This week marked a round of much-needed adjustments to Shadowlands content and classes.
Or, well, it would have, if the adjustments meaningfully addressed the actual problems.
I don’t want to fully sour grapes this post, so I think I need to start with the positives. The dungeon and raid nerfs are much needed, and the recently unveiled buffs to anima rewards, while still anemic, now allow players a much higher supply of anima from PvE content, and that is a good thing!
Further, I want to establish that I am glad to see that Blizzard is trying to fix DPS balance – it is appreciated and something that has needed to happen for a while.
However, compliments out of the way, could they maybe try harder?
All of the underperforming spec buffs were done largely around PvE raid performance, and were done using aura buffs, which grant flat percentage increases to all damage dealt. For some specs, this is fine, but it is worth evaluating, because some specs absolutely do not need that and it creates balance problems in other directions. For example, Arms Warriors are already pretty strong in PvP, and an increase of 3% damage dealt in general in that setting results in increasing that already great performance.
However, what I can speak to strongly is Havoc Demon Hunter.
I switched to my 4+ year main again a few weeks ago to get my raid group the magic damage taken debuff for bosses, so my individual performance, provided it stays up enough, is largely inconsequential. I’ve been playing with different builds, soulbinds, conduits, and loadouts trying to maximize my performance, and the core frustration I have in raid is simple – single-target damage for Havoc is too low, and the burst we do get is largely tied to the AoE/cleave abilities that we use in ST anyways. Eye Beams bursts my DPS higher, and with a Cycle of Hatred build, I can push to increase the number of Eye Beams casts I get in. Likewise, Glaive Tempest does a ton of damage and is a great moment in my rotation, with a fixed cooldown and Fury cost that allow it to be used reasonably frequently. These abilities feel great and in single-target offer great DPS. However, the core of my rotation with the current build I am using involves hitting Demon’s Bite and Chaos Strike on a loop while keeping Immolation Aura and Elysian Decree on cooldown. The latter two abilities are pretty hard hitting for their AoE status, while the first two are standard melee attacks and hit like wet noodles.
In terms of the number of casts in an average mid-duration raid fight, Demon’s Bite and Chaos Strike far outweigh the actual DPS increasers, the abilities that give me a fighting chance at parsing higher. Giving me 3% to everything pushes my performance higher, which is great – but it doesn’t actually balance in favor of rewarding me for proper single-target vs multi-target ability selection, and my ability to tank my rotation is pretty limited – a DH can jab a lot of buttons and do okay, with higher performance being down to a limited set of choices and making those choices without delay. This week, I did better, and it felt better, but it also still had the same limits.
However, the trick here is that Havoc DH also has a strong point that the buff just further pushes – AoE in dungeons and particularly Mythic Plus. Now, Havoc DH is not an MDI-level meta-pick or anything like that, but it is a complete toolkit for Mythic Plus and does fairly well at the types of pulls that Mythic Dungeons require on higher keystones. They have high AoE burst, uncapped AoE burst, a capped AoE main ability, two Covenant abilities with strong AoE and a third with AoE available occasionally, an AoE stun that also does damage, and a passive AoE that just requires an initial activation and also generates resources. Giving Havoc 3% more damage in general, thusly, creates two gaps – a smaller than prior gap in raid and ST DPS, and a larger advantage in AoE DPS in, particularly, M+.
Far be it for me to look a gift horse in the mouth, but it should be said – these buffs would have been immensely better if targeted. I cannot speak to all specs involved, but for my Havoc DH – why not just buff single-target? Bringing the DPS of the two rotational single-target abilities by something like 10-15% would feel so much better in raids, while also not overstrengthening the spec in dungeons.
My hope is that such indirect, poorly-targeted buffs are designed as such solely for us to be held over until 9.1, or until a better set of targeted buffs can be implemented. It did help, from my perspective, but I cannot be happy with such a small increase that does nothing to actually shore up weak points in the gameplay of the deficient specs.
And given that there is a 30% spread in damage done from top to bottom of many spec comparison charts, small creeps upwards are going to do little to help. Further, the first season of Shadowlands has been open for 8 weeks and it felt a lot like the balance of content was pushed aside for the launch to be timely, which then led to the holidays. I don’t blame Blizzard for taking the time off (in fact, I would encourage it!) but it does feel like many of these problems were apparent early in the season and such a small buff could have been done in week 2 or 3, with more targeted buffs coming now to further set balance on a correct path.
Instead, we got 3% almost consistently across the board, and it feels kinda bad.