Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Patch 5.0.5 - Not about priests this time

I remember my initial thought when I read about the new talent changes was something along the lines of "wee, new changes to get comfortable with, it's going to be totally fun trying to figure out how to heal again". My second thought, when I remembered the amount of alts I tend to play on a regular basis was "omg, new changes to get comfortable with, I am going to suck ass for ages".

I normally enjoy changes like these ones in WoW, I think a game that has been around for so long needs to revamp itself every now and then. Because of this I haven't really minded any of the bigger changes made, whether it was introducing new stats like heal power and spell power, turning heal power into spell power, making intellect count as spell power, mana and crit (and some other things) and then fixing the mana pools. It's all totally ok with me as long as everyone is playing by the same rules. So what if we have fixed mana pools now? I don't mind, since every caster has to abide by that same rule.

But change means re-learning, at least to some extent. And every big overhaul means I need to check and re-understand (if that's a word) every alt I happen to play (and they are many). That is time I don't always have the motivation to put into the game straight away, and an alt I don't play very often can easily be completely forgotten for another one during times like these. This time around my recently dinged level 85 paladin has gotten the temporary ignore button. I was already losing interest in her simply because she is freshly dinged right before a new expansion, and gearing her up felt kind of pointless at this time. But for some reason, the mere thought of having to re-learn holydin made me want to go back to prot, don't ask me why. We'll see about that.

I have checked out a couple of other alts however, all of which are not max-leveled should be noted and I have noticed one thing, the amount of change has varied quite a lot from class to class. Healing priests for instance have not changed overly much, while a class like warlock has changed completely. I'm wondering if this is due to me being the most comfortable with the priest class, making any change less of an obstacle to be than it is on a class like warlock, that I understand and master a lot less, I don't know. Here are some thoughts on the changes made to a couple of classes.

My first thought logging in to and trying to tank on my warrior was "oh lord, they have ruined my rotation, how will I ever be able to tank again?". Of course I hadn't really looked anything up, but just jumped straight into an lfd hoping for the best. Things got really confusing when I was lacking Rend and using Cleave soaked up all my hard earned rage. And what is this, most of my skills don't even use rage anymore? HOW OP IS THAT?! I don't know about dps warriors, but for a prot warrior I love this change. Rather than having almost every skill use rage, only a couple of key skills like Shield Block and Enraged Regeneration (if you have that talent) use rage. This means a lot of things. First of all, it removes that horrible moment 22 warriors were suffering from that occurred when someone pulled a pack of mob and you needed rage to get aggro but without aggro you got no rage. Even Challenging Shout required rage! Admittedly, with some practice you knew how to solve those situations without too much trouble, but it did turn into chaos-fest every now and then, especially when every dps in the group decided to dps a different target. Now I can Devastate something in the face at any time and I can see this making tanking a lot easier for newbie tanks.

Lightning bitches!
So they removed Rend and pretty much Cleave for me. My old rotation used to be; charge in, Rend and Cleave at the same time and Thunderclap. Worked like a charm, spreading Rend around the group for that extra aoe damage. Now we've got Deep Wounds baseline instead to replace Rend, triggering off of any of your damaging skills. Cleave is one of the few skills that use rage, and because of this I tend not to use it at all since I prefer to use my rage on damage reducing cooldowns such as Shield Block. I like this change though, giving me a real and important choice between using rage on dps or damage reduction.

One part of me thinks they might've oversimplified warrior tanking a little too much, removing a lot of fun skills I enjoyed using in my regular rotation, but on the other hand I am glad they've finally made mitigation vs damage a real choice for us not just while choosing gear, but also while fighting. And now I can Bladestorm while tanking, how awesome is that! (I will go for Shockwave however, but Bladestorm is tempting just for the lulz).

I've had a very on and off relationship with warlocking, going from having mained one briefly in BC (!) to pretty much not looking at it all through Cata. I love the complexity of warlock in BC, lost interest in Wrath when I thought they were too much like mages (ignoring the fact they have pets, shapeshifts and shitloads of cc) and when I tried it again in Cata I found what looked like an sb-spamming spec (demo) and what probably is the most complex rotation I have ever tried to master (destro). I slowly found my way back to warlocking, but it was definitely not one of my favorite alts.

Having played destro the last couple of months (mostly because I thought the other two specs were so boring), I was shocked at the level of change that it had gone through in 5.0.4. Umm, where are my dots? Where is the rotation from hell? My first impression was that destro had just lost two thirds of its skills, but remember that I am playing a lowbie warlock and that a lot of good stuff good just be lying around the corner. At the disappointment of the changes made to destro (which basically meant spamming a dreadfully slow shadow bolt and some chaos bolt) I decided to try out demo - hopefully it would've undergone as much change and hopefully for the better. All I can say is

EHRMAGEHRD METAMERPHERSERHS! That's metamorphosis for you who have trouble reading that. It's like Blizzard just had an epiphany and realized that people play demonology because they want to be really cool looking demons (which totally is the case) and made it possible to be in metamorphosis like all the f*cking time! Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

After the initial glee had settled down and I was getting kind of bored of just going into metamorphosis, press Hellfire and sit back and wait, I decided to actually see if I could understand what this new change was all about (except looking really cool and doing aoe all the time). Of course Metamorphosis (which I hate spelling btw) is supposed to be some sort of powerful cooldown, but it does limit your choice in spells which means you have to think about when to use it. You can't just press the button and expect to do awesome damage, as far as I've understood it you need to alternate between forms to get the most out of it. If that is the case, I definitely love the idea. Unfortunately I don't really have the opportunity to test it to the max just doing lowbie instances (where your ability to aoe is what is really valued). Because of this I am curious about re-testing destro again and see if I can figure out how to play that, I feel I didn't really give it a proper chance the first time around. (If you're curious I'm not seeing affliction as an option it's simply because I've never liked that spec). (Ever.)

Another "ehrmagehrd" is really in place here, but I feel like one per post is probably one too many. Suffice to say, I feel like a flame wielding murder machine on my fire mage and I am completely loving it. Fire has always been my preferred spec on mage. I probably don't have to explain why I don't like arcane (hint, it's always been extremely boring) and although I've never had a problem with frost I just felt like there was a little more oomph in fire (not just damage wise, but visually and esthetically as well).

Fire has had many problems however, being heavily reliant on gear and sometimes what felt like pure damn luck. I could easily sway between awesome dps and shit dps just based on my crit streak, and my frustration would follow suite. Fire mage was so good when it was good and so bad when it was bad. Blizzard have realized this and basically, but not completely, given you control over your own Hot Streaks (that is the magic we need for firey mayhem fun) in a way I think is genius. By giving us a skill that is guaranteed to crit, we're able to get that double crit streak as soon as we get at least crit, simply by using our crit-skill, allowing us to fling out the rest of the arsenal (ie Pyroblast and Combustion). Oh and Combustion is on a way lower cooldown, making it more of a part of our rotation than just that extra bang every now and then. But our crit-skill is also used to spread our dots onto other targets, and with a cooldown on it we need to really think about when and how to use it. To get the most dps out of my fire mage now means having fast thinking and fast reflexes and I am loving it. When my dps goes down the drain I don't feel like I can blame anyone but myself, and the rotation and skill usage is just complex enough to feel rewarding when I get it right and motivate me to get better when I get it wrong. I am totally loving it.

So, what happened to my totems? (I wanted to write "Dude, where's my totems?" but I just couldn't) I was pretty bummed when I noticed that the majority of them were gone, but after having calmed down over that fact I realized that I never was a huge fan of totems in all honesty. I've probably had pretty much the same thoughts about them as the rest of the shaman community - they have so much potential, but they just felt like bad versions of other classes buffs. Blizzard have listened and removed, altered and introduced new totems into our arsenal. Some oldies but goldies remain the same, like Searing Totem, some work differently like Healing Stream totem (which works more like a healing cooldown now) and some are completely new like Lightning Capacitor Totem.

With the risk of sounding repetative, I like these changes. I miss my totems in a way (as a lowbie I barely have any) but that is only because they have been with me for so very long. I still remember having to do the totem quests to get them, how you had to carry them around in your bags to be able to use them... Totems now are more like cooldowns or special shaman buffs but it is a change that was needed and a good one. I will gladly vote the totem relocator skill to Best Skill of the Year award right here and now.

Fugly? Or fute...
What about the other changes to shaman? I've only tried resto, since my enhancement shaman is abandoned on another server at the moment, and besides the fact that it is impossible to oom at lower levels healing is very much the same. I have access to skills I didn't have before, like Riptide, but otherwise I don't feel like shaman healing has changed much at all and that's ok - I've got enough to wrap my head around as it is already.

As a tanking druid I have noticed the same move towards dps vs mitigation change that prot warrior got, only it took me so much longer to get. On my warrior I was used to using Shield Block on a regular basis and quickly figured out how the new Shield Block was meant to be handled. On my druid however it first took me a while to notice Savage Defense was no longer present and then even longer to realize that it had been turned into a mitigation skill like Shield Block (only it gives dodge instead obviously). No wonder I was taking so much damage!

In fact, my druid has suddenly got a whole handful of new mitigation and dps cooldowns (to some part depending on which talent skills you choose) that I barely know what to do with. I press one out of the many every bigger pull, hoping to make the healer a little happier. Most of the time I just feel confused, but I think I am slowly getting the hang of this.

One of the things that kind of disappointed me were the skill choices, where few seemed as interesting or good as they did on other classes. I suppose one of the problems could be that most of the skills are usable in all shapeshifts, so that eventhough they're tweaked to work better for some shapeshifts they do work in all and that makes it difficult for me to find one that I think is useful for tanking. I tried the treants, but they didn't really seem to do anything worthwhile. I tried the Typhoon, but that turned out to be mostly annoying (as I had already suspected it would). It's too many choices but because they all feel pretty meh rather than all seeming so good. That could just be me not grasping the idea completely yet, but I'll get there.

Druid tanking has changed about as much was warrior tanking, and overall I think the changes are ok. It annoys me that I need to spec for the charge, but fine - paladins and dks don't have a charge either (they do have ranged aoe threat skills to compensate for that however!). Druids still don't have a ranged silence which is a quality of life change I think we deserved. Druids feel weird, but not necessarily bad and I think I might just have to get comfortable in these new druid shoes first. It's just proving to take a little longer than for the other classes I've tried so far.

On a closing note (omg, finally) I feel like Blizzard have really tried to bring forward the essence of the different classes and specs, making them feel more separated and special and like you're actually achieving something differently from the next guy. Since I've only tried these new classes on low levels (around 50 and druid on 83) I know there is still a lot more to discover and understand before the day is over. I am definitely liking what I have been seing so far however, and can only hope these classes progress on in this direction. Good job Blizzard, thumbs up from me.

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