WoW Wrath Class Redesign and Reitemization Explained

I love what I'm hearing about the new itemization from beta. A lot of it is still in flux, but there's a core variable that isn't: a number of formerly separate stats have been combined:

  • critical strike = critical strike + spell critical strike
  • hit rating = hit + spell hit
  • haste rating = haste + spell haste
  • spellpower = healing + spell damage

This is absolutely wonderful. If you're wondering why they're doing this or why it's so important to the quality of PvE, let's geek out a bit and look at each class, the kinds of gear it currently wants, and what just the spellpower (healing + spell damage) combine means in terms of how it's going to make your PvE instances and raids happier.

  • Druid – leather melee 1/4, leather tanking 1/4, leather nuking 1/4, leather healing 1/4
  • Hunter – mail agi physical 3/3
  • Mage – cloth nuking 3/3
  • Shaman – mail strength physical 1/3, mail nuking 1/3, mail healing 1/3
  • Paladin – plate melee 1/3, plate healing 1/3, plate tanking 1/3
  • Priest – cloth healing 2/3, cloth nuking 1/3
  • Rogue – leather melee 3/3
  • Warrior – plate melee 2/3, plate tanking 1/3
  • Warlock – cloth nuking 3/3

It really gets interesting when we reverse the index:

  1. Plate melee – paladin 1/3, warrior 2/3
  2. Plate tanking – paladin 1/3, warrior 1/3
  3. Plate healing – paladin 1/3
  4. Mail agi physical – hunter 3/3
  5. Mail str physical – shaman 1/3
  6. Mail healing – shaman 1/3
  7. Mail nuking – shaman 1/3
  8. Leather melee – druid 1/4, rogue 3/3
  9. Leather tanking – druid 1/4
  10. Leather nuking – druid 1/4
  11. Leather healing – druid 1/4
  12. Cloth nuking – mage 3/3, warlock 3/3, priest 1/3
  13. Cloth healing – priest 2/3

Thirteen total gear categories, and a whopping nine of them have only one class next to them: plate healing, mail agi, mail str, mail healing, mail nuking, leather tanking, leather nuking, leather healing, cloth healing. This is all niche gear, because if you don't have one specific class, that loot isn't useful. Even worse are the categories that have one build of one class listed, of which there are seven, which is a narrow niche.

Blizzard's ultimate goal is that when a piece of loot drops in PvE, the players should not sigh but instead be excited. Someone should be looking at their gear and saying that "it's an upgrade" or "maybe as a backup piece" or whatever. The worst case scenario is that simply by nature of the item, nobody in the raid can use it.

By reducing the number of weirdo niches as far as itemization goes, for example enhancement-shammies-only gear and holy-paladin-only gear, there will be less disappointment and more chances for joy on instance/raid runs.

This also dovetails nicely with the new expanded 10-man progression track in Wrath. If you're in a smaller guild, narrow niche gear is not only more likely to be useless, but it is more likely will always be useless. Your guild will be sized for 10-man progression, you're not going to have every spec of every build.

This is the goal with the new itemization. A larger percentage of the items will be useful to a larger percentage of characters, which means happier raids. Dps of many different kinds will be interested in the same rings, necklaces, trinkets and so on. Nukers and healers, living together. Fewer drops that nobody can use. It's beautiful.

As an aside, if you're thinking that druids and shammies look kind of sad in that list, you won't get an argument from druids and shammies. You try gearing up a boomkin (leather nuking) or an elemental shaman (mail nuking) without going to pvp gear and tell me how that goes compared with gearing up a mage or a rogue, or even a retribution pally. Link me the gear you can get out of Kara as you try to enter the endgame. "Wow, I never seem to get any drops in here, let me go check wowhead. (does research) Oh I see, there just isn't gear for me in here."

Combined with the item stat changes, they're also eliminating a narrow niche through class redesign: enhancement shammies will share hunter loot and no longer need their own special loot. They'll share weapons with the melee and share armor with the hunters. They did the same partway through the Burning Crusade with Retribution paladins, having them share itemization goals with the warriors and (soon) deathknights. Three classes going for the same loot? It increases the chance that when plate drops, someone will be happy. Good game design.

So let's reexamine the list after Wrath changes:

  1. Plate melee – deathknight 1.5/3, paladin 1/3, warrior 2/3
  2. Plate tanking – deathknight 1.5/3, paladin 1/3, warrior 1/3
  3. Plate caster – paladin 1/3
  4. Mail non-caster – hunter 3/3, shaman 1/3
  5. Mail caster – shaman 2/3
  6. Leather melee – druid 1/4, rogue 3/3
  7. Leather tanking – druid 1/4
  8. Leather caster – druid 2/4
  9. Cloth caster – mage 3/3, warlock 3/3, priest 3/3

Much better! Nine kinds of gear (down from 13), with four kinds that are niche (down from nine), and two that are narrow niche (down from seven). Cloth, mail and leather casters have tightened up considerably. So in Wrath, they've added a class and yet ended up with fewer kinds of gear, so PvE will be more fun. This is good work by Blizzard. Still a couple of problems, namely in pallies, shammies, and druids. Ah, you blessed hybrids. At least boomkin/trees and elemental/restoration shammies share gear, so while they're still niches, at least they're not narrow niches anymore.

The summary is: Blizzard is making PvE more fun with these changes. This a large part of the reason I'm excited about Wrath.

Tomorrow, I'll talk about taking it a step further with some outlandish design suggestions which are extremely unlikely to make it into the game.

More Words!

2 thoughts on “WoW Wrath Class Redesign and Reitemization Explained”

  1. Are these changes to existing gear, or only going to be implanted onto new gear?

    And… Do you know what they're going to do with Resilience? Other than get rid of it?

    Are they going to rework any of the current leather 'tanking' pieces to include defense then? Since right now… most druids have to utilize PvP pieces if they ever want to get out of Heavy Clefthoof. ><

    If they take that away from BC-era leveling druids, we'll stop being able to tank quite so well, even if they add gear to WotLK, won't help the mid-60's druids.

    Other than that… it seems really nice. It would be interesting then to see what they do with healing pieces – you know, the ones that are listed as 81 to healing, 50 to damage… are they going to lower it to the damage … ie: 50 spellpower or raise it to the healing?

    Because dang…. my warlock is going after the primal mooncloth set if that's the case! ;)

  2. The last time Blizzard did a stats redesign (on TBC launch, +hit % became +hit rating and so on), they changed all existing gear at the same time. So I'm guessing we're going to see the same with the release of Wrath.

    Your example of "+81 healing/+50 spell damage" is going to read "+50 spellpower", no need for locks to chase the Primal Mooncloth set. :) Healers won't see a meaningful difference because either the core talents or the spells themselves will read "heals gains an additional 50% benefit from spellpower" or something to that effect.

    As far as I know, resilience is here to stay. I know I've read at least one developer interview saying that they like the mechanic and how it plays out in PvP. Resilience in PvP and Hit rating in PvE are very similar: not terribly useful when brought to the other side.

    I don't know what they're planning with druid tanks, but the removal of crushing blows de-emphasizes defense overall (as you can see from the fact that +defense talents have been entirely removed/replaced in all talent trees). I imagine that once they have the druid talent trees/inscription bits finalized, the whole picture of druid tanking and their gear goals will become clear, and hopefully much better than TBC.

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