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Dev Watercooler: Ghostcrawler on balance in patch 4.3

Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street has posted his latest Dev Watercooler, this one explaining the reasoning behind various changes in Patch 4.3. If (like me) you play melee DPS, you may be excited, unless (like me) you play a fury warrior, in which case you'll see those often-repeated words that make your gut clench up yet again. The patch 4.3 PTR notes are up, and here we have a discussion of trends you might be noticing.

The changes made are being done to balance out melee and ranged DPS going forward, to get enhancement shaman to stop using caster weapons and mail (the huge changes to Mental Quickness, for instance) and to use Lava Lash to spread the Flame Shock debuff around in order to simplify enhancement's AOE. Resto shaman also get a bit of a buff, which should be nice for them, while DKs see some quality of life simplifcation.

Overall, the post is worthwhile reading (and the first of more posts to come) to get an idea of where Blizzard is going with design in 4.3.


Explanation of Patch 4.3 balance changes, Part One
Back in June, I wrote a blog explaining the context behind some of the changes in the upcoming patch that might not be intuitively obvious. That blog ended up being one of the most popular ones we've ever done; even players who disagreed with the specific changes appreciated our explanations for what we were trying to accomplish. Therefore, we'd like to continue in that fashion and we figured there was no reason to wait until 4.3 was "on the shelves" to get the ball rolling.

One note before I dive into things. If you haven't read the previous blog, "Rate of Change," now might be a good time. There are some changes that we want to make to class mechanics or balance in general that we don't think are fair or appropriate to spring on players in the middle of an expansion. These include things like the power of interrupts or the active mitigation model we want to implement for tanks. We'll get there, but in short term we fundamentally believe that it's important to pick our battles.

On with the show. Note that most of these changes are mechanics changes. We have not yet finished enough testing to be confident in our benchmark damage, healing, and tanking numbers for 4.3. When we finish those, and when we see what some players are capable of doing on the PTR (or even what they theorycraft or sim based on PTR numbers) there will be additional changes. Off the top of my head, I'd say Fury warrior damage is almost certainly too high and Resto druid AE healing (ignoring the effects of Tranquility of course) is also too potent.

You'll also notice some classes aren't mentioned at all. It's possible we're just happy with them, but it's more likely we just haven't gotten to them yet. We don't want to hold a PTR until every single thing is done, because that minimizes test time.

Melee DPS

Overall, we think melee DPS in dungeons and raids is still too low. We think melee DPS is fine in PvP, and we think melee DPS is competitive against ranged specs against target dummies, but in actual encounters with all of their moving pieces, melee falls behind. To attempt to adjust for this imbalance, we have improved the benefit to attack power given by the various raid buffs (Blessing of Might et al.) to melee only. Hunter DPS is fine, or even high in 4.2, so we didn't want this buff to extend to them, which is why the AP benefit is now 20% for melee attacks but still 10% for ranged attacks.

Vengeance

As promised, we allow for this tanking mechanic to now ramp up quickly when the tank is taking damage.

Death Knight

We discussed some of our Blood changes in a recent blog. We wanted to make it less punitive for DKs to miss Death Strike. Long term, we still want to make hit and expertise matter more to tanks, not less, but it wasn't fair to punish DK players for working the "right way" when the other tanks aren't there yet. We also reduced the cooldown of Outbreak for Blood DKs so that applying diseases doesn't compete with Death Strike runes as much, and we simplified Blade Barrier so that there is less pressure to spend runes instead of sitting on them.

For now all we have done is bumped Bone Shield's charges. We may still try out the "big hit dampening" described in the "Bloody Mitigation" blog.

Druid

We're okay with Resto druids using Wild Growth frequently, but we think we allowed it to become too powerful given its ease of use. As I suggested above, this may or may not be sufficient to nerf Resto druid throughput overall. The change to the Glyph of Wild Growth has positive and negative elements. We heard from druids that they felt like they didn't have as many major glyph choices as intended, since the Glyph of Wild Growth was such a no-brainer for raiding druids -- it increased the number of Wild Growth targets with no downside. We want major glyphs to be a decision, which usually involves them having some kind of downside. With the AE heals, we thought the downside might be that the healers may not be using their AE heals necessarily, but having seen two raid tiers of content now, we're confident that the glyphs did not have as much of a downside. (We changed the Glyphs of Circle of Healing and Light of Dawn for similar reasons).

Paladin

We changed Seal of Insight to no longer return 15% base mana and then changed Judgment of the Pure to provide mana regeneration so that Holy paladins would not need to Judge every eight seconds. With these changes, they will want to Judge every 30 seconds, which seems more reasonable. Judging every eight seconds is hard to ask someone who is also targeting players a lot to heal them.

We made several changes to Holy Radiance to make it a cast time spell. We felt like Holy paladins couldn't go into a group healing mode because Holy Radiance had a long cooldown and in the absence of a cast time, didn't compete with any other spell. With this change (and the Light of Dawn change below), paladins can opt for an AE healing "rotation" (insofar as healers can ever have a rotation) of using Holy Radiance -> Light of Dawn instead of Holy Light et al. -> Word of Glory.

Several Holy talents changed to support the change to Holy Radiance, such as allowing it to benefit from Illuminated Healing, Clarity of Purpose, and Infusion of Light. It didn't make sense for Speed of Light to be triggered by a cast-time spell, so we caused the Paragon of Virtue talent to lower the cooldown on Divine Protection, so that Holy wouldn't lose quite so much functionality of Speed of Light. Speed of Light has definitely been nerfed compared to 4.2, but we feel it's an acceptable change given the entire package.

We reversed the glyph for Light of Dawn. Instead of providing an additional target to Light of Dawn, the glyph now reduces the number of targets but increases the throughput. Light of Dawn was not a very useful spell in 10-player raids or similar small groups, like Arena teams. This glyph should allow paladins to tailor Light of Dawn for their group size.

Priest

We were seeing too many situations where a raid wanted one or even two Disc priests at the expense of a Holy priest. We think part of the problem was Holy's lack of a strong raid cooldown, so we replaced the State of Mind talent (which was fairly weak ever since Chakra had an unlimited duration) with Heavenly Voice that boosts the healing of Divine Hymn to make it more competitive with Power Word: Barrier. We also increased the number of targets of Divine Hymn from three to five.

We also reduced the mana cost of Power Word: Sanctuary. We think Holy has sufficient AE throughput, but this spell in particular was very expensive.

We wanted to change the Glyph of Circle of Healing to make it less of a no-brainer as I explained above under Wild Growth. In the case of the Holy priest, we thought the healing done by CoH was appropriate (which was not the case for the druid) so we had the glyph increase the mana cost instead. Relying too much on Circle of Healing in inappropriate situations (such as when only a few characters are injured) risks hurting the priest's efficiency with this glyph.

We rebuilt Spirit of Redemption in a different way. We aren't trying to change the power of the talent at all, but we did want to make it feel more responsive (less lag between death and Spirit) as well as clean up a few bugs.

Shaman

We made changes to Wind Shear to restrict the short cooldown version to the DPS shaman (who have the Reverberation talent) and make Restoration less potent at interrupting. We think Restoration is currently too useful in PvP relative to other healers because of a potent, ranged interrupt. We don't think this nerf will have major PvE ramifications.

We changed Mental Quickness and Flametongue Weapon to hopefully put a nail in the coffin of Enhancement shaman using spellpower weapons. We want Enhancement using melee weapons. Players who have been doing so should notice no change in their DPS. Players who have been using caster weapons or armor will find that gear is no longer useful to them.

Elemental's AE damage was still not competitive with the rotations of other DPS specs, so we buffed Earthquake and removed the cooldown on Chain Lightning. These two spells should be the bulk of Elemental's AE DPS, while spreading Flame Shocks should be an Enhancement mechanic (see below).

We also tried to improve Enhancement's AE. In this case, the DPS was fairly competitive, but applying the AE was a headache with having to tab through multiple targets to spread Flame Shocks. Enhance can now use Lava Lash to spread Flame Shock (and the bonus granted from Improved Lava Lash has been baked into the base Lava Lash ability, so Enhance should not suffer any DPS loss as a consequence).

After checking in on thousands of raid attempts, we were concerned that Resto shaman were not competitive with the other healers, especially on 10 player-content and on fights where the raid needs to stay spread out. It's okay for healers to have niches where they really shine, but we felt like Resto wasn't experiencing enough of these. We buffed Riptide outright and gave Ancestral Healing a new mechanic of boosting the target's max health. These buffs are also intended to help offset some of the loss of Wind Shear for PvP.

As you can see, we changed shaman mechanics quite a bit, some of which will be met with cheers and others will be met with poo flinging. Please try out the changes when the PTR goes live and offer us constructive feedback if you want us to discuss any concerns you might have. That goes for all of these changes of course.

No doubt when 4.3 goes live, there will be even more changes and some of the above will be modified or redacted. Part Two of this blog will explain our intent behind the final changes.



Brace yourselves for what could be some of most exciting updates to the game recently with patch 4.3. Look at what's ahead: new item storage options, cross-realm raiding, cosmetic armor skinning and your chance to battle the mighty Deathwing -- from astride his back!

Filed under: Druid, Paladin, Priest, Shaman, Death Knight

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