Yes, I used a Troll kitty at the top of a bear and resto article. It was pretty and I liked it. That's my excuse.
Blizzard has an unfortunate habit of either invalidating everything I write shortly after it's been published or rendering an entire column out-of-date before it's even gone live. This past week was a unique variation on this practice, with the class feedback threads going live a few hours after I'd sent Shifting Perspectives: Rolling a new bear or restoration druid in Cataclysm to the editors. The druid class threads (on both the US and EU forums) had already started filling up by the time I reached a computer. Ack.
Make no mistake: These threads mean that the developers are starting to kick ideas around for class changes in the next expansion, so they'll be interested in any common concerns that result. Let's see if I can summarize what players believe really matters to the bear and tree specs.
A number of druid theorycrafters and bloggers have weighed in on the feedback threads. These are the folks I know about who've either linked something in their blogs or said something on Twitter recently concerning the threads, but I know I'm missing people. Drop a comment or an email to email@example.com if you'd like yours included here!
- The Inconspicuous Bear: Reesi and Arielle's responses
- Restokin: Garnaph's response
- Think Tank: Kalon's (Fellhoof) response
- Falling Leaves and Wings: Beruthiel's response
- FeralTree: Derwent's response
- Rank 4 Healing Touch: I can't find a forum link, but a blog response is here.
- Restokin: Lissanna and Garnaph's responses
Let's take Blizzard's questions and players' answers one by one. One thing I would recommend for future class feedback threads is to ask everyone to specify which spec/s they play right at the top of their responses. Sometimes it's not hugely obvious which spec a player's actually talking about for a bit.
What are your biggest quality-of-life issues?
I think most of the truly serious quality-of-life issues for druid tanks and healers have largely been addressed. We're miles ahead of where we were even in Wrath of the Lich King, but there's always room for improvement.
So what do players think?
- The lack of real raid utility is a consistent observation. The shared "battle resurrection" cooldown has eaten into druid utility on its own, but the gutting of Innervate's use on other players seems to have done a number on bears' sense of being useful to a raid. I don't think that this was necessarily personal -- it's just that Blizzard's aim to reduce healer efficiency had the unfortunate effect of really targeting druids, because that's just where most of our utility lay.
- The boredom of always being in bear and cat form is also a pretty common complaint. While this has nothing to do with our actual mechanics, I think Blizzard can overcome some of the usual feral "I can't see my gear!" complaints by introducing some new animations or more compelling attack graphics to the bear and cat models. The game is aging, both models still use animations initially programmed for beta bear and cat NPCs, and this would be a great way to freshen the spec's feel. They're large, dangerous animals -- make players feel it! While all character models suffer from repetitive animations, they don't suffer from the same degree of boredom from playing a model that literally never changes.
- Feral Faerie Fire and Demoralizing Roar should not be on the spell hit table (i.e., subject to 17% rather than 8% hit).
- The Innervate issue rears its ugly head again here.
- Players don't like the lack of a big, ass-saving cooldown. Being the only healer without one or being paired with a healer (the shaman) with the least effective tank cooldown has been problematic for 10-man raids.
- People are still really upset about losing perma-Tree form. "We're druids, and we should be in forms" seems to be a pretty common mantra. I'm not sure how Blizzard is going to wind up dealing with this (if it ever deals with it at all), because there are pretty vocal camps of supporters on either side of the form/no form divide.
- Trying to gloss a lot of talent-related complaints in as short a time as possible, restoration talents are pretty lackluster. I think it was Carebare at Elitist Jerks who once observed that the druid is the mirror version of the shaman in this respect -- we have great spells but a talent tree that does little to support them, whereas the shaman has problematic spells and a talent tree that makes them work.
- The utility of switching from an effective tank spec to an effective melee DPS spec in a single shift is very widely cited. People enjoy this, even if it often pigeonholes them into the off-tank role.
- Gear similarities also help, particularly as agility is by far the best stat to stack as either a bear or a cat. Nobody really misses the stamina-stacking days of Wrath of the Lich King.
- Not being stuck in the three-heals model seems to be a pretty common deal here. Players like that the spec's healing can't be so easily classified.
- Mobility, mobility, mobility. We are still the most effective healers on the move.
- The feral shapeshifting nerf is widely hated. Players don't like being nerfed because of a spec they don't play. While this is an occupational hazard for everyone in WoW, the interdependence of the bear and cat is unique among the game's 30 specs.
- Pulverize is still getting mixed reviews from players (see the rotation notes below).
- Of the two rage tanks, protection warriors still have a far more dynamic and interesting toolkit. Bears appreciate what Blizzard's done to improve the bear rotation, but it's still a pale imitation of the always-fluid protection warrior playstyle.
- Short-duration HOTs have resulted in the spec's feeling somewhat whack-a-mole-ish. There's a much smaller period of time for Nourish to benefit from additional HOTs than there was in Wrath.
- Players resent being singled out by other healers as being able to heal "too much" or "too effectively" when it's simply our mechanics padding the meters (in particular, the 3-minute Tranquility). The spec is designed to outheal damage rather than compensate for it or prevent it, and this invariably results in a tremendous amount of overhealing.
- Fury Swipes probably merits a look. It does too much damage for a passive, uncontrollable talent.
- Lots of players are still unsure what to think of Pulverize. As I've written earlier, I can see and appreciate what the ability is trying to do, but it doesn't feel as fun as it's intended to be, probably because it works at cross purposes with Lacerate and Berserk's Mangle proc.
- Single-target healing is getting singled out a lot here, mostly because the ramp-up time on tank switches is so long compared to other healers.
- On that note, Lifebloom has some problematic mechanics. The spell itself is good; the need to keep babysitting a tank for the length of an encounter is not.
- Nourish is slow, inefficient, and ineffective unless you've already spent several global cooldowns on a player stacking Lifebloom and another HOT.
- Multi-mob tanking and Savage Defense could play more nicely with each other.
- Something to make Savage Defense more intuitive to the average player. People are also interested in having it scale in the fashion that the warrior and paladin's shield block does.
- A more interesting rotation is a common request. The bear's overreliance on Mangle at the expense of everything else has been noted by a lot of players.
- The ramp-up time on single-target healing has many people asking if resto can get an ability or talent similar to the rogue's Redirect for Lifebloom.
- A lot of people still want a cosmetic option to preserve a permanent Tree of Life form.
My assumption is that Blizzard meant this question to concern spells and abilities that really aren't contributing much to your particular spec, but many players understood it as "Which spell do you use the least overall?" This led to a number of responses concerning heals you don't use as a feral, feral abilities you don't use as a healer, and even Teleport: Moonglade.
Bite your tongue, sir. That spell's awesome. However, I'm not sure how helpful the set of player responses will ultimately be here as a result.
Shifting Perspectives helps you gear your bear druid, breaks down the facts about haste for trees, and then digs into the restoration mastery. You might also enjoy our look at the disappearance of the bear.