Thursday, August 16, 2012

Grimoire of Sacrifice just got a lot more interesting

Going back and looking at it, it seems that the information that I was reading off of Wowhead's MoP Talent Calculator was not what some people might call "up to date", leading to a lackluster presentation of Sacrifice on my part. The information was correct at one point, possibly even when I started working on the post a few days earlier, just not when I hit that "Publish" button. That's what I get for going off of a third party site instead of looking directly at the beta client.

I bow humbly before you and beg your forgiveness.

During the last talent preview I mentioned that I wasn't sure how they were going to balance the three level 75 talents without some extensive mechanical changes. It seems Blizzard agreed with me because Sacrifice has undergone a transformation of sorts that, while still maintaining the essence and flavor of the talent, manages to make it much more compelling both in its damage increase and its utility.

For reference, here's the old version:
You sacrifice your demon, increasing your direct damage spells by 15% and regenerating 2% of maximum health every 5 seconds. Lasts for 15 minutes. This effect is doubled for the first 15 seconds.

Summoning another demon cancels this effect.

And here's the new version for build 15972:
You sacrifice your demon to gain one of its abilities, increase the power of many of your single target spells by (Affliction) 25% to 50% (Demonology) 50% (Destruction) 55% and regenerate 2% of maximum health every 5 seconds. Lasts for 15 minutes.

Summoning another demon cancels this effect.

Why Sacrifice sucked

Sacrifice in its earlier iterations . . . just didn't work. To make the most of it, you would need to resummon your pet every two minutes in order to maintain maximum uptime on the 30% bonus, but doing so means hardcasting, spending shards or spending embers. In addition, our pets generally do anywhere from 25-30% of our total damage on any given fight (much more for Demonology), so giving that up to get a 15% increase to some of our spells just didn't make any sense. Besides that, resummoning your pet in combat in order to stack buffs is reminiscent of the pet-twisting practice that Demonology Warlocks had to deal with in T12 and I don't know anyone who actually liked that mechanic. Including Blizzard.

There were also concerns about the utility granted by our pets. Most Warlocks don't use them, but our minions have some nifty tricks up their sleeves in the forms of offensive and defensive dispels, stuns, interrupts or crowd controls and Sacrifice required the warlock to give that up. A lot of PvE encounters aren't affected by this at all (even though Singe Magic saved my tail several times on Heroic Hagara), but it essentially destroyed the talent in regards to being a viable option for competitive PvP.

So, damage loss over not taking a talent at all and the absence of important (if underused) utility . . . no thank you.

Why it's awesome now

The most obvious change is the massive buff to the talent's core function, going from a 15% damage increase to as much as 50%. It's actually a damage increase now. Secondly, the talent now affects all single target damage rather than direct damage, meaning that our dots actually benefit from it (since we've long been the premier dot class, this is kind of a big deal).

The best part (or at least the most exciting to me) is that we're reclaiming some of the utility lost with old versions of the talent in that we gain one of our demon's abilities as long as the Sacrifice buff is active, taking the place of the Command Demon ability on your action bars. So far, it looks like this:
There are both benefits and drawbacks to be considered here. For example, Singe Magic requires that your Imp be within a certain distance from his target and that may not always be the case. If he's standing in one spot and only moving enough to keep his target in range, then he may need to move a notable distance before he can get in range of you (or your party/raid member) in order to dispel. This can be a fairly obnoxious delay if you're trying to dispel something deadly. Having this ability yourself makes it more intuitive and more reactive. However, the Imp is not GCD locked and has time to spit out a dispel with minimal damage loss, whereas you have to stop casting. The new auto-cast function for pet abilities also means that he will be able to get you out of sticky crowd controls quickly, something you won't be able to do yourself while stunned, polymorphed or otherwise screwed (the tooltip in game for these abilities after you gain them with Sacrifice is still showing the auto-cast functionality, but I haven't been able to test if it still applies and I don't expect it to go live).

The mobility of Pursuit in addition to Demonic Leap means that Demo locks specced for Sacrifice are going to be very mobile, while sacrificing your Voidwalker will provide some nice survivability in PvE where the other pet abilities are not needed. Any experienced tank will also tell you that the value of combining a Last Stand type ability like Shadow Bulwark with other spells that scale off of your Max HP is greater than the sum of their parts. There are definitely some interesting implications here and I foresee a lot of raiding warlocks bringing out the blueberry for the first time in a long time. I'll have to do some testing later to see how this stacks with Rallying Cry, Dark Regen, Healthstones, etc.

All in all, I'm pretty excited about this change. I still believe that Warlocks are a pet class at heart and that we shouldn't haphazardly toss them to the wayside at will, but at the same time . . . well, they're minions and tools. May as well use and abuse them.

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