Conservative Tuning in Shadowlands

During this expansion, we have seen a large amount of week 1/2 of season large swings in performance via adjustments to bring egregious outliers down. However, there hasn’t been much in the way of propping up the weak options to be more competitive.

Whilst yes, there have been some buffs to weaker performing specs which were welcomed, these buffs all came during major content patches. I don’t see why if you roll bad on the tuning dice you should succumb to being statistically weaker for an entire season of content. Tuning should be much more aggressive for propping up lower performers. From the last round of tuning many outliers remain such as Frost/Unholy Death Knight, Enhancement Shaman, Survival Hunter, Windwalker (Single Target), Feral Druid (Cleave/AoE) and Moonkin (too high in a Frenzy Window, far far far too low outside of it).

Some of what I’ve listed above might look a bit weird so I’ll delve into it a bit more:

  • Should a spec ever do less than tank DPS when they’re not in cooldowns and pretty much carry a raid DPS check when they’re in cooldowns. The peaks are just way too high for Venthyr Moonkin and the periods in between is weird, you are competing for minuscule levels of DPS.
  • Should a spec have such an extreme preference for the damage profile that they hold? From a gameplay perspective, yes absolutely. Should they be entirely locked into that either by talent selections (Enhancement) or Spec Design (Feral/Windwalker)? I don’t feel as though that is a good player experience.

There are a lot of outliers in the talent space with regards to Talents that are not chosen at all (Death Pact as a Blood DK example) or ones that are default choices and at this point should be Baselined (Hemostasis as another Blood DK example).

This is a good opportunity to get very creative with new talents/ideas, but it’s very rarely utilised outside of expansion launches. Why should talents be doomed to redundancy just because the talent row they sit on is so one-sided? Some cool talents have been lost in the past because of this from presumably low usage metrics.

There are even day 1 outliers from the Conduit space which still remain today. Some were buffed by hundreds of percent and still not competitive :expressionless:

I also wanted to latch onto this particular point from the external buff thread.

Would like to purely focus on this point from the perspective of Warrior DPS v Death Knight DPS.

If you compare these two purely on the fact they are STR melee with 2h/1h weapons, and Raid Utility, they are pretty even.

However, Warrior absolutely destroys DK on damage.

They both have an impactful raid cooldown but the lingering effect of the justified nerf in Nathria reared its head this tier and honestly, it’s just not acceptable for this gap to exist when they are on paper the same.

So to draw back to the goal here, to maximise your chance of killing a boss as a DK simply is to play a Warrior. Infrequent tuning does not protect your class/character identity.

In short: Buff DK.

Edited: DK/Warrior Comparison Text.


I agree that more frequent balance tuning would be great. Considering how long some tiers last it would really help people who are stuck playing an underperforming class/spec.

Also I would like to see more buffs that specifically target spells/talents rather than blanket aura bandaid buffs. Otherwise the core reasons for why they underperform still simply remain there or they will suddenly become op in an other departament accidently, catching a nerf in the process.

This is a very good discussion topic I think. After legion (included), a lot of classes got a lot of their damage frontloaded into cooldowns and they hardly do anything outside. Fillers basically do nothing but generate resource and it feels really bad hitting an “empowered melee ability” that literally hits for less damage than a normal melee attack. Or casting a 1.7-2.4 second ability to hit for almost nothing and then the same ability doing quadruple the damage in cooldowns?


I agree that these are still outliers, however, I think that venthyr moonkin is actually ok the way it is. It’s overall damage is still good when compared to other classes. As opposed to things like enhancement shaman, survival hunter, and frost DK which have been near the bottom for far too long.

Other games, like League of Legends, have very frequent patches which pull the strings of the meta. Obviously there are massive differences in the games, but pulling the strings of the meta is something that has only happened a handful of times in the close to 13 months since shadowlands released.

As a DK main, I agree, except that DK personal defensives are stronger I feel. AMS/IBF are two of the best personal (non immunity) defensives in the game, and DPS should suffer a little for having those. If DK and warrior DPS were equal, and nothing else changed, DK would be picked every time unless specifically rallying cry was needed.

I think this is a big problem and something that needs to be addressed far more often. There simply are talents that are chosen 0% of the time, and talents that are chosen 100% of the time. In a perfect world, each talent in each row would see 33% play time. Those would be “perfectly balanced” or at least appropriately situational.
In my recent CC post (Feedback on Frost DK) I looked at some of these talents that are not chosen for Frost DK and suggested some changes (Icecap, for example) which would make them more interesting, fun to play, and hopefully chosen in certain scenarios.

This is just another good example of things that should be tuned. If something has a 0% play rate in instanced combats (dungeons, raids, pvp) then it should be buffed. If something has a 100% play rate in instanced combats, it should either be nerfed or the choices around it buffed.

Having 21 options for talents and only ever using 10 of them to optimize doesn’t feel like a choice anymore. Especially if:


To bring this topic back into the light. This tier has seen more regular adjustments to bring bottom outliers up (althrough will strongly argue that Windwalkers & Warriors need more).

However, there have been some strange adjustments to tanks.

Guardian Druid

Guardian Druid was definitely an outlier when it came to AoE damage and this was bought down with a target cap nerf which was totally fine.

This nerf did not last an entire reset before the set bonus was essentially removed from the spec with a -35% adjustment before the target cap adjustment could be seen to have had an impact and now the spec is in a poor state when it comes to damage.

Whilst of course having a set bonus is an improvement to not having a set bonus it’s an outlier among tanks.

I would advocate for the 4 set damage to be bought back up. The target cap was enough of a change.

Blood Death Knight

In the next reset, we’re seeing an adjustment to Blood DK which honestly looks like a reactionary change based on the MDI.

The damage of Blood DK was not that dissimilar to other tanks but as it was the highest it was used in a competitive environment. This is only the case because of it being paired with the Jailer Mace, without the Jailer Mace other tanks can outpace Blood DK.

The proposed adjustment is a survivability adjustment and not a damage one. This puts player investment two months into the season straight in the bin. People who are progressing the Mythic Raid at the moment will throw their Blood DKs in the bin on bosses that are not Anduin if this proposed change goes live as the tank will have significant challenges on Rygelon & Jailer Mythic. This kind of adjustment is barbaric and completely ruins player investment.

There is no developer note to state what the intention of the adjustment is for so my only takeaway as a player is that someone watched the MDI and thought “that’s not right” and decided to bring a sledgehammer to put the nail in the coffin instead of a hammer.

If you were to ask me what better adjustments could be done here I would propose the following:

  • Reduce the value of the Boons from the Jailer mace by ~33% for Tanking Specialisations (this also solves issues for Guardian Druids using the Mace).
  • Lower the cap on the 2 set down to 65 (from 75) so that the damage potential is lower.

I would lean heavily to just doing the Jailer Mace one and not the stack cap one.


Closing Thoughts on Tanks

From a player perspective I don’t understand why players are being punished for high end play outliers. The adjustments done should be done so that players of all caliburs benefit from the change.

I would say that all tanks should be propped up to a similar level (i.e. buff guardian druid, veng DH single target and do no adjustments to Blood DK) and DPS shouldn’t be outpaced by tanks (i.e buff Warrior, Monk ST, Balance Druid).

Alternatively, hold off until Season 4 starts? Don’t cripple player investment without advance warning.


I’d agree with these sentiments, specifically the BDK ones. I don’t personally play a lot of BDK, but I was looking forward to messing around with it over the next few months and now my interest is basically gone due to the proposed change. It feels like a very strange way to nerf a spec, when there are other ways, such as the two mentioned by Panthea, that would suffice without hurting BDK survivability.

The other recurring issues we’ve seen with tanks this patch is threat. I’d like to see a buff to this. This is not only an issue in MDI level keys, but in the 10s and 15s some people in my guild do. It’s fine to have to wait 3 seconds at the start of a big trash pull for the tank to gain aggro, but their aggro shouldn’t be ripped away by me pressing 1 button.

TL:DR, I echo Panthea’s request to find an alternative nerf to BDK if you insist it needs one. I also agree that it would be better to bring up the bottom than to tear down the top.


Gotta stop with these aura buffs and actually understand what needs buffs on the individual specs.

Buffing WW with 4% overall makes no sense. It’s lacking behind other specs by roughly 30%~ on ST but AoE is good.

If you’d address the things that needs buffs it’d be so much better rather than just slamming some random aura buff and call it the day.

The BDK nerf was somewhat expected - although how it’s nerfed just gets me wondering if the people doing the nerfs and buffs even know how the class plays.


I don’t mind a class being behind in ST if it is insane at AoE - or vice versa. Classes should have niches, but I agree that 30% is too big a gap.


Yes, but not in damage output. Your job as a damage dealer is to deal damage, and if you can’t deal damage in just ST or just AoE, you’re pretty close to being useless as both of these are required in all kinds of content. M+ being the one where you’ll feel this the most on Tyrannical fights.


I understand your opinion, I just don’t agree with it personally.

A class can excel at AoE and a class can excel at ST. If every class does the same damage in a different way there is no incentive to bring a certain class or spec to a different fight or set of affixes. I feel part of the fantasy of games like WoW is that you can choose to play an AoE heavy spec like WW, or you can choose to play a ST class, or a class that is good at both.

Agreeing with this notion. Destruction Warlock is an excellent example of an aura buff going haywire: The spec was underperforming in SoD and SoFO because Chaos Bolt just didn’t deal enough damage for the effort it takes to cast one, and even with the Destruction tier set bonuses significantly helping by allowing us to cast Chaos Bolt more often, Warlocks were asking for a buff to Chaos Bolt damage.

Now, Destruction was already a significantly good AOE spec. Not M+ meta, but good enough to not be a deterrent in higher keys, especially during Fortified weeks. The infamous 5% damage made the single target of the spec good, sure, but it also helped catapult the spec to an overwhelming state AOE-wise when combined with the tier set bonus, which was already predicted to make Destruction an AOE monster before buffs.

A targetted buff to Chaos Bolt was more than enough to make the spec competitive in the setting it was lacking at, but the aura buff created more problems than it did solve.

I’m hoping part of the reason they’re resorting more and more to aura buffs is because they diverted most of their resources to Dragonflight and don’t have enough manpower still taking care of Shadowlands classes to further analyse targetted changes to specs, and we don’t see aura buffs used as much in the next expansion (unless of course you’re a BM Hunter and lacking in every department).


I play a spec because I enjoy the spec itself and the playstyle, it’s unfair to be gimped because someone decided that this particular spec is now bad at something. I don’t want to end up switching spec or class every single patch.


A bit more than Panthea suggested - but still the right direction for the nerf! Thank you for the changes


40 stacks is a bit too agressive of a nerf imo, but it’s infinitely better than the previously proposed adjustment.

Doubt it will change in the future though. To use Guardian Druids as an example once a nerf has gone in it’s a done deal.

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I think with the coming warlock and Survival hunter changes (while justified) reinforces this idea. Why are we not simultaneously buffing some specs that aren’t seeing play?

I think the frequency of tuning is also something that needs to be addressed.

Class / spec tuning, in my opinion, needs to follow a bit of a standard. There are a few key points to hit:

  1. Tuning should be frequent enough that players aren’t stuck wondering “will it ever get changed?” (More down below)
  2. Tuning should be targetted at bringing the bottom up, and egregious outliers (Like destro & survival) down
  3. Tuning can be conservative. It doesn’t have to be 10% buffs here and there. Throw a spec a 2-4% buff to help them out.
  4. Tuning should lean into niches, but also help the areas outside of the niche.

(From above Point 1)
I’m not sure what the best timeline is for tuning. Lets say the first reset of every month has a tuning patch to go with with. That’s every 4-5 weeks a little shift in the meta, a little love to underperforming specs, etc. But also, with consistent timing of class tuning, people can be prepared for things to move around.
The big problem with the announced warlock changes was going to be that people have a lot of time invested in M+ score and it wasn’t fair to some people to have it nerfed. The game shouldn’t be balanced around MDI, but with it coming soon, we’re going to see every single group running Destro, Survival, and _____.

The same issues exist in PvP. PvP class tuning should also happen. One thing Blizzard has shown over the years they are more than willing to do is to have separate PvE and PvP tuning. This is great and I hope they keep doing it. But it also needs to be frequent.


needs to be everytime something is obviously broken they fix it instead of letting it run the bracket and dominate the AWC/Ladder and fix it after everyone is done playing broken specs and they have announced next patch/expansion


I would also like to add that some specs have been over nerfed and then given very little to no compensation. Affliction was gutted at the end of 9.0 and has been left alone the rest of the expansion outside of some flat damage buffs. It’s also worth mentioning that Affliction has probably one of the worst tier sets (4 piece at least) in the game. Meanwhile Destro has been running wild all patch and it’s getting a small slap on the wrist in Season 4 compared to what Affliction got at the end of Season 1.

I would like to see more consistency in how things are buffed/nerfed and have closer monitoring to see if something was over buffed/nerfed and might need to be re-adjusted. I understand balancing is extremely challenging because there are so many moving parts and variables, but surely there is room for improvement.