Wyatt Cheng shared some details and theory about big changes to the Witch Doctor’s Firebats in Patch v1.08. The change is only half-in on the PTR; the mana cost changes are in but the damage buff is not, but both will be fixed before the patch goes live, for both people who are still playing the WD.

    Buffs are nice, but I wonder why they nerfed Witch Doctors’ firebats.
    Wyatt: The DiabloWikiFirebats changes were halfway done when we snapshotted the PTR patch. The mana cost change was one change. The other change is buffing the damage of Firebats. The mana change made this PTR patch, the damage change did not. Look for it in the next PTR patch after this one.

    It’s not exactly a nerf and it’s intended to change the way the skill is used (long channeling as opposed to short bursts).
    Wyatt: Pretty much this.

    Bears is great for high damage in quick bursts when you can get close to your enemy and sustain the mana. Acid Cloud is great damage you can apply at specific locations, good for AOE, and also good if your playstyle can maximize the DOT component.

    Firebats is not intended to step on either of those roles. Since it is a channeling skill, and some of the runes already play into standing still, we want to make Firebats a solid damage choice if you find you can stand in one spot for a few seconds. Will it be for everybody? No. Will it replace Bears and Acid Cloud? Hopefully not.

    What we’d like to see is some new approaches that make use of Firebats’ niche advantages. An easy example would be high MP group play. I can stand still thanks to my allies, and we want to do a lot of damage due to the high MP. In a situation like this there is room for Firebats to outperform Bears and Acid Cloud. Hopefully creative players will find even more builds and playstyles in which Firebats finds an enjoyable home.

    Note that the reduction in the continual mana cost looks small on paper, but is very large in practice. This is because your “net cost” you pay per second is relative to your regeneration. So the reduction in continual cost means that most witch doctors can channel for significantly longer than before. Whereas before maybe you could channel Firebats for 3 seconds before you ran out of mana, now you can go for 6 seconds, 10 seconds, and for certain builds – indefinitely. So the goal of this change is to put a little more emphasis on where you position yourself to start casting, and letting you cast for longer periods once you’ve started. Is it any good for “run and gun” builds? No, but there are other skills for that. We’re not trying to introduce more powerful choices for existing playstyles (ie. I play the same way as I did before but I spew bats instead of bears), instead, we’re trying to introduce alternate mechanics to create alternate playstyles. It may not be for everybody, but it should be for somebody.

    Click through for more on Firebats and crit damage via stream attacks.

    In a long term channel it might be considered a buff, right? I’m sure they will explain their rationale.
    Wyatt: Spells such as Disintegrate, Ray of Frost, and Firebats DO crit. You don’t get big yellow numbers, but they absolutely crit.

    The reason is a technical one. Internally many of these powers are classified as “continuous damage over time” spells. The idea being that between really wanting a visceral sense of “applying” a DOT, some of our DOTs apply damage extremely frequently (I think it’s 60 times a second under the hood, but don’t quote me on that). The upside of this approach is that as you hold your mouse over the target, you get to really feel like you are melting your opponent.

    The downside of this approach is that the floating damage numbers became impossible to read at 60 damage amounts per second. Not to mention it was a stream of extremely small numbers. When you first get Firebats you might be doing 11 damage with your Poison dart, and then you’d get a stream of floating 1s for Firebats when the damage was being applied in these very small increments 60 times a second. So to solve that issue we “batch up” all the damage your continuous DOT did over the last 0.25 seconds and present that to you as a floating damage number.

    Under the hood, each individual tick can crit (with the ticks being done at this 60 times a second rate), but because the numbers are batched up, there’s no clear definition of when to make the number “yellow”. In a 0.25 second period you might get 2 crits, 8 crits, or 15 crits.

    I’m joking at the top; obviously there are more than two people playing the WD now, though I am constantly amazed at how much lower a price I get for items with INT than comparable gear with DEX or STR for the mainstat. Partially driven by that, I’ve been considering doing a WD for my next HC char.

    My HC Monk is up to P24 and I have a DH at 52, but I’ve done those chars to very high levels in SC already. My SC WD is P15 or so, but I haven’t played him in months, and my build is very fast farming high risk, and thus entirely unsuited to HC. Thus I’m curious to try a new class in HC, one I haven’t previously experimented thoroughly with, and WD seems the best option there.

    Anyone recently dived into the WD, or any WD players excited about trying out Firebats, or does that play style seem unbearable?

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