We’ve all seen it. A few hours to days before the patch hits we get the official notes. With glee we scroll down to the pertinent class information, our eyes roaming over the changes and emotions of either disgust or excitement roll over us. Then there it is, a line that makes your brow furrowed. “Why would they change that into that?” or “That just makes that a little more useless now.” Then it strikes you that the change isn’t for general use, it’s for one particular section of the game: PvP.
Sometimes the changes are minor, perhaps a simple tweak to a seldom used talent to make it more enticing to people who prefer to spend their time in arenas. Or it could be major, a glyph changed from being a wonderful PvE tool to something that only a very specialized PvPer will look at. No matter which way you slice it, you often see it going in one direction, which is changing something from PvE viability to PvP viability. But why?
Well, the key word is balance. Blizzard wants to balance the game as much as possible with no particular class having an advantage over another when they face off in single combat. The thinking is that if you present the population with one class that has a slight edge, you’ll see a huge migration of PvPers to that class which will unbalance the game for people who are die-hard fans of their present class. Now this can certainly be true to a certain extent, and in order to create a fun environment for everyone to play in, then the devs simply have to make changes here and there. The only problem is that any change made for PvP purposes will have repercussions to PvE players as well.
Now look, I’m not advocating for the abolishment of PvE or anything radical like that, but the fact is that PvP does sometimes mess with PvE. I’ll give you an example, one that will make most disc priests choke back tears of rage: the ongoing nerfing of Penance. This is the penultimate healing spell in a disc priest’s arsenal, originally introduced with an eight second cool down. Then nerfed to ten. Then nerfed to twelve. Though there is a glyph that lowers the cool down by two seconds, there was some talk about them getting rid of that as well before increasing the cooldown to twelve.
Honestly, though, I can’t think of a reason why this would overpower disc in PvE. In actuality, the nerfing of the spell has weakened them in that area, bringing already somewhat lower healing totals even further down. Therefore, I’m forced to conclude that this spell, mixed with a disc priest’s damage mitigation, was considered too overpowered in PvP. Some people posited that the nerf might be Blizzard’s way of encouraging disc priests to cast other spells, but that only gives them time to cast one more Flash Heal, which most disc priests consider slightly better than worthless. The loss of two second on your best spell in a raiding era where a boss can sometimes kill your tank in less time than that is huge. The idea of being able to front load heals every eight seconds in PvP, however, is a fairly scary proposition to opponents.
The issue at hand is the fact that you really can’t balance PvP and PvE at the same time. They’re two separate and distinct systems governed by increasingly diverse and complicated rules. A change to one will always affect the other and more often than not it will be adverse with what you want to accomplish. And though the majoruity of changes in PvP resonate loudly with people trying to PvE, the reverse can certainly be said to be true. Sometimes a change to PvE will mess with the balancing, usually when Blizzard tries to make sweeping overhauls to classes.
When new patches arrive, that’s always when the devs watch hardest to see how the now live changes will affect the servers as a whole rather than just the test versions. Then the tweaks come. Slowly, but surely, classes are changed and molded into a system that tries it’s best to be balanced. You don’t want warlocks destroying everyone in PvP, but you also don’t want their pets to get popped in less than two seconds. You can’t let shamans be crazy AoE healers in PvE because it will cause them to be the only healer in arenas and no one will want to play as priests or resto druids. Back and forth the dance will go.
In the end the problem is that you just can’t please everyone. Some will say you shouldn’t bother trying, that some classes will simply dominate seasons of arena based on the current powers nested in their talent trees. Others wish the game was a 100% even playing field with the outcomes decided by raw skill and knowledge of playing your class rather than the ability to tap three numbers on your keyboard over and over. The only difference is that when you make changes to PvE you don’t have to worry about whether or not the NPCs are going to complain about overpowered raiders. You want to balance it so that there’s no one particular class that’s leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else, but not everyone is going to switch classes just because that hunter pulls an extra 300 dps than them.
The only thing we can all agree on is that priests are the best class ever.