Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Support Class?

People often talk about getting away from the holy trinity of tank, healer and damage dealer.  Usually what pops up is the theory of a support class.  The one major problem is that a support class is something that can be easily removed in most cases even if they added one.

Lets just say for arguments sake that a new battle comes out and a support class around, as is often described, is needed to give temporary buffs, debuffs or whatever.  When first learning the battle it might be important to have a support class, perhaps it is even impossible to finish the battle without a support class.  Once you start getting more gear and start to over gear the content the support class would be the first expendable class for the battle.

Support classes, based on current game design, are not really needed.

Lets take any raid with lots of AoE damage going out and a support class that can buff people with a buff that absorbs 50% of magical damage.

When my raid team currently starts working on a new fight like that we will usually use the three healer set up to help us deal with it while learning the fight.  Once the fight is learned well enough one of the healers will switch to a DPS spec and we will go at it with two healers and down it faster with more DPS.

That third healer is basically taking the place of what the support class would do.  When learning a new fight it would be awesome to have someone limit the amount of damage people are taking as well as debuff the boss so it takes additional magical and melee damage.  However, once you have the fight learned it would be better to have the extra DPS instead of the support class.

The best case scenario of a support class would be when learning a fight they are useful and once you know it they are useless.  Kind of like the third healer.

So the support class can have an offspec of DPS right?  If that is the case why not just grab another healer that has an offspec of DPS.  Another healer would actually heal whereas a support class will only buff or debuff.

A support class will put a debuff on the mob that increases physical damage taken.  We already have that.

A support class will put a debuff on the mob that increases magical damage taken.  We already have that.

A support class will put a debuff on that slows the mobs cast times.  We already have that.

A support class will out on a resistance for particular fights that need it.  We already have that.

A support class will put a buff on people that limits physical damage taken.  We already have that.

A support class will out a buff on people that limits magical damage taken.  We already have that.

Basically, a support class basically can do what everyone else is doing already.  Lets say you do not have anyone to put on a physical damage debuff on the mob you would be left with the option of taking a support class to do it or a DPS class to do it.

I am not sure about you but I would rather have another DPS doing it while dealing damage then to have a support class doing it and basically wasting time otherwise.

The way the game is currently designed is that a support class would be completely and totally useless.  You would almost always be better off taking a healer to heal the extra damage or a damage dealer to do the debuffing while also dealing damage.

Without changing anything with how the game is designed and works it is impossible to ever add a support class in the game and actually make them viable.

Or is there?

I can think of a way that would make a support class useful.  However it is not something I would really like to see.  You would need to make them, for lack of a better description, OP (over powered).  So much so that the advantage of taking another DPS or healer seems to at least be a coin toss.

For a support class to be viable there needs to be more for them to do.  They need to have something to do other then just buffing or debuffing.  If all buffs are covered except for a rend then basically all they are there to do it rend every once in a while.  How boring is that?

Their buffs would have to stack, be able to proc, and there be some sort of dynamic that would make good support stand out the same way good DPS would.  Good DPS stands out because they are hitting evertthing right and at the right time so they will do more DPS. 

A good support class would have to be similar in their buffs.  The ability to bounce around without letting buffs drops so the healers always have the healing increase, melee always have the melee buff and casters always have the casting buff.  All while mixing in a raid wide haste buff and never letting any of them drop off while making sure to stack them for increased buffs.

Okay, I can see how that can work.  If the support class is good and keeps me buffed and keeps increasing my agility by 5% every 30 seconds to the point where I am getting 40% extra agility or more then basically having another DPS in their place would give then they become worth it.  They would be giving me and 4 other DPS a 40% boost, even more as the fight goes on if they are good.  Not to mention they will be giving the healers a 40% or more healing boost too and a raid haste buff. 

Now they are worth more as a buffer then they are as an extra healer or an extra damage dealer.  If the fight is going on for a while they could effectively make the other 9 characters all do what they are doing 50% better.  That is a combined 450% increase.  More then the 100% of whatever they would have been, 100% healer or 100% damage dealer.

Now that looks like a fantastic raid use for a support class.  Can we make the support class useful in five mans as well?

For a support class to be useful in a five man they need to be the actual definition of control.  They should be able to CC every single type of mob in the game with a various array of CCs.  They should have at least three ranged interrupts all with a low cooldown.  One for direct interrupts.  One for AoE silences.  One for shield bar interrupts (the only class that can directly interrupt casts that are shielded but not all of them just as mages can not spell steal all buffs but only select ones).  They would also need dampening fields for each class of spell.   They should also have a dazzling array of stuns, slows and roots.

That would be awesome for five mans.  Although I can still see how that could be useless in a five man once anyone has any gear or some skill.  You really do not need to deflect damage, CC, interrupt, or anything else control like in a five man once you know the dungeon.

So we need to add some sort of damage or healing component to make them have a little additional use.  They would have a power bar with five bars in it.  Each time they cast a successful support spell the bar would get a charge.  At any point they would have a small selection of damage dealing and healing abilities they could use and use up that power.  So they could add additional DPS or healing as needed. 

Could you imagine them CCing the same mob 5 times in a row while you are trying to attacking it and then whipping out a 100K hit on it or a 100K heal on someone because they have 5 bars.  Their over all DPS would never compete with a damage dealer and their healing would never be a substitue for a healer but it surely does fit the concept of support.  They can support by doing a little extra damage and a little extra healing all while increasing the damage the group does, decreases the damage the group takes and holding an array of abilities that could control a pack of 5 mobs all by themselves if they where good at their class.

Okay, I think I have finally made the support class fit into the five man even if I still think having an actually DPS or healer would be better, having a support would not be horrible.

Not to mention, now support has a way to quest in that spec if they wanted to.  CC, CC, CC, CC, CC, damage, slow, stun, CC, damage.  Blah blah blah.  It will not be the most exciting class to quest with but with their control and buffs, debuffs, etc, they would most likely be super powerful when it comes to soloing certain things.

Okay, I think we just designed a serviceable support class.  Lets flesh it out for fun shall we?

Gearing: - I am thinking that we have to go plate for this new class.  Someone to compete with paladins on the casting gear because they are hogging it all for themselves.  Spirit for them would translate into hit rating which they will need for all their offensive abilities.

Class: - Not sure of what I would think of with a class name but I am thinking the three specs they would have would be support, healing and DPS.  The healing and DPS classes will work similar to the support class's power bar part of doing damage and healing.  I will only detail the support end of it however being that is the all new aspect.  For the healing spec the spirit would work as it does for other healers and for the DPS end of it the spirit would work as hit, just as it will for the support end.

Discipline Bar - Like a stance bar, aura, bar, aspect bar, etc.  It is off the global cooldown so it can be tied into other abilities but all will have a one minute cooldown before being switched back to again and for maximum usage the support player would need to keep switching their disciplines.

Meditation Discipline:
- All mana regeneration continues as if not in battle for all mana users in the party or raid.  The first 20 seconds after switching to Meditation Discipline doubles the regeneration.

Cheetah Discipline:
- The haste of all party or raid members is increased by 15%.  The first 20 seconds after switching into Cheetah Discipline doubles the haste buff.

Barrier Discipline:
- Decreases all damage from all sources to all party and raid members by 10%.  The first 20 seconds after switching to Barrier Discipline will cause a bubble to surround the caster and all people within that bubble will have the damage reduction doubled.

Guardian Discipline:
- When Guardian Discipline is active all party or raid members gain 1% of their total health every 10 seconds.  For the first 20 seconds after Guardian Discipline becomes active the first person that dies will be instantly revived with full health and resources but they will be unable to move or take any actions until what is left on the 20 second duration has expired.

Reversal Discipline:
- All abilities of all party or raid members are now instant and their previous channel time is now added to their cooldown instead. The first 20 seconds that Reversal Discipline is active the previous channel time that is now the cooldown is cut in half.

Dream Discipline:
- All party or raid members have their movement speed increased by 10%.  For the first 20 seconds that Dream Discipline is active all enemy movement is also reduced by 10%.

Boost Buffs:  - These are 45 second buffs.  When a person is buffed with them they can not have them reapplied until 30 seconds have past.  If they are reapplied between 31 and 45 seconds they add up (5%, 10%, 15%, etc) and refresh to 45 seconds.  If the buff falls off without being refreshed the player can not be rebuffed with a boost buff for 15 additional seconds after the boost ended.

Agility Boost: - Add 5% to the total agility of target player.

Strength Boost: - Add 5% to the total strength of target player.

Intellect Boost: - Add 5% of the total intellect of target player.

Enemy Debuffs: -  Works just like boost buffs, but on the enemy or course.

Physical Weakness: -  Increase all physical damage received on the target by 5%.

Magical Weakness: - Increase all magical damage received on target by 5%.

Crowd Control: - The best in the game for CC is a support character.

Stone: - Turn any living creature to stone for 1 minute.

Solidify: - Freeze all the oils in a mechanical unit for 1 minute.

Strip: - Remove all the elemental abilities of an elemental causing it to tremble in fear for 1 minute.

Mirror Image: - Create a mirror image of a demon or undead.  The mob will only attack its mirror image with single target attacks until the mirror image is dead.  The mirror image does not fight back.

Crystallize: - Turn target mob into a crystal for 1 minute.  Only works on humanoids, undead, beasts and dragonkin.

Charm: - Charm a target enemy into doing your bidding for 1 minute.  Only works on humanoids.  You can not control the charmed target.

Slows:  The best class in the game for slows is also your friendly neighborhood support class.

Void Zone: - Create a void zone on the ground that lasts for 20 seconds.  Any mobs that enter the void zone will have their max life cut in half and be slowed 50% while crossing through it.

Stagger: - Reduce the movement of target humanoid, beast or dragonkin by 20% for 10 seconds.

Nightmare: - Reduce the moment of all mobs within 20 yards of you by 30% for 5 seconds.  If dream discipline is active when this is cast the movement reduction is doubled for this spell.

Bound: - Reduce the movement of target enemy by 90%.  Lasts until target takes damage.

Leadfooted: - Target enemies movement speed is reduced by 50%  for 8 seconds. 10 second cooldown.

Interrupts and Silences: - Also a specialty of the support class.

Power Surge: - Interrupt the target spell and gain the mana used to cast it.  5 second cooldown.

Power Sink: - Interrupt the target spell increasing the cost of the next spell they cast by three times.  5 second cooldown.

Power Lock: - Interrupt the target spell and lock the caster out of that spell school for 8 seconds.  20 second cooldown.

Power Circle: - Interrupt all casting within the circle.  Circle lasts for 10 seconds.  2 minute cooldown.

Power Spark: - Cast power spark on a friendly player.  The next spell that targets that player will be instantly interrupted.  Power spark lasts for 3 minutes.  If no spell is cast that could be interrupted on the target player the spark falls off and can not be reapplied on that target for an additional 1 minute.  3 minute cooldown.

Power Drain: - Drain mana and health from target until they cast a spell.  12 second channeled. When they cast a spell it will be interrupt as well as interrupting your power drain.  If your power drain channeling is completed without being interrupted the cooldown is reset instantly, otherwise, 1 minute cooldown.

Power Spike:  - Interrupt the things others can not.  Certain uninterruptable spells can be spiked.  20 second cooldown.

Power Bar: - Every time the support player casts any spell that is not a direct damage or healing spell the power bar gains one charge.  Charges can be used to do damage or heal.  While the support classes damage dealing and healing options are few and far between, they do hit like a truck when they are at a full stack of 5.

Physic Blast: - Does damage equal to your intellect / 1.5 x 2 at one bar.  x 4 at 2 bars.  x 8 at 3 bars.  x 16 at 4 bars and x 32 at 5 bars.

Psychic Bond: - Heals both you and the target player for an amount equal to (same formula as above)

Physic Surge: - Does AoE damage based on the same numbers as above divided among the number of mobs.  x 3 if there are 5 or more mobs or some sort of formula that makes more sense then that.

Okay, so the idea still need some work but over all I could see myself playing that character.  I can really see myself having some fun soloing old content with that character.  Support classes, as most think of them, can not fit into the game the way it is but making something like this, almost over powered when it comes to buffing and controlling, makes having one of these classes almost worth it.  Heck, in some cases I think I would rather a good support player in place of another DPS for some raids.  One support player can turn 5 20K DPSers into 5 30K DPSers over a long battle.  That is 50K extra DPS.  More then having another DPS would be.  And the healing would also be putting out more heals too.  Yeap, I think a good support class will surely take one of the DPS spots away for sure.

The big issue is this is all about adding a new class.  That does not help anything really.  It would end up taking spaces from DPS which is already a problem with so many of them.  Perhaps they need to find a way to make the 4 pure DPS classes have support options.  The one I described I can see being a mage class for sure.  Absolutely.  It fits a mage quite well if you ask me.

WoW will need to make some changes to design if they ever want to add a support class and I do not see that happening but it is nice to think of a class like this.  Perhaps some other classes can use some of those abilities.

I cant tell you one thing, I wish the interrupt that restores mana when used was a mage spell.  I am sure a lot of mages would be looking for things to interrupt.  Boss casting something that can be interrupted. 

Mage 1: I got it, I am on empty. 
Mage 2: Okay. 
~ Interrupt. ~
Mage 1: Okay, I am full again, thank god bosses have such huge mana pools, you get the next one, I am going to spam my 2 button again and watch the numbers fly. 
Mage 2: 20 seconds until he casts it again, I'm going to try to burn my whole mana bar by then.

I sometimes yell when on my warrior.  Hit me, I need rage.  I could see mages yelling, cast something, I need mana.

That would be a fun ability.


  1. You have some interesting ideas. Nonetheless, Blizzard has already tried the support class model and decided that it was too much of a balancing nightmare: shadow priests in BC. By the time of Sunwell they did about a third of the damage of a regular dps, but they restored mana for all damage they did (it was a direct translation, not like the static replenishment buff now), and interestingly, the problem was the opposite of what you described here: they were absolutely essential to have around because without a living "mana battery" the healers' mana would never last. I was one of those mana batteries and I liked it. Alas, just being a regular old dps that gives a static buff just doesn't compare.

  2. Take a look at some other MMOs. LOTRO has three very viable support classes (lore-master, burglar, captain), all of which are considered essential to a balanced raid group (12 person) and are also useful in the smaller 6 person instances in the game. A typical 12 person raid group in LOTRO will have 2 tanks, 2 healers, 3-5 support chars and as little as 3 pure DPS classes.

    LOTRO does it, somewhat, through class specilisation. The other classes by and large can't cc (or in the case of the primary ranged DPS class, it can only do so by severely gimping their damage so they never do it). so two of the three support classes have cc abilities. None of the other classes really buff or debuff (although one of the healing classes is about to get a powerful buffing off-spec), so two of the three support classes debuff heavily (lore-master, burglar) and one buffs (captain). And each of them does something else unique.

    In addition to cc, debuffs, off healing and some DPS ability, the lore-master is the power (mana) battery, can cast temporary stun-immunity buffs on characters which is pretty important in many fights and can remove certain dangerous negative combat effects. The Burglar has cc, debuffs and fairly good positional DPS and also has the ability to unlock one of lotro's unique group coordination skills called "fellowship maneuvers". Other classes can proc these randomly, but burg's are the king of doing them on demand. And the captain, in addition to fairly powerful off-healing (which includes some power return), has hugely powerful buffs and some unique raid-wide cooldowns. Only captains can do the lotro equivalent of bloodlust (a flat +35% incoming damage for 10s on 5min cd), they have multiple battle-resses (only one of the healing classes has a single, long cooldown, battle res) and they have an ability which transfers half their party's damage to themselves for 15s (along with a separate ability that stops them dying for 15s). Some raid encounter abilities are effectively designed around this cooldown, by giving the raid -incoming healing debuffs along with massive raid wide AOE.

    As far as play style goes, the lore-master and burglar classes are very demanding to play effectively, through a combination of relatively short duration debuffs, the challenge of juggling support functions with still doing meaningful DPS - burgs in particular have a pretty complicated DPS rotation - and (in the case of lore-masters) constantly monitoring other classes' power, health and debuff bars. Captain buffs tend to be fairly long duration so their buffs are mostly 'fire and forget', meaning they're relatively more simple to play. They do have a DPS rotation to maintain though, and can do some active spot-healing, and obviously cooldown management is an important part of their job.

  3. @Anon

    You seem to really like LOTRO. I've considered giving it a try one day but do not want to invest in another time sink, which is all WoW really is for me.

    Support classes work there because it was designed to work that way. I like the idea of it but I doubt it could ever be implemented in WoW because WoW was not designed for a support class to begin with.

    It does sound like a fun game design however and like working as a team is even more important there then in WoW. Perhaps it is something I could get into.

  4. "Support classes work there because it was designed to work that way."

    Yup. It's actually in some ways the opposite of the current WoW "bring the player not the class" design. For example, the most recent level cap raid had one fight which was obviously designed to be "have 1 or preferably 2 captains in your raid or don't bother" and another which was clearly designed as the lore-master fight - it really pushes the class diversity. Now, this has its own set of issues, but there really is a spot for non-DPS/tank/healer classes in the game.

    And if you do want to check out lotro casually, it has a very low barrier to entry being F2P :). The model is the first 30-32 levels are absolutely free, the rest is technically free but you really need to put money into the game or spend a lot of time grinding the currency through doing in-game achievements (called deeds) to realistically advance past those levels. It's also, overall, a much more casual and relaxed game than WoW. If you're looking to play an advanced support type char, then roll a burg or lore-master and check it out...

  5. It sounds like it might be something I would like. Perhaps I will check it out some day.

  6. The only thing that springs to mind is that it could be a nightmare to balance a buff-class in PvP?

  7. Shintar, the problem with shadow priests I can see was it wasn't a "support role". It was a support "class" unlike all other classes/specs. Maybe if there was more support classes, Blizzard designers would keep the support as a role.

    Grumpy Elf, I find an issue with the fact your concept doesn't scale with stats except for the power bar abilities. (Note: I think it doesn't but might be wrong although I don't see how. Oh, it probably does scale w/ haste as there is quite a lot of spells to cast.) Maybe the could have spells that increase their effect based on the amount of a certain stat they have? For example, increasing int/agi/str of their party/raid by their int divided by the number of people buffed. Or just have a stat increase effect of a particular spell the way bard/dancer solo buffs work in Ragnarok Online.

  8. Interesting post. Been doing some speculation on breaking the 'holy trinity' myself.

    Will come back to this shortly when I get to finishing my own post,

    - Jamin

    (P.S. I never knew that blizzard had already tested this out in BC with Shadow/ Priests.)