World of Warcraft: Legion brought with it massive changes to all classes, the biggest of which was a reduction in the number of available spells. While this ability pruning greatly benefited players who focused on raiding and dungeons, its effect on PvP balance has been rather disastrous. Back in the day classes were balanced around both their utility and damage output, but with so many abilities now removed the only thing some classes have to offer is pure damage, and as you can imagine that's not exactly easy to balance.
For example, the brand new and exciting Havoc Demon Hunters are currently almost entirely useless in high-end PvP as they have no real defensive abilities and only bring pure damage to the table. If you buff their damage too much they will suddenly become a part of 'instakill' team compositions which are obviously bad for the game, but if you err on the side of caution they will continue to be useless because you could just bring a highly versatile Frost Mage instead.
This unfortunate situation is exactly what the PvP balance team is trying to address with the upcoming balance changes. Whether they will actually have the desired effect or not, that I'm not sure, but here are the patch notes so you can see for yourself:
• (Frost) Strength in PvP has been reduced by 10%.
• (Unholy) Apocalypse damage is no longer reduced in PvP (was reduced by 75%).
Developer Notes: Frost Death Knights have recently received a number of bug fixes and class tuning adjustments that have pushed their damage out of line in PvP. For Unholy, Apocalypse’s damage was reduced during beta due to its burst potential, but due to other changes, we no longer feel that reduction is necessary.
• (Havoc) Agility increased by 5%.
• (Havoc) Stamina increased by 10%.
Developer Notes: As players have become more accustomed to Demon Hunters and how to counter them, we feel their damage and general survivability has ended up a little low, so we’re giving them a little tuning to help them compete.
• (Survival) Stamina has been increased by 15%.
Developer Notes: As a melee DPS, Survival Hunters have been a bit too squishy in PvP, so we’re increasing their Stamina.
• (Frost) Intellect has been reduced by 10%
Developer Notes: Frost Mages recently received some damage increases that we feel need to be counter-tuned in PvP.
• (Windwalker) Agility has been reduced by 10%.
• (Windwalker) Serenity now increases damage by 25% with the Spiritual Focus artifact trait (was +30%).
Developer Notes: Windwalkers are able to maintain an extremely high uptime against their targets in PvP, and their raw damage capability was just too high for a spec that’s so difficult to get away from.
• Lava Burst now deals full damage in PvP (was doing 80% of normal damage).
• (Elemental) Control of Lava increases Lava Burst damage by 100% (was 150%).
Developer Notes: We’ve received a lot of feedback that Elemental Shaman feel good in PvP once they have access to the Honor Talent Control of Lava, but felt too weak without it. We’ve decided to remove the PvP reduction on the base Lava Burst spell and reduce the benefit from Control of Lava to compensate. This results in effectively the same damage for players who still wish to use Control of Lava, but an increase to Lava Burst without it.
• Hamstring damage has been increased considerably, and now lasts for 12 seconds in PvP.
• (Arms) Strength and Stamina increased by 10%.
• (Fury) Strength and Stamina increased by 10%.
Developer Notes: Patch 7.1 put Hamstring back on the global cooldown, and while we still feel that that’s the correct choice for that ability, we understand that this change had a major impact on PvP Warriors’ damage rotation, as well as Hamstring’s overall uptime. To compensate, we’ve increased Hamstring’s duration so that it needs to be applied less frequently, and massively increased its damage to help make it feel worthwhile to use. Additionally, we felt that Warriors weren't feeling quite tough enough in PvP, so we’ve increased Strength and Stamina for Arms and Fury.
• (Destruction) Entrenched in Flame duration reduced to 3 seconds (was 4 seconds).
• (Destruction) Focused Chaos now increases Chaos Bolt damage by an additional 100% (was 150%).
• (Destruction) Shadowburn now deals 20% less damage in PvP.
Developer Notes: 7.1 introduced some new talents to Destruction Warlocks to increase their control and incentivize the use of cast time spells like Chaos Bolt. These talents were overtuned initially, but we want to keep Chaos Bolt as the best damage value for a Soul Shard.
While these buffs and nerfs are certainly a step in the right direction, I'm afraid they won't really help the struggling classes find their place in the Sun. When it comes to PvP, the ability to disrupt and control your opponents is the most important aspect of a high-end team, and until some of the lower-end specs get such features they will forever remain slightly behind.
Whether this is actually possible to fix through simple number changes, that I have no idea, but I suppose we'll find out soon enough as this balance update is set to arrive during the upcoming server reset. Here's to hoping it ends up being a lot more relevant than it feels on first glance!