May 142012
 

This week for my Shifting Perspectives WoWI column, I went into a little more detail about the level 90 talents, and also got a bit creative. (I start the column with a parody of Isaiah Mustafa and end with a Biblical allusion…how’s that?) I wrote the column before this weekend’s patch, but those changes didn’t alter any of my conclusions. Go take a look; as always, comment here or there, but I’m much more likely to respond here.

 Posted by at 12:01 am
May 122012
 

First, because everyone liked the armored cats and wanted to see the armored bears…

(MMO-C only posted the horde versions. Dunno, looks like a porcupine with taillights to me.)

The latest beta build also has some tweaks to the level 90 talents, as I had expected, and a few other changes.
Talents

  • Cenarion Ward now costs 14.8% of Base Mana, down from 22.4%.
  • Dream of Cenarius now proc increase healing done by your next healing spell by 70%, up from 30%. Tranquility is not affected..
  • Nature’s Vigil now increases all damage and healing done by 20% for 30 sec, down from 30%. Single target spells now damage or heal a nearby target for 25% of the damage/healing done, down from 50%.

Feral

  • Rip now has a duration increased by Ravage as well.
  • Feline Grace New: Reduces damage from falling while in Cat Form.

I’m withholding judgement on the healing tier until the final numbers pass, so I’ll let that change go for now. Dream of Cenarius now buffs healing as well, which will make resto/balance hybrid attempts somewhat workable. I dislike the design, but it could probably work for casters. Once they settle on a number, I’ll work up a balance DPS rotation and resto HPS rotation that weaves in the opposing spell to see what kind of numbers are possible. DoC is still a non-starter for feral/guardian, though, until it stops shifting us out of form. Of course, DoC won’t buff Tranquility, which I expected, and I further expect that you’ll see AoEs get excluded from the damage portion as well.

Nature’s Vigil took a nerf, which I also expected; NV was clearly better than HOTW at 30% for moonkin and feral. 20% is a good deal closer. We’ll probably need to use sims, since NV gains quite a bit of value when sync’ed with Incarnation (or Berserk, or CA). Sunfyre noted that this drops NV to a 3.3% DPS increase for balance without considering other CD’s (though I think he’s overvaluing HOTW’s passive int).   With the healing nerf, I expect no one will attempt to use it for the healing potential; it’ll just become another DPS CD that also tosses in some passive healing.

On the positive side, Ravage now also extends Rip’s duration, which was also expected (Incarnation would have felt weird, otherwise) and we got Feline Grace back, which…yay? Actually, with no flying mount in Pandaria, that may come in handy from time to time.

 Posted by at 11:44 pm
May 102012
 
580epicdruidcat

Previously, Ghostcrawler had said that Incarnation would add armored forms, and the first models for these appear to be in the game files as of the latest patch. (They are not yet actually tied to Incarnation in-game, however, so there’s a very slim possibility that this could be for something completely different.) Go check out the models using wowhead’s modelviewer, and see what you think.  Personally, I’m not a fan of adding armor to the cat form, but I understand there’s a very limited number of ways you can visually “buff” an animal avatar, so I’m okay with it. This would be cool, though. (Kidding.)

Also, Nature’s Vigil no longer works for AoE abilities, which I expected. (Sorry restoration druids, no temporarily topping the DPS charts with Tranquility.)

 Posted by at 1:43 pm
May 082012
 

While I’m going to save further comment on the reworked level 90 talents for my weekend WoW Insider column, there is one recurring argument against Heart of the Wild that I think is somewhat lacking in merit, and I’d like to discuss here. I think Cantor’s comment from my last post summarizes the argument well:

“The issue I still have with DoC and HotW is that they’re based on role-shifting, which breaks encounters. You really can’t argue that they don’t – a 10-man raid with multiple Druids essentially has additional healers or tanks on-demand in the middle of a fight, which WILL lead to stacking for world-first DPS races or healing checks and so on.”

In response to that, here’s my observations:

  • No additional numbers WoW raiding is based around numbers. No way around it. Looking at 10H Ultraxion for a second, we see the median kill attempt did 250k DPS and 85k HPS,  while the median wipe did 210k DPS and 60k HPS. (Of course, these numbers are adjusting over time to the percentage nerfs; a 210k DPS/60k HPS attempt today would probably net a kill.) HotW will let you temporarily flip some damage->healing or healing-> damage, but that doesn’t help you much if the fight has consistent damage and healing requirements; you’re better off asking healers or DPS to use their alternate spec as appropriate.
  • Long cooldown Even if HotW does prove useful, it’s a long way from “useful” to “trivializing.” The 6 minute cooldown means you’re only going to get to use it once, as the majority of encounters end up taking less time than that. A single druid using HOTW won’t trivialize anything. Now, if the soft enrage ala Beth’tilac comes back into fashion, than there’s a theoretical potential to stack resto druids, have them use HotW early when healing requirements are low, then heal normally when incoming damage gets high, for example. You lose buff coverage by doing that, however, which makes it an unlikely scenario for most guilds who don’t have extra alts of each class ready to go, and the overall impact is pretty blunted. Sure, if we have more Spine-type fights (ugh), that’s one thing, but I think we’re done with those for a while.
  • Healing requirements higher for MoP The majority of the DPS classes have talents  that add some passive healing. Think that’s not going to be balanced around? Think again. Top that off with healer mana pools no longer scaling with Intellect, and my guess is you’re not going to see nearly as many fights where you can run healer-short and succeed.

Long story short? Yeah, it wouldn’t surprise me to see one fight where HotW is a large help, and a few more where it’s a smaller help. There may be some guilds who stack druids, but just like all the things that get blown out of proportion on the forums, it won’t be that big of a deal overall. Player skill will still be the defining characteristic of raid progression, not raid composition.

 Posted by at 9:03 pm
May 082012
 

Lo, the blues have spoken, and it was good. (Thanks to everyone who linked this to me)

We’re not yet happy with the druid level 90 row. We still like the theme of it playing into the druid’s hybrid nature and we want to reassure you (which I think most of you already know) that druids won’t do lower damage or healing compared to other classes just because some other class has an unambiguous throughput increasing talent at level 90. Classes are balanced around their whole package.

Nonetheless, we want the bottom row of talents to be exciting. In the next (hopefully) build, you’ll see a few changes.

  • Disentanglement — no longer a talent. Shapeshifting for all druids just breaks roots.
  • Dream of Cenarius — increases damage spells by 70% (up from 30%).
  • Heart of the Wild — now also grants 6% passive Agility and Intellect.
  • Nature’s Vigil — replaces Disentanglement. Increases all damage and healing done by 30% for 30 sec, with a 3 min cooldown. While active, all healing spells also damage a nearby target for 50% of healing done, and all damage spells and abilities also heal a nearby friendly target for 50% of the damage done.

Let us know how they feel once you get a chance to try them.

I’ll have a full column up with lots of analysis and such this weekend, but wanted to toss this out now. My quick thoughts as I’m headed to work:

  • 6% passive buff from HoTW is pretty close to +6% DPS, at least for feral. The actual number isn’t important, what’s important will be how it measures against an NV used during Berserk/CA/Incarnation. Being able to stack cooldowns like that could cause some…QQ issues.
  • DoC is still a DPS loss for balance; feral is dependent on how it interacts with Rip. I’d be a bit happier with it if it added a line saying “your next heal will not shift you out of form” but I think it’s the weak sister of the 3.

Feel free to add your comments; I’ll try to respond tonight.

 Posted by at 7:17 am
May 042012
 

It STINKS. (/thread.)

Okay, seriously, let’s take a closer look at this thing, since I think we’ve said all that can be said about HOTW until we can actually try it. (BTW, if something looks funny above, I’m testing video embeds).

Dream of Cenarius
Wrath, Starfire, Starsurge, and melee abilities increase healing done by your next healing spell by 30%.
Non-instant casts of Nourish, Healing Touch, and Regrowth increase the damage done by your next damaging spell or ability by 30%.
Each of these bonuses lasts 30 sec.
See, this to me is MUCH more offputting than HOTW, for the following reasons.
  • If it’s good, it forces an awkward rotation. Much more than HOTW, which has wipe-prevention utility even if it’s not planned to be used in the current encounter, this thing is either terrible or strong, depending on where that 30% ends up. If it causes a DPS/HPS increase over a standard rotation, everyone will be forced to use it and rightfully complain about it. (I think a Nurturing Instincts once-a-minute heal is about the limit for actively dropping heals on the raid while doing the standard rotation.) I can’t find it at the moment, but I know GC discussed a similar issue for DPS warriors, and how they had to keep hotfixing an ability because it ended up being too good for the spec that it wasn’t designed for, which forced warriors into an awkward rotation to maximize their DPS. In the short run, we like little tricks to increase our DPS, but in the long run they’re just poor design. Anyone remember hitting Gift of the Wild to force an Omen proc? Anyone want to go back to that?
  • It gets balanced around. Do YOU want to get balanced around having lower DPS because you’re contributing significant HPS as well? Yeah, me neither. HOTW doesn’t have this problem because you stop doing the DPS to heal (or whatever), so you’re just changing the nature of the contribution, not increasing it.
  • It’s incredibly lame for a level 90 talent. Same as with HOTW. Neither of these things are what I would call “epic,” which is what I want to be looking forward to. Screw treants, I want to drop a whole forest on someone’s head. Or the moon. That would be cool too.
    There’s a whole ton of druid-themed lore and abilities they could be using. Even if they wanted to keep with the hybrid flavor; hell, give me a talent that lets me cast spells in Cat Form. I’ve got a good bit of “waiting for energy” downtime that I could fill with a spellcast or two.

Rambled on a bit, but eh. I really don’t want to see the level 90 tier go live as-is. Anybody have anything good to say about DoC?

 

May 012012
 
bearcat

As promised, I went ahead and wrote up a post on Heart of the Wild, which ran on WoW Insider today. (Go over and take a look, if you haven’t already.) I attempted to show the pro-HotW and anti-HotW arguments in a balanced fashion, though I’m decidedly for the talent, as you probably guessed. Some follow-up thoughts, which didn’t make the column:

  • I agree that the other choices are lame/random and it’s not worthy of being a lvl 90 talent. Just getting that out there. I’d like to see this tier become lvl 60, a single tier of CC talents at lvl 75, and new role-boosting choices added at lvl 90. If talents stay the same, I’ll still recommend people take Disentanglement for the heal. I really have no idea of what talents they could add, but there’s a whole zone of druid lore we just went through, there’s gotta be some ideas there. (Okay, one idea. How about a druid-themed version of Guardian of Ancient Kings, but instead, you can summon one of the Ancients for some help; the ancient you summon depends on your spec, and provides a spec-appropriate buff for X seconds.)
  • Making it a talent that just adds heals to our deeps (or vice versa) isn’t the same thing. I don’t have a problem with that idea, and it sounds pretty neat to have a tier of talents that, for example, add a chance for a heal to proc off a damaging ability. That’s not at all what HotW is trying to do, though. Classes are balanced around having X numerical output on each fight, so having a DPS class who can put out X DPS PLUS Y healing would be unbalanced. The healing would be constant but mostly inconsequential (think Leader of the Pack heals back in Wrath), a short burst heal with a long cooldown (which we already have, as Tranquility), or some other spot along that axis.
  • The talent has two different use cases, and you need to consider both. 
    • It can be used strategically. “Hey, this fight has an add with a high burst DPS and low HPS requirement, we’ll plan for our resto druid to pop HotW and switch to DPS to help with the check.” In this case, the talent is helpful, but not a panacea, as most encounters with burst have multiple moments of such. It will be very fight dependent as to whether you want to use it strategically. I generally think the “stacking classes” thing is way overrated; my intuition is that it happens very infrequently, due to the large opportunity costs. (Players on “OP class” alts have less skill/gear/experience; buff coverage becomes much more difficult, etc.)
    • It can be used as an emergency button. “Tank died, hold the boss until he dies!” “Tank healer died, keep the tank up!” That bit won’t apply much to heroic raiding (where a death or two usually means a wipe anyway due to not meeting DPS checks) but it will definitely help for lesser-skilled guilds who have more…situations. Sure, it won’t work all the time, but it’d be overpowered if it did
  • I don’t think it should become a baseline class ability. As one of the commenters noted, making it baseline means that all druids will have the capability, period. If you have it and choose not to use it, the odds increase exponentially that someone will call you out for “not knowing how to play your class.” If it’s a talent, the odds of that are much less, and you have a ready-made argument that you take talent X instead because of the benefits it gives.

Oh, and the image? That was my original header, before it got edited out and replaced with a stock photo. :) Bearcat FTW!

 Posted by at 6:43 pm
Apr 292012
 

My much-less-controversial-than-that-title-made-it-sound column on the 5 things Balance Druids were missing going into Mists is now live over at WoW Insider. Feel free to comment here or there, so though I’m more likely to reply here. (EDIT: So Do La Fa Mi Do Re…and if you know what that refers to, you’re a good American.)

(Yes, I’m the balance druid writer now as well. We’ll see how long I make it before I collapse under a pile of angry spreadsheets.)

 Posted by at 7:05 pm
Apr 282012
 

In case you’re not aware, I’ve been squabbling with the majority of the druid blogosphere over the usefulness of Heart of the Wild. While that topic certainly deserves careful consideration, I was struck by one of the arguments I read: that Druids were the only class with a single role-affecting talent choice.

I said, “Well, I can check that.” I flipped through every tier of every class’s talents and attempted to assign each tier to a category. The choices were:

  • On-Role, for a tier that directly boosted a class’s performance of a raid role. (Such as DPS, healing, or tanking.)
  • Off-Role, for a tier that indirectly boosts a raid role or does two raid roles simultaneously.
  • Movement, for a tier that primarily boosts movement abilities.
  • CC, for a tier that primarily adds crowd control abilities.
  • Survival, for a tier that primarily adds abilities designed to keep the class (or group) alive.
Obviously, several of these choices are arguable, especially for the hybrids, and some tiers didn’t cleanly fit into a category. (Shaman Tier 3, Warlock Tier 4, etc.)  That said, here’s the total numbers for what I think (tables inc):
DK Druid Hunter Mage Monk Paladin
On-Role 2 1 3 3 1 2
Off-Role  0 1 0 0 2 1
Movement 1 1  1  1 1 1
CC 1 2 1 1 1 1
Survival 2 1 1 1 1 1
Priest Rogue Shaman Warlock Warrior
On-Role 2 1 2 2 2
Off-Role 1  0 1  0  0
Movement 1 1  0 1 1
CC 1 1 1 1 1
Survival 1 3 2 2 2

So, while the argument wasn’t quite correct, the spirit of it was true; Rogues and Druids aren’t getting a lot of choices that affect their role. We’re the only class that gets 2 CC tiers, while they get an extra…something (depends on how you categorize their Tier 1). I’m convinced on this: I’ll join the chorus that says we should trim down our CC”s, to make room for another tier of role-affecting talents.

My recommendation, as of right now? Cut Mass Entanglement entirely (too similar to Frost Nova or Ursol’s, + we get FN from Symbiosis), make Faerie Swarm a glyph, and return Mighty Bash to being a baseline ability. Boom. Whole new tier to play with.

Finally, I know the level 90 tier still has its problems, and I’ve seen several good proposed fixes. I’m not ready to concede on HotW yet, however. I still think it makes a good talent, or at least a good talent “choice” (though laying out my reasoning would take another column) and I’d like to save it for now. Let’s aim our criticism at the right place. Thoughts?

 Posted by at 10:35 pm