This past month there has been enough drama online regarding the upcoming World of Warcraft patch 2.4 to write a book. I won't go quite that far, but I am going to devote this weeks editorial to another patch 2.4 topic. This time, I want to take an in depth look at the change that was proposed to Warlocks and why it was rolled back to the original state.

Life Tap

Let's start by looking at the ability in question, Life Tap. Life tap is a key warlock ability that converts health to mana for the warlocks use. At level 70 life tap costs 580 health to use and returns 580 mana. These numbers are both modified by 80% of your +spell damage bonus. So if you had a very reasonable +800 spell damage, it would add 640 to both numbers, making it cost 1,220 health and return 1,220 mana.

In addition to being modified by your +spell damage, life tap can be modified by the talent improved life tap. With the full 2 points in this talent, you receive 20% more mana back than health lost. This means using our above example numbers, life tap would now cost the same 1,220 but return 1,464 mana.

The Change

For patch 2.4 Blizzard proposed the following change to life tap.

Life Tap: This spell now has only 3 ranks. Each now costs a fixed percentage of maximum health to cast, and grants the same fixed percentage of maximum mana: Rank 1 is 5%, Rank 2 is 12%, and Rank 3 is 20%.

On the surface this seems like not a huge deal, however when you look at the average numbers of a warlock it can be significant. Due to the way most Warlocks function, they stack stamina and almost ignore intelligence. The best lock in my guild has 11,000 health and only 8,000 mana unbuffed. What would this new version mean for him?

Under the original form of the spell with his +1200 spell damage, he would lose 1,540 health (or 14%) and gain 1,848 mana (or 23%). With the proposed change he would lose 2,200 health to gain 1,600 mana, a flat 20% on each.

The Drama

From a quick glance you can tell that it costs a significant amount more health to gain back a similar amount of mana, but why is this even being looked at and why is everyone up in arms over it?

The biggest reason this was being looked at is the number of warlocks in arena teams and their over effectiveness based on the life tap ability. Life tap in the PvE environment allows a Warlock to continue to function once they run out of mana and is a key talent, and completely balanced in that environment. Raid warlocks burn through mana then life tap to gain it back, then soul syphon to gain that lost health back from the target. With enough +spell damage a Warlock is almost completely self sustaining.

However in the PvP environment and especially arenas, that same +spell damage and self sustaining ability gives warlocks an advantage over every other caster that is too big to not call over powered. While every other caster runs short on mana half way through a long fight, a good warlock will still have full mana and almost never run low.

The drama involved in this change is Blizzards attempt to fix the PvP environment that would have slightly hurt the PvE environment. When players saw how the change would work, they exploded. The forums became full of threats to not play their locks, warnings that they would become useless in raids, and much more.

What did Blizzard do as a result of this very vocal feedback? They caved, and rolled back to the original method. This means that players in the arenas will continue to have to cringe every time they see a well geared Warlock opposing them.

Messiah's Take On It

Now, I don't have a huge complaint about either version of life tap for what they are meant for. The original version seems to be balanced in PvE, while the proposed version seems much better to balance warlocks in PvP (although still not enough in my opinion, but that's a whole other editorial). The problem seems to be that they do not support the middle ground. In PvE Warlocks already inhabit the middle ground in DPS, and the change would knock them back even further, which no one wants. In PvP they rule small game sizes along with druids and they need to be toned down. Can one be avoided while the other is fixed?

I am not really sure that they can unless the spell is made to function differently in each environment. This is not likely to happen any time soon though as Blizzard has not yet taken the step to balance PvE and PvP as separate entities. If at some point they do though, it should be an easy fix.

The biggest issue with this change that I have is that the warlock players had as much input as they did. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for player feedback, but there has to be limits. Where those limits are needs to be defined at some point. Blizzard wanted to implement a change to resolve an issue that they saw. Players did not like that change because it would affect how they played. Through various feedback methods players bombarded Blizzard, and Blizzard caved and rolled back the changes.

This is a very bad precedent to set, as it shows that Blizzard can be bullied by the players into going against their plans. It's not being sold as that, of course, however that's the way it appears.

When a problem is seen that affects all the other classes through an ability of theirs, that class should not have the ability to bully Blizzard into keeping their advantage. While I know that a company does not want to upset any of their customers, they can not keep everyone happy all the time. By keeping one class happy they are upsetting every other class that competes against them in PvP. There has to be some middle ground, where players have some say, but the designers end goals still rule supreme. Otherwise, in the end, every class will have every ability, and we will lose class flavor and distinction. What I for one want, is a big difference from one class to another. I also want each class to be balanced to each other in both PvE and PvP environments. Tall order? Sure is. Impossible? I hope not. Of course if it is, I'll have endless topics for my editorials.

The Messiah has had his say, what’s yours?  Do you like the original or proposed life tap, and why? Do you think Blizzard caved to peer pressure? Should they listen to every complaint form players or follow their vision? I want to hear your comments and explanations.

Email me at: Byron Mudry - ([email protected]) or post in our forums thread!

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Byron 1
Byron has been playing and writing about World of Warcraft for the past ten years. He also plays pretty much ever other Blizzard game, currently focusing on Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, while still finding time to jump into Diablo III with his son.