We need to talk about borrowed power and class performance

First a definition.

Borrowed power, for lack of a better word, are spells and/abilities that contributes to a class performance that are not part of the class itselft. Can be a legendary, a spell that is used in a zone or a covenant ability!

Disclaimer: it is beta, numbers are not final, yadi yada.

Current BFA and Legion have been plagued with systems that were outside a class that contributed a lot to the performance of a class. Such a system is legendaries. The issues with legion’s one have been dealt with in a sense, since getting them in shadowlands will be easier and more targetted. But few problems remains and will determine greatly how your class will perform.

not all classes are equal. Some classes have very high performing legendaries, other classes are left behind and given uninspiring legendaries. Not only outliers will need to be identified but new legendaries should be put in there for some classes.

Covenant abilities:
Lets get this out. Not all covenant abilities are equal and by a large margin. I might be even so bold as to say that some classes will only be able to get good because of it. Yet now, those classes seems ok but their performance rest entirely on a covenant ability. Any nerf to the covenant will severely impact the class.

I feel that BFA has suffered a lot from this disparity. Borrowed power being reponsible for a huge percentage of your performance and not your classn not your mastery of your rotation. The culmination of this are powers the player has zero control on.

We are heading into shadowlands with two potentials issues:
Legendaries and Covenant abilities that are too big a portion of your character performance.
For covenant it is an issue in a world where one cannot easily change covenant and a potential frustrating issue for players: imagine your class performance is only OK because of a covenant or legendary and it gets nerfed: not fun at all.

What are the possible solutions?
I think classes must be designed to perform well outside of these powers. The rotation must be fluid, talents with good synergy and situational talents: all outside any covenant or legendary

Covenant should be utility only and play no direct part in your performance.
Covenant conduit (and gems) should shore up existing strenght of the class and be situational: basically add to aoe or ST or CC or sturdiness or a combination of 2.

There should not be a fire and forget type system that push you to the top, thats bad design.

Legendaries should be there to spice up your rotation as well as push your power in certain situations, without being a fire and forget this-wins-all legendary. Some legendaries can bring utility in various situation, which is fine.

I think we are heading for a balancing nightmare and some classes will find certain specs dead in the water if nothing is done design wise.


I’ve said this countless times to guildies and friends but I really think what conduits should solve is allowing precisely this.

A great example of a conduit would be

Focused Solarbeam
Converts Solarbeam from an AoE interrupt with a 60s cooldown to a focused single-target interrupt with a 24s cooldown.

For dungeons with a design around interrupts, much like SotS was in BFA, this type of conduit immediately takes a spec that most groups would steer from taking due to final boss mechanics and they immediately fall on a leveling field with that of locks, mages, hunters, or anyone else with a 24s interrupt.

This is what I would have expected conduits to be.


shadow priest says “HI”

We lost what made us fun after legion, suffered for two patches until Lucid saved us…now in shadowlands nothing to plug the hole. The answer isn’t to invest all the dev time into covenants/soulbinds/leggos to make them as good as essences- but invest in the core specs/classes directly.

The entire community knew that’s why 8.0>8.1 fell flat; why does blizzard think the failure was with azerite/borrowed power? It WASN’T, we shouldn’t be dependent on it! Borrowed power should be the little twist of the expansion; not the source of function/fun.

Shadow priest suffered the most from this problem; but it’s a gamewide problem!
I’ve never been so tilted as I’ve been since BFA beta; I was never negative about the game until then and it’s been over two years now of frustration. Even with 8.2 systems doing wonders for the game; it was a year too late and we have to start all over again! WHY?

Give us a good foundation for our specs…I’m naked without Lucid dreams HELP ME


There’s a lot to unpack with borrowed power as a whole. This will probably be lengthy.

In short: actions speak louder than words.

The words of the game, the literal dialogue, tells us that our characters are the biggest bad…butts that ever lived. The world would literally fall apart without us to hold everything together.

The actions of the game, ever since Warlords of Draenor, has said the complete opposite. It’s told us that we’re weak. We’re just not good enough. There’s something about our chosen class or spec that just quite isn’t up to the challenge presented by the expansion. But, don’t worry! Here’s this extra button to fill in the gap.

In some cases, we’re such pathetic weaklings, the game is going to send a babysitter (combat follower) with us just in case. Or, if we’re really too weak to meet the challenge, here’s this weapon, or a piece of gear that will help your class be better; not as weak. And every time a RNG effect triggers, the game punches us in the face with it.

BAM! Azerite effect You’re weak.

WHAM! Artifact ability Your class isn’t good enough.

If I didn’t have the obscene amount of characters that I do, I don’t know that I would have picked up on it.

For the 4th expansion in a row, the game is punching us in the face with this and the devs are telling us that we’re going to like it.

If the class designers want to give us new spells to play with, then just give us new spells. 1 new spell or ability per spec, 2/3 of the way through the expansion. Something we earn through our hard work and dedication to the foundation of our classes, that represents our growth and continued mastery of our class. Exactly the way we earn every other spell our classes have. If the devs want to incentivize us to use a particular spell in a particular expansion, have the spell draw power from something unique to that expansion (Azerite, Anima, etc.). It will still work outside of that expansion, but at a reduced effectiveness, though not drastically reduced to the point of being useless.

One of their stated goals with the covenant abilities was to have it be visible, in combat, which character belonged to which covenant. There’s a way to do this that doesn’t involve covenant abilities. It involves the art team.

Spell effects.

“This group has a prot Paladin. Hmm, they’ve got their gear transmogged. Oh. Their Consecration is a blue-green color and there’s thorns coming out of the ground in the area of effect. Oh, that’s a Night Fae Paladin.”

“The mage, I dunno…That looks like the Fingers of Frost shards, but they’re red and…dripping? Oh, Venthyr mage.”

And on and on. These are just some examples off the top of my head. There is already so much depth and content with the covenants. Having the class designers pulling their hair out over an unnecessary layer that will never work right or be balanced is a waste of time and energy. For everyone, devs and players.

I can honestly say that I haven’t used a single covenant ability when a quest didn’t call for it. There’s already SO. MUCH. STUFF. on my action bars from the unpruning, the covenant abilities are just two more things stressing me out about the sudden crowding in my UI.

Please stop wasting class design time and resources with borrowed power, and put that time and energy into actual class design and tuning. Please stop punching us in the face, telling us we’re weak or just not good enough, and that we’re going to like it.


I realize I forgot Soulbinds and Conduits.

I would suggest going back to the Yogg-Saron design philosophy from Ulduar. They are only effective against bosses (raid, dungeon, WQ world bosses) and in Torghast, and only if the player chooses to have them active.

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You cannot ignore the growth of that over time which is why borrowed power came to be. I think borrowed power by design is fine; it’s the extreme potency and spec defining aspect that is just frankly dangerous. We don’t want to miss it when it’s gone; it needs to be something cool but let us stand in a fun spec baseline so it’s not a big deal to lose it. Covenants I think so far seem not too evasive; BUT they are neglecting the naked specs that were stripped of things that made them FUN.

Borrowed power should be like a cool trinket or tier set; when it goes- no biggie

Let the baseline specs be FUN AGAIN and we will be in a way better spot game wide. I think they are stretching devs too thin in this area and it SHOWS. Us players are way more interested in our specs/classes than the new expansion feature!


I’d rather get a fun new toy as part of an expansion and still have it 3 or 4 expansions down the line, than have it be “one and done”. Personal preference.

I think you mean “invasive” here? There are a lot of people with a lot of concerns about Covenants. It usually boils down to: “I like Covenant A. I like the aesthetic, the transmogs, the story in the Covenant quest line, the foundational doctorine of the Covenant (e.g. the RP stuff, because, you know, Covenants are supposed to be an RP choice, according to Ion), BUT Covenant C has the best/strongest/most useful ability/soulbind for my class, so I have to go with C, even though I want to choose A”. That’s the reality of the system, and that’s why it’s terrible.

I agree that they’re neglecting the base classes in favor of a short-term one trick pony. If it’s the borrowed power that made a class fun, then there’s something very broken with that class.

It depends on the player and the expansion. I’m personally more interested in the story of the game and how my character fits into it. I, of course, want my specs to actually function and be fun to play, but if the gameplay isn’t the greatest, I can forgive a few wrinkles if the story is good. I cannot say the same the other way around.


Borrowed power is a huge problem and I’ve really been hating it. It’s to the point now where I haven’t been paying a whole lot of attention to all the systems as news has come out (I just barely got my beta invite yesterday), because it’s all so meaningless in the end. I’m going to be dealing with these systems for two years and then, whether I like them or not, whether I like my abilities or not, whether I like the way my class plays or not, it’s all going to be gone and then my class will suck. Again.

Another problem with the borrowed power deal is that while leveling, classes don’t work right. Everything ends up being tuned around having artifact trait A or azerite power B or covenant ability C. In the time before they have those, the class ends up feeling empty, or like things aren’t working correctly.

At this point, I don’t feel like I’m much of a hero, I’m just the one that channels power from outside me, without which I am an utter failure and useless. I hate it. I hate it so much. It would be far better to gain a new ability in an expansion and once in a while have things evaluated and one or two things removed than to constantly have our chains yanked around like this.