First off, I’m in love with this game. I’ve been making various characters with various builds and enjoy learning what works and what doesn’t. Out of all the builds I’ve made Aura of Decay feels the worst to play with. I’m not saying it’s a bad skill, it’s actually very interesting; but when you actually play with it feels more of a drag or a chore and it never feels satisfying to use it.
I like the idea of your own spell damaging you so you have to make it work somehow. What I don’t like is how improving your build is actually punishing you. When I first unlocked the skill I died. Okay so I need more poison resist. I capped my poison resist and speced into absence of life. Now my life would stablize at around 90%. That felt great. Having to aproach a problem and find a nice solution. What didn’t feel great was as I improved my character and my poison dmg the lower my life got. I was still fine when it stablized at 50% not happy but fine and I was still content when it stablized around 35%, annoyed but content. I felt like maybe I should invest in endurance as a lich and that felt refreshing. However I am not okay that after a certain point it now stablizes at 5% of my life. How can a skill that encourages you to get posion synergy actually have negative synergy with it. I feel like I’m being punished for maxizing my dmg output. I invested into many defences such as reduced dot dmg taken from idols as well speccing into inoculation. With all that investment is how I stablize at 5% of my life. Am I not supposed to invest in poison dmg or duration? The skill already doesn’t synergize with spell dmg, what am I supposed to invest in? It’s very confusing and no longer a challange. It just feels wrong.
I’m not talking about the skills balance either. I have played many weak skills and I don’t care about their performance, if they are weak or not. I know that I did the best I could with what I was given and tried to push it as best I could and no matter what skill it is it always felt good to play with even if the results weren’t optimal. However Aura of Decay is the only skill I don’t want to play because it feels terrible, too punishing. But I do think the core of the skill is still good, it just needs a bit of help to make it feel good to press.
One of the big culprits is how you insta die when you toggle it off. You feel bad to even toggle it on for a few seconds. The other huge culptrit is as I mentioned how you feel punished to make your chracter stronger.
My suggestion is either to make the self poison not be affected by your dmg/duration bonuses and make it deal a flat amount. Although this would fix the second problem the first problem would not be fixed, so for that allowing the dmg reduction to poison as well as the heal from absence of life continue while you still have poison on you would be great (or a fixed duration that amounts to the same outcome). But I have an even better suggestion.
Instead of making the skill poison you just make it so your health drains while you have it active. This will not only immidiately fix the turning it off kills you problem, but also your dmg will not affect the drain. And as an added bonus all the talents/traits that you think needs a balanced weight you can make it so that trait increases the health drain of the skill as a detriment. That way you can still keep the skills feel of progressively harder to keep on if you so desire (although I would advice against this). I also would like to point out making it health drain and not decay would be another way of synergizing the skill with the acolyte talents as it would be affected by certain passives that reduce it (Though I wouldn’t mind if you went with decay instead of drain as the skill is called aura of decay). Having new skill points for Aura of Decay that either turn off (absence of life for example could do this instead of healing) or reduce the decay are also options. If turning off the decay makes it so everyone just runs it regardless of build since it’s free passive dmg (which is a concern that I had) then the skill which turns it off could also give it a cd and a duration or even a channel. If you do end up with a channel making it grow in size up to a certain point could be interesting as well. Of course this is all after multiple layers of what if.
An alternative to all of this could be to have a new skill (or an existing skill with a new skill point) to clear all poison stacks off you when you use it. Something like “Death Seal removes a stack of poison off you when it ends for each second it’s been active.” or “remove a stack of poison from you for each stack of poison you apply with Harvest.”
As it stands Aura of Decay is in a wierd spot where there are some synergy but also some anti synergy that cancel each other and it doesn’t feel rewarding to use. I ended up just having the skill permanantly off while I level using other skills and it passively gains levels.
Another less elegant solution could be to have the ailment it applies to you different from the one it applies to the enemy. Like giving you bleed instead of poison. But that just feels wrong and could easily be expoited with gear that turns off bleed dmg from you.
To be honest even if there is some magicaly combination of talents and gear that make Aura of Decay work perfectly I don’t want to grind to that point because the skill feels bad until then. The skill should feel good on it’s own but you should need better gear to play it optimally. I’ve never been a fan of grinding with a different skill/character (aka not playing with the build I want) just so I can play with the build you want later. But where is the fun of playing that build if you can only start playing it when the grind for it is over.
I know that not everyone will agree as some people probably do like having builds that require the exact stats and gear to even funtion normally. I am however not one of those people and this is exactly the reason I got tired of Path of Exile and fell in love with Last Epoch. I like it better when there is a healthy balance of power that comes from talents to traits to gear and not having 90% of your power come from having the right gear. So this whole post might just be a preference thing so if we don’t agree, I’m sorry. But thanks for reading it anyway.