22 March 2012

Mists of Pandaria & Bears - A first glance from the beta

Long time no see! I must admit that I've been rather bad at not posting new stuff in this blog. However, this has changed now, since there's plenty of new and exciting stuff to talk about. The MoP beta has just started and I was lucky enough to be with the first wave of invitees. Being a WoW subscriber since launch and getting the annual pass quickly after it was announced apparently paid of.

I first made and played a Pandaren Monk, which is good fun. The class is somewhat reminiscent of a Druid in the way it plays, in the sense that your resource bar changes depending on the stance that you're in. The DPS stance has an energy bar, but if you shift into healer stance, it is replaced by a mana bar. All stances have a chi bar, which is a new resource that you build up with basic abilities and can spend on more powerful moves.

But enough about weird other classes, on to Druids. A lot has changed with the new talent system and this post would be way too big if I discussed all of it, so sticking with the theme of this blog, I will limit myself to what really matters: Bear stuff.

From Feral to Guardian

In MoP Druids are the only class that has 4 talent specializations. Blizzard has finally given up on trying to fit bear and cat into the same spec and has separated them. Kitties are still Feral Druids, but bears will now be Guardian Druids. There are still some shared abilities, that are unlocked with both specs, but some abilities that used to be part of the shared Feral ability-set will no longer be available.

Lets have a look at what changed:

  • Frenzied Regeneration got split into 2 effects. The max HP boost is now called Might of Ursoc while the healing part is still called Frenzied Regeneration. FR now has a 1.5 sec cooldown and heals 5% of your max HP per second for 6 seconds, converting 10 rage per second if available. Survival Instincts is the same as before, as is Barksin.

  • Thrash now applies the Demoralizing Roar effect to everything that is hit. The Demo Roar ability has been removed.

  • Infected Wounds is gone. Other tanks also lost their attack speed slowing debuff.

  • Swipe deals 20% more damage against bleeding targets. This adds a synergy with Thrash that should've already been in Cataclysm.

  • Stampeding Roar now removes roots and slows on all affected targets in addition to the speed buff.

  • Savage Defense is now an active ability that reduces damage taken by 40% for 6 seconds at the cost of 55 rage. 1.5 sec cooldown (you read that right).

  • Mastery now increases armor. The base amount is 5%, with 1200 mastery rating, that increased to 9% for me. Doesn't seem very impressive.

  • Mangle costs no rage.

  • New ability, Bear Hug! Please Blizzard, don't rename this like you did with "Nom Nom Nom", the kitty talent in Cata beta (now: Blood in the Water, how boring of a name is that?). Bear Hug stuns the target for 3 sec and deals 10% of the Druids health every second while immobilizing the Druid. If not in Bear form already, Bear Hug will put you in Bear form.

The need to survive

So both Frenzied Regeneration and Savage Defense were changed into active abilities that seem weird at first glance. Short cooldown, very powerful, high rage cost. But at second glance, this makes perfect sense. Right now, threat is easy. Multipliers are so high that you can literally go AFK after half the fight and are not in danger of losing aggro. Surviving is a more pressing concern on new content.

These 2 revamped abilities give you survival related buttons to press that actually present a difficult choice. 55 (SD) and up to 60 (FR) rage is alot of rage to spend, but the effect is very powerful. FR heals up to 30% of your max HP and SD is a 40% damage reduction for 6 seconds. The way it looks now, unglyphed, SD seems to be the more powerful ability in raids. But you can use them both provided you have the rage.

I like where this is going, it puts more emphasis on staying alive as a tank than it does now. Now all you have are you long-term cooldowns, while you mindlessly spam a pretty simple rotation.

Talents revamped! Again.

So the goal of the Cataclysm talent revamp was to provide less filler and more choice. That didn't really work. Well, the filler was gone, but there were still cookie-cutter builds that pretty much everyone used, because some talents were simply better than others for raiding. This was especially true for Ferals, since we had some talents that were pure-Bear or pure-Cat, making them useless for someone specializing in the other role.

The new talents for MoP look so much better. I actually had to think what to pick and now that I made my first selection, I feel that slight tingle in the back of my mind of those other talents that looked pretty cool, but that I couldn't pick. There's actualy choice now.

How does it work? Every 15 levels you get 1 talent point (yeah, that's not very often). You can pick one talent per tier, choosing from 3 different talents. Each talent is a new ability or massive changes an existing ability. Removing talents can now be done individually, rather than all at once and costs a Dust of Disappearance (just like removing a glyph).

Talent overview

Tier 1 (level 15)

Tier 1 has speed / movement / charge related talents.

  • Feline Swiftness - Like the old Feral talent, but different. Increases movement speed in all forms by 15%.

  • Displacer Beast - Basically Blink, but with a 3 min CD.

  • Wild Charge - Gives you a Charge-like ability in all forms. Bears get our regular Feral Charge (note that without this talent, no charge for you!). Kitties get their kitty-leap. Moonkins leap backward, I guess like Disengage from Hunters. Travel Form leaps forwards by 20 yd and Aquatic form gets a short speed boost. If you're not in a form, you fly towards a target ally. Looks a bit like the Priest lifegrip.

Personally, I'd go for Wild Charge, because I find it difficult to imagine playing without Feral Charge. For Bears, this means maintaining the status quo. Kitties will have to choose between moving faster and leaping. Displacer Beast seems useless due to the long CD.

Tier 2 (level 30)

Tier 2 are all healing related talents. Fortunately, all talents either have a separate effect for each form or are useable in all forms. There are no talents you have to skip because they dont do anything for your favorite form.

  • Nature's Swiftness - Not quite the NS that the Restos know and love. The new NS has a 1 min CD and only works on Cyclone, Roots, Healing Touch, Hibernate, Rebirth or Regrowth. It makes the spell instant and removes any mana cost. It also allows the spell to be used in all forms.

  • Renewal - Simple cooldown-clicky, heals for 30% of max HP, 2 min CD.

  • Cenarion Ward - Buffs a friendly target so that the next time he/she takes damage, he/she gets healed for 6.5K every 2 sec for 6 sec. 30 sec cooldown.

My money is on Nature's Swiftness. It heals me for 33K, while I have 183K unbuffed, while the cooldown is half that of Renewal and it allows for other spells to be used.

Tier 3 (level 45)

Tier 3 has different utility talents without an overarching theme.

  • Faerie Swarm - Makes Faerie Fire reduce the targets movement speed by 50%, but gives the ability a 15 sec CD.

  • Mass Entanglement - 20 sec root, that spread to up to 5 targets. 2 min CD.

  • Typhoon - Just like the current Moonkin spell, but without the damage component. So just a knockback and a 6 sec daze.

I picked Typoon initially, but I'm not sure whether I want that or Mass Entanglement. Faerie Swarm seems more of a PvP talent to me with limited PvE use.

Tier 4 (level 60)

Tier 4 has 3 talents that have an effect that differs for each spec.

  • Soul of the Forest - Mangle now regenerates 2 rage. (Balance: when Eclipse ends, gain 20 energy of the other type, Feral: 2 energy per CP when using a finisher, Resto: 50% for next spell after Swiftmend)

  • Incarnation - Activites a superior shapeshift form for 30 sec. Bear: CD on all damage abilities and Growl reduced to 1.5 sec. Balance: Lunar and Solar power generation doubled. Feral: Prowl in combat, stealth-abilities useable when not stealthed. Resto: Healing increased by 15%, armor by 120%. Some spells are "enhanced" (didnt test this).

  • Force of Nature - The regular Moonkin treants with a twist: they have an extra ability that depends on your spec. Unsurprisingly, Bear-treants have Taunt, which is on autocast by default (so you can annoy other tanks like DKs have been doing with Army of the Dead for a while now).

I went with FoN initially to see what it does. I'll probably end up with using Incarnation, but might be convinced to go for Soul of the Forest depending on how rage management ends up working out.

Tier 5 (level 75)

Tier 5 has crowd control talents.

  • Disorienting Roar - 10 yd AoE disorient, 3 sec duration, damage breaks it.

  • Ursol's Vortex - Creates a vortex at target location that slows all enemies by 50%. First time an enemy leaves, it gets pulled back in. 15 sec duration.

  • Mighty Bash - This is just Bash, it lasts a second longer (5 sec) and has 10 sec less CD (50 sec) compared to what we're used to.

I went with Mighty Bash initially, because I'm conservative when it comes to my abilities and didn't want to lose a stun.

Tier 6 (level 90)

The stuff that's not available yet! These are talents related to shapeshifting and hybrid play.

  • Heart of the Wild - The name is familiar, the effect is not. It's a 6 min CD clicky that gives you some of the strengths of the other specs. Bears gain greatly increased spelldamage and mana regen, other specs gain stuff like increased armor, increased agility, reduced chance to get crit, etc...

  • Dream of Cenarius - Damage spells and abilities increase the power of the next healing spell by 30% and vice versa. Only happens every 30 sec.

  • Disentanglement - Shapeshifting removes roots (LIKE IT ALWAYS DID UNTIL RECENTLY!). Shifting into a form heals you for 20% of max HP, 30 sec CD on that one.

For this, I'll go with Disentanglement for the self-heal. Powershifting will be very useful here. The other 2 abilities make more sense from a soloing or PvP perspective.

Glyph changes

Glyphs were changed. Again. Prime glyphs were removed, leaving us with major and minor glyphs only. 3 of each. The most interesting new or changed Bear glyphs are:

Major glyphs

  • Fae Silence - Causes Faerie Fire used in Bear form to silence a target, but trigger a 15 sec CD on FF.

  • Frenzied Regeneration - Removes the rage->health conversion from FR and makes healing taken 40% more powerful for 6 sec. Makes FR cost 60 rage up front.

  • Might of Ursoc - Increases health gain from Might of Ursoc by 20% (up to 50% max HP), but also increases CD by 2 min (up to 5 min).

  • Survival Instincts - Reduces cooldown by 60 sec (3 min -> 2 min) but reduces duration by 6 sec (12 sec -> 6 sec) as well.

  • Stampeding Roar - AoE range increased to 30 yd.

Minor glyphs

  • The Chameleon - Gives you a random hair colour every time you shift into Bear or Cat form.

  • The Stag - Changes your travel form into a Stag. Allows party members to use you as a mount. I got to admit, I felt a bit dirty when I first asked in Orgrimmar if anyone wanted to ride me.

Final thoughts

Things looking good so far. I like the new talents, I like the mechanic of having to budget your rage for very powerful defensive abilities. I do fear that, depending on how plentiful rage is, the rage-consuming defensive abilities will outshine the regular defensive cooldowns for any situation other than insane damage spikes that require both the rage-abilities and the cooldowns to survive.

I'm pretty optimistic about MoP as an expansion. It seems to do a lot of things right that were shaky (at best) in WotLK and Cataclysm. The 85-90 zones aren't open yet, so I havent dived into those. But if the Pandaren starting zone is any indication, those new zones will be very nice.

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