Patch 4.0.3 made some much needed changes to PvP balance, but probably not enough. The main focuses of the patch were on self-healing abilities and on PvE damage equalization. This left much to be desired in the department of PvP damage equalization.
Shockingly Feral Druids and Frost Mages, who were thought to be the two most broken outlier specs in terms of PvP performance were impacted very minimally by the patch. This came as a surprise and disappointment to a community that has been railing against these two specs for quite some time. In this ArenaJunkies.com poll of 2400+ rated Arena players, Frost Mages were voted most broken by 62% of voters and Feral Druids came in second with 16% of the vote. All other classes received negligible amounts of votes.
Frost Mages received what actually amounts to a buff since the Glyph of Deep Freeze was changed to a PvE glyph and its PvP functionality was given to Frost Mages baseline, freeing up a glyph slot. That this spec has somehow flown under the radar given the massive outcry and obvious imbalance it represents is mysterious and somewhat baffling. Hopefully Blizzard takes a second look at it in the next two weeks. Otherwise we'll have a whole legion of steering wheel mages on our hands:
Credit for this amazing video goes to Nunypl.
Feral Druids also made it out of 4.0.3 relatively unscathed which is again, confusing. Ferals at 80 are able to load up a single target with enough Damage-Over-Time bleeds in a few seconds to backload enough damage to kill them while they run around in Bear Form. It's less brutal at level 85, but is still out of control. They're far more powerful than their Rogue counterparts, and comprise the second of the two obviously broken classes.
Self Healing Nerfs
Blizzard took a chainsaw to the huge swathe of DPS self-healing abilities, particularly for melee. These abilities, often completely passive, had been scaling far too well with the huge hit point pools in Cataclysm and needed to be toned down. Rogue Recuperate and most of the Warrior healing passives were hit hard as well as the self healing for Feral Druids, Mages, and Death Knights.
Many will be overjoyed to see the nerf to Holy Paladin self-healing. The nerf to the Blessed Life talent which changes the frequency with which Holy Paladins can gain Holy Power when being attacked (changed from 2 seconds to 8 seconds) will reduce the rampant Word of Glory / Holy Shock spamming that we see now. This aggravated many players to no end since the Holy Paladin was essentially able to heal themselves to full effortlessly non-stop using uninterruptable instant cast spells. This was a good change.
The nerfs to damage were mostly needed and, in fact, didn't go far enough in some cases. The most obviously hit were Warriors and Warlocks.
Warriors, upon receiving their Colossus Smash ability, were doing absolutely crazy amounts of damage. Many Warriors on the forums had actually begun a preemptive crusade to have Colossus Smash nerfed because they feared the sort of retaliatory blanket nerfs that 4.0.3 brought. Pretty much every ability except Colossus Smash got hit for a percentage nerf.
I must say that I don't agree with the way they approached the change to Warriors. The Warriors on the forums were right. Colossus Smash, which gives 100% armor ignore for 6 seconds every 20 seconds, will always be terribly hard to balance as it's tantamount to doubling your damage or more versus some classes. Armor ignore, as opposed to Armor Penetration, does not have a cap or hidden values. It literally means that your target has no armor, so if they're a Paladin in plate with 60% physical damage reduction then instead of taking 6000 damage from overpower they'd be hit for 15000. This is a big deal. I predict that this ability will be nerfed again in the future and that Warriors will not be compensated.
Warlocks also got hit with blanket nerfs, but they shouldn't freak out too much. Warlock damage was over the top in PvE if not so much in PvP, so they were going to get nerfed. However, it seems that these nerfs are to the base values of the abilities rather than their spellpower coefficients, meaning that the nerfs were actually not too severe. These abilities will hit for less at low levels of gear in Cataclysm but will still scale perfectly well which should leave Warlocks in pretty good shape.
The major area of PvP balance concern that was completely overlooked by 4.0.3 was PvP game balance regarding dispels. Perhaps in preparation for Rated Battlegrounds, perhaps for some other reason, there is basically no dispel protection on any dispellable defensive abilities. This includes Heal Over Time spells, Power Word Shield, Barkskin, Pain Suppression, and a host of other vital defensive abilities that have traditionally been difficult to dispel.
Currently Priests and Druids are completely inferior healers due to the fact that their shields and HoTs can be stripped from targets faster than they can apply them and for less mana than it costs to apply them. Pain Suppression and Barkskin aren't enough to save a Druid or Priest versus any sort of class combination that can dispel and stun or silence at once. "Train the healer" is one of the most viable tactics in Cataclysm PvP at the moment since there's virtually no defense for it unless you happen to be a Shaman or, better yet, a Paladin.
Blizzard needs to take a look at offensive dispels (and Shadow Priest retaining a defensive dispel) and perhaps reduce the number of buffs dispelled to 1 from 2 and adding in a cooldown or some kind of substantial downside to simply spamming the button.
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