Ghostcrawler weighs in on shaman feedback

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Ghostcrawler weighs in on shaman feedback
The beta has been under way now for some time, as have the feedback posts on the official forums. Shaman have had a few major changes to their repertoire, as well as a few more minor ones, but the general feeling from reading the posts made in the forums is that these changes don't go far enough. Shaman, it appears, don't feel like they're getting what they need to be viable, let alone competitive, and the unique nature of a lot of their abilities seems to continue to be as much a hindrance as it is a help.

But arriving like the white knight in medieval-styled dramas, just as the situation feels dire and unsalvageable, is Lead Systems Designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street. The shaman feedback post has finally had the equivalent of a Blizzard seal of approval, in the form of a blue post from the bluest of blues.

So what did the big GC address in his post, and what still remains outstanding for beta shaman?

One big complaint that many shaman brought up was glyphs. I recently tweeted fellow WoW Insider writer Joe Perez about this very matter, namely, that shaman glyphs were a mess. They felt either very lackluster or very penalty-heavy. A few patches ago, before the recent changes, I was playing my shaman with two empty glyph slots, because none of the glyphs felt worth using. This is a Bad Thing. A recent patch went some way to repairing this, but with it, a host of new problems appeared, some of which GC addresses after the break.

"Resto shaman glyphs have too much of a penalty."

This is a fair concern. We don't want glyphs to be no-brainers. Often this means giving a powerful bonus a penalty that offsets that bonus, hopefully in interesting ways. "Increases duration and cooldown," is a common one. Glyph of Lightning Bolt would be a no-brainer without some kind of offset. However, because there are only 3 glyph slots, choosing a glyph for a more situational spell can itself be a sufficient cost. We've taken a look at the Resto glyphs recently to make sure they feel more equitable.

"Telluric Currents is mandatory."

We definitely don't want that to be the case. To be fair, it wasn't mandatory early on in Cataclysm, but as Intellect-based mana regen increased, it became better and better. By having Intellect no longer interact with mana pools, we'll improve this situation somewhat, but we'll take a look at it above and beyond that.

Two concerns are addressed here: the mandatory nature of the new Telluric Currents glyph (as without it, the so-called regenerating spell is basically mana-neutral), and the difficult nature of restoration glyphs such as Glyph of Chaining and Glyph of Riptide. I really hope the look was more recent than the last patch, and we're going to see the result of it soon.

Specific abilities

GC also turned his gaze toward discussion of some specific abilities.

"Enhance doesn't value haste enough."

Yes, this is something we want to address. Ultimately, we'd like to deliver on the goal of "more haste lets you do more stuff," but that's challenging giving how many buttons Enhance is already using. It's better than it used to be with the addition of Ascendance, but it's not quite good enough yet.

"Why the long cooldown on Reincarnate?"

We debated this for awhile, but ultimately decided that having every shaman in a raid being able to stand up every fight would be really powerful and an actual encounter balance problem for us. We could make the ankh count against the battle rez counter, but that would be pretty mean. We think the best design is to leave it at a long-cooldown. Sometimes you may not want to blow it if you think the fight is going to be a wipe.

"Thou shalt not use AE abilities on a single-target fight."

I'm going to address this because it's of potential interest to more than just shaman (and frankly, issues with broad appeal are the ones I prefer to address). I think the "law" here has gotten oversold a bit, and maybe that's my fault.

There are two essential problems here we wanted to fix. One is that it's fun when you hit different buttons on AE fights. That just keeps combat more interesting. The second, more balance-related issue, is that when say warriors used Whirlwind so much on single-target fights and multi-target fights, then warrior damage just skyrocketed whenever there was an opportunity to AE. Meanwhile the mage just had to channel Blizzard or something. The game is in a very different place these days and every spec has some variety in how they AE. Frost DKs use Howling Blast and Protection warriors use Thunder Clap even on single targets.

It's fine for Lava Lash / Flame Shock to get used for both single target and AE. There are some situations where breaking CC or hitting the wrong target is a really bad idea. In those situations, you can try to move out of the way or just not Lava Lash (or not use Flame Shock). The risk of hitting the wrong target has always existed in WoW and it's one of those points of skill differentiation between average players and experts. We don't want a world where there is never any risk of breaking CC or hitting the wrong target. That's dull. In those very rare situations (say Spine of Deathwing) where maximum DPS and hitting the right target are both extremely critical, you can use the glyph.

It's great to see some feedback on haste issues for enhancement. Enhance seems to be in a difficult place on the beta right now, with a lot of valid frustrations coming to light, so this feedback on haste is really encouraging, especially as it highlights the possibility for further changes en route. Don't be disheartened, fellow shaman! We have not been forgotten!

I must say I'm not surprised by the lack of changes to Reincarnation. It is a very powerful spell, even if useable only on oneself, and I do see where GC's coming from when he implies a shorter cooldown would have to be mitigated by adding it to the battle rez counter and that that would be a very suboptimal situation.

General shaman concerns

Finally in this series of posts, Ghostcrawler addresses some more general shaman concerns.

"Why so few shaman changes?"

I know players eagerly tear into the latest beta changes like opening birthday presents. What goodies did the designers leave for us today? And to be fair, it's really rewarding for designers to make a change that they know players will get excited about. There is a lot of positive reinforcement there.

But remember, change is not the goal. Fun is the goal. It is not our intention to introduce crazy new things every beta build. We are overwhelmingly focused on the end result. All of the developers are well accustomed with the phenomenon where we make changes early in an expansion and those classes get excited, but then what was shiny and new starts to be less shiny and new as time goes on and they see other classes get changes. If you are like most players, newness wears off quickly -- that's not what is going to keep you playing two months after Mists ships. It's more likely to be a very slippery, very subjective "I am having fun playing my character" sentiment that can keep you engaged.

If there are things you still don't find fun about your class (whatever class it is) please feel free to keep bringing them up. But don't evaluate beta notes as some kind of thermometer about how much we love or hate your class. We love them all. :)

"OMG, GC didn't address the most important issue!"

I don't have the bandwidth to answer everything, but rest assured we read it all. If there is something particularly important to you for us to address, feel free to keep bringing it up (without just "bumps" please)

I'm kind of accepting of this, with a slight "harumph." As many other posters on the forum point out, shaman have been going through a rough patch during much of Cataclysm, with Band-Aid fixes such as Spirit Link Totem and others going some way to sort out the difficulties the class has faced. In Dragon Soul, the encounters seemed to be designed to work around shaman healing, which to me somewhat indicated the level of problems within the class. Shaman have felt like the unloved doll in the cupboard under the stairs for a while now -- even prominent YouTubers like wowcrendor allude to it.

While I absolutely love many of the shaman changes in beta -- especially the totem rework to change our buffs from being attached to stationary sticks, and the new totems -- I do think there are issues that remain for Blizzard to address in future updates, such as Ghost Wolf. Many posters have pointed out the weaknesses of the current Ghost Wolf. It makes you into a beast for beast CC but leaves you a humanoid for humanoid CC. It prevents you from casting any spell at all, with the exception of racials, and worst of all, it can be dispelled. Adding water walking to it doesn't fix any of those problems!

And totem health desperately needs to be addressed. I'm sure that PvE shaman have no particular issue with this, but in PvP, it's a real trial having your abilities killable by white damage in a few moments. Like others, I had rather hoped that an increase of totem health might be worked into the totem redesign, and I'd give my kingdom for a glyph that did this.

I'll continue to bring these problems up if they're not addressed -- and you should do too, and add your own. Blizzard is listening, so it's time to make our voices heard. It seems reasonable for shaman to expect changes, so I do hope more is yet to come.

It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!

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