Patch 5.2 Class Reviews – Part 3

Patch 5.2 Class Reviews – Part 3

This is part 3 of the ongoing series discussing the class changes that are being implemented in patch 5.2. Stay up to date on all the incoming class changes by reviewing the 5.2 patch notes and reading the other parts of the series (also, you can skip straight to class changes if you’ve already read this introduction):

Part 1 – Death Knight, Druid, and Hunter

Part 2 - Mage, Paladin, and Priest

We don’t alter classes lightly, and every change comes only after a great deal of player feedback, developer thought and careful analysis. We also know that while class changes can help keep things fresh, they can also mean that there’s a need to re-learn things about your character that you thought you already knew. We want to make this process clearer, more understandable, and easier to adapt to as we move into patch 5.2, so I’ll be working with World of Warcraft Lead Systems Designer Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street to write a short blog series that will provide an overview of the important changes coming to each class.

Many of the 5.2 patch notes fall into two main categories: balance tuning and talent adjustments. Unless we called out a specific reason otherwise, you can assume that the various +10% or -10% adjustments you’ll see in the patch notes were made to keep all of the specs where we want them in 5.2. In some cases these are changes to reflect the different environment in 5.2 with new gear and set bonuses. In other cases, we are correcting issues we found in patch 5.1.

In terms of talent adjustments, while we’re still happy overall with the Mists of Pandaria talent overhaul, we do recognize that there were some talents that weren’t tuned as well as they could be or just weren’t attractive. That’s not to say that all talents should be all things to all players all the time; some talents are situationally quite attractive, and we’re happy with those. On the other hand, others just never see much use and we would rather provide players real options for each talent tier.

Note: The purpose of these blogs is mostly to provide an overview of the design intentions behind our 5.2 changes, rather than to detail the thought process behind every individual note. You can refer to the patch notes for specific changes and numbers.

 

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We had a lot of work to do on the Rogue talent tree, probably the most of any class.

  • Rogues, historically a PvP mainstay, felt underpowered and weren’t well-represented in high-end PvP. We wanted to change that.
  • In PvE, we wanted to tone down the cleave capabilities of Combat so it didn’t feel like a mandatory spec for some fights.
  • We wanted to give Rogues a little more PvE utility instead of feeling quite so selfish.

While we tweaked several talents to make them more attractive, there were large-scale changes to two tiers. In an attempt to balance a perennial problem we’d had balancing Rogues in PvP, we initially asked them to choose between Preparation and Shadowstep. Forcing Rogues to choose between the two worked . . . so well that Rogues felt ineffective in PvP. While we tried to make it a trade-off between the defensive capabilities of Prep and the movement capabilities of Burst of Speed or Shadowstep, as with the Mage tree, we eventually came to the conclusion that only movement could compete with movement. We gave Prep to all Rogues, buffed Burst of Speed, and created a new talent, Cloak and Dagger to be part of the movement tier. Cloak and Dagger causes a Rogue to teleport to their target whenever they use an opener. Combined with dropping out of combat to re-stealth, Shadow Dance, and the Subterfuge talent, we expect that it can be used to accomplish some pretty interesting things.

Similarly, while Anticipation proved very popular in the level 90 tier, Versatility did not, and in fact, Anticipation felt like it provided the benefits of Versatility, only better. We retired Versatility and added a new talent, Marked for Death, which will mark a target and instantly generate 5 combo points on that target. When the target dies, the cooldown will reset.

In addition to giving Rogues Preparation baseline, we also wanted to increase Rogue burst in PvP. That may sound backwards given that we are often trying to reduce the burst of classes in PvP, but we think Rogues had the opposite problem, where their large component of passive damage from white attacks and poisons coupled with the low damage per hit of using a pair of small weapons meant that Rogues had significant issues closing the deal and taking an enemy down during a burst window. Our solution here was to allow Rogues to store up more energy in PvP through a new set bonus. This means a Rogue will have to work for their burst, but it will be there if they plan for it.

Blade Flurry has been an iconic spell for Combat for some time, and while we initially discussed just giving it to all Rogues, we thought Combat lost too much under that design. Ultimately, we like that Combat is good at cleaving. The problem was it was so good that it felt mandatory for many Rogues to switch to Combat for some fights. Ideally, a Rogue who prefers Assassination or Subtlety should be able to stick with that spec, knowing they might fall a little behind on cleave situations, but can make up for it in other situations. We changed the way that Blade Flurry works, so that it will strike more targets for less damage. Combat will still be the best choice for AoE fights, but not so much so that it will be at an overwhelming advantage. We’ll be increasing Combat single-target damage via an increase to Vitality to compensate. Overall, we hope that most players will feel comfortable sticking with the spec they are most comfortable playing without feeling compelled to swap between fights. Subtlety will see increased single-target damage via an increase to the effects of Sanguinary Vein.

PvE utility is very subjective. Some players equate it with a raid-wide damage reduction cooldown, while for others, the utility has to be something unique that nobody else can provide. We add that caveat just because we don’t think the community will ever agree on who brings “enough” or “the best” utility. The change we made for Rogues was simple: Smoke Bomb now provides damage reduction, so in a similar fashion to abilities like Rallying Cry, a Rogue can help survive against, oh say, just for example, the damage a huge freakin’ dinosaur can dish out.

 

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We had a few goals with Shaman:

  • As with the other classes, we wanted to make unattractive talents more appealing. Shaman had a similar problem to Druids, where certain choices were perceived as good for e.g. Elemental but not Restoration.
  • We wanted to buff Elemental dispel vulnerability and overall survivability in PvP.
  • We wanted to give Enhancement a very slight boost for PvP.
  • We also wanted to improve Elemental’s target switching and multi-target damage in PvE.
  • We adjusted some Glyphs, some because they were too good, others because they felt mandatory.

We made several adjustments to talents to broaden their appeal. For example, Ancestral Swiftness now provides 10% melee haste in order for Enhancement Shaman to take it more seriously as an option, while staying at 5% spell haste since Restoration Shaman already liked the talent.

For PvP, we gave Shamanistic Rage to Elementals to provide a defensive cooldown they could use when focused. We also changed the interaction between Flame Shock and Lava Burst. Lava Burst still does more damage when Flame Shock is present, but it will now do more damage than it did previously, even when Flame Shock isn’t on the target. Therefore, if Flame Shock is dispelled, Elemental does less damage but doesn’t feel completely crippled.

This same change helped with Elemental’s target switching in PvE, since they didn’t have to wait for Flame Shock to come off cooldown every time they wanted to do something like burst down a new add. We also felt that Elemental never had a great chance to shine in 5.0 raiding. Their damage was on target for most fights, but other specs with whom they were tied would do great in some situations, such as multi-dot fights. We decided that “chains” are one of a Shaman’s core mechanics, so we wanted to make sure Chain Lightning delivered when the player was in a situation where they could use it. Chain Lightning damage no longer decreases when hitting subsequent targets, and actually increases when converted to Lava Beam.

We wanted to buff Enhancement for PvP in two ways. First, we increased the mana generation of Mental Quickness, since Enhancement suffered from mana problems when they didn’t have high uptime on the target, a common occurrence in PvP. We also lowered the cooldown on Spirit Walk to further increase their up time as well as giving them more frequent escape tools.

Finally, on the Glyph front, Purge is an extremely powerful tool in PvP, especially when Glyphed, so we added a 6 second cooldown on the ability if the Glyph is applied. It’s still powerful and useful, but less spammable. On the other hand, the Glyph of Flame Shock felt mandatory, so its effects have been made baseline.

 

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Our main goals for Warlocks:

  • As with all classes, we wanted to tweak talents to make underused talents more appealing.
  • Fix Blood Fear.
  • Put the pet back in Warlock.
  • Roll mandatory-feeling Glyphs into the relevant specs.

We feel Warlocks are, generally speaking, in a pretty good place right now. Obviously they received many changes in 5.0 and we’re still iterating on a few of those new mechanics to get them to feel quite right. Warlock talents weren’t in a bad place overall. We made a few tweaks such as Burning Rush also offering snare “resistance”, and Kil’jaeden’s Cunning no longer having an active / passive mechanic.

In PvP we saw that Blood Fear, intended to be used defensively, was increasingly seeing use as an offensive ability. We also felt that it was a bit too effective. To adjust it some, as well as return it to its more defensive roots, the old talent has been removed, and its new replacement, Blood Horror, applies a buff to the Warlock that will fear enemies that strike her in melee.

Warlocks are meant to be a pet class, but a lot of locks were choosing Grimoire of Sacrifice. We understand that players have a tendency toward the most powerful and efficient play style, and that managing a pet takes a little effort. Pets are a big part of what it means to be a Warlock though, so while we don’t mind offering GoSac so that there’s some play style diversity, we wanted to de-emphasize petless play. Now sacrificing your fel friend, while still an option, won’t be quite as much of a damage bump as it was in the past. In addition, too many locks felt like they had to use the imp in PvE, especially in smaller groups, in order to benefit from Blood Pact. We just added the Stamina bonus to Dark Intent to let the player choose whether an imp or another demon made more sense depending on their preference and the situation.

Both Glyph of Embers and Glyph of Soul Shards really felt like they should be baseline, and had become essential to their respective specs. We made the original Glyph effects baseline, and added new Glyph effects that should be helpful, without feeling like they’re absolutely required. We also changed the Glyph of Unstable Affliction so players didn’t feel like they had to choose between the silence and the damage backlash.

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