Overall, these changes are very, very
nice changes across the board, and a testament to the team's ability to gather feedback and iterate on it. They've managed to fix virtually every issue with Fleshcraft
for tanks, by making it a button you can actually press without sitting there and taking hits for 4 seconds. It even now can be used as a strong damage reduction cooldown, although it does require you to stand still during it. It is important to remember that tanks are able to dodge, parry and block while channeling Fleshcraft. This is already the case on live, but wasn't on launch, when many tanks selected their Covenant.
The overarching issue, however, is that very few tanks will actually see this. Unless there is a completely new mechanic in the next raid tier that absolutely requires Fleshcraft
and cannot be substituted with (for example) Pain Suppression
, you likely will not see a change in covenant for tanks. This is down to deeper balancing issues independent of Fleshcraft
- Vengeance Demon Hunters have had their Necrolord ability reworked into a RNG casino of damage and healing. It now spawns random demons (1-2 per minute) that you can glaive for big damage and a 25% heal. In practice, you'll glaive them when there isn't a more impactful button to press. The RNG proc aspect is sort of problematic, and even though it is better than live, it's still firmly behind the competition, particularly Kyrian and Venthyr. As a result, Demon Hunters are unlikely to make the leap.
- Protection Paladins are not far ahead of Vengeance Demon Hunters with Vanquisher's Hammer. Its drawbacks are described in the Necrolord Protection Paladin Guide; as such, and with the oppressively strong Kyrian and Venthyr alternatives, Protection Paladins are very likely to stay where they are
- For Guardian Druids, Necrolord is already their strongest Single Target covenant; however, the drawback is that it does just that: ST damage. Convoke the Spirits and Kindred Spirits are both more versatile and fit more situations, and as a result, they're very likely to bear with it and stay where they are, too.
- Brewmaster Monks get to enjoy an oppressively strong Weapons of Order, coupled with Phial of Serenity and a possible choice to bring it up to 55% heal. Barring a Weapons of Order nerf (which, by the way, is probably sorely needed at this point), they might just keep on rolling Kyrian.
Out of the two remaining tanks, Blood Death Knights already see a healthy Necrolord representation on live: it is the de facto best covenant for their strongest DPS spec, and Abomination Limb
itself is pretty decent for blood as an all-around good choice. It is
slightly behind Kyrian for ST, and slightly behind Venthyr for high M+, but it is good enough for both to not feel at a disadvantage. As a result, this is one of the two tanks where you might see a switch, particularly since we have periods of downtime in our rotation. A 4s channel was oppressive; 3s, however, is much easier to fit in those small gaps. As a result, with this being an additional tool to the kit, you'll likely see a few fellow Blood Death Knights make the switch - not because it is massively stronger than the rest, but because it fleshes out the kit.
The last remaining tank is currently a dark horse, Protection Warrior, in that there is some iteration on Conqueror's Banner
. The current state of PTR removes the whole Glory mechanic and turns the banner into a huge
mastery buff for you and your two nearest allies, along with a snare prevention. As it stands right now, it might see play due to just how ridiculously strong it is to buff others, and as a result, you might see a few Necrolord Protection Warriors, particularly in content where you can use the banner to predictably buff somebody during cooldown windows. Your fire mages will, undoubtedly, love this.
As a quick summary: really good changes for those who are already Necrolord. Prot Warriors and BDKs might switch around a bit, but it won't affect covenant choices.
While healers are largely responsible for the survivability of our allies, we are often considered some of the more fragile members of the group. The personal survivability toolkits definitely vary for each class of healer, but overall they tend to be more limited than other roles. As squishier players who are hyper-aware of incoming damage and consistently need to coordinate cooldowns to ensure our allies survival, when an ability gets reworked that has some serious personal survivability benefits we take notice. That's the case for the new Fleshcraft
Potentially adding a personal survivability cooldown to healers with limited options is certainly a tempting offer. A well-timed Fleshcraft
can mitigate a significant of damage with the new 30% damage reduction while channeling over its 3 seconds, but the flat 40% absorb for a complete channel that's no longer dependent on the type of enemy your near is also pretty juicy as well, especially for a 2-minute cooldown. Now consider that you'll potentially have even greater uptime on this simply due to the new passive effect that reduces the cooldown of Fleshcraft
by simply walking over the corpses of your enemies. This can be further reduced by Bonesmith Heirmir's Resourceful Fleshcrafting
and makes Plague Deviser Marileth's Volatile Solvent
much more powerful and a significantly more attractive soulbind especially for Mythic+.
List of All Volatile Solvent Buffs
Let's look at each healer and how each might value this reworked covenant signature ability:
Probably the exception to the rule, Restoration Druids already have a fairly strong defensive toolkit and are considered one of the sturdiest healers in terms of survivability. The short 1-minute cooldown Barkskin
fills in most holes, but the on-demand Bear Form
can be used in a pinch combined with Frenzied Regeneration
to heal any damage taken back quickly. We can supercharge Bear Form
with Heart of the Wild
granting even more stamina and uses of Frenzied Regeneration
. On top of it all we can take Guardian Affinity
for the flat damage reduction of Thick Hide
won't likely be as tempting for Restoration Druids who already have a fairly stacked deck when it comes to survivability. However, when you consider the alternative covenant signature abilities, you're mostly looking at additional mobility or healing/debuff clear. Mobility is another area where we don't particularly struggle and as a healer we have plenty of healing to go around. Covenant signature abilities shore up weaknesses in toolkits that Restoration Druids don't really have, so the Fleshcraft
rework alone is unlikely to shift Restoration Druids from Night Fae to Necrolord for PvE, and will largely depend on the design and tuning of Convoke the Spirits
vs. Adaptive Swarm
the latter of which did receive a buff in the recent 9.0.5 PTR.
For Monks the survivability options are still good albeit a bit more limited by longer cooldowns. Typically you'll have the 3-minute Fortifying Brew
and either the 1.5-minute Diffuse Magic
or 2-minute Dampen Harm
from the level 40 talent row. While these can be some powerful damage reduction cooldowns, especially the 60% magic damage reduction of Diffuse Magic
the longer cooldowns do make them a bit more inaccessible. I do think Mistweavers on the stronger end of healers in regards to survivability where it's not really a weakness, but Fleshcraft
might be exactly what's needed to fill in the gaps of survivability.
Is it enough to get some Mistweavers to switch covenants? Potentially, yeah. This is simply because high-end PvE Mistweaver content isn't overwhelmingly dominated by a single covenant like other healers. Though Kyrian tends to be the most prevalent covenant selection amongst Mistweavers there does appear to be a fairly healthy number of Necrolords. Both covenants and by extension covenant abilities (Weapons of Order
and Bonedust Brew
) are viable options. The improvements to Fleshcraft
should not be overlooked in this scenario especially for a healer where the playstyle of Rising Mist
remains the dominant choice but places the healer in melee with typically higher incidental damage meaning an additional damage mitigation cooldown would be highly valued. I don't predict a mass exodus from Kyrian for Mistweavers, but I can see the scales tip a bit more in favor of Necrolord with this change.
Rounding out the slightly more survivable healers, Holy Paladins have a fairly strong survivability toolkit from the 1-minute Divine Protection
, the constant 3% damage reduction of Devotion Aura
, and the 5-minute total immunity of Divine Shield
. Combine this with an exceptional armor amount from being a plate wearer further bolstered by typically wearing a shield and you have a potent personal survivability toolkit. What makes Holy Paladins a bit different is they typically play in melee where incidental damage is higher and their external damage reduction cooldown Blessing of Sacrifice
can also put them in danger simply due to the damage transfer. It's not unexpected to see a Holy Paladin utilize a defensive to help mitigate this transfer especially in high-end PvE content. Additional damage reduction could be valuable.
However, it's unlikely that the Fleshcraft
rework alone is enough to get Holy Paladins to switch to Necrolord. Holy Paladins are overwhelmingly dominated by Kyrian and the strength of Divine Toll
and to a much lesser extent Venthyr and Ashen Hallow
. While damage reduction of Fleshcraft
could prove valuable, the other covenant signature abilities aren't without their benefits to Holy Paladin. Kyrian's Summon Steward
can provide significant self-healing exactly when the Holy Paladin needs it. As a fairly immobile spec outside of Divine Steed
. Venthyr's Door of Shadows
provides additional mobility on a short cooldown. It should be noted that the Paladin Necrolord covenant ability Vanquisher's Hammer
was also buffed to generate a Holy Power in 9.0.5 and therefore may help in persuading Holy Paladins to Necrolord.
Discipline & Holy Priest
Both priest healing specs are the most fragile of all the healers having very limited personal survivability cooldowns typically limited to the 1.5-minute Desperate Prayer
, the passive Focused Will
with very difficult requirements to meet, and self-Power Word: Shield
usage. Combine this with being cloth wearers with very minor amounts of armor and you'd start to think that priests are made of paper. Another personal survivability cooldown could be highly valued but mobility is also valued for priests as well with only limited options like Body and Soul
or Angelic Feather
. It's not a clear choice based solely on covenant signature ability.
Discipline is dominated by Venthyr and the relative strength of Mindgames
especially with how it flexibly lines up with both the 1-minute windows of Spirit Shell
or the 1.5-minute windows of Evangelism
. It just kinda works and you get additional mobility via Door of Shadows
. Necrolord's Unholy Nova
just doesn't provide the healing via Atonement
and while it can work with Spirit Shell
it will only work with every other Evangelism
meaning you lose significant value. While Fleshcraft
could be highly valued for Discipline Priest, there'll need to be a fundamental shift in how Discipline currently plays to see Necrolord be more valued.
For Holy, covenant choice is a bit more muddled. Currently, Necrolords make up the majority of Holy Priests but there's strong representation from all 4 of the other covenants. For those Necrolord Holy Priests, I think they'll find this as a huge boon for them and could help persuade other Holy Priests to join their ranks. It's really hard to pass up for such a fragile spec. Where I think it may see a bit more competition for growth will be with Night Fae and the recently buffed Fae Guardians
. I expect Holy Priests to see a small shift towards Necrolord but probably remain a bit more muddled as the spec has struggled to find its footing a bit in Shadowlands.
Restoration Shamans have also struggled in the realm of personal survivability. While they have more armor than most being a mail wearer and a shield user, they're typically limited with their single 1.5-minute damage reduction cooldown Astral Shift
. While the Vital Accretion
conduit has given them an additional defensive it falls a bit short being on a 5-minute cooldown. Fortunately, Restoration Shamans don't really have the mobility issues that might draw them to other covenant signature abilities due to a more Riptide
-centric playstyle and fair amount of access to Spiritwalker's Grace
further bolstered by the talent Graceful Spirit
With the overwhelming majority of Restoration Shamans being Necrolord, they're likely very happy with the change to Fleshcraft
and will continue to secure their choice in covenant for now. The offerings of Necrolord especially with Primordial Wave
and the synergistic legendary Primal Tide Core
are strong and create a very compelling playstyle that's hard to pass up. Will the change to Fleshcraft
cause some transfers from the smaller population of Venthyr Restoration Shamans? Perhaps. All 3 other Shaman covenant abilities saw a buff including a unpublicized 15% buff to Chain Harvest
for Restoration Shamans so we'll need to see how that shakes out before we can say for sure.