Wednesday, April 14, 2010

[Druid] The (possible) shape of things to come

Out of curiousity, I went through the feral tree (along with the resto tree's small bits) to look at talents that just boosted x by a certain amount - because in theory most of them are going to be replaced with more 'fun' talents. In addition, I wanted to get rid of any talents that only boosted buffs, as they're going away too. I also looked at what might get cut or pruned down, since only part of it was buffing random stats and whatnot.

Here's the list of things I think will be removed:

Improved mark - almost certainly out
Naturalist - out (at least for ferals)
Master Shapeshifter - out, most likely
Thick Hide - out? (only boosts armor, which might fall into the generic survival part for mastery)
Sharpened Claws - out (flat increase to crit, and that's all; covered entirely by mastery boost in cat)
Heart of the Wild - out (while it does a bunch of things, all of them are either damage or health or intellect, and we don't care)
Protector of the Pack - out. Sorry, Darksend, but both of these things are entirely in the scope of the mastery abilities for bears.
Rend and Tear - out? It only affects damage but does so on certain abilities. It's a definer in terms of damage on cats and bears currently - but is that the sort of thing they want 45-point talents to be?
Primal Gore - out (they've already stated all dots and hots will crit, so this will do nothing)
Here's what I suspect they'll prune or modify:

Feral Aggression - Pruned (may only affect Ferocious Bite, since the Demo Roar part is going away)
Predatory Strikes - Pruned (does too much, and part of it is a pure damage boost)
Natural Reaction - Pruned/in (depends on if 'gains more dodge' is going to be acceptable or not)
Survival of the Fittest - pruned? (the crit reduction in bear form and the armor contribution may stay. The 'all stats are awesome' boost is likely to go or be split out.

And here's what I think is largely going to stay pretty similar:
Furor- sadly, probably in
Natural Shapeshifter - in, possibly
Feral Instinct - In (boost of swipe and boost in prowling, fun talent)
Savage Fury - in (boosts specific abilities, not generic damage)
Feral Swiftness - in (fun)
Survival Instincts - in (fun, new ability)
Shredding attacks - in (specific ability)
Primal Fury - in (rage/CP gain is a spec definer)
Primal Precision - in (though possibly pruned or split)
Brutal Impact - in (useful)
Feral Charge - in (fun)
Nurturing Instinct - in (fun, interesting)
Imp Leader of the Pack - in; while it boosts a buff, it does so in a way that sometimes you may not want, and the buff isn't a generic one
Predatory Instincts - in (though may be split up)
Infected Wounds - in, but probably reduced to one rank
Mangle - in
Imp Mangle - in (though hopefully made a bit more interesting)
Ferocity- In (rage/energy reduction isn't straight +damage or stats)
Berserk - in
Behold, the face of your new tree:

Too soon? Okay, sorry restoers. Keep the tree form alive!

No, this (thanks to my crappy MSPaint skills) is something like what the new tree will not have, or have modified:

What's really interesting to me is the amount of resto talents that are going away. Almost all are boring talents that we take to get to OoC for. I don't know how they can make talents that are interesting to take for all three specs, but these...aren't them. The rest of the tree's not going through (or doesn't have to go through) huge changes. I was honestly expecting it to look like a buzzsaw, but it really doesn't seem that way. I do home more cat and bear abilities become baseline; it's not that much fun to take a lot of talents that basically allow you to function in that role. For example, mangle isn't a 'fun' talent, exactly. It's a necessary one. Giving mangle the shred treatment (making it cost absurd rage/energy if you didn't have it talented) would allow people to have mangle but not clutter up the tree with it.
Also, congrats to Casually Serious, who got down Professor Putricide last night. They're now 11/12 Hard modes. :)

Monday, April 12, 2010

[Druid] Druid Cataclysm preview thoughts

By now most of you will have seen the druid cataclysm preview at WoW, and seen countless takes on it. I'll try and not rehash it all, but instead point out some interesting bits you might not have seen. This (and the emphasis) is by GC and was brought to you by the fine folks at Darksend:

We do want to make sure that 10 player raids can get all of the major buffs a little easier. You should feel like most reasonable comps (3 warriors and 7 rogues is not what we'd consider reasonable) give you all of the major buffs and several of the more minor ones. There will be a little more consolidation than what we've described so far.

We are scaling back the magnitude of some of the buffs, as we did with Sunder Armor. We want you to feel awesome when you have strong good synergy, but we don't want the buffs to overwhelm say your gear or skill.
We're also planning on getting rid of any talent that buffs a buff. Any buff that is earned solely by talent needs to have a selfish component thrown in so that you don't feel like you should respec if someone else with that buff comes along.

Obviously things like Rebirth can't just be handed to out to more classes unless we did something like a second exhaustion mechanic for battle rez or whatever.
For now we're going to try the cooldown at 30 min again. In Icecrown's world of limited attempts, a 30 min cooldown likely meant you just cooled your heels until the cooldown was available again. In Cataclysm the hope is sometimes you'll have the benefit available but not every time, which scales back on how much of a game-changer it is.

Interesting, no? Battle rez going back to 30 minutes implies all sorts of things. It implies that limited attempts are going away (which they've mentioned as something they want), it implies that other classes might get a battle res, and it almost implies it'll show up in forms.

It's also implied that improved demo roar will be going away too. Which...awesome. Finally.

Anyway, I don't have a lot to say about the changes announced. They're useful, they get the job done, but they excite me not one bit. At least for feral; I'm excited about mushroom and treeform going away for different reasons. The changes that were announced that are concrete amount to:
  • A new AoE attack that does bleeding damage and has a longer CD (Thrash)
  • An interrupt off the GCD for cats and bears
  • Maul not a next-attack ability
  • Vengeance, which might not actually happen for bears at all
  • Stampeding roar, a raid speedup on a 3-minute cooldown for all druids (I expect there to be stampede rotations for certain fights, and guilds with 4-5 druids winning fights they shouldn't)
That's really it. The mangle change might make it in, but that's not likely to affect much. Bleeds being easier (likely a longer debuff) will likely make it in, but who knows?

There's really not a lot to go on. Nothing earthshattering like catform becoming a cooldown, or bears getting bloodlust, or ferals getting the ability to thunderclap while leaping.

The only really 'exciting' bit of news...which isn't that exciting, to be honest, is this set of sentences:
We want to add tools to cat form and depth to bear form. If a Feral cat is going to fill a very similar niche to that of a rogue, warrior or Enhancement shaman, it needs a few more tools -- primarily a reliable interrupt. Bears need to be pushing a few more buttons just so the contrast between tanking and damage-dealing is not so steep.

And that's really it. I love the idea of cats getting more utility; right now, cats are essentially a single-target DPS sponge that has a couple of decent raid buffs. They are...well, they're basically rogues in TBC. And that's really funny, honestly. Bears getting more buttons is all well and good too, so long as pressing those buttons is a decision point and not a cast sequence macro.

So...yeah. That sounds great. I was really hoping for more information on how bears' threat woud be balanced now that maul is gone from being 70% of our threat. I was hoping to hear more about other offensive and defensive options bears might have. I was hoping for more than 'interrupt' as a utility piece. I was hoping to hear more about how savage defense would be retooled in the face of all static blocking removed, and how it would scale with offensive abilities.

Now, of course, I am hoping for one and only one thing: wild mushroom in bear form. Think about it - wild mushroom (assuming it scaled with bear stats) would suddenly become one of the things bears have wanted for a while - a ranged aoe pull. And unlike consecrate and DnD, it's an AoE pull that does a lot of immediate damage to a group. It requires finesse and positioning, and does something no other tank has - ranged, burst threat to a whole pack. It would be an awesome (if totally hilarious) ability for a bear, especially compared to thrash.

Please, blizzard - let the bears have shrooms.

Friday, April 9, 2010

[General]CS downs HSin, Vengeance

Last night I raided for the first time in 3 months. In essentially the same gear I left save one more piece of T10, which was important; that was the 4pT10 bonus. I was doing this mostly because due to some burnout and churn, we had lost a few raiders recently and we were short.

We were doing Sin on HM - a progression kill for us. It had been a hard, annoying fight for some time. Aside from the mechanics which are very punishing for individual mistakes, the annoying voice just grates beyond belief. Ugh.

Anyway, we downed her with me in the raid, filling in for our resident feral whose hard drive decided to melt down the day before. (Sorry, Bone) I didn't even do that horribly despite only doing the fight once on 10 man normal; I didn't kill people with blocks, I didn't break out blocks too early, I didn't blow up (until the fight was done) and was (mostly) okay. Didn't even do horribly on DPS, though certainly not what I was doing when I left; losing two tiers of gear progression will do that :p Congrats to Casually Serious on getting 10/12 HM down, and getting US 182nd kill of her.

I gotta say, it felt great. It felt great to be a part of progression kills, especially ones that were frustrating. It was great to be able to hang out with friends in that kind of environment again. It was fun to see the old folks and meet the new. It was great knowing I did contribute some and I wasn't a detriment to the fight. It was great to finish up the instance too and work on PP hard mode and get a kill of Lich King - my first on both. Even ended up with Astrylian's Sutured Cinch and a 264 tier piece. I desperately wanted the former to just have; it would have bugged not getting the tribute gear for the guy who did so much for the community.

Mostly, it was just fun to play.

I'm very grateful to CS for giving me that chance again. And for giving me an excuse to write some things again. It's still not going to bring me back to raiding; I didn't give up raiding because I didn't enjoy it, and it's still too conflicting with personal time, family time and missing time with my children to do so on a regular, scheduled basis. That's the real difficulty; if I could simply log on whenever I wanted and raid, that would be great. More importantly, if I could just stop raiding mid-raid and help out or eat dinner or play with the kids, that would be ideal. But that's not raiding.

Still, I hope that I'll get to do more things like this in the future. And while I hope CS fixes their attendance and roster soon, I'll be happy to help out when I can. :)

Speaking of: CS is still recruiting. If you are an outstanding player and want to work on hardmode progression without spending 5 nights a week killing yourself because raiders can't move out of fires and don't understand things like 'move left', this may be the guild for you. CS's needs change constantly, so check for our specific needs at any time.

Onto the announced preview changes. The one I want to talk about today is Vengeance. Vengeance is an interesting idea: here's what the blue preview had to say about it:

Vengeance: This new mechanic is designed to ensure that tank damage output (and therefore threat) doesn't fall behind as damage-dealing classes improve their gear during the course of the expansion. All tanking specs will have Vengeance as their second talent tree passive bonus. Whenever a tank gets hit, Vengeance will grant a stacking Attack Power buff equal to 5% of the damage done, up to a maximum of 10% of the character's unbuffed health. For boss encounters, we expect that tanks will always have an Attack Power bonus equal to 10% of their health. The 5% and 10% bonuses assume 51 talent points have been put into the Blood tree; these values will be smaller at lower levels.

You only get the Vengeance bonus if you have spent the most talent points in the Blood tree, so you won't see Frost or Unholy death knights running around with it. Vengeance will let us continue to design tank gear more or less the way we do today; there will be some damage-dealing stats, but mostly survival-oriented stats. Druids typically have more damage-dealing stats even on their tanking gear, so their Vengeance benefit may be smaller, but the goal is that all four tanks will do about the same damage when tanking
So what does that mean for you? Here are my concerns (posted at Tankspot as well):

My concern is that health is not going to grow at the same rate that DPS grows, which means that this buff is not going to be enough. My secondary concern is that while it does add more damage, it is still not a huge amount, and it is only off of one stat; even given two stats (strength and stamina) this simply is not going to compete against DPSers gaining benefit from 4-5 stats on an itemization value unless the scaling is totally weird.

On the first point, let me illustrate. In tier7 most tanks were approaching or exceeding 40k health buffed, and maybe 30k unbuffed. Most DPS (buffed) were able to do 4-5k DPS. By tier 10, however, the unbuffed health had risen to 50k or so (not druids, mind you). This is an increase of only 66%. By comparison, DPS are able to routinely hit 12-13k DPS - an increase of 140-160%. That's bad. When you have a stat you want to scale not scale at the same rate as another stat, you're going to have problems.

Then you have the issue of the actual talents scaling with AP. Right now, many tanks have horrible scaling with AP. Druids at least have a ton of 'this does additional threat' which screws over AP scaling - and lacerate even divides the AP by 2!

Then you have the issue of stats. This is what druids have had to deal with for eons: that because they only scale with 2 or 3 important stats relative to other tanking classes, those scaling factors have to be pretty insane for them to be competitve. And naturally, that means imbalance for certain outliers, like polar gear. Same thing here; either things are going to scale too well or not well enough.

I think it's a decent idea - it gives tanks a boost to DPS based on health but only when being hit - but it's not sufficient by itself.

Now, Jere pointed out (Rightly) that while the scaling is bad the base threat may compensate for this; tanks started out significantly ahead on threat at the start of WotLK, and if they do so in Cat that might work out okay. But it's certainly something to think about and consider.

Anyway, that's it for now; I'll talk about the actual druid changes in a bit.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

[Druid] Maul is very, very good (and other quick notes)

Just a quick note: despite what you might have read recently, maul is most certainly not your second-biggest source of threat behind faerie fire. You might be able to make an argument that it's the second biggest source of threat per rage point, but most of the time who cares? On most raiding bears maul is 50-60% of your overall threat for a single-target encounter, and for higher-end bears it is as much as 70%. For multitarget fights it still remains huge due to the glyph of maul, and only is eclipsed by swipe (and only when you have at least 4 mobs and preferably a lot more than that).

Also, swipe is not at all inefficient compared to lacerate on a per-threat point. Unless you have shredding attacks - and what bear build has that? - lacerate costs the exact same amount of rage that swipe does. Swipe on a single target puts more threat on that target than lacerate does; the only time this is not the case is when you have a lacerate-5 stack up, and you should only do that on long fights or when you really want to do max damage. It is otherwise as expensive as lacerate, and definitely on multimob fights is far more efficient.

Yeah, I'll post from time to time when things get really wrong (like they did above) or when it strikes me. But some other quick notes:

  • The rage normalization stuff I've talked about elsewhere; maul being removed from on next swing is great. Rage normalization is a bit scary, but mostly because it's going to be a focus on warriors (rightfully so) and not on bears.
  • Shockingly the LK weapons are good, in case you were wondering.
  • Bears are really awesome on LK too. There's a reason the only guild that's killed LK25 has a bear with a pvp weapon as their main tank, and 3 ferals on the kill.
  • You should get stacks of glyph of mangle and carry them around too, and swap them with your glyph of maul when you don't need multitarget stuff.
  • No, manglespam doesn't beat shred. Even with 4pT6.
  • Ferals aren't going the way of blood DKs, and our mastery will be split between cat and bear the same way our tier gear is.
  • Yes, frost resist gear on Sindragosa is good
  • Yes, you should get out of improved mangle in cat form and put those points elsewhere.
Any other quick bits of news you'd like my opinion on before I disappear into the ether?