Patch 5.2 Class Reviews – Part 4
This is the last part of our 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):
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.
There were a few main goals to accomplish with Warriors:
- As with all the classes, we wanted to make the less popular talents more attractive.
- Despite a few nerfs, we felt that Arms was still too dominant in PvP and needed additional changes.
- Because we changed Taste for Blood for Arms, this meant we also had to tweak that spec’s PvE rotation a little. We took the opportunity to improve the values of Haste and Mastery for Arms.
- We wanted to remove Deadly Calm, because it was just adding to action bar bloat without adding much to gameplay.
Warrior talent diversity wasn’t too bad overall. It’s true that some talents have proven to be quite situational, but we still see them being used in those situations. We made some small buffs to Bladestorm, including preventing it from being countered by relatively short-cooldown disarms. We also buffed Storm Bolt outright and made Enraged Regeneration a little cheaper. Second Wind has garnered a lot of attention from the community, and it gets a lot of the blame for Warriors being so hard to kill in PvP. We’re still not entirely sure if Second Wind or Defensive Stance was more of the culprit there (more on this below). We tried some initial nerfs to Second Wind, but we were ultimately happier keeping the talent intact. It’s very popular in both PvE and PvP and if it continues to overshadow the other two talents, we’ll figure out what the best move is then.
Coming out of Cataclysm, we felt like we had reduced Warrior mobility too much in the name of balance, and in the process had removed what was always an iconic feature of the Warrior class. While we felt it necessary to adjust Warrior burst, survivability and control, we didn’t want to totally crush their mobility. To address burst, we re-designed Taste for Blood. Initially, we didn’t think that Taste for Blood would have significant PvP implications because it was so hard and unpredictable to build up stacks. Nevertheless, when it did happen, it felt like it couldn’t be countered. It was also so random that it wasn't the most compelling mechanic in the Arms PvE arsenal, so it didn’t feel like it was worth preserving. Instead, we redesigned Taste for Blood to no longer buff Heroic Strike. That alone was a useful burst damage adjustment, since Heroic Strike is off the global cooldown which allowed it to be stacked with other attacks, such as Overpower. We also removed Glyph of Death from Above damage buff to Heroic Leap, because it felt gratuitous; it’s still a good Glyph.
The second main PvP adjustment was to Warrior stun talents: Shockwave and Warbringer. The Warbringer stun now shares diminishing returns with non-proc stuns, but we attempted to compensate by giving it a snare as well. Meanwhile, Shockwave has a longer base cooldown, but will have a shorter cooldown if it hits multiple targets. We feel this rewards tactical and positional gameplay while still preserving an on-demand stun if it’s needed.
The third PvP nerf was to make it less attractive to sit in Defensive Stance all the time in PvP. Defensive Stance should be there when you’re getting trained, but its overly generous 25% damage reduction coupled with Arms not requiring Rage for so many attacks made Battle Stance un-competitive. We reduced the damage reduction for non-tanks and now ask Arms to use more Rage in their rotation to give Battle Stance a clearer role.
The change to Taste for Blood does have some PvE ramifications, but it also helps make the rotation less random overall. (Warriors who love unpredictable procs can try out Fury, which is intended to be more random.) We changed Sudden Death to activate from Mastery procs as well as auto attacks, and we improved the value of Haste for all warriors (though admittedly, this does not contribute to Protection’s active mitigation).
Finally, we concluded that Deadly Calm wasn’t providing compelling gameplay. Deadly Calm was an interesting button in Cataclysm, particularly when paired with set bonuses, but it didn’t mesh well with more active Rage management in Mists of Pandaria. Warriors already have a lot of damage cooldowns, and Deadly Calm was often macroed—even by skilled Warriors. Speaking of cooldowns, we also reduced both the effect and cooldown of Recklessness to give Warriors more frequent access to a damage cooldown while further reducing PvP burst.
It was time for Monks to get their first post-expansion revision. These were the goals:
- As with all the classes, we made adjustments to make under-used talents more compelling.
- Correct PvP under-tuning, particularly with Windwalkers.
- Bring Windwalkers up to par in both PvE and PvP.
- Offer Mistweavers a unique healer play style.
We saved the Monk changes for last. While a lot will be different for Monks in 5.2, this kind of evolution is to be expected after an entirely new class is introduced and put through its paces in a live environment. Still, while there are a lot of tweaks, there’s not much in the way of major overhauls and you won’t have to re-learn how to play your Monk.
We altered the way the whole level 30 set of talents works. Rather than being limited by resources, they’ll now fit into rotations on a cooldown basis. Previously, Chi Wave, Zen Sphere, and Chi Burst were too situational or simply used as fillers when no other abilities were available. Now that they are free but limited by cooldown, Monks can use them frequently as part of their core rotations without having to worry about other attacks dropping from the rotation.
We felt like Windwalkers didn’t have a signature ability to differentiate them from the other Monk specs, nor did they have a good tool to use when a cleave would be optimal, so we gave them Storm, Earth, and Fire (based on the Pandaren ability from Warcraft III). We also changed the Windwalker Mastery from Combo Breaker to Bottled Fury, which increases the damage bonus provided by Tigereye Brew. This accomplishes the dual purpose of freeing up some global cooldowns (allowing Windwalkers to be more resource limited, and less GCD limited) and to provide some on-demand burst. The old Mastery, Combo Breaker, has become a passive ability granted early on in the leveling process. While we were concerned with burst damage at the beginning of the last season, we don’t want Windwalkers to have completely anemic burst either.
We didn’t want to recreate the balance problem we had when we introduced Death Knights during Wrath of the Lich King, but we ended up being too conservative. The result is that Monks haven’t been as well represented in PvP as we’d like. While we toned down the control of several other classes, we felt like we needed to give Monks some substantial buffs to make them more viable in PvP. To increase survivability, we added a new level 30 ability to Brewmasters and Windwalkers: Nimble Brew. Nimble Brew clears roots, stuns, and fear effects, reduces the duration of future such effects for a few seconds, and can be activated while stunned. We also created the powerful new Ring of Peace talent, and baked the old Deadly Reach talent it replaces directly into Paralysis.
Early on, we said that Mistweavers would have the option to be melee healers, dealing damage and healing their allies at the same time. We haven’t quite delivered on that, but in patch 5.2 we’re making an effort to allow “fist-weaving” to be a more viable play style. The actual healing provided by Fistweaving was okay, but Fistweaving damage was so low that it wasn’t worth it for Mistweavers to move to melee to try it out. With the 5.2 buffs, it should be. These changes prompted a few others to make sure that casting heals like a traditional healer and causing melee damage to heal were separate rotations, without allowing Monks to cherry pick the best moves from each, which caused balance problems in testing. The goal is for Fistweaving to be similar to Atonement healing for Discipline Priests. The Monk will sacrifice some DPS and healing compared to a dedicated healer or damage dealer, but it will be possible to contribute a good amount of each, which is sometimes quite valuable.
Brewmasters are seeing the fewest changes, and they’ve proven to be very capable tanks, though they do require a fair amount of skill to play. The level 30 talent changes will help spice up their rotation.