7 August 2008

J'accuse shadowfiend

In the Burning Crusade, priests were given an active form of mana regeneration in the shape of the shadowfiend. But who's bright idea was it to make it a pet? It's crabby, temperamental and downright unreliable. Of all the possible ways Blizzard could have conceived for priests to regain mana in combat, the shadowfiend is probably the clumsiest.

When you cast the spell the fiend pops up and start slapping your target. You gain in mana 2.5 times what it does in damage. It does melee in the form of shadow damage and will generally fit in 10 or 11 swings before it belches out an emphysemic wheeze and gives up the ghost.

A base hit will do about 100 damage. It can crit, it scales quite nicely with spell damage, and it benefits from debuffs on the target including misery and shadow weaving.

But it can also miss, be dodged, parried and partially resisted. Not to mention it can be squashed or burned, peel off and break nearby crowd control or else just sit there right next to you and wave its tentacles harmlessly in the air. And the scaling of shadowfiend is, in itself, an idiotic design directive that disadvantages lesser geared players.

To be fair, you just need to know when to use it. Get that right and you can probably hope to get a good chunk of your mana back in an average use, even though the variables involved make it an unpredictable spell in the best of circumstances.

My issue is more with the shadowfiend's... well... concept, for want of a better word. Why conceive it a pet? While shaman elementals last two minutes, a frost mage's water elemental lasts 45 seconds and a balance druid's treants last 30 seconds, our pet lasts only 15 seconds. It's not really much of a pet anyway. It can't be controlled and it's not around long enough to really have any presence or personality. It doesn't add to our dps like other pets, and can't tank anything.

And no wonder it doesn't compare favourably to other pets in the game — because it's not really a pet at all, it's a mana regen spell dressed up like a pet.

I'm sure somebody someone thought it would be 'fun' to make it a pet, instead of a bog-standard spell. But it would work so much better as another dot. Consider, as a parallel, the druid spell insect swarm — this too conceptually, conjures other creatures, but they don't exist as pets. Their damage can't be avoided in the conventional melee ways and the effect is at the complete control of the druid. A similar shadow effect could have easily been used to draw mana from the victim without the clumsiness of summoning a pet.

In fact, something along the lines of the Wrath beta 51-point talent dispersion would have been the obvious solution — a priest's equivalent of evocation that returns a flat percentage. Instead, we ended up with a supremely unreliable spell that can return anywhere from little or no mana, to upwards of 6000.

The question is: will we come to rely more on the shadowfiend in Wrath or less? If current beta changes carry through into live, mana regeneration will certainly be a very different creature. Chain potting will be off the table and vampiric touch will return a tear-jerking 60% less mana. But a whole host of other options will open up to us, including new talents and new best friends — go creep up to your ret paladins and survival hunters now. Even the duration of the humble shadowfiend could be extended, and it may well benefit from the caster's spell hit.

So who knows, we may come to rely less on the fiend in Northrend. It's still stoopid though.


Chronic said...

Hmm, a shadow dot that returns mana? You may be on to something there!

In all seriousness, I quite like the fiend, despite its idiosyncrasies. And it *does* add to our dps, if only a little bit.

I still have my fingers crossed for a greater glyph that gives the fiend a shadow pyroblast or something :>

Celebsul said...

While the mana regen might not be perfect- it's nice to have a castable off-tank. I use him more for that then the regen when I'm grinding.

I know other classes have better solutions, but it is a unique spell (or was).