Saturday, April 10, 2010

Druid Cataclysm Preview: Feral

Feral Druids get two (count them) brand new abilities in the preview:
Thrash (Level 81): Thrash deals damage and causes all targets within 10 yards to bleed every 2 seconds for 6 seconds. The intent here is to give bears another button to hit while tanking. Talents will affect the bleed, such as causing Swipe to deal more damage to bleeding targets. 5-second cooldown. 25 Rage.

Stampeding Roar (Level 83): The druid roars, increasing the movement of all allies within 10 yards by 40% for 8 seconds. Stampeding Roar can be used in cat or bear form, but bears might have a talent to drop the cooldown. The goal of this ability is to give both bears and cats a little more situational group utility. 3-minute cooldown. No cost. 
I'll admit, I'm not entirely sure what to make of this one.  It's a bit like Swipe, but has an extra 2 yards of range and is a 6 second DoT rather than a direct damage ability.  It also has a slightly higher rage cost (25 compared to 20), but all rage costs will be adjusted in Cataclysm so we can't read too much into that.

This would be a great ability to have right now, when the DPS is used to opening up with AoE as soon as the tank has pulled.  It allows us to keep building threat for a few seconds, even on targets that are out of range.  This would be great for the trash packs of casters as one goes up the hill in the Pits of Saron.  It also have some nice synergy with Rend and Tear, especially since, assuming you have enough rage, the bleed from Thrash can have a 100% uptime.

Overall, though, it's something you'll hit in addition to Swipe and Maul.  If we hit Maul that much Cataclysm.

Stampeding Roar:
The addition of a new roar is a good move in fitting with the portrait of the bear.  I'm a giant bear.  What do I do?  I tank with my face.  And I ROAR.  However, I'll admit I'm skeptical about the utility of an 8 second speed boost with a 180 second cooldown.  When will we actually use it?  Probably only when things go wrong.  Given the cooldown, it's doubtful it will be available each time a boss mechanic is used.  However, if everyone is slow switching sides in something like the Putricide encounter, and the next ooze/gas is spawning in the middle of the group, then this would be useful.

Note that it has a short range, however.  At 10 yards, it will probably only effect the melee group.  In that case, it seems like the biggest use would be helping people avoid a whirlwind.  Once every three minutes.

Overall, I'm not sure how this will function in practice.  It seems to be another "crowd management" ability, letting the melee move into position quickly when necessary without actually stopping any of the mobs themselves.  There could definitely be some nice synergy with this of some of the other preview abilities we've seen.  Mages are getting a wall of fog that roots enemies that cross it.  Rogues are getting smoke bombs.  This Roar could help the melee group dart across the fog or into the smoke in an emergency.

Maul and Rage Normalization:
Before going any further, remember that rage will function differently in Cataclysm.  It won't be as dependent on how much damage you take.  Maul is also changing pretty drastically.  It will no longer replace your next white attack, so it won't need to be spammed at all time (my ring finger on my left hand it grateful).  Instead, it will be a rage dump, taking anywhere from 10 to 30 rage, depending on how much you have at the time.  This may have an impact on our threat generation as well, since Maul is a big component of that.  Overall, tanking is going to be a different experience, so keep that in mind as we try to figure out how everything else will fit into our playstyle.

Other Changes:
We want to make the Feral cat damage rotation slightly more forgiving. We do not want to remove what druids like about their gameplay, but we do want to make it less punishing to miss, say, a Savage Roar or Rake. The changes here will be on par with increasing the duration of Mangle like we did for patch 3.3.3. 
We plan on giving Feral cats and bears a Kick/Pummel equivalent -- an interrupt that is off the global cooldown and does no damage. We feel like they need this utility to be able to fill the melee role in a dungeon or raid group, and to give them more PvP utility. 
Bleed Damage and Savage Defense: Feral druids will receive two sets of passive bonuses depending on whether the druid is in cat or bear form. Bleed Damage will be improved for cats. Savage Defense is the current bear mechanic for converting crits into damage absorption and will be improved for bears. 
Kitty DPS is getting an overhaul, though probably not at the highest levels.  It sounds like they are planning to make some of the bleeds and buffs last long or have less of an impact, and may increase the damage of mangle so that positioning (getting behind the target) has a smaller effect.  Overall, this means that the vast majority of us who have not mastered the Madden aspect of being a kitty will see a decent DPS increase.  We still won't be on par with the Madden-level experts, though.

Cats (and bears!) are also getting a real interrupt with a short cooldown like Kick.  This is a welcome change, and a bit of a relief.  It has been a gaping hole in our utility as compared to many other classes, and the hoops that cats had to leap through to interrupt using Maim dropped our DPS by around 75%.

The bleed damage improvement is pretty simple but should amount to some decent DPS and fits in nicely with the kitty's trademark strategy of death-of-a-thousand-cuts.  Each one of them bleeding...

But wait a minute, Rogues got some major changes to their UI, allowing them to maintain "floating combo points" of some sort in order to switch more easily between targets.  Being a kitty is a bit like being a rogue.  Do we get any of that?  Ghostcrawler says "most likely."  This will be a good change.  We'll be able to keep Savage Roar up much more easily, is the first thing that comes to mind.  And besides, it never made much sense that Savage Roar was based off the combo points on your target.  It buffs you, after all, not the poor sap you've got in your cross hairs.

Overall should make kitty a bit more forgiving and accessible, and give us a bit more utility as well.  Nothing huge, but I'm happy with it.

Finally, we get an interrupt like other tanks.  About time.  I dare Kel'Thuzad to get another frost bolt volley past me.  Just try it, you undead floaty-thing.  Other than that, these "other changes" don't have much of an impact.  Savage Defense is turning into a core class mechanic, but everyone takes it with talents already if you're tanking.  The big changes have already been discussed above.  Rage normalization, Maul, and Thrash. We'll have to wait and see how it all works out.

Lower Levels:
We also get word of one more welcome change.  Ghostcrawler indicated that we might get cat form at level 10 and bear form at level 20.  This isn't a huge change, in my opinion, given how quickly those levels go (I still remember going through them in vanilla by whacking things with my staff), but it certainly is a welcome one.  Hunters will start with pets, and Druids will at least hit 20 a little faster.

The changes for Feral Druids are less flashy than those for Balance and less extreme than those for Restoration (we'll miss you, tree form).  At the same time, I fully expect that the change in our rotations and playstyle will be just as drastic in all three trees.

Feral is getting a bit more accessible on the kitty side and a bit more interesting (hurrah, a new button to press!) on the bear side.  If rage normalization works, it will be a relief in 5-man content.  And the extra utility of a reliable interrupt will make a huge difference in terms of my paranoia.  I hate relying on others for critical interrupts, if I can avoid it.  On a more personal note, soloing old content like Kara will get much, much easier with a reliable interrupt.

It's hard to say exactly where the Feral changes will lead us, but I'm smiling, and we'll just have to wait and see.

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