We don’t alter classes lightly, and every change comes only after a great deal of player feedback, developer thought, and careful analysis. We also know that while class changes can help keep things fresh, they can also mean that there’s a need to re-learn things about your character that you thought you already knew. We want to make this process clearer, more understandable, and easier to adapt to as we move into patch 5.2, so I’ll be working with World of Warcraft Lead Systems Designer Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street to write a short blog series that will provide an overview of the important changes coming to each class.
Many of the 5.2 patch notes fall into two main categories: balance tuning and talent adjustments. Unless we called out a specific reason otherwise, you can assume that the various +10% or -10% adjustments you’ll see in the patch notes were made to keep all of the specs where we want them in 5.2. In some cases these are changes to reflect the different environment in 5.2 with new gear and set bonuses. In other cases, we are correcting issues we found in patch 5.1.
In terms of talent adjustments, while we’re still happy overall with the Mists of Pandaria talent overhaul, we do recognize that there were some talents that weren’t tuned as well as they could be or just weren’t attractive. That’s not to say that all talents should be all things to all players all the time; some talents are situationally quite attractive, and we’re happy with those. On the other hand, others just never see much use and we would rather provide players real options for each talent tier.
Note: The purpose of these blogs is mostly to provide an overview of the design intentions behind our 5.2 changes, rather than to detail the thought process behind every individual note. You can refer to the patch notes for specific changes and numbers.
We set out to accomplish a few goals with Mages:
- Despite various adjustments along the way, Frost Mages are still too powerful in PvP and not quite competitive in PvE.
- Our changes to Arcane in patch 5.1 overshot the mark and also needed some changes.
- While we wanted to make some less attractive talents more attractive, we also weren’t satisfied with the Mage talent tree.
There are a few changes to Frost in PvP. First, the PvP set bonus only lowers the cooldown of Counterspell when it is successfully used as an interrupt, not as a silence. As we’ve said before, we think silences are too dominant in PvP, but we don’t think patch 5.2 is the right time to remove them all because we can’t also remove all of the instant heals in PvP. We like the Counterspell change because it rewards skilled play. We also made a change to the way Ring of Frost works with Presence of Mind. Rather than making the Ring of Frost instantly apply, the PoM only makes the cast time instant—the Ring still needs to arm for two seconds before freezing the unfortunates standing on it. Most significantly, we redesigned the Glyph of Fireblast to no longer allow it to detonate Frost Bomb on demand; instead it will require some timing on the part of the player. We’re boosting Frost’s PvE performance via Frostbolt, which requires a spell cast (which means the Mage must stand still and risks Frost lock), and also has a stacking debuff to really maximize damage.
We had two problems we wanted to solve with Arcane. The first was that Scorch was never intended to be rotational for Arcane to avoid having to dump stacks of Arcane Charges. Arcane is intended to build up charges but then dump them when the mana drain gets too high, but Scorch allowed Arcane Mages to avoid that cycle, which inflated their damage as a consequence. However, we also wanted to tweak a previous change where we increased Arcane Charges up to a max stack of 6. Dumping a stack of 6 is painful because it takes a long time to build it back up again, so in 5.2 we are lowering the stack size to 4.
Scorch was a big design problem for us for other reasons. It feels really good to have something to cast while moving, even if it’s a DPS loss overall. Many mages were taking Scorch for reasons beyond the Arcane Charge stacking issue above. At the same time, the talent tree also suffered a problem where Blazing Speed couldn’t compete with Temporal Shield or Ice Barrier. We had hoped to position Blazing Speed as a defensive ability, but really it’s a mobility talent, and we think it makes more sense alongside Presence of Mind and Ice Floes, which also offer mobility in one way or another. Instead of replacing Blazing Speed with Scorch, we just gave Scorch to Fire mages, which also helps differentiate the specs a bit more. Instead, now Mages have a new talent, Flameglow, which is a passive defensive option that absorbs some damage from each hit, and fits in thematically alongside Temporal Shield and Ice Barrier.
Paladins are pretty solid overall. Still, we had a few issues to address:
- We wanted to make less attractive talents more attractive.
- Holy was too dominant in PvP.
- Retribution wasn’t performing as well in PvP.
We focused a lot on addressing the performance of Holy Paladins in PvP for Mists of Pandaria, and it worked . . . a little too well. They have some offensive utility now and a variety of strong heals. To bring them back into line, we’re making two changes: Blinding Light will now have a cast time, but only for Holy. We also changed a PvP gear bonus to affect Flash of Light instead of Word of Glory. Shifting more PvP healing to a cast-time spell opens up the risk of interrupts and also requires the Paladin to stand still on occasion. Addressing representation through balance adjustments is always tricky – healers are always in demand for 3v3 Arena teams, so it’s unlikely that we’ll see Retribution Paladins become as common as Holy Paladins. However, we did want to give Retribution a little more oomph. The main change here is to lower the cooldown on Avenging Wrath to two minutes for Retribution only. Since this is an ability raiding Paladins have today through a set bonus, we just made it a core change. We also made Retribution’s Flash of Light stronger and allow them to benefit more from PvP Power’s conversion to healing. It makes sense that even DPS Paladins have good healing potential, so long as Retribution continues to primarily fill the role of a damage-dealer and can’t fully step into the role of a dedicated healer in PvP. Smaller Retribution buffs include letting them benefit from Glyph of Blessed Life and Templar’s Verdict to a greater extent, and adding a snare to Hammer of Light.
Protection received few changes; we like how they are doing overall. One small change was to make Grand Crusader benefit from dodges and parries as well, so that Paladins would benefit more from stats that were going to appear on their tanking gear anyway.
Priests received several changes to address a few problems:
- We wanted to make less attractive talents more attractive.
- Discipline performed too well in PvE, but under-performed in PvP.
- Shadow was too good in PvP, but solid in PvE, so we didn’t want the nerfs to spill over much.
We nerfed Phantasm and Psyfiend, both talents that all Shadow Priests took (and to be fair, many other priests as well) and reduced their healing (though remember we also offset that nerf somewhat with the change to PvP Power to benefit their healing somewhat). We didn’t want to hurt Mass Dispel or other utility that Shadow provides, especially in PvE. We also reduced Shadow burst a little through the Glyph of Mind Spike.
Discipline required more work. In raiding particularly, Discipline priests were using an effective but boring “rotation” of casting almost nothing but Prayer of Healing (with a guaranteed Divine Aegis) while using Spirit Shell on cooldown. Doing so allowed them to prevent more damage than anyone else was capable of healing. Our first change was to make Spirit Shell no longer benefit from mastery. When Spirit Shell absorbs for 50% more than it would have healed for, it just becomes a button to use on cooldown, while we’d rather it was used as a situational ability that’s triggered when absorbs make the most sense. We also wanted to see Discipline using spells other than Prayer of Healing.
As with Restoration Druids, we don’t want Disc to be casting nothing but Power Word: Shield, but we do want Power Word: Shield to be a major button in their arsenal, which wasn’t the case in 5.1. To accomplish this, we reduced the cost of Power Word: Shield and now allow it to crit, but we also redesigned Divine Aegis so that Prayer of Heal spamming would no longer be the right answer for every situation. Divine Aegis now requires a critical on Prayer of Healing to activate, but when it procs it applies a bubble instead of doubling the heal (essentially Discipline’s crits are 100% heal and 100% bubble instead of a 200% heal). We also changed their mastery to affect both heals and absorption so that their mastery wasn’t only beneficial after a crit. In addition, we buffed Penance, which is an iconic spell for Discipline and a fun one to use. To address Discipline’s PvP issues, in addition to these changes (of which the Power Word: Shield and Penance buffs will have the greatest effect), we redesigned their set bonus to make Flash Heal cheaper, and made a few spells un-dispellable. That’s normally a last resort for us, but we felt it was appropriate in this case.
Holy Priests received few modifications, though they will benefit from some of the talent changes. We think Holy is in a good place in PvE relative to other healers but was just so overshadowed by Discipline that they weren’t as common. That may change as the specs fill different niches.