Is there a role for melee in Firelands?

Tier 11 hasn’t been a very friendly tier for melee.  There are very few fights where you can’t improve your chances of success by removing a melee and adding a ranged.  This is a consequence of a couple of changes in Cataclysm which have eliminated the major niches that melee had, while not materially impacting ranged niches at all.

The first major change has been reducing the effectiveness of “cleave” damage.  Melee always had an advantage with a small number of targets, and it was something that could be exploited on a lot of fights to increase Raid DPS – it gave a reason to bring melee to a lot of encounters.

The second major change has been the addition of mobility tools to ranged DPS classes, reducing the opportunity cost of movement.  DPSing on the move was always a melee strength, and they would tend to perform better in highly mobile encounters.  This is no longer the case – and due to the inherent advantage range has in retargetting, and maintaining range while repositioning, the advantage has actually shifted to ranged in this sort of encounter.

By comparison, ranged strengths remain unassailable – the ability to swap targets quickly when they’re widely separated, strong (ranged) AoE, and the ability to multidot (multidot is the new cleave) have generally pushed ranged dps into a strictly superior position to melee on nearly every imaginable encounter design – and certainly every encounter in T11.  Especially when you consider that ranged can “be” melee any time it’s required – if it’s easier, for whatever reason, ranged can be in melee range, but the reverse does not hold true for melee classes.  Ranged doesn’t have to deal with positional requirements as a melee, either – one could argue that ranged make better melee than melee do.

Does melee have any advantage left which can be exploited, which gives a reason to bring them instead of more ranged?  It isn’t ramp-up time, generally speaking Ranged DPS ramps as fast or faster these days.  All melee have short-cooldown off GCD interrupts, which is potentially exploitable by encounter designers – but I’m not sure that I’d like to have every raid setup be “Bring 6 melee to interrupt”.  Especially since tanks can reliably fill one of those slots now.  Melee don’t bring any particular survivability advantage anymore, although all melee have cooldowns for dealing with damage -almost all ranged have equivalent or superior options.

I’m uncertain, at this point, if Blizzard can still design an encounter that isn’t Patchwerk which will reward bringing melee and ranged DPS equally.  More importantly, I’m uncertain if Blizzard can design encounters with roles for melee that ranged can’t perform equally well, even while there are numerous encounters which will obviously reward ranged.  I don’t wish to be placed in a position of over recruiting ranged for a tier, just to progress, only to see the problem remedied in 4.3.  I’m unwilling to bench all our melee just for progression, as well – they’re good, loyal players who’ve been with us for a long time, and they deserve better than to be discarded.

So what role does melee play in WoW right now?  Are they just the filler DPS that you throw in when you don’t have enough ranged around?  Melee needs to have a niche back.  They need to have effective cleave back, or improved mobility tools.  They need tools to compete with the target-switching and multidotting power of the ranged DPS right now, because they have nothing with which to compete right now.  Melee is strictly inferior to ranged right now, in virtually every way.  And that’s bad for the game.

The other option is significant ranged nerfs, specifically in regards to mobility and ramp time – either way, something needs to change for 4.2, while there’s still a chance to fix what’s broken.

Have I missed something crucial?  Right now, I can’t see it.

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42 Responses to Is there a role for melee in Firelands?

  1. Rhidach says:

    The only solution here is obvious: gap closers for everyone! (I’ll go first.)

  2. Derevka says:

    You hit the nail on the head re: multidot is the new cleave. I could forsee some sort of Devouring Plague mechanic (DP can only be up on 1 target at a time) on more DoTs. (ie Spriests can multidot with SW:Pain & VT. Affliction Locks: Corruption, Agony, UA….

    • Derevka says:

      Er… not Bane of Agony. (which has the same mechanic as DP— one Bane per warlock)

      • Meloree says:

        Except that I believe BoA is soulswappable. The point remains, though, that ranged managed to grab the melee niche of cleaving – a minor opportunity cost in single-target DPS for a huge boost in multi-target DPS. Useful on any fight with multiple critical targets. This is something that you used to stack melee for, but no longer. Multi-dot also works on widely separated targets, something melee will never have an answer for.

    • anafielle says:

      Oh, multidots. I know Mel loves multidotters. I always envision Edge strats for pretty much everything looking something like —>
      1) “Tanks, tank shit. Healers, heal shit. Dot classes, dots. Lots of dots. On everything. Everyone else, idk, hit stuff. Mostly we just need lots of dots.”
      2) “Not enough DPS. I think we need more multidotters.”
      3) “More dots! MORE DOTS!”
      4) ??
      5) boss dies. Speak did 61k dps. What.

      More dots. Solution to every problem.

      • Meloree says:

        To be fair, I mostly love DPS efficiency. If we can get it from multidot, we do – if we can get it from AoE, we do that.

        So, since right now that’s multidot, your summation is entirely accurate. Actually, I think I might have had that conversation on a progression boss very recently… “Which healer wants to DPS, we need another dotter”

      • Derevka says:

        True story: Mel really is the Moar Dots guy.

    • Tomaj says:

      Agony can be on multiple targets, Doom cannot. ;) It’s one Bane per target per warlock, yes, but Doom is the only one that has a number-of-targets restriction like Devouring Plague.

      Anyhow, to respond to the actual post.

      I understand that you’re speaking in really general terms, however, I would also like to note that there is at least one encounter (I just woke up, so another may come to me later) that strongly favors melee DPS in this tier – Al’akir. I know everyone hates the encounter, and would really rather forget it, but it is the case. Since being too close means interrupts, and being too far away means being knocked off the platform, and since melee generally don’t have to be worried about their spells being interrupted… the amount of movement is particularly difficult on most ranged players (and actually makes healing stupidly annoying), and especially due to Squall Lines. At least, phase 1. Phase 2 I’d likely still venture that it’s more annoying for ranged than for melee (Squall Lines aside – those are annoying for everyone at that point). Lastly, Phase 3 poses the same knockback issue as Phase 1 – melee don’t have to have their spells interrupted every so often to get knocked back.

      Arguably, the class that has it easiest is a hunter. Go go Aspect of the Fox.

      Now, do I agree with your post? I suppose I do; melee are having a really rough time right now, and I’m not sure how much better it will get, at least from a healer’s perspective, given all our “splash heal” 4-piece healing bonuses. On the other hand, I’m also getting the impression that Firelands is just going to ZOMGAOEHEALNAO more than anything, which really just makes it hard on healers.

      • Meloree says:

        I’m pretty certain the melee advantage on al’akir mostly relates to doing full single-target damage to a boss with a damage-taken debuff for all of P2, while ranged is responsible for providing them with that debuff. Tornados punish melee pretty well, due to time spent out of range of the boss, as does wind burst. The interrupt in melee range is punitive for ranged, but P1 is a wash at best.

        In some ways, though, P2 is especially punitive for melee, because a lot of guilds position in a clump on the tank – they’re vulnerable to parries, and position DPS requirements (feral druids) which hurt their DPS. We spread melee out to behind the boss, but that introduces additional complications in healing. Melee does well on overall DPS at Al’akir, but that’s largely due to P2 mechanics, where melee can’t help on adds, and so ranged has to. I’m not sure that they’re particularly strong – if I left a SP full-time on the boss in P2, I’m pretty certain they’d look pretty good, too.

      • Tomaj says:

        We actually have the unfortunate disadvantage of not having a lot of melee (and I actually brought up Al’akir because that’s our current progression encounter – I’d actually venture that Magmaw, Halfus and possibly Maloriak/Atramedes are easier on melee, too). Still, being a ranged class, during phase one, melee have only to deal with tornadoes and wind burst. So maybe it’s just healers that are really screwed, since instant heals aren’t particularly potent for most healers (especially when tank healing, which I’ve been doing for phase 1). So I really don’t know that I’d call p1 a wash (tornadoes, wind burst, interrupts, that GODDAMNED ice patch, which melee are more able to deal with via charge, CloS, Freedom, etc.). P2, like I said, is probably equally difficult for everyone. But, due to our limited number of melee, we can only have so many of them on the boss (we pull them a little off to the side, though, instead of right on top of the tank), and have 1-2 of them pick up adds, depending on how they spawn. Then again, we do this in 10-man, so improvisation is necessary (and we have to have the DPS to get through P2, so we don’t 2-tank it), and I think we’ve been leaving our hunter and mage on boss, since otherwise adds go down *TOO* fast.

        • Meloree says:

          It’s not a disadvantage. Our heroic 10man kill had one melee, on purpose. Ranged can be just as effective in P2 if you let them tunnel on the boss, they’re a clean melee replacement, and we find them to be generally stronger in P1. I’ll grant that the interrupt punishes healers, but I think it affects healers more than ranged.

      • Tomaj says:

        True, I just lump “healers” into “ranged” because… well… they are. Even so, we’ve had more issues with our ranged getting knocked off in p1, and melee getting picked up with squall lines in p2, so it’s just … stupid. (It’s a fun fight, but only for so long. I still don’t have the hatred I do for Ascendant Council on this fight though). I guess there’s also certain classes that are pretty much screwed if they do get interrupted, too (due to lack of instants) – elemental shaman, arcane mages most notably.

  3. Zaephod says:

    Every time I try to come up with an approximate fix, I can defeat it by simply placing the ranged in melee range. I think the reverse of the Heroic Blood Prince Council debuff (having to stand still as much as possible) could probably encourage more melee since they’re generally unaffected by constant jumping. That’s the best I could come up with at work…

    I’ll leave it up to Blizzard to come up with a good fix for it; they normally come up with a good way to get balance restored just late…after people re-roll.

    • Meloree says:

      That’s what I meant when I said that there’s no encounter design that I can imagine that gives the edge to melee right now, without obvious gimmicks like cast time reduction. Single-target output is similar, but Patchwerk is a rare encounter now.

      Melee needs an overhaul in general – they need higher single-target DPS than ranged, in order to encourage balancing out the melee, or they need effective cleave back, or some other adjustment to give them a niche back.

      • Esoth says:

        Any boss ability where you would have to collapse to a spot (but could take the damage target with you) is beneficial to melee. I.E., V&T’s Blackout.

      • Meloree says:

        Granted – assuming there’s a reason to spread out again afterwards. Melee might actually excel at V+T if you couldn’t multidot the other dragon.

  4. Antigen says:

    I think in most aspects you’re right; ranged do just as well as melee in a lot of things, and excel at many things melee doesn’t. However, I don’t think this means melee is useless; it just means that the two are somewhat-evenly matched, with ranged being able to do just a little better in the hands of a skilled player. If you want to min-max your raid, sure you could ask your raiders to bring their ranged DPS and leave their melee at home, but would your raid corps be happy that way? I mean, bringing melee these days isn’t as crippling to your raid as forgetting to bring a couple priests for Razuvious.

    I do agree that melee needs something more to do, if only to save us from the tedium that is interrupting.

    • Meloree says:

      If ranged is as good at melee as everything melee can do, but melee is not as good at ranged at the things ranged can do, then the only place you bring melee is in “filler” DPS spots. “Stack enough ranged to do the jobs required of ranged, then you can bring some melee if you want to. More ranged will still make the fight easier than more melee, because it makes the ranged-only jobs easier, but you can get by with a few melee if you don’t have another choice” isn’t a good niche for melee :P

      I’d argue that it isn’t close right now, it’s not that ranged can do a little better in the hands of a skilled player, it’s that they can do a ton better, they can materially contribute to getting kills in a way that melee can’t compare with.

      If you look at stateofdps.com in heroic, 5 ranged classes are on top, followed by melee. The only ranged class that doesn’t beat all melee classes is elemental shaman. And it’s not even particularly close, we’re talking about several thousand DPS lost per melee that you bring.

      • Antigen says:

        Good point with the State of DPS thing, that… that is a pretty big discrepancy. It’s kinda gross if you look at it for too long…

        I think our niche right now, as you said, is interrupts. Sadly, it’s more of a burden, more of a “this job sucks, so let’s give it to the people who will harm the raid the least from deviating from their rotation” thing. And that’s just not cool.

        Well, as for solutions, I’d be in favor of toning down scaling for ranged so that melee pull out a decent amount ahead in damage output. Making a “fun niche” for melee is more like distracting us with shiny keys, hoping we won’t notice our terrible performance while we’re off running around, hitting buttons and pulling levers for the benefit of the raid.

        • Meloree says:

          I’m probably not being clear or accurate when I use the term niche. What I mean is that melee need an area of excellence. When building your strats, you want a reason to say “I have 6 ranged, another one would make this bit easier, but if I can fit in another melee this other bit is easier”. There needs to be something at which melee excel which encourages melee stacking, in order to balance the areas in which ranged excel which encourage ranged stacking. Maybe the answer is just higher single-target DPS. You bring just enough ranged to handle what they have to handle, and stack melee to kill bosses. Other answers are reducing ranged mobility/cleave potential and increasing it for melee.

          Niche might not be an appropriate term – right now ranged have all the niches filled, though. Melee needs something – besides interrupts, because frankly that’s not all that much fun to do over and over and over again.

      • Antigen says:

        Oh I know what you mean by “niche.” Frankly, I don’t think single-target DPS is a ‘niche’ for anyone to excel in because that describes a vast majority of endgame bosses in Warcraft. If melee did better single-target damage across the board, you’d have the same problem that we have right now, but with ranged.

        I mean, both melee and ranged do the same job; kill bosses. Therefore, one group shouldn’t have some sort of permanent advantage over the other. Like I said, if something can be done to bring melee and ranged to the same level on that front, then Blizzard can start thinking about other things to make playing and bringing melee more attractive, perhaps on an encounter-by-encounter basis.

        • Meloree says:

          I’m not sure that higher single target damage is a GOOD niche, per se, but it would restore some give and take to the “what do I bring to my raid” question. Interesting fights generally don’t revolve around single-target boss DPS, but they have other critical DPS check that generally have to be identified and handled.

          If you look at H-Cho’gall for example, ranged burst AoE is your critical DPS benchmark during progression, in general. You stack up enough ranged to cover that benchmark, and then you can “fit in” melee. More ranged is still good, it makes the fight generally easier, but you can get away with melee after that point. Higher single-target DPS on melee would actually give you a reason to bring melee after hitting the ranged minimum.

          Examples like that abound – I would approve of there being some give and take in raid setup pressures, and in optimizing strats. That does not exist right now. It’s nearly impossible to make melee and ranged perfectly equal in general, given the differences in role. They both need strengths to play off, in order to create some form of balance in raid setup pressures.

  5. Cogglamp/thatguy from mtankadin.com says:

    This is a simple way to deal with it but I know there are lots of holes within it. But here goes anyway:

    Possibly having a melee group buff type of buff for melee. Call it the Bravery of Fools buff. When having 3 melee (str and agility classes only; hunters are SOL) characters in some nominal range of each other, they receive a buff that increases movement speed slightly, healing received (or damage taken), and damage dealt. Possibly no more than 1.0-2.5% total.

    Or have a Fog of War type of debuff on ranged. If you target a different mob, your existing spells’ damage on other mobs will be suppressed by x%. Also, during periods of movement, autoshots, DoTs and spells hit for y% less damage.

    I’m sure most of this is a terrible idea but you’re 100% right that melee are outside looking in at the moment.

    • Meloree says:

      The buff to damage done would need to approach 10% to begin to restore parity.

      Yes, it really is that imbalanced right now.

      • Cogglamp/thatguy from mtankadin.com says:

        I don’t doubt you that it’s out of whack. I see it myself unfortunately. I was trying to come up with more knobs that Blizz could tweak to find a balance instead of taking out the nerf/buff bat and doing wholesale changes.

        Also, the elephant in the room is what this does to PvP should they decide to increase melee single target dps. When Blizz decides to do more of what they did with the Colossal Smash debuff and apply fixes like that across the board, I think this problem will be easier to fix.

        Regardless, I’m loving all of the topics you three are posting. Well written and highly informative. Please keep it coming!

        • Meloree says:

          Thanks very much :) I don’t think we have any intention of stopping just yet.

          PVP balance is definitely an issue, and one that I hesitate to try and tackle. I care about PvE, and that needs addressing right now.

  6. Esoth says:

    I think you are making some broad generalizations about ranged that only apply to a couple of them or apply to a lesser degree. For the most part you’re right, and the reasons illustrated are the reasons why melee aren’t as successful this tier, but you are painting with broad strokes.

    You have to look at each class individually in three separate areas and see that it’s not necessarily a “ranged” thing. Some ranged might still be fucked in these areas. They are 1) movement strength. I will argue that damage while moving for casters should be behind melee but not zero. 80% would still be an advantage for melee here. 2) Multi dotting. You are right to call this the cleave of Cataclysm but it’s not a ranged thing. Only certain classes can do it and it’s already seen a lot of changes since launch: massive dark intent nerfs, dot nerfs, etc. 3) Damage reduction isn’t universal among casters.

    Hunter: instant Chimera (has a cooldown) or Arcane Shot (focus limited). Cannot do aimed shot, even with Fox. Fox is a hefty AP loss now if you need to use it for steady/cobra. Pet DPS can normally continue. No multi dotting. Poor damage reduction (most things cannot be FD’d or deterrenced and those put our DPS at 0+pet) – really just glyph of raptor strike if we can melee for a 6 second 20% reduction. I find our lack of flat or usable % damage reduction very noticeable on some fights (hi Nef).
    Shadow Priest: Only instant cast is DP (long duration, direct hit portion is meh) and Shadow Word: Death (not usable on some fights, weak damage outside of execute range) so they are likely taking some kind of penalty. Keeping dot ticks and having apparitions is mostly what prevents them from doing 0 damage while moving. Multi dotting has always been a shadow priest strong suit, although it can be mana intensive and VT/SWP are being nerfed in 4.2 in exchange for MF/MB increases. Damage reduction is very good, with shadow form’s flat amount, the potential to self bubble, and dispersion (although that might be needed for mana, and it also prevents casting).
    Elemental Shaman: Terrible right now, OP in 4.2. Right now outside of SWG the options are refresh searing totem, refresh flame shock, earth shock (probably before full stacks – also dependent on FS duration), unleash (non-zero, but low damage). Flame Shock is also weak as hell so keeping that dot rolling while moving means little and multi dotting is a joke. Damage reduction is limited to an optional talent that reduces magic damage (can’t take imp ghost wolf) and glyphed stoneclaw (if you don’t need to keep an earthbind or stoneskin down).
    Mage (arcane): Only option while moving is arcane barrage which clears AB stacks and is not preferred over arcane missiles last I checked. Blink helps cut down on time spent moving. No dot, so no multi dot. Damage reduction is mage ward which is only certain schools, iceblock which is really damn good, and mana shield which is potentially a very big DPS loss.
    Mage (fire): Instant cast pyros and living bomb, if you can time around that. Scorch is usable sure, but it’s a reasonable DPS loss unless you are having mana issues. Multi dotting and aoe in general is obviously amazing for fire mages. Damage reduction is the same as arcane, with differences in effect on DPS.

    This is incomplete and a bit hasty, but the main point is that I don’t think it’s fair to say ranged as a whole are strong in all of these three areas right now. I don’t think ranged being weak in all three categories (see elemental shaman) is reasonable either – why would you bring ranged?

    • Esoth says:

      Basically, if melee always excelled at damage reduction (is anyone weak in this anymore? fury maybe?) and movement they still have an advantage over ranged as a whole, even if a select few specs have a way to limit their penalty on these. For the most part I think the ranged vs. melee thing is overstated because there is so much variance within those two camps.

      • Meloree says:

        Fury warriors can still shield wall with a stance-dance, and tend to have huge healthpools from running a pair of 2h weapons. They’re fairly survivable. I don’t think any melee is weak on that front. Hunters have the short end of the stick there, counting all DPS classes, IIRC. Even elemental shaman have stoneclaw, and it helps.

        But as it stands, melee is no better at movement than ranged is in general, and not significantly more survivable – if they have a niche, if there’s a reason to bring them at all right now, I don’t actually see it. Perhaps I just have blinders on, based on the strats we tend to run, but in my experience in T11, more ranged makes every fight easier, and more melee makes every fight harder.

    • Meloree says:

      Oh, I’m definitely painting with broad bush strokes, and I’ll definitely give you that elemental shaman got the short end of the ranged stick in T11, that’s really not particularly debateable.

      On the other hand, excepting said elemental shaman, if you could have a randomly chosen ranged class, or a melee spec of your choice for a progression encounter, which would you choose? You’ld pick the ranged. Hunters can’t multidot and still beat virtually all melee specs in virtually every situation, and that’s the WORST possible outcome you could end up with from that particular choice.

      I would also argue that if ranged can put out 80% damage on the move (which is pretty typical right now, I think), they’re generally better at movement than melee. Melee will be vulnerable to positioning and lag during movement, and will rarely actually see 100% DPS uptime except on the slowest of kites – and in those situations ranged can normally maintain 100% DPS as well, simply because improved range allows for timing your movements.

      More importantly, since ranged IS generally stronger in every situation that isn’t a pure tank and spank right now, what needs to change for melee to compete? They don’t have to be stronger in every category to be a generally better choice. While I can’t argue that elemental shaman got pretty screwed over in Cataclysm so far, it wouldn’t take a whole lot to bump them right back past melee. They have low single target damage and bad movement, they’re not competitive. Fix either one, and they’ll climb right past melee.

      Right now, in the role of DPS, melee are the also-rans. Adjustment required.

      • Meloree says:

        I’ll grant you that hunters are probably the least OP of the 5 OP ranged classes. Is that fair? :P

      • Donthealme says:

        In terms of movement and overall dps the shadow priest changes seem to correct the ranged vs melee thing, however its only being done to them, I think those types of changes need to be applied to locks and boomkins as well and then it would be at least a start.

      • Meloree says:

        I don’t see it, Donthealme.

        The changes reduce the power of the multidot, and maybe reduce overall single-target DPS a little bit – fair enough, they were very strong to begin with – but I don’t think it hits movement very hard at all. DP-spam is still stronger than Mind Flay, given the mana, and good mana management allows one to do that on movement heavy phases. That keeps their DPS, including DoTs, fairly high even during movement. Multidot will still be extremely powerful, and they still have the rest of the ranged advantages in target-swapping. I don’t see SPs going all that far down.

      • Donthealme says:

        Good point I was not even thinking about DP spam since my shadow priest alt doesn’t have the mana for it. Our two shadow priests however were discussing the changes and both had initially seen anywhere from 2200 dps loss according to simcraft with the changes. Not sure if that holds true in actual testing or what their 2 and 4 pc does to their dps, but it is a start at least.

      • Donthealme says:

        One other thing is DP spam can only be done so much, one crit and you are locked for that duration of the dot. So if you are moving for a few seconds and your first DP Crits you only have 2 effective globals in that time frame.

      • Meloree says:

        That’s a new one on me, DP has a cooldown when it crits?

      • Donthealme says:

        It’s not a CD you get the whole “a more powerful spell is already active” I thought it was bugging or something when I was getting the msg on p3 of ascendent council in our alt raid. Our shadow priest(main raider variety)confirmed this. On a side note apparantly its fun to kill dps when it won’t cause a wipe….I got everything from being leap of faithed into the blue puddle immediatly following a gravity crush, trash being MD’d to me, and then 4 people running to me and vomitting on me on cho’gall…..come Sunday they will pay lol.

  7. Shathus says:

    What about imposing a minimum range mechanic to all (ranged) dps (casting fireballs too close to your targets burns off your eyebrows or something). Having uttered this, the incoming QQ will already cause my head to explode and I’m sure there would be PVP balancing issues but…

    Wouldn’t that counter some of the issues? It would cause ranged to NOT essentially be the same as melee. Especially if particular bosses had some ability that gave you a benefit for being up close to them, then you would have a situation where melee > ranged. Would it work in practice? Probably not, but that’s one solution to make them different.

    Also, Survival Hunters multidot automatically when they multi-shot.

    • Meloree says:

      See Al’akir. You can punish casters for being in melee range, certainly, but it’s a pretty restrictive bandaid to throw on to mechanical problems. Nobody really loves the hunter deadzone.

      • Esoth says:

        And in fact they’ve dropped that deadzone for hunters on a few models this past tier, thankfully. Nef/Ony, Valiona/Theralion, to name a few.

    • Esoth says:

      Oh, I also have to disagree with Survival hunters multi-shot making them multi dotters. The periodic damage for serpent sting, even for SV is still weak, and the added bonus of being able to target switch more effectively (SV requires serpent sting on the target for a large percentage damage boost) is not significant either. The power of that ability for SV has always been the multishot itself doing almost half of the damage and the proc of improved serpent sting doing about half of the damage. The periodic damage is insignificant and frequently overwritten because the two direct damage components are more significant. All of which is moot because MM aoe is better now anyway :p

      This is all similar to frost DKs anyway, which are notably the gods of melee aoe these days.

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