Diablo 3 Season 4 turns the tables on metagame and class popularity
Analysis of Diablo 3 Season 4 started as early as a month in with a piechart graphic from Monstrous, a Diablo 3 forum MVP, that tracked class popularity in the leaderboards in 4-player, 3-player, 2-player, and solo groups across all seasons, using data from DiabloRank. Season 4 was already a blatant switch of class popularity trends, particularly in the multiplayer parties. Players figured that the season would later even out, but instead, the class popularity trends got worse.
The above picture shows the popularity of class in the top leaderboards of each party size (rows) across Seasons (columns): Season 1 (end), Season 2 (end), Season 3 (end), Season 4 (1 month in), and Season 4 again (2 months in). The Monk was already a dominant class, nearly even with the Barbarian in popularity for all modes of play, but the emergence of a new generator build tipped the Monk over into the overwhelming favorite.
Rhykker, a popular Diablo 3 streamer and YouTuber, expands on the current popularity of the Monk, digging into the influences behind what makes a class into the “best.” The metagame (“meta”) is a huge factor, and Rhykker discusses not only why Greater Rift play is the metric for the title of “the best class,” but how a class’s current popularity begets future popularity. He briefly analyzes each class’s journey in popularity across the Seasons, revealing insights with the effects that major game or class changes had on each class’s popularity in each Season.
The great crowd control nerf of Season 4 had more impact than expected, as support builds changed play styles. Supports previously featured as zero-DPS (zDPS) or tank-style builds, where the goal was to lock down or distract mobs so the glass cannons in the group could focus fire the mob packs. In Season 4, support builds have turned to a healing or buffing playstyle, reacting to the more dynamic interaction with damage taken.
Damage done by mobs has also been reduced, Monstrous later points out, when melee already have a 30% damage reduction advantage to glass cannon ranged. Rhykker finishes his class summary with the point that the Monk and Barbarian weren’t necessarily bad before Season 4, just overshadowed both by the crowd control that Crusaders and Witch Doctors could do, as well as by the raw damage that Demon Hunters and Wizards contributed.
Like any Diablo 3 player, Rhykker is looking beyond Season 4, and points out the good things to look for in Season 5. The crowd control nerf has cleared the way for better class balance than simply buffing a class over and over again, as well as made the game more interesting with the dynamic support styles. Kanai’s Cube has added build diversity to all classes, so more and more play styles are offered in each class. The game is definitely better than it was before the Cube, and Diablo 3’s top players are working hard to play and analyze the game in the goal of bettering it for all.
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