Burst and Sustenance

For those of you who watched the Blizzcon live stream or read the excerpts, you may have come across a single line of text spawned by the Developers which has evoked numerous responses from Shadowpriests worldwide with regards to its :

Q: How do you feel about the Shadow Priest mastery balance?
A: With mastery we’re trying to really give each spec that feeling of awesome for their specific style of play. We want to change your gameplay up with mastery. Shadowpriests have been known for being these incredibly bursty casters, in PvE we want you to capture that vibe, that explosion of awesome. We’re going to be tweaking the numbers over time to get it right obviously. We want to make sure to control the burst damage potential as much as possible.

Yes, read that line again: “Shadowpriests have been known for being these incredibly bursty casters…”

A quick jaunt into the dictionary reveals that there’s very little about being a Shadowpriest up to now that could be classified as Burst. In fact, that was one of our major complaints ever since Shadow became a viable PvE class. You see, it refers either to applying explosive force, or a period of intense activity.

So why do we not count as Burst, even though our Mastery ability would suggest this?

1) Ramp-up Time

It takes us a bit of time to apply our DoTs to an enemy, and even then it takes a little bit of time before they start ticking. In other words, the first 5-6 seconds of the fight, we are simply preparing our damage, not even getting started. With the removal of Shadow Weaving, this has been helped a bit, but fact remains we cannot produce on-demand damage. This also means our damage on adds is less – especially since the new version of Mind Spike is now in limbo and has no use on adds, keeping threat or the like.

2) Burst damage requires cooldowns

Before 4.0.1, we had no cooldowns whatsoever built into our class. If you wanted one, you had to reroll Engineer for the Haste clicky. Without cooldowns, you cannot burst. You simply continue doing what you always do, except that you maybe prioritize spells more that deal higher damage per second over spells for sustained DPS. In 4.0.1, due to the fact that we cannot get Evangelism and Archangel, we still have no cooldowns.

Second, our Mastery (Shadow Orbs) builds up and is expended over the course of our normal DPS time. We do not “save” Shadow Orbs for nuking because that lowers DPS. Similarly, our Mastery is lacklustre enough that we will avoid Mastery at this time. Since this Mastery was supposed to add Burst (which it does, but only in PvP in a MB/SW:D Combo) yet fails to deliver, we are not bursty.

Finally, as we cannot currently use Evangelism and Archangel, use of Archangel as a cooldown is not available. And while everything points at Archangel becoming a mana-based cooldown rather than a burst cooldown, even that might be blown out of the water.

3) Burst implies Crit

We don’t mind Crit, but we like Haste and Intellect better.  Burst damage (at least to me) implies a significant increase in damage, like increasing the chance to crit by 20%, or dealing double damage on targets that have been made weak to our attacks, or a short-duration immense increase in Haste. All of these are Bursty, and we are doing none of it. Our Crit rating is also lower than for most real “Burst” classes, like Hunters, Rogues and Mages.

Shadowpriests are not fans of RNG. Burst is RNG. Shadowpriests are not Bursty.

Why does it matter?

If you take the words spoken by the developers at face value, you’d imagine Shadowpriests having the image of being a bursty class, and that the Mastery needs to reflect that. But in reality, the Mastery is the first thing we’ve had that could be qualified as bursty and it isn’t too good at what this does. It does a lot of damage yes, but not consistently and never really when you need it. It will take more than “tweaking the numbers” to change that.

The Mastery is currently quite nasty in PvP, where you could get a triple-shadow orb empowered Mind Blast off, followed by a Shadow Word:Death to completely demolish an opponent. The worst case scenario would be for the first MB to bring him to below 25%, and the SW:D finishing off the rest. This leads to angry people on forums, whining, and PvP nerfs that will hurt us in PvE.

And the last thing we’d want is to spend the first raiding tier of Cataclysm lying on our backsides doing low DPS because we were tweaked the wrong way in late Wrath.

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4 Responses to “Burst and Sustenance”

  1. Yeah my first reaction to that comment while watching the livestream was “ORLY? Since when? Was I asleep during that supposed past bursty shadowpriest burstiness? Just like I imagined my hybrid balance/resto druid build kicked booty healing pre-3.0 according to the Blizz retconners who said “hybrid specs split between two trees have never been viable.”

    Great post.

  2. Getting anywhere from a 20k MB to a 4k mb with 3 orbs, does not make me like this 3 orb business, but yes, in PVP, I am more awesome then ever, can devour the healthbars of people rather quickly as long as I am not been locked down, and stunned constantly.
    I can’t imagine why they think we are Burst, they obviously haven’t been hanging out in shadow priest forums. We were always the class that did the least damage to anciliary mobs/spikes and stuff that came up when we had to single or two target, I got better, and ( outdamaged real burst) and stupid dots falling off main target when we were targeting the extra mobs/spikes

  3. I guess this patch we are supposed to go from being a ramp up, dot based class, to a bursty, pet class. More evidence that Ghostcrawler has never played a shadowpriest.

    • The funny thing is that Shadowpriests will be more bursty in Cataclysm due to 3-Shadow Orb Mindspikes and Mindspike-buffed Triple Shadow Orb Mind Blasts (combbbbo!)

      But here we are represented as “always having been bursty”. That is a negligent view of the class, and if such a poor view is spread, we might get alterations to the class based on poor perceptions and public outcries.

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