WoW, Warlocks, Soul Shards, and Balance

Soul Shards are - somehow - supposed to balance a warlock's abilities. The concept is inherently flawed. It can never work.

The basic problem comes down to input and output. Soul Shards can only be gained one at a time through a fight. Therefore, warlocks should - conceivably - be balanced around the concept of using one Soul Shard a fight. This currently doesn't happen as there are many abilities that are only usable outside of combat (and used to prep for combat) that require Soul Shards. However, even if only in-combat abilities used Soul Shards, they still would fail to allow balance.

There are three simple scenarios that we can assume for warlocks in a "perfect world:"

  1. Gain 1 - balanced 50/50 odds
  2. Use 1, Gain 1 - balanced 50/50 odds
  3. Use Many, Gain 1 - balanced 50/50 odds

None of those are any good.

In Scenario #1, using a Soul Shard would unbalance things, giving the Warlock more than 50% odds of winning. This would be unfair. In Scenario #2, the Warlock must never lose a fight to remain balanced. In Scenario #3, the Warlock will simply eventually become unbalanced and be forced to leave and farm shards if they ever wish to compete on a level playing field - even if they win every single fight.

Scenario #1 is the only scenario that can be made to be balanced, since it does not require the warlock to never lose a fight. In fact, PvE with a warlock is very close to Scenario #1 - the odds are in the Warlock's favor, and they can gain a Soul Shard without spending a Soul Shard. This can never be the case in PvP, or Warlocks would be overpowered.

The only way to make Scenario #1 balanced is to make it so that even if the Warlock spends a Soul Shard, the odds do not change to be in their favor. Of course, if using Soul Shards doesn't improve the odds - what's the point in having them in the first place? They would become useless. No one would ever bother with them.

There's simply no way to find a balance with Soul Shards. The most logical balance would be 50/50 odds based on using a Soul Shard and gaining it back. However, that requires that the Warlock never lose to remain balanced.

Soul Shards can't work. They can't be "fixed." They'll simply never work.


Noobtastic view. Shard farming doesn't take long, plus i've gotten epics when I've gone out to simply farm shards so w/e... This must be really old... like before WoW came out or you're just not too bright.

There's a date stamp on the post, which should give you an idea of when it was posted, which was well before the introduction of shard bags or whatever else they've done with the class.

Also, ease of farming has nothing to do with the post. It has to do with the concept of balancing something based on number of fights won - it can't work on an abstract level, never mind the specific implementation.

Ignore the specific implementation in WoW and think of it as something much simpler. Here are the rules:

1. Each game you roll a six-sided die. On 1-3 you lose, on 4-6 you win (50/50 odds).
2. Every time you win a round you get a counter.
3. Each round, you may discard a counter to allow you to win on a roll of 3.

Imagine that the person you're playing against can't get counters. Not exactly fair. That's scenario #1.

Now, change the rules slightly. On 1-4 you lose, on 5-6 you win. Using a counter changes it back to 1-3 you lose, 4-6 you win. This is scenario #2.

In scenario #3 the rules would allow you to burn 2 to allow victory on 2-6, and 3 would force a victory of the round.

It'll never offer any form of balance, because it can't at an abstract level.