Howling Blast – WW/DS Treatment, Or…
July 11, 2010 29 Comments
I couldn’t decide whether this topic made better for a blog entry or an actual forum post. They each have their upsides; most notably, the latter gives the chance at blue feedback, which is always quite desirable and thought-provoking. As such, I might end up cross-posting this there (albeit with some slight edits/condensing). We’ll see!
Howling Blast. Currently, in Wrath, it’s fine. It suits it’s purpose well, and doesn’t cause much of any issues. In Cataclysm, however? An attack which is integral to our single target rotation and is incredibly potent against a single target, but also happens to hit like an absolute truck if there are multiple mobs around? That’s completely at odds with the expansion design philosophy, due to the many (many) issues it causes:
- Crowd control conflict.
- In Wrath, CC was never used, so having an AoE attack be part of our single target rotation didn’t matter, but in Cata? What do you do if a sheep is right by the main target? Just ignore HB, and let your dps suffer? Use it, breaking the sheep, thus letting your group suffer? Obviously one would choose the former (on genuinly difficult content), but both options are quite distasteful.
- AoE rotation comes to mirror single target rotation.
- Blizzard has stated they don’t like AoE rotations being too similar to single target rotations, and who can blame them? When you have an ability which you have to use in both situations, however, that’s exactly what happens. It’s boring to do the same thing regardless of the number of mobs present, not to mention it’s skill-less.
- Free DPS if there’s an extra target present.
- Similar to the above, Blizzard doesn’t like if you just gain a couple thousand dps because another mobs just happens to be by your current target. If you do something different to gain the damage – say, Pestilence – that’s perfectly fine, but if you change absolutely nothing and see this huge spike in your output? That isn’t right.
- Difficult to balance around.
- Do you balance HB’s damage around a single target, thus making it ridiculous in AoE scenarios? Or do you balance it around multiple targets, thus making it pitifully weak against a single target (but still used because you’re essentially forced to for lack of any alternative)?
Something needs to be done, as can easily be seen. Currently the ability has all of those issues – it’s incredibly strong on one mob, and thus too potent on several, and it’s integral to our single target rotation, thus we gain free dps and do little different in our AoE rotation.
Whirlwind and Divine Storm had these exact same issues going into the expansion. Blizzard solved that by simply cutting their damage in half. An inelegant fix, perhaps, but an effective one, to be sure. It’s one, however, which doesn’t fly for Howling Blast, due to one key reason – WW and DS weren’t essential to their respective classes’ single target rotation. They used it, sure, but only because it’s damage was high enough to be worth doing. Once nerfed, they simply shift to another ability.
With Frost Death Knights, however, we basically have to use HB on a single target, even if the damage doesn’t justify it – this is due to Rime and Runic Empowerment. Yes, we could theoretically go without those two talents, but then our rotation becomes an actual fixed, rigid rotation again, and that’s undesirable to the players and to Blizzard. Thus, although they could take the route of just nerfing the damage, that would then entail a redesign of how the class is supposed to be played, and a reworking of the trees (even if they’re getting overhauled, Rime is a shoe-in for the new ones).
There are other options, however. The ability can be made to work without a simple number nerf, and here’s a few propositions how:
- Change the tooltip/functionality of HB to: “Blast the target with a frigid wind dealing X Frost damage, and an additional Y Frost damage to all targets infected with Frost Fever within Z yards.”
- Although this wouldn’t completely solve the problem of it being used in both our single target and AoE rotations (a problem which can never be entirely fixed; some overlap is inevitable with the DK design), it would solve the other issues. It wouldn’t deal any damage to mobs by the target without Frost Fever, meaning you could safely use it on a single mob without having to worry about breaking CC. As well, the AoE damage could be balanced separately of the single target damage.
- Change the tooltip/functionality of Rime to: “Your Obliterate has an X% chance to reset the cooldown of your Howling Blast and cause your next Howling Blast to consume no runes and deal Y% additional damage, but hit only one target.”
- I like the first concept more, but this could work as well. Rime is the primary reason we have to use HB on single targets (with Runic Empowerment being the other, but RE has its own issues, and is another topic for another time), thus you can solve most of HB’s issues with it. Simply balance HB’s damage around AoE. Thus you’ld only use it on Rime procs, but on Rime procs it wouldn’t be AoE.
- Add a talent to Frost which causes Icy Touch to empower your next Frost Strike/Obliterate, or perhaps causes it to do increased damage on subsequent casts if Frost Fever is already up.
- Rime and RE can both be used on Icy Touch, it just seems counter-intuitive to use IT when you don’t need to apply the disease, not to mention the damage isn’t balanced appropriately. Adding a talent which makes it actually seem fit and intended would then allow HB to be devoted solely to AoE.
The fact is, Howling Blast can’t make it out of beta in its current state. Something has to change, and although it might appear easiest just to cut its damage, that has too many consequences to work for us like it worked for Warriors and Paladins. A more sophisticated, but not necessarily complex solution is needed, and the above are just a few of the endless possibilities.
Done right, HB has the potential to becomes an even more interesting and even more spec-defining spell, while being more balanced. Done wrong, well… let’s just say, I have the utmost confidence it will be done right!