21 August 2009

More on mind flay

It's been at least a week since I last complained about our appalling glyph selection, plenty of time for you all to prepare yourself mentally for the next assault. This latest bout of crabbiness was triggered by a US forum post from a player named Martya, who asked (rather optimistically, I thought):

Although I'm glad to see in 3.2.2 that you are finally getting rid of the snare reduction component on mind flay, which was a needed change, why did you only half-fix the problem?
This being the US forums, where community interaction counts for something, ghostcrawler actually responded. He could have saved himself the trouble by answering the question properly in the class Q&A, but now I'm just being snippy. Here's what he had to say:

Your weakness in one area (in this case range) is supposed to be made up for by strengths in other areas (say dots ticking while you move). If Shadow priests were at a horrible disadvantage because of their short range, then we’d likely make adjustments. But Shadow does totally reasonable dps on most fights and really high dps on a few. Most raids are thrilled to have Shadow priests. While there are things we can improve with the spec (like we can with every spec), we don't think the range is a huge liability (and you do even have a solution if you can't stand it).

Let’s consider for a moment a glyph that improves your damage. Your class is balanced around the use of that glyph. Why? Because the alternative is you are balanced without that glyph, and then when you take the glyph you do more damage than everyone else. What fun! Yet if glyphs didn't improve damage (or healing or whatever) then they would feel merely cosmetic, like shirts or companion pets. With Mind Flay, you are arguing as if the glyph brings it from a negative number back up to baseline. But that doesn’t really make sense. It is making your spell better – it is a buff.
And finally:

Now, where I think there are some valid complaints are on the topic of glyph choice. For DPS specs, someone is going to prove (or strongly suggest) which glyphs provide the most DPS, and raid-focused players are going to tend to take those. It would be nice if you truly had the freedom to pick whatever glyph you wanted. But it would be nice if you truly had the freedom to pick whatever talent specs you wanted too. We'll try to improve both over time, but I don't really get the "I shouldn't have to take that glyph" arguments.
So here we have an attempt to explain the logic behind mind flay's restrictive range, a deliberate weakness which, we now learn, is an attempt to balance our otherwise overpowered class.

I admit, it sounds reasonable, but this argument really doesn't hold any water. For one thing, range isn't our weakness. Mind flay is the only one of our damage spells without a 30-yard base range. Even mind sear has a 30-yard range, and that is arguably the one spell in our arsenal that ought to have a bigger downside. This isn't a conscious design directive, no matter how convincingly ghostcrawler tries to push it. It's an anachronistic situation that has simply been allowed to fester.

And besides, just what would this idealised super spriest look like? Most raiding shadow priests use the glyph right now, and the ones that don't get very little benefit from the dregs of dps glyphs remaining to them. The fact is, if Blizzard extended the range of mind flay tomorrow, nothing would happen to shadow dps.

Our complaint with mind flay isn't really about dps (although I would argue mind flay's range has a direct correlation). At its heart, the issue is about parity. Ghostcrawler very often talks about how the designers try to avoid things that aren't much fun for the player base — things like healers having to spam non-stop, or dps only having one button to press. Well this is one of those things. It isn't very fun for shadow priests to have to choose between standing in the fire or not doing damage, or taking more time to find range on mobs than other classes. We are the only class that has to make these choices. Valid choices for dps would be choosing between high or low mana spells, long cast times or instants, high damage or survivability, raid utility or dps — all the ranged dps classes have these difficult decisions, including shadow priests.

Ghostcrawler is right in a way, mind flay's range really isn't such a huge issue for shadow priests in isolation, but he is wrong when he says it isn't valid to compare our situation to other classes. It is only in comparison that you see just how stupid it is to restrict us in this way. If the range really isn't that big a deal, why not just normalise it and allow us that parity with the rest of the ranged dps?

My only consolation from this exchange was his final comment about glyph choices. Perhaps he's finally beginning to wake up to just how insufficient our glyph range is for raiding. With or without mind flay's range issues, we do not have a fair selection of choices for raiding as it stands.


SolidState said...

I have to admit, in the past I've been happy with my s-priest DPS, but that was in a 10-man raiding guild and where I was one of the better equipped players.

Now that I've joined a 25man advanced raiding guild as shadow, and coming up from the bottom of the pack in terms of gear, I have to admit, shadow DPS seems annoyingly low. It's not just my rotation or gear, as even a better equipped s-priest who is an officer in the guild, has trouble with his DPS.

I can only hope Blizzard does soon buff s-priest DPS as raiding this way can be pretty discouraging.

Anonymous said...

I'm with SolidState on this one. When I first started raiding in Wrath my DPS was close to the top but once they changed how Shadowform effects our DoTs my DPS dropped. I was never able to crawl back to the top of the meters at that point even in 25-man raids with other dps in similar gear levels.

It was very noticeable on fights like Hodir where nuking classes would constantly get 30-50k crits from the NPC buffs while my DoTs would still do normal damage with a very low crit chance. Our meters would have the nuking classes up top with the DoT classes toward the bottom, and of course our DPS was questioned.

I think Blizzards mind-set is that Shadowpriest DPS is OK and they're fine with just "OK" because we provide replenishment and healing with VE. But if I had the choice as a raid leader to either bring a shadow priest who has replenishment or a destruction warlock who will kill the shadowpriest in DPS and also brings replenish, I'm going with the warlock.

I still think VE needs to be looked at too. A Pally can heal the entire raid with judgement of light yet VE is inferior with it's healing and only applies to parties. I don't even use VE anymore to be honest.

Merlot said...

I struggle with dps on some of the later Ulduar fights, where there are a lot of adds or 'switch now' moments — ironically, it's worse on 25-man despite the extra raid buffs, although I haven't quite worked out why. Probably a combination of more targets and more dps collectively on them.

I think our class just isn't designed well for the types of encounters Blizzard favour at the moment, and I think our dps is skewed too heavily by mind sear. But I know that my own personal performance is a big factor too - there's still a lot I can do to improve my dps even within the constraints of our class. So I'm going to keep working on that and hope that, in the next big patch, we'll see some of those improvements Ghostcrawler hinted at in the Q&A (e.g. less reliance on dots being active for our damage).

In Cataclysm, all bets are off. What little we've heard of the design philosophy so far could completely transform shadow dps.