Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cataclysm’s Leap of Faith

No, I’m not talking about the proposed priest ability in the new expansion. I’m talking about expansion previews and releases that come out before the game can be played. Everyone who cares has seen the priest preview already, right?

From our current point of view, many of these things can look wonderful and some can look downright awful. But our current point of view doesn’t give us the correct game reference to actually make valid conclusions because we can’t possibly know the game mechanics these abilities will reside in.

We’ve been given hints and ideas on how the new face of World of Warcraft will look as it dons the reinvented regalia of Cataclysm. But we don’t know the intricacies of the final mechanics and we won’t until beta comes out. Even then, the mechanics will be in a rough draft state. Nothing is final until things are live.

But what fun are tidbits of information without rampant speculation? Pure opinion and wild conclusions BEGIN!

New Priest Spells

Heal (available at level 16): While priests already have a spell called Heal, the existing version becomes obsolete at higher levels, which is something we intend to change in Cataclysm. Introduced at a low level, the "new" Heal spell will functionally work much like a down-ranked Greater Heal did in the past, adding more granularity to your direct-healing arsenal. If you need to heal someone a moderate amount and efficiency is an issue (making Flash Heal the incorrect spell for the job), then Heal is what you want to use. Heal is intended to be the priest's go-to direct-healing spell unless they need something bigger (Greater Heal) or faster (Flash Heal). We will be following a similar philosophy with all the healing classes.

This looks pretty good to me. I liked downranking in BC because it allowed for fine tuning and control in varying healing situations.

I understand that downranking was an unintended mechanic, as was the standing around doing nothing for FSR management. Happily, Blizzard understands why that kind of control was desirable. This addresses both sides of the concern.

Mind Spike (level 81): Deals Shadowfrost damage and puts a debuff on the target that improves subsequent Mind Spike damage. The intent of Mind Spike is to fill a niche missing in Shadow DPS, though it may be occasionally useful for healers as well. Mind Spike provides a quick nuke to use in situations where the priest doesn't have time to set up the normal rotation, such as when adds are dying too fast or you have to swap targets a lot. Spamming Mind Spike will do about as much damage as casting Mind Flay on a target afflicted with Shadow Word: Pain. The idea behind the debuff is that when you cast Mind Spike, we expect you to cast a lot of them; we don't intend you to fit it into an already full Shadow rotation. It also provides Shadow with a spell to cast when locked out of the Shadow school. (School lockouts will no longer affect both schools for multi-school spells.) 1.5-second cast. 30-yard range. No cooldown.

From clarifications: The idea behind Mind Spike is that you can't always settle into your normal, and high-ramp up rotation. It's also useful when you have to move or get school locked.

PEWPEWPEW! I don’t shadow much, but it seems to fill a gap I had heard complaints over. I hope it’s flashy!

Inner Will (level 83): Increases movement speed by 12% and reduces the mana cost of instant-cast spells by 10%. This buff will be exclusive with Inner Fire, meaning you can't have both up at once. Inner Fire provides a spell power and Armor buff; Inner Will should be useful on a more situational basis.

From clarifications: Neither Inner Fire nor Inner Will has charges. The decision is on which armor you want up at the time.

I always love a movement speed buff, and increasing the capacity to heal on the run is never bad. Flexibility in personal buffs and situational customization makes things interesting. I like! The charges are also very much good riddance.

Leap of Faith (level 85): Pull a party or raid member to your location. Leap of Faith (or "Life Grip") is intended to give priests a tool to help rescue fellow players who have pulled aggro, are being focused on in PvP, or just can't seem to get out of the fire in time. Instant. 30-yard range. 45-second cooldown.

Leap of Faith is by far the single most sensational ability in this release set. Love it, hate it, everyone has some opinion on this crazy new toy. From current perspective, it is simply that. A toy.

@Rilgon from Stabilized Effort Scope asked “Why is every person's immediate reaction to Leap of Faith to think "how can I use this to be a dick to my friends?" *sigh*”

Answer: Because we can’t think of much better to do with it! Aside from saving people who suck (whom many of us aren’t overly inclined to save sometimes anyway), it doesn’t have a lot of practical application in PvE. In WotLK, it is a toy.

BUT! This isn’t for WotLK. This is for Cataclysm. I predict with all the buffs to movement and healing on the run, there will be a lot of movement dependent encounters upcoming. Maybe something will be vitally dependant on having a dps with a sprint/blink ability, and LoF will allow yet another raid comp that can execute it. Who knows! Benefit of the doubt, it sounds super fun and super silly, but I am willing to believe it will have its uses. Or possibly be too OP in PVP as some have speculated, and not even make it live.

I like the idea I’ve seen on giving it a tagalong effect, i.e. dropping that target’s aggro or some other ‘bonus’ to give it added PVE benefit. I don’t think an actual casting buff I’ve seen suggested like haste will make it, mostly because of PVP.

Changes to Abilities and Mechanics

All HoTs and DoTs will benefit from Haste and Crit innately. Hasted HoTs and DoTs will not have a shorter duration, just a shorter period in between ticks (meaning they will gain extra ticks to fill in the duration as appropriate).

Win! What’s not to love?

We want to bring back Shadow Word: Death as an "execute" -- something you do when the target is at 25% health.

Moar pewpew! All the better for killing blows? Ask a shadowpriest.

While we want to keep the priest's role as a well-rounded healer, we also want to make sure the class is a viable tank healer, which is something priests moved away from a little in Wrath of the Lich King. Greater Heal will probably be the tank-healing spell of choice, though we've also discussed giving Discipline a second shield so that they have a small shield to cast on lots of different targets, and a big, more expensive shield to cast on a tank or anyone else taking a ton of damage.

This I’ve seen argued many ways, but I really do like this. Before CoH spam was the norm (remember when people thought it was bad?), I loved that I could take on any healing role effectively. Not enough pallies? I can MT heal like a champ. Too many? Got the raid covered! Mind you, I barely have enough room for the gear sets I collect now, but this would be well worth a major investment in bag upgrades.

I always have and still do think this level of flexibility was and should be a defining trait for priests! If discipline is weaving heals and absorbs in a way that can be fine tuned for raid maintenance or more tank oomph, I think holy’s very different cast style will still remain unique if they’re given the tools to keep the tank alive as well as any other healer.

The major caveat on that is that balance is absolutely critical on this one to prevent loss of uniqueness without over/underpowering something. I think it would be fabulous for both priest specs to be equally capable of raid and tank healing. If you want to tip the scales very slightly, maybe make disc the better tank healer and holy the better raid healer. But don’t tip it so far as to make one overlooked for one role over another.

Another extremely crucial balance issue is avoiding the jack of all trades, master of none scenario as mentioned by Avalonna from Tales of a Priest. Should we outheal paladins on tanks and druids/shamans on raid (assuming their role stays the same…)? No. But is it reasonable to expect to keep up and hold our own? I think so. Skill should determine the better healer in these scenarios. They key is to limit homogenization to general effectiveness while keeping style and execution fun and unique. If Blizzard manages this, I will be a very happy camper. But that is a very big ‘if’ and a very daunting balance challenge that I wouldn’t want to touch with a fifty-foot pole. I truly, deeply, from the bottom of my heart wish the development team the best of luck in this.

Divine Spirit and Prayer of Spirit will be removed from the game. As Spirit will be the primary mana-regeneration stat, we don't want it to vary as much between solo, small group, and raid play. Blessing of Kings and Mark of the Wild will not boost Spirit either.

Already announced. Not a big deal. Finding more details on regen mechanics would be fun. The following is a great teaser for that one. Can’t wait to find out more, because again, before buffs and patches in BC, mana management was a measure of skill and it made the game fun and challenging. I am thrilled for mana management, as long as they’re careful of the balance between ‘painful’ and ‘fun’ as mentioned below.

Mana will be a bigger consideration for all healers. We aren't trying to make healing more painful; we're trying to make it more fun. When the cost of a spell isn't an issue, then casting the right spell for the job is less of an issue because you might as well just use your most powerful spell all of the time. We are, however, getting rid of the five-second rule, because we don't want to encourage standing around doing nothing. We're also going to cut back on the benefits of buffs such as Replenishment so priests (and all healers) don't feel as penalized when those buffs aren't available

New Talents and Talent Changes

We want to improve Discipline's single-target healing capacity. One key is to make sure shielding isn't always a more attractive option than healing.

YES! Yes yes yes yes YES. I am excited for some higher scaling healing. Not a lot, because it doesn’t need it. Too much would be overwhelming and overpowered. But overall, an increase on single target throughput would be win. Stamp of approval.

We want to improve Holy for PvP healing. One way to do this is to make sure that Heal's throughput is similar between both specs.

Okay. I don’t PVP so kudos to holy PVPers!

We want to improve Shadow for short fights and reduce its susceptibility to school lockouts.

Yay shadowpriests! Sounds good anyway.

Discipline will finally be getting Power Word: Barrier as a talented ability. Think of it like a group Power Word: Shield.

From clarifications: The closest analogue to PW:B is the DK Anti-Magic Zone, but it has some important differences, such as a way to counter it in PvP (since it absorbs all damage, not just magical damage).

ABOUT. FREAKING. TIME. WOOOOOOOO! I was beyond excited for this in Wrath. If this falls through for Cataclysm I will be of a mood to kill puppies. But instead of puppies it will be whoever I can happen to blame.

I. want. this. ability.

Thank you.

We want to make Holy a little bit more interesting to play. One new talent will push the Holy priest into an improved healing state when he or she casts Prayer of Healing, Heal, or Renew three times in a row. The empowered state varies depending on the heals cast.

From clarifications: The idea behind the Holy "cast three in a row" talent (it's called "Chakra") is that we've always positioned Holy as a versatile healer. This talent lets you shift into different modes. If you need to be a tank healer, cast three single target heals and your single-target healing is now better. Cast three area heals, and you can be a temporarily specialized group healer. We're going to try to play this mechanic up with a cool UI to try to get that "I'm almost in the zone" feel. We'll let it apply to as many types of spells as we can, perhaps even Smite for those times when nobody's taking damage.

This sounds like a lot of fun. Other comments I’ve read indicate that 3 PoH in a row sounds a little excessive for a buff, which I’m inclined to agree with. A self cast buff that procs a different effect based on what spell you cast immediately after could be another good execution of this. That seems contrary to their ‘in the zone’ feel though, so perhaps that just means ‘area’ spells will include CoH in with PoH and/or something else, effectively creating groups that build your chakra one way or another.

It doesn’t sound like this is finalized by any means, so as a general idea, I think this sounds like something I would definitely love to play around with.

Since the Shadow tree has a lot of passive damage-boosting abilities -- something we're trying to avoid in Cataclysm -- we will need to replace several of the tree's talents. One idea is to play off of the new Shadow Orbs mechanic (see Mastery section below), possibly allowing you to consume an orb to increase damage from Mind Blast or reduce Mind Spike's cast time.

(throwing this in from clarifications since it applies to the doesn’t-apply-to-me category)

Preventing dot clipping is something we want to do in general. It obviously benefits Shadow priests just as much as warlocks.

Alright! Sounds… great? Sure! Good enough for me.

Misery will no longer affect spell Hit chance. We want players to be able to gear themselves around a Hit cap that isn't variable depending on group composition.

From clarifications: We pulled Misery because we are pulling every group benefit that improves hit. It's annoying to have to swap your gear in and out depending on who shows up for your group. In general we're going to push even harder in Cataclysm for bringing people you like to play with, not bringing people who have awesome buffs. The answer to almost every question of "But why would they bring me?" should be "Because you know what the hell you're doing."

Let’s repeat this, and let’s hope for it to be true some day.

“The answer to almost every question of "But why would they bring me?" should be "Because you know what the hell you're doing."”

This goes back to my earlier homogenization comment. Homogenization of effectiveness is a good thing, assuming that all the classes have fun and unique methods for varying playstyles to execute the responsibilities of their role. I approve.

Mastery Passive Talent Tree Bonuses



Spell damage
Spell Crit
Shadow Orbs

Absorption: Improves the strength of shields such as Power Word: Shield, Divine Aegis, and Power Word: Barrier.

Reasonable as far as passive bonuses go. So long as the healing is scaled well to match and we’re not relegated to bubble-bots, I’ll take it.

Radiance: Your direct heals add a small heal-over-time component to the target.

Could definitely be spiffy. Could be underwhelming. I’m hoping it turns out to be fun and effective. Side note, the lack of straight healing/spellpower passive bonuses for both sides makes me hope for decent holy/disc balance. Fingers crossed.

Shadow Orbs: Casting spells grants a chance for Shadow Orbs to be created that fly around you and increase your shadow damage. This will help lower-level characters feel more like "Shadow priests" before they obtain Shadowform.

Anything that makes you look more like swirly death is a good thing. Thumbs up!

So there you have it. I’m going to take a Leap of Faith here. I’m going to allow myself to really be excited about the new expansion. As the beta and later live information is released, I believe suggestions will be given and adjustments made, and things will make more sense as other mechanics are revealed. And it will be so much fun. As it stands, I’m thrilled and looking forward to finding out more!

Edit: Additional points of clarification published at 3pm today

We've seen some confusion about Mind Spike. The intention is that you can’t always get your full DoTs up on a target in time before it’s dead. Shadow priests sometimes aren’t sure what to do on, for example, a fight where a boss suddenly spawns an add that you’re supposed to quickly burn down and then go back to the main boss. Mind Spike is what you do to that add. As a rule of thumb, if it’s going to die in under 15 seconds, then go with Mind Spike. Otherwise get your DoTs up and go into your longer rotation.

This made sense to me and I’m not even shadow. Maybe it doesn’t make sense if you are a shadowpriest… (something I’m missing? who knows)

The movement speed from Inner Will stacks with the boot speed bonus. It won’t stack with some movement buffs like say Body and Soul.

WOOHOO!! This made it worth adding an edit to this post. I like to go fast. Body & Soul is the only reason I keep my holy offspec.

We know a lot of people are looking for answers about Lightwell. We're reviewing the talent and spell functionality, but do not have any details to share as of yet regarding its future.

Translation: We know this is broken. We just… don’t know what to do with it yet.

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