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Blood Sport: Drain Mana's removal and its impact on arena


I was originally going to write this week's Blood Sport on the myriad of PvP changes on the PTR. However, I found myself writing a large amount about one subject, so much that it deserves its own post. Warlocks are losing Drain Mana in Patch 4.0.6. I'll get to the other changes some time soon (Blizzard is still not finished releasing changes at the moment). To summarize what is about to be a very long post, I don't agree with this philosophy.

No sir, not one bit.

We are probably going to remove Drain Mana from warlocks. It is incredibly situational in PvE but causes problems in PvP. This might mean we need to evaluate Mana Burn as well.

I'd like to know what kind of problems Ghostcrawler is referring to. I don't know anyone who thinks Drain Mana is an incredibly powerful ability right now. Does it shorten games? Sure. That's the intended effect -- or so I thought, anyway.

More win conditions usually means more fun

Removing Drain Mana from warlocks brings us one step closer to dropping another dynamic completely out of PvP. If anything, Blizzard should be giving mana-draining abilities to more classes. If arena had 10 different ways to win, it would be far more enjoyable and skill-oriented than only having a single win condition.

The more ways there are to win a game, the more interesting the game is. What if you could only checkmate an opposing king with a queen? What if there were only one entrance to the bases of Warsong Gulch? I suspect these games would become far more shallow.

The Burning Crusade PvP was interesting because there were lots of different ways to win. In Seasons 1-4, a team could win via many strategies ...

  • crowd control an opponent until an enemy dies
  • apply steady pressure to each enemy on the opposing side until one eventually dies
  • tunnel-vision the weakest member of the opposing team
  • employ high bursts of damage in switches
  • OOM an opponent by using Drain Mana, Viper Sting, Mana Burn, etc.
More frequently than not, teams combined these strategies on their path to victory instead of just using one or two.

The primary culprit that made Wrath of the Lich King PvP much more linear and far more boring than The Burning Crusade PvP was that there was only one way to win the vast majority of games: burst the other team down before they killed you. You often couldn't win using any other strategy. In Wrath of the Lich King, burst was king.

By taking Drain Mana out of the game, Blizzard is one step closer to removing an entire dynamic from arena, one that has been not only historically important to the game, but one that diversifies battles. Removing Drain Mana makes arena more linear and arguably much more shallow and boring.

Think about if we couldn't resurrect players in arena -- it would take an entire dynamic out of the game (and some pretty epic stories with it). Mana draining is just another way to win the game, and it's a very unique way to win -- moreover, it's an easy knob to tweak (instead of just removing it entirely).

Drain Mana isn't overpowered

Do mana-draining abilities punish healers who get low on mana early? Sure. I thought Cataclysm PvP was supposed to be about healers not having infinite mana and being punished for going OOM. Instead of removing Drain Mana entirely, Blizzard can always just adjust the numbers. Mana-draining abilities could be made 50% worse or something so they're not as powerful. Taking Mana Drain away from warlocks is just poor foresight.

On that note, Drain Mana is just not that powerful. I play a warlock as my main, so perhaps I'm a bit biased. However, we've only won a handful of 3v3 games because of Drain Mana. Removing the spell will make warlock-healer teams nearly unplayable in 2v2. The only way an affliction warlock can win at the moment in 2v2 is to drain mana.

Warlocks aren't even good in 2v2 at the moment (and 2v2 is arguably the PvP sector where Drain Mana really shines), so I don't understand why Drain Mana is "causing problems." If the problem is 2v2 to begin with, the answer is to drain mana faster so games don't take as long, not completely remove a way to oom a healer. It seems very backwards.

Blizzard has corrected poor warlock design before it has hit live realms in the past. Some of you might remember the great Life Tap nerf of Wrath of the Lich King beta. Life Tap cost something like four times as much health as it currently does and only refunded half the mana. This was a very, very poor decision on Blizzard's part -- energy resource mechanics shouldn't be a burden to the player, and warlocks arguably already had the worst energy resource mechanic in the game.

Moreover, if I recall correctly, rated battlegrounds were supposed to be the focus of Cataclysm PvP balance. If you're casting Drain Mana in battlegrounds, you're probably doing it very, very wrong.

Draining enemy DPS

If draining opposing DPS is a problem, that's a problem with the opposing DPS's mana regeneration, not Drain Mana. I've been advocating for a long time for huge mana buffs for DPS mana users like shadow priests, mages, boomkins, etc. They should rarely (if ever) run out of mana. OOMing opposing healers is necessary to win many arena matches; not being able to DPS is absolutely stupid.

That's why the Life Tap change back in Wrath beta was so poorly thought out -- warlocks were being penalized by a resource mechanic. I've heard tons of times that "warlocks are the only mana class in the game with infinite mana." That's not even true technically, let alone what happens practically. Warlocks drain their healers' mana quicker by life tapping (and sacrificing DPS by using a global cooldown). That's the opposite of what you want to be doing in arena.

Energy resources are a giant deal in arena, way more than most people realize. An important reason warriors, rogues, and warlocks did so well in The Burning Crusade is because they had infinite resource mechanics. They never ran out of mana -- they never stopped working. Restoration druids were really good for largely the same reason; they were hard to force OOM with their heals all being incredibly efficient (in addition to other reasons).

If I had my way, mages, shadow priests, boomkins, and other DPS spellcasters would never run out of mana. Mana-using DPS classes are balanced with the idea that they will never run out of mana in mind -- why don't we just make that an actuality? That way, it would be absolutely pointless to Drain Mana any of them, and it would be better spent where it is supposed to be spent: on healers.

The difference between Drain Mana and Viper Sting

Viper Sting was removed from hunters because certain classes had a difficult time dealing with it (priests). Viper Sting also took little to no damage or time sacrifice from the hunter. Drain Mana can now be dispelled by all four healing classes and puts the warlock at risk of having his shadow school locked out, as well as a damage, time, and position commitment. (The warlock has to stay in one place while channeling.)

While I would like to see some form of mana-draining capability given to hunters in the future, Viper Sting is not the best option unless it were changed to be removable by all healers and more sacrifice were given up by the hunter for it.

Listening Music: Passion Pit with "Sleepyhead." This song reminds me of a Pogo song that uses nothing but sounds from Alice in Wonderland. Both are pretty awesome.

Want to ascend the arena ladders faster than a fireman playing Donkey Kong? We'll steer you to victory with the best arena addons and let you in on some rank 1 gladiator PvP secrets. If you're looking for the inside line on battlegrounds and world PvP, read The Art of War(craft).

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