I’ve been thinking about this for a couple days.

Several Essentials classes like the Slayer and the Thief get these Free/No action encounter powers with additional uses as they rise through the levels. Backstab and Power Strike are decent enough powers in their own right but something has always bothered me about them. I think I finally figure out what.

They just aren’t proper encounter powers.

I get that Essentials classes are supposed to be easier to play. They’re streamlined for beginning players and for players who don’t want to think too hard about the character they’re running. That’s great. That’s fine.

The problem is that these powers aren’t encounter-equivalent.

Encounter equivalence is a weird concept I started talking about a couple years back — was that later 2010/early 2011? I don’t recall — the point is that some powers are “worth” their per-encounter limitation and some just aren’t.

Backstab is pretty close. It has an accuracy bonus and a damage bonus rolled into a Free/No action power that piggybacks on a weapon attack. The problem mainly stems from the fact that as a “rider” effect, it isn’t strictly an “option.”

It’s the same problem with the Human racial power Heroic Effort, or either the Elf or Half-orc racial powers. In a way, they’re “too good not to use” but their supreme utility is where they become lackluster as racial powers.

The powers don’t help define the races whatsoever — and it’s the same with Power Strike and (mostly) Backstab. They’re too good not to use, there’s rarely if ever an encounter in which you won’t use them at some point — to ramp up your damage for a single attack, or to turn a close miss into a hit.

Now, any of these powers would make fantastic class features for 1st-level characters, or as utility powers for a player to choose from as they advance. They just don’t function well as racial powers or as “encounter attack powers.”