Patch 3.0.8 brought in quite a number of changes to the game, many of which affect PvP directly. I wrote about most of the changes in the other day’s column, but as you can imagine, trying to cover all the bases with all the classes can get quite hefty. So before I reach Blizzard levels of ‘soon’, I’m cheating and appending the rest of the class balance changes here and pretend the whole Wintergrasp fiasco never happened. Oh, and yes, that button should work now.
Despite all the calls for nerfs for many classes, for some reason Mages have tiptoed past the madding crowd and continued to Pyroblast unsuspecting enemies for 10k damage without anyone batting an eyelash. Maybe it’s their Invisibility, I don’t know, but Mages are incredibly powerful opponents in PvP but don’t elicit calls for nerfs. Christian was right in saying that Frost is no longer the spec for PvP. It now shares the spotlight with Arcane, with the highest ranked Mage in the world sporting a build (although a Frost-specced 20/ 0/ 51 gnome isn’t far behind).
So you think Mages are strong in PvP? Well, they’ve just been buffed. Evocation’s cooldown was reduced to four minutes, and with Arcane Mages having access to the improved Arcane Flows, they can Evocate every minute. It was never a viable tactic to try and drain a Mage, but even with the spark of hope given by the change to mana drain mechanics, Mages will never run out of mana. The extremely RNG behavior of Mirror Images Polymorphing the most unlikely targets has been curtailed somewhat with the range of the copy’s Polymorph down to a mere 8 yards. This is pretty good.
Compared to other cloth classes, Mages have a considerably high survivability rate, with Ice Block, Blink, and Invisibility at their disposal. In an environment where burst damage is king (except in higher level Arenas, where healing is once again proving to be dominant), a Mage’s high burst (Arcane Barrage, anyone?) and unaltered survivability keeps Mages in a good place.
I wrote about how Paladins must feel like kings right now, and Patch 3.0.8 makes them even better. Paladins are just about the best class for PvP right now — almost overpowered, I’m ashamed to admit. Simply that in the current environment where so many abilities can remove HoTs, direct heals are pure win. With haste and talents that reduce healing cast time, a 6-second Holy Shock, and incredible survivability, Holy Paladins are simply the best healers in Arenas right now.
Patch 3.0.8 revised a few things, the biggest buff being the removal of Forbearance from Avenging Wrath. This should see the spell see more use in Arena play. Holy Paladins’ offensive capabilities were also buffed, with Judgements of the Pure increasing damage done by seals and judgements. Not only can Paladins throw out 18k Holy Lights in about 1.5 seconds, they can poke you with judgements and stuff, too.
Divine Shield was reworked to apply a 50% damage penalty instead of an attack speed penalty, making it more balanced. It won’t be as frightening to see a Retribution Paladin rush in all bubbled and swinging her mace around. But the best buff to Paladins isn’t actually a buff to the class but a change in dispel resistance mechanics. This means the abominable Cleanse just got a little better. It might actually work now instead of being a waste of the GCD.
Glyph of Turn Evil was nerfed to add an 8 second cooldown to the spell. A freely spammable crowd control was just too powerful against Unholy Death Knights and Demonology Warlocks. It was possible to shut down a ghoul or gargoyle entirely and waste Metamorphosis. Diminishing returns and the new cooldown should see this ability toned down in Arena play. Glyph of Hammer of Justice is now a range increase, instead of an additional second of stun. Not a terrible nerf, and will prove to be useful in allowing Retribution Paladins catch up to opponents, their kitability being their biggest weakness right now.
Hopefully we’ll see class representation balance out a bit more as the seasons progress. Otherwise, if Paladins continue to dominate, I’m afraid we might see nerfs to impair Paladin healing, which wouldn’t be good for the class at all. It will be Season 1 all over again, where nerfs to the class because of Arena representation had repercussions in PvE gameplay.
Priests have fairly good representation in high level Arena play, with the dominant spec still being Discipline. Although Dispersion was designed to be a PvP survivability talent, it falls greatly short of expectations and the six seconds of mitigation hasn’t vaulted Shadow Priests into the top of the rankings. There are exceptions, of course, but by and large it is Discipline that is popular in Arenas.
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Shadow Priests get a boost now that they can cast Abolish Disease and Cure Disease in Shadowform. They can also now shift into Shadowform while mounted. These tiny changes improve Shadow Priest quality of life, although one particular nerf should be felt in PvP — Mana Burn now only burns a percentage of mana instead of a set amount, so Priests can no longer render Retribution Paladins useless in about six seconds. Circle of Healing was also nerfed to have a cooldown, but this has little impact in PvP considering the low number of Holy Priests in Arenas.
Minor changes in Patch 3.0.8 for Rogues, namely the application of diminishing returns — Cheap Shot only suffers DR from itself and Kidney Shot shares DR with all other stuns. An interesting change to Feint might — and this is a big might since it’s still 20 Energy, after all — see it used in PvP. Feint now reduces AoE damage by 50%, which could see play if it reduces damage from effects such as Death and Decay, an ability that forces opponents to fight on the Death Knight’s grounds (literally, in this case).
The cooldown was also removed from Fan of Knives, opening up more options for Rogues. Fortunately, very few Rogues spec for Throwing Specialization, but those that do get a very good AoE interrupt spell. Generally a good patch for Rogues, with no major changes or nerfs, not even to glyphs.
There were so many changes for Shamans this patch that they all got free respecs, something that Matthew Rossi’s certainly enjoyed (as long as he could play his character, that is). Elemental is my favorite spec, and it’s pretty much how I played my shaman 90% of the time, the other 10% being Restoration. Fortunately, Patch 3.0.8 improved Elemental, so we should see a significant improvement to Elemental Shaman performance both in PvE as well as PvP.
On a basic level, Elemental Shamans should be dealing more damage now with better scaling through Shamanism. I’ve been hit by a 7k Lava Burst before the patch, so color me nervous the next time a Shaman hits me with a Flame Shock. One key talent that will have significant impact in PvP is the rework of Elemental Mastery. The old effect of a guaranteed crit was important to PvP. The new design delivers higher sustained throughput in raids, but makes it less reliable as a finisher in combat.
Elemental Warding has become more valuable, and its location in the tree makes it accessible to more builds. It definitely contributes to better survivability. We’ll see how Elemental Shamans perform post patch, as the most popular spec for Shamans in Arena play is currently Restoration. Elemental no longer provide the frightening burst they used to pre-Wrath, which was critical to old comps, and the change to Elemental Mastery hurts that even further.
Overall, however, Elemental got a tremendous boost this patch, as raw damage is still damage. They also have one of the best self-peels in the game with Thunderstorm, and have decent survivability. Hopefully, we’ll see more Elemental Shamans represented in Arena play, although I’ve quite had enough of them knocking me into the abyss in Eye of the Storm.
Unfortunately, Warlocks still suck in PvP. I can actually end my assessment of Patch 3.0.8 right there, but I’ll be a little less harsh and say that Demonic Circle can now remove snares and that Demon Armor now grants a pretty good amount of armor. Survivability is a bit higher, although they’ve fixed the Dalaran sewers so Warlocks can no longer teleport back into the sewer pipe. Mana drain mechanics were also changed to percentages, so that means Warlocks’ Drain Mana is no longer the worst draining spell. Hooray!
What else? Well, Glyph of Turn Evil has been nerfed, so you can use Metamorphosis just a bit longer against those pesky Paladins. Oh, but the best news from all this is that demons are a lot tougher now. This is a brilliant change and will contribute greatly to Warlock viability in PvP. That said, the class still sucks right now and will have the lowest representation in Arenas until 3.1.
Titan’s Grip is OP. I know it, you know it, and even Blizzard knows it. Although Warriors are pretty much middle of the road now in PvP, they still do rather well in all Arena brackets. The only thing that kept all Warriors from speccing down Fury in PvP was Sudden Death, which gave frightening burst potential in PvP. The talent was nerfed considerably, but still provides great burst, so we’ll continue to see an even mix of Arms and Fury Warriors swinging their weapons in Arenas and Battlegrounds.
Bladestorm’s immunity to crowd control is probably the only thing that’s keeping PvP Warriors from re-speccing to Fury, even with the hit penalty removed from Titan’s Grip. Bladestorm and the MS-effect of Furious Attacks should keep Arms Warriors as Arms and Fury Warriors as Fury. Overall, it’s still too early in the season to see which classes need to be balanced (except for Death Knights and Paladins, that is), but Warriors, as always, will be a constant force to be reckoned with.