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Level 90 druid talents take a level in badass; shapeshifting breaks roots again

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Every week, WoW Insider brings you Shifting Perspectives for cat, bear, restoration and balance druids. This Tuesday was supposed to be an "off" week for the column, but screw that.

You know what? I think I finally nailed why the druid experience on the Mists of Pandaria beta has felt so bizarre at times. We've seen the re-emergence of stuff we used to take for granted (shifting out of roots and the return of permatree among them), and you know what it all reminds me of? Someone once described the boot camp experience as one in which "all of your God-given rights are stripped, only to be doled back later, one by one, as privileges." Yep. That's what this is like.

Anyway, Ghostcrawler hit the forums last night to give us some news on a revamped set of level 90 druid talents that have completely altered the ratio of win to suck in the bracket.

We've talked about the previous version of the level 90 druid talents before, and they've come in for a drubbing on the forums and in the blogosphere, largely because they weren't a very compelling addition to whatever you were actually playing. For reference, these are the talents in question (I've included a short description for posterity, since they'll be changing on the next beta build):
  • Heart of the Wild Dramatically improves the druid's ability to serve combat roles outside of normal specialization for 45 seconds; e.g., non-restoration druids get increased healing and free heals, and non-guardian druids get tanking bonuses. 6-minute cooldown.
  • Dream of Cenarius Wrath, Starfire, Starsurge, and melee abilities increase healing done by your next healing spell by 30%. Non-instant casts of Nourish, Healing Touch, and Regrowth increase the damage done by your next damaging spell or ability by 30%. Each of these bonuses last 30 seconds and cannot be gained more than once every 30 seconds.
  • Disentanglement Shapeshifting now removes roots. In addition, shifting into a form heals the druid for 20% of maximum health. This heal cannot be received more often than once every 30 seconds.
To many druids, neither Heart of the Wild nor Dream of Cenarius were compelling options. They both made you better at doing a job that, in general, you don't need to be doing. In PvE content, there is almost never a reason for a healer to start DPSing unless he's bored, and a guardian druid can't drop Bear Form whenever he feels like it. Disentanglement was all about having to spend a talent just to get what used to be a standard feature of the class back.

So compared to other classes, level 90 was not an exciting time to be a druid. The first two choices made you better at stuff you weren't doing, and the third was like going to a car dealership and paying extra to get a radio installed while death knights were tooling around the lot shouting, "Hey baby!" from a Bugatti Veyron.

So Ghostcrawler dropped by the forums last night with this to say:

Ghostcrawler
We're not yet happy with the druid level 90 row. We still like the theme of it playing into the druid's hybrid nature and we want to reassure you (which I think most of you already know) that druids won't do lower damage or healing compared to other classes just because some other class has an unambiguous throughput increasing talent at level 90. Classes are balanced around their whole package.

Nonetheless, we want the bottom row of talents to be exciting. In the next (hopefully) build, you'll see a few changes.

  • Disentanglement -- no longer a talent. Shapeshifting for all druids just breaks roots.
  • Dream of Cenarius -- increases damage spells by 70% (up from 30%).
  • Heart of the Wild -- now also grants 6% passive Agility and Intellect.
  • Nature's Vigil -- replaces Disentanglement. Increases all damage and healing done by 30% for 30 sec, with a 3 min cooldown. While active, all healing spells also damage a nearby target for 50% of healing done, and all damage spells and abilities also heal a nearby friendly target for 50% of the damage done.
Let us know how they feel once you get a chance to try them.

Ahem.

Let me take a moment to myself here to have a good, cleansing sob in the corner over this -- Shapeshifting for all druids just breaks roots.

I'm verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves.

...

OK, I'm back. That's right, druids: The nightmare is over! Cats, you're forgiven. Wow, your Arena performance must have sucked hardcore for Blizzard to consider reversing the shapeshifting change in the first place, but you know what? We shall speak no more of it. Let's just pretend it never happened. Thank you for sucking.

Both Dream of Cenarius and Heart of the Wild are a lot more attractive with the changes, even if the underlying design is still saddled with the "Get better at doing a job that's not yours" issue. Blizzard is really trying to push a more hybrid experience with the class, and the jury's still out on how that'll work. I think this approach has actually been a lot of fun for resto on the beta, but it's been more problematic for bear players, who are completely ineffective at their role if forced to be out of form. We'll talk about this more in the future.

Nature's Vigil is a really cool alternative, and it's probably massively overpowered, which is always what I like to see in a talent. I can see a bear calmly popping an agility trinket or two in tandem with Berserk, Bloodlust, a huge Vengeance stack, and (as Arielle observed) another new talent, Incarnation. I can see trees popping spellpower trinkets or getting a weapon proc with the Incarnation Tree of Life, hitting Tranquility -- and getting nerfed into the ground.

Level 90 still isn't accessible on the beta, and the changes haven't been implemented yet anyway, but this will be a lot of fun to play around with for the approximate nanosecond it's gonna last.

And in the meantime -- l'chaim!

Shifting Perspectives: Bear and Resto Edition takes a peek at healer balance in Dragon Soul, discovers why bears and PvP gear are a pretty good mix, lends advice on gearing up to hit the Raid Finder, and helps you level a druid in the Cataclysm era.

Filed under: Druid, Analysis / Opinion, News items, (Druid) Shifting Perspectives

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