Mythic has only just got the ball rolling on the new archmage and shaman changes, but they are coming and they’re coming quickly. What Mythic has in store amounts to no less than an entire class overhaul, and while the changes are broad and diverse, it definitely seems to be a step in the right direction.
First Steps: Balance Adjustments
Mythic is calling the first set of changes “Balance Adjustments” and they are the first and only definitive changes planned. The most recent patch has introduced most of these changes. This is also the simplest patch in terms of the changes made, which is why it was introduced first. The changes in patch 1.2 are largely related to damage. Almost all Archmage and Shaman spells have had their damage increased. This has gone a long way toward making the hybrid damage dealer play style more viable, and most archmages and shamans have embraced this change happily, as it included no tradeoffs or nerfs. This patch also replaced the x13 mastery abilities of both classes. Before, these were buffs that you could place on someone to increase your healing - now they function as ‘Second Wind’ type abilities that grant a large heal if the target drops below 15% health. Mythic has billed these changes as ‘balance updates’ and it seems that so far they are working as intended.
Mastery Path Re-shuffle
The second content change is much larger than the first, and it included an entire reworking of archmage and shaman mastery paths. Two of the mastery paths will remain largely unchanged, at least in terms of overall design strategy. The Path of Isha/Mork will still be focused on healing and the Path of Asuryan/Gork will still be focused on damage. The largest change will happen in terms of the Path of Vaul/Da Green, which is going to undergo a radical change. Instead of focusing on buffs/de-buffs, Vaul/Da Green will now allow damage dealers and healers to hybridize more by offering a focus on lifetaps and survivability. While much of this just means that abilities will be shuffled around, it does include one new x13 ability for Vaul/Da Green, a ranged AoE lifetap that will heal your defensive target for more health the more targets you catch with the cast. While it is too soon to tell how effective these changes will be, or whether or not these changes will go live unmodified, they appear to be supportive of the healer/damage dealer hybrid, at least on paper.
The most sweeping and by far the most controversial of the proposed changes have been those relating to the shaman and archmage mechanic. As it stands right now, the mechanic functions as follows: nuking or damage dealing abilities build up Force, and heals build up Tranquility. Each point of these reduced the cast time or increases the effectiveness of the opposite. This means that after casting many heals, you have a quick, powerful nuke available, and vice versa. The proposed new mechanic changes this quite a bit. Instead of heals increasing the effectiveness of nukes and nukes increasing the effectiveness of heals, each type of ability will build up power for more of the same. E.g., the mastery now goes from 3 to -3; nukes will move the scale toward -3 and heals will move it toward 3, and the new path of Vaul/Da Green will move it toward 0. This supports dedicated healers and nukers but hampers the effectiveness of hybrids who ‘twist’ heals and nukes.
These changes, by and large, are more encouraging than concerning. The overall damage boost is desperately needed and the mastery revamp was a long time coming. Unfortunately, the new mechanic appears to discourage what was, for a long time, a unique and challenging mechanic that supported a hybrid play style - something that hybrid-minded players have been hunting for for ages. Still, the changes are still just in the planning stages and the ones that have gone live are fantastic, so perhaps it is too soon to say. In any case, even if the ability to play as a hybrid is hindered, this will no doubt make archmages and shamans more viable overall.