Tuesday, November 1, 2011

[Druid]Pandarian Talents, cat bugs, and legendaries

So hey - I have another child. That seems a lot more pertinent than anything else I could post. He's more than a month old and is one of the easiest babies ever. Welcome to the internet, Joshua. It's a scary place, but at least there are lots of boobs everywhere you could look.

State of the current game: more broken crap

On cat bugs: I haven't seen this reported nearly enough, so I'm doing my part. Reesi of Inconspicuous Bear found a wonderful bug where bleed buff effects other than Mangle do not actually boost shred damage. This is especially important if you have a rogue putting up hemo, as hemo overwrites mangle. Note that trauma does work, but tendon rip (hunter) does not. As of this posting they have not addressed or fixed this. So cats - if you've found your damage dropping suddenly when a rogue switches specs for some reason, now you know why. The 'solution' if you want to call it that is to yell at your rogues or, more likely, put up mangle manually every time it drops. And yes, that messes up all sorts of things like Ovale.

Mists of Pandaria: fare thee well, Antitank

On MoP: I was not particularly impressed. Mostly because I think Blizzard didn't do a very good job selling it to the raiders. Lissanna loves that we don't know who the end boss is, but this also means there's not a lot of excitement about who the next boss is. This is the first patch announcement ever (expansion or patch) that does not focus on the raid as the primary thing to deal with. So if you're a raider there wasn't a lot of info for you as far as things go.

I will miss the bearcat ability. I will especially miss that ferals are no longer both bear and cat in word or deed. This was a feral's identity for their entire lives, and it is no longer the case. It can be incredibly frustrating as a tank to be balanced around cat abilities (and vice versa) and it caused all sorts of pain in pvp. Rationally I understand the change and realistically it will not make a lot of difference, but emotionally it makes me a bit sad. Goodbye, antitank.

I do not like the talent tree removal. I am happy with the new talent tree system to a point, but I like in games when they have a clear differentiation between people who know how to play and people who do not. When all you do to differentiate yourself from the countless other class/spec combo is pick 6 choices that don't mean a lot, it's not really that great. Furthermore, choice with consequence is a Fun Thing in gaming. That's ultimately what a lot of gaming is all about - making choices and then seeing if they work or fail. And they're removing that.

Monks: what druids have always wanted to be, sorta

Drunken tanks that look like bears but have cool animations? Melee DPS with lots of movement and no autoattack? Healers that get into melee and have good defense? Wow, that sounds great!

For druids, here's something that's going to be interesting: I will bet you a shiny nickel that there will be at least one legendary that will be usable for ferals this expansion. Why? Because I believe they will make sure monks get a legendary, healers already recently got one, they've already done the two paired weapon idea and a legendary agility staff makes a lot of sense as far as a Mighty Quest. I could be wrong; they could go for a legendary awesome sword or something. But for monks their iconic weapon is a staff; I think we'll see a legendary for them that also happens to be usable by ferals.

The meat - the new talent tree and how to make it right

But I don't want to dwell too much on this; what I want to talk about is the new talent trees and how they can work for hybrids. Multiple druid authors have talked about how the talent trees presented for druids do not offer particularly interesting choices for most specs, and that is ultimately a weakness of this model and hybrid specs. It's easy to offer choices for rogues when all three trees are DPS, but how do you offer choices that matter for a class that can tank, DPS and heal?

We've seen some similar options for things like Guardian of Ancient Kings. That's a model for one of the three cooldowns on a given tree, but it's going to feel a bit annoying if that's what it's always like except for four modes. Still, it's a starting point. Keep that in mind.

Here are some rules as to what not to do:
  1. Do not force a form. Anything that requires or puts you into a specific form is immediately unusable for a bear (unless it puts you in bear form). It's also unfun for most everyone else; why does a moonkin want to get stuck in cat randomly? These things hearken back to the days where warriors could only do certain essential things in certain stances. It was something they thankfully removed and should not do here. This sadly removes two of the three movement related abilities in the first tier right off the bat. The good news is that those abilities would be totally fine if they simply removed the 'in cat' part and this would make a good tier for druids. This is probably the biggest 'loss' throughout the tree; multiple tiers focus on 'cannot be cast in x' or 'when in y'. Don't do that!
  2. Do not focus too heavily on one spec. Tier two (an instant healing spell and a special healing spell) both do that here. Cenarion Ward should be part of the resto kit, not a talent that anyone can take; why would a cat or moonkin take this most of the time when they could instantly heal themselves 30%?
  3. Have a PvP 'tier' but make something useful for PvE. This is not a choice if there's only one thing remotely valuable for PVE. I'd be actually fine with an entire tier having nothing but PvP value talents - but do that!
  4. Shapeshifter: sorry, but shapeshifting as the 'thing to do' for druids is no longer a mechanic and hasn't been one since BC days when T5 came out. It's been 4 years since this mattered. Please don't force moonkin to go cat. (not that bears or resto care about that either). I actually like the 'emergency awesome druid' as a cooldown, but that needs to be put in some kind of tier where all the fun things are. It really shouldn't be the level 90 tier; that tier should be the OMG awesome tier where every talent is amazing and you want all of them.
So based on that, what works? I'm using the calculator over at wowhead for reference.

Tier 1 has one talent that is okay - Feline Swiftness. The rest would be fine if the cat functionality was removed. This in general is exactly the sort of talent tier that druids should have; everyone wants movement abilities, but short cooldown vs. long cooldown vs. passive boost are all useful in various places.

Tier 2 is entirely too healing-centric. The only one that is generic is Renewal. Nature's Swiftness is not good enough compared to it and Cenarion Ward is far too specific and too healery. Realistically Nature's Swiftness should also massively boost some DPS ability so that it can also be a DPS cooldown or make it a group heal ability instead of the personal heal of Renewal. Cenarion Ward should be replaced with something along this vein.

Tier 3 is actually almost fine. Faerie Swarm needs to not be bear-centric and be great in all forms (resto doesn't care). Mass Entanglement needs to be castable in bear or cat, though it's not that useful for cats. Typhoon is perfectly fine and usable regardless. I would like to see Faerie Swarm have more use in general and specifically for resto use.

Tier 4 is almost perfect except for Wild Charge. Wild Charge really should be in the movement tier. Incarnation and Force of Nature are both fine Guardian of Ancient Kings-style CDs that could each have their own pros and cons. They need a third ability like this. Wild charge is a perfectly great ability but it doesn't belong here.

Tier 5 suffers the 'usable only in form x' issue. It's flavorful but not good game mechanically. The abilities are also kind of useless outside of PVP or tanking as well; these (like tier 2) are far too tied into a specific form. Bear hug should be specific to tanking and be a tanking-talent (if that), Ursol's Vortex is probably a good pvp talent and demo roar is really something that should be baseline bear. This entire tier probably should be reworked.

Tier 6 is...offensive. If you look at other T6 abilities for other classes they get things that are simply amazing. Just...wow. Death knights get a LK ability. Paladins get three great CDs. Priests get two great CDs. Rogues get shadow dance and killing spree. Warlocks get three talents named after the biggest badasses of the burning legion.

Druids get the ability to become emergency crappy druids, to force you to shapechange to get maximal DPS (hah!) or to heal yourself, which they already saw in another tier. Really, disentanglement should be nerfed and replace Cenarion Ward in T2 ( make it 10% health every 30 seconds and it's probably good enough to compare with Renewal). But these other two choices? Bah. Becoming herobear every 6 minutes is neat, but it's not exactly something you're looking forward to doing. Master Shapeshifter is horrible in every way possible; a bad idea and a bad implementation of a bad idea. This whole tier needs considerable work. Probably the best thing to do is make the T4 talents really really great and move them to T6 so that you're looking forward to your amazing CDs that you can get then. Then, change T4 to be a fun tier, have Heart of the Wild stick around as one of the two talents, and add two more 'herobear' level talents there as well. What those might be? Not a clue right now. Possibly Nature's Swiftness as one candidate (in all forms). Maybe some incarnation of Cenarius that turns you into a centaur and allows you to do all casting while moving while also granting bear/cat some boost?

I do think that this talent system can work, but they're going to have to be very thoughtful about how to do it for hybrids. Paladins, Druids, Monks and Shamen are all going to be tough. Warriors, priests and DKs a bit less so.


Darksend Mercenare said...

First, congratz!

second, regarding tier 6 ... I completely agree with how craptastic the first 2 talents are, I would rather walk around with no points spent in that tier than enable blizzard by taking one of those first 2 talents, but for tanking ... EVERYONE in my guild disagrees with me but I stand firm in my belief it will work ... but disentanglement is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING for tanking. You can say all you want about lag and mistiming it being to risky, but a 20% heal every 30 seconds is godly. We used to powershift all the time back in TBC with the potion/healthstone macro, this is no different.

Why is no one else seeing the potential in this besides me?

Kalon said...

Don't get me wrong, darksend - Disentanglement is a killer, KILLER talent for bears. It's amazing! It's like barkskin but even more frequent! It's crazy good. It's probably way too good.

But it doesn't do anything of great importance if you're a non-bear. Should a cat be excited to heal themselves every 30 seconds? Clearly not that big a deal except in PvP.

And that's the problem. It's not that the talent is good or not, it's that the talent belongs in another tier (the healing tier) and it doesn't do enough for the other specs. A talent that can't work well for every spec in the same tier is a bad design. In the healing tier you'd force bears to choose between a big heal every 2 minutes, an AoE heal (if you did my design) or a smaller heal every 30 seconds - now THAT's a good choice. And since all the other specs are choosing that as well, even if they don't like healing they're at least giving up a healing talent for another healing talent.

But this tier? It's crap.

Anonymous said...

They really need more choices per talent gain.

I can understand trying to remove cookie cutter builds and the fact that the current trees are just traps to see who reads up on their class and who doesn't.

I can understand that they're trying to give us choice, not just the illusion.

It fails horribly as soon as you get a class that can do even two jobs when there's only 3 options.

Tanking with a Warrior? There goes Deathwish. Bladestorm is right out since they already said they're trying to reduce the reliance on the threat mechanic. Avatar? Maybe, but a cone of stun is invaluable on trash, especially casters.

DPS Deathknight? Easy to ignore Blood Tap and Gorefiend's Grasp completely.

Shaman they tried to get right, but instead they made all of 6 very bland, though that might change when they reveal their plans on reworking totems to be more interesting than just buff totems.

Paladin and Priest...now there they actually did a good job of getting it right, let's make the nice abilities apply to spells that are tied to the spec you pick, that way you don't bring back the dreaded Omnidin or horribly overpower Priests.

But Druids? Unless they're willing to have each talent have a different effect based on spec or current form, which is going to be hell to balance, they're just going to get shafted because their abilities are too broad.

One thing I don't exactly agree with though, displacer beast puts you in stealth, which screams you need to be in cat, so logically that talent needs to keep the force into cat form. Though I admit I'd love to see a stealth animation for a moonkin walking.

Kalon said...

Anon, that's a good point. I think that it should remain as it is - but it should be on a tier along with two other talents that are basically pvp only. As it stands, any talent that compares with other PvE talents in a tier (or any talent that functionally cannot be taken by a bear) is on the wrong tier. I don't mind having talents that are only good for PvP, but you need to either make it so that none of the talents in that tier are good for PVE or all of them are.

Darksend Mercenare said...

so, the class qa ... REALLY WORRIES ME!

I saw a lot of answers that scared me for the future of druids.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with you about DPS DKs, Anon. Gorefiend's Grasp could easily be used by them, and add quite a bit of utility to help out in a raid situation. At first it looks just like an AOE deathgrip until you notice it pulls enemies to your target, which isn't necessarily you. You can use it to help a tank pick up adds, or help with fight mechanics that would be made easier grouping enemies together.

As for Blood Tap, I like Consider's analysis of how that tier should be balanced, ideally. BT gives the choice of being bursty but under your control (so you can save it if necessary), RE gives RNG-based burst, and RC just gives a passive increase.

And is anyone else besides me still a bit nonplussed by the use of Gorefiend to name WOW DK abilities? I get that he's nominally a Death Knight and the only one from previous Warcraft games still alive, but the WC2 DKs have nothing to do with the Scourge-based DKs of WC3 and WOW. They were actually Warlocks in undead bodies, not anti-Paladin melee fighters.

Dysheki said...

Basically the first thing I thought of when I saw the talents: hybrids get screwed (euphemism for what I actually said). They better be really careful how they implement this.

However, I'll hold judgement until it's finished.