Periodically, I will select a World of Warcraft game myth or rumor to be put to the test (a la snopes.com). Its veracity will be determined through empirical, experimental, and/or historical research.
Each myth presented will ultimately be categorized as either: TRUE, POSSIBLE, FALSE, or INCONCLUSIVE depending on the results of the research. Myths deemed “POSSIBLE” will be qualified with the necessary conditions under which they could be TRUE. Anything unproven by my research will be labeled “INCONCLUSIVE.” True things will be categorized as TRUE, and false things as FALSE.
Priests are the most nerfed class in World of Warcraft.
Every patch, the official forums are filled with a multitude of threads whining about class nerfs and threats of quitting the game over them. This behavior is not something limited to the priest class, of course. Complaints are posted in every class’s forums.
The priest class has undergone some substantial changes since the onset of The Burning Crusade. Many abilities have been scaled back and too many buffs have been wasted on infrequently used abilities (such as Lightwell). Again, while large nerfs and minor buffs are not a concept limited to the priest class exclusively, it does not stop players on the priest forum from theorizing about why: 1) Blizzard hates priests, 2) Blizzard ignores priests, and 3) Blizzard nerfs priests the most.
But does Blizzard actually nerf priests the most? Which class is the most nerfed?
Testing the Myth:
Measuring just how much a class has been nerfed proves challenging. There is no definitive measure in which we could compare class buffs and nerfs in a qualitative manner. Quantitatively speaking, however, we have a shot. What we would have to do is scour patch notes and tally buffs and nerfs.
Big disclaimer: This is, at the most fundamental level, just a count of buffs, nerfs, and other class changes appearing in patch notes. There are no measures of just how much of an effect each change had, as it would be nearly impossible to create an uncontested criteria to measure the impact of each change on each spec of each class. If you have any problems with this fact, or do not understand that this is a quantitative analysis and not a qualitative one, then stop reading right here. This article isn’t for you.
As a starting point, I referenced Madness Lab’s list of class changes. It has all the class-specific patch notes separated out by class and categorized as either:
- Bug Fixes
- New Features
Some of the coding of the patch notes I disagreed with. It also hadn’t been updated since the onset of TBC. I just used their categorization as a launch point.
I decided to simplify the categories a bit:
- Buffs – Anything that gives a direct benefit to the class and is not a bug fix. Also, any new features to the class.
- Nerfs – Anything that adversely affects the class and is not a bug fix.
- Changes – Neutral changes and bug fixes.
- Overhauls * – Situations where the class was changed so significantly that talent points were refunded.
* Each class ended up with one class review counting as an Overhaul and each class was refunded talent points immediately before TBC. As every class ended up with exactly two Overhauls by this measure, this category was ignored. Individual changes mentioned in the patch notes during Overhauls were inventoried and tallied, but the count of Overhauls themselves is irrelevant (since equal for all classes).
So, I have three categories: Buffs, Nerfs, and Changes. I went through every single set of patch notes to live servers from the launch of World of Warcraft all the way up through patch 2.4.3. I only counted class changes from the notes themselves, not undocumented changes (as there exists no 100% reliable reference of all of them).
Here is a rough idea of the rubric used to categorize the patch notes:
- Mana/rage/energy cost of a spell/ability reduced
- Casting time or GCD time reduced
- Spell/ability damage increased
- Spell/ability cooldown removed or decreased
- New spell/ability or talent
- Lowered the level necessary to learn a spell/ability
- Mana/rage/energy cost of a spell/ability increased
- Casting time increased
- Spell/ability damage reduced
- Spell/ability cooldown increased
- Spell/ability/buff can now be negated or removed by other players
- Spell/ability given diminishing returns
- New icon
- Bug fix
- Clarified or changed tooltip (without changing the spell/ability itself)
The majority of the class information in the patch notes fell into the “Changes” category as there was a fair number of things listed as “bug fixes.”
The summative data for each class is as follows:
Broken down by pre-TBC (prior to the January 16, 2007 launch of The Burning Crusade), TBC (after launch), and totals. It is interesting to see the difference in the amount of attention some classes received before and after TBC (such as warlocks).
- Most buffs: Warlocks (53)
- Most nerfs: Warriors (17)
- Most buffs: Paladins (30)
- Most nerfs: Priests (17)
- Most buffs: Druids (78)
- Most nerfs: Priests (29)
Well, by sheer count of number of nerfs only, the priest class has received the most.
If we want to simplify this even more, we can give each class 1 point for each buff, and subtract a point for each nerf (with the changes equal to 0 points). So, buffs, nerfs, and changes you could think of as a +1, -1, and +0, respectively. Summing these could give us an idea of total net effect of the class developments over time.
Score = (1 x Buffs) – (1 x Nerf) + (0 x Changes)
Druids end up with the highest score (meaning, a high amount of buffs compared to their nerfs) whereas priests are the lowest (high amount of nerfs compared to number of buffs).
Lastly, another thing worth mentioning is just how many times a class has come up in patch notes. We’ve all seen players complain about their class being overlooked by Blizzard. Has anyone been skimped over in the patch notes?
Sum = Buffs + Nerfs + Changes
Warlocks received the highest number of total changes in the patch notes, and, quite surprisingly, rogues were the lowest.
This myth that priests are the most nerfed class is within the realm of possibility! One could argue that this myth is in fact true based on the total number of nerfs that have been listed in patch notes or the total number of nerfs that they have received in comparison to the number of buffs.
However, I cannot justifiably say that this quantitative analysis is proof positive of priests being the most nerfed class (hence, why the verdict is “possible” and not outright “true”). Since the size and scope of each buff and nerf is not being measured, but merely tallied, my results are not truly comprehensive nor conclusive.
What is a buff anyways? What is a nerf? It can be argued that a buff is a change made to bring the class up to where the developers meant it to be, implying that it was underperforming in that given regard. A nerf means the class could have been overperforming. Druids and warlocks received a lot of buffs pre-TBC, and if you can remember what those classes were right after the launch of Warcraft, you can understand just why they received so many adjustments.
While priests may be, by a simple quantitative measure of the patch notes, the class that has received the most nerfs, they are not necessarily the weakest class. Remember, Blizzard is constantly making adjustments to the balance between classes and nerfs are never worth cancelling your account over.
This is just one part of a series that I am doing on “Mythbusting in World of Warcraft.” Feel free to drop me a line if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, or read more about other myths that have been tested.