I don't like being mean. However, after a certain amount of beta testing for each expansion and the slew of questionable experiences that that tends to bring, I've noticed that I will eventually write something that veers into the realm known as "unpleasant." For Wrath of the Lich King, it was over the raft of players rolling death knights who had never played a melee class before and were making life hell for their groups. (Although it turns out that "Most of you are awful" was a less controversial opinion than anticipated.) For Cataclysm, it was to Blizzard over the fact that resto druids couldn't hit anything except Nourish or Lifebloom without gasping for mana, and I'm pretty sure our subsequent experience in tier 11 bore me out there. (In short: It sucked.)
In the Mists of Pandaria beta, I figured I'd hit the old Cataclysm heroics first for a more forgiving playground with the new skills and talents, and lots of other players had the same idea. Consequently, I've run into a pretty wide variety of tanks and healers with different gear and skill sets, and something has become horribly obvious after running a slew of 5-mans. Nor can I blame unfamiliarity with the content for poor performance, including my own. We know these dungeons. The only new variable is whatever's in your spellbook that wasn't there before.
This is where things get mean, and I apologize:
If you are a bad tank and aren't interested in getting better, Mists of Pandaria might be a good time to find something else to do.
Oh, Shiznit: Healing the tank who doesn't care
Why do I say this? Because bad tanks are about to get a lot worse.
Right now, a bad tank is someone who pulls too many mobs for his or her level of gear, keeps mobs with a frontal cone AoE or cleave turned toward the group, doesn't blow cooldowns to help with a high level of incoming damage, and keeps blithely tanking away with loose mobs running around the group. ("So what's the difference between a bad tank and an inexperienced tank?" you ask. Inexperienced tanks are less likely to anticipate when one of these things is going to happen, but they care about it when it does.)
Fortunately for the rest of us, bad tanks are relatively uncommon, even in PUGs. Tanking's gotten a lot easier over the years, and the barrier to entry is arguably the lowest it's ever been. This is why I think that's a good thing.
But a bad tank in Mists of Pandaria is still going to be doing all of that while taking a nasty amount of incoming damage. The active mitigation model to which Blizzard has moved means you're a lot more responsible for your own survival, and I kept running into a share of tanks who either hadn't cottoned on to the new reality or just didn't care. The worst so far has been a death knight in End Time who I firmly believe was geared entirely in epic Kleenex. You know you're on a bad 5-man run when you look forward to the tank's dying because the mage is so much easier to heal.
As Khuruuk remarked on Twitter, this might just be the result of players' convenient access to a premade level 85 of any class, and it's possible that I just got unlucky with a slew of people who had never tanked before and were hitting buttons for the pleasure of seeing what they'd do. Actually, I hope that's the case.
As an aside concerning End Time for bear tanks out there who are interested in training yourselves with the new tanking model, Murozond is actually a note-perfect boss on which to practice weaving Savage Defense and Frenzied Regeneration. While he's meleeing, you try to keep SD running as much as possible. After a breath or Temporal Blast (i.e., damage that you can't dodge), you hit FR. It works beautifully, and it's a great introduction to active mitigation.
The new dungeons and the learning curve
Something to note here is that, surprisingly, tanks in the new Mists 5-mans have universally been easier to heal than their counterparts were in the old heroics, although I suspect this is just due to the incredible ease of said 5-mans at present. Whether it's because Blizzard's still stomping out the bugs, they're designed to be incredibly easy, they're just really undertuned, or some combination of all three, I have yet to land what feels like a genuinely bad tank in either the Stormstout Brewery or the Temple of the Jade Serpent.
Later dungeons are more difficult, however. It's possible that the Brewery and Temple are designed to be gentle introductions to new class mechanics, with the real work starting in Shado-Pan Monastery and later.
All-purpose druid observations as of beta build 15752
- The new Glyph of Charm Woodland Creature is a lot of fun to use, but I've never had it last the full advertised hour. (I always seem to lose my critter whenever I hop on a mount) -- which is kind of a good thing, because I didn't look at a tanuki critter I charmed in the Arboretum and was horrified to discover I had just taken a mommy tanuki away from her babies. I sat there trying to figure out a way to dismiss the mommy tanuki (turns out you can't) when a wasp aggroed and -- not thinking this through -- I Thrashed. The best thing that can be said of my efforts is that, having separated a mother from her children, I removed any reason for maternal anxiety in short order. But I'm a humanitarian like that.
- You can have a regular non-combat pet out while you have a charmed critter, but you can't have two or more charmed critters at the same time.
- Shapeshift macros are still extremely inconsistent, and I have not the faintest idea why.
- Minor glyphs are still all that and a box of crackers. Major glyphs are on a sliding scale of woot to meh, with a greater portion of them leaning toward meh. We'll talk about this more soon.
- Symbiosis is all very well and good until you land a 5-man with another druid and you realize you both want it on the same player because everyone else's buff sucks. (Note: People will not believe you when you argue that being forced to put Symbiosis on the warlock constitutes a human rights violation.)
- As Blizzard's design for the bear has advanced, I have actually started to wonder if the bear isn't becoming somewhat overpowered (and by "somewhat," perhaps I mean, "massively"). Realistically, I have not really needed a healer in either Brewery or Temple if I sneezed in the direction of the Frenzied Regeneration button. Again, this could just be due to the incredible ease of both instances (I'm pretty sure I can't chalk this up to player skill, as the player in question is me), but if you're paying attention to SD, FR, and your slew of cooldowns, it's like you can't die.
- Feline Swiftness currently stacks with the four-piece PvP set bonus, and for the moment, I have a 132% speed bear. (For reference, this is slightly faster than the cat's speed with two points in Feral Swiftness on the live servers now.) It is extremely funny to watch a bear zooming around the Pandaria countryside like a furry Olympic sprinter, and I will be sad to give this up.
- The armored forms for Incarnation has been implemented, and they're really pretty.
- You're gonna need more hotkeys. Most of the talents you'll pick up are activated abilities, some of which you will not want to click.
- Bear glyphs are still pretty thin on the ground, and most are either situational or not very compelling. Again, we'll talk about this soon.
- Having to incorporate two AoE damage abilities (Swipe and Thrash) into the single-target rotation means that you will be killing Pandaria's abundant critters left, right, and center. Those tanuki kits were simply the latest in a long line of collateral damage.
- I don't know whether this is a bug or intended, but I've retained Feral Charge (well, technically Wild Charge) through every beta build on my bear bars despite never speccing into the actual talent. I am praying this is intended, because making a tank spec choose between increased run speed and a charge ability seems kinda mean.
- The resto druid's biggest danger on the beta right now is simply running out of globals. I think there's a case to be made for extending the duration of Lifebloom, because -- especially if you plan on using Wild Mushrooms at all -- you really only have about 7 seconds out of every 10 to do anything else with your group. Mathematically, this sounds like enough. Within the game, not so much so. This, too, is something I'd like to spend more time discussing.
- As with bear glyphs, resto glyphs are largely on the meh side of the sliding scale. Glyph of Lifebloom is the only new one that looks really compelling.
- Barkskin and Ironbark can be cast on you at the same time.
- As with the guardian, you're gonna need more hotkeys.
- I've encountered more monk tanks than anything else in the new 5-mans, and so far, they've been pretty easy to heal. This is in marked contrast to what healing the early death knight was like on the Wrath beta. However, I have not landed a monk tank in any of the later dungeons yet, so I don't know how they'll fare in more difficult content.
- Healy mushrooms are tremendous fun to use, but again, the real problem is getting enough global cooldowns to deploy and then use them effectively.
- Get used to saying "Remove Corruption has a cooldown" to players who get snippy that you haven't immediately decursed them. Right now, said cooldown is 8 seconds, and it's a real nuisance on the plentiful supply of curses that do shadow damage every few seconds to players.
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.