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Monday, March 7, 2011

[4.0.6] The Feral Druid Then and Now

There was a time that a Feral Druid was uniquely defined as a spec and class by the following:
  1. Shapeshifting
  2. Dramatic synergy in gear and spec that allowed them to switch on the fly between Tank or DPS and be highly effective at either, doing it well enough to turn the tide when a Tank or DPS died unexpectedly; I remember picking up Tanking on Nightbane many times when a Tank died and Tanking him until he died (this prompted the term "Iron Kitty")
  3. Nothing can prevent them from staying mobile (which all Druids could do)
  4. Their mastery of shapeshifting was such that they could shift out of spells that changed their shape, e.g., Polymorph (which all Druids could do)
  5. Self healing
  6. Providing a unique buff for the raid's physical DPS
  7. Providing a self heal for the raid's DPS
  8. Providing an ability to resurrect in combat (which all Druids can do)
Today, that list looks more like this:
  1. Shapeshifting
Our synergy continues to be hammered as Talents become increasingly disparate.  And while it helped a lot that Agility became a good choice for both Bears and Cats again, it does not mean that one set of gear can serve both roles optimally.   PvE Cats can't afford to take key Tanking Talents and PvE Bears cannot afford to take key DPS Talents.  Because of the importance of Dodge and the Austere Shadowspirit Diamond for Tanking, a PvE Bear will tweak his gear set to be increasingly less useful for DPS.

Note: I did favor Mastery over Dodge for a bit, which helps make gear more generally beneficial, but it significantly reduces your hardiness as a Tank, according to the leading Theorycraft and comments from one of my Healers.

Mobility has been hammered.  Not only can Feral Druids no longer shift out of roots of any kind, I am finding more an more effects with slows that I cannot break with shifting, e.g., the poison in Tol Barad, a Blast Wave-like effect in one of the instances.  As I explain in my post comparing the root-breaking ability of melee DPS, we went from the top to the bottom.

We can now be Polymorphed and stuck there any time we are caught in Humanoid form.  Apparently, when we are Polymorphed, we temporarily forget how to change our shape.

Our self healing has been spread all over the place, as I mentioned in my last post.

Our buff is no longer unique, but I don't mind that.

The self-heal our aura used to provide to DPS is gone.

Our ability to resurrect in combat will now also be given to Death Knights, quite possibly the absolute worst choice, lore-wise and aesthetically speaking.  Scourge-empowered undead being able to breathe natural life back into a person is so incredibly wrong on so many levels.

Between taking away canonical abilities or diluting them across other classes, the dismantling of the Feral aesthetic has been quite profound.  /sadpanda

As of March 3rd, Blizzard is reporting that the PTR 4.1 mechanics give both Dash (3 minute cooldown, 2.4 minutes with the Glyph of Dash, which is admittedly quite common) and Stampeding Roar (2 minute cooldown) will break immobilization on use (so not an immunity while it's up just breaking root effects that are in place when first cast). To gain this effect, Ferals will need to have Feral Swiftness 1/2 or 2/2 (50% or 100% chance to break roots, respectively).  Fortunately, that is a Talent that most Ferals take at 2/2, whether DPS or Tank, PvP or PvE.  So, this puts us at the middle of the melee pack, maybe a hair above, but still clearly trailing Paladins and Fury Warriors.

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