Been a Minute!

Man... work has been super-hectic. I have not been able to find the time to play WoW, let alone write posts about it. Okay, well now it is Thanksgiving Week, which means that my workload has diminished a bit so I can crank this post out.

Tomorrow, the world ends! The Cataclysm is officially happening tomorrow; no, not the expansion, but all the stuff that leads up to the expansion: the world cracking, Deathwing escaping, the world changing, etc. While this is kind of cool, there are still no skirmishes (as far as I know), and therefore there is no PvP. No grinding as well will amount to no WoW worth playing. Let us face facts here, battlegrounds pale in comparison to the Arena in terms of actual PvP. The Arena is just more intense and more bang for your buck in terms of time committed and fun gained.

We have had a while now for people to play the new 4.0 build on Live and determine some understandings about the change of the game. The funny thing is that I played some Battlegrounds as Feral a bit to test some things out, and while the healing has been drastically nerfed and many healers are feeling underwhelmed with the changes, Guntir is still a dominant healer with me around. We walked into BGs with healers in those bgs complaining about how hard things were and yet Guntir and I were facerolling everything in our path. So badly were we beating these guys that we just stopped doing them... there was no challenge.

Here is a funny little post out of Arena Junkies that I thought was worth putting up. It has a poll amongst Arena Junkie members (that is, people who have hit 2400 in any bracket) as to which class (dps) will be the most overpowered in Cataclysm. Right now, the number one class is obviously Mages since Frost is essentially "Proc Fingers of Frost, spam Icelance, collect points." However, the interesting bit is which class is #2 on the "OP-Meter." That is right; it is Ferals claiming the cream-of-the-crop voting for #2. I can see a number of reasons why this might be, but it basically amounts to "Rip and Rake do TONS of damage with Mastery being our best stat, and now we don't need SR up 100% AND we were given a kick to deal with casters." In my opinion, the big change there is the Kick... although it is hard to argue about SR not being mandatory for reasonable damage given that it costs so many combo points. As a prerequisite for damage, it was a hindrance, but as simply extra white damage, it can be used at 1 point after the full ramp-up of Rip/Rake for basically 50% more white swing damage for nearly free.

Let's see... changes... changes... oh, Leader of the Pack is being nerfed from 8% healing to 4% healing on the proc, which I think everyone saw coming. At least the mana portion stayed the same (8% base mana returned; I wish this was total) so we still have powerful shapeshifting (ss'ing is cheaper than in 3.3.5 even at 85; it's awesome). Although, Natural Shapeshifter is still in the Resto tree, and for the life of me I have no idea why. OH, Vengeance is going to remain on the Feral after leaving Bear Form (might be canceled if you enter cat form though) so we can actually shapeshift out of Bear Form in PvP to drop snares or throw a Cyclone or what-have-you and keep our additional attack power; that'll be nice. Other than that, there is not much to say on this front.

Comps-wise, Guntir and I keep talking about threes comps to run in Cataclysm... we LIKE the idea of having a DK with us, but all signs out of the Beta so far is that DKs will be less than amazing at 85 even with Necrotic Strike. Only time will tell, but we are keeping our options open, and with Mages getting the #1 slot on that list, it isn't outside the realm of possibility for us to run Feral+Frost+Disc, which might be a strong comp.

Bookmark and Share

Sweet Sassy Mollassy!


Exactly as I predicted, these numbers are in reference to the first level versions. The tooltips have been updated to their level 85 equivalents which largely mean no changes whatsoever for max level.

I will not put them up here, as it would take a bit of scrolling to get my synopsis, but Blizz has just reported a new Beta build (which I will devote another post to when I have tested it out) which basically hacked EVERYONE'S damage down by a huge amount. Everyone's direct damage, that is.

I will be hard to tell, but here are the Feral notes thus far:

* Mangle (Cat Form) now deals 184% normal damage, down from 360%.
* Mangle (Bear Form) now deals 95% normal damage, down from 230%.
* Bear Form now increases Stamina by 10%, down from 25%.
* Survival Instincts now reduces damage taken by 50%, down from 60%. Cooldown changed to 3 min, down from 5 min.
* Shred now deals 267% damage, down from 350%. Additional damage reduced by 25%, from 1156 to 882.
* Savage Defense now reduces damage from the next physical attack that strikes you by 35% of your attack power, down from 65%.
* Swipe now deals 232% weapon damage, down from 335%.
* Ravage (Cat Form) now deals 505% damage, down from 850%. Additional damage reduced by 40%, from 2809 to 1669.
* Ravage! (Stampede) now deals 505% damage, down from 850%. Additional damage reduced by 8%, from 1817 to 1669.
* Claw now deals 77% of normal damage, down from 155%.

The interesting thing to note here is that these are all in reference to another blue post which suggested that this build had changed the way that all abilities are scaling with level now, and get stronger as you level up.

This is LIKELY to be a holdover from those changes. The damage components listed here seem entirely too low to be level 85 numbers, but we shall see once the patch gets deployed... but I think that these are the initial numbers for when these abilities are first learned, and the "down from X" is what the numbers will be at 85.

Bookmark and Share

Tank Changes (more)

They already hot-swapped some tanking changes that I mentioned in my previous post. Namely, those 2min CDs with 50% damage reduction have all been bumped to 3min CDs with 50% damage reduction, which definitely makes more sense. The only bit that does not make sense to me is that Warriors have a 2min CD with 40% damage reduction or they can glyph that to a 4min CD with 60% damage reduction... and this is ONLY when they are at least 8 points into the Prot tree. Arms and Fury Warriors will have a 5min CD in Shield Wall which reduces damage by 40% and they can glyph it to a 60% DR for a 7min cooldown.

Again, only the Feral Druids will be able to get this monster damage reduction talent in a DPS tree. I am very worried about the efficacy of a tanking and dps tree rolled into one.

The comps are starting to solidify for season nine. I am thinking of Feral as a utility specialization much in the way that Assassination Rogues played in basically every season during Wrath. Essentially, Feral feels like a decent damage dealer with tons of survivability and a great slew of utility.

1) Instant cast CCs in an era where CCs have cast times.
2) A ranged interrupt on a short CD with a long lockout duration.
3) Free sunder applications via Feral Faerie Fire with 2/2 Aggression
4) A 10% increased mana cost debuff via Skull Bash and 2/2 Brutal Impact.
5) 20% increased healing received in Cat Form.
etc etc...

I am starting to think that NomNomNom (I don't know what it's called anymore) will not be a part of an arena PvP spec. It MAY be too early to tell, but it feels like damage will be lower than in Wrath, but still rather strong during a train. I essentially feel like getting someone to 25% will either mean their death knell or they will be receiving enough healing that even using FB and refreshing your Rip to 16 seconds will not apply much more pressure than simply Shredding again. Again, it is really hard to tell exactly what the PvP scene will be like in Cataclysm simply because I have not really done any PvP in Cataclysm. Guntir has not yet gotten an invite and I have stopped doing BGs because it only shows how effective you are at curb-stomping mouth-breathers.

It is important to note that basically no big-name PvPrs actually get early-stage Beta invites unless they are Friends/Family, and that therefore no big-name PvPrs actually test PvP balance on Beta until the near-end when many more players get Beta invites. Last time around (Wrath's Beta), Guntir and I got our invites before 3.0 went Live, so we were able to play a number of arena matches before Wrath even shipped. We probably had a few hundred arena matches and got well into the 2k range in 2s on the Beta before calling it quits and focusing on game balance reports. This time around, I have not gotten a Beta invite at all (likely because of my forum troubles), and Guntir may have been black-flagged from association, which would make me rather sad indeed. I am only in the Beta by the grace of my friendships with one particular friendship allowing me a stay on his account with a premade Druid... rather kind.

All that being said, there is little point to actually playing on the Beta now without Guntir's presence as a majority of the changes for Cataclysm have been pushed to Live. We can more-easily roll BGs on Live than on the Beta, and there is more draw to do so since we can test out how well we play as a comp rather than as a solo. Again, this is largely a moot point since our BG queues seem to have hit 10+ minutes and we only play battlegrounds such as Strand of the Ancients and Alterac Valley where PvP is actually frowned upon while mini-game goals are the main attention. Sure, occasionally we will get a BG like Warsong Gulch which is largely a PvP battleground with some minor flag-running in the middle, but these are few and far between, and even in these rare instances we end up curb-stomping our opponents simply because we out-gear them so ridiculously.

There is another issue at play here that dwells beneath the surface in Rated Battlegrounds. Guntir and I had a nice discussion about their impact on the game and the PvP scene specifically after lunch yesterday. He points out that there is an ever larger collective fear amongst high-end PvP'rs over Rated Battlegrounds. For example, Hydra has openly migrated battlgrounds with an open invitation to all his high-rated friends. He has started a Guild called "Hydramist" and expects to have a large enough PvP guild to be the best Rated BG Guild in the world. His guild will likely be the best on his battlegroup by a HUGE margin. What is the problem here?

Well, Guntir pointed out that while they (the pro PvP'rs in Hydramist) likely have not even considered how much stronger their guild-bg-rosters will be than any who oppose it, and while it might be fun at first curb-stomping people every single match without fail, it will get old quickly. A huge reason that we play arenas is because it is never a guaranteed win, and it never has been for any comp. Sure, you can get paired against a 2900 team as a 2000 team, and your likelihood of actually winning is a near-zero percent, but it actually being zero would be something else entirely. We play because we LOVE that near-zero percent win. Hydramist will walk into any battleground and be so much more coordinated and skillful than any opposing team that they will likely have a 99% win-ratio and be the best on the battleground, which will cause all of them to lose their inkling to play rated bgs.

The second force at work here is that even if your guys are always online, getting 15 people together for some dedicated hours of BG grinding would be a bit much, particularly when one factors in queue times which will be large enough to keep at least a minimal portion of the arena community out of them. We are not talking about 5 minute or even 10 minute queue times like in the season 1-3 days; instead, we are talking about 15-20 minute queues with a full roster. The last force at play is the randomness factor. When you go into an arena match, you know all your partners and you know what you can expect from them skill-wise. However, when you go into a Rated BG, you need only 5 players minimum to actually queue. What happens when Hydra decides to queue with only 9 players because his 10th regular is sick, and he gets that one awful mouth-breathing-mouse-clicker who is in the game enough to not be kicked from AFK and not contribute anything worth-while? How many matches do you think Hydra will suffer when he queues for a rated BG with 10 guys and gets into AV with 1/10 the population and the rest are botters looking for points with which to buy arena gear?

Ultimately, I feel that Hydra et al. (meaning all the top-rated PvP'rs) will eventually either grow bored or tire completely of the Rated BG scene. I simply do not see the reason for Rated BGs IN ADDITION to the regular battleground. Who would play a regular Battleground instead of a Rated BG when the gear from one is much stronger than the other, and there really is no consequence to losing? Blizzard has entirely removed all incentive for doing normal BGs, added incentives to Rated BGs, and removed any requirements for skill... it will do nothing except create ANOTHER branch of queue times that are not the focus of PvP by the top-end PvP'rs, and will likely end up fractured between the mouth-breathers who know they are bad and will only queue for regular BGs, and the mouth-breathers who think they are good and therefore queue for rated BGs. At the end of the day, the people who actually asked for Rated BGs will end up hating them, the players who merely stand for them will do either rated bgs or the arenas and mock the other, and the hardcore arena PvP'rs will either stick with Arena or be back within a few weeks of the start of season nine.

Guntir made a good point in that Rated BGs are likely Blizzard's attempt at moving the PvP scene from Arenas, but not for the reasons you would expect. There are always going to be class imbalances and there will always be a king of the hill, but Arenas have been astoundingly powerful at illustrating these defects. Arenas have acted as a crucible for refining PvP class balance, and unfortunately for many, Blizzard has simply not enough time or staff to enact quick and effective changes. Additionally, there has always been the different shards of the game between PvP and PvE, and while one may be balanced, the other will not be. In this way, the Arenas have been both the biggest boon and the deepest thorn for Blizzard; the Arenas are the best tool for illustrating class imbalances, but also do it so effectively that the general public can see these imbalances and cry for change.

The accumulated filth of their [Haste] and [Burst] will foam up about their wastes and all the [Druids] and [Warriors] will look up and shout "Save us!"...

and I'll look down and whisper "no."
- Greg Street (read in the voice of Rorschach from Alan Moore)

Bookmark and Share