Tuesday, July 28, 2009

[Paladin] Holy Paladin vs. Resto Druid - Arena Grudge Match

I haven't talked about arena much lately, largely because my 3s team seems to have plateaued at around 1750. We go up, we go down, but we don’t seem to be making any progress towards 1800. But I'm on a 5s team as well, which was started mainly for fun. It's a little bit of a wonky bracket since there are so few teams in it. We never seem to quite know what we'll get, whether we'll hit a team with 1300 MMR or 2000.

Last night we seemed to be in fine form though. We'd won four in a row without much trouble, and then we ran into an arena team that had really good momentum and unfortunately schooled us. They burned down one dps, then another, and finally our last one. They took out the other healer, leaving only me crying in the corner because I hate being the last one left. I like to put up a fight even when we're losing, it's just good practice, but with five on one I couldn't really expect to do much.

Sure my health was full, but I was down to about 15% mana. I probably could get a judgement or an offensive Holy Shock off, but I was fully prepared to get owned in two seconds flat. I wondered if I should just sit there and take it. And then something remarkable happened.

Everyone stopped moving. At first I thought I was lagged, the match had ended, I was dead, and my computer just didn't know better. After all, I was standing still too. Since my healing partner had died in the middle of my cast I'd yet to do anything else. I didn't realize that the only reason that I wasn't moving was because I'd been on the verge of giving up.

Then the other arena team started disappearing. First one faded out, then another. I perked up and on a whim, whacked the nearest guy with my mace. I was moving!

He faded out. What was going on? Was their entire team DCing?

Only the resto druid was left, and she wasn't in tree form. She starting casting...

"Hana," shouted my team leader over vent, "now's your chance! They all dropped out so the last guy could get the achievement!"

And with that, it was on!

I wasn't going to sit around and let some resto druid kill me for an achievement. I have more pride than that! And little did the druid know that my arena pet peeve is getting killed by another healer. It didn't look good with my mana bar being where it was, but I had hope. My teammates were cheering me on.

The druid seemed to think that a Starfire would do it. When it became apparent that I wasn't going to sit there and eat it (we were in the Dalaran Arena and I ran for the nearest set of boxes), she started Cycloning me and winding up Starfires to hit me as soon as they wore off.

I dropped down off the platform to break line of sight. I hit Divine Plea. When she started drinking, I drank too. She stopped drinking to Moonfire me and stop my own drinking. I put up Blessing of Wisdom and start using Judgement of Wisdom to get mana back. Her Cyclone and Starfire weren't working, I'd usually LOS her, but even when she did get me they didn't do enough damage to kill me before I healed. She went into bear form and started attacking me.

I kept healing through everything she threw at me. She popped out to caster form. Our mana bars were even. I'd heard the horror stories of holy paladin versus resto druid and knew that our match could last literally for hours.

No matter what spells she threw at me I always healed to full. I couldn't seem to beat her down below 40% before she'd heal. The winner would be decided through a contest not of our gear and class abilities, not even our skill, but by our determination to win. Whoever gave up first would cost their team the match.

My mana bar was practically full now. Hers was at half. She went into travel form and ran away to drink. I targeted our warrior and started casting Resurrection.

Obviously she couldn't have that happen. I was Moonfired and she ran away again. I tried rezzing our warrior again. She came back and Moonfired once more.

The pressure was on. She couldn't drink for more than a couple seconds or I would resurrect a teammate. I can only assume her Innervate was still on cooldown since she didn't use it. We played cat and mouse hitting each other then breaking away to drink or try to rez, until finally… I pulled it off.

I don't know how, maybe she was starting to give up, but I resurrected our hunter and landed a heal strong enough to keep him from being one shotted by a Starfire. She CCed him with Cyclone, but I stunned her to neutralize any CC advantage she might have had. When our hunter came out of Cyclone I topped him up with another heal, and by then it was pretty much over.

She didn't even tough it out, but quit the match.

My team leader said it was probably to deny me from receiving the Last Man Standing achievement myself, but I don't think I would have earned it anyway since I'd resurrected a teammate.

During the fight my team leader had informed me that the other team was worth a lot of points. I didn't know how much, but when the scoreboard came up it turned out that they lost over 20 points to us. We gained a whopping 19. I'm sure the other team was kicking themselves for dropping out after I was the only one left. I guess they thought I'd given up. Maybe they thought their resto druid could solo a holy pally with 600 resilience and 2000 spell power.

Whatever the reason, I'm glad I held on. We didn't have any other matches nearly as close last night. Indeed, we ended the night having played only the ten matches we were obligated to in order to earn points, and those ten matches were all wins.

I might not have gotten Last Man Standing, but we did get Hot Streak, and I have an achievement hungry druid to thank for it.

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?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Feeling the Tides of War Change

It's not uncommon to hear broad statements about battlegrounds. Horde always win AB. Alliance always win AV. WSG is 50-50. Or maybe even Horde suck in this battlegroup and they lose everything. They're probably not that accurate (except maybe the 50-50 one), because nobody always wins. There are exceptions, though they may be few and far between. And of course a patch can drastically change the balance of a battleground to the point that the usual losers are now the usual winners.

But usually that kind of shift is accompanied by a patch. Sure battlegrounds can be cyclical in who wins the majority of the time, but once a pattern is established, it's harder to break it. That's why there is something afoot in the realm of 51-60 Alterac Valley in the Shadowburn battlegroup. Something so unusual I'm not sure I've seen anything like it.

When the Horde in Shadowburn's 51-60 AV complain about hardly ever winning, they're really not kidding. Saying that the Alliance have that bracket on lockdown is an understatement. I've spent close to a year there. I've never been a continuous participant. I play 50-59s (and 51-60 AV) haphazardly to burn off steam, with up to a month between games, but I can safely say that the Horde there have been utterly demoralized. Even the Alliance complain that too many matches end with the Alliance farming Horde in their spawn cave. Matches of 40 vs. 18 in the Alliance favor are not unheard of. Horde will queue and then don't accept, or they leave at the first AB or WSG that pops… or just leave because it sucks being farmed.

In a run of 50 AV tokens, exactly 6 of those came from wins. Which means I played 46 matches, 2 wins to 44 losses. That's how bad Horde have had it in AV.

But something's different now, something's changing, and it looks like I've landed right in the middle of it.

I'm not sure what caused it, but the Horde in AV seem to be growing a backbone. On Wednesday night I entered an AV expecting to just kill time until AB or WSG popped. Someone said something to the effect of "Good job on the last one. We almost had it. We'll get it this time." Not the first time someone's said that. I've been in previous matches where those words came out and we promptly ate it.

I didn't stay in the whole match because AB popped and I went for it. But I was in a PvP mood so I kept requeueing as AB or WSG ended. That's when I started to notice that AV was not automatically popping like it usually does. There are typically so few Horde that there's always space as long as AV is up. Clearly something was different.

When I did get into my next AV I was in the tail end of one where we were winning! Neither side killed the enemy general, and the Horde stalled out at the choke point before Stormpike Graveyard, but the Alliance ran out of reinforcements first. We'd won! AB popped first after I requeued, so I went into the match, but after a minute or two AV popped again. Normally I would do my usual click Hide and then Leave Queue, but this time I thought about it, and accepted.

We ended up pushing the Alliance all the way to their base. We didn't kill Vann, and we were nowhere near doing to them what had happened to us, but it was different! And the Horde couldn't stop talking about it. "OMG, we're winning!" "I don't think I've ever won before!" "What happened to the Alliance?" One guy even suggested that we go easy on them the next match. I dryly replied that "I've lost too many times to give them that luxury."

As it turns out, we lost that next match. On Thursday I didn't have much time before raid so I only got in one match which was another depressing 40 vs. 18 (clearly the winds are not entirely in our favor!), but Friday was good again.

We won a couple matches, and then lost my last one of the night, but we did manage to kill Vann! We even had an advantage in numbers by a whopping 10 people at once point!

The tides of war are changing. The Horde are queueing again, accepting those invites, and staying in the matches once they're there. The fights are becoming more even. We're winning, we're losing, but our losses aren't necessarily a total loss. We still manage to save a couple towers. Drek is still alive. The long-time Alliance players are saying they think it's doing some good for their teams to have a couple losses. From what I've heard queue times are awful for Alliance when so few Horde play because everyone wants the easy honor.

I don't want AV to turn into a reverse farm-fest for the Horde, it's only momentarily fun, and we're clearly not at that point anyway. In the past the Alliance repeatedly killed Drek without breaking sweat. It was normal to lose all our towers. Only one of my recent wins was that complete. We generally run the Alliance out of reinforcements instead.

But right now, I'm having fun. Even when we're losing I'm still enjoying myself, because on the nights where we've been winning, our losses haven't been that complete soul-crushing loss we've been having for months. It's amazing what the difference is when there are still a few towers up. I'm just hoping this lasts, that the tides really have changed and this isn't something that's going to be gone in a week.

The next patch is looming and when it hits I'm going to have a make a choice whether or not I want to make my 59 feral a real twink and gear her appropriately (because I don't have the gear and enchants to stand up to proper twinks). The 50-59 bracket, and the 51-60 for that matter, might not have enough twinks to support twink-only matches, in which case my only choice will be to resume leveling. That decision's probably going to happen in less than a month. Patch 3.2 is already downloading. How much longer can the PTR remain up?

If I'm going to have to leave, it'd be nice to go out on a high note.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

[Druid] Oh boy… it's our turn at Q & A

It's only with some trepidation that I read the official Q&A finally dedicated to my main's class. Druids have come a long way, especially from the days of vanilla WoW when I rarely disclosed that I was balance-specced and diligently healed every 5-man I ran, but I'm not sure what needs to be "fixed" about us. I'm actually rather content being a druid at the moment (with the annoying exception of Eclipse, and even that I've mostly come to terms with).

The Q&A starts out with Ghostcrawler giving a brief history of the class and how we functioned in vanilla WoW and Burning Crusade. He mostly hits the items right on the head. I was never an oomkin in TBC, and I performed adequately (well enough that one of the hunters I knew bemoaned the fact a hybrid class could beat a pure class in dps), but raiding moonkin were still largely the exception rather than the rule. He then goes on to talk about where we are now, and part of me is pleased with the acknowledgement that there are really four roles for raiding druids now. Cat, bear, moonkin, or tree; there's a place for all of us.

PvP is a different story. Ghostcrawler acknowledges the pattern of resto druids dominating, feral doing respectably, and balance druids trailing continues in Wrath as much as it ever did in TBC. Feral and balance representation are both low in arena, from what I've seen on my paladin. Resto druids pose a pain for us because if they keep themselves properly hotted they can survive through our burn even if they're locked out of all spellcasting for several seconds, but we never go into a match and think "damn that feral druid" "damn that moonkin" which probably means that both those specs could be better at PvP. Unfortunately Ghostcrawler doesn't outline any specific plans for improvement; just something that they want to do in the future.

On Eclipse:

The goal of the Eclipse talent in the first place was to give moonkin a more dynamic rotation that involved the player paying attention and responding to the environment rather than falling into a monotonous rotation. The Eclipse in 3.2 should less strongly favor one half of the Eclipse over the other since the cooldowns are independent. Ultimately however the problem we are trying to solve is that Wrath and Starfire are just too similar. In PvP you get a little bit of interest out of the fact that they are in different schools, but in PvE by the time talents are factored in, the two spells just become fairly quick (but not instant) nukes and it’s easy to math out which one to use and which one to ignore. Long-term to fix this problem we need to add another spell, separate out Starfire and Wrath from each other a little more, or make one of the other spells, like Moonfire or Insect Swarm, more dynamic. I’ll give a couple of example of caster rotations that "work" in our opinion: Destruction warlocks want to Immolate before they Conflagrate, Frost mages can proc a Brain Freeze and throw out a fast Fireball.

While I agree Eclipse does make things a little more lively than say IS, MF, Wrath x8 the reason I was unhappy when it was introduced was that it was a difficult mechanic to work with. It's random, and it has a 30 second internal cooldown that must be tracked in order to get the most dps out of it. Many a raiding moonkin turned to mods.

Ghostcrawler is correct in that 3.2 will help make Eclipse more manageable, thanks to having separate cooldowns for solar and lunar eclipses, but it won't help one of the reasons I rely on a mod. With everything that happens in a raid environment (explosions, void zones, evil puddles) it's entirely possible to miss an eclipse looming over my head if it only lasts for a second or two. When I dps-ed pre-Squawk and Awe mod, I could occasionally look up at my buffs in the upper right hand corner of the screen and realize "OMG, I have only half of an Eclipse left!" These days Squawk and Awe resides right under my character's feet (same place I'd look for void zones and puddles) and because of that placement I don't miss an eclipse. So even after 3.2 lands, chances are I'll still be using it because I can't miss that eclipse.

What I would have liked is if the moon or sun would stay above our heads for the duration of the buff so it's more obvious that the proc has occurred, and a moment's diverted attention won't cause me to miss it.

I still disagree that Wrath and Starfire are too similar. They will be the way they're going to be used in 3.2, with eclipses rotating between solar and lunar, but I still like the days when mana mattered and thus the spells you used mattered based on their cost and what your gear could support. I'm raiding Ulduar with zero mana regen talents and there are still fights where I'm not remotely in danger of going oom. I can't even remember the last time I took a mana pot.

On moonkin PvP:

We don’t think Moonkins are quite there yet, though we’ll see how they look after 3.2 ships. Some of their problems are not limitations with the spec so much as they are ramifications in other parts of the PvP environment, such as some classes being able to burst them down too quickly. Of the casters, and as of this writing, only Frost mages really seem to be a potent PvP force, but it requires multiple forms of CC and escape mechanisms to get there. We really don’t want to go down the road of every caster needing that many unique tools – it homogenizes the classes and makes the mage tools less compelling. We understand some players are desperate to play Balance in PvP, but our priority is on getting underperforming classes viable before we worry about the second or third spec of classes that already have a strong PvP presence. We’ll get there.

I think the issue is that moonkin obstensibly give up the ability to use healing spells in exchange for better armor and their crit aura (though the haste and mana back from crits no doubt helps), but armor only really matters when fighting warriors, rogues, and feral druids, with middling effectiveness against DKs and hunters who have some physical attacks and some non. Given armor's hit and miss with effectiveness, the moonkin is pretty much gimping herself by her inability to heal. When I duel on Hana (the closest I ever come to PvP on her), I rarely use moonkin form because it's not practical. I have to be able to heal myself.

Ret pallies can heal themselves if they have to, ele shaman can heal themselves as well, so it doesn't seem much of a stretch that moonkin should be able to as well. After all, paladins and shaman are plate and mail wearers, so they have comparable armor. A moonkin would be much tougher to take down if they could keep a stack of rolling hots on themselves.

On balance spells:

As I mentioned above, we do want to improve the spell rotation of Balance. We think the spells are interesting when considered alone (expect for perhaps Starfire and Wrath) but they don’t necessarily play together in interesting ways. You don’t try to save up a Starfall for example for great synergy with another spell. We have no problems with Starfall itself -- it is an AE with smart targeting that doesn’t require channeling. It is basically just bonus damage. Often players with a gripe about Starfall are wishing that it still proc’ed stuns with Celestial Focus or was a stealth remover. But those uses meant players saved Starfall for only those specific situations instead of using it when they needed extra damage, which was the original intent.

I admit I don't have a problem with Starfall. I use it every cooldown as long as there's no danger of breaking CC, but it's not very interesting as in when to use it during a boss fight. For something like Mimiron phase 3, where the boss periodically comes down and takes extra damage I'll save Starfall for it, but otherwise it comes back up again so quick that it's best to just use it as frequently as possible with no regard to any sort of position in a rotation. It's a very unique spell, and I like the idea of an instant AoE that travels with me, but they're right that there's no synergy involved and no smart time to use it. But unfortunately this answer doesn't really tell us anything that Blizzard has in mind.

On feral druid playstyle:

The druid class overall is intended to be flexible, and we feel that it is. What we don’t want is a class that can do all things with a single spec -- do damage like a rogue, then tank if the MT falls down, then battle rez the MT and heal her back up, etc. That might sound like a lot of fun, but that’s because you’re fulfilling the role of half the raid all on your own (which means it’s less fun for everyone else watching you be a superstar). Every cat worth their salt will shift out to cast Rebirth or Innervate. But in order to justify cats doing credible melee damage, we felt like they had to give up some of their ability to tank, cast, and heal. Note than you can still take a more hybrid-focused build. Players don’t often do that though because they’d rather do one thing really well. Now I will say that long term something we’d love to do is get rid of shifting costs altogether. We want to see druids in lots of different forms -- more on this in a minute.

The question was lamenting the change in the feral druid playstyle, where they have minimal mana pools so it was no longer possible to shift out, cast a few spells, slip back into cat, roll into bear, pop out again to heal, and so on; a playstyle I became most familiar with after watching one of Azgaz's feral PvP videos (it may have been Nerf Druids 4). It used to be that feral PvP really embodied the druid as a class, with the best ferals using both bear and cat form as well as casting both healing and balance spells (ex: Cyclone or Entangling Roots) to assist them.

I don't deny that druids should not be able to main tank, heal, and dps all in the same spec, but it should be feasible to do a little bit of each since we are hybrids and paladins and shaman are not cut off from their skills nearly as much. It matters less for PvE, but it makes a world of difference in PvP.

On feral dps rotation:

If you want to do the best damage possible, you need to be able to master a complex rotation. This is one of the features that attracts players to the Feral spec. However, it’s also pretty forgiving. If you just Shred, you’re going to do decent damage. If you Shred and try to keep up Savage Roar, it’s going to be better. If you can also manage your Mangles and Rips and Rakes, then you have the potential to do very high damage (assuming you don’t have to move around much and can reach the target’s back).

I agree with the first sentence, but I don't know about the rest of it. I'm a druid because that happened to be the first class I chose based on the fact I like versatility. I happen to be a moonkin, because my first 10 levels of life were as a caster and I specced to make myself better at what I was already doing. Though I play a feral alt and I like being a feral as well, what draws me to the spec is the inherent sneakiness that comes from being a prowling kitty. The complex feral rotation that exists now is new to Wrath and was never part of being a cat before.

I'm also a little skeptical about how forgiving the rotation is though, but I have no experience at the raid level as a cat. I do know that PvP is pretty darn difficult though (never an optimum dps scenario since targets move a lot), and Ghostcrawler's answer does nothing to address making PvP easier for cats.

On feral interrupts in PvP:

Feral druids have Bash (which they can improve through talents), Maim and the Feral Charge stun. We think their tools are sufficient for PvP and there are other melee classes that can handle it in PvE. It’s not a strength of the spec for sure, but we’re okay with that. We don’t want all melee to be identical.

While I would like my interrupts to come off cooldown sooner, I'm pretty much okay with that. It's not really our strength and good ferals can still keep a caster locked up for a while.

On bears and their inferiority complex:

We think bears have felt inferior because for a long time we basically said “You are designed to be inferior.” Sometimes old perceptions die hard. Bears are not inferior tanks in Ulduar and it’s possible their survivability is too high in 3.2.

Has that ever been the case? In TBC bears tanked just about everything except Illidan because of a game mechanic and they were a choice tank for Sarth 3D. Certainly the feral was not frequently utilized as a MT, but my TBC guild held them in high esteem for their unique ability to be both decent tank and decent dps in the same spec. Not inferior, but different.

I can't speak for any possibility of their survivability being too high in 3.2, but they are definitely solid tanks in Ulduar.

On Savage Defense:

Community Team: Savage Defense has been the source of a number of debates as players feel it is somewhat lackluster and doesn’t provide enough of a benefit, especially in PvP.

Q: Do we have any plans to change and/or improve Savage Defense?

Ghostcrawler: We’re pretty happy with Savage Defense for now. It accomplishes its goals, which were to make dps stats more useful on leather and to keep bears from hitting the armor cap so easily. You might consider it lackluster if you’re counting on it saving your life, but it does account for a lot of damage over the course of a boss fight.

I included the community team commentary and the question on this one because the patch that nerfed bear armor and added Savage Defense is the one that made me a squishier flag-runner than I'd ever been in the past, and the fact that Ghostcrawler only answers in regards to PvE (over the course of a boss fight!) doesn't help. Bear form is our equivalent to plate armor and while Savage Defense is perfectly fine in a boss fight, where the boss in going to be in front of you the entire time, it's terrible in PvP because it relies on us getting a crit. I can only imagine how annoying this must be in arena where crit is reduced by resilience.

On bear vs. cat swipe:

The bear change was just a quality of life issue. A bear can wipe the raid if they can’t pick up incoming adds. The cat is much less likely to wipe the raid by not being able to Swipe all the adds. We don’t need for cats to be an awesome AE spec. We just want them to have something to do on big packs that everyone else is AE’ing, which is what cat Swipe gives them. On the other hand, if there is a perception that bears can’t manage adds, they aren’t going to be used on a lot of fights.

Making bear swipe 360 was perfectly understandable, given that they couldn't AoE tank as well as the other classes without it, but leaving cat swipe as 180 because cat's don't need to be AoE-ing isn't the solution. Many ferals will use both bear and cat at times, and it's a shift in perception on what an ability can do when it has the same name from form to form. If cat swipe is still called Swipe it should work similar to bear swipe; otherwise give it a different name. If doing too much damage is a concern, then nerf it. Just like we don't want abilities to behave differently in PvP vs. PvE they shouldn't work that much differently across forms.

Now I'm going to skip most of the resto Q&A because I've never played resto at a level higher than 25 so I don't feel qualified to talk about it, but I will include the one big chunk from Ghostcrawler that he says is the one answer we should read in everything he's said in the druid Q&A.

The strength of the Resto druid is in heal-over-time spells. They can also do some decent single-target healing through Nourish or group healing through Wild Growth. The tree pretty much used to be a PvE mechanic since “rooting yourself” in PvP to benefit from ToL greatly limited the druid’s crowd control and escape abilities. We made enough changes to the talent to get trees into PvP in Lich King… arguably too well.

Druids overall have a strong niche. We are at a little bit of a crossroads with the Tree of Life however. We are currently wondering if druids sacrifice too much just to be as good as a healer as everyone else. What I mean is that if druids were good healers in caster form but great healers in Tree form, then there might be a decision there. However, we pretty much assume that healing druids are in Tree form nearly all of the time and balance around that. We don’t think it would be fair for them to be the best healers just for taking that talent.

In addition to having to give up utility in order to heal as a Tree of Life, we have become less enamored with druids locking themselves into one form. In fact, you really never see the basic tauren or night elf druid form (you know, the one that actually shows off the awesome armor art) because all druids are in cat, bear, tree, or moonkin form nearly 100% of the time. I’m not saying we would just cut Tree of Life from the game. It’s been around awhile and for better or worse, it’s part of World of Warcraft now. However, we could see taking the druid in a direction where shifting was much more common and easy to do. Maybe you only go into tree form for certain spells but leave for other spells -- this didn’t work previously because of the high cost of shifting, but in the absence of power shifting, we’d love to get rid of the costs completely. Another way to go would be to make Tree of Life form a cooldown, more like Metamorphosis. You shift into tree when you need a healing boost, but you don’t stay in it all the time. Now, I am totally waving my arms here. This is not the kind of change you are going to see in the next patch. But it is something we’re thinking about long term, and the kind of thinking we’d love to have more feedback on from the community.

So wow… shapehifting costs may be removed so we can see druids pop into their caster forms more often. Mind, we'd still need a reason to pop out, a reason that may never come into play during a raid except for a battle rez or an innervate (if a feral), but for PvP? Wow…

After the resto section the Q&A moves on to general druid concerns and itemization.

On bears not benefiting from block and parry on tanking gear:

We think it’s interesting that a bear and a warrior tank might look at the same piece of gear and place different values on it. That’s one of the elements that makes looting interesting and rewards players who understand their class. You shouldn’t take a ring because it says “TANK” on it. You should take it because it benefits you. And really, when players say “wide variety of tanking gear” they really mean rings, neck, cloak, and possibly trinkets. Currently we’re in a world where tanks emphasize Stamina and Armor as much as they possibly can, which makes other stats feel lame by comparison. But that will likely not always be the case, and we kind of doubt it will be as much of an extreme in the Coliseum.

Hana is a feral bear tank on her second spec. I don't tank often, but I decided that was the option I wanted to make available to myself. And what I find annoying is that most rings and necks intended for tanking have defense on them. Rawr is full of defense rating pieces that I dislike rolling on because it makes me look like "lol, feral doesn't know what she's doing." I try to get rogue oriented rings and necks when possible, but sometimes it just doesn't make any sense. I'll save a piece from getting sharded, but when I'm rolling for off-spec and the DK is rolling for off-spec I know he's going to get more mileage out of that piece than I will so I pass, and that's what annoys me. It's not just that this is better for him than me, it's that some of it is actually wasted on me entirely.

On cloth itemization being better for moonkin/trees and bears wanting tanking leather:

No. Druids are a leather-using class. We are just going to have to make three types of leather (melee, ranged and healing). You have to understand that even though we have pushed bears and cats farther apart, we still consider them to be part of the same spec. We can’t get into the business of itemizing for niches within a particular spec or we’re just going to have too many items per tier. I can see the argument for having tanking and dps leather and making the casters use cloth. That’s just a different design and we currently like for certain classes to be associated with certain types of armor. We like that druids look different from say priests or mages (even ignoring the forms thing). We like that we can kit druid tier piece armor to look a certain way.

Also note that if we buffed bear mitigation through more tanking-oriented leather that we’d just have to nerf them in other ways. In my experience, most bears end up with “tanking leather” anyway because they want to gem and enchant their bear gear differently. Having one set of gear that you wear as cat or bear isn’t really feasible in Ulduar.

I'm fine with the cat leather being different from bear leather. It took a bit of learning, but I regularly pass on leather that would be better for cat as long as I have bear equivalent or better. I'm a little concerned about the three types of leather though since I thought Blizzard was trying to get away from that. We still have no pieces of leather with +hit on them aside from the moonkin tier pieces. I do have to say though that Ulduar has some very nice leather pieces. I'm actually not wearing any cloth at the moment and I'm still performing very well.

On relics:

The alternative to “clutter to loot tables” is that they go on vendors. We view vendors as an absolute last resort. They are there as a hedge against being very unlucky with drops and to give players motivation to do bosses even when that boss no longer drops any upgrades for them. When the best relics are available on vendors, then every druid will have those relics quickly. They essentially just become part of the core identity of the class rather than an upgrade that you get at some point along your progression. The best solution is probably something where a boss has a 10% (or whatever) chance to drop a relic in addition to its normal loot table.

I like the idea of having a boss drop an item on top of its usual loot table. It's not much different from the way epic patterns are already being handled, so it doesn't seem to me that coding them that way should be that difficult. It sucks a bit when something doesn't drop for a long time; the Starfire idol was that way with me and Naxx25, but as long as it's added a vendor before the next tier of content (so it's still possible to obtain once your guild is no longer running the raid that drops it) as it was with Ulduar, then it should be fine.

On 310% speed flight form:

At this time we want to keep the 310% flying speed very rare – maybe 5% or less of all players. If we made a flight form that less than 1% of players had access to (since probably less than a tenth of those 5% would be druids) it’s hard to argue that’s a good use of art time.

How about forgetting the art then and making it a new ability like Cold Weather Flying? I would very much like to fly faster in the form I'm most comfortable with.

On using Warstomp and Innervate in forms:

We like the fact that Innervate requires shifting. We want druids to shift more. Warstomp I could see an argument to allow in forms since it’s nice (but not mandatory) that racial benefits are useful to a variety of classes.

I think it's fine that ferals have to pop out to Innervate. It's not intrinsic to what they do that they need to Innervate themselves while in form, and it's just a bonus to another class to get an Innervate at all. Moonkin and trees can already Innervate without shifting. I know moonkin can Warstomp (just like they can Shadowmeld), but I'm less certain about the other specs. A stomping tree would be helpful in PvP I'm sure! As for cat and bear I'm less certain that it's necessary. As long as they can't Shadowmeld I'm cool with not being able to Warstomp.

On updating more druid forms:

I know for a fact that the current Travel Form and Aquatic Form are loathed by the artist who redid bear and cat. We do have plans to update additional forms at some point in the future.

No more seal/walrus thing for aquatic form? Travel form doesn't bother me so much, but aquatic form looks like a combination of a seal, a walrus, and a beanbag. It'd be nice to see something better.

And that's all that Ghostcrawler wrote!

Friday, July 10, 2009

[Druid] Moonkin Territory

Moonkin are perhaps unique among specs in that not only do we have a special, signature appearance, but our shape has inspired random strangers to hug us or to target us in PvP for no reason other than we are moonkin. We have a history of being a "lesser" spec, particularly one that always ran out of mana, so historically our numbers have been low. In TBC a lot of formerly resto druids leaped at the chance to become feral. A few went balance though, and moonkin did become more common.

In Wrath, because of Blizzard's push to make all specs viable, moonkin have really come into their own and it's hard to go anywhere without seeing a few big fluffy owls. This has had the amusing side effect of my guildies seeing me everywhere they go.

You see, they haven't been exposed to many moonkin.

Back in TBC a random guildie of mine was flying around and spotted a moonkin questing down in Zangermarsh. He thought it might be me. And it was. The number of moonkin to be found wandering around Outland at any given time was relatively low, so the chances that any given moonkin was me was inversely high, so much so that his lucky guess turned out to be correct.

Fast forward to Wrath. Guildies see multiple moonkin as they travel. Usually they aren't me, but that doesn't stop them from thinking at first glance that every moonkin is Hana.

I've been my guild's signature moonkin. For a long time I was the only moonkin they knew. We've had alts of course, dual specs, people trying it out just for fun, and one of our restos leveled from 71-80 as boomkin before switching back to his preferred spec, but by and large I've been my guild's primary exposure to the balance spec, and I have been the only raiding moonkin they've known.

I've been told stories of 5-mans where a moonkin (not me) was in the party and a guildie would think "Whoa, when did Hana get here?!"

I've even managed to confuse myself during a 10-man Naxx where a moonkin alt was on the run and I was playing my paladin. It's really disconcerting to start moving around and wonder why the moonkin on screen is not responding to your key commands (because that moonkin is not really you!).

I admit I've gotten rather used to being unique. It's fun to have that kind of impact on people. I like it when the new mage starts drooling because he's never been in a raid with a moonkin before.


My guild got a new recruit last night. He came to the raid with us. And he's a moonkin.

There were fun comments like "AMG two Hanas!?" and the new moonkin did the obligatory dancing while waiting for the fight to start (I often do that as well), but I really found myself out of sorts.

Some of it was for practical reasons. We'd be standing next to each other or almost on top of each other while dpsing and he would proc one eclipse and I the other. Since he was using a solar rotation and I'm using a lunar one, I kept thinking I was screwing up and getting the wrong proc. Also, there were a couple times I was looking at the moonkin and thought it was me, when I was standing a little to the left (or the right).

I can't help wondering, is it always like this for our tree druids? Is that why one of them acts like he has ADD and is always jumping and running around the place? So he can tell which tree is him? Suddenly having new druid forms doesn't feel so much a vanity as a necessity.

The other part of being out of sorts is, well, the primal instinct that says he's encroaching on my territory. I'm human, I admit that I like being "special" and the guild moonkin. I'm also competitive, so there's some sort of alpha female in me that says I must destroy the new moonkin on the meters to make it clear I am the best moonkin. Except his gear isn't as good as mine so beating him on the meters is just expected.

I'm also an officer so being insanely competitive with a new recruit isn't exactly what I'm supposed to be doing, though one of the other officers said it would probably be healthy for me to have some competition. It would give me motivation to push myself.

I don't use Recount in game. I'd probably check it too much. But I think my fellow officer may have been right. Last night I broke 5k dps on Mimiron and caused no small amount of jaw dropping in officer chat. (Granted, some of that was also due to the fact I just got a new computer that gives me 60 fps, so my reaction time and ability to queue spells are vastly improved.)

What I feel I should do is get to know the new moonkin, check his WWS/World of Logs reports, help him improve. He does know a lot already. He's hit capped. His gemming has one funny selection, but I can understand why he did it; it's acceptable. He uses Squawk and Awe for timing his eclipses (bonus points). He has an acceptable spec, though probably too heavy on the mana regen.

He ended the Freya fight near full mana, whereas I was missing most of my bar (as dps I believe I should end the fight as close to oom as I can get without actually getting there and I spec with that in mind).

Also he could be using Starfall and Force of Nature more often. There's a good possibility that he's not aware that even though they are spells with cooldowns, they are our two highest damage per execution time spells, even against a single target. I try to use them every cooldown as long as it's safe to do so (though trees may be delayed depending on when Bloodlust will be used).

The new moonkin didn't use FoN even once last night, even though he's specced into it. He used Starfall more often, but I think he's only doing it when there are multiple targets. I used it six times on Mimiron and he only used it once, and I have suspicion it was on phase 3 where the adds come out.

I've never been in a position where I've had to take another player under my wing before (druid pun not intended), but I think I should in this case. No one else in the guild can. I just hate not knowing whether or not any advice I give is welcome. But then, he's a trial in the guild, so if he's doesn't welcome an officer's advice (or at least intelligently debate with me on it) then that's something we should know.