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Shifting Perspectives: An early look at 5.2 for druids


Every week, WoW Insider brings you Shifting Perspectives for cat, bear, restoration and balance druids. Welcome to our DPS edition, brought to you by Chase Hasbrouck, aka Alaron of The Fluid Druid blog. This week, we discuss the future.

Happy New Year!

Hmm. I guess I'm a little late for that. Anyway, my no-notice household move is mostly complete, and I've finally had a chance to start breaking down the new changes for druids in 5.2. With the exception of Feral PvP, things look pretty positive across the board, so let's dive in!

Cyclone a-no-no

Cyclone is the crowd-control effect that everyone loves to hate. Unlike the vast majority of other CC effects in the game, Cyclone does not share a diminishing return category with other effects, meaning you could couple it with another CC from a teammate to lock down an enemy target for a long period of time. By itself, this wasn't the end of the world. While a "clone" was powerful, it had a short range and a cast time, making it difficult to land in the first place.

The grumbling started in Cataclysm, though, when the Predatory Strikes talent enabled feral druids to get off instant Cyclones after a finishing move. At first, this wasn't widely used; since it shifted the druid out of form, it was only utilized as part of a preplanned CC chain, and only if another DPS'er could bring pressure. Once Mists of Pandaria hit, however, and Predatory Strikes became Predatory Swiftness...the complaints were legion. Now, ferals could stay in form to cast their clones (with no cooldown!) and still keep up damage on a kill target. Couple that with the return of root-breaking, Symbiosis, and massive burst potential with Berserk + Incarnation + Nature's Vigil (more on this later), things were getting out of hand.

The result: a nerf. In the initial PTR patch notes, Cyclone had a 30-second cooldown for ferals, and was placed on a DR table with several other abilities. This took things a bit too far, so the DR change was reverted, but it looks like the cooldown will stay. I really can't argue with this from a balance perspective; it just means you'll have to use some PS procs on healing, instead of defaulting to Cyclone all the time. (Of course, for PvE, that's what you were doing if you needed healing anyway.)

Restoration buffs

Resto druids got some love across the board. First, they received a straight-up 10% healing increase, in the form of a new passive ability, Naturalist. Second, Rejuvenation's mana cost was reduced by 9%, making it more usable as a spot-raid heal. Finally, Wild Mushroom: Bloom finally received a buff, but in an interesting way.

Now, Rejuvenation overhealing will "grow" the mushroom, increasing the amount of the heal when bloomed up to 100% of the casting druid's HP, split between the targets it hits. That's...a pretty significant heal, especially if you place the mushroom so it only hits the tank. Mushrooms still look to be pretty tricky to use (they're still short-ranged and need significant prep time) but now they'll actually pop for some useful healing when placed correctly. My only concern is that this will likely require some type of addon to track how much healing the shroom is capable of doing.

Talent tweaks

All the druid writers have said it since beta: there's no reason to take Displacer Beast. Those words have finally been heeded, and DB has been redesigned to be, well, useful. It still teleports the druid forward and activates Cat Form, but instead of dropping them into Prowl, it now gives them a 50% speed increase for 4 seconds. This will be a much more reliable escape cooldown, and should see some use from caster druids.

Cenarion Ward saw a 100% healing increase, which is frankly, pretty amazing. CW was already (narrowly) the highest throughput talent, with its principal downside being the over-time nature of the ability. With it doubled, it now heals for near-Renewal numbers, with one-fourth the cooldown. I expect this to get rolled back somewhat.

Mass Entanglement and Typhoon were both set to 30 second cooldowns, in an attempt to balance the tier. I expect you'll see a lot more druids taking ME, not for the mass effect but simply because it's an instant-cast root on a short cooldown, similat to the Glyph of Entangling Roots in 4.0. Not to be outdone, however, Faerie Swarm lost its one-target cap, meaning a multitasking druid could potentially keep an entire enemy team snared.

The level 60 tier saw significant balancing. Incarnation was extremely popular in comparison to the other two options, so both Soul of the Forest and Force of Nature saw buffs while Incarnation was nerfed (albeit indirectly). It's too early in the PTR cycle yet to determine how the numbers will play out, but the doubled effect of Soul of the Forest for Moonkin looks pretty sweet.

Oh, and that indirect Incarnation nerf? That comes from the change to Nature's Vigil, which had its effect and cooldown halved. While NV's theoretical effect remains roughly similar, the Incarnation+NV combo has lost quite a bit of its burst healing/damage punch. While this change is likely aimed at ferals in PvP (let's face it, Berserk+Incarnation+Nature's Vigil was pretty overpowered), the side effect is to push all the other specs away from that combo as well.

Quality of life improvements

There's quite a few minor changes that I won't recount in detail here; Guardians saw several tweaks, for example. as did Symbiosis. However, my favorite little change is the halving of the costs for Revive and Mark of the Wild. When using these as a non-caster spec, it was really annoying having to sit and drink in-between Revives, or drink after changing specs before I could rebuff myself. That's a few seconds I'll be happy to not have to spend every time.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with the direction of the changes. While there's no groundbreaking changes here (save Wild Mushroom), the buffs to some of the lesser-used talents should give druids more options to choose from, which is always a good thing. What new change is your favorite?

Mists of Pandaria is here! The level cap has been raised to 90, many players have returned to Azeroth, and pet battles are taking the world by storm. Keep an eye out for all of the latest news, and check out our comprehensive guide to Mists of Pandaria for everything you'll ever need to know.

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