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Ghostcrawler reveals upcoming class changes in Cataclysm

Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street has posted the blog post I think most of us have been waiting for ever since Cataclysm went live. It features a summary of where the dev team sees the PvE and PvP games at this point, including some analysis of various classes and specs, and some planned changes for those specs that are underperforming and overperforming.

In PvE, Ghostcrawler mentions that Blizzard is mostly happy with the tank classes and notes that while healers do have it a bit hard, this is intentional. Heroics are meant to be a challenge. As for DPS, he offered that some classes, such as arcane mages and marksman and beast mastery hunters, are too low in their damage, while others, such as shadow priests and fire and frost mages, are being watched closely before final judgment is made on their numbers.

In PvP, Ghostcrawler says Blizzard is satisfied with the decreased emphasis on healing prevention and burst damage. Crowd control and dispel mechanics, especially offensive dispels, may see some PvP nerfs, and priests will specifically be getting some PvP buffs.

Stats also got some mention. A lot of stats are being neglected by some classes, and the dev team wants to fix this. Mastery will be either buffed or completely revamped for many specs, such as unholy death knights and retribution paladins. Haste may be made to scale with more attacks, such as Lacerate, Slam, and Steady Shot, in order to make the stat more desirable to certain specs.

Check after the break for the complete text of Ghostcrawler's post, including a list of specifically planned (but not finalized) class changes for future patches.



Class Changes -- Ghostcrawler
We have a lot of players at 85 now doing everything from Heroic dungeons to rated Battlegrounds, and the class design team is starting to prepare our list of items to investigate for our next patch.

Before you dive down into the meat below (not really a pleasant image, that), be advised that we're still early in the preliminary stages. The patch isn't coming out tomorrow. I wrote this before the end of the year and other things may have cropped up in the meantime. Just because your class or pet problem isn't mentioned below doesn't mean we won't address it.

PvE

We're happy with damage overall. We have very few traditional tank and spank fights (even Argaloth likes to parry melee) so it's hard to get consistent numbers without very large data sets. Still, we see Survival hunters and Unholy DKs on top of a lot of single target fights. Arcane, Marskman, and Beastmaster damage is too low. Retribution, Shadow, and Fire and Frost mage damage might be too low, but we're still watching them. We aren't seeing a lot of Subtlety rogues in PvE yet, so that sample size is still small. On fights where there is a lot of area damage, Demonology warlocks, Frost DKs and possibly Survival hunters are all too high. Shadow priest AE, mostly due to a weak Mind Sear, feels too low.

Healing in PvE is working out pretty much as intended. There are some Heroic dungeon bosses that are probably tougher than the required item level average permits. In general, you might have a tough time upon zoning into a Heroic dungeon with a bunch of strangers as soon as Dungeon Finder permits, especially if your group isn't willing to communicate and work together. We want Heroics to be challenging -- if you want to zerg the content, stick to normal dungeons.

Tank balance overall seems good at this point in time. Threat seems to be in a good place -- good tanks don't have much of a problem, but they can't "phone it in" either. We're seeing all four tanks get a lot of use, even on Heroic raid fights. That could change as more guilds are able to make serious heroic attempts.

PvP

The larger health pools, decreased impact of Mortal Strike debuffs, and slower healing are all having the desired effect in PvP. Burst damage has its place, but doesn't determine the outcome of every encounter. There are several individual abilities that we aren't happy with in PvP.

We're keeping a close eye on dispels. We still like the design of making dispels more of a commitment rather than liberally sprinkling around dispel resistance or consequences for every class. Defensive dispels (removing a debuff) generally feel good, but we think offensive dispels (removing an enemy buff) feel too powerful, especially for DPS specs. In particular, Purge and Spellsteal will probably get nerfed.

We're also looking at crowd control, interrupts, and self-healing in PvP. It's possible we'll reduce the durations of some crowd control effects, especially the area effect ones, and decrease the duration of interrupts.

Priests are a little weak in PvP, especially at mobile healing. We have made some changes to glyphs and talents to enhance their survivability and instant healing.

We also want to make sure the epic PvP gear isn't too easy for just anyone to obtain, given that the PvE endgame content is more challenging than it was in Lich King. We don't want the player base to just migrate to the most efficient epic delivery mechanism; we want you to participate in what you find most enjoyable.

Stats

We'll make a pass to make stats that aren't attractive (but are supposed to be) more attractive. For example, we don't want Assassination rogues to dismiss crit or Feral tanks to dismiss haste. We are considering making some physical attacks such as Lacerate, Steady Shot, and Slam scale with haste.

Mastery is a new stat for us, and there are a few specs that don't value it enough. In some cases (e.g. Combat rogues), the design for mastery is fine and we just need to buff the effects to make it more desirable. In others, we don't think it's possible to buff mastery enough in its current form. For example, the Retribution mastery, Hand of Light, is fun, but it doesn't contribute enough damage. To make it contribute enough damage, the proc would need a very high chance, which then can cause paladins to devalue other sources of Holy Power. Instead, we are redesigning Retribution mastery to add a percentage of the damage of Templar's Verdict, Crusader Strike, and Divine Storm as Holy damage (which also plays better with Inqusition). Because Hand of Light is fun, however, we are going to change Divine Purpose as a chance to proc Hand of Light instead of a chance for extra Holy Power (which will also remove a little of the randomness from the rotation). Unholy DKs are another spec for whom mastery just isn't working out. Our current intent is to redesign their mastery so that their attacks cause more damage to diseased targets (in a similar manner to the Restoration druid mastery).

Potpourri

Some additional class-specific tweaks (keeping in mind this is not the full list):
  • Even after we fixed their mastery, Feral druid bleeds still do a lot of damage and are undispellable. We plan to shift some of that damage back to main attacks. They are also a little too hard to control. Given that they are already hard to root, snare, or polymorph, we think the fear immunity from Berserk is too much.
  • Arms warrior burst damage might still be too high in PvP, while we don't have a great way to adjust their sustained damage for PvE. The Lambs to the Slaughter talent is a good place to address this. We also might nerf warrior stuns.
  • We think Arms and Fury warriors are getting too much damage out of Heroic Strike. We want it to be clear that it's a rage dump and not make it the hardest hitting ability.
  • For Holy priests, we're increasing Chakra's duration and changing Surge of Light so it can now from Flash Heal and Greater Heal and can crit.
  • We're making some additional buffs, such as Pain Suppression and Barkskin, undispellable.
  • We're buffing Wild Mushroom. It's a cool spell that isn't getting enough play.
  • Empowered Touch will now benefit from Regrowth as well. We're also buffing the Glyph of Regrowth.
  • We are looking at Holy Concentration (after our most recent buff) and Omen of Clarity to make sure they don't account for too much mana savings.
  • We are probably going to remove Drain Mana from warlocks. It is incredibly situational in PvE but causes problems in PvP. This might mean we need to evaluate Mana Burn as well.
  • Inferno will no longer increase the radius of Hellfire.
  • Shadow and Flame can now proc from Incinerate in addition to Shadow Bolt.
  • We want to redesign Improved Soulfire.
  • Censure will no longer break Repentance.
  • As part of the Marks and Beastmaster buffs, we're buffing Aimed Shot, Kill Shot, Chimera Shot, and Kill Command.
  • To reduce mage control, we are discussing reducing the duration of Frost Nova and Ring of Frost.
  • We want to make it clear that Combat is intended to use fast off-hand weapons. We also want to polish Revealing Strike a bit.
  • We want to make sure Enhancement shaman avoid caster weapons.
  • We want to make sure Unholy DKs prefer two-handed weapons.
  • Necrotic Strike needs to be affected by resilience.
  • For Cataclysm, we changed Death Strike almost completely into an ability for Blood DK tanks, which is a bit unfortunate. We want to make sure it is still a useful button for Frost or Unholy DKs who need healing.
  • We also want to address DK mobility in PvP.
  • We think we overnerfed Every Man for Himself, and are reverting it back to a 2-minute cooldown again. We might evaluate other racials after we've seen more PvP.

"GC, is this the final list of changes? Does this mean I can expect no changes for my class? Does this mean you don't care about me?"

No. This is some stuff we are looking at so that you'll have some context if you see changes on a future PTR. The final list of class patch notes for the next patch will doubtless be much longer.

-Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street is the lead systems designer for World of Warcraft. He uses words like "potpourri."

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items, Cataclysm

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