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The Art of War(craft): An awesome patch for PvP


In its gestational stages, Patch 2.4 threatened to be a PvP landscape-changing patch with the controversial change to Life Tap and ill-advised buff to Flametongue. Those proposed changes won't make it live, however, and it looks like World of Warcraft PvP won't be drastically different than it was pre-patch. But there are several key changes that affect PvP, some classes more than others. Because there are no major significant changes to class mechanics or abilities, I don't expect the environment to change. But the best thing about PvP is that it's all about the little things, and Patch 2.4 brings a lot of little things into play.

Class changes
Most classes received changes that many felt were aimed towards balancing Arena play. Classes that were perceived to be over-represented in Arenas, such as Druids, received some nerfs while under-represented classes such as Shamans, received some buffs. Warlocks were initially thought to be on an upswing trend, prompting Blizzard to whip up the nerf bat. Fortunately, Blizzard noticed that the trend plateaued and eventually held off on the move. Despite the lack of radical changes, Patch 2.4 affects the PvP environment in a lot of ways, more for some classes than others.

Druids
Druids received a number of arguable nerfs this patch, perhaps owing to their extremely high representation in Arenas. Perhaps the most significant change to Druids was the nerf to the range of Cyclone, an ability I consider to be the most powerful CC in the game. This won't be too palpable in other areas of PvP but may have an impact in the smaller, controlled spaces of Arenas. Bringing the range down to 20 yards makes Druids casting Cyclone susceptible to more interrupt mechanics such as Earth Shock, Silence, or even Repentance.

Lifebloom's final bloom coefficient was also nerfed considerably, reducing its impact in PvP. The spell's importance lies in its final bloom, which goes off when the spell duration ends or is dispelled (highly likely in PvP). On the other hand, the talent Empowered Rejuvenation was adjusted to affect Lifebloom, which can balance things out. One clear PvP nerf, however, wasn't to the Druid class itself but rather to the Druid PvP sets. The movement increase granted by the 4-piece bonus was removed to make way for other benefits in the Restoration and Balance sets. These changes should help make Druids more manageable when they try to kite you around. Nurturing Instinct's change, though not necessarily PvP-centric, allows Cat Druids to stack on Agility thereby increasing Cat DPS and avoidance while helping out their healers. It doesn't look like Druids will be greatly affected by these changes, but it's certainly an indication that Blizzard sees that the popularity of Druid healers in 2v2 and 3v3 brackets eat into the desirability of the other healing classes.

Hunters
The only significant Hunter change is a proper fix that prevents Hunters from automatically tracking or spinning in the direction of targets while casting Aimed Shot or Steady Shot. This means it will now be possible -- though not necessarily easier -- to run out of a Hunter's targeting cone and cause a "You are facing the wrong way!" message. A relatively minor change is how laying a trap now appears on the opponent's combat log. Astute PvP players are already alert to the tell-tale kneeling animation (often disguised through bunny hopping) so the impact should be minimal. (As of this writing, WoW Insider has been alerted to the fact that the change to a Hunter's Multi-Shot has been rolled back and will not go live. It would've had some impact in PvP, but it remains to be seen if Blizzard will ever implement the change.)

Mages
Mages enjoy a much-needed survivability buff with several important changes. One is the change to Blink -- which had its baseline mana cost reduced -- and how Improved Blink now grants a 25% avoidance for 2/4 seconds after the spell is cast. The unloved talent Arcane Fortitude also increases the Mage's armor by 100% of the Mage's Intelligence. I'm not quite sure it's enough of a buff to warrant putting a point in it, but more Physical damage mitigation is always welcome. Fire Mages get Molten Shields, a new talent replacing Improved Fire Ward, which makes Molten Armor marginally more useful by having its reflect effect affect all attacks and not just melee.

The aforementioned changes seem aimed at making Arcane and Fire more viable in PvP. While it probably won't change the prevalence of Frost Mages in Arenas, it will certainly help those who don't find Frost suitable to their playing style. On the other hand, Frost has become even more attractive with the change to Icy Veins, which now gives 100% spell pushback immunity for 20 seconds, a vital buff in the fast-hitting world of PvP.

Paladins
Most of the changes to Paladins were mostly bug fixes, although healers and Shockadins should benefit from the increased damage and healing of Holy Shock. The caveat, of course, is that the mana cost was also increased in what was already a mana-inefficent spell. It does make Holy Shock a more viable option, particularly in Arenas, where constant movement is crucial. A long overdue improvement is the change of Turn Undead to Turn Evil, which now also affects Demon targets, finally giving Paladins a decent defense against Warlock pets. This ability should see extensive use in Arenas.

Priests
The racial Priest ability Chastise was reworked to apply a root, rather than incapacitating effect, an effective nerf which means it can no longer be used to interrupt spells. Power Infusion was also reworked to improve spell haste instead of spell damage and healing, which is more useful in PvP than additional burst that's often negated by Resilience. Finally, Fear Ward's new usability while in Shadowform should be a welcome improvement to Shadow Priests, who no longer need to shift forms in order to safeguard from Fear effects. While irrelevant in Arenas, the improvement to Mass Dispel -- affects up to 10 targets now -- makes it more powerful in the Battlegrounds.

Rogues
There are no significant PvP changes for Rogues, but an important one for their opponents: a Cheat Death animation. PvPers everywhere should rejoice at the fact that this skill now procs a purple skull animation, so at least you know you're still in trouble for at least three more seconds. I swear I recall it lasts for 30. Rogues would also be happy to know that Improved Sprint now properly removes Entangling Roots.

Shamans
Elemental Shamans received a small but largely decried nerf with the supposed balancing of Call of Thunder to grant a 5% crit chance at 5/5 as opposed to 6% (which, while awesome, didn't make much sense). Elemental Shaman PvP sets have also had their Lightning Bolt spell pushback resistance nerfed from 70% to 50%. Aside from these, however, Shamans got a lot of little things that constitute a large buff to the class in PvP.

Shamans will now also move better, as Ghost Wolf now takes 2 seconds to cast as opposed to 3, meaning Improved Ghost Wolf makes it instant cast. This affords Shamans who invest a few points in Enhancement a bit more mobility, specially in the small Arena spaces. Toughness has been improved to grant much-needed reduction to the duration of snare effects, which should help Enhancement Shamans counter-kite. Shamanistic Rage has also been modified to be a Physical buff, meaning it can no longer be dispelled, and returns twice as much mana but lasts half the duration. Oh, and Stormstrike has a new icon. I suppose so players don't confuse it with Hammer of Justice.

Restoration Shamans also got some love this patch with the change to Earth Shield, which significantly reduces its cost -- from 900 to 450 mana -- and appropriately reduces the charges from 10 to 6. In PvP, those 10 charges are almost never consumed. The best little thing is that Healing Grace now also grants a 30% protection against dispel mechanics, which was one of the biggest flaws with Earth Shield in PvP. It would always get dispelled or stolen, which was pretty much a 900 point Drain Mana every time.

Tremor Totem now pulses every 3 seconds, making it even more useful. Furthermore, the global cooldown on all totems have been reduced to 1 second, down from 1.5 seconds; coupled with the new built-in totem interface, this makes totem twisting and adjustment easier to manage between spellcasts. Overall, despite minor nerfs to Elemental, Patch 2.4 looks very good for Shamans in PvP.

Warlocks
Warlocks received very little impacting changes this patch, which is just as well, since the class narrowly dodged a huge nerf bullet. There were moderate nerfs and buffs, but nothing that looks to impact Warlock PvP in a major way. Emberstorm is probably only worth mentioning because it now also reduces the cast time of Incinerate, giving Destruction a bit of love. It won't be the dealbreaker to unseat SL/SL as the spec of choice, but it's a little something for the least popular Warlock Arena spec.

Warriors
Similar to Warlocks, Warriors received very few changes and should be pretty much status quo. Although Improved Hamstring is now subject to diminishing returns in PvP, this won't make much of a difference as it is the low-Rage, spammable Hamstring itself that creates problems opponents. The root effect is just icing on an already delicious, hamstring-y cake.

General changes
One of the biggest changes in Patch 2.4 is in the way Honor is tabulated. There will no longer be diminishing returns for Honorable Kills, eliminating the need for an estimated total. Honor is received and can be spent immediately, making grinding for Honor much more instantly gratifying. Players who are under the effects of Resurrection Sickness are worth 0 Honor, as are players who have died 50 or more times in Battlegrounds.

Quests
There are a couple of new daily PvP quests to spice up the PvP routine, such as needing to slay 10 enemy players in Halaa and helping capture the Spirit Towers. Personally, I'm looking forward to it as the only daily quest I've been doing recently has been the variable Call to Arms quest. These quests should make these world PvP objectives much more interesting and give hardcore PvPers a chance to earn a bit of money. [Edit: thanks to everyone who pointed this out] Unfortunately, the daily quest to turn in multiple Marks of Honor doesn't appear to have made it to the live servers, so players with full stacks of 100 marks from each Battleground (such as myself) will have to find other means to use them. There's also the quest to finally do something with all those Marks of Honor, so folks with stacks of over 100 will finally have a use for them.

Arenas
One of the most decried nerfs in Arenas was to... water. Well, drinking to be precise. The initial delay in the effects of drinking applied to both PvP and PvE, but it was clear that the change was aimed at Arena play and the extensive use of short-term drinking. Strangely enough, burst drinking is crucial to mana-using classes who have no other means of recovering mana, but Drysc feels that it's a problem serious enough to address. It remains to be seen how much of an impact this will create, but somehow, my Star's Tears no longer seem as tasty.

Patch 2.4 also brings improvement to the Arena servers, allowing for more matches and resulting in shorter queue times. This is welcome news to any Arena player who has had to waste 15 minutes waiting for a 2 minute match. There is now also a limit to how high Personal Rating can climb (or rather, stay up) above the player's Team Rating, to prevent abuse and perhaps to encourage team play with a core group.

Battlegrounds
One of the biggest news in the Battlegrounds is the return of the option to queue as a group for Alterac Valley. This should promise more coordination in the newly revised map which sees the Horde starting point moved further down South. Captain Balinda Stonehearth's health has been reset to her original levels but can no longer be interrupted, silenced, or slowed. Alterac Valley has been changed once again in response to a perceived imbalance that favored the Horde, so we'll see how Blizzard's latest attempt fares at fixing an ambitious but greatly flawed Battleground.

Speaking of flawed Battlegrounds, the most flawed of them all, Warsong Gulch, has also been reworked to grant a debuff on the flag carrier that increases damage received by 50% after approximately 10 minutes and 100% after 15 if both flags are held. In my opinion, the time is still too long and too conditional, considering most other Battlegrounds are done in under thirty minutes. The flag will also become trackable on the map after a mere 45 seconds, which is a significant improvement. Blizzard continues to consider Battleground reputation of little worth, so failure to capture any flags will still net 0 reputation even during the Warsong weekend. Still, it's definitely a step in the right direction and I believe that the days of 3-hour Warsong games are numbered.

Items

One change in Patch 2.4 that isn't immediately apparent as affecting the PvP landscape is the proliferation of Spell Haste items. One of the biggest drawbacks for casters in PvP is spell pushback and the necessity for constant movement. This plays a large part in why certain classes are under-represented in Arena play. With the availability of haste items, particularly from Jewelcrafting recipes, Haste becomes a stackable option as a way to improve performance in PvP. Holy Paladins or Restoration Shamans, for example, could benefit greatly from Spell Haste in Arenas as it would mean less time standing still. With epic level gems becoming available from the Shattered Sun vendors, expect Quick Lionseye and Forceful Seaspray Emerald to be popular choices to fill sockets in PvP gear.

Another highly significant change in Patch 2.4 is the availability of "starter PvP sets" which are identical to the old Level 70 PvP gear but use Dungeon Set 2 models and are, notably, available through faction vendors at Honored reputation. This means that players wishing to PvP can jump right in from PvE experience with starter Resilience, giving all players a moderate fighting chance in the Battlegrounds while grinding Honor for better gear. The items are cheap, easy to get, and socketed to allow for customization. This is an example of Blizzard's opening up the game to all players and I think it will make PvP more interesting and challenging. There will be fewer and fewer players sporting no Resilience in Battlegrounds, hopefully leveling the playing field somewhat.

[EDIT: thanks to thebvp] I forgot to mention this in my original draft, but I swear I stashed it away in my mental notes. Mental note: mental notes don't work. The biggest thing to happen to Resilience in Patch 2.4 was how it now affects mana draining effects the same way it affects damage from crits. This is huge. Mana draining plays a huge part in some team make-ups, as some comps run as drain teams (e.g. Shadow Priest + Hunter + Healer) in Arenas. There are many classes that are entirely susceptible to drain effects with no way to regain mana aside from the recently nerfed drinking such as Holy Paladins. Due to this change, Resilience is now an extremely valuable stat point, more than it ever was, and there's more than enough reason to stack it to 493.

Interface
Lastly, in another exciting change, Blizzard has completely rewritten a more robust combat log that can be parsed to show various forms of data. The new combat log can be adjusted to filter data on several levels, which is excellent for basic gameplay -- customizable colors, multiple tabs (Self, Everything, What Happened to Me, and Kills), and custom filters to show only the information you're interested in. Kaydeethree has put up an excellent guide to the new and improved combat log. It's totally worth the read for players who want to take advantage of the new combat log's robustness. More than helping through encounters, reading through the combat logs allows players to study what happened. The customizability of the new combat log makes it easier to sift through the pertinent information and learn from one's mistakes.

Because the combat log has been completely redone, most AddOns that interact with it need to be updated, such as DamageMeters, NECB, and Deadly Boss Mods. Out of all the improvements in Patch 2.4, I think I'm pretty excited to toy around with the new combat log. Patch 2.4 brings a lot of changes to PvP that won't necessarily alter the landscape but will, from all indications, improve everyone's gameplay and hopefully raise it to a new level.

Zach Yonzon writes The Art of War(craft), a weekly PvP column, in between queues to the Battlegrounds or Arenas. Which take long sometimes. Really.
Patch 2.4 sounds great, but what's in it for you? Find out on our Sunwell Isle page where we list the impact on classes, professions, PvP, Raiders and many other playstyles and interests. Looking for more great info? Check out the WoW Insider Directory for the best of our guides and analysis.

Filed under: Patches, Analysis / Opinion, PvP, The Art of War(craft) (PvP)

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