Monday, March 16, 2009

On SoBs Recoil, Losing SA, Don't Cry For SoC

A Brief History Lesson.

Seal of Blood was first part of our Spellbooks in 2.0 and throughout all of the Burning Crusade expansion was Horde-Only. Because the damage it did was slightly higher than Seal of Command there had to be some trade-off, and that trade-off was a moderate self-damage component. I say 'moderate' because although the ratio of total seal/judgement damage to recoil damage hasn't changed the on-cast damage of Judgement of Blood was low relative to raiding health totals. The point of this was for balance to exist between factions, not vs other classes. The law of unintended consequences then took charge and allowed Horde Paladins a substantial lead, though this was mainly due to SoB's scaling with Haste (FWIW both SoC and SoB now scale with haste).

What do we do about Seal of Blood/The Martyr?

It's important to realise that the self-damage component was not an intentional design component to exploit Spiritual Attunement. With SA's elimination from the baseline toolset there is no design necessity for SoB to continue to inflict recoil damage. In fact, in order to correctly address Ret damage, self-inflicted damage and mana requirements it is sensible to decouple damage done from mana regen. In this regard the removal of Spiritual Attunement from the Retribution toolset is a good thing if other sources of mana regen are tweaked to make up for the shortfall.

The Seal components' recoil damage isn't too bad. JoB on the other hand presents a very real problem. Since Wrath launched JoB damage has been scaling impressively but the accompanying recoil damage has too. Fourty-five percent of Weapon swing damage plus a healthy AP and SD coeff will do that. Health totals haven't scaled proportionally. Recoil-damage of more than 4k HP in a single GCD isn't uncommon and fights with a increased damage gimmick bring a very real chance of self-inflicted death even in only moderate AoE damage situations. With AoE damage and especially unpredictable AoE spike damage increasing greatly in Ulduar Ret Paladins are going to have significant difficulty not freaking out their healers or self-gibbing in 3.1, and as DPS gear improves the situation will only get worse. For progression kills this is a big deal and may pressure raids into benching Ret for certain fights, especially Hard-mode encounters.

The solution is simple: remove JoB recoil damage. Without SA it won't generate mana and the recoil damage trade-off for quality DPS no longer has any merit. The only reason to keep it is if you want to remove Ret from Ulduar raids.

Replacing Spiritual Attunement: Of Equal Concern.

Retribution mana in 3.0.9 is precariously balanced, and extremely tight in fights with no AoE damage. In 3.1 current mana regen mechanics need to be augmented or supplemented in order to make up for the shortfall and allow us to do the DPS we are balanced around. Remember that SA isn't the only thing we're losing, those lucky enough to be in a group with a Shaman will lose out on Mana Spring totem, a cool ~100 mana per 5.

I deserve big props for avoiding the obvious joke.

Read up on the General Vezax encounter and imagine the impact it would have on Ret as things stand on the PTR. There is no reason why Ret mana shouldn't be self-sustainable when performing its' rotation. Enhancement Shaman will enjoy nearly limitless mana for their own rotation in 3.1 and good design dictates that this should be the case for Ret too. We can do this in 3 ways:

1) Increase the mana returned via JotW. In order to replace SA over your average raid Judgement of the Wise would have to be buffed back up to 33% of base mana. Just to replace mana gained from JoB's recoil being healed requires a buff to 20% of base and this isn't enough for encounters longer than 3 minutes. 33% may be problematic in PvP with Holy gaining access to the skill... if it really is an issue stick it down a couple of Tiers.

2) Massively reduce ability mana cost. Just negating the mana cost of Consecration would free up 20% of base mana per ~10 seconds. New talents which make DPS rotations cheaper could make the world of difference (e.g. make CS and Judgement crits cause the next Consecration or DS cast consume no mana). In this case Ret mana would still be unsustainable (at extreme fight lengths) but manageable.

3) New mana regen 'on hit' effect, possibly via CS or DS and linking with the Judgement debuff on the target. Huge number of options, much more interesting from a design PoV, no risk for Holy PvP imbalance. Both option 2 and 3 have the pleasant side-effect of improving the value of Hit and Expertise vs Strength.

Unfortunately, I've absolutely no idea of the direction Blizzard intends to take. I just hope they don't simply buff JotW and be done with it.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria Command?

So, with a redesigned SoB better in every aspect than SoCommand what do you do with it? Well, the obvious answer is to remove it as a talent and stick it to baseline @lvl20 as a levelling Seal. This mirror's reality as (apart from fights were SoB recoil is of issue) SoC has already been relegated to that role. Alternatively the spell can be removed completely to be replaced by a new recoil-less SoB at 11pts Ret, meaning that 2 baseline skills would migrate to the talent trees in 3.1. Doesn't exactly inspire confidence in Blizzards design team. The solutions to SoC are straightforward as a buffed SoB amounts to intentionally marginalising it to a levelling Seal. Tough call this late in the game but it's probably time to do a complete redesign if we want to see it in the end-game, or have the spell pulled completely.

In Conclusion...

... yet

  • The axing of Spiritual Attunement is not the end of the world if equal mana regen can be gained elsewhere.

  • JoB recoil damage needs to be massively toned-down or preferably eliminated entirely. It serves no purpose and increasingly is a millstone around our necks.

  • Fretting over the state of SoCommand is not a good enough reason for inaction. If it is useless, remove it. If it can be valuable baseline then move it there. Sort SoB out first!

  • There are 3 weeks left till the planned release of 3.1 and it seems unlikely that they'd delay the release purely to balance one classes spec. With a new build released every Friday that doesn't leave much time to get both Ret Mana and Damage correct, but it is enough. With luck and a following wind we should see something this week.

    Presupposing that we are functionally stable and competitive in Ulduar I hope to see a more comprehensive addressing of Paladin mechanics after 3.1. Paladins could do with something to really shake up rotations and make fights more interesting.

    Sorry for the long post everyone ;).


    Anonymous 17/03/2009, 00:53  

    Hi, I just started reading Suicidal Zebra and it's great to read such well-though-out posts like this with interesting idea and proposals (rather than just 'OMG WTF TO DA GROUND' ). Just wanted to let you know the long posts are appreciated.

    Anonymous 17/03/2009, 01:19  

    Long Posts are better than Short Posts, though the common myth is that size doesn't matter ;)

    Seriously though, I completely agree with you SZ. The removal of SA, while bad, can not only be fixed but improved with the addition or rescaling of other abilities - now here's hoping Blizzard sees it that way, too.

    Will Armstrong... 17/03/2009, 02:35  

    Yet another calm, well-thought out post from the Suicidal Zebra. I wouldn't worry about the post length either, I honestly prefer longer posts when required.

    Isa 17/03/2009, 13:42  

    I agree with most of your points but perhaps have an opposite view of SoB/M and SoComm. I too am very concerned about the recoil effect. If we're not getting SA anymore, then Blizzard better not leave a recoiled SoB/M as our best DPS ability. It's hard to face my healers and say, "heal me through this" as I merrily cut myself, but I currently have the rationale that it boosts my damage and my mana regen to use SoB/M. If I'm not getting SA in 3.1, they should start telling me to go to hell.

    However, I think the recoil is fine on an ability that is baseline to the class (at a high level, yes, but any spec can use it). I think SoB/M should become a solo ability for prots and holies who decide they want higher damage at the cost of recoil. SoComm, as a talented ability for rets (although right now it's very easy for anyone to get it), I think needs to be buffed to where it is the best ret seal in any situation. I guess I'm essentially saying I think SoComm should be made into the recoil-less SoB/M you advocate--high, non-random, non-recoiled damage. No more Seal of Casino.

    Suicidal Zebra 17/03/2009, 14:47  

    Prot and Holy requiring a good levelling Seal is a fair point. That said, do Holy Paladins need SoB or Prot Paladins want it?

    SoR scales much more effectively with Holy stats and talents than SoB by the time SoB becomes available. SoV probably suits the playstyle of Prot levelling (grinding down multiple mobs) more and JoB does not scale at all well with 1-h weapons.

    I can see an argument for a Seal designed for low level gameplay (and this is why I think moving the current SoC to baseline @lvl 20 is a good idea) but I guess I'm not convinced that SoB brings anything to the table for Non-Ret specs. And fundamentally, what value does the recoil actually have, even for what is a levelling and grinding spec?

    Isa 17/03/2009, 15:05  

    No, they probably don't particularly need or want SoB/M, especially as it is now. I just think that's a fair role for a seal that does recoil damage. To me, ideally, a recoil seal like this should be used situationally by non-DPS paladins to bring their DPS up to near retribution levels (at a cost). For example, a prot's normal mode of solo operation is to gather a bunch of mobs and aoe/reflect them down, but you don't do this with casters, you do them one at a time. Or at least I did when I leveled a prot paladin last. So to me, a recoil seal would be used by a prot when you are single target DPSing, something they are normally weak at.

    The recoil itself should always have negative value, I think it's kind of insane that things got to the point where rets actually get positive value out of it. It's the one reason I'm not getting totally depressed about the SA change--but that's assuming they're going to do something about the situation. Your suggestion is fine, I just kind of like the flavor of SoB/M and wouldn't mind preserving it--but more as a situational seal.

    Karl 17/03/2009, 16:13  

    Prot will not use SOB/M.. just no.

    SZ has already said it, SOB/M needs a major overhaul, or, the other seals need to be reworked.

    Maybe even fix SoRet so Ret actually wants to use it? what a concept....

    Anonymous 17/03/2009, 17:54  

    I had an iffy idea the other day, that Seal of Command could be replaced with a talent reducing the recoil damage of SoB/M by 100%. Probably not a good idea, and most likely will never leave this comment, but the more ideas we randomly shoot into the night, the higher the chance that Blizzard might find one of them. One thing is clear, however: SoC and/or SoB/M does in fact need one hell of an overhaul.

    Will Armstrong... 18/03/2009, 20:41  

    New PTR build tonight. We'll see what happens.

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