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Blood Sport: 20% Mortal Wounds


Want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women? Blood Sport investigates the entirety of all things arena for gladiators and challengers alike. C. Christian Moore, multiple rank 1 gladiator, examines the latest arena strategy, trends, compositions and more in's arena column.

Listening music: "First Day of My Life" by Bright Eyes. Beautiful song. Jack Conte put out an absolutely magnificent mashup featuring Aphex Twin, too. It's not recent, but it's still awesome.

Last week, we discussed moving out of fire ... in PvP. We also featured some robots making out. (Bjork is awesome.) This week, we'll be talking about some future Cataclysm changes. I'm as giggly as a schoolgirl over these PvP modifications. We'll start off by discussing the recent change to one of the oldest and most notorious PvP mechanics.

Healing debuffs (a.k.a. Mortal Wounds/Mortal Strike effects) are dropping to 20%. Dropping is probably the wrong word -- plunging might be more accurate. English really needs a word that means "fall to the death," because that's closer to what's happening here. We'll create a word -- deathfall. Healing debuffs are deathfalling to 20%.

"All equivalent debuffs" means if you have the debuff today, you will have it in Cataclysm, but at 20% healing received. To avoid further confusion, we are talking about Mortal Strike, Furious Strikes, Wound Poison, Aimed Shot, Permafrost and Improved Mind Blast.

We are also strongly considering having all of these effect cause the same debuff, called Mortal Wounds, which is a physical effect and therefore undispellable. This allows the behavior to be more consistent regardless of who is applying it and lets us consider things like how easy it should be to dispel poisons (since Mortal Wounds would not be affected).

Heals will be smaller and health pools will be larger in Cataclysm, so we don't expect Mortal Wounds to feel as mandatory as it does today, but this is clearly the kind of thing that will require a lot of playtesting and feedback.

Warriors, rogues and hunters are up in arms about this, and rightfully so. A major reason to play with a Mortal Strike debuffer on your team is, well ... Mortal Strike. While that's incredibly obvious to some, it might not be so clear to others. What is not so obvious, however, is why this change is among the best possible solutions to Mortal Strike debuffs in arena. I believe warriors, rogues and hunters will ultimately be very happy with the change.

Give me about a thousand words to explain why 20% Mortal Wounds is a brilliant idea.

Warriors, rogues and hunters will be more easily balanced in PvP.

Raiding balance is more important than PvP balance. It just is. WoW is a PvE game at heart, and developers need to make sure everyone can get a raid spot if they're skilled enough. Having a class that does vastly more DPS than other classes is dumb.

The problem, of course, enters when we scribble a Mortal Strike debuff into the equation. Let's say a hunter does 10,000 damage in a raid. Let's say a similarly geared and skilled mage does equal damage. So far, so good, right? Sadly, no.

You see, while those numbers are perfectly acceptable for the PvE side of the game, the hunter's Mortal Strike will make his team's damage much more difficult to heal through. If they are doing roughly equal damage, the hunter's team has an advantage.

While balancing arena (or raiding) is certainly not that simple, I think warriors, hunters and rogues will appreciate being balanced equally with other classes in the future, instead of having Mortal Strike weigh them down. If you're screaming about hunters and warriors doing too much damage right now, well, that's because a lot of statistics are out of whack right now (armor, armor penetration, for instance).

Wizard cleaves will get much less bursty.

Even I am kind of puzzled by that sentence. What does a bursty wizard cleave (two DPS spellcasters + one healer) have anything to do with Mortal Strike debuffs?

Because casters only do equal (or possibly less) damage than melee classes (who also have a healing debuff), they need other tools to win games. While there are other tools used by spellcasters, burst is at an all-time high and helps keep balance in check. Wizard cleave compositions were rarely seen before season six, but they are an arena ladder staple today. The spellcasters keep teams in check by providing ridiculous amounts of burst before a Mortal Strike debuff can hurt healers.

When Mortal Wound-type effects drop to 20%, there will be no need to keep spellcaster burst so high. In fact, the burst issue might solve itself when stamina and healing is adjusted.

This is important to "bring the player, not the class" in PvP.

Yes, yes, I know Blizzard has said multiple times that quote is about PvE. No need to write an angry comment about how C. Christian Moore takes things out of context to further the demands of the arena community. Besides, everyone already knows I'm shady like that. Hear me out.

Think of the last time you saw a hunter, warrior or rogue together on a team. Go ahead. Think about it. I'm going to guess that you had to think pretty hard. Maybe you thought back to season seven with a hunter-prot warrior-holy paladin composition. Okay, that doesn't really count, because there was only one Mortal Strike effect on the team.

Having two Mortal Wound effects is redundant -- a team usually gains more by using another class once they already have a Mortal Wound effect available. Warriors will be able to play with their rogue friends and not feel disadvantaged in Cataclysm. How is that not awesome?

In addition to more compositions being available to Mortal Wounds classes, players without healing debuffs will likewise be able to create more interesting team compositions. Dropping the debuff to 20% makes it less mandatory overall. Want to play enhancement shaman-disc priest-affliction warlock? You might not be at a large disadvantage (at least, not because you don't have a Mortal Strike effect).

Nearly every successful 5v5 (I'd say easily 95%+) is comprised of a Mortal Strike class, one to two healers and two to three other players. 5v5s are renowned for following cookie-cutter compositions to the top, but most 3v3s are better with a Mortal Strike debuff as well. (Wizard cleaves are an exception, for a reason we've already gone over above.)

The change will shake things up in a new and refreshing way.

Healing will be toned down.

Okay, this one is kind of obvious for like eight reasons, so I'll try to keep it short.

Arena in The Burning Crusade allowed players to sit at half health relatively often. That is, of course, until a restoration druid pops out from behind a pillar and heals their entire team to full, then cheetahs it back safely. Large stamina increases with lots of well-itemized PvP gear was the main thing here. (Hint: Blizzard is planning on doing the same thing with Cataclysm.)

If there was one problem in TBC, it was healing. Who can forget season four restoration druids? Cataclysm looks to take that scenario away by drastically reducing healing. If Blizzard manages it well, we'll have the best of both worlds -- a game state where battles are interesting and involving, but one where healing isn't overpowered.

Blizzard is moving away from boring gameplay elements in PvP.

Hoorah! My favorite point!

Blizzard has taken a large burden to remove "boring" talents from the game. They're giving us a mastery stat and adjusting lots of problems with classes individually.

Healing debuffs are boring. Not only is your class balanced around them, but you're not applying them in any super-special way. It would be way more awesome if you had a cooldown to drastically decrease healing received to your target rather than just mindlessly mashing some buttons to get a lesser effect.

I'll talk about this in the future, but let's talk a little bit about Necrotic Strike.

Necrotic Strike (level 83): Necrotic Strike is a new attack that deals weapon damage and applies a debuff that absorbs an amount of healing based on the damage done. For context, imagine that the death knight can choose between doing 8,000 damage outright with a certain ability, or dealing 6,000 damage and absorbing 4,000 points in incoming heals with Necrotic Strike -- the burst is smaller, but a larger overall amount of healing would be required to bring the target back to full health.

This ability is meant to bring back some of the old flavor from when death knights could dispel heal-over-time (HoT) effects. It also gives the class a bit more PvP utility without simply replicating a Mortal Strike-style effect.

This is exactly how anti-healing abilities should work. Interesting, powerful and thought-provoking. Compare this with Mortal Strike, Wound Poison or Aimed Shot. Hopefully more abilities like Necrotic Strike will be implemented. PvPers love to think. Running around a circle mashing buttons isn't what most of us signed up for.

I'm excited about PvP in Cataclysm. I hope you are, too.

Want to ascend the arena ladders faster than a fireman playing Donkey Kong? Check out's articles on arena, successful arena PvPers, PvP and our arena column, Blood Sport.

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