Warlords of Draenor, the forthcoming expansion to World of Warcraft, will make a myriad of changes to PvP. These range from general changes impacting on PvP to changes made specifically with PvP in mind.We’ll see the introduction of new max level talents as well as a new concept called Draenor Perks—passive bonuses to specific abilities that will be gained while levelling. We’ll also see professions become more of a personal choice with the removal of their combat bonuses. Blizzard, intending to make specific races less mandatory as well, will be making changes to various racial traits. Furthermore, gems and enchants will be more limited and Reforging will be removed from the game. The general changes most impactful to PvP though, will be an ability prune and the introduction of two new secondary stats called Multistrike and Versatility.
In terms of specific changes to PvP, these are probably the most extensive since the introduction arena in The Burning Crusade. Intended to remove some complexity from the game and create a more balanced feel across PvE and PvP, we’ll see the removal of PvP Power and the dials on both Resilience and Battle Fatigue turned to zero. Stamina will be vastly improved to enable this alongside a reduction in critical damage and critical healing in PvP environments. Blizzard, citing the current issues with crowd control, will also be removing or altering various forms of crowd control and reducing the number of diminishing returns categories. They’ll also be some improvements to defensive dispel and the reintroduction of tanks in PvP.
Lastly, no expansion would be complete without the introduction of new features. They’ll be two new past times to explore with the reintroduction of Skirmishes and, an Alterac inspired, world PvP zone called Ashran. Player hosted tournaments will also receive some attention with the introduction of spectator mode for War Games. Additionally, with under-the-hood changes to games responsiveness and a myriad of quality of life fixes, a number of niggling issues with the game will be resolved.
Intended as a one-stop-source for everything you need to know about PvP in Warlords of Draenor, this article will explore the above changes in detail. It’ll provide an overview of Blizzards reasoning for these changes and provide some commentary on their potential impact. Hopefully it proves useful, especially for those who know very little about PvP in Warlords of Draenor—I being among those before endeavouring to write this article. For the most part, each sub-section is self-contained and can be read independent of the rest.
General Changes Impacting on PvP
The mandatory addition of brand new max level talents will be present and accounted for in Warlords of Draenor. Fortunately, while a number of these talents will have little purpose outside of PvE, there’s at least one max level talent that will be useful in PvP for each specialisation.
Additionally, they’ll be a partial return to the merger of talents and specialisations, which was present in previous expansions. While there won’t be a specific talent tree for each specialisation, a number of talents will change depending on which is selected. This also applies to the previous rows of talents—Spirit Shell, for instance, will take the place of Divine Insight (a level 75 Priest talent) for Disc and remain Divine Insight for Holy.
They’ll also be a small number tweaks to existing talents and the complete removal of a number of others. The talent Paralytic Poison, for instance, will no longer be available for Rogues and a new talent called Internal Bleeding will take its place.
These changes won’t be covered here, but, if interested, do hop over to Wowheads’ Warlords of Draenor Talent Calculator to investigate further.
The traditional addition of new baseline abilities will cease to continue in Warlords of Draenor. Instead, Blizzard will be introducing a new concept called Draenor Perks:
Draenor Perks is a new feature that adds rewards for leveling. Over levels 91 to 99, you will earn these 9 new Draenor Perk in a random order. Each class and specialization has a different set of 9 Draenor Perks.
Providing similar modifications to glyphs and very reminiscent of the passives found in the old talent tree model, each perk provides an extra benefit for a specific spell or ability. They mainly increase the damage (Improved Drain Soul), healing (Improved Chain Heal) or duration (Empowered Gargoyle) of specific abilities or provide a cooldown reduction (Improved Life Cocoon). There are also a number of perks that increase the benefit provided by cooldowns (Improved Die by the Sword) or add additional components (Enhanced Camouflage, Enhanced Leap of Faith, Improved Water Elemental).
For the most part they seem interesting and should make the levelling experience more exciting. While most will go unnoticed in PvP, there’s some that could have more of an impact. For example, Empowered Psychic Horror increases the duration of Psychic Horror by two seconds—a bizarre perk in light of the changes they’re making to crowd control (see below). This is also the case for Enhanced Traps, a Survival Hunter perk that reduces the cooldown of all their traps by 50%. If this goes ahead, Freezing Trap, with the additional benefit of Trap Mastery, will have a 12s cooldown for Survival Hunters. Hopefully we’ll see both of these and any similar perks removed before launch.
They’ll be an exclusivity mechanic added to glyphs in Warlords of Draenor:
Exclusive categories have been added for some glyphs. Other glyphs from the same category cannot be applied at the same time.
This, it would seem, is intended to limit the number of customisations made to a particular ability. For example, they’ll be three glyphs that can modify the ability Barkskin: Glyph of Barkskin, Glyph of Enchanted Bark and Glyph of Imbued Bark. These glyphs will be exclusive with each other, making it impossible to modify Barkskin more than once via the glyph system.
The Glyph system has felt flat for some time and this could provide it with some much needed revitalisation. Blizzard will be able to develop several different glyphs that modify the same ability; without said ability becoming too powerful. Looking at examples such as Glyph of Restored Faith, Glyph of Absorb Magic, Glyph of Energy Flows and many others, we could potentially see a whole host of brand new glyph options as WoD progresses—providing some interesting and fun customisation options.
Currently, in order to be completely effective, it’s necessary for a player to level two specific professions. These two professions differ depending on your class, going against the original ethos of professions being a “personal choice”. They also add an additional barrier to overcome once you’ve reached the level cap.
Blizzard plans to tackle these issues in Warlords of Draenor:
…we’re removing the direct combat benefits of Professions.
This means you’ll no longer have to level professions in WoD and it’ll be you own choice whether to do so.
There are a number of changes in store for various racial traits. They intend for these to remain “fun and interesting perks”, but don’t want players to “feel compelled to play a specific race” that “doesn’t suit their aesthetic preference”.
In terms of PvP, these are the most interesting changes:
- Blood Elf:
- Arcane Torrent now restores 20 Runic Power for Death Knights (up from 15 Runic Power), 1 Holy Power for Paladins, or 3% of mana for Mages, Priests, and Warlocks (up from 2% of Mana). Other parts of the ability remain unchanged.
- Gift of the Naaru now heals for the same amount [20%] over 5 seconds (down from 15 seconds).
- Stoneform now also removes magic and curse effects in addition to poison, disease, and bleed effects, along with reducing damage taken by 10% for 8 seconds. It remains unusable while the Dwarf is under the effects of crowd control.
- Escape Artist’s cooldown has been reduced to 1 minute (down from 1.5 minutes).
- Hardiness now reduces the duration of Stun effects by 10% (down from 15%).
- Berserking now increases Haste by 15% (down from 20%).
- Will of the Forsaken’s cooldown has been increased to 3 minutes (up from 2 minutes).
These changes will do very little to make race selection more of an “aesthetic preference” as far as PvP is concerned. Indeed, an increase in the number of race changes to gain a superior benefit is more likely to occur. Furthermore, they remain unequal overall and we’ll probably see very little difference in the most commonly used races in PvP. In fact, it might be time to think about scrapping these PvP benefits entirely; leaving the aesthetics of a particular race and the passive racial bonuses they provide as the deciding factors instead.
Pruning the Excess
Albeit some minor tweaks in Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria, the number of abilities in the game has increased tremendously since its launch in 2004. Accordingly, Blizzard has remarked that the “game’s complexity has steadily increased” and “players are starting to get overwhelmed”. There are also a number of niche abilities in the game that are “barely used at all” and, in terms of some of them, “the game would simply be better off without them”.
In order to resolve these issues, they’ll be an ability prune in Warlords of Draenor:
That means restricting some abilities to certain specs that really need them instead of being class-wide, and outright removing some other abilities. It also includes removing some Spellbook clutter, such as passives that can be merged with other passives or base abilities.
We saw a similar occurrence in Mists of Pandaria. Most notable was the mechanic of spells transforming or replacing existing spells, such as Haemorrhage replacing Sinister Strike for Subtlety Rogues. They also extended this to talents (Word of Glory and Eternal Flame). We’ll see more of this occur in Warlords of Draenor. They’ll also be adding a new twist and several abilities will be merged together, for instance Pounce will no longer exists and Rake will stun a target for 4s when used in stealth.
An additional aim of the prune is to reduce the “amount of cooldown stacking in the game”, and they’ll be removing several cooldowns or making them spec specific to achieve this aim. The most notable offensive cooldowns targeted are Unholy Frenzy (Death Knight), Guardian of Ancient Kings (Paladin), Inquisition (Paladin), Shadow Blades (Rogue) and Skull Banner (Warrior). All of these, except Guardian of Ancient Kings (exclusive to Protection Paladins), will be removed from the game.
While it seems unlikely they were also referring to defensive cooldowns, these will also be targeted. Barkskin (Druid), Might of Ursoc (Druid), Tranquility (Druid), Evocation (Mage), Healing Tide Totem (Shaman) and Shield Wall (Warrior) will become spec specific in Warlords of Draenor. Void Shift (Priest) and Twilight Ward (Warlock) will be removed from the game, as will Symbiosis (Druid)—which is usually employed to gain an additional defensive cooldown.
They have, however, compensated Druids for the loss of Symbiosis:
- Barkskin no longer provides pushback protection, but its cooldown has been reduced to 30 seconds.
- Survival Instincts no longer requires or forces the Druid into Cat or Bear Form, and now reduces damage taken by 70% (up from 50%) with a 2-minute cooldown (down from 3 minutes), and can have up to 2 charges (up from 1 charge).
To digress slightly and touch on the planned removal of Symbiosis: the ability alters the dynamic of the game far too much in PvP. It provides access to utility that wouldn’t otherwise be available to the Druid and the receiver. Furthermore, the abilities gained or received aren’t particularly well balanced across the classes. While these types of mechanics can be fun, they should never be functional in arena. This is also true of Demonic Gateway, which frankly needs to be removed or made unusable in arena.
Overall, we’ll have to wait and see how these changes affect the overall nature of PvP. They possibly haven’t gone far enough with offensive cooldowns—the so called one shot macros likely still being present. Conversely, they need to ensure no class feels redundant outside of their cooldowns. The going-for-kill aspect is fun, but waiting around until your capable of even pressuring opponents is not. In terms of defensive cooldowns, they need to keep an eye on the situation and balance where necessary.
Lastly, do head over to Blizzards, excellent and kept up to date, “Warlords of Draenor™ Beta Patch Notes” to see a full list of the abilities removed or made spec specific for each class. They fall outside the scope of this article, but there are certainly a few controversial changes planned. Notably, the removal of Necrotic Strike and Shadow Word Death becoming exclusive to Shadow Priests, with the self-damaging utility being available on a much more limited Holy Fire via a Major Glyph (Glyph of the Inquisitor).
Revitalising Secondary Stats
Blizzard, with PvE in mind, wants “to increase the chance that any given item drop is useful” for members of a party or raid group. In order to achieve this they’re removing a number of “role specific stats” and adding two new stats that will have “universal appeal”. Accordingly, Hit and Expertise will be removed from the game (with their benefits granted as baseline) and Doge and Parry will no longer feature “as stats on items”.
They’ll be two new general secondary stats to go alongside Crit, Haste and Mastery, which is where the relevance to PvP comes into play:
- Multistrike: Grants a chance for spells and abilities to fire up to 2 additional times, at 30% effectiveness (both damage and healing).
- Versatility: Increases damage, healing, and absorption done. Reduces damage taken.
To clarify, if a Warrior uses Mortal Strike on a target, they’ll be two chances for the ability to strike again at 30% effectiveness. This Multistrike damage will be calculated independently of the damage that triggered it, as opposed to a critical strike where the damage is two times what it would have been normally. This means, if Mortal Strike failed to critically hit, each Multistrike (if they occur) would have a chance to be a critical strike.
In terms of DoTs and channelled abilities, each tick of a DoT and each missile of a channelled ability will have a chance to Multistrike.
Versatility, as you’d expect, is a flat out increase in damage, healing and absorption done and decrease in damage taken. However, it won’t be as effective at increasing healing or damage as the other stats. This, depending on how strong it turns out, should prevent it becoming the go-to-stat in PvP.
The RNG nature of Multistrike conjures some worry. It could be a potential nightmare in terms of burst damage and provide a similar problem to those stars-aligned-mastery-stacked shatter combos in Cataclysm. The game operates far better when burst is predictable. The addition of Multistrike (on top of its potential to crit) could direct the game towards more unpredictability. The fact Multistrike will only have one chance as opposed to two chances to occur in PvP should at least limit this a bit. Versatility, on the other hand, looks like it’ll provide an interesting trade of less damage or healing for more survivability.
Each spec will also have an ‘attunement’ to a particular secondary stat:
These take the form of a passive ability that grants a 5% increase to the amount of a specific secondary stat gained.
For example, the secondary stat attunements for Druids and Priests are:
- Balance: Mastery
- Feral: Critical Strike
- Restoration: Haste
- Discipline: Critical Strike
- Holy: Multistrike
- Shadow: Haste
You can head over here to see a list of the specific attunement for each spec.
A potential issue with this is the disparity that usually exists between PvE and PvP. While one secondary stat is superior in PvE, a different secondary stat is sometimes superior in PvP. A spec which benefits most from their attuned secondary stat in both PvE and PvP will potentially scale or operate better, albeit slightly, than another spec. Furthermore, the breadth of gear options is usually limited in PvP when compared with PvE, potentially exacerbating this issue. The absence of Reforging (see below) won’t help matters either.
Additional Itemisation: Enchants, Gems and the Removal of Reforging
There are some changes in store for gems and enchants:
Furthermore, they’ll be “no more primary stat gems” meaning options will be limited to Crit, Haste, Mastery, Multistrike, Versatility, Spirit (for healers) and Bonus Armor (for tanks). This change makes sense with limited slots available and no more slot bonuses; gemming secondary stats would have become a rarity otherwise.
The removal of Meta Gems means we’ll finally see the end of the reflect Meta—a complete nuisance that should never have existed to begin with, never mind have remained in the game for this long.
Reforging, on the other hand, will be removed from the game:
The Reforging system and associated NPCs have been removed from the game.
All existing items that were reforged have been returned to their original un-reforged state.
They want players to be able to equip an item “with a minimum of fuss”. They also remark that the original intent of Reforging was to provide players with a way to “customize their gear” and, that ultimately, it “offered little in the way of true choice”. They cite players looking at guides or using a tool (such as Reforge Lite) as evidence of this lack of “true choice”. While they have a point, it seems rather naïve to have expected any different. Indeed, there was always going to be an optimal choice for most situations and most players were going to take it.
The purpose, as far as I saw it, was to provide the player base with the ability to reduce less useful stats and gain something more suitable. This worked particularly well in PvP where there isn’t such a wide breadth of gear options available. Hopefully we’ll see a bigger range of PvP gear to make up for this, especially with the addition of the new secondary stats.
Wave Goodbye to PvP Power
PvP Power was introduced in Mists of Pandaria to correct the offensive inferiority of PvP gear when compared to raid gear (in PvP combat). This required the introduction of an item level cap in PvP, which reduced the item level of PvE gear down to match the current season’s conquest gear—PvP Power providing the offensive edge overall. This, as Blizzard notes, was “largely a success in instanced PvP Arenas and Battlegrounds”.
However, Blizzard claims PvP Power “led to a lot of confusion”. They also lament at the lack of benefit PvP gear provided in non-instanced PvP. With a new more intuitive solution in mind, Blizzard has stated they “can do better” and intend to make the following changes:
PvP gear in Warlords will no longer have PvP-specific stats. Instead, it will scale up to a higher item level as soon as you enter a designated PvP area, such as an Arena or Battleground, or as soon as you enter PvP combat anywhere else in the world.
In effect, PvP Power will be removed and PvP items will have two item levels—one designated for PvP and the other for PvE. For instance, while an equivalent PvE epic might have an item level of 672, the requisite conquest gear will have an item level of 660 in PvE and 690 in PvP. This will ensure PvP gear is inferior in PvE, but superior as soon as PvP takes place (including world PvP). Overall, rather than PvP Power providing the offensive edge, the difference in item level will do so. This also means PvE gear will no longer need to be scaled down in PvP.
Healing, Damage and Resilience:
There’s quite an extensive list of changes planned in terms of damage, healing and resilience in Warlords of Draenor:
Changes to PvP
- Base Resilience has been reduced to 0%.
- Battle Fatigue has been removed. PvP combat no longer reduces the amount of healing received by participants.
- Critical Damage and Critical Heals in PvP combat now deal 150% of the normal spell/ability effects (down from 200%).
Changes to Health Pools
- Amount of health gained per Stamina point has been doubled. The curve on this calculation has been smoothed out as well, so exact amount varies slightly by level.
- Maximum mana has been doubled at all levels to keep pace with expected increases to maximum health from new Stamina values.
- All player-cast healing and absorption effects have been increased by approximately 50% in effectiveness. If they heal or absorb a percentage of maximum health, they are instead reduced by 25%. All other noted changes are in terms relative to that.
- For example, if another noted change is that “Mega Heal now heals for 40% more,” that means that Mega Heal now heals for a total of 210% of what it used to, which is relatively 40% higher compared to other heals.
These changes are intended to ”improve the healing dynamic in PvP” and improve the game as whole for healers by providing “better tuned gameplay”. They’re also intended to remove the disparity between PvE and PvP, namely the effect of resilience and battle fatigue causing characters to feel “much weaker in PvP than they did in PvE”. Effectively, they want an average Flash Heal to provide the same amount of healing in both PvE and PvP. Finally, they want to reduce burst by having individual attacks “knock a smaller chunk off of a player’s health pool in PvP”.
Conversely, Blizzard doesn’t intend healing to be as powerful in Warlords of Draenor:
One of our goals for healing is to tone down the raw throughput of healers relative to the size of player health pools.
We’ve traditionally seen the throughput of healers scale at a higher rate than health pools; meaning, in effect, the “percentage of a player’s health” restored by a given heal “increases significantly” as an expansion progresses. They want this percentage of health restored to remain consistent throughout the expansion. To achieve this Blizzard will be “buffing heals less than” they’re “increasing player health”, meaning an ability that heals for 20% of a health pool on average might only heal for 10% instead. This will also be true of abilities that heal for a percentage of health e.g. Desperate Prayer will be altered to heal for 22% of maximum health, a reduction from 30% currently.
Whether these changes will succeed at achieving the aims above is difficult to say. We saw a similar concept attempted in Cataclysm and that ultimately failed. Of course, the reduction in healing, removal of battle fatigue and reduction in crit damage could turn the tide this time round. They have reassured that the community that if it becomes necessary they’ll add “some minor amount of Base Resilience and/or Battle Fatigue”. These changes will be tested “extensively” and Blizzard will be adjusting as needed as the beta progresses.
Blizzard has stated “that there was simply too much crowd control (CC) in the game” in Mists of Pandaria and is planning “an across-the-board disarmament” in the forthcoming expansion. They’re also planning to reduce “the number of Diminishing Returns (DR) categories” and increase “the cooldowns and restrictions” on other forms of CC. They believe, with these changes, they can “tone down CC overall” while still ensuring players are “rewarded for using CC intelligently”.
Changes to Specific Types of CC:
- Casted to Instant CC: They’ll be removing “the ability to make crowd-control spells with cast-times into instant-cast with a cooldown”. Therefore, the CC cast-time reduction of Nature’s Swiftness (Cyclone), Presence of Mind (Polymorph), Ancestral Swiftness (Hex) and Maelstrom Weapon (Hex) will be no more in Warlords of Draenor. Nature’s Swiftness will still work with Roots, but the ability will only be accessible to Restoration Druids. Note also that Predatory Swiftness (Feral) was altered in 5.4 to no longer turn Cyclone into an instant-cast spell.
- Disarms: Grapple Weapon, Dismantle, Disarm (Voidwalker and Voidlord) and Disarm (Warrior) will be removed from the game. The disarm component of Psychic Horror will also be removed.
- Blanket Silences: Counterspell, Spear Hand Strike, Spell Lock (Felhunter) and Optic Blast (Observer) will no longer silence the target. Silencing Shot will be removed from the game. Solar Beam won’t silence a target more than once per cast. The silence component of Strangulate, Glyph of Fae Silence (Guardian Druid), Frostjaw, Avenger’s Shield, Silence (Shadow Priest), Garrote and Arcane Torrent (Racial) will remain unchanged.
- Cast Speed Slows: Slow (Arcane Mage) will no longer slow a targets casting speed. Curse of Exhaustion and Mind-numbing Poison will be removed. Lastly, Necrotic Strike, which also reduces casting speed, will be removed.
- Pet or Minion CC: Scare Beast, Bind Elemental and Hibernate will be removed. However, Turn Evil, Banish, Enslave Demon and Shackle will still be present.
- Fear Effects: Psychic Scream, Howl of Terror, Fear (Warlock) and Intimidating Shout will last 6 seconds against players. Evil is a Point of View will be removed and Blinding Light will take its place as a talent. Psyfiend will be removed and Psychic Scream will take its place as a talent with a 45s cooldown to boot (currently 30s). Howl of Terror will also no longer be baseline and will become a talent instead (replacing Demonic Breath). Lastly, they’ve also reduced the damage threshold before a given CC will break.
- Persistent Effects: Solar Beam and Fists of Fury will be removed when a player trinkets and won’t reapply.
Overall some worthwhile changes will be afoot. The inability of cast-time to instant-cast abilities to function with crowd control will be a great change. The removal of cast speed slows—a mechanic that should have been removed at the end of Wrath—will hopefully promote more casting. With the necessity of a weapon chain or set bonus to combat disarm effects; it might have been better to reduce the duration by half rather than remove disarms entirely. Persistent effects should never have been reapplied after using a trinket and it’s reassuring to see that this will be fixed.
As to fears, the Warlock ability Fear has long given every similar mechanic a bad name; it would be better to tackle that specifically (while also making the changes to the damage threshold) rather than make changes to the mechanic overall. Psychic Scream becoming a talent—a mandatory talent for PvP—would see Priests as the only class without any baseline (non-spec) CC. Chastise, Angelic Feathers and Spectral Guise would have been the better targets; these three abilities currently making Psychic Scream too easy to achieve. Leaving Howl as baseline would also be fine, provided it regained its cast time.
There is, however, some good news (in terms of Fears) with a change that will probably be the number one contender for the ‘best change in WoD award’:
Tremor Totem is no longer usable while under the effects of Fear, Charm, or Sleep, but its duration has been increased to 10 seconds (up from 6 seconds).
Tremor Totem was originally ‘nerfed’—and it was seriously intended to be a nerf—in 4.0.6, receiving a cooldown and becoming useable while feared. This change was made for two reasons: Shaman gaining Defensive Dispel and the weak state of Warlocks at the time. Yes, Fear and the weak state of Warlocks led to Psychic Scream and Intimidating Shout being rendered somewhat useless against Shamans. This change will fix that issue and move Tremor back to a reaction-counter-reaction mechanic, which is where PvP works best.
General Changes to CC:
- Cyclone now shares Diminishing Returns with Fears, and can be cancelled by immunity effects (i.e. Divine Shield, Ice Block, etc.), and can be dispelled by Mass Dispel.
- Faerie Fire is now available only to Feral and Guardian Druids.
- Hunter pets no longer have crowd-control abilities.
- Scatter Shot has been removed.
- Traps and trap launchers no longer have an arming time and can instantly trigger.
- Hunter’s Mark has been removed
- Deep Freeze can now be broken by damage (same amount as Frost Nova).
- Void Tendrils’ Root effect now has a chance to break if the target takes sufficient damage.
- Paralytic Poison has been removed
- Succubus: Seduction and Shivarra: Mesmerize now have a 30-second cooldown.
- Charge now Roots the target (instead of stunning). The Root effect does not share a Diminishing Return with other Roots.
- Warbringer now causes Charge to stun the target for 1.5 seconds instead of rooting it
In terms of the positive changes, the removal of Hunter’s Mark and Faerie Fire becoming spec specific (Feral and Guardian) should be a good change in light of the defensive dispel cooldown. However, Faerie Swarm (a talent) will still available to Balance and Restoration Druids at the cost of either Mass Entanglement or Typhoon. The removal of Paralytic Poison, while not always the most popular talent, will also a good change.
The elimination of Pet CC, Scatter Shot and Silencing Shot (noted above) will secure Hunters the top spot of most removed CC. However, it would be far better to remove Wyvern Sting (40yd range) than Scatter Shot (20yd range). A Hunter running towards a player in order to Scatter Shot them provided some reaction time and acted as a stand-in cast bar in a way (similar to Psychic Scream); this isn’t the case with Wyvern.
Freezing Trap activating instantly to compensate will remove the ability to ‘eat traps’ and make it far easier to use via Trap Launcher. Furthermore, the cooldown of all traps will be reduced by 50% for Survival Hunters thanks to a Draenor Perk (Enhanced Traps). This will be in addition to the 6s cooldown reduction provided by the Survival passive Trap Mastery, effectively reducing the cooldown from 30s to 12s (Trap Mastery will be applied before Enhanced Traps). This is a buff, even with the loss of Scatter and Pet CC.
In terms of the rest of the changes, Deep Freeze breaking on damage will limit Mage burst and might find its self been used exclusively to land a Polymorph. Although Frostjaw might become more popular with the removal of the blanket silence on Counterspell and could fill this role. Mass Dispel becoming a counter to Cyclone is interesting, but, ultimately, casting an expensive 15s cooldown to remove a CC that can be immediately reapplied (at half duration) seems lacklustre.
In Warlords of Draenor, they’ll be four diminishing returns categories (not including roots and knockbacks) instead of the current nine (not including disarms, roots, short roots and knockbacks):
- Currently: Stuns, Stuns (Short), Mesmerizes, Mesmerizes (Short), Fears, Horrors, Silences, Cyclone, Charms (Dominate Mind)
- WoD: Stuns, Incapacitates, Disorients, Silences
The Incapacitates category is the merger of the current Mesmerizes, Mesmerizes (short), Horrors and Charms categories. This reads as more drastic than it actually is. Indeed, rather than an extensive change, its best thought of as the current Mesmerizes category (Polymorph, Freezing Trap, Hex etc.) with a few additions. These additions, with their current diminishing returns categories in parenthesis, are:
- Incapacitating Roar (Short Mesmerize): Currently known as Disorienting Roar, this will become less favoured than Mighty Bash in WoD, which will remain in the Stuns category.
- Dragon’s Breath (Short Mesmerize): A Fire Mage ability that will share diminishing returns with Polymorph, this will certainly see Fire Mages remain nothing more than a niche spec.
- Chastise (Short Mesmerize): One of the annoying short-ranged-instant abilities, this removes the stand-in cast bar from Psychic Scream, making it far too easy to achieve. It’d be preferable to see this removed in WoD or given a cast time, but this change should at least limit its usage.
- Dominate Mind (Charm): Dominate Mind essentially involves a Priest crowd controlling themselves in addition to their target. It’s rarely taken in 3v3, though quite popular in 2v2 and its addition to incapacitates, therefore, will have very little impact on the game outside of 2s.
- Psychic Horror (Horror): Psychic Horror is the most effected ability, but the 2s increase in duration from a Draenor Perk (Empowered Psychic Horror) should combat this and, if anything, make it more powerful, especially with the removal of other ranged-instant CC. Shadow Priests will also continue to possess one of the few remaining Silences, which will keep them in demand.
- Mortal Coil (Horror): This currently loses out to Shadowfury and if Howl of Terror does become a talent, it’ll become even less popular.
The Disorients category is the current Fear category with the inclusion of Cyclone. This change should have more an impact than the above. Indeed, it’ll alter the most popular compositions for Druids and some other classes. Shadow Priests and Warlocks have always worked well with Restoration Druids and Healing Priests have worked quite well with Feral Druids. This change will weaken these combinations.
In the silence category, in terms of relevance, will be Strangulate, Frostjaw, Silence and Garrote. Cyclone could be placed here without the limiting the number of viable compositions for Druids. Dominate Mind and Psychic Horror would probably function better here as well. Indeed, in terms of Psychic Horror, the combination of Silence (Silence), Psychic Horror (Incapacitate) and Psychic Scream (Disorient) looks quite strong on paper compared to other specs and this could tone it down.
In fact, with both classes continuing to possess a silence, the popularity of Shadow Priests and Death Knights might increase because of these changes. The Mage talent Frostjaw, which counts as a silence, will probably grow in popularity as well. Rogues will be in the unique position of possessing a CC in every major loss-of-control category and will, no doubt, remain popular because of this.
You can find a full list of which category each CC fits into by clicking here.
The cooldown on Defensive Dispel was an ill thought out decision that contributed—in conjunction with the addition, improvement and improved accessibility of many forms of crowd control—to the current issues with crowd control. While it could have been a success had it been implemented alongside a reduction in crowd control and recurrent effects, it was instead implemented without any regard whatsoever to either.
Defensive Dispel also offers little in the way of reward for dispelling certain effects. For instance, if a Warlock Fears an enemy and that Fear is immediately removed, it can then be reapplied at half duration with the defensive dispeller twiddling his thumbs unable to react. In fact, it needn’t be the same form of CC—follow it with any other form of dispellable CC and the defensive dispeller can do nothing about it for 8s, even if the enemy have failed to CC him. Indeed, It reduces, though certainly doesn’t eliminate, the need for co-ordinated CC.
While the cooldown will remain in Warlords of Draenor, an equivalent to the following glyphs will be available to each healer:
Glyph of Purification
Item Level 25
Use: Permanently teaches you this glyph.
Purify now has a maximum of 2 charges, but its cooldown is increased by 4 sec.
Glyph of Nature’s Cure
Item Level 25
Use: Permanently teaches you this glyph.
Nature’s Cure now has a maximum of 2 charges, but its cooldown is increased by 4 sec.
This will work in the same manner as other charge based abilities, meaning the cooldown of each charge will be independent of the other.
While it isn’t a perfect solution in its own right, it should reduce some of the issues, especially when considered in line with the breadth of forthcoming changes coming to crowd control (noted above). The issue, however, is the necessity of a glyph. If it does become a must-have glyph in PvP—which, with the continued existence of most magic based CC, is likely—it makes little sense not to make it baseline for each healer.
Tanks in PvP
Blizzard, thankfully, has been of the attitude that tanks do not belong in PvP outside of flag carrying. Indeed, they’ve intentionally been “non-viable in serious PvP” since the start of Cataclysm to preserve the “enjoyment of the rest of the playerbase”. This has rung true for the most part, albeit a short period in Cataclysm where vengeance wreaked havoc. They were fun to play, but anything but fun to play against.
Blizzard cites three reasons:
They were near-invincible, had numerous CC abilities (primary stuns), but did little enough damage to not be able to kill you (in most cases, anyway)
They intend to resolve these three issues and make tanks viable in a manner that will “satisfy everyone involved”.
In terms of their survivability:
Tanks now take 25% additional damage while engaged in PvP combat.
In terms of crowd control, these are the remaining abilities that tanks will bring to the table:
In terms of DPS, Vengeance will be removed and a passive will be implemented for each tanking specialisation that will increase attack power by 8%. This should prevent them from “surpassing the dedicated damage dealers”, but provide them with enough damage to at least warrant a threat.
Certainly the damage taken increase should correct the “near-invincible” issue, although some fine tuning on the exact increase will probably be necessary. The Glyph of Fae Silence, Avenger’s Shield and Glyph of Breath of Fire should receive the Gag Order treatment and be made ineffective against players. Lastly, the damage provided by tanks is impossible to judge at this time and will, unfortunately, be a case of wait and see.
New PvP Features and Improvements
Ashran, a small island “approximately the size of the Isle of Thunder”, is a max level cross realm PvP zone. Described as an “endless faction tug-of-war” and intended as both homage to classic Alterac Valley and a means to encourage spontaneous “free-form PvP”, the zone seeks to build on the lessons learned from The Timeless Isle, Tol Barad and Wintergrasp:
We feel we’ve delivered on objective based win condition content through battlegrounds, but we haven’t delivered in giving players a sandbox environment where they can experience PvP similar to that of which you may have experienced before battlegrounds were created. We’re trying to do that with Ashran.
Foregoing the specific battle times of Wintergrasp and Tol Barad, Ashran will be a continuous “raging battle that has no distinct beginning or end”. Gone are the primary objectives leading to a definitive victory, replaced instead with a large scale Alterac esque battle in the centre of the map. Plus objectives for players to achieve on the outskirts, where more spontaneous small scale PvP is bound to occur.
Those who venture beyond their city walls will be asked to join the on-going battle, porting back to their city should they decline or if the zone is at full capacity. While the zone will be capped at 100 players per faction, they’ll be no automatic raid groups as seen in previous expansions. Furthermore, the zone will be populated with cross realm technology, meaning the faction imbalances that were present in Tol Barad and Wintergrasp should be easier to combat. In fact, while the new faction capitals will be located on the island, they’ll bear little involvement in the conflict, remaining outside the cross realm portion of the zone. However, they’ll also be staging areas closer to the battle that will house a faction general and the various honour and conquest vendors. Fail to protect these areas and you’ll be unable to purchase new PvP gear for a period of time.
- Artifact Fragments: In a similar vein to Armor Scraps in Alterac Valley, monsters and enemy players will drop Artifact Fragments when they die. They’re used as a form of currency, enabling the activation of powerful NPCs (Fangraal and Kronus), the purchasing of Battle Standards and the opening of mage portals and warlock gateways throughout the zone. They’ll also be a number of repeatable quests requiring these fragments and rewarding honour or reputation in return. Interestingly, if you die an enemy player will be able to loot half of your booty.
- The Ogre King: You’ll be able to win the favour and support of a neutral NPC called Krong (The Ogre King). Located in the centre of the map, the Ogre King will be flanked by his two champions; defeating one of these champions wins his allegiance. He’ll pack a wallop, but he’ll become more susceptible to damage the longer he remains active.
- Champions: When a faction starts to struggle, a Captain will join the fray to help decimate their enemy. There’s a variety of Captains each named after a famous player, such as Talbadar (Mindbender Talbadar), Azael (Necrolord Azael) and Cdew (Taylor Dewland). There’s currently no Lord Hydra or Cut-throat Kalimist, which must certainly be an oversight.
- Points of Interest (POIs): In locations around the map they’ll be monsters to slay that will grant additional Artifact Fragments. They’ll also be random events in these areas, requiring players to achieve a certain objective—such as capturing fires in an Eye of the Storm like manner or collecting and depositing ore in a mining cart. Succeeding at these objectives will win awards for your faction.
- Buffs: They’ll be a variety of powerful buffs available in the zone and random drops specific to each class, for example:
You’ll also be able to purchase a range of items providing you have the requisite reputation. These items provide a number of different effects from turning you invisible, putting an enemy to sleep to enabling you to mount instantly.
With Blizzard promising to “build onto Ashran” in future patches, the zone should have room to grow and remain active for the entire expansion.
The Return of Skirmishes
Skirmishes were originally introduced in TBC for “fun and practice” and to give players “a nice variety”. They provided a myriad of benefits from warming up for rated arena, mastering your class to testing new partners. More importantly they were great fun. Skirmishes were to rated arena what random battlegrounds are to rated battlegrounds today: a pressure free, convenient and accessible form of PvP open to both individuals and groups.
Unfortunately, Blizzard removed Skirmishes in Cataclysm, staying schtum as to the reasons why until March 2011. Eventually they claimed they were “used very rarely” and they’d “get more bang for the buck out of Wargames”. The former reason been contradictory when compared to other areas of the game, and the latter reason erroneously equating Wargames with Skirmishes—a great feature in its own right, but one that appeased a different demand entirely.
There were multitudes of players calling for the re-implementation, including myself: Bring Back Skirmishes in MoP.
Blizzard has finally answered our calls:
In Warlords of Draenor, Skirmishes will return as a form of unranked Arena play that will allow you to queue for 2v2 or 3v3 battles with friends or by yourself.
They’re also going a step further and implementing a number of improvements. You’ll be able to select your role (damage dealer or healer) eliminating the issue of healers sometimes being paired together. Find a partner you like? Well, good news: you’ll also be able to queue together once a match has ended. Furthermore, they’ll be open to lower level characters and will provide some XP.
Finally, Blizzard is attaching rewards to skirmishes. In a similar vein to random battlegrounds, you’ll be able to farm honour and conquest points. You’ll receive a lower rate per win, but the faster queues and matchup’s more than make up for this. Additionally, when you partake in Skirmishes and Random Battlegrounds, you’ll also receive a strongbox, an item containing a random reward:
…which could be gold, more Honor, a small amount of Conquest Points, or possibly something entirely different.
This should make Skirmishes even more fun than in the past. There’s also the plus of being able to queue anywhere in the world—the old talk-to-an-NPC model sitll being in place when they were last around. This and the improvements above will doubt increase participation. However, even if Skirmishes lacked any improvement, their return would be very much welcomed.
Goodbye Trial of the Gladiator; Hello Spectator Mode and Tournament Gear
Trial of the Gladiator—envisioned as an additional arena ladder—was a new feature unveiled at BlizzCon. Intended to encourage and create a platform for “high-level competition”, Trial of the Gladiator would have only been “available during certain hours”. This, Blizzard hoped, would encourage top level players to queue at the same time and into one another. To balance matters, players would have been required “to use a special Trial-only set of gear”.
After listening to concerns from portions of the community, Blizzard scrapped the feature citing potential unfairness of the “pre-set times” and the potential impact on the standard arena ladder.
Instead, Blizzard is focusing on a spectator mode for War Games. This will streamline the process for tournament organizers and remove the bothersome hurdles currently present. While the butchering of announcers prior to games was amusing to watch, this will allow for a more professional approach. They’ll also be a set of “Tournament Mode Gear” that will only be useable in War Games; ensuring competitors “are on equal footing”.
Here’s how it’ll work:
Our new Spectator Invite system will allow a match organizer to invite two teams to play against each other in a PvP spectacle called a War Game. Then, when the match begins, everyone in the match organizer’s party will be able to watch those two teams duke it out.
The system will also be open to addon developers, allowing them to customise and improve the system to better display important information to announcers and improve the overall viewer experience.
No doubt it’ll also be a great training tool, providing a means to receive coaching and gain valuable feedback.
“I Hit Death and It Didn’t Go Off”: Game Responsiveness
Blizzard is making a number of under-the-hood changes to improve the responsiveness of the game.
Any action that one unit takes on another different unit used to be processed in batches every 400ms. Some very attentive people may have noticed that healing yourself would give you the health instantly (minus client/server latency), whereas healing another unit would incur a delay of between 0ms and 400ms (again, on top of client/server latency).
This causes problems because the “state of things can change during that time”. While a target might be alive when a player casts Void Shift, they can die in the 400ms period before the request is completed. A scenario like this results in the ability going on cooldown and failing to function. This is problematic in a number of areas in PvP and can feel punishing to players.
This will change in Warlords:
We no longer batch them up like that. We just do it as fast as we can, which usually amounts to between 1ms and 10ms later. It took a considerable amount of work to get it working that way, but we’re very pleased with the results so far; the game feels noticeably more responsive.
It’ll be interesting to see how this alters the dynamic of reaction-counter-reaction gameplay. There’s some concern it’ll become harder to juke interrupts or death CC, but the change in feel could account for this.
We’ll see how this works out. A great change overall, however.
The annoyance of waiting around for cooldowns when duelling will be resolved in Warlords of Draenor:
…one awesome change in Warlords for duelers is we can reset cooldowns at the start of a duel now
Blizzard will be increasing the number of general macro slots from 36 to 100. Unfortunately, increasing the number of character specific slots “wasn’t feasible”, but more general slots will certainly be welcomed.
They’ll also be a new conditional that will allow you to alter what occurs based on your talent selection:
/cast [talent:3/1] Ring of Frost; [talent:3/2] Ice Ward; [talent:3/3] Frostjaw
A Higher Conquest Cap No More
This says it all:
Rated Battlegrounds and Arenas will have the same base Conquest cap.
Originally intended as an addition or alternative to arena, Rated Battlegrounds eventually became mandatory for those trying to maximise their conquest point cap. This one change will return them to their intended state.
They’ve come up with an alternative way to reward the extra effort required to form rated battleground groups:
Instead of giving you extra Conquest points, winning a Rated Battleground will allow you to use a bonus roll token for a shot at a piece of Gladiator’s gear, similar to the Celestial world bosses on the Timeless Isle.
A Booster Seat for the Freshly Dinged
While the introduction of base resilience helped freshly levelled players in MoP, it didn’t improve matters a whole lot. The limited stamina and offensive capacity made the gearing process feel like a chore.
There’s a quality of life fix coming in WoD to improve this:
On top of that, all gear—even gear found in PvE content—will be scaled up to a certain minimum item level in any designated PvP area. That minimum is still lower than any of the actual PvP gear, but a fresh level-100 character who’s just wearing some dungeon gear, or even whatever they picked up while questing, will not be at quite as severe a disadvantage should they choose to step into a Skirmish or Random Battleground.
This minimum item level will be 40 below the current season’s conquest gear.
Three sets of PvP Gear:
They’ll be “three separate tiers of PvP gear” in WoD: an Honour set, a Veteran set and a conquest set. The veteran set will be acquired in the same manner as the honour set is currently and the acquisition of conquest gear will remain unchanged. You’ll also have a small chance of acquiring these items from a new reward concept called strongboxes. The third set of gear is based around these so we’ll explore that set in a moment.
Here’s a breakdown of how Strongboxes will function:
At the end of a match, you’ll earn a Bronze, Silver, or Gold Strongbox—or possibly all three. Which Strongboxes you earn depends on how well your team did in the match, but you can still earn them even if your team doesn’t win.
Intended to encourage teams to battle on regardless of an inevitable loss, each strongbox will have a chance of granting a player extra honour points, conquest points or even gear. The chance of receiving a better reward, as you’d expect, increases based on the colour of the Strongbox in hand.
Now to the third set of gear:
It starts with an introductory set of a quality similar to today’s Honor gear, except you’ll earn it much, much faster. That set comes primarily through the Strongboxes, and you’ve got a high chance of getting a piece in each Strongbox you earn.
This will likely be similar to the catch-up epics on the Timeless Isle, with a complete set of gear been acquired in a very short period of time.
There’s an interesting alteration to gear in Warlords of Draenor:
…primary stats for a given piece of gear will change based on your current spec
For example, should a Paladin switch from Holy to Retribution, the Intellect on his gear will change to strength. Furthermore, set bonuses will change to match the appropriate specialisation. While the gear probably won’t be perfect overall, this change should make it easier to play two or more specialisations without feeling as limited. It should also work well in conjunction with the lack of “spec specific stats” (see above).
The Arena UI
While it won’t occur in time for the launch, Blizzard is planning to improve the arena UI. They’ll be focusing on improving the enemy frames, which are currently “reusing the boss frames” from raid encounters. They want to do “a more comprehensive overhaul” and “build a complete UI solution for enemy frames in PvP”.
The absence of trinket cooldowns, buffs and debuffs on the enemy frames has always been somewhat frustrating. The other issue is tracking diminishing returns. If these issues are solved in this future overhaul, it would drastically improve the arena UI. However, with the overhaul “cut for 6.0” we’ll have to wait until a later content patch to see if these issues will be resolved.