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Combat Flow

I have been playing a lot of WoW the past week or so. While the original goal was to grind some reputation to unlock Allied Races, I am now focusing my time on getting my stable of alts up to level 110 prior to BfA going Live. And in that time, I am finding it fascinating how great (or horrible!) combat feels for the different classes.

My “main” in Legion has been a druid Moonkin. The thought process was A) I wanted to DPS, and B) my historical knowledge of Feral was that you basically had to play Dance Dance Revolution perfectly to only achieve adequate DPS. Thus, for pretty much the entire expansion, I stayed Moonkin. That is in spite of Moonkins feeling terrible to play.

I say Moonkins feel terrible, but it’s difficult to enunciate why. There just doesn’t seem to be any particular flow. Let’s say that I’m facing a fresh target 30 yards away. I can start with a New Moon rotation, which is a 3-spell sequence of escalating damage and cast times. The target is likely to die by the time they get hit with the third spell, and I’ll have enough Astral Power to fire off at least two Starsurges (instant-cast, hard-hitting spells) to finish off anything that survives. Then the clunkiness comes in. While the New Moon rotation is on cooldown, I pretty much just spam Solar Wrath until I can Starsurge again, or I toss on two dots and hope for instant-cast Lunar Strike procs from being hit.

One of the alts I’m leveling is a Demo warlock, so let’s compare there. Starting at 30 yards, I cast Summon: Dreadstalkers, followed by two Shadowbolts, then Hand of Gul’dan. At this point, the mob is either dead or about to be dead from the force of like 6-8 demons auto-attacking. When the Dreadstalkers go away, I get two Demonbolt instant-cast procs, which are mini-Pyroblasts that also give me Soul Shards to recast Summon: Dreadstalker and/or Hand of Gul’dan.

There is a flow with the Demo warlock that practically turns into a roiling boil if you immediately engage another enemy. Compare that to the Moonkin, with it’s anemic refractory period inbetween possibly blowing one mob up.

Another flow impediment is just a clunky rotation. Exhibit A: the Unholy Death Knight. Festering Strike costs 2 runes, and gives your target some Festering Wounds. If you hit them twice, they’ll have four debuffs, and you can spend your two remaining runes on Scourge Strike to pop two of them. And now… you wait for runes to regenerate, or possibly throw out a Death Coil. Alternatively, you can only Festering Strike once, and then Scourge Strike four times, the latter two of which won’t deal extra damage. If there’s a 2nd mob, you just sort of face-tank them for a while. I mean, you have AoE options like Outbreak or Death & Decay/Defile, but those consume runes too, and you’re left with awkward gaps in the rotation regardless.

Retribution paladin used to be the king of awkward rotation gaps, but I have been enjoying it since the 8.0 patch thus far. Judgment, Blade of Justice, Templar’s Verdict is sometimes enough to kill a mob outright. If not, Crusader’s Strike and another Blade of Justice (via Art of War proc) will get you another 3 Holy Power for another Templar’s Verdict. If the mob still ain’t dead, or if something else wandered into range, Wake of Ashes hits hard and instantly gives you 5 Holy Power for some additional Templar’s Verdicts. Point being, there may be some gaps later on, but they only show up after prolonged combat.

Sometimes the rotation is fine, but there is something else that is ever-so-slightly grating about the class, which interrupts the flow. That has been my experience with Havoc (aka DPS) demon hunters. Nominally, the spec feels fine. In fact, it is extremely satisfying when you gather up mobs and watch them literally melt from Eye Beam every 30 seconds. The problem is… the sounds. The auto-attack and Demon’s Bite and Chaos Strike abilities make a discordant “ching-ching” sound, like metal on metal. It’s annoying as shit, and just about enough to get me to not want to play the class entirely, despite loving everything else about the kit. I might seriously investigate if there’s an addon or something that can change the sounds that those abilities make.

Of all the alts I’ve played thus far, the one that was the most surprisingly satisfying to play has been the Fury warrior. As far as I can tell, the spec is not even that particularly strong. But, guys, seriously, give it a go sometime. Charging your foe, hitting with Raging Blow/Blood Thirst/repeat, then launching into that amazing Rampage animation… glorious. Left, right, both swords. If you’re not careful, there can be a 1-2 second boner-killing gap in buttons to press within the rotation, but it’s otherwise a very good time. The sounds, the animation, the damage, the flow – the whole package.

Having said all that, it’s entirely possibly I have been doing things wrong. Talents play a huge part in rotations and spec feel, and I may have simply picked the wrong ones. For example, I’m looking at Icy Veins right now, and it’s saying that the New Moon talent for Moonkins is crap, which probably has a lot to do with how weak/clunky the spec feels. I’m not sure that spamming Solar Wrath or casting DoTs on mobs that should ideally die within 10-15 seconds will feel better, but maybe. The rest of my alts are all sub-110 also, so it’s possible that mobs scaled below max level are weaker than my druid main is used to fighting. As I bring each one to the level cap – almost entirely from doing Legion invasions once every few days – we’ll see how they feel.

It has been an interesting experience playing all these classes/specs nonetheless. A lot of people have kinda railed against the notion of making leveling new classes a trivial exercise, between heirlooms and XP streamlining and other nerfs. But I feel like it’s a great tragedy for new players of WoW to be coming in and possibly losing on the character creation screen. Or if not outright losing by sticking with a clunky spec/class, missing out on a class/spec that they would enjoy playing 1000% better than whatever they originally picked. This isn’t FF14 where you lose nothing in particular by switching classes. I’m stuck with the druid main at least until BfA – unless I’m willing to forever abandon unlocking the Allied Races – because I sure as shit ain’t grinding up the reputation again.

In any case, it’s my goal to get a stable full of max-level alts ready for the BfA release. And, you know, hopefully find the one that’s the most fun to play.

GW2 Gameplay Thus Far

I technically have four max-level characters in Guild Wars 2. For a while now, I have played all of them regularly, insofar as I use them to farm Winterberries. The gathering itself is simply pressing a button, but each node is frequently guarded by 3-4 mobs, one of which is usually a Veteran, e.g. equivalent to a WoW elite.

While it is not really a high bar, I do appreciate how differently each of the classes play when encountering the same content. Of course, some are (much) better than others. Sometimes even the weapons the class equips is enough to radically alter the gameplay.

Necromancer

I consider the Necro to be my “main” in GW2, and so I have been spending most of my time playing this class. It was tough choosing which Elite spec to funnel my expansion Hero Points into, but I settled with Scourge. While that decision was based on what research I could find regarding DPS and raid-worthiness, I feel like perhaps my normal gameplay style would’ve been better suited to Reaper.

The big change with Scourge over default Necro is that the Shroud (F1) ability is replaced with Manifest Sand Shade. This feels more powerful – and by all rights is – but it also introduces some clunky, fiddliness. Shroud always felt awkward for me to use, because it was basically an Oh Shit button that sometimes made sense to use as a DPS cooldown. The Sand Shades of the Scourge are more obviously DPS cooldowns, but it requires you to basically pick an area to create a stationary damage field. This clearly works in more known locations like raid encounters, but gets really annoying really quickly as you roam around in the the world.

A running theme throughout my experience with GW2 is that I hate the F1-F5 abilities. In fact, I hate all Stance Dancing in every MMO I have ever played. I ended up remapping the F1-F5 keys to something easier to press, but the Scourge represents a step backwards to me, as it took one button (F1) and turned it into five buttons, three of which you need to press regularly. Meanwhile, Reaper appears to be something more like I was looking for: turning F1 into a straight DPS cooldown, plus increasing survivability from a bunch of disposable pets.

Mesmer

The Mesmer is a class I used one of my level-80 boosts on, primarily because everyone talked about how boring it was to level. That boost automatically decks your character out in passable Exotic gear, so I felt relatively comfortable using her to farm Winterberries. What I ended up discovering was a playstyle that really suits me… providing I can figure out how to deal more damage.

The Mesmer is all about creating Clones and Phantasms, both of which can distract foes and deal damage themselves. In short, they have all of the positives of pets, with none of the downsides, considering they exist for only 10-20 seconds at a time during combat. It also amuses me to no end when I automatically create a Clone when dodge-rolling, as the mobs chasing me break the pursuit to attack something that disappears moments later anyway.

The problem is that while I can create a lot of distractions, it takes a lot longer to actually kill anything. Which might explain the whole “it’s boring to level a Mesmer” trope. I do not have either of the Elite specs unlocked, so perhaps that could improve things. Right now I am using Sword/Pistol and Greatsword, so that could be another avenue to explore.

Thief

I enjoy the Thief, but it is squishy as hell. The straight-forward F1 ability, spammable attacks, the Stealth… there is a lot here to like. From everything I have been reading though, the Elite specs are where it is at in terms of improving everything. I can kill things decently as it is, but I always seem to be hovering around 25% HP by the end of the fight.

Perhaps I need to move away from Dagger/Dagger…

Elementalist

Let’s see… squishy, no burst damage, 20+ skills to keep track of across F1-F4, and stance dancing. Yeah, Elementalist is my least favorite class by far. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even bother using it to farm Winterberries. There just isn’t anything fun about the way it plays.

Others

My other two characters are an Engineer and a Ranger. The Engineer in particular is one that I have always enjoyed – it was my second character created, in fact – but I unfortunately did not spend one of my two level boosts on her. Which might have been a mistake, given how the Thief is turning out. That said, I am accumulating those +1 level books at a decent clip based on my dabbling in WvW, so who knows when she will join the others at the cap.

The Ranger is another class I enjoyed to an extent, but not enough to play consistently. I like pet classes, but I don’t like fiddling with pets; I prefer cannon fodder to a companion in my MMO. That might sound cruel, but in my experience, what actually happens is I find a pet that I enjoy having around, but the optimal pet to use is something else entirely, so I am constantly forced to choose between form or function. Plus, there are usually dozens and dozens of pets to choose from in the first place, so actually picking one is difficult. Give me a generic, useful demon pet any day.

And… that’s it. Can’t really play a Warrior or Revenant until there is a sale on Character Slots.