So there's a weird new bug on the beta causing people to disconnect whenever they hit a 5-man. I first realized this was happening around the time I finished a laborious sketch of what to expect in Stonecore to a group that hadn't yet seen the dungeon. I assigned group marks, went over mob abilities and gave a detailed explanation of how to handle the first boss. Around the time I finished this triumph of 5-man leadership, I noticed that everyone in the group had gone eerily silent. Moments later, they were -- to a man -- revealed to be offline.
Readers, I cried.
Crazy. But the disconnect bug is pretty common right now. As a reflection of the disjointed and surreal experience that is dungeoneering on the beta, you will find a collection of notes below that I've scribbled over the last week. I'm still not having a great time healing, but tanking's gotten better, and there's a wonderful bug with Ravage that I have thus far managed to avoid reporting in the forlorn hopes that it will stick around.
- I finally healed a successful Stonecore group, which took the better part of six (!) hours. The place has rarely been fun to heal; it features a murderous first hallway, two boss events with spawning adds, patrolling scouts and random spawns that will eat you alive if you're running back after a wipe.
- For all the grousing by players that we're "two-button healers" on the live realms, we're still two-button healers in the beta. Why? The effort to get us using spells other than Rejuvenation and Wild Growth, in tandem with the nerf to mana efficiency, has resulted in Nourish and Lifebloom's being the only two spells that won't leave you gasping for mana within 30 seconds. You can use both forever without going OOM, but whether they'll outheal tank damage is largely a gamble.
- Nourish and Lifebloom are also poorly suited to group and raid healing (Lifebloom is now for single targets only, and Nourish's output is explicitly designed around having HoTs on a target), which makes me nervous about raids at 85.
- My usual practice for beta healing these days has been to get a full stack of Lifebloom running on the tank, chain-cast Nourish to keep it going (Empowered Touch is now working), use Nourish to spot heal around the group (the new 10-second Lifebloom duration is a huge help here because you're not in constant danger of its falling off the tank while you direct your attention elsewhere), and use precious Clearcasting procs for anything else -- Regrowth, Rejuvenation, Wild Growth, you name it. With a decent group, this works -- but it's boring and frustrating. I don't like the feeling that most of my abilities are effectively off limits because they blow through mana like crap through a goose.
- On that note, seeing caster DPS blithely ending pulls with most of their mana pools intact is enraging.
- The nerf to Regrowth's duration (6 seconds rather than 21), coupled with the nerf to Efflorescence's area and healing effect, leaves the spell in an odd place. At 6 seconds, it's pretty useless for slapping on a target to contribute to Nourish's throughput, and the spell's expense guarantees you can't use it much despite its new status as the druid's only "flash heal." Something just feels off. There are so many things that Regrowth could be doing -- it could be a flash heal, it could be a melee heal with the Efflorescence proc, it could be a tank heal with the HoT component boosting Nourish -- and yet the design of the spell actively works against all of these potential uses.
- While this is idle speculation, I've been wondering if most of our troubles on the beta can be traced to one of the big design decisions for Cataclysm -- namely, letting HoTs and DoTs scale from haste and crit with no glyph or talent expenditure required on the player's part. We're arguably the best raid healers on live without that huge benefit, and getting it for "free" in the expansion was always going to be problematic for healer balance.
- I like the recent change to Thrash, which affords us some instant damage in addition to the AoE bleed. One of the things that worried me about bear tanking with the Swipe nerf (i.e., the 6-second cooldown) was the lack of any AoE threat ability in the event that Swipe missed anything. Thrash having damage up front cannily solves that problem for anything other than moving add spawns.
- Thrash also got a cute new icon. It also has a kind of cool bloody-swipes-everywhere graphic associated with it, although no new animations have appeared for the bear model itself. Mangle continues to make absolutely no sense whatsoever.
- Pulverize still hits for crap, although I'm not sure about the extent to which feral damage remains bugged or not. At level 84, I'm still not doing anywhere near the damage my main can do while tanking on the live realms at 80, and I don't know if that's intended.
- Savage Defense seems to be absorbing more than just one hit. I don't know whether this is intended, whether it's particular to specific mob attacks (I first noticed it happening with Vashj'ir mobs that frenzy) or if there's something buggy with Savage Defense itself.
- If I had to guess based on admittedly limited experiences tanking Cataclysm 5-mans, I would say that Swipe's threat modifier has been increased to reflect its cooldown (6 seconds) and is probably a decent chunk of burst multi-target threat à la Thunder Clap. Actually, Swipe is now basically Thunder Clap in everything but name only -- oh, and it doesn't apply the attack speed debuff. Having a copy of a warrior skill that is nonetheless worse than the parent ability is, of course, a shocking development for druid tanks.
- Rage generation is still fine. If you start a pull spamming Maul, you'll have problems. If you only start using Maul when you're edging toward a full rage bar, you'll be perfectly OK.
- I've started assembling numbers on cat damage with a look at what agility, haste and crit are doing for us now, but as with bears, I still think cats are the victims of some bugged damage. Nevertheless, I'll have a look at the beta cat's damage in Shifting soon.
- To be fair, with mob health and damage increases, there's still no way you're going to kill anything as quickly as you do on live.
- Curiously enough, it's that same health increase for mobs that makes mastery incredibly good for cats, and we've gotten too used to the idea that bleeds are of limited use for grinding and trash pulls. Not so; mobs will almost certainly be alive long enough for Rip and Rake to do some serious damage to them. With armor penetration going the way of the dodo, I suspect mastery is going to become the new must-have stat. At the very least, it'll be a serious contender.
- Ravage is significantly more useful, assuming you've picked up Predatory Strikes and Stampede. With a Clearcasting proc and/or King of the Jungle talented, you can land three Ravages on a target directly after a Feral Charge, and the damage is unbelievable -- you can easily do up to 40,000 damage within 3 seconds. However, I've resigned myself to the quite likely possibility that this isn't going to last, not least because the talent seems bugged -- you can use Ravage while the mob's facing you directly after a Feral Charge too.
- Grouper-type mobs in Vashj'ir have a huge nuisance of an attack that immobilizes players within their mouths and deals 5 percent of your health per second. For ferals, it also knocks you out of form (no shapeshifting back in, either), leaving you to flail around trying to kill the stupid fish with your pathetic spell damage or weapon swings before you croak. If you don't have a bunch of bleeds going before this happens, you will get acquainted with the local graveyard quickly.
- The final quest for Deepholm will give you the Blacksoul Polearm, soon to be the leveling weapon of choice for ferals everywhere. There doesn't seem to be an entry on Wowhead for it yet, so I've included two screenshots.
Every week, Shifting Perspectives treks across Azeroth in pursuit of truth, beauty and insight concerning the druid class. Sometimes it finds the latter, or something good enough for government work. Whether you're a bear, cat, moonkin, tree or stuck in caster form, we've got the skinny, from a look at the disappearance of the bear tank to thoughts on why you should be playing the class (or why not).