WoW Factor: Examining Shadowlands’ Warlock, Paladin, and Demon Hunter changes

    
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Do this differently.

It’s the penultimate column in this particular series! And that’s good because if people who used to make World of Warcraft are going to keep going down the “ridiculous comment” road it’s only a matter of time before we hear that the Internet was invented to let people play WoW and I can’t bear to not respond to that in a whole column. Wikipedia is free, people. It just lets you look basically anything up. I use it all the time, it helps me not look absurd by claiming that cars were invented in 1954 or something.

Anyhow, let’s get back to looking at class changes, shall we? We’ve got three more on deck for this week, and they’re an interesting lineup, if for no other reason than the fact that if you think about it, Demon Hunters are like the Paladin version of Warlocks. It sort of works, right? No, probably not, but sometimes it’s hard to make a segue for these things. Let’s get down to this.

Don't call me Kyle right now.

Warlock

There are two things I really like that are front and center for Warlocks. First and foremost, I like that Curses are coming back in a big way for the class. I get why Curses became less of a thing, really I do, but I always liked the idea that they were these specific debuffs that weren’t about stacking but about a targeted crippling effect. It lent space for specific Warlocks to do different things in groups with multiple ones, and I’m glad to see this back.

I also like that Affliction is… well, there’s no other way to say this, it feels like it’s taking some interesting cues from Summoner with its explosions to make use of DoT effects and the spreading of those DoTs. This is a gameplay element I really like, and I’m glad to see Warlock using it for that specific spec.

Unfortunately… there endeth much of note. Beyond that point, a lot of the changes feel as if they’re functionally half-measures or minor changes, not really any fundamental alterations to the way that Warlock currently plays and feels. I feel like this is a pretty consistent theme with the non-hybrid classes in particular; there are adjustments, but even the unpruning is still not really majorly overhauling what the class was up to this point.

Still, a very small list of changes with net positives is better than nothing. I’m not sure this addresses specific Warlock gripes particularly well, but it’s at least generally good.

Holy arts.

Paladin

Augh.

All right. Holy Power for everyone. Bleh. I don’t like Holy Power. I’ve never liked Holy Power or found it compelling, but now it’s something for every Paladin spec. Fine, I might not like it, but it’s not that huge of a change.

But then we get our Auras back, and… oh, great, a version of Retribution Aura that sounds nearly useless. Like, I can’t believe this is going to be the final state because “you get Avenging Wrath when someone dies” is not really a great ability. It’s basically not something even Retribution Paladins will want unless you already have your other Auras accounted for, so it… well, it needs a rework, by which I mean “complete and total revision.”

So already this is not looking exactly great. I get it, I really do, we don’t necessarily want an aura that just buffs damage dealt by 10%, but this isn’t better. Balancing abilities to be functionally unhelpful is not an improvement.

In the finer details of specs, well, it’s mostly fine changes again. Having Wake of Ashes as a baseline ability is a nice change for Retribution, and the interaction for Protection with baseline Word of Glory does look like fun. Neither of the new talents strike me as particularly compelling, since they’re still in the territory of things that aren’t really going to change how you play a spec in any serious fashion. Even Divine Purpose is a familiar talent that’s mostly relevant because everyone’s on that Holy Power game again.

It’s not a really dire list of changes, mind you, but it puts me back in the mindset of something that I said back when we first heard we were getting Auras back, that the addition of these abilities is short of one full rotation to make playing Retribution more interesting. Instead of feeling like a return to form or pulling closer to the Classic Paladin experience, we get… the easiest element to pull out that’s slapped back in with some fairly irrelevant Auras.

So not too different from Searing Totem, at the end of the day. Getting the idea of something that was missed, but not understanding the why. (Gosh, I should do a whole column about liking the way Retribution was kind of terrible, huh?)

Gliiiiiiiiiide

Demon Hunter

So… in the midst of unpruning, Demon Hunter was always going to be unique because it didn’t really get pruned much. So it is perhaps not a huge surprise that their changes are… basically not there at all, outside of some very minor tweaks and resource consolidation.

Adding Immolation Aura as a baseline is a good change, don’t get me wrong – it’s very on-brand and it feels neat, something that’s always really been a part of how Demon Hunters work. At the same time, it also highlights how thin the overall archetype for Demon Hunter really is. There aren’t a whole lot of different places to go with the class, and with only two specs and an unwillingness to branch out further, there’s not much to be pruned or added to the class at this point.

I do appreciate at the very least that the talent changes for Vengeance are meant to encourage somewhat different build choices; the “only really one choice for builds” issue has kind of stuck with Demon Hunter for a while now, unfortunately. Having more universal options for things like Demonic? Welcome change. But it still kind of speaks to… well, a ceiling for how much there is to be explored with Demon Hunter.

Having said all of that, suddenly adding new abilities to Demon Hunter would have also felt somewhat out of place, so it’s perhaps not the worst thing. I’d feel really weird if the class had just gotten a bunch of new toys to feel like more was being added, and the small changes do help unify the specs more. It just… well, still does feel like a somewhat thin expansion to what’s already there.

Then again, that’s kind of been a theme here, hasn’t it?

While a lot of these changes are not actively bad, none of them actually feel like more than tweaks. Obviously, a lot remains to be seen about how the specs will actually play, but the core of it makes these changes feel far more like another incremental change like the one we experienced from Legion to Battle for Azeroth. That is… perhaps not enough for people who are currently knee-deep in irritation about how their specs are currently playing.

At any rate, you can guess by this point that the last three classes will be Rogue, Warrior, and Death Knight. Can you guess the order? You have reasonable odds! Not that it matters much, you’ll find out in a week.

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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Dani Reasor
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Dani Reasor

Has there ever been a version of Retribution Aura that was good? I just remember it zapping enemies for a trifling amount of damage when they hit the Paladin in melee, while there were better options available for a Prot Paladin to use.

Eternalzephyrias
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Eternalzephyrias

it’s pretty crazy that throughout the history of ret aura being a talent it’s been massively under-tuned and competes with powerful other talents. It’s like they wanted to keep the legacy alive, but also needed to 3rd talent in the row and couldn’t think of a good one.

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Bruno Brito

It’s a mediocre tanking aura for dungeons and prot leveling.

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Carebear

Who cares about shadowlands :P. Next wow expansion is TBC!

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K8 D

I do. Can’t say I want them to have TBC as a seperate server. If they tack it on to Classic, that would be pretty cool though!

Eternalzephyrias
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Eternalzephyrias

Not a warlock pro, but I do play Demo in the current mythic tier.

For higher end content, the changes are either positive or inconsequential.

Corruption baseline is bizarre, with a 2 second cast for non affliction specs. We will either implore demo/destro locks to keep it off their bars or corruption will be a catalyst for a legendary or Soulbind power. So it coming back changes nothing.

The curses are great, but only in context that we have to submit to never having a convenient interrupt (even affliction would rather sometimes use Imp). There’s more testing to do but it seems for raiding locks will stick with Doom on bosses (and never take improve doom unless desperate for more boss burn in the first tier) and tongues for casting adds. It “appears” the Revendreth spell for lock tries to “smart cast” curses on aoe (casters get tongues, melee get weakness) but as of right now it just puts tongues on targets with mana and weakness on targets that don’t. Still, this is great utility for M+ when compared to other classes without an interrupt.

Demonic circle being baseline is honestly the most import change. This spell rocks, it’s iconic, and it’s a major reason why some players prefer lock over other casters. It’s got 0 performance impact on low skill players (no punishment if you don’t use it. You already have burning rush and demon skin) but allows great plays and hilarious misplays.

I am worried about demonology losing it’s azerite traits as slowing down the ramp up will make the spec too slow for any serious content. We already take too long to ramp up to competitive single target, and that’s with +50% haste and a tyrant who fills the shards when summoned. As of yet the spec feels too slow in alpha, but this could be adjusted by making our spells just hit harder. Even if they don’t speed up tyrant’s ramp time, the spec is still strong at what it does and will scale with gear well.

Destro is in a similar boat, but much less severe. They will certainly miss essences if they don’t get similar passives through the Soulbinds or legendaries, but they’re fine as they are and will get stronger and more fun as their stats climb.

The affliction changes appear to have greater on-demand output and may be an attempt to make the spec more viable for pushing high keys. It’s already a powerful aoe spec in BFA, but you have to wait for the Dots to ramp up, and by the time they do Hand of Gul’dan would of already killed them (also your application to do the key was denied because of melee having no aoe cap and virtually no ramp time). We shouldn’t ignore the target caps either. If every melee is locked to 5 targets for maximum cleave, afflictions mastery of cleave damage may make the spec more attractive in context, along with all the other casters that have uncapped aoe.

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Bruno Brito

Corruption baseline is bizarre, with a 2 second cast for non affliction specs. We will either implore demo/destro locks to keep it off their bars or corruption will be a catalyst for a legendary or Soulbind power. So it coming back changes nothing.

The lack of the Imp. Corruption talent really tells me they’re focusing on the wrong things when looking at classic.

Eternalzephyrias
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Eternalzephyrias

I’m not aware of a talent affecting corruption for non affliction specs.

Honestly, as someone who enjoys current WoW endgame I would rather they make decisions based on what the game is rather then try and “bring back classic.”

Warlocks are known as far back as vanilla for being tanky casters with curses and weird tricks. Corruption is iconic, but it’s just a dot. Both demo and destro already have great dots built into their kits. Putting a cast time on it basically makes it impossible for casting corruption to be a “correct” choice.

But like I said, making corruption baseline means a legendary or soulbind could interact with it. Maybe targets with corruption will trigger a proc? Or maybe they want at least 1 spell baseline so when class sets return they have a universal trigger.

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Bruno Brito

What i mean is: They’re bringing a casted Corruption.

The first talent in the Affliction tree is Imp. Corruption, and diminishes the cast time of Corruption. The 5/5 makes it instant cast.

That’s my point, the talent makes a huge difference for the usability of the skill.

Eternalzephyrias
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Eternalzephyrias

Oh that era of WoW is past my time,

I may not have been clear, but affliction does have instant cast corruption, the other specs don’t. Without soulbinds, legendary, or set bonuses a demo or destro lock would never have any reason to cast corruption. Both specs already have sources of consistent streaming damage. Those two specs also don’t generate soul shards from it neither. And honestly, I wouldn’t want the spell in either spec especially if you go Kyrian for the extra DoT.

It’s either coming back as pure flavor, or as a future catalyst. But like my first post: it may as well not be there in current alpha.

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Bruno Brito

Oh, no, i got that for sure.

Bear in mind, you weren’t locked into specs earlier in the game. You had talent trees and some talents were mandatory, other stuff was more to your taste/raid composition.

For instance, any kind of self-respecting solo/pvp warlock would spec 5/5 Imp. Corruption because that would make your Corruption instant cast. That allowed you to kite players while dealing damage to them.

No Warlock in their right mind would cast a 2s Corruption. I’m willing to bet that didn’t change in Shadowlands either.

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Ironwu

I wonder if we will see the final destruction of the WoD flavor of Blood DK? That spec was just so much fun to play.

It is currently a shadow of its former self and I suspect that it is about to be fully destroyed with this next expansion.

Too bad. One more reason, at least for me, to not continue with WoW.