Monday, November 16, 2015

[WoW] Are Maelstrom Weapon and Maelstrom Power All That Different?

I've doing a fair amount of thinking on Blizzard's Enhancement Shaman preview, and the gut reaction of myself (and much of the community) is that we're turning into magic Fury Warriors. But I want to put on my designer cap for a few minutes and break down how the two mechanics ostensibly work and see if they're actually all that different.

A review for those who aren't aware of one or either mechanic (which are frankly, mildly complex). Note that I'm deliberately "renaming" Blizzard's Maelstrom to Maelstrom Power to better differentiate it from Maelstrom Weapon for the purposes of this discussion.

Maelstrom Weapon (Today)

A buff that stacks to 5. Each melee swing/attack has a chance to generate 1 stack of Maelstrom Weapon (MW). Currently today that includes a number of abilities, plus Windfury, a random event that deals 3 melee weapon attacks simultaneously.

Each stack of the buff reduces the cast time and mana cost of Nature spells by 20% and increases damage/healing done by said spell 10%, meaning a full 5 stacks makes your next Nature spell free and instant for +50% damage/healing, consuming up to 5 stacks of the buff. You lose any stacks generated above 5, so you need to spend that 5 stack immediately.

Note that a special set of armour will increase the maximum stacks to 10, and increase the damage of Nature spells by an additional 12% per stack of MW consumed (for a grand total of 22% per stack).

Maelstrom Power (Tomorrow)

A resource that stacks to 100? (I'm going to assume 100 for now). Each melee attack generates 5 Maelstrom Power (MP). This includes Windfury, a random event that deals 3 melee weapon attacks simultaneously. Judging by the text "When you deal damage with a melee weapon" this seems to include abilities that spend MP and have a melee weapon component (ie: Stormstrike and Lava Lash).

Certain abilities now cost MP specifically (i.e.: Stormstrike, Lava Lash, Sundering), and others generate it specifically (i.e.: Rockbiter). You lose any MP generated above 100, so you need to spend some immediately when you approach maximum.

Thanks to Stormfury random events, you'll want to ensure you have at least 70 Maelstrom Power banked (or more) to be able to capitalize on the event and get two Stormstrikes out back-to-back.

An Abstract Viewpoint

Let's pretend that instead of 5 stacks, Maelstrom Weapon was actually a value that went up to 50, and each MW proc gave you 10 MW value. Spells would still eat up to 50 MW, and have their cast time/mana cost reduced and damage/healing increased based on the amount of MW consumed. Now, toss in the special set of armor to bring that up to 100 MW maximum, and spells can still consume up to 50. You want to sit at around 50 so you can get two big spells out back-to-back when needed.

That's...starting to look an awful lot like Maelstrom Power. In fact, all we have to do is change MW procs to always just give us 5 MW instead of sometimes giving 10, and boom, now we have Maelstrom Power.

So from a high level abstract viewpoint, MW and MP are actually pretty similar mechanically. MP prevents bad luck streaks as we always generate a floor of 5 MP per weapon swing, even if we never proc Windfury or cast any spells to generate MP. Add to that spammable Rockbiter, and we have unprecedented control over our Maelstrom generation.

As Wordup mentioned in his FinalBossTV interview, Maelstrom Power as designed can be super swingy. A single 2.5s global cooldown (GCD) can net us 5 MP from main-hand, 5 MP from off-hand, 15 MP from Windfury, and 15 MP from Rockbiter. That's 40 Maelstrom when we get lucky (~12% of main hand attacks with average gear, apparently). Though, that's not any different from Maelstrom Weapon today. Stormstrike generates 2 melee hits, and can still proc Windfury, plus two auto-attacks meaning a total of 7 possible stacks of Maelstrom Weapon in a single GCD. But if you got 7 stacks in a single GCD, you should go buy a lottery ticket.

So all in all, the big difference between the two seems to be Maelstrom Power is more consistent, Maelstrom Power can be manually generated via Rockbiter, and how the two are spent.


In the old world, Maelstrom Weapon is spent on spells. Lightning Bolt, Chain Lightning, Healing Surge, and Healing Rain all have instant cast time with zero mana cost when consuming 5 stacks of MW. We use our melee attacks to generate Maelstrom Weapon to blast our enemies and heal our allies with big instant spells. We can still cast those spells if we have no MW, but they'll be expensive, slow, and hit way weaker.

In the new world, Maelstrom Power is spent on melee attacks. Stormstrike, Lava Lash, and other abilities yet to be released are castable only via MP. We use our spells and auto-attacks to generate Maelstrom Power to blast our enemies with big spell-powered melee hits (and heal our allies,. ostensibly, but those details are minimal). No MP, though, can't cast the ability.

Maelstrom Weapon allowed us to be flexible. Most of our attacks were still available (cooldown based), so we weren't hamstrung without MW stacks, but our spellcasting was largely driven by MW stacks. But if we wanted to dump our limited mana pool into Healing Surge or Lightning Bolt spam we could.

Stormstrike and Lava Lash? Need that Maelstrom, or you can't cast them at all. We have fewer options when we have no Maelstrom than we did before, but at the same time, we should generate Maelstrom far more consistently.

Jury's still out on Maelstrom Power with respect to spellcasting. The devs on Twitter have mentioned that Healing Surge and Lightning Bolt would be available to Enhancement, and they'd be like Elemental's where they take 0 - 20 Maelstrom (though how that affects the cast for Enhancement is unknown). It also is a question of how effective are they going to be at 0 Maelstrom? When we had mana, we'd run out quickly if we were spamming Healing Surge, so there was a natural limit to that. With a 0 MP version, they're going to have to either neuter it pretty severely, or put a cooldown on it or something.

Healing spells currently are basically limited by our mana pool (and the fact that our healing sucks without MW stacks). Having that dual resource system works for the hybrid caster because we have a limitation somewhere in the system. With moving to a single resource, we lose that limitation, so some other action needs to be taken by the designers to fix that. Otherwise we'll have PvP matches where the Enhancement Shaman hides behind a pillar and heals to maximum.

Final Thoughts

The Maelstrom Power mechanic seems solid enough, though by giving us more control we're still basically blue bar Fury Warriors, my opinion doesn't really change on that after closer examination. And by giving us more control, the devs had to make Maelstrom mean something more than just free/instant spell casts. So they've turned the class on its head and made all of our heavy hitting stuff tied to Maelstrom rather than only the spells.

I still don't like the "fantasy" that Blizzard has presented for the class. What made us special was that we could cast spells, and we were a true hybrid in the sense that we could throw out the occasional awesome heal or the occasional awesome spell. I like our frenetic cooldown-based primary rotation, and now I'll have to stare at the Maelstrom bar to keep track of when I can use abilities.

I actually detest that about the current 4 piece tier armor that makes our Maelstrom Weapon stack to 10. Now I have to carefully watch that resource rather than just slamming the spell I want when it hits 5 stacks. Mind, with our primary rotation simplifying, that leaves mental throughput for tracking the resource bar.

At the end of it all, despite Maelstrom Weapon and Maelstrom Power being similar with respect to building, it's our core rotation and Maelstrom spending that changes drastically. Today most of our complexity is in the rotation, and Maelstrom Weapon gives us some extra options on occasion. Blizzard is removing the complexity in the base rotation, and moving it all into how Maelstrom Power works. In their quest to give each class a distinct "fantasy" and to make every class easy to learn, hard to master, they're homogenizing resource mechanics, and it still rankles a week later. What makes us different mechanically seems to be lost. I'm still waiting to see what they drop for talents and non-core abilities, but I'm still wavering between nonplussed and upset.
#WorldOfWarcraft, #Shaman, #Legion

1 comment:

  1. One, there was a blue tweet that did note that 100 was the upper limit of Maelstrom.

    Two, thank you for doing this. I agree that it's not looking like any real differentiation between Fury and Enhance is planned, and like others have said, if I want to be a warrior, I can.

    Three, with (datamined, very raw, obviously incomplete) talents and abilities out, I'm not seeing much in the way of interesting spenders added. I probably shouldn't make too much of it, but it at least show some extent what their ideas are/were. So far it's two as we level, Crash Lightning (30MP) and Frostbrand (20MP), and 5 talents, Lightning Shield (20MP+5/sec(15sec)), Sundering (60MP), Fury of Air (20MP+5/sec(10sec)) Stonefist Strike (30MP) and Earthen Spike (30MP). I see three AEs (CrL,LS and FoA), one stun, and one interrupt with a partial AE component. Nothing but one over 30 to start and two with maintenance.

    Frostbrand having a Maelstrom component is a little worrisome as it makes it a poor opener while soloing (Frostshock is really no different for Elemental though) and I don't see Flametongue as anything other than a modified Flameshock.

    Crash Lightning sounds like a cleave. With a secondary cleave. Gust of Wind just needs MP generation added and we've got Charge. Fury of Air looks almost identical to Bladestorm. Earthen Spike looks like Colossus Smash. Not sure there's anything new here yet. One thing they did put deep in the pvp talents was that if you cast lightning bolt from outside melee range, you get 15 MP, so to some extent there seems to be a philosophy of casting still in the game, if not in pve.