Here is my take on the issue.
Making Frenzy Unblockable was a good decision to make the class more stable and less under the influence on luck. All Energy manipulation skills are Unblockable and Undeflectable, with the exception of Atom Smasher, so I feel that it only makes sense that Frenzy should be too. (Meanwhile, an Unblockable Frenzy gives a much needed push for Strength builds.) But one must see that making it Unblockable does not necessary have any "tangible" effect on the battle; if anything, in any given battle, Tactical Mercenaries should be slightly worse off than before because of the Toxic Grenade nerf.
However, if, for instance, a Tactical Mercenary would have lost, say, 5% of all battles due to blocked Frenzy, than their win rate would immediately increase by 5% as a result of making Frenzy Unblockable. That is, the change obviously did improve the win ratio of Tactical Mercenaries holistically, but it would still be silly to blame any given loss to a Tactical Mercenary on that fact that you didn't have a chance to block their Frenzy.
With that said, the root of the problem isn't really that Frenzy is now Unblockable. It is that Tactical Mercenary was already quite powerful beforehand due in part (1) to the previous Legendary Rank balance update and (2) the nerfs to EMP Grenade, Assimilation, Static Smash, arguably even Frost Shards/Frostbite, and the failure to improve Static Grenade and Energy Parasite.
To address the first part: to put it simply, buffing Legendary Ranks affects different classes/builds unevenly. Tactical Mercenary 5-Focus builds benefit more from Legendary Ranks more than any other build in the game and thus were disproportionately buffed by the Legendary Rank buff from a statistical standpoint. This is because, on average, they use Primary, Sidearm, Auxiliary, and Robot more frequently than any other build, including other Focus builds (in other words, the probability that a Rank 80 5-Focus Tactical Mercenary benefits more from having those 80 Ranks than, say, a Rank 80 5-Focus Tech Mage does in any given battle is high) and because Frenzy improves with Primary Damage. Moreover, having more powerful "regular" attacks facilitates their use of Toxic Grenade.
Nerfing any other class basically always indirectly advantages the un-nerfed class as a rule. However, part of the reason that Tactical Mercenary is able to maintain its dominance is because the three "stealer"-type classes, i.e., Bounty Hunter, Mercenary, and Blood Mage have been nerfed or are still vastly underpowered. Assuming no Atom Smasher, Tactical Mercenary is unique in that it is only able to gain energy, and not drain or steal it back. This type of energy manipulation model is best countered by stealer type moves, which is why Mercenary has historically been the most effective counter class of Tactical Mercenary. If Bounty Hunter and Blood Mage were to have their respective energy manipulation skills buffed, it may naturally reduce the success of Tactical Mercenaries.
On a different note, Smoke Screen and Malfunction could definitely still need a little more help because they are too easily countered by shields which are far less energy-costly and, except for Energy Shield and Defense Matrix, last for more turns. It may not be unreasonable to extend the duration of debuffs to 4 turns and/or increase their bases by a few points and/or lower their Energy scaling cost to 15 or 10, especially seeing as the base cost of several shields were also lowered.
Personally, I feel that having Static Grenade be on par with Static Smash (with 5-Focus stats) would be the most reasonable approach, although I could be wrong. Currently, a Level 40 5-Focus Mercenary's Static Smash drains 234, meaning a net exchange of 468. If Static Grenade drained 330, the net exchange is 530 points which is quite a bit over. If Static Grenade drained 290, the net exchange would be 464.
Having Energy Parasite last 3 turns may be a viable solution if, in my opinion, the cooldown was increased from 3 to 4 turns.
I don't think that Support Mercenary is inherently overpowered. Rather, to me it is Blood Hawk rather than the build itself that makes it too powerful. (Although Blood Commander is a tad much, but it has in fact been nerfed a bit.) In fact, Blood Hawk in general seems to need a nerf; it is arguably the most powerful Robot in the game, with the exception of Infernal Android and Botanical Hazard which are more useful for certain builds. If the duration of Blood Hawk were reduced from 3 to 2 turns, it would make it more comparable in power to other Robots, not put Black Abyss Bot to as much shame as it does now, while not making it useless for the builds that use it.
I think we can all agree that Strength builds need a buff, but it probably won't be easy to devise a precise way to go about doing it while minimizing the chance of breaking the game at first. At the same time, all Dexterity builds, like Strength, are also severely underpowered, as well as all pure-Tech builds except Tech Mage and Cyber Hunter. Similarly, most all Support builds, despite their apparent notoriety, are also achieving fairly low win rates with the exception of the two Mercenaries. We just have to accept the fact that not every single stat-based build will work, no matter how we go about trying to balance the game but that we should strive to have at least one or two viable non-Jugg build for each stat which, unfortunately, Strength does not at this time.
I am going to respectfully disagree that 5-Focus Tech Mage, as you have implied, was not a competitive build before this update. It may not have been overwhelmingly popular, but could easily achieve similar win rates (75%+) as other competitive 5-Focus builds (Mercenary, Cyber Hunter, and Tactical Mercenary). I would have safely rated it a "good" build relative to all other commonly used builds at that time, in the grand scheme of things, if "good" denotes the highest classification before "top tier". I certainly wouldn't have called it anywhere near "bad". I can't possibly imagine that it or other non-Strength Tech Mage builds has been rendered utterly useless with the nerf to assimilation, although I can admit that the -8 to the base may not have been necessary (and was not something I suggested). The specific changes to Cyber Hunter EMP certainly makes a tremendous difference in Cyber Hunter vs. Tech Mage battles, especially in the case of pure-Tech. Obviously, Strength Tech Mage was hurt quite a bit (on the bright side, a Max Malfunction is now 9 points stronger), but Assimilation should still not be considered the underlying issue because, as we all know, all Strength builds are in dire need of buffing.
< Message edited by NDB -- 6/30/2018 19:54:01 >