Friday, July 24, 2009

[Druid] Still Moonlighting on my Feral Alt

I'm think I'm in one of those alt binges. I consider Hana and Gillien my two mains, with Hana being my main-main and Gillien being more of my main-alt. I always log them in for one activity or another three or four times a week. Then I cycle through my alts where I get really interested in one for a period of a couple weeks and then I shift to another. I'm still in feral druid mode.

I don't know if it's solely because of the upcoming patch which may force me out of the 50-59 PvP bracket, or because AV might be swinging Horde's way again (or not; last weekend was back to 40 vs 14, give or take), but because of it, I find myself much more interested in the concerns of my feral brethren who PvP on their mains at 80. After all, I have most of the PvP-oriented abilities now with the notable exception of Maim (and to a lesser degree Berserk).

Bornakk recently posted an addendum set of Q&A after the original druid Q&A on the forums and it's extremely feral-oriented, even PvP-oriented. Though I wish it said more than "We're happy with feral damage and if you don't like it nuts to you." They still are good questions though, enough that I'm going to take a side trip over to feral-land and make what is essentially a feral post. (If anyone knows of a good feral PvP blog I'd be interested in reading it. All the ferals I subscribe to seem to focus on PvE end game.)

Q: Players feel that the effect of Feral Cat Charge isn't as good as the Feral Bear Charge yet the cat charge has double the cooldown. What is the reasoning behind the cooldown difference of these two abilities?

A: Feral Charge Bear mirrors warrior Charge (15 sec), while Feral Charge Cat mirrors Shadowstep (30 sec). They are really different abilities. We just had to put them on a shared cooldown to keep the druid from using them back to back.

I don't mind the shared cooldown so much. If I could chain charges together it would be OP and the death of hunters everywhere (if they fail to disengage away from me they tend to die). What bugs me though is that the Feral Charge Cat only dazes its target. I can use it to catch up to a target, but if they're already running away, it seems to take a moment for me to land and start running myself, which often results in them being out of melee range for my next attack. And forget about catching anyone on a mount!

I don't think Feral Charge Cat needs a stun as long as Bear's, but I would like there to be some sort of stun component to it, just something so that I have a GCD to properly open up with Pounce. I find myself preemptively mashing Pounce as I fly through the air so that way I have a good chance to getting it off as soon as I'm in range (not necessarily behind my target!). That way it's less likely I'll have to chase my target down when I land.

Sometimes I end up with weird situations though where I land a couple steps behind my target, which has moved, and has been successfully pounced, but is still out of melee range from my landing spot. It ruins my burst dps, but I suppose I should be grateful that my target's at least not running away.

I think people would complain less about Cat Charge being worse than Bear Charge if they hadn't been named the same. If it was just called something like Leap or Lunge I think people would be less inclined to connect the two and perhaps equate it with Shadowstep as Blizzard sees it. The problem is that players see Cat Charge as derivative of Bear Charge, and that's why it's perceived as being weaker.

Q: Are we satisfied with the damage that Shred does without a bleed/mangle effect on the target compared to how much it does with the bleed effect?

A: Shred ultimately needs the bleed requirement and the positional requirements met to make it work optimally. We buffed Mangle to make it a better button in PvP when you can't get the most out of Shred. But Shred still does great damage when you can use it.

I'm not sure I've noticed a buff with Mangle, having not played regularly enough the minor variations are obvious to me, but its damage seems okay; not great, but okay. In PvP it's so common to end up in front of one's enemy since we lack any sort of stunlock capabilities. If I start from stealth I usually Pounce, Mangle, Tiger's Fury for energy, Rake, and if I'm lucky I get off a Shred before my target turns around. By now I should have 3-5 combo points and I Rip or Ferocious Bite depending on the target's health.

Then it's Mangle, Mangle, Mangle, until Rake wears off, refresh Rake, and Mangle, Mangle, Mangle. While I do it, it doesn't feel very effective, and if I don't have the advantage of stealth because I'm already in combat then I just feel terribly ineffective against classes that don't have positional requirements to their dps.

Because I have to set up Mangle in order to maximize Shred, part of my opening Pounce has to be eaten up by something other than Shred, and Pounce only lasts for so long. I suppose I could pass on Rake, but it's considered (at least at 80) one of our strongest moves if the dot gets to tick. Once I get Maim I imagine this should be easier, since I could re-stun as a finisher, but since it's a finishing move that means I can only use it well into a fight and it would probably be against a moving target.

This doesn't happen often, but when someone actually starts running for their lives away from me I feel incredibly relieved because it's the only time I can Shred to my heart's content. (Obviously, if you are the target of a feral kitty, running away is a very bad thing.)

Q: What is the reasoning behind leaving the positional requirement for Shred in the game after removing this requirement from the Rogue ability Mutilate?

A: The analog to Shred is Backstab, which is positional. We like the positional requirement because without it, Shred is just a damage ability, and we think the positional requirement is one of those skill cap issues that lets good Ferals do more damage than mediocre Ferals. Really though, the underlying issue here is that we are happy with Feral damage in PvP. Also remember the secondary benefit of positional requirements, which is that the enemy often needs to keep in movement to keep you from getting behind them.

We don't think Ferals need to do more damage to be good in PvP. What they need to do is be able to survive (while in cat - they do okay in bear), and the fact that if you're looking for a melee partner, one who brings Mortal Strike might be more attractive.

Again, I would care less about the positional requirement if I could stunlock like a rogue. It's hard enough getting into position without having to stay in position when my target's flailing around like a duck on fire.

That said though, feral damage at 80 seems to be quite respectable if not ideal. I've been shredded by some good ones in arena and those guys hit like a mack truck, so I agree that damage is decent and the real issue is more likely survivability.

We've had so many nerfs to bear form that we're squishier as flag carriers than we used to be (or just when focus fired in general). I often do a sort of "last stand" when I know I'm probably going to die that involves popping Barkskin, Survival Instincts, and Frenzied Regeneration in that order, and it just doesn't hold up as well as it used to.

Maybe it's because I'm just not specced into bear; I've noticed some arena ferals will put a couple points into Protector of the Pack, presumably for when they get focus fired.

But Cat form itself is as squishy as ever. We're only wearing leather after all, and we have none of the evasion abilities that rogue do. It's really terrible how fast some classes can rip through my feral's health without even being twinks!

Q: Players felt we are not giving much attention to balance and feral druid PvP concerns when their arena success is very limited. Can you give us a more definitive answer on how we feel about these specs in PvP?

A: We wish there were more teams with Feral and Balance druids on them, and wish we saw more Feral and Balance gladiators. In short, we think they are underperforming. The reason we haven’t showered those two specs in PvP buffs are because: A) Druids have a great PvP spec they can use, while hunters and perhaps warlocks and shamans have none. B) A lot of the specs that are underperforming are doing so because they don’t have the ability to chain CC or multiple escape mechanisms. We don’t want to give those to every class. We’d rather change the PvP environment to where those aren’t all necessary. We also want to de-emphasize the 2 vs. 2 bracket and emphasize BGs a lot more so that the entire PvP experience doesn’t come down to the synergy you have with other classes. And again, it’s not necessarily that their abilities don’t cut it – it’s that when you’re putting a team together, a mage or rogue might be more attractive.

I dislike answer A, just because I don't want 9 out of 10 druids I run into in arena to be a tree. I just have a strong dislike for how they potentially ruin everything my team throws at them. They're not as overpowered as they were in Season 4, but I wish PvP druids had more options.

But I do like the de-emphasis on 2v2, leaving it more for casual arena play, and I do like the re-emplasis on BGs. Though I like arena, it sometimes feels like a box and you can only play in it when your teammates are on. BGs you can play whenever you feel like it and there's no pressure to "maintain." Also, there's less emphasis on composition.

Sure, you can complain about having 10 DKs and no healers, but knowing how to play a particular map means more than how your team is composed.

And changing PvP so CC isn't necessary? I have trouble imagining an arena situation where they becomes viable. If healers are strong, then CC is needed to stop them. If healing is weak, then everything turns into a burst-fest. CC strikes me as being less valuable in burst (though still helpful since it means less burst on you), but that's the only scenario I can think of where CC is not as necessary.

Q: What is the reasoning behind allowing Warstomp to be useable in Tree of Life and Moonkin forms (assuming this is correct) but Bear and Cat forms have to shift out to use it?

A: You need to be in a humanoid form to do abilities like Warstomp. Tree of Life and Moonkin (and also things like Shadowform) are considered humanoid. They are bipedal for instance. This is a data construct more than a strict balance reason.

I don't know about Tree of Life being considering humanoid. Isn't it banishable because it's an elemental? It just seems funny that it's flagged more than one way in the code.

I would like to be able to use Warstomp in cat or bear, it would give me a much needed extra stun, though I can't say I ever felt I should have it. I just figured that I could use it in moonkin form because I was a humanoid. Knowing that trees can stop too though... that's a little weird.

Q: With the changes on the PTR, what forms of interrupts and what forms of stuns do we plan for druids to have in patch 3.2?

A: Maim and Bash are interrupts on monsters. Feral Charge is an interrupt on monsters and players. Maim, Bash and Pounce are all stuns and never interrupt players. The stun itself will often stop the spell, but may not in the case of a Blinking mage.

I rather liked that we could stop the blinking mage, but I guess that was too powerful. Everything's just going back to the way it was pre-stuns-that-can-be-interupts too. Except that Maim is no longer an incapacitate. Boo.

After reading this latest Q&A I can't really say that feral's outlook is darker, because Blizzard acknowledges that we do have problems, but the concern is when would these issues get addressed? If survivability is upped, then our damage is probably all right. I get that. It won't be necessary for me to stunlock my target if there's a good chance I'll live after he turns around.

The question is: how they're going to do this and when?


Dorgol said...

Long reply incoming :)

Glad to see some Feral talk. I'm a dedicated Cat for Battlegrounds only, similar to what you are doing it seems.

Re: Feral Charge (Cat ) – I also feel the frustration on trying to catch mounted players. If I’m serious about it, I will Cat Charge and IMMEDIATELY start casting roots. It won’t work against players with Crusader Aura, but it catches people otherwise. Of course, I void any chance of starting out in stealth, but sometimes stopping someone for a few seconds is more important than actually KILLING them. 

Re: Shred – Part of me likes the positional requirement as that means I have to work for my kills. Part of me gets really frustrated with it as everyone and their dog jumps around like crazy in the BG. Heck, even in PvE I have problems as a tank moves the boss around and I have to reposition myself.

That said, though, Maim really does change the way a Cat fights. I usually do something like: Pounce, Rake, Mangle, Maim, Shred, Shred… and then they are either out of the stun or I’m waiting on energy to build up. An Omen proc will allow me to get another shred in, a crit or two means I have enough Combo Points for a Rip or FB. I have an undergeared Pally try and take the flag in AB a few weeks back – between some lucky crits and an Omen proc, I killed him before the stun ran out.

Strangely enough, the fact that Maim is a finisher doesn’t reduce its use near as much as the long cooldown does.

I am considering a change to my opening to remove Rake, like you said, but I haven’t found a smooth attack sequence that really flows as well as this.

Re: Survivability – Keeping in mind that I am exclusively a BG player, I currently do not have any points in Protector of the Pack. However, I’m likely to change that by the end of the week. There are very few fights where I don’t end up in Bear at least for a portion of the fight – and there are some fights (Warriors, Rogues, DKs, Ret) where I spend MOST of my time in Bear. PotP would give me a 12% damage reduction and INCREASE my damage – both at the same time.

Re: PvP Options – I almost hate to say it, but I’ve started spending honor to build a PvP Resto set; partially because I’ve bought every piece of Feral Gear available, and partially because the Tree is such an amazing healer.

Re: Warstomp – Well, it seems Warstomp is consistent with Shadowmeld. Activating Shadowmeld in Boomkin or Tree is fine – but activating it while in Cat or Bear immediately causes me to shift into Night Elf. So if you get to be a Warstomping CatCow, I get to become a Vanishing CatElf! 

Re: Overall – I am very happy with the Feral in BGs. I get to pick my fights, I have a selection of escape options, I have choices of either bursting someone or bleeding someone, AND I have the choice to switch specs and fulfill a completely different role.

Hana said...

Wow, that's definitely a long reply! I may have to try the charge and root sometime.

Re: Shred - In theory I like the positional requirement as well. It's just as you said, in practice people move around so much it's frustrating. I have very little PvE experience as cat, but I know when I'm raid tanking I try to be very careful repositioning mobs once I have them where I want them, just for the sake of all the melee.

I wasn't aware that Maim had a long cooldown (shows how much I play cat on my main!), but that explains why my pally doesn't get stunlocked by cats in arena. That's really too bad that it does. I'm looking forward to getting it though. The more I think about it, the more I think I'm going to level once 3.2 hits. If it seems practical I might even do it primarily through BGs.

If Warstomp works the same as Shadowmeld I don't really have a problem with it. Shadowmelding trees though... hm... I always thought that the trees popping out of nowhere were just hiding in cat form somewhere. Shows what I know. :) I'd very much like to be a vanishing kitty. Rogues get to do it, but we don't. :(

I'm glad you're having fun as feral in BGs. I definitely enough it. I can't say I'm good at it, but it's still fun, and I love, love, love running flags (it's so addicting!) and ninja-ing nodes. I had a couple good ones in WSG this weekend where our FC died, I picked it up in a pinch, and was out of there before anyone knew better.