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Cataclysm Class Changes: Feral druid analysis

Allison Robert
Last night, Blizzard made the druid class announcement for planned changes in Cataclysm. For all those of you who were around for the Burning Crusade or Wrath of the Lich King betas, you'll already know that what we think is going to happen to the class and what actually winds up happening are not necessarily the same thing. For the moment, however, it's a safe bet that we'll see most of these changes around for the Cataclysm beta when it goes live and then tweaked further as testing continues.

As an aside, if any Blizzard employees reading this take issue with my analysis, I welcome any questions, comments or criticism enclosed in the post-script to a beta invitation, which I will totally read.

Resto druids, fear not; your analysis article will go live soon too! I split the articles up for better organization, especially because so much discussion broke out after the announcement concerning Tree of Life form.

Before I move on to bears and cats, one other thing bears mentioning, as it'll be a trainable ability at level 85:

Wild Mushroom (Level 85): Grows a magical mushroom at the target location. After 4 seconds the mushroom becomes invisible. Enemies who cross the mushroom detonate it, causing it to deal area-of-effect damage, though its damage component will remain very effective against single targets. The druid can also choose to detonate the mushroom ahead of time. This is primarily a tool for the Balance druid, and there will be talents that play off of it. No cooldown. 40-yard range. Instant cast.

I'm going to let Tyler do the heavy lifting on this, as it's pretty obviously a caster DPS-oriented spell. All I will say here is that it made me giggle.

Possibility of some raid member making a stupid substance-related joke every time this is used
: High.

When it comes to feral, I will confess to being most nervous about the upcoming rage changes. I've been leveling a night elf druid as a bear, and it's been a reminder of just how unhappy and frustrating it is to tank when you don't have reliable rage income. I'm confident that the rage changes will vastly improve the leveling bear experience, but I'm still worried about how it'll work at the level cap. But there's no real sense in fretting until we see how it plays out on the beta, so let's turn away from that subject for a bit.

Before I write anything else about ferals, there's at least one change that didn't make the formal announcements for either the bear or warrior concerning Demoralizing Shout/Demoralizing Roar:

We changed Demo Shout because it was confusing. Nobody knows how much attack power a creature has, and we found that many players underestimated what a massive damage reduction Demo Shout actually provided.

Huh? I don't think you've mentioned anything about Demo Shout anywhere else. What did you change it to?

Oh, uh, I mean "We didn't change Demo Shout at all! Who told you that?"

Actually we changed it (Demoralizing Shout) to a percent physical damage reduction instead of attack power reduction. I thought that had made the preview and was the source of some of the QQ. :)

So Demo Roar will be a lot less confusing in the future, which is always good. I can't recall off the top of my head whether community testing ever figured out exactly how much attack power the average boss has these days, and applying a flat number to an unknown quantity = an uninspiring mess. This will just make it easier for us to stress to young bears the importance of applying Demo Roar to bosses. It is boring and unsexy, much like Brussels sprouts and flossing, and yet it is good for you and contributes, in some vaguely nonspecific way, to your life expectancy (also like Brussels sprouts and flossing).

Anyway, on to the class-specific changes:

Thrash (Level 81): Thrash deals damage and causes all targets within 10 yards to bleed every 2 seconds for 6 seconds. The intent here is to give bears another button to hit while tanking. Talents will affect the bleed, such as causing Swipe to deal more damage to bleeding targets. 5-second cooldown. 25 Rage.

Interesting. As discussion increased this past year on how to make bear tanking less of a snoozefest, there were a lot of ideas floating around about having Swipe apply or refresh Lacerate for AoE tanking purposes, and Thrash is a bigger and better version of that. A five-second cooldown also means you should be able to weave it between refreshing Lacerate stacks and Mangles, although it may not be efficient for single-target threat.

On that note -- 25 rage? That's steep. If you budget your rage and keep as much as possible moving from pull to pull in a 5-man, I can definitely see Thrash as a potential opener, but there's no way you'll be able to pop it in any situation after you're forced to wait for a pull or have to leave form in order to rebuff, resurrect or Innervate (tanking an Oculus is a pretty good guide to the high irritation value of a bear druid having to leave form frequently). We should be getting a few more on-demand rage generators, though, and if rage is an issue to the extent where Thrash is just too expensive for the use you'll get from it, Blizzard will probably tinker with the rage formula (or possibly just reduce the cost of Thrash).

Two other thoughts I had about this:
  • This is a much easier way to get multiple bleeds going around a pull to ensure better Maul damage (Rend and Tear). Then again, Maul is unlikely to see the amount of use it does currently.
  • Developers have really been stressing that they want to curb the current mania for AoEing everything down, and an AoE bleed + people attempting to CC mobs = ugh. Forget what I said about using this as an opener.
Possibility of bear model reusing Swipe animation for this: High.

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