What a Long Strange Journey It Has Been....

Well, Ghostcrawler has all but announced the end of season eight, thus putting the proverbial stake through the heart of Wrath of the Lich King. This expansion was fun for a bit, but nerf after nerf and tons of burst later, we end with the hope that a lesson was learned: you cannot fix class imbalances with more damage. October 12 seems to be the likely date for the end of the final Wrath season of Arena, based on Ghostcrawler's statement. That being said, the fellas over at MMO-Champion.com believe that the 4.0.x patch will be deployed to Live servers at roughly the same time give or take a week... though "giving" would be the more likely of the two since Blizzard is not likely to post a major class rebalancing patch with a week left in determining Arena titles and rewards.

Guntir and I may be eligible for a Duelist title from the 5v5 bracket, interestingly enough, if we can get the team together for a bit of grinding to hit 2300 or so. We are at 2232 right now and only played 10 games last week to grind up that 30 rating, so the idea is that we could probably grind out another week or two and end up with a 2300 or 2350 rating which would net us a Duelist title almost-assuredly.

I found this linked in the Cataclysm Beta Boards: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Se6R4sXYBEU

This is a video of a Holy Paladin with nothing much but blues and greens in BGs. The interesting thing to take from this is that his healing is still really strong even against 3-4 targets with zero coordination but strong damage, but his mana is finite. Why do I keep harping on the finiteness of mana pools for healers in Cataclysm?

Feral has a debuff which makes spells cost 30% more.

We actually bring a debuff in PvP which no other class does and it is directly related to healer longevity. If Arena matches go longer in Cataclysm to the point where "whoever runs out of mana first loses," then Feral will be a MONSTER on a team. Forget Mortal Strike... 25% more healing required? That's nice, but 30% more MANA required??? That's way more important. Let's look at it this way, as healers get better and better gear, they will require roughly the same through-put cast-wise to heal a target with MS up. Maybe this is a little easier to grasp with an example:

Holy Pally heals with Holy Light for 10k in the first tier of gear, a warrior's MS hits for 5k but also puts up a 25% healing debuff, making that pally heal for 7.5k.

Okay... the next tier of gear goes like this:

Holy Pally heals with Holy Light for 12k in the second tier of gear, a warrior's MS hits for 7k, but also puts up a 25% healing debuff, making that pally heal for 9k.

Okay... but the Feral in both circumstances will put out more pressure and instead of making the heal less effective, he will make the COST of the heal less effective. So, the Holy Pally can continue using his best heal and it will continue to improve... but the mana cost will ALWAYS be a ton. If matches with-or-without MS always go to the long game, then the team who spends the least mana AND puts out the most pressure should always win (ignoring CC and what-have-you).

Okay, so Feral brings one of the debuffs which no one else does... the DK brings the other debuff. Necrotic Strike continues looking amazing. It is so strong-looking that you almost think that there will be a DK on every 3v3s team in Cataclysm to start simply because Necrotic Strike is auto-wins against bad healers. TSG is definitely going to be strong in Cata, but I truly feel that Feral+DK+Priest will be equally strong if games go long rather than faceroll-training people to death. TSG will continue to put out good pressure, but if they can't kill Priests in the openers anymore, I don't know how much longevity there is there... particularly if you're going against (what I will call for the time-being) Venture-cleave.

... I need Guntir to get his Beta invite so we can actually test out some PvP IN the Beta. This time last expansion, we both had Beta invites and we were both running 2v2 matches on the Beta server to test out which comp would be best, and we eventually settled on Feral+Disc.

Cannot WAIT for Cataclysm at this point... it's shaping up to be REALLY good PvP.

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New Cataclysm Build (13066)

Lots of stuff to talk about; no video this week (yet... I have a few short clips I might throw together and get up later in the week, but we didn't run 2s this week). I will get a post up as soon as possible, but work is slamming me lately, so it might be a bit later today. The following are the changes for Feral Druids in this build:

Tiger's Fury - now increases physical damage by 88.8% (this seems like a bug... but I will get in game and test this out as soon as possible; it could also mean that it only increases white swing damage, but who knows).
Stampede - Changed to last 10 seconds and allow you to use Ravage for that duration at 50/100% cheaper cost. This means that you can Feral Charge (Cat) and have 10 seconds to land a free Ravage with 2/2 Stampede.
Fury Swipes - Changed to a 5/10/15% chance to cause an additional white-swing attack at 200% weapon damage with a 3 second internal cooldown.
Blessing of the Grove - No longer applies to Shred (that means you no longer have to spend points in this talent).

Okay, these all sound like Feral buffs, right? So, the problem I am seeing now is that my utility-based PvP spec is now much less effective because my damage is going to be balanced around picking up all these damage-oriented talents which are now worth-while. Most notably, Stampede has gone from an obvious waste of two talent points to a non-decision must-take talent. Stampede, particularly, is not as big a problem because it is only two points and we are gaining two more points by not having to take Blessing of the Grove any more; however, we start running into trouble when we notice that Fury Swipes is so appealing in this build and still costs 3 talent points. I have no idea where to get these talent points at the moment; it may cut into my utility talents which will make me sad :-(.

Here is an example build I am looking at roughly for a PvP mold. The only DPS talent I am missing, at the moment, is Master Shapeshifter (yes, some of you will argue that Primal Madness is a DPS talent, but in reality you are mistaken. PM is actually a dps zero-gain at best and a dps-loss in practice... don't take it unless they change it drastically), which really only amounts to 4% more critical strike chance and 20% cheaper shapeshifting costs.

I want to touch on shapeshifting for a moment. A lot of stuff is up in the air and I wanted to settle a few things right now. First, shapeshifting costs without any talents at level 85 are essentially 5% of your base mana (Cat and Bear only, everything else is 8%), which means that at level 85 when talented without Natural Shapeshifter Cat and Bear form cost around 1000 mana while you have around 20k mana in mostly Greens. Second, on Live with 3/3 Natural Shapeshifter, the best you can get your Shapeshifting costs down to is ~12% base mana, and you tend to feel like you have infinite mana for shapeshifting if you have 3/3 NSS on Live while on Beta it costs MUCH less than that at baseline (so you don't need NSS at all). Third, Polymorph does indeed "work" on Druids now; if you are in Caster Form and get hit with a Polymorph, you will be stuck in that Polymorph for its full duration or until it gets dispelled or is broken from damage, but if you are in a Feral Form (Cat or Bear etc), Polymorph will still get "immune"d when cast on you (Resto nerf, doesn't really affect Ferals or Boomers). Okay, now that we have cleared the air about Natural Shapeshifter, you can see why no one but PvE-spec'd Ferals would ever consider going after Master Shapeshifter at the moment. Sure, things may change and I think we are ALL hoping that Natural Shapeshifter goes away entirely, but I worry that Blizzard WANTS Feral PvP'ers to take Natural Shapeshifter, so they might up the costs... but I'm hoping not.

Okay, so we still have a PvP build which takes some utility talents and brings the hard-core damage-dealing (minus 4% crit). Let's talk a little bit about gearing choices! On my level 85 druid, I have basically 22% crit without wearing much critical strike rating gear (in fact, the crit rating I did have on my gear was largely reforged into haste for testing purposes) in greens with a blue or two. I believe that in season nine gear (the first tier of PvP gear in Cataclysm), we will be able to get roughly 30% Critical Strike change without gemming or gearing Critical Strike rating. This means that we can focus all our item points (or as much as possible) on Haste and Mastery. Largely, Haste is where I am leaning my gear points towards simply for the increased energy regeneration rate. I am aiming for something around 33% Haste with 30% crit and hopefully ~20% Mastery damage for my bleeds. The goal would mean rather strong bleeds, but much strong damage output from yellow attacks like Shred and FB.

I do worry that Primal Madness will be changed in the next couple patches to make it a "mandatory" dps talent, or at the very least a dps upgrade in all cases. I am just unsure where I would get the additional two talent points. Ultimately, I am willing to part ways with Endless Carnage in the scenario where Primal Madness becomes awesome; having 6 fewer seconds on Rake does not feel like the end of the world, particularly if I have some staying power with my other dps abilities and the utility I get from Natural Reaction.

Let's talk PvP for a moment. Guntir and I have been thinking about potential PvP comps in Cata and area seriously considering Feral+Unholy+Priest. The idea behind this comp is simple: in PvP, it feels like mana will actually matter and 3s matches can go to the long game; therefore, we would want a comp which can put out strong pressure while also causing havoc against a healer's mana pool. Ferals, obviously, fulfill this role by bringing Skull Bash and 2/2 Brutal Impact. 30% additional cost on heals feels pretty strong in this new PvP model. The DK brings Necrotic Strike regardless of the spec he is, which means that we can chain control on a healer like this: Mind Freeze interrupt (4 sec), Skull Bash interrupt (5 sec), Necrotic Strike in there while we deal damage; now the healer is behind on healing having been locked out for around 9 seconds of non-casting and in the hole for healing because of Necrotic Strike, he has 30% slower casting until he gets out of that hole as well as 30% additional cost on healing basically all the time because of Skull Bash. I feel like Unholy will be the better of the two dps specs for DKs because of the utility gotten from the Unholy tree, but having Hungering Cold wouldn't be too bad either as keeping a dps off of Guntir for a bit would be huge.

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New Cataclysm Build (12984)!


Srsly, they have given many other classes their number updates by now, the PTR is up and in full swing, and the background downloader is shoveling content to everyone as we speak; when are Feral numbers going to be updated for the lack of a 30% damage bonus (SR) and 50% Attack Power in Feral Forms (Feral Attack Power was removed in favor of weapon damage going directly to form-weapon-damage; if you have a 500 dps weapon equipped, you will gain 500 dps in Cat Form). The weapon damage conversion is complete, I copied Rey over to the PTR just to test the numbers and if you hit a dummy with Shred/Mangle on Live, then do it on the PTR, you will see basically a 30% damage drop due to SR no longer applying to all damage done.

Bah... they will get to it eventually, but it irks me that when Ferals specifically asked for number tweaks, the response was one of "we're just trying to get the rotations right at the moment; we'll get to numbers later." Then the last patch goes through and every single dps class EXCEPT Feral has got numbers tweaked to make them deal better/worse/balanced dps more-or-less and Ferals are sitting around going "uh, hey... we asked for the numbers in the first place... why are we getting ignored when we have the most glaring issues with numbers at the moment!?"

Here is my hope: they ignore the SR change and write it off as the "Feral Slice and Dice." It is something you will need up 100% in PvE to maximize your damage output, but in PvP it isn't really enough of a damage boost given the utility you would lose. On Live, SR simply gives us 30% more damage... if we did 1M damage in an Arena Match without SR, we would have done 1.33M if we had it up (ignoring that we would probably lose damage from some FBs/Rips became SRs, but w/e).

Rake on Live:
Rake the target for AP/100+196 bleed damage and an additional (1197 + AP * 0.18) bleed damage over 9 sec. Awards 1 combo point.

Proposed Rake in Cata:
Rake the target for AP/35+255 bleed damage and an additional (1556 + AP * 0.51) bleed damage over 9 sec. Awards 1 combo point.

The ONLY thing I've done here (and I would do the same with Rip, but one example is probably enough) is update the coefficients by an amount equal to 1) our lost Attack Power scaling component from FAP, and 2) our lost 30% damage from SR.

Examples... we will ignore Mangle for simpler maths -

Live (10k AP) Rake: 462 instant + 3896 DoT
Beta (5k AP) Rake: 246 + 2097 (this is about half the damage... terrible)
Proposed Beta (5k AP) Rake: 398 + 4106 (there we go!)

Similar damage to Live, half the attack power and no SR. Now, Rip and Rake would be balanced around Cata's "Feral rotation" and we could get SR to make White damage a more meaningful part of the rotation in general. Everyone is happy!


Let's transition a bit!

You may have noticed... I finally got my Arena Master achievement and title, and after many grueling months, I finally got my 277 Feral Greatstaff (and I have the points for the Boomkin MH tomorrow)!!!!

I promised an Affliction+Disc match... and so shall it be. No commentary, I was rather busy this week, but I hope you all like it:

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Let's Talk Maths!

I know I know... I'm the only one who gets giddy about maths. They finally got my Level 85 Troll Druid Premade created and in a playable state, so I wanted to see what the coefficients were going to be:

1) 2576 Agility, 170 Str = 7730 attack power in Cat Form. This illustrates exactly what Blizzard said about Agility being a 2:1 AP conversion, sweet!

2) That 7730 AP gives 552 dps to the paper doll as expected; nothing changed there.

3) 1015 haste rating gives 7.93% haste. This means roughly 128 haste rating = 1% haste.

4) 539 hit rating gives 4.49% hit. This is roughly 120 hit rating for 1% hit.

5) 22.32% crit, but only 343 crit rating, which gives 1.91% crit. Crit is basically 180 rating per 1%. This also shows that 20.41% of my crit comes from agility alone, which gives us a ratio of 126:1 as agility:crit.

6) 1583 Mastery Rating gives 8.83 mastery "points". This gives roughly 179 rating per point of increase.

Okay, these numbers are all big and scary. However, you need not worry... keep in mind how ridiculous things are in Cataclysm. Item levels are being increased hugely to make up for the difference of there only being a five level gain for this expansion. Similarly, enchants, gems, etc are all having their item levels boosted as well. Keep in mind, also, that my premade character has only greens and one blue, so we expect that all the item levels will be improved towards end-game gear.

Okay, time for the bad news... it looks as if Blizzard is content with the scaling aspect of Haste for melees being confined to faster attack speeds and quicker resource replenishment. Therefore, Haste will only increase our white swing speed and our rate of energy regeneration. Therefore, I do not know which stat will be the outright winner in terms of best damage-dealing stat. It is actually pretty interesting.

Currently, Mastery looks to be in the lead even though its ratio is a lot steeper than Haste, given that it increases bleed damage by a ratio at 2.5% extra damage per 1 Mastery rating (you you have 8 Mastery Rating baseline at 85 giving you a flat 20% bonus to Rip and Rake baseline). You can really boil it down to 179 Mastery Rating is worth 2.5% more damage to Rip and 2.5% more damage to Rake. This is actually a REALLY strong stat at the moment given that Critical Strike Rating (for example) gives you roughly 1% damage boost (against zero-resil targets) for 126 crit rating. Additionally, the agility:crit ratio seems to be holding strong given that I have ALMOST half the critical strike percent on Beta that I have on Live, but I am in greens on Beta and in BiS on Live.

Haste may end up still being favorable, however, as regenerating energy more quickly and a strong increase to white damage output will mean a strong stat all around. It will scale in more directions than Mastery, if nothing else; however, Haste will ultimately be affected by damage reduction via armor while Mastery will not. Similarly, we can see that Mastery Rating will end up playing a little stronger since on Live your bleeds amount to roughly 30% of your overall damage, but this is in a setup where Armor Penetration has ruled the game; once ArP is gone, every damage-dealing attack we have will go down except for Rip and Rake. By simple proportions our bleeds will become more than 30% of our overall damage.

The numbers are, of course, completely unfinished and I certainly expect to see some tweaking (hopefully more sooner than later), but this gives us a really rough estimation as to the direction of Ferals in Cataclysm:

1) Agility will still provide a strong critical strike percentage.
2) Critical strike chance will NOT be diminished by Resilience (awesome).
3) Haste will increase energy-regeneration rates which will lead to more attacks per minute (awesome).
4) Mastery will make our bleeds tick stronger and stronger.
5) We have a 60% damage reduction cooldown which we can use while in Cat Form and keep offensive pressure rolling (cannot be dispelled).
6) Barkskin cannot be dispelled anymore.
7) Infected Wounds cannot be auto-dispelled anymore (horray targeting shammies).
8) Skull Bash is a 10s cd charge which also interrupts casting for 5 seconds AND applies a 10 second physical (non-dispellable) debuff which increases casting costs by 30% with 2/2 Brutal Impact.
9) Even though MS-effects were nerfed to 25% across the boards, we STILL receive 20% bonus healing in Cat Form.
10) Vengeance makes Bear Form a REAL threat if you train it to the point where Vengeance stacks pretty high. Remember, it maxes out at 10% of your HP as Attack Power.

Oh btw... in greens at level 85, I have ~77k hp... so that'll be nice too. That's 7.7k attack power with a full Vengeance stack btw... and I only have around 4k AP in Bear Form naturally, which is where our damage is balanced around currently. Can't wait to test out some damage later on the Beta.

Hopefully, I'll be able to get in some PvP, too!

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Is It Monday Again!?

We ended up going down to the Jungle Clean-up this weekend and basically partying like our last day on the planet, so I didn't really have a chance to do a really good video with commentary. However, I am trying to be somewhat more resourceful with my time AND I'm trying to stick to my promises a little better (spoken or otherwise). Therefore, I give you the following video: a quick and dirty match I threw together for funsies involving a DK with a Shadowmourne thinking that his amazing weapon would propel him to PvP greatness even though he's not that great.

I know I did Bad Religion last week; I need to get all my CDs together for an iTunes import this week sometime >_<. Oh yeah, and sorry if Dethklok isn't your thing... it just sank up too well and I really like that song. Oh yeah, I know I promised an Affliction+Disc match this week, but as I said above - we were a little hard-pressed for time this weekend. Plus, this last week Guntir and I ended up playing against the same Afflic+Disc team we had on RoV, and truth be told, this match was better-looking with some more interesting play worth commenting on.

Also, and I haven't quite figured this out just yet, but there seems to be some limited support for a commentary audio layer which can be uploaded separately, but associated with the same video. So, I should be able to get the video uploaded with two tracks, essentially: one is the soundtrack and nothing else, and the other would be the soundtrack played at ~20% or so with a commentary layer over the top. Then, I can put a button on the YouTube player indicating that there are two channels and a user could click on/off the commentary without having to reload to video. It's something I'm exploring at the moment, but I haven't ruled out "just upload two videos, one with and one without commentary."

Another problem I'm running into is that each of these matches are about a gigabyte in size (and every time I read that I say it in Doc Brown's voice and pronounce it "jiggabyte"). Not huge, but when you have 30-40 of these matches stored up, you start running out of space. It kind of bothered me because we played against a 2400 Rogue+Disc team on Lordaeron and won, but about 10 seconds into the match it ran out of disc space and stopped recording. So, I need to go and get an external HDD enclosure in which to house my old 250GB HDD (back from when I replaced my boot HDD with my SSD). I can wipe that and use it as my video sandbox until I need more space, upon which time I will just bite the bullet and buy a terrabyte drive.

Sometime later this week, I am going to make an effort to get out a HUGE post concerning all the changes I am looking forward to come Cataclysm for PvP and PvE alike. They will include things like "We're finally getting a Kick" and "No one has reduced duration on getting stunned or damage reduction while stunned" etc. Mostly, these things are all balancing issues which are being plucked up and removed from the select classes who have them, but all things considered, Feral is losing very little and gaining quite a bit for Cataclysm. It will be a nice post.

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Happy Day Off!

I promised a video on Monday... and Monday it is. This video is a 2v2(Feral+Disc) match of ours against a 2400 Frost+Disc team. It is one of our favorite comps to play against because it is pretty popular as you get higher rated, and it is pretty well-countered by Feral+Disc. They have a real hard time locking down the Feral and the Mage has trouble keeping pressure up against a target who has nigh-unlimited up-time.

I think that my next review will be a die-hard win against Affliction+Disc. This matchup can be extremely difficult for Feral+Disc, particularly on RoV. Another thing I would like to try is showing off some of the buffs Feral is getting in Cataclysm and how they would have affected the fight. Also, I am going to be making a Cataclysm trailer-esque video for Feral before too long, so keep an eye out for that one.

Happy Feral'ing!

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Just a little update

Not much to report, still grinding up that 5s team (you'll notice I finally pushed a 1750 5s rating achievement out)... figured I'd just throw this little tidbit out there:

I think my next video will be a commentary on facing good Frost+Disc teams... should be up Monday-ish... maybe sooner!

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