6 April 2010

Forget everything: class preview incoming

Our first fleshy taste of what Cataclysm will mean for priests is due tomorrow (Wednesday, 7 April), as Blizzard prepare to release a full range of class previews.

In the words of Bashiok:
"The type of information you can expect from these posts are a list of the news spells from 80-85, the new passive mastery bonuses for all talent trees, a brief outline of some of the talent changes we're currently planning, and in some cases new low level spells for select classes."
It's only a day away, but I can't help speculating a little about what we're going to see for shadow priests. Plus, it's a Tuesday morning, and fantasising about WoW is infinitely more pleasurable than the pile of work haunting my inbox.

Wrath has been a bit of a rollercoaster for shadow priests, but I think our current situation is solid. Our mechanics allow skill to shine over gear, and our array of spells enables us to do competitive damage, scale well, and adapt adequately to most circumstances. I think the basic design philosophy of 'keep dots up and use filler spells to their maximum' is unlikely to change. What we can expect is a more varied array of 'active' talents and a stronger focus on managing our own resources in long fights.

Mana management
We've already been warned that spirit will not be a dps stat in Cataclysm, so I am braced to say farewell to spirit tap. It's not the great talent it used to be, but for all of its shortcomings, it remains the only way a priest has of regaining mana beyond drinking until they hit Outland and eventually pick up dispersion and shadowfiend. So I hope that in the shakeup of talents and spell acquisition, we see changes designed to address mana issues early in a priest's life.

And I hope to finally see the death of replenishment in raids. If developers are serious about balancing mana regeneration around a class's own talents, and making a clear distinction between healers and dps, then they really ought to drop this elephant in the room once and for all. I could live with it as a self-only effect, as long as they drop the silly, druidy name and give it a title more becoming of a master of dark powers.

Better still, if we must have it, please unlink it from it's clumsy mind blast trigger. Vampiric touch was once conceived as a leech effect, it would be nice to see a return to that evocative design.

Dee pee ess
As I said, I think raid damage is in a fairly good place right now, but levelling priests could do with a boost to early damage. Damage before mind flay is shameful. It takes a glyph and holy fire at level 20 before our key nuke, smite, can even match a lowly wand. Other classes have it much easier, particularly melee.

They could fix the situation easily by increasing shadow word: pain's base damage — the spell is massively underpowered, particularly at low levels, let along in end game. Inner fire could also provide spell power from the start instead of only at higher ranks.

Developers have also hinted in the past that we may get an entirely new, spammable nuke in Cataclysm — something I currently struggle to see the need for in raiding but which might be a perfect fit for early levelling (more on this below).

New talents and spells?
New spell ranks are going — or rather, won't be learned but will increase automatically as we level. I'm curious to see what this will mean for our regular visits to the trainer. Currently, new spells are learned very unevenly: there's a huge glut of them early on, and large gaps without any between the round levels (20, 30, 40 etc). Could we learn spells less frequently, will the present higher-level spells be learned earlier on, or will there be a mass of new spells to fill the gaps?

We'll almost certainly get new spells as a reward for levelling to 85. My biggest hope is finally to get the dark prayer I have been pleading for for so long. A channelled spell that boosts damage (and possibly healing) temporarily would be a dream. Please Blizzard, I would only write nice things about you from now on :)

As I mentioned above, there was talk a while back of a possible new, spammable nuke, and while I can see this having some application early on, I'm not sure how it could work in end game. Two possibilities that I can see so far: one, it replaces something from our active range of spells (what, I'm not sure), two it becomes an addition to our active range of spells. The first option doesn't appeal to me, the second frightens me. I'm a simple shadow priest, I don't want to have to manage another variable. But it's too early to worry, we don't even know if a spell is incoming.

Finally, we've been promised more active talents and fewer passive 'improves x by y' talents. I don't think we'll see the full talent trees tomorrow, and even if we did it would be way too early to speculate about builds. But we're likely to get a feel for the way the new talents will go. It would be nice to see some possibility for hybrid builds, or even just more variety in build options.

Roll on Wednesday!


Ho Ho said...

Making shadowfiend availiable at really low levels would be awesome. Reducing the cooldown and regen by 2x similarly to innervate would be nice aswell.

Leigh said...

That would be a slight DPS boost as well Ho-Ho which would be welcome! I could even see them go along the lines of a mages water elemental with a pushable ability to get our mana back.

I am looking forward to the changes though, I think a new spell from a different school that can be cast in shadowform would be really welcome. From a PVP point of view getting locked out of shadow spells is annoying, even in PVE those pesky snowbolds in ToC used to be a nightmare.

You said "I'm a simple shadow priest, I don't want to have to manage another variable."

At the mo we have nothing really to manage. MB is completely redundant with the 4 set bonus (once someone else provides replenishment and even then it's cast once every 15s) and SWD has been out of the rotation all expansion. SWP is cast once on the majority of fights. That leaves 2 DoT's and MF spam, hardly over the top? A new spell that had synnergy with existing spells would be brilliant. Like spam one spell until a proc then switch spells like balance druids / arcane mages.

The one and only thing that I want to see in the list of changes is a talent or spell that we can use to boost our damage at a certain % or a push to use ability.

What I really