Coming full circle in the World of Warcraft… (Part Two)

In Part One, I outlined the many problems faced by players of Balance Druids in Nighthold and almost certainly ones that will continue into Tomb of Sargeras:

  • The damage ceiling of the spec is disturbingly close to the floor for many other damage specs in the game.
  • Damage output is punished cruelly by heavy movement and target switching.
  • Mediocre damage in AoE heavy fights, even though that should be Balance’s niche.
  • Poorest damage of all specs in the game in single target encounters in Nighthold.

So a few weeks ago, I began privately mulling over a change to a class or spec that not only had a higher damage ceiling, but was also movement friendly. I also wanted to remain as a ranged DPS so that left me with:

  • BM Hunter
  • A flavour of Warlock
  • A flavour of Mage
  • Elemental Shaman
  • Shadow Priest

I also have a viable Demon Hunter, but Havoc as a damage spec is very…dry, but it does have a very high damage ceiling. However it is a melee spec, and as mentioned above I preferred to stick with ranged DPS.

After 7½ years of tanking and getting a lovely view of Boss Crotch up close and personal, I like to maintain a little distance so I can appreciate what I’m hitting a bit more.

My first choice here would obviously be BM Hunter. I love playing the class, and adore the pet collection aspect and always have done. It scratches the collect-em-all itch in my brain rather nicely.

However, we currently have more Hunters raiding in the guild than we actually have raiders who are also cloth users.

A shame, as I love playing my Hunters (it’s the only class I’ve levelled twice to maximum in Legion so far) and BM is very movement friendly, perhaps the friendliest spec to movement in the game right now. I’m still not 100% convinced by the changes brought about in Legion, but I think I’ve learned to live with them to the point where I actively enjoy the spec now.

But given the number of mail users we have at the moment, that wasn’t going to work. Especially given that we also have a trio of Shaman. This includes one of our raiders, Tintay, who was previously one of our top DPS with his Affliction Warlock.

So another mail user on top of all those Hunters?

Yeah, no. Competition for mail drops in guild is heavy enough at the moment, so adding to that particular pile-on wasn’t really going to be either effective or fair, and would just slow down the gearing of the mail users we already have.

I have no shaman, priest or mage at max level so taking the time out to level one of them, then getting it relatively geared enough to join in gearing/alt runs in Nighthold in time for Tomb releasing in a couple of weeks? Out of the question, especially as I hate levelling. It’s tedious after the first few times in an expansion and I see it merely as a means to an end.

That leaves one class that fits several criteria:

  • Already at level 110.
  • Geared enough to join in runs ASAP.
  • Not a mail armour class, to replace Tintay who’s now playing a Resto Shaman.
  • High Damage Ceiling.
  • Mobile spec, or at the very least one that’s not punished severely by movement.
  • Scales well from single target through to AoE heavy fights.
  • Solo friendly outside of a guild-raid environment, with potential for soloing old bosses at the cutting edge.
  • High survivability and self-healing.
  • Most* importantly? Lots of transmog options!

A matter of nostalgia.

Regular readers, and those who know my history in Azeroth, will know that this change actually represents something very, very special to me.

This change genuinely brings me completely full circle on my World of Warcraft journey. Right back to where it all began for me after first hitting install in Vanilla.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have returned to where it all began and have decided to play as a Gnome Warlock.

So say hello to my little friend, Kritney the Warlock!

At the moment she’s Affliction in spec. But as Warlocks are a pure DPS class, I at least have the option of quickly switching to either Destruction or Demonology. Particularly at AK40, where it won’t take very long to get at least 45 traits filled out.

This is an option I didn’t have with Balance, as the only other DPS spec available was Feral, which even as melee faced many of the same issues as Balance, and performs poorly as a result. Better in some cases (movement heavy and single target), while worse than Balance in others (AoE and target switching).

For the moment I’m sticking with Affliction, as it’s very friendly to movement and scales very well from single target to AoE heavy fights.

You could call this a FotM switch, and honestly I’ll admit that to a degree it is, but Aff is seeing some admittedly small nerfs and talent tweaks in 7.2.5. It should however, even with nerfs, still be comfortably ahead of Balance in terms of output potential.

After this I have no intention to change again for the remainder of the expansion. But then I had no intention to change class after the expansion launched, but Blizzards refusal or inability to fix Balance has essentially forced my hand.

Not only is changing a main spec a lot of work, but changing characters entirely is a lot of further work on top of that, as you have the likes of Professions, artifact weapon acquisition, reps etc to get caught up on. So this is not a change I make lightly, but I feel it’s necessary in order to continue justifying my place in a mythic raid environment.

Hopefully, at least one of the three Warlock specs will remain viable for the remainder of the expansion, and given my familiarity with its Legion take, I’m hoping that remains Affliction.

That said, I’m still semi-familiar with Destruction, which hasn’t changed an awful lot since Mists of Pandaria, when I played it last.

Demo would be the spec I’m least familiar with, but looks like it’d be easy enough to pick up should the need arise.

So last weekend I was able to bring her in for our weekly Heroic NH alt run to start gearing her up, and was able to boost her item level from 874 right up to 888 through a combination of drops, rolls and a piece of Nethershard gear from the Broken Shore.

I can hopefully bring her along for our weekly runs through the final two heroic bosses as well as the first few mythic bosses too. In terms of tier, I’ve got the two-piece bonus at the moment, with one normal mode and one heroic mode piece of tier, so hopefully I can enter Tomb with the four-piece bonus active.

And despite being new to the spec in a raiding environment, showed that my performance was between 28% and 85% for my item level. So with another 20 item levels or so that will bring me on a par ilevel wise with my Balance gear, I should hopefully be on the heels of our top dps in a raid, rather than languishing near or at the foot of the meters.

At the moment, of the time this is published, she’s already ilevel 898, only 7 item levels behind my druid. This does not include any mythic gear at all. I’ve also got 48 traits into the Affliction weapon, and should pick up the 49th today, bringing that on a par with my Balance traits.

Frankly, I’m pleased that I’m able to make this change, and am glad that the guys in Treehugging Hippies are cool with me changing.

This change represents an important point of nostalgia for me personally, whilst also giving me the potential to contribute more as a DPS player than I would have been able to had I stuck with Balance into Tomb of Sargeras.

Now all I need to do is start learning the little tricks and niches of Affliction (and perhaps Destruction), and get those 52 traits in place!

*May be slightly sarcastic, but not by much!

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