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The Beginning of the End

November 21st, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

4.0.1 has been out for only a few weeks at this point, but its changes have been significant. While Deathwing’s sweep over the face of Azeroth will redesign the zones entirely, the pre-patch brings with it all the class changes both anticipated and feared about for the past four months since their initial announcement. At this point, I’m feeling the sense though that the changes are just a little short of the mark. They’re not meant for the game as it is now, but as it will become, and that seems to show through with the late game raiding I’ve done. Still, it’s good to get this out of the way now, and practice it for when we go into Cata proper. For now it’s a bit incomplete, but the changes are something to write home about. Or at least to you, dear readers.

The one-two punch to the game has been the wholesale revamp of the talent trees as well as the radical UI changes. There’s a lot of under-the-hood, mechanical grittiness that has been excised and shifted about as well, but the most prevalent changes are the ones that stare back at you as you’re looking them over.

The most pervasive, note-worthy changes are the dramatic reconfiguration of talents. Every talent tree has been cut down to 31 points, and all the talent trees are given a “signature” talent, one that defines them as a talent tree, and some trees have a passive ability. Enhancement Shamans for example get dual-wielding as a passive ability and Lava Lash as their signature ability. Additionally, at level 80, a Mastery ability is unlocked. This functions with a new stat, Mastery, to provide some sort of additional passive bonus that can get better. Symbosis is the Mastery ability of Restoration Druids, whose heals are more effective on people with heal-over-time spells on them, and the more Mastery they have, the more effective they are.

These two changes make talents more accessible while preserving their crunch, their mechanical depth. Every tree is stronger at the bottom end, at level 10 when you make your choice and get your abilities, but when you get to level 80, the usefulness of your Mastery has to be considered when raiding. Do you prioritize Mastery above crit, or haste, for example? Is it worth that much? Well, you can crunch the numbers and based on that, you can reforge.

Oh sorry. More mechanical crunch in with your synopsis of changes, my bad. Got them mixed in again. Reforging is a process where you can take one secondary stat (crit, haste, expertise) and change it for another (dodge rating, mastery, parry rating). The examples are more broad than that, but hopefully you get the picture. It allows (to a degree) to have a suboptimal piece, because you can reforge the part of it you don’t want into a more useful stat.

The other omnipresent change is the redesign of the UI to include two features:

The first feature is a built in display that activates when something procs, which is to say that when something suddenly becomes different because it is free or a situation arises where I can use it, shit lights up. I’ve seen this the most on my Warlock, when Empowered Imp triggers and I suddenly have a free Soulfire to fling around, but this also comes up on Tabs when he shifts into Tree of Life and things become changed because of it.

The second feature is a built in raid-frame, which I have found exceptionally helpful. It’s not as compact as a raid frame like Grid, for example, but it does what I want it to do: tell me about buffs I can dispell, show everyone’s health, and how much my heals are projected to do for them. It also shows me the hots I cast on them, but this is really only useful as Tabs.

There are smaller changes to each class, but I’m just going to go over the ones I have experience with:

Death Knight – The overhaul of the talents means that Blood is your one stop shop for tanking. Unholy and Frost now have nothing to do with it, and while I’m not quite as happy with the change (I thought talents in every tree was an important idea about the DK), Death Knights got the best end of the stick as far as 4.0.1. tanking goes, because their AOE tanking is still very much a part of them. Death and Decay’s cost got chopped down to just one Unholy rune, and Blood Boil is now even stronger as a tanking tool.

Druid – Swipe.SWIPE MOTHER FUCKERS. Pulverize is cool though. That’s more or less all I have to say about it. Also, I miss swipe. But cat damage is pretty high, which is cool. Also, I like Tree as Metamorphosis, so if any of you people have issue with that, I’m sorry. But really, that’s it. Swipe, you godless sons-of-bitches.

The important change to both of these classes that I as a tank have noticed is the “on next hit” mechanic, which was removed like a bad memory in Dollhouse. Both Rune Strike and Maul are no longer “whenever you next swing” but “right the fuck now”, or as Blizzard likes to call it “instant”. As such, it requires a little bit of reworking to get the patterns and timing right again, but it shouldn’t be too hard to pick up.

Warlock – Curses and Banes and Soulburns, oh my. But seriously, Curse of Agony and Doom were split off into their own nifty thing called a “bane”, which is just another way of saying moar dots, or just getting Agony and Doom on while you hit something with a curse of elements. Also, Soul Shards were transformed into things that empower spells with a spell called Soulburn. You really wanna cast Soul Fire right now? Well, chuck a Soul Shard at it. BAM. Instant Soul Fire. How nice.

Rogue – Lots of fun to level; Recuperate is bomb. That’s about it. I’m looking forward to playing my shammy too.

Overall, I think that the patch has been interesting, but it feels like we’ve got an incomplete game on our hands. Notably, we have few too talent points, and mastery has no depth. For the first point, things like Evangelism and Archangel were clearly designed to be paired with Shadow priests, as well as Perseverance for Feral Druids, but these talents aren’t available to those builds without five additional talent points. Secondarily, it’s hard to rate the true effectiveness of Mastery until we have more gear for it. Theorycrafting for the usefulness at 80 seems a mere thought experiment that people run through to have fun with some numbers, rather than have a meaningful affect on the raiding landscape.

I have enjoyed my time in Northrend. My raid team and I just killed Halion (man does he have bad breath) for the first time, so it was nice to experience the endgame for a patch, but now, I’m just looking forward to Deathwing’s arrival, to get my claws into something new.

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  1. November 21st, 2010 at 08:12 | #1

    Unfinished is certainly a sort of feeling I get when I log in and get around to doing much of anything in the game as of late. Distract me with shiny buttons, new UI features and changes to my class all you like, Blizzard, but I still think somethings are broken to a degree where there needs to be more polish. Blizzard was often hailed as a pinnacle of excellence, not releasing a game until it was done to the degree they like it to be. Cataclysm and more over the 4.0.x patched feel rushed.. hurried.. out before the holidays because everyone’s bored with the current content. I eagerly await the Sundering to see how things have changed (I’ve been half and half spoiler-free for a while) and to try the low-level experience in this new environment. I have Loremaster on my main. It behooves me to find the changes to my old favorites (Or old hated quest chains)

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