The most important changes for the monk in 1.0.4 are aimed at improving damage-focused Spirit Spenders. We're happy with where Spirit Generators are right now, but unfortunately once you have Spirit, there aren’t very many appealing ways to use it. In many cases, the most effective use of Spirit has been to recast a Mantra repeatedly for the three-second bonus. While this is certainly one possibility, it doesn't seem as exciting as using one of the more offensively-focused Spirit Spenders (or at least having that option available).
From a strict usability standpoint, we think the visuals for Exploding Palm can be a little difficult to interpret. It's hard to tell who's affected by the Bleed and who's being damaged by the resulting explosion. Our Visual Effects team has made some improvements in 1.0.4 which will make it easier for players to tell who's bleeding and who's getting damaged.
From a mechanics standpoint, the three-second Bleed can make the explosion hard to pull off, and the damage just doesn't seem enough to be worth the Spirit cost. To help with both of these issues, we’re increasing the duration of the Bleed to nine seconds as well as its damage per second, which should make it more likely that monsters you’ve touched with Exploding Palm will go boom when they die.
Current: 220% weapon damage over 3 seconds
1.0.4: 745% weapon damage over 9 seconds
(Don't worry, Impending Doom is also having its duration increased to 15 seconds.)
The original intent for Seven-Sided Strike was for it to be a solid damage dealer that you could use for a quick burst. Where Serenity granted you an amazing period of invulnerability, and your other combat skills could put out some damage, Seven-Sided Strike would ideally exist somewhere in the middle by offering some invulnerability and some damage. Unfortunately, the way it currently plays out, Seven-Sided Strike feels more like a bad version of Serenity, and the damage just doesn’t seem worth it. To address this, we’ll be doing a straight damage increase to Seven-Sided Strike to make it an attractive option for those who are looking for a skill that really packs a punch.
The damage buff to Seven Sided Strike is significant. And although players rarely complain when a skill gets buffed, it does leave one wondering why a lower damage existed in the first place.
The answer is: our initial design was flawed in several ways. To get the skill where it needed to be, we identified three distinct problems that were plaguing not only Seven-Sided Strike, but other class skills as well, and each problem merited a damage increase.
First, we're upping the damage of many skills with longer cooldowns in 1.0.4. Across all classes, if I can only hit a button once every so often, it needs to dole out some significant damage to justify the spot on my bar. While some skills, like Archon and Wrath of the Berserker, are significant enough to make the cut, there are a lot of skills that need DPS improvements to make their cooldowns worthwhile. Indeed, many monks use Seven-Sided Strike for the brief invulnerability, not the damage.
Second, we're also upping the damage on skills that spend Spirit. As mentioned in the introduction, Spirit Spenders are getting buffed because the Spirit cost needs to be weighed against the benefit of using that Spirit on something else -- such as refreshing your Mantra.
Third, we're taking a hard look at distinctive, class-defining skills that create better tension on your skill bar. We'd like to promote skills that help to fulfill the fantasy of a class; skills that make you feel happy that you chose the class you did. Since the fantasy of a monk involves being fast, agile, and hard to hit, Seven-Sided Strike seemed like a natural candidate.
We looked at making these improvements across all skills and all classes, and Seven-Sided Strike benefitted all three times. As a result, the 1.0.4 version of the skill is incredibly potent (we'll save the details for the patch notes).
Wave of Light:
Wave of Light is the kind of skill that just needs to do way more damage. It has a big Spirit cost, but it doesn’t seem to pay off based on the amount of Spirit invested into it. In general, we’d like Lashing Tail Kick to be a skill that’s good against a small number of targets and feels relatively "spammable," and for Wave of Light to be a skill that’s more of an investment -- something that you don’t use as frequently, but pays out with bigger damage numbers when you actually do hit the button.
Current: 215% weapon damage as Holy + 45% damage as AoE
1.0.4: 390% weapon damage as Holy + 45% damage as AoE
This is just for the base skill. Wall of Light, Explosive Light, and Pillar of the Ancients damage has also been buffed up by a fair amount.
In terms of passives, it's pretty clear at this point that One With Everything is considered a mandatory passive for all monks. While "mandatory" passives aren't great, making any major change would do more harm than good, particularly when a) incoming damage is so high and b) monks need the extra durability in order to survive. Additionally, as a result of this passive, monks are more heavily tied to their current gear, so making changes to One With Everything would have very noticeable negative repercussions to the gear monks have invested in.
While we'd prefer that there wasn't an "absolutely mandatory" passive, we're going to let this one ride for now. If we do try to make changes we'll ideally do it in a way that doesn't invalidate the passive, doesn't hurt monk survivability, and doesn't undermine the gear people are currently wearing.
Last but not least, we added the ability for monks to wield two-handed weapons in 1.0.3, along with supporting animations. This has allowed some monks who enjoy two-handers to play this way, but it's not always effective. In the Systems Preview, we mentioned that two-handed melee weapons are getting a buff, and that will help. As additional support, the Spirit generation bonus granted by The Guardian's Path is going to be increased from 25% to 35%.
Hungering Arrow is currently the best-performing Hatred Generator for demon hunters. With its high theoretical damage output, strong Hatred generation, and straightforward mechanics, it's an easy go-to skill to have on your bar.
As with other classes, when there's a single skill (or set of skills) that is much stronger or more worthwhile to use, it curbs potential build diversity. To help open up some other options, we're taking a look at Hatred Generators and Spenders, as well as some of the demon hunter's more iconic abilities like Rain of Vengeance and Sentry, and will be upping the damage on all of them.
Four skills are intended to compete with Hungering Arrow as a Hatred Generator: Entangling Shot, Bola Shot, Evasive Fire, and Grenades. While each of these skills offer some unique utility options (Entangling Shot slows enemies, Bola Shot has an AoE component, Evasive Fire provides an escape route, and Grenades can bounce off walls), their damage just isn’t competitive enough when compared to the theoretical damage of Hungering Arrow and its rune variants.
In the case of Grenades, the skill has some minor mechanical and control issues that keep its unique ability to bounce off walls from really shining through. It can be difficult to get the grenade projectiles to where you want them, and using the skill doesn’t always feel very smooth. We explored some alternate targeting methods over the course of 1.0.4's development cycle to help improve this, but we weren't happy with anything we came up with. Most often, we found that by introducing targeting that allowed Grenades to bounce off a wall in a satisfying way, it would often make it so you couldn’t hit a monster you directly clicked on. Unfortunately, we haven’t found a great solution yet, so the Grenades skill isn't going to get as much love this patch. However, we do want to revisit the skill in the future.
As for the other three Hatred Generators, rather than nerfing Hungering Arrow to be less powerful, we’re instead bringing up the damage values for all three skills to make them more attractive. To use Bola Shot as an example:
Damage to the primary target is being increased from 130% to 160%
Damage for Thunder Ball and Acid Strike is also being increased from 130% to 160%
Damage for Imminent Doom to the primary target is being increased from 182% to 216%
With these changes, Hungering Arrow will still do more theoretical damage against a single target, but Bola Shot damage will become a viable DPS alternative and it will also do AoE damage. Entangling Shot and Evasive Fire are receiving boosts to their damage as well, so they should be much more compelling choices when it comes to Hatred generation. Much like Bola Shot, they won't compete directly with Hungering Arrow in terms of raw theoretical damage to a single target, but the DPS loss won’t be as great in order to gain the utility they offer.
Our general philosophy for resource-spending skills (and this applies across all classes) is if you take the time to spend your resource, we want you to feel like you got a good return for it. Elemental Arrow is currently the most popular Hatred Spender in the demon hunter's arsenal and a good example for what works -- given how quickly you can fire off each arrow, you can deal a lot of damage to nearby enemies. Unfortunately, many of the other Hatred Spenders fail to meet this benchmark in terms of DPS output, so we're buffing them up to match.
To give you an idea of what kind of increases you’ll see in 1.0.4, let's use Chakram and Cluster Arrow as examples.
We're increasing its damage from 150% to 170%
We're increasing the damage for Twin Chakrams from 100% to 114%
We're increasing the damage for Serpentine from 203% to 230%
We're increasing the damage for Razor Disk from 165% to 187%
We're increasing the damage for Boomerang from 188% to 230%
We're increasing the damage for Shuriken Cloud from 30% to 34%
We're increasing the initial bomb damage from 200% to 225%
We're increasing damage for Maelstrom from 145% to 165%
We're increasing damage for Loaded for Bear from 290% to 304%
Just like Hydra for the wizard, Rain of Vengeance is intended to be a trademark spell for the demon hunter. We want it to be one of those buttons on your bar that you look forward to pushing -- not only because it's visually very fitting for the class, but also because it packs one hell of a punch.
While the skill is where it needs to be visually, mechanically it lacks the "oomph" that most iconic class abilities possess. Its damage is just far too low to compete with other skills available.
To bring Rain of Vengeance up to the level it needs to be, we made some pretty notable changes. Not only did we buff the damage, but Rain of Vengeance is one of the skills being converted to a strict X% weapon damage over Y seconds format, as alluded to in the Systems Preview. As a result, the new base skill is quite potent:
Current: 75% weapon damage for 5 seconds
1.0.4: 715% weapon damage over 5 seconds
(Anathema now also uses the "X% weapon damage over Y seconds format." Meanwhile, Dark Cloud, Beastly Bombs, Stampede, and Flying Strike are receiving straight boosts to their damage. )
Sentry is also a very distinctive spell that doesn't get used very often. It's interesting mechanically, and it has some nice potential for team play, so we'd like to make it more attractive. The solution was pretty simple for this one: we took its damage, and then we doubled it.
Out of the five Diablo III classes, witch doctors are receiving the most attention in patch 1.0.4. The goal for this patch, like for many of the other classes, was simple: identify the unpopular or hard-to-use skills, figure out what’s not working, and then make them better. In some cases, skills only needed slight tuning -- a little more damage here, or some increased durations there. In other cases, more significant changes were required. For the purpose of this preview, we'll focus on the bigger changes, which can be broken down into the following categories:
Vision Quest design flaws
Splinters and Zombie Bears are way more appealing than most other skills
One of the core play styles for the witch doctor (and indeed the reason many people chose to play a witch doctor to begin with) is to have pets. Unfortunately, while witch doctor pets do pretty well in Normal difficulty, their survivability has been virtually non-existent in Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno. From our perspective, this isn't acceptable, so we're making some significant buffs to pets in 1.0.4. The goal of these buffs is to make pets not only more viable in those later difficulties, but also more enjoyable for players who prefer to base their builds around them.
From a design perspective, we want your pets to be durable enough so they can tank for you, but we don't want them to just be automatically immortal. The cooldown on summoning pets is there for a reason. Speaking more specifically, we'd like for there to be times when your pets have died, your cooldowns haven't refreshed yet, and you have that period of increased tension as you wait for the situation to stabilize again. On the other hand, we'd also like for there to be noticeable improvements for players who put thought and effort into their skill and gear selections to make their pets as strong as possible.
Trial and Error:
One of the first things we tried internally was to have Zombie Dogs scale their Life directly with their owner's Life (Zombie Dogs already inherit Armor and Resistance from their owner). This had mixed results. For example, if the player stacked a large amount of Life, Armor, and Resist, it was possible to have Zombie Dogs tank most of Act I and parts of Act 2 in Inferno. As much as it made sense to have Zombie Dogs scale directly with your gear, it actually inhibited a completely different playstyle: players who wanted their witch doctor to be more of a glass cannon, but still have their Zombie Dogs able to tank. And with that we went back to the drawing board.
The next time around we gave the Zombie Dogs a base amount of Life, and in addition to this base value, they would also receive 35% of their owner's Life. So, you had a Zombie Dog that could scale with your gear, but if you were built as a glass cannon you’d still have that base amount of Life to fall back on. To help with general survivability, we also gave Zombie Dogs some innate passive Life regeneration. This test was much more successful. The Zombie Dogs could survive through most parts of Act I and Act II of Inferno just fine and died only occasionally to really difficult encounters. In Act III and Act IV, however, they could take maybe one or two hits, but the outcome was always the same: dead Zombie dogs. We tried increasing the bonus to 100% of their owner's Life -- and even to 150% at one point, just to see what would happen -- but it was to no avail. The incoming damage just scaled up too high in those later Acts.
So, we made some more adjustments to their scaling, we gave them more passive regeneration, and we made pets resistant to even more AoE effects (such as Plagued, Frozen, and Mortar). The result was positive, but not perfect: Zombie Dogs could now tough out Acts I and II of Inferno, but they were still melting in Acts III and IV.
The Final Product:
Our final iteration was to give Zombie Dogs their own version of the wizard skill Force Armor, which limits the amount of damage a wizard can take in a single hit up to 35% of their maximum Life. Much like the rationale for reducing damage for AoE effects, pets take more damage from melee than players. Pets also don't back off when they’re low, make use of doorways, or avoid big attacks.
When translating "Force Armor" over to Zombie Dogs, we wanted to make sure they could still scale with the player's Life, Armor, and Resistances. So, rather than a flat 35%, the damage cap per hit is based on inherited Armor and Resistance values, and rather than scaling with the total Life, the mitigation amount is calculated on the base health of the Zombie Dogs, allowing additional Life to actually scale exceptionally well.
This might be a bit confusing, so let's set up an example using a level 60 witch doctor. Let’s say this witch doctor has 32,000 Life, 45% mitigation from Armor, and 30% mitigation from Resistances. (For clarity, this means that 55% of incoming damage gets past the player’s Armor, and 70% of the incoming damage gets past Resistances.)
The base Life of a level 60 Zombie Dog is 10,000 Life
With scaling, each Zombie Dog will have 21,200 Life (10,000 [base] + 32,000 * 35% [scaling])
The maximum damage the Zombie Dog can take in a single hit will be 3850 Life (10,000 [base] * 55% [damage not mitigated by armor] * 70% [damage not mitigated by Resistances])
Ignoring passive Life regeneration, this means each Zombie Dog will always be able to take at least 5.5 hits (21,200 [Life] / 3850 [damage])
Once you factor in some passive Life regeneration and healing from health globes, Zombie Dogs can do reasonably well in Inferno. Players who decide to go with a glass cannon build while using Zombie Dogs will have pets that can tank for short periods of time. Meanwhile, players who build with some survivability and choose pet-oriented passives like Fierce Loyalty, Zombie Handler, and Jungle Fortitude will find their pets to be extremely durable and very capable of handling all Acts of Inferno.
As it stands now, without Vision Quest, many builds feel like you never have quite enough Mana.
Don't get me wrong: feeling like you always want more Mana can be a good thing, otherwise the resource system isn’t really doing its job. Even so, there are two major issues with Vision Quest that we want to address. The first is that it can feel very "feast or famine" when you're using it; sometimes you have near limitless Mana and at other times you're starved for resources. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it forces you to keep four skills on cooldown in order to be useful. This can be frustrating for a witch doctor who wants to use a cooldown skill strategically, but ends up casting the spell early for the Mana regeneration benefits.
Let’s use Big Bad Voodoo as an example. Big Bad Voodoo might be ready to go, but you need it on cooldown for Vision Quest to stay active. So, you cast the skill with only a handful of enemies on the screen. Then, no more than 20 seconds later, you come across a nasty Elite pack. While this would be a great moment to drop a Big Bad Voodoo to help you kill everything in sight (and ultimately avoid being killed yourself)….the skill is, of course, on cooldown. This can be a very aggravating experience! This isn't a dilemma we want players to face on a regular basis, so Vision Quest is getting redesigned for 1.0.4.
We're keeping the focus of the skill on Mana regeneration, but we're going to shift the way you get that regeneration away from needlessly spamming cooldowns to attacking and doing damage. The first thing we're doing is increasing the baseline Mana regeneration of all witch doctors from 20 Mana per second to 45 Mana per second. Not only does this help to alleviate the "feast or famine" effect, it also acts as a big buff to witch doctors who choose to skip Vision Quest. As for Vision Quest itself, it will increase Mana regeneration by 30% for 5 seconds after dealing damage with Firebomb, Corpse Spiders, Poison Dart, or Plague of Toads. One of the fun things about this set up is that you can combine it with a Spider Queen (Corpse Spider rune) or a Pyrogeist (Firebomb rune) and they’ll keep Vision Quest active for you the entire time they’re out.
Of course, Vision Quest going down to 30% can seem scary. Base Mana regeneration is increased, and the new mechanics actually allow for Vision Quest to have a very high uptime, but is it enough?
As we continue internal testing, one of our checks to determine how well Vision Quest is performing is to see if a level 60 player can still summon hordes of stampeding Zombie Bears. While we can't accommodate every skill and build combination out there, the goal for Vision Quest is that a player who has chosen the right passives and gear will still be able to summon waves of stampeding bears for at least a few seconds. The new Vision Quest is a lot less "feast or famine" than before, which means some players won't be able to spam Zombie Bears for quite as long, but the tradeoff is you’ll have a more consistent stream of Mana coming in, and (more importantly) you'll have your cooldown-controlled skills available to use strategically for maximum effect. A more reliable Mana stream, being able to use your cooldowns, and having the option to use other active and passive skills seems like a better design for the class as a whole for the long term.
In case you're wondering, we’re not touching Splinters or Zombie Bears this patch. While these are the two most popular witch doctor skills right now, it’s probably not just because people love the sound of Splinters or the look of Zombie Bears (though both of those are pretty cool). Instead, their popularity is likely due to how attractive these skills are, both in terms of damage output and overall feel. To help compensate and open up more build options, we’re buffing a lot of other skills to make them as appealing as Splinters and Zombie Bears.
Speaking of how a skill feels, the reason players avoid many of the lesser used witch doctor skills have more to do with the skill feeling "slow." For example, Firebomb, Plague of Toads, and Corpse Spiders all have animation timing issues which are being improved for 1.0.4. In general, all of these skills will cast faster, which will make the class feel snappier and more responsive. We're also doing a straight damage increase on many skills including (but not limited to) Acid Cloud, Firebats, Firebomb, and Spirit Barrage.
Since I only play Demon Hunter, I shall comment on that.
Assuming Rain of Vengeance is what I think it is (since I don't remember anything besides that which I use), the reason I do not use it is because their monsters are retardedly buff and one hit me so the last thing I want to do is stay in one spot, WHICH IT REQUIRES I MIGHT ADD. Even with a damage buff, it's useless. I'd rather have 4 discipline skills to increase survivability than something that DOESN'T EVEN DO INSTANT DAMAGE. Same with Sentry. It doesn't move so you'd have to stay close to it for it to do damage to a champ pack. It just doesn't make sense.
Which is also why I prefer Elemental Arrow to any of the other hatred spending skills. It's targeted, it does good damage. Chakram has horrible patterns and none of them strike me as reliable when you have a champion pack chasing your ass across the desert.
The same generally goes for the other hatred generation skills. It's not only that Hungering Arrow does theoretically more damage, it has a built in auto-target that makes it that much useful for me. Spam it off screen and stuff dies. And yeah, grenades are just bad. They're slow and unreliable. I used it for a second in town and instantly hated the feel of it. If they can't do something about that, then the skill is out.
I'd really prefer they did something about the discipline skills and survivability of the Demon Hunter. It is frustrating as hell to play all game and get so many items and then, BAM, along comes Inferno and your health pool is useless since everything one shots you. I'll be glad to see the nerf to the champion packs, but that's not even the only thing.