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Shifting Perspectives: Symbiosis speculation

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Shifting Perspectives for cat, bear, restoration and balance druids. Welcome to our feral cat edition, brought to you by Chase Hasbrouck, aka Alaron of The Fluid Druid blog. Let the face clawing begin!

So, last week, I said I was going to start talking about 4.3 this week; of course, Blizzard decided to release its official talent calculator a couple of days ago. Oops. I posted my snap reactions to the new stuff on Twitter, but let's dive in and take a more in-depth look.

Front and center in the discussion is our new ability, Symbiosis. Teased by the developers during Blizzcon, we finally have a tooltip, and the possibilities are potentially mind-blowing (if you have a priest).

"Symbiosis: Creates a symbiotic link which grants the Druid one ability belonging to the target's class, varying by the Druid's specialization. In exchange, grants the target one Druid ability based on their class and combat role ..."

Wow. Apparently, we took some lessons from Malacrass. Anyway, before you go too crazy with speculation, here's how I see this working. This won't be a stealing of the ability; this will be a copy. You link with player X and receive a copy of one of his abilities, dependent on his class/spec; he receives a copy of one of yours, depending on your spec. Cool, right? Well, this is going to be tough for Blizzard to balance. I see the spec thing eventually falling by the wayside, as 30 different abilities would be simply insane. Ten abilities in (one per class) and four out (one per role of receiving class) seems most likely.

I also think that utility spells will be the focus of Symbiosis, things like Heroic Leap, Anti-Magic Shell, Spellsteal, etc. For handouts, I'll speculate and say Barkskin and Innervate are likely candidates; DPS abilities are possible, but they'll have to be significantly nerfed for balance purposes. (A rogue with Tiger's Fury would be beastly.) As with any new ability (even if it's a copy of another class's ability), Blizzard has to make it something you want to use -- but it can't make this too good, or it'll force raids to stack druids+X for Symbiosis purposes, and people without a raiding X will complain that they can't compete, etc. Feel free to speculate as to what abilities you'd like to inherit in the comments.

We're also gaining a new ability, Might of Ursoc, which is essentially Frenzied Regeneration without the regeneration, just the +30% max health and heal if below that. Veterans will recognize that it's not new at all; it's the pre-Cataclysm version of Survival Instincts that disappeared when tank cooldowns were normalized. It's handy, but likely won't be overly useful except in last-ditch situations.

Ability tweaks

Looking at the tooltips of all our current abilities, there are several intriguing changes plus additional information about some the previously revealed talents.The biggest change is Savage Roar, which is displayed as a 30% physical damage buff instead of an 80% auto-attack buff. This may just be Blizzard using the old Wrath tooltip, but if this stays, this vastly increases the importance of SR in the rotation, to the point where you'll prioritize it above Rip.

The more interesting change, however, is that rage costs and the language "requires Bear Form" have been removed from most of the Bear abilities, to be replaced with "activates Bear Form." As I discussed in one of my previous columns, the need to spend a GCD and generate rage had greatly discouraged the use of Bear abilities, but if that GCD cost disappears, our utility expands dramatically. Bash is the perfect example: A 5-second instant stun that only requires a single GCD to get back to Cat Form? Awesome.

Also, the changes to Thrash and Swipe signal a much more interesting AoE rotation is being discussed. Thrash is now learned at level 28 and has no reference to Bear Form at all, simply noting that "damage varies by shapeshift form." Combine this with the notation on Swipe that it does 20% more damage to bleeding targets, and it looks like Thrash will become a part of our AoE rotation. Savage Roar, if it continues to buff all damage, will play a part as well.

Finally, I'm in love with the fully revealed Wild Charge talent. I'm hopeful that Incarnation/Force of Nature are not overly powerful, as Wild Charge gives us a whole new level of mobility. Basically, it's Feral Charge, Blink, and Intervene all rolled into one and will be immensely powerful for PvP. In contrast, Heart of the Wild seems very underpowered. A 50% agility-to-intellect conversion and a 95% armor increase isn't going to be enough to allow us to off-heal or off-tank with any degree of success. This talent will likely go through several rounds of balancing changes.

Abilities lost

Of course, we have to take the bad with the good. I may have missed a few things, but here's a quick list of what we'll be losing to other specializations. Of course, this is pre-alpha, so all of this will likely change:
  • Balance Starfire, Insect Swarm (now a balance spell buff, call it the ranged version of Savage Roar)
  • Resto Nourish, Regrowth, Lifebloom, Remove Corruption, Revive
  • Guardian Savage Defense, Survival of the Fittest, Thick Hide, Frenzied Regeneration, Survival Instincts, Enrage, specialization bonuses (Vengeance/Savage Defender)
  • Lost entirely Thorns, Cower
None of what we're projected to lose were abilities that we used on a regular basis. In case it wasn't clear already, the idea of tanking as a feral is completely dead (no Savage Defense "block," no crit mitigation, no armor, no cooldowns), but we knew that already. For those thinking of trying to DPS as Guardian, don't bother with that, either; they lose Rip, Shred, Savage Roar, and Tiger's Fury. Losing Remove Corruption probably hurts the most from a utility perspective. Sure, it was horrible for our DPS to be constantly shifting out to remove a curse/poison, but it was the only way to get through some heroics when nobody else would decurse. (I'm not counting Cower, because my assumption is that all the threat-type mechanics will be gone or incredibly simplified). Losing Lifebloom hurts for PvP, but I'm certain the other new toys will more than account for that. Finally, I'm really hoping that the labeling of Revive as spec-specific is just a typo, seeing as none of the other non-healing specs for other classes lost their rez.

Overall, these changes seem to be very positive. While I'm still sad about losing the hybrid feral capability, the rotational tweaks look to bring back some of the dynamism from Wrath ... and I'm eagerly anticipating stealth cataphoons. Remember, the heights are dark and full of terrors.

Looking for the latest and greatest in feral cat druid guides? Shifting Perspectives has the answers! Check out our cat 101 for Cataclysm. Also don't miss gearing your cat for Firelands raiding, addons for cat druids and raiding strats for feral cats, as well as our feral cat Firelands boss strats.

Filed under: (Druid) Shifting Perspectives, Mists of Pandaria

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