Mage Q&A

June 19, 2009 at 11:34 am (Warlock)

No, I’m not suddenly deeply interested in Mage mechanics (though if you are, the new Q&A is posted on the forums).  I’m very interested in this passage from Ghostcrawler, though:

We’ll talk more about the locks soon, but we need to focus them even more on mechanics like shards and demons.

Fantastic.  Our most annoying characteristic (which, best case, 3.1 made only marginally less irritating) and our biggest Achilles heel are going to become even more prominent.  Swell.

Let’s take the first:  shards.  Shards.  Are.  Not.  Fun.  Shards.  Haven’t.  Been. Fun.  Since.  Level. Eleven.  Now granted, reagents aren’t supposed to be fun, they’re supposed to be something that forces you to do a little prep work in advance to use some of your abilities.  Nobody gripes about “Arcane Powder isn’t fun”.  Why?  Because Arcane Powder is easily purchasable for a trivial amount of money.  Ditto Symbols of Kings, Sacred Candles, Acorns of Whateverthefrack, and so forth.  In terms of the great fun-annoyance tradeoff, Mage/Pally/Priest/Druid reagents are low-fun, but low-annoyance.  Shammy totems, on the other hand (and I’ll be honest, my highest level shaman is 20-something, so I’m not an expert in the class, I just have an opinion from doing a little leveling), seem to me high-annoyance, but high-fun.  Why?  I don’t know.  There’s just something neat about them.  Which doesn’t mean they don’t need help in PvP, PvE, etc., it just means there’s some subjective thing about putting down a totem that feels….different.  Interesting.  You’re doing something with them.  You’re forced to make certain choices (I have one totem of each element, which do I pick in this situation?  Mid-fight, did I pick a wrong one?  Can/should I swap out?)  Soul shards don’t have that – they just take up space, and make you go out and kill things much slower than you would like to, so you can farm them.  They are no more interesting than Arcane Powder.  But annoyance-wise, they’re more like totems.

If Soul Shards aren’t changing in some really fundamental way (and no, 3.1 didn’t count), such that they’re less annoying, then they need to be more fun.  How?  Different kinds of shards?  Certain choices that you, as the player, have to make in terms of their use?  Certain bonuses if you use, say, Shard of the Undead versus Shard of the Humanoid? Maybe Summoning stones require you to have a Shard of the Demonic in your bag.  Maybe there are ten (or whatever) different types of shards, but you can only carry six at a time.  Choices, choices, choices.   I don’t know, I’m not a game designer. But then, I’m not voting for “more fun”, I’m voting for “less annoying”.  Or preferably “nonexistent.”  Because I also want my frakking bag space back.  Shamans are getting freed from the oh-so-terrible injustice of having to set aside four freaking slots for their totems.  Don’t get me started on rogue poisons.  Potions get to stack up to 20 – more bag space for everybody!  And we’re still setting aside a whole bag for Arcane Powder’s more annoying cousin.

As to demons, well, in PvE, for the most part, pets are fire-and-forget (occasional cases, like having your felhunter eat the bone shields in Military Quarter notwithstanding).  It’s easier to keep them alive now than it used to be, to be sure, but there are still too many fights (and I’ve heard it’s even worse further into Ulduar, where I haven’t gone yet) where there’s almost no point in having a pet out because they will die, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  This to say nothing of all those situations where you have to resummon your pet before engaging the boss because of stupid instance design and lousy pathfinding (I’m thinking Gluth and Thaddius here – would be nice if I could actually have a buffed pet engage in those fights, instead of a freshly summoned one because the first one was apparently too chickenshit to make the jump).  But, you let them die, and your DPS takes a decent hit.  Apparently, that hit’s going to be even bigger.  Which would be fine if, in the pet-unfriendly fights, there was much you could do to prevent the deaths other than micromanaging your pet at a level that will gimp your DPS even more.

Want to make us happier to have to keep our pets up?  Make it a special ability that, say, your minion will take a certain amount of your threat every five seconds or so.  Warlocks spend too much of the game threat-capped as it is (even against tanks way better geared than we are).  Our threat is ridiculous, like what shadow priests were back in the day.  This would be a nice fix to make our pets more desirable, and feel more like an integral part of who we are, without putting greater DPS emphasis on something we just can’t keep alive all the time, and therefore completely gimping us on those fights.  If nothing else, we can say on those fights “Know what?  I can’t keep a pet alive this fight, but I can keep my imp phase-shifted, taking some of my threat, and still feel like the thing’s being useful, as opposed to just a stam buff”.

I’m going to be very interested to read the Warlock Q&A.  But frankly, given what I see in the Mage Q&A, I can’t imagine it’s going to have anything I’m going to be happy to hear.

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12 Comments

  1. Elathan said,

    Wow, talk about hitting the proverbial nail on the head there Kahl. I would truly love to have that bag space back on my lock that is currently used for shards, even with having a 32 slot soulshard bag. Though my lock is only level 73, I have recently been on my DK more lately, cause it doesn’t feel like a chore to level him. Having to constantly ensure you have a good supply of soulshards on hand to do things with (healthstones, summoning pets/people, some pretty useful spells etc) makes even the somewhat simple task of questing feel more like reagent farming to me. Would be nice to have a glyph that removes the soul shard requirement for summoning our demons or maybe some of our spells like some other classes have. I mean hell, DK’s get a glyph of the ghoul that removes the corpse dust requirement for their pet.

    • Kahleena said,

      I think Blizzard assumes all warlocks are affliction. And for affliction locks, soul shards are (except for the bag space issue) trivial – low-fun, but low(ish)-annoyance. When you get to Demo and (especially) Destro, though, it’s a lot harder. Being a destro warlock isn’t even like being a DOT class. My soloing rotation is Immolate-Conflagrate-Chaos Bolt. Nothing non-elite is still standing after that. And if it crits, the mob’s dead after the conflagrate. So soul shards really are a separate farming thing – I can’t just pick them up easily in the course of my dailies. Glyphs are one way to deal with it, but if they really like the dynamic of stealing your enemies’ souls and using them to power your spells (and just from the point of view of aesthetics, that’s pretty damn cool), I’d rather they just redesigned them from the ground up – don’t even make them consumable reagents, make them something more like a Shaman’s totems – keep them in your inventory to power your spells, different types of shards (i.e. the souls of different types of enemies) power different spells or give different effects to certain spells, and so forth.

  2. Temitope said,

    For what it’s worth I too play a Warlock (it was my first character, until I found my calling as Tamarind’s pocket tank) and I feel your pain.

    The irritating thing is that I really like the *idea* of Soul Shards, when I was levelling my ‘lock I loved the feeling of powerlessness you got when you ran out – it was like you had to retreat to your Dark Tower and gather your strength before you could go back out into the world.

    I think what I’d like is for Soul Shards to feel more pro-active, rather than just something you needed to carry a dozen of, taking up a bag slot you could use for something else.

    Perhaps it would help if they added baseline shard-producing spells to Demo and Destro – maybe Shadowburn could grant shards instead of consuming them, and perhaps there could be some kind of spell that let you sacrifice a portion of your Demon’s health for a shard or something.

    • Kahleena said,

      There’s definitely an aesthetic thing to soul shards I like. It’s just that the boring and annoying mechanics kill whatever interest there is – as you say, they just sort of sit there in your bags, doing nothing. Putting a drain soul component to Shadowburn probably wouldn’t do much to help destro locks, as destro is now really a fire-based spec, but I like the general idea – if they’re not going to make them more fun, making them less annoying is good too.

      • Temitope said,

        “Putting a drain soul component to Shadowburn probably wouldn’t do much to help destro locks, as destro is now really a fire-based spec”

        True – I don’t really play Destro, it just struck me that an instant cast direct damage spell might be a more sensible way for Destro locks to top up their soul shards than a fourteen-second DoT.

        But something more interesting would, of course, be more interesting.

      • Kahleena said,

        It’s a good thought, Temitope. Hopefully they’ll figure out something to both simplify shard farming, and make it more fun as well. BTW, not sure why, but I cannot, to save my life, manage to get a comment posted on your blog. Dunno if it’s my browser (Firefox), or whether Blogger just doesn’t play nicely with WordPress.

      • Temitope said,

        Weird.

        Can’t be Firefox, that’s what I use as well.

        Must be a WordPress/Blogger issue.

        Tam keeps suggesting I should make the switch to WordPress anyway…

        I have just enabled anonymous comments, so that should help.

        Another thing that struck me recently about Soul Shards versus other reagents. Presumably Back In The Day, the time investment of shard-farming compared more favourably to the cash investment of buying reagents. A couple of silver a pop is trivial when you’re farming Northrend dailies for 13 gold a time, but it was presumably more of an issue at 60, and it was positively prohibitive at level 30. Soul-shards are the only reagent whose annoyance factor scales with level.

      • Kahleena said,

        Great point re: other reagents and cost. Demonic Figurines, at 1g a pop, must have been really unpleasant when level 60 was the hit cap (particularly given how useless Ritual of Doom was – one assumes very few were sold).

  3. Roy said,

    OK, so I have a different perspective. I think that the destruction tree is the entire problem. As far as it goes, thats the only tree that produces a “fel mage”.

    Not only that, but the whole idea of a warlock is someone who likes to inflict pain and agony – not melt faces. At the core, Affliction is the most accurate to fit this.

    I would be quite happy if they moved to warlock to pretty much be a DoT only class.

    • Kahleena said,

      Interesting point, Roy, and one I don’t disagree with (even though I’m destro specced right now, and generally enjoy it). Affliction to me (completely with a largely ignored pet and DOTsDOTsAndMoreDOTs) is what being a warlock is supposed to feel like, especially once the mob’s low enough health that Drain Soul is your spam spell instead of a nuke. Frankly, shadow priests are closer to what a warlock should feel like than destro warlocks are.

  4. Warlock Q&A Feedback, Part 2 « Fel Deeds Awake! said,

    […] Blizzard is on the right track, assuming they ever actually finish their grand revamp.  I talked before about how the problem with soul shards is that they’re all the fun of arcane powder, with none […]

  5. Shards Announcement Incoming « Fel Deeds Awake! said,

    […] gave my own thoughts on soul shards and their problems.  What I can’t tell, at this point, is whether […]

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