Blog

The Skill Cap Dilemma

Posted by:

I often get asked: “what’s the easiest and most difficult class for arena?” Well, I think you can agree that I am being pretty impartial when I say that warrior is probably the easiest class to learn for arena. A good (read: effective) warrior focuses primarily on putting out insane amounts of damage and pressure, forcing the enemy team to play on the defensive for the majority of the match. The grace and finesse needed to play something like a rogue just isn’t there for warriors. When I think of rogues, I think of vanishing death coils, proper cooldown management, redirect kidneys, and usually relying on target swaps for a kill. When I think of warriors, I think more of the iconic “Hulk smash!

As far as the most difficult class, I would probably pick something like a shadow priest. They have a wide range of tools available to use, and require excellent awareness since they need to be good at recognizing burst opportunities while also keeping a close watch on their teammates’ health and debuffs. And a good shadow priest isn’t one who just starts healing their teammates as soon as their health bar moves; they need to really judge the situation and understand exactly when they should be helping to heal, and when they shouldn’t be. Basically, they have much more to monitor than what a typical warrior does, causing them to have a reasonably higher skill cap.

Now I wouldn’t have much of a problem with this disparity except that it often leads to one thing: the low skill cap classes being under-represented in high-end arena. Why? Because I believe that Blizzard, perhaps despite their best intentions, usually balances around a low-to-mid level of arena. So a class like warrior, that is relatively easy to pick up and learn at lower levels of play, is going to far outshine the harder-to-play classes at those same ratings. Does that mean that warrior is a better class than shadow priest? Hardly. Does it mean that an 1800 skill level warrior is going to usually win versus 1800 skill level shadow priests? Probably. The best way I can represent this is visually:

Notice how at 1500 skill rating, warriors have a significant advantage over shadow priests. They maintain this advantage at 1800, and it isn’t til around 2200 that the potential of a shadow priest can start to overcome the capability of a warrior. The dilemma is what section of the graph that Blizzard uses to make balance decisions around. It’s no secret that many of the developers at Blizzard don’t play anywhere near a gladiator level, but given the importance of their job, we hope that they are capable of balancing beyond simply what they experience in-game. While I’m sure they are capable of this to some extent, I fear that their personal interactions and observations of the game will usually outweigh any outside information that they happen to take into consideration. The result of this can be seen in the upcoming warrior nerfs, with the removal of gag order. Now, I will be the first to admit that gag order is too strong of an ability on its own, but I also recognize that it is the only thing keeping warriors even remotely viable versus wizard cleaves. In my opinion, top-tier wizard cleaves already have a decent advantage versus any top-tier warrior comp. However, just like the graph, this advantage isn’t apparent until you are playing with the absolute highest level of players. Removing gag order — without compensating for it in some other (higher skill cap) utility — may prove to be disastrous for warriors. It will lessen the gap between 1500 warriors and shadow priests, but it will widen the gap between 2400 warriors and shadow priests (picture a downwards vertical shift of the blue line).

The most important thing to understand about this graph, is that even though warriors continue to improve at higher skill rating, their relative strength only decreases. Other classes catch up to them, and at a much quicker rate — represented by the almost flat slope of the warrior curve, and the almost diagonal slope of the shadow priest curve. So will there be a difference between a 2200 and 2400 warrior? Sure. But it won’t be nearly as noticeable as the difference between a 2200 and 2400 shadow priest.

So, how to fix this issue? Well, the most obvious way is to attempt to raise the skill cap of the warrior class, without making them even more overpowered at lower skill levels. Warrior skill cap could be raised in a number of ways. One way that I’m a huge fan of was the old Unrelenting Assault ability. This ability may have been annoying for casters, but I loved the concept of it. Something as simple as lowering the base damage of overpower by 5%, but granting the warrior a 10% to all damage buff for 15 seconds when successfully overpowering during a cast would be great. And how about this: lower the base damage of colossus smash by 5%, but allow it to do 15% bonus damage if used while the target is facing you — and lower the base damage of mortal strike by 5%, but allow it to do 15% bonus damage if used while behind the target. These are all relatively simple changes that could do wonders for the class. It would weaken lower rating warriors and slightly buff higher skill warriors, all while encouraging warriors to do more than just stare at their three main DPS abilities. I would also love to see staggering shout and mass reflect swap positions in the talent tree. This would allow more common usage of mass spell reflection (which I believe to be an inherently high skill cap ability), increase warriors viability against casters, and open up the new possibility of a piercing howl + staggering shout combo. I would also love to see stance-dancing become more important than it currently is. The bonuses offered from battle and berserker stance are just too weak when compared to a flat 25% damage reduction. This could be accomplished in a number of ways, including something as simple as a 5% damage buff on battle stance, or a 15% cooldown reduction on berserker stance (or an innate 10% damage reduction for warriors while changing defensive stance to be only 15%). These are all just a few tiny ideas that could improve the skill cap (and eventually high end class strength) of warriors. If anyone at Blizzard happens to read this, I’m sure I could think of many more if you feel like contacting me!

I could also suggest nerfing the utility of some shadow priest spells that only higher level players are able to take full advantage of, but I don’t think that is the right route to go for balancing. I’m a huge fan of high skill caps, so I would much rather see the lower skill cap classes brought into line with the higher ones. If all classes had a similar slope and position on the “relative class strength” graph, then it would be much easier for Blizzard to make balance decisions (at almost any rating too). Also, I don’t mean to keep picking on shadow priests; I am just using them as an easy comparison since I believe there is a drastic difference between them and warriors.

I think that MoP has brought about some of the most fun class changes that this game has seen yet. I really, really enjoy the play style of many of the current classes — they have simply made for far more enjoyable gameplay. My only concern is that Blizzard is acting notoriously slow on pushing through any balance changes. (If I was a rogue or disc priest, I may have already quit the game by now!) If they can just speed up their balancing process, while addressing the skill cap disparity, I think we may be looking at some of the best seasons ever for WoW arena.

Question to the Readers

What would you guys like to see more of in my blogs and/or stream? I’m all ears for new ideas or constructive criticism! In my next blog, I probably plan on doing a breakdown of my take on class balance for all of the prominent PvP specs, but let me know if you have any ideas for after that! (And I do read all of the comments left on each blog post, even if I don’t respond to them.)

48

Discussion

  1. OoOoOo  November 12, 2012

    Excellent fucking read. keep up the great work Veev, you’re one of the best warriors right now and you are a excellent writer, I’d personally love to see more like this.

    (reply)
    • DUrniu  February 20, 2013

      #push!! :)

      (reply)
  2. Garz  November 12, 2012

    Great read, very constructive. Blizzard maybe should hire a few guys like you.

    (reply)
  3. James  November 12, 2012

    An AWESOME post. I do not play a warrior or a shadow and have felt like warriors gag order was too strong but after reading this I feel like tweeking it would have been a far better idea than simply destroying it.

    (reply)
    • Izan  November 29, 2012

      It was the blanket silence on pummel that was OP, not the heroic throw silence, and I am a caster.

      (reply)
  4. defecto  November 12, 2012

    yes to way more blogs

    (reply)
  5. Penis  November 12, 2012

    Good reading!

    (reply)
  6. stauss  November 12, 2012

    more blogs!

    (reply)
  7. Steve  November 13, 2012

    You’re a bad motherfucker Veev, and an excellent writer

    (reply)
  8. Vatriz  November 13, 2012

    Wow.. this was a really good read =)

    (reply)
  9. eq  November 13, 2012

    good points!!

    (reply)
  10. ardnutt  November 13, 2012

    Excellent post, although I fear your great ideas are going to fall on deaf ears at Blizzard. Hoodrych also has had some good ideas on changing gag order (merge it with rude interruption, take it off pummel but keep it on Heroic throw). While rooted as a warrior I feel completely useless after this change…warriors and rogues can be CC’d double the amount of time as any other class by just rooting them. Ferals and enhancers can still do some utility stuff/CC while rooted.

    Topic ideas:
    Warrior rotation/priority abilities
    Warrior tutorial / guide
    Best comps for a warrior to play atm.
    Your current comp guide (basics and vs popular setups like Arenajunkies guides used to be)
    How to play warrior vs other classes
    How blizzard can balance PVP as a whole for 3v3 while not fucking up their precious RBG’s

    (reply)
    • Veev  November 13, 2012

      Thanks for the topic suggestions, and thanks to everyone else for the compliments!

      (reply)
      • ardnutt  November 14, 2012

        Another small topic idea… actually more of a question… what glyphs will you be taking in light of gag order being taken away from pvp.

        (reply)
  11. Viralcide  November 13, 2012

    Awesome post dude and i completely agree with alot of what you are saying. I currently play a shadow priest as my main on live and i understand completely i have people that i knew from last season that couldnt hit 2k rating to save their lives and now MoP hits they grab a warrior and they just kidna grind up in range. And i have a question that i was wondering if you would agree with. First off warrior burst. I dont think its completely face roll overpowered like most people qq about the only problem i see with it is how quickly it happens. Like for example a ret paladin(which i also play). Inquisition->Wing+trink->Holy Avenger(if your using it) it takes me 2 roughly 3-4 globals to pop everything to get my full burst going where as a warrior can pop Avatar Recklessness Trinket and Skull Banner in 1 global. Usually when you see wings come up on a Ret you know to start going a lil defensive to prepare for his burst but with a warrior all you see is an overpower for 20k and then one click of a button you get hit with a 90k MS and a 80k HS(w/o TFB up) I think warriors should have their burst kinda spaced out with globals at least so you can prepare for it. Other then that i completely agree with your insight on the warrior class. i have a warrior that i love playing but everything i love about them they took out in MoP. It just seems like they took alot of the skill out of playing a warrior in MoP and i think there is a lot of things blizz could do to fix it up

    (reply)
    • Veev  November 13, 2012

      “where as a warrior can pop Avatar Recklessness Trinket and Skull Banner in 1 global”

      0 globals actually :P And yeah, I agree that’s a big difference from rets. I think it’d be more appropriate if both classes relied on 1 GCD to trigger their burst cooldowns. With rets I suppose you get too much of an advanced warning, and with warriors you get no warning.

      (reply)
  12. Drago  November 13, 2012

    Can you talk about how terrible ele shamans are in pvp if its one of the classes you care for? It doesnt seem to be alerting attention to blizzard at all.

    (reply)
  13. Trivial  November 13, 2012

    I linked this blog to Ghostcrawler via Twitter and he actually responded.

    @———- Skill cap has been a huge challenge for us in PvP. Take hunters; historically weak at the low end and strong as the high end.

    (reply)
  14. theyaa  November 13, 2012

    If you want to make warriors more “skill-oriented”, you need to make them more like rogues. That takes away the flavor of each melee class. The “flavor” of warriors is, and has always been, them doing mongo damage, being somewhat kiteable, and having generally little control outside of what they can hit in melee range. Right now, they are completely diverged from that “flavor” in terms of control, but still do arguably the most insane damage in the game. Warriors outside of RNG shit like Sword Spec (in Vanilla/TBC) and Mace Stun Spec (TBC) were generally fairly balanced. They did very good damage, could tank dps with their cooldowns up, and had enough mobility to create issues, but not completely control the game.

    In order to go back to that flavor of warrior, you need to completely rework their current CC setup. Gag Order Pummel, 20 sec Shockwave, Double Charge, 1 Min Intimidating Shout, Gag Order Heroic Throw, and undispellable passive slow on their spammable ability (HS) make warriors completely out of line compared to other melee (you could make the argument ferals are just as insane though). However, the problem though isn’t making them fall in line with other melee. That would be easy (lengthen CD on shockwave/fear, make Second Wind DR). The problem is that generally speaking, wizards get better as expansions move along. Right now in the first season of MoP, wizards are already dominating. 8 second dispel rapes melee as warlocks/mages/spriests do outrageous damage while controlling the game to no end. Moreover, they are arguably harder to kill with better absorbs/shields and spikier healing than in the past.

    I think in order to bring everything in to balance, you need to not only look at warriors, but the caster dynamics that are affecting balance as well. Taking away Gag Order, increasing Intimidating Shout CD, and toning down Avatar might make warriors more in line with Death Knights, Rets, Rogues, Enh, etc. But it won’t increase the viability of those classes. It’ll only lead to ladders bloated with casters.

    (reply)
  15. Quikz  November 13, 2012

    i agree on almost everything u said but gag order. i think its needed as a warrior, just not in the current state. i feel that and increased cd (something like strangulate) and the removal of pummel silence would do it. something should be done about other ranged silences on casters tho, as i think they dont need it at all since they have too much control already.

    (reply)
  16. Battlemaster  November 14, 2012

    Out of curiosity, why pick shadow priests as your skill cap comparison class? Why not pick something like hunters, who have always been one of the most skill based classes (with the exception of the stampede bug 1 shotting people recently). The skill cap line is even steeper in my opinion (and not just because I play one at high ratings).

    The high skill cap of hunters has given the entire class a bad name; “Huntards”. At low skill levels, a player is hard pressed to reach say – 1600+, and with the multitudes of utility abilities, aspect switching, having to use a cc to set up a cc (one targeted, one you have to place on the ground), as well as having good pet control, hunters are one of the easiest classes to level, but i would say the absolute hardest to play well. The removal of the deadzone in MoP helped us and hurt us as well, it removed our ability to mitigate melee damage (granted only about 10% of the wow community knows what i mean by this so i’ll explain: Glyphing Raptor Strike allowed us to keep a buff on ourselves if we were ever stuck in melee range that reduced our damage taken by 20%. – and this was only widely used by hunters over 2k rating) . I just realized I’m rambling, so i’ll stop there.

    (reply)
    • Jeffd  November 14, 2012

      Huntard was a term that started in vanilla because of huntards rolling on melee 2handers. Btw I think you are dead on Veev.

      (reply)
      • Veev  November 14, 2012

        Hunter weapon!

        (reply)
  17. iFool  November 14, 2012

    Neat reading, exactly how I felt, but better conveyed.

    In the AJ thread you asked how skill could be emphatized in the offensive rotation, and I feel the answer is partially in what you already wrote: Taste for Blood Overpowers.

    Knowing how to minmax the ICD and back to back them really made the difference, and in an US thread (this one http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/7109541244?page=1) a lot of good suggestions were made, along with a nice insight on the actual HS and Slam, the former being arguably stuck in a situation where it’s not convenient or rewarding to use HS, since you feel like that without even a single stack of TfB it’s a waste of 30 Rage.

    Of course, about Unrelenting Assault, the spell power component on healing was indeed overpowered given the gear, but as of now when I barely see anyone casting and heals refulling people whilst nobody seems to having mana issues, I wonder if it would be so gamebreaking bringing it back.

    I feel that a return of the Wrath playstyle with the actual Safeguard and Banner mechanics could make us competitive enough and not frustrating. I’d love to see some interesting glyphs across the board too, but even if our choices are pretty boring I feel like there’s room for competitive ones aswell.

    As for the questions, I’d like to see some insight about arenas and positioning, how to manage Rage, and maybe some posts from Valrath aswell (been a huge fan of him and your synergy since s5, and always admired his experimentations with Hungering Cold, Chibilains and Desecrated Ground).

    Please keep up the good work!

    (reply)
  18. RichVG  November 14, 2012

    Great article. The only statement that surprised me was “Blizzard, perhaps despite their best intentions, usually balances around a low-to-mid level of arena”. Prior to your statement my thinking was that pvp doesn’t feel balanced at the low to mid levels, so they must be balancing it at the higher levels. If it doesn’t feel balanced for you up there, and doesn’t feel balanced down here…

    Also, you’ve drawn straight lines in your graphs. I think that in reality there are many sharp bends and curves in the lines such that a player can improve, but not see any measurable rating improvement, until suddenly they jump dramatically (or they may jump up drastically in rating, but without improving in skill much for a different class curve). Probably the shape of the line for each class is different making pvp balancing (most likely) a hopeless task.

    (reply)
  19. Jeffd  November 15, 2012

    I would love to see your takes and strategies vs the current comps, especially from the kitty cleave pov. Some kind of guideline to follow with the Veev reasoning behind every step.

    (reply)
  20. Stevedubz  November 15, 2012

    Excellent fucking job dude. I really like the way you see things about arena. PLZ stream more / post more / etc. If I wasn’t a broke ass college student i probably would have donated a lot of money to you by now. BTW your my new fav warrior, keep up!

    This is my reaction to your blogposts.
    http://imgur.com/gallery/dZXCX

    (reply)
  21. Akandon  November 17, 2012

    Absolutely great! :)

    (reply)
  22. Jarzo  November 18, 2012

    Fantastic read, keep up the good work!

    (reply)
  23. ardnutt  November 19, 2012

    Off topic…but I think you should add a link to your stream from this web site. Free advertising and I didn’t know about your stream until recently, luckily I could watch the VOD’s. I had been checking Hoodrych’s stream for ages (but he never streams anymore) when I stumbled upon your stream.

    (reply)
  24. Anonymous  November 20, 2012

    Quick question regarding warrior dps. I feel like my dps on my warrior in pvp has been significantly low, I just leveled this warrior a few weeks ago so I dont have T1 weapon yet. Currently using the ilvl 450 arena of annihilation wep. Is this probably the reason? Because I feel I’ve been using the rotation properly.

    (reply)
  25. Anonymous  November 22, 2012

    You have the usual problem when players defend a clearly OP class in WoW.

    No critic is qualified unless they play high level PvP. But 98% of players (by definition) are not Gladiators. Your Graph is skewed because it shows the so called skill cap vs. rating as a linear function.

    In fact the vast, VAST majority of players aren’t high rated and so the hopeless mismatch that you say evens out, never does. Its just a hopeless mismatch.

    The truth is the nerf bat should be swung early, and hard. The high level PvP considerations should give way to the issues faced by the horrible bads, the unwashed masses, the skilless, keyboard turning, mouthbreathing newbs.

    Sorry, but that’s where the money is.

    The real joke is that there is no chance that Blizzard is anything other than totally, completely, thoroughly aware of all of this. Their transparently silly “oh, we think it’s fine” and “we’re reviewing all of this SUPER closely” is a pathetic facade.

    (reply)
  26. DrWiggles  November 24, 2012

    Very nice post, you’ve got quite a way with words. As for suggestions, I would love to hear/read your opinion on the state of damage cooldowns (how burst ability makes or breaks a comp, their extreme nature, etc. etc.) as well as what you think of the – in my opinion – rediculous amount of CC.
    Another significant issue with the game at the moment is the viability of monks in PvP. You’ve made it clear on stream that you think the main issue with Windwalkers is their distinct lack of a powerful, reliable CC ability. As far as their survivability goes, I find there self healing to be quite potent while in combat, but there damage prevention cooldowns to be a little lacking. Nadagast suggested giving them a passive damage reduction (10/15%?) for X (6?) seconds after being stunned, which I feel is a pretty elegant solution. As for Mistweavers, I think they’re mostly lacking a CC break mechanic, they already have a 2.5 second immunity after being stunned which makes the lords of all live-lords vs. almost every class, but as far as CC resistance goes they’re naked. Imagine a pally without Hand of Sacrifice(x2) or Hand of Protection(x2) or Divine Shield or Aura Mastery and what you get is a monk. And as you know, all the aforementioned abilities are also huge damage mitigation abilities. I’ve already written an essay and half that I’m not sure anyone will read, so I won’t mention any potential solutions, but I think we can all agree monks are pretty much dog shit at the moment and I would love to hear any ideas you have, understanding of course that you don’t play one yourself.

    (reply)
  27. Anonymous  November 24, 2012

    Wow great read, I would love for blizzard to see this and make some of those changes. I play a warrior myself and although my max rating atm is only 1.6k I can tell how stupid warriors are atm. But i can also tell the difference between myself and lower rated warriors, for example some don’t even pay attention to half of their buffs such as Enrage but can still kill people instantly if they let them.

    I hope to play arena more seriously this season and get a higher rating & hope some changes like you suggested do happen so i could convince higher rated players to let me join their team. Can only join if have a certain rating, yet cant get a chance to get that rating is a vicious circle.

    (reply)
  28. Anonymous  December 2, 2012

    Some good points, but there really are millions of ways to make the class harder. I’d like to get UA back with like 20% healing/dmg reduction or something like that. Also I would like mages to have more abilities versus warriors. Dont get me wrong, I’m not saying mages are hard, but as they can sometimes just stand there taking damage, it feels quite retarded. They should have more abilities to avoid melee damage and die faster while they get hit from melee. Nevertheless probably none of these changes will never go live, therefor I’ll “live in the past” by playing AT only nowadays, as it doesnt seem warriors are worth playing becouse of current low skill cap.

    (reply)
  29. Maro  December 7, 2012

    I like where you’re head’s at with raising the warrior skill cap. I’ve always felt that the way the warrior plays is almost like running a benchmark for the rest of the classes (in other words, before you do anything else, figure out how to beat a warrior). 5.1 put out a few good changes, and a few underwhelming changes, and of course, the nerfs we can never get away from, but overall, I think the warrior skill cap might have arguments for already having been elevated just by virtue of the new spec/talent/glyph system. I’ve already noticed a steady flow in the way which warriors are exploiting every little advantage they can in arena. Gone are the days when a warrior could spec arms, and you could exploit that. Now there’s no telling what combination of abilities you might be facing when you see a warrior charging towards you. It makes it exciting, or in some cases, frustrating. But it is so different than anything we’ve encountered before, that collectively, I think there’s still a skill cap to exploit (and that extends not just to warriors but every class). Warriors just have the numbers (and the bad rap from years past) to make every little change to their class a monumental event. Compare it to election campaigns in the United States vs. Canada.

    (reply)
  30. Rockapotamus  December 17, 2012

    I like the changes made to warriors in MoP. But i would take a BC warrior or a s8 warrior so fast. There’s a lot more utility within the class at the moment than cata. Even though i just hit 90 a few days ago and haven’t really been able to play seriously much, they seem to be going in the right direction. (about playstyle. i still hate the fact that its pop 1 button and blow everything up.)

    (reply)
    • Rockapotamus  December 17, 2012

      except i wish we stll had stance dancing back.

      (reply)
  31. mobbin  December 30, 2012

    warriors are going to go back to worst pvp class.

    (reply)
  32. Will  January 7, 2013

    Nice job Veev. Make a blog on warrior macros bub. N stream more often for the love of god!

    (reply)
  33. Moonar@Nemesis  January 15, 2013

    very nice site! The reading was excelent! Hoping to see more of this! Keep it up! Cheers!

    (reply)
  34. Tiago  January 15, 2013

    suggestion: analyse your own matches highlighting your good moves and also mistakes, maybe we see things only top players can see

    (reply)
  35. santhos@illidan US  January 17, 2013

    Your guide its so cool my fight mode has changed after this guide. Sry for my english i’m european

    (reply)
  36. Grumrush  February 13, 2013

    veev, I love your posts but … where are you ? why did you stop to make arenas?

    we miss you.

    (reply)
  37. Rustle  November 5, 2013

    I completely agree with you, I recently started pvping, leveled a warrior, and just started for fun with some friends. I am not that good but it looked kinda easy for one who just started! BTW I think you are really good and I first saw you because Bajheera said in his stream that you were a great warrior, just teach me master! :P

    (reply)
  38. Steve  November 6, 2013

    Suggestion: Would be great to hear about some of your strategies against various comps e.g. WLS, KFC, Wizard cleave etc.

    Also would be great if you could post videos of some of your arena matches with commentary highlighting mistakes, opportunities, moments of over-extension, def/off play etc.

    (reply)
  39. Anonymous  December 8, 2013

    ebin

    (reply)
  40. teach me please.  January 5, 2014

    you should Re upload the Warrior macros, and binds for WOTLK expansion…. there is ppl who want to learn warrior in all the expansions play :/

    (reply)

Add a Comment