Monday, April 12, 2010

April 9 Druid Preview: Thoughts on Each Point

Last Friday the cataclysm preview was released. Here, I will quote each part of the preview and give my thoughts on it. And some stick figures.

New Abilities

(Feral) Thrash (Level 81): Thrash deals damage and causes all targets within 10 yards to bleed every 2 seconds for 6 seconds. The intent here is to give bears another button to hit while tanking. Talents will affect the bleed, such as causing Swipe to deal more damage to bleeding targets. 5-second cooldown. 25 Rage.

Sounds like a bear-only ability, though it would be interesting to see with cat form as well. Adding bleeds to an indefinite number of aoe-tanked targets will certainly make those that rely on bleed effects quite happy (I haven't read the rogue report yet, but my WotLK Kaeya-rogue is grinning at the idea). Interesting part of this is that there is NO mention of "threat" in this ability description, despite being added as a bear tanking ability.

On the flip side, I also find it interesting that they are granting bears another AoE tanking ability, when they've also stated that they plan for instances in Cataclysm to be heavily CC/tactics rather than the WotLK AoE-fest.

(Feral) Stampeding Roar (Level 83): The druid roars, increasing the movement of all allies within 10 yards by 40% for 8 seconds. Stampeding Roar can be used in cat or bear form, but bears might have a talent to drop the cooldown. The goal of this ability is to give both bears and cats a little more situational group utility. 3-minute cooldown. No cost.

I like this. Oh yes, I like this.
"I'm a huge frikkin bear, and I'm gonna maul yur ass if you don't MOVE."

Only better motivation to get your fellow raiders to run faster is to attach a chocolate bar and/or a Hot Pocket on a stick and hold it out in front of them.

Sindragosa-type nova and someone lagged? RAWR you can has speed buff. Good times.

(ALL) Wild Mushroom (Level 85): Grows a magical mushroom at the target location. After 4 seconds the mushroom becomes invisible. Enemies who cross the mushroom detonate it, causing it to deal area-of-effect damage, though its damage component will remain very effective against single targets. The druid can also choose to detonate the mushroom ahead of time. This is primarily a tool for the Balance druid, and there will be talents that play off of it. No cooldown. 40-yard range. Instant cast.

.... wild and crazy magical mushrooms: not for consumption. Explosive. They must have a spore cloud of doom. In my opinion, it should debuff the AoE enemy targets with a poison spore cloud when it detonates, but no, they just explode.

Exploding shrooms.


Mechanics Changes

(Resto) All heal-over-time spells (HoTs) will benefit from crit and haste innately in Cataclysm. Hasted HoTs do not reduce their duration, but instead add additional HoT ticks. Haste will also benefit Energy generation while in cat form.

I was expecting this when I first noticed the warlock changes calling for hasted DoTs that didn't reduce the debuff duration. This change makes me a very happy druid: I can have my cake (faster HoT ticks) and eat it, too (targets are swiftmendable for a longer period of time), though it will make theorycrafting a PitA to calculate the number of HoT ticks your hasted spell will have over its duration. I see charts in the future, big haste-to-ticks charts. As a plus, they can crit. Mmmmm crit.

FYI, a later blue post clarified that crit/haste will also effect other druid DoTs like moonfire, ISS, and rake/rip. Fear my moonfire spam. Pew pew.

(Resto) Unlike the other healers, Restoration druids will not be receiving any new spells. They have plenty to work with already, and our challenge instead is to make sure all of them have a well-defined niche. A druid should be able to tank-heal with stacks of Lifebloom, spot-heal a group with Nourish and Regrowth, and top off lightly wounded targets with Rejuvenation.

AND (in a later blue post)

(Resto) Druids don't have perfect analogs to the priest heals, but you can imagine Regrowth as the Flash Heal, Nourish as the heal, and Healing Touch as the greater heal. Lifebloom is something you'd put on a tank before healing with Nourish or Healing Touch (which might even refresh the stack). Rejuv will still be good for the reason hots are good. Wild Growth is still a group heal. Tranquility is an emergency heal, and we'll change it to act more like Divine Hymn.

AND (in a later blue post)

(Resto) (response to a post saying, "Other from the universal healing changes Resto Druids have absolutely NOTHING to relearn or spend time to master unlike the other healing class notes released", Let me know how that Rejuv spamming with WG on cooldown works out for you at 85

I am content with this. Resto druids have a large arsenal of spells already, and if anything, they need to have certain spells revamped rather than be given new ones (I'm looking at you, Tranquility). The breakdown of lifebloom/nourish/regrowth/rejuv sounds spot-on and it doesn't sound like it'll require much alteration of playstyle for myself (except to make HT and Tranquility more situationally useful beyond NS+HT), though I know many druids these days rely much more heavily on just blanketing a raid with rejuv, as the style lends itself well to larger raids than my ten-strict. Based on GhostCrawlers' response, it sounds like they're expecting restos to heal more like the ten-strict druids and less like rejuv/wildgrowth bots.

(Feral) 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.


(Feral) We plan on giving Feral cats and bears a Kick/Pummel equivalent -- an interrupt that is off the global cooldown and does no damage. We feel like they need this utility to be able to fill the melee role in a dungeon or raid group, and to give them more PvP utility.

Good to see a revamp or addition to the cat-interrupt Maim, as a CP-using interrupt is far more unwieldy than a good Kick (nevermind the idea of bear-charge and bear-bash).

The comment on bears intrigues me, as it suggests they have further plans in mind beyond adding the Thrash ability.

Ninja kitty, go!

(ALL) Barkskin will be innately undispellable.

Ummm... okay. Yay for not having naked, barkless trees? ;) PvP change, aside cases where they may throw in a boss mechanic that dispels buffs (which has happened in the past).

(Feral) We will be buffing the damage of Mangle (cat) significantly so that when cat druids cannot Shred, they are not at such a damage-dealing loss.

This tells me they do not intend to remove the "must be behind your target" component to shred, something I've been expecting to see happen ever since they removed it from Mutilate (rogues) for WotLK. However, cats are currently far more viable with their from-behind Shred than Assassination rogues were in TBC with their from-behind mutilate, so I'm not shedding tears over it.

(Resto) Druids will lose Abolish Poison with the dispel mechanics change, but Restoration druids will gain Dispel Magic (on friendly targets) as a talent. All druids can still remove poisons with Cure Poison and remove curses with Remove Curse.

We were shown this in the previous dispel mechanics preview. I will miss abolish poison, as abolish was very useful in situations where you were expecting a poison--particularly a sleep effect or a rogue--and could abolish poison and keep on healing without needing to reapply the cleanse for a decent chunk of time. It was a good tactic of thinking in advance. This change will, unfortunately for us, make poison cleanses purely reactionary... and they've told us it will also cost us more mana to cast it.

Talent Changes

(Resto) Tree of Life is changing from a passive talent to a cooldown-based talent, similar to Metamorphosis. Mechanically, it feels unfair for a druid to have to give up so much offense and utility in order to be just as good at healing as the other classes who are not asked to make that trade. We are exploring the exact benefit the druid gets from Tree of Life. It could strictly be better healing, or it could be that each heal behaves slightly different. You also will not be able to be banished in Tree of Life form (this will probably be true of Metamorphosis as well). Additionally, we would like to update the Tree of Life model so that it feels more exciting when you do decide to go into that form. Our feeling is that druids rarely actually get to show off their armor, so it would be nice to have at least one spec that looked like a night elf or tauren (and soon troll or worgen) for most of the time.

This one has caused quite a stir in the druid community. The key comment in here is, "druids rarely actually get to show off their armor." Yes, that has been a common (and loud) complaint among druids for some time now, but taking the shapeshifts AWAY is not the answer: what druids want to see is armor applying in-form, and a far less ugly treeform. Bears with barding, with a polearm strapped across their furry shoulders; trees with a hood and gown flowing down like the branches of a willow. Shapeshifted armor is what druids have wanted to see, not their chunky cow forms. Caveat: elves are much prettier than grumpy-old-man trees.

I spend plenty enough time in raids and heroics in my (chunky) cow-form. When I'm not needed for super-amazing heals, I can HoT up the tanks in cow-form and cast hurricane and oooh and ahhh at the pretty lightening. If my tree form were prettier (grumpy old man tree? no thanks), I'd have complained far less about loosing my pretty elf form when I played Alliance back in the end of vanilla. Why is it that when you're offering to finally grant us a graphic update (hopefully one prettier than the ugly model now), we're now being told that resto is the ONE spec of druid that is expected to spend most of its time in base form?

Blizzard has heard our past form-armor complaints, but went off in an unexpected direction with it. I am with Lissanna on this: "I really want to see what the new tree mechanic would actually look like before I start freaking out."

(Feral) We want to make the Feral cat damage rotation slightly more forgiving. We do not want to remove what druids like about their gameplay, but we do want to make it less punishing to miss, say, a Savage Roar or Rake. The changes here will be on par with increasing the duration of Mangle like we did for patch 3.3.3.

The take-home lesson from this is they do not want hit-caps to be such a big deal, something I noticed with the stat-change preview (and Scythe reminds me that the haste changes will grant faster energy returns, which in turn makes the rotation more forgiving as well). In regards to actual ability chances, this chunk of the preview is a vague "yeah things'll change but we'll have to test it to see how it all plays out before we tell you anything."

Edit: I have found clarification on this,

The recent Mangle change is a good example. Other candidates include letting Rake last longer, changing Mangle's damage such that it's not such a gigantic dps loss not to Shred, and / or changing the bonus of Savage Roar so that it's not such a crippling dps loss if it falls off. Using Savage Roar after a target with cps on it has died will help too.

We still want the John Madden crowd to be able to try and maximize their dps. We just want players not playing at that level to not be so far behind (though behind is fine).
FYI, the "John Madden" comment is in reference to flowcharts like this.

(Balance) Balance druids will have a new talent ability called Nature’s Torrent, which strikes for either Nature or Arcane damage depending on which will do the most damage (or possibly both), and moves the Eclipse meter more (details below). The improved version of Nature’s Torrent also reduces the target's movement speed. 10-second cooldown.

Another button to push for the turkeys, one which sounds to be intended to break up the starfire/wrath rotation (ie make it more interesting) without actually interrupting it.

(Resto) Restoration druids will have a new talent called Efflorescence, which causes a bed of healing flora to sprout beneath targets that are critically healed by Regrowth.

Moonglade: your new go-to florist shop for all of your Valentine's, birthday, anniversary, and get-well-soon needs!

It seems to be a little mini wild-growth splash from your Regrowth crits; interesting. It's not a major change from what I can tell, though that would depend on the amount of healing the sprouted flowers do, and whether it is AoE or single-target or some sort of floral light-well (pick a flower, get a heal? Humorous, but I don't think the mechanic would go over well!).

(PvP) We want to make sure Feral and Balance druids feel like good options for an Arena team. They need the tools to where you might consider a Feral druid over an Arms warrior, or a Balance druid over a mage or warlock. Remember that the PvP landscape will probably look pretty different for Cataclysm with a focus on rated, competitive Battlegrounds.

I like that they are returning battlegrounds to the spotlight over arenas. Arenas were nasty (imo) and had no goal but to slaughter the other team: battlegrounds had goals and more interesting terrain and felt like they actually had a story-roleplay purpose for securing and defending your territory. I don't have plans to return to any sort of hardcore battleground team like I did in vanilla, but I still like seeing it happen.

(Balance) Eclipse: We are moving Eclipse from a talent into a core mechanic of the class and making it less random. Balance druids will have a new UI element that shows a sun and a moon. Whenever they cast an Arcane spell, it will move the UI closer to the sun, and buff their Nature damage. Whenever they cast a Nature spell, it will move the UI closer to the moon, and buff their Arcane damage. The gameplay intention is to alternate Arcane and Nature spells (largely Starfire and Wrath) to maintain the balance.

AND in a later blue-post,
We're going to try a few different things and see what feels the best. Spells cast is the simplest system, but we also get a little more dynamic system if it was damage done or even if just crits moved the meter more. We still don't want a rotation that is just 1111222211112222.
This reads to me like the PvP alliance-to-horde ownership meters, revamped for Eclipse, and removing the proc (and thus nixing the RNG dependency). The key question now is what sort of rotation they are wanting to see in terms of how OFTEN you will need to alternate spells to "maintain the balance:" moonkin may need to alternate every other, or alternate every three, or every 10... but it sounds like Moonfire/ISS/Starfall/Typhoon will play into it as well as crits, and possibly even the damage ticks from the DoTs will budge the meter around.

(Feral) Bleed Damage and Savage Defense: Feral druids will receive two sets of passive bonuses depending on whether the druid is in cat or bear form. Bleed Damage will be improved for cats. Savage Defense is the current bear mechanic for converting crits into damage absorption and will be improved for bears.

Pretty self-explanatory, moving some current WotLK talents and turning them into passive bonuses that can, conceivably, be gained at lower levels, making lowbie tanking much more forgiving, among other things.

(Resto) HoT Scale Healing: HoTs will do increased healing on more wounded targets. The mechanic is similar to that of the Restoration shaman, but with HoTs instead of direct heals. In Cataclysm, we anticipate druids using a greater variety of their spells so there is a distinction between healing and HoT healing.

My immediate reaction is that they liked the idea of the original Glyph of Rejuv (double-healing ticks below 50% health) and decided to throw it on all of our spells with a passive mastery talent, especially since so few druids have the glyph flexibility to glyph for it. It will aid in the "triage" aspect of healing, especially on a DPS who strayed into fire and you can't spare more than a single HoT to keep them alive.

(Feral) Vengeance: This is a mechanic to ensure that tank damage (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 give them 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 the attack power bonus equal to 10% of their health. The 5% and 10% bonuses assume 51 talent points have been put into the Feral tree and the druid is in bear form -- these values will be smaller at lower levels. Remember, you only get this bonus if you have spent the most talent points in the Feral tree and are in bear form, so you won’t see Balance, Restoration, or Feral druids in cat form running around with it. Vengeance will let us continue to make 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 the Vengeance benefit may be smaller, but overall the goal is that all four tanks do about the same damage when tanking.

Interesting: "Whenever a tank gets hit" and "...threat) doesn’t fall behind as damage-dealing classes improve their gear" are not really the problems I see in my instances. Usually, when I see a group over-gear content (as a whole group), the tank's threat problems stem from NOT getting hit due to high dodge/block/parry (or the mob dieing too fast), which causes paladins to go OoM from lack of needed heals or warriors/bears/DKs not generate rage or runic power from being hit, and THEN they have threat problems. The non-pallies can get a few swings in of their own and start building rage eventually, but pallies are just out of luck on mana if they are not being hit by the mobs.

Unless they are seeing this Vengeance thing as a pug-fix where an undergeared tank (who WILL be hit but may not deal much damage) is grouped with overgeared DPS (who will be high-threat), I'm not fully understanding their direction with this.


The most ground-breaking changes are in the revamp of Eclipse and the consideration of removal of "permanent" Tree of Life shapeshift in trade for (what sounds like) a click-use cooldown. I am wary but keeping an open mind with the tree form changes (we are getting new art, finally), but will state flat-out that I'd rather see remodeled (prettier) trees wearing armor and shift out to cast a damage spell (costs no GCD to unshift), than see look-alike trees on a cooldown providing some crazy temporary x-amount-of-spellpower buff that would be replicated with a trinket. Now, if the cooldown-tree-buff provided something really cool, like heals providing a bark-like damage shield on the tank for the duration, I'd be quite happy.

Time will tell how many of these changes stick around, are changed again, or are nixed altogether.


Keredria said...

Great overview Kae! I was very curious to see what your views were on the changes.

And yes, the whole argument to get rid of the form because we need to see our armor... it doesn't sit well with me. Taking away the tree form doesn't seem to be the right answer.

Jen said...

Depending on the cooldown of the ability and the duration of the effect, this can be the best of both worlds. I DO want to see my armor. I really, really like my night elf (well, except for the horrible T10 chest). Sometimes I wish I could heal raids, not only heroics, in caster form... On the other hand, I like that I'm "the tree". I'm big and leafy and a landmark in raids.

If I can still be a landmark for a significant part of encounters, yet see my gear, haircut, hair color, face etc. the rest of the time, I'll be happy.

I also hope they will implement that minor glyph they talked about - that way everyone could be happy, with or without leaves.

Kae said...

I only got a chance to look at them this morning :) moving to a new home is hard work! I still need to review rogues for my alt.

I am hoping that the treeform cooldown is not on the GCD, and can be tied to an emergency heal. Otherwise, it makes it sound like it's the "new" ability that we have to figure out how to work into our "rotation."

Glacey said...

Yaaaay a Moonkin, thank you!!

Kae said...

*Totoro-Peep. With horns. :)