WoW Factor: Examining Shadowlands’ Shaman, Monk, and Druid ability changes

    
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WoW Factor: Examining Shadowlands’ Shaman, Monk, and Druid ability changes

So, here’s something you might find funny: My greatest struggle with this particular ongoing World of Warcraft column was deciding the best possible order to take it on. I didn’t want to just do the whole thing alphabetically because that felt… well, too close in format to how the official rundown did things, and also just a little bit arbitrary. At the same time, any other grouping I could think of felt equally arbitrary, but I needed to pick some order other than “the order of things I care about” or “best to worst” or whatever.

Ultimately, I settled the whole thing by just rolling a D12 and ordering the classes thusly. This means that the order is still arbitrary, yes, but it’s the kind of arbitrary that’s informed by an impartial die and thus reflects nothing other than what face a piece of stone reflected as it rolled. So without further adieu, let’s pick apart the individual class changes, one by one, starting with…

I AM SO GREAT! *clap* I AM SO GREAT!

Shaman

Aw, really? Really? No one is going to believe this is random! I don’t believe this is random and I watched it happen! All right, just… bear with me, I promise that Paladin isn’t next, it just happened this way.

(By way of an aside, this worked way better with my initial title here, which played the order much more coy, but my editor decided people would be more interested if we actually told people what classes were in the column. So, you know, I didn’t want to spoil you on all of this. I could have rewritten the intro to account for this, of course, but it was morning by that point and I didn’t want to.)

First and foremost, let me just say aw no, not Searing Totem. Seriously, Searing Totem has never felt compelling or fun. I’m glad to have more totems again, I’ve been asking for totems for ages, I’m not complaining about the totems but I did not miss that totem. Seeing shocks moving back around is nice, though, as an additional quick burst of damage to add in to things. Not that every spec really needs them in rotation, but hey.

Removing Maelstrom… well, it’s kind of a weird change. The addition of Maelstrom was addressing a distinct problem, especially for Enhancement; for a long time, the supposedly signature ability of the spec (Stormstrike) was actually way less important than Flame Shock and Lava Lash, which was a weird feeling. At the same time, Maelstrom never really did anything interesting that Rage didn’t already do, and the removal of mana didn’t really add anything to the specs. It didn’t wildly change resource or flow management. I don’t expect to miss it, exactly.

Enhancement is thus getting more reworks, although I’m not sure yet if Flametongue and Windfury will actually matter much. (Put simply, if they’re just “apply these to your offhand/mainhand every so often,” I don’t really care about having them back; if there’s actually tactical choices being made, that’s another discussion.) It definitely feels like Enhancement is getting more of its hybrid flavor back with chain spells and Maelstrom Weapon, which I do like; Elemental Blast, though, may or may not be worth bothering with this time around.

I do appreciate that there’s a general trend for Shaman at this point to have a sort of burst accumulation mechanic and a timed release; things like automatic echoed casts and consuming shield charges feel very distinct for the class and always have. Now, let’s just hope Lightning Shield is still a worthwhile option.

Also, while it’s probably not actually going to happen, I really would like to see two-handed Enhancement in the game. It’d be a notable change, but we’ve already got Single-Minded Fury supposedly in the works, so let’s not lose hope just yet.

Let's dig our way out!

Monk

That’s better. Monk is also a class I really enjoy, but it’s not a class I literally, uh, wrote columns about at any point, so I feel this looks _less_ like I just decided on the order through self-serving means. And Monks are getting some more changes! One of which is… well, not a change I’m altogether fond of, but more because the “invoke” talents never really felt as iconic to me as perhaps the designers wanted.

Really, I get the idea, and bringing in the August Celestials makes sense for Monks. But it’s also another example of adding pets-but-not-really into a class in lieu of giving the class something to actually do itself. A minor gripe, but there’s a reason I never took these talents, and I’m thus not really hype about having them baseline.

That having been said, the removal of the mandatory weapon choices is a nice one, although Monk in particular has never felt too connected to weapon identity. Touch of Death is also welcome alongside Expel Harm, giving Monks better access to baseline versatility (there’s that hybrid flavor creeping back in once again). And it does look like the core of Brewmaster’s staggering of damage, Windwalker’s flurry of blows, and Mistweaver’s slow-pulse healing is going to be preserved more or less intact, just with a few more tactical options along the way.

Monk clearly does benefit from not having multiple expansions worth of design cruft to sort out and choose between, too; it’s been around for a shorter period of time, so it gets a very pure form of just adding back old abilities. That’s nice.

Turn into a bear.

Druid

Aw, really? Eclipses again? I kind of feel like ever since Balance became a capable damage dealer not defined by running out of mana in five seconds, we’ve been pinging around the Eclipse mechanic and either intentionally or accidentally ignoring the fact that basically no one has ever really liked it all that much. But I should actually really like it since I do generally like the idea of cycling between casting modes, but… well, let’s see how it plays.

Honestly, a lot of the Druid changes feel very much like – again – bringing back some of that hybrid flavor. Enhancing the Affinity talents a bit, giving a few more abilities in all forms as baseline abilities for Druids… it kind of glosses the fact that aside from Balance, none of the individual specs are changing all that much. I don’t think that’s entirely down to Druid being largely flawless in Battle for Azeroth so much as the biggest problem Druids have had being… well, locked forever in a single form no matter what you do.

This doesn’t look to be altogether changing that, but it does at least give you more reason to shift out and do other things. Your Feral Druid at least gains something from not being a cat for five seconds, and you know you aren’t just a Rogue with fur for reasons other than being able to fly away whenever you need to. This is a nice change, and it does underscore at least a conceptual understanding of how narrow spec focus had gotten in its overall design setup.

Oh, and let’s not forget Heart of the Wild, which is probably not a top pick for any spec but should probably be a lot more fun for people who don’t care much about that. I’m looking forward to that one, anyhow.

Obviously, I was never going to get to all of the classes this week; we’ve got three more parts of this particular series, so I’ll be back around next Friday to continue on down the garden path with the next three randomly selected specs. I really wish Shaman hadn’t been rolled in first, though. and I really wish that the last roll wasn’t… well, you’ll see in a few weeks.

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with a decade of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.

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the ultimate article on (not exclusive to WoW, but overall) MMO design paradigms is not “on the table” (should have been horizon, but puns) as it seems after all those years of gaming media recherche – how MMO (and in general game) design is a depiction of performance society and contemporary economy, driven by Keynes, Pareto and Ketting (“keep customers unhappy”), where esp. the latter is a prime directive for WoW. (and maybe Bourdieu, as there is no deeper analysis of class hierarchy in these 127 years since Durkheims faits sociaux)

now that would be a master piece for the real masters to serve…

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Bruno Brito

About the searing totem…speak for yourself, dude. I absolutely love that crap. Yeah, it’s minute, and mostly just a dps fire and forget button, but i love leveling shamans through old expansions and ST is just a old friend for me.

Also, it has a Warcraft III serpent ward feel.