Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The painful sting of the nerfbat

Well, they're just nerfing everybody everywhere with 4.06, it seems. Heroics are getting nerfed, which I'll talk about in a bit, but oh my god the Survival nerfs are painful to see:
  • Black Arrow damage has been reduced by 25%.
  • Explosive Shot damage has been reduced by 25%.
  • Hunter vs. Wild has been increased to 5/10/15% Stamina, up from 4/8/12%.
  • Serpent Spread can now only affect up to 4 targets per Multi-Shot, down from unlimited
Oh god. It's like some hateful Guido with a backwards ballcap, gold necklace, and shoulders swarming with steroids and beer just took an aluminum baseball bat to my gut. Ok, not really, but those are some serious, serious nerfs. Explosive Shot is our most damaging ability and Black Arrow tends to be my third most damaging ability when kept on cooldown on a boss. That BA nerf is in fact so severe that I'm afraid that optimal Survival DPS is going to revert to using explosive trap for LnL procs on stationary bosses, which I really don't like doing. I hope the math doesn't end up in that direction, but I'm afraid it may.
On the other hand, they're theoretically buffing MM and BM, so maybe I'll be able to swap over to one of those if I don't like where Survival ends up. I'm still really surprised at the scale of the nerf to explosive shot, though. 25% nerfs to our top and third damaging abilities are just really, really severe. That's going to work out to somewhere between a 10-15% reduction in total damage done on an average boss fight. Or in less abstract terms, I'm going to be doing 1,200-1,800 less DPS, depending on boss fight. Raiding hunters are going to see an even bigger number, in absolute terms, lopped off of their damage. Brutal. Really brutal.
In general, I think the people working on class balance for WoW have proven themselves to be pretty smart, so maybe this is warranted. I suppose that it's worse to have something taken away from you than to have never had it at all. Even that only goes so far, though: if they nerf BA to the point where it's not worth using, that's a mistake (and incidentally, that's a mistake they've made before). I should also remind myself that these changes are just on the PTR, though, and they won't necessarily make it to live in their current form. It seems like the nerf to into the wilderness alone probably would have been sufficient, so hopefully they'll back off on the destruction of the spec's two signature abilities.
Moving on, the numerous nerfs to heroics are both surprising and not surprising in light of this blog post by Ghostcrawler. Surprising because the meat of the post is a spirited defense of the current difficulty of heroics, and largely I agree with him. I've been having a lot of fun with the Cataclysm heroics, and the guild has gotten to the point where we can reliably clear all but the longest instance in 45 minutes, and the longer ones in just about an hour. I'm personally at 11/28 of the achievements for Glory of the Cataclysm Hero, and our Wednesday/Thursday instance times are obviously today and tomorrow, so we should be able to make a bunch more progress there. I think the trash is a little easier than BC heroics, but the boss design has been worlds better, with the exception of Grand Vizier Ertan, who is dumb and boring. "This boss has two phases. In phase 1 you damage him. In phase two, melee stands around pointlessly but ranged still damages him. The party is zapped with a lot of lightning it can do nothing about." Um, ok. But like, Altairus? Slabhide? Azil? Barim? There are a lot of cool, involved boss mechanics in the Cataclysm heroics, the sort of fun and engaging stuff you don't generally get to see until you're raiding, and there was honestly very little that cool happening in the BC heroics.
I suppose the guy in Mechanar that gave you positive/negative charges was mildly interesting. And mini-Kael from heroic MgT was awesome. But the Black Stalker, Kalithresh, and... those other guys. I dunno. I just don't remember the bosses being all that entertaining really until you made it to Netherspite or the other dragon (Nightbane? I don't even remember) in Kara. And then the dragonhawk boss and Zul'jin in ZA were both pretty cool, Vashj and real Kael were awesome, etc.
So yeah, the nerfs to heroics are a little sad for me. On the other hand, I certainly can't argue with the sentence at the end of his post: they definitely have historically nerfed content once it's been out for a bit. Not necessarily because they think it was overtuned - indeed, the people that clear it pre-nerf have always worn that as a badge of pride. I never even raided sunwell, but I've talked with steely-eyed veterans on messageboards who stand a little straighter when they get to mention they killed M'uru before it got nerfed. But those people already have their volcanic stone drakes and are working on heroic Omnotron. They want more people getting heroics cleared. So I understand why they're doing it, and hey, I got my Cataclysm Dungeon Hero achievement before they did.

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