With the new expansion, Battle for Azeroth, was finally announced, I wanted to take some time to make a wishlist for positive changes that could be made, or in some situations leaving something alone, to improve some of the problems that Windwalkers have faced in the past years. Windwalkers do not need drastic changes like some other specs may, they don’t need an overhaul or a total rework, just some addressing of a select few, major, issues. Since I am rather verbose, I’ll split this up into multiple parts.
Class Development Post: https://us.battle.net/forums/en/wow/topic/20759151255#1
Part 1: Stats
For anyone who’s been paying attention to much of the community ire and my articles this expansion, Windwalkers have had a bit of an issue with scaling with secondary stats, although we aren’t the only ones. The main part of this problem is that our stats effect a wildly different portion of our damage.
- After a change a few weeks ago, following nearly two weeks of data collecting to show there was a problem, Versatility now affects all of our abilities, so gaining 1% Versatility will increase your damage by 1%.
- Critical Strike is our next most effective stat, with Touch of Death and Touch of Karma being the only abilities that cannot Crit, meaning 1% Crit will, on average, increase our damage by around 0.95%. Although Crit also reaching 1:1 scaling would be great, its close enough to not be as big of an issue.
- Mastery is next. Mastery affects only our casted damaging abilities, but not trinkets or passive damage, for about an 0.8-0.85% damage increase from 1% Mastery. One way to increase this would be for that our Mastery; Mastery: Combo Strikes gives us a buff that increases all damage done by a %, rather than only the abilities that can proc it. I’ll be discussing Mastery in greater depth below.
- Haste is, as to be expected, at the bottom. Although it saw a boost with the Netherlight Crucible due to the damage traits having Hasted PPMs, it still only affects around 65-70% of our damage, meaning that with 1% Haste, our DPS rises by 0.65%. The biggest part of this has been that Touch of Death, Touch of Karma, and Strike of the Windlord do not have their cooldowns reduced by Haste as these abilities account for around 16% of our damage. Add to this that increasing Haste doesn’t really increase how often we use abilities like Blackout Kick in a meaningful way due to easily becoming GCD capped, and you can see Haste’s struggles. The obvious way to help Haste is to make sure that all abilities with cooldowns have their cooldowns reduced by Haste. This would just need to be offset by adjusting the damage they do.
The reason that these things are a problem is that if Windwalkers gain damage from stats at the current rate, and another spec/class gains damage at a similar rate, but maybe 1% Haste increases their damage by 90%, then as stat budgets on items get bigger, Windwalkers will inherently get less return from items than a spec with higher percentages of their damage affected by each stat. If an item has 1000 stats, and its all Haste, everyone gains 2.66% Haste, but from that a Windwalker will gain 1.73% damage, whereas another spec with better Haste scaling, like Shadow Priests, will still gain 2.66% Haste, but (based on the data from my Windwalker Scaling article) they’ll gain 4.8% Haste due to a significantly higher portion of their damage being affected by Haste, and the addition of some exponential or non-linear Haste scaling. Ideally specs with huge scaling in one stat are offset by low scaling in other stats, but as my previous spreadsheet showed; that is rarely the case.
Windwalkers have long lacked the non-linear scaling that some specs like Fire Mages have enjoyed, where getting more Crit % makes your abilities Crit more, which gives you more or harder-hitting abilities. We got a taste of this with the t20 tier bonuses; where Rising Sun Kick crits would give you more Fists of Fury, which would give you more Rising Sun Kicks to crit. Non-linear or exponential scaling is, likely, more difficult to balance correctly, but its very easy for specs without to get overshadowed very quickly by those with.
Part of what helped to mitigate some of the issues with stat scaling was that Windwalkers were one of three specs that gained DPS from gaining Stamina, the others being Demonology Warlocks and Retribution Paladins, although their’s isn’t as much. Windwalkers have two abilities that scale with Stamina: Touch of Death and Touch of Karma, with both having a base damage of 50% of your health. This has helped Windwalkers gain damage through increasing item levels. However, both Touch of Death and Touch of Karma were nerfed from 100% of our health to 50% of our health, which has limited the strength of the stat.
Obviously, this isn’t really a “problem”, but being an exception to the rule is rarely a good thing. My concern is that its very easy for this to continue to be an excuse to “compensate” for poor scaling elsewhere, and easily forgotten like our non-1:1 Versatility scaling seemed to have been forgotten until it was pointed out as a problem following the AMA.
This has been another problem for Windwalkers for the entirety of the expansion, Windwalkers scale very poorly with Weapon Damage and Weapon DPS, specially when compared to some Warrior specs. The only things that Windwalkers have that are effected by Weapon DPS are Auto-Attacks and Strike of the Windlord. For anyone who isn’t familiar with how WDPS works with abilities, Weapon DPS is added to 74% of our Attack Power, then worked into the coefficients. For example, our Auto Attacks are considered 150% of our WDPS. If you have 40,000 Agility, and thus 40,000 Attack Power, with a set of Artifact weapons that have an average WDPS of 13,000, then you take 74% of the AP, or 29,600, and add that to the WDPS for a total of 42,600, which is then multiplied by the 150% coefficient, so each auto attack would do 63,900 damage, before the armor penalty of 31.98%, for a total of 43,465 damage per hit.
Because Windwalkers only have two sources of damage that are affected by WDPS, it only affects roughly 10-15% of our overall DPS, where other specs have well over 50% of their damage affected by WDPS. What this meant for us, functionally, this expansion is that our Relic traits were worth drastically more item levels than other specs. Where a Windwalker’s top Relic or Netherlight Crucible traits may be worth 10 to 15 item levels, some other specs never saw a relic trait worth more than 5 item levels. This results in relic item levels not being very important, so Mythic raiding Windwalkers may be using relics from Heroic or lower because those relics have better traits. The Netherlight Crucible exacerbated this disparity between some classes where a Windwalker could see optimal traits being worth 30 weapon item levels, where others see their optimal paths worth 10. This obviously leads getting higher item level weapons less appealing and interesting, as well as, to a small extent, sandbag your average item level.
There isn’t really one great answer to this problem. One certain possibility is to do away with Weapon Damage/DPS entirely, but thematically that doesn’t make a lot of sense, better weapons should do better damage. Another “answer” is to directly equate WDPS to Attack Power, so that as your weapon gets better, you gain more Attack Power from the WDPS as well as from the Primary stats (Agility) that is on that weapon. This is roughly what we have now, to a certain extent. The obvious thing is that having one spec have 10% of their damage affected by WDPS while others have +50% causes a pretty dramatic imbalance when players have to choose between WDPS and other damage increases. Now that Artifacts are leaving us, we’ll be back to competing for weapons with other raid members, and specs who get more out of WDPS will have an edge over those that don’t, meaning higher level weapons may be funneled to them in some situations.
If you’ve been along for the Windwalker ride for the past few years, you’ve noticed that we’ve had several (see: MANY) different versions of our Mastery, which I covered in my article; Lament of the Windwalker: Mastery. This current iteration of Mastery, that we’ve had for all of Legion, is probably the most engaging in terms of creating a playstyle that is unique to any spec currently in the game. In my opinion, if there was ever a Mastery that should stick around, its this one.
However, its not without its issues, or its less-than-fun aspects. One of the main gripes that have popped up for Mastery this expansion has been the seemingly overuse of the non-repetitive ability mechanics. Our Mastery; Mastery: Combo Strikes, Hit Combo, and t19 4pc all have essentially the same mechanic implemented in different ways. This seemed to have been taking a cool new mechanic, and beating us over the head with it. Each of these ways of implementing the mechanic had its pros and its cons, and the best parts of each of these can be combined into a future version of our Mastery.
From the beginning of the expansion, I have been saying that Mastery: Combo Strikes and Hit Combo should be combined, rather than separate. However, what quickly became evident was that Hit Combo felt more like a way to punish mistakes than reward good play. Its all-or-nothing style made it so that with one mistake you paid for it over the next several seconds. When we got t19 4pc, the fact that you had an extended period of time to use three unique abilities and that it couldn’t be “messed up” made it pretty much the polar opposite of Hit Combo.
If Mastery: Combo Strikes could be improved upon, I would add the stacking mechanic of Hit Combo. However, the all-or-nothing style has got to go. To do that, there are two options; it could be combined with the mechanic of the t19 4pc bonus, so that you had a slightly larger window to keep your Mastery up, and more of a cushion for mistakes, although t19 4pc was a little to “automatic” so it could need to be slightly more difficult to maintain. The other option would be to keep the stacking mechanic, and any mistakes; repeating the same ability, simply removes a stack, or two. This assures that you are punished for mistakes, but that you don’t feel like you’re screwed out of 10% damage for the next 10-20 seconds. The duration of the buff should also be lengthened from the 10s of Hit Combo which can feel like a chore to maintain during downtime in a fight.
Finally, as I mentioned in the Stats section, Mastery could/should be broadened to include damage from passives, trinkets, and other sources, to be a more comprehensive damage increase. If it were turned into a buff (with stacks) that simply increased ALL damage by a % rather than a direct damage boost to those abilities, it would be significantly easier to track, as well as help to insure that Mastery is a valuable stat. One reason this is an issue is that, currently, Mastery can rapidly lose strength relative to other stats. If you have two trinkets that provide stat bonuses, Mastery will remain strong; but, if you have two trinkets that do damage, and that damage is not affected by Mastery, then Mastery will lose some of its effectiveness. This is furthered with the addition of the Netherlight Crucible, where traits that deal damage lower the value of Mastery further, by reducing the overall % of our damage that is affected by Mastery. To illustrate this, on a character with only stat increasing trinkets and NLC traits, Mastery affects roughly 90% of the damage. But when you have two damaging trinkets and three damaging NLC traits, Mastery drops to only affecting 80% of our damage. This may not seem like much, only 10%, but this can swing Mastery from the most worthwhile secondary stat to 2nd to last simply with a few small changes.
- Improve secondary stat scaling: hasted CDs for all damage abilities with CD, add non-linear or exponential stat scaling, or remove it from other specs.
- Make a decision with Stamina’s use beyond health
- Make a decision about how specs will use Weapon DPS
- Combine the best parts of Mastery: Combo Strikes, Hit Combo, and t19 4pc, preferably stacking buff that increases damage to all sources, and only 1 or 2 stacks are lost on if you mess up and repeat an ability.