We've all felt it. We all hate it. And if one thing is true amongst our community, it's this; we all fear it.
From the rustic first incarnation of the MMO to the latest and most sophisticated version, there is a term that inserts a shiver to the spine on every utterance.
Alas, it's a fact of life that our favourite characters are going to see attention from the nerf bat on occasion. Particularly as the PvP environment becomes harder to manage (Cataclysm will fix it!), we find our PvE strength and utility is maliciously cut into in the spurious name of "balance". What often makes the nerf bat bite particularly deep is the fact that we're being balanced around an aspect of the game many of us have absolutely no interest in. It can be painful.
However, this entry is a quick guide to surviving the largest trauma of the nerf bat and trying to avoid the nerf rage that invariably accompanies it. Yes, I've fallen victim to the wiles of arrowed hatred in the past. But that doesn't mean that I shouldn't try to better myself with regard to nerf acceptance, especially considering the potentially global audience that now has to put up with my whines.
1) Try to look at the nerf in context.
Is it affecting something you're entirely dependent on? In the vast majority of cases, the developers won't gut a necessary PvE ability because it would drastically affect playstyle. If they have to, your set of patch notes will have a trade off in order to make up for the perceived loss in performance. Otherwise, the demolition of something you consider to be a dependent ability may well mean you're doing something wrong. Look at how you're playing and you may get a shock.
2) Consider the entire set of patch notes.
I mentioned it above, but it's worth mentioning in its own right. A nerf is almost always accompanied by a set of patch notes that will, in most cases, contain a buff to compensate. It's rare to see an ability shaved without sugar to go with the medicine. Therefore, make sure you read all of the notes and weigh up what you're losing in accordance with what you're gaining because it's hardly ever a lose-lose situation you'll find yourself in. You'll be surprised.
3) Be honest about the effects.
Very, very, VERY often, people will complain about a nerf that will barely effect them; the very fact that they're being nerfed is outrageous enough. But it's also common that a nerf itself will have very little bearing on a character's performance in PvE, so worrying about it becomes pointless. The 3.3.3 changes to Shield Slam, for example, barely affected end-game tanks, yet were covered in acid-coated scorn regardless. Be honest with yourself - if it doesn't affect you, don't sweat it.
4) Compare your notes with another class.
It's often the case that nerfs are applied across the board in order to bring the game more in line with the developers vision of how it should be. In which case, a scan over the classes that are performing the same role as you will often indicate a common theme that the developers wish to address. If that's the case, everyone's getting hit with the bat so (amusingly) that means, in real terms, that nobody is being nerfed. Remember; the developers don't have it in for your class.
5) Don't compare your character to another.
This is always true, but particularly when dealing with nerfs. The fact is, all classes are not supposed to play the same or have the same strengths and weaknesses. This means that a certain amount of differentiation should always exist, an implication that has a far-reaching and logical conclusion; your talents don't need to mirror those of another class. Around 90% of arguments are based on the "he has, so I should have" premise. The game doesn't work that way.
6) Live with the Bat.
Yes, it happens. Occassionally, an ability will be nerfed out of recognition and nothing is done to soften the blow. The only real example of this for Protection warriors in WotLK was the change to Warbringer; an iconic ability that lost a significant amount of its charm when it stopped breaking roots. But these occasions are rare and all you can really do is try to accept the change stoically, and believe it happened for a good reason. Yes, it's hard. But it's also the key to living with nerfs.
And that's it.
Remember that the developers are making decisions based on what's good for the game, and not necessarily what's good for your character. Balance is a flimsy term, one that has a myriad of meanings and implications depending on who you speak to. But the developers often undercut player abilities to make for a more compelling game and the trick to dealing with the nerf bat is accepting this fact, and realising that the changes made are making more people enjoy the content to a greater degree.
We don't always live in zen, but we should try.
If not... There is only one option.