Monday, October 31, 2011

New Druid Talents

I thought it would be fun to go through and pick my favorites as they are currently described and "think out loud" at the same time. I'll likely have a strong feral bias as that is the spec I feel most at home playing, but I am bound to have the healer in me speak up at times as well. At least one this is for sure, I won't be mentioning boomkins. Woops, moving on...

Tier One

The first tier of talents are aimed at improving mobility. As a feral druid at heart I can't pull myself away from Feline Swiftness and the base 30% speed increase in cat form. As an added bonus this grants a 10% speed boost when not in cat form, so it's also a good talent for bears as well as healers.

The other two talents in the first tier force you into cat form. This is not generally a good thing when tanking in bear. That and they have cooldowns, moderately long 3 minute cooldowns right now which probably won't change too much.

The first of these is displacer beast which teleports you somewhere random within 20 yards and puts you into stealth for 10 seconds. As a night elf druid I think to myself, I'll just run into the corner, flip to cat and shadowmeld. That only has a two minute cooldown. Shadowmeld is hit or miss already when you manually pick a safe spot, I don't see a random teleport working out too well. All I see in this talent is a way for non-night elf druids to occasionally avoid a repair bill.

The last mobility talent is Tireless Pursuit which is basically dash that breaks roots and snares. Snares we already clear by "power shifting" which I assume will not change and I am guessing we will keep dash as a standard ability as well. So all that is left is the breaking out of roots which a PVP trinket can do and then some on a shorter 2 minute cooldown. Now compared to feral swiftness which is 10/30% speed all the time this grants on average less than a 6% speed boost on an extended run. During a boss fight you'd get to use it two or maybe three times on average, and what is the chance of it being available every time you want it. So even if you never shift into cat feral swiftness is probably better mobility in the long run.

Tier Two

These talents seem targeted at survival. I'm at a bit of a loss for which one is actually the better choice for me without having some numbers to base my decision off of. All three talents provide some healing, but one in particular, Nature's Swiftness, stands out from the pack. Every 3 minutes it allows you to cast a spell usually restricted to caster form from any form and increase the healing/duration of the spell by 50%. This is the bear form battle rez we druids have been dreaming about forever. I also think that this will be replacing the predatory strikes talent which allows cats to do almost the same thing after a 5 combo point finisher. Most of the time I see this being used as a defensive cooldown with healing touch. Just how much that healing touch heals for compared to the other two talents will make or break this one. Lets face it, bears have been battle rezzing for as long as they wished they could do it in bear form and crowd controlling as a tank isn't going to happen aside from the beginning of a pull. This is a straight up 3 minute heal cooldown in a pretty disguise.

The next healing talent doesn't have a disguise, renewal is a 30% heal every two minutes. I'm guessing this will be the winner for tanks, but it all depends on how much healing a healing touch can do as a feral and probably whether or not the 7th tier talent heart of the wild affect the healing done. I can't see this not being better for a feral, especially considering it has a shorter cooldown that nature's swiftness. Nature's swiftness is probably going to be better for healers.

The last healing talent, Cenarion Ward, is a shield that puts a HoT on the target when they next take damage. If the healing from this ability is on par with the other talents of this tier then it is just a button you have to hit 4-6 times as often which seems tedious. So I am thinking renewal for feral druids and nature's swiftness for caster druids.

Tier Three

This tier is pretty boring for ferals. The theme for the tier is creating or maintaining distance between you and your enemies. The first talent is our familiar friend faerie fire with the addition of a 50% slowing effect (think faerie fire applying the infected wounds debuff). I think this is pretty much a non-choice for ferals. Bears rely on faerie fire as a ranged pull and threat generator and cats rely on it for the damage boost from the armor reduction. Not the mention the anti-stealth utility in PVP. I expect this tier to change drastically sometime before the expansion comes out.

Oh, the other two talents. First we have mass entanglement, or as I like to think of it, hungering cold: the druid edition. The one big difference is that it is a targeted AOE crowd control instead of being centered on the caster. The one minute cooldown we already know isn't reliable for add control on boss fights and the two minute cast time in PVP is just asking for an interrupt. All that trouble for an 8 second root. I have decided this talent sucks, you can't even use it in forms.

The last talent makes me smile. Typhoon which you can cast in forms. Bears and cats blasting their targets over cliffs and whatnot. Sadly other than being amusing and potentially useful on a couple gimmicky fights, this isn't all that helpful for ferals. We are a melee spec, why would we want to purposefully blast our targets out of our range? Obviously this is the go to talent for caster druids.

Tier Four

Not sure what the theme of this tier is, unless making you better at your role is a theme. The first talent is wild charge, basically feral charge with a new name to ferals, but now it works for caster druids as well. The odd exception is that it works as a disengage for boomkins, but they are already odd to the point that odd is normal for them. So far this is my favorite talent this tier, but the other two just haven't been flushed out yet enough to actually consider them. Wild charge almost seems like it belongs in tier three.

The second talent, incarnation, appears to make you better at whatever form you happen to be in. More DPS in cat, more healing in tree and theoretically more mitigation in bear and more DPS in moonkin form. This tier has got to be the most interesting choice so far, at least for tanks. Do you choose mobility in the form of a charge, or do you favor additional mitigation? That choice right there makes me think that the talents in this tier won't provide additional mitigation for tanks because what raid tank in their right mind would favor a charge they usually use once over increased survivability once they are in front of the boss.

The third talent, force of nature, much like incarnation, is a boost to your performance, but by summoning adds to help instead of just making yourself better. No details on what the treats will actually do, but I imagine the balance ones will remain unchanged and will probably be shared by cats. The resto treats will probably heal and the bear treants might end up being something similar to army of the dead.

Nothing really to decide for tier four right now, we'll have to wait for more information.

Tier Five

This tier is another one that obviously needs to be reworked, more so than tier three and the whole faerie fire imbalance. The theme of this tier is cool things to do in bear form. Although I suspect that at the very least the flipping to bear will be disassociated with the first talent, demoralizing roar so that caster druids have something to use. Speaking of the first talent, demoralizing roar disorients enemies within 10 yards for 4 seconds, sort of like an AOE bash. This could be handy for non-tanks, but is currently annoying because they would have to return to their non-bear form afterwards wasting a GCD worth of their 4 second CC in the process. This just doesn't seem that exciting for anyone that isn't a bear tank.

The second talent, ursol's vortex, is like super death grip for bears or cats for that matter since it doesn't seem to have a taunt built into it. There is absolutely no reason why a caster druid would want to suck enemies to them, so again this is mainly a bear talent. The interesting part of this talent though is that if a bear gave up charge in tier four for some yet unknown mitigation talent they would still have a gap closer. This talent would even make faerie fire less important if you can suck ranged casters right into the melee puddle.

The last talent, and quite possibly my favorite talent in the entire tree, is bear hug. Grabs an enemy into a strange combination of a channeled crowd control and damage over time. Basically you hop in bear form and squish the life (or unlife) out of your target. The vortex does sound neat, but I don't think I could pass up giving my enemies a big ol' bear hug.

Tier Six

The theme of the last tier seems to be something along the lines of, be all the hybrid you can be. The first talent, heart of the wild, makes it possible for all druids to go "hero bear" and save the day. Every six minutes for 45 seconds you can flip to bear and gain 95% more armor and have your hit also count as expertise. It also converts 50% int to agility for casters so they could in theory go kitty fo some silly reason, or more interestingly it converts 50% agility to int so cats, or bears in theory, can do some healing in a pinch. Very interesting talent.

The next talent, master shapeshifter, doesn't seem as cool as heart of the wild, in fact it seems pretty stupid, but it doesn't have a cooldown. Non-instant spells give you an attack power buff and melee abilities give you a spell damage buff. The only spec interested in spell damage are boomkins, who would never melee. And the only non-instant spells a feral would cast are maybe crowd control abilities. The buff stack up to three times and is consumed when an ability makes use of the buff. Really the only purpose I can think for it is skull bash for balance druids and crowd control for ferals. In either case the buff makes up for the damage loss from flipping forms for utility. Obviously healers and tanks need not apply.

The final talent called disentanglement causes shapeshifting to remove roots in addition to healing 20% of your maximum health on a 30 second internal cooldown. All I can think is how much I am going to kill frost mages with this talent in PVP. This also seems to be the preferred healer on this tier.

All in all I see at least three talents I am going to want to flip between regularly depending on what I am doing (raid, dungeon or PVP). Good thing they promised talent switching would be as easy as glyph switching.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


You know what excites me most about the next expansion. It's not pandas, it's not monks, and yet both are contributing factors. It's the hope of breaking that 10 character limit on any given realm.

I've tried making alts on other realms, meeting new people, trying to keep up with another community, and then losing touch after playing on my main realm exclusively for a few weeks. It just doesn't work for me, and as a result those other toons collect dust since the community is an important part of the game for me. Past the starting area anyway.

I always found the starting areas to be the most immersive and exciting parts of the game. I create a brand new character, spend a good hour languishing at the character creation screen to get that perfect look, and a name to match. All my hopes and dreams for that toon seem like they could happen tomorrow. Any rudimentary backstory and character personality is also fresh in my mind. All these things make those first 10 or so levels a lot of fun.

Then after neglecting my new toon for a while in favor of max level ones I lose that clarity. I still get excited about a lot of my character names; pretty much all of them thanks to some paid name changes, but any inkling of a personality gets muddled with my own and my character becomes me rather than me becoming my character. Paid race/faction/name changes also have a similar effect on a toon for me.

Let's steer back to the next expansion. The other thing I am really excited about has nothing to do with warcraft aside from being connected to the annual pass (nifty deal awarding a beta invite, mount and diablo 3 for promising to keep your subscription going for another year). I am excited by the prospect of the real money auction house in diablo 3. I have this neat idea that rare items will drop for me once in a while dabbling in diablo and I'll be able to sell them for a buck here and five bucks there that I will be able to spend on warcraft stuff like pets and mounts or perhaps just supplement my subscription.

It is an intriguing thought to think that the time I spend amusing myself with warcraft alts could be replaced by enjoying diablo alts and making money along the way to support my warcraft subscription. In reality I think I'd only get 1-2 months of playtime a year which I would probably spend on pets on mounts instead.

The rest of the new expansion stuff, nothing I wasn't expecting. New areas, new dungeons, new raids. I'll certainly take advantage of all that stuff, but as features go I've got the most interest in the additional character slots. That one tiny feature will have more impact on my long term attachment to the game than any other.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Four Specs!? Say it ain't so.

As a casual raider it was always quite a perk to have my druid ready for anything. Need a tank, fine, need a healer, I can do that, need a DPS, oh I can do that too. I was a little worried when Cataclysm promised further division of bears and cats, but thankfully it never really came to pass. Perhaps the same will happen this time as well.

My current druid speccing algorithm creates two specs, one focused on tanking while also maximizing DPS effectiveness when possible and a second focused entirely on healing. Now worst case scenario MoP will leave some critical cat ability out of the bear spec like shred or mangle. Best case scenario is that they just leave out some of the quality of life cat talents like king of the jungle from the bear spec. I do have one point in king of the jungle right now, and it certainly helps my DPS, but I wouldn't be crippled without it. Other cat friendly talents like stampede or blood in the water I already do without.

Now a blue response explicitly stated when the topic of off-tank DPS was brought up that no other tanks could do it and that druid would no longer be special little snowflakes. I take that to mean that they will be doing something to completely gimp cat DPS in the new bear spec, but I can't imagine what. Maybe it will just be equivalent to DPSing in a "bear spec" now and blues think that is enough. That's certainly not going to dissuade bearcats from speccing bear and keeping a DPS set on hand.

If you look at the talent trees right now there is a ton of overlap between cat and bear talents where the talent does something that is good for a cat and something that is good for a bear or something that is good for both. A truly sadistic developer could tease those all apart and work all the bear stuff into the bear spec while omitting the cat stuff.

I'm not sure that is likely since it was mentioned they were rolling the talents into the baseline abilities. So long as the bearspec retains all the crucial cat baseline abilities then there is nothing to worry about. Can a bear spec live without shred? Probably. It's not really all that important for soloing when you can't be behind your target anyway. Could they award the cat version of mangle to cats and the bear version to bears? That would hinder the bear spec's ability to solo.

So many possibilities, but when does it come to the point where being gimped x% dps isn't worth the ability to heal. I honestly don't heal often on my druid. I did heal a random heroic last night since healers were eligible for the bonus sack, but I can't remember the last time I healed before that. In the past healing has got me into many an informal raid for achievements, gear and amusement. Opportunities that wouldn't have been available if I just stuck to my strengths of dpsing and tanking. Not to say that I'm not proficient at druid healing, I'm actually quite good at it. I just like healing on my shaman more.

One thing is for sure, a cat spec won't be able to seriously tank without the crit immunity and extra mitigation that will undoubtedly be thrown into the bear spec. So the bearcat lifestyle rests squarely on the bear spec. Trispec anyone?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Right Hand, Left Hand, Cooperate!

Once upon a time there were add-ons created to cast spells and use abilities when a hotkey was pressed rather than released. This was largely PVP driven where those few (hundred) milliseconds matter. Of course this was also useful for PVE and I think healers were the first to catch on. Now your mouseover healers (which most healers are) enjoyed the benefits of this right away, but those healers that click on their targets had a slight glitch.

Clicking on a raid/party/unit frame, or any friendly/hostile unit directly, sets your target when the mouse button is released, not when the mouse button is pressed. So as you can imagine, or perhaps as you have experienced first hand, it was very easy to begin casting a spell prior to your new target being selected, negating the benefits of those faster, more responsive, hotkeys.

So the next part of the arms race, largely for the benefit of healers, raid/party/unit frame add-ons added the ability to change your target when you pressed your mouse button instead of when you let go. Life is good again.

Fast forward to the present day; Blizzard finally saw the benefits of having hotkeys work when pressed rather than released, and added the option into the game by default. Sadly they did not see the big picture and the default frames still switch targets when the mouse button is released.

I have recently exposed a new and annoying wrinkle in this arms race between ability usage and target selection when tanking. Often times I will flip targets quickly to taunt, interrupt, or use a ranged ability like faerie fire, but since my target is changed when I release my mouse button I often end up taunting my current target and wasting the cooldown.

Interrupting worshipers on Cho'gall and taunting down spinners on Beth'tilac are just a couple examples of situations where it would really help to flip targets on mouse down rather than mouse up. Unfortunately I'm not sure there is an add-on to do this, or at least I don't know of one yet after searching for a while.

One day target selection and ability usage will consistently use either the key/button pressed event rather than the key/button released event, but in the meantime the left hand will never quite know what the right hand is doing, and vice versa.