Incoming long winded post with limited spell checking! I’m writing off the cuff here so please forgive my grammar atrocities.
So it has been a little over three weeks since I have posted and I apologize for dropping from everyone’s radar. Things have been hectic for me in real life and non-WoW games have certainly gobbled up a decent amount of my free time. Things have calmed down slightly and I wanted to take a moment to chime in on recent news (primarily my thoughts on the new talent system) and discuss what I’ve been playing as well.
While he was not necessarily a top tier hero in Warcraft 3 I often found myself enjoying the Pandaeran Brewmaster from time to time. He was amusing enough and there was clearly some lore to support him (according to blizzard) so we rolled with it. This was long before any Kung Fu Panda hit the market so it wasn’t tainted at the time. With the expansion looming somewhere on the horizon and all of the news that poured out of Blizzcon the masses are clearly split on the idea.
The theme itself I’m completely fine with as is the whole neutral race Panda thing. If Pandaeran were newer than Kung Fu Panda I think you could make a case for them pandering to the masses but this has been a known commodity in Warcraft lore for a long time now. Given that WoW, for all its seriousness, is generally light hearted in its approach when it can, the Pandaeran theme seems like it will fit in well contrasted by the harsh war between Alliance and Horde.
I am having a little bit of difficulty getting excited about an expansion with no “real” threat outside of faction warfare. I do not really PvP and I certainly do not world PvP. As long as they can promise quality challenging raid content I will more than likely be perfectly happy. That is, after all, why I play the end game. It’s a little bit of a bummer to not have a strong motivation like we have with Deathwing but it made me think back to this expansion and the previous ones as far as who I really cared about fighting. In each expansion only a few of the bosses had real compelling quest lines or prominent effects on the world around them. A lot of the bosses, despite being famous names in Warcraft lore, felt a little thrown in or cameo. I’m curious to see just what we’re going to get from MoP and whether or not they can justify us going into these raids and risking our digital necks in the process.
Druids in Mists of Pandaria
I’m going to shy away from commenting on feral druids in the next expansion as it is the area I am weakest experience wise, however the addition of the fourth spec will really allow them to separate both halves of the feral experience and provide each with more tailor made benefits. While yes it means that cat druids won’t be able to hop into bear form as well as they do now and bear druids won’t be able to do as much dps when not tanking but that is the price to pay as other tanks (and hybrids) aren’t able to do it as well.
Blizzard said that they enjoy the balance druid model and support the concept of doing high DPS during eclipse and much lower DPS outside of eclipse. This adds to the challenge of playing the class but does not entirely solve the problem of being forced to do AoE while not in an eclipse state. To combat that though our Hurricane spell will now interact with Lunar eclipse giving us an AoE toolset for both modes (hopefully with a mana cost reduction). We will still be responsible for trying to force into the eclipse with the more useful toolset but at least that gives us some element of control.
Restoration druids clearly need some love and thankfully Blizzard is looking to improve us. They seem to have settled into a begrudging acceptance of the Wild Growth / Rejuvenation spam AoE toolset as many druids have pushed back harshly against our direct cast time heals as much as possible. While we do use them it is more out of necessity than anything else at this point. As long as our direct heals continue to be pound for pound weaker than our counterparts they need to allow us to rely on those aspects of our healing paradigm that we excel at.
Taking Wild Growth down a notch in 4.3 seems rough and we’ve already talked at length about how we are going to work around that, but with the news of our new “ability” there is some hope for MoP Healing. While specced restoration it appears that our Wild mushroom spell will morph into a healing based ability [I have to say huge kudos to Lissanna who has been pushing this idea for some time]. If rejuvenation and wild growth can continue to be the backbone of our healing routine we can plan for the occasions where using the mushrooms is advantageous. Pre-planning a location where the raid will be moving to or gathering up at (melee or ranged) allows for some forethought as how to best utilize the detonation. If the ability is balanced so that even in a bind the output from the mushrooms on X number of people supports the three mini-GCD’s to drop them we can also still use it even when no pre-planning was available. I must admit I’m quite excited about this ability and I think it will work out quite well as we move forward.
New Talent Trees
There has been a lot of discussion about the new talent trees and a lot of people [read: vocal minority] have been lashing out saying that the game has been overly simplified even more. I claim that is pretty much B.S. at this point. There is generally one main skeleton build for each role and only a few real floater points that you can customize at will. While some people take pleasure in tweaking these last few customizable bits they hardly constitute any real major decisions and will not affect your gameplay in any life-altering way. Swapping 2 points from Furor to Genesis was a big deal in T11 (and possibly T12) but I don’t really consider that significant. There was one was to spec with some small permutations and that is it. If blizzard can bake in all of those must haves into your specialization, as they said they will do, then their proposed new talent system will only add new and exciting options to our builds. If, after the final tweaking, there really are multiple options for every spec at every talent choice level, then we really will be able to tweak and customize our load-out prior to every fight. If it bothers you thinking about it like a load-out then…I’m sorry? It’s not like a hearth and a respect were all that hard to do before honestly. Let’s look at the required talents for a resto druid currently, taken from my guide, and see how they can be baked in.
Natural Shapeshifter – Decreases Shifting Costs by 20% and increases Tree of Life duration by 6 seconds
-All druids take this. Reduce the cost of shapeshifting by 20% relative to base mana and simply increase Tree of Life’s duration. Tree of Life may or may not undergo additional changes for MoP anyway.
Naturalist – Reduce the cast time of Nourish and Healing touch by .5 seconds
-As part of the Restoration specialization have the base casting time of these spells be lower
Heart of the Wild – Increase intellect by 6%
-With the stats deflation they are working on it is unclear just where this flat stat boost will go. Given that all druids take this it could be baked in literally anywhere.
Master Shapeshifter – Passive bonus depending no spec
-All druids take this. Bake the flat percent bonus in with their respective specs
Improved Rejuvenation – Boosts Rejuvenation by 15%
-Given that Rejuv. is a core ability of the resto healing model having this 15% increase be baseline for our specialization is reasonable
Revitalize – 2% total mana returned every 12 seconds minimum, Replenishment
-Again it is unclear what the mana regen scenario will be across the board given the stat deflation plan. You could easily have the restoration druid version of lifebloom have a separate spell ID that triggers replenishment and revitalize by default. Similarly this version of lifebloom could have the empowered touch and Malfurion’s Gift abilities built into it.
Malfurion’s Gift/Empowered Touch
-As long as lifebloom is so integral to our spec for triggering abilities and mana regen these types of procs could simply be wrangled into it. You could easily have one of our listed specialization perks that our lifebloom is empowered and offers the following benefits etc. etc.
-Certain abilities will be specialization unlocked and I can only assume this will include Wild Growth and Swiftmend
-Simply build this into Swiftmend as it is mandatory
Swift Rejuvenation – GCD of Rejuvenation is 1 second
-Restoration baseline ability. No major deal here honestly
Gift of the Earthmother – Increased Bloom and initial Rejuvenation heal
-This one is tricky. If they feel this talent is critical (and I bet that don’t) then they can bake both bonuses into the restoration specific versions of Lifebloom and Rejuvenation respectively.
Tree of Life
-Built into the new talent system
Nature’s Grace – Haste bonus every 1 minute
-No easy solution here but could easily be a baseline druid ability with little issues should they intend to keep it around
Nature’s Majesty – 4% crit to spells
-This is strictly a percentage throughput benefit. You could remove it entirely and buff elsewhere to compensate or try to build it in to the specs
Moonglow/Furor – mana cost reduction 9% and max mana increase 10%
-It comes back to deflation. If they can balance our casting such that these talent is not required then it becomes entirely useless. Furor could easily be made baseline as all druids take it.
This is not necessarily an in depth look but it does seem to cover our “build” almost entirely. You simply make a restoration specific version of Lifebloom and Rejuvenation and build many of the throughput and mana related talents into our specialization.
As for the new abilities they previewed…they’re not perfect and certainly rough around the edges but it shows what they’re trying to do. Let’s take a look at where they’re going with this. If all of our major throughput stats, regenerative stats, and core spells are covered in our specialization these talents are simply the next step up in utility, versatility, and additional specialization. Bear in mind things are usually subject to massive change.
Level 15: Mobility
Feline Swiftness – 10% move speed buff, 20% additional buff in cat form, passive
Displacer Beast – random 20 yd blink, remove all DoT’s and stealth
Tireless Pursuit – 70% speed buff, remove all movement impairing effects
All of these are pleasantly situational. Feline Swiftness offers your baseline mobility and may be the ability we gravitate to as “baseline”. Displacer beast is great for pvp and also for any fight where stealthing (adds beating on you perhaps) or DoT’s are an issue. Tireless pursuit gives you an added Dash if massive mobility is required for an encounter. Good choices with very specific uses. Even if these change I support what they are doing with this tier.
Level 30: Healing
Nature’s Swiftness – Same as before
Renewal – Instant self heal, 30% max HP
Cenarion Ward – Proactive shield on friendly target, places a HoT once triggered
I very much like what they’re doing here. Renewal is a fantastic option for non-healers as is Cenarion ward should the fight dictate it. From a healers perspective Nature’s Swiftness offers much the same benefit it did before, but having the option to use Cenarion Ward seems very powerful as well. It is no Power Word Shield as it takes time to provide its benefit and cannot be spammed, but it may be a really nice proactive tank healing spell (or other scenarios in a pinch) worth using. We will need to see if the lengthy cooldown relegates it to fairly situational uses. Since most of our throughput math is governed by our talent specialization this offers us a decent choice between two situational abilities.
Level 45: Control Control
Faerie Swarm – Faerie fire with a short duration slow component built in
Mass Entanglement – targeted area of effect entangling roots for 8 seconds
Typhoon – same as before
While none of these abilities directly impact our healing in a raid they still offer some interesting options. Its clear that knockback is going to be something required in some encounters as we move forward so opening up typhoon to all druids of all forms is definitely nice. Mass Entanglement is more caster oriented and gives a little emergency group CC which will be useful on some encounters for sure. Faerie Swarm offers all druids a ranged single target 15 second slow that appears to have no cooldown at this time. I would assume there may be some limitations to spamming this as a slowing ability but if so it would allow druids to kite even more effectively.
Level 60: The “What the hell” tier
Wild Charge – Reverse lifegrip (fly to them with a free heal), feral charge, and disengage for moonkin (with free eclipse power)
Incarnation – Tree of Life and Improved Cat Form
Force of Nature – summons three treants, abilities depending on forms
It is unclear what they plan to do with Treants which makes it difficult to gage its worth. My guess is that the balance ones may behave similar to the burning treants, the feral ones will melee, and the restoration ones will heal. The last option there is tricky, because then you’d have to create a direct link to Tree of Life and evaluate which offers a larger healing benefit on a fight to fight bases. What they may do is remove a healing option for treants just as Incarnation has no balance druid option at this time. This may be a more specialized tier where there are really only two options per spec. Tank – WC or FoN, Cat – Inc or FoN, Balance – WC or FoN, Resto – WC or Inc
Level 75: Crowd Management
Demo roar – Roar that disoriented nearby targets (not reduce attack power or damage), forces a shift to bear form
Ursol’s Vortex – Mass deathgrip on all targets within 15 yards. Does not appear to taunt the mobs however
Bear Hug – stun that deals up to 30% of the druids maximum health in damage, forces a shift to bear form. Can be broken
This tier offers difficult choices for caster druids and I have a feeling some changes will be made. Demo roar and Ursol’s Vortex do offer some interesting raiding abilities that may govern how adds are handling in fights. Having druids chain Vortex to scoop up mobs for AoE could potentially be very powerful provided that it was safe to do.
Level 90: Versatility and Survivability
Heart of the Wild – You can temporarily serve a role outside of your primary spec
Master Shapeshifter – Using abilities outside of your normal spec provide a bonus to your main spec abilities temporarily
Disentanglement – Shifting removes snares, every 30 seconds your shifts can heal you for 20% of your total health
This is the tier that I am least happy with. Looking past the fact that it is the final tier and the one you are working hard to get, the abilities themselves are fairly lackluster to some degree. In theory I like what they are trying to do. Giving the option to gain that old druid snare dodging ability and a heal has a huge effect on PvP as does Heart of the Wild. Heart of the Wild has the potential to be somewhat useful in raiding but really only when the crap hits the fan. If you’re forced to use that things are likely in dire straits (could make the same comment about Rebirth but they are in different categories I think). Master Shapeshifter just seems unappealing to me. I don’t have anything good to say about it at this time but we’ll see where they take it in the future.
Overall though there’s a lot of good things to take away from this. I like the ability to tailor my spells and abilities on a fight to fight basis and I think people will derive a lot of enjoyment from this system provided they go ahead with it. I’ll probably be writing a lot more about Mists of Pandaria as the news unfolds and will do a lot of Beta Testing when the time comes. All in all I’m quite excited about their ideas (minus the pet arena thing) and look forward to what they finally unveil.
What I’ve been playing
So clearly WoW hasn’t been my only game played as of late and I thought I’d share what’s currently on my docket. The single player games I’m working through right now are Rage and Orcs Must Die. I must say I’m really enjoying these two immensely. Orcs Must Die is so much fun and amazingly addictive but I’ve only just started it so I can’t talk too much about it.
Rage was plagued with some issues to start but some monkey wrenching in my NVidia driver settings to force VSync on permanently fixed the tearing right up and had it running at a very healthy frame rate. If you like the whole post-apolcolyptic vibe I highly recommend checking it out. The high res texture graphics (when enabled) are nice and the character models are detailed and expressive. The action has felt so far but I’m only about 6 hours into the game but given my tendency to do all side quests and races may not put me as far in as you’d think.
As a couple we’ve been playing through L.A. Noire as we hadn’t had a chance to start it until now. I will say playing this game as a team has been a lot of fun and a great collaborate experience. For anyone not familiar, L.A. Noire is a game by Rockstar, or Grand Theft Auto fame, which takes a decidedly different twist. You play through the eyes of a rising star Detective who works through multiple desks of his LAPD division and work to solve cases. You are tasked with recovering evidence, questioning persons of interest, conducting interrogations, and chasing down unruly suspects. The action is a little clunky and certainly isn’t the games strength. The puzzle solving is challenging and rewards diligence. The interrogations are made that much more enjoyable by their impressive face technology. Real actors, many you’d recognize from Heroes, Fringe, and other shows/movies, had their entire face recorded and nearly digitized into the game for an amazing likeness that captures every subtle nuance of their acting. We’re loving every moment of it and are currently halfway through the Homicide desk.
After L.A. noire we’ll probably spend some time playing Arkham City together but that all ends on November 11th. We both really love the Elder Scrolls games (her more than me though) and will probably get sucked pretty hard into Skyrim when it comes out. Everything may go on hold at that time so we’ll see how things pan out.
That’s all for me at this time. I’ll probably have another update soon and hopefully by then I have my purple firehawk mount from the meta. We’ve been 6/7 Heroic for so long and just simply haven’t spent the time doing the last meta achievements yet but this week and next we’ll be wrapping them up for everyone. I think 80%+ of the raid have theirs already. It’s little weird as guilds who are only just now getting 6/7 have theirs on our server but hey, better late than never to pick the darn thing up I say!