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Repost: Talent points: When more isn’t better

Remember back in Wrath of the Lich King (not that long ago), when we had these hugely cumbersome talent trees? You had to invest 5 points in things that you get for 1 or 2 points now. New players looked at the giant web of 1% increases to abilities, and talents buffing abilities you didn’t normally even use (ie. Improved faerie fire for moonkin was a source of constant frustration for the druid community for a long time). You spent talent points on buffs and debuffs that benefited your raid, so everyone spent 2 of those talent points improving Mark of the Wild (we spent 5 points on improved MOTW back in Vanilla & TBC). As a reminder of how daunting those talent trees used to be, lets take a look at a picture of the WOTLK talent calculator:


Why am I showing this to you? Well, lets take a look at our very recent history. In this case, the final talent point in a tree is 51 points deep. For Cataclysm, rather than making the talent trees 56 points deep (and then 61 in MoP), they shrunk the talent trees for  Cataclysm. This streamlining got rid of a lot of talent point sinks (no more Improved Mark of the Wild), and reduced the point cost of a lot of talents (ie. Cataclysm’s tree has mostly 1 to 3 point investments). Cataclysm also constrained you to only being able to put points in one tree until you hit the end, to stop the endless cycle of trying to create ultimate hybrid builds by investing points split more evenly between two trees (ie. the “restokin” specs this blog was named after).

As someone who maintains a leveling guide for WOW, I often interact with new players to the game who are first trying to navigate the druid class and figure out how to spend their talents. Talent trees largely have a “right” and “wrong” answer. For a restoration druid at level 85, Wild Growth is NOT optional, it’s NOT a choice. It is something you HAVE to take or you will fail at being a restoration druid. What is the difference between automatically receiving Wild Growth as you level and placing a talent point in Wild Growth? Well, really absolutely nothing. The only real decisions you get to make are for talents that increase your damage/healing/survivability/utility by leess than .05%, as those end up being non-mandatory talents, and when you run out of “mandatory” talents, you are free to pick through whatever unhelpful dredges are left in the talent tree to figure out which ones are the most likely to provide some benefit (and often times, people make the wrong choices even for “optional” talents).

However, Mists of Pandaria (and beyond) have the same problem of needing to give you more talent points and additional class progression in a way that has the ability to turn talents back into this sort of jumbled mess.More levels means more points, and that means more filler junk, more confusion,  more spreadsheets, and creates all sorts of balancing issues.

My recent adventures in Star Wars: The Old Republic has taught me one thing… That more talent points isn’t always better. The SWTOR talent system is modeled off of the Burning Crusade and WotLK style talent trees. When I started my first character, I had to figure out what talents I wanted to invest in. As a brand-new character, I looked at the talent tree on Torhed (wowhead’s SWTOR equivalent) and saw a bunch of talents that largely say: “Improves your Blah by 1%”. When you are new to a class or game, you don’t know what those abilities do, just that the talent says it makes the ability a tiny bit better. You often invest points in talents that you realize later you aren’t ever actually using. I ended up having to change my talent spec somewhere between level 20 and level 25 because I realized that my talents just weren’t fitting the rotation I was actually using in combat. The talents just didn’t seem to  be doing anything to help me, and getting to place a talent point in minor stat upgrades every level didn’t really have any real meaning at all – it just slowed down my leveling process by having to go out in search of trainers that could help me undo all my mistakes (and it took me half an hour to find a trainer that would unlearn my talents in SWTOR).

Another approach to “talents”: Diablo III
In addition, I spent some time playing with the Diablo III beta, and saw how their skill system ended up feeling a lot more meaningful than the talent choices I was making in SWTOR. In Diablo III, you choose what skills you want to use (and add runes to augment those abilities), and your choice of one ability prevents you from having access to others, as there is a limit on how many abilities you can have at one point in time. In Diablo III’s skill calculator, you can have up to 6 active skills (which you can change if you need to), and you get to choose 1 of 5 possible runestones to modify that ability, and you get 3 passive skills that also improve your effectiveness. In this case, there isn’t an obvious answer as to what “spec” you should be, since every Wizzard may end up with a slightly different arrangement of skills, runestones, and passive abilities. While you still have the opportunity of making bad choices, you do get the ability to make your character’s build much different from other people and it allows for much more variety.

Based on all of this, I decided that I am all in favor of Mists of Pandaria’s new talent trees.

The MoP system keeps the best part of WoW’s talent system for each class (ie. the core choice of being resto, moonkin, cat, or bear for druids), and borrowed some of the better choice mechanics from other games that force you to pick one at the exclusion of being able to have another ability instead. In MoP’s system, you don’t choose your core spells through this new talent tree. Instead, you choose utility abilities that will augment your character’s power (regardless of which specialization you choose). All those old “mandatory” talents become things you automatically pick up, which were never really about making choices in the first place.

Does the Pre-Beta version of the MoP talent calculator still have flaws? Sure. Some of the utility choices don’t really provide something every druid would want to use. However, I think those individual talents in the MoP system are a lot easier to fix than a plagued system that permeates too many video games. I welcome the simplification in terms of number of points, and I welcome the increased complexity of not always having a “right” answer. Sometimes, simple systems still have a lot of complexity. At the very least, the MoP talent system allows for a lot more growing room for future expansions.

Posted in Druid - General, Feral Bear tanking, Feral DPS Cat, Moonkin Balance DPS, Restoration Healing Trees, Written By Lissanna

Repost: Bearcat Madness

OK, so I (Garnaph) know this is a Resto/Boomkin blog, but it’s about time I posted something that’s pretty hardcore Feral. Blizzard is soon going to split Feral into two separate trees, and what I’m about to say is the reason why. Also, with this being the last tier in which I’ll be able to pull off this trick, this is the perfect time to blog about it.

My raiding team got into P2 madness this week on 10 man normal, in spite of the fact that most of my top raiders are away, and I had to grab guys from the other team (which is also having attendance issues), alts, basically whatever I could find to get a group together. It’s not a kill, but progression is progression, and this was a pretty big deal for us.

Our success came down to a few things. Naturally, the team worked together well, but I’d like to think I pushed everything I could out of my Druid. Arielle and Reesi talk a lot about Bearcatting. Here is why it’s the most OP crap in Wow right now.

That’s me, tanking tentacles when my Pally tank gets an impale, but otherwise staying in cat as much as possible. My gear is optimised for cat, with reforges into stats that are good for both (Mastery, then Crit), with Mastery and Agi enchants, DPS leg enchant, and Assassin’s Step on boots, because I just can’t live without the speed increase in Bear. Oh, and the DPS meta.

Then, I have a spec that’s as pure cat as I can get it, with the vital Bear talents thrown in : Thick HideNatural Reaction, and Pulverize. When I shift bear, everyting works as intended. I had to make sure I took Stampede for Kitty 4pc, and Blood in the Water for 2pc. With 4pc, the kitty rotation is a joke. About to drop Rip? Either 1+CP Bite at under 60%, or pop Tiger’s Fury, get a free Ravage and 2 Shreds with the energy you just got, and you’re good to go for a 5CP Rip. If your target is over 80% health, Ravage is basically a Guaranteed 2CP.

Speaking of tier bonuses, I make sure I’m in bear when we’re on the 4th platform (we do Blue last, so we eat the shard on the last platform), which means my FR 4pc is up as the raid takes the mental burst. 15% health + 30% healing taken (make sure to have the FR major glyph). I also stay in bear when we’re killing the shard, since I don’t want to strain my healers any more than they already are.

So basically, rather than sitting around being useless when I’m not needed as a tank, I push DPS as good as the next guy, which helps to get over the fairly rough DPS check on later platforms, where you start losing haste, dmg done, while having to deal with adds that are increasingly hard to kill, especially once Alexstrasza decides to take a nap.

In spite of the emphasis on cat dps, remember there are times that a bear can push nice AOE. When bloods are about to spawn, I shift bear, autoattack the limb to get some rage, then as they move in range, I pop enrage (15% dmg anyone?), and Swipe-Thrash-Swipe. With the Spellweaver splash damage, plus the Vengeance that you quickly get, this is some intense burst AOE.

Oh, one final tip. Since cats really suffer on target switches, ask your raid leader really nicely if you can stay on limbs, and not have to switch to take down Blistering Tentacles. It makes your life a lot easier, and you push way more DPS, which in the end is good for the raid. Alternatively, just don’t switch, and see if anyone notices :P Being a raid leader myself, I get away with murder sometimes…

Druids are the only class in game with 2 specs in one. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Posted in Feral Bear tanking, Feral DPS Cat, Written By Garnaph

Repost: The Baleroc Feral trick

The Baleroc Feral trick

via Restokin by Garnaph on 7/14/11


We were told you needed to 2 tank Bale, and that solo tanking it wasn’t possible in 359 gear. Yet we pulled it off, due to a few tricks that we came up with. They worked so well, I felt it would be useful to share what we did, as it’s pretty druid-specific :

Our DK was our tank for the encounter. He popped AMS for inferno blade, and popped Dancing Rune Weapon for decimation blade (he dodged+parried half of them). Also, since Death strike scales with DMG taken, a DS right after a decimation blade hit was very effective.

The point I want to mention, however, is what I ended up doing on the fight. I went as kitty DPS, but took all the spell dmg tank talents (2/2 Natural Reaction, 3/3Perseverance), and kept my FR glyph on. When it was time for me to tank a shard (I picked up each odd one as it spawned), I went bear, popped BS and SI or FR (and got our disc priest to PS me on the 3rd one when SI/FR were both on CD), and tanked it to around 20 stacks, running out only when my health dipped under 50% (most dps can only survive to around 10 in our raid). This helped our healers get incredibly high stacks of Vital Spark, which made the single tank strat work really nicely. I also managed to push 16k DPS, in spite of being in bearform for 40% of the fight.

Our hunter picked up the remainder of my shard, and our warlock (with Shadow Ward and Soul Link) tanked the even shards, with our rogue picking up the remainder there.

The Holy Pally was the first one to heal me, on the very first shard, and this is no doubt why his healing was well ahead of the others in the end.

I thought I’d try this as a gimmick – I honestly didn’t expect it to work as well as it did. I can certainly recommend it for any other ferals, especially if you’re MS kitty.

Our WoL parse for the kill using this strat :

Posted in Feral Bear tanking, Written By Garnaph

Repost: Tanking Q’s

Tanking Q’s

via Restokin by Garnaph on 7/13/11


I read in the 2009 version of Lissanna’s post someone asking if a tank version of the questions existed, so I figured I’d create one.

  • What is the name, class, and spec of your primary tank?

Garnaph, Druid, Feral Bear.

  • What is your primary group tanking environment? (i.e. raids, pvp, 5 mans)

Purely 10-mans. I often offspec resto/boomkin. I also run 5 mans to farm VP, but it’s not as much of a concern when it comes to how I play my class.

  • What is your favorite tanking ability for your class and why?

Thrash. Nothing is as satisfying as seeing everything in range having the blood droplets animation. It also hits like a truck.

  • What tanking ability do you use least for your class and why?

Feral Charge. I actually didn’t even have it in my spec for a while, until last night. If I need to get somewhere quickly, I prefer to use stampeding roar, and take some healers and dps with me.

  • What do you feel is the biggest strength of your tanking class and why?

Unchallenged mitigation. We have more armor than any other tanking class at the moment, an 18% passive damage reduction talent, and another 6% spell mitigation (24% total for magic damage). When soft enrage mechanics kick in, you want a bear tanking the boss.
We’re also the only tank who can be taken semi-seriously as a DPS. I often do 2-3 times as much DPS as my 2nd tank.

  • What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your tanking class and why?

Lack of HP makes us vulnerable in some fights. Our abilities also don’t scale with HP or damage taken very well (aside from a small benefit to SD from vengeance), so if you take a string of magic hits, you’re in big trouble as a bear.

  • In a raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best tanking assignment for you?

I generally prefer to add tank. We have some very nice AoE tanking abilities that make holding aggro easy, and in the small windows when you’re not taking, you can battle res, innervate, or tranquility – all of which greatly assist your raid. You can also push out some effective cat dps if there are lengthy periods where you are not needed as a tank.

  • What tanking class do you enjoy tanking with most and why?

My tanking wingman is a DK, and we balance each other out well. His abilities compliment my own nicely – where he can’t aoe tank so well, I can. Where I can’t scale with HP (e.g. Bael), he can.

  • What tanking class do you enjoy tanking with least and why?

I’ve had some bad experiences with warriors lately. Sad, since I didn’t have a problem with them in Wrath.

  • What is your worst habit as a tank?

Thinking of myself as a DPS. I sometimes let Demo Roar drop so I can get more vengeance, or I’ll charge into a group of adds and thrash them, just to do some DPS. This often puts unnecessary pressure on healers.

I also often pay more attention to raid leading than to my tanking. So I’ll get DPS killed by a breath attack, or not move something to the correct place on time, because I’m paying attention to something else.

  • What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while tanking?

When someone goes mad on DPS the instant you pull, before you’ve had a chance to build vengeance. DPS should know better by now.

  • Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other tanks for PvE tanking?

Not completely. Our passive damage mitigation is arguably overpowered at the moment, and our mastery is pretty broken (although the two balance each other out, I guess).
We could really do with us scaling better with HP all around.

  • What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a tank?

I obviously use WoL like most. I also run the mod Fatality, which shows how everyone died mid raid, so I don’t have to find out what wiped us hours later, when logs are uploaded.
I’m very critical of myself over cooldown usage. Even if I didn’t die, correct cooldown usage could have saved a healer some mana, or allowed them to heal someone else, who then wouldn’t have died.
Generally the criteria for spotting fail are :
(1) Did I keep pulverize up as close to 100% as possible?
(2) Did I push competitive DPS?
(3) Did I die to something stupid?

  • What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your tanking class?

People think that because you don’t wear plate, or use a shield, you’re not a real tank. I guess this stems back to TBC, where we couldn’t get uncrushable, so no one really took bears all that seriously. Recently Blizz has blurred the lines between tanks a fair amount, so a lot of that just isn’t true any more.
A lot of players still think of Bears as an offtank – even though this is a job I usually pick for myself anyway, we are quite capable of taking hits from a boss and surviving as well as any other tank.

  • What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new tanks of your class to learn?

The idea of a priority system that is based around both mitigation and DPS is a tough one to get to grips with. You want to push top DPS for threat, while also keeping Demo Roar up, and using your cooldowns appropriately. This can take a fair amount of practice to get right.

  • If someone were to try to evaluate your performance as a tank via recount, what sort of patterns would they see (i.e. too much damage taken, not enough cooldown usage, etc)?

They’d see me dropping pulverize way more often than I should (I changed my power auras recently to make this much harder to do, however).
They’d also see much less cooldown usage than ideal.

  • Dodge or Mastery, and why?

I’m still stacking dodge on all pieces. I know there’s a growing argument for taking Exp, or going for a full DPS Mastery/Exp/Hit build, but until such time as my DPS would be a factor in my raids overcoming enrage mechanics, it just seems far too risky for me.

  • What tanking class do you feel you understand least?

Warriors. Perhaps it’s because it’s the only class I’ve never tanked with personally, but they just seem really complicated and non-intuitive to me. Taking a look at other classes it’s fairly clear what your rotation should be to maximise mitigation – for a warrior it doesn’t seem to clear to me.

  • What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in tanking?

Addons : TidyPlates (with threat addon), Skada (which includes a threat meter).
Macros : I have yells built into all of my tanking cds, so healers know when I start to panic. I also have healing potions and health stones macro’d into my FR macro, so when I hit low health, I pop it and my health almost instantly climbs back up.

  • Do you strive primarily for balance between your tanking stats, or do you stack some much higher than others, and why?

I reforge all to dodge, so I guess this applies to what pieces of gear I choose, as some stats will be be left behind regardless. Primarily I look for Mastery pieces, preferably also with Exp/Hit. I try pickup as much hit as I can, as Demo Roar missing a lot really distracts me from doing my job. I know I’m going to get flamed for not taking Exp instead, but this works well for me. Every time I pickup some hit, I can immediately see Demo Roar hit more, and it makes my life a ton easier.

Posted in Feral Bear tanking, Written By Garnaph

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