I knew this was going to happen. I tweeted about it back in August, suggesting that Heart of the Wild was far too powerful for both balance and feral druids; when combined with a weapon swap, the damage potential was significant. Several others warned about it on release, but to no avail, Bosses fell, DPS meters were topped, and all the non-druids complained bitterly. The cry of "Nerf druids!" was heard throughout the land, though most of us were too busy playing PandaFarm to notice.
Let's not simply trust the legion of anecdotal evidence I've heard and read, though. Here's the early results from ten days of Mogu'shan Vaults raiding, as helpfully provided by Raidbots. Out of 23 potential DPS specs, feral is currently ranked:
- Stone Guard 14th
- Feng the Accursed 1st
- Gara'jal: 2nd
- Spirit Kings: 1st
- Elegon: 3rd
- Will of the Emperor 6th
What happened, and why can we no longer have nice things? Well, who knows, but I suspect it took Paragon clearing 10-man heroic Mogu'shan Vaults with a raid composition including 3-4 druids for Blizzard to have enough. From a blue post announced on Friday:
So, if you haven't had the fun of Wrath-spamming your way to the top of the meters, it looks like you've missed your chance; you'll now have to work at it a bit more. For more details, there's a long thread discussing the changes in the Fluid Druid forums.
Where to go from here
First, the good news: you can stop trying to convince your fellow raiders to give you the intellect staff so you can beat the enrage timer on Elegon. (It never would have worked anyway and you know it.)
In terms of strategy, not too much changes. If the fight features any length of forced ranged time, you'll likely continue to use Heart of the Wild (or you can just keep it for the offtanking ability in a pinch). If the fight has a combined moment where the raid takes and does extra damage (like Titan Gas against Will of the Emperor), than Nature's Vigil is your tailor-made choice. For maximum DPS output, though, you'll have to learn how to DPS the Dream of Cenarius way. If you need a refresher on how that works, here's my last column on the topic.
Symbiosis: not just for tanks anymore
While this hotfix happened a few days ago, it's important enough that I want to address it here.
As you may or may not recall, Symbiosis had previously granted each tank a neutered version of guardian druid cooldowns. Previously, blood death knights got Might of Ursoc, brewmaster monks got Survival Instincts, protection paladins got Barkskin, and protection warriors got Savage Defense. While this made the tanks happy, the inevitable result was that Symbiosis was no longer a choice for raiding purposes, short of figuring out which tank would pay more in bribe money for the extra cooldown.
There are two schools of thought on this change. One group says that this makes Symbiosis "useless," amid lots of declarations of removing it from bars and never speaking of it again. I'm not sure I'd take it that far. While the most powerful use of it is now gone, that simply means you'll have to think a little bit more on the best way to use it for whatever situation you are about to encounter. As I get a chance to experience the new 5.0 raids for myself, I'll write up a column detailing some recommended uses for each specialization on each encounter. (Of course, if I find it useless, I'll suck it up and admit that, too.) Don't forget that it remains absolutely amazing for PvP, where utility skills are much more highly prized. There still needs to be an in-game way of visualizing the spells granted and received, though; a tab of its own in the spellbook would be excellent.
Overall, I'm glad that Heart of the Wild and Symbiosis have been restored to the status they should have had, as options for utility, not cookie-cutter mandatory choices that were required. I'm okay with a talent that allows me to temporarily go outside my class specialization, but there definitely should not be a bonus for doing so. Otherwise, you force fur and feathers to mix even if they don't want to, which is a potent recipe for player burnout.
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