16 November 2009

RIP SW:P

In a recent test realm build shadow word: pain vanished from the tooltip for shadowform, removing it from the list of shadow priest dots that benefit from haste.

I didn't jump on it at the time, although with hindsight the writing was clearly on the wall for shadow word: pain. This weekend, a blue post confirmed the change and explained why:
We removed shadow word: pain from scaling with haste because we thought shadow dps was too high with all three dots hasted.

There is a bug where you can get big sw:p dots and keep them rolling at that magnitude forever since the spell gets constantly refreshed. It's a nasty bug to fix. However, that isn't why we removed sw:p from shadowform.
That last sentence is completely baffling because unless I have just developed sudden onset aphasia that's exactly why they did it. So we'll just ignore that bit. There's some other stuff about best-in-slot gear and theorycrafting, I stopped reading. The message to take home is that Blizz thought shadow was doing a little too well on the test realm and they've come up with an easy way to rein it back in.

I'm completely ok with that. If I'd wanted to be top-dog dps I'd be playing my lock right now, or my hunter, so I understand when Blizzard takes action to maintain class balance. But, as usual, I'm a bit disappointed about the way they've gone about it.

Shadow word: pain is already the weakest of all our dots. It has been riddled with bugs from the start of the expansion, outpaced in damage by devouring plague, and practically dwarfed by vampiric touch. Without haste scaling, that weakness is only going to be amplified. This for what was, in Burning Crusade, a class-defining spell and one of the most lethal dots in the game.

I know this isn't game breaking: if Blizzard gets their numbers right, whether one spell ticks for two hundred or two thousand is irrelevant at the end of the day. I'm just very sad to see such an iconic spell decline so miserably over the course of only a few months.

The designers have taken a very pragmatic approach — they needed to tone damage down and they found an easy way to do it. But it's not good game design to go around making two essentially identical spells work in different ways for convenience's sake — or to use flaws in the game that they have ignored since the expansion launched as the excuse for doing so.

Ok, so the bugs are too tough to fix: remove the refresh mechanic then, or nerf it to one of those 'extends duration by up to xx seconds' deals. Or nerf vampiric touch's spell co-efficient, which was basically doubled as a quick-fix buff to start with. There are a hundred ways you could balance shadow's dps without guaranteeing that one of the class's core spells fails to scale with gear and falls more and more into disrepair.

We'll all continue to cast shadow word: pain because it is basically free damage — and maybe that's the real point of the spell's current fortunes. But I'd gladly put up with a few more complications to see it restored to its former position of fear and respect and see it finally scaling properly with gear.

10 comments:

Leigh said...

I'm personally not that surprised that SWP was removed from the DoT haste scaling. I saw it as a pointless addition because the spell was always being renewed. It was only going to be a free DPS increase and we very rarely get free DPS increases without a counter balance happening. In the case of DP and VT, the counterbalance is potentially a more complex rotation (less margin for error) and more mana eaten.

You point to one of the potential solutions, remove the refresh talent (perhaps make it a haste talent?). I don't know if I would want that to be honest. It's nice to have SWP refreshing as part of your rotation, the mana cost of constant SWP applications in TBC was too intense at times. Having to pot on each cooldown and in some cases depend on innervates was frustrating and expensive. With all three dot's hasted and all three dot's needing to be reapplied even quicker then normal I could see severe mana problems even with Dispersion + Fiend.

The core bugs do need to be addressed though but its' not going to be this expansion and for me it's going to be too late. My elemental shammy or my DK tank (with a horrible DPS set) already outperform my shadow priest despite a sizeable gear gulf.

Juzaba said...

It's also worth noting that any haste scaling of SW:P would result in all serious shadow priests valuing on-use haste trinkets above everything else, and a switch to engineering for the on-use +Haste gloves chant.

I'm quite pleased that our gearing decisions were not pigeon-holed to a single profession. I think Bliz was right in separating SW:P from the other dots.

Merlot said...

"It's also worth noting that any haste scaling of SW:P would result in all serious shadow priests valuing on-use haste trinkets above everything else, and a switch to engineering for the on-use +Haste gloves chant."

I think that's basically the point the devs were making too, but it's driven by a bug they can't (or won't) fix, not by sensible design. Imagine a world where the pain and suffering refresh worked as intended and sw:p refreshed at the correct strength every time. Would you still think it was right to separate sw:p from the other dots?

Weatherlight said...

Not being a theorycrafter at all just a quick question. Sw:P refreshing with or without the bug (because we can't know exactly how haste will affect the refreshing yet can we? ) having a fully hasted Sw:P running on the target will one want to refresh it risking loosing all that haste buff? Imagine a heroism/bloodlust that just ended and it's that time you want to cast MF... or do you?

I think it would be too messy, but maybe that haste talent Leigh mentioned and then we have the mana issue. Hard situation to balance. I would love haste on all dots but I'll take whatever bone they throw at us and be happy until Cata comes! Hopefully by then...

DanVanGogh said...

as long as it still refreshes, and its still effected by Shadow weaving I think its all good. Maybe if they reduced its mana cost alittle. I figure with all the haste going on you would find yourself spending profound amounts of mana to keep SWP up because you don't want to use mind Flay after each cast. or just take off the refresh and have mindflay slow the overall time of all DoTs. that would be sweet.

DanVanGogh said...

but if you going to be using mindflay to slow down what they sped up its kinda stupid to slow down what is being hasted

Shadowrx said...

This was never going live, think of the haste you could potentially stack: Trinket 1 procs haste, use trinket 2 haste on use, haste pot, berserking (we are all trolls right?), power infusion and lastly our friend blood lust. Oh and everyone would power-level engineering for the glove haste. That is just too much haste on one spell to be able to keep refreshing through an entire encounter via mind flay.

I'm just happy that we finally got some buffs.

pugnaciouspriest said...

I was waiting for them to nerf us.. though for a second I thought I heard the sounds of a lot of people dragging their abandonded shadow priests out of their stables to play again.

Cassandri said...

If race change wasn't available... if Pain and Suffering worked as intended... I think we would have seen a hasted SW:P and been nerfed elsewhere to ensure we never, ever step on any pure toes DPS-wise.

But they originally announced that they wanted SW:P to be the spell that they experimented with. I agree, it's good design of the Priest class to make this DoT something important - remember, Devouring Plague is relatively new in our spell book.

But this is a quick fix to what is a messy problem that may not even exist in the next expansion (if they ditch Mind Flay who's to say if we'll have Pain and Suffering still hanging around?).

Uncle Ho said...

Just make MF to refresh SW:P with the buffs that are active at each MF cast time. Let earlier buffs die out normally or get replaced with the new values (instead of constantly refreshing them with some 2 week old values). Not really rocket science. "Nasty bug we can't fix"