Incarnation Continued

There was some interesting discussion over at the beta boards regarding Feral Incarnation (and Force of Nature as well), so I thought I would give it some spotlight:

So let's pick the best scenario possible. By getting 18 Ravages off you'd get a 890 DPS increase with Incarnation. Sounds like a very solid DPS increase, huh? Well.. not really. As soon as i started testing Force of Nature, i realized that Incarnation is a really poor choice. Let me elaborate.

Force of Nature will summon 3 Treats to fight for you for 15s and it's on a 1min CD. This means that i can use FoN 3 times in the 3min Incarnation window. So all we have to do is figure the expected value for the DPS increase on that 1min and then multiply it by 3. By doing that, we can compare these two abilities with respect to DPS. To do that, i simply had to measure the average damage and how often each of the Treants would attack my target. After some time, i saw that each of the Treats would attack my target ten times in that 15s window.I also noticed that Treants attacks are classified as white hits and are affected by Glancing. The average damage based on a 68 normal hits sample was 4790. Since each of the Treants will attack ten times, we get a total of 30 hits over 15s. To calculate the expected value i considered my 30% crit chance and did the following:

From 30 hits - Expected 9 crits, 5 Glancing and 16 normal hits. So the damage would be:

9*9580 + 16*4790 + 5*3592.5 = 180822.5 expected damage.

This is a straight 3013.70 DPS increase.
This is basically inline with what I experienced on the Beta boards and have been trying to convey to Druids: Incarnation is hilariously weak when compared to Force of Nature from all aspects. Force of Nature is one-third the cooldown of Incarnation for three times the burst damage, a huge increase in sustained damage, does not cost resources, and gives a free 5s stun to boot. The only problem with Force of Nature, now, is that it is on the radar for the developers thanks to this maths:
Your analysis of Incarnation looks about in line with our expectations; we expect that the fact that you can line Berserk and Tiger’s Fury up with it will be significant. Force of Nature’s damage for Ferals looks rather out of line; we’ll investigate that.
The problem I have with this GC quote is two-fold: first, it ends up suggesting that he did not actually read the maths from the post because Berserk and Tiger's Fury were included in the calculation; and second, it shows that the devs think that Force of Nature should not be so strong for Feral. Bah!

Getting back to Incarnation for a moment, even if one lines it up with Berserk, the ability is lackluster and on a long cooldown. I am not sure why this is considered acceptable; Incarnation (for Feral, anyway) might as well read "Improved Berserk" and simply be a tie-in to that ability... which is boring. Personally, and I know that I am in the minority on this one, I do not want all my damage and burst revolving around a single ability which can be avoided via CC. There is something to be said for skilled players who know how to counter burst with control, but when all of my meaningful damage can be avoided by a trivial CC train, then the game gets annoying.

Specifically, when I played Boomkin for fun at the end of Season 8, I really did enjoy the cooldowns I had; there were basically a bunch of mid-length cooldowns to manage/use and if I got CC'd through one of them, I still had the potential to apply some pressure with the others. I am still hoping that Force of Nature remains a viable burst cooldown, but it looks like GC did not realize how much damage the trees were putting out, so we are likely to see that "toned down" in the next few patches.

Another thing that changed in the last patch that I did not bring up is that Displacer Beast has been getting more and more buffed. Keep in mind, the devs have no intent on making DB into Vanish+Blink, so it can only be improved so much, but the cooldown keeps getting lowered. As of the last patch, Displacer Beast is down to a 1min cd that teleports the Druid forward 20 yards, puts him in Cat Form, and attempts to Prowl the Druid. I write 'attempts' because any DoT will immediately break the prowling, so it has extremely limited use. Additionally, if there are any effects on the Druid which prevent stealth abilities (such as Faerie Fire), then Displacer Beast cannot be used at all.

This brings up he question of talent-balance again (I thought I had a quote to put here, but I guess I don't). The devs have expressed in the past (again, I cannot find the quote, so this is from memory) that if a particular talent is the 'obvious' choice at a tier, it probably means that the other talents at that tier are undertuned or the 'obvious' choice is overtuned. When I look at the first tier of the Druid talent tree, I feel like the other two talents simply do not exist. I will never look at Feline Swiftness as a viable talent unless it is buffed rather extraordinarily; 15% bonus movement speed just is not very strong in any context as a talent.

Similarly, I will likely never see Displacer Beast as a viable talent choice, either. Being able to blink and stealth would be useful, but only if it were given the same treatment as Vanish. Giving Displacer Beast the same implementation as Vanish will never happen because Vanish is a powerful ability that is a Rogue-flavor ability; it is a staple of the Rogue's kit that will never be shared entirely with another class. What is more is that Displacer Beast also has the blink function built in, so it would actually be better than Vanish (in some sense) in that it would position you away from the fray and activate Prowl. Saying nothing else on the matter, if Displacer Beast acted the way described above, then I would certainly consider taking it on a 1m cd. However, it would be blatantly overpowered for Restos and Boomkins, as it would given them a 'get out of jail free' card once per minute, making them non-viable targets (and Restos already are pretty non-viable for Ferals).

No, the real issue here is that a 15s cooldown Wild Charge is so blatantly overpowered that anything else at this tier is really a second thought to the matter. Why on earth would I want an ability like Displacer Beast which will put me 20y in whatever direction I am facing once per minute when I could use Wild Charge to get back to Guntir who is 40y away and safe at a pillar once every quarter-minute? It is just bonkers! Many will claim that it will be used to close gaps on the kill-target more than anything, but at a 15s cooldown, I can easily stay on my target with Wild Charge and mash my "get out of dodge" macro to charge out when things get dicey. Mark my words - if Wild Charge goes live as-is, there will be SOOOOOOO much complaining about how mobile Feral is in a PvP context.

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Just Blue Piecemeal

So, the blues on beta actually responded to some Druid questions. Let's look, shall we (also, I am trying out some colors to distinguish the quotes better ^_^):

Currently Cenarion Ward will not consume the healing bonus from Dream of Cenarius. This makes Dream of Cenarius completely and totally undesirable for Guardians. That may be intentional, but some clarification would be appreciated.
This is a bug; all three level 30 talents will benefit from the increased healing buff from Dream of Cenarius. For example, a Guardian druid in Bear Form, with Dream of Cenarius and Renewal, who has recently Mangled a target so they have the Dream of Cenarius buff up, can hit Renewal to instantly restore 51% of their max health. We just fixed it to apply to Renewal and Cenarion Ward a few minutes ago, though, so you won’t see that for a build or two.
Well, that is certainly welcomed news. In basically every post I talk about how I think my 2s setup with revolve around having Cenarion Ward and Dream of Cenarius, so it is good to hear that that build has the same design as my plans.
Incarnation - As of this point Incarnation is bad for Feral druids. Due to Ravage and Pounce's 50 energy cost, there is just not enough energy to compensate normal shreds. based on my analysis you are looking at a 600 dps loss if you spec into Incarnation. If Ravage and Pounce cost 40 energy instead, then it would be a dps buff.
Incarnation should allow you to replace several Shreds with Ravages. Ravages are indeed more expensive, so the CP per energy will be lower (except above 80%, where it will be much higher). But, Ravage does ~50% more damage than Shred, for only 25% more energy. Is your modeling show that that’s not enough to be a sustained DPS increase? (Not to mention being a significant burst DPS increase.)
I think we are going to have to agree to disagree on this one. I have lots of tests on beta showing that Ravage is only really 25% better damage than Shred for 25% more energy cost. Additionally, even if Ravage could be break-even with damage as compared to Shred, the cp-gen lost from it is still overwhelming. I keep coming back to this, but Incarnation is just reasonably terrible for Feral.

EDIT: This needed some maths.

Shred - 420% * 1.3 * 1.2 = 655.2% weapon damage
Ravage - 750% * 1.3 = 975% weapon damage

So, the blue is correct in that Ravage does ROUGHLY 50% more damage for 25% more cost, and if the target is at greater than 80% hp, it will definitely be worth the cost increase because of the increased critical strike chance. So, I have to concede that Incarnation is not terrible for Feral, but I will likely still avoid it because the damage gained pales in comparison to that of Tree Posse. They bring so much damage and another stun that does not cost resources to the table on a cooldown of 1 minute as opposed to Incarnation's 3 minutes.
Mastery - As of right now Mastery is going to be the stat to miss COMPLETELY. Only two (three with Incarnation) abilities will benefit from it, both of which are based on Attack Power ONLY. Even then in 483 PvP gear, with full raid buffs and ZERO Mastery, Rip is still hitting for 300k damage.
We’re currently modeling Mastery as roughly equal in value to Crit and Haste for Ferals, typically a couple % better. If you can provide any more detailed analysis, we’d be interested in seeing it.
Well, I must say that this is interesting. The two abilities (for Feral) affected by Mastery are Rip and Rake; I am completely confused by the statement that Incarnation would give us a third because Pounce's bleed is still around 1000 damage at level 85... soooo... yeah. That being said, Rip and Rake are still over half our sustained damage in a raid setting (and probably a PvP setting as well); anything that increases our ability to apply damage through undispellable bleeds is a worth-while state. However, Blizzard admitting that it is modeled higher than crit and haste innately is fun. It had been worked out mathematically prior to the statement, so it comes as no surprise, but the fact that Blizz knows that they have it as the 'best' scaling stat for Ferals and intend it to be such is where my intrigue is piqued. The reason that this is interesting is because of the change to PvP gear in MoP.

Recall that in MoP, PvP gear will end up having normal stat allocation as well as the new "PvP" stats for defense and offense. This means that overall, we will have more stat points allocated which will turn into additional stats in general (gear that was agi+crit+resil will be agi+crit+mastery+pvp-stats, agi+crit+haste+pvp-stats, and agi+haste+mastery+pvp-stats). With this in mind, we are more free to reforge our gear as we need; now the hard-n-fast rule is "if it doesn't have mastery, reforge to mastery; else, reforge to either haste or crit".

It will be some time before we figure out how much critical strike percent Feral will have at level 90 in starter PvP gear, but I am going to guess it will be around 25%. Yes, this sounds CRAZY-LOW as compared to what we are accustomed to on live, but Blizzard has been dropping crit-rates across all classes, so it should not come as much of a shock when you take a broader look at the state of beta at the moment. Additionally, that 25% crit rate will also have no reforging, probably around 30% mastery, and maybe even as high as 15% haste, so it really will play differently than 25% crit does today. Remember, haste is going to be the wild-card in all this as it will increase our rate of energy-regen, which directly affects our cp-regen basically as well as crit, so adding 15 and 25 together and you will find that 40% crit to which we are accustomed.

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My Nostalgia Hurts

I promised a post this week, and so it must be! First and foremost, let me just say that this post is going to be a little scatter-brained, as I am a little scatter-brained this morning. I have a routine, you see, that involves getting up at 6:15am every day, taking a shower, brushing my teeth, and eating one fried egg with 12oz of 2% milk while I take my pills - yes, this makes me an old man of sorts, but the pills are like fish oil and a multivitamin... everyone of every age should be taking these. Well, I forgot to buy milk over the weekend, which was a blur, but my mother-in-law (still not used to that title) made me an Irish Soda Bread muffin to take with me to work today, so it ends up working out: skip the egg and milk and have a muffin and some coffee instead. Life is good.

Guntir came up from San Diego this weekend, so I did not have a chance to get him to help me test Savage Roar. The one thing I will say about that is that two beta Druids I trust with these matters told me that SR is no longer dispellable, and while it will be annoying to have to keep SR up when dealing damage in PvP, this change is a welcomed one. Guntir and I went to lunch on Saturday and talked about WoW a bit; apparently, the Undead racial was changed from Underwater Breathing (lawl) to some proc-on-damage Life Drain. Essentially, Guntir found that roughly 1/8 of the nukes he cast would return equal amounts of life... not too shabby.

One of the reasons that I have not been posting very much about Feral in MoP is because I have covered all the theoretical stuff. I discussed talent builds, game-play general points, and even intricate assumptions based around numbers and guesswork. However, without Blizzard putting in pre-made level 90s (or even 87s), I cannot test Symbiosis which is really the only thing WORTH testing besides Dream of Cenarius and Cenarion Ward, which I think will be rather overpowered in a 2s context (and maybe Nature's Vigil, but it looks pretty bland as a "macro this with Berserk" talent... it will be good for burst, albeit boring).

Another reason that I have not been posting is because Diablo3 was released and I honestly have not played WoW in a few months. Diablo3 is just one of those games that allows me to just sit down, Skype Guntir, and mindlessly kill stuff for fun and profit for hours; it is amazing. The game is stunningly beautiful, the story is about as good as I remember either Diablo or Diablo2 being, and the soundtrack is pretty solid (although, I really do miss hearing the original). I rolled a Barbarian simply because I always play a barb in the diablo universe, and while they are not the most amazing character right now (Demon Hunter and Monk are topping the bill in terms of power), I have a build which makes me nigh indestructible as a tank, which allows Guntir, who rolled a Witch Doctor, to throw flaming nightmares at our opponents and sweep them aside easily.

As I say, my nostalgia hurts. I was listening to the track (linked in the previous paragraph) on loop most of the morning while writing this post, and all I kept thinking of were the fun times spent in Tristam in D1/2. I know that sounds odd, given that the games were about going out into the world and smashing baddies, but I really did enjoy the music immensely. The more I think about it, the more I realize that I base a lot of my affection of a game on their soundtracks. WoW's soundtrack is somewhat tepid; it just does not get the job done for me. And while I enjoy D3's gameplay, the soundtrack is a bit bland in places and never really sets the tone of boss fights appropriately. There's a fight against a giant spider lady that is particularly creepy, but the soundtrack never plays at that angle: it stays with the fast-paced feel of boss fights, but you never feel the adrenaline pumping because the music never pushes your imagination. It is really hard to describe in words, but for a giant spider fight that has elements of "where did she go?" thrown in, it should have creepy music that gets intense when the boss comes back into the fray.

We will finish up with Diablo3 soon enough, I am sure, and MoP is still on track to have pre-mades ready in the coming weeks, so there should be plenty to talk about.

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Sorry Guys

Work is going crazy right now, so I have basically no time to write any posts. I have done next to no testing on the beta for the last few weeks, and D3 has taken the remaining free time I have.

I am going to try and get some testing done and a post written for next week.

Again, sorry.

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