Ranged DPS Class Writers Opinions on Class Tuning Changes on the 9.0.5 PTR

Ranged DPS Class Writers Opinions on Class Tuning Changes on the 9.0.5 PTR

Today we’ve asked our Ranged DPS Class Writers for their thoughts on the recent class changes added to Patch 9.0.5 PTR. For this post, we are covering the changes present in latest two PTR builds, Build 37623, from February 17th, and Build 37705, from February 24th.

Note that only classes that received changes on the past 2 PTR builds will be covered.

It is important to remember that content on the PTR is not final and Blizzard will likely change classes more as PTR builds go by.

February 17th BuildFebruary 24th Build

Beast Mastery Hunter Review of PTR Changes

Changes Highlights

Beast Mastery Hunter Guide

The 9.0.5 changes for Beast Mastery bring some welcome buffs to several of our legendaries, most notably to Rylakstalker’s Piercing Fangs. The jump to 35% crit damage is absolutely monstrous for Beast Mastery, both as a much-needed buff and to ensure that Soulforge Embers is now outclassed as a legendary. Rylak’s was actually at 30% on the beta for awhile, but was nerfed to 20% prior to launch. With the buff to 35%, Rylak’s should now be the best legendary in all situations for Beast Mastery Hunters. We will need to wait and see if this makes Beast Mastery competitive with Marksmanship, but this offers an excellent source of scaling going into future tiers.

The other notable changes are to Flayed Shot and Fleshcraft. Flayed Shot was buffed offensively, while Fleshcraft was buffed defensively to now be a potentially strong defensive cooldown. If you could freely swap Covenants then there might be a more interesting conversation to be had, but Wild Spirits is still just too powerful to give up in the current raid setting. This might change depending on how next tier looks, but for now I still cannot recommend going Venthyr or Necrolord for Raiding or M+.

Marksmanship Hunter Review of PTR Changes

Changes Highlights

Marksmanship Hunter Guide

The major changes for Marksmanship are primarily legendary tuning and covenant adjusting. The recent buffs to Flayed Shot and Necrotic Barrage don’t mean much, they simply close the gap a bit between the high end and low end of the covenant spectrum (neither of which will be used still). The legendary changes however, will lead to some possible changes for us.

Two of our Legendaries were buffed. Surging Shots and Eagletalon’s True Focus. Serpentstalker’s Trickery also had a bug fixed with its interaction with Night Fae’s Wild Spirits, which hurt most Marksmanship Hunters quite a bit (~3% single target loss and 5-10% AoE loss).

Taking these things into consideration, Serpentstalker’s Trickery should still be our default single target legendary, however, a new build has risen due to the buff with Eagletalon’s True Focus. This build uses EFT, Calling the Shots, and Sharpshooter’s Focus which creates the “1 minute build” for us. While we may not necessarily hard swap to it (as it’s currently simming slightly behind the standard build), it may be an option going forward. In terms of AoE, we’re exploring different options since we took such a big hit in that department. Surging Shots remains prominent for Kyrian Hunters but Night Fae Hunters may be using Eagletalon’s True Focus or Secrets of the Unblinking Vigil in AoE now since Serpent Stalkers was nerfed so hard for us. Serpentstalker’s Trickery does still remain a solid option despite its nerf, as it allows for multi-dotting regardless.

Arcane Mage Review of PTR Changes

Changes Highlights

Arcane Mage Guide

The February 17th hotfix buffed three of our legendaries: Arcane Harmony, Disciplinary Command and Expanded Potential. None are ‘meta’ items, even after the buff, but all are usable in all types of content (unlike our best raid legendary, Temporal Warp). Arcane Harmony is the most versatile of the tree, but if you only want to craft one legendary item then Arcane Bombardment is still your best bet.

Fire Mage Review of PTR Changes

Changes Highlights

Fire Mage Guide

Disciplinary Command is receiving a 25% increase to the Critical Strike damage effect. For Fire, this legendary is already at par with Fevered Incantation in sims and quite far above the others in Single Target and AoE. In practice, however, it suffers due to fight design in Castle Nathria causing hiccups in the uptime of the buff. It’s surprising to see it receive such a strong increase, and this is undoubtedly a change to help bolster the legendary for Frost and Arcane.

Expanded Potential is receiving a 20% increase to its procs per minute. This effect is decent for Frost in single target, but still behind in every other way. For Fire it will continue to be the worst DPS legendary even after the change.

For Fire Mage, Molten Skyfall and Sun King’s Blessing are both receiving substantial tuning in the form of reduced requirements to trigger effects. Molten Skyfall is receiving an effective 28% buff while Sun King’s Blessing is receiving a 33% buff and a 20% increase to the duration of the subsequent Combustion effect.

To expand on this further, the consumption of Hot Streak is what triggers the Combustion effect of Sun King’s Blessing. The act of consuming a Hot Streak triggers a GCD of 1.5 to .75 seconds depending on Haste. Since the Combustion effect activates right away, and you have to still wait on GCD, you never get the full 5 seconds to act, it’s more like 3.5. This means that a 1 second increase is more like going from 3.5 seconds to 4.5 and the buff to length is more like 28%.

These changes will undoubtedly narrow the gap between legendaries in Single Target, but overall I don’t think they will dethrone Fevered Incantation which is dominant in Single Target and AoE. I am interested to see how Disciplinary Command performs in logs, since it currently is underperforming what it can do in sims (due to fight design).

Frost Mage Review of PTR Changes

Changes Highlights

Frost Mage Guide

Disciplinary Command is receiving a 25% increase to the Critical Strike damage effect. It’s surprising to see it receive such a strong increase, and this is undoubtedly a change to help bolster the legendary for Frost and Arcane. Even with this change, this legendary is still very bad for Frost.

Expanded Potential is receiving a 20% increase to its procs per minute. This effect is decent for Frost in single target, but still behind in every other way.

For Frost Mage, we have more relevant changes since the legendary effects seeing adjustments have more of a chance at finding use in raids. Cold Front is getting a whopping 50% decrease to the amount of spells required to trigger it, effectively doubling the damage increase of the legendary. Freezing Winds is getting adjusted for the 5th time, bringing the frequency of Fingers of Frost generation back down to every 2 seconds. Keep in mind that the effect of this legendary isn’t fully explained in the tooltip, since the Freezing Winds buff lasts 30 seconds.

These changes function as another buff to Frost Mage, which was eviscerated by multiple nerfs at the very end of Beta. The change to Cold Front should bring that legendary close to being in line with Slick Ice in Single Target, and Freezing Winds will likely end up around the same as Glacial Fragments in cleave. This means they will likely find use in Castle Nathria and add variety to a spec which currently has only two real options. Freezing Winds, especially, should see some use.

Shadow Priest Review of PTR Changes

Changes Highlights

Shadow Priest Guide

Shadow Priest has received three class changes so far in Patch 9.0.5, as well as the Night Fae Covenant changes from a few weeks ago.

  • Shadowflame Prism’s Shadowflame Rift damage has been increased from 140% spell power to 220%.
  • Shadowflame Prism’s Shadowflame Rift damage has been added to the Shadow Priest Mastery. (As of yet undocumented)
  • Painbreaker Psalm now causes Shadow Word: Death to generate ‘up to 30 insanity’, up from ‘up to 20 insanity’.

The two most impactful changes Shadow is receiving affect the Shadowflame Prism legendary. This legendary has, up until now, seen little to no use in competitive play in Shadowlands due to its poor damage in both single target and AOE. This is a shame, because honestly it was really fun to use throughout SL Beta and has a reasonable amount of interaction with the rest of Shadow’s base spells and borrowed power kit. Taking into account both the damage buff and the mastery addition, Shadowflame Prism looks to be a real contender now in Mythic Plus and Raid situations, though Talbadar’s Stratagem is likely to remain the best choice for Single Target.

Shadow throughout SL Season One has had one major weakness in its damage profile, the so-called “Dead Zone” of 4-5 mobs. Too many to realistically multi dot with Misery, but too few to generate enough insanity to spam out Searing Nightmares. With the improvements to Shadowflame Prism that problem seems to be a thing of the past.

Shadowflame Prism also pushes Shadow Priest to consider Mindbender more often as a talent choice. As a 60 second cooldown, this will pair up well with the recently buffed Night Fae covenant ability. Being able to pair Mindbender and Voidform gives the Shadowflame Prism yet more potential value, increases the already growing value of the Night Fae Covenant, and might kick Void Torrent off the top spot as the only choice in the level 45 row for raiding.

The third change, a buff to the insanity generation of Painbreaker Psalm, is unlikely to make much of a difference. Shadow Priests are, despite the current low tuning of Shadow Word: Pain and Vampiric Touch, a DoT spec, and removing or reducing the duration of those dots to empower Shadow Word: Death does not fit cohesively with the rest of the spec. There’s a point where this legendary could become viable with enough buffs, but personally I think the gameplay it creates is more of an issue than its poor tuning. Best it either remains something for people to experiment and have fun with in niche situations, or sees a redesign in a future patch.

Overall these legendary changes are positive, but there is some concern that once again Blizzard seem to be trying to fix baseline class issues with Borrowed Power.

Elemental Shaman Review of PTR Changes

Changes Highlights

Elemental Shaman Guide

The February 17th class changes for Elemental seemed driven by a few goals that they’ve met so far as we can tell:
1) To buff both our burst & sustained AoE
2) To maintain parity between Earthquake and Earth Shock so we don’t run into the old MoP problem of Earthquake looking to replace Earth Shock on single-target
3) To keep our single-target about the same (the net change on the Earth Shock/Lava Burst changes is expected to be a very very small buff to single target.)

On top of this, a nerf to Echoes of Great Sundering was introduced to keep the legendary in line considering the Earthquake buffs. However, due to the nature of Echoes of Great Sundering (primarily, the fact that the Earthquake it empowers costs Maelstrom) the nerf from +175% damage to +100% damage meant that the legendary would no longer have any significant AoE value. You would effectively always get the damage of 2 Earthquakes in AoE for every 120 Maelstrom you spent with or without the legendary, with the value of one Earth Shock added in if you used Echoes of Great Sundering.

This led to the slight buff to Echoes of Great Sundering we saw in the February 24th changes, and while 120% does not give Echoes of Great Sundering the same relative strength it has on live (depending on target count 130-140% would be necessary) that’s ok, as preliminary sims indicate that at 120% Echoes of Great Sundering is getting very close to Windspeaker’s Lava Resurgence in value on single-target. If it were buffed to keep the same AoE strength it has on live, it would likely surpass Windspeakers and become the best legendary for almost every PvE secenario, which would mean we have less options on the whole.

Affliction Warlock Review of PTR Changes

Changes Highlights

Affliction Warlock Guide

A small update to the changes from the previous patch notes we wrote a little while ago – as a quick refresher, in those patchnotes, the main changes to affliction were a massive 18% damage nerf to Malefic Rapture, as well as some slight covenant rebalancing. While the 18% nerf would have massive implications, as of the february 17th patch notes, this has been completely reversed and Malefic Rapture remains in its current state. Essentially – Affliction is back on the menu for 9.0.5 and onwards.

In addition to this revert, a couple of Afflictions’ less popular legendaries got some slight buffs that might be able to bump them up into prevalency. Malefic Wrath, the legendary that seems like it should be the best single target legendary for affliction but unfortunately falls just short, is getting a number buff from 25% per stack to 35% per stack. Drain Soul damage isn’t the biggest portion of our damage, and actually ends up being worse on single target due to running Siphon Life and spending even more gcds refreshing dots instead of casting Drain Soul, but the slight damage buff might be enough to pull ahead on pure single target. The other legendary that got a numbers bump was Wrath of Consumption. The buff is actually quite massive – the original values for 5% damage increased on your damage over time effects for each target killed for 20 seconds, and this has been increased to 6% damage per stack for 30 seconds. Not only is the damage increase nice, but the quality of life of having those buffs for an extra 10 seconds and having more opportunity to conserve and extend your stacks is a great quality of life buff. Unfortunately, due to affliction’s current damage profile, with a large portion of it being Malefic Rapture, which does not qualify for the damage over time damage increase, wrath of consumption has to see a pretty unique use case in order for it to be effective – namely, a large multidotting fight where adds are constantly spawning and dying, similar to the hivemind in nyalotha.
Altogether, the changes are pretty neat for affliction – when your spec is relatively strong in raids in the grand scheme of things, it’s nice to see no major nerfs and actually get some options in legendaries. If there is any major pain point for affliction in Shadowlands, the legendary strength and options have been quite lacking, so it’s nice to see them getting some love.

Demonology Warlock Review of PTR Changes

Changes Highlights

Demonology Warlock Guide

Legendary Changes

Balespider’s Burning Core: Reverting this legendary back to it’s Beta value should provide a simple buff to the pure single target legendary but it seemingly shouldn’t put it into the upper echelon of choices due to it pidgeon holing you into single target. The other options available to you are strong in more than one scenario, which is often what you want.

Grim Inquisitor’s Dread Calling: Another small buff to a legendary that is not commonly used does buff the Dog build that people have been playing around with (centered around Call Dreadstalkers and From the Shadows/Dreadlash) but again shouldn’t be enough to warrant a big shift into people using this legendary power.

Implosive Potential: Mostly a quality of life change, this legendary will still have some niche uses in M+ and will allow you to more easily fit in multiple sets of Imps to implode.

Pet Changes/Buffs

All of your summoned demons are counted as guardians in WoW and historically have never cared about target swapping or could hardly figure out what to do with themselves after their target dies. Now that ALL your summoned demons (including Tyrant, Vilefiend, Nether Portal/Inner Demon demons, Dreadstalkers, Wild Imps and Grimoire: Felguard) listen to your primary pets commands you will actually feel like you a more of a “master summoner” and give you the ability to properly target swap your damage.

They also buffed Dreadstalkers attack power by 10% along with the damage of Dreadbite & Dreadlash by 10%; this results in a ~11% buff to Dreadstalkers which further enables the Dog build, which is quite nice and gives Demonology another playstyle to have that should remain competitive with the more standard build.

Overall thoughts

Legendaries being buffed is generally a sign that those pieces have low representation (which is true) and that they needed to be looked at again, the buffs they did to these effects typically shouldn’t change your perspective on what effects to use due to the narrow uses they would have. The pet changes are actually something that we have been pining for since the Demonology rework in Legion, the guardian system is outdated and really just not good anymore so the move to having them listen to general pet commands really makes me think back to their vision of that rework and Demonology being a “master summoner”. This change also gives way to Demonology no longer having the issue of being stuck to one target and give us the chance to properly target swap and refocus damage when needed. I do still think that there is a lack of opportunity to do multi target damage in a similar way Affliction and Destruction do but it is a step in the right direction.

Destruction Warlock Review of PTR Changes

Changes Highlights

Destruction Warlock Guide

Destruction has only recieved one very small change in these builds, a slight buff to one of our weaker legendaries. The Madness of the Azj’Aqir bonus currently isn’t seeing much play, but has the potential for a very potent build if we were to maintain higher uptime on its effect. This buff brings us closer to that, but with current haste levels does not change much. We might see something like this in the future, but no big changes for now.

You can see how values for all class abilities have changed from Shadowlands 9.0 to the latest 9.0.5 PTR build in this series of guides:

Death Knight Class Changes
Demon Hunter Class Changes
Druid Class Changes
Hunter Class Changes
Mage Class Changes
Monk Class Changes
Paladin Class Changes
Priest Class Changes
Rogue Class Changes
Shaman Class Changes
Warlock Class Changes
Warrior Class Changes

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