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Update for Legion Class Prep

Hi everyone! I haven’t been as active blogging this summer as I’ve been testing legion. I have, however, been busy with writing guides & playtesting for the expansion. Here are some important things to know for my Legion plans:

  1. I am returning to my moonkin/resto druid for Legion raiding, after a 2 expansion (MOP & WOD) hiatus where I raided on my mage. While fire mages will be lots of fun, the druid class hall is just far more awesome than the mage class hall. Plus Eclipse is gone and they updated moonkin form, so I had nothing left to complain about.
  2. My druid leveling guide will be ready to go for 7.0 by the time the pre-patch hits. I have finished a lot of the leveling guide for newbie druids. They made changes to the 1 to 10 leveling process for druids and other relevant changes that I discuss in the guide.
  3. I will have short 7.0 survival guides for Resto and for Balance that will cover the basic changes for pre-patch. This will cover general spell changes (what’s new, what’s gone, and how to survive for a month until Legion launches).
  4. I will make an intro Legion end-game guide for Resto (targeting new level 110 players) that will be ready by the time Legion hits. This will likely be in transition during the pre-patch month.
  5. I won’t likely make a full balance 110 guide, but I will have plenty of resources and basics (such as what life is like after Eclipse is gone). I will also cover the basics of artifact weapons, class halls, and other things important to druids.
  6. My guild (Undying Resolution on Elune) made it to 10/13 Mythic. We currently have open recruitment for raiders in Legion (mostly DPS, but also a tank).  We’re running Wed/Thurs progression nights from 8 to 11 Eastern (heroic/mythic in legion), plus Sunday more relaxed content (achievements, normals, or alt stuff).

Beta updates:

  • For leveling 100 to 110, resto druids can pretty effectively use balance or feral affinity (which should actually do decent damage with a fair amount of survivability). So, the problem for resto druids of healer leveling viability is mostly solved.
  • They removed the gold cost for spec swapping, such that running multiple druid specs a lot easier.
  • While you can’t max out 4 artifact weapons very quickly, you can pick one “main” weapon that you keep slotting the highest, and one or two other “off-spec” weapons at about 80% of the power of the main weapon. My /played on my beta druid at 110 is 12 hours. My balance spec has 14 total ranks (across 7 traits) spent in my balance weapon. I have 10 total ranks (across 5 traits) spent in my resto weapon. At some point, my main weapon’s ranks cost somewhere around 10,000 points, and my resto weapon’s traits may still be under 1,000 – in which case, it makes sense to buy cheap traits on the other weapons if you swap a lot.
  • Also, the druid class hall has a moonkin teacher instructing baby moonkin how to cast spells. Except for that one bad student who won’t stop flying in circles (thanks Poneria and T.G.Q. for finding the baby moonkin for me!). The baby moonkin also make me sad because they remind me of Mourninglory and her 8 moonkinlings. She would have loved this feature if she were around to see it. While the moonkin’s name isn’t a reference to Mourninglory, I still would like to think of it as a small tribute to her helpfulness, as well as a tribute to all druids who work hard to teach others and be kind to the community. It’s nice to remember sometimes how great the druid and Warcraft community can be.

And on that sappy note, bring on Legion!




Posted in Druid - General, Legion, Written By Lissanna

Legion Alpha: Resto Druid Mastery

The restoration druid’s mastery has a long history of changes. This is due in part to the fact that Resto druids are a really difficult concept to design, as we’re the only “HOT-based” healer, where our heals tick slowly over time.These HOTs are intended to be weaved together with a small number of direct heals we have access to (so that we can keep up with some amounts of burst damage). We are once again facing a change in the resto druid mastery bonus. The feedback on the Alpha forums from people doing mythic raiding has been overwhelmingly negative. This thread is going to try and contextualize this change, talk about where it falls short, and suggest what other design options might be available. Ultimately, we need to come up with possible solutions, given so many failed designs that have come before.

The short history of resto druid mastery bonuses

To understand why Resto druids have a new mastery (they don’t like) on Legion Alpha right now, we have to talk about all the failed Resto mastery designs. I inserted links to previous mastery discussions along with short summaries (but people are welcome to visit my old mastery threads to see the controversy & how our feelings about mastery changed over time).

  • Mastery #1: Our first mastery made HOTs heal more on low health targets. This mastery never hit the Live servers because it turned out to be numerically terrible, as I documented in early testing. This was similar to the shaman mastery (which shaman really dislike), but actually worse because each individual HOT tick heals for so little.
  • Mastery #2Our next mastery increased direct healing on people who had a HOT. I initially really loved the concept of this mastery, as the post I linked showed. However, it ended up being really problematic in raid healing, where it just didn’t work to constantly chase HOTs with direct heals. Due to the fact that each HOT was on a single person, the minute you had 20 people to heal, the mastery mostly fell apart because having to cast 2 heals on every person was too cumbersome to benefit in raids. This meant that 20-man raid healers didn’t enjoy healing very much during the short period of time where this mastery was live.
  • Mastery #3: Next comes the version of Harmony where casting a direct heal gives you a buff  that then increases your HOT healing done. I will quote directly what made this so appealing: “The best part of the new mastery is that it puts the buff on YOU, and not on your target.” This version of the mastery is one that people came to know & liked (after knowing what the alternatives were), and some version of this mastery stuck around the longest.

New Legion Resto Mastery Explained

The new resto druid mastery for Legion increases your healing done for each HOT you have on that particular target (which can stack up to the maximum number of HOTs the druid can stack). The current Legion mastery thus requires stacking multiple HOTs on the same target. Importantly different from Mastery #2, this increases all your healing done to that target, and allows for stacking the mastery buff multiple times. While the first HOT gets some benefit from the mastery, you need 2 or more HOTs on a target to get the full bonus. Note that this stacks on your target, and NOT on you, which is an important design consideration.

The good:

If you heal one target, it’s possible to stack lots of HOTs on them (lifebloom, 2x rejuvs, regrowth, wild growth). In 5-mans, you’ll have a decent number of HOTs spread around the group, so that most people will have 2 HOTs on them. Numerically, in small groups, the new mastery is the same or better in terms of total healing done today. This also has the potential to be a significant buff to our tank healing, something they want to be relevant in Legion.

The bad:

The new mastery in Legion is actually similar to the Mastery #2 described above. However, it does something slightly different, since the HOTs boost other HOTs in addition to boosting the direct heals on the target. For the same reason that HOT chasing with Mastery #2 was bad, the new mastery suffers the same fatal flaw. To do good healing, you have to cast a large number of spells on a small number of people, rather than healing the person who needs to be healed the most. This requires a lot of setup time, as the “buff” is specific to the person you are healing, and not to you as the healer. While someone else can jump right in, you have to anticipate who might be taking damage and then cast 2 to 3 heals on them to get the full mastery benefit. This is going to be somewhat tedious in raid dungeons, where you may end up devaluing Mastery to a great extent in 20-man raids (where only the tank will reliably get the full mastery bonus out of your heals).

Druids are designed as HOT healers, where we are slow and require ramp up time to reach our full healing strength. Rather than spamming true AOE heals, we weave multiple single-target HOTs on tons of people between AOE heals that have cooldowns. Stacking multiple HOTs on the same person is a slow process – especially if you are responsible for watching 20 people (at 20 people, HOT stacking becomes a potentially frustrating process).

Sigma suggests (on the alpha forums) that: I get the impression that people are significantly overestimating how many HoTs one has to have stacked to get reasonable value out of the mastery.” This is exactly the problem that makes the mastery feel psychologically bad, though. The answer is always going to be “more than 1 HOT”, and in that case, you are HOT-chasing like we did with mastery #2. People are always going to feel like the best strategy is to chase a HOT with another HOT so that you can maximize mastery healing. The mastery largely isn’t passive bonuses to your preferred healing style. It requires you to actively make decisions about whether or not you want the full benefit of your mastery or if you are okay only benefiting partially from it. Anyone interested in maximizing their mastery has to cast more heals than they might want on a particular target.

This is ultimately why Mastery #2 failed: It feels bad to have to chase your HOTs with more spells (either direct heals or HOTs). The mastery increases the feeling like you have to cast 2 heals for every person you heal (when everyone else around you casts 1 and moves on). This impact on our healing style in 20-man raids isn’t all that fun and makes it hard to keep up with other healers who don’t have to ‘waste GCDs’. So, for 5-mans, the new Legion mastery works fine, but in raids, it feels bad & taxing. Numerically on paper, the new mastery works out fine – but it feels psychologically wrong. The new mastery changes how we heal in ways that forces you to constantly think about the mastery, rather than constantly thinking about the best way to save someone’s life. In that way, you are investing a lot of time into a small number of people, which isn’t a viable 20-man strategy where your HOT investment in that smaller number of people is ultimately going to be stomped on by other people’s big AOE burst heals and result in overhealing.

Is there another option?

The most important point my trip down memory lane highlights is that the most popular druid mastery (the one we currently have today) works best because it places the buff on the healer. The most obvious solution would just be to go back to the old mastery if the new one won’t work. However, most of the time we were using Swiftmend to “prime” our mastery today, and the cooldown change for Swiftmend means we’d have to rely on a different strategy for getting our mastery buff (which would probably waste fewer GCDs than a HOT-chasing strategy). Overall, looking at the history of druids, it would be more rewarding and feel more natural if the mastery worked with our HOT spreading design, rather than requiring HOT stacking.

It might be possible to change the Legion mastery to put a stacking buff on the druid  that increases our healing done for each person who has a HOT on them. We’d obviously need a cap on any type of self-buff so that it didn’t spiral out of control (e.g., maybe 3?). That said, with the fact that druids always spread around our HOTs, that kind of mastery might feel too passive & boring. Then again, maybe a passive & “boring” mastery is better than returning to the days of mastery #2, where you chased your HOTs with other spells just for the purpose of gaining more mastery benefit.

Posted in Legion, Restoration Healing Trees, Written By Lissanna

Overwatch implements new player features

Overwatch, Blizzard’s newest game in development, is primarily a player versus player (PVP) game, involving first-person shooting and controlling objectives. For people experienced with the genre of multi-player shooting games, it takes little time to be ready to jump into PVP matches. For people newer to this type of game, jumping straight into PVP matches can often come across pretty intimidating. While the game is still in beta, I thought I would provide a preview of some of the tools new players can use to learn the game.

Basic Tutorial

The first tool available to new players is a basic tutorial. This involves learning the movement controls and the basics of how to shoot a weapon. This is helpful to run once (or maybe twice at most if you are super new to video games). However, this limits you to only learning the spells of one character and is a linear experience where you don’t have much freedom to explore. While this is a helpful first step for getting the very basics, this is really only a first introduction and not somewhere you spend any significant amount of time.

Practice Range

A much more flexible place to learn each of the heroes is the new Practice Range. This range is a fairly open map with several types of AI bots: Some stand still and do nothing, others move around, and some even shoot back. You can climb up ontop of things to practice sniping or grappling. You can practice jumping around and using all your mobility tools (you can die if you fall off the side of the map!).


Want to practice on a support hero? There are some friendly bots that allow you to target them with heals, shields, and buffs (some even conveniently take damage and die, allowing you to test out Mercy’s resurrection ultimate to bring them back to life).

Training Mercy

Overall, this practice arena gives you the opportunity to train your skills and learn the hero abilities before you embarrass yourself in public. Given that the game rewards split-second decisions, and swapping characters in the heat of battle, this chance to hone your skills is definitely something new players should take advantage of! My aim has definitely improved and my confidence has increased by the addition of this game mode.

Play Versus AI

When you understand the basics of how the characters work, you can progress your characters by playing PVE style games against a team controlled by the game’s artificial intelligence (AI). This is a cooperative mode where your team consists of real people, playing against the AI characters. While the difficulty level of this experience is still being worked out, these AI matches are much more forgiving than PVP for new players. You are able to gain experience and rewards in these AI matches, though you will progress more slowly than when you battle in PVP.

The benefit of these AI games is that the games are typically more forgiving of mistakes.  You still get the full team experience, with people to back you up. It’s a good way to practice any of the heroes you aren’t comfortable on in an environment that simulates what real battle will feel like. This allows you to get good at scanning the environment for threats, learning map layouts and objectives, learning how to aim at moving targets, and learning how to play as a team.

Once you have mastered the Play versus AI mode, you are then ready to take on real PVP matches where you can go up against other players and be provided with much more difficult challenges. You are always welcome to come back to the practice grounds or AI matches any time you want! I look forward to seeing how these new player features grow and improve across Beta!

Posted in Overwatch, Written By Lissanna

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.


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.


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


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