28 October 2009

Consolidating healing buffs

So as we've seen, if the current PTR iteration of vampiric embrace makes it to live, the spell will become a 30-minute self buff, providing its health regeneration effect to our party passively. It's a nice change given the sad state of neglect the spell has fallen into in recent patches, and means it's much more likely to find some use in future raids. But it's not going to fix the spell's two biggest problems — the party-only restriction and the minimal amount of health returned.

One way to put vampiric embrace firmly back at the core of shadow priest design is to push its effect raid wide. It's not as if there aren't already raid-wide healing effects in the game. The most significant is judgement of light, a spell so effective that in some fights it can hold its own alongside the healers, but death knights and feral druids can also provide healing effects through talents.

The healing from these abilities admittedly is only accessible to some or all of the dps, but they have one significant advantage over vampiric embrace: while the utility of vampiric embrace deteriorates as the raid size increases, for these other effects, the benefits actually increase.

In a world where just about every kind of buff imaginable has been dished out and duplicated across multiple classes, healing effects stand out as messy and inconsistent. If Blizzard were to consider all of these effects as a whole, they could easily establish some rules to ensure they don't stack uncontrollably and become overpowered, while giving shadow priests a compelling reason to value the ability and possibly even reconsider the 'improving' talents.

While they're at it, they might also like to look again at healing stream totem, which suffers from similar problems. I could say a lot more about water totems, but this is supposed to be a priest blog :) It's also not a good time to start comparing classes unfavourably to paladins, given the recent assault on our holy brethren. Our prayers are with you guys.

20 October 2009

The coma issue

You have to make some of assumptions when you start a blog. One is that there are a couple of people out there, in the ether, who are interested in what you have to say. The other is that they will occasionally, by hook or crook, find their way to your blog to read it. This poses a problem when you come to write about something that the entire world already knows and is weeks ahead of you on — like patch 3.3. But I'm not one to let a little problem like lack of readers get in the way of a good post. So, to all my visitors who have recently emerged from long-term comas, wipe the sleep from your eyes, have a long hard stretch, and settle down for the most explosive news you've read since you woke up.
Here's a quick summary in case you're at risk of a relapse:
  • Pre-coma: mind flay's range is fine, your glyphs are fine, stats are fine, dps is totally fine, stop moaning
  • Post-coma: mind flay's range is stupid, you have no glyphs, need a bit of a stat boost, and you've really got to pick up the dps, you slackers
If you're still with me, here's a more comprehensive list of the changes currently on the table. Of course, it's just a test realm, nothing's set in stone yet, but it's joy that Blizzard is even willing to give them a road test.
  • Improved devouring plague now deals 10/20/30% of its total periodic effect instantly, up from 5/10/15%.
  • Mind flay range has been increased to 30 yards, up from 20.
  • Shadowform now also causes devouring plague, shadow word: pain and vampiric touch to benefit from haste, reducing the tick intervals and overall duration of the spells. It has also had its mana cost reduced.
  • Vampiric embrace now provides a 30-minute buff that cannot be dispelled, instead of a target debuff, but only generates healing for single-target shadow damage spells.
  • Glyph of mind flay now increases the damage done by Mind Flay by 10 per cent when the target is afflicted with shadow word: pain.
  • Glyph of shadow word: pain now causes the spell to restore 1 per cent of the priest's base mana each tick.
  • Glyph of shadow now causes non-periodic spell critical strikes to increase spell power by 30%, up from 10%, of the priest's total spirit for 10 seconds.
I really have no idea where this came from. People not in a coma may well be nursing whiplash right now at the speed of Blizzard's turnaround from a position of complete equanimity just three weeks ago ("Many shadow priests think their dps is unacceptably low but we don't agree.")
In fact, everything about this patch is a dps increase. I've no idea by how much, and wouldn't care if they turned out to be pretty minor. Because, more importantly than buffing our damage, these changes are helping to level the playing field for shadow, and in so doing, making it much easier for both players and Blizzard to evaluate shadow damage and balance it more effectively within the spectrum of dps classes. And really, that's all we ever wanted, right?
It's early days yet, but bravo to Blizzard for having the courage to test these changes so soon after dismissing them. The haste change is obviously the most significant, but personally I'm most delirious about the mind flay range. It's been a long time coming...

18 October 2009

Bad timing

If you are ever bored enough or autistic enough to read through every post on this blog (and I wouldn't recommend it) you'll notice a patter emerging. All announcements of any significance pertaining to shadow priests happen while I'm NOT HERE. Case in point. It's like those corny living statues that appear wherever tourists congregate - they only move when you turn your back.

So anyway, I take one tiny little holiday and all this stuff happens. Stuff I need to read more about before I decide to jump up and down and make whooping noises. But in my head I am already practicing the snoopy dance. If all it takes for Blizz to buff shadow is for me to take a holiday, I'll gladly zip off more often. Now accepting donations to the Shadow Buff Fund.

I'm sorry dear reader(s), a proper blogger would have worked through their vacation to bring you the news as it happens, along with baffling equations and a pop-up graph. You deserve better. But I promise to blog through any Shadow Buff Fund vacations, which after all probably count more as a business trip than an actual holiday anyway. For tax puposes.

I'll be back soon, post jet lag, with those whooping noises.

2 October 2009

Do not adjust your sets

I'm very sorry I've been a bit of an absent landlord of late. I've had a perfect storm of attrocities in real life and online to battle with, including, but not limited to:

  • Packing for a two-week holiday to Florida for which I leave in NINETEEN hours (pending)
  • Attempting to loose two stone in a month to avoid looking like Mr Tickle on said holiday (FAIL)
  • Trying to finish all my work so that I don't spend entire holiday remembering things I didn't do (ongoing)
  • Tidying desk area so I don't return to alien landscape of deadly bacterial cultures (this will almost certainly be a fail)
  • Finishing Quantum by Manjit Kumar so that I can devote holiday time to more appropriate vactional reading like Hello and the Nanny Diaries (partial fail - finished but utterly baffled; does anyone really understand this stuff?)
  • Planning a drive route through Florida that encompasses every mall of minor significance while maintaining maximum Cinnabon exposure (much harder than you might appreciate but achieved)

Add to this the fact that my guild has been in meltdown for the last three weeks and that I have been like a condemned man at work, I will be very glad to see the back of England for a while. My guild finally succumed last night, so Merlot is officially homeless. I'll write more about that another time - I have a theory that all guilds are dommed to an inevitable and spectacular death at birth. Copious quantities of martinis are required to help solidify my thinking on the subject. Expect normal services to resume in two weeks when your rested and greatly enlarged blogger returns. Please don't go away :)