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.
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:
- 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!
- 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%?
- 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!
- 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.