Friday, October 15, 2010

Those Who Did Not Learn From History

In Patch 3.2, Blizzard decided to remove Seal of Blood and Seal of the Martyr from the game. They decided that doing a lot of damage to yourself was not a good way to balance out doing a lot of damage to your opponent. In 3.1 they had already reduced the judgement damage and increased the seal damage to try to make the self-damage aspect of the seal less spiky. Paladins were knocking off a third of their life every eight seconds and it seemed pretty excessive and dangerous.

Strangely, though, the mechanic of damaging yourself to maximize your damage rotation has made a comeback in patch 4. By reintroducing Shadow Word: Death into the shadow priest rotation - that is, by making Shadow Word: Death hit like a truck - blizzard has put Shadow Priests in the position of giving themselves a good punch every 12 seconds. Given that Shadow Priest mana return is dependent on taking damage from Shadow Word: Death, there will be no escaping the self-damage.

Shadow Word: Death hits for somewhere in the mid- to high-six thousand range completely unbuffed. With raid buffs that could rise to somewhere in the neighborhood of 7500. A critical would be 15k. Shadow priests take 60% of this damage and immediate heal themselves for 25% of the damage dealt, so they effectively take 35% of this assuming they live to get the Vampiric Embrace tick. That comes out to around just over 15% of their health pool every 12 seconds. This is nowhere near former Retribution paladin self-damage levels, especially considering the constant, substantial self-healing that Shadow priests get.

The real problem is that when the enemy is below 25% health, the cooldown is removed from Shadow Word: Death and it does 30% more damage. Instead of 15% of their health pool every 12 seconds, it becomes 20% of their health pool every two or three seconds. That level of self-damage is completely astronomical, and not killing yourself becomes one of the major limiting factors for damage. If you get a big crit, you may have to worry about not getting that Vampiric Embrace tick because you are already dead.

Blizzard just nerfed Shadow Word: Death because Shadow priest damage was too high anyway, and Shadow priests were doing way too much damage to themselves on low health enemies. This change, however, reminds me a bit of the patch 3.1 paladin changes. After Wrath launched it took them quite a while to figure out that doing damage to yourself is not a good way to balance a dps class. Ultimately, I think they may have to learn this lesson again in Cataclysm.

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