2.6.7 brought about several long-requested noteworthy buffs for Barbs, and the biggest, most exciting surprise was how Rend was made relevant in the Wastes set and Whirlwind builds. After years of requesting buffs and updates, Barbs went into PTR and finally felt powerful. We suddenly had options in off-meta speeds. We were competitive with most other classes. We were, quite simply, having more fun than we’d had in years.
Then, during BlizzCon, leaked images of our recently-buffed Lamentation belt made the rounds. The images showed that the belt’s Rend 200% multiplier was erased.
The Barb community mobilized and advocated for the then-uncomfirmed nerf to be redacted. The OP in that thread received over 350 likes, and the thread accrued 2k replies and 19k views. It was easily the most popular thread on the entire D3 forums. In an unprecedented display of solidarity between Barbs and other class communities, an overwhelming number of folk spoke out, asking for the Lamentation nerf to be reconsidered–or, at the very least, for there to be compromise.
What we got was silence and a major nerf to our class’s most popular build.
In this response, I want to walk you through exactly what happened, how much of the Barb community feels as a result, and how I believe we, as a community, should move forward after this train wreck.
The Nerf and What it Means
If you’re not a Barb main or haven’t been following the Barb forums, you might be wondering why so many Barbs are so upset about the nerf to Lamentation. Let me break it down for you.
Last patch, I broke down the problem Barbs have dealt with for quite some time. In an effort to address these long-standing issues, Rage and I coordinated a community-wide effort to draft a buff proposal. Upon release, the proposal receive a lot of attention from folk here, on Reddit, on Diablofans and Icy Veins,and from various streamers and YouTube content creators.
Then 2.6.6 dropped and all we received was Mortick’s, an item that, while a useful sidegrade for many builds, was hardly what the class needed or wanted.
Not for the first time, we were told, “We’re not done yet!” So we waited, and when the PTR for 2.6.7 dropped, we were ecstatic: The buffs to Fjord, Remorseless, and the WW/Rend items meant 3 of our 7 major builds were getting buffs! This was great considering it wasn’t even the “Barb” patch in terms of getting our new class set.
We went into the PTR and had a blast! Rend was amazing! Whirlwind was changed from a laggy, fishing-heavy build to a fast, fluid, powerful build that felt, at long last, like it had fulfilled its potential as a top-tier build. Finally, after years of neglect and outdated items, after years of builds that either relied on gimmicky wall-charging or massive amounts of fishing, we had a build–just one build, but still–that let us be a DPS in off-meta group speeds, a build that let us keep up with other classes for speed-farming T16, and a build that was on par with the new solo standard of 140.
Don’t believe me about the solo standard? I broke it down here.
Why am I telling you this sob story?
Because I want to stress that after years of asking for buffs and updates, after years of being the weakest class, we finally got what we had begged for, and and because I want to impress upon you what data and analytics cannot accurately communicate: how it feels to have fun.
Lamentation's Multiplier: Not a "Small" Nerf
The nerf to Lamentation was called by some a “small” nerf. That is absolutely not true. The removal of a 3x multiplier (200% increased damage) from a build that relies on applied and detonated DOT damage is very significant, especially when that DOT cannot proc Area Damage (unless hard-cast, which is a whole other can of worms). On paper, this is a -7 GR nerf, but the paper values don’t tell the whole story.
With Lamentation’s multiplier, all damage output in the build was shifted to the Rend skill, and Whirlwind was used purely for mobility and utility. Since Rends were detonated by Ambo’s Pride, there was next to no lag in the build, and its dependence on fishing for massive density was greatly diminished.
Without the Rend multilpier on Lamentation, the build is once again dependent in part on WW damage. This is bad for several reasons:
- WW spawns Dust Devils which can proc AD
- Both WW and its Dust Devils contribute to Bloodshed damage calculations
- As a channeling skill that divides its damage into “ticks,” WW relies on AD to deal significant damage
The net result of this is a build that requires extreme levels of density to deal meaningful damage, and the mass calculations that result from WW, Dust Devils, and AD and Bloodshed procs in that required density often lag the game (and server) to the point of locking up.
Without Lamentation’s multiplier, our WW build will also be more frustrating than ever to gear because we’ll need to stack the demanding AD rolls along with enough CDR for Crimson’s (a now-permanent staple in WW builds) and try to meet the demands of two different sources of damage output–one channeling, one DOT. This will make the build much more difficult and demanding for low-Paragon and early-Season players, and will once again place a larger emphasis on fishing for the perfect combination of maps and mobs in Greater Rifts to even bother attempting a clear.
Then and Now and Really Now
Prior to the 2.6.7 PTR, the highest WW clear in non-Season was 130. This was, I’m sure you can guess, an agonizing push that likely swallowed hundreds upon hundreds, possibly thousands of GR keys. It required some combination perfect maps, mobs, and Pylon spawns, and a good RG that spawns additional monsters.
In the 2.6.7 PTR, we shot up to 140.
Because the build’s damage output was completely changed. The old Zodiac WW build relied exclusively on the WW skill for damage. That, along with Area Damage and Bloodshed procs, dealt all of our damage, hence why the build couldn’t deal any damage outside game-locking, multi-screen density. Anyone who played the build can tell you this was bad for the game servers, but it was also incredibly frustrating to play, because it meant that as soon as the build hit its soft “wall”–the GR tier where your gear, Paragon, and skill are no longer sufficient to clear a rift in a couple of attempts–you started to fish at the same demanding level as players with five times your Paragon.
In the old build, Rend was useless. But in the 2.6.7 PTR, all damage output was shifted to Rend, and WW was reduced to a pure mobility and utility skill. This meant less server strain, less fishing required at lower tiers, and slightly less demanding gear requirements. The build still had some fussy complications, sure, but it also had something it had never previously possessed: burst damage. By using Ambo’s Pride to compress Rend’s DOT damage into a single detonation, the build could fight in both high- and low-density scenarios, and could finally deal damage to elites outside game-breaking density.
In other words, by shifting the damage to Rend, the developers fixed the build.
However, because the build relies on dual-wielding one-handed weapons, and because Rend deals damage as a compressed DOT and is unaffected by attack speed and Area Damage, we have a problem. Even by adding Rend to the Wastes 6 bonus, you’ve only barely made it the equal of Whirlwind’s damage in the build if Whirlwind also benefits from Skull Grasp.
Do you see the problem?
By removing the Rend multiplier on Lamentation, the developer’s insured that our Rend damage is barely on par with WW with Skull Grasp, which means it deals very little additional damage beyond what we already dealt with WW, AD, and Bloodshed.
On the PTR, I was able to clear GR 125 with 2.2k Paragon, non-Season. It took me 8 keys to do it, and it took a little elbow grease in the rift.
On live, I had to fish 20+ keys to clear a GR 115.
Earlier, I said that removing the multiplier on Lamentation was equal to a 7 GR nerf from its PTR iteration, but that only took into account the top end of players who have enough Paragon (6-10k) to brute-force shortcomings with gear and skill limitations. For low-Paragon or early-Season players–for the vast majority of the D3 player base, the nerf is much closer to 10 or more tiers from the PTR version.
Comparing it to present Live clears, the bulk of WW players wil gain approximately 2-4 tiers of power over their old Live clears in non-Season, and that will require even more demanding gear, more fishing, and more frustration since the PTR buff was so much more substantial.
Ulmaguest has done a great job breaking it down here. He also has a video showing you what I mean:
Here’s a second video showcasing the poor damage output of the build:
As you can see, when Paragon 10k players struggle in GR 133 with the most popular and time-honored Barb build, something is very wrong.
In short, the total removal of Lamentation’s multiplier has put us very nearly where we were before we got any buffs at all.
Frustration, Silence, and Zero Communication
Much was made of the 140 Rend clear on PTR, and much debate took place about whether the build could go higher. Maybe 145? Maybe 148?
Speculation aside, the one-week PTR was too short to arrive at very many conclusions. It’s absolutely true that 140 was possible by a player with 10k Paragon, and it’s absolutely true that the insanely powerful Season theme heavily skewed Seasonal PTR leaderboard data to the point of irrelevancy.
News of the nerf arrived and Barbs were understandably upset. Remember, as a class, we’re used to getting the rug pulled out from under us. Before this there were numerous nerfs to WW during PTR, and before that there was the Mortick’s fiasco, and before that the IK set was nerfed into the ground, and before that there was the destruction of the old-school WW+Rend build with infinite Fury generation. Time and time again, Barbs have been on the cusp of feeling like Barbarians–powerful, visceral, mobile, and deadly–and each and every time, we have been nerfed into the ground. The nerf to Lamentation is just the latest in a long string of crushing disappointments.
But here’s the thing: This could have been a win-win.
If 200% was, to the developers, too large a buff, they could have halved it to 100%. Though not optimal from a Barb perspective, we could have kept the simplified, streamlined, and powerful Rend build from PTR, albeit with a little less gas in the tank, and the developers would have avoided Barbs being “overpowered.” Everyone could have walked away content. Everyone could have gotten at least some of what they wanted from the PTR.
Instead, we got a total nerf.
All of this was done under an auspice of official silence. No communication from Nev until it was too late, no updates when the leaked images started making the rounds, nothing. The community rallies like never before and what is the response?
We already know the answer to that.
Ulmaguest, one of the top-ranked NA players, put it best:
And to put it in even better perspective, Meteorblade added this:
When taken together with the stealth-nerf to Lamentation, and the total lack of feedback and communication during the PTR and the past week, what many of us in the Barb community felt was a sense of total disrespect. We felt ignored. No matter how many times Blizzard says they “hear” us, it is impossible to believe them.
The idea that the developers are trying to balance the game might sound good on paper, but the results, as we can see from the untested Crusader set that is clearing GR 150 solo, is a complete disaster. Gasnick sums up how much of the Barb community feels about this “balance” in this hilarious thread.
Where Are We Now?
Patch 2.6.7 was relased today. With regards to Lamentation, the developer’s had this to say:
While we were very happy with how much better Barbarians are performing, we are concerned we may have overshot it. By removing just one silo’d addition, we can observe how the class performance goes for Season 19 and consider re-adding this change in the future. Remember we still have a patch coming up where Barb will be one of the focused classes, so there will be plenty of time to revisit if necessary!
I cannot imagine a more tone deaf response to this than what I have quote above.
Actually, I can, but I’d have to pull up the “I’m sorry” speech from BlizzCon, and frankly, that would make me lose my lunch.
The take-away from this post is that compromise was never on the table, that community feedback was ignored, and that Barbs are–as always–supposed to wait to get what they want. Par for course, I guess.
Let’s talk about what Nev posted, but before I do, a disclaimer: Nevalistis is not to blame. She’s not a developer and she is critically understaffed. She is, quite literally, doing several full-time jobs at Blizzard, and everything she posts has to be vetted. If you are frustrated that her post sounds like disingenuous corporate fluff, that is not her fault. What she can and cannot say is rigidly controlled by Blizzard, and even a quick post about the Season start date has to be vetted by higher-ups.
About Barbs, she posted this:
We’re trying to set up Barbarian to be in a better place with more individual knobs to turn so we can tune it better once we get to their new class set and balance pass.
This is, to me, good news. It means that when we get our class set, there may be additional buffs or balance tweaks. But considering how the developers handled this patch, I have zero confidence things will turn out for the better.
In response to a question about why additional PTR updates can’t be tested, she posted this:
We have two options here:
- Listen to the community feedback about wanting another round of testing, creating an additional deployment cycle for QA, Development, Localization, Engineering, and Community teams to execute on, drastically increasing the time between patches and seasons
- Listen to community feedback about getting Seasons as close to 90 days or less so that the larger player base sees content at a more frequent cadence
Though she concludes the latter is better for the community, I couldn’t disagree more. The PTRs have become clownish affairs in which various items and sets are hurled at players, mountains of feedback get posted, and various behind-the-scenes changes take place with little to no feedback from Blizzard. There is a total disconnect between players and the developers/Blizzard, and if that isn’t apparent, all you have to do is comb the forums to find threads asking why there aren’t more “blue” posts about X or Y.
In other words, the PTRs are a joke, and no matter how much Nev says otherwise, feedback feels redundant and hollow.
For Barbs, this is magnified tenfold.
Conclusion: Feelings, Feelings, Feelings
Much is made of data, particularly when arguments about “balance” break out. And while I’ve elsewhere discussed why “balance” is not nearly as important as many people think it is, I want to talk about what often gets left out of the equation when talking about changes made to the game: feelings.
Why is your favorite class your favorite?
Why is your favorite build your favorite?
Why do you play Diablo III at all?
For many of you, I’m willing to bet the answer boils down to some kind of feeling. A certain class just “feels” better. You like the way a build plays or “feels.” It “feels” good to play Diablo III.
And while this emphasis on how things in a game “feel” is often dismissed when talking about “balance,” its a critical part of game design. Games that don’t feel good are quickly abandoned, and what even constitutes that “feel” is hard to describe. But one way–the best way, I argue–to discuss why game “feel” is important is to talk about “fun.”
Games that feel good are, simply put, fun. Your favorite build is your favorite because it feels good, and because it feels good, it’s fun to play. You might enjoy the challenge in playing it, or the simplicity*, or you might even just enjoy the graphical flourishes or sound effects. Regardless, what you find fun helps you to enjoy the game, and many Barbs had a lot of fun with Rend in the PTR. Some of us liked the smoothness of it while others enjoyed moving the damage from WW to Rend. Some of us got a kick out of incorporating the new items into the build, and a lot of us had fun trying out different variants of a familiar build and testing entirely new combinations of items. A great many of us had fun feeling powerful and relevant.
And what I want you all to understand–especially you, developers–is that nerfing Lamentation made the game less fun.
You can see this in the massive amounts of request to not nerf the belt, and you can see this in the passionate support that came in from every class community. For once, it felt like Barbs had the green light to go nuts, have fun, and feel powerful! It felt like all the years we spent groveling for buffs and updates had finally, finally paid off, that we’d finally been “heard,” that someone, somewhere, finally considered how we felt!
What we feel now is something altogether different.
How do we move forward? How can we all stop this constant cycle of miscommunication, bad feelings, and bad design? Here is what the Barb community requests:
- Rend’s 200% multiplier be replaced on Lamentation
- Fix the bug with Fjord Cutter where it applies increased damage to all Slowed or Chilled enemies (it’s supposed to work with Seismic Slam only)
- Increase the multiplier on Fjord Cutter and Remorseless as both builds are underperforming for low-Paragon players
Second, we request the developers take a more active and participatory role in design in tandem with community experts. To that end, we ask that:
- developers connect with community experts in each class and take seriously their feedback and suggestions
- developers communicate intent before patches
- developers respect the process as a two-way communication
- developers remain committed to a vision of the game shared with the community
I can only speak for the Barb community, but within that community we have some of the most knowledgable, creative minds in the game’s community, period. Why not tap into that? Why not communicate proposed changes to those experts? If something is amiss, if there’s a complication, a problem within the proposed build or item, or some other potential pitfall, we’ll know about it–or, at the very least, we’ll be able to assist the developers in looking at it from the perspective of players with hundreds, maybe thousands of hours of experience with playing the game.
A game’s community experts are invaluable to the game itself. Content creators on YouTube and Twitch, while good at promotion and optics, should not be your trusted experts. You have communities of high-caliber players ready and able to give you grade-A feedback. For the love of Diablo, solicit and take it seriously.
If we can achieve this, we can move forward. If we can’t, well, here we are. Barbs were nerfed, Monks are still subpar despite the new class set, and Saders are cruising on untested changes to a new class set. The current patch is an obvious disaster. I hope we can avoide this in the future.