Sorry Kiddies

I went out of town and completely forgot to post anything about the late post this week (and no post last week). That is my bad :-(

Let us get down to business! Guntir and I walked into the 5.0 servers last night for the first time to see what BGs felt like. To say nothing of the hilarious damage getting dished out by some classes *cough*mages*cough*, the 'new game' plays very differently than the previous one. Damage feels a lot slower, which I have always felt was a good thing, but it seems like just about every class and their mother has gotten a cooldown-based self-heal.

Wait... wait... let me back up for one second here. Let me explain something: while I try and play all the classes to some extent and even try and pay attention to all of the various changes happening across all classes, I cannot keep up by myself. I know the Feral changes inside and out at this point and I feel like I have a pretty firm grasp on how Priests will play out, but I have to say that any other class is largely a mystery outside of my cursory knowledge. I know Warlocks will either be DoT-based, Nuke-based, or Pet-based, I know that Rogues will continue being a thorn in my side, and I know that Warriors will continue charging over and over again and dealing rather strong damage while on a target. What I do not know is the specifics of the changes to every other class out there.

That being said, I feel like Feral became a hilarious BG machine. Feral has so many gap-closers that it really should be seen as unfair. A 15s cooldown Wild Charge being the mainstay of the issue. I need to start getting my addons back in place -- mainly my unit frames and nameplates addons as those are the ones that I really rely on for gameplay visibility. I had no idea what debuffs my opponents had on them at any time last night; I kept finding myself applying Rake over and over again because I did not recall whether I had applied it recently or not. Once I get my unit frames back up and running, I should be off to the races again.

One thing that is really annoying is that I have to apply SR again in PvP and really pay attention to it in terms of applying my bleeds. Blizzard may think this is a good design, but I am quite sick of it in PvP. Also, and Guntir is right on board with me on this one, we completely forget about new abilities regularly. I continuously forgot that I had Mighty Bash and Tree Posse, though I was using Mighty Bash much more often, and I had the macro of Cenarion Ward to Guntir, but having to press it every 30 seconds when we got into combat was a bit hard to remember, particularly under heavy stress situations. Toward the end of the night we started getting back into the swing of things; I was getting used to the SR rotation, applying bleeds, and trying to deal meaningful direct damage, and Guntir was healing like the best of them and coordinating moments of nuking.

Overall, we both liked how well Feral and Discipline meshed together. I had taken Glyph of Cat Form and was taking enough healing to get by, and even without Symbiosis (Dispersion), I was having a pretty straight-forward time surviving between Barkskin and Survival Instincts; I had Might of Ursoc on my survival-buttons-bar, but I never found a need to use it. I felt like my burst damage was a bit lacking, but that could be due to my opponents having hitherto unknown survivability buttons (like Warlocks having a 30% self-heal) as well as not having the level 90 PvP gear and thus missing out on Ravage. Tree Posse still feels like it does pretty good damage coupled with a 5s stun, but my Shreds just did not feel like they were hitting very hard, and FB really relies on being used at 50 energy to deal meaningful damage.

Bookmark and Share

Sometimes I Think...

Sometimes, and I mean pretty regularly, I think that it does not make any sense for me to post on Mondays. On the one hand, I like posting on Mondays because those are usually my slowest days at work and I have more time to spend thinking about any given topic. On the other hand, posting on Mondays usually means that I am either recapping a Tuesday post from the week before, or I am writing something that I will eventually bump with a Tuesday/Wednesday post because a new patch will drop the next day. During an expansion when changes are few and far between I feel like Mondays make a lot of sense, but during a beta when the world gets changed almost every Tuesday it probably makes more sense to do a Wednesday post.

So, I will be trying out this format to see how it plays out until the Mists of Pandaria is released, at which point I will go back to the Monday postings.

Yesterday marked another patch to the beta servers. This time around, there were a few nerfs to Feral that I did not really expect to see, but then again there was yet another buff to Dream of Cenarius that I did not expect to see either. Dream of Cenarius was buffed from 30% increased damage on the next two melee abilities to 50%. Readers will recall that I spent the majority of my last week's post discussing how strong Dream of Cenarius is, so I probably do not need to rebuff that topic and we will just say that this is pretty strong. However, in order to balance this increase (I assume as I do not see any other reason for it), Shred and Mangle have been reduced from 420% weapon damage to 400% weapon damage.

DISCLAIMER - I still have not tested this ability, so take everything I say with a grain of salt.

What I find interesting is the synergy of the ability with itself. Dream of Cenarius reads:

Wrath, Starfire, Starsurge, and melee abilities increase healing done by your next healing spell by 30%. Tranquility is not affected.

Nourish, Healing Touch, and Regrowth increase the damage done by your next 2 Moonfire or Sunfire casts by 50% or by your next 2 melee abilities by 50%.

Each of these bonuses lasts 30 sec.
and I have been entirely focused on the second portion ever since it was changed to include all casts of HTs, instant or not. However, what I really find interesting having given it another look today is that I completely ignore that first bit because nothing is listed directly. The first sentence says that "... melee abilities increase healing done ... by 30%. ..." How have I not given this any notice? Actually, in one of my first posts about Dream of Cenarius I mentioned that I might take this ability to couple with Cenarian Ward just for the "deal damage, get 70% [now 30%] bonus healing, use Cenarion Ward," but I completely forgot about that. With instant-cast HTs being part of the party now, I can get the 30% bonus healing from dealing damage normally and let the buff stay up as long as I need since there is no internal cooldown at the moment, then drop a 30% stronger Predator's Swiftness HT on Guntir for some absolutely silly healing, and get 50% additional damage to my next two melee abilities. Woof!

Another awesome change from yesterday's patch is that Cat Form's innate speed has been buffed from 15% to 25%. Now, the nay-sayers will be quick to point out that we have 30% movement speed on live at the moment from Feral Swiftness, and while that is true it came at the cost of talent points while this is simply by virtue of being a cat. I have tried to remain quiet on this one as losing 15% movement speed is something that irked me, but not enough to complain since we got a 15s Wild Charge. With Feral still getting that extra 15% movement speed bonus from our PvP 2-set, that gets our movement speed in MoP very close to that of live (143.75% in MoP vs. 149.5%). What gets even sillier is that a Feral could take Feral Swiftness instead of Wild Charge (this is not smart for most arena play, I am forced to point out) and get his speed to 165.3125%, which is pretty damn fast to be moving around normally. All the 50% snares in the game would take you to is 82.66% speed which is much faster than a Deathknight with Death's Advance (you cannot be snared below 70% movement speed).

I mentioned in a comment on the mid-week update that I would talk a bit about the feeling of Feral in MoP versus the feeling of Feral in expansions past. Particularly, I read a comment that made me think back to The Burning Crusade, though I am not sure why since this expansion was largely terrible for Feral. I have gotten nostalgic in past posts regarding how I felt about Feral back then, but even though I was upset with the state of Feral, I still look back fondly; it truly makes no sense to me sometimes.

The main thing about Feral that I liked when looking back has to do with much more of the way the game played than anything particular to Feral. In TBC, arena matches, and PvP in general, was slower paced; there would still be a lot going on, but the reality is that you had more time to play your character. Because of this, Ferals spent a LOT more time shapeshifting, which is something that I think a lot of Feral players are going to miss in Mists. That requirement of leaving Cat Form to do something else useful was interesting, albeit terribly implemented and a horrible leash that would hold back many players.

In Mists, the only time a Feral is going to have to switch forms is in order to break a snare or root. Many Ferals will argue that this is the way it was meant to be, but there are many still who would argue that going to Bear Form should still be part of the specialization. I do not know what my heart tells me about the new Feral with regard to play-style and feeling, but I know that I will be more competitive without having to worry about clipping a GCD while waiting to get back into Cat Form and the like. There are simply too many little tiny annoyances that can creep up on even the best players with a tiny bit of latency and/or some bad luck. I cannot count the number of times that I did not end up using Berserk because I hit TF just before it and thought I had pressed Berserk then started spamming Shreds only to find that I did not hit Berserk and I wasted a lot of energy; I possibly missed the opportunity to land a kill.

I think that I will miss having the ability to use Bear Form to some degree. I do not like the fact that Bear Form, at present, is so weak at dealing damage and only minorly more survivable than Cat Form. I can still recall the beginning of TBC and Bear Form being absolutely hilarious damage output as well as extremely strong at soaking up damage. I would, on rare occasions, come back from a 2v1 where Guntir had died but we got both of our opponents to 75% hp simply by going Bear Form and beating everything to death with Mangle.

TBC was also a time where healing as a Feral was still alive and well. One had to have a healing weapon swap and be ready to apply Rejuvenation and Lifebloom at the drop of a hat, and also have the where-with-all to know when it was safe to drink (yes, Feral had to drink in arenas back then because of our mana problems due to healing). I am somewhat looking forward to seeing the return of a dps-healing Feral again in MoP; it will definitely be interesting, although the devs probably need to tone down some of the dps-healing that is going on the beta at present.

Sidebar: I watched a 30m Hydra 2v2 video from the MoP beta and it basically shows that every dps has some capacity for healing on a cooldown and it really makes landing a kill impossible in some instances. It seems that Monks, as a dps, are unkillable in a 1v1 situation simply by virtue of their self-healing capacities. While I am fond of having the ability to provide some supplemental healing in a 2s match, I do not want to see the situation we have on live where Ret pallies can WoG someone to full from 15% hp but with all dps classes. Only time will tell on this one.

Back to TBC, I can still remember playing WotLK and being in a better position shifting-wise, but still having to do odd implementation plays like having a macro that would go Bear Form and start mashing Feral Charge (Bear) on my focus target to land an interrupt, which would be followed by a 5s Bash, which I would follow with a hard-cast 6s Cyclone before going back to Cat Form to deal damage. This was interesting but ultimately annoying; why did Ferals have to spend so much time, as a dps class, not dealing damage and instead on some other target applying CC?

No, now that I remember that, I have to say that I am looking forward to leaving all that in my past. I will definitely miss certain things about previous expansions, and I know that TBC will always hold a special place in my heart and memories, but I cannot wait to be able to stay in Cat Form more and do my job as a dps -- including landing CC without having to leave my target for 15sec at a time while Guntir tries to burst them down instead.

Bookmark and Share

Mid-Week Update

Just a few Feral nods from the devs:

Feral PvP on the other hand, needs some help. Our defense is almost non existent and the SR situation is just awkward at best. Feral PvP HP looks like a roller coaster... falling and rising fast, it's stressful and isn't very fun to be honest.
We gave Survival Instincts back to Feral recently. Not sure if you have that change.
Whoa. I am not sure what the original poster is talking about in terms of Feral needing help, or why a 3min damage reduction cooldown is going to help overall, but that is a huge buff to Feral+Disc since Feral is getting Dispersion from Symbiosis. That means that I will have access to Barkskin (20%, 1m), Dispersion (90%, 2m), and Survival Instincts (50%, 3m) at my disposal to survive. Dispersion is obviously the winner here since it can be used while stunned and it has the most damage reduction at a medium cooldown, but having all these different damage reductions is going to be amazingly overpowered. I really do not see how anyone is missing this.

The rest of the posts were regarding Moonkins, so I will skip them, but there was one more post I wanted to share:
P.S. Why are treants even there?
Because they do good damage? And they want to be your friend?
I honestly think that people have this perception of the Tree Posse; they do not understand just how good they are in a PvP context. Maybe this quote is in reference to Moonkins and Raiding, but for Feral this talent is a no-brainer for PvP. I hate to go on these rants all the time, but Incarnation is not a very good damage-dealing ability.

Let me explain one last time: Incarnation puts you into a state where you simply stop using Shred and instead use Ravage. Straight off the bat, Ravage is better damage (720% vs. 504%) but costs 5 additional energy; if we work out the DPE, then Ravage is 16% damage per energy with Shred at 12.6% per energy, and until the last patch where the cost was reduced from 50 to 45 for Ravage the dpe was 14.4% which is much closer. Now, we can see plainly that Ravage is better than Shred, and with the costs being roughly the same now there is even a decent argument for choosing it.

However, the difference is really the damage boost we need to look at. Incarnation gives 30s of up-time on a 3m cd, which means that we need to look at the best-case number of Shreds-vs-Ravages that can be used in a 30s window (and let's assume Berserk is up as well for best-bang-for-buck). If we look at it naively and assume someone else is providing bleeds and ours have 100% up-time and we applied them a long time ago (not going to happen in practice, but is good for an upper-bound), then we can say that in 30s we will gain at least 300 energy with zero haste. Let us say that we pooled to 100 energy meaning that we netted 400 energy over 30 seconds to use entirely on Ravages-as-Shreds. Keep in mind that we are not even talking about finishing moves here... just Ravage-spam all the time.

This is equal to 17 Ravages (400 energy banked / ( 45 energy cost / 2 berserk ) ) instead of 20 Shreds (400 eb / ( 40 ec / 2 b ) ). Adding up the napkin maths to pretend we are dropping one big Ravage and one big Shred gets us the following:

Ravage: 12,240% damage (17 Ravages * 720%)
Shred: 10,080% damage (10 Shreds * 504%)
Difference: 2,160% damage

What does all this mean? This means that Incarnation IN THE BEST AND UNATTAINABLE CASE will get you basically 4 additional Shreds. If you assume that Berserk will not be used during this time, then the difference is basically 1 Ravage. If you start factoring in things like having to use energy to apply Rake, SR, and Rip (and maybe you want to throw an FB in there) then the balance really starts tipping toward Ravage, but the difference goes down significantly. Remember, Ravage is better damage overall, but the fewer landed means the better burst wins out with the difference being potentially smaller.

Just to put a nice little bow on this rant, if you also factor in that in PvP a large chunk of your Incarnation time is going to be spent eating CC, then it looks even less appealing. Additionally, that 2,160% best-case damage difference looks pretty paltry when you consider that a 3min cooldown is going to net you four additional Shreds in damage. However, if you look at Tree Posse, you get roughly that same amount of damage (4 Shreds), but it comes with a 5s stun, a 1min cooldown, and it does not matter if the opposing team CCs you through its duration -- the trees keep hitting stuff.

Bookmark and Share

It Rhymes With Monday

Well, no... actually it does not. I would have written up a post yesterday, but from the moment I got in to work I actually had work to do. My job would be great if I did not have any requirements...

So, there were a few small patches to the beta since my last post. The few changes that were made include reducing the cost of Ravage! from 50 energy to 45 energy (which is hilarious given that I had post test results showing that it was not a dps gain to take Incarnation because of the energy cost; it still does not look amazing, but it is at least an ability that provides a dps boost now), Dream of Cenarius increasing the next two melee abilities by 30% instead of just one, and Soul of the Forest being increased from two energy per combo point used to three.

The Soul of the Forest change is interesting in that it shows that Blizzard is paying attention. At two energy per combo point, the maximum returned energy would be 10 which, when combined with the energy returned from a zero-haste GCD, would mean at least 20 energy returned after using a 5cp finishing move. My biggest gripe about this was that 20 energy returned for a minimum of 25 energy spent is still lost energy (albeit a small amount as compared to the 15 energy lost without this talent), and that is our cheapest finishing move in Savage Roar, on which no one really ever spends five combo points. A better example would be using Rip, which costs 30 energy and would mean 10 energy spent with Soul of the Forest instead of 20. That's not terrible, but it still had room for improvement. I had been petitioning for 4 energy per combo point consumed, but them bumping it to 3 is a decent test. That means that Rip is going to cost 5 energy instead of 20, which is definitely worth-while. I still do not see this talent getting picked up over Tree Posse, but anything can happen between now and September.

The Incarnation-Ravage change is really boring; the talent is still pretty lackluster at that tier as it is less damage provided for a 3min cooldown than Soul of the Forest will provide over a 3m span, and certainly less damage than 2 uses of Tree Posse. Really, the only interesting change from the last few builds is the Dream of Cenarius bump. Dream of Cenarius no longer requires a non-instant cast of Healing Touch to give the bonus 30% damage, and what is better is that it provides that bonus to the next two melee abilities and lasts 30 seconds. Admittedly, in the 2v2 context, I did not use Healing Touch very often (instant or otherwise) simply because it cost so much mana and did not heal very much when compared to other hybrid healers (SPriests, Enh, Ret), but I can see a few things changing here that are really rather interesting when taken in full.

By changing Dream of Cenarius to allow instant-casts of Healing Touch, that really opens the talent up for Feral just by allowing it to be used in PvP. By changing it to the next two attacks instead of just one, that makes it a real boon for Feral because it will allow for some silly combos like "bank of 5cps, pool to 100 energy, NS+HT Guntir, Tree Posse (5s stun + damage), FB (30% bonus), 4-piece Ravage (30% damage)..." I tried to come up with a use that revolved around Predator's Swiftness, but it is essentially impossible to do so since it takes melee abilities to build combo points for FB.

What will be really interesting to test (if they ever enact premade level 90s... I want the first time I grind MoP to be an experience for real - not just a beta test that I will have to do once again when MoP is released) is to see if that 30% bonus applies to all our melee abilities. I am, of course, referring to Rake's DoT component and wondering whether that 30% bonus will continue for the duration of the bleed. If it acts anything like Savage Roar, which increases our physical damage done by 30% as well, then it will indeed increase the bleed damage from Rake, which is already rather strong.

What I am most excited about from all these changes is the fact that I basically never have to leave Cat Form anymore except to break snares and roots. The devs changed Predator's Swiftness to allow the cast to happen in Cat Form as well as changing up all our talents to be able to be used in Cat Form as well (Nature's Swiftness, Cenarion Ward, etc). This means that I can use an instant-cast Healing Touch on Guntir with Predator's Swiftness after applying Rip to a target and immediately start spamming Shreds again with the first two hitting 30% harder. In fact, the rotation might be as simple "TF+Rip, insta-HT Guntir, Rake, 4p Ravage, Shreds" which would allow for some seriously interesting damage output since TF and DoC would mean 15% bonus damage and 30% bonus damage at the same time. In fact, this burst rotation is starting to shape up really rather nicely:

Pool to 5cps and 40 energy
Tree Posse Stun
TF+FB (1s - 50 energy left plus 10 energy from the gcd = 60e after FB)
insta-HT Guntir (2s - 70e)
Rake (3s - 35e + gcd = 45e)
4p Ravage (4s - 55e)
Shred (5s - 25e)

In that 5s stun, I will have landed an FB, a Rake, a Ravage, and a Shred and all but the FB and the trailing Shred are getting 49.5% bonus damage (15% bonus damage and 30% bonus damage: 1.15 * 1.3 = 1.495); the FB and trailing Shred got the 15% bonus damage. The cooldown on Tree Posse makes this a rotation I can pull off once every minute, but it is unclear if there is an internal cooldown on Dream of Cenarius or not. I have to suspect that there is no ICD simply because it would be a truly awkward ability to manage if it did.

This revelation about damage-dealing and the dropped caster-form requirements across the board really just solidifies my appraisal of Mighty Bash. I continue to marvel at how I wrote this talent off at the onset and have come back around to really consider it to be the likely front-runner in my build at that tier over Disorienting Roar and Ursol's Vortex. Likely, I will be using Tree Posse as my on-target stun while I use Might Bash as a CC proper. In addition, with Guntir getting Cyclone from Symbiosis, that means that my Predator's Swiftness procs are free to go to Healing Touches which will increase my burst damage potential. Basically, the idea for 2v2 is the following:

1) I set up 5 combo points on a target I am going to try and burst down and start pooling energy.
2) Guntir and I coordinate so that he is in LoS of the healer.
3) Mighty Bash on the healer.
4) Wild Charge back to the kill target; start my rotation from above (Posse, FB, TF, HT-G, Rake, Ravage, Shreds; Berserk might be in the mix)
5) Guntir lands AT LEAST a SW:P and Mindbender / Shadowfiend (likely it will be Mindbender).
6) Guntir hard-casts Cyclone on the healer (he's standing on top of the stunned healer after all).
7) Guntir follows his Cyclone with a Psychic Scream.
8) Guntir lands another Holy Fire and Smites.
9) Guntir follows his Psychic Scream with Dominate Mind.

Ignoring all the hilarious damage we are putting out throughout this combo, that is a TON of CC from Guntir while I am doing my thing. I think that 2v2s are going to be a little bit on the ridiculous side...

Bookmark and Share