The rationale Blizzard gave is along expected lines, and reminds me of the Decursive issue. Basically, since a cornucopia of buffs was theoretically available to raiders, Blizz had to tune boss encounters around having all those consumables on. If the encounters were tuned around few or no consumables, people like Nihilum would blow through all the content in a month, since they'd just flask up and would therefore be "overpowered" from the perspective of raid design. On the other hand, the way it is now has problems too. Since encounters are balanced with an array of flasks and elixirs in mind, they can be very hard if you don't use all those consumables, thus leading to heavy gold requirements for raiding.
I think the solution they've come up with is pretty decent. It basically levels the playing field a certain amount, so that you have a much smaller opportunity to buy more leeway in your raid encounters. This means less gold for raiding. And new encounters are going to be balanced with only a few consumable buffs in mind, so in theory we shouldn't see much of a difference -- we'll be weaker, but so will the bosses. Current content will be rebalanced as necessary, although I imagine at least at first we'll see a stepping up in difficulty, at least those of us who are used to downing flasks and elixirs like so much Gatorade.
Blue post copied after the cut. Oh, and one small ray of sunshine for alchemists: elixirs will now be able to stack with class buffs, so (for instance) an intellect elixir will now be useful, where before it would have not stacked with Arcane Intellect/Brilliance. This will lead to some new recipes being introduced that would previously have been useless. We are also going to be eventually getting some new recipes that might have been overpowered before.
In an upcoming patch we will be changing the way elixirs function, allowing a player to only have two elixirs on them at any one time. The change will allow you to use one offensive elixir, and one defensive elixir. All elixirs will be set into one of these two categories. This also means that although elixirs of the same type cannot be used at the same time, they will now stack with class buffs.
We're making this change for a number of reasons.
- By allowing players to use any number of elixirs it was necessary that we balance raid and dungeon encounters with the idea that all players in the group had the potential of having all available elixirs on them. In many cases this resulted in the spectrum of elixirs being necessary for dungeon and raid attempts as they were balanced to be more difficult. This put a large strain on guild alchemists and their need of materials for the elixirs they would then distribute throughout the guild. With fewer elixirs being allowed, fewer elixirs will be expected on raids, and less herb and material collection will be needed when attempting raid or dungeon encounters. In turn this change allows us to design and balance encounters around it, keeping the difficulty in line with a clearer limitation of what each group member has at their disposal.
- Since the number of elixirs is now limited, we can also now allow them to stack with class buffs, so intellect elixirs will actually matter since they will now stack with arcane intellect. As mentioned previously we'll be introducing some new recipes that would have simply been left unused before as they wouldn't have been allowed to stack with class buffs.
- We've seen many requests for new recipes, and to some extent it was necessary that we limit how and when we introduce new recipes as any new elixir added in-turn resulted in a potential power increase for every member of a raid or group. With the number of elixirs on any one player now limited we can add more recipes than we would have been able to in the past.
- Flasks will work in this new system by taking up both the offensive and defensive elixir slots. We of course recognize this as a reduction of total effect of flasks, but as mentioned we will be balancing to take into account the use of a single flask on each player in an encounter.
- Potions (rather than elixirs) will not be affected at all by this system.
This change will generally not impact solo players who currently already only use one or two elixirs at a time, but will certainly be a restriction for players who tend to use a lot of elixirs simultaneously. In the case of raid and small group parties the change is a clear benefit. The need for herbs and materials, and thus the strain on a guild or individual alchemist to collect these items is lowered substantially, in combination with the encounters being tuned with the limitation in mind. This change to elixirs and flasks also allows us to improve and expand the alchemy profession in new ways, and removes the need to design and balance encounters around the potential use of all possible elixirs. We're currently planning to implement this change in a future patch and we'll release further details as well as information on the new recipes as soon as we're able.