For this post I’m going to look at a series of Combat Arts, the Bruiser Ability Jab, which Bruisers get at level 1, and its upgrades. Jab deals damage, and nothing else, and has a recast timer of 10 seconds. This study was done on my level 76 Bruiser.
First, I kept STR constant at 73, and looked at what the damage did as combat arts were upgraded. This was the lowest Strength I could acheive on this character without respeccing my AA’s and undoing the Character and Racial abilities. I recorded the level of the Combat Art versus the minimum and maximum examine damage in the chart below. I used the Apprentice II versions of each combat art, since they were readily available at the Bruiser trainer.
The chart shows that the damage done by an upgrade is proportional to its level, since both minimum and maximum damage form straight lines.
Ok, so far so good. However, it turns out that increasing STR and holding the level/version of the ability constant does not always increase damage.
The effects appear to be the same for minimum and maximum damage. For example, increasing STR from 443 to 625 does not increase damage for Jab, Knuckle, or Blitz, and seems attenuated for Pummel, whether we are looking at minimum or maximum damage.
My hypothesis is that there is a STR cap in effect for these combat arts that is based on the level of the spell, not the level of the character.
Finally, I show the effect of adding +20 and +95 combat art damage while keeping STR constant at 625 in the chart below.
It is clear from the bars that the damage that can be added is capped. Here’s another chart comparing each damage point with and without +95 CA damage.
It’s clear that the additional damage grows until it reaches 95 at last three points. The data before that is quite consistent with a cap to added damage of half of the base damage. Blitz(Max) shows added damage a couple of points below that, it’s not much, but it’s larger than can be explained by roundoff error.
Perhaps there is a per-spell cap to added damage based on level, as well.
Optimizing added damage
How can you trade off added strength for added damage? How can you calculate how much dps an item that offers +50 CA damage is worth, so it can be traded off for haste, double attack, crit chance and DPS?
Without the cap, it would be simple. You would have to determine how often you use combat arts. This data can be gathered from ACT by parsing. If you’re a melee class, it’s probably on the order of one every .6 seconds. So, you could just calculate the increase as 50/.6 = +83 dps. However, a more complex question must be answered, namely how often do you perform a combat art that the benefit of the +50 can be used?
If your combat arts are already at their maximum addition to damage, then the +50 is useless, though this is unlikely for the biggest CA’s at their best damage.
Fortunately, the effect on combat damage can be checked by equipping an item and then checking the change in combat abilities. I think the best way to do this is to know which abilities hit most frequently and account for the bulk of your damage. Then figure out how close you are to capping at the median damage. The closer you are, the less any new addition is worth. It’s not exact, but it’s probably good enough.
Increasing STR will increase the base damage of spells, which will allow more added damage, so there’s a synergistic effect. And as far as I can tell, added combat ability damage is incorporated before any double attack or critical, just as DPS is, and STR. With the gear available in Kunark, particularly the mastercrafted gear, it probably won’t be too hard to boost your Combat Ability added damage by quite a lot.
Go for it!