Changes to Game Mechanics in WotLK

Game mechanics are going to be changing in WotLK.  Everyone’s immediate response is usually panic.  Some changes may be for the better, and some for the worse, but if they go live, they won’t be game breaking.  A beta is a beta for a reason.

Remember (circa TBC-release) how much panic was involved when downranked spells no longer got the full benefit of bonus healing or bonus damage?  People thought that the game would be unplayable!  Look how wrong they turned out to be…

Here is a short list of mechanics changes that will affect us priests:

Change #1: Hello spellpower!

Instead of items having bonus healing, bonus damage, or school-specific bonus damage (such as +shadow damage), we will have one stat to cover all those values: spellpower. Spellpower will increase the amount our spells heal for, and increase the amount of damage they do.  One stat covers both.

Just to be clear, +heal will be gone from all gear, not just the new gear in WotLK, but everything: including the gear you have now. The same thing will happen with spell damage.

Spellpower will not affect healing and damage spells equally. If you have 2,000 spellpower, your healing spells will get a much greater percent of it than your damage spells.  The actual percentage will vary from spell-to-spell, and the amounts are still being balanced (it’s too early too list them).

About spellpower, from the WotLK beta patch notes:

Healing characters will see their bonus healing numbers on the character sheet decrease, however, all healing spells have been modified to receive more benefit from spellpower than they received from bonus healing, with a net effect of no change to the amount healed by their spells … The amount healed will remain roughly the same.

For classes which do not heal, they should see no change in the character sheet other than new tooltip wording. (Emphasis mine)

For those of you who are wondering how this new, singular “spellpower” stat compares to the +heal or +dmg you have now, it mostly follows this conversion:

(Spell damage) ~= (Spellpower)
(Healing) / 1.88 = (Spellpower)

The only major exception to this rule are items that are primarily healing items (higher bonus healing than bonus spell damage), but have both healing and spell damage listed on them.  The spell damage on those items is not equal to the spellpower in WotLK.  They are converted according to their bonus healing, not bonus damage.


Shard of the Virtuous

If you are a DPS caster with about 1,000 bonus damage now, in WotLK you will have close to the same amount (provided you are not wearing healing gear!).  If you are a healer with 2,500 bonus healing, in WotLK you should find yourself with about 1,330 spellpower (almost 1337!).  Your healing spells will heal for about the same.  Your damage spells will hit about as hard.  This isn’t intended to buff or nerf anything.  It is just to simply gearing choices in WotLK, especially for hybrid healing/caster classes.

The conversion of school-specific spell damage to spellpower is still being worked on.  We do not yet know what will happen with things like Ritssyn’s Lost Pendant.

Still confused about spellpower?  Siha @ has you covered. Check out her post on it for a more in depth explanation.

Change #2: Goodbye downranking!

This change is still being evaluated, but as things stand now, all spells will cost a set percentage of your base mana, regardless of which rank you use.  For example: Greater Heal rank 7 will cost the same as Greater Heal rank 1.  Greater Heal 7 will just heal for a lot more.

Thus sayeth Blizzard: downranking was never an intended mechanic:

In the latest WotLK beta push, we made a large change to the mana cost of spells. All player spells now cost a percentage of base mana rather than a fixed cost … This change was made primarily to prevent downranking, as it’s a technique that was never quite intended. Rather than continue to find ways to penalize players for casting low-rank spells, we decided to essentially make doing so obsolete.

So, each spell line (eg. Frostbolt, Shadowbolt, Greater Heal, Rejuvenation, etc.) has a fixed percentage of base mana that it costs for most of its ranks. That means each time a player gains a level the cost will go up some. The percentages were picked to attempt to keep the costs relatively similar to what they are currently in World of Warcraft … Level 70 characters will see most of their maximum rank spells change in cost slightly up or down, but not by significant amounts.

We anticipate there being some balance concerns due to this change, and our development staff will be ready to implement new spells, abilities, or talents to resolve those issues as the testing process continues.

Yes, this is a significant change, specifically for healing.  Fortunately for priests, the majority of our regen comes from cheating the 5-second rule, not from downranking. However, encounters where constant heal-spam is necessary (such as Brutallus) will be severely impacted by this change.

In WotLK, even before the removal of downranking was made, we knew that we would be spending more mana healing (it makes sense; the higher in level we are the costlier the spells).  We also know that our mana regen and mana pool would go up accordingly.  The burden is now placed on Blizzard to ensure that our mana regen will be increased enough to compensate for the removal of downranking.

In some ways, this change makes healing a little more brainless.  Part of the challenge (and, hence, fun) of healing for me was to tailor my spell ranks to the situations.  So, instead of GHeal7, GHeal5, GHeal1, etc., I will be pressing one button.  GHeal, GHeal, GHeal…. Bueller, Bueller, Bueller….. *zzzzzz*  Sure, I’ll still use Renew, PoM, etc., but a lot of the “challenge” will be removed.

Let us just take a minute to mourn the impending loss of downranked Holy Nova to unstealth enemy players or to kill those damn snake trap critters.  *Sniff* My warlock alt would also like to take a minute to mourn the loss of downranked Life Tap. May it rest in peace.

Change #3: Talent spec flexibility

Talent trees have become a lot more top heavy than they were in the past.  There are more good choices, and we are now able to exercise a wee bit of creativity when placing our talent points. Gone are the days of feeling pidgeonholed into certain talent choices for lack of better options.

The good news is that Blizzard is (still) planning on allowing us to have two different talent specs that we can switch between as desired (without respec costs!).

It was announced at the Worldwide Invitational and confirmed on the forums:

We talked about this recently at the Worldwide Invitational actually. We are looking into allowing players to basically have two talent specs that they can switch between but we are still working out the exact details so we will have to wait and see exactly how it will function in-game.

Now, this feature hasn’t been implemented into the beta yet, but I am eagerly awaiting its arrival. Multiple talent specs can benefit everyone.  You can have a PvE spec and a PvP spec, or one for healing, one for DPS.

There have been no announced plans of talent respec costs being increased in WotLK, though it wouldn’t surprise me if it happened.

Change #4: The last broken mechanic … now less broken

In my opinion, spell pushback is the last broken game mechanic in WoW.  What is spell pushback? Whenever a damaging spell or ability hits you while you are casting, the casting time of your spell will be delayed by a given amount, lengthening the casting time. There is no melee equivalent, and it is imposed unequally amongst the casting classes (some have talents to reduce it, others do not). What if every time a melee character dodged or parried something their swing timer was delayed?  Imagine the outcry!

The bad news is that spell pushback isn’t going away.  The good news is that it is being capped.

Added to the WotLK beta patch notes:

Spell casting and spell channeling pushback has been changed to the following:

  • When casting a spell:
    • The first and second hit will add .5 secs each to the cast time.
    • All hits after the second will have no effect.
  • When channeling a spell:
    • The first and second hit reduces current duration by 25% of total duration each.
    • All hits after the second will have no effect.

This change isn’t very intuitive.  If you have talents or other abilities that reduce the chance that you experience spell pushback while casting (such as Improved Shadowform), then you could still have up to 2 “pushback hits.” So, even if your talent prevents one, there is still a chance it could happen later in the spell. There never will be more than 2.

According to Blizzard:

If you avoid pushback from the first two hits there is still a chance pushback will occur. This change is simply a guarantee that you will not get pushback more than twice during any cast or channeled spell.

With this being said, the existing talents (such as fel concentration for Warlocks) that increase the chances a player will resist pushback are in the process of being reworked in light of this change. We’ll provide more information on this as development progresses.

The way spell pushback currently functions on the live servers, the first hit adds 1 second to the casting time of your spell. The second attack adds another 0.8 seconds.  Third is 0.6 seconds.  Fourth: 0.4 seconds.  Fifth, and any others, are 0.2 seconds each.

This WotLK change to the mechanic would give us just a 0.5 second addition for the first hit, and 0.5 for the second, and nothing for any hits beyond that.  Comparatively, this is a huge improvement!

Channeled spells are a bit of a different story.  Currently, pushback time is simply deducted from the channel time, eating up precious damage ticks from Mind Flay (so if you have been hit twice and have 1.8 seconds of pushback on your Mind Flay, the channel will only last 1.2 seconds, and will only do one tick of damage).  In WotLK, channeled spells will never lose more than 50% of their channel time.

Us priests will see more channeled spells in WotLK, including a level 80 shadow AoE spell (called “Mind Sear“).  Having a guarantee that a channeled spell will have some effect is better than nothing.  There have been times when I have seen Mind Flay do nothing from too much spell pushback (three hits in its first second of channeling and Mind Flay will have zero effect, as it stands now).  In WotLK, Mind Flay is guaranteed at least one tick due to the new spell pushback mechanics.

There is no word yet as to how talents like Improved Shadowform may change in light of the new workings of spell pushback.

Change #5: Drinking problem, be gone!

If anyone knows drinking, it’s us dwarves.  There have been some raids where I have been chain-chugging mana potions like there is no tomorrow.  Would I say that I have a problem with drinking?  Well, no.  Maybe with raiding…

In WotLK, you will only be able to drink one potion per encounter or attempt.  After chugging one, you get a debuff called “Potion Sickness,” which reads:

Unable to consume potions until you rest out of combat for a short duration.

So, until you leave combat, the debuff will not go away and you cannot have another potion.  You get one potion and one potion only!

To mana abusers, this may seem like too little, but in WotLK there have been some significant changes to where we get our mana.  Most classes have been given better regen talents or have had pre-existing talents reworked for increased benefits (like Spirit Tap).  There is a much greater ability for each class to regen a significant portion of their own mana.

As an added bonus in raids, many buffs are being changed to affect the whole raid, and not just a given group.  There has been some discussion about whether or not Vampiric Touch will become raid-wide or stay as a group buff:

Making VT raidwide is a possibility, but yes it would mean the value of multiple Shadow Priests in a raid is somewhat diminished. In a lot of ways we’re okay with that (you shouldn’t *have* to have multiple specs of one class in a raid), but there are a lot of other side effects we’re not sure about right now.

Other classes have been given nice mana regen tools for groups/raids as well, such as frost mages.  Fortunately, we have many options in this regard.

8 Responses

  1. Very nice summary! =)

    I’m pretty happy with all changes across the board. Even the removal of downranking. I can see that you could see it as a significant reduction in complexity but with this extra bit out of the way, Blizzard may come around to include other ways to make healing more complex and demanding.

    Personally I have to admit that I almost always used my max ranked healing spells on any encounter. If you need a lot of hps, go for Greater Heal, if not throw a Renew and start stopcasing Greater Heals. It’s already working this way and using lower ranks of Greater Heal to adapt was just another way to do it. Imho, of course. ;-)

  2. No mention of the universal hit/crit/haste ratings?
    For shame!
    Well, not really, in fact; love your work!

  3. Hmph… I took up alchemy specifically for the Alchemist’s Stone and the ability to churn out my own mana pots and stuff. Now I don’t see the point in either.. ok I can still make elixirs and flasks but meh discoveries have still not given me any flasks useful for myself.

    Saying that the other changes are fine. Really hope they do implement the dual spec thing.. as someone who currently only has one level 70, being able to swap between a healing spec and a shadow spec would make grinding soooo much easier.

  4. While I am pleased about the change to spell pushback, the fact that they’re removing the incentive to downranking dismays me. I consider myself to be pretty good at downranking, and selecting just the right healing spell to cast, and this is usually reflected in an essentially infinite mana pool.

    Being able to downrank efficiently is, in my opinion, the mark of a good priest. Getting rid of downranking will get rid of that skill edge. They’re leveling the field skill-wise not by making it easier for beginners to learn but by taking away the tools that make a skilled healer skilled.

  5. […] more heals than what you’d expect from that number.  Dwarf Priest is saying it’s about 1.88 heals per 1 spellpower right now. It is supposed to work out to be about the same as it was.  But I haven’t had a […]

  6. I’ve seen plenty of alchemists complaining about the change to pots. I’d just like say that there is still a huge benefit to alchemy, Mixology. I can’t remember the exact percentage, but you get % bonus to potions, elixirs and flasks that you can make. And it’s a passive ability. Alchemy is still really strong.

    Great Read as always. I too am saddened as downranking added more flavor to the healing game

  7. […] I am one of those spirit loving priests, so for now no changes to Outfitter.2 1. A Dwarf Priest yesterday. 2. Provided they don’t change the Spirit based mana regeneration […]

  8. I too enjoyed down ranking spells, and it did add an edge to healing… However I also see their point. Once a priests gear gets so good it would lose the skill element and become a case of spamming a low rank to maintain that infinite mana pool.

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