If five of your spec’s abilities had to go, which five would you choose?
If you’ve been watching official Blizzard sources for the past two years, there have been plenty of comments about the number of abilities players have, and how the game has reached or even surpassed its saturation point. If you’ve read past forum posts or blog posts of mine, I’ve been a supporter of ability pruning for quite a while. I think too many abilities for each individual causes 3 significant problems with the game, though I do still sympathize with people who just like to have a lot of situational buttons to press. I see both sides of the argument quite well, but can support only one.
What are the problems with having a lot of abilities?
1. Keybind real estate.
While this is probably the problem I would see as the least influential in wanting to remove a number of abilities, it’s probably the one the most players have felt. Needless to say, there is a point where it becomes difficult to add more abilities to your keybinds when more buttons keep getting added no matter how efficient you are or effective you are with macros or just how many buttons with modifiers you can hit. While there are plenty of exceptions out there, I know people who have as many as 80 or 90 keybinds, I think we’re probably a bit past the comfort point for the majority of players.
2. Homogenization and redundancy.
I see this as the largest problem with ability bloat. As more and more buttons are added, each class and spec individually will gain capabilities that they didn’t have, and these abilities will nearly always be ones that belonged to someone else in some form. As an example, Warlocks were the first class to have a stun ability that hit more than one target in Shadowfury. Now, we have Leg Sweep, Shockwave, Blinding Light (glyphed), Capacitor Totem, Binding Shot. While each ability individually works a little differently, their ultimate effect and role they fill in combat is pretty much the same. This makes the Warlock’s Shadowfury feel a lot less special. There are almost no unique abilities in today’s World of Warcraft. We have Gorefiend’s Grasp, Demonic Gateway, and Leap of Faith… and that’s about it.
The question for years now has been “How do we make classes and specs feel unique without giving them capabilities others can’t duplicate?”
With the change in raid formats having the hardest setting be a fixed size that can easily allow for one of every class, the question should now be “How do we give each class tools that makes them feel unique, powerful, and desired?”
In some cases, namely Gorefiend’s Grasp and Demonic Gateway, those unique, powerful tools already exist. For the rest of us, though, removing redundancies like more than one AoE stun and more than one AoE interrupt probably has to happen to get back to that point.
3. The spellbook novel.
It’s difficult to see the game from the perspective of someone who’s a lot less experienced than you are, but when my sister returned to the game about two years ago after a five-year hiatus, it gave me significant insight into what a new player experiences. My sister originally introduced me to the game in classic, but she was as lost as one can be. Classes had a lot more abilities than they had, and the spellbook doesn’t do a very good job of piecing things together, and there’s very little in the way of resources that just show you how to improve your play outside your basic spec’s DPS rotation for beginners. They don’t need to know the math behind stuff, but they might need to know how to track buffs and debuffs in an easier way than the default UI does it. The game is improving in these ways, with spell alerts and glowing buttons, but the sheer volume of abilities, both passive and active and their interactions, is a lot to handle for someone just getting into the game. Having 47 active and 14 passive abilities in your spellbook is not doing new players any favors, and trimming the fat could help a lot. It might also do a lot to hide some of the stuff players really don’t need to know about.
While I understand that having a lot of buttons can sometimes add a level of complexity that some players like to have, I think removing some abilities is absolutely the right direction to go. Complexity can be added through encounter mechanics. My question here isn’t “Do you agree with or disagree with removing some?”; my question is “If five abilities you use in combat had to go, which five would you choose?”
Pures may have a harder time coming up with 5, so post 3 instead.
Please comment and let me know five abilities you could live without. Feel free to say why. My list is below:
Spiritwalker’s Grace – Needless to say, it’s something we’ll use occasionally with Chain Lightning, Elemental Blast or some healing spells, but it’s pretty inconsequential in the big picture.
Healing Tide Totem – I feel that hybrid healing cooldowns and healing contributions in general are far too numerous, so seeing this disappear wouldn’t bother me one bit.
Earth Shock – It’s been with the class since the dawn of time, but I think Frost Shock could fill its place just fine.
Either Elemental Totem – I wouldn’t miss having two elementals. Earth Elemental has never been what one would call a high-impact ability in any setting, though it had some uses very early on in Challenge Mode. If Fire Elemental disappeared from Enhancement and Earth Elemental’s damage beefed up a bit in its place, I wouldn’t be disappointed.
Healing Rain – Same reasons as above, I don’t think hybrid damage dealers should have as much essentially free healing contribution as they have. Sacrificing significant DPS to do some healing is probably okay. Healing Rain’s cost isn’t significant at all.
And a 6th just because I can: Flametongue Weapon – Just like with Earth Shock, I think Frostbrand could take its place just fine.
I can even do a 7th: Magma Totem – This ability has been a resounding “meh” since Cataclysm.
Healing Tide Totem – Same reasons as above.
Healing Rain – While it’s significantly more costly for Elemental to use, I think beefier Chain Heal and Healing Surge would be fine in its place.
Either Elemental Totem – Same reasons as above. Elemental having only Fire and Enhancement having only Earth would be cool to me.
Spiritwalker’s Grace – While more useful for Elemental, most of Elemental’s damage can be done on the move already with Lava Bursts often being instant cast and Lightning Bolt already usable while moving.
Earthquake – Its impact is low and uses are few. It gets used in PvP in some situations but I wouldn’t call it a game breaker.
Unleash Elements – It was once a situational spell with some uses, and now it’s just a rotational part of Healing Rain. I don’t think it adds much of anything to the Restoration spec.
Earth Shock – Very situational. Sees rare use, but not worth keeping around.
Healing Tide Totem – Very different reasons from above. This is a mindless fire and forget healing ability that does far too much healing for the effort required. Throughput cooldowns that either change up how you play or are based on how you play (like Ascendance) are a much stronger design in my opinion.
Lava Burst – It’s a cool spell, but not really a necessary part of what Restoration can do.
Stormlash Totem – This actually applies to all three specs, but raid-wide DPS boosts have contributed significantly to problems in the PvE game. I’ve felt Stormlash shouldn’t exist from day one.
So what are your picks for the spec you play?