Shaping Up: more on Patch 5.4 and beyond

Wow has it really been over 2 weeks since my last post?! Apart from not really having any actual ideas for a post, even part time Uni has got me writing essays and pitches for media creations… the latter though should be fun in practice, but not the part where you have to try to explain what you plan to do.

The other reasons include just very little happening in-game. It seems most guilds have caught up and gotten their “ahead of the curve” achievement, and there’s not really a whole lot to do but wait for the next patch.

And speaking of patch 5.4, well, there’s not a whole lot of feral druid love. Why? Probably because the feral community doesn’t have the numbers to make a huge noise like Warlocks, and Blizzard are probably dealing with the concerns that affect the most players first. There’s a thread on the PTR forums that is outlining the issues currently relating to feral druids and some ideas to fix many of those issues, and I highly recommend you go have a look if you haven’t put your thoughts forward. The more people who contribute the higher chances of the issues being addressed.

I’ll just quickly outline and summarise the current issues affecting feral druids discussed in aforementioned thread, though I don’t claim to have come up with these ideas, so check out the thread for further reading.

Glyphs.

Aye, it rears its ugly head again.. and again. We’re basically cornered into using Glyph of Catform and Glyph of Savagery 100% of the time for pve (and probably close to that for pvp). This is not how glyphs are intended to work; they’re not meant to be mandatory. Two mandatory glyphs gives you one spot to use, and the common go-to glyph seems to be shred to overcome positional requirement difficulties with turning bosses during Berserk. Cat Form has always been part of the spec, so at the very least this should be baseline.

Nature’s Swiftness.

The current PTR plans are to take away this as a talent and give it to Resto and Balance as baseline. The reasons are presumably pvp related; apparently this coupled with HotW is basically a heal in the realm of Lay on Hands. The other issue was using it for arena CC especially instant cyclone. However, I think given that instant cyclone is disappearing for feral anyway from Predatory Swiftness, an instant cyclone on a 1 minute cooldown isn’t that OP.

The biggest issue though is that NS was a standard talent choice for a Dream of Cenarius build. Most importantly, it was for your opener to make sure you had a powerful rip up from the start. But the utility of this talent is going to hurt a lot too. I know I’ve managed to save a tank or dps many times with this heal, especially on Lei’Shen when the tank has picked up the boss but healers are running back from their quadrants.

Ysera’s Gift

Replacement talent to go in the vacated spot of Nature’s Swiftness. It’s basically a small % heal like Leader of the Pack, but is a smart heal if you’re on full health. The problem with this talent for feral is that most people want a reactive heal they can use in the case of large damage or a mistake. Many people feel that Renewal cooldown is too long, though NS hit the sweet spot, as it was on demand, a decent sized heal (especially when using DoC) and you could use it on other people. YG will be a “pick and forget” talent, but because of the no-brain nature of using it, it’ll probably get a bit of usage.

Mangle vs Shred

There is still a lingering issue that we need to be behind a target for shred; being the only class that has this issue (apart from perhaps sub rogues). The other issue is that the damage difference between the two is so small that the faster combo generation from Mangle actually makes it a dps increase in many cases. One of the solutions for this is to increase the damage of Shred a little, just so it’s worth using the majority of the time over mangle. Other solutions have suggested increase the energy and damage component.

Dream of Cenarius vs Heart of the Wild

Even though DoC is a slightly better DPS talent, many druids are obliged to take HotW because DoC has virtually no utility except to heal yourself. One minor solution to this (and it occurred to me a few weeks back but I thought the wording for DoC was already complicated enough as is) is to make DoC healing touches splash for the overhealed amount. The other point made was that the damage gap between the 2 talents is down to 3% difference, and it would help make DoC more appealing if the damage component after healing touch were increased to 30% (something I actually recommended in a previous post). Other discussions ask for HotW to be made baseline; it brings back the feeling of really being a hybrid class for ~40 seconds.

Raid Cooldowns

The HotW issue also outlines that we lack a valuable or viable raid cooldown outside HotW. Normal Tranquillity is just too weak to justify the drop in DPS in difficult phases. Plus you waste an extra GCD to shift back to cat every time you need to cast something. Tranquillity and Rebirth should be castable in form.

Energy capping during Berserk

More haste at this point in the expansion, plus druids who balance out their stats rather than reforging to mastery for Rune of Re-Origination (therefore higher haste than Mastery build), means that during Berserk and Heroism/Bloodlust energy capping is a real concern, even spamming shred. The proposed solution is to increase the damage and energy cost of combo generating moves (however this will probably not be beneficial at lower levels of gear). I’d like to see Berserk provide a % damage increase on top of increased energy cost of abilities like Shred.

Target Switching

My mortal enemy.

Tentative issue of Balance & Scaling

Call it an issue or a perk if you like, but Rune of Re-Origination is likely to be sticking around for a long time, as it’ll scale very well with our secondary stats. The problem with this is that Feral damage is balanced around this trinket; we probably pull more tricks out of the hat to maximise our dps than any other class (I don’t play every other class so I could be wrong). Even when doing this, we’re still in the middle-upper section of the DPS ladders, and Rune is playing a part in this. Rune is so significant and instrumental to high-end DPS that our entire set of gear is reforged to make our secondary stats as close to each other as mathematically possible with Mastery higher, and commands front and centre attention when it procs, so that a huge chunk of our DPS is based around it. We also keep thrash up on single target DPS and actively watch the strength of our bleeds to clip them with stronger ones. So while we use these “unintended perks” we’re being judged on our performance and seen as “balanced” damage wise.

The turnside to this, is that this describes a more advanced play style. Inexperienced players are going to have a frustrating and less rewarding time playing the spec before getting the gear or skills to perform this advanced style. I guess this would all suggest is that overall, high-end ferals are “balanced”, but the average is not. Now you could argue this for any spec, but I think it’s especially true for feral since it has the more complex DPS style to begin with.

Burst

Feral burst in PvE is far below many other classes, and it’s likely some are missing out of raid spots in preference for classes who have better burst capabilities. Plus our burst talent deprives us of  the good sustained damage provided by Soul of the Forest.

Aside from DoC being reverted to the style it was before (but retaining the healing nerf that no one can quite explain), Feral has received almost no more attention for the PTR build except a few tweaks to the future set bonuses, which I won’t discuss here, mostly because they’re still so subject to change.

I know a lot of people tend to ask for some love, particularly of someone from Blizzard who actually plays the spec – there doesn’t seem to be anyone who focuses on it. The fact remains that a lot of the complaints we have, have already been fixed for other specs/classes. Disc and Holy priests got several instrumental pvp glyphs made baseline that were previously a part of their specs. Balance druids have Glyph of Moonbeast made baseline. Holy Priest’s glyph of Lightspring has been made baseline, presumably because they all used that glyph. Plus many others that have been made baseline.

I don’t think Blizzard necessarily need to have someone who plays the spec to do it justice, but there is a community of Feral Druids who know the ins and outs of feral mechanics and want to make it, not overpowered, but balanced, rewarding and enjoyable. Why not tap this resource? Use their feedback, ask them questions about the spec, what changes are needed, what buffs or nerfs are needed.

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