Wednesday, September 1, 2010

[Druid (and really, what else is there] - setting Cataclysm expectations

It is almost September. The Cataclysm approaches.

I don't know any more about when it'll launch than anyone else. Except that it will launch sometime this year, and Activision likes late November dates. So I thought it was a bit educational to look back on what was done by this time 2 years ago, when WotLK was about 2 months away.

  • mostly finalized talents and a talent tree (berserk had the last stand effect)
  • removal of crittability
  • removal of crushing blows

What we didn't have:
  • A finalized talent tree (survival instincts was still not there, as an example, and FFF was)
  • Fully balanced skills (rake wasn't even considered for rotation, barkskin wasn't usable in forms)
  • Any idea of what itemization was good or not
  • Glyphs
  • All the stuff that came in WotLK proper (Feral AP removal, bonus armor removal, nerf of stam, FF's buff, mangle's duration buff, primal gore

  • A completed talent tree (essentially)
  • More tweaks to skills (bash interrupting, growl taunting at range)
  • Additions of things like an OoC res, barkskin in forms, pots in forms
  • More of a clear idea of what is going to drop
  • Removal of +armor from leather (but not from items)
What we didn't have:
  • All skills finalized
  • Full lists of all gear
  • All numbers balanced

  • Talent tree still complete
  • addition of skills like Savage Roar (seriously, it came THAT LATE)
  • Swipe hitting infinite targets
  • Mostly finalized glyphs (the SI glyph wasn't in there yet)
  • Things like on hit procs working with cat/bear form
  • Mostly finalized professions (including the bonus for each being largely normalized)
What we didn't have:
  • Many of the early fixes in WotLK (like bonus armor not being multiplied, Feral AP being removed)
  • Some balance issues (like swipe doing a lot more threat)
  • knowledge about the armor change or the FAP change (this came early November)
Now, let's assume for a moment that the release schedule is basically exactly the same as WotLK. There are reasons to expect otherwise - such as the huge amount of stuff that simply doesn't work in the beta right now - but let's go with that. What does that mean?

First off, the talents are largely finished. They might juggle some (I expect berserk to be changed significantly) but we're not going to see game changers like Titan's Grip or Chakra. For the most part, the tree is pretty well done in terms of what's there. We didn't see a lot of changes to the feral tree between August and October 2008 - the changes were to SI, FFF and Berserk with a couple of modifications to how many points each talent cost. Not a lot else was changed.

Secondly, the skills aren't remotely finished. Between August and October we had Savage Roar added, rake buffed, barkskin buffed, FFF and SI changed (and FFF made trainable), growl given a range, swipe given unlimited targets and a threat boost, bash made into an interrupt - and that's just the stuff I can find easily. There is likely to be a lot of churn in the next couple of months on skills, and even moreso on skill numbers.

Thirdly, the overall themes of the expansion are pretty well set for ferals. Don't expect big sweeping changes or big design overhauls like you saw for paladins recently. The expectation is that cooldowns will be normalized, things like incoming damage rates will matter (because mana of healers will matter), avoidance will be important, CC will be important and the longevity and time to live of tanks will increase while the survivability of DPS will hugely increase. Talent trees will still continue to focus on giving interesting talents, not ones that boost DPS or tanking specifically.

Fourth, expect a LOT of itemization coming later. Itemization happens quickly and easily for the most part. Don't worry about it any time soon.

So what kind of predictions can we make about this?

Well, here are mine:

Berserk is going to get changed...again. With Mangle being completely without a cooldown and with cleave/AoE abilities largely being nerfed or deprioritized, berserk is really without a purpose. As the marquee 31-point talent, it will need to be changed - or bears will spend that point elsewhere. Expect it to be redesigned.

Expect a couple more skills down the pipe. My gut feeling is that they're going to add at least one bear skill (or allow a non-bear usable skill to be used in bear form like thorns) and possibly two. I expect there is going to be at least another way for a bear to give themselves some more rage as well.

Talents will get juggled around a bit. The tree is weirdly unbalanced right now for both cat and bear, requiring way too many or too few talents (tier 2 for bears is almost all things you want; tier 4 is almost all things you don't). That will be fixed or at least improved on.

Numbers aren't remotely final. Don't bother number crunching unless you want to figure out (for example) what the effect of savage roar going only to melee damage is (it makes haste really awesome and hit/expertise even more awesome), or how bad fury swipes is right now (it makes baby Phaelia cry).

Rotations aren't set in stone either. Rake got added late, FFF got added as a useful damage/TPS ability late, SR even got added late!

Balance -especially tank balance - hasn't been touched. And bears are going to be nerfed at least in health and likely in a couple other places. I wouldn't expect Savage Roar to be looked at for a while, even if you know it's going to be pretty lame.

What this means for you, as a member of the community:

  • Don't spend a lot of time working on huge revisions to talents or adding tons of abilities. That's just not going to happen. Juggle talent trees, but don't expect big changes.
  • Do think about what the bear and cat are missing and what is fun and isn't fun, and how it can be improved. Barkskin got changed to be usable in forms, and SI got split from berserk because of this kind of input.
  • Don't stress too greatly that ferals haven't gotten a lot of love; ferals historically have been late bloomers.
  • Don't expect huge revisions in general. As far as I can tell developers felt ferals were in a pretty good place at the end of WotLK and weren't going to rock the boat too hard. If you didn't like them before, this is a good opportunity to switch classes. If you did like them before, chances are you'll get some nice quality of life fixes.
With that all said, I'm not planning on doing a lot of number crunching for a while - at least until level 85 folks are able to do some threat and damage assessments. Until then it's pretty much a waste of time. When we get more solid numbers I'll start looking at the various rotations and the value of stats for different rotations as well as showing how bad certain things are (like fury swipes). But doing anything before that is a bit of a pointless exercise.

Also, thanks to folks who asked me to start blogging a bit more over on And thanks for everyone that checked that article out; Skunkworks is one hell of a special guild, and I'm very proud to be a part of it.


Jacemora said...

Good post. I have been limiting my reports of the beta to things like ArP gem conversions and mastery as something that will change how one might look at itemization.

Basically until we can hit 85 and the current talents, etc function as intended there is little point in theory crafting... at least for this kitty.

Astemus Draight said...

Thank you for your insight! I check your blog every morning, even though I know there probably isn't a new post up, and it's always a special surprise to see something new from you.

I second your predictions on what's to come. I think, while it's still too early to finalize any kind of rotation, it's not too early to see where we are heading. I'm a bit worried about having to spam lacerates to be honest with you. I think that making us more like warriors as far as rotations go is not a good idea, and wish they'd stop going back to them as inspiration for bears. Trying to keep up a buff is not really a fun mechanic, as any feral cat can tell you.

I am also disappointed that bears were not give any reactive abilities. While I suppose it's not too late for them to throw one at us, it seems unlikely at this point. What would be great would be pulverize only being usable after a crit with lacerate, and it not using the charges. Or something similar that wouldn't be a nightmare to scale.

Here's now I see our rotation going now, and I can say I am not really that excited by it...
FFF stacked up
Lacerate stacked
Mangle if there is time before Pulverize buff drops
Lacerate stacked

Oh and we have to refresh demo in there and make sure FFF doesn't drop off

I'm just afraid that we're going to become a slave to the juggling that makes cat DPS so unattractive to me personally.

On a lighter note, I am really excited about skull bash on a 10s CD (lets hope it's off the GCD like everyone else's interrupt!), an aoe bleed to buff our maul damage for trash even more, and finally reliable 10 rage to start a pull with without having to use enrage.

Anonymous said...

Please continue posting here and not just at is blocked while I'm at work and I can get to your site. Is it possible to copy the post and place it here instead of just a link?

Rauxis said...

nice and complete as always :)

personally I think Ferals not only got no love, but IMHO essentially got shafted.

We lost main raid utilities Innervate,BR and iLotP as well as off tank capability in full DPS specc. Buff/Debuff homogenisation (even if a good idea in principle) removed much benefit of bringing a Feral.

With DPS talents not working at the moment you can specc hybrid very well, but I bet getting them fixed is high on Blizz lists. They do not want a Cat specc to be a reliable off-tank (see a twitter feed 2 months ago).

Bears are behind Warriors in utility (no ranged silence, unable to crush bubbles, intervene...), but at least likely to provide higher DPS even in Bear specc/gear. Cats are ways behind Rogues now in what they bring to a raid.

I know I'm a much of a Kassandra, but is it only me who sees the sky falling?

Rauxis, chosen of CAT

Copey said...

What? No prediction about how the mass majority of people (or at least the stupid ones) will claim that the sky is falling, and bears got screwed some how and will no longer be viable tanks?

That is my prediction, based on my experience from the transition of BC to Wrath. I recall I was in a raid, for Mag I think right at the end of BC when all the changes dropped but the expansion was like a week or two away. Our talents had changed, we lost some HP, a bunch of little things. After discussion in the raid, I was removed as a tank (despite easily being geared enough to tank it) and asked to heal because “Bears are broken”. I was then whispered by two other tank classes in the raid about how unfortunate it was that Blizzard ****ed up bear tanks so bad, and asked if I was going to be a full time healer. I just sat there shaking my head, telling them that I’ll probably manage just fine.

Then I healed the raid in my moonkin spec. And they never noticed.

Good times. Anyway, sweet to see you back Kal, hope the family is well.

Copey said...

Whoa, um sorry about that Rauxis. I was typing my comment, and yours slipped in before mine…I didn’t mean to infer that you are stupid by using the same “sky is falling” language.

I just think what I always thought. Blizzard is a company in business to make money. Why would they intentionally make a well loved and often played spec not viable? They work hard to make us all happy, and do a hell of a job of it. I’m sure there may be things I’m not way excited about in the new game, but I’m sure I’ll be tanking the end of the next expansion just like I tanked the end of this one.

Doug said...

The tree still not differentiating between bear and cat makes lolferal the spec of Cata.

I expect more changes to Balance and resto to fix the problem. Putting stuff DPS would want in the first 2 balance tiers and tanks in resto would go a long way to fixing the problem.

Rauxis said...

*chuckle* in no way I take your comment personally

But you are wrong - Blizz does not care if one Druid sub specc is sub-par for a certain part of the game. See subtlety rogues and raiding. It's 31+ speccs, and far too complex to be ever completely balanced in both PvP and PvE.

Rauxis, chosen of CAT

Copey said...

You have a fair point Rauxis. Blizz has in the past admitted to failing on a spec to a degree where it’s almost silly to use that spec for end game. Sub rogues, some might say. BM Hunters. Some may even say Moonkin has spent a lot of time being sucky this expansion, and especially in BC. But this topic of conversation isn’t about damage dealers, it’s about tanks.

The reason I do not believe I’m wrong however, is that I don’t think Blizz would ever break a tanking class so bad that it can’t be used. There is already a lack of tanks in the game. To take 25% of the classes that can tank and make them non-viable would be stupid.

Picture your self in an Activision meeting with Blizzard.

Blizzard: “So, we are thinking about shafting 25% of the tanks in the biggest MMO of all time. You hip with that?”

Activision: “That will piss off literally MILLIONS of people. How does this make us money again?”

Blizzard: “…”

Feral Tanks will be just as viable as any other when CATY drops, and if we aren’t, we will be quickly patched. If you are right I guess I’ll be switching mains to my pally, warrior, or (man, please no…) my DK. Like I said though, I doubt it.

Alaron said...

Kal, it's great that you're back blogging (a bit) I can disappear for a while. :)