Monday, February 28, 2011

[4.0.6] Reputation/Faction Reward Gear by Role

Well, after entering all of the reputation/faction gear into a spreadsheet for my last post, I decided to do some additional sorting and I went ahead and grouped the gear for each armor type and role. Enjoy!

Note: I sorted the gear by Slot, then Item Level, and I stuck the Arcana at the bottom of each table in each case.

Faction Legend
  • D = Dragonmaw
  • E = Earthen Ring
  • G = Guardians of Hyjal
  • R = Ramkahen

Saturday, February 26, 2011

[4.0.6] Compilation of Reputation/Faction Reward Gear

For all of you folks out there leveling alts, or very slowly leveling your main, I decided to go ahead and compile the reputation rewards from the various factions.  With the lack of a portal back from some of the zones, trekking out to each vendor can be a nuisance, so for your convenience, here is a compilation of the various reputation rewards, sorted by item level (head arcana are at the bottom).

Monday, February 21, 2011

[4.0.6] 4.0.6 Feral Changes - Collateral Damage

So, even if you are not a Feral Druid, you are probably aware that some big changes have happened.  Some of the big recent changes in 4.0.6 are the loss of two abilities that have come to be seen as iconic for Feral Druids:
  • The ability to shapeshift out of roots, e.g., Entangling Roots, Frost Nova, Freeze (Water Elemental), Pin (Pet), Frozen Power, Frostbite, and Shattered Barrier
  • The ability of Berserk to break Fears and make us immune to Fear effects throughout its duration
This has come at the tail end of increasing buffs to damage and bleeds that have made Feral Cats more and more deadly in PvP.

Ghostcrawler had mentioned the possibility of the Berserk nerf, and used our mobility as the rationale for it.  However, they apparently decided to nerf our mobility as well.

Somewhere along the line, a weak rationale of wanting to get rid of "hard counters" was offered up, but it's anemic reasoning at best, since the very roots we now cannot counter are in themselves hard counters, completely shutting down our mobility and our ability to put pressure on a target.

For long-time Feral Druids, this was a real shock.  The very core essence of our class was being changed.  The ability to shift out of roots has been a long-standing and a defining one.  Even when we were sub-par PvP choices, which was the case for most of the time WoW has been out, our mobility made us useful.

Without History, You Don't Feel the Loss as Keenly

For folks new to the class (many people changed to Feral recently due to the recent increase in damage), our shock seems unwarranted.  Also, our mana demands are such that shifting is not going to make us run out of mana.  To them, the fact that we are still effective is all that should matter.

And there is the wrinkle.  It is very likely that our effectiveness has not gone down one bit.  There were shifts in our damage such that we can still be effective in PvP in spite of our mobility loss.

PvP Gets Easier, Duller

The real punchline is that the overall result is that Feral PvP just got a lot more dull.  Why do I say that?

Well, burning a global cooldown to escape a root means no DPS or healing.  So, while non-Druids might have thought we could spam shapeshifting with impunity, it was not accurate.  If we spam that, it's all we are doing.  Sure, there are times when that is OK, but it has a cost in that you are locking out your ability to do anything else when you do so.  As a result, measured use of shifting was necessary if you were going to do anything else to great effect, e.g., kill or control an opponent.  On top of that, we were not doing fantastic DPS for most of WoW, so it was a real challenge regardless.

So now, we get rooted, we stand there waiting, then we try to close and kill something.  And it's much easier to kill things now.  So, we are more like leather-wearing Warriors, or gimped/simplified Subtlety Rogues.

Reaching the goal of being an effective Feral in PvP just got a lot easier, because now you are really just another rootable melee who does lots of damage if he gets close.  Of course, you are one of the MOST rootable melee

It's a bigger dose of homogenization than I am accustomed to seeing.

The Feral Cataclysm

Well, there have been consequences to these collective changes.  Many folks have canceled accounts, including well know folks.  The maintainer of the Feral Cat DPS Guide in the WoW forums was among them.  His farewell post, which to all appearances seemed pretty reasonable and polite and was preserved on the Druid Wiki, earned him a ban from Blizzard.  Said Blizzard ban also nuked his Feral Cat DPS Guide.

Fortunately, Yawning had the presence of mind to maintain his master on Google Docs, so it was not lost.  Tangedyn has resumed ownership of it.  Reputedly, the ownership was Tangedyn, then Toskk, then Yawning, and then back to Tangedyn.  Anyone else hear The Circle of Life in their head?

We also lost:
  1. Alaron, who maintains the Fluid Druid, a blog dedicated to Feral DPS topics
  2. Redmist stopped producing videos and shut down his Feral Druid blog (to be fair, part of it was due to nasty commenters harrassing him); unsure if he will keep playing.
  3. Rarren (formerly known as Vallen) is rumored to have left, but I can't confirm it and his blog is simply silent right now. Update: the day after this posted, he started posting again and is crusading to prove the Feral PvP is not only viable but potent; I wish him luck.
My Take

This all blew me away.  I expressed my shock in the WoW forums, which I captured in an earlier blog post, since Blizzard has been very free with the Ban Hammer in the Druids forums since 4.0.6.  I also mounted a poetry-fueled campaign to raise attention, but it did not get as much traction as I had hoped, although a few people appreciated it.

The problem was that I was arguing for the aesthetic damage to the class and 99% of the people just kept railroading the discussion into a mechanical one about overall effectiveness.   Bashiok then related that Blues (Blizzard reps) simply do not pay attention to the class forums and that we should complain in the role forums.  Well, given that my argument was based on the overall aesthetic of Feral Druids, that was not very fruitful; I really should have blown off that suggestion, as my instincts told me.

Joy Is The Real Victim

The biggest hit has been to the joy I get from playing.  I appreciate that anyone that is not a long time Feral Druid may find it confusing, but even though I can be effective without root breaking and the Fear-countering abilities of Berserk, it was important to my concept of my class.  I was in love with our incredible mobility.  It was how I defined myself as a Feral.

Imagine if, to make the mechanics easier to balance:
  • All melee DPS was standardized on Daggers, yes, even the Warriors
  • All combat pets were taken out of the game
  • Hunters became full-fledged spell casters because that whole Focus mechanic was just too tiresome; oh and let's kill traps too, because they are a wildcard
  • Death Knight Tanks were converted to sword and shield Tanks
  • All Healers were given virtually identical spell sets with the same cast times, mechanics, and mana demands - Small fast heal, big slow heal, AoE heal, HoT
  • Totems?  Way to tedious to balance, just kill them
Basically, imagine if the game finally gets to the point that your class choice is little more than what color T-shirt you chose to wear?  Then you might "get" what I, and others, are feeling.

So, the joy of playing a Feral Druid has taken a big hit.  Given that my Feral is my main, e.g., the character I enjoyed the most, my overall joy in playing the game has taken a bit hit.

I saw many folks publicly posting in the WoW forums about canceling their accounts (before bans or the threads were killed).  Many of them look forward to Rift (or are already in the open beta) and Star Wars: The Old Republic (launch the damn game already!).  Oh, the sweet, sweet trailers ("Deceived" and "Hope") from SWTOR.

My Take

This is one of those turning points where I start to re-evaluate the grinds of WoW.  The last one was when Blizzard was going to start exposing real names as part of their Real ID roll out.

There is the grind for my Raid Tank gear, which includes raiding three nights a week, as well as a persistent push to run a random Heroic dungeon every day for more Valor points to buy more gear.  There is the grind for my PvP gear, which is even more painful since the time consumed by each grind means that one is going to suffer and being behind the curve on PvP gear turns the experience from a challenge to a beatdown (I'll likely dedicate a post to this).

Then, if you have the audacity to want to try another spec in PvE or PvP, you have to grind again, for each spec and for PvE and PvP.  It's funny, in a way, because being a hybrid is kinda moot if your gear constrains you in practice.  For example, I have played hard, ground out lots of gear, and I am still in need of Valor points for pieces for my main gear set.  Granted, that should pass in a month, maybe two...but then it will be close to an entirely new patch, with new content and, presumably, new gear to grind.

Of course, there was the grind to level up skills too.  And of course, I am a raid Tank, so I have two crafting professions for maximum mechanical benefit.  Double the grinding fun.

Oh, and the grind for Cooking tokens, one a day (same for a Jewelcrafter).

And the reputation grind with each new faction.

There is a critical, delicate balance of fun versus tedium and this change, for me, and apparently many other Ferals is putting a lot of cracks in the thin veneer of fun that hides the tedium underlying the Skinner Box that is WoW.

I am not sure I want to be one of those folks that proudly proclaims their die-hard loyalty to a class and spec.  Given how comfortable Blizzard is with turning specs and classes on their head, it seems foolish.

Right now, the primary tether that is keeping me Bear is 1) commitment to my guild and 2) complete abhorrence of the grind to gear up another spec (or class) to be effective.  That said, I do have an awful lot of Heroic Dungeon gear for Balance and Resto...

/cue dramatic music

The end?

/fade to black

Sunday, February 20, 2011

[4.0.6] The Fallout of Simplification

Cataclysm Simplifies Things

With Cataclysm came a dramatic simplification of gear choices.  With less secondary stats to juggle and dramatic jumps in the benefits from higher Item Level (IL), gear choices generally boil down:
  1. Get the highest item level
  2. Worry about secondary stats
Whereas previously, it was much blurrier and an item many levels below the current content might be the best in slot (BIS) due to superior itemization.

While I was personally did not have much of a problem with this, I did not consider that it was a huge loss for the theory crafters out there.  Prior to Cataclysm, a lower level item was often better due to optimal itemization of attributes.  Now, much more so than before, you just grab the higher IL loot and go.

The Item Level Hammer

Along with this and the reduction in the number of secondary attributes, came a simplification of the math behind itemization of gear.  I'll be honest, the simplification of the math did not upset me that much, but then again, I did not invest significant time into crafting the formulae.  If I had, I would probably be quite upset at the ongoing simplification.

I'll admit that there is a bittersweet moment when I get gear with sub-par stats but end up using it because it is a higher item level and is so far and away better in raw stats that the secondary stats are practically irrelevant.  On the plus side, that simplifies identifying your optimal gear, but it also creates a schism.

You see, back in WotLK, and before, there were some items of sub-par item level that were still fine choices for raiding, because the leap in stats was not so great; a poorly itemized higher item level piece of gear may simply be comparable, not superior.  This sort of forces you more into the grind.  You have to grind out the highest item level ASAP, then start grinding for the many pieces with optimal itemization of stats.

For the gearheads that really enjoyed figuring out which items gave the best bang for the buck, the lower item level bits that were equal to or superior to the higher item level bits were like their pot of gold, a reward for their keen attention and a badge of honor that conveyed their deep knowledge of the gear.

So, those camps have both seen some luster wear.  The benefit, of course, is that probably many more have seen a quality of life improvement in the reduction of the entry level knowledge and intuition needed to make good gear choices.

Itemizing Skindancer

So, as an illustration of this, when I started raiding, I chose to depart from the optimal choices spelled out by the Bear Theorycrafters.  Rather than Dodge > Mastery, I chose Mastery > Dodge.  This affected my gem choices and reforging, and I even went so far as to use the Agility Arcanum, Shoulder Inscription, food, and Flask buffs.

Now, let's be clear, this was not a crazy departure, like declaring that I would stack Haste (currently our worst secondary stat).  My rationale for favoring Mastery was sound.  I preferred the mitigation of Savage Defense to the Avoidance of Dodge.  I had become disenchanted with piling on Dodge back in WotLK.

And let's be clear, I was giving up a few percent decrease in Dodge for a few percent increase in damage absorbed by Savage Defense.

Finally, I really liked it because Mastery is actually beneficial if I switch to Cat, unlike Dodge.

I did fine.  And not just, "we can get by" fine, but "no complaints at all from the healers" fine.

Recently, I decided to go through the exercise and conformed to everything the Bear Thread in the Wow Forums prescribed.  I applied the Stamina Arcanum and changed my gems and reforging to favor Dodge over Mastery.  The spreadsheet said I should be ~11% more hardy.  That sure sounds like a lot.  No one seems to have noticed yet...I still can't bring myself to drop Agi food and flask buffs though.  Giving up Agility for Stamina is going to be a hard sell unless it is clear I have too little Stamina.

My main point is that I diverged from optimal itemization (per Theorycrafting) and there was no significant issue in my ability to Tank, whereas in the past, such changes would be felt much more keenly.  I recall when I finally caved into the Effective Health model in WotLK and my Healers noticed a stark difference and I had at least one whispering me about the positive impact they saw almost every raid night for weeks.

Mastery to Dodge change?  Not a peep.  Even when I asked if there was a noticeable difference, nope.

The point was to illustrate a case in which Cataclysm mechanics appear to be less sensitive to gear optimization, which of course reduces the need/value of serious Theorycrafting.

My Take

I guess it serves the greater good, in a sense.  If you don't need a spreadsheet to figure out what gear to take, then I guess that will let you focus on the game a bit more or perhaps have more free time outside of the game (which you can then kill blogging about it).

I feel for the folks that lost something that was fun for them, but honestly I would love to see their math skills be put to something more beneficial.  Maybe we will get lucky and one of them will figure out how to save our rapidly diminishing fisheries...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

[4.0.6] Melee Root-Breaking Ability Comparison, Ferals Lose

So, in a strange turn of events, Feral Druids have now become one of the most rootable melee PvP.

I have actually heard someone say something akin to, "Now they have to deal with roots, just like Rogues."   This begs the question, how rootable are the other melee folks?

Let's break it down, shall we?  OK, while I may have alts for every class, my Druid is my main, so forgive me is I mess this up, but in order of least to most root-able, I believe this is about right.
  • Retribution Paladin - The Kings of Root Breaking.  Well, all Paladins have their lovely Hand of Freedom, which grants immunity to all movement-impairing effects and breaks them as well; this lasts for 6 seconds and has a cooldown of only 20 seconds.  A Paladin can spend 1/3 of the time being immune to roots and snares, at the cost one global cooldown every 20 seconds.
  • Fury Warrior - Heroic Fury removes all movement-impairing effects and has a mere 30-second cooldown.  On top of that, it resets the cooldown on Intercept, so said Warrior can charge into their opponent right away.
  • Rogue - All Rogues have Cloak of Shadows; this awesome ability has a 1.5 minute cooldown and does the following - "Instantly removes all existing harmful spell effects, provides momentary immunity against all damage and harmful effects, and causes you to resist all spells for 5 sec."  Oh, and in case you forgot about Vanish - "Allows the rogue to vanish from sight, entering an improved stealth mode for 3 sec.  For the first 3 sec after vanishing, damage and harmful effects received will not break stealth.  Also breaks movement impairing effects."  Albeit, Vanish has a 3-minute cooldown.  Some extras can be had in Talents.
    • Improved Sprint 2/2 - With only 7 Talent Points in Combat, any Rogue could dip in and pick it up.  It allows Sprint to wipe all movement impairing effects.  Not bad for an ability with a one minute cooldown.  Sidenote: I love Glyph of Blurred Speed.
    • Elusiveness 2/2 - Again, with only 7 Talent Points in Subtlety, any Rogue could dip in and pick this up to knock a lot of time off of the cooldowns for Vanish and Cloak of Shadows.
    • Preparation - Deep in Subtlety and with a hefty 5-minute cooldown, this ability is pretty beefy in counters, resetting your Vanish, Sprint abilities.  So, another way to increase the rate at which you can break roots.
  • Arms Warrior - Bladestorm counters all movement impairing, rooting, stunning, and Fear effects with a 1.5 minute cooldown; oh and you stab everything around you at the same time; not only is this akin to a free PvP trinket with a shorter cooldown, it's better, since you maintain immunity during its 6-second duration.
  • Death Knight - Feral Druids join Death Knights as being two of the only melee PvP that cannot break roots with a class ability.  Now, although it does not break them, Anti-Magic Shell does provide immunity to magical roots (does a pet Pin count?) for 5 seconds every 45 seconds.  So, not a root breaker, but a proactive root counter, at least.  Not to mention, the benefits of absorbing magical damage.  While much less than the others above, it's more than nothing...which brings us to Feral Druids.
  • Feral Druids - Nothing breaks roots.  Nothing makes us temporarily immune to roots.
  • Enhancement Shaman - Nothing breaks roots.  Addendum: Ghost Wolf does guarantee at least 100% movement speed though, which is nice, if not root-breaking.
So, we have now become one of the melee classes most susceptible to rooting in the game.  That is super awesome.

It's good to know that the guys in Plate are going to have an easier time staying mobile.  Makes perfect sense.

Does this sound like a strange turn of events to anyone else?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

[4.0.6] The Little Things & Teaching Dungeons

While there were many major changes with patch 4.0.6, there were also some tiny changes that I noticed.
  • You can now fly in the Temple of Earth (the central quest hub of Deepholm)
  • When you fly into Vir'Naal Dam in Uldum, it no longer dismounts you
Little additional conveniences like this are really cool in part because they really are just niceties, little detail things which one would not expect to receive attention.  Of course, the portals in the Temple of Earth still dismount you; apparently, they still think you can't fly there. :)

Shadowfang Keep Trash Changes

Shadowfang Keep saw some very subtle but significant reductions in trash.  They removed one pull from Baron Silverlane's room.  This makes clearing the Baron's room a little easier and removes a very real possibility of a multi-pull that could include two groups plus an extra patrol mob.  I have not seen it, but from the cramped quarters and poor visibility, it is quite possible.

They pulled out the Spitebone Skeleton patrol immediately after the Baron, as well as the pull that used to live upstairs to the right from the Baron's room.  Together, they turned an area that required significant caution and/or experience to avoid unwanted multi-pulls into a pretty straightforward trash clear.

They also yanked out the first Spitebone Skeleton patrol in the wolf pen (?) area (the big room with stairs going this way and that, and beds of straw).  This also removed a pull with a high chance of multi-pulls.

Finally, they yanked out on of the Pustulant Monstrosities from Lord Godfrey's room.  Again, another reduction in the chance of multi-pulls.  Although I have never seen it, some folks had complained about not only pulling all of the mobs, but also accidentally pulling the boss with them.

So, is it a good thing?  Before those changes, SFK was a pretty good teacher on how to pull properly.  The instance rewarded me, in a sense, because I long ago developed a great competence for surgical pulls and how to properly use CC around patrols.

The question becomes - how much are dungeons supposed to teach?  In prior content, dungeons often taught us some things, even if only in broad strokes, to prepare us for the raid content.  Cataclysm does that quite a lot.  Unlike specific creature abilities, though, pulling well is a basic Tanking skill.

Collectively, I think the dungeons still do a good job teaching Tanks how to pull, but they will still have a lot to learn when they hit raids, especially Bastion of Twilight.  The first room of trash in there requires very good application of CC to the right mobs, very good positioning, and very good timing on the pull.

Frankly, though, I suspect any dungeon that had trash as difficult to pull as the first room in Bastion of Twilight might suffer the same fate as Occulus, in that people would just drop and re-queue rather than face it.  Most folks, me included, find wiping on trash incredibly annoying.

Overall, I think it's a good change to Shadowfang Keep.  Dungeons have a role in teaching, but it should not bog down the dungeon either, since the dungeon also serves an important role in gearing up would-be raiders.  They are going to see those dungeons far more than they want to as it is; to drag out the time it takes to complete it is masochistic.

So, kudos Blizzard for fixing little things.

Is there a little thing that you noticed that you particularly liked?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

[4.0.6] The New Patterns for 4.0.6

If you haven't heard, there are six new patterns of note that came out with 4.0.6.  Three Jewelcrafting (JC) designs and three Enchanting formulae.

The three JC designs are new meta gem cuts for PvP folks and they are all similar in design.

The three Enchanting formulae are also good for DPS folks, but the Int might also be good for Healers.  Like the new JC cuts, they have a similar design, +50 of a base stat to Wrists.
They are high end enchants though; they all require Maelstrom Crystals, the enchanter needs 515 Enchanting, and the Agility and Intellect enchants require a Runed Elementium rod.  So, don't run out and buy it for your lowbie Enchanter alt unless you are fired up to power level him. :)

These enchants are a significant change.  Before them, the only way to have a great wrist enchant was to be a Leatherworker.  These enchants surely take some of the bite out of the Leatherworker bonus.  Some say it's reasonable because other professions only give you about 80 more stats.  I don't completely agree with them.  Leatherworking has been losing its value to the crafter steadily over time.  We no longer have awesome BoP epics, but many other crafters do. For the most part, Leatherworking just means cheaper Leg and Wrist augmentation.  Whoopee.  Blacksmithing (BS) and Tailoring are in a similar boat, but BS does have a very strong synergy with JC and Tailoring gets a nifty Magic Carpet. :)

So, how do you get them?  Killing stuff.  They are random world drops, and as the data rolls into Wowhead, it is clear that just about anything from any Cata zone or instance might drop it.  So get out there and raise up some more alts, do your dailies, clear that trash, and hope.  Good luck rounding them up, you'll need it.

Addendum: Of course, they could be found on the Auction House too, as they are Bind on Equip.

Friday, February 11, 2011

[4.0.6] Fair Weather Ferals (or FotM Ferals)

During Wrath of the Lich King, Feral Cats started to enjoy periods during which they were among the top DPS in PvE.  This was somewhat novel, as Cats were generally just good at DPS prior to that and, wayyy back, well, they were a joke (Vanilla WoW really only supported Druid Healers in raiding).

Feral Bears were playable at the end of Vanilla WoW, but really did not see meaningful mechanical viability in tanking raids until WoW's first expansion, The Burning Crusade (TBC).  I was able to witness this firsthand, as I began tanking with my Druid shortly before TBC.

The Burning Crusade

The Burning Crusade was a time of great progress for Bears.  We were still in last place, but we became increasingly viable and capable.  Paladins were still stronger, especially with multiple mobs.  Warriors continued to be the most favored, especially for raid bosses.  For example:
  • Illidan Stormrage, the end boss of the Black Temple had a Shear ability, which *required* a Warrior Tank (I believe they removed it around the time the Wrath of the Lich King mechanics patch or release)
  • Kael'thas Sunstrider, had a Pyroblast ability that required the Tank to be able to equip the Phaseshift Bulwark, a shield, or die
But outside of that, things were OK.  I was pretty good at playing my Bear, though; I really pushed his bounds and as a result he was never an impediment to progression.  Still, it did feel like I worked a lot harder than the other Tanks.  Yet I stuck it out.

PvP for Ferals in The Burning Crusade was somewhat of an indulgence.  While we could be useful in Arenas and BGs, unless we were carrying flags in Warsong Gulch (Eye of the Storm, to a lesser extent) or Tanking the opposition's general in Alterac Valley, we were not a top choice for a PvP partner.

Wrath of the Lich King

With Wrath of the Lich King (WotLK), we started to see the manifestation of a philosophy of, "Bring the player, not the class".  This was primarily targeted at getting away from the need to bring a specific class for their mechanics.  The basic idea included the notion that you should not need a specific type of Tank.  However, you still needed specific numbers of specific roles, so bringing 15 Rogues for your DPS team was not very viable (for example some fights specifically required a minimum number of raid members to be outside of melee range).

Feral Cat PvE DPS had ups and downs during WotLK.  It was usually good, sometimes great, but for the most part it did not draw a ton of people away from their class with the promise of uber DPS.

Feral Tanking continued to gain ground and for the first time, a Druid Tank became preferable in many applications.  A long-standing characteristic of Druid Tanks was lots of armor and Health, and it was jacked up quite a bit in WotLK.  It worked very well for Heroic fights, but it led to silly things like always wearing your Frost Resist gear because it had lots of Stamina and you could slots lots of Stamina gems in it.  Any time people are preferring Resist gear over regular gear, you can be sure something is amiss.

Towards the end of WotLK, Bears saw some nerfs to their Stamina-boosting Talents.  It wasn't a showstopper, and we still had lots of armor and Health.  Icecrown Citadel (ICC) was a bit daunting though, as the -30% Dodge debuff was a bitter pill to swallow for Bears, whose only Avoidance came through Dodge.  Still, we were successful there.

Cat DPS was still good, but maybe not as high as it had been at it's peak in WotLK.  All I know is that there were less Cats running around in raids.


Enter Cataclysm.  With the push of the 4.0 mechanics prior to Cataclysm, we Ferals finally had a practical interrupt ability, Skull Bash (Bear & Cat), provided we spent two Talent points on Brutal Impact.  That was pretty awesome.  Reports from the Beta had been glowing about Cat DPS and yes, in fact, Cat DPS was very good.

So, for the first time ever, Cataclysm gave us a Feral Cat with top DPS and top PvP.  And for the first time ever, I saw someone change their main to Feral Cat.  Oh, I am sure that it had happened before, but this person had worked hard to get Shadowmourne; in fact he was the first person in the guild to get it.

And a whole bunch of Cats seemed to be popping up all over the place.  These are what I call Fair Weather Ferals (some might say Flavor of the Month (FoTM) Ferals).  The Druid class and concept is irrelevant to them, it is merely a path to mechanical effectiveness/advantage.

It's people like these that get on the World of Warcraft forums and try to say that we should be happy with the gutting of our class because we can still "kill stuff good" in PvP.  They miss the point because to them, the only thing that matters, numbers, has not been negatively impacted.  For them, all of the class abilities are new and they are not emotionally attached to any of them...just the numbers, ma'am.

I don't care for it.  Blizzard, please nerf our numbers a bit so we can cull the herd and get back to a pack of Ferals that "get it" and give a damn about the class. :)

Now, if you are new to the class and spec, and have truly fallen in love with it like the rest of us, welcome.  Get out on the WoW forums and fight for our soul.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

[4.0.6] If Ferals Are Still Effective, What's the Big Deal?

So, while perusing the WoW forums on the ongoing dissatisfaction of Ferals with the loss of being able to 1) shift our of roots and 2) have Berserk break Fear and make one immune to fear during its duration, I came across a poster that was touting how happy he was with his increased ability to do damage in PvP.
I dont know what everyone is QQ about.. I dont like the fact that I can not shift out of root effects and such but then again I am absolutly over the moon with our burst potential right now though. 

I did arena today against a 1900 rated HolyPaladin/UnholyDK..  I was told that I was being to defensive and went full on into the DK and literally hit him from full life to death in 7 seconds.

I am used to bleeding draining teams but now I feel like a leather wearing warrior..

TY blizzard for changing it up and making things fresh for this class. I enjoy these small changes and even though we all fret when we hear the news, I am very happy with them.
And this was my response:
I am sincerely glad that you are happy.  Maybe there are a lot of folks like you and they are just being quiet about it.  The thing is, my goal is not a Warrior in Leather.  I don't want Druids to decay into just a another mild variant on mechanics.

Certainly, it is easier to balance a game the more simplistic/streamlined the mechanics get, and I freely admit that our "powershifting" is an odd duck.  That said, Blizzard has been balancing far more complex things for many years now, so I would think they have the skills and experience to achieve PvP parity without simply trimming off the quirky bits and giving us more DPS.

I appreciate the good side of homogenization, in that they don't want people to be one-trick ponies or have fights/roles that demand a specific class.  However, I think that this is the bad side of homogenization - stripping away the interesting characteristics and making us all less distinct for the sake of easy game balance.

It reminds me of my days studying Physics, and the saying that a Physicist/Mathematician/Engineer will assume a horse is a sphere to make the math easier.  The point is that sometimes simplifying a problem fails to achieve the best result.

I believe that is what Blizzard has done here.  They have thrown up their arms and decided they can't possibly balance the game without taking away these abilities, these "hard counters".  It seems odd, after dealing with them for so long.

Will I still play WoW?  Will I still play Feral?  I don't think it's germane to the discussion to ask or answer those questions.

What is germane is that I will love playing Feral a lot less.  Maybe time will cover that up, but with 4.0.6, the illusion of class differentiation is wearing more thinly than ever, and that makes me a sad panda.
And I do mean it.  I am glad for him that he is enjoying the changes.  I do wonder why he stuck with the class and spec since he implies it needed freshening.

I, however, didn't find my class "stale", so I didn't need it to be freshened up by making it more like a "leather wearing warrior" [sic] while ripping out core Feral mechanics.

I am increasingly of the opinion that the Blizzard designers have simply taken the expeditious path of design convenience over class/spec distinction.  Of course, apparently it makes sense for Restoration and Moonkin Druids to still be able to shift out of roots.  I guess all of that time we spend in Feral forms still has not taught us the secret of how to get out of roots (well, we are retroactively ignorant, of course).

Ultimately, as the title implies, I continue to see confusion from people that see negative feedback from Ferals on this topic as just crying.  They just don't seem to understand that the point is not if we are still effective.  The point is that these changes take a Ferocious Bite out of our Feral aesthetic.

How about for the next patch, for the sake of design convenience, we simply standardize all dual wielders to using just daggers?  That whole Titan's Grip thing gets confusing, and those Axe racials complicate stuff, not to mention weapon speed; heck, let's drop any racials with game mechanical impact while we're at it.  And let's just make Death Knight Tanks use sword and shield just like the other Plate Tanks.  It will be so much easier, and there are so many other awesome changes like this we could make to simplify game balance.

But being effective it all that really matters.  As long as they are mechanically effective, they should be giddy, right?  And think of how "fresh" it will be! Yay!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

[4.0.6] What the Hell? The Feral Aesthetic Punched in the Jewels

Dear Blizzard,

What are you doing to Ferals?

Prior to 4.0.6, a defining characteristic of Druids was their mobility.  After the idea of being able to shapeshift, it was the thing I, and MANY players,  loved most about them.

Sure, we may have been light on DPS (fixed) and lacked an interrupt (fixed), Vanish-like ability (still a problem...although Night Elves have Shadowmeld), and a host of other shortcomings.  For the vast majority of WoW, my mobility was my only saving grace when playing my Feral in PvP.

I may not have as many tricks as a Rogue, but I could at least, generally keep moving in spite of attempts to stop me.  That time has passed.

In 4.0.6, Blizzard has explicitly deprived ONLY Ferals Druids of the ability to escape roots when Shapeshifting.  Balance Druids break roots shifting into Moonkin, and Restoration Druids have a blanket ability to wipe roots with any shapeshifting.  Apparently, being a healer that can only briefly assume a specialized form somehow puts you more in tune with shapeshifting than the class that lives in an alternate shape pretty much 100% of the time.

We live and breathe shapeshifting.  It makes perfect sense for us to be able to shift out of roots for the same reason we had the ability.

And there is nothing being put in to mitigate it.  Ferals have a Kryptonite, and it's rooting.

I really, really hate this change.  It profoundly negatively impacts the appeal of my class.

As if this was not bad enough, we are also losing the Fear wipe and Fear immunity from Berserk.  Yeah, the once every 3 minutes ability to ignore Fear was apparently just too damn much.  Apparently, some ticked off guy with a sword (Warrior) ignoring Fear makes more sense than a raging beast doing the same.

I really liked Berserk when we got it, mostly because of the Fear wipe/immunity.  I liked the aesthetic.  It made sense for a Druid that mastered the magic of beasts.    A raging Bear is the canonical image of an unstoppable juggernaut.

Normally, my response to these things would be something along the lines of, "I am concerned about it, but let's see how it works out."

Not this time.  I don't care how it works out.  I don't care about whatever game balance it may achieve.  Blizzard has fundamentally damaged the aesthetic of Ferals and it sucks.  Take back the damage, or whatever people are complaining about and give us back our mobility and, ideally, a real Berserk.

You are taking us back to being Rogues with less tricks.

I'd rather keep the feel of a Feral and struggle with the other stuff.

You already have a class that stabs things a lot and has some control capability.  It's called a Rogue.  Please don't make us into another flavor of Rogue, it does both classes a disservice.

I know a lot of folks just look at the complaints by Ferals as QQ because they aren't as awesome, but for me, and many more, it's not that.  I was fine with the years that Feral was just OK or even not a good idea in PvP and PvE.  I still managed to be effective.  I enjoyed watching Ferals become more effective over the years.

I can't stress enough that it's not so much the mechanical impact as the aesthetic sundering.  Surely there were other ways to "balance" our performance without stripping us of such beloved canonical abilities.

As much as Cataclysm was starting to turn me into a fanboy, this is a real slap in the face, a real shock.  And I don't think I can properly communicate what it feels like to someone who is not truly dedicated to playing a Feral.  I have been playing a Feral Druid as my main since the tail end of Vanilla.  I have struggled through many setbacks and disadvantages in Tanking, DPS, and PvP.  But I rolled with the punches, because those were just numbers, I worked hard, and I succeeded in spite of it.

But the loss of mobility and loss of a real berserk* takes the soul out my feral.

* - just doing some more damage for a bit does not really deserve the title "Berserk"

It all leaves me somewhat confused and despondent.  And that sucks.  Please give us back our feral.

Take back some damage or something.  Increase a cost, throw in some annoying CD.  Just give us back our Feral please. :)

I was much happier when I struggled to kill people in PvP, but I had all of my Feral tricks.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

[4.0.6] Luck of the Draw Buff in 4.0.6

Ghostcrawler made an interesting post about the Luck of the Draw buff for random dungeons.  If you had not already noticed it back in Wrath of the Lich King, it was the buff you had with an icon that looked like a polyhedral die (props to good old D&D, no doubt).

The intended mechanic was "a 5% buff to damage, healing, and health if you have at least one random player in your group."  I always thought it was pretty cool.  It turns out that "the Luck of the Draw buff has not been working in Cataclysm at all, save for a few specific dungeons." Oh well, apparently that will be fixed in 4.0.6, which is turning out to be a rather major patch.

What is cool is that they are going to buff it even more.  You will get 5% more per random member, up to 15%.  Now, will you notice it?  That depends on your guild focus.

You see, with my main, I work very hard to insure we have at least four guild members in every run so that we get guild experience.  That means that I will likely only ever see the 5% buff at most.

However, on my alts, which are freelancers, I just queue up, so I will be enjoying the maximum buff every time.  Hooray for my alts! :)

Overall, I hope this improves the dungeon experience for lots of folks, but as time wears on, the need to make your dungeon runs count for guild XP will grow as everyone gets done questing and grows weary of daily quests.  And, if you are filling up the group with guild members for guild're not going to have many, if any, random members.

So, I wonder how many people will really see it in the long run.  To that end, I wonder what typical is anymore in terms of guild membership and participation.  With such strong incentives to join an active guild, how much of a population really benefits from the buff?

Alts will probably enjoy it, even for folks that have all of their characters guilded with their mains, as the appetite for people to run dungeons wanes somewhat rapidly, so running everyone's alts through gets taxing quite quickly.

Of course, complete newbies to the game will enjoy it, especially if they don't know anyone in game, are unsure about guild membership etc.

Overall, it strengthens the solo game, which has long been a positive characteristic for WoW, that you don't really need to be in a guild to experience all of the content.

So, to that end, I say, "Bravo!" for not letting the solo game slide.