Hail, druids. We've got another exciting patch coming up, and this week I wanted to take a look at the changes currently in store for both bear and tree druids (with a few notes that inevitably touch on cats as well, as some feral changes are pretty general).
And far be it from me to omit the most important change:
Well, thank God for that.
I've collected all of the bear- and restoration-related 4.1 PTR changes here, and we'll go through them one by one.
I have to redownload the PTR and hadn't seen this yet, but fortunately a few players nabbed video. I've embedded one at the top of the post and have to say the new effect looks really nice. Anything that distinguishes a helpful spell effect from its nastier boss AoE cousins in raids is always a good thing.
On the downside, resto players doing Naxxramas for nostalgia can no longer throw the raid into a blind panic with strategically-placed Efflorescences (is that even a word?) on Grobbulus.
The first one here is actually (if I recall correctly) a reverted change from an earlier PTR build; the latter is revamped from what was a blanket 20% nerf to Lifebloom's base healing. As with all things PTR, nothing that we know is written in stone, so portions of this article may well be obsolete within a few days.
For anyone new to the druid class as of Cataclysm, it's traditional for Blizzard to diddle endlessly with Lifebloom right around this point in an expansion. The component of the spell that developers decide to nerf/buff is the instructive point. If they go for the per-second tick, it's a PvE nerf; if they go for the bloom, it's a PvP nerf. What we have here is most assuredly the latter, but we'll see what happens as PTR testing continues. For the moment I think it's safe to assume that developers are trying to minimize any nerf's potential effect on tank healing.
Since snow removal has constituted a good 75% of my waking existence from late December to the present, raid time has been pretty thin on the ground. I haven't had the opportunity to examine Stampeding Roar usage on a case-by-case basis during raid encounters as a result. Ashamed as I am to admit this, the ability was getting the most use from me while running back from wipes, as it was one of the few times it was guaranteed to do something for multiple people. I always figured there were encounters I just hadn't seen yet where it wound up helping players other than myself, but the 10-yard radius tended to eighty-six most of its usefulness while tanking. While slightly more helpful while healing (assuming I had the time to jump to cat/bear), it was still a crapshoot; any encounter requiring the raid to spread out (which seems to be most of them) by necessity meant that Stampeding Roar wasn't going to hit a lot of players. The high energy cost of the ability in cat form sure doesn't help either.
From the opinions I've canvassed, PvP players aren't hugely enthusiastic about the change either; Stampeding Roar is overwhelmingly seen as an ability that's potentially useful but undermined by a punishingly small area of effect. Neither of the proposed changes addresses this, so SR is probably doomed to stay banished to the Siberian section of many an action bar.
While a good boost for "Hold threat on everything or the DPS dies" situations, this won't have much impact on bear tanks at level 85, because Thrash is by far the better AoE threat ability. It's going to be felt most below level 81 by leveling bears -- what few of them seem to exist -- who have Swipe and only Swipe for AoE threat. It's just unfortunate that the solution for the hassle of AoE tanking on a bear seems to be a return to Wrath's much-derided Swipe spam. Granted, a 3-second cooldown doesn't constitute spam, but ... still.
As an aside, my TankWatch™ project continues. I don't have sufficient data to go live with an article on it just yet, but this is the tank representation I've seen in 5-man dungeons from levels 15-42 so far:
- Paladin: 66%
- Warrior: 25%
- Druid: 9%
True story: When the change to shapeshifting's no longer removing root effects in patch 4.0.6 was first announced, we got a peevish question from a feral reader over the team line wanting to know how cats were going to PvP with the change. Within a second of each other, both Sacco and I replied: "Poorly," and Chase opined that the change needed to be reverted because "Right now, feral druids are the only ones that have a shot of wrecking our frost mage overlords." As Diziet observed on Arena Junkies, the change turned the feral from one of the most to least mobile specs in arena overnight, and the removal of Fear immunity from Berserk also meant that the PvP trinket basically had to be used for a Fear or root removal, but not both.
I don't technically cover cats anymore in the Tuesday column (you've got the extraordinary Chase Hasbrouck, a.k.a. Alaron of The Fluid Druid, for now), but the loss of functional root immunity bled through to the bear, and this still irritates me. I saw it as one of the few truly unique things about a tank that's borrowed so heavily from warriors.
Regardless, this will provide ferals and more specifically cats with two Get Out of Snare Free cards before we go back to getting destroyed by Ice Lance. Also interesting is that the Stampeding Roar version should theoretically affect more players than just yourself (or it would if the 10-yard radius were anything other than the exact point of contention among PvP players).
Either way, this is not the last we're going to see of the developers' efforts to tinker with cats in battlegrounds and arena, although I hope it's the last time that bears are going to be collateral damage in that process.
The wording on this one is a little odd; Gift of Nature is one of the passive bonuses you get for speccing into the restoration tree, and it doesn't have ranks. So either Blizzard's referring to an as-yet-unknown talent here that accidentally got the Gift of Nature label, or speccing into the resto tree automatically buys you a 5-minute bonus on your Tranquility cooldown.
The change is arguably most interesting for what it's not, because we've been waiting to see what the developers cook up for a damage-reduction cooldown. Shaman have gotten a new totem, but the Tranquility change is definitely not the same deal. Stay tuned, folks.
This is something that merits its own post, to be frank -- but as Keeva at Tree Bark Jacket observes, it's a good thing -- or at least we think it is. The haste scaling is the most compelling improvement here, but I'll see how the new version of the spell performs on the PTR and report back.
What race should you choose for your druid? What happened to Tree of Life? How can you get started as a bear or cat in Cataclysm? Shifting Perspectives has the answers!