Well, I'm bushed. Post-BlizzCon, I reached that dreamy level of fatigue allowing me to hallucinate that I am on a Thai beach being served fizzy drinks by men in loincloths, and that was lovely while it lasted. But just as I had recovered from the delusion that this was ever going to happen, a freak snowstorm hit the American northeast and killed every tree and power line in sight. Folks, I spent a week without power or internet, and I am mad at the world.
Let's see. What did I have on the docket for this week? Responsibly and rationally evaluating what we learned at BlizzCon 2011? The hell with that. Let's start off by completely ignoring the new talents announced, and then getting into a quite possibly asinine prediction that I will try to pretend never happened if it doesn't come true.
The other cheek
Hey, wait a minute. Why are we ignoring the new talents?
Because they're pointless.
Whoa, whoa. Calm down there, slugger! The new talents are very interesting, don't get me wrong. However, they don't mean anything out of context, and right now, we're fresh out of context. Short of an information dump from Blizzard in the next several months, we won't be able to evaluate the new talents accurately until the Mists of Pandaria alpha goes live and information is inevitably leaked.
Let's take Tireless Pursuit from the first tier as an example. It "removes all roots and snares, and increases movement speed by 70% while in Cat Form for 15 seconds." Nice! It's always good to add a gap-closer for PvP, or something that'll help you catch up to a pesky mob in a raid. But we don't know if things like Dash or Stampeding Roar are baseline anymore.
So Tireless Pursuit is either:
- an additional Dash that helpfully picks up Stampeding Roar's root/snare clear, or
- meant to replace Dash/Stampeding Roar on druid specs that no longer have either skill, and the fact that it removes roots and snares means that all four druid specs have lost the ability to shapeshift out of them. No bueno.
So don't panic. Don't rejoice. We don't know what these talents really mean, and we won't until Blizzard starts dropping information on which skills are baseline and which ones aren't.
So now let's get to our quite possibly stupid prediction:
A comeback for tanking leather
Why will tanking leather make a comeback?
Because in order to get the Raid Finder to work -- or to use its loot system in the Dungeon Finder, as Blizzard's hinted at doing -- tanking and DPS leather can't be the same thing without being a complete nightmare for everyone concerned.
I've started to wonder if the final split between the bear and cat arrived not because Blizzard actually wanted to divide the specs but because there's no foolproof means of distinguishing between the two as long as they share the same spec. Back when a player named Zardoz collected statistics for Armory Data Mining, he tried his hardest to figure out a way to count which feral players were decisively bears and which were definitely cats. A guest blogger named Darush later revisited the issue using some advanced statistical techniques to try to cut through all the noise.
They arrived at the conclusion that, at least through the information available through the Armory (talents, glyphs, stat valuation, and so on), there wasn't a good way to do it. While there are a lot of players who are definitely playing one of the two specs over the other, there's also a huge population of players who could be either or both. I suspect the issue has become even more muddled now than it was two years ago, as the modern bear values stamina less than it did in Wrath of the Lich King.
So there's that. And then there's also a blue post from this past week, in response to Fasc's question over how the Raid Finder plans to classify agility leather:
First observation Blizzard's saying right off the bat that the Raid Finder's loot system is a work-in-progress, and it's going to take some fiddling once it hits the live servers.
Second observation "The game currently does not have a very robust notion of what your spec is, so for now we can't make the loot rules very stringent, other than checking your current role." Uh-oh.
In other words, bears are not going to have priority on agility leather when this system goes live. To be fair, they shouldn't have priority, because it's not really tank gear. Automatically having a need+ roll on agility leather screws over every cat and rogue in the raid, and that's not right. However, the lack of a need+ roll on their own gear leaves bears in a pretty horrible position relative to plate tanks, who (even if they don't get priority on strength plate either) have always wanted defensive stats that DPSers tend to avoid. If your co-tank in a raid wears plate, then by definition he or she has almost no loot competition of any kind.
This is a problem that will only be realistically solved by the reintroduction of tanking leather. Otherwise, the guardian druid and the brewmaster monk will find themselves rolling against feral druids and all three rogue specs for gear. In addition to these folks, competition for agility rings, necklaces, cloaks, and trinkets will also arrive from all three hunter specs and the enhancement shaman. Plate tanks will have a massive gearing advantage over their leather tank colleagues, because they're only ever rolling against two or three specs at most (the protection warrior, the protection paladin, and the blood death knight).
Solution? Split the specs. Give the game a foolproof method of distinguishing between bears and cats, and give each their own gear. That's my guess, anyway.
Sub-prediction The Raid Finder's present inability to distinguish between the bear and cat specs and the inability to give the game's present agility-based tank a need+ roll on its gear is going to be a huge issue in patch 4.3.
Shifting Perspectives helps you gear your bear druid, breaks down the facts about haste for trees, and then digs into the restoration mastery. You might also enjoy our look at the disappearance of the bear.