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Druid - Warlords of Draenor Alpha Patch Notes Analysis

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Posted 22 April 2014 - 11:41 PM

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Icy Veins asks the experts' opinions on their favorite class changes!

The Warlords of Draenor Alpha patch notes have been out just over a week now, but millions of players have already voiced strong opinions of the direction Blizzard is headed with the game in this coming expansion. Some class changes have received overwhelmingly positive feedback, while others have left many a player scratching their head. A few changes have even caused a substantial outcry of rage!


We've invited a handful of our class MVPs to share their opinions on the changes made to their respective top class. For this patch notes analysis topic, we have requested feedback from our resident experts on the projected changes being made to the Druid class. Pacteh, Owld, Stenhaldi and Arielle have all been kind enough to share their thoughts on the upcoming Druid changes!
 
Pacteh and Owld both raid in Method. Stenhaldi raids in Midwinter. Arielle is a renowned theorycrafter and main contributor of The Inconspicuous Bear.

Blizzard Icon Druid WoD Alpha Changes

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Ability Pruning

  • Bear Hug has been removed.
  • Enrage has been removed.
  • Innervate is now available only to Restoration Druids. Mana costs for Druids have been adjusted accordingly.
  • Mangle (Cat Form) has been removed. Mangle (Bear Form) remains unchanged.
  • Nourish has been removed.
  • Shred is now available to all Druids.
  • Swipe (Bear Form) has been removed. Swipe (Cat Form) remains unchanged.
  • Symbiosis has been removed.

Crowd Control and Diminishing Returns

  • Cyclone now shares Diminishing Returns with Fears, and can be canceled by immunity effects (i.e. Divine Shield, Ice Block, etc.), and can be dispelled by Mass Dispel.
  • Disorienting Roar has been renamed to Incapacitating Roar, incapacitates enemies instead of disorienting them, and its effect now shares Diminishing Returns with other Mesmerize effects.
  • Nature’s Swiftness can no longer turn Cyclone into an instant-cast spell.
  • Solar Beam no longer Silences a target again more than once per cast. Additionally, the Silence effect from this spell now shares Diminishing Returns with other Silences.

Hit and Expertise Removal

  • Balance of Power has been removed.
  • Nature’s Focus no longer increases the chance to hit with Moonfire and Wrath.
  • Thick Hide now also reduces the chance for attacks to be parried by 3%.

Retuning Healing Spells


See the full patch notes for complete details of these changes.

Active Mana Regeneration

  • Innervate has been redesigned to now have a 2-second cast time with no cooldown, and restore 2.5% of the Druid's maximum mana every 4 seconds for 8 seconds. Spending any mana on a healing spell will cancel this effect.

Tank Vengeance and Resolve

  • Mastery: Primal Tenacity now also passively increases Attack Power by 8% (percentage increased by Mastery), in addition to its current effects.

Raid Utility Balance

  • Tranquility is now only available to Restoration Druids.

Quality of Life Improvements


Strict facing requirements can be frustrating to deal with, especially in hectic Raid combat or PvP environments. In order to ease this frustration, we decided to remove or significantly loosen the facing requirements of all attacks that required the player to be behind their target.
  • Ravage no longer requires the Druid to be behind the target.

Buffs and Debuffs

  • Faerie Fire no longer applies the Weakened Armor effect, now applies Physical Vulnerability, increasing Physical damage taken by 4% for 30 seconds.
  • Thrash no longer applies the Weakened Blows effect.
  • Moonkin Form now provides a 5% increase to melee, ranged, and spell Haste to all Party and Raid members (previously they only increased spell Haste).

Instant Cast Heals

  • Wild Growth (Restoration) now has a 1.5-second cast time (up from instant cast).

Tank Vengeance and Resolve

  • Bladed Armor is a new passive ability for Blood Death Knights, Guardian Druids, Brewmaster Monks, Protection Paladins, and Protection Warriors.
    • Bladed Armor increases Attack Power by 100% of the character's Bonus Armor.
  • Vengeance has been removed and replaced with a new passive ability, Resolve. Resolve increases your healing and absorption done to yourself, based on Stamina and damage taken (before avoidance and mitigation) in the last 10 seconds.
  • Mastery: Primal Tenacity now also passively increases Attack Power by 12% (percentage increased by Mastery), in addition to its current effects.

Resurrection Mana Costs

  • Druid: Revive, Monk: Resuscitate, Paladin: Redemption, and Shaman: Ancestral Spirit now cost 4% of base mana (down from between 10% and 50%).

Class Changes


Druids have seen a few significant changes. The loss of Symbiosis (see Ability Pruning above) will primarily impact druids’ survival, as many of the abilities received through Symbiosis were defensive cooldowns. To compensate for that change, we buffed Survival Instincts significantly and the ability is now available for all specializations.
  • Survival Instincts is now available to all Druid specializations. Survival Instincts now reduces damage taken by 70% (up from 50%) with a 2-minute cooldown (down from 3), and for Feral and Guardian specializations can have up to 2 charges (up from 1).
Guardian Druids have had increased Armor as their Mastery for a while now. However, one of the new secondary stats available to all tanks is Bonus Armor. We didn't feel that the difference of being additive vs. being a multiplier was significant enough to warrant keeping their Mastery around. Additionally, active mitigation hasn't played out as well for Guardians as it has for some other tanks. We decided to redesign the Mastery for Guardian Druids to something that compliments the Avoidance-heavy nature of Savage Defense, and also to improve the usability of Tooth and Claw for more consistent damage reduction. Note that Primal Tenacity's calculation uses the damage before any other absorbs you have, and before Tooth and Claw's effects, so that it isn’t negatively affected by any of those. Note that Primal Tenacity's calculation uses the damage before any other absorbs you have, and before Tooth and Claw's effects, so that it isn’t negatively affected by any of the changes.

Rage for Guardian Druids has been problematic throughout Mists of Pandaria. Most of their rage generation was extremely passive, and most of their button presses either didn't affect their survivability, or only trivially did so. We made changes to Haste and Crit, to try to solve these rage generation problems, and improve their rotation. We also added Ursa Major, in order to give a defensive value to the new Multistrike stat.
  • Guardian Druids' Mastery (Nature’s Guardian) has been replaced with a new Mastery: Primal Tenacity.
  • Mastery: Primal Tenacity causes the Druid to gain a Physical absorb shield equal to 16% of the attack’s damage when they are hit by a Physical attack. Attacks which this effect fully or partially absorbs cannot trigger Primal Tenacity.
  • Tooth and Claw can now accumulate 2 charges, its effects stack on the target, and are affected by Resolve.
  • Auto-attacks now generate 5 Rage (down from 10.9 Rage).
  • Lacerate now generates 10 Rage, has no cooldown (down from a 3-second cooldown), but no longer has a chance to reset Mangle's cooldown.
  • Thrash now generates 2 Rage every time it deals direct or periodic damage, has no cooldown (down from a 6-second cooldown), but no longer has a chance to reset Mangle's cooldown.
  • Faerie Fire no longer has a chance to reset Mangle's cooldown.
  • Primal Fury now generates 5 Rage (down from 15 Rage) when you dodge or non-periodically critically strike (up from only Auto Attacks and Mangle).
  • Mangle now generates 30 Rage, and its cooldown is reduced by Haste.
  • Bear Form no longer increases Haste and Crit from items by 50%, but instead causes Haste to reduce the global cooldown.
  • Ursa Major is a new passive ability for Guardian Druids:
    • Ursa Major: Multistrikes from auto attacks and Mangle grant the Druid Ursa Major. Ursa Major increases maximum health by 5% for 15 seconds. When this effect is refreshed, the remaining portion is added to the new effect.
Feral Druids received one major change, and few tweaks beyond what's been mentioned above in Ability Pruning and Facing Requirements. Combo Points are now stored "on the player", meaning that when you switch targets, any accumulated Combo Points remain with you. Pounce was buffed significantly, in order to bring it up to par with Ravage. Primal Fury was changed to let it affect area attacks as well. Glyph of Savagery was reworked to better achieve its intended effect.
  • Combo Points for Feral Druids are now shared across all targets, and are no longer lost when switching targets.
  • Pounce's damage has been increased by 100%.
  • Primal Fury now also grants a combo point for area attacks that critically strike the Druid's primary target.
  • Glyph of Savagery now grants a free 5 combo point Savage Roar when leaving Prowl, instead of allowing Savage Roar to be used with 0 combo points.
Overall, we are happy with Balance's rotation, however there are a few tweaks coming through Draenor Perks. With the changes to Periodic Effects, we're slightly modifying Eclipse to allow it to retain the gameplay it had before.
  • Eclipse now increases the damage of all Nature spells (or Arcane, depending on which Eclipse state is active) cast while it is active. This means that for example: a Moonfire cast during Eclipse will receive the Eclipse benefit through its whole duration, even after leaving Eclipse. The reverse also holds true; a Moonfire cast before entering Eclipse will not benefit from that Eclipse until it is recast.
Tranquility has an amazingly strong effect (pour a ton of healing into the whole Raid/Party), but had excessive complexity for a relatively simple task (5 different targets per tick, a short HoT, stacking, varied strength by raid size). So, we simplified it significantly. It still will be used just as it always has been.
  • Tranquility now heals every Party and Raid member within range every 2 seconds for 8 seconds. It no longer places a periodic effect on each target. The total amount of healing it generates in Raids should be approximately the same as before this change.
Restoration Druids got a few changes as well. In Patch 5.4, a Glyph was introduced where you could choose to attach your Efflorescence to Wild Mushroom, instead of to Swiftmend. That was a rousing success, taken by nearly all Restoration Druids, and felt like a much better situation to us, so we decided to remove the glyph choice, and bake it in permanently. Secondly, while we are fine with the playstyle where a Restoration Druid blankets their Raid in Rejuvenations, the Swift Rejuvenation passive made that too strong, and also limited their scaling with Haste. We removed that passive, to encourage using other spells more, but still allow Rejuvenation blanketing as a playstyle choice.
  • Swift Rejuvenation has been removed.
  • Swiftmend no longer causes Efflorescence. Instead, Wild Mushroom (Restoration) now causes Efflorescence to appear at the mushroom’s location.
The level 90-Talent row for Druids was designed to encourage hybrid gameplay. We decided that, while you shouldn't have to give up a significant amount of your primary role throughput in order to gain the off-role benefit, you also don't need to gain an actual benefit to your primary role throughput benefit either. We've reduced the power of their primary role benefit, making them roughly neutral in their effect on your primary role. Note that the increase to off-role healing from Nature's Vigil is not actually a buff (see Healing and Player Health above).
  • Heart of the Wild no longer provides an increase to Hit chance or Expertise while active, and no longer increases Stamina, Agility, and Intellect.
  • Dream of Cenarius
    • Balance: Casting Healing Touch no longer increases the damage bonus of the Druid’s next Eclipse. Eclipse now causes the Druid’s next Healing Touch to become instant cast and reset the cooldown on Starsurge.
    • Feral: Casting Healing Touch no longer increases the damage of the Druid’s next 2 melee abilities, or increases the healing of Rejuvenation.
  • Nature’s Vigil, while active, increases single-target damage and healing caused by healing spells by 16% (down from 25%), and all single-target damage spells also heal a nearby friendly target for 35% of the damage done (up from 25%).
And the Druid changes are capped off by merging Glyph of Stampede's effects into Glyph of Stampeding Roar.
  • Glyph of Stampede has been removed. Its effects have been merged into Glyph of Stampeding Roar.


1. What is your overall impression of Blizzard's changes to the Druid class?


Pacteh (Balance): Mechanically they seem happy with how balance druid is at the moment which is a worry for me after the removal of snapshotting from DoTs. The rotation is staying the same and without the ability to play with your procs I feel the rotation will become too basic, how is a really good Boomkin going to distinguish himself from another when the skill ceiling is set so low?

Owld (Restoration): Optimistic. The path to perfect the healing system has been quite the trial and error type and we are just seeing another iteration of an ever-changing paradigm. Class-wise, druid has never drastically changed and WoD will definitely not see an overhaul of the class either. But obviously the biggest changes to the spec are actually changes to the game design itself, be it the healing system or the stats interactions. Overall resto druids won’t see too many differences from their existent toolkit. Removing less used abilities and centering the gameplay on the core is always a good idea as long as it doesn’t lower the skill cap or turn the gameplay into a rotation.

Arielle (Guardian): Overwhelmingly positive. I’m pretty much prepared to declare victory in all of the battles I’ve been fighting this entire expansion. I still expect to see some iteration on the stats and how they interact with Guardians, but everything definitely looks good.

Stenhaldi (Feral): The major observation is that Blizzard is significantly reducing the complexity of the feral druid damage rotation. This arises from two changes: periodic damage effects no longer snapshot stats, and Dream of Cenarius loses its damage-increasing effect. Essentially, a lot of the gameplay of making our bleeds as strong as possible is going away.

As someone who enjoys complex damage rotations, I'm naturally not enamored with this change. But I also don't think it's all bad -- especially the removal of periodic damage stat snapshotting. Stat snapshotting was a substantial anti-versatility mechanic for us. It forced us to keep resources pooled to plan for trinket procs, and it also meant that most of our burst damage capabilities were tied to uncontrollable trinket procs. Without it, we'll be a lot freer to pick when and on what target we do our damage.

This criticism does not apply to Dream of Cenarius, however -- it was a mechanic that was entirely under our control. The problem with Dream of Cenarius is that it was a misplaced talent: a damage dealing talent in a utility tier. Other than that, it was a fun mechanic that I am sorry to see go.

The other big change is that we will be able to cast Rejuvenation in cat form (and bear form). While this has no effect on our damage output (assuming Blizzard fixes Nature's Vigil to not produce damage from healing), we have enough free global cooldowns that it will likely be standard to cast as many Rejuvenations as mana permits. This, naturally, will reintroduce some rotational complexity if you want to do as much useful healing as possible.

There are also some smaller changes. Feral didn't get hit very hard by Blizzard's ability prune, but we did lose one powerful asset: Symbiosis. The immunity spells it provided -- for feral, Dispersion and Divine Shield -- proved to be valuable counters to certain boss abilties; the canonical example would be Lei Shen's Static Shock, but there are many others. Luckily, we are not without compensation. Survival Instincts saw a huge buff: 70% damage reduction, 2 minute cooldown, 2 charges. Not only will it (stacked with our other cooldowns) be able to substitute for an immunity in many cases, but it also has its own set of advantages over our Symbiosis immunities: it lasts much longer, has a shorter cooldown, and doesn't halt our damage output. Generally, I expect that this change will make us slightly less effective at cheesing raid mechanics but significantly more survivable overall.

We also lose access to Tranquility as part of a larger effort by Blizzard to reduce the availability to non-healers of "healer-strength" raid survival cooldowns. I generally think this is a good change. For one, it reverses the arms race that has occurred this expansion with regard to these cooldowns: first warriors gained Demoralizing Banner and retribution paladins gained Devotion Aura; next rogues gained a mitigation effect on Smoke Bomb so that they could compete; and then Tranquility and Healing Tide were buffed so that they could keep up in 25-man raids. This had the result of making raid survival cooldowns a major consideration in deciding which class to bring to a particular encounter. Moreover, while it's fun to have options to assist the raid besides doing damage, these one-button cooldowns didn't involve much player interaction. Typically, for a challenging fight, they would be used as part of a rotation and the only player action would be to press their button at the planned time. I'd rather have raid utility options that are interesting to use, like the Rejuvenation change above.

Another notable change is that Blizzard is trying out an altered combo point system where combo points stick to the player rather than to the target (so you keep them on target switch). If this change survives, it will be a great boost to our target-switching capability -- something that, at least in this expansion, has been a significant weakness of the feral spec. I think there are more fun ways to address this deficiency (such as the free Ravage on Feral Charge that we had in Cataclysm), but this change will certainly suffice.

Finally, I suppose I would be remiss to not mention the level 100 talents. Blizzard is adding what looks to me to be an interesting versatility choice between Bloody Thrash and Lunar Inspiration. You can talent for multi-dotting (and ranged multi-dotting at that), or you can talent for AoE/cleave damage. On the other hand, the third talent in that tier -- Savagery ("Savage Roar is now passive") -- is something that shouldn't exist and I hope it's never optimal to use, at least in raids. From a raiding perspective, all it does is to make the rotation simpler and less fun -- it has no interesting features.
 

2. Which changes do you think are the best and why?


Pacteh (Balance): There is nothing to be excited about thus far, let’s hope more change comes in the Beta.

Owld (Restoration): Hands down I would say the changes to the healing system but we’re talking about the class there. I’m gonna go with the fact that we will actually be using Healing Touch and Regrowth purposefully, with the actual intent to do effective healing instead of 90% overhealing. Today, especially in 25man, the gamble as to whether or not your high mana cost spells will land effectively is against the odds and we don’t have the time to cast any. The gameplay will see some diversification and this is a very good thing. I’d add that more triage (targeting the right player with the right spell at the right time) is going to be much better and will mean more quality to your healing. Finally the 1.5s cast on Wild Growth is going to give even more depth to the gameplay, aligning the cast with big damage abilities!

Arielle (Guardian): Where do I start? Changes to the Rage model, better Mastery, balancing tank raid cooldowns by mutual disarmament, extraneous abilities removed, and Tooth and Claw is effectively fixed.

Stenhaldi (Feral): As a first impression, my favorite change is the Rejuvenation change: that we will be able to cast it in cat form. I generally am pretty enamored with abilities that let me offheal at no (or minimal) damage cost, and at the start of the Mists of Pandaria expansion, one of the changes I was most looking forward to was the change where Predatory Swiftness would let us cast an instant Healing Touch in cat form. That ended up actually feeling quite useful in the 10-man raids I did in the first tier -- I could meaningfully fill in healing gaps with my instant heals. But when I switched to 25-man raiding, the story changed as smart heals in this format absolutely eclipsed what little targeted healing I could do. (Of course, then I discovered the power of enhancement shaman offhealing on my alt, and abused it so much that I'm probably one of the reasons it got nerfed to the ground in 5.4.)

Now in Warlords of Draenor, smart heals are getting toned down in general -- which should make our targeted heals more impactful -- and we're also gaining another heal, Rejuvenation, on top of this. I'm excited about all this. It still remains to be seen, however, how well our mana regeneration will support Rejuvenation.
 

3. Which changes do you think are the worst and why?


Pacteh (Balance): Removal of symbiosis, having the choice between different escape abilities made it fun when arriving at new encounters. Choosing between running cloak of shadows or anti magic shell was quite fun. Knowing that I’ll never be able to cloak off a debuff or avoid a debuff with anti-magic shell is quite saddening

Owld (Restoration): The removal of Nourish, which was a pretty good filler spell in my opinion, as well as the removal of the Swift Rejuvenation passive will definitely slow the pace and dynamism of the game. Coupled with mana issues in the beginning of the expansion, even if Blizzard say it won’t happen, I fear that we will see a rather slow but stressful gameplay. We will probably see druids standing there doing nothing once in a while (who said they aren’t already?). As I write this we aren’t aware of the actual re-tuning of all the healing spells (actual amount) and how hard the nerf to smart heals is in practice. Hopefully they do the tuning right.

Arielle (Guardian): I’m not a huge fan of Readiness for tanks personally. It tends to be a very binary stat when it only affects defensive cooldowns (like Survival Instincts). Either you need it or you don’t, and if you don’t it’s a completely wasted stat. But this is very dependent on raid design, so we’ll see. I’m also not a huge fan of the awkward ways some of the talents interact (you basically can’t take Incarnation with Pulverize for example), but I don’t know if that can be fixed.

Stenhaldi (Feral): Savagery: a talent that makes the rotation less fun and doesn't add anything. But as long as I don't have to pick it, I'm fine with the choice between the other two talents in that tier.

Aside from that, I'm generally satisfied with the changes. As I mentioned, I'm not too happy with the removal of most of the bleed strength management from our rotation -- but on the other hand, I don't think I'd want to revert either of the changes that caused it. Periodic damage stat snapshotting is problematic due to its versatility effects -- and as fun as it can be to execute well, it can also be frustrating to have so much damage tied up in highly random procs. Dream of Cenarius didn't belong in its talent tier, and while I thought the mechanic was fun, my impression was that enough people disliked it that it probably wouldn't do to make it a baseline passive spell either.
 

4. How would you alter any of the existing changes?


Pacteh (Balance): If I could have my way I it would be adding snapshotting back into the game. Instead of outright wiping it away from the game they should of instead tweaked how it was working with other classes and brought them in line accordingly or set limits on dot power, for example a dot can never exceed 300% of its intended strength. This way you can still maximise your damage but not be to able apply outrageously powerful DoTs.

Owld (Restoration): I think removing Innervate is a bad move. I would have loved Blizzard to take steps toward more temporary buffs benefiting Innervate, as we’ve seen some trinkets work on PTR or previous beta. Sure getting 80% instead of 20% of your mana is neither right nor healthy but I think there is middle ground to be found, especially with the RPPM trinket system we have now. In my opinion, you should be faced with a choice of casting Innervate on cooldown and getting the normal benefit or wait a bit (“how long” is the gamble), to benefit from a more powerful “buffed” innervate. In the same way most of you will remember the good days of Cataclysm Hymns of Hope fest with Innervate.

I would also definitely get my Nourish back and make it a 1.5s cast. Tune the healing accordingly and it’s the perfect filler.

Arielle (Guardian): Re-do Dream of Cenarius entirely. It basically cannot be used while tanking with the new Rage model.

Stenhaldi (Feral): Change the Savagery talent. I understand there is a subset of ferals that hates the Savage Roar ability, and I'd be fine with the talent removing Savage Roar if it also added something interesting to compensate. As it is, it does nothing interesting. But again, if Savagery stays as it is and I never have to take it, then that's also an acceptable state of affairs to me.
 

5. What changes would you like to see in WOD?


Pacteh (Balance): I’ve seen it mentioned on forums a few times and it’s the idea of Starsurge procs stacking instead of being munched by another proc before you can use your current starsurge proc. At the start of expansion when crit levels are low it’s not much of issue but it will always be a problem towards the end when crit levels become too high

Owld (Restoration): More glyphs and talents that critically alter the way some spells work. I really don’t like the way you just don’t change your glyphs. It could be such an interesting system. Surely enough you would have a cookie-cutter guide a week after patch day but still, players would be able to adapt to their guild’s strategy and their respective role in a specific encounter. On a more druid-related topic, I’d like to see my shapeshifts be more useful one way or the other.

Arielle (Guardian): Guardians are really pretty much there in terms of being a fully fleshed-out tank spec. As mentioned above I’d like to see Dream of Cenarius just redone, and I’m still skeptical about Force of Nature. It needs to have some serious AI fixes and scale from base weapon damage. The rest of it is just wait-and-see mainly.

Stenhaldi (Feral): Again, I'm generally pretty happy with what Blizzard has put forward, so I don't have major suggestions. But I may still have a remark to make in this regard.

There was an idea I had a while back to make clearcasts trigger a modest buff to any bleed cast within the next (say) 5 seconds. This would bring back some of the gameplay of maximizing your bleed strengths for those people who enjoyed it, but as a class spell, it would be more transparent than the present trinket snapshotting system. It would also be based on weaker but more frequent procs (since clearcasting triggers about 4 times as frequently as a typical trinket), making this proposed system much less random overall.

This was mainly intended as an idea for preserving the sort of gameplay that a lot of the current feral players enjoy, but it would also have a further bonus: it would add some measure of haste scaling to our bleed damage, since clearcasting frequency scales with haste. Haste is currently our worst stat since it does not affect bleed damage at all; but in Warlords of Draenor, due to agility no longer increasing crit chance, it's going to be all the more important that we scale well with secondary stats -- strong agility scaling will no longer be a suitable fallback.

Patch Notes Last Updated - 24 April 2014

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