Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cataclysm Druid Changes - Feral Talents

I thought since I've got one of the most dedicated druids close at hand, I'll ask him about his thoughts on the Cataclysm feral changes. Love has played various druid forms (see what I did there) ever since the game first was released, so few people could claim to have more practical experience than he! All the changes as they look today can be seen here.

The Changed Talents

Sharpened Claws: Increases the damage caused by your Claw, Rake, Mangle (Cat), Mangle (Bear), and Maul abilities by 10/20%.
The crit has been changed into pure damage, which is in line with Blizzard trying to make it harder for feral druids to reach different caps, in this case the crit cap. This change in itself is probably a nerf to the feral damage since Shred and Rip are two major non-white damage sources, that will no longer be buffed by this talent. The big upsides of this is easier itemization because we don't have to watch yet another cap and that Mangle (Cat) will now probably be more in line with the DPE (Damage Per Energy) of Shred, so Feral druids wont be as vulnerable to bad positioning (E.g. Koralon) as they are now.

Shredding Attacks: Reduces the energy cost of your Shred ability by 5/10 and the rage cost of your Lacerate ability by 1/2.
This could be interpreted as a straight nerf, since the talent currently reduces the energy cost by 9/18, but I heard that there might be a change in the base cost of Shred, so speculating now on what might happen would only serve to confuse. It's a change that I believe will only serve to even out the cost of Shred instead of, as it is now, give it an odd, but lower, energycost.

Predatory Instincts: Increases the damage done by your melee critical strikes by 3/7/10%
The only change in this talent is that it on live servers also reduces aoe-damage taken by 30%, and I have to go with the above hedging on this one as well. We know that health pools will be bigger, and that actually moving out of the goddamn fire will count for more in the upcoming expansion due to the lowered regen capabilities for healers, so they might not want us to suffer less than other classes. Might have some PvP implications as well, but meh. /care.

Brutal Impact: Increases the stun duration of your Bash and Pounce abilities by 0.5/1 seconds, and decreases the cooldown of Bash by 5/10 seconds.
This change is due to the fact that druids will get an actual, real kick mechanic. To make sure that Bear Form doesn't turn into pvp-gods with one trillion stuns up their sleeves, they're simply giving bash a longer cooldown. This used to be Bears only non-charge interrupt, and since this won't be the case any longer they have to make sure bears can't interrupt too often. This price is well worth it however, since you don't need to stun that often anyway, but being able to choose between an interrupt and a stun will make alot of things easier.

Predatory Strikes: Increases the critical strike chance of your Ravage by 25/50% at or above 90% health, and your finishing moves have a 10/20% chance per combo point to make your next Nature spell with a base casting time less than 10 seconds become an instant cast spell.
The attack power part that used to be on this talent will probably no longer be needed in any form because of the redesign of the class mechanics they're going to do in Cataclysm. This talent used to be a semi-bandaid talent to cover up for the failed and patched class mechanics that is feral druid today. This coupled with Improved Feral Charge (commented on further down) might make some crazy pvp-bursts, but this will probably not be too useful in pve since we have to worry about threat at the beginning of the fight. It might be useful in bossfights where you run away and then charge back, although it doesn't actually say for sure if it is your hp or your targets hp that has to be above 90%. It'll make all the difference.

Survival of the Fittest: Reduces the chance you'll be critically hit by melee attacks by 2/4/6%, and increases the contribution from cloth and leather items in Bear Form and Dire Bear Form by 11/22/33%.
If this came mid-expansion I'd call the removal of 6% stats a straight down nerf. I assume this in itself won't be a nerf though because druids will get a more normalized stat values in Cataclysm than they have today (like four times the normal amount of AP to make the same damage as rogues and warriors) and we won't need talents like these to make us on-par with other classes.

King if the Jungle: While using your Enrage ability in Bear Form or Dire Bear Form, your damage is increased by 5/10/15%, and your Tiger's Fury ability also instantly restores 20/40/60 energy.
Here they have simply removed the part which reduces mana costs on shapeshifting to cat or bear forms. They have in expansion after expansion and patch after patch made it easier and cheaper for us to shapeshift freely. I don't think they'll simply revert after all this time, but probably take the final step and just make the shapeshifting easy and cheap even without talents.

Primal Tenacity: Reduces the duration of fear effects by 10/20/30% and reduces all damage taken while stunned by 5/10/15% while in Cat Form.
The damage reduction while stunned is halved, and I think this is simply due to the changes made to players health pools. Blizzard don't want people to be able to be one-shot any longer, so they will probably remove or nerf many of the damage reduction talents and skills so that players won't turn into semi-raid bosses.

Infected Wounds: Your Shred, Maul, Ravage and Mangle attacks cause an Infected Wound in the target. The Infected Wound reduces the movement speed of the target by 25/50% and the attack speed by 10/20%. Lasts 12 seconds.
Not much to say here, it is now two talent points instead of three. This might be due to Blizzard wanting more druids to afford this talent. This kind of talent (e.g Vindication, Thunder Clap) also only costs 2 tp for other classes.

The New Talents

Improved Feral Charge: Increases your melee haste by 15/30% after you use Feral Charge (Bear) for 8 seconds, and Ravage will temporarily not require stealth for 3/6 seconds after you use Feral Charge (Cat).
The bear portion of this talent seems to be aimed mainly at giving bears a burstier threatgeneration compared to what we have now and -maybe- also give Cats (probably not, but the wording allows it) the option of using bear charge, switching to cat and enjoying a few seconds of machine-gun-clawing! Like I said, probably not, but one can hope ^^
Feral Charge (Cat) does not seem too useful for PvE purposes, but the synergy with Predatory Strikes in PvP might really make us dangerous.

Fury Swipes: When you auto-attack while in Cat Form or Bear Form, you have a 4/8/12% chance to gain an extra auto-attack on the same target. This effect cannot occur more than once every 6 seconds.
White attacks have been a rough 30% of our total damage for a good while, and increasing that passively is always nice! The actual damage increase from this talent in itself is actually fairly small, only a few auto-attacks per minute (if they decide to keep the 6 sec inner cd, which also ruins any synergy effects with for example BL). But a few extra white attacks goes a long way if they give us OOC clearcasts. It's a good talent, but at the moment it might be considered to be a bit on the weak side.

Endless Carnage: Increases the duration of your Rake by 3/6 seconds and your Savage Roar and Pulverize by 3/6 seconds.
This is massive. Rake is a very important damage skill for feral druids at the moment (due to them being able to crit and giving us Idol procs), and if they want Rake to play such an important role in the endgame, they will probably let it stay in the spotlight. The current Rake has a 9 second uptime, adding 6 seconds greatly lowers the energycost (albeit it being minimal to start with) and gives it a phenomenal DPE. Savage Roar is a very boring but also insanely (too) powerful skill, yet another bandaid for the feral mechanics, and giving it a solid 3/6 second buff regardless of the amount of talentpoints spent will make it a lot easier to keep it at 100% uptime. The buff to Pulverize is also by a significant amount, from 10 to 16 seconds. I'm not sure how that skill will play out, but a buff that big might make it mandatory even for dedicated bears.

Primal Madness: Tiger's Fury and Berserk also increases your maximum energy by 6/12 during its duration, and your Enrage and Berserk abilities instantly generates 0/12 Rage.
I can't say I'm all for this talent, since it actually encourages bad habits and poor planning. Make room for your energy, THEN pop TF. It might be useful for the situations where you pop Zerk only to be forced to move away from the boss. Very "if if if", but it might, maybe, perhaps, situationally be useful. Otherwise my feeling is that this is a /meh talent. The Bear part is solid, but weak, and might even be reduntant if rage generation is anything like the last two expansions. (Yes, rage normalization inc, but I can't comment on that before I know the details.)

Nom Nom Nom (Name not final): When you Ferocious Bite a target at or below 25% health, you have a 50/100% chance to instantly refresh the duration of your Rip on the target.
I gotta jump on the bandwagon with this one: Nom Nom Nom has to be the final name. Has To Be. I would play my druid for this reason alone! Anyway, 25% feels sort of weak, but they have stated that fights will be longer, and removing Rip out of the CP equation makes room for a whole lot of Bites, so this will be our Execute-like ability for that last push.

Pulverize: Requires Dire Bear Form. Deals 100% weapon damage plus additional 786 damage for each of your Lacerate applications on the target, and increases your melee critical strike chance by 2% for each Lacerate application consumed for 10 seconds.
It says "consumed", so my interpretation is that it will remove the stack of Lacerates and deal a good chunk of damage, and also increasing the critical strike chance of the bear for a good 16 (talented) seconds. If the single Pulverize manages to make up for the lost Lacerate ticks it will really make bear tanking a lot more interesting compared to what it is now (2 macro mashing), and also give bears a greater chance at single target Savage Defense procs. If this skill is properly balanced it can give bear tanking a whole new dimension of when to Pulverize and when to let the stacks be.

Summary
There are many "if's" at the moment, considering feral druid has been alot about making it work as the other classes -as good as possible- while at the same time make it work between specs -as good as possible-. This has lead to alot of compromizes and what feels like half-improvized fixes and talents. Blizzard say they intend to normalize stats, not only for druids, but for all classes. But this will probably have bigger implications for feral druids than any other class. Maybe now feral druids will be a class of its own, without having to rely on poor copies of other classes skills and stat mechanics and instead based on itself. This means, like I have written, that alot of talents that might look like nerfs today will work perfect for whatever the feral druid is going to become in Cataclysm. One has to remember that alot of the talents today are mere "fixes" to make us work properly, like some sort of abomination, and the "nerfs" are actually just a removal of something that we won't need any longer. At least that is what I hope. Overall the talents seem to be make the feral dpsing more forgiving and easier to sustain compared to how it is today, and that without haphazard bandaid-talents. But it will in the end most likely be very much like today, the changes will be made in the background, in the programming rather in the things that are affected by player skills. There won't be any technique altering skills for us to adapt to, and this is ok, because we really don't need more skills to keep track of.
Bear druids will get a much needed improvement in tank style, with some new skills to use for optimal tanking. Since bear tanking isn't especially exciting as it is today, this is very welcome.

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