Friday, August 29, 2008

Raid Stacking in WotLK

Last week Ghostcrawler put a post on the WotLK beta forums regarding raid stack and how they plan to change raid buffs in Wrath of the Lich King. The post is here.

It was a fairly vague, but basically stated that blizzard didn't want guild to build raids based upon one player having a specific buff for maximum damage. For instance, a guild shouldn't hold up a raid because they are looking for a Shadow Priest to provide Misery. Players should be chosen based upon ability and personal preference, not on a buff they provide.

In theory I agreed, but the post is big on generalities and light on specifics. So it was very hard to evaluate the post without really knowing what would change.

Last night Zarhym posted the specifics and the changes are HUGE!!!!! Find the post here.

This will have a big impact on all classes but I will of course focus on moonkin. They have made big changes to many of the proposed WotLK abilities and significantly changed many of the current live buffs and debuffs.

What's Changed?

Improved Scorch (Fire Mage):
New - Increases spell critical strike chance against the target.

Old - Increases Fire, Frost and Arcane damage, against the target.

Improved Moonkin Aura:
New - Grants 3% haste of all types.
Old - Grants 20% spell haste when they critically hit with spells for 8 sec. This effect has a 30 second cooldown.

Earth and Moon:
New - Increases spell damage taken from all schools by 13% on the target.
Old - Increases Nature and Arcane damage done to the target by 6%.

Misery (Shadow Priest):
New - Causes spells cast at the target to have +3% spell hit.
Old - Cause the target to take an additional 5% spell damage.

Improved Faerie Fire:
New - No longer benefits melee and ranged hit chance, only spell hit (3%).

Old - Increases Melee, Ranged, and Spell Hit chance by 3%.

What Doesn't Stack?

Spell Critical Strike Chance Buff: Moonkin Aura, Elemental Oath(Ele Shaman)

Spell Critical Strike Chance Debuff: Improved Scorch(Fire Mage), Winter's Chill (Frost Mage)

Increased Spell Damage Taken Debuff: Ebon Plaguebringer (Unholy DK), Earth and Moon, Curse of the Elements (Affliction Warlock)

Increased Spell Hit Chance Taken Debuff: Improved Faerie Fire, Misery (Shadow Priest)

Percentage Haste Increase (All Types): Improved Moonkin Aura, Swift Retribution (Ret Pally)

Melee Hit Chance Reduction Debuff: Insect Swarm, Scorpid Sting (Hunter)

Stat Add Buff: Mark of the Wild

What Does This Mean?

To be completely honest I don't really know. This is such a massive change that it is impossible to quantify how it will all play out, but I can already see some of the possibilities. This means very different things for 10-mans and 25-mans. Class balancing in terms of DPS is going to have to change dramatically.

Ten man raids:
I think this is a great change for 10-man raids. I will allow them to have most if not all of the same buffs that a 25 man raid will have. It should allow Blizzard to build tougher content for the 10-mans to make them real challenges instead of overly dumbed down versions of the 25-mans.

In fact it may bring the 10-mans up to the same level of toughness as the 25-mans. Blizzard is going to have to tune the 10-man fights for all of the buffs or the boss encounters are going to be a joke. This means that the 10-mans could be very unforgiving. If your Shadow Priest dies your casters are out 3% chance to hit if you don't have an Imp FF Moonkin. That would a significant drop in DPS, and spell a wipe if you could only barely kill the boss if things went perfectly.

Twenty Five Man Raids:
I am very unsure how this will affect 25-mans.

  • It should make some of the fights a little more forgiving. If your moonkin dies then a Warlock can put of CoE, or you may have an Unholy DK to put up Ebon Plague.
  • I bet we will see a lot more respecs before raid. People will build their specs around a normal raid set up. For instance, right now I don't see a reason to spec into Imp FF. An Spriest can put it up without losing a DPS Global Cooldown. However, if the Spriest doesn't show up one night, I will have to make a quick trip to Darn before a raid.
  • If classes are balanced near perfectly, it will make life easier for the Raid Leader. The raid won't have to sit there and wait for another pally healer to long on to get a third buff. However, if there are issues with class balance it could make the life a lot harder on the guild's leadership. If one class can do more damage then most other classes, then guilds will be tempted to stack that one class more then others. The probably won't lose any buffs because some many class can provide the same buffs now.
Class Balancing:
It is clear that Blizzard realizes this is going to be an issue. In his post Zarhym said:

Before we are done, we will thoroughly test the
performance of every class. It should not be assumed that one class' current
performance relative to others in beta is final. Some classes (and
specializations) will need to be reduced in power and some increased. Many may
feel the change has more impact on class X than class Y. We will address all of
those concerns via our internal testing and community feedback.

In terms of DPS, if one class or spec lags behind others in the same role, that spec will be excluded from most serious raid guilds. All of the work that Blizzard has done to improve Shadow Priest, Ret Pallys, Moonkin, and all of the other "off specs" will be for not if those specs cannot keep up with the more traditional specs in terms of DPS. Healers and tanks will have less of an issue because their services are in greater demand, don't be surprised if the same thing happens here.

My Concluding Thoughts.
Blizzard is really making a bold move here. There are definitely positives in this change, but I see a whole lot of negatives. While I realize they are trying to make the game and raiding more accessible to all people, I worry that they are taking the uniqueness out of the classes. That uniqueness and customization is one of the main things that make this game fun. However, this is not my biggest worry.

I started playing Blizzard games with Warcraft 2, and since have played almost every game they put out since then. So, I have a lot of respect for Blizzards ability at game design, but they have proven overtime that they are not perfect (nobody is). I worry that those imperfections will break moonkin again just as I thought we were getting some respectability. Since it has taken Blizzard 4 years to fix moonkin the first time, I don't think I could wait another 4 for them to fix us again.

I don't know what is going to happen. I only see possibilities, but I will I will guarantee you one thing. Blizzard doesn't know how this is going to work out either. History has proved that the collective mind of 10 million players is smarter then the collective mind of several hundred Blizzard employees. Blizzard will build what they think is a well balanced game and the players will find the loopholes and exploit it to its fullest potential. If it wasn't true then we wouldn't have Powershifting by Feral Druids, Totem Twisting by Enhancement Shaman, and stacking 5 Warlocks for Imp Shadowbolt. Sure, they will fix these problems eventually, but if these examples are any indication it will take years and I don't know how many people will wait that long.

Follow ups:
1. There were quite a few changes to moonkin abilities that I didn't really analyze here. This post is getting to long. I will post something soon about what this info means for speccing moonkin and how this could change the value of some of our talents. Hopefully the polish pass will be released soon so I can do them together.

2. Several other bloggers are reacting to this same information. I will try and list them here.
Blue: Changes to Buffs and Debuffs
Yet Another Warlock Nerf: Nobody Panic (Not yet, at least)


Karadrum said...

The problem I see with this changes, is that practically all classes bring good utility to raid, making hybrid classes less valuable, given that their utility is not unique anymore.

Given these changes, pure dps classes such as mages and warlocks, provide great utility, great dps and on top of that, have their own unique uses in raids, they have their own nice role, such as tanking in fights in Grull/SSC. Hunters have aggro management and kiting, things that are very important in fighths like Vash and Hyjal.

So, where does this leave hybrid dps classes now that their unique contributions to a raid are not unique anymore?

What can a moonkin, a shadow priest, or a retribution paladin can provide to a fight that only they can do? What are their niche roles?

I think its OK to try to balance class/spec utility and dps, but most importantly is to make significant improvements in the playstyle of each spec, making the game more fun and less monotonous; and in this area is where I think balance druids, shadow priests and retribution paladins are being left out. They should provide more than just static utility and dps.

I think these changes don't affect healers and tanks as much as dps, because each healer has its own unique healing style, and each tank has its own advantages, depending on the dynamics of each fight. However, hybrid dps classes are very affected by these changes.

For example, there should be more fights where a boss polymorphs its target, where a Moonkin Offtank could be useful.

As a Balance Druid, I'm worried with the current state of beta. Balance new abilities just increase dps, but don't improve the playstyle of the spec.

An example of improving the playstle is to change Typhoon to: "Summons a typhoon for 3 seconds, knocking back enemies who come near it 5 yards and causes damage to them. Party and raid members inside the typhoon area take 10% reduced damage.". This would make the spell useful for splash damage, and could also help a Paly in AoE tanking. It would also be a great defense against melee in PvP.

Cdin said...

First off, I completely agree that this affects DPS much more then it affects tanks or healers. Sure different types of tanks or healers are more suited to some encounters over other, but ultimately their role is in such demand that they aren't going to lose a raid spot. This is not true for DPS.

I don't think this is necessarily bad for all hybrids either. Spriests and Paladins will still be mana batterys, which will still be highly desirable. Elemental shaman also have some nice abilities.

The problem really comes down to moonkin in particular. I will go into this more in my next post, but for must of our buffs, another class provides a better option.

Moonkin Aura: Elemental Oath is currently target based instead of an aura. Therefore you can't out range elemental oath.

Imp FF - It costs us a GCD to cast and does no damage. Misery will be put up by Spriests using their normal DPS rotation.

Earth and Moon - Some are saying that CoE provides more utility and dps due to the resistance reductions also included in the curse.

Insect Swarm - I don't know much about Scorpid Sting, but IS is a fairly minor buff as it is and most high end moonkin don't use it now.

Imp Moonkin Aura - Fairly equal to Swift Retrobution, if you are choosing between a ret pally and a moonkin for this aura which are you going to choose? I've already shown how the other moonkin buffs can be overcome and a Ret Pally is also a mana battery. I think it is easy to see which one is going to be choosen.

As I see it, right now we have only two unique abilities to bring to a raid.

1. Thorns - it is better in WotLK but not awesome.

2. Hurricane Slow affect - Will help keep a tank alive, but will probably be only situationally useful.

I'm not saying we Moonkin are doomed. A lot of things can, have, and will change. Look at Warlocks. This change is a HUGE nerf for them. A Nerfed improved Shadow Bolt. No more Shadow Weaving from Spriest. That is at least a 10% reduction in DPS for them.

With the little info we have right now, moonkin are not in a good spot. Even if they are improved, what fun will it be? Why be a moonkin when I can do many of the same things as another class.

It is a slippery slope that blizzard is getting itself into and I don't think they understand the consequences.