This is long, rambly, and I stopped making serious editing considerations an hour before I finished writing it. I write it because sufficient discussion of current mechanics may inform the creation of better mechanics in future games.
Attacking is the favored action for stamina management. If your attack lands or is blocked, you retain your stamina. Conversely, your defence is largely a choice between risking hp loss or losing your stamina. As long as an attacker doesn’t miss (i.e. fuck up; the defender can’t force a miss, they can only realize a potential miss) then the attacker will gain an advantage from attacking. But what about the defender? The defender doesn’t actually gain anything from defending, aside from potentially some positioning if the enemy overcommits (i.e. really fucks up). They can’t even stay stable from it. So in terms of resource management, you always want to be attacking because that forces the enemy to either block or take a big risk.
So, you’ve decided to attack because it is the most stable economic route. O.K.! Well, the enemy is constantly losing stamina and you aren’t (because you’re a pro and you don’t miss), so you can afford to throw in a feint. Regardless of whether that feint works or not, you aren’t taking a very big risk here: you’re not really expending any resources that you weren’t already getting just by the nature of making an attack, and there aren’t any weapons fast enough to take advantage of the timing window you open when you do the feint…but if the other guy blindly attacks when you do, it will negate the the effects of any potential feints. Assuming both people just decide to attack, from there the game is about positioning and timing again. So there really isn’t a reason to block 1v1, except for the very first block you may need to make to close with someone or if you accidentally start a riposte chain.
You could fish for a riposte, but you have to run a pretty big gambit just to get to the riposte stage. Beyond that, anything but a riposte-to-stab has dubious dividends. And people basically have to maintain a very particular relative position to make a riposte-to-stab as good as it can be, so it’s usually telegraphed. Furthermore, a reverse overhand has all of the benefits of a riposte and none of the drawbacks: it hits instantly, and you don’t have to block before you do one. Plus, it can be feinted without draining your entire stamina bar, and without having to risk hp-loss before even attempting one. The stamina disparity is made much, much worse by choosing anything less than a very heavy weapon, and first-hit-flinch (despite being a good, needed mechanic) pushes the scale towards the endless attack side of things by increasing the perceived value of attacking and allowing you to gain advantage regardless of whether you risk a hit-trade. The end result is everyone flailing around with heavy weapons as a primary strategy, which makes playing an MAA iffy at best and in turn encourages more of this, since you can’t punish any of this shit without some serious mobility advantage.
The stamina resource disparity is probably the biggest, most solid procedural argument I can offer, but I suspect the larger problem is caused by a conflux of the stamina stuff, the flinch changes, bubble changes, MAA nerfs, and whatever is causing the perceived effect of the servers falling apart. I could probably go on a whole rant about how every weapon is so similar in terms of speed that the only real effect of their different speeds is a change in block timing, rather than, say, any opening or closing of timing windows (in any stage of combat) or differences in natural initiative, but that’s not really relevant here. Bubble changes made it much more difficult to get behind someone, or even around their side since you need to trace a very large path to do so now and you can’t do that without a speed advantage or the enemy’s cooperation. This makes it harder to punish reverse-overhands, which only raises their perceived value, and also reduces the value of footwork.
Kicks don’t really factor into the stamina system, since you have to spend an insane amount of stamina for a kick to even hope to have a meaningful effect. You have to jump-kick, because point-blank kicks are almost impossible to land and if you’re any further away than that the enemy will move out of range (while hitting you) as a matter-of-course. Then you have to do an immediate follow-up hit that gets blocked in order to meet your stamina goal, which enables a riposte that you’re probably too close to dodge. Thus you must block the riposte, and you come out ultimately in the black stamina-wise. It’s probable that if they did enough stamina damage to be meaningful it would make blocking even more pointless (aside from as a set-up to a kick), and most fights would probably start with kicking the stamina out of the opponent first. It would be better to remove the stamina cost and damage of kicks altogether.
I suspect that the MAA may have previously acted as a control on the flailing, if only because it offered a viable gameplay alternative within which flailing was not nearly as effective. But it might also be because it’s my favorite class and its nonviability is a pet peeve, so let’s take a little end-of-post detour here. Currently, there isn’t very much reason to use an MAA sword, and their other primaries don’t benefit much from being used by an MAA as opposed to any other class. Like, you don’t see a vanguard maining a hatchet and it isn’t because they can’t dodge with it. It’s because compared to any of their main weapons it’s total dogshit in every situation, save those that are brought about by virtue of the fact that it’s a terrible weapon. The piercing dagger is excellent and outshines all of their other weapons, because their other weapons are terrible. It has a close second in the shortsword line. Anyway, they were particularly good at moving in between strikes with fast weapons to force an interrupt or punish a feint/mistimed attack, especially if they weren’t being focused. Reducing flinch times made this less effective (combined with fhf it became nearly pointless, as you’d probably get decapped for even trying), and the windup changes made it less possible. I feel I should note that when I say less possible, I don’t mean more difficult or harder. More difficult would mean that it is less likely that an individual would be capable of making the movement necessary to succeed. Less possible means that the conditions which allow one to seek success occur less frequently. Being unable to windup an attack while dodging also hurt this a lot, but that may have been a change for the best. Maybe it could be brought back if the attack wasn’t released until the very end of the dodge, regardless of when it was started?
If I were to offer an off-the-cuff solution that isn’t just scrapping the stamina system entirely, it would be one of the following:
1. Attacks cost stamina dependent on weapon weight, but less on a block and much less on a hit.
1.5. Getting blocked costs more stamina than missing, which may just swing the pendulum back the other way and cause a glut of turtling.
2. Successful blocks don’t cost stamina, but missed ones do. You still stagger if you block without stamina. Shields could remain as they are now, but would probably need to be changed some too along with kicks Hard to say beforehand…
3. Jumps, missed hits, post-windup feints, combos, and ripostes are the only things that cost stamina. Kicking has its stamina cost and damage reduced.