Class Balance Discussion on Sepulcher of the First Ones from BDGG
BDGG has provided their thoughts and opinions on Sepulcher of the First Ones class balance.
Class Balance is the ever-persistent discussion, and complaint really, in the WoW community. Very rarely do we see a patch where there isn’t some frustration over the state of both the underperforming specs, as well as the overperformers. While this criticism is warranted at times, the nature of the game is going to mean that there will always be these outliers. The only way to ensure true class balance is to overly homogenize the classes until they all function the exact same. The important thing to pay attention to is whether or not these outliers cause impactful issues on the player base, and particularly the players of these affected classes.
Sepulcher Class Balance
Community sentiment regarding class balance seems to largely follow two factors:
Is the top-end composed of the same specs that have been there for many patches/years in a row?
How large is the gap between the best spec and the worst spec?
What Stands Out in This Tier?
So let’s examine that first component
The consistent top-end
Sanctum of Domination DPS statistics
Obviously just looking at 1 previous tier isn’t going to give the full scope of context for the communities subjective feelings, but just as a singular data point it’s helpful to look back at as a form of comparison.
Sepulcher of the First Ones DPS statistics
Examining this picture with the perspective of those two criteria, this tier comes as a mixed bag. There’s some classes at the top that you’d expect to see; warlocks are seemingly never outside the top 5. Fire mage and balance druid are also seeing great success. These are mainstay strong performers and will continue to be the target of frustrated players in the community for never really falling out of favor. On the flip side, this patch has also seen the rise of specs that aren’t typically at the top end of performance, such as survival hunter and enhancement shaman. Retribution paladin has also been climbing its way up in recent weeks.
Honorax - Hunter
Survival "overperformed" relative to my expectations, because I thought there was no chance it made it through Heroic week unnerfed. It was clearly overpowered on the PTR, even after some last-minute bugfixes (some which reduced its damage, some which increased it).
If we change our perspective to the healing side, this becomes even more pronounced.
Anyone familiar with the healing meta over the past several expansions knows that this tier has really shaken up the game for healers. Of course discipline priest and holy paladin continue to see representation, particularly for high-end raiding environments, but resto druid and holy priest being the all-stars of this patch is a true novelty for healers.
Legendaries and Tier
Another thing that stands out about this tiers class balancing in particular is the delta between the highest performing spec and the lowest. As a result of tier sets and second legendaries being acquired later on in the patches cycle, not much balancing has been done in regards to the specs that benefit the most from these two systems. This has caused our top performers to rise to extreme heights. Destruction Warlock and Survival Hunter in mythic+, in particular, are two noteworthy examples of this. Their legendaries and tier pieces synergizing have given them extreme power creep that has left many classes in the dust in their respective strengths.
Lozy - Tank
Both of those systems were good however implemented in a way that made them mandatory (Tier necessitated a large amount of splits, pure misery) and 2x legendary meant that the game was either going to be balanced around 1 legendary or 2, which means either 1 or 2 legendaries was going to be imbalanced, as we saw.
What Did Sepulcher Get Right?
As mentioned before, one of the biggest strengths of this tier was bringing strength, and therefore representation, to classes/specs that historically haven’t had that. Holy Priest and Resto Shaman being the go-to healers for many of the teams pushing high mythic+ keys is a sentence that would have raised most eyebrows even 6 months ago. Likewise, Blood Death Knight returning to prominence would be equally surprising (and very welcomed!).
This tier also showed that Blizzard is capable of encouraging representation through utilizing the various strengths of these specializations. For example, Survival Hunter being utilized on fights like Anduin and Lords of Dread for its strong burst AoE damage is an example of intelligent fight design that brings out strengths other than strong single-target. We can also see this with Holy Priests and the strong demand for single target healing in this raid.
What Could be Improved Upon for Future Tiers?
With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to point out that there probably shouldn’t be such extreme outliers (Destro Warlock being too strong, Arcane Mage being too weak). One consideration that might help smooth out these extremes is to ensure that these systems get onto the Public Test Realm earlier, so that they can be used in raid testing and identified sooner.
Additionally, in cases where classes gain such massive power spikes from season-specific systems like tier sets, being more aggressive about frequency of balancing (particularly at the beginning of a patch) might be an avenue. This is exacerbated when systems like tier sets come “online” later into the patch, resulting in many players not interacting with the strength of destruction warlock until over a month into the patch, when Blizzard is much less likely to address the issue.
Overall, this patch was a very welcome shakeup in the meta with regards to class balancing, and much preferable to previous stretches of time where there was no hope for the consistent underperformers.
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