I'm back to scribbling. Every beta, a pile of poorly organized notes starts to grow at the side of my computer with numbers, observations, witty column titles (these I seem to have misplaced this time around), questions, gripes, and a truly stupefying amount of cat hair. I turn this pile into a series of articles on how druids are doing and try not to think too hard about having possibly misread my chicken scratch to ruinous effect.
(In unrelated news, until linking the above articles, I hadn't revisited the video I shot of a premade druid in level 85 blues off the Cataclysm beta and was horrified by the set of responses. Or better yet, here's the video I shot of female worgen casting animations. Oh, YouTube commenters -- you never fail to deliver!)
This is actually a collection of notes from the last several weeks on the beta. Most of them are bear-flavored, because there's not much point to questing as restoration unless your other hobbies include watching paint dry, snail racing, or the complete works of Schopenhauer.
This is my unbuffed guardian druid in bear form in the same gear on the live realms and the beta. Mind you, this is all on a character who's still 85 on both servers before the real combat ratings decay presumably starts.
- Health: An 8.7% decrease from 186,261 to 170,111.
- Mana (not that it really matters, but still): A 17.5% decrease from 24,248 to an even 20,000.
- Attack power: A 26.12% decrease from 15,988 to 11,812.
- Armor: An 8.3% increase from 54,548 to 59,068.
- Agility: A 7.9% decrease from 6,222 to 5,733.
- Critical strike: The difference here is negligible.
- Dodge: This is the really ugly one: 40.62% to 14.61%. Sweet Jesus!
The other important point is that Savage Defense now buffs your dodge by 45% for 6 seconds, so the absurdly low passive dodge is balanced around that. Yes, this is scary. Yes, 6 seconds runs out faster than you think.
The quest experience
Questing on either a bear or cat right now while specced guardian feels like questing on either a bear or cat on the live realms, except you're missing one or two skills for which you've developed serious muscle memory (Pulverize in the case of the bear) and you're slogging through three feet of molasses.
The slowness in itself isn't all that surprising, because you learn to expect combat ratings to decay while you're leveling -- but this is still at 85. I think a big part of it for the bear is having effectively lost two skills (Pulverize and Maul -- yeah, Maul exists, but it's a rage dump in an era in which the absolute last thing you want to do is dump rage) and being reduced to hitting anything that's off cooldown until you have enough rage for SD or FR. However, FR's a lot more useful than it was in previous builds.
- Not having a spammable ability as a bear still makes me nervous. I know why the developers didn't do it -- damage skills generate rage and don't cost anything, so always having something to hit would be problematic for the purpose of balancing tank resources -- but there's a huge penalty to missing anything at the start of a fight as a result. This goes double for skills like Swipe or Thrash, assuming you're trying to get aggro on a mob pack.
- Not having Challenging Roar around anymore makes me equally nervous.
- The rage mechanic and its built-in decay guarantees that you will never start a pull (when you're at your most vulnerable) with Savage Defense or Frenzied Regeneration up. This is where new talents like Typhoon and Ursol's Vortex, in addition to the usual standby Barkskin, are probably going to come in handy. That, and it's probably going to turn bear and warrior tanks into even bigger speed demons than they already are, because their survivability is now tied to a resource that declines the moment they exit combat.
- The selection of bear glyphs isn't that great, but I'm hoping it's terrible because Blizzard hasn't yet taken a major pass through them. Remind me to write more on this soon. We need things that are not just situational options, and it's pretty demoralizing that just about every bear glyph has a penalty attached to it.
- Notice anything strange about the tauren version of bear form above? This is from the most recent beta build. I didn't transfer my tauren main over initially (I wanted a particular piece of gear on the live realms before I did) and was restricted to a premade troll druid, so I don't know how long the night elves have been exporting their ears and doodads to their manbearcow colleagues.
- Shifting and /cancelshift macros work sporadically at best, and I'm desperately trying to train myself out of dependence on them as a result. I arrive at quest areas off the back of a mount (no flight until 90) and in caster form, so the first few seconds of most fights are spent getting the crap kicked out of me by a mob while I flail around trying to shift with a series of macros that don't work. For whatever reason, Travel Form seems to be the only reliable shift, but after extensive testing, I have determined that its suitability to combat is very poor.
- Thrash enters pockets of having an astonishingly high miss rate.
- I don't know if it's the same in Alliance areas, but the Horde landing site on Pandaria where you start questing at level 85 has a shocking number of player corpses. I can't tell if it's because players are lagging their way to mortal oblivion against nearby mobs or what. Either way, it's like running around a creepy cemetery where the grave diggers are on strike.
Shifting Perspectives: Bear and Resto Edition takes a peek at healer balance in Dragon Soul, discovers why bears and PvP gear are a pretty good mix, lends advice on gearing up to hit the Raid Finder, and helps you level a druid in the Cataclysm era.