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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


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


3.3.3 Druid changes – for moonkin pvp (or not)

First, the changes:

  • Typhoon mana cost has been reduced from 32% of base mana to 25% of base mana.
  • Starfall damage has been increased. Now causes 563 to 653 Arcane damage (Up from 433 to 503) and 101 Arcane damage (Up from 78) to all other enemies within 5 yards. Spell Power coefficients also increased.
  • Nature’s Grasp: Now has 3 charges, up from 1.

Typhoon:

First, the typhoon mana change is designed to help make typhoon not cause moonkin in PvP to go OOM. Typhoon needs to be something that moonkin can use often, so making it slightly less of a drain on their mana pools is a helpful change.

Starfall:

Designed to help starfall feel more useful. Gives probably a small-ish DPS increase for PvE (depending on how much you use starfall already). Unlikely to do anything significant for moonkin PvP. If each tick does a couple hundred more damage (at most), and you only get off 2 or 3 ticks in a PvP situation (at most), then it’s not really going to do what the developers had hoped it would do. Starfall is always going to be interrupted by Crowd Control, and no amount of crying is going to convince the developers otherwise, so the best hope for making starfall more useful for PvP is being able to capitalize on getting off the first couple ticks when you can.

UPDATE: It looks like starfall should be doing somewhere around 3x’s more on the PTR compared to what it is on Live. Should be a nice PvE boost. Not sure for PvP yet how it’s going to work out.

Nature’s Grasp:

Now has 3 charges? I’m really confused on how this could actually work for moonkin in terms of being something useful. It’s much more likely to help resto druids escape, since resto has the mobility to keep HOTs going while root-kiting. Feral  already has instant-cast cylones & roots with their cat form talent, which doesn’t require them to get hit in the first place. Moonkin can’t rely on nature’s grasp as an actual escape mechanism. Moonkin PvP’ers are worried that more procs that go to waste is not going to be helpful because it will just contribute to the diminishing returns (or just snag pets that you don’t want snagged). Unless it could root all 3 targets at once, then the charges won’t help moonkin (and it’s unlikely that they would give feral & resto an AOE root).

The nature’s grasp change, combined with all the other changes, really need to be tested on the PTR, and people need to post constructive feedback about why they are (or aren’t) working. However, anything that makes this a viable escape mechanism for moonkin would likely be overpowering for resto druids. In fact, resto probably benefits the most from this in PvP because they have improved barkskin and other mechanics (like instant-cast spells) that help them escape while also being able to cast something worthwhile on the run. We really need to see this in action to get a better idea of how it’s effecting the 3 specs.

UPDATE: GC says that the roots from Nature’s Grasp can apply to other people without breaking the previous roots (so you could potentially have 4 people rooted at once if you were super lucky).

Conclusions:

All 3 of these are buffs. The typhoon one buffs PvP moonkin’s mana. The second one buffs moonkin PvE. The third is likely to benefit resto druids the most. None of these are the actual moonkin PvP fixes that they were looking for, which is why there has been a string of rather non-productive posts on the damage dealing forums. The lack of focus in all the moonkin threads, however, makes it particularly hard to see if the buffs are actually going to help moonkin PvP or not. I’m hoping that people will start talking about their actual PTR PvP results once things settle down. I gave up on moonkin PvP so long ago that I don’t even think I could do any worthwhile PTR PvP testing at this point. The good, productive, posts are also being lost in the low signal-to-noise ratio on the forums.

UPDATE – More info on Starfall:

Hey Hamlet, sorry for any confusion. We probably should have just waited until you guys could test it on the PTR.

I think I figured out how you all are calculating the coefficient, so maybe this will make more sense. Again, I’m not 100% sure we’re speaking the same language here. If I have time, maybe I will just log in with a moonkin and compare the before and after and post numbers.

Main star
Old coefficient: 4.8%
New coefficient: 37%

Splash damage
Old coefficient: 1.2%
New coefficient: 13%

As I said, these numbers are very generous. If Balance druids melt the world we may have to back off of them.

Posted in Moonkin Balance DPS, Patch 3.3 WotLK, Patches, Player Versus Player


PTR patch notes for 3.2.2 – Moonkin/Feral PvP buffs

From the PTR patch notes:

# Balance
* Moonkin Form: This form now also reduces the damage the druid takes while stunned by 15%.

* Typhoon: The knockback distance from this spell has been increased to match Thunderstorm.

These moonkin changes are entirely designed around PvP, as they are fixes designed to increase moonkin’s overall survivability. I’m interested to see how this works out overall. It’s not going to fix all the problems, but it’s going to help prevent the moonkin from totally getting stunlocked & burst down so fast, and will give them at least some fighting chance to better contribute with the larger knockback distance. At the very least, druids with moonkin PvP gear should try to get out on the PTR and give things a try. They are also planning to fix the balance of power tooltip (thanks!).

# Feral Combat
* Predatory Strikes: This talent now also causes the druid’s finishing moves to provide a 7/13/20% chance per combo point to make the next Nature spell with a cast time below 10 seconds instant cast.

This also has to be a PvP change, designed to make it easier for feral druids to shift out of form and heal. At 5 combo points, this provides a 100% chance, but it makes it so that resto druids & moonkin aren’t going to necessarily want to dip into feral for it just for instant heals, and feral druids won’t be able to just do 1 or 2 combo points for a reliable free heal, either. I think it’s a neat mechanic, and very similar to something that enhancement shaman have.

It would also be nice if they provided a little more defense for feral and balance druids shifting out to humanoid form to heal, as they do for resto druids who shift out of tree form. However, maximizing moonkin’s ability to stay in moonkin form, and shortening the time needed for feral to spend out of cat/bear form are neat changes overall.

Posted in Druid - General, Feral DPS Cat, Moonkin Balance DPS, Patch 3.2 WotLK, Player Versus Player


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