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A debuff is the contrary of a buff. It is an effect that while it persists hampers the target in some way. Among other effects, debuffs frequently lower attributes, hinder the effectiveness of the target's actions, or cause damage over time.[1]

Sometimes the term debuff is also used to describe the act of removing buffs on hostile targets, but it is better to refer to such an action as a dispel or cure after the common spells that remove such effects. Another popular name for removing debuffs is decurse.

A good example for a multi-function debuff is the Hunter's Mark. All attackers on that target gain increased ranged attack power; additionally the target cannot hide from the Hunter, no matter if they stealth, turn invisible, or morph into beast form. Hunter's Mark, being in the Arcane school, is removable with Cloak of Shadows and other skills and talents which remove magical debuffs.

Debuffs come in many varieties and most of them are race/class specific spells or abilities.

Limitations

In Vanilla WoW the number of debuffs that may be applied to a creature at one time was originally 8, but was later increased to 16 in patch 1.7.0. Raiders welcomed the increase. However, given that raids field up to 40 players, doubling the limit hardly resolved the issue of important debuffs getting pushed off. Important buffs such as Sunder Armor or Judgement of Wisdom that helped large segments of the raid could be replaced by a Hunter's weak Serpent Sting DOT. 

There was still controversy about why the limit was there in the first place. An official stated on the official forums:

"World of Warcraft doesn't currently support an unlimited number of debuffs, but such is something that could be possible through change to our code. However, such code change would take valuable programmer time, which is best used elsewhere for the time being."

Late in vanilla, Blizzard began systematically assigning values to debuffs so that a weaker debuff could not displace a stronger one. The system was announced in February 2006, but it didn't begin to affect the live game until patch 1.11.0 in June.

Blizzard announced that the limit would increase to 40 in The Burning Crusade and in later expansions the debuff limit was removed completely.

Examples of Debuffs

Dispelling Debuffs

A list of types of debuffs, the classes that can remove them and the earliest level that class gains the ability.

  • Poison: Paladin (8), Druid (14), Shaman (16),
  • Disease: Paladin (8), Shaman (22), Priest (22)
  • Magic: Priest (18), Warlock [Felhunter] (30), Paladin (42)
  • Curse: Mage (18), Druid (24), Shaman (Resto talent, 40)

Examples of Abilities that Cure or Dispel

Unclassified Debuffs

Some debuffs are not classified in any way, and as such can not be dispelled by any class. There are some exceptions to this - some Bleed effects, which are unclassified, can be cured by using a Luffa or the Dwarven racial ability Stoneform. Also, Paladins can dispel nearly any debuff on themselves by using Divine Shield, as can Mages by using Ice Block.

List of shared (non-stacking) debuffs

Armor reduction
Attack speed lowering (melee)
  • IconSmall Warrior [Thunder Clap]: Reduces melee and ranged attack intervals by 10%, 20% when talented.
Attack power reduction (melee only)
Casting time increase
Critical strike chance against target increase
  • IconSmall Paladin [Heart of the Crusader]: Tier 2 Retribution talent, 3 ranks, +1/2/3% against targets debuffed by Judgements.
  • IconSmall Rogue [Master Poisoner]: Tier 9 Assassination talent, 3 ranks, +1/2/3% against targets poisoned by the rogue.
  • IconSmall Shaman [Totem of Wrath]: Tier 9 Elemental talent ability, +3% against foes within 40 yards of the totem, each shaman can only have one active Fire Totem at a time.
Critical strike chance against target increase (spells only)
  • IconSmall Mage [Winter's Chill]: Tier 6 frost talent, 3 ranks, gives frost talent spells a 100% chance to apply the Winter's Chill debuff @ max rank, increasing spell critical strike chance by 1% per stack, stacks up to 5 times.
  • IconSmall Mage [Improved Scorch]: Tier 4 fire talent, 3 ranks, gives [Scorch] a 100% chance to apply the Improved Scorch debuff @ max rank, increasing spell critical strike chance by 5%.
  • IconSmall Warlock [Improved Shadow Bolt]: Tier 1 Destruction talent, 5 ranks, causes [Shadow Bolt] to increase spell critical strike damage against the target by 5% @ max rank.
Damage received increase (bleed)
Damage received increase (magic)
  • [Ebon Plaguebringer]: Tier 9 Unholy talent, 3 ranks, requires 3 ranks of [Crypt Fever]. The death knight's diseases cause [Ebon Plague] instead of Crypt Fever, in addition to Crypt Fever's disease damage increase, Ebon Plague increases magic damage by 13% @ max rank.
  • IconSmall Druid [Earth and Moon]: Tier 10 Balance talent, 3 ranks. Causes the druid's [Starfire] and [Wrath] spells to apply the Earth and Moon debuff, which increases magic damage taken by 13% @ max rank.
  • IconSmall Warlock [Curse of the Elements]: +13% @ max rank, also reduces Arcane, Fire, Frost, Nature and Shadow resistance.
Damage received increase (physical)
  • IconSmall Rogue [Savage Combat]: Tier 9 Combat talent, 2 ranks, causes the rogue's poison debuffs to increase physical damage caused to the target by 4%.
  • IconSmall Warrior [Blood Frenzy]: Tier 9 Arms talent, 2 ranks, causes [Deep Wounds] and [Rend] to increase physical damage caused to the target by 4%.
  • [Brittle Bones]: Frost talent, 2 ranks, causes [Frost Fever] to increase physical damage caused to the target by 4%.
Healing received decrease
  • IconSmall Mage [Permafrost]: Tier 2 Frost talent, 3 ranks, -20% @ max rank.
  • IconSmall Hunter [Aimed Shot]: Tier 3 Marksmanship talent ability, -50%.
  • IconSmall Priest [Improved Mind Blast]: Tier 3 Shadow talent, 5 ranks, -20%, 100% chance of being applied @ max rank by Mind Blast while in Shadowform @ max rank.
  • IconSmall Rogue [Wound Poison]: -50%, each weapon can only have one poison applied to it at a time.
  • IconSmall Warrior [Furious Attacks]: Tier 8 Fury talent, 2 ranks, gives whit melee attacks a chance to reduce healing by 25%, stacks 2 times, higher proc rate @ rank 2.
  • IconSmall Warrior [Mortal Strike]: Tier 7 Arms talent ability, -50%.
Hit chance decrease (melee and ranged)
Hit chance against target increase (spell)

See also

Patch notes

Patch 1.11.0: System introduced where weaker debuff could no longer displace a stronger one

Patch 1.7.0: The debuff limit has been increased to 16 (from 8). In addition, the client will now display all 16 debuffs.

References

  1. Blizz Blizzard. Spells & Abilities. Retrieved on 2009-06-12. “A debuff is a buff with negative effects, such as Curse of Tongues. Spells like these do damage over time, or modify your character in a negative way.”
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