Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Patch 4.1 Druid Changes

Updated for 04/25/2011

It looks like 4.1 is out on the PTR right around the corner with a whole truckload of changes across the board. I'll try and briefly cover some of the druid changes here, but to be honest there are not too many to report and it looks like it's heating up now!. I will say that what we have to talk about is substantial and of course I'll find something to complain about. In addition to these changes to druids, this patch is bringing with it a few new 5 man heroics, ZA and ZG! YIPE!

First of all, the full list can be found here. I'll just be covering a few items I think are note worthy. It is also worth noting that I play a feral tank and my secondary spec is feral DPS. I have played resto and balance, however not this expansion. Any commentary I make on changes to those specs could be completely and totally off base. If so feel free to correct me. Secondly, please understand that this is a PTR build. Even though Blizzard is notorious for never listening to players and/or PTR data, the changes here are subject to change at any time. In fact, I'm almost count on some of them to change. The first iteration of druid changes included ONE change that was nominal at best. Since that time there has been some additions to the druid section, including a nice little buff for feral tanks. Let's begin with the few major changes for druids specifically.

General Druid
All non-damaging interrupts off the global cooldown will now always hit the target. Tanks rejoice! Now I must admit something here, I've not been following my own advice. How could this be, you ask? Because stat weighting suggested in my guide is based on computer generated figures, and it doesn't take into account "real" world variables. These variables include things like interrupts, which is one of the most important things we are tasked with in this expansion. In fact, it's so important Blizzard has created many encounters that are dependent on interrupts and given every single tanking class an interrupt! This basically means that we have to "waste" (and I use the term waste liberally) stats in order to gain enough hit to avoid the dreaded failed interrupt. With this amazing change we can strip any addition hit that we may have reforged and place it back on survival stats. Cool beans.

Feral Tree

Savage Defense has been redesigned slightly. Instead of a single charge absorption, it now places an absorption effect on the druid absorbing up to 35% of the druid's attack power (modified by mastery, if applicable) in damage and lasting 10 seconds. There are no longer any charges on the effect. HOLY CRAP! This is huge. Seriously it is. Since the introduction of SD this is probably the most exciting change to happen for feral tanks. With this one foul swoop Blizzard has tipped the stat weight scales on end and basically given us a completely new ability. I've talked at length before about the pitfalls of SD and in turn with our mastery (see dodge vs mastery) however with this one simple change said pitfalls fly out the window! There is so much I want to say about the change I could probably fill up this page but I doubt you would want to read that. Or maybe you do, I don't know. I'm on a bit of a Kool-Aid sugar buzz. So here is the skinny, instead of "popping" on the next attack our bubble has a duration! Hopefully with any amount of passively acquired critical will allow us to have a bubble shield up close to always. This I like. 

Now that the patch is live, we have a chance to check out this improved ability in it's entirety. As previously suggested this ability now only applies to physical damage. This seems to provide the check and balance needed to keep this ability from being overly useful. It's still a great change overall and much needed for bears, don't get me wrong.

Bonus Threat is being removed from Lacerate / Thrash / Swipe and is being replaced by extra damage. This is an interesting change. One of the biggest complaints Blizzard had about feral tanks was the amount of damage we did. In fact they modified our threat output to compensate for a damage reduction at one point in time. I contributed this to a need to balance around PVP damage but I could have been wrong. Will we see any change in our TPS capabilities with this modification? I don't honestly think so. In fact we may see an increase given buffs that increase damage (temporary fight mechanics and buffs like Ferocious Inspiration) will now help us do even more damage and symbiotically more threat. 

 Swipe (Bear) cooldown has been reduced to 3 seconds, down from 6. HOLY CRAP. I was holding something in my hand which I dropped upon reading this. I'm really excited about this change. Are we lacking for AOE tanking? Not really, but anything to make it a bit easier is alright in my book. I'll be honest, when they originally placed the cooldown on swipe I felt like it was a bit excessive. By now any bear tank that started raiding early into the expac has enough gear to make the current 6 second cooldown work but this will help out budding tanks. It also just makes my life generally easier. We move from being the tanks with the weakest AOE (the current incantation) to somewhere in the middle of the pack. We are still lacking compared with DK tanks (Death and Decay, Blood Boil and Heart Stike) but all the other tanking classes will be very close to us after this buff. All in all it makes me happy and eventually when there is a new raid tier out it will be a godsend.

Swipe (Cat) damage has been doubled. This is a welcome and solid change. AOE cat dps operating outside of berserk is weak at best. I had the opportunity to dps Throne of the Four Winds and trying to get down a group of adds was simply a nightmare.

Stampeding Roar's duration has been increased to 8 seconds, up from 6. The movement speed effect has been increased to 60%, up from 40%. This is really fun talent and I should really use this more. This change is simple, faster speed boost and longer duration. The potential applications of this ability are endless and every raid I'm figuring out new ways to use this it for bosses (Fellfire in BH, Dazzling Destruction on Valiona / Tharilion, air phase on Atramedies, etc.) and trash alike.

Feral Swiftness now causes Dash and Stampeding Roar to have a 50/100% chance to remove all movement impairing effects from affected targets when used. Ummmmmm, hold the phone. Didn't they just remove druids ability to shift out of movement impairing effects? I understand that shifting and using these cooldowns are apples and oranges, but the fact remains this is an unintentional message from Blizzard. It basically shows they underestimated the effect that the shift change had on PVP druids. While I understand they didn't want druids to be unstoppable, having a certain amount of increased mobility is kind of a trademark thing. I think this change will restore a bit of that luster. The AOE "trinket" is also pretty bad ass I must admit. This could really have some fun applications in PVE as well. Instead of just bitching non-stop I will give some credit to Blizzard for being attentive to the overall affect of their early changes and for working to make adjustments accordingly. It's better than nothing.

Enrage no longer increases damage taken. Not really a huge deal but worth noting. This is great for low rage situations where you normally have to balance being able to make threat with taking too much damage.

Balance Tree
Starsurge damage has been reduced by 20%. We don't have a raiding boomkin so the overall effect of this might be minimal. 20% seems like a fairly large amount to reduce an ability so I can imagine that crit chickens all over are grimacing when they found this out. Why did blizzard do this? I assume with the talent that makes this an instant cast and resets the cooldown it was being used too much. A damage reduction can help make this more balanced.

Resto Tree
Efflorescence has a new spell effect. Great. It takes people forever to adjust to the idea of standing in the healy goodness and now you change the effect? If the new spell effect is a colored circle with a bunch of tiny trees holding signs that say STAND HERE I'll be okay with the changes. Otherwise they should have left it alone. Efflor had a fairly overly obvious spell effect....it's clearly not a slime pool or poison cloud - aka the only other green area effects that it could be mistaken for. Oh well, I guess once you redesigned the fishing bobber so many times you run out of pointless crap to change.

Update - As some people have pointed out, Blizzard wasn't exactly clear in their definition of "new spell effect". Since then they have clarified (or the Druid dev team finally reported in) what exactly this means. Now Efflor will heal the 3 most injured targets for a percentage of what the druids swiftmend healed for. This makes it a smart heal. I think most druid players will enjoy the smart aspect of the heal, however the number if players healed is something to be desired. I can see the justification of this, being a druid and having many instant cast heals does greatly increase your ability to heal multiple targets. Limited Efflor to 3 people is a great way to keep it in check.

Lifebloom's bloom effect has been reduced by 20%. This could be a nerf for druid healers. On paper it sure doesn't look like it, at least not a major one. From what little I know about druid healing is they keep that LB stack rolling on a tank but I could be wrong. The only downside I can see to this however is druids going into ToL (planting lifebloom on everyone) before a heavy damage phase. Of course even this is situational at best and the 20% decrease might still not even matter to most druid healers.

Malfurion's Gift now also reduces the cooldown of your Tranquility by 2.5/5 minutes. Given the length of some of T11 fights, I love this change. Recently there was some discussion about druids and cooldowns to which I think this change perfectly addresses. Having a 2.5 minute cooldown on Tranq means we should be seeing this awesome emergency heal more often. I would love to see them give the reduction to ferals as well, but I can see the potential issues very clearly. Having this be on a 2.5 minute cooldown for feral cats spec'ed into Nurturing Instinct would be OP as all hell. Oh well, can't win them all.

Nature's Swiftness now also increases the healing done by the affected nature spell by 50%. So I'm happy about this change, nothing too drastic but exepected. Blizzard has been talking about the lack of cooldowns available to druid healers (uuummm hello? afro treeman cooldown?) and this is a great response to the "issue". This quick save is something that all (well at least all decent) resto druids are using and to give the heal spell a bit more punch is an elegantly simple solution.

Druids now innately have 100% pushback protection from damage while channeling Tranquility. No work wasting barkskin on a tranq. I think that is pretty darn cool. Next?

As more information becomes available or things change I will update this page.

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