Wednesday, March 9, 2011

[4.0.6] Rolling With the Punches

So...even though the changes from 4.0.6 have permanently reduced my enjoyment of my main and thus the game as a whole, I am still Feral/Feral for now.  With the almost expected neutering/declawing of Ferals in each update or hotfix, I am starting to wonder if the statement on the picture above is correct.

I pondered the decision a lot.  I discussed it with my wife at great length (probably more than she wanted; btw, she plays WoW as actively as I do).  It was a hard decision to make and, frankly, I am not 100% committed to it, but more on that later.


The first consideration was sheer inertia.  As I write this post, I am the fifth most geared Feral Druid on our server, with an average item level of 360 in my current Tank gear.  Acquiring that has been a very slow process.

Although I am in a raiding guild and can't find anywhere near as much time as I would like to PvP, my PvP set has an average item level of 356; that includes PvP gear in every slot but weapon (BIS for PvE Feral) and feet (they are epic and they have an epic enchant).  That, of course, includes a full Feral PvP armor set, so I have my nifty little set bonuses and glove bonus.  Given how much opportunity I have to PvP, building another set will take a long time.  I pushed hard to build out my Feral set, and it benefited from the temporary boost to Honor income when Tol Barad gave out a lot of Honor for a win.  While I was not a fan of win-swapping, I was a beneficiary whether I liked it or not; when most of your team does not fight, you are gonna lose.

That said, the mind-numbing hours of grinding Heroics left me with lots of caster gear.  With the exception of 1 or 2 pieces, I could sport an IL 346 set of Balance or Restoration gear immediately.  As I earn more Honor, which is now pretty useless for my Feral set, I am slowly buying a Restoration set.  Sure, there are a LOT of gems and enchants that are needed for that gear, and it's no surprise that I never have enough Inferno Rubies, which is a big part of a caster or healer set.

However, for PvE that's just gold, which I have.  For PvP, I could probably get by with a defensive build/strategy as a Healer with mostly PvE gear while I built out my PvP Healer set; that was the plan I was pondering for PvP, and I continue to ponder it.

So, it was a bit of a hurdle, but not a big one.

What You Know

WoW is not rocket science.  In fact, compared to many computer games, it's pretty easy. There is a lot to learn, yes, but the harder stuff is general knowledge, like using macros properly, acquiring and configuring the right addons, setting up keybindings, and developing muscle memory.  For every class and Talent build, you can find at least one person that has spent a great deal of time thinking about the best gear and best use of your abilities.  I know this, because of my army of alts.  I can read one good write-up and start kicking butt right away (anyone with a decent rig and gaming experience can).

As a result, knowledge base and experience should not hold me back.  However, there is a lot to be said for nuances of a role.  During Wrath of the Lich King, I even had some brief vacations in other roles.

I ran my Druid as a Healer for a few months of raiding.  We were desperately short on Healing in our raids, had no Trees, and we had ample Tanks.  We also had a second Feral Tank (who later faded away), so we had the Feral Aura covered.   I did well as a Healer and even managed to top the charts for healing occasionally in spite of my newbieness; granted, this was a time when Druid Healing was not very hard. Once the healing shortage was addressed, I went back to Tanking.  However, I did continue to PvP as a Tree for a while.

I also ran him as a Caster (Moonkin) for a few months of raiding.  We were short on ranged DPS and this was back when you needed the +3% Hit buff for the raid, which only Shadow Priests and Moonkin could provide.  More importantly, this was before the "bring the player, not the class" philosophy had manifested in game and we were missing the unique and highly beneficial Moonkin aura.  For a mixture of reasons, I again returned to Tanking.

Admittedly, I also happen to have Druid alts with which I keep my Healer and Caster skills maintained, so it's not a big leap when I change things up like that.

So, knowledge was not a hurdle.

The Momentum of Role

Not only was I a founder of our guild, I also founded our Guild's Tank corps.  In fact, I was the only guild Tank for a good seven or eight months after the guild was founded (boy were my paws tired).  Since then, I have been Tanking our raids (aside from the few months noted above).

I work very hard to do my job as well as I can.  I constantly speculate and anticipate what a given target(s) can or will do, what the optimum kill order should be, the best application of crowd control (CC), the best Threat generation for the pull, and the optimum positioning for keeping the targets focused on me without compromising: my avoidance (i.e., don't let them get behind me), CC, the rate of damage on the targets, or healing on me.  Every second of every fight I am evaluating how I can further optimize the current situation and the next time I do that pull.  I also work hard to provide good, concise, effective communication via Ventrilo on my use of survival cooldowns and events that might affect how much damage I am about to take or possible changes in my Threat generation (e.g., stunned) so that the raid can respond appropriately.

I am also very adept at Tanking on the move and using my class abilities to their fullest.  I pay close attention to how the Threat generation of my abilities changes from patch to patch.  I find gaps when I can Rebirth someone safely.  I proactively use my Tranquility and Innervate when appropriate.  I even use good old Nature's Grasp sometimes to pin adds and mitigate damage.  I have every macro slot filled with a macro and I have dozens of keybinds, many with modifiers so they can serve multiple roles.

In my experience, most Tanks do not push that hard.  In the history of our guild, we have never had more than three Tank mains approaching that performance level.

As such, I bring a lot of value to the guild as a Tank and I am not sure if I would bring the same value as a DPS or Healer.  And I would worry about the impact on our overall Tanking capability.  That said, there are a couple of melee DPS that are interested in Tanking and it is likely that at least one would push to perform at the appropriate level.

As frustrating and tiring as Tanking can be, I might miss it.  My greatest concern is that I create a void and the person that fills it is so frustratingly mediocre that I feel compelled to return to Tanking to mitigate their impact.

The Aesthetic

If it is not already glaringly obvious, this is really important to me.  The 4.0.6 changes were incredibly disappointing because I feel that the Feral aesthetic has been seriously damaged, as I have noted in a number of recent posts.  About the only thing that we have left is that our stances have furry skins attached to them.

The Feral aesthetic has been greatly diminished.  The Balance and Restoration aesthetics appear to be intact.  If you loved being in Tree Form all of the time, you might not be happy, but since a tree is not a humanoid or beast, I sort of prefer the temporary nature of it.  It kinda makes sense to me that you can't stay in the form of a plant all of the time, because it seems that it would be a very difficult form to hold.

That said, I think at this point, with all of this damage done to the Feral aesthetic, I am simply at a point where none of the Talent Trees - Balance, Feral, or Restoration, are especially appealing to me.

So, aesthetically, it's kinda neutral.


If I were to switch even my role, this is not a great time.  Most of our raid is geared up and we are working on the harder end bosses.  So, my change might negatively impact the guild.  A better time would be when a new raid tier is released, like 4.1; no, wait, that would be 4.2, since they have announced no new raid content for 4.1.


I like the fluff behind the Druid class.  I like the nobility of Taurens.  Those things have not changed, even if the concept of Feral Druids has been taken out to the wood shed and beaten until it is almost unrecognizable.

The Character Slot Inertia

There is something to be said for all of the other crap - the Achievements, the pets, the mounts.  I have the mount Achievement and all of the pet Achievements; and yes, I will probably immediately earn the new pet Achievements that they will add in 4.1.  The idea of trying to redo all of that on another character is just painful.

As a result, it becomes a huge hurdle to wanting to play a different character.  It changes the question away from, "Do I want to play this character?" to, "Do I *really* need to stop playing this character?"

If they ever make this crap an account level thing, it would definitely be liberating.

Going Forward

So, what keeps me playing my Druid?  Hell, I am not really sure anymore, which is a big part of the reason I wrote this post, hoping that I could crystallize my thoughts.  They crystallized, but I am not sure I am any closer to understanding.

Frankly, a significant factor is the character slot inertia.  I can't bear the notion of even trying to get caught up with another character on all of that crap.  If Blizzard would make the pets, mounts, etc. account bound, then it would free people up more to play what they like and change things up as frequently as they like.  Heck, they could even start from scratch with an entirely new character, knowing that they will have all of the nifty mounts and pets.

Is it hybridization?  I still like the notion of a class that can fill any role, but in the last year or so, I am not seeing that as favorably as I used to see it.  For well over 90% of the time I played my Druid, I was Tank and melee DPS.  I can do that with four other classes, Druids are not unique in that regard.  The one distinction is that our melee DPS has some Rogue-like abilities, which is a blessing and a curse.

Another of my problems is that Blizzard seems content with just insuring that one Talent Tree per class is good at PvP.  Restoration has always been good, so there is a sense among Druids that Feral and Balance will always be lagging, except for occasional, accidental spikes in PvP performance.  On the other hand, if I was a Warrior, I can be pretty sure I would not have to switch to Caster or Healer for good PvP performance; which also means not having to collect a completely unrelated set of gear. :)

Frankly, there are many times when I am envious of the pure DPS classes.  One set of gear to gather and just one primary expectation - do damage.  They only have to know who to kill and what stuff they should avoid.  That sounds pretty nice.

Even though basic shapeshifting is fast becoming the only thing that distinguishes a Feral Druid from other classes that can perform as a Tank and melee DPS, it is still attractive to me.  It is more troublesome than it appears at first glance, e.g., when your Bear mounts up, he changes to his humanoid form and is a pale shadow of the Tank he should be, whereas a Paladin, Death Knight, and Warrior Tank retain their full Tank capabilities at all times.  That said, I still like the idea of being able to change into a Bear or Cat.  Of course, any Druid can do that...

There is a tiny glint of light at the end of the tunnel.  As of March 3rd, Blizzard is reporting on the PTR that patch 4.1 will 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.

As I stated in my last post, this puts us at the middle of the melee pack, maybe a hair above, but still clearly trailing Paladins and Fury Warriors. The important thing, in my opinion, is that it simply cements Ferals as just another PvP melee DPS.  We have a a median ability to break roots, combined with above average movement speeds in certain forms.  We are more like other melee DPS than ever before.  I am glad for the change, but it still is not quite enough to recapture the sense of freedom and mobility that defined Ferals.  To get that, you need to be a Paladin or Fury Warrior.  /sadpanda

I guess that ultimately it is mostly the barriers that are keeping me in place, and I won't really know until they are gone. That clouds my perception, so I cannot be sure if the reason(s) I continue with this character as a Feral/Feral is because it's more tolerable than the other options, or because I actually like it.  /confused

The only thing I know for sure is that my interest in playing WoW has waned significantly.


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Skindancer said...

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