Monday, November 24, 2008

Plate Classes: Overpowered for how long?

There's an interesting experiment being conducted in Wrath of the Lich King at the moment involving class balance. As Tobold pointed out the main tanking classes have all recently gotten bonuses to damage dealing in the last couple of patches. Normally the tanking classes are handicapped on damage dealing because of their high survivability. However, for some unknown reason Blizzard decided that it was imperative that they reverse this design trend. As a result warriors, paladins, and death knights are showing a remarkable ability to kill mobs in the expansion with very little risk of death. I've even noticed that these classes also seem to have the advantage in PvP at the moment. I know while leveling I've pretty much been attacked by nothing but Paladins and Death Knights.

So why did Blizzard decide to reverse a policy they've stuck with for four years and release a swarm of armor plated gankers into the game? Well, the main reason was probably the lack of tanks in the Burning Crusade. Blizzard made major improvements to paladin and druid tanking abilities, but still couldn't encourage players to specialize in that job role. It was too much of a pain to switch talents and collect two different sets of gear. Healers suffered from similar problems, but the change to the +healing stat helped them solo a little bit more effectively. Also the mobs in the Burning Crusade were tuned for classes wearing protection gear and having tanking talents. A lot of dps casters like druids, shamans, and priests could switch over to a healing role without changing out talents or gear. Yet dps plate wearers often ran into problems trying to fill in as a tank.

It looks like Blizzard has learned from the last expansion since the Wrath of the Lich King dungeons have less stringent requirements for tanking. I know my level 72 paladin was able to wear all retribution gear and having nothing but retribution talents and still tank the Nexus. In my opinion this pretty much means any plate wearing class can tank the non heroic dungeons without having to change out talents or gear. This effectively raises the pool of available tanks in the game and avoids a lot of issues the Burning Cruade ran into. However, this doesn't mean that plate wearers will remain top dog forever. Eventually, as more and more people hit level 80 the pressure to open up the new PvP season will build. Once that happens the plate wearing classes are going to stick out like a sore thumb.

I wouldn't be surprised to see that the first PvP season of the expansion goes live along with a major nerf patch. Something specifically designed to make sure tanking classes don't keep survivability along with their new found dps powers. The nerfs don't even have to be that major. I've already seen Blizzard announcing a couple in the forums and being quite honest about them. One example is that druids are scheduled for a change to how their armor class bonuses are applied to jewelry slots. It's a very small change, but the high amount of armor class on some rings in the expansion makes it important. The other tanking classes should also expect similar adjustments to any ability that raises survivability without requiring points in protection.

It's just conjecture on my part, but it seems that Blizzard wanted to encourage as many people as possible to level up a tanking class before balancing them for actual PvP. I know a lot of people hate that a PvE oriented game is balanced around a few PvP activities. However, I don't think Blizzard really has a choice. Maybe if they designed for PvP in the initial game they could be like Warhammer and have each ability work different in PvP and PvE. Now it would just be too time consuming to rework everything. Thankfully, I think the dual talent build system is almost done and I expect this to alleviate a lot of our problems. Plate classes shouldn't be able to survive a nuclear blast and keep up with a rogue on the dps meter. However, they should be able to freely change between the two.


Shalkis said...

I'm not particularly worried. As a mage, I'm used to pounding on an enemy character for ages and getting twoshotted if I slip up even for a moment.

Varakkys said...

Overpowered against whom exactly? If we're talking PvP, armour value offers no protection whatsoever against caster damage.

SolidState said...

On of the main ways tanking was changed in 3.0 was that threat became based a lot more heavily on damage done by the tank, instead of +threat as an innate tank ability as was the case in vanilla-WoW and TBC.

A side effect (which was intended by Blizzard) of this was to make tank specs much more viable soloists.

So far, we are in agreement.

However I am not sure it directly follows that this makes all tanks overpowered.

For one thing, all healers got a boost to their DPS because of the spellpower change. This should offset, at least in part, the relative survivability increase of tanks.

For another, class comparison before max-level was and remains a hopelessly complex task, composed of equal parts conjecture, hear-say, rumors and personal experiences being extrapolated wrongly to the entire game.

IMO relative class merits, and the potential over-power status of plate wearers, will have to wait till enough people are level 80 to make comparisons and statistics viable.

Anonymous said...

I have abandoned my feral druid precisely because Blizzard can't seem to decide what they want to do. I went through all the pain of spending literally hundreds of hours gathering the best-in-slot tanking gear for BC, and dealt with the anger and jealousy of the warriors in my guild when I could take crap from Gruul that they could not. They were absolutely gleeful when druids were nerfed a little while after BC launched.

I still tanked all through BC raiding, spending untold hours gathering five tanking sets and a cat dps set. I carried 4 bags of epics into every raid.

No more. I quit raiding 10 months ago, and have no intention of raiding in LK. But furthermore, I'm just tired of the horrible treadmill tanks are expected to grind out. In "normal" Blizzard mode, tanks have to respec and obtain a different set of gear in order to effectively DPS. I'm sure that as soon as the bulk of players hit 80, Blizzard will switch this right back into place. Then they will wonder why nobody's playing tanks again.

Even for feral druids, it's rough because of the huge amount of gear you need in order to fulfill all the tanking and dps roles. "Jack of all trades" means "gather 4x the item sets as everyone else".

So this time, I'm leveling to 80 in my feral epics, but once I outgrow them I'm respeccing Boomkin. I only have to gather one set of spellpower gear. And if/when Blizzard gets around to implementing dual specs, I'll be able to switch to resto without having to go farm up a whole new set of gear.

Grats to Bliz... honestly I don't think they realize how many people will shelve their DKs and paladins again once the DPS goes away. Needing to spec prot to raid at level 80, and needing to respec DPS to go farm faction, crafting mats, and repair money is a recipe for the SAME tank shortage we had in BC. People. Just. Do. Not. Want. Forced. Respecs. In. Order. To. Solo.

But you are right, they will nerf plate DPS because of PvP.

PvP once again kills WoW. :)

*vlad* said...

"I know my level 72 paladin was able to wear all retribution gear and having nothing but retribution talents and still tank the Nexus"

I went to the Nexus with my Holy Paladin, and we had a Ret Paladin tanking - no way I could keep him up, he took huge amounts of damage.

I also ran the same instance with a proper tank, and had a lot more success.
Maybe it was down to the hit point difference between the two; getting the big heals in takes time, and as the Pally had less than 10k hitpoints (lv 72), I found it too difficult.

Relmstein said...

Yeah, my paladin was wearing a set of mostly season 2 PvP gear at the time so I did have a decent amount of hit points. The trick was to always cast flash heal when the instant cast buff was up.

Shalkis said...

Spammers who post broken links are funny.