World of Warcraft

Class buffs, the melee crunch, and why raid comps are about to be as bad as TBC to manage

wow4 - Class buffs, the melee crunch, and why raid comps are about to be as bad as TBC to manage

Before we begin, I absolutely love the flavor of the great "unpruning", the return of class buffs are a great direction for the game. However, it feels like we are repeating the exact same lesson that we already learned from in TBC when Ghostcrawler infamously made the "bring the player, not the class" watercooler.

Be prepared. There is a wall of text incoming.

TL;DR: There is a throughput element to every class in the game. Though that makes a game designer happy, that makes raid leading a real chore as juggling in literally every class to every raid is a massive headache and causes people on "overpopulated" classes to sit more often than say your one guy who likes monk. There are two solutions: allow for consumables (like scrolls in BFA) to cover literally every throughput buff/debuff but at a lesser amount to decrease the difference between "the perfect comp" and people just playing what they want. The second is to remove "buff monopolies" and employ what we had in WOD where multiple classes could bring the big buffs.

The problem: Everyone is special

As it stands right now, to get full throughput buffs/debuffs, you will need

  • A warrior for Battle Shout
  • A mage for Arcane Intellect
  • A priest for Fortitude
  • A demon hunter for Brand
  • A monk for Mark
  • A warlock (or rogue to a lesser extent single target but desperately for AOE) for Weakness
  • A paladin for Devo aura
  • A shaman PER melee/tank group (likely two in total) for Windfury Totem An Enhancement Shaman for Windfury (thanks u/ArcaneSyntax)

Now toss into the mix the "traditional" needs of raid tiers, and you'll add

  • DK–that's ideally Blood–for grip (and Blood for mass grip)
  • Hunter or Druid for enrage removal

Before you even begin to ask what everyone wants to play for Shadowlands in a guild that cares about serious progression, that's a hard lock on 11 slots just to cover buffs/debuffs in a 20 man raid.

Sitting at a game developer desk, this looks really, really great. There is a reason to bring literally every class in the game. Mission Accomplished. Balance achieved. Right?

In a purist world, that all seems well and good. Then the rubber hits the road. In our guild we have a LOT of people returning for Shadowlands, and their desire to play classes/specs is far from evenly distributed. What "bring the class, not the player" actually means is that you sometimes sit better performers because they happened to prefer a class that a lot of others preferred. How many Ret paladins are going to get sat in Shadowlands because Holy Paladins will already cover Devo Aura? How many wind walker monks are just SOL because Brewmaster is an amazing tank? If you only have one teammate on a given class–or two on shaman–they can never be benched. There's now a HUGE amount of logistics in working out who sits on what boss. It means the overpopulated classes have to sit more often than the less populated ones–at least until the bosses are comfortably down without the throughput buffs.

To make matters worse, you actually have the return of GROUP and not RAID buffs with Windfury totem, which literally recreates the "melee group" conundrum that ruined TBC raid management–or at least made it a chore. If you are melee slot eight or nine, you're likely just out of luck on getting Windfury Totem. Some classes may not care about that–Windwalker for instance. However, what warrior doesn't wants 10% more rage? What rogue doesn't 10% more procs? What DK doesn't want 10% more killing machine procs? Etc. That means–at best–you're the "red headed step child" of the melee and get moved to a ranged group. At the worst, you're just sat for a ranged. Blizzard already tries to create a need to stay under around seven or eight melee, but this just creates a whole new level to that barrier. You're fighting a throughput issue in addition to just a space issue. No one liked doing Ra Den Mythic with a lot of melee to begin with. Now imagine if some melee ALSO did less DPS. The "melee crunch"–the fact that raids have to cap melee but don't often have to cap ranged DPS–will be even worse in Shadowlands. Thanks to u/ArcaneSyntax for pointing out that the tooltip is currently wrong on Beta. Windfury is raid wide.

Solution One: Scrolls, Oils, and Crafting our Way to Parity

Blizzard–as they clearly see some of this creeping up already–gave us scrolls in BFA that provided a weaker Battle Shout, Arcane Intellect, and Fortitude. The goal was clear. They didn't want the power gap for missing those classes to be so huge that they felt mandatory at all levels of play–especially M+. That was a smart move, but they left the work unfinished.


Instead of giving everyone oils to provide small DPS increases, oils should be "weaker" versions of Brand/Mark from DHs and monks, respectively. Rinse and repeat across the professions for literally every throughput buff. Leatherworker armor buffs provide Devo Aura equivalent. Sharpening stones for Weakness. A rune (crafted from gems) that gives a personal Windfury buff to cover that stranded melee outside the shaman's group. Etc.

The ideas are endless but the net result is the same. The delta between a group with full buffs and full consumables is ~5%. It's enough that some scales could be tipped. Yet, it's not so steep that you have to have an intervention with the Ret Paladin team. The guild bank would also thank you for recruiting a new character of the right class, which matters to some of us 🙂

Solution Two: Copy WOD and Provide Multiple Sources for Buffs

This is a potentially more "elegant" solution, and one rooted in the spirit of the great unpruning. Simply toss the buffs around so that there are always 2-3 sources for every buff. Why not give DKs "Horn of Winter" back that provides AP? Give Druids Mark of the Wild that provides Stam and 3% DR. Etc.

"Spreading the love" would allow for orders of magnitude more combinations to raids. You'd still have SOME friction, but you would have doubled or tripled the theoretical pool from which to draw a buff/debuff and create easier rotations for sitting.

Moreover, you'd still have the excitement for getting a new member of the "right" class because it would provide you a missing buff. In just raw probability, however, this would occur less than if literally every raid needed every class–and two for shaman.

Finally, this is clearly already present on many key throughput elements, such as lust, enrage removal, purge, mortal wounds, etc. All you'd need is to adopt the philosophy that there should be no monopolies.

A Reflection on Why Bring the Class Is Cool

I don't just casually disregard that classes having unique things they bring is really cool because it is. I like that the group is stronger than the sum of its parts. That's part of what makes MMOs–and WoW in particular–great.

I also get that without some buff/debuff economy there would just be insane class stacking at the bleeding edge level of play. Why ever bring a low performing class if you could just stack another "meta" spec? If the under performer has a buff monopoly, then they get brought in. It makes the "stakes" for balance less scary and encourages everyone to have value. I truly get why Blizzard are heading down this path.

Here's the rebuttal. You can provide unique flavor and utility without providing throughput. How many people sit there and consider things like Darkness or Rallying Cry? I do. That's a reason to bring warrior or DH. However, it's not such a huge loss that I would make a Ret paladin that shows up all the time sit on a fight because we already have three paladins in the raid, and we'd just be a flat 5% better with the DH that just logged on. Bringing back things like Anti-Magic Shell are cool. Having things like Grip that are almost required on one fight but not another are great. I'm calling it now, Rogues are going to be considered brokenly good on mass AOE fights with their ability to provide a 15% attack speed reduction in AOE–and no one is talking about that yet. They have MOMENTS were they feel mandatory, but I don't have to keep them in the whole night and can safely rotate around who wants in on what boss.

Final Thoughts

If you've stuck with me this long, thank you. I get that a LOT of people reading this will simply say "bring the best player" and be done with it. I don't have a group with 25-30 bad players. I have 25-30 GOOD players, and I want them ALL to get to raid in decent amounts. I'm actively trying to have a more equitable policy to sitting than we'd have now because class distribution is not even–nor will it ever be.

This also won't matter to many guilds. If you are progressing in Heroic all tier, then learning mechanics are what are holding you back, not throughput. There is a point, though, where throughput just solves all problems. If you can add 10% more overall effectiveness (added damage, less healing required, etc.) to your raid through appropriately managing the buff economy, that's easily the difference between a kill and not a kill–or at least what week you get the kill. You're kidding yourself if a Mythic guild won't manage that.

Lastly, I know that degenerate things will happen at the bleeding edge end with class stacking if you move too far on this issue, but quite frankly I think that's fine. If World First Jailer takes 10 Feral Druids, so be it. I think that would be comical if nothing else. For the rest of us who just want to progress as far as we can with our friends, the buff economy is a HUGE pain in our back.

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