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Class Writers Opinions on Covenant Ability Buffs in 9.0.5 PTR
15.02.2021 um 16:42
Today we've asked our Class Writers for their thoughts on the upcoming Covenant Ability buffs in Patch 9.0.5. We've asked our class writers to comment on how impactful the buffs are and whether they think it's enough of an incentive for players to change Covenants.
It is important to remember that content on the PTR is not final and Blizzard will likely change more Covenant Abilities as PTR builds go by.
First wave of Class Changes for Patch 9.0.5 PTRClass Writers Opinions on Fleshcraft Buffs
Death Knight Covenant Changes
Night Fae and
Blood Death Knight
Blood Death Knight Covenant Distribution
, as it currently works on live, is by far the most complex covenant to play as a Blood Death Knight. Due to the conflicting set of priorities it brings, staying at 8 stacks often requires making difficult choices (such as hard-casting it without a
proc, something that would be counter-intuitive and a loss otherwise), and losing your stacks often means having to re-stack for ~30 seconds or so.
The change to
on PTR changes the amount of Strength and Damage Reduction provided by each stack from 1% to 2%, and reduces the stack count to 4 (from 8). This means that, if you lost your stacks, you would be able to get back to maximum in a single
, down from 2 or 3 on live. It does not affect the power of the covenant, merely the ease of recovery if you screwed up. As a result, it's a welcome change, but it does not change the core issue: playing a rotationally punishing covenant should be accompanied with a greater outcome than, say, hitting a button on cooldown once a minute.
falls short of this, being
better offensively and defensively when played optimally and with constant stack uptime.
On the other side of the scale, the 15% relative AP buff to
is likely collateral damage (pun intended) as the dev team attempts to make Kyrian appealing to Frost and Unholy; it was already comfortably ahead of the competition for Blood Death Knights on single-target damage and low target count cleave, so this change will further cement it. The change to damage reduction is
, as we never really hit
for it on live, but with 8%, there may now be a possibility to use it as an additional ST damage reduction debuff, with all the limitations it has regarding environmental damage being unaffected by it.
Unholy and Frost Death Knight
Frost Death Knight Covenant Distribution
Unholy Death Knight Covenant Distribution
We've seen two buffs to Night Fae and Kyrian. Death's Due now stacks up twice as fast, still with the same max of 8% though. Kyrian's Shackle the Unworthy was buffed by 13% in raw damage.
Both these covenants are heavily underrespresented in the Death Knight community. Necrolord is generally the favourite, followed by Venthyr. It's therefore understandable that the other two are buffed to make them more attractive. To be fair, the covenants are already extremely close in overall output, something that I think Blizzard has been very successful with! Death's Due stacking up faster will make the ability a lot more powerful. In single target, both Frost and Unholy struggle the reach the maximum amount of stacks. In AoE, we'll now get the strength faster, making our DnD burst window both more bursty, and more powerful overall. Shackle the Unworthy being buffed will help Kyrian in single target and might push it to being the best choice for Unholy (already is for Frost). It doesn't affect the AoE portion of the ability, which is already lacking due to how the DoT spreads. We might see people swap to Kyrian for superiour single target output but I still think it'll be too niche for a lot of people.
Demon Hunter Covenant Changes
Your damaging abilities have a chance to call forth a demon from the Theater of Pain for 25 sec. Throw Glaive deals lethal damage to the demon, which explodes on death, dealing (175% of Attack power) damage to nearby enemies and healing you for 25% of your maximum health. The explosion deals reduced damage beyond 5 targets.
Havoc Demon Hunter
Havoc Demon Hunter Covenant Distribution
Fodder change seems more like a tuning change than a rework. The current Fodder can be summarize in a 30% damage buff (
) with a 20 second duration every 2 minutes. The rework at the moment will give us a 20% damage buff (
) for 15 seconds on what seems to be a 1.0 RPPM (from in game testing) with a small AoE damage proc whenever the demon gets killed. If we put them against each other on a random encounter we get very similar damage increase value minus the small AoE damage proc. It comes down to a 2min proc VS a 1min proc, both have pros and cons but in the grand scheme of things both are very similar. The Necrolord covenant has been behind the other three and the small amount of extra damage we get from the AoE explosion with the rework will help slightly close the gap but as a whole, the rework as of now, will not change the covenant of choice for Havoc Demon Hunters.
Vengeance Demon Hunter
Vengeance Demon Hunter Covenant Distribution
The rework to Fodder to the Flame is clearly intended to make Necrolord a more attractive option for Vengeance as currently, less than 2% of Vengeance players are Necrolord. On the PTR, it seems to be around 1.5-2 RPPM (perhaps haste-scaling) on the proc of an explosion which does half the damage of Elysian Decree, a 25% heal and a Demon Soul, which heals for about 8% and yielding about 40-50% uptime on the 20% damage buff. However, due to it being a passive random proc, it's not quite as good as the other abilities where you can control when you want to use them. In addition, Fleshcraft was reworked, making it a stronger shield as well as having a short term damage reduction. With these changes, it's still behind all 3 of the other popular choices for Vengeance, but not by nearly as much.
I believe the number of Necrolord Vengeance players will increase with this change as it is no longer actively detrimental to take it, and it will be close enough to the other covenants in power to be a valid choice. There may also be some raid encounters where it could potentially be a strong pick. However, I don't believe it's enough of a change to make people swap, nor do I foresee many competitive players switching from Kyrian or Night Fae as those will continue to be the top covenants for PvE and PvP respectively.
Druid Covenant Changes
Conduit Venthyr buffed.
Balance Druid Covenant Distribution
The changes to Druid's Necrolord covenant ability Adaptive Swarm and Venthyr main potency Endless Thirst are aimed to change in 9.0.5. These two changes are an attempt to buff up the two most under-represented druid covenants and make the choice feel less bad. This narrows the gap a little bit between Night Fae and Kyrian over Necrolord and Venthyr, but it likely will not be enough to make it one of the best choices. I think the biggest issue for Necrolord is the fact that it does not have any AOE scaling and that will not change without a rework to the ability. The changes to Venthyr are likely not enough to bring it in line with Kyrian for AOE, but it does have potential. The biggest issue with Venthyr is that it is a 3m ability that is largely used for AOE. It is an ability that needs to be overwhelmingly powerful on AOE or at least competitive on single target with the likes of Night Fae to be considered.
Overall the biggest issue I see with balance covenants is how bad it feels to not have Night Fae for burst single target especially with the synergy between Balance of All Things and Night Fae. Also Night Fae is typically the class fantasy choice for druids.
Feral Druid Covenant Distribution
With the first version of the 9.0.5 ptr going live we've seen a couple of changes for druids with regards to our covenant abilities, seeing buffs to both the Venthyr and the Necrolord covenants. Currently Feral's are almost exclusively Night Fae in pve content, with 98%+ Feral's in mythic being Night fae and 95% in heroic, so it's a clear favourite currently.
Adaptive Swarm is being buffed both by the damage the ability does AND the dot amplification. Necrolord is currently a Single target to low cleave option, with almost 0 aoe value, and it's damage being distributed over a long period of time. With sustained damage being the niche occupied by necrolord it would need to be SIGNIFICANTLY ahead of burst options such as all other Druid covenants (as burst is inherently much more valuable than sustained), currently this is not the case, in fact it's worse. I think it's unlikely that the changes we've seen on the PTR are significant enough to overcome the damage disparity between Adaptive Swarm and Convoke the spirits that currently exists, let alone increase it by enough to put it in a position where the damage pattern would be far enough ahead to make it desirable.
The Venthyr covenant is also being buffed, however rather than buffing the ability itself they're choosing to buff it via the conduit. Now for Feral at least the conduit is very good and this is certainly a buff to the conduit. However Venthyr and Night Fae are essentially direct competitors, seeing as they both exist in a long cd burst cooldown. Venthyr however has certain downsides, firstly it's a 50% longer cooldown, secondly it is one of the only covenant abilities in the entire game that STILL has a direct downside. Why the downside exists i will never know, but currently the position this covenant is in is one where it's worse in both single target and AOE than it's competition, has a direct downside, and is tied to a mandatory conduit. None of this is really addressed by the buff, in fact it makes the conduit even more mandatory than it currently is.
All in all while it's nice to see changes to lower performing covenants It's a little bitter sweet, While there may be situations where the less favoured covenants are potentially better, and these changes work towards that being the case, unless a new covenant is so far and away better that it makes it worth to swap then the changes do very little to alter what people are running.
Guardian Druid Covenant Distribution
The 9.0.5 patch brings some nice buffs to 2 of the lesser played covenants for Guardian Druids (Necrolord and Venthyr) in an attempt to bridge the power gap between them and Night Fae / Kyrian.
The Venthyr conduit buff is decent as it buffs the scaling and at higher ranks that will be a massive amount of crit gained, this is definitely a step in the right direction to boost Venthyr up however i don't believe it will be enough to surpass Night Fae as the top spot.
The Necrolord buff on the other hand could definitely see it take the number one spot, at least from a raiding perspective, as it was already an immensely powerful single target covenant.
Necrolord's power will be determined by the encounters in the next raid, if there are many good catweave bosses then necro will be an excellent choice, otherwise it will still fall short of Night Fae due to their hugely flexible covenant ability Convoke the Spirits.
Overall, this is a nice change for everyone, the people who are already Venthyr or Necrolord will be happier and neither of them are buffed to the point where Night Fae or Kyrian players feel forced to switch and hopefully there is some more mild tuning like this coming in the future.
Restoration Druid Covenant Distribution
received a 25% buff both to the spell power coefficient and the HoT increase. While it definitely makes Necrolord more appealing than it was previously especially with the changes to
, it still kinda falls flat in comparison to Night Fae for PvE.
delivers more healing and in a burst package which tends to be more valuable in more situations than sustained healing relegated to a single target. We need this to be better in more situations for us to consider it a viable option for PvE. Add a few charges for burst, allow it to split when jumping for multi-target coverage, do something that makes it relevant for raiding and multi-target healing and the burst healing windows that have dominated PvE healing scenarios. Just buffing the numbers will make it more problematic in PvP while still only having a single-use scenario for PvE.
received a 60% buff to the amount of crit per stack of
. While this does give some extra oomph to a conduit that was just okay before, this still doesn't bring enough extra throughput to
to unseat Night Fae's
must be used simultaneously with
in order to not be too far behind in terms of throughput gain. Used separately to fill gaps in throughput it quickly falls off in value. Having to pair it with another cooldown to be meaningful means this one is inflexible and has some larger issues.
Hunter Covenant Changes
Beast Mastery Hunter
Beast Mastery Hunter Covenant Distribution
Currently there is a huge gap for in Covenant power for Hunters.
is one of the most powerful Covenant abilities in the game for any class or specialization, offering unmatched AoE burst potential that gives Hunters a clear niche in PvE content. Put simply, it is nearly impossible for other Covenants to compete with Night Fae in the current state. While Kyrian is at least close, both
are significantly far behind. These buffs are intended to close the gap, perhaps even potentially making
slightly better for pure single target damage. However, these buffs still fail to address the bigger issue.
is simply too powerful of a spell to pass up on. Even if it is tuned to be weaker for pure single target damage, Wild Spirits still fills its specific niche better than any other class in the game can, which gives Hunters a clear use in raids.
While we do not know how the raid encounters next tier will play out, Castle Nathria has a clear meta centered around the need for powerful burst cooldowns for specific damage windows. It will take significantly more tuning for
to be potentially worth passing on.
Marksmanship Hunter Covenant Distribution
As of now, there are three changes coming to Marksmanship Hunters on the PTR. Death Chakram and Flayed Shot are both being buffed slightly. Unfortunately neither of these buffs will change much, they’ll simply bring the lower end up a little. Neither covenant will be relevant even still after these changes. While the gap closes in single target a bit, both abilities remain useless for AoE so these buffs don’t really help the situation.
Another major change on the PTR that’s undocumented is a bug fix, fixing the interaction between Wild Spirits and Serpent Stalkers. Currently, casting an Aimed Shot during Wild Spirits with Serpent Stalkers equipped produces two procs of Wild Spirits (one for the Aimed Shot application and another for the Serpent Sting application), making Night Fae Marksmanship burst extremely high. This change removes the secondary proc, essentially nerfing Night Fae Marksmanship by ~3% in single target and upwards of ~5% in AoE. Since numbers have been tuned around the existing bug, hopefully we’ll see some tuning to compensate.
Survival Hunter Covenant Distribution
The current changes on ptr to Necrolord and Venthyr are somewhat welcome but largely irrelevant. They are still too far behind even on pure Single Target to be useful in PvE content, especially since it still has no multi-target scaling in effectiveness making it lag behind even more when it comes to viability. The main upside of this, is that those covenants were somewhat competitive in PvP content, as they did not rely on ground based mechanics, so it might help the spec a tiny bit, but even so, it is fairly under-represented and not nearly close enough to meta/fotm pick to warrant any degree of concern, past "slight nearly QoL improvement".
Mage Covenant Changes
Arcane Mage Covenant Distribution
The obvious intent of these changes is to bring some balance to Covenant choice, as almost three-quarters of all Arcane Mages are Night Fae today.
These tweaks rebalance things to put the Venthyr ability ahead on a single target, with Kyrian in second and Night Fae roughly tied with the Necrolords in third. Soulbinds add additional power, obviously - Emeni pushes the Necrolords to be equal with the Venthyr, for example.
The Night Fae still reign supreme on multi-target, as the other abilities are mostly limited to single-target or cleave potential (aside from some jiggery-pokery with Radiant Spark and Arcane Barrage).
The change to the Venthyr's Mirrors of Torment is particularly good for Arcane, as it helps to generate Clearcasting stacks before the burn phase. Ideally we want to cast Touch of the Magi with three stacks, which is hard to achieve at present (it's not unusual to burn a full mana bar with only one or two procs).
Remember that the Night Fae haven't lost any power and will still perform really well on a single target and AoE. The other Covenants are much closer in terms of raw strength now, though.
Fire and Frost Mage
Fire Mage Covenant Distribution
Frost Mage Covenant Distribution
Covenant tuning was inevitable, especially when Night Fae is so dominant for Fire Mage and Venthyr is so dominant for Frost. Covenant abilities for Mage are not very balanced and Blizzard is attempting to fix them with buffs instead of nerfs, which is appreciated.
Radiant Spark damage from ability increased by 20%
Deathborne spelldamage buff increased by 50% (10 to 15%), duration increased by 25% (20 seconds to 25).
Mirrors of Torment Fireblast cooldown bonus buffed by 50% (4 to 6 seconds per charge).
In order of smallest change to biggest, first up is Radiant Spark. The change to this ability only affects the damage from the Radiant Spark spell itself and not the damage amp. Since Radiant Spark accounts for only about 2% of your damage single target, even lower in AoE.
Technically Kyrian is already ahead in Fire Mage sims at various renown levels, but the reason people don’t go Kyrian for raid is the overwhelming benefit of having combustion be a one minute cooldown, and the damage of Shifting Power in AoE. This change is very minimal and doesn’t really address the real problem with Radiant spark, which is that outside of single target it doesn’t really give you much benefit. It is a single target buff to an ability that is already competitive (in sims) in single target. For Frost, this change falls very short of edging venthyr out. Radiant Spark already performs very well in PvP and I believe this change might be a bit overkill for arenas.
Mirrors of Torment changing from 4 to 6 seconds off of Fireblast per stack is a nice change, bringing the benefit of Mirrors of Torment up to around 18 seconds of cooldown reduction. Cooldown reduction for Fire Mage is extremely strong, but since Mirrors of Torment only affects Fireblast, unlike Shifting Power, it still has only a fraction of the effectiveness. I don’t think this change will do much to shift the overall meta but it will certainly help Venthyr Mages make the swap to Fire without changing covenant, which may actually be the goal for these changes.
Last up is Deathborne which is getting a big buff to the spelldamage bonus and duration. This ability still suffers from a long cooldown, which is surprisingly unchanged. Overall this change will help necrolord gain ground on its peers but I don’t see Fire and Frost Mages swapping necrolord just yet.
For Fire Mage, trying to balance the benefit of the Cooldown Reduction of Shifting Power without giving the other abilities something outside the scope of what they already have is really an impossible situation. Even if things keep moving in this direction until one of the abilities inevitably beats out Shifting Power just due to its damage alone, it isn’t something I’m interested in seeing. The reason Shifting Power is so strong is due to its versatility and none of these abilities do anything nearly as interesting. Overall I think these changes missed the mark and would like to see a bit of out-of-the-box thinking in future adjustments.
Paladin Covenant Changes
Holy Paladin Covenant Distribution
Vanquisher’s Hammer generating additional Holy Power is a nice change, and helps bring it closer to Kyrian, or Venthyr. With Kyrian generating 5 Holy Power per minute, and Necrolord generating 8 Holy Power per minute. The relative power of Vanquisher’s hammer is tied to the power level of Holy Power spenders. If additional powers (conduits, legendaries, or set bonuses) enhance our Holy Power spenders further - it is possible we see Necrolord be in a good spot. With just these buffs it certainly becomes a viable option for those who really want to be Necrolord already. In competitive play it could see some play, it potentially represents a middle ground where Kyrian is a large healing gain, Venthyr is a large damage gain and Necrolord sits in between the two. This makes for an interesting choice in and of itself. Paladin’s aren’t really lacking in Defensive layers, meaning that Fleshcraft isn’t a “must have” ability. That being said being more durable is rarely a bad thing.
Retribution Paladin Covenant Distribution
The only change Retribution has seen is a small buff to Vanquisher's Hammer, the Necrolord covenant ability, which now generates 1 Holy Power. Necrolord has been by far the worst covenant for Retribution since launch, so this change seems to be an effort to help equalize them.
Whether or not the change works depends on the goal behind it; if the aim was to make Necrolord just a little less bad then it accomplishes that, but if it's supposed to bring it in line with Kyrian or Venthyr it falls very short. Two extra Holy Power a minute is not going to come close to bridging the current gap between the covenants. Although it's a nice buff for the tiny percentage of Necro Rets out there, it's too small of a change to make a meaningful impact.
Protection Paladin Covenant Distribution
This week Blizzard released a PTR build that changed Vanquisher’s Hammer to generate one Holy Power. The change is aimed to add value to the button, making it more resource efficient than it was previously. Before this change it was worth six Holy Power per minute and now it's worth eight.
Being a generator is nice and makes the GCD spent feel less bad. However for Protection, it won’t move the needle that much. With Protection’s current Holy Power economy, the 2 extra Holy Power per minute isn’t a large enough change to bring Necrolord up to par with other Covenant options.
As I wrote about in my State Of articles, the biggest problem with Vanquisher’s Hammer is the underlying mechanic of Word of Glory -> Shield of the Righteous. Vanquisher’s Hammer can force you into bad Word of Glory casts because Word of Glory isn’t a DPS button that you press whenever. For example, Ret. can press Templar’s Verdict anytime and the free Divine Storm is just free damage that’s always beneficial. You have to wait for the exact right moment when you can maximize WoG while minimizing the risk. That moment might happen but then again, it might not.
Without completely redesigning the ability, a really easy way to address the problem is to reverse it and make your next Shield of the Righteous cast Word of Glory on yourself since at least the damage of SotR is always valuable and the free WoG would just help top you off.
Priest Covenant Changes
Night Fae buffed.
Discipline Priest Covenant Distribution
Fae Guardian's buff to cooldown reduction and damage reduction provided looks to improve the position of one of the more niche-type covenants that Priest has. From a Discipline perspective, the spec is already split into two distinct playstyle between raid and mythic+ that have different ways of meeting their goals. Discipline in a raid is all about preemptive incoming damage through mass shield events, so having a covenant that further increases those shields is absolutely imperative. Discipline in a 5 man environment however, is the only healer and is responsible for the spot-healing, tank support and party wide damage. While there is certainly value in preempting incoming damage through Rapture's increased absorbs to PW:Shield, often you are playing as a Shadow Mend bot to stabilize health pools as Atonement alone is not enough to top allies.
To this point, Fae Guardians for Discipline can see some excellent use in very niche environments where granting multiple allies (thanks to the Fae Fermata conduit) cooldown reduction can substantially accelerate dungeon pulls and for advanced groups that are able to skip past Prideful enemies the Wrathful Fairy's mana returns become very relevant as well. That said, the conflict between Raid and Mythic+ gameplay and the coordination required to make strong use of the Fae Guardians will likely continue to leave the Fae covenant a seldom pick for the average player that participates in Raids, Mythic+ and PvP while some hyper-focused players can make excellent use of it in niche environments like the Mythic Dungeon International.
Holy Priest Covenant Distribution
From a Holy Priest perspective, Fae Guardians further increasing the cooldown reduction of Divine Hymn or of another player's major cooldown can be especially relevant from a raid-healing perspective, granting very consistent reduced cooldown that can easily be planned around in a progress environment. Holy is already not very polarizing in its covenant choices at the moment but this change can further help the spec much like the Vision of Perfection Essence from Patch 8.3 dominated the Holy space after it received buffs in that patch. For pure Holy-only players choosing your covenant can be even more flexible now as the Fae buffs make it more competitive but the challenge will still come from Holy players that want to off-spec Discipline from time to time, especially for raiding.
Another annoyance with these Fae Guardians changes is that they may well turn into buffing other players rather than your own both in dungeons and in raids. As a result you're the catalyst for other players feeling stronger, but you personally don't feel those effects in your own gameplay because there is no added bonus to yourself for helping allies and there is no bonus for using it on yourself rather than an ally. If the meta revolves around the Priest buffing other players then you're effectively giving away your covenant bonus and adding it onto another player's existing one which is less of a performance issue and more of a psychological one.
Shadow Priest Covenant Distribution
The only notable changes for Shadow Priest in 9.0.5 thus far are the changes to the Night Fae Priest class ability Fae Guardians. Night Fae has, throughout the start of Shadowlands, been the lowest represented covenant across the Priest class as a whole, especially amongst Holy and Discipline priests due to its lack of direct throughput. The covenant has, however, seen play in the MDI for its cooldown reduction utility on dps classes like mage when additional healing isn’t needed.
Shadow’s a slightly different story, and while any buffs to our relatively low value covenant abilities are welcomed, we were already starting to see a shift towards Night Fae for the mobility benefits of Soulshape and the favourable cooldown timings it provides on later Mythic raid encounters. It’s still not popular among the majority of Priests by any means, but it is effective.
Increasing the cooldown reduction (CDR) of Fae Guardians from 100% to 150% results in an additional 10 seconds of cooldown reduction. For Shadow, this makes Voidform roughly a 1 minute cooldown, instead of the somewhat awkward 1:10 with current Fae Guardians. Having Voidform every minute lines up better with Power Infusion, Shadowfiend, and most trinkets, as well as more naturally aligning with encounter mechanics. The damage reduction component is also being increased from 10% to 15%. While this is less impactful than the CDR increase any buffs to survivability are appreciated.
Buffs to Night Fae are likely to add fuel to discussion regarding Shadow’s ‘support’ role, with 30 seconds of CDR being much more appealing to other dps specs than the current 20. While it might be useful or necessary at the very highest of levels, the pressures from players below that to give up your own performance to potentially improve theirs are, as with PI, problematic. Shadow Priest gets a lot of value from both Power Infusion and Fae Guardians and while supporting others can be fun, doing it in this way is souring the experience for many.
Shaman Covenant Changes
Elemental Shaman Covenant Distribution
Fae Transfusion Buff
Night Fae was already looking pretty good for Elemental at this point as the Soulbinds are extremely powerful, and this Fae Transfusion buff only helps the case some make for going Night Fae on Elemental. It may not trigger a full swing towards Night Fae for the spec, but don't be surprised if we start seeing a few top logs swing towards it. The buff itself serves to make the covenant as a whole more attractive and put eyes on the fact that the soulbinds make a compelling argument to try it already.
However, without something that interacts with how the spec functions (beyond that it consumes/benefits from Master of the Elements,) Fae Transfusion will continue to feel flat for Elemental Shaman in comparison to Primordial Wave despite the parity in numerical performance.
Vesper Totem Buff
The Vesper Totem buff on the other hand, won't really change where Kyrian stands for Elemental. Shaman that swapped between Elemental & Enhancement frequently will likely cheer, as this covenant is somewhat of a middle ground of choice for players that swap between both specs where it's not awful for either but not the best for either. It'll make Kyrian a more palatable choice for Elemental without making it a true contender for the top spot, and that's what seems to be the goal is considering how conservative the buff is.
That said, Vesper Totem remains relatively bland and boring as it's largely a fire/forget spell that does not interact with the mechanics of the spec whatsoever.
Enhancement Shaman Covenant Distribution
First and Foremost
This is the very first wave of changes that target specifically covenant imbalance. Enhancement's situation is currently very reliant on Legendaries (which have been stated to have changes incoming), and the talent balancing also reflects this, so until we see the full scope of these changes these are very isolated. Most of our covenant choices exist largely outside of our core kit as extra buttons, so treat this as half of the story.
What the Changes Aim to Fix
Currently Enhancement is overwhelmingly playing Venthyr. This isn't because it is strictly the numerical winner in all scenarios, but moreso because it's the most versatile with the lowest impact on the kit. Flexibility is really important given that our "rotation" can be fairly volatile, and the value of extremely high instant burst AoE with Chain Harvest is much more important than a slight single target boost. Both Fae Transfusion and Primordial Wave have mechanical downsides (be it stand-still channeling & meteor scaling, or rotational disruption) that Harvest doesn't suffer from, so numerical boosts may be to improve their appeal in their given niches.
What is the Impact of the Changes for Enhancement
It's unlikely right now in the current scope of the game that these changes are going to shift much, but it will bring "off-meta" covenants a bit closer to parity and maybe give them room to shine in their niches. This is extremely contingent on what Legendary and/or spec changes we see, as both Night Fae and Necrolord have some positive (and negative) interactions that could be exploited or mitigated with new options, so until we see what those changes are it's very difficult to say. As it stands right now, all of the advantages playing Venthyr has right now remain, the only interesting question is whether Kyrian's buffs will bring it slightly closer to filling the same role - giving it the most potential to see swaps to.
Does it Need More to Fix the Issue
As implied above, both Night Fae and Necrolord have some problems with the base kit. Night Fae's intrusion into our GCDs has some negative interactions with timers (and mechanical problems with being stationary), without the significant payoff outside of purely single-target situations due to the meteor. It also has slight anti-synergy with Doom Winds by not allowing any layering of cooldowns while it's used at its most potent point, which in particular in Nathria is a big turn off.
Necrolord's biggest avenues for solutions lie with some changes to the appeal of certain talents and possibly the strength of some legendaries. Both Fire Nova and Stormkeeper are talents that exist for Enhancement that theoretically should have synergy with it, but don't. There's just too little room to flex the strength of the bonus Lightning Bolt casts when so many training weights are applied to keep it down, and since it has no ease-of-use compared to all other options it seems like that pay-off might not be a bad thing to allow given it's still going to be somewhat niche in application.
Kyrian could easily see a way into being meta just based on timings coming up, and the tuning surrounding Vesper Totem. There's just a few things holding it back - that being the soulbinds are noticeably less flexible compared to Venthyr and the Conduit that could alleviate some of that was nerfed to such a degree that it no longer serves as a way to shore that up either. Kyrian is the most Potency-reliant soulbind tree to make use of and with our Conduits being extremely weak past the first, that's a sore spot to justify compared to other options.
Restoration Shaman Covenant Distribution
received a 15% healing and damage buff through the
Aura Passive, which likely will close the gap between Venthyr and Necrolord. You can pick the one you prefer between those Covenants now, for sure.
got even more of a buff to its output, making it competitive. Only the totem itself doesn't feel great to use still, at least in my opinion, but apart from that Kyrian won't hold you back now.
Night Fae gets a bunch of nice buffs, most importantly the range increase of
s heal to 20 yards. As a reference, this is about the same range as
and tremendously helps the spells viability. While its still attached to the player, it will be way easier to make use of it and I no longer see it as a hindrance. The damage and healing buffs (which results in buffing the healing output twice, as the heal depends on the damage) in turn helps it actually compete with Venthyr, Necrolord and Kyrian when it comes to throughput.
There's still some oddities about
s behaviour, as unlike
the healing output is directly coupled to how much damage you do with it. Meaning, that if bosses have damage reductions (for example: Nzoth, SLGs
), you will also heal less, if they receive more damage (for example: Sludgefists
) you will heal more with
- sometimes a lot. Since unlike Discipline Priest its only one spell and not your whole kit, you should be able to play around (or into) this behaviour - but it is something you need to be aware of.
Overall these are great changes and they improve the state of Restoration Shaman covenants, as on paper they all seem to be quite close now when it comes to healing. Seeing them in action will show if these changes were enough.
Warlock Covenant Changes
Affliction Warlock Covenant Distribution
The impending catastrophe buff is just a giant question mark for me. Nobody is playing venthyr for any content - even mythic+, which it could be ok for, is never seeing any play. A small buff to the spell's damage isn't going to change anything.
Demonology Warlock Covenant Distribution
The aim of the buff to Impending Catasrophe buff is to try and make it more competitive with the other Covenants; a 2%ish buff to the impact damage and a buff to the DoT component is
but the soulbinds available to you just aren't nearly as powerful as Night Fae or Necrolord. Yes, the ability is uncapped in AoE but the number of times you will find yourself in need of a full uncapped AoE ability on a 1 minute cooldown is fairly uncommon. This should bring it more in line with Kyrian for the most part but still won't be as desirable as Night Fae or even Necrolord.
The biggest issue with this change is that it really doesn't accomplish anything outside of bringing it to be back to where it was 4 hours before Shadowlands was released and they nerfed the ability. In my opinion, Soulshape is an infinitely more useful movement ability than Door of Shadows and Soul Rot is still better than Impending Catastrophe even after the buff. If their goal was to bring Venthyr back from a place where it's not even considered to a place where maybe the non super cutting edge players will consider it, I think they accomplished this goal by bringing it more in line with Kyrian. If their goal was to make the cutting edge/meta following players to pick a new covenant then they missed the mark by miles.
Destruction Warlock Covenant Distribution
Through Shadowlands there has been multiple viable options for Covenants when playing a Warlock. Initially we thought we were going to play Kyrian, which then got nerfed the day of release. Night fae has been dominant with Necrolord also being an option for Destruction and Demonology. The only covenant that hasn’t had its place is Venthyr. This buff is an attempt at making Venthyr more viable, but likely won’t change much. Impending Catastrophe’s damage and curse application is near irrelevant in most situations, and this small buff is unlikely to make it outperform any of the three alternatives.
Warrior Covenant Changes
Brandish the Conqueror's Banner, granting 400 Mastery and 30% increased movement speed to you and your 2 nearest allies, and preventing movement speed from being reduced below 100%. Lasts 15 sec.
Arms and Fury Warrior
Arms Warrior Covenant Distribution
Fury Warrior Covenant Distribution
Warrior changes in 9.0.5 are rather lean, not yet addressing both DPS specs continual subpar raid performance despite repeated buffs, though the one change made is very welcome - reworking the Necrolord covenant Conqueror's Banner. This long overdue change combines elements of the two major complaints since beta: removing the ramp-up associated with the buff and placing it on the player rather than being tethered to a stationary ground effect. These two changes alone make the ability demonstrably better, but its cooldown is also reduced by a third, the three of which resulting in a significant improvement.
Now there are drawbacks - the change from Critical Strike to Mastery may not better for everyone as demonstrated by lowering the value slightly for Arms while raising it for Fury, just like the change from +maximum health to +movement speed is generally worse everywhere outside of PvP, and the 2 minute cooldown doesn't naturally line up with any of the 45 second or 1.5 minute cooldowns in either spec's toolkit. Likewise, many players will continue to be disgruntled by its group-based designed, as it still benefits two nearby party members rather than concentrating the buff fully on the Warrior.
That said, the Conqueror's Banner is still much better than it was, and although these buffs will not dethrone the Venthyr or Night Fae dominance in raid or Mythic+, it does make Necrolord that much more competitive. Another, non-Warrior change related to this are the buffs to the Necrolord signature ability, Fleshcraft - now providing a bigger shield and reasonable damage reduction while channeling, it is far better suited to long raid encounters, and may not be a deciding factor in of itself, but is yet another major improvement to the Necrolord covenant overall.
Protection Warrior Covenant Distribution
Thus far during Shadowlands, Necrolord Protection Warrior has not been competitive in any PvE application. It has been weak on damage, mediocre defensively, and the party buff was underwhelming. It was roughly equivalent to providing two party members with a heroic dungeon trinket buff while active, and the targets were chosen randomly, so you couldn’t even force the buff onto a specific target.
Fortunately, most of those issues are being fixed with the current state of 9.0.5 PTR Necrolord Warrior. Being able to Intervene or Heroic Leap to your Moonkins or Fire Mages and give them a 400 Mastery buff while all of their cooldowns are active is great. There has been some initial negative feedback due to concerns that this basically relegates Protection Warriors to a role as buff bots, and that is true. If you’re not playing with a consistent group that has Moonkins or Fire Mages who you will want to plan your Covenant choice and playstyle around buffing, switching to Necrolord probably isn’t worth the effort. If you are willing to make that sacrifice, it’s a very powerful DPS cooldown -- but not for you. It’s a stronger personal skill than it was prior to the 9.0.5 PTR, but it doesn’t compete with either Kyrian or Night Fae, and that is disappointing. The buff for your party members will be highly desired in high-level raids and Mythic+, but it’s annoying that it still doesn’t provide any special personal buff like lasting longer or granting more stat budget to the casting Warrior. The Rage generation is worth about 30 Rage/minute, which is fine, but weaker than Kyrian (35 Rage/minute with Conduit) or Night Fae (13 Rage/minute with Conduit per target, up to 64 Rage/minute). It just doesn’t feel personally special or rewarding.
It’s also still on the GCD, which is egregious since its duration has been reduced to 15 seconds.
Overall rating: It’s good.
Class Guides for All Covenants
Looking forward the buffs to certain Covenants? We have class guides for every spec for each covenant. You can check them all below.
Blood DKFrost DKUnholy DK
Havoc DHVengeance DH
Guardian DruidFeral DruidBalance DruidRestoration Druid
Beast Mastery HunterMarksmanship HunterSurvival Hunter
Arcane MageFire MageFrost Mage
Brewmaster MonkMistweaver MonkWindwalker Monk
Holy PaladinProtection PaladinRetribution Paladin
Discipline PriestHoly PriestShadow Priest
Assassination RogueOutlaw RogueSubtlety Rogue
Elemental ShamanEnhancement ShamanRestoration Shaman
Affliction WarlockDemonology WarlockDestruction Warlock
Arms WarriorFury WarriorProtection Warrior
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