Every week, Shifting Perspectives examines issues affecting Druids and those who group with them. This week, Mangle, Barkskin, and an enraged pack of mobile woodland things are headed our way. We advise stealthing.
Hail, Druids. This week, we continue the long march through levels 41 to 50. Due to some recent RL events I haven't had much time to get on the 3.2.2 PTR, but when I do, I'll try to see how Druids are shaping up on the revamped Onyxia fight and how much use the new Predatory Instincts is getting.
Without further ado:
Between 41 and 50, Ferals should add 2/2 Improved Leader of the Pack to their builds, and as I wrote on the 31-40 leveling guide, I think this talent is the greatest thing since sliced bread. As soon as you add this, Feral's mana problems while you're leveling and grinding just vanish; you'll be gaining 8% of your maximum mana each time ILotP's self-heal procs. While some Ferals abandon the talent at 80, a number of raid builds still incorporate it because: a). the 4% self-heal on crits adds up to a lot of +healing done for melee, tanks, and Hunters on fights with heavy raid damage, and: b). You're likely to be out of form to Innervate, battle-rez, and pop Tranquility unless your guild outgears the encounter. As far as I'm concerned, I don't care what role I'm filling in a raid -- you can have this talent when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.
The positionally-equivalent Balance talent -- Improved Moonkin Form -- doesn't have nearly the same effect on leveling speed that ILotP does; it's one of those things that's a lot better at 80 than 41. Owlkin Frenzy is more broadly equivalent to ILotP, more so in patch 3.2 with the addition of the mana return component, but the earliest you can get the first rank of OF is level 44. Because OF benefits only your good self and nobody else, it's shakier as a raid talent at 80 than ILotP, but an obvious pick for Balance PvP builds.
5 upgrades to existing skills, but nothing new otherwise:
- Demoralizing Roar, rank 4: standard upgrade.
- Maul, rank 5: standard upgrade.
- Ravage, rank 2: standard upgrade.
- Regrowth, rank 6: standard upgrade.
- Starfire, rank 4: standard upgrade.
A key ability makes its debut here, and it's one of only two new trainable abilities you'll get between levels 41 and 50.
- Barkskin: Barkskin's had a turbulent ride. Someone's going to have to tell me exactly when Blizzard added it to the game, because I'm not sure the classic Druid went live with it and it's driving me nuts trying to find out exactly when it did. Anyway, Barkskin's had to be tweaked several times to get it to the point of being a truly valuable ability. It was once a 20% reduction to all melee damage over 20 seconds, was only usable in caster form, was subject to the global cooldown (GCD), and couldn't be popped if you were incapacitated, stunned, or CC'd in any way. In other words, it was a great ability until you really needed it, at which point you probably weren't able to use it at all. It was mostly popped by Balance or Restoration Druids preemptively in order to ensure an uninterrupted channel of Hurricane or Tranquility, and wasn't generally used for much of anything else unless you managed to pop it during that nanosecond of character control you had versus a stunlocking Rogue in PvP. These days Barkskin is a lot more useful, and should be the first thing you hit if you're caught unawares in PvP, if you're being focus-fired, or if you're just running away from a nasty mob that's still kicking the snot out of you. Due to its usability in all forms as of patch 3.0.2, it's also been appropriated as a Bear "cooldown." I have ambivalent feelings on the merits of this for the purpose of hard-mode encounters in Wrath, but that's an article for a different day. Otherwise, you should be making judicious use of Barkskin as a bear in order to reduce healing load (and two tier bonuses in Wrath are oriented toward just this), and use it situationally as a Cat, Moonkin, or Tree. XT-002 charging up Tympanic Tantrum? Pop it. Waiting for your partner to peel an MS Warrior off you in arena? Pop it. Ret pally won't get off your ass in Trial of the Crusader? Well, you're probably screwed anyway, but you'll feel better about yourself if you die with Barkskin up.
- Healing Touch, rank 8: standard upgrade.
- Rake, rank 3: standard upgrade.
- Rip, rank 4: standard upgrade.
- Swipe (Bear), rank 4: standard upgrade.
- Thorns, rank 5: standard upgrade.
Rollin', rollin', rollin', keep those levels rollin', man my bear butt's swollen, RAWHIDE.
- Bash, rank 3: standard upgrade.
- Dash, rank 2: standard upgrade. Each rank of Dash (like its Rogue counterpart, Sprint) is slightly faster than the last one, by the way.
- Moonfire, rank 8: standard upgrade.
- Pounce, rank 2: standard upgrade.
- Rejuvenation, rank 8: standard upgrade.
- Shred, rank 4: standard upgrade.
- Wrath, rank 7: standard upgrade.
If you're leveling Feral -- two...more...levels...until...Mangle. Repeat that to yourself as many times as you need to in order to get you to 50.
- Claw, rank 4: standard upgrade. Two. More. Levels.
- Entangling Roots, rank 5: standard upgrade.
- Ferocious Bite, rank 3: standard upgrade.
- Nature's Grasp, rank 5: standard upgrade.
- Regrowth, rank 7: standard upgrade.
- Revive, rank 4: standard upgrade.
- Tiger's Fury, rank 3: standard upgrade.
Even in lousy gear, your late 40's to early 50's should be around the time where leveling as a Druid starts to be more pleasure and less pain.
BALANCE 41-POINT TALENTS: The definitive Balance 41-point talent used to be Force of Nature and, well, technically you can still make your 41-point talent FoN, but now you have a few more choices. While leveling, you're likely to get the most use from Typhoon, particularly because it's Balance's only reliable interrupt for a while. You won't get Cyclone until 70, and while Celestial Focus used to have a 15% per Starfire and Starfall star to stun enemies (and by God that Starfall proc was amazing), Blizzard has since retooled the talent. Anyway, these are your options at 50 as a moonkin:
- The first rank of Eclipse: The original Eclipse was a controversial talent introduced in patch 3.0.2 that Blizzard's tinkered with a lot since then. You should 100% plan on having it in your build at 80, but for leveling, a lot of its procs are likely to be wasted moving from mob to mob. I would only bother investing in Eclipse in your early 50's if you start training yourself into never missing a proc early, and I'll grant that's actually a pretty good reason to take it at this level -- you have to be religious about Eclipse procs to produce competitive DPS in groups and raids. Otherwise, you won't see as much of its benefit right now, especially if you're leveling in iffy gear with a low crit rate.
- Typhoon: This will probably be the most immediately helpful talent you can get at level 50, particularly if you're sick to death of casting and recasting Entangling Roots to keep mobs away from you. Typhoon, like the Elemental Shaman's Thunderstorm and the Fire Mage's Blast Wave, provides a knockback, but unlike Thunderstorm it has no mana return. In patch 3.2.2 the knockback distance will also be increased to match Thunderstorm's (20 yards). Typhoon is helpful for leveling, soloing and PvP; for PvE purposes it's routinely left out of Balance raiding builds because it's, at best, only situationally useful (e.g. fights like Mimiron).
- Force of Nature: Who doesn't love angry trees? The little dudes do a surprising amount of damage and -- better yet -- scale with your spellpower, so they're best used in conjunction with spellpower trinkets and/or procs like Illustration of the Dragon Soul and Eye of the Broodmother. FoN bears the distinction of being among the rare single-point talents that find good use in leveling, soloing, PvP, and PvE. If you don't get it at level 50, try to get it shortly afterwards, because -- pardon my French -- these trees will wreck your s^$&. However, experienced Balance players will warn you that, damage aside, the trees still don't have a ton of health and can die easily to AoE damage, so before deploying them you need to be sufficiently familiar with a fight or enemy to hazard a guess at when they'll be most effective, e.g. if you're fighting a Mage, don't let them loose when Frost Nova's off cooldown.
- Gale Winds: Bleh. Don't bother. While Gale Winds does have some use (hardcore arena moonkin may want it, or an equally hardcore PvE moonkin who dual-specs into it for trash clears), you'll get more use from other talents.
Also at level 50:
- Gift of the Wild, rank 1: This is the only other new trainable ability between 41 and 50, but unlike Barkskin it's not really very new. It's a group/raid version of Mark of the Wild that saves you from having to laboriously click through up to 25 people and assorted pets one by one and buffing them, although it'll run you the cost of a reagent (at level 50, the inexpensive Wild Berries). If you're grouping (or planning on grouping) often, it'll save you time to download and use a mod like SmartBuff to ensure everyone's properly buffed at all times.
- Healing Touch, rank 9: standard upgrade.
- Hurricane, rank 2: standard upgrade.
- Mark of the Wild, rank 6: standard upgrade.
- Maul, rank 6: standard upgrade.
- Ravage, rank 3: standard upgrade.
- Rebirth, rank 4: standard upgrade, but don't forget to pick up some Hornbeam Seeds from the reagent vendor while you're buying Wild Berries for GotW.
- Starfire, rank 5: standard upgrade.
- Tranquility, rank 3: standard upgrade.
Every week, Shifting Perspectives treks across Azeroth in pursuit of truth, beauty, and insight concerning the Druid class. Sometimes it finds the latter, or something good enough for government work. Whether you're a Bear, Cat, Moonkin, Tree, or -- for some unaccountable reason -- stuck in caster form, we've got the skinny on Druid changes in patch 3.2, questions and answers on new Bear and Cat forms, and thoughts on why (or why not) you should be playing the class.