All changes are not created equal

It was a very busy week at Blizzard last week, as they released a flurry of additional information regarding patch 3.2. The earlier information regarding the new mount and travel form requirements, new heirloom items, and the earning of XP in battleground was very encouraging. But many of the additional details that were released late in the week were surprising to say the least.

Wintergrasp changes:

* To provide players with a more transparent notification of when Wintergrasp battles occur, as well as better control zone population and stability, several changes have been made.
* Players now have the option to queue for Wintergrasp from a Wintergrasp Battlemaster in any capital city or by simply entering the Wintergrasp zone.
* Queuing will begin 15 minutes before each battle. If chosen, you will automatically be teleported to the zone. Any players in the zone who have not been chosen from the queue will be teleported out when the battle begins.
* The queue system remains active for the entire battle. As soon as a player leaves, a new one will be chosen from the queue.
* Trying to enter Wintergrasp during an active battle for which you have not been chosen will teleport you out. Please note that, as you are now able to fly over Wintergrasp, you will only be teleported out if you try to land and join the battle.
* Level 80 players get higher priority in the queue than lower level players. In addition, a random selection of queued players will be taken from both the Battlemasters and the zone itself.
* The queue will accept up to 100 players from each faction, resulting in a maximum battle of 200 players at a time.

It appears Blizzard has finally given up completely on the ideal of having truly open PVP and I find this very disappointing. Despite the earlier changes that resulted in the daily Wintergrasp quests becoming weekly there were apparently continuing concerns that Blizzard felt could only be addressed by these announced changes. I never thought the previous changes would “fix” all the problems people were experiencing and reporting in Wintergrasp, but I have witnessed much better lag in Wintergrasp over the past few weeks which anecdotally indicate fewer people in Wintergrasp than previously. So Blizzard’s plan to now create a pseudo-instance of the entire zone during battles, and randomly choose who gets to participate in the battles is somewhat surprising to me. At least on my realm I don’t believe there are more than 100 people from either faction that participate in any given battle, so the change really won’t change much. Unless Wintergrasp becomes more popular that is.

All in all I still believe that Blizzard would be better served by addressing the issues with the older battlegrounds that make them somewhat less appealing than Wintergrasp. Wintergrasp is obviously very popular, not only for the Wintergrasp tokens and stone keepers shards, but also for the immediate access to the Vault. The honor I normally get for a match, excluding honor from the now weekly quests is around 900-1000 honor so it still gives better honor than some older battlegrounds, but usually less than I get in the average AV or EotS. Obviously fewer people are playing in a given battle judging from the current lag (or lack of), so what is driving these current changes?

DK nerfs:

* Blood Strike now gets 50% of its total damamage increased for each of your diseases on the target. (Up from 12.5%)
* Dancing Rune Weapon now lasts 12 sec and costs 60 Runic Power. (Up from 40 Runic Power)
* Veteran of the Third War now increases your total Strength by 2/4/6% and Stamina by 1/2/3%.
* Scent of Blood 10 sec cooldown has been removed.

* Frost Strike now causes 55% weapon damage (down from 60%) plus 110.55 (down from 120.6) at max rank. It can now be dodged/blocked/parried.
* Icebound fortitude cooldown has been increased from 1 min to 2 min.
* Chaisn of Ice now reduces the target movement speed by 95%. (Down from 100%)
* Frost Presence now increases Stamina by 6% instead of total health by 10%.
* Blood of the North changed from 5 to 3 ranks. Now increases Blood Strike and Frost Strike damage by 3/6/10% and gives a 30/60/100% chance that the Blood Rune will become a Death Rune whenever you hit with Blood Strike or Pestilence.
* Lichborne now lasts 10 sec (down from 15 sec). Cooldown reduced from 3 min to 2 min.
* Toughness now increases your armor value from items by 2/4/6/8/10%. (down from 3/6/9/12/15%)
* Threat of Thassarian (New Talent, Tier 8 ) – When dual-wielding, your Death Strikes, Obliterates, Plague Strikes, Blood Strikes and Frost Strikes have a 30/60/100% chance to also deal damage with your off-hand weapon.

* Scourge Strike now deals 40% of weapon damage (down from 45%) plus 317.5 (down from 357.2) at max rank. Total damage increased by 10% (down from 11%) per each of your diseases on the target.
* Desecration has been reduced from Tier 7 to Tier 6 and reduced from 5 to 2 ranks. Now slows the target in the area by 25/50% and no longer increases damage.
* Unholy Blight now Causes the victims of your Death Coil to be surrounded by a vile swarm of unholy insects, taking 30% of the damage done by the Death Coil over 10 sec.
* Desolation (New Talent) – Your Blood Strikes cause you to deal 1/2/3/4/5% additional damage with all attacks for the next 20 sec.

Of all the currently announced changes in the upcoming patch, these are perhaps the most egregious to me. Yet another round of DK nerfs are inbound, with many of them directly attributable to Arena play. Some of them are fairly serious. I have yet to tank on my DK so I can’t speak with appreciable knowledge regarding the nerfs to IBF but I can speak to the changes to Desecration and Unholy Blight. The nerf to Desecration is one of the changes attributable to Arena whining and is just another example of how Arena play has impacted negatively the PVE game play of players who don’t Arena. In some instances the slowing effect of Desecration was nice when helping a kiter on mob fights, but the part I’m seriously going to miss about it is the 25% strength increase. That’s equates to a a direct DPS nerf. Combined with the change to Unholy Blight, which is being changed from an AOE damage ability to a single target dot (30% damage from a Death Coil over x seconds) will impact overall DPS on trash (don’t say it doesn’t matter) to an unknown quantity on single target fights.

The Unholy Blight change is being characterized as a means to “clean up” rotations, but I think it’s actually part of a larger attempt to make Blood more attractive. Blizzard has stated on a couple of previous conversations that they wanted to do that so take together with the buffs to Bloodstrike I think this is one attempt they are using to help that along. Unholy Blight can add up to anywhere from 10-14% of my overall damage on a group of mobs so it will definitely hurt me there, but it also forms a fairly constant and consistent amount of damage on bosses. What I don’t know is how much, if any the change, will ultimately add up to on boss fights. If a particular Death Coil hits a boss for 2k damage, the dot from Unholy Blight would add up to 600 damage over 10 seconds. Considering Unholy Blight would normally tick at anywhere from 200-600 or so per second previously this seems like another DPS nerf. If my thoughts hold true it might lead me to invest those points elsewhere instead so I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on the PTR for more information

I guess what really irks me is the larger context which all of this is being done. These changes are just the latest in a string of other changes since WotLK was released. A lot of which seem to be in answer to very loud and vocal
complaints on the official forums. While Blizzard has said they do not make changes based on forum posts, I am extremely skeptical of it. Constant negative feedback from forum posters being relayed to developers would probably change attitudes and assumptions over time. That’s just normal and I believe that is exactly what we’re seeing from Blizzard now and previously. And not just with the DK class either. Case in point is the incoming nerf to Frost Strike. I don’t see too many NPCs complaining about Frost Strike or Unholy Blight, or Desecration but see plenty of players complaining about them on the forum every day. And where are they seeing these abilities, but in the Arena?

It doesn’t help matters that the vast majority of those complaining on the forum haven’t the foggiest idea what they’re talking about either. Most of them are simple lemmings that are allowing their opinions to be swayed by other unknowledgeable players. They’re simply piling on and adding to the mess. We’ve seen it all before many times with Warlocks, Rogues, Warriors, Paladins, and others as well. When will people learn to study something before they spout off? When will people think for themselves and learn to think critically? Perhaps too much to ask from today’s culture.

Druid nerfs:
Only slightly less egregious than the DK changes, the Druid changes are outrageous. Especially because Blizzard came out and listed representation in Arenas as the leading factor in much of this. If you haven’t heard by now staple abilities of Resto druids like Innervate and Lifebloom are being changed. Why? Because they are too powerful in Arena play. Not in raiding, but Arena play. The spell coefficient and final bloom amount of Lifebloom are being changed negatively but the mana cost is remaining the same, meaning of course mana conservation in raiding will become a much bigger deal than it already is for Resto raiders. Added to this of course is the 20% nerf that is incoming for Replenishment. We were talking about it in raid last night and the healers are despondent over the changes. Can’t say I blame them.

Outside the Resto nerfs there are also a number of Feral nerfs. Apparently Cat DPS is too high, but lets be honest about this. Cat rotations are the most complicated of any class currently out there. The people that are driving these changes are the crème of the crop with the absolute best gear available. Average players can’t achieve those lofty numbers and the nerfs will ultimately affect them the most. It’s another example of unfair and backward development that I simply can’t understand.

Mana regen nerfs
Mentioned previously, but Blizzard believes that mana regen is still too trivial. I’ve spoken to Mage friends who say that the previous mana regen nerfs were completely uneffective, that they can still spam their attacks with no mana worries what so ever. Same goes for Hunters, Shadow Priests and others. But if you talk to a lot of healers this simply isn’t the case. Blizzard wants to make it so that Mana becomes an actual concern to them? They want overhealing to be a concern to them? Perhaps Blizzard hasn’t noticed but their stock UI sucks and there is no mechanism for healers to know overhealing is happening without mods. And the amount of damage that is typical of boss fights these days really doesn’t give healers enough time to worry about such things to begin with. On many boss fights they are constantly spamming their healing abilities on set targets and any hesitation on their part can and does result in wipes. Under that kind of environment what is Blizzard doing by trying to make it more complicated?

Healing is already the most difficult and strenuous part of raiding. Blizzard shouldn’t be making it even more difficult because doing that is definitely going to have a negative impact on raiding overall.

Emblem changes:
A lot of people are in favor of the announced changes to Emblems, but after some thought I have to land on the “not” part of the question. WotLK is only 7 months old and Blizzard already wants to streamline progression so that you can skip Naax and Ulduar and step immediately into the new upcoming raid?

If you don’t know what I am referring to let me elaborate. Blizzard is currently planning to phase out Emblems of Heroism and Emblems of Valor and replace them with Emblems of Conquest which currently drop in Ulduar-25, Ulduar-10 hard mode fights, and in VoA-25. Emblems of conquest would drop from every raid boss up to and including Argent Arena-10. Not only that, but also from every boss in Heroics as well. Which means that people can easily earn enough Emblems of Conquest to outfit their characters in 2 pieces of Tier 8.5 without ever having stepped foot in Ulduar-25 or VoA-25. It also means they could gear their characters in 4-piece tier 7.5 if they so chose.

It changes the dynamic of raiding in a fairly serious way and obviates months of progression raiding for a lot of people. In BC progression was linear from Kara to Gruuls/Mags to SSC/TK to MtH/BT. Later when Blizzard added ZA progression was changed somewhat to add ZA around the Gruul/Mags difficulty. No one questioned how raiding was expected to be done but Blizzard seems to be throwing the old linear pathways out on its head. Apparently they want people to immediately set into Heroics at 80 (already done to some extent) and then after a short stint there head strait into Ulduar-25 or the new Tier 9 raid. I don’t see the point of that because ultimately it leads to a bad place for the game. Boredom.

I think people simply want something to occupy their time. Ignoring the truly hardcore raiding guilds that tear through content (after rehearsing it on the PTR) and then openly complain that it was too easy, most people take weeks and months to completely clear a raid dungeon and put it on farm. Few guilds on most realms have completely cleared Ulduar at this point, let alone done any of the hard modes, so it seems to me to be better to allow people to progress through the current progression path and allow them to enter the upcoming raid dungeon when they are truly ready. Giving people a shortcut will either lead to boredom or tear people apart because they’re attempting to raid content they really aren’t prepared for.

As has been the case in the past there is a chance that not everything currently slated will come to pass, and of course there will be additional changes announced in the coming weeks. I’ll keep an eye out and comment when new information becomes available. In the interim I’m a little less excited about the patch than I was previously.

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