Removing Mana From DPS Classes in WOW

10 November 2009

After several hints leading up to this year’s Blizzcon, Blizzard announced they would be changing the Hunter class to use a Rogue-like resource called focus. A Blizzard designer answered some questions about it recently on the World Of Warcraft forums. Quoting for emphasis:

Ghostcrawler:

you can’t balance mana-using spells around cost since casters have nearly unlimited mana at any point in time and certainly early on in a fight. Energy (and focus, and rage to a much lesser extent to where it’s actually a problem) are limited at any given moment but come back pretty quickly. Mana-spells have to be balanced around cast times and cooldowns instead.

Abilities and damage can’t be balanced based on mana alone. If you gave mages an ability that takes 50% of their mana and does huge damage, mages would cast that ability twice (gibbing 2 players) and then complain that they go OOM too fast.

Mana is a fight-timer mechanic, not a DPS or rotation balancing mechanic. This used to apply to all ranged classes as well as healers. For healers the fight-timer mechanic is obvious: once your healer is out of mana, the group is going to die. If you can’t beat the boss by then you need a new strategy or better gear.

Applying a fight timer to ranged DPS is less clear-cut. I believe it was intended as a trade-off for the fact that ranged classes took less AOE damage.

Increasingly mana has been made near-infinite for damage classes and specs. Likewise, AOE in the LK expansion has spread out to the ranged dps. The primary purpose of mana in the game is now only to limit the longevity of healers.

This is ultimately a good thing. It guarantees you won’t brute-force encounters by, say, 2-manning a single raid boss for 3 hours with the paladin spamming his biggest heals while you slowly chip away at the boss’ life. More practically speaking, if your group’s tank or dps undergear an encounter, the healer’s mana will prevent you from completing it.

The fact that ret paladins and enhancement shamans also have healing specs prevents them from being converted to a new mechanic. Instead they will continue to receive near-infinite mana in their DPS specs, requiring their abilities to be balanced around cooldowns and buffs/debuffs.

Without a healing spec, it will be much easier to convert hunters to a new mechanic that can influence their dps and rotation decisions. It also “feels” right because mana is traditionally a spell-casting mechanic.

What about the other two non-healing ranged DPS classes that currently use mana? Mages and warlocks could also be improved by switching to a new mechanic. Why should those classes continue to be limited at 5 minutes of damage, while hunters and melee can dps indefinitely?

It might feel strange having mages not use mana, but perhaps they’ll come up with another mechanic that feels equally magical. I don’t think we’ll see this in Cataclysm’s launch, but I’ll still cross my fingers and hope for it!

This entry was posted on 10 November 2009 and is filed under Games.

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