13 May 2011

Mages and Patch 4.2

A lot of us have been in a kind of holding pattern since 4.1 came out. Some of us have been focused on mopping up the current tier of raiding, like a roast dinner with lashings of gravy that you just need a bit of bread to polish off. Others have been filling a few gaps here and there with the troll content, using the new epics to fill a couple of gaps in our gear.

Patch 4.2 is approaching. With it comes the new Firelands raiding and questing zone, the new Mage legendary staff, a new tier of armour (and a new round of sympathy for Priests) and a truckload of other stuff besides. Putting the new juicy content to one side though, there’s the inevitable class changes as well. It’s early days so far and there’s a promise of more to come, but Mages are already tasting both sides of the nerfbat.

The Good: Polymorph Changes

Let me start off with possibly the longest patch note so far.

Many crowd control abilities no longer cause creatures to attack players when they are cast. The creature will not attack the player when the crowd control wears off, and nearby creatures will not become hostile to the player either. However, if a visible player gets too close to the target creature, the creature will remember and attack the player when the crowd control effect wears off. The intent is to make it easier for dungeon groups to manage crowd control assignments and pulling packs of hostile NPCs. The abilities affected by this change are: Hibernate, Entangling Roots, Wyvern Sting (will still cause hostility when it begins to deal damage), Freezing Trap, Polymorph, Repentance, Shackle Undead, Blind, Hex, Bind Elemental, Banish, Seduction.

This is the biggest change to Polymorph since the creation of the spell back in Vanilla. Gone are the days where I’d polymorph a mob only for the rest of the pack to charge towards me in response. If the tank was slow off the mark I’d be quickly pummelled into the ground, spending the rest of the time closely inspecting the floor.

Instead I’ll be able to pop a polymorph on a target and have the rest of the mobs stand there ignoring the fact that one of their close friends is now a pig or sheep or turtle or whatever. The tank can then pull the rest of the pack when they’re ready, locking in threat and making pulls less twitchy.

The great thing is it doesn’t matter if I’m a bit keen with my crowd control. If I sheep a mob early it means I don’t have to slam ice block to survive and see who ends up with aggro (probably the healer). It makes the tank’s job less stressful and encourages the use of crowd control over the more typical pull-everything approach, as it becomes much less riskier to do. This is a Good Thing.

Of course there are going to be people who say this dumbs down dungeons and panders to the casuals. They’re wrong. Why? Because nine times out of ten you’re doing crowd control on trash packs and not bossfights. If you don’t have the ability to take down the boss then you’ll still die, wipe and ultimately fail. Even yesterday I was in Naxx25 for fun and people still died on the Sapphiron fight because they were unable to move out of the impending bad stuff. “But they nerfed trash fights!” Seriously? Big deal.

The Bad: Everything Else

With the rough comes the smooth. And with such a smooth change you almost knew there was a little bit of rough to dull the shine. Here it is.

Ring of Frost now has a 1.5-second cast time.

Adding a cast time hamstrings a great spell that could be used as a ranged Frost Nova. I’m annoyed about this, even though it was pretty much a situational spell that I only in certain cases, such as:

  • The Maloriak fight where the offtank has nine spawned mobs beating him up and I want to give him (and his healer) a bit of a breather.
  • Pugs where the tank pulled two or more big packs and I need to give him a chance before he ends up being the jam in a mob donut.
  • Pugs where the tank pulled two or more packs, ended up becoming a jammy stain on the floor and I need a way of controlling the mobs before invisibility comes off cooldown.

One of the spells from Burning Crusade gets a taste of the nerf bat, again.

Spellsteal now has a 6-second cooldown.

I use this one situationally as well, from stealing Arcanatron’s buff in the Omnitron Defense System fight in Blackwing Descent, through to stealing the Swell buff from the large water elementals in the gauntlet that leads up to Neptulon. There are other uses for it elsewhere, from grabbing heal-over-time buffs to fun cosmetic changes.

The change is poor because there are only limited uses for Spellsteal in PvE. The buff has to be stealable (and not all are). Sometimes there’s a stack of buffs that need to be removed so you end up spamming Spellsteal until the stack is gone. The Jaraxus fight in Trial of the Crusader is an example of this.

Both these changes are being added to address perceived PvP issues in advance of the 2011 season Arena Pass. This paid-for service uses pre-made level 85 characters on a special realm for focused 3v3 arena fights. There’s a chance at earning a pet for taking part in the tournament, while the top 100 teams get the “Vanquisher” title. The cost for this? €15/£12 in Europe; $20 in North America; and NT$450 in the regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau.

While I can understand Blizzard’s drive to push Warcraft as an eSport along with all that it entails. I’m getting a little tired of the impact that it has on the dungeoneering and raiding game.

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