Wednesday, November 25, 2015

[WoW] The Talented Mr. Enhancement Shaman - Datamined Talents and Thoughts

Thanks to WoWHead, MMO-Champ, etc. we now have a lot of datamined information. With the alpha client actually accessible to some folks (not me, though), I'll be working on the assumption that the new talents that were datamined actually somewhat reflect what's currently in the alpha client.

NOTE: The datamined information is not final. Numbers may change, abilities may change. Heck, half this stuff might've already been altered on some internal test server Blizzard runs. Take everything below with a large grain of salt. I won't be focusing on damage numbers too much.

You can find the Enhancement Shaman talents here:

Before I dive in, from a high level there doesn't seem to be much in the way of spenders (as mattH also pointed out on the previous post in the comments). 3 AoEs, 1 interrupt, and 1 big hit plus vulnerability debuff on the target. Our primary rotation largely doesn't change either. I see nothing in the talents that alleviate any of my concerns in my previous posts.

Warning: This is going to be a really long post.

Rehashing the Basics

Before I dive into the talents, let's just cover the basics that Blizzard revealed in the class previews and what's in the datamined information:

Rockbiter is our primary attack. It's a 10yd free instant spell that deals Nature damage and generates 15 Maelstrom. Spam this when we need to generate Maelstrom and we have empty GCDs.

Flametongue is our maintenance buff plus some damage on the target, 10yd, free, instant, Fire damage. It "enhances" our weapons (this is important to an unannounced mechanic that was datamined, more on that below), and basically acts as the ye olde Flametongue, dealing fire damage normalized by weapon speed.

Stormstrike is our big hit. 60 Maelstrom, melee only, 16s cooldown. Deals about 4x as much damage as Rockbiter, and just under 3x as much damage as Lava Lash as datamined (both before Mastery)

Lava Lash is our Maelstrom dump. 30 Maelstrom, melee only, no cooldown. Deals about 1.5x as much damage as Rockbiter.

We generate 5 Maelstrom per melee hit, Windfury still exists, and Stormfury sometimes procs, allowing us a 30 Maelstrom Stormstrike + 60 Maelstrom Stormstrike back-to-back. See my Maelstrom Power post for calcs about Maelstrom generation.

Our opening rotation is basically FT->RB->RB->RB->SS->RB->RB->LL->RB->RB->FT->..., ignoring the fact that we want to hit ~70ish Maelstrom ASAP to pool for Stormfury procs.

Note the significant number of Rockbiters. Note that the number of Rockbiters will go down as our Haste goes up (as we get more auto-attacks which means more Maelstrom generation). Also note how simple it is, especially compared to our previous rotation. Blizzard is on record stating they want to reduce the number of sources of our damage, but 4+Auto Attack is getting a little silly in terms of simplicity.

The Talented Mr. Shaman

Let's dig in without further ado.

The Enhancing Weapons Tier

Windsong is a 15s maintenance buff, with a 30s cooldown, with a slightly more powerful than Rockbiter damage component. Similar to Flametongue, except instead of extra fire damage, it increases attack speed by 50% (so if you have perfect uptime, it amounts to a 25% average attack speed bonus). A 25% attack speed bonus increases Maelstrom generation by a decent amount, but since it's only auto-attacks, this only helps if you have few Rockbiter casts. I could see this being useful if you have ways to reduce your overall Rockbiter casts.

Spiritual Resonance is passive, and increases the Maelstrom generated by Rockbiter and Feral Spirits by 10. I fully expect that 10 to go down because a 66% increase in Maelstrom generation via Rockbiter is massive. It radically alters our rotation and removes pretty much a full Rockbiter cast every set (ie: FT->RB->RB->SS->RB->LL->RB->LL->RB->LL->RB->FT->...).

Passive, plus a better Maelstrom generator than Windsong means that Windsong will probably lose unless it gets a relatively large damage component as well, OR it can generate 15 Maelstrom like Rockbiter can, basically allowing us to slot it into our rotation subbing it for Rockbiter without any loss.

Fists of Stone is a 10s DPS mini-cooldown on a 30s cooldown timer, increasing Crit by 10% and all damage by 5%, but reducing Attack Speed by 50% and movement speed by 50%. If you have a chance to hunker down for a short period of time, this allows you to boost your DPS. Except the attack speed decrease lowers your auto-attack DPS and reduces the amount of Maelstrom you generate. I can see sort of why Blizzard built this talent, but as is I don't see anyone taking it. I fully expect a balance pass to increase the damage dealt and/or reduce/remove the attack speed decrease.

Overall I see Windsong and Spirtual Resonance being somewhat competitive with some number tweaks, but Spirtual Resonance feels like the winner largely because it's passive. The active abilities need to be better than the passive, or everybody will take the passive. Fists of Stone needs to go back to the drawing board.

The Movement Tier

Gust of Wind looks like Shaman Blink. 15s cooldown, no cost.

Feral Lunge is a gap closer in Ghost Wolf only which basically is a Charge +  Stormstrike opener. Interesting that it can only be used in Ghost Wolf, though brings up something strange where it might be worth the 2 GCDs to Ghost Wolf and Feral Lunge on cooldown because it's a free Stormstrike (and SS does 4x as much damage as Rockbiter). I really like it though because it does address the whole issue where we require Maelstrom to use Stormstrike as our opener when traditionally SS has been our opening move. I also enjoy that it's tied to Ghost Wolf, and gives us a way to get adds or back to the boss after a heavy movement phase.

Overall this talent is A+ awesome for me, but the damage component is worrisome as it encourages weird rotation shenanigans, and probably makes it strictly better than Gust of Wind.

Wind Rush Totem is basically Feral Roar (a group speed buff), except with a Shaman Totem twist. The totem lasts for 15 seconds and boosts allies' movement within 10yd by 60% for 5s. Can you imagine having this totem for the dance on Will of the Emperor?

A solid tier, though Feral Lunge is going to be default, with Wind Rush probably chosen for specific encounters. Gust of Wind isn't strong enough against Feral Lunge to be worthwhile in my opinion. Ghost Wolf and walking out of the bad is usually sufficient, and then you can Feral Lunge right back. Why bother with Shaman Blink?

The Crowd Control Tier

Lightning Surge Totem is Capacitor Totem renamed and made a talent rather than default.

Earthgrab Totem is the same as it ever was.

Voodoo Totem replaces Hex and basically acts as an AoE Hex, which is pretty neat.

Something to note here is that Enhancement seems to have lost all of its totems from its kit aside from talents. No more Healing Stream, no more Magma Totem, no more Earthbind, no more Tremor Totem. All gone. Talents are the only way to get them back. So I guess that's one way to deal with the fact we won't have free GCDs for utility: remove our utility. Maybe it's a datamining error, but both wowdb and wowhead show the same thing.

Otherwise this tier seems pretty solid. You'll take the totem that makes the most sense for a given encounter.

The Self-Buff Tier

Lightning Shield is now a talent, and it costs a variable amount of Maelstrom to deal damage to random enemies within 10 yards. The base cost of 20 Maelstrom plus 5 per second is pretty hefty for what seems like a pittance of damage, but that's just tuning. It's basically single target Liquid Magma by the looks of things.

Ancestral Swiftness is now only what Enhancement Shaman took it for in the first place: the passive haste/attack speed buff.

Landslide is a new ability that makes Rockbiter "enhance" your weapon, increasing Attack Power by 20%.

Unless you're swimming in Maelstrom, I don't know if Lightning Shield is going to be a great talent to choose. If you're doing AoE damage, you'll be wanting to spend your Maelstrom on Crash Lighting + LL/SS. If you're doing single-target damage, you're spending 7.5 Maelstrom per GCD to deal a very small amount of damage. This needs a significant buff to be worthwhile.

Ancestral Swiftness will increase your Maelstrom generation along with your passive DPS, versus Landslide which will basically provide a flat 20% attack power increase given how often we cast Rockbiter. The "enhance" your weapon mentioned there (which I still have to explain!) is a useless keyword, as Flametongue's uptime should be 100% already.

Overall, a really boring tier. Harkens back to the talent trees of old.

The First Cooldown Tier

Tempest modifies the Stormfury proc to give 2 Stormstrikes with no cooldown and 30 Maelstrom cost. Sort of a variant on the old Echo of the Elements. If Stormstrike hits proc Maelstrom generation, then if we have 90+ banked, we should be able to take advantage of all three Stormstrikes back-to-back. But 90 Maelstrom banked means you're probably losing Maelstrom. Still, given just how powerful Stormstrike is this could be a decent choice if you have enough Mastery to boost the proc rate.

Spiritual Affinity reduces the cooldown of Feral Spirits by 60 seconds, basically halving it (or the 100 talent, Feral Kin). So every 60 seconds you can have 15s of Spirit Wolves. Something to note is that Feral Spirit is our only major DPS cooldown now (Ascendance is a talent, and no more Fire Elemental for us), and it is effectively a mini-bloodlust, increasing Haste by 50% while active, and also generating 5 Maelstrom per second.

This talent works out to an average increase of 12.5% Haste if you use Feral Spirit on cooldown (and with a 1-minute cooldown you really should be). It's far less effective for Feral Kin to the point where it's not worth even looking at if you're running Feral Kin. It really needs to halve the cooldown rather than reduce by a static 60 seconds.

Sundering is a 60 Maelstrom AoE with a knock-side effect, good for interrupting en-masse normally uninterruptible mobs. The damage on it is a pittance, and I expect that to get buffed significantly.

Sundering is a special case, I expect either Tempest or Spiritual Affinity to be the defaults here. It depends on how the math shakes down, though. I'm sure there'll be a Mastery inflection where ~12.5% extra Haste is overtaken by Tempest's extra Stormstrike per Stormfury proc, but that's a far more complex calculation than I care to do right now.

The AoE Tier (Plus a Stun)

Fury of Air is what Lightning Shield aspires to be but fails miserably, which makes me think the Lightning Shield talent is completely unfinished. 20 Maelstrom plus 5/s for up to 10 seconds of 8 yard wind AoE damage. Also slows enemies down so it's harder for them to leave the vortex. Expensive as heck, but does a lot of damage. If you need significant on-demand burst AoE, assuming you have the Maelstrom, this is probably your talent.

Crashing Storm increases the range on Crash Lighting (which is melee range, blech) by 4 yards. I'm a little underwhelmed by Crash Lightning now that I know it's melee range. This talent gives it a bit more leeway (though we don't know if it increases the range of the SS/LL cleave as well).

Stonefist Strike is a proper stun, 30s cooldown, 30 Maelstrom, and deals extra damage if the enemy is unstunnable. Lava Lash should do more damage still, I think, so I doubt you'd want to use Stonefist Strike on unstunnable enemies. But hey, we finally have a real stun!

Crashing Storm feels underwhelming. I expect Stonefist Strike or Fury of Air will be the choices depending on if you need stuns or AoEs.

The Second Cooldown Tier

Ascendance got turned into a talent. Now a 10 minute cooldown, and lasts for 1 minute, but otherwise the same as our old Ascendance. It's underwhelming except for possibly anything that has a long ranged-only phase, as we can sub Lightning Bolt for Lava Lash as our Maelstrom dump, though without Flametongue and Rockbiter being upped to 30 yards, this is of limited utility still. It's awkward.

Feral Kin doubles the length of Feral Spirits, but increases the cooldown 150%. Short of trying to line it up for longer with Bloodlust, I don't see much point. This is likely not the final form of this talent.

Earthen Spike hits harder than Stormstrike (!!!) at 10 yards on a 20 second cooldown for 30 Maelstrom. It also increases the Nature and Physical damage taken by the target by 10% for 10 seconds. I'm expecting this to be a typo, or work similar to how Stormstrike only debuffs the enemy for the Enhancement Shaman today. Otherwise an Enhancement Shaman will be required for raiding and will be required to take this talent.

I expect Earthen Spike will be the default, but this tier is really wonky overall; all 3 talents need work. Clearly unfinished.

Other Datamined Changes

As mentioned above, Feral Spirits is now our only DPS cooldown, and acts as a shorter super-powered Bloodlust every time they show up (plus bonus Maelstrom generation!) making them quite powerful. But Ascendance is now a talent, and no more Elementals for Enhancement.

All of our totems are gone, and along with them most of our utility. It sort of solves the issue of throwing out utility in empty GCDs if we don't have much utility left.

Lightning Bolt and Healing Surge still exist, and scale based on Maelstrom spent. I wouldn't suggest spending Maelstrom on Lightning Bolt though unless you can't reach the target for an extended period of time. Even with spending 20 Maelstrom, the damage is so anemic that you're probably better off waiting. Lightning Bolt is instant baseline though. Healing Surge has a 2 second cast time.

Frost Shock got replaced by Frostbrand, which is literally the same. Just a new name.

Crash Lightning is our cleave, and turns Stormstrike and Lava Lash into a cleave for 10 seconds as well as long as Crash Lightning hit 2+ targets. A little underwhelming, as now we have to be in their face like a Warrior does.

Flurry still reduces the global cooldown of a bunch of melee abilities using Haste, but it still lists a bunch of old abilities that are gone so take that with a grain of salt.


Stormlash is a passive ability that looks really neat, and really concerning. As long as your weapons are "enhanced", whenever you attack there's a 5% chance to enhance up to 2 allies or yourself, causing attacks and spellcasts to deal additional Nature damage.

Basically, it turns you into a ye olde Stormlash totem, along with all of the problems that Stormlash totem brought before they axed it in Warlords. It's a unique buff, so stacking Enhancement Shaman might be a thing. It's also boring, it's passive, and thanks to Flametongue your weapons should be enhanced 100% of the time unless you're really bad at uptime.

This ability either needs to go, or needs to change significantly. I like the concept of buffing my allies, but making it passive feels really lame. I'd rather it just go away rather than being a passive effect. Or turn it into a talent or an active spell. That'd be fantastic. But as is? Nope. Not interested.

Overall Thoughts

With some talents, and the Feral Spirits cooldown, I think Maelstrom as a resource will yo-yo a bit faster than Rage does on a Fury Warrior (hopefully), which will keep a more fast and furious feel that Enhancement is today, which is nice.

Overall, however, we're still just magic Warriors. We have Bladestorm, Charge, Colossus Smash, and a Stun in our talents; we have a spammable generator, and both a major attack and a rage Maelstrom dump; we seem to have lost most of our utility which set us apart from other melee classes; our spell casting range has been reduced significantly (from 25yd to 10yd in nearly all cases).

I'll still wait for more implementation to occur as the class is clearly in the early stages of development. They're basically recreating Enhancement from scratch, the ground up. Ambitious, really. But I'll be honest, the direction that Enhancement is heading in doesn't really interest me long term. I said it before and I'll say it again: I liked Enhancement because we were a spell caster who was capable in melee, using our melee to super power our spells.

I'm trying to stay positive, or at least neutral. Let it be said again that I really enjoy the direction Holy Paladins are taking, so it's not like I hate everything about Legion.

I don't have anything against the spellsword concept; I actually really like the concept. I just dislike the fact that the only spell/melee hybrid class got gutted for this new concept. The reasons I play Enhancement keep getting whittled away in this redesign. But I suppose they're finally making good on their promise to simplify the class.
#WorldOfWarcraft, #Shaman, #Legion

Monday, November 16, 2015

[WoW] Are Maelstrom Weapon and Maelstrom Power All That Different?

I've doing a fair amount of thinking on Blizzard's Enhancement Shaman preview, and the gut reaction of myself (and much of the community) is that we're turning into magic Fury Warriors. But I want to put on my designer cap for a few minutes and break down how the two mechanics ostensibly work and see if they're actually all that different.

A review for those who aren't aware of one or either mechanic (which are frankly, mildly complex). Note that I'm deliberately "renaming" Blizzard's Maelstrom to Maelstrom Power to better differentiate it from Maelstrom Weapon for the purposes of this discussion.

Maelstrom Weapon (Today)

A buff that stacks to 5. Each melee swing/attack has a chance to generate 1 stack of Maelstrom Weapon (MW). Currently today that includes a number of abilities, plus Windfury, a random event that deals 3 melee weapon attacks simultaneously.

Each stack of the buff reduces the cast time and mana cost of Nature spells by 20% and increases damage/healing done by said spell 10%, meaning a full 5 stacks makes your next Nature spell free and instant for +50% damage/healing, consuming up to 5 stacks of the buff. You lose any stacks generated above 5, so you need to spend that 5 stack immediately.

Note that a special set of armour will increase the maximum stacks to 10, and increase the damage of Nature spells by an additional 12% per stack of MW consumed (for a grand total of 22% per stack).

Maelstrom Power (Tomorrow)

A resource that stacks to 100? (I'm going to assume 100 for now). Each melee attack generates 5 Maelstrom Power (MP). This includes Windfury, a random event that deals 3 melee weapon attacks simultaneously. Judging by the text "When you deal damage with a melee weapon" this seems to include abilities that spend MP and have a melee weapon component (ie: Stormstrike and Lava Lash).

Certain abilities now cost MP specifically (i.e.: Stormstrike, Lava Lash, Sundering), and others generate it specifically (i.e.: Rockbiter). You lose any MP generated above 100, so you need to spend some immediately when you approach maximum.

Thanks to Stormfury random events, you'll want to ensure you have at least 70 Maelstrom Power banked (or more) to be able to capitalize on the event and get two Stormstrikes out back-to-back.

An Abstract Viewpoint

Let's pretend that instead of 5 stacks, Maelstrom Weapon was actually a value that went up to 50, and each MW proc gave you 10 MW value. Spells would still eat up to 50 MW, and have their cast time/mana cost reduced and damage/healing increased based on the amount of MW consumed. Now, toss in the special set of armor to bring that up to 100 MW maximum, and spells can still consume up to 50. You want to sit at around 50 so you can get two big spells out back-to-back when needed.

That's...starting to look an awful lot like Maelstrom Power. In fact, all we have to do is change MW procs to always just give us 5 MW instead of sometimes giving 10, and boom, now we have Maelstrom Power.

So from a high level abstract viewpoint, MW and MP are actually pretty similar mechanically. MP prevents bad luck streaks as we always generate a floor of 5 MP per weapon swing, even if we never proc Windfury or cast any spells to generate MP. Add to that spammable Rockbiter, and we have unprecedented control over our Maelstrom generation.

As Wordup mentioned in his FinalBossTV interview, Maelstrom Power as designed can be super swingy. A single 2.5s global cooldown (GCD) can net us 5 MP from main-hand, 5 MP from off-hand, 15 MP from Windfury, and 15 MP from Rockbiter. That's 40 Maelstrom when we get lucky (~12% of main hand attacks with average gear, apparently). Though, that's not any different from Maelstrom Weapon today. Stormstrike generates 2 melee hits, and can still proc Windfury, plus two auto-attacks meaning a total of 7 possible stacks of Maelstrom Weapon in a single GCD. But if you got 7 stacks in a single GCD, you should go buy a lottery ticket.

So all in all, the big difference between the two seems to be Maelstrom Power is more consistent, Maelstrom Power can be manually generated via Rockbiter, and how the two are spent.


In the old world, Maelstrom Weapon is spent on spells. Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, Healing Surge, and Healing Rain all have instant cast time with zero mana cost when consuming 5 stacks of MW. We use our melee attacks to generate Maelstrom Weapon to blast our enemies and heal our allies with big instant spells. We can still cast those spells if we have no MW, but they'll be expensive, slow, and hit way weaker.

In the new world, Maelstrom Power is spent on melee attacks. Stormstrike, Lava Lash, and other abilities yet to be released are castable only via MP. We use our spells and auto-attacks to generate Maelstrom Power to blast our enemies with big spell-powered melee hits (and heal our allies,. ostensibly, but those details are minimal). No MP, though, can't cast the ability.

Maelstrom Weapon allowed us to be flexible. Most of our attacks were still available (cooldown based), so we weren't hamstrung without MW stacks, but our spellcasting was largely driven by MW stacks. But if we wanted to dump our limited mana pool into Healing Surge or Lightning Bolt spam we could.

Stormstrike and Lava Lash? Need that Maelstrom, or you can't cast them at all. We have fewer options when we have no Maelstrom than we did before, but at the same time, we should generate Maelstrom far more consistently.

Jury's still out on Maelstrom Power with respect to spellcasting. The devs on Twitter have mentioned that Healing Surge and Lightning Bolt would be available to Enhancement, and they'd be like Elemental's where they take 0 - 20 Maelstrom (though how that affects the cast for Enhancement is unknown). It also is a question of how effective are they going to be at 0 Maelstrom? When we had mana, we'd run out quickly if we were spamming Healing Surge, so there was a natural limit to that. With a 0 MP version, they're going to have to either neuter it pretty severely, or put a cooldown on it or something.

Healing spells currently are basically limited by our mana pool (and the fact that our healing sucks without MW stacks). Having that dual resource system works for the hybrid caster because we have a limitation somewhere in the system. With moving to a single resource, we lose that limitation, so some other action needs to be taken by the designers to fix that. Otherwise we'll have PvP matches where the Enhancement Shaman hides behind a pillar and heals to maximum.

Final Thoughts

The Maelstrom Power mechanic seems solid enough, though by giving us more control we're still basically blue bar Fury Warriors, my opinion doesn't really change on that after closer examination. And by giving us more control, the devs had to make Maelstrom mean something more than just free/instant spell casts. So they've turned the class on its head and made all of our heavy hitting stuff tied to Maelstrom rather than only the spells.

I still don't like the "fantasy" that Blizzard has presented for the class. What made us special was that we could cast spells, and we were a true hybrid in the sense that we could throw out the occasional awesome heal or the occasional awesome spell. I like our frenetic cooldown-based primary rotation, and now I'll have to stare at the Maelstrom bar to keep track of when I can use abilities.

I actually detest that about the current 4 piece tier armor that makes our Maelstrom Weapon stack to 10. Now I have to carefully watch that resource rather than just slamming the spell I want when it hits 5 stacks. Mind, with our primary rotation simplifying, that leaves mental throughput for tracking the resource bar.

At the end of it all, despite Maelstrom Weapon and Maelstrom Power being similar with respect to building, it's our core rotation and Maelstrom spending that changes drastically. Today most of our complexity is in the rotation, and Maelstrom Weapon gives us some extra options on occasion. Blizzard is removing the complexity in the base rotation, and moving it all into how Maelstrom Power works. In their quest to give each class a distinct "fantasy" and to make every class easy to learn, hard to master, they're homogenizing resource mechanics, and it still rankles a week later. What makes us different mechanically seems to be lost. I'm still waiting to see what they drop for talents and non-core abilities, but I'm still wavering between nonplussed and upset.
#WorldOfWarcraft, #Shaman, #Legion

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

[WoW] Enhancement Preview: Not Sure if an Enhancement?

More class previews, go! Enhancement is up, and, well, while I was ecstatic over Holy Paladins, I'm not actually very happy about Enhancement at first blush. Let's dive right in.

Shared Shaman Changes

A few changes affect all Shaman, and they're pretty sweet quality of life changes, for the most part.
  • Totems of the same nature type can now be summoned together, allowing you to have Healing Stream Totem and Healing Tide Totem up at the same time. 
  • Elementals are no longer tied to totems, but are guardians that follow and assist you.
  • Totems’ maximum health will always equal a percentage of your maximum health.
  • Totems that need to be placed at a specific location will be directly placed using a targeting reticle.
Love that Elementals can't be totem stomped anymore, and the rest is just basically rolling in the totem tier of talents into totems baseline. Good moves here.

Old, New, and Changed Abilities
To give you an idea of the Enhancement Shaman in action, here’s a basic look at their core combat abilities:
  • Rockbiter
    10 yd range, Instant
    Assault your target with earthen power, dealing moderate Nature damage, and generating 15 Maelstrom.
  • Flametongue
    10 yd range, Instant, 12 sec cooldown
    Scorch your target with fiery power, dealing moderate Fire damage, and enhancing your weapons.
    Each of your weapon attacks cause up to minor additional Fire damage, based on weapon speed. Lasts 16 sec.
  • Windfury
    Each of your main-hand attacks has a 7% chance of triggering three extra attacks, dealing minor Physical damage.
  • Lava Lash
    30 Maelstrom, Melee Range, Instant
    Charge your off-hand weapon with lava and strike your target, dealing strong Fire damage.
  • Stormstrike
    60 Maelstrom, Melee Range, Instant, 16 sec cooldown
    Energize your weapons with lightning and deliver a massive blow to your target, dealing heavy Physical damage.
  • Maelstrom Weapon
    When you deal damage with a melee weapon, you generate 5 Maelstrom.
  • Stormfury
    Each of your attacks has a 2% chance to cause Stormfury, resetting the cooldown on Stormstrike, and causing your next Stormstrike to cost 50% less Maelstrom and to trigger no cooldown.
  • Mastery: Enhanced Elements
    Increases the chance for Stormfury and Windfury to trigger by 5% (with Mastery from typical gear), and increases all Fire and Nature damage done by 40% (with Mastery from typical gear).
Additionally, to provide a glimpse at how some talents may build upon this, here’s one example of an Enhancement-specific talent:
  • Sundering
    60 Maelstrom, Instant, 20 sec cooldown
    Shatter a line of earth before you, causing strong Physical damage and knocking enemies to the side.
Hold on for analysis, because a lot of the above makes little sense to discuss until we've covered Enhancement's new resource:


Enhancement and Elemental lost all of their standard resources (mana, LS charges, MW charges) in favour of Maelstrom, which best I can tell is basically just a blue Fury bar. For Enhancement, melee hits charge it (5 per melee hit, including Windfury procs), as do certain spells, like the new spammable Rockbiter ability (which is basically just a short range Maelstrom generating Earth Shock). You then spend that Maelstrom on melee finishers, like Stormstrike and Lava Lash.

Wait, what?
The identity of the Enhancement Shaman is cool, but we don’t feel that the mechanics do well to establish that. We want this spec to be more than a melee-range Elemental Shaman, while having a distinct “Battle Mage” feel. Enhancement’s niche focuses on dishing out devastating spells and punishing strikes at melee range to destroy their enemy. Rather than leaving you with a multitude of buttons, many of which are inconsequential, we’re emphasizing empowering your weapons and allies in the fray.
Instead of having melee abilities charge our resource for cool spells, we now use spells to charge our resource for cool melee abilities. I'm not sure why they didn't believe the current Enhancement didn't deliver on the "battle mage" aspect, but I'm not really convinced that turning our spec on its head fulfills it any better. Though, they did mention they were updating melee animations, so we'll see if they look super awesome.

Rotation and Interactions

So how does all this add up?

The basic rotation is basically going to be keep Flametongue up, Rockbiter spam to generate Maelstrom (alongside your auto-attacks/windfury procs), and then spend it on Stormstrike, or Lava Lash if you're close to capping and SS isn't off cooldown yet. Which is basically a Fury Warrior, except blue.

We won't have empty GCDs anymore, because empty GCDs should be filled with Rockbiter to generate more Maelstrom. This is going to make using totems or other buffs/situational abilities an even bigger trade-off than they are today. We no longer have room for utility, we're taking a DPS loss (doubly-so if we're spending Maelstrom on off-healing, but that's no different than Maelstrom Weapon today).

Talents may provide extra finishers for you to spend Maelstrom on (ie: Sundering), but unless you're generating enough Maelstrom, you won't get to use those finishers very often. I've run the numbers, you end up getting something like ~18ish - 20ish Maelstrom every Rockbiter GCD at 2.5s swing timers, but that number will get tweaked so I won't fixate on it too much, but the gist is that the more Maelstrom we generate, the more finishers we can perform.

Secondary Stats

This is going to make Haste even more important than it was previously, as more Haste means more swings, and more swings means more Maelstrom. It also means more Windfury procs per minute, and if Rockbiter is a spell GCD rather than a melee GCD, it also means shorter GCDs. Haste will become king.

Mastery also increases Maelstrom generation, but only with respect to Windfury procs, so it won't be quite as powerful. Mind you, Mastery still increases nature and fire damage, and also increases Stormfury procs, so Mastery is still a decent DPS boost, but doing more will probably beat doing less but harder.

Critical strike and versatility will still probably be ignorable, largely.

The Stormfury Wrinkle

Stormfury states, "Each of your attacks has a 2% chance to cause Stormfury (increased by Mastery), resetting the cooldown on Stormstrike, and causing your next Stormstrike to cost 50% less Maelstrom and to trigger no cooldown."

Resetting the Stormstrike cooldown is neat. You'll pretty much always have at least 30 Maelstrom banked, and being able to replace a Lava Lash in your rotation with a Stormstrike will be a great way to introduce variety in the rotation. However, what concerns me is that said 30-Maelstrom Stormstrike won't trigger the cooldown.

That means to make the most of your Stormfury procs, you'll want 90 Maelstrom banked at all times in case you get a proc. 30 for the first half-price Stormstrike, and 60 for the second full-price but still off cooldown Stormstrike. Depending on the maximum Maelstrom, this could be really awkward (especially if it's 100, because I bet money it'll be 100). Going over 100 means you lose that Maelstrom generated, but you'll feel like you're behind or punished or unable to take advantage of the Stormfury proc if you're scrambling to collect that 60 extra Maelstrom when you weren't prepared for it because you expected a 16s cooldown on Stormstrike and Stormfury procced at the 5s mark.

I'd actually vote to remove the "and to trigger no cooldown" portion because that's going to feel really awkward. Procs should make you excited, not anxious.

Doubling Down on the "Melee" Part

Another thing I noticed is that all of our ranged spells are down to 10 yards. Enhancement traditionally felt mobile and great because we could opt to spell-sling at a distance for a short period. Other melee classes were stuck, but we could keep a decent 30% of our DPS going for a few seconds at range with Lightning Bolt, Flame and Frost Shock (and Searing Totem).

We lost most of that. 10 yards isn't very far, and while I suppose Blizzard doesn't like the overlap with Elemental, it helped differentiate us from other melee classes. We lose some versatility with this new model. It focuses on the melee part of "melee battle mage", at the expense of the "mage" part. Which is a similar complaint that I have with turning our spec on its head to use spells to fuel melee, rather than melee to fuel spells.

We still will have Lightning Bolt, but since it's not in the core part of our rotation, is it spammable? Cooldown? Cast time? Relative damage? Many questions here, but ultimately we lost a bunch of tools.

On-Demand Burst? Worse.

With the changes, Enhancement burst damage gets reduced. We lose our initial burst that we're capable of today. With Stormstrike, and to a lesser extent, Lava Lash as our primary damage outputs, today we can use them up front, allowing us to take out small things with ease and jump into our rotation immediately. Tomorrow, we'd need to build 60 Maelstrom to use our first Stormstrike. That's a minimum of 3 GCDs before we can make our major attack.

This can possibly be mitigated by allowing us a talent to use for an on-demand Maelstrom gain (like a 2 minute cooldown or something), but still, it's bad enough that our current AoE rotation needs a 3 GCD wind-up, our single-target rotation also requiring that is super not fun.

Smoothing the Damage Curve
Rather than leaving you with a multitude of buttons, many of which are inconsequential.
Right now Stormstrike does about 3x - 5x as much damage as Frost Shock, and Lava Lash just a little bit less than that. We're basically biding our time until we can hit SS or LL on live right now, which feels kinda awful because waiting. So I agree with Blizzard that building towards is better than waiting for off-cooldown.

In the new Enhancement, Stormstrike is a 16s cooldown, and takes twice as much Maelstrom as Lava Lash does (which is spammable). That means that Stormstrike will have to do equal to or more damage than 2 Lava Lashes less a Rockbiter to make it worthwhile to cast.

Say Rockbiter does 50 damage, with a 1.5s spell GCD. Lava Lash needs to do at least 34 damage to compete with it, or more than 50 damage to compete with it at enough Haste to bring the GCD down to 1s, but then why not just spam Rockbiter because it's just as good, so let's say Lava Lash does 60 damage (both are affected by Mastery, so let's ignore that for a second).

So then we know that Stormstrike needs to do at least 70 damage (60 + 60 - 50) to be better than Lava Lash. Except Stormstrike isn't affected by Mastery, so it has to basically be better than Lava Lash with stacked Mastery or you just drop it from your rotation. If "average" Mastery for +Fire damage is 40%, the Stormstrike needs to do at least 84 damage per shot. So basically, Stormstrike needs to hit at least 68% harder than Rockbiter, at a bare minimum.

That's still much better than the current which is Stormstrike hitting 200% - 400% harder than our filler today, so the damage curve should be a fair bit smoother than it is right now on live. So we lose our on-demand burst, but should be more consistent damage-wise from fight to fight.

I'm not actually sure that's better. It's a thing. I have no idea if I feel that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Final Thoughts

I don't like it. We're missing a lot of information, such as what precisely AoE will look like--though as per the tweet below, we have an idea, though how much Maelstrom it costs to set up the AoE combo makes me think we're still going to need 4+ GCDs to set up AoE-- we don't know what talents exist to fill out the complexity in our rotation, and final numbers such as Maelstrom generation will get tweaked.

But we lose a lot of what I personally liked about Enhancement: the ability to play ranged caster for short periods of time, lots of utility with occasional room in our rotation to use it instead of a crappy filler ability, casting awesome spells (hit, hit, parry, dodge, hit, boom lightning bolt to the face!) which we lose in favour of casting crappy spells to fuel awesome melee (rockbite, rockbite, rockbite, boom Stormstrike!), and our Maelstrom Weapon resource got turned into a Rage bar, with a builder, a big spender with a cooldown, and a small spender if we're capping, maelstrom. Because if I wanted to play a warrior, I'd go play a warrior. Hint, I've never had a warrior make it past level 30.

We also lose our complexity, big time. I main Enhancement because it's one of the few complicated rotations left. Depending on talents, we'll see if they fix that back up, but I'm not looking forward to a boring DPS rotation again. I'd probably just go back to healing full time, or play a different game. I don't begrudge other classes or specs for having easier or simpler rotations, but at least I had an option. I might not have one any longer after this.

The Stormfury strangeness is pretty minor. A small tweak to it will fix it right up, so not really that concerned there. I also won't miss Searing Totem/Magma Totem.

I'll wait for the talents and further ability clarifications, but unlike Holy Paladins, I'm really apprehensive about Enhancement's overhaul. We've been basically the same for 4 expansions (Wrath, Cata, Mists, Warlords), so I guess we're overdue for a re-envisioning, but I don't think I'm on board here.
#WorldOfWarcraft, #Shaman, #Legion

[WoW] Holy Paladin, Batman! Er, Preview

Blizzard released the Paladin preview and I have to say I'm tentatively excited about the Holy Paladin notes. I'll be combing over them this post and putting down thoughts, squees, concerns, ideas, etc. So here we go!

Holy Paladin Identity
The niche of the plate-wearing holy crusader is well established in Paladin gameplay, with one key exception. Whether Paladins are mitigating enemy attacks, aiding their ailing allies, or delivering punitive justice, it’s in their nature to serve in the thick of the battle. But while Holy Paladins possess the heavy armor and strong defensive ability themes, in practice they spend most of their time behind the frontlines with the more fragile healers. In addition to shoring up the identities of Protection and Retribution Paladins, we’re adjusting Holy Paladin gameplay to bring them closer to the front, where they belong.
In Wrath and Cataclysm, Holy Paladins were the melee healer. We sat in the frontline with the melee, getting mana back by hitting the boss, and in Cata specifically, our positional heals (Light of Dawn and Holy Radiance) were extremely satisfying to use. In TBC, Paladins wore pretty much anything we could get their grubby mitts on, but we still tended to have way more armor than other classes and could tank in a pinch for a short period of time.

Today, Mistweavers are the melee healer (they even get tagged as melee rather than healer in most encounters, if I recall correctly), and Paladins are in the back with the squishies, which feels lame to me.

Positional Healing Returns
We love the unique identity of the Paladin healer and are modifying the gameplay to better support it. Single-target healing from Beacon of Light remains their marquee ability, but other abilities and talents have been adjusted to encourage Holy Paladins to be near the people they want to heal—including melee characters, when necessary. This is incentivized by Lightbringer, a new Mastery, which increases healing on allies near you. This is further reinforced by the addition of a row of Aura talents that provide a variety of localized beneficial effects, and refinements to some spells, such as Light of Dawn returning to being a cone.
We'll be encouraged to sit near the melee if need be. Raid healing? Sit with the ranged. Tank healing? Sit on the tanks (unless there's cleave, in which case sit in the back with the melee).

Can I give a shout-out to conal Light of Dawn, by the way? That was probably the most satisfying skill shot for a healer: swinging around for a quick LoD at the ranged from the melee pile then back again to keep meleeing the boss. Granted, otherwise direction matters not at all, so now we won't have to swing back again necessarily, but I'm really happy to see directional/positional healing make a return. It'll make healing feel a bit more dynamic in my opinion.

Between Auras making a return (and ostensibly being a little more position related than the Auras of old which were just 40-yard buffs), and the new Mastery--Lightbringer--we'll be encouraged to stand near the people we're healing. From a high level, this will probably be our optimal default position for healing:
MSPaint Masterpiece. Pink Smiley is the Holy Paladin, everything else is probably obvious.
Can hit either the ranged or the melee+tanks with LoD, close enough to melee to give them auras (though depending on the radius, maybe you want to sit in the melee pile to get the auras to them). Tanks will still get beacon(s), so you're rarely going to be healing them directly still anyhow.

You might need to be able to melee the boss, though. We don't know what offensive talents we'll get yet.

The Death of Holy Power (For Holy Paladins)

Holy Power is dead, long live Holy Power (for Ret). I will not shed a tear for Holy Power. As a build/spend mechanic, once we lost the ability to (effectively) generate it outside of Holy Shock, it became pretty lackluster, as it became less a decision to sacrifice some healing or mana now to generate Holy Power faster. Add to that spenders requiring a cast time in Warlords, and aside from Eternal Flame it felt like needless complexity. It was an interesting idea, but it always felt half-baked for Holy.

Light of Dawn becomes just another AoE heal tool--we have no idea if we're keeping Holy Radiance, or if HR is turning into something else--and Holy Shock just becomes a decently powerful instant heal on a short cooldown, though it keeps it's interaction with Holy Light and Flash of Light (see below for more details on the...well, details).

Abilities: New, Old, and Changed
Talents will also provide players with options to incorporate offensive capabilities while healing. When allies are in need, Light of the Martyr allows the Holy Paladin to rapidly heal them by sacrificing personal health.
  • Holy Light
    2.0% Mana, 40 yd range, 2.5 sec cast
    A slow but efficient spell, healing a friendly target for a moderate amount.
  • Flash of Light
    4.0% Mana, 40 yd range, 1.5 sec cast
    A quick but expensive spell, healing a friendly target for a moderate amount.
  • Light of the Martyr
    2.5% Mana, 40 yd range, Instant
    Sacrifices a moderate amount of your own health to instantly heal an ally for a moderate amount.
    Cannot be cast on yourself.
  • Light of Dawn
    4.0% Mana, 1.5 sec cast, 12 sec cooldown
    Unleash a wave of healing energy before you, healing up to 5 injured allies within a 15 yd frontal cone for a moderate amount.
  • Holy Shock
    1.5% Mana, 40 yd range, Instant, 10 sec cooldown
    Instantly trigger a burst of Light on the target, dealing moderate Holy damage to an enemy, or moderate healing to an ally.
    Holy Shock has double the normal critical strike chance.
  • Infusion of Light
    Your Holy Shock criticals reduce the cast time of your next Holy Light by 1.5 sec or increase the healing of your next Flash of Light by 50%.
  • Beacon of Light
    0.5% Mana, 60 yd range, Instant, 3 sec cooldown
    Place a Beacon of Light on a friendly target.
    Your heals on other party or raid members will also heal the Beacon of Light target for up to 50% of the amount healed. Your Flash of Light and Holy Light on the Beacon of Light target will also refund 40% of their Mana cost.
  • Mastery: Lightbringer
    Proximity to your target causes your spells to heal for up to 30% (with Mastery from typical gear) more.
Additionally, to provide a glimpse at how some talents may build upon this, here’s one example of a Holy-specific talent:
  • Beacon of the Lightbringer
    The maximum bonus from Mastery: Lightbringer is increased by 24%, and it now increases your healing based on the target's proximity to either you or your Beacon of Light, whichever is closer.
Ah, meat and potatoes. Let's take a looksee, shall we?

It seems, as they mentioned, the core of Holy Paladin is intended to play similarly as we did before. Holy Shock's cheap cost, cooldown, and effects on Holy Light/Flash of Light means we'll probably cast it almost on cooldown. Or use it in a manner similarly to how Resto Shaman today use Unleash Life (to super-power a Healing Surge if needed). We're still going to Beacon a target mostly permanently (possibly two still, we don't know), so unlike Disc's new temp-Beacons for Atonement, we'll still have steady tank throughput. We'll still primarily cast Holy Light as our default ABC spell (Always Be Casting), if we're not DPSing as they suggest via Talents.

What changes is the positioning thing as mentioned above. we'll want to be close to our healing target, or alternatively if we're raid healing, put a beacon in the melee and stand in the ranged (or vice versa) with Beacon of the Lightbringer so you get your full Mastery bonus on the entire raid.

I really like Light of the Martyr as a concept though. It's very much in the Hand of Sacrifice wheelhouse, and gives us a second instant cast spell mitigating our healing on the move issues. Beacon yourself, though, and you'll get half of the health you spent refunded via Beacon (assuming a moderate amount is the same for damage and healing). It won't let you spam the ability, but assuming it doesn't bypass bubble, the old bubble->HoS trick would work here allowing you to be the most mobile healer for 8 seconds. Or if defensive cooldowns work, Divine Protection + Beacon would make it spammable for a few seconds as well. I have a feeling they'll be adding some restrictions here (or make it bypass everything and just take directly from your health pool).

Potential Pitfalls

I think the biggest potential pitfall here is the Mastery. Depending on how it's balanced, we may just end up sitting on the tanks in fights where we can, which is kinda weird. It also might be effectively required to stack Mastery to be competitive if the devs aren't careful. Depending on how the Mastery scales out geometrically, we could end up being relatively anemic directly healing the ranged pile if we're in melee (or vice versa).

To be fair, our single target throughput is currently anemic. We shine because we can double-beacon the tanks, so our 75% relative single target throughput becomes 150% total throughput (and explodes meters). I don't really see that changing too much, so I expect our throughput to feel even worse when situated 20+ yards from folks. Also, I doubt Beacon heals double-dip, so really you'll probably never heal the tanks directly unless you're on top of them. If you have a choice at 30,000 healing on a tank directly, or 39,000 (+30%) healing on a DPS with 19,500 of Beacon transfer on both tanks, it makes even less sense now to directly heal the tanks--unless they're going to die and you're spamming Flash of Light, in which case, godspeed because woo, comparatively anemic single-target throughput. Though, that's what Lay on Hands/Hand of Sacrifice is for so it might not be so bad.

So the model seems at first blush that it might further enforce a raid spot-healing niche with significant passive tank healing, but if the devs think that's a decent niche, that may be okay.

Positional healing also has the issue where if we're forced to move, our effectiveness now drops even further than it already did. Paladins are not very mobile healers, and while interesting tricks with Light of the Martyr may mitigate that a bit depending if we can use said tricks, moving away from people to spread out or just being on the move often means our Mastery would also get significantly worse. Think Xhul'horac or Gorefiend from HFC.

Overall Thoughts

Despite the potential pitfalls, I'm pretty jazzed. No more Holy Power, more interesting sacrifice-y mechanics with Light of the Martyr meaning we have more interesting combos/decisions, skill shot with Light of Dawn returning, and position meaning something means I'm way more excited about the playstyle potentially being more dynamic and consequently, interesting.

I'll be honest, Warlords has been super boring for Holy. Double Beacon, Holy Shock on cooldown, Holy Light all the things, Eternal Flame when you have >3 HP, break healing meters. Powerful, but boring. Having more to think about would definitely be nice.
#WorldOfWarcraft, #Paladin, #Legion

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Blizzcon Prediction Accuracy

So last week I made a bunch of predictions for Blizzcon. I was pretty conservative--too conservative, apparently. Blizzard decided to blow the doors off in a few cases and came out with some pretty impressive and interesting things. Let's see how I did this year.


Nailed the new Adventure module. Got the theme incorrect though. League of Explorers looks interesting from a theme perspective--I do enjoy the Murloc, Sir Finley Mrrgleton. No real card deprecation mechanics so I got that one wrong. Having the adventure ready for a week after Blizzcon is pretty impressive timing though.

1 / 2 Predictions correct, no extra news.

As an aside I think I'm done with Hearthstone as a concept. They're tripling down on the whole random thing and I just, meh. It bothers me a lot. Yeah, there's still a fair amount of skill involved (deck creation, card counting, understanding current meta, etc.), but I just dislike that so many of the card effects are die rolls. Fun for a bit, but I'm off that bandwagon.

Heroes of the Storm

New map, three new heroes, nailed that. Cho'gall as a two-player, one character hero is a super interesting concept. I've seen the concept in action in older games previously (Mario Kart Double Dash probably being the closest example, but other cases where you have two controllers with one character), but I'll be interested to try him out with a friend. Could be absolutely hilarious.

I like that Blizzard is going off the beaten path here. Lots of maps, unlike LoL, and very different characters.

I didn't nail a new game mode though. The arena looked neat. Super fast, all out goofy mode.

1/1 Predictions correct, new game mode announced that I didn't predict.

Diablo III

New zone, two new "tilesets", sets, legendaries, a few new features, modifications to how Seasons work. I pretty much nailed this one. No new expansion even hinted at. In fact, they seemed to hint they were in maintenance mode because they seem to be gearing up to steady seasons. 2.4 is going to be a meaty patch, but yeah, don't expect too much crazy out of Diablo III in the future I think.

1/1 Predictions largely correct, though the scope of 2.4 is a bit larger than I expected.


1 new map, 3 new heroes. Animated shorts, console releases, buy-to-play and a launch quarter. I underestimated this a fair bit it seems. Also, can I say Mei is adorable and awesome? Not to mention I got the Battle.Net upgrade a little off. Rather than coming with StarCraft II, it came with Overwatch. Built-in BNet voice chat...which was apparently announced October 22nd if I had been paying attention, but apparently not. Whoops.

1/1 Predictions, but missed a massive slew of info around launch and lore.

StarCraft II

Nailed Ladder format, nailed eSports stuff. Got the BNet infrastructure wrong. Got the new content wrong (DLC for Nova story and mission packs). Still, definitely focused on Legacy of the Void launch.

2/4 Predictions, didn't really miss much aside from a minor amount of new content.

World of Warcraft

Beta date is still pending, but within weeks of Blizzcon suggests my by Thanksgiving might be accurate? I'll give myself 0.5 here. Got the release quarter correct as a stretch goal, but severely underestimated the amount of new information about the expansion. Transmog, class overhauls, lots of quality of life stuff, professions, new Challenge Mode dungeons, etc. I'll likely cover WoW as a separate post, but a bit excited here now.

2.5/3 Predictions, but holy moly severely underestimated the sheer amount of information they released.


Out of 12 predictions, I scored myself about 8.5/12, which is pretty damn good, actually. Granted, I was super conservative, which isn't really much fun in hindsight, so there were a few things I missed guessing on. I wish they had streamed the Darkmoon Faire Q&A panels, but there's videos of those floating about the 'net now. Overall, good Blizzcon! Looking forward to class blog posts, and Diablo III's 2.4 patch. In the meantime, I should re-finish the StarCraft II campaigns so I'm back up on my story for Legacy of the Void.
#WoW, #Blizzcon