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Legion Beta is here!

Legion Beta is in full swing now, with a large group of people being invited to help test the content. While there are a few major bugs being worked out (such as disappearing NPCs), I wanted to briefly reflect upon development thus far.

The good:

  • The druid class hall is really, really pretty. Also, the class hall concept overall works pretty well, where you are likely to see other people frequently when you visit the class hall, but have a strong reason to leave & go out into the world.
  • New druid form updates are really, really pretty. The new moonkin feels much better – it’s difficult for me to log back onto my old druid with how much better the new druids look. The cat and bear forms are looking great, especially for the artifact forms.
  • Balance druids have a good starting point, with a newly redesigned mastery, a fairly complex toolkit, and decent utility (especially picking up extra healing spells with the affinity). While there are small tweaks to balance that I expect to see before things go live, we’re at a good starting point.
  • Resto druid’s toolest is starting to come together. Resto druids have gained back innervate (utility to cast on other people), dash (you can run away again!), and cyclone (as a PVP talent). So, some of the concerns and weaknesses we were concerned about were addressed.

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To be decided:

  • Resto mastery: The biggest question mark for resto druids right now is whether or not the new mastery is good. In most situations it should overall work fine. In places where the mastery falls short, we’ll likely just see changes to how resto druids heal. In general, the new healing strategy suggests that people won’t sit at 100% all the time, so HOTs may turn out to be pretty valuable if that healing strategy actually goes live. In general, the new resto mastery seems to be growing on most people on the beta forums right now, after some tweaks to the spec seems to have made it more desirable. So, resto mastery could work out fine. If it doesn’t work out fine, I’m sure we’ll see small tweaks along the way that keeps mastery desirable for druids.
  • Healer soloing & leveling: The new specialization system and artifacts have made it somewhat more difficult for healers to level. This is likely to be more true for undergeared healers than people with lots of gear. In addition, some healer specs are better off than others (I hear that holy priest is particularly difficult).You do get some DPS abilities (druids via the affinity system could potentially be in a good place if feral or balance affinity does enough damage). However, as they balance how difficult or fast it is to kill stuff in the world, healer leveling runs the risk of being slower and more boring than DPS leveling. It will cost you up to 61 gold every time you want to change a spec to DPS. In addition, you need an artifact weapon for a spec for it to really be viable – making swapping between specs challenging for healers. So, if you pick the resto artifact first, you won’t have a DPS weapon until after you’ve unlocked the ability to get a second weapon. In my guides, I’ll put in a level 100 to 110 section for advice on leveling healers (and how to manage spec swaps), but I’m still keeping an eye on healers’ ability to solo level & solo end-game world quests. Someone suggested that healers should get a boost to their world soloing damage (that wouldn’t work against players, in dungeons, or other group content). At this point, I think that might ultimately be the best solution if testing finds that healers struggle too much at keeping up with their DPS leveling counterparts. UPDATE: Gold cost on swapping specs is being removed, which helps some with being able to swap specs for leveling & whatnot.

Conclusion: In general, the transition to beta signals that we’re getting closer to release. The class changes need to be done by the end of July, since we traditionally see a pre-patch a month before the expansion launch. At this point, I’m still pretty committed to swapping to my druid for raiding on my moonkin in Legion.

 

Posted in Beta Feedback, Druid - General, Legion, Leveling

Making way for new class changes in Legion

One of the hottest topics of any new expansion is the changing of class rotations. One of the most common things in recent expansions has been the removal of old abilities and making way for new class rotations. People are often concerned over the loss of spells they once enjoyed (crying the tears of “pruning). However, our memories tend to be pretty short and after the expansion launches with all the changes, we often don’t miss the spells we lost. For example, what abilities got removed in each of the previous expansions? To remember this, I have to look it up in old posts because I don’t much miss those spells a year or 10 years later. The newest Draenor expansion removed several spells, including Symbosis, Nature’s Grasp, Nourish and other spells. In most cases, we forget that abilities often got removed even in the first several expansions. Legion also comes with an “out with the old, in with the new” policy in the design decisions. With that in mind, I want to talk about these changes more objectively and talk about some of the stated design goals.

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Design goal #1: Abilities should fit the fantasy theme for each class and specialization.

A major change for the Legion expansion was the removal of any tool that didn’t fit the design theme. In some cases, specializations got entire new design themes, such as Outlaw Rogues when “combat” was too bland of a theme to work with. Blizzard did a series of previews for each class talking about the particular theme and core abilities for each specialization. For example, a core theme of balance druids is “leveraging the sacred powers of the sun, moon, and stars”. This meant that for balance druids, over time we have lost most of the spells that leveraged nature – in favor of space-themed abilities.

This also came with the removal of Eclipse and replacement with a “build and spend” resource system, as well as renaming wrath (solar wrath) and starfire (lunar strike) to better fit the thematic elements. Things that didn’t fit with the thematic elements were removed or redesigned, with the goal of “easy to learn, hard to master”. To calrify, as Eclipse was “hard to learn, easy to master”, time spent watching the interface bar move back and forth wasn’t particularly good for balance druids. Once you understood how the bar worked, the rotation was easy with little room for mastery above the basics.

The “hard to master” design often comes in the form of additional spells you pick up via talents. This means there are also more unique talents for each spec, though the classes do still share some common talents (thus, some of the original shared talents are now spec-specific). So, while your spell book might seem small when you first log into your character, you can often pick up many new abilities via talents (thus, a 5 button rotation can easily become an 11 button rotation via talents and artifact weapons, and even those 5 buttons may have much more complex interactions).

Restoration’s core healing buttons remain largely unchanged (with the exception of ‘merging’ swiftmend and Nature’s Swiftness), with the primary changes to restoration being in the form of changes to utility. Feral and Guardian also don’t have major reductions in their core ability sets overall, but still see substantial changes overall.

Design goal #2: Utility should feel unique for each class and specialization

One of Blizzard’s new design goals is to reduce some of the redundancy in spells across the classes, particularly with regards to utility. A major concern has been with how the ability creep has turned into the dreaded “homogenization” feel. Over time, everyone has needed X ability because everyone else had it. In utility, if you didn’t bring equal amounts compared to everyone else, you worried about losing your spots to others who brought more. So, the solution over time to this was often giving everyone more and more utility until everyone had a bunch of mostly redundant things. This is changing in Legion, and is why the watered down utility of having access to ability sets for all 4 specs wasn’t going to work for druids. That means balance and restoration druids also lost utility spells (e.g., stampeding roar).

New Affinity System:   Druids lost a set of baseline abilities common to other specializations. For example, balance druids no longer get a full rotational set of feral, guardian, and restoration abilities baseline. These had become substantially watered down over time as it was difficult to make druids the master of 4 roles at a time, and so you became the master of 1 with some extra buttons you couldn’t really utilize to their full extent. However, as we discussed above with regards to added complexity via talents, the new Affinity talents allow you to choose one off-spec role where you will be at least half-decent.

  • Feral Affinty: Gives you a movement speed bonus and a set of damage abilities – Shred, rip, ferocious bite, and swipe. This would give guardians and resto druids the opportunity to do substantial single-target damage and some AOE damage (via swipe) when they aren’t being called on to perform their main role.
  • Guardian Affinity: Gives you an armor bonus and a set of tanking abilities – Growl (taunt), mangle and thrash (damage), plus iron fur and frenzied regen (survivability). This should be enough to off-tank for short periods of time in a situation where an encounter or situation might call for it.
  • Restoration Affinity: Gives you passive healing (4% HP to you or a nearby ally every 5 sec), plus a set of healing abilities – Rejuv, regrowth, and swiftmend (you already get healing touch baseline). However, you don’t get access to an AOE heal, somewhat limiting your ability to off-heal raid situations, but allowing for saving yourself or a tank from death in some situations.
  • Balance Affinity: Increases your range by 5 yards and a set of ranged damage abilities – Moonkin form (on a 30 sec cooldown), solar wrath, lunar strike, Sunfire (you already get moonfire baseline), and starsurge. This allows you to do relatively decent single-target damage with a little bit of AOE splash damage (via multi-DOT and lunar strike). Note that the cooldown on moonkin form will make the feral affinity higher sustained damage and balance likely better for short bursts, depending on overall balancing.

Redesigning Druid Raid Utility: In this discussion, it’s important to talk about the primary baseline utility available in raids. Only feral and guardian bring stampeding roar. Instead, balance brings back Innervate (buffing mana of healers). Restoration brings a single-target mark of the wild buff that adds to the base stats of one player in your raid. The major concern of the utility changes is that restoration may not bring enough unique utility that helps the raid in day-saving ways. Being able to move your entire raid out of the fire quickly allows you to save the day more than a passive minor DPS boost to one of your raiders each encounter. Keep in mind that resto druids won’t often be tanking or doing significant DPS in raids, making the affinity relatively minor in terms of frequently used off-role utility (whereas the other specs may benefit from the affinity utility more for raiding).

Design goal #3: PVP abilities are now chosen in the PVP talent trees, instead of being baseline

One of the biggest loss of baseline buttons happens in the way of PVP abilities no longer being baseline. In some cases, they significantly reduced the number of crowd control and survivability buttons aimed at PVP effectiveness. This is felt in forms such as Cyclone no longer being baseline for all druids. Instead, cyclone is an optional PVP talent, with decisions still being made about which specs will or won’t have access to cyclone via PVP talents.  This is also a factor of why some of the druid utility was taken away – as the goal was to trim down survivability, crowd control, and movement abilities across all the classes. In the PVP talent tree, you will choose 6 talents that augment your primary role, including being able to re-acquire some abilities that are no longer baseline.

Conclusions

Every class is worried about the removal of abilities in Legion. However, at this point, many classes have buttons they don’t use very often, are redundant with buttons other specs have access to, don’t fit the core thematic design, and/or are PVP buttons better suited for the PVP talent tree. Thus, while there may be fewer baseline abilities, the total maximum set of buttons for every class is still on the order of 20 to 25. If you aren’t happy with around 20 buttons, then the problem is with the design of those buttons, rather than needing more buttons. I would anticipate many more changes between now and the launch of Legion. Thus, it is better to focus on discussing why druids need a specific button to be effective and fun, rather than worrying about the total number of buttons available. With alpha soon resuming (and other specs likely to open for testing soon), we’ll still have a lot of work to do. However, in giving feedback, keep in mind these three core design goals for how abilities and talents are designed for Legion. Saying you want more buttons just for the sake of having lots of buttons isn’t an effective feedback strategy. However, resto druids got back Cyclone as a PVP talent by showing that the spec needed strong crowd control options in terms of fulfilling the core playstyle that was still consistent with the design goals.

The most important design goal of Legion is to make sure that class specializations feel unique, effective, and fun. In many cases, I think removing some abilities to make room for new design goals might help the game overall move forward. Don’t let fear of change and fear of “pruning” impact our ability to give solid design feedback. It’s too soon in the development process to panic, as anything broken now allows time for it to be fixed. Things that are broken can only be fixed with giving good constructive and specific feedback about what Legion things aren’t working in the context of Legion’s goals. I for one welcome this “out with the old, in with the new” design style for the next expansion.

Posted in Beta Feedback, Druid - General, Feral Bear tanking, Feral DPS Cat, Legion, Moonkin Balance DPS, Player Versus Player, Restoration Healing Trees, Written By Lissanna

Druid class changes in Legion from class Q&A

Today was “class info release day” at Blizzcon. I will need to spend more time over the next few days writing about the Blizzcon announcement, but here are some major highlights from the class-specific Q&A that happened in the DMF area (that wasn’t available on the livestream):

All specs

  • Baseline, you will get fewer abilities for specs outside of your main specialization. So, balance won’t have a bunch of mostly useless bear, cat, and resto healing abilities. Instead, balance will pick a talent where you choose to have a secondary specialization in resto, feral, OR guardian. That secondary spec would be slightly weaker than the first. This allows Guardian druids to shift into moonkin form or cat form (depending on the talent choice they made) and do useful amounts of damage when their tanking partner taunts the boss off them. This same choice applies to cat and resto, as well.

Moonkin

  • Eclipse is gone. Playing the UI by watching the bar go back and forth just wasn’t a good playstyle. Never really worked well.
  • Balance has a focus on DOTs. Also gains and spends resources in a new way than Eclipse. This means balance gets a different mastery. Will keep existing DOT spells (moonfire, sunfire, starfall).
  • Balance will get Innervate as a specialization exclusive ability. Can cast innervate on other people: increase mana regen of your healer (or arcane mage!). No one else gets the ability to give mana to other players. This replaces Stampeding Roar which wasn’t thematically appropriate for balance.
  • The planned class blog will go live some time between Sunday and Tuesday, where you can learn a lot more details about these changes and more! I will work really hard beta testing balance along with the other balance theorycrafters. Once the info is live, I will work at collecting feedback and organizing it.

Restoration

  • They will reduce the rejuv spam feel of the spec, but overall the spec is in decent shape in terms of the overall toolset.
  • Resto will get a single-target “mark of the wild style” buff they can put on another player to boost them. No specific details on this. (this is in place of stampeding roar, which is guardian/feral exclusive. Turns out trees can’t actually roar.)
  • Changes to the talent system will impact how you specialize your heals for a fight. The talent changes will impact rotational play.

Guardian

  • Bears no longer dodge as their core tanking mechanic. It didn’t make sense that bear was all about dodge. That was really a mechanical thing that came from using Agility as the primary stat due to how gear worked. Magical dancing circus bears that dodged attacks is thematically inappropriate and won’t be around in Legion.
  • Bears will focus on armor and health instead – big beefy bears can take a hit and keep on going.
  • Vengence is gone. They will make the abilities and core mechanics of tanking classes work better without vengeance.
  • Tanking-related things in general will undergo some changes that are better discussed elsewhere by people who understand tank mechanics better than I do.

Feral

  • They didn’t announce much in the way of specific changes on the Q&A. There will be tweaks that fix some core problems, but no major overhaul like guardian and balance. They mentioned a couple little things like not casting rejuv in cat form. Details coming soonish.
Posted in Blizzcon, Druid - General, Legion, Moonkin Balance DPS, Written By Lissanna
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New expansion: Druid class halls & form reskins

The new World of Warcraft expansion (Warcraft: Legion) brings with it a flurry of new features. A few of the changes are particularly interesting to the druid class. The new expansion overall looks amazing – with tons of different lore progression on a bunch of different story threads. This story is for all the WOW lore fans who want to see the main story’s progression back at home in Azeroth.

Artifact weapons – Clarification for kitties

First, the new Artifact Weapon system will allow for customizing legendary weapons, with awesome new skins and lore. However, feral and guardian druids can’t see their weapons. So, instead, your cat and bear skins will change based on the weapon customization.

Updated cat druid models

Note that they did not say ANYTHING about restoration or moonkin druids. I’m seeking clarification on what is happening with moonkin/resto (mostly by spamming everyone on twitter). For cat and bear druids, we know that the choices you make about your artifact weapon change your skins. However, moonkin and resto druids can already see their weapons – so we need more specific clarification on whether moonkin keep their 1.0 models while cats get to be fangs of the first nightsaber.

The other thing they didn’t talk about was whether or not you could have more than one artifact weapon. We don’t yet know how artifact weapons interact with Dual Specs. If you run two different specs and actually use them – are you locked to only one spec due to the weapon system, or can you progress more than one weapon? Overall, the idea of artifact weapons sound neat, but we’ll have to see how the practical implications work.

UPDATE: The press kit came with pictures of what we believe to be the Fang’s weapon graphic you would see outside of your feral form:

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Druid Class Halls – Druids are for fun times with friends

In the announcement, they talked about a class-specific hall where members of your class will come together. This builds off the concept of garrisons, but are seemingly more social hubs for activity. This means for druids that we will be able to host frequent dance parties. I expect to organize druid parties periodically for hanging out in our druid class halls. This has a chance to be a really fun feature, if done correctly. If anything, however, the druid hall will be the best hall. Druids are for fun times with friends!

Emerald Dream raid and druid lore

Not to be outdone by features, this expansion will have a significant amount of druid lore (including the site where Malfurion first learned about druidism). This includes a long awaited raid where we will venture into the Emerald Dream. Thus, for people who thought Warlords of Draenor fell short in terms of lore, there will be tons of lore for everyone to look forward to!

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Talents specific for PVP

They are making a change to the PVP system that will include talents designed only for PVP. This will change how your druid plays in PVP compared to PVE. This expanded PVP system includes a lot of different features that will be relevant to everyone. However, a different set of talents for PVP may ultimately give more flexibility in balancing the class.

I will definitely be here blogging all of the new expansion news, views, and changes – particularly those relevant to druids. At this point, given the heavy class-focus, I may even consider going back to my druid  for my primary character. I look forward to what the future brings!

Posted in Druid - General, Feral DPS Cat, Legion, Player Versus Player, Written By Lissanna

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