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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

1 comment:

michaelmerlinus said...

Played a druid for over 6 years now...I understand your pain as well.