Your intrepid WoW.com staff has obviously been glued to the official forums just like everyone else, as we anxiously watch for each new bit of the Cataclysm class changes to be announced. Since the class changes apply to both PvE and PvP, it can be hard to get a good picture of how these announcements will affect the raiding game in Cataclysm. Heck, we don't even know what the raiding environment is going to be entirely like in the new expansion, so it's hard to get a handle on what anything really means. That being said, however, some of the old standbys of raiding are going to obviously be pretty mixed up.
The warrior Sunder change is probably one of the biggest deals. As Matthew Rossi pointed out in his analysis, Sunder Armor and Devastate have been so iconic to the warrior class that this debuff has been a staple of raiding since vanilla. It's so thoroughly pervasive that there are entire guilds named after the ability, like Wait for Sunders. Although warriors aren't by necessity the main tank any longer, most physical heavy raids will at least wait until a full stack of sunders are applied to the boss before keying Heroism or Bloodlust. The decreased effect of sunder will mean that this key ability isn't such an obvious timer any longer. We'll get by, and we don't know how much the debuff will matter to our overall input, but raids will definitely feel different.
I can already see the Gushing Wounds change being a point of contention in many raids. Even if Ghostcrawler claims that the intent isn't to force us to kite every boss, warriors who are concerned about doing their best damage output are going to try and convince their tanks to go ahead and move the boss. (After all, if there's isn't a compelling reason for there to not be at least a little bit of motion, wouldn't you just be throwing away damage?) This is going to cause some arguments between raiders who don't want the added hassle of a boss-on-the-hoof versus warriors who want to produce their very best damage.
The new Vengeance ability for all tanks is going to be a huge change to the raiding lifestyle. In summary, the new ability will add a stacking buff (presumably called Vengeance) that means that a tank who is getting hit will start doing more damage. The more damage they take, the more threat they'll produce on the boss. For boss encounters, this buff will always be stacked all the way. What does this mean? It means that Vengeance will provide tanks more scaling threat than ever before. We've seen threat-scaling issues during the last half of the expansion, when the overwhelming damage being produced by DPS classes outstrips any amount of threat a tank can produce. (There are of course exceptions, and skilled tanks make do.) However, to keep threat reliable, most raid tanks rely at least somewhat on hunters and rogues "helping out" with Tricks of the Trade and Misdirection.
Those dark days of tanks relying on their DPS classes to provide necessary threat are hopefully over. Vengeance won't key up all at once, but it shouldn't take very long in a boss encounter for it to reach its maximum potency. Instead of waiting for sunders, we'll all be waiting for Vengeance.
Restoration shaman are going to bring a whole bunch of new hotness as raid healers. Healing Rains looks to couple very nicely with Tranquility, providing raids with incredibly AE utility. I wonder if this means that we can expect more environmental damage in Cataclysm raids, considering that priests are finally going to get their hands on Power Word: Barrier. This means that just about every healer will probably have some kind of ability that screams, "Oh my god, the raid just took a boat-load of damage on each character." (At the time of this writing, we're still waiting for the paladin announcement, though, so it's possible they might not be seeing anything.)
Speaking of healers proactively taking care of the raid, the big new power everyone is talking about has been Leap of Faith. (Though, when I see people discussing the ability, they actually call it Life Grip.) If you have raid members who still can't get out of fire, the priest can babysit them and Life Grip them out of trouble. We don't have a lot of information about the fine points of Life Grip, but it could stand to position priests as the best "training class." Have someone you're trying to teach how to raid? A priest can shepherd them to stand in the exact right spot -- whether that person likes it or not!
We all know standing in the right place is important. When talking about shaman and standing in the right place, those totem jockeys get a little bit of relief in their raid motion. With Spiritwalker's Grace, the shaman will get 10 seconds of motion without interrupting any of their casting. The implication of this new ability isn't simply that the turret DPS can cast on the run in the arena, but it's yet another motion-based ability cropping up in the new round of changes. It makes me wonder if we might see positioning being even more important in Cataclysm raiding. Will we have another Heigan dance to master? Will not standing in fire be a more prevalent mechanic?
The changes to dispel mechanics are obviously huge for raiding. Currently, raid healers keep half an eye on their debuff mod and willy-nilly click to get rid of any applicable debuff. After all, if it's something they can't dispel, then they're not even out a GCD if the dispel fails. That's all gone now -- dispelling will be an active choice, something healers will be forced to think twice about. The hope, of course, is that the API or UI will be a little more clear about debuffs and that the effects laid down by bosses won't be quite so haphazard. If you need to burn decision time on a debuff that hits 25 players at once, this new mechanic could be a pain in the neck.
There's so much to talk about that it'll be weeks before we really get to parse all the data. As of the time of writing this article, we're still missing nearly half the class announcements. We'll obviously be continuing next week, but I'm especially excited to get a look at the other half of the tank and healer classes. I think those updates will reveal a lot about what we can expect in Cataclysm raiding. It's too early to say much about what the future will be like, but we do know the world is changing -- that's kind of the point of a Cataclysm, I guess.
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