Hey, I get it. We broke the game.
When I was 5 or 6 years old, I pushed my brother into the swimming pool...while he wore jeans and a sweatshirt...in late September...on an uncommonly cold day. Luckily, my father was out of town on business when this happened. As the primary discipline-enforcing parent in our family, I foolishly counted myself among the "lucky". When my father came home, he sat me down on the couch in our living room and asked me, "Why'd ya do that?"
"I didn't do it on purpose," I said.
"So you're saying it was an accident?"
"What's an accident'?" I asked.
"An accident," he calmly replied, "is when something happens that you are responsible for that you didn't do on purpose."
I paused and thought about this for a moment. This seemed like the easy way out of this debacle. I quickly told my father that this was, in fact, an accident.
"So you understand what an accident is, now?" He peered over the top of his glasses with anticipation, but I failed to notice. I slowly nodded in agreement.
"Good," he snapped, "Now I'm going to teach you what a lie is." My father grounded me for a week. That meant, no TV, no games, no friends, no play-time. At the end of the week, he asked me if I learned my lesson. I told him, in all honesty, that I had. He lifted my punishment and I returned to my normal life.
The point of that whole story, if it isn't overly obvious, is that...well, we've been punished as the Wizard class, long enough. And usually, punishments have a duration.
Critical Mass, Critical Mass, Critical Mass. Sometimes, I feel as if that's all I ever talk about in these blogs, on the US Wizard Forum. But today, I'd like to talk about the long term ramifications that have come from "the Passive of the Century", and what we did with it.
For starters, we had Energy Twister. This skill, which costs 35 Arcane Power to cast, was, and to an overwhelmingly large extent, still is, completely and utterly useless. The tornado was designed to deal x amount of damage over x seconds. If an enemy and one of these tornadoes met, the amount of damage that would be dealt to that enemy would be determined by how long the enemy sat within the AOE of the spell. That time was divided into segments, or tickrates. Your tickrate was determined by your attack speed. It was therefore possible, when combined with sufficient levels of APoC, to yield the greatest return on your investment in history. According to the CM/WW Simulator, I was spending over 100 Arcane Power per second, and recovering more than I was spending. In retrospect, that was the core "issue". On top of this, these "ticks" had the potential to "critically hit", and therefore, trigger the Critical Mass Passive. This in turn virtually eliminated the cooldown timers on the real damage dealers of the time, Diamond Skin: Diamond Shards, and Explosive Blast: Chain Reaction. The cooldown of Frost Nova was also eliminated, creating the strongest synergy of skills in Diablo history.
The "punishment", has been...brutal. APOC was nerfed from 10 to 4, a 60% reduction. Energy Twister also no longer functions mechanically akin to its Vanilla iteration. Critical Mass was removed from the game.
We may have deserved it, folks. It was, as I have oftentimes stated, "as beautiful as it was broken."
But what about now? Why, if I may be so bold to ask, are we STILL being punished? The mechanics are gone. The skills were reworked...but now, now they are, many of them, unusable, or at the very least, undesirable.
Diamond Skin is one of the least used skills now. Do I believe that a skill should go from being on everyone's bar to being on no one's bar? That's not balance. That may, over the life of the game, average out to balance (that's heavy sarcasm there) but it's nowhere near the land of "Balance." The runes were never truly adjusted to compensate for the absence of Critical Mass. In that time, Diamond Skin was refreshed so rapidly that having a set, allocated Shield amount was adequate. After all, even if you absorbed "x" amount of damage and "cracked" your skin, it was likely to be <1 second before you reapplied. But now? Well...just look at the numbers. They are self evident. Or look at the runes as they now are designed. Pray tell, what is the advantage to lowering the cost of all your spells by 9 for only 3 seconds? How many of us would rely on that reduction for so short a window? Channelers? Why? The fixed damage absorption leaves much to be desired as it is. What truly compounds this issue is the cooldown of Diamond Skin, which is 15 seconds! Essentially, 4 times a minute, you can save 9 Arcane Power, which by the way, natively regenerates at a rate of 10 per second. My mind...is blown. And other runes are no more desirable, I'm afraid. I'm not the type of player who says things along the lines of, "Well, the monk has blah blah blah," and I won't start down that path now. Perhaps allow the shield to scale off a secondary stat. Perhaps allow the shield to scale with your HP. I don't claim to have the answers. I'm not a developer. But I have the wit to sense this much: It ain't workin' as it's currently designed.
Critical Mass was a problem, a conundrum if you will. It had to go. It had to. But in its place, Dominance? Unwavering Will? Audacity? Elemental Exposure? These are hardly solutions, hardly consolation. They address other issues; they fit into their own niche. But there is a gaping hole in our class. All Wizards can sense it, not just the initiated. The uninitiated have inquired to the OGs, they've noticed bizarre skills with bizarre cooldowns and bizarre mechanics, seemingly useless in design.
We were once told that some skills are designed to be utilized while a character is leveling, and that they are not all going to be end-game in practice. There hasn't been any mention made as to which skills these, "levelers" are. It's a nice blanket statement, and it very well makes sense and may be true, but it has never been quantified or qualified by listing them.
Storm Armor, Explosive Blast (without Woh), Diamond Skin, Frost Nova, Energy Twister - hell, Teleport is the only skill left from SNS with substantial use. The other two Passives traditionally associated with CM (Blur and Evocation) do in fact remain staples within the Wizard's Armory.
I chose the word, "Punishment", to describe the aftermath, because, well, I can't see another, more apt way of describing the current state of the class. Our proc rates remain abysmally low on many of our favorite skills. I happen to believe that the effects of Critical Mass are not limited to the Wizard Class, but pervade all of Diablo 3 in its current meta form. Is it fear? Fear of the emergence of another, similarly broken build? Is it sweet revenge? Is it coincidence that all our "favorite gear types" are not only never used, are mostly not usable now? Mempos, Zuni and Nats 2-piece, Blackthorne Pants, and Amulet, rare jewelry in general, Chantodo's Set, Inna's Pants (even if I would never wear them), Vile Wards, Storm Crows, Lacuni Prowlers...That's a long list, my Arcane-Infused friends...too long to ignore. I wish the punishment wasn't so severe.
I wish to close this entry with a prediction, one that does not have a timeline, which admittedly makes it an easy task to claim as correct down the road. - A synergy, akin to Critical Mass, is going to return. Choice can oftentimes = complexity. When you have only 2 items, there is only 1 combination of 2 that is possible. When you have 3 items, the addition of one item jumps the potential combinations to 3. Jump the sample size to 20, and the potential number of pairs rises to 190.
Keep adding items, Blizzard. We'll find our way home, soon enough. In the meantime, can we please come out of our room and play, now? I think we've been grounded long enough.
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