Note before I move onto my post: Falling Leaves & Wings has a great post about this issue that is a little more succinct (and resto-oriented) than my version is going to be.
The new 5.0 talent focus on bringing role-shifting and form-shifting back to druids would be great if it worked in the first place. However, we spent years fighting against being the “jack of all trades, master of none” because being the “master of none” in PvE totally sucked. So, instead, we became the “Master of One at a Time”. Moonkin focus on DPS (and spend most of their time in moonkin form). Healers focus their energy on healing. Feral druids are really the most hybrid of the specs, since they have a greater opportunity to swap between DPS & Tanking.
“Master of None” becomes “Master of One at a Time”
So, let me tell you a story. Back when I first started the game in Vanilla, I leveled up as restoration. I enjoyed leveling, but I mostly leveled by healing in instances. This is because my soloing experiences looked like this:
- In Hinterlands, pull a non-elite mob. Root mob. Cast moonfire. Cast starfire/wrath a couple times until roots breaks and I’m low on mana. Go cat form to regen mana. Get Omen of Clarity Proc. Shift out. Heal. Root Mob. Rinse & repeat until Mob finally dies 1 to 2 minutes after I pulled it.
- While doing this “rotation” on my mobs in Hinterlands, in the same amount of time it took me to kill one non-elite mob, a mage (around my same level) ran by, aggro’d 5 of the same mobs, AOE’d them down in like 10 to 20 seconds, and managed to pull everything else in the camp I was at while I worked killing my one troll. I have a very strong & clear memory of this event.
Was this a fun play style back then? Well, not really. If you wanted to raid, you had to go restoration because being a cool hybrid that could shift between forms wasn’t wanted by your raid at all. They just wanted you to spam Rank 4 Healing Touch so that you could innervate a real healer and maybe battle-res someone. You were primarily there as support utility and that was it. A lot of things have changed since then, but the fact remains that the “jack of all trades, master of none” model sucks. It’s also true that you can’t be the “master of all trades” (because then why would you bring anything else?).
- So, druids started become more specialized in PvE because that’s what we need to do to be viable and wanted. No one wanted someone who was 2/3rds DPS and 1/3rds healer. So, we ran around in raids as healers (the one thing we could do well enough and we bribed people with innervate to keep our spots), and patch 1.8 started to bring us some abilities to make tanking or DPS more viable. However, that specialization came with costs (including balance druids not being able to heal in moonkin form).
Why the Original Melee Moonkin Experiment Failed
Let me tell you another story about Burning Crusade and the Melee-Moonkin model. Moonkin didn’t come into the game until patch 1.8 (shortly before the Alpha/beta testing phase of Burning Crusade). Back then, moonkin had to melee things with our staff to get mana regen (even in raids), since both moonkin form’s mana regen and Omen of Clarity required you to hit things for them to proc. I spent all of Burning Crusade beta fighting against the melee-moonkin design (and kept fighting during Live TBC).
The real problem with melee moonkin wasn’t just that casting & hitting things with our staff was incompatible, but also that ranged DPS don’t want to be in melee range in PvE, except for very specific stack-up fights where the fight mechanics require us to come in close. In fact, Hunters are having their entire melee weapon removed in 5.0 because Blizzard has found over time that they don’t WANT to use it. With moonkin, the ability to mix melee DPS into our caster DPS is totally and utterly just unnecessary, and we spent so much time fighting to let moonkin stay at range and focus on being a great Ranged DPS class.
Why the 5.0 cat-bear-healer-moonkin PVE experiment will fail for moonkin
What other caster DPS wants to run up into melee range and wack things with melee abilities in PVE raid encounters? Answer: None.
Some of the melee classes have gotten ranged DPS spells and benfit from those (I remember when paladin tanks didn’t have a ranged pull – it sucked), and self-healing is something every class can use. So, feral druids CAN use things that give them more spell power because more spell power equals more survivability through being able to cast bigger self-heals when needed. So, feral druids definitely benefit from the vast majority of the new “hybrid shapeshifting” talents in 5.0.
However, there is no world conceivable where a moonkin is going to need to go DPS in cat form during PvE raid encounters (without having mangle or shred or any of the other feral specialization abilities). In situations where moonkin might need to tank a boss, it may actually make more sense to just stay in moonkin form and self-heal or pray to Elune for protection than to invest in a talent that increases our attack power. It would make more sense to pray on the spirit beasts to increase our moonkin form’s defense than it would be to shift into bear form and try to hold threat without any of the Guardian specialization threat increases.
Restoration druids won’t benefit from attack power either, since (unlike monks), doing melee attacks is unlikely to do a lot of healing to make up for the loss of main-spec effectiveness (unless they plan on making druids monks).
Ranged DPS/Healer hybrid models work better than mixing ranged DPS & melee for casters
They should focus “hybrid” talents around the type of hybrid models we know works. Back in TBC, we had Restokin Specs that were hybrid ranged DPS & moonkin specs. While mostly for PvP, moonkins sometimes stepping up to save their raid with healing spells is a model for druids that makes sense (I use tranquility as a moonkin quite frequently in raids even in Cataclysm). However, I’ve never EVER wanted to hang out in cat or bear form as a moonkin in raids. Being close to the boss inspires fear and likelihood of death.
If healers need to do damage, it’s much easier to cast a few wraths (though DPS talents in the healing tree have been hugely unpopular for raiding druids in Cataclysm), and going cat to put yourself at risk of getting hit by melee-unfriendly boss mechanics in raids is just totally mind-boggling as to why healers would want to shift into cat & bear form (where they don’t have access to heals) to do some sort of utility or DPS.
For tanks & feral cats, they have always worked fine as a spec that swapped between melee DPS & tanking. They can also really benefit from access to more healing spells. So, when thinking about making hybrid talents, it makes more sense to give healer & caster things to cats & bears than to be giving dozens of cat & bear things to casters.What would make sense is to make the talents give casters the ability to do feral-type things without having to go in cat or bear form, and then take purely feral abilities (like Bear Hug) and make them specialization abilities.
It would be more interesting for Tireless Pursuit to let dash be used in moonkin & caster form (maybe also with the ability to cast while moving), rather than giving us a second dash that requires us to be in cat form (what caster PvE druid needs two dashes in cat form that prevent us from casting spells of any type while moving in cat form?). Why can’t we get rid of Tireless Pursuit and put Wild Charge down in it’s place? Why not just make Demoralizing Roar useable in all forms? Why not nuke some of the feral-form specific talents and replace them with things that give all druids access to more healing (something every spec could agree is useful?).
I’ll probably post part 2 over the weekend.