On warriors, and nerf/ buff cycles

I wonder sometimes if players enjoy the idea of a cycle  of nerfs and buffs. Where if a class is overpowered at one point, it is guaranteed to be underpowered again when the wheel turns. And the underpowered classes will be buffed up to be the next flavour of the month. It’s like a wheel of fate. Everyone gets what they deserve. The last will be first and the first will be last.

Except that it’s stupid.

Ideally in game we want to get to an equilibrium where everyone is roughly equal for whatever that means. So that people can just play whatever they prefer and if it is below par in some respect, trust that it’ll be brought back into line, without feeling that they deserve to be overpowered as some kind of reward for having been underpowered in the past.

Who cares about tank dps anyway?

The Blizzard developers continue to experiment with giving players a heads’ up about future changes before the specific changes are announced. I think this is partly to allow people to get through their grieving cycle and also to stop players jumping on the bandwagon of overpowered classes too quickly – if Blizzard say immediately, “We think this is wrong and it’s being fixed next patch,” then it probably won’t seem worth the effort.

Changes coming down the line soonish are a buff to warlock damage, and a nerf to protection warriors damage because the spec has been performing too well in PvP. Naturally, since the majority of tanking warriors are PvE focussed, this raised an uproar. In PvE the spec isn’t remotely overpowered, if anything it is slightly behind the other tanks in terms of threat generation, effective health, how easy they are to heal, and so on; so a nerf was never going to be a popular move.

If a spec IS overpowered in PvP then they do need to act quickly, because top end PvP players are notorious for how quickly they’ll switch to the flavour of the month.

And no one really wants to pick a tank because of their damage. They want to pick them because they’re tough, hard to kill, good at keeping threat, and doing whatever other tanky things the raid requires. For a tank, damage is part of their utility, it’s a small buff to raid damage that you get as a bonus when you slot them in.

So I think the warlock buff will be way way more significant to future raid performance than any protection warrior nerf. But it’s still harsh to be in a spot where you think, “Actually, the best thing the raid could do to make this encounter easier would be to bench me and get one of the bears or paladins to tank.” Even worse if they could just grab a lesser geared alt or offspec paladin and still find things easier.

It just doesn’t make you feel good about the game.

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14 thoughts on “On warriors, and nerf/ buff cycles

  1. This reminds me of Guild Wars. Classes got nerfed/buffed almost exclusively based on their PvP performance. But PvE and PvP are entirely different beasts in Guild Wars.

    PvE developed a tendency to become mass combat, so area effect attacks became predominant. PvP was more about disabling and spiking down single opponents. In the end they started to separate the behaviour of skills in PvE and PvP, but fairly late and it remains a mess up to today.

    Warlocks never got the buff needed to help them versus a single naked rogue stabbing them down with a beginner dagger Just because they did fine in pvp gear and a healer behind them.

    Mesmers had all the stuff to be useful and deadly in PvP. So they were nerfed. To the point were they were for YEARS the absolute underdog in PvE. Good luck finding a group. This got also remedied, but at the expense of the whole game becoming so easy that it does not matter who or what you are.

    I dare to say, trinity based games are even harder to balance for pvp. Despite all its flaws and Assassins being probably the no. 1 killer choice in Aion (but not to good in large scale battles like Rangers or warrior classes), it got the best class balance of any PvP MMO so far.

    The Warlock class in WoW always has suffered from problems. Either Fear war too imba, or it was next to useless and as CC horrible. The level 60 Doomguard never ever rocked so far. Neither did the infernal. It was still nice to play, but it definitely had and has issues.

    Being overpowered gives one a bad idea if one likes a class or not, till one gets nerfed – being underpowered on the other hand for the duration of almost a whole expansion is frustrating.

    The major issue I see is making hybrids nearly as strong as specialists and giving them buffs. This “can be tank/dps/healer” idea might be nice on paper, but then it has to apply to all classes, and not to a few who are suddenly more equal than all others.

  2. Well now you know how I felt as a prot pally during BC when I tanked. If anything, WotLK has done an excellent job of making sure every class got to feel what its like to be underpowered.

    • So you’d be happy to be underpowered again next expansion? :) I think you have missed my point which is that the nerf/buff cycle is stupid, and being underpowered at one point doesn’t mean you are entitled to be overpowered later on, or vice versa.

      In any case, I also remember paladins in TBC being awesome (and very much preferred) for tanking heroics, trash packs, and Mount Hyjal. It was a state of game where they wanted different tanks to be specialised to different situations, which has now changed. You weren’t in the situation where you were worst off in just about every situation.

      For what it’s worth, I didn’t actually do much raid tanking in TBC so my experience is that paladins were better at tanking back then (for the stuff I did tank, which was heroics) and they still are.

      • Actually Spinks, until patch ZA orso, pally-tanks where considered by 90% of the community underpowered, partially due to high-end raiding guilds not using tankadins.

        I was actually thrown out of a heroic ShatH because I was a pally (lol).

        But, tbh, I wouldn’t mind being a little underpowdered :p, then I just need to work harder to be a great tank. It’s what I did in TBC, so I am familiair with it.

        But your title says it all, who cares about tank-dps….
        So I hope they nerf protwarrior-dps, and up its threat for you, would that make you happy?

      • Really? I remember being thrown out of Heroic SH because I wasn’t a pally.

        And really I’d be happier if we were just all on par. I’m fine, you all need a nerf :)

      • I honestly can’t believe that people have taken any other tank over a Paladin in Shattered Halls. This was no matter of taste, it was a matter of fact that they were and probably still are better at AoE tanking.

      • They were very unpopular in the early days. That was before their stamina talents: they had a couple of thousand life less than a comparably geared Warrior. Remember early on even mobs in the slave pens hit for up to 8k and a good tank had 10k life.

        They became more and more popular as the expansion wore on, certain hit point imbalances were fixed and people realised how good they were at aoe aggro.

        By the end of the expansion they were everyone’s favoured 5 man tank because they had way better aoe aggro than anyone else. Thunderclap was crap and only hit 4 targets.

  3. Taking both PvP and PvE seriously (without doing something funky like PvMP in LotRO) means balancing two very different games at the same time by tweaking a few shared mechanics. It’s almost impossible. I’m surprised Blizzard hasn’t realized this and devise some solution akin to how they rejigger balance specifically in arena matches.

    • I’m sure they have realised this by now ;) But it does seem that they’re quite dedicated to trying to go with a single ruleset.

      I think they generally do a decent job. Part of the problem is that PvP will tend to magnify balance issues anyway, and designing tightly tuned raid encounters also tends to stress class balance but in a different way.

      • A lot of what Blizzard gets right is quite subtle. The “easy to play hard to master”.

        Take Heroic Strike. A powerful blow that does +N damage and extra threat. This is actually quite a complex ability about which pages and pages of theorycraft exist but anyone can look at it and grasp what it does.

        Now if you start tweaking it around you could end up with:

        does N damage in PvE (unless it’s a raid in which case it’s N+17) but only does + half N in PvP (except against Rogues against whom it does N squared). Non-player mobs in pvp battleground are considered pvp opponents for the purposes of this abilty (except on Tuesdays).

        You now have an EQ2 ability, not a WoW ability.

  4. In the Dev Twitter chat yesterday, they made the comment “We’d also like to boost sustained Prot damage (for PvE) without adding too much burst (for PvP)”. So maybe they’re getting the message?

    • Makes sense this comment from Blizz, that seems to be Blizzards design solution to PVP vs PVE, stack dps up over time. More threat less damage is also a good solution, but people will always look at damage meters without too much heed of TPS (unless they are playing mages!). Most DPS characters stack up their damage already for reducing PVP burst or have burst specs with no sustained damage.

      They’ll get it right I’m sure!

  5. The paladin who made the comment about being tossed out of SH because he was a pally is living in a memory of the game I never experienced. Everyone wanted pally tanks in SH. It made it super easy.

    • I had people drop group when they saw that the tank was a paladin for SH. It happened. People had to learn how amazing paladins are before they accepted them.

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