are defeated through a single, ridiculously cheap manner actually became challenging via the skill's change (for example, when was the last time anyone ever fought Urgoz, rather than just running around like chickens while the EoE did its work?). Farming should come second to normal gameplay in skill balance.
"Rangers are perfectly fine, they have Barrage!”
Rangers have, what, over one hundred and forty skills? Having only one of them be actually playable, and only when it's relying on another profession's skills as a damage crutch, is absolutely pathetic. Moreover, having so many unique skill types be utterly unplayable in PvE is a travesty. If other professions have variety, with several types of builds they can run, the Ranger deserves several styles in turn, each with their own unique appeal. Nature rituals shouldn't be useless. Beast Mastery shouldn't be near worthless and lacking any synergy at all with Marksmanship. Traps should be useful to a team, not some inefficient farming run that's only good for nostalgia. Ranger interrupts shouldn't be flat out inferior to anything a Mesmer can do with just their pinky finger. And bow attacks in general should be capable of contributing something to the team, not just with a single elite, but with several different styles. The Ranger should be better.