4 August 2009

Priest Q&A: the end of the affair

Health warning: grab a cup of tea and some biscuits, this may take a while.

It has been a long, strange journey, but yesterday Blizzard brought its epic player Q&A series to an end with the priest class.

There's no easy way to take hundreds of questions from hundreds of players and distil them into a comprehensive, digestible response. But to Blizzard's credit, they have at least made this process transparent. We all see the same questions, helping us to form an impression of the most popular concerns — while at the same time, unavoidably, creating a sense of expectation. In short, we thought we knew what was coming.

Things look very different today. I'm not at all convinced that the questions posed by the developers are all representative of the community's submissions, nor am I satisfied that the community's top concerns are all addressed here. In fact, in some instances, it even appears that the question has been crafted to fit the statement Blizzard wanted to make.

The cynic in me can't help but observe a general degradation in the quality of responses as this process has gone on. Am I being unfair to think that perhaps this has proved too time-consuming, or too boring, to allow the same level of effort on each Q&A? Is it a coincidence that the priest Q&A is last?

You may accuse me of expecting too much. It's true that I have placed a lot of faith in the outcome of this process. But I don't think my expectations were too high. By it's very nature, this Q&A event is a significant and exceptional occurrence in Blizzard's community relations. It's not unrealistic to expect the responses to be comprehensive. And while I must admit that in my wildest dreams I imaged a long list of promises, in reality all I ever expected was an acknowledgement of concerns and a stake in the ground from Blizzard on how they saw them. Yes, we know you are worried about this, but don't be — or, I'm sorry, that's not something we intend to address right now. Disappointment is better than apoplexy.

But here we are. Merlot is nothing if not a pragmatist! We have some straws to clutch at, and some deep brooding to undertake. Let's look at what they did say, before grouching briefly about what they didn't say, and finally considering where we go from here.

I'm not going to reprint the Q&A in full here, but if you haven't seen it yet and want to, here's the full horror courtesy of mmo champion.

There aren't many of them, but I'll start with the most revealing and relevant question and spend a little time on that. I've skipped some pvp questions, don't hate me.

Q. Since a lot of damage a shadow priest does builds with damage-over-time spells, are you concerned about them being well rounded enough to do adequate damage in shorter pve encounters, 5-player dungeons, or in the arena?
I don't think anybody gives a shit about shadow's 5-player damage, or even 'shorter' pve encounters. I'm sure there are pvp concerns, but in pve the big issue is target-switching and burn phases. Given Blizzard's recent concerted efforts to tone down burst damage in pvp, I don't think anybody expected a lot of promises, but the big hope was for some cooldowns or executes. These hopes weren't even acknowledged. What we did get was some recognition from Ghostcrawler that our talents are primarily focused around long-term damage via dots:
"Many [talents] say basically "while your dots are ticking". This means in the situations where the dots can't tick (say those very short pve fights, or sometimes in pvp) you are doubly punished since now those talents aren't pulling their weight. The shadow tree could benefit from more talents that affect all damage and not just the dots."
This is confusing two issues — while it's true that a lot of out talents boost the power of dots, and are therefore wasted when we don't apply those dots, it's not true that "many" shadow talents "say basically 'while your dots are ticking'". One or two at most. Our only significant glyph also says this, but that's a different (unanswered) issue. But the point is taken — any class that is designed about dots is going to be gimped if they don't apply them. That's a given, isn't it?

The unsatisfactory but straw-like implication of GC's words is that we may find shadow word: death, mind blast and mind flay getting a few small buffs here and there to compensate. I'll reserve judgement on the final execution, but already I see problems with this approach. How do you buff spells which are a part of a class's single-target damage repertoire without inadvertently increasing their overall damage? And even when you do, how is this a good solution when the class happily acknowledges that dots comprise the core of its damage potential?

I'm afraid GC completely fluffed this answer, which is a shame given that it was his opening gambit. Already, shadow priests the world over are shuddering.

Q. Are developers happy with the functionality of dispersion and is it considered to be an adequately valuable final talent in the shadow tree?
Short answer: yes. This isn't an issue for raiding shadow priests, we've come to terms with it and moved on.

Q. Would you consider removing the cast time for mind blast to make it a more desirable direct-damage spell given that it already has a cooldown?
I'm very annoyed that this question even made it into the final cut. Apart from the fact that I didn't notice hundreds of priests jumping up and down for it (and don't consider it an issue myself), this is simply a proffered solution to the first question — in other words, this is very sloppy work Blizzard. You answered this over all the other questions we had? You wrote two long paragraphs on why you won't remove a spell's cooldown instead of telling us why we won't scale properly with haste?

Q. As many players report that vampiric embrace and vampiric touch lack viability in pvp settings and vampiric enbrace tends to generate too much threat in pve settings, are there any plans you can share to improve the functionality of these spells?
OMG. Every time I read this question I think I'm having an aneurism. Where are all the priests who think their HARDEST HITTING DOT lacks viability? Or the MORONS who can't handle ve's threat? SHOW ME.

Quite rightly GC told these fictitious priests to fuck off. What a waste of a question.

Q. How about increasing the range of mind flay?
No, you've got a glyph, piss off.

Q. Shadow word: death was once a spell that priests used frequently in pve, but has basically dropped off their bar. Are there any plans to improve this?
Well apparently, they think we have enough spells to use so don't want to "necessarily" go back to us using it on cooldown. GC goes on to talk about how they might consider toning down the backlash, which is categorically not something any shadow priest gives a flying fuck about. We don't use it more because it's an insignificant increase on our dps, not because it causes damage. This question, like so many others in this thread, should have been better phrased.

Q. Have you considered providing a talent to increase the duration of shadowfiend as a mana regeneration mechanic for longer boss fights?
You mean instead of a talent to lower the cooldown of shadowfiend? Like veiled shadows? Who came up with these questions?

Black hole
This Q&A is arguably more revealing by what Blizzard didn't address. As mentioned already, when talking about shadow's burst potential, they conveniently side-stepped cooldowns and executes altogether, something which many players called for in the threads.

The issues behind many of these questions are either misunderstood or overlooked. Take mind flay as a case in point. We asked about its range because we don't want to have to give up a valuable glyph slot just to achieve parity of spell range with other casters. So to dismiss the concern because there's a glyph to fix it is missing the point entirely.
Glyphs too were a major concern to many contributors but the topic was skipped.

Pain and suffering bug? Ignored. Out-of-mana regen? Ignored. And the biggest concern of all shadow priests in those two long lists of questions — haste scaling — ignored. Some of my issues could, just, be passed off as marginal; there is no excuse for skipping this.

Shady Pines here we come
I fear this Q&A will leave many shadow priests felling rather insecure and uncertain about their future raiding careers. It didn't address many significant issues, and those it did touch on were not answered to any great satisfaction.

I'll probably continue to melt faces, not only because I've got a blog to maintain, but because my guild still finds the misery debuff and replenishment of some use. But that won't last forever. More and more of the casters are hit capped, and with replenishment so readily available, it may well prove easier to switch a hunter to survival than carry me into the Coliseum.

This is the point where you tell me I'm over-reacting. surely, it's not as bad as I think it is?


Shy said...

Is it really this bad?

We have 2 excellent shadow priest in guild, and I raid with one of them and the best rogue in guild. In most fights the rogue wins, but this is to be expected.

What surprises me is that the margin that the rogue wins by is not as enormous as expected.

Are these two priests such excellent players? Or are the other dps just the suck? What sort of dps may be expected as a shadow priest?

I'm normally disc, but I generally out dps a lot of players on vault emmy if I go shadow.

Can you give out some numbers of where you expect a shadow priest to be in full Ulduar 10 gear?

Merlot said...

Good challenge, I need people to help me keep some perspective :P

It honestly may not be that bad, I'm only one priest. I can't give you numbers, partly because I'm not there myself, but mostly because those numbers are going to vary wildly by boss and strategy. But in general, and all things being equal, (skill, gear, IT), a shadow priest in Ulduar shouldn't be pushing rogues.

A lot of the negative reaction which I predict to this Q&A will not be about the current reality of shadow priests - it will be partly about the process (you promised to answer our questions but you ignored the most important ones) and partly about fears, rational or otherwise, (I'm worried my guild won't want me if I can't compete in future).

crysana said...

My issue with the Q and A is the fluff answers we got... and the carefully selected questions that aren't that ask what Blizzard want to answer. The two most pressing issues that priests have is the haste soft cap for shadow priests, and why cant the penance glyph be removed instead of the cooldown nerfed. I have seen so so many post asking this and where were they in the Q and A?

Even the answers we got frustrate me. With the shadow word death amd ghostcrawler saying we're looking at it. You're putting out a fucking patch right now! why wasn't it looked for the patch?

The whole q and a was really pointless in the end - being released so close to the patch. We basically had no chance for any of the issues to be fixed which is what i thought the whole point of it was.

I am really really annoyed. I had kept hope that something in there would make me happy, but there was nothing... and that stupid new shadow announcement GC crapped on about was only mortal strike to mind blast. woopdeedoo.

Leigh said...

It's very very difficult to give a number and position for a shadow priest in Ulduar. If your raid is fully buffed caster wise it makes a massive difference, if your personally hit capped it makes a massive difference, taking set bonuses over BiS items can even alter your DPS a good deal. Then of course it depends on your role, if your on add duty on XT for example you miss out on hitting the heart. Take a look at http://www.worldoflogs.com/guilds/7883/ and look at raids from July.
That's my guild, we are Ulda 25 geared with no 25 man hard modes done but with a good few of the 10 man hard modes done. The majority of the DPS would be skilled players who raided BT with a minority having raided far into Sunwell. I'm Disc on the majority of fights (Hadur) but the few fights i have went DPS my numbers have been very close to the other shadow priest with me marginally coming out on top due to marginally better gear.

Back on Topic: The choice of questions has amazed me with several being completely pointless. The MB one is just complete stupidity. The same goes for having a spell from a different school to use. Very very few encounters in the entire game see an immunity to one spell for a prolonged period to the point you really need a 2nd spell. They wasted 3 or 4 very valuable questions and ignored the core shadow priests concerns. Even if they mentioned or addressed haste it would have been enough to keep me happy.

Shayzani said...

Removing the cast time/cooldown on Mind Blast? That's not even a softball question, its just plain stupid.

Haste scaling should have been addressed but just about every shadow priest knows that already.

I don't think the situation is really dire, its not all bad. I think its frustrating certainly but I do think things will keep getting better in the long-term.

Tracy said...

Yes, the Q&A was weak. I was finding a lot of that thread too focused on PvP for my taste, and the patch changes we have received reflect this.

One question I haven't seen addressed, so I'm assuming we didn't get it: Is the Devouring Plague Cooldown gone and replaced with one-target-only?

In recent weeks I have gotten several gear upgrades which once again makes me happy with overall shadowpriest DPS. However, I would still love to see some cooldowns/executes. Was there also no talk/suggestions of morphing SW:D into something of this role? It would be interesting to have its damage ramp up as the target gets low on Hp. We'd have to add it to the rotation at strategic points...

almoderate said...

What Leigh said is pretty much on target. Your numbers and position on the meters will depend greatly on the fight in question and your role. I raid with 3 other spriests, and I'm in 4-piece T8 with a few T7 content pieces that badly need an upgrade.

On fights like Hodir, we're typically pushing 10-12k, depending HEAVILY on RNG and buffs. I've done as low as 6k, though. Fights like Vezax vary because you may have bad luck with shadow crash uptime. Our mages pull about 10k, but I can never seem to hit above 5k.

I'd say for a fight like Patchwerk with no target switching and no movement and no frills, you're probably looking to hit around 5k-ish. That's really the best measure of dps atm.

Merlot said...

Tracy, I thought the DP change was happening, but I've just checked and it's not in the patch notes. Guess we'll find out tomorrow :)

Tracy said...

Looks like the DP change did go through. Just wasn't announced in the patch notes. One of those 'too small to post' changes, despite the fact that I think it'll be a very nice upgrade.

Mike said...

Pretty much agree with your rundown on this. I felt very much like the whole Q&A could have been summed up: "Priests are fine, L2P."