I read a few articles on how the popular Whirlwind Barbarian from the previous season/patch was nerfed into the ground, but I didn’t experience the issue until today. I had been working on both a Marauders Demon Hunter (main) and Thorns Crusader up until this point and decided to rebirth my old barbarian to check out some of the changes. Unfortunately, the way the gear dropped for me lead me towards the Wrath of the Wastes set style Whirlwind Barbarian and left me with the following impression.
With my current gear, which isn’t bad for a Wrath of the Wastes set style Barbarian, I normally could do a Torment 8 with ease. At the moment, I struggle even on white mobs due to the way the Dust Devil rune was nerfed. Essentially, prior to the patch, the Dust Devil rune allowed a massive number of whirlwinds to be hurled about, allowing the barbarian to clear space quite efficiently. Right now, the range of these Dust Devils has been limited so that you only get a small trail following you.
The consequence of this effect is that it’s much harder to target ranged monsters, which effectively was like putting up a dot. This is especially painful in dealing with minions like goblins where you won’t be able to kill these buggers fast enough since they’ll run out of range. Also, if you encounter wallers, you can’t range attack foes the same way.
In essence, I found the playstyle terrible compared to the previous patch. It utterly demotivated me and I quickly used the remainder of my shards and death breaths to try and roll Raekors and Immortal Kings pieces. Even at the 4/4 Raekors/Immortal Kings, I felt as though I were doing more damage than the dedicated Wrath of the Wastes set, which just doesn’t feel right overall for me.
Part of the issue I believe is that the Diablo team might believe that the previous season’s Whirlwind barbarian was too strong overall and probably wouldn’t appeal to the current season. So to promote the improved Leapquake set, they had to nerf the whirlwind set by making it unappealing. While anyone starting as a barbarian this season can quickly obtain the Leapquake set, the overall appeal of the set isn’t there for the long haul. Already, people are doing the combo Raekor/Immortal Kings build since Raekors received a pretty nice upgrade.
Yet the move to lower the efficacy of Whirlwind Barbarians in killing the Dust Devils rune really doesn’t make a lot of sense. Whirlwind Barbarians were in a pretty good place and had an appealing play style. Eventually, towards the end of last season, the meta was changed for Whirlwind barbarians when some of the high end people began doing a combination of Immortal Kings with 2 pieces of the Wrath of the Waste set for the Rend damage. The message should’ve been clear that the meta will constantly change as players discover more efficient and effective builds while the season progresses.
I think my real issue in nerfing the Dust Devil rune was that there really wasn’t any compensation to make up for the lack of ranged attacks here. I imagine in a future patch they might address this problem, but the larger problem is that we’re still moving in this endless cycle where something gets fixed in one spot that causes another thing to be broken either by being overpowered or underpowered. What I think should’ve occurred in this patch was testing against a cut off point in Greater Rifts where each pure set could do reasonably well in solo play at a certain difficulty level. If the goal is to add 10 levels per season, then whatever the mean cap was at the previous season for the best sets per class would add another 10 for the following season. Then every set would have a basic gearing strategy to ensure that they could meet that cap. The sets that hit that level would have their damage and defense improved so they can remain on par moving forward.
I mean, right now we’re sitting at the 3rd iteration of some sets like Marauders. It would seem ridiculous if the next season, the set dips big time and then 2 seasons later it resurfaces with bigger numbers while remaining impotent in between. Either that or sets would have to be tiered similar to World of Warcraft. I feel that in a way many sets are tiered or at least favored on a per season basis. And I honestly don’t mind that type of direction if we wanted to have a more progressive gearing strategy similar to World of Warcraft.
However, this all becomes a huge issue because the goal really is to make gearing a “play it your way” type of deal. In this scenario, you really need the sets to be better balanced so that as they evolve, they remain on par. What needs to be consistent though is a play style where the idea is agreeable. I think with Wrath of the Waste, most people who tried it felt quite strongly in favor of it. Maybe the only two issues that came out were the super speed modes in group play and the possibility of lag from the overabundance of visual effects. The super speed modes have been addressed since each class has gearing strategies to work out for speed farming. Now, visual effects lag is an entirely different beast because the game still lags with or without that one rune. In that situation, Dust Devils should’ve not changed since it simply isn’t fun anymore.
If the goal also was to move people towards Leapquake, then that scenario wasn’t planned very well. For players that chose to start with the barbarian, they would automatically get the Leapquake set once they finish all the main season objectives. So at the very least, everyone has a chance to try the fixed sets. So that really shouldn’t be a motivation for changing something as fundamental to a set like Dust Devils.