Friday, September 26, 2008

AFK, Evocating

Hi everyone! If you're reading this right now, chances are I'm on the road heading towards the Canada/US border. I haven't forgotten about the readers, so this is one of a few scheduled posts to reflect upon until Tuesday comes. In this installment, I would like to talk about mana mechanics.

On thursday, during my lunch hour, I lurked around through the beta forums, browsing through a slew of topics regarding Mages and the upcoming raid content. As you may or may not know, the first 10-man raid instance, analogous to Karazhan for TBC, is Naxxramas. The design of the raid supposedly is meant to mimic the encounters from vanilla WoW.

One boss redesign in particular, Kel'Thuzad, has a particular mechanic that raised a few questions about the nature of mana regeneration for the mage (and to a certain extent, elemental shaman and balance druid) class. Periodically throughout the fight, KT does an ability that flat-out depletes mana from mana classes, currently to the point of going OOM.

At first, I thought that this mechanic sounded fairly straightforward, but in the grand scheme of game design and class balance, an issue was brought into question regarding mana regeneration across different classes. The post that I read argued there should be a tradeoff for caster classes between mana and DPS.

Consider Warlocks and Hunters. When both classes run out of mana in a fight, they can simply use Lifetap and Aspect of the Viper respectively to regenerate their mana mid-fight. The observation posed by the post (hopefully, when I return from my trip, the topic will still be up so I can link it) is that both locks and hunters, as long as they remain alive, can perpetually keep up mana at the cost of a slight dropoff in DPS, whereas a caster who goes OOM after blowing all of his cooldowns will cease to provide DPS at all.

Thus the OP argues that with the implementation of fight mechanics that strain mana such as the KT fight, min-maxing will cause mages, and caster shaman/druid classes to be benched, not because of their DPS, but because of their mana regen mechanics. Thus, he suggests that mages are given some sort of mana regeneration mechanic similar to Hunters and Warlocks, or to have current talents and abilities tweaked to reflect those mechanics. Later on in the thread, someone even suggests changing Evocation in such a way that it can be cast more often, but returns less mana each time, or leaves a mage more vulnerable to damage like the Curator's evocation: an idea that actually carries a noticeable amount of support from other posters.

Regardless, I feel that the OP raises an interesting and valid point regarding the existence of these tradeoffs for exclusive classes. With the changes to mana regeneration in the upcoming expansion, the argument is supported even further.

However, from a flavor perspective, this disparity actually makes sense. In a way, going OOM as a mage is all part of the live fast, die young, glass cannon way of life that the class is known to have. Whether or not the "glass" and "cannon" aspects are equally represented by mages is better left to debate by theorycraft and QQ, but I really don't see mages as an endurance class in that regard.

At the end of the day, it's actually quite funny for me to think of such a thing at all, considering that I have yet to use an evocate during a boss fight ever since my respec. Oh well. Something to chew on until I get back.


Basil said...

Evocate is a notoriously limited spell.

The vast majority of mages simply don't use it because it's more convenient to use pots/gems; it isn't convenient.

At the high end raids, mages don't use it because massive AoE damage prevents them from getting anything out of it, and because halting DPS causes them to drop like a rock on the damage meters.

Brutallus, for instance, cannot be beaten if a mage stops to Evocate (at least, while the raid is still in it's first few weeks in Sunwell. Once people gear up a little more, it's more forgiving).

The loss of DPS for 8 seconds (10, if the set bonus is present) is catastrophic to that mages DPS.

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