World of Warcraft

A Treatise on MoP Class design with an Emphasis on Demonology Warlock and Havoc DH

wow5 - A Treatise on MoP Class design with an Emphasis on Demonology Warlock and Havoc DH

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MoP Demonology Metamorphosis as a Model for Havoc and Vengeance Demon Hunter 

Metamorphosis (from here on known as meta) has been my favourite spell in world of warcraft. It's the reason I went and stayed demo when I started in wrath. It was the reason I farmed up the moonwell mastery trinket in cata for a huge damage % increase during meta. In MoP, it was taken a step further and what was created was maybe the most fun spec / mechanic in terms of unique decisions per second, class fantasy, and player agency. The biggest mechanic was a slight switch up of a traditional cooldown based damage buff. Instead of being on a cooldown timer, you can switch in and out of meta at will, the only caveat being that while in, and using spells in, meta used up a resource: demonic fury (from here on known as DF). DF would be built up and stored while outside of meta, with a whopping 1000 available maximum.


Typically this would translate to 20 seconds to upwards of a minute of meta uptime in a single burst, depending on the context and where your DF was being used. In meta, a few of your main damaging spells would be changed to more effective versions of themselves, with shadow bolt going to an instant cast no cooldown damage nuke, Hand of Gul'dan going from a stacking AOE dot application to a very strong charge-based AOE nuke, and hellfire going from a channeled ability to an AOE aura dealing high ticking damage around you while allowing you to cast freely. There were also non-damaging changes to player power, such as curses becoming AOE, and a leap ability available to a typically immobile class.    


Having such a large buffer of DF, as compared to most builder-spender storages (about 10x more of a typical class, with comparable resource costs) is extremely important because it allows the player a much wider array of skill expression, and it reduces both the spammy feeling and pressure of needing to instantly dump your resources the moment theyre available out of fear of overcapping. The nature of dungeons and raids aren't structured in a way to alleviate this. Boss mechanics come in minutes, not seconds, Add pack spawns come in minutes, not seconds. The current solution, namely simple timer based cooldowns, are also way too limiting in their use. Unless it's an AOE situation, more often than not its optimal to use your major damage buff on cooldown so as to get the most activations per fight. This creates awkward moments where either perfect timing is needed, or dumb luck, in order to benefit from the myriad random proccing damage buffs, or needed on-demand nuke-situations.    


MoP Meta created incredible amounts of player agency, and importantly placed non-trivial decisions on the player on every GCD. The decision being "do I go into meta now?" and important question that had to be asked almost literally all the time. The freedom and versatility of meta meant it was up to the player to decide how optimally to use the tools given, it created meaningful opportunities for human-centric decision making. It would be much harder to program a bot to play meta demo than it is to play current demo, not because the class is particularly more difficult to play, but because the actions being taken aren't easily pre-programmed. They're contextual and on-line, and the decision to go in meta, and what to spend it on, is something learned, with one's own personal touch.    


Having a different set of tools allowed the player to use those tools in different ways. some examples: During Siege of Orgrimmar during the Thok the Bloodthirsty fight, Thok would reach a point where he would AOE interrupt the raid almost every second, but if DF was spared properly in preparation for this moment, the player would be able to fully dps normally due to meta's instant cast abilities. This is important because the player is able to store their damage increase without having to spam it away as soon as its available. Other examples are in the Mannoroth and Blackhand fights from WoD. Demo players would save up both their DF and the cooldown of their hand of gul'dan and were able to unleash them on the boss's respective AOE add phases, all this being done with the fluid adaptability of being able to go in and out of meta without the restrictive anxiety a cooldown timer creates.    


Class fantasy was a very important factor as well. Demonology warlocks were typically static casters, so the transition to a fully mobile, melee-style ranged character was a significant change in gameplay. It gave a context to the increase in power you got, It wasn't a pure damage buff, but it changed your gameplay. It gave you more tools and made you more versatile, while still increasing your damage. It felt different to play a demonology warlock in and out of meta, so the time in meta became more impactful, and gave more credence to the "channeling an inner demon for power" fantasy. also i miss being able to show off green fire, it was so sexy blizz pls 🙂   



I enjoy modern demo, I think it's a unique caster that handles its class fantasy very well. I Think DH should have meta, but I think it, in its current form, is flawed. I'm advocating for a return to a DF-based energy system for havoc demon hunters, with potentially the removal of their current fury resource. Replacing demon hunter's current meta and fury with a large-pooling MoP-meta style system is not only optimal for both gameplay and fun, it is also achievable while keeping a lot of the same mechanics, abilities and fantasy of the current DH on live. You'd still see a demon hunter in meta and go "woah theyre going ham", but now at least it'll be fun for the dh. A 5-minute cooldown to use on pull and whenever its up isn't as interesting, freeing, or most importantly, fun, as the alternative.    


Vengeance Demon Hunter: A lack of Identity 

Historically, vengeance demon hunter has had a problem of lack of identity and focus in terms of class design. What resulted was a squisher, more mobile DK in terms of feel, in which a key element of the class fantasy, namely meta, was left without a clear use to fill. Often it would be relegated for the automatic "oh shit" button while using the last resort talent, with little clear use times outside of it. You feel too squishy outside of it, and its uptime doesn't feel high enough to warrant using it in a normal case. What I'm proposing is the same mechanic as mentioned above, but for different reasons. Meta, for a vengeance demon hunter, should be the primary tool to alleviate heavy damage. The class fantasy is built around lows of being out of meta giving context to the powerful high of being in meta. 


The problem for vengeance, however, is you rarely get to feel the power of meta, and its use is very restrictive and unadaptable. You can't use it because youre saving it for an emergency, but if you use it then your only real defensive cooldown is out and youre out of luck. Switching to a large-pool builder-spender style could retain the class fantasy of being powerful, while only improving its usability and feel. It allows the player to react to emergencies, and also plan for future big hits of damage, in what is traditionally a reactionary tank playstyle. The power of meta could be tied to self-healing if that solo power fantasy wants to be preserved. Most notably, it would give vengeance demon hunter a mechanical identity, and give room to focus more and play off of its niche.  


Monks have damage staggering, DK's have self healing, druids have HP, pallies have cooldowns, and warriors have damage mitigation. Vengeance DH would be the only tank in the game with a varying-length, on-demand defensive "cooldown" resource. The class could be designed to be the squishiest outside of meta and tankiest inside of it. If balancing tank-swapping is an issue, you could affect the DF generation rate so that it can't effectively be used on every taunt, or tie DF drain rate to survivability tools, and not uptime of defensive stats, so as to let players dump all their DF to be effectively immortal for a short time, or use it slowly as maintenance. 



Blood DK: blood charges 

I love the direction the team is going with the of the addition of rune strike. I think blood tap was a very important mechanic for blood dk's because it allowed a reactionary tank class to react to emergencies by building up and storing, then pulling from and using, one or two stored death strikes. Death strike's mechanic of increased healing proportional to damage recently taken means that optimal use is done immediately after taking a big hit. The addition of blood tap allowed a good blood dk player to, through some planning, survive much more than what they would've been able to without it. 


Rune strike on live is a stackable runic power generator with stacks, whose cooldown is reduced by use of runes. The only real problem is the GCD. In order to react to an emergency, you have to use two global cooldowns and maybe even a heart strike to be able to afford a death strike, at which point 3-4 GCDs will have passed, and whatever benefit from death strike's healing increase will have been lost. If GCD using abilites will be reduced in shadowlands, I propose taking this ability off of it. If having a damaging ability with no GCC is a concern, then better yet, return blood tap as something like the following:


Generate blood charges as you spend runes.
Use: Consume 3 blood charges to gain 15 runic power. Maximum 12 blood charges. 



Final Words 

I care passionately about the fun of this game, and would love to see a return to fun and interesting gameplay as class design. I realize this can't be done in a week, but I hope this atleast starts a conversation about what is wanted from a class in WoW, and what is fun to players, both in terms of game design theory, and community preference. Id love to hear your guys thoughts, and especially any veterans of these classes or others, DH in particular.


Sorry for the wall of text, I tried breaking it up as best I could.

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