Wow. Well, this certainly simplifies things, doesn't it? The biggest news that came out of the first day of Blizzcon (well, besides the new race and class) was the total revamp of the talent system. Points? Gone. Trees? Gone. Now? 6 chances to choose one of three character buffs. I don't want to tackle the specific talents they presented just yet, but think about how this changes the WoW model of a character. Essentially, it boils down to this: Talents are no longer the key determinant of character power.
This is HUGE. As a druid, you always had most of the druid abilities available to you, but the vast majority of abilities were simply not ever worth using unless you had the requisite talents to back them up. If you have ever tried to switch over to heal or cast ranged spells during an encounter while geared/specced as feral, you know what I'm talking about. This was horribly confusing, especially for new players who wanted to use every ability in the spellbook, but that's just "how it was." If you wanted to participate in endgame content, you learned how to spec optimally and only use the correct abilities, unless you wanted to end up on the sideline.
Cataclysm revamped this by introducing simplified talent trees and specialization bonuses, but that just adjusted the existing balance of power. Picking your spec provided some bonuses, certainly, but the vast majority of your power came from the talents you selected. Locking players into the talent tree that matched their specialization made decisions easier, but nothing changed the fundamental truth that power came from talents ... until now.
I don't really buy the rationale that this will prevent "cookie-cutter" builds. No matter how much balancing you do, you're either going to have one talent that's clearly optimal (which becomes the new cookie), or you don't, in which case people complain that talent choices don't matter. I could see them managing it if the talents were different for each specialization, but since all four druid specs get the same talent choices? Yeesh. Have fun with that, devs.
Also, looking at the projected talents (man, it feels odd to leave the word "tree" off), almost none of them are static buffs. The power that the old talents previously provided has to be added in somewhere, unless Blizzard wants everyone to get much weaker when patch 5.0.1 drops. I see the following likely scenarios:
- Super specialization bonuses. All of the static buffs previously present in the trees gets baked into the specialization bonus. Cat-spec druids do more melee damage, resto-spec druids do more healing, etc. This might happen, but it contradicts the "make the whole spellbook useful model."
- Stronger glyphs. Unlikely, since glyphs are supposed to present "choices" as well.
- A renewed focus on gear to drive player power. This makes some sense; cranking up the boosts provided by gear means I can't off-heal (period), and Tyler's moonkin can't rip face, though I can probably still tank a bit, and he can heal a bit. I'd be happy with this, but I don't think this is the intended plan.
- Make many more class abilities spec-specific. If they don't do anything else, they'll have to make all of the abilities' baseline power relatively strong. Based on the questions in yesterday's class Q&A, this is almost certainly the way they're going to go. A lot of the abilities that you have right now but are pointless to use as feral (think Wild Mushroom, Hurricane, Nourish, etc.) will probably disappear from your bars entirely on patch day. That makes me a little sad, but I understand the reasoning for it.
Druids finally get their fourth spec! The feral specialization will remain focused on DPS, while a new specialization, Guardian, will be added for bear tanks. My reaction to this is mixed. On one hand, I appreciate that many feral players want to ONLY tank, or ONLY DPS, and I can respect that. It also presented a large balance problem for the developers when it came to tuning encounters. See the T13 set bonus as a perfect example.
On the other, the feral druid's ability to do multiple things well simultaneously was one of the things I most enjoyed about the class. As I discussed in a previous column, I loved being able to do competitive DPS for half of a raid encounter, then save the day by tanking the second half when the tank died. It wasn't an "optimal" setup, sure ... but how many people actually get the chance to raid in optimal environments? I liked having the opportunity to sacrifice a small % of potential DPS in order to give me the flexibility to jump in as an emergency tank, and have saved several wipes by doing so. Taking away THAT choice makes me very sad. Overall, I'm sad about losing my "bearcat," but as Arielle points out, maybe this means cats and bears will get some love they were denied before. Also, props to Arielle for getting her question about the T13 set bonus asked, even if the developers totally misinterpreted it.
In closing, I'd like to address the other announcement that I was most excited about: Monks will not have an auto attack.
This is another huge change for the game, if it succeeds, as it presents a large break from the original text-based style of typing "/attack (x)" over and over. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure you could actually start your autoattack in vanilla by typing /attack in the chatframe. As it stands now, autoattacks are boring. There's never any reason "not" to have them on, so the result is essentially a passive DOT that only works when you're in melee range. I'm hoping that the no-autoattack-model survives beta testing and becomes a huge success, so we can see it expanded to all melee classes for WoW 6.0 ... whenever that might be.
What are your thoughts about the new information released at BlizzCon? Check our recaps of day one and day two you need to get caught up! Excited? Sad? Let me know in the comments!
Looking for the latest and greatest in feral cat druid guides? Shifting Perspectives has the answers! Check out our cat 101 for Cataclysm. Also don't miss gearing your cat for Firelands raiding, addons for cat druids and raiding strats for feral cats, as well as our feral cat Firelands boss strats.