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Shifting Perspectives: State of the class, part 1 - Balance


Every Tuesday, or possibly Thursday when the writer votes on Tuesday and spends Wednesday screaming and beating her laptop over formatting errors, Shifting Perspectives explores issues affecting Druids and those who group with them. This week Allison Robert steals John Patricelli's column once again, secure in the knowledge that she will never be forced to atone for her crime as long as she writes something nice about ferals and keeps a respectful distance from Dan O'Halloran's whip.

I hate Tauren cat form.

Good. I got that out of my system and can write something productive. Although, believe me, if I could get away with it, an entire Shifting Perspectives would be devoted to just how much I hate Tauren cat form. I mean, just look at it! Look at the angle on the horns! The cat can't bite anything! Christ, I just -- hi, Dan. Yes, I'm totally writing the column! Look at me go!

This week, mindful as always of American election-year politicking, I'm going to borrow a page from presidential duties and write a little something I like to call "State of the Class." Druids have undergone a number of changes in the transition to Wrath of the Lich King, and will acquire even more as they level to 80. We are one of Blizzard's primary targets for both gear and role consolidation, which raises a few questions over how comfortably we're going to scale in relation to pure classes and what we can realistically expect on the march to a new level cap.

The TL:DR version of this article -- I believe our future is generally bright, the Druid community continues to have a few concerns over certain aspects of the class, our focus in PvP seems to be changing the most, and I hate Tauren cat form. This is a three-part post, so let's get started with balance. However, if you want to jump ahead to feral, you'll find that here; and the third part, restoration, is here.

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Filed under: Druid, Analysis / Opinion, PvP, Instances, Expansions, Features, Raiding, The Burning Crusade, Leveling, Buffs, (Druid) Shifting Perspectives, Wrath of the Lich King, Battlegrounds, Arena

Divine Providence not worthless after all

I would like to take this opportunity to disagree with my own post the other day declaring Divine Providence worthless. I was so moved by all your comments that I specced 14/47/0 and took Circle of Healing for a spin through half of Tempest Keep and all of Zul'Aman, and have changed my mind entirely. Circle of Healing is amazing, and I never want to let it go. If Blizzard wants to give me a talent to buff it and other heals by 10%, and lower the cooldown on Prayer of Mending, they can go right ahead.

As you all had predicted out, my estimate of Greater Heal and Flash Heal covering 70% of my healing between them was woefully inaccurate. In fact, in both instances, CoH alone accounted for 70% or more of my healing. The new Divine Providence is +10% to all multi-target heals, and 3 seconds off Prayer of Mending's cooldown (with 5 points in the talent). Even if I ignore the other effects and just look at the boost to CoH, I get (70% * 2%) = 1.4% increase to my healing per talent point, well above the 1%-per-point benchmark.

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Filed under: Priest, Analysis / Opinion

PvE winners and losers in patch 3.0

I'm putting together a class-by-class prediction post on how the changes we'll see in patch 3.0 and beyond will wind up affecting PvE gameplay in Wrath, but it's probably a bit premature to make specific guesses while talents and skills are still being overhauled in the beta. Still, I think a few general trends (at least for 3.0) are pretty clear.

I'm calling it now; Paladins will fare best, but Shamans will be the hardest hit by the upcoming changes, especially with respect to raiding. I think this change is driven in no small part by Blizzard's realization that Sunwell-level raid guilds are hugely dependent on the party-specific buffs like totems and Heroism/Bloodlust that Shamans bring. The problem is that Shamans are still the least-played class, which has left raiding guilds desperate for a high-end population of Shamans that simply does not exist (especially Alliance-side). Making Shaman totems and Heroism/Bloodlust buff the entire raid (but heavily nerfing how often the raid can benefit from the latter) means the days of stacking Shamans (or trying to) are effectively over.

Paladin changes, especially for holy and retribution, are equally driven by Blizzard's experience with Sunwell. With absolutely breathtaking amounts of raid damage occurring, encounters were disproportionately weighted in favor of: a). healers with more raid-healing capacity, like resto Shamans and CoH Priests (something we heard from SK Gaming months ago) and b). DPS who brought raid-wide DPS buffs to kill the boss as fast as possible (e.g. Retribution Paladins on Brutallus and M'uru). Given the new skills I'm seeing on other healing specs, I'll make another prediction; prepare to see that same level of raid damage rear its ugly head in Naxxramas again.

I'll be launching a more extensive prediction post once talents and skills are finalized for Wrath, and then I'd like to do a follow-up post at some point after guilds start conquering level 80 raid content to see whether they were any good.

Filed under: Paladin, Shaman, Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Expansions, Raiding, Classes

Raid Rx: Pigeon-holing healers

Raid Rx is designed to encapsulate and cure the shock and horror that is 25-man raid healing. Ok, so it's mostly horror... Anyways, if you're a big fan of X-TREME Whack-A-Mole (or are being forced into it against your will) this is the column for you. In the spirit of pigeons, the picture to the right reminded me of the old adage "It's more efficient to rez you."

There are 9 classes that can dps, but only 4 that can heal. Warrior bandage sets don't count, sorry! While the raid damage doers are all about "providing massive quantities of steady and sustained DPS", you can often go it alone for the most part, assuming you know your place on the threat meter. Healers, on the other hand, have to work together as a team from the first pull to the last. Why? Because dps's damage stacks, while healing can cancel each other out. Gone are the days of Mana Conserve. /sniff sniff

Compounding the issue is most healers have only played their class into end game content. If you were crazy like me and rerolled a second healer when your guild was already on Morogrim, more power to you! But if you say anything that starts with "Back when my other healer ran <insert Pre-BC raid>..." then you prolly got my Mana Conserve reference, but your actual raiding experience of the current class design is low at best. Instead you're stuck reading the EJ forums and other references for classes you don't play. See Anonymous39857? That's me trying to read up on Resto Shamans.

So what does that all mean? You have 7 people with 4 different classes that have to work together while only ever played one class at their current content level. They might have the book smarts of what's going on around them, but no shoes that can be walked in. (Swapping chars is baaad for you and the raid, plus you'll go to Blizz jail.) Lots of commenters for my previous posts have offered their opinions on which class should be doing what and on whom. With all the interest in this particular subject, I wanted to put together something concise.

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Filed under: Druid, Paladin, Priest, Shaman, Analysis / Opinion, How-tos, Raiding, Raid Rx (Raid Healing)

Circle of Healing or Circle of Terrible?


First Holy Nova. Then Lightwell. As of 2.0.1, Circle of Healing is the top-tier Holy talent for Priests. Notice a trend? All these talents have been considered...um..."less than optimal" by many vocal members of the priestly community. And folks have tried to defend all three of them by pointing out that they are nice to have in certain situations. Well, today Drysc plays the "situationally useful" card with respect to CoH over in the WoW General forums: "[CoH] has some amazing tactical uses; that you can sit (likely well) out of harms way and send heals to a group of players. To equalize some of that ability the healing potency isn't as strong as a normal prayer of healing maybe, but I don't think it's anything to be scoffed at either. I would be surprised if the talent was completely overlooked in strategies for future dungeons and encounters, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was relied on for more than a few".

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Filed under: Priest, Analysis / Opinion

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