Saturday, April 10, 2010

Druid Cataclysm Preview: Balance

Ladies and Gentlefolk, children of all ages, I bring you the new, the improved, the even more shiny:  SHROOMKIN!

Magical Mushrooms:
Wild Mushroom (Level 85): Grows a magical mushroom at the target location. After 4 seconds the mushroom becomes invisible. Enemies who cross the mushroom detonate it, causing it to deal area-of-effect damage, though its damage component will remain very effective against single targets. The druid can also choose to detonate the mushroom ahead of time. This is primarily a tool for the Balance druid, and there will be talents that play off of it. No cooldown. 40-yard range. Instant cast.
The Cenarion Circle has been investigating other revenue sources, I see...  Seriously though, this is an interesting spell for a variety of reasons.  First, there's no cooldown and it's instant cast.  Can we only have one up?  Or can we set up a wall of mushrooms?  The latter would seem a bit overpowered, I think, but the former would be a bit dull.  Hunters can have multiple traps up at a time (though no more than one per category), so perhaps we'll be able to grow up to three mushrooms?  Something like that would be perfect.  It may, however, be a bit overpowered in PvP, but perhaps it would be possible to simply only permit one at a time in arenas and battlegrounds?  I'm a bit sick of the war going on (largely in Ghostcrawler's head, poor crab) between PvE balance and PvP balance.

Can this mushroom detonate during the first 4 seconds, before it goes invisible, or is it still growing at that point? For boss fights, I'd really prefer that it be able to detonate as soon as you cast it, but I'm guessing it will be benign for the first 4 seconds.  However, it seems like it's there (as an instant cast) to help with the current problem is mobility in raid boss fights.  Boomkins can't do much more than hit Typhoon once and reapply DoTs in large portions of fights like Putricide.  Shroomkins, on the other hand, could also put down a mushroom (or three).  However, it sounds like this will need to be targeted on the ground, much like Force of Nature.  From experience, I can say that it's a pain to do that sort of targeting whilst running.  Still, better than nothing.  We'll have to wait and see how much damage it deals and whatnot.  One thing is for certain: a new part of being a skilled boomshroomkin will be learning where to place mushrooms in each encounter.

I'm also eager to see what talents will "play off it" and how that will work.  It would be interesting if we got various buffs for having an un-exploded mushroom down, or if we got buffs by being near it, or a monster got debuffs for being near it or could get movement and DoT debuffs by exploding one of them.  Mushrooms as a form of crowd control would be pretty neat, though I imagine we'd pick up aggro fairly often.

Speaking of which, we still don't have an aggro dump, and there wasn't one mentioned in the preview notes.  Given our relatively high armor, I can see why Blizzard wouldn't give us one.  But at the same time, that will make mushroom placement all the more interesting.  Unlike a hunter, we can Feign if a pack of mobs hits the mushroom before hitting the tank.  On the other hand, feral tanks might be able to use this as a tripwire to pull patrols, if they put down their own mushrooms.

Eclipse: We are moving Eclipse from a talent into a core mechanic of the class and making it less random. Balance druids will have a new UI element that shows a sun and a moon. Whenever they cast an Arcane spell, it will move the UI closer to the sun, and buff their Nature damage. Whenever they cast a Nature spell, it will move the UI closer to the moon, and buff their Arcane damage. The gameplay intention is to alternate Arcane and Nature spells (largely Starfire and Wrath) to maintain the balance.
This is a huge change.  Of course, we knew something was coming, since Blizzard has acknowledged several times that the current version of Eclipse is too much of an RNG factor and causes some odd scaling and mobility problems.  First, the new UI element.  I like that.  I don't know why, exactly, but I think it's because any UI changes make me feel a little bit more like a unique, feathered snowflake.  I have a sun and moon chart on my UI.  Non-druids don't.  They have other things (like pet bars...).  We're all special in our own special ways.

We'll need to see how this plays out.  It sounds a little like our base rotation will be Starfire-Wrath-Starfire-Wrath-Starfire...  That's cool....I can macro that.  In practice, though, I imagine this will give us a lot of much needed control.  If we're about to enter a burn phase, or about to cast heroism, we can spend 15 seconds or so just casting Wrath and Insect Swarm.  Then unload with an overpowered Starfall followed by Starfire spam.

For PvP and target changes, I'm guessing we'll be using Nature's Torrent (below) to rapidly move the bar in one direction or other, but we still need to wait for details.

This is a change I'm certainly happy about.  It will have a huge impact on the class, but still let us keep the "in touch with nature" feel that we have now.  The big thing I'm worried about is that the eclipse graphics will no longer appear over my feathered head.  I'm in love with those graphics.  Hopefully they'll keep them and use them when you manage to move entirely in favor of the moon or sun.

Nature's Torrent:
Balance druids will have a new talent ability called Nature’s Torrent, which strikes for either Nature or Arcane damage depending on which will do the most damage (or possibly both), and moves the Eclipse meter more (details below). The improved version of Nature’s Torrent also reduces the target's movement speed. 10-second cooldown.
I like us having a new ability.  Our rotation is a little skimpy right now (especially compared to Feral cats, but I don't think I'd want it to get quite that complex).  I'm assuming that this will be instant-cast, since it's on a 10-second cooldown.  If so, it will give us another button to hit during movement phases.  I don't really care if it even deals damage worth mentioning, I'm up for anything that gives me something to do during a movement phase.  I just want to feel like I'm more than a spectator.

This will clearly be involved in managing our "Eclipse meter," but we'll have to wait and see how it works.  I'm hoping that it will move the meter in the direction it was already going.  From the description of the spell (doing whichever type of damage would hit harder), I worry that it may be made to actually keep us centered on the meter, rather than to exaggerate anything.  We'll have to wait and see.  Hopefully, at the least, it would function as a good opener to give us a bit of a buff in one school or the other by moving the meter a significant amount.

I'm also excited about the target speed reduction, sort of like a Frost Bolt I assume.  From all of these previews, it looks like Cataclysm will focus on "crowd management" more than "crowd control," and that CM will be a lot more important than CC has been in Wrath of the Lich King.  I'm glad to see Druids jumping on the bandwagon and getting a slow.  We still have (as far as we know) roots...and hibernate....and  we should be good to go.

Other Changes:
All heal-over-time spells (HoTs) will benefit from crit and haste innately in Cataclysm. Hasted HoTs do not reduce their duration, but instead add additional HoT ticks.
Barkskin will be innately undispellable.
Druids will lose Abolish Poison with the dispel mechanics change, but Restoration druids will gain Dispel Magic (on friendly targets) as a talent. All druids can still remove poisons with Cure Poison and remove curses with Remove Curse.
First, the minor stuff.  The Barkskin change is pretty much a pure PvP change.  It's a good one, for us, but PvP will probably be really different in Cataclysm, so it's impossible to say how it'll work in context.  We'll wait and see.  The loss of Abolish Poison is a bit of a pain, but we can still cure it.  In certain encounters like the opening of Halls of Reflection, it's quite useful to currently spend a single global cooldown and get 8 seconds worth of cures.  However, most of the time this won't have all that much impact on we free feathered folk.

HoTs will scale with crit and haste...what about DoTs?  Everyone else got scaling DoTs in their previews, why are they so special?  Aha, Ghostcrawler came to the rescue and confirmed that our DoTs will probably scale.  Crisis averted.   This is a GOOD THING(tm).  At current end-game gear levels, our DoTs are just barely worth the GCD is takes to cast them, since they scale horribly.  This change should fix that, and let us feel good about keeping our DoTs up throughout Cataclysm.  I don't think there's really anything else to say about this one.  It's a much needed change, Blizzard admitted it was a much needed change, and now it's finally happening.

We'll have to see how the change to Eclipse works out, but overall I'm quite happy.  The Eclipse meter sounds like it will be interesting enough to make our rotation fun (instead of boring) and should give us control to really up our dps during burn phases.  Like I said above, I'm a little unhappy that we didn't get an aggro dump, but we do have high armor for a ranged class, so we'll live for now (though at least one or two hits, and it helps to keep the healers on their toes).

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