Matchmaker, matchmaker, rate me a match
It has also been confirmed that Matchmaking rating (MMR), team and personal ratings will be reset. What on earth does that mean? I hear a few of you cry. Well, your personal rating and team rating was wiped in the season 9 to season 10 changeover, but not your MMR.
What's MMR? It has nothing to do with pairing off your friends with suitable girls or guys; I'll tell you that for free. I like to picture MMR as a giant, evil supercomputer in a volcano that takes various factors into account and matches you with teams roughly equivalent to you. It loosely aims to give you an outcome of 50 wins vs. 50 losses. If your MMR is 1,300, it means the system expects you to win against 1,300-MMR teams 50% of the time. But then if you start winning more than 50% of the time against 1,300-MMR teams, your MMR will increase.
So what does an MMR reset mean? It means that in the first few weeks, there may well be some very good, practiced, and well-geared players matched up against some average players, and there will be some crazy matches while the ratings are worked out. However, it also means that people who were able to rest easy at the top of the ladder in the last season changeover will have to work harder for their positions this season changeover.
Also, hold on to those honor points! Blizzard has confirmed that higher ilevel PvP items will be available for honor in patch 4.3, just as was the case in patch 4.2.
The class changes to look for
So, the juicy bit: class changes and how they might apply to PvP. In short, melee players are getting a slight buff over ranged players, with the redesign of buffs such as Blessing of Might -- the ranged bit of the attack power increase remains at its 4.2 level, but the melee bit has been doubled. So in the case of Blessing of Might, the ranged attack power buff is 10%, as before, but now the melee attack power buff is 20%. This will make melee players even more dangerous if you're the lone caster being tunneled and may well lead to more cleave teams in Arena.
Abilities that lower healing received are being buffed from a 10% reduction to a 25% reduction, with the exception of Necrotic Strike, which is calculated differently. This applies to hunters, warriors and rogues. This will be interesting to monitor from a healer's perspective, placing more strain on mana and therefore more emphasis on healing efficiency when healing against teams with these classes.
Additionally, underrepresented (in Arena) classes such as fire mages and destruction warlocks are seeing fairly significant damage buffs. Firelands finally makes fire more fiery!
As far as healing goes, paladins are having a mana regeneration rework, and shaman are receiving some healing buffs mainly aimed at PvE but also to offset the long-expected PvP nerf to Wind Shear. The much-bemoaned druid Cyclone is being slightly buffed, which will likely not compensate for the nerf to restoration druids' Wild Growth.
Class changes by class
Here's the long version of changes, class by class; these notes are correct as of the last update Nov. 4.
Death knights Nothing hugely significant for DKs, in PvP terms at least. Unholy's pets are finally being fixed, which is great news. We may see a shift even more in the direction of Unholy in Arena. Self-healing is being improved with Death Strike healing the DK whether it lands or not, no doubt resulting in more complaints about DK self-healing!
Druids For druids, feral's ability Rip is being buffed by a slight rework of Glyph of Shred; it now allows Mangle to extend Rip's duration if you can't get behind to Shred. The change was designed for PvE but will certainly affect PvP, allowing feral less positioning concern.
The damage pushback on casting Cyclone and Entangling Roots is being reduced. This will be a help for all druids but mainly for restoration and balance. However, the healing of restoration HoT Wild Growth is being nerfed by 20%. Restoration druids are somewhat underrepresented at high levels right now, and many PvP restos have been hoping for buffs, but this change is likely based on their high healing numbers in PvE.
Hunters Beast mastery and survival hunters are both receiving minor damage buffs to bring them in line with marksmanship. As for other classes' similar abilities, the healing received reduction of Monstrous Bite and Widow Venom will be increased from 10% to 25%.
Mages Look for serious damage buffs for fire mages -- Pyroblast, Fireball, Living Bomb and the explosion thereof are all being buffed. Maybe more mages will start appearing in Arena, although they will doubtless continue to be vastly outnumbered by frost mages due to frost's superior control.
Paladins There are some fairly substantial changes for paladins here, mostly for holy, but let's look at retribution first. Seal of Truth is being buffed so that when it is judged, its DoT Censure ramps up by 20% per stack, as opposed to 10%. Also, there's a minor buff to retribution's weapons specialization, increasing damage by 25%, up from 20%.
However (and this is really going to hurt retribution), Sanctified Wrath now increases the critical hit chance of Hammer of Wrath by 2/4/6%, down from 20/40/60%. Ouch! The really angry hammer just got a whole lot less angry. This is a substantial nerf -- the Hammer of Wrath is retribution's only really good ranged ability and is a key part of the Avenging Wrath cooldown. Also, as paladins lack a good gap closer, a huge crit chance nerf is going to leave many sad pand ... er ... paladins. Blizzard argues that this is offset by the continuous damage buffs mentioned above, but in the Arena, I'm not sure that this will work out for the retadin.
Now, holy. The vast majority of their changes focus on Holy Radiance, which is being redesigned so it's placed on a player and heals everyone in a 10-yard radius from that player, rather than only from the paladin who cast it. It's also losing its cooldown but gaining a 3-second cast time and will generate holy power. In Battlegrounds, this will be a big buff, allowing the holy paladin to AoE heal far better from range, staying more out of harm's way, but in Arenas it probably won't make a huge difference.
Holy is also seeing a change to its mana regeneration mechanic. Seal of Insight, when Judged, no longer returns 15% base mana to the paladin. Judging Seal of Insight still causes damage, and melee attacks will still restore 4% of base mana. However, as well as providing haste, Judgements of the Pure now increases mana regeneration from spirit by 10/20/30% for 60 seconds. So Judging will still regenerate mana but in direct relation to spirit, rather than a flat 15% over time per Judgement. Seal of Insight will still regenerate additional mana from melee attacks.
This is a base increase in mana regeneration for holy, as long as it's used correctly, so it seems unlikely we'll see a meleeing healer before the pandas arrive, although holy may resort to melee in situations of dire mana need. Some holy paladins may begin to favor spirit a bit more than previously.
Priests There really are no hugely exciting priest changes as far as PvP goes. OK, OK, Divine Aegis has a new spell effect, and Spirit of Redemption is more responsive. Holy is getting a slight buff to Divine Hymn, but this is more for PvE. So better healing for holy priests as long as they're dead, and prettier heals for discipline. Yay?
Rogues For rogues, Wound Poison's healing absorb will be 25%, up from 10%. That's it for the sneaky devils. But they get a Legendary Dagger, so no complaining!
Shaman The most notable change for shaman in PvP is that Wind Shear's base cooldown has been adjusted to 15 seconds, up from 6 seconds. Putting 2/2 in elemental's talent Reverberation can reduce that cooldown to its current level, 5 seconds with that talent or 6 without. Enhancement can reach this talent easily, but restoration would have to sacrifice its instant-cast Ghost Wolf to reach it. I really doubt many restoration shaman will take this step, and it seems from the communication from Blizzard that restoration having the longer Wind Shear cooldown is the intended outcome from this change.
The HoT part of Riptide is being buffed; as one of the resto shaman's only instant-cast heals, this is a big deal. The reworked Ancestral Healing talent, which increases maximum health up to a maximum of 10% of the target's total health (but only for 15 seconds unless refreshed), less so. This is touted as a offsetting the Wind Shear nerf for PvP, but I'm not a big fan of what is essentially fake additional health. It may save some lives by chance, but the Riptide buff is far more significant.
Elemental is getting some buffs, including a huge 75% damage buff to Earthquake that may make it a viable spell in Battlegrounds. Enhancement is having some slight reworking but nothing hugely significant for PvP.
Warlocks Destruction warlocks are seeing significant improvements this patch, with big buffs to Burning Embers and Fire and Brimstone. Demonology receives a smaller damage buff. I sincerely doubt this will challenge affliction's massive dominance in Arena, but it will hopefully allow those who prefer destruction to engage in PvP with better effect.
And hey, guess what, affliction? You're getting a new-look Shadow Bolt along with both the other specs. Also, your DoTs are being slightly reworked, and frankly, you should be grateful!
Warriors Charge has had a bug fix (apparently to make it actually work), which I'm sure warriors will be pleased about. Along with rogues and hunters, warriors' abilities to lower healing received (Furious Attacks, Mortal Strike) are being buffed from a 10% reduction to a 25% reduction, and they're getting some pretty, new animations. Actually, "pretty" is perhaps the wrong word for warriors. Let's go with, er, "angry" instead. Rawr.
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