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Cataclysm Class Changes: Feral druid analysis, part 3

Allison Robert

We want to add tools to cat form and depth to bear form. If a Feral cat is going to fill a very similar niche to that of a rogue, warrior or Enhancement shaman, it needs a few more tools -- primarily a reliable interrupt. Bears need to be pushing a few more buttons just so the contrast between tanking and damage-dealing is not so steep.

...We plan on giving Feral cats and bears a Kick/Pummel equivalent -- an interrupt that is off the global cooldown and does no damage. We feel like they need this utility to be able to fill the melee role in a dungeon or raid group, and to give them more PvP utility.

We definitely need an interrupt that's not a finisher. Having Maim and only Maim for that purpose has had two unfortunate effects in PvE: a). destroying cat damage on fights where we have no choice but to interrupt, and b). subjecting raids to unnecessary damage when Maim's on cooldown and there's nothing we can do about an enemy cast. Bash on the global cooldown has also been a needless irritant for bears, particularly given the button-mashing quality of feral tanking these days.

I would have much preferred that this were a ranged interrupt for the purpose of not wanting to kill myself over the farce that is pulling in bear form, but to be honest, a lot of the druid changes (beyond the three new abilities) are pretty vague, and it's possible that whatever we're getting is going to be a ranged interrupt or will function that way in bear form. We'll see.

We will be buffing the damage of Mangle (cat) significantly so that when cat druids cannot Shred, they are not at such a damage-dealing loss.

This is a way to deal with one of feral PvP's biggest ongoing complaints; all you really have to do to survive cat damage is just keep casually flipping your character so they can't stay behind you. While this doesn't remove that problem, it does mean that cat damage will be less of a joke while you're facing them.

It'll also be a very welcome boost to the damage done by players who are DPSing while on a bear spec without Shredding Attacks (e.g. an off tank switching to cat once his/her target has died). Without the talent, Shred's just too expensive to use outside of Omen of Clarity procs.

We want to make sure Feral and Balance druids feel like good options for an Arena team. They need the tools to where you might consider a Feral druid over an Arms warrior, or a Balance druid over a mage or warlock. Remember that the PvP landscape will probably look pretty different for Cataclysm with a focus on rated, competitive Battlegrounds.

Hot on the heels of what's mostly a cat PvP-related change comes this statement. Feral and balance PvP have definitely not performed as well as Blizzard had hoped in Wrath. Then again, they've never really performed all that well, and I have to wonder if they ever will, given the limitations imposed by the shapeshifting mechanic. The problem with druid shifting is that, in addition to putting you in a form (and it doesn't even matter which!) in which you lack most of your abilities, it's also a self-imposed mana drain. None of the animal forms have the utility or damage that another hybrid class can pump out, let alone a pure one. When it comes to feral, you've got a weaker copy of a rogue and a weaker copy of a warrior at your disposal, and the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

I don't know. The statement itself is really not much more than one of general intent with which everyone can agree. We all want balance and feral PvP to do better, and we are all equally vague on exactly how that is going to happen.

We want to make the Feral cat damage rotation slightly more forgiving. We do not want to remove what druids like about their gameplay, but we do want to make it less punishing to miss, say, a Savage Roar or Rake. The changes here will be on par with increasing the duration of Mangle like we did for patch 3.3.3.

The Mangle change alone was a huge boost, although anyone who had a "Mangle bot" before the change went live was already enjoying its benefits. I'm interested to see what they do here to make the rotation easier, although I'm a little worried that it may involve nerfing cat damage along the way. It's pretty tough to make a mistake less of a punishment to the rotation without making the missed skill a smaller DPS contribution. Is it possible we'll see more up-front white damage from cats in Cataclysm -- the opposite of the change they're trying to make to rogues?

Bleed Damage and Savage Defense: Feral druids will receive two sets of passive bonuses depending on whether the druid is in cat or bear form. Bleed Damage will be improved for cats. Savage Defense is the current bear mechanic for converting crits into damage absorption and will be improved for bears.

No surprises here. Mastery bonuses are exactly what we expected to see, and Ghostcrawler later confirmed that feral will have both bonuses, but not at the same time. If you're in cat form, you'll get the cat's bonuses to melee damage, melee critical damage and bleeds; if you're in bear form, you'll get the bear's bonuses to damage reduction, Vengeance and Savage Defense.

Are cats receiving a similar change for Savage Roar and their UI, or is this going to be completely rogue specific?

It will most likely apply to cats as well.

Has there been any consideration on giving druids cat form at an earlier level? Similar to how hunters will start with a pet at level 1, and shamans getting a melee attack at 3.

It won't be super low level, but we might switch the levels at which you get cat and bear.

UI issues have definitely been a big part of why cat DPS isn't really consistent across different players (the default UI is awful for the spec), so any help is definitely a good thing. That said, combo point counting is nowhere near the big deal that watching multiple debuffs has been, so I doubt we'll be abandoning Ovale or BadKitty anytime soon.

Switching up cat and bear form would definitely improve the currently miserable druid 1-20 leveling experience, although I do wonder about the advisability of taking a potential tank class out of the running for the low-level dungeons. Then again, it's only levels 15-20 we're talking about. Otherwise, I'd love to see them do something about the feral leveling experience; the late arrival of skills like Mangle, Maim, Lacerate, Savage Roar and now Thrash means that the pre-50 druid plays almost nothing like a druid in the end game, and the class is the poorer for it.

That wraps up the feral changes we know about right now, but we'll keep a close eye on the forums and alert you to any additions or clarifications made.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it. Nothing will be the same. In's Guide to Cataclysm you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion. From Goblins and Worgens to Mastery and Guild changes, it's all there for your cataclysmic enjoyment.

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