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Analysis - Creation Balance in Mutagen

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I'm late to the party on this one, but I finally (and very slowly) got around to looking at Mutagen's mechanics and balance more closely.  Here's my analysis, which looks quite different to me from some of the advice I've seen shared.


Creation Balance

Creations, obviously, are more varied and distinct than in OG1, and also more balanced (with other creations) than in any OG game.  That said, some are still much better than others, and some of the recommendations I've seen here aren't actually good values.


In OG1, creation level mattered so much that it tended to override other considerations about which creation to use.  Level still matters a lot, since it's the almost sole determiner of attack accuracy (in addition to boosting evasion, HP, and damage).  The most effective way to increase creation level is by increasing the PC's Shaping skills... which means that, if you're shaping at all, those skills will offer a bigger "bang for their buck" than increasing Battle Magic or Melee Weapons ever will.


This also means that concentrating on one category of Shaping is still more effective.  Spreading out those points just to throw in creations that can cause certain status effects, or tank slightly better (it's really hard to tank at all with Mutagen's combat logic) mostly isn't worth it.  Spreading out shaping skills isn't worth it for Control levels either.  Even on Torment that's really an early game issue.  And even then, those only matter if your creations are getting damaged, and early game, with strong creation choices, you can generally just wipe the enemy out before there's any chance of that.


The same accuracy changes mean that it takes precious little investment for even a Guardian to use each type of spells effectively, so the skill points you're trying to save by dedicating a creation slot to landing acid or daze are questionable.


Creations, Best to Worst

The numbers listed below are my own calculations.  They assume the PC has 8 levels in each shaping skill (9 in battle shaping, due to the extra canister available) and all Create X canisters (except for the ones Syros has locked behind skill points).

- Essence cost: expected cost (with recommended augments) / base cost

- Survivability: I took HP, magnified it to represent damage "prevented" by resistances, and then took the average of the physical and elemental numbers.

- DPS: This is the average damage from their best repeatable attack, multiplied for inherent haste or crit passives as appropriate.


They do not assume the presence of any PC equipment that boosts creation stats.  For the most part these help all creations to similar degrees, but it's worth nothing that Endurance boosts will help lower HP-mult creations the most, while Strength boosts obviously benefit Battle Creations more.


Tier 1: Drayks (26/14 essence for level 18, 130 survivability, 96 DPS - cone spam, optional overload to 183)

Tier 1: Fyoras (12/6 essence for level 15, 107 survivability, 50 DPS - cone spam, optional overload to 96)

- Basically the same creation, Drayks just have higher base level, better attack mults (+ faster animations)

- Best offensive passives lets them spam AoE cone attacks with average output boosted 25% via haste chance (it's +35% but stacks additively with the Haste status)

- Overload is hard to use early, but once you hit higher creation HP and get Mass Healing, it allows you to deal insane amounts of damage with very little risk

- AoEs are relevant to the vast majority of the combat in the game

- Cheap cost allows you to run many copies, boost level+damage with Int levels, and/or conserve essence

- Plentiful early Create Fyora sources boost them early on as well


Tier 2: Glaahks (27/17 essence for level 18, 243 survivability, 80 DPS - ST stun, 1/3 stun cone)

Tier 2: Ur-Glaahks (34/22 essence for level 18, 243 survivability, 80 DPS - ST stun, 1/3 stun cone, 1 dominate)

- Can stunlock one opponent at a time; limited ranged ability is the main drawback

- Excellent survivability

- Ur-Glaahks especially are expensive but Dominate is better than the PC's

- Canisters all in late-game zones, though one can be reached relatively easily if you go Takers/Trajkov

- Might be tier 1 if Airshock didn't exist


Tier 3: Battle Alphas (22/14 essence for level 19, 227 survivability, 78 DPS - ST stun/daze on 2/3 turns)

- Situationally worse than Glaahks, but sometimes just as good, and cheaper

- Lategame Guardian gear has a bunch of creation Strength bonuses which will push this DPS above Glaahks


Tier 4: Thahds (12/6 essence for level 15, 159 survivability, 71 DPS - 1/3 ST stun)

Tier 4: Volatile Thahds (10 essence for level 15, remote controlled bomb)

- Thahds are cheap meatshields that can also throw a stun in the early game; crit boost helps damage

- Volatile Thahds are cheap disposable offense if you want to go that route


Tier 5: Cryoas (18/9 essence for level 16, 163 survivability, 51 DPS - 1/3 cone, 1/3 ST daze)

Tier 5: Roamers (11/8 essence for level 15, 163 survivability, 62 DPS - ST)

Tier 5: Clawbugs (11/8 essence for level 16, 160 survability, 62 DPS - ST poison)

- Other defensive options

- Cryoas are versatile albeit overpriced hybrids, Roamers have the strongest consistent ranged damage outside of Drayks and are super cheap, and Clawbugs are also cheap, sturdy damage-dealers


Tier 6: Searing Artila (24/12 essence for level 15, 98 survivability, 45 DPS - cone spam, acid)

Tier 6: Charged Vlish (18/14 essence for level 16, 109 survivability, 52 DPS - ST vulnerable)

Tier 6: Vlish (13/10 essence for level 15, 103 survivability, 46 DPS - ST curse)

- Very fragile

- Searing Artila are basically Fyora clones that cost twice as much and have less HP... however, they are the obvious pre-Glaahk mainstay if you go full Magic Shaping; even with Glaahks around, keeping one acid spewer can be very effective in certain situations

- Vlish statuses aren't that amazing but are the only way to get them - but you need the non-damaging AoEs to land them consistently

- These aren't worth it on a fast offensive team, but might be relevant to a tanking setup -- and will want disabling status support from the PC for sure


Tier 7: Cockatrices (32/20 essence for level 15, 108 survivability, 57 DPS - 1/3 cone, various statuses)

- Inconsistent and hugely overpriced, but can still be very effective if you are lucky with the statuses

- Bizarrely fragile for their essence cost


Tier 8: Battle Betas (32/20 essence for level 20, 321 survivability, 85 DPS - ST stun/daze on 2/3 turns)

Tier 8: Cryodrayks (38/20 essence for level 18, 130 survivability, 102 DPS - 1/3 cone, 1/3 ST daze)

Tier 8: Iron Clawbugs (16/12 essence for level 17, 168 survivability, 70 DPS - ST poison)
Tier 8: Pyroroamers (12 essence for level 12, remote controlled bomb)

Tier 8: Artila (11/7 essence for level 14, 101 survivability, 37 DPS - 1/3 cone, poison)

- Battle Betas and Iron Clawbugs are just more expensive versions of their base forms, they get more HP but that's about it

- Cryodrayks are much more expensive than Drayks, and trade piles of offense for... one non-spammable ST daze; they don't even have the Cryoa resistance passive

- Pyroroamers are more expensive than Volatile Thahds, and lower level

- Artila really just don't have anything to recommend them, Poison never really matters and nothing else about them is good


Tier 9: Ornks (20/12 essence for levlol 11, 78 survivablolity, 29 DPS - 1/3 ST stun)

- On the plus side, PC-created Ornks are no longer insufferably slow-walking

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Most seems about right, but my biggest disagreements are on:


Searing Artila: Getting acid on your attacks isn't a minor benefit - it's massive in Mutagen. The % based damage will destroy high hp enemies without you having to do anything. They also seem to have a bizarrely high base accuracy relative to their level - I can't find this in the scripts anywhere, but according to the text console, they regularly have ~20% more accuracy compared to the main character when at a similar level (on a character with no equipment penalties to hit).


While the main character can also apply acid with Searer, that's at the opportunity cost of using any other ability (and their accuracy will be lower, making it less reliable against higher-leveled enemies).


Roamer: I usually replace my fyoras with them in the early game due to Roamers having better resistances (often letting them survive a one-shot attack in the early game) and better base damage. I can see the argument for overcharge spamming fyoras/drayks in the late game due to mass healing access, but by that point you have so many tools to beat most encounters that you can pretty much do whatever you want and win, so I tend to value early/mid game performance a bit more than late game.


On 10/25/2023 at 3:07 PM, tout en cherchant said:

but it's worth nothing that Endurance boosts will help lower HP-mult creations the most


Why is that? The HP from endurance is also multiplied by the HP multiplier, so theoretically the value per point should be about the same. I guess if anything, creatures with high base hp get less benefit from endurance since it's a smaller % increase to their hp.

Edited by Mechalibur
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Using only a single shaping class and increasing it through out the game is important in the end. On torment difficulty you can start seeing your crayons miss versus some high level opponents. Usually the optional expert area fights.


Cryoas have one decent feature, Frost Aura that automatically damages nearby foes even when stunned or dazed.

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52 minutes ago, Mechalibur said:

Most seems about right, but my biggest disagreements are on...


Acid - Acid can certainly be decent.  A "massive" benefit seems like an overstatement, though.  It's up to 15% max HP damage in one turn (less if reduced by resistance).  This can certainly destroy some high HP enemies... if you can keep them busy, or stunned, or whatever, for 7 rounds.  And if you can do that, you can destroy them in any number of ways.  15% HP isn't nothing and it's a perfectly nice offense boost.  But that's all I'd call it -- extra damage.  It also doesn't stack, so no matter how many times the Searing Artila attacks, you just get one acid proc per enemy turn.


The PC applying acid has an opportunity cost, but so does using a creation to do so.  Is it worth 12 essence that could go into another creation?  That's an entire extra Fyora spamming 1.7 AoEs per round.  But I agree with you about the opportunity cost for the PC, and I think that just goes to show that it isn't truly a "massive" benefit.


Accuracy - Artila and Vlish do have a default skill of 3 with their ST attacks, which probably contributes to accuracy, since it adds dice just like character level does.  However, Searing Artila have an effective base level of 3 (base level 6, but skill requirement of 3, so the first 3 levels of Magic Shaping don't boost their level).  I suppose you could dash straight for all the Artila canisters, but if you are boosting Magic Shaping enough for them to beat out the PC, then -- unless you're also dashing for difficult content -- the +3 to accuracy is past the point where accuracy is going to be an issue anyway.


Fyoras vs Roamers - I tried both side by side early on, on Torment, and while the resists were nice (the HP difference is tiny, it's the 30% resist all that matters), the spammable AoEs from the Fyoras made a much bigger difference.  I wasn't using Overcharge then at all -- too hard to manage when it eats >50% of HP.  That said, I was using a team of multiple Fyoras so enemies (literally all of them) could be easily burst down; the Roamer has more of a place on a less aggressive team where you're need to be able to soak up multiple hits in one turn, because you're leaving so many things alive to hit you back.


Endurance - Yeah, it's more that Battle Betas (for an extreme example) can already survive multiple attacks per turn, whereas a frailer creation getting past the point of surviving one attack will save their hide more frequently.

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3 minutes ago, Randomizer said:

Cryoas have one decent feature, Frost Aura that automatically damages nearby foes even when stunned or dazed.


Frost Aura did completely pitiful damage when I tried it out -- like, single-digit.  Does it scale and become useful at some point?

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I'd still call acid massive - it's how I killed most high level bosses (Goettsch, Oroboros, Trajkov), generally ending up being about 80% of the total damage I dealt. Typically I find the hardest fights to be the ones against enemies with super high hp totals (like trying to kill Ellhrah in the early game), while the fights against multiple opponents tend to be pretty easy. I guess we value AoE vs single target damage differently. For most of the beginning of the game, I'm a big believer in Daze + picking off individuals, so I tended not to use the AoE attacks as much. 


And regarding Searing Artilas specifically, I love having a single one of them in my monster group. They're definitely not useful to spam, but having a single one is a huge boost in my experience.

Edited by Mechalibur
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Were you actually still using Searing Artilas against Goettsch, Oroboros, or Trajkov, though?


Plus, a lot of those tough single boss scenarios begin with them flanked by a number of high-offense creations, which you have to deal with somehow.


Daze is excellent, of course. You can't always Daze the whole battlefield in round 1, though (especially when Daze fails to land) and being able to deal with groups of enemies can be pretty useful then.


One thing I should have noted about HP, as well, is something you turned me on to -- how much of a difference Essence Shield can make.  It's not convenient for regular use, of course, but for big fights, that can give the less sturdy creations a lot of wiggle room.

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1 hour ago, tout en cherchant said:


Frost Aura did completely pitiful damage when I tried it out -- like, single-digit.  Does it scale and become useful at some point?

It increases with level into double digits. Not as good as other attacks except it always works so o to hit and no need for an active creation.


Fyotas are cheaper and can do more damage , but die off too easily later in the game.

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Later in the game you have better options than Cryoas, too.


"Always works"... I mean, if you end up next to an enemy, sure.  But the damage is (a) small, (b) delayed, and (c) not something you can consistently target or control.  Is it really the best use of 3 essence?

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On 10/26/2023 at 2:12 AM, tout en cherchant said:

Were you actually still using Searing Artilas against Goettsch, Oroboros, or Trajkov, though?


I can see it working on G, but for the other two... not sure the SA would survive to do it. 


EDIT: Essence shield: When there's a pool, I spam it. Before a couple of really complex fights, I use it a lot and recharge with essence pods that I save for that reason. 


Frost Aura: For those of you that play in the big difficulties, where friendly fire is a thing, I think that frost Aura would do more damage to your side than the other side. 

Edited by alhoon
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Radius AoE effects like Frost Aura don't hit friendlies even on Torment.


That said, I did some quick testing to see how much damage it actually does.


Frost Aura (Cryoa & Cryodrayk versions are identical) is hardcoded.  It seems to do 1-2 damage per level of the creation to every hostile creature within a circular radius of 4 squares (at the orthogonal ends).  There is no base damage, and importantly, percentile bonuses/penalties (from Int, bless, wrack, etc) are NOT applied.


For comparison, a level 16 Cryoa will do an average of 56 damage with its breath attack (assuming War Blessing, Helix Bracer, and no other bonuses to Int).  Given Haste, its DPT will be about 76.  It will do an average of 24 damage with frost aura.


So it's a reasonable increase of about a third... on turns where an enemy you care about is very close to the Cryoa at the start of its turn.  In fairness, there could also be turns where you hit multiple targets this way.  However, I think the utility is limited -- especially when you realize that if you have the cryoa rush in to melee range, you're likely giving up a potential extra ranged attack from a haste proc, which is roughly the same average value as the aura damage anyway, except you can actually target it.  So the aura seems best against melee-only creations that will actually run up to you -- though probably not the exploding enemies, where it could inadvertently cause a party wipe for you.


The problem is that the only creation classes that are strictly melee-only -- Thahds and Battle Alphas (ok ok, and Ornks) -- all have knockback skills that will push the cryoa out of range of its aura.  And they do seem to open with those frequently.


Meanwhile, a level 18 Cryodrayk will do an average of 92 damage with its breath attack (same assumptions).  Given Haste + Innate Haste, its DPT will be about 156.  It will still do an average of 24 damage with frost aura.  That's much less exciting, even though its Frost Aura passive costs twice as much as the Cryoa's.  It's also probably worse on Cryodrayks given that they are actually flimsier than Cryoas.

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I looked back at my old save in the Inner Crypt and my party was three searing artilas, a glaahk, and a cockatrice. So I must have used them in the worst fights.


You may have to replace them often, but they are effective spamming acid. Not so sure about them in the new remake because of more acid resistant creations near the last half.

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I think it was a combination of essence costing and allowing each one to deal with a different area in combat where the targets are spread out. Some places you can't use terrain to your advantage like Trajkov and Goettsch. Same with a few Sholai fights.


Too early in beta testing to see how it differs for higher level creations. Just Jeff made enough changes that I can't speculate.

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All right, I'm upgrading Searing Artila, since they do have a realistic use case.  I think they only make sense if you're going full Magic Shaping, but in that case, they are an obvious support for Glaahks, and probably the main creation pick prior to Create Glaahk.  (If you're mixing creation types, one Drayk outdamages even the first Searing Artila, counting acid, even against Goettsch's 1025 hp, 45% elemental resist, 25% acid resist, and is less frail, for nearly the same essence cost.)

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58 minutes ago, tout en cherchant said:

All right, I'm upgrading Searing Artila, since they do have a realistic use case.  I think they only make sense if you're going full Magic Shaping, but in that case, they are an obvious support for Glaahks, and probably the main creation pick prior to Create Glaahk.  (If you're mixing creation types, one Drayk outdamages even the first Searing Artila, counting acid, even against Goettsch's 1025 hp, 45% elemental resist, 25% acid resist, and is less frail, for nearly the same essence cost.)

How does Drayk does better against Goettsh's decent fire resistance? 

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The Searing Artila does roughly 115 from acid + 35 from its own attacks (prorated for hasted attacks), assuming

a. it only attacks Goettsch,

b. it never misses,

c. at least one status effect application makes it past status resistance (I think this is curse resistance, which we can't see?) on any turn where acid isn't already applied (very likely but not a given, especially in round 1), and

d. it doesn't die.


The Drayk has two options.  If it uses overloaded ranged attacks, it deals roughly 136 damage per turn (prorated in the same way).  However, if it instead uses overcharged melee attacks, it deals roughly 193 damage per turn.  Regarding the assumptions, (c) does not apply at all, and (b) applies, but depending on which attacks each creation uses, the Drayk will have a 5% to 15% better chance to hit (all things being equal) if it uses ranged, and a 20% to 30% better chance to hit if it uses melee.  At low shaping skill levels (likely, if mixing creation types) this is more likely to be relevant.


(The Searing Artila actually has a surprisingly decent melee attack itself, but it doesn't apply acid, so I'm ignoring it here.)


And of course, this really only applies to Goettsch.  Trajkov has surprisingly low elemental resists, and there aren't a ton of other fights with high enough HP for acid to compete this well.

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That is a really good point.  There are some other factors I left out -- critical hit chance, for example, which can actually be quite high with the right equipment, and which boosts direct damage significantly (I think it's 1.5x when critting, so an effective +15% to total output considering the best-in-slot jewelry) but doesn't help acid.


I decided to just test this all out repeatedly.  The good news is my projected damage numbers hold up exceptionally well.  The bad news: Goettsch is level 23 and is actually tricky to hit on Torment.  This is hard all around, but is particularly terrible for an unfocused shaping skill strategy.  Chances to hit (blessed, etc):


Drayk (fire shaping 9 + 2 stat lvls) physical attack: 77%

Drayk (fire shaping 9 + 2 stat lvls) fire spray: 57%

Searing Artila (magic shaping 9 + 2 stat lvls) ST acid: 62%

Searing Artila (magic shaping 9 + 2 stat lvls) acid spray: 52%

Searing Artila (magic shaping 3) ST acid: 22%

Searing Artila (magic shaping 3) acid spray: 12%


Additionally, Goettsch resists taking on the acid status about half the time that he is hit.  The console doesn't give a percentage here unfortunately.  (I think this is the result of his curse resistance, which isn't displayed either, but maybe it's also level-based?  I don't know.)


Searing Artila acid is almost always applied for 3 procs (sometimes 4 at a small chance correlating to creation Int).  Since it does proc twice per "round" for Goettsch, this means a lone Searing Artila will need to reapply it every turn to get the full effect.  Mathing it out, the odds of getting at least one successful application per Searing Artila turn are about 46% for the MS 9 artila, and just 18% for the MS 3 artila!  (The odds could be slightly better (or worse) depending on how much status resistance he truly has.)


So in theory that 230 acid damage per round sounds amazing, but in practice, it's not that easy.


For comparison, at level 19, my Shaper has a very similar 64% chance to hit with Searer.  For whatever reason Searer seems more consistent at applying the status effect, but I didn't test exhaustively so I'm not confident in this.  Searer does layer on more turns of acid, generally 5-6.


Ultimate conclusions:

- For a Magic Shaping strategy you definitely want a Searing Artila, maybe two, for this fight.  Because of all the layers of random chances, this will be swingier and less consistent than a direct damage strategy, but not necessarily worse overall -- but will probably require more reloads.  This is especially true if you're also using statuses (Airshock, Glaahks, whatever) to handle crowd control.

- For any other strategy, they'll be pretty rocky.

- Mixed shaping type strategies will be rocky in general.

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