Thursday, August 23, 2007

Nerf Fear? Actually...Yes!

In this entry I will discuss the many facets of Fear in regard to its relationship to Affliction in PvP, why it needs "nerfed", and with that being said why the role it currently fulfills is 100% necessary. Excessively ranty? Yes. Wanders off topic? You bet!

Fear...Fear...What's everyone have to say about Fear?

"I hate it!" You hate it. I hate it. Melee hates it. Casters hate it. Healers hate it. Even Warlocks hate it.

"It lasts forrrrrevveerrrrrr!"
"It breaks instantly."
"I got feared to death."
"There's too many ways to break it."
"It takes no skill."
"It's all we've got."

All of the above are correct. For as long as many of us can remember the WoW community has had a terrible relationship with Fear. It's so hated because it takes the control away. Nobody can argue with that. I don't disagree with the general assessment of it in the least. It's a primo #1 grade-A pain in the ass skill to put it bluntly. It's something of a necessity Affliction, however, and I'm going to tell you why. I'll be a little creative throwing around terminology here but bare with me.

In PvP you tend to have one of three types of classes/builds etc. some of which overlap to an extent:

  1. "Burst damage": You kill your target very quickly. Your survival hinges on destroying your target before they can fulfill their role. MS Warrior, Rogue, PoM Pyro Mage, etc.
  2. "Burst healer": Can heal yourself and teammates to full health relatively quickly. If bursted down you can use some form of CC(or have a teammate do so) to buy yourself time to remove your health deficit. Holy/Resto of the respective classes.
  3. "Can't touch this": Painfully difficult to kill through large amount of mitigation, escape skills, etc. Frost Mages, Prot Warriors, Demo Warlocks, etc.

The problem here is Affliction fits into none of these categories. "Burst damage"? No. "Burst healing"? Nope. "Can't touch this"? Not quite. The problem with Affliction (not that it's necessarily a problem in and of itself) is the fact that it's moderate in everything. It doesn't have massive burst. It can't heal a lot at once. Its escape tools aren't the most effective. Self heals require damage, staying alive to do damage requires time. Fear gives Affliction this precious time it so desperately needs.

Let's face it, folks, as strong as Affliction can be it's always an uphill fight whether we win or lose. All the other damage classes want us dead now and we want them dead later. To win a fight of efficiency is rather difficult when those you fight seek to end said fight before the matter of efficiency begins to matter. Drain Life, in order to reach effectiveness requires a target to be DoTed up for the Soul Siphon talent to kick in (Increases the amount drained by your Drain Life and Drain Mana spells by an additional X% for each Affliction effect on the target, up to a maximum of Y% additional effect.) Now you have the infamous 'DoT+Fear'. Oh, here comes the Drain Life spam. It's starting to heal....

...and one of three events occur:

  1. Fear breaks early. You die because the fight didn't reach anything approaching a reasonable duration for Affliction.
  2. Fear lasts a reasonable duration. The fight goes on to be determined by such elements as gear/skill/teamwork. (Ideal)
  3. Fear lasts 'forever'. You win through DoTlock. The other guy is screaming at the monitor and you feel like a cheap hooker for taking a win which truly displays no skill.

Fear tends to be 'hit or miss' in regard to its effectiveness.
The randomness factor it holds for being an activated ability is entirely too high to the harm of all, be it lasting too short, or too long. If you've either played as or against a Warlock and hold a perspective even somewhat resembling objectivity you'll be inclined to agree, no? Either way that was probably an excessively long winded passage pretty much saying this:

We need Fear, or at least something like it simply due to how Affliction functions.

"But Draele," you say. "Not every tree should be PvP viable. Some talent trees are meant for one part of the game, not all." To that I say: Fair enough, even though
Kalgan, AKA Tom Chilton, lead WoW developer in charge of game systems(class balance/PvP/etc.) seems to lean towards bringing the effectiveness of all specs up for PvP. Example here for Warriors(search for the word disparity) But you can't have your cake and eat it too. Why are Contagion and UA in the Affliction tree then? It's the PvE tree, right? RIGHT? Sure, make Affliction the "PvE" tree, but you'll have to replace these PvP talents with PvE focused variants. Or realize Affliction needs to be able to survive to apply itself in PvP. I am sorry that your ____ tree is no good for PvE or PvP. If it does it needs to be fixed. ultimately, don't dump your issues in my lap as an excuse for my issues. Too much of that nonsense goes on at the Blizzard forums anyhow. If something is broken it needs fixed, we don't need you justifying one problem with the existence of another. I digress...

Well, what do you propose to do? Well, I propose to do nothing, but I will offer some suggestions which I feel will rectify the problems fear creates while keeping it in the role which it was designed for.

1) Redesign Fear

It now breaks at a preset health percentage or stated duration (if used purely for CC) whichever occurs first. What would the preset damage percentage be? Enemy HP percentage of... (20% give or take?) seems fair, so you're feared at 100% when you hit 80% health it breaks. This would eliminate those outlier Fear durations like the 1 second insta-break, and the 100% to dead Fearlock.

2) Nerf Fear into the ground and alter existing abilities. (
As for Priests getting the trickle-down Warlock nerf make Psychic Scream a lower duration horror effect so it can be exempt from any Fear nerfs)

(Fear breaks on any and all damage. Now a purely CC skill) Probably the least desirable choice as there has been much whining on the subject of Drain Life as of late, and Deathcoil as always, but I'll throw it out there anyway. Either: Buff Fel Concentration to give added silence resistance/lowered silence duration. This would allow Drain Life to stand on it's own two feet. Though I'd be reluctant to buff a skill which isn't in the realm of diminishing returns and has no cooldown. Or: Drastically reduce the cooldown of Deathcoil to make it more staple and less "Oh Shit!" Again, likely not the popular choice.

3) Nerf Fear into the ground and give Warlocks something else.
(As for Priests getting the trickle-down Warlock nerf make Psychic Scream a lower duration horror effect so it can be exempt from any Fear nerfs)

(Fear breaks on any and all damage. Now a purely CC skill) Add completely new abilities to fill in the hole Fear left. Potentially with the new expansion? I have a couple of ideas which I'll share, both of which are much more 'debuff' and less 'CC'.

  • Corrupted Touch: Low cooldown 20-30 seconds. Reduces damage dealt by target foe by X% for Y seconds. This cooldown range is an interesting one since it requires proper timing, but isn't an "Oh shit!" button either, potentially usable multiple times per fight.
  • Void Field: Moderate cooldown 2-3 minutes. Reduces damage dealt by all foes in a 15 yard radius by X% for Y seconds. Group utility here. Fear nerf brings locks down a notch in 2v2 and Void field brings up group utility in 5v5.
  • Something else appropriate. Again, leaning towards the debuff side of things ends up making the game much more desirable for all. Character control for all means less griping and more fun. Fun is the goal, right?

Ultimately the goal (in my mind) is to remove the nuisance that is Fear and rework/replace it to achieve the same ends without extensive loss of character control, etc. The role Fear fullfills is quite necessary, but the annoyances and inequities it presents are simply not what I'd call good gameplay.

Thanks for reading and please leave comments and discussion as always!


Anonymous said...

Well put.

I would be be fine with giving locks some improved abilities elsewhere to have fear be a normal CC ability like polymorph and frost trap.

On a related topic: When are they going to make taunt work in pvp? That could substantially improve the effectiveness of prot specced warriors. Taunt a player and he switches targets to you for 1 or 2 seconds. In 5v5 charge the group and throw in a challenging shout. Even though you could simply click the intended target, it could cause some confusion and potentially save a teammate or stall their healer. I wouldn't mind rolling with a prot warr in 5v5 if this was implemented.

commandante9 said...

i dont think fear is terrible i mean if one really hates fear that much just farm honor and get the trinket to dispell fear ontop of that as a character apraches 70 more gear and skills allow the braking or immunity to fear

L2lock said...

Eh, not bothered by fear, and I wouldn't be bothered by switching it to pure cc. I play a Demo lock...most of my damage comes from burst damage and a pet. I use Fear as a CC anyway to keep healers out of the fight.

But...for affliction locks such as yourself, I think if the devs touch it, they will bust it and you will hate it more than you do now. :) Cynical? Yes.

The main problem with fear is a problem of frustration and perception, not game balance. Yes, it is horribly frustrating to lose control of your character. Mind Control is used less widely, but it is just as frustrating.

So if I were going to propose to nerf fear (which I'm not) I'd propose taking it out completely and giving us a pally bubble. Same're doing damage to them while they aren't doing it to you, but they are still in control of their character and thus (somewhat) less frustrated.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Shadow Embrace already fairly similar to your Corrupted Touch idea?

Kaloth said...

Have you ever tought about putting a short cooldown on Fear like 8-12 seconds, then taking it off the global cooldown. Then having it break after 1000~ damage is dealt to the target, if no damage is dealt it lasts the full duration (unless a heartbeat resist happens). Then it acts as an interrupt or a CC, but never both.

Kaloth said...

Also fear is instant. See above.

Kaloth said...

LOL, I forgot one more thing I would like to add to fear along with my other suggestions. Decrease movement speed by 50% when feared.

One of great strengths of fear against melee is that when they are feared they can be sent to the other side of the map. So the 5-10 second fear turned into 10-20 of not doing any damage.

Decreasing the movement speed along with the other changes would again be a nerf AND a buff. It would along us to throw on DoTs (Breaking shortly after when reaching the 1000~ damage). It also would allow melee to stay closer to us. It would also be a solid pve buff.

Draele said...

Corrupted Touch is similar to Shadow Embrace, but SE is passive and only 5%. Corrupted Touch would ideally be much more(upwards of around 50%) but on a cooldown.

Anonymous said...

I too play an affliction lock, 43/7/11 to be specific, and I agree with many of your points on the subject of fear.

Personally, I am of the mindset that something else needs to be added for warlock survivability and hopefully it will be soon. Blizzard has already made a post regarding the changes to warlocks is going to go much further than just resilience adjusting DoT damage. I suspect that the next changes coming will be to the soul link lock. The 30/31/0 build is very popular and highly successful in 2v2 and 3v3 matches. And we all know what happens when something works well, and no, it's not improving the other classes.

But I have moved away from the subject of fear. Fear, like you said, is a matter of perception. I know my fears will break just from targeting the person, while fears on me wont break even as I reach the debuff limit. Now, I kid, I know times happen when I "Fearlock" and when fears on me break early, but I am just trying to strengthen your point on perception.

The real problem with fear is that it is truly only useful as a counter, and even then its mediocre. Priests, pallies, and druids all have talents that increase resistances to fear. Warriors and rogues can make themselves immune. Shaman have grounding totem and tremor totem (Yeah I know tremor isn't great but its still something.) Of all the CC available (Fear, Stun, Poly, Cyclone.) Only fear and stun protection are offered in anyones trees. Well, not ouu trees obviously.

So yes, I agree with you that with the direction fear is heading with the developers, we do need something else. Unless you are SL, only options we have to defend ourselves is horror, fear, and stun (Destro specs).

Best suggestion I have heard so far was from a guildie, and that was to change DC from Deathcoil to Disconnect. Instant cast ability the disconnects your opponent from the server. 30 second cool down. :P


Rasnarok said...

Well written and possibly the only way I can think of that Fear can be fixed.

Moth said...

Nicely put anonymous. You hit the nail on the head..."survivability".

As an affliction Lock I too say sure, take away fear...death coil and drain life...while you're at it...but WHAT will locks get to replace it?

I believe DC was brought in when fear got the first big original nerf. To "anti-fear" cry careful what you wish for AND may not like its replacement. =)