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Cataclysm Class Changes: Feral druid analysis, part 2

Allison Robert

Stampeding Roar (Level 83): The druid roars, increasing the movement of all allies within 10 yards by 40% for 8 seconds. Stampeding Roar can be used in cat or bear form, but bears might have a talent to drop the cooldown. The goal of this ability is to give both bears and cats a little more situational group utility. 3-minute cooldown. No cost.

Moar roars. Hands up -- who wants this ability now for ICC fights like Marrowgar, Sindragosa and Arthas? Thought so, but I'll admit this is a change that came out of left field. Stampeding Roar could be put to good use in a few existing encounters, but opinions are somewhat mixed at the moment.

Advantages: Baseline (a curious choice in itself). Obvious PvP benefits. Parallels a few other speed or movement-related class changes announced recently, which means developers expect these skills to be used in future raids. So I guess the logical progression here is kind of, "Stampeding Roar will be great to have around on encounters that were designed with Stampeding Roar in mind," which sounds like I just graduated with a master's in circuitous reasoning.

Disadvantages: Bear and cat form only. Prohibitively long cooldown (at least for cats) means that it'll only be useful once in the average raid encounter. The 10-yard range means that, at any given moment, it'll only "hit" melee DPS or nearby tanks unless you stack the raid on top of the druid/s. If that's really how it works, it sounds a bit clunky.

Possibility of this being nerfed
: This depends entirely on how Stampeding Roar is used, tweaked and played on the beta, and I guarantee you that one of two things is going to happen:
  • It will be overpowered: It will have Nerf Me written all over it in big, blinking neon lights superimposed on a giant target symbol visible from the international space station. Ten thousand Shriners in tiny stock cars will arrange themselves on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to spell the words Nerf Me. At the microscopic level, billions of cells will abandon their biological imperative to wriggle into Nerf Me formation within the inner chambers of our fearful hearts. And on the fifth beta patch, from the throats of 50,000 monks arrayed around Blizzard headquarters will rise the ancient Gregorian chant, Nerfus Meus.
  • It will not be overpowered: "Stampeding what?"

Vengeance: This is a mechanic to ensure that tank damage (and therefore threat) doesn't fall behind as damage-dealing classes improve their gear during the course of the expansion. All tanking specs will have Vengeance as their second talent tree passive bonus. Whenever a tank gets hit, Vengeance will give them a stacking attack power buff equal to 5% of the damage done, up to a maximum of 10% of the character's unbuffed health. For boss encounters we expect that tanks will always have the attack power bonus equal to 10% of their health. The 5% and 10% bonuses assume 51 talent points have been put into the Feral tree and the druid is in bear form -- these values will be smaller at lower levels. Remember, you only get this bonus if you have spent the most talent points in the Feral tree and are in bear form, so you won't see Balance, Restoration, or Feral druids in cat form running around with it. Vengeance will let us continue to make tank gear more or less the way we do today -- there will be some damage-dealing stats, but mostly survival-oriented stats. Druids typically have more damage-dealing stats even on their tanking gear, so the Vengeance benefit may be smaller, but overall the goal is that all four tanks do about the same damage when tanking.

This is a pretty interesting way to deal with some of the issues that have made DPS blow past tank threat in the latter portion of Wrath, but there are two problems with it:
  • The degree of DPS inflation between the beginning and end of an expansion has traditionally outscaled the degree to which tank health has increased in the same period.
  • The "have to be hit" component of Vengeance is a big problem for off-tanks. If you're not being hit, no Vengeance -- and an off tank can't realistically keep up with a main tank's threat in those circumstances.
Problem #1 is an issue that Kalon (yes, that Kalon -- he's back for a few days) describes here. To summarize his post, over the course of Wrath we've seen tank health increase by around 66%, whereas DPS has increased by 140-160%. By my estimate, Burning Crusade was pretty much the same deal, although the difference was much less pronounced; tank health increased by around 85-100% while DPS increased around 140-150% (bypassing outliers like a dual-Warglaive rogue on Brutallus). Part of the scaling issue in Wrath is due to Blizzard having to create additional tiers of heroic gear, but the trend's still obvious; tank HP just doesn't keep up with the damage that DPS are increasingly capable of as expansions advance.

One optimistic note I will add to Kalon's analysis is that, with a look at all of the changes that have rolled in over the past few days, it's hard to escape the conclusion that Blizzard's taking a running start and a sledgehammer to the absurd DPS scaling we've seen. A lot of buffs are being yanked back, and I think the increasing amount of +hit that DPS will have to worry about as raids advance through content will also dull a lot of stat inflation that might otherwise occur. I get the sense that developers are really trying to deal with the problem from multiple angles and not just the issue of tank scaling.

Problem #2: To put this in perspective, take an average tank in regular ICC-25 gear right now with around, say, 60,000 health. Blizzard plans on balancing raid encounters around the AP bonus clocking in at the maximum allowable buff, which is 10% of the tank's health. There's no way that an off-tank can match the threat generated by a main tank who has an additional 6,000 attack power, unless one of two things is true:
  • Blizzard isn't planning on making any tank-swap fights in Cataclysm, which is unlikely, or
  • Any boss on a tank-swap fight will have to be tauntable (e.g., no fights like Gurtogg Bloodboil).
The latter option dovetails into something Ghostcrawler's mentioned recently concerning tank taunts missing -- "not interesting gameplay" -- and the idea being kicked around at Blizzard that taunts will always hit. If that's true, that would make a lot of sense with Vengeance hitting the game.

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