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Friday, November 11, 2011

Explanation of 4.3 Balance Changes, Part Two

 Originally post by Blizzard Entertainment
Don’t take this as an announcement that the release of patch 4.3 is imminent. While we have completed a lot of work, it’s just hard to know at this stage when the patch will be ready. Nothing is set in stone until the actual patch, and even then we still have the ability to hotfix any major problems that we missed or caused.

First, here is the link to Part One of our balance explanations. We’ll discuss additional changes below.

In particular, you may want to pay attention to my comments about rates of change. While we do overhaul mechanics when we think it’s warranted, we try to save as many of those as possible for expansions. As exhilarating as it can be for players who log in regularly to suddenly be able to look at a talent or spell in a different light, it can also be frustrating for players who maybe took a break in between patch 4.2 and 4.3 to have to relearn rotations or re-gem their character. In particular, we try to be really conservative when buffing spec B of a class upwards to compete with spec A of the same class. We have gotten it wrong before, and forced a large number of players to swap specs. Ideally we want you to play the spec you enjoy the most and not the one that does the highest DPS, but asking you to continually swap specs to achieve that highest DPS is an unreasonable thing for us to ask.

Mortal Strike (and similar debuffs)
We dropped the healing debuff from 50% to 10% some time ago, but were convinced at 10% that it was hard to appreciate the effect at all. We want to try Mortal Strike et al. at 25% to see if it feels useful but not mandatory. If 25% is too much and 10% is too little, then it may mean the entire mechanic may not have much of a future. We decided to only change the debuff for the warrior, rogue, and hunter, restoring the original relationship between “strong” and “weak” MS that we had in Lich King.

Death Knight
We decided not to prevent or discourage block capping for paladins and warriors, because it would have required several corresponding changes to compensate for such severe nerfs and the risk of getting things wrong or asking players to change gear was just too great. Instead, we decided to buff DK and druid tanks to improve their ability to handle streaks of bad luck. In the DK’s case, we increased the armor bonus of Blood Presence.

As mentioned above, we increased the Stamina bonus of bear form in order to reduce the chance of tanks being killed too quickly by bad luck. We also changed the armor bonus for bears at lower levels by removing the mechanic that mimicked the warrior and paladin transition from mail to plate. Bears were having difficulty surviving in low-level dungeons, which honestly we don’t want to be that challenging. The armor change should not affect end-game tank balance. We changed the Glyph of Shred so that Feral druids wouldn’t need to vary their rotation in situations where they could not Shred (such as on Ultraxion). We changed the pushback on Cyclone because we decided that it was appropriate for DPS casters to not have pushback protection on heals, and for healers to not have pushback protection on nukes, but that utility spells should be protected for both roles. This will be a small PvP buff for caster druids.

We provided a modest DPS buff for Beast Mastery and Survival hunters to help them catch up with the Marksman spec. As I mentioned above, we wouldn’t consider it a success if we made every Marks hunter respec to Survival, so our intent is to get close without going over. BM also suffers from a lack of AE damage, so we increased the damage of two of their AE pets.

We offered some buffs to Fire mages to help them compete with Arcane. Frost is viable in PvE, but at high-end raiding we understand that its damage isn’t perceived as comparable to Arcane or Fire. The problem is that Frost has a lot of control and survivability, and if their damage were also identical, there would be no reason to choose Arcane or Fire. Note that the 5.0 talent design is partially to fix this specific problem, where specs have either higher DPS or higher utility.

We continued to adjust Holy Radiance for its new 4.3 design. We want paladins to be a viable group healer without suddenly becoming far and away the best AE healer. We also want Holy paladins to continue to care about Holy Power and Light of Dawn and not revert to just spamming Holy Radiance. We changed Beacon of Light largely because it was unclear which mechanics were supposed to cause the Beacon transfer. This is a change from our previous design, which allowed Protector of the Innocent and other forms of healing to benefit from Beacon. We want Beacon of Light to remain a powerful spell, and it will be even with these changes, but putting slightly less focus on Beacon will allow paladins to still shine in situations where Beacon isn’t operating at its maximum effectiveness. For Retribution, as we suggested previously, we lowered the crit chance of Hammer of Wrath to reduce burst but increased sustained damage through Two-Handed Specialization and Seal of Truth.

Most of our Holy adjustments were discussed in Part One, but we did buff Guardian Spirit to make it more competitive with Pain Suppression. The Shadowform glyph was strictly a quality of life improvement requested by several Shadow priests.

We have slightly unnerfed the initial Wind Shear nerf, but we still want it to be much harder for a healer spec to have such a potent interrupt. Wind Shear (originally Earth Shock) was balanced in the hands of a Resto shaman as a tool for coping with enemy casters in the absence of a magic dispel.  While a priest could remove an ally’s Polymorph, the shaman’s only recourse was to prevent it from ever landing in the first place.  But in a world where Resto shaman gained the ability to remove magic debuffs, the net result was too potent. We nerfed Elemental’s tier 12 set bonus because it was so powerful that shaman risked passing over their tier 13 set bonus. We increased the passive benefit of Shamanism and Fire Elemental scaling to help compensate for this nerf. There are many other shaman changes discussed in Part One.

We increased Demonology and Destruction’s DPS to be more competitive with Affliction, and increased the duration on Improved Soul Fire to make that buff a bit easier to manage. We also fixed a long-standing bug that caused the Doomguard to do too much damage, so Demo’s buff also needed to offset that.

We believe we have fixed “charge jumping,” where a target who jumped ended up in a different location from the warrior. The warrior should now end up next to the target. We needed to nerf Fury’s DPS slightly to keep them from being ahead of other melee DPS.

Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street is the lead systems designer for World of Warcraft. His first hunter pet was a crab named Sushi.