Balance: Looking Back and Looking Forward
We’re here today to talk to you a little while on our recent balance updates and our upcoming ones, so let’s get right into it.
Let’s talk a little about some of our recent changes. First, there have been many changes in the past few weeks to hunter pets. At first it was apparent hunter pets were a bit underwhelming after some scaling adjustments and a few pesky bugs which made their way through. Recently there have been some updates to some of the most popular pet damage increasing talents like Unleashed Fury, Ferocity and Frenzy, which you can read about in our changelog. These changes should help bring the power level of heavy pet investment builds to more acceptable levels while also giving those build types more room to invest into other areas like utility, sustain, or self-damage improvements. All that said, the state of these builds will be monitored to ensure their power level reaches our standards and will make make additional adjustments as needed.
Also, there has recently been some minor adjustments to improve the functionality of some talents and abilities, to help bring up the power level of some underperforming builds, and to bring down the power level of others. Lately Thunder Clap based builds, both the pure dps and 2H tank variants, have been over performing. So much that other tank builds have been falling behind, and so adjustments were made to bring down their damage to more acceptable levels. An important thing to account for in the power level of Thunder Clap specifically is the cleave it provides, which cannot be avoided, and the utility it offers with and AoE attack speed slow. Again, the state of this build archetype will continued to be monitored to ensure its performing to our standards, particularly in PvP.
Water Shield, Frostbrand Weapon, Improved Mind Blast, Cheap Shot, Shadow Protection and Dirty Deeds are a few of the talents and abilities in which have seen some improvements this past week to help them feel like they better fit their purpose or so they simply feel better to play with.
- Water Shield now has 5 charges baseline, up from 3.
- Frostbrand Weapon now grants Frost spell damage.
- Improved Mind Blast no longer requires you to be in Shadowform to trigger its healing reduction effect.
- Cheap Shot now costs 50 energy, down from 60.
- Shadow Protection now lasts 30 min and Prayer of Shadow Protection now lasts 60 min, up from 10 and 20 respectively.
- Dirty Deeds now also gives your Shadowstep a 50/100% chance to generate 30 energy when used.
Now let's see what’s planned for you in the near future regarding balance on Ascension.
For some time now we’ve seen a handful of casters become a prominent part of our PvP meta, while occupying varying positions in the PvE meta. In fact, many builds became outclassed by their caster counterparts as they were able to outsustain most other build variants while still being able to put out some of the highest amount of burst damage. There are some big changes coming to help shake up the PvP meta once again and to help properly adjust the power of casters in PvP and PvE.
Spell Mastery was originally introduced as a blanket fix for solving a few problems.
- Before Spell Mastery, engaging in PvP combat with a Shield equipped was the only way to go--you simply could not gain the same benefit from using an Off-Hand or even a second weapon as a caster.
- Staves had no place in the game and were objectively worse than other options: less stats, and players lost a Mystic Enchantment slot when using one.
- Casters used to be much weaker than their melee counterparts.
Once Spell Mastery was added the strength of casted spells revolved heavily around it--so much in fact that builds were determined by how much benefit they received from Spell Mastery. This meant the power of spells was coming from Spell Mastery rather than the spells themselves.
For that reason, we’re moving the power of Spell Mastery onto individual spells in the form of lower base casting speed, or damage increases. Here’s the specifics:
- Spell Mastery as a single 2 AE Ability is being removed.
- Damaging spells, and several utility spells, with a cast time are being individually changed with either a damage increase, or a lower base cast speed.
- Spells which require additional adjustments through PvP damage modifiers will be changed accordingly.
This change will allow for large scale rebalancing of casters in both PvE and PvP, and will let their strength come from their own combination of talents and spells, rather than relying on a custom, third party bandaid. Additionally, end game PvE content will have adjustments made to ensure these changes do not interfere with progression, and PvP adjustments will be made on a case by case basis to ensure the meta settles to a healthy spot.
Rather than relying on a general talent that affects all casters equally, players should see a lot more attention being given to the individual spells that comprise their build. These changes will help adjust builds that are over performing PvP, and improve the power of underperforming builds. Specs that rely on Shadow DoTs, which historically have overperformed in PvP but underperformed in PvE, are expected to fall in line in the new meta with power levels increasing in PvE, but decreasing in PvP. Other builds like Balance druid, which had issues going under the GCD with Wrath in PvE but had to deal with long Starfire casts in PvP, will come better to their own in both environments as well.
Individual spells weren’t the only problem which needed to be solved with the removal of Spell Mastery. We also had to find a way to still discourage all casters to run around with shields in PvP for massive Physical damage reduction, but also to ensure Off-Hands and Staves remained viable picks for casters instead of simply dual wielding weapons with enhancements. To solve this players will have a few new passive auras applied to them. First, players will have a global 10% reduction in all magical damage and healing while a shield is equipped. To address the innocent bystanders of this change, tanks, there will also be a baked in 15% total threat increase while wielding a shield. This will subsequently also make Sword and Board and Bear tank closer to on par with 2H tanks and also allow their threat to scale better through content to make the ever scaling dps. There will also be two more global auras as well, one for Staves and one for Off-Hands. While a Staff is equipped you will get a flat 6% damage and 4% healing increase and while and Off-Hand is equipped you will get a flat 4% damage and 2% healing increase. This should help offset the power lost by not dual-wielding and the additional power lost from the RE slot you have to forgo with using a Staff.
While our main objective at the moment remains to complete the changes regarding Spell Mastery, there are a small amount of additional things we are looking into as well. One of which is to close the gaps between our three most prominent tank builds: Bear, 2H, and Sword and Board. A bit of this work has been done already when he AP scaling and threat of Swipe was increased and when the threat and 2H scaling on Thunder Clap was reduced. Some of the things we are looking at changing as well are additional talents and REs used by tanks. Blademaster currently provides a bit more power proportionally on average to 2H tanks than to Sword and Board builds. We’re looking to increase the power of Sword and Board tanks to bring them more in line with 2H tanks. We’re also looking at lowering the amount of power provided by the Tactical Mastery talent to 2H tank builds. When the talent was originally reworked it needed to have a lot of power baked in to ensure 2H tanks would not only be viable, but to ensure they were appealing enough to play. Now that 2H tanks have established themselves as the premier PvE tank there is some room to wiggle in regards to its power. Bears have also seen several reduction in power levels over the course of Ascension release, and now find themselves at a point where they can’t quite compete in high end raids. We’re looking to increase the amount of dodge Bears have available to them to make up for some previous Agility nerfs and we’re also looking to bring back some mitigation which Bears have lost over the course of release.
And lastly, before our discussion comes to an end, there are a few other miscellaneous changes we’re looking at as time progresses. Stealth is something that has remained a major factor in high-risk PvP since the long ago time of beta. We have recently spent some time looking into some adjustments we can make to Stealth and its corresponding talents. We believe we have a solution which will move power into Stealth based talents so players looking to play Stealth based builds can improve their Stealth, and have it feel meaningful, when they invest into it. We’re also taking a look at the Spirit Dash RE and the power granted by caster weapon enhancements and their respective talents.
In conclusion, there are a lot of big changes happening on Ascension. We will continue to update you guys on our direction and philosophy when it comes to balance and we look forward to seeing you all on Season 3!