More WotLK Impressions…

Raid Spaces

With the introduction of another class into WotLK and raids not getting any larger in size, what effect do we expect on the competition for raid slots?

Ten classes.  In a 25-person raid, that is 2-3 of each class.  In a 10-person raid, is there the expectation that a “balanced” raid is one of every class, or are raid roles not balanced around 10-person raids?  The later seems more likely. We should see a bit more flexibility in terms of class raid slotting in Wrath.

Ghostcrawler said on the WotLK forums a few days ago: (Emphasis mine.)

As I am fond of pointing out, we have 25 raid slots and 30 specs. Over the next few weeks, we are going to take a really hard look at raid buffs and debuffs. We are going to combine some when we can and give different specs alternate ways of providing the same debuff. As an example, shadow priests, ret paladins or survival hunters should all be valid mana batteries. As another example, Ebon Plague may offer the same effect as Curse of Elements (and neither will stack). You’ll want someone to bring the debuff, but you may not need both debuffers in one raid.

The classes that are the hardest to solve are the paladin, shaman and druid (and possibly priest) because the three specs bring such different abilities to the group. But we still would like to solve this problem. It’s not fair that every raid have 3 druids and 1-2 rogues (or 1 druid and 0 rogues if you’re talking 10-player raids).

Fundamentally, I agree with Ghostcrawler.  Why should raids have three different druids who bring three unique things to a raid, but only one rogue?  It’s disproportionate and doesn’t make sense.  However, the “unique snowflake” shadow priest in me waffles at the thought of other classes being able to provide the same debuffs we do.  If other classes bring mana regen, then fine, but the only things keeping us as desirable raid DPS at the moment are the Misery and Shadow Weaving debuffs we provide.  Without those, shadow priests would stand as generic, middle-of-the-pack DPS, especially if those debuffs are given to a more “popular” “pure DPS” class, like hunters.  Hopefully, that will not be the case, and shadow priests can remain in their support role.

Perhaps this is why the priest class hasn’t seen many changes in the WotLK beta thus far.  The balancing and polish phase for our class may have to come later when the raid buffs/debuffs situation is more finalized.

It is still too early to tell how competition for raid slots will change.  Death Knights will bring more tank and DPS options, and many of the changes to our existing classes will allow many previously undervalued talent specs more raid love (mostly in the DPS division). All that being said, I am glad I have four healing-capable characters going into WotLK; I expect they will be in high demand for raids, as always.

Shadow Priests

Beyond the concern over raid debuffs mentioned above, I have seen much concern over the continued PvE viability of shadow priests in WotLK.

Mana regen is a often cited concern.  Vampiric Touch, as it exists now, will return 5% of shadow damage done as mana.  In WotLK, that becomes 2%.  It seems like a big nerf, but at high levels it really isn’t.  If Vampiric Touch remained at 5%, shadow priests would be gaining mana faster than they could spend it, never running out. With Vampiric Touch reduced, Blizzard may feel comfortable increasing our damage-dealing capabilities.  It feels that part of the reason why shadow priests scaled so poorly damage-wise in T6+ content was to keep a reasonable limit on group mana regen.  With VT scaled back to 2%, perhaps our overall damage could be increased a little bit?

In a general sense, mana regen methods are changing in WotLK.  For DPS classes, there is a greater focus on personal mana regen and less dependence on other classes to regen mana for you.  Look at the proposed shadow talent tree.  There are many more options to increase one’s own regen, more than enough to offset the limitations on mana potions in WotLK.  Mana should not be a concern.

Overall DPS, however, should be a concern.  Shadow priests, as things look now, aren’t scaling terribly well damage-wise in WotLK.  They are not scaling poorly, either.  They remain in that iffy domain.  This is something that I hope will be examined further by Blizzard.  Perhaps an adjustment to spell coefficients is coming our way?

The truth is that no one really knows how balanced things will be at level 80.  Nothing appears to be balanced for level 80 endgame yet.  It is still too early to panic.

Healing as a Priest

I still don’t dig deep disc for healing.  As things stand for priests now, it is very lacking in throughput.  Yes, I can see its potential benefit in 25-person raids, but I am still on the fence on whether or not I would slot for it over another healer.  Sure, preventative damage is great, but I feel that one of the best benefits of playing a priest over another kind of healer is the variety of healing spells at one’s disposal.   You stop using most of those and become a shield-bot?  *Yawn*  Not my cup of tea.  But … that is going to be one of the drawing points of WotLK for many people.  The supposed viability of any talent tree for raiding.  Now we all can be our own special snowflakes!  In raids!  Hooray?

When it comes to deep disc vs. deep holy, I look at it this way:

From this list, you can have two of the four things:

  1. Circle of Healing and all CoH-improving talents
  2. All Greater Heal-related holy talents
  3. Imp Divine Spirit
  4. Grace/Divine Aegis

Selecting #1 or #2 as either or your choices, you get the bonus of being able to also have Improved Holy Concentration, which is a tremendous benefit.  One sixth of your Greater Heals (and Flash Heal/Binding Heals) will proc Holy Concentration.  The added haste benefit from it, when stacked with a moderate amount of haste from gear, can have you shooting off Greater Heals in under 1 second. (Though selecting 1/2 of #1, 1/2 of #2, you can still get Imp DS and the Imp Holy Concentration bonus.  You can still go 23/48/0. I’m just generalizing to illustrate a point.) IMHO, you give up too much by going deep disc for raid healing over deep holy.

It dawned on me earlier today that while deep disc may have potential in PvE, deep holy could have potential in PvP.  Blessed Resilience remains solid, and Improved Holy Concentration with with its haste benefits could be a strong contender.  Guardian Spirit could be a godsend (yes, a bad pun!).  Deep holy could provide an interesting PvP alternative to stonewalling with a shield.

Generally speaking, the raw healing output of priests still seems lacking, especially when compared to the other healing classes.  Again, we haven’t undergone any major revisions in the beta yet, but the recent lifting of the cooldown on Circle of Healing feels a definite step in the right direction.

Achievements

I think of the achievement system as “Dailies 2.0.”  They feel like a cheap attempt to entice me to spend a few more minutes here and there grinding away my time toward little end.  We don’t know what we will get out of our achievement points yet, but thus far the system seems a bit pointless to me.  Most achievements are obtained by playing as normal (Level a character to 80! Explore all the zones! Use the haircut system, zomg!).

I would rather that the content and zones were so engaging that a gimmick wasn’t needed to force my exploration and adventures in them.  That was something Blizzard did so well in the initial release of WoW. They made a game that I wanted to explore, and that I wanted to discover hidden treasures in.  I wanted to get a cross-faction mount, to gain reputation with little-loved factions, and wanted to kill that tough endboss in the raid.  I don’t need to be patted on the head and told that I did a good job for every little thing. I want to feel good about my accomplishments because they matter to me personally, and help better my character.  Setting and achieving ones own goals is much more rewarding than living up to another’s arbitrary standards.

(Side note: Octale and Hordak vs. the World’s podcast on Wowradio last week had a great rant about the achievement system.  Check it out if you are so inclined to hear another great viewpoint about the achievement system’s shortcomings).

Northern Beauty

On a positive note, visually-speaking, WotLK is absolutely stunning.  Zones feel immersive, with rich color themes (especially nice that Northrend isn’t one big frozen white desert).  Character models on mobs are more detailed than ever before.  The architecture worthy of marvel.  Even the new weapons and armor have fine details that rewarding you for examining them closely.  It really is a visual treat.

Falling … Short

Remember when you saw Zangarmarsh’s mushrooms of epic proportions for the first time? You felt so small standing the among the Bog Lords in the Spawn Glen.  Well, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Apparently, the more epic the zone, the larger the mobs and architecture.    In Northrend, everything is large.  This isn’t just my dwarven-self ranting about height inequities, even draenei are outsized by the most common of foes.  Things can feel epic without all being oversized.  Clearly Northrend must be serious business because everything is huge!

The Big Push for More Players

Blizzard had obviously stepped up their recruiting efforts (hey, for about $50 you can have your very own  zerbra zhevra mount!).  At first I thought this recruiting wave an effort to keep the servers topped off and warm bodies in the lowbie zones, but wouldn’t too many new recruits mean more servers instead of fuller zones?  Let me rephrase, even on a “full” server, I can go quite awhile before encountering other players in  Azeroth zones.  With WotLK, players will be spread even thinner, across more content.

So the question remains, how is Blizzard going to keep people in the low zones?  If I decide to reroll a character to fill a spot in a level 80 raid, just how lonely, tedious, and lengthy an endeavor would I be taking on?

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