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WoWSep 2, 2021 10:00 am CT

Shadowlands patch 9.1.5 will remove the unpopular AOE cap

It has been said by wiser people than I that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” and I can’t think of a more apt description for the AOE cap that was implemented in Shadowlands. While it’s safe to say that maybe players did need to be reined in a tad, the artificial cap of 5 affected targets caused a fair amount of outcry — not only for the intended target (Mythic+ players pulling the entire dungeon in one fell swoop) but for those involved in leisurely pursuits like running old instances for transmog.

It also felt kind of odd to be pulling half a pack of mobs in some areas with an AOE attack, and since faction tagging is still a thing (despite beliefs that it should be changed) it could be confusing as to whether or not your AOE was even working sometimes. Not only were you less powerful, it was less immersive as well.

Fortunately, Blizzard has heard our cries and will be removing the cap in patch 9.1.5:

Originally Posted by Linxy (Official Post)
Developers’ note: With the launch of Shadowlands, we reduced the maximum number of targets that several abilities could hit specifically to address a few gameplay problems related to pulling a large number of enemies in dungeons. Players often refer to these changes as the “AOE target cap.” Our intention was to reduce the effectiveness of burst AOE buttons against large target counts (i.e. 15-20 enemies) while also increasing their effectiveness against fewer targets (e.g. 3-5 enemies) and communicating that strength clearly in the tooltips. The abilities that remained “uncapped” were generally ones that offered lower damage over a longer period of time (e.g. Blizzard or Consecration). Along with other changes, we set out to move away from “pull as many enemies as possible, use all your cooldowns and delete them” as the predominant strategy across various forms of content.

We’ve received a lot of feedback that these abilities not hitting enemies in their range in any way creates a feel problem for WoW combat but is also an issue for trivial encounters like farming legacy content. For many of the abilities that underwent the change from uncapped to a strict target cap in 9.0, we’re converting the damage to “reduced damage beyond 5 targets.” This means that the ability will deal full damage against 5 targets, then reduced damage to each additional target beyond 5. This means that while the overall damage done by the ability increases with the number of targets, the individual damage done to each target will decrease. This solution means these abilities and their relative classes will still have a very strong niche against packs of 4-6 enemies. As always, tuning will change as a result of this shift over the next few weeks based on your feedback from the PTR.

This is the rare compromise that should make almost everyone happy — Blizzard will get an admittedly problematic playstyle nerfed, and players will still get the right combat feel and faster clears of legacy content. The only issue may be for players in areas where the opposite faction predominates, as completing problematic Korthian daily quests could conceivably become harder if opposing Hunters can Multishot every Razorwing in sight. Then again, lower damage AOEs like Consecration already had that effect, so that it may not be noticeable.

In any case, it’s nice to see Blizzard find a way to improve game design in response to player feedback in such a manner, as previous outcries tended to result in the decision standing despite opposition, or simply rolling back the contested implementation entirely (A.K.A. “the Blizzard pendulum”). This compromising manner appears to be the theme for 9.1.5, and I’m hopeful it’ll continue.

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