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Shifting Perspectives: Guide to patch 4.2 for bear and tree druids

Allison Robert

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Shifting Perspectives for cat, bear, restoration and balance druids. This Tuesday, we've returned from the Angry Dome.

Well, after pissing off Blizzard for the millionth week in a row, today we're going to turn our attention to slightly less explosive concerns. By the way, "Tank Q&A sucks" is a top search phrase for last week's Shifting. Just thought I'd mention.

As long as we're on the subject of the developer Q&As, I might as well make an uncomfortable segue to observing that Blizzard's now taking queries for the Q&A on healers. Go ask questions! Personally I am very interested in hearing if they're going to update Tree of Life form, or make Innervate a baseline ability rather than the 31-point talent in the restoration tree.

Ha ha! I kid because I love.

On the off chance that patch 4.2 hits today (which it probably won't, but eh), this is a quick and dirty guide to the patch notes that'll concern you if you play a bear or tree druid. If the patch hits next week, we'll keep ourselves occupied making daisy chains or something. Or, if the healer Q&A gets published sooner than expected, I'll write another enraged diatribe for everyone to enjoy.

On a note completely unrelated to druids, the new /map animations are pretty sweet. You'll also get to see it while you're opening mail.

PTR Patch 4.2 notes
Druids now gain 1 attack power per point of Strength, down from 2. They continue to gain 2 attack power per point of Agility while in Cat Form or Bear Form.

As I noted in Shifting Perspectives: Examining the tier 12 set bonuses, I occasionally get myself into trouble in this column by thinking of feral changes only in bear terms. ("DPS? What's that?") This was in fact a substantial nerf to our kitty brethren, even if it wasn't such a big deal for bears. Blizzard's boosted cat damage modifiers in 4.2 in order to compensate for the nerf to strength and some ongoing issues with scaling.

If State of DPS is accurate, cats are still consistently in the bottom third of the damage meters even on the few good melee fights (read: Al'Akir) of tier 11, so hopefully this'll help that situation in Firelands. However, the spec already seems to be doing a bit better than it did earlier in the expansion.

PTR Patch 4.2 notes
Entangling Roots and the equivalent spell triggered by Nature's Grasp no longer deal damage.

If you're catching up on Blizzard's previous announcements, this is an expected "nerf" given the change to crowd control's no longer aggroing mobs. Entangling Roots' damage was never that great to begin with -- and the damage that did exist, mostly courtesy of now-defunct balance talents, was all the more likely to break roots anyway -- so I doubt anyone's really going to miss this.

You'll undoubtedly notice the effect of the crowd control changes in 5-mans if you pug at all; they make it substantially easier to get a clean pull. Groups no longer have to pull at the pace of the slowest DPS to get a trap or sheep off, which was quite nice for me as a tank.

PTR Patch 4.2 notes
Innervate now grants an ally target 5% of his or her maximum mana over 10 seconds, but still grants 20% of the druid's maximum mana over 10 seconds when self-cast.

Glyph of Innervate now causes the druid to gain 10% of his or her maximum mana over 10 seconds when Innervate is used on a friendly target, in addition to Innervate's base effect.

Weirdly enough, this is actually a tiny buff to the feral Innervate -- 5% of a target's maximum mana is more than the pittance granted by the present version of the spell -- but it's a heavy nerf to the utility of the balance and restoration version. As predicted, Mana Tide Totem's also been heavily nerfed. Bottom line? Despite all efforts to make healers really have to think about which spells they're using and when, efficiency is still just too good outside of a few heroic boss encounters. Blizzard wants us to sweat over that little blue bar a lot more in Firelands.

If you have the present version of Glyph of Innervate (granting 50% of Innervate's effect if Innervate is cast on another player), be advised that it's going to become this (granting 10% of maximum mana if Innervate is cast on another player) once 4.2 hits. That goes a way toward keeping the glyph at least somewhat useful, but obviously that'll depend on how much you wind up slapping Innervate on other players within the raid. 5% of an allied target's mana is so monstrously bad that I'm tempted to say f&%* it and just re-glyph for Glyph of Healing Touch, but that won't necessarily do a whole lot for you either unless you habitually blow Omen procs on Healing Touch and really like the Nature's Swiftness clutch save. If that describes you, knock yourself out.

PTR Patch 4.2 notes
Omen of Clarity clearcasting buff from now lasts 15 seconds, up from 8 seconds.

A nice, but not too noticeable buff in most situations (barring phase changes on bosses, etc.). If you're thrown into a blind panic at every Omen proc trying to figure out how best to use it before 8 seconds elapse, you're playing the wrong class.

PTR Patch 4.2 notes
Bear damage abilities were scaling too fast with higher gear levels compared to other tanks, so the following balance changes have been made. All the numbers cited are for level 85 characters; numbers will be lower for lower-level characters.
  • Faerie Fire (Feral) base damage has been raised to 2950, up from 679. Attack power scaling has been decreased to 10.8%, down from 15%.
  • Maul base damage has been raised to 35, up from 8. Attack power scaling has been decreased to 19%, down from 26.4%.
  • Pulverize weapon damage percent has been decreased to 60%, down from 80%. Damage per Lacerate application has been increased to 1623, up from 361.
  • Mangle (Bear) weapon damage percent has been decreased to 190%, down from 260%. Bonus damage has been increased to 3306, down from 754.
  • Swipe base damage has been increased to 929, up from 215. Attack power scaling has been decreased to 12.3%, down from 17.1%.
  • Thrash initial base damage has been increased to 1042, up from 339. Initial damage attack power scaling has been decreased to 9.82%, down from 19.2%. Periodic base damage has been increased to 581, up from 189. Periodic damage attack power scaling has been decreased to 1.67%, down from 3.26%. In addition, a bug was corrected where armor decreased the periodic damage done by this ability.
  • Lacerate initial base damage has been increased to 3608, up from 2089. Initial damage attack power scaling has been decreased to 5.52%, down from 7.66%. Periodic base damage has been increased to 69, up from 16. Periodic damage attack power scaling has been decreased to 0.369%, down from 0.512%.
Toward the end of Wrath of the Lich King, I had a discussion with Matt Rossi and Alex Ziebart about tank damage and its effect on raids. It was Rossi's contention that the warrior -- long the lowest-damage tank and still saddled with that fairly uninspiring niche in patch 3.3 -- was unfairly crippled, particularly in heroic raid content where the margin between beating a boss and wiping to an enrage timer was pretty thin. Alex and I argued that encounters weren't balanced around tank DPS and that blaming an enrage wipe on the warrior's low damage was basically just an excuse for raid DPS to avoid admitting responsibility. While I still think it's a cop out of the highest order for raids to pin enrage wipes on tank damage, I appreciate Rossi's argument more these days given the amount of effort we've seen Blizzard make to balance tank DPS.

That, in a nutshell, is what the above nerfs are all about. Bear damage is definitely too high, to the point of being close to insane on single targets. (Well, insane by the standards of tanking specs. No one would ever mistake us for an actual DPS). That's not a fair situation with a brand-new set of boss encounters looming. Not that it was fair to begin with, mind you -- but it's a more acute concern with new content. Edit: Arielle also reminded me via Twitter of the Thrash bug contributing to the insane DPS issue.

As a little historical note and from what I recall of the early Cataclysm statistics that came rolling in off DPS Bot, the general breakdown for tank DPS over the first several months of the expansion went something like this:
  1. Warriors
  2. Bears or paladins (good gear)
  3. Bears or paladins (bad gear)
  4. Death knights
Warriors, as far as I could tell, were pretty firmly at the top: Death knights were always at the bottom, and by a fairly nasty margin. Bears start out doing more damage than paladins, but paladin damage scaled with gear much better, eventually displacing the bear from its #2 slot.

At the moment, the hierarchy appears to be:
  1. Bears by a country mile
  2. Paladins
  3. Warriors
  4. Death knights
All three plate classes have close to negligible DPS differences at the moment, but bears are topping them by an average of more than 3,000 DPS (the median difference isn't quite so bad at around half that, but still). Yep -- the nerf is needed.

PTR Patch 4.2 notes
Natural Reaction damage reduction has been increased to 9/18%, up from 6/12%.

This genuinely surprised me. We already had the highest passive damage reduction of the four tanks, so I'm not sure what to make of this buff. Something to help close the damage-taken gap on multi-target tanking, or address the inevitable moments where Vengeance drops off and there's nothing you can do about it? Your guess is as good as mine.

PTR Patch 4.2 notes
Symbiosis (Mastery) has been removed and replaced with Harmony. Harmony increases direct healing by an additional 10%, and casting direct healing spells grants an additional 10% bonus to periodic healing for 10 seconds. Each point of mastery increases each bonus by an additional 1.25%. Healing Touch, Nourish, Swiftmend, and the initial heal from Regrowth are considered direct healing spells for the purposes of this Mastery. All other healing from druid spells is considered periodic.

We talked about this extensively in Shifting Perspectives: The future non-suck of mastery if you'd like more involved commentary, but I'm personally a fan of the change. Symbiosis was a pain in the ass and close to useless for dedicated raid healers. Harmony's far more suited to us regardless of what your role within raids is, and fortunately for us, the definition of "direct heal" is a little more liberal than expected. If you blow Swiftmend on cooldown and/or have a tank to keep topped off with Nourish/Healing Touch, you probably won't have to spend a lot of conscious thought keeping the new version of mastery active. It's a nice, beefy improvement to all your HOTs assuming you can keep the buff running (but woe to ye who falls below a haste breakpoint!).

The most problematic aspect of Harmony is that -- like all previous incarnations of the resto druid's mastery, and in marked contrast to the four other healer masteries -- it's still active rather than passive. Yet another short duration buff to watch is not an encouraging development for a spec that's already enslaved to its Lifebloom duration, HOT timers, and Swiftmend cooldown. Eh. We'll see how things develop.

Remind me to devote a Shifting to the construction of a restoration druid UI one of these days. The end result could pass for the head-up display on a fifth-generation fighter jet.

PTR Patch 4.2 notes
Glyph of Berserk duration increase is now 10 seconds, up from 5.

This is one of only three viable prime glyphs for bear tanks (Glyph of Lacerate and Glyph of Mangle are the other two), so it's a pretty nifty change. The only point at which you run a realistic chance of losing aggro on a single target is early in the fight, so another few seconds' worth of Berserk is cool beans.

Shifting Perspectives helps you gear your bear druid at 85, tempts you with weapons, trinkets and relics for bears, then shows you what to do with it all in Feral Druid Tanking 101. We'll also help you gear your resto druid.

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