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Elemental & Enhancement - Ability Overlap and Balancing Issues

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One of the difficulties facing the Class Designers behind World of Warcraft at the moment is how to balance specialisations within one class with the same function. In most cases they will be very distinct playstyles with very little overlap, as we see with Druids where both Balance and Feral provide DPS functions, but one provides an intellect based caster while the other provides an agility based melee with no ability overlap at all.

As part of the Mists development, Warlocks had their three specs diversified to the point where there are hardly any abilities used in common anymore, compared to how they were before when all of them had Shadowbolt as their bread & butter spell. What this means is that any spec can be tweaked and modified via any ability without having to consider the impact that change will have on another spec.

Sadly, this is not the case for Elemental & Enhancement Shaman, and it’s more of a problem for we Elementals than our Enhancement friends. This is because roughly two thirds of our damage comes from spells that are shared with Enhancement, but about a quarter of theirs is shared with us.

To get these numbers, I went to WorldofLogs. To avoid fight bias, I went for Ultraxion 25 Normal, and picked the top Elemental & Enhancement logs, which happened to be the same parse for an Elemental Shaman by the name of Kimuh & an Enhancement Shaman called Noldina.

Comparing their damage output resulted in the following table:



The text coloured in blue is indicating damage that would be affected by a change to a base spell for the other spec (mostly Earth Shock, Flame Shock, Lightning Bolt or Lightning Shield).

As you can see, if the intent is to modify how Elemental behaves you have limited options. You can change the passives, Lava Burst, or perhaps modify how Fulmination works, otherwise the only options are to change something that affects Enhancement which will cause a whole different bunch of balancing problems.

There are three ways to move forward. The first is to continue with a “status quo” (and now every time I use that I’m reminded of Neil Patrick Harris’ line as Doctor Horrible saying “because the status is not quo”) and modify each spec around the unique elements for each. The second is to shoehorn a bunch of halfway measures into spec passives so that spells behave differently for each spec, while the third is to split the specs in two and give them both unique spells so there’s very little overlap.

Otherwise Elemental will continue to suffer from the “We can’t change that otherwise it’ll cause problems for Enhancement” line of thinking, which will cause problems with balancing.
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  1. Purge's Avatar
    You could also modify Ascendance, since the spell already has entirely different functions for each spec, but that doesn't alleviate the problem too much (and potentially causes its own issues by affecting the value of Elemental Mastery). It might be a good idea to cross-post this information in the beta balance feedback thread on the official forums.
  2. Binkenstein's Avatar
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