Friday, 25 February 2011

Patch 4.1 on the PTR and some Kitty updates!

First off, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Patch 4.1 now being available on the PTR! You can see lots of updates on it at MMO-Champion, as well as the official Blue Post here. Lots of exciting stuff to come, including new heroic 5-man dungeons (a revamped Zul Gurub and Zul Aman) and possibly either some new raids (Firelands?) or at least a set-up for the new raids. So far the only big druid mention has been a short mention that the 'spell effect for Efflorescence has been changed'. It still seems to be a little unclear just what the change is - so far, reports are showing that it is primarily a graphics change, and we are now creating a green flowery rune rather than a bright green circle (which obscured many dangerous ground effects). Here's a little screenshot of it, courtesy of Keeva's TreeBarkJacket (Efflorescence Graphic Changed), who in turn found it on the Druid Forums I believe:
Actually looks pretty nice! Hopefully this will be visible enough that people will still be able to see it to run into, but shouldn't obscure any dangerous AE graphics in the process. Be sure to update your fellow raid and party members to its new look!

There has also been some discussion on Elitist Jerks over whether the heal itself has been revamped slightly to make it a smarter heal, but there's not much information yet, and it's all subject to a lot of change between now and when this patch goes live. There's some interesting discussion though, so to check it out go here: New Efflo Discussion.

In some other news, I've made some minor updates to the Feral guide to reflect some of the 4.0.6 changes. I'd in particular like to note Tangedyn taking over the guide on the WoW Druid Forums (Yawning apparently has stopped playing) - you can find his guide here. I've also updated the link within my guide.

Tangedyn also had an excellent post on The Inconspicuous Bear with good explanation of some of the feral cat changes with 4.0.6: Adapting your Cat for 4.0.6

There are four primary changes which he discusses:

1. Ferocious Bite is no longer high on our rotation priority list when the boss is above 25% HP. With the buffs to Shred in the patch, it's overall a higher DPS gain to continue shredding (even at 5 CP) rather than trying to work in Ferocious Bites, as this poses no risk of Savage Roar or Rip falling off. When the boss is below 25% HP, though, you should absolutely be using Ferocious Bite, as it will refresh your Rip with the talent Blood in the Water. This talent was also adjusted slightly in the patch so that FB will now instantly refresh Rip instead of refreshing after a slight delay (which it used to do), which sometimes resulted in Rip falling off.

2. With the above changes in mind, Glyph of Berserk is now our best glyph for the third glyph spot (over Savage Roar / Tiger's Fury), as the greater time in Berserk gives us more time to Shred. Glyphs of Rip and Shred should absolutely still be your other two glyphs.

3. Again taking into account the changes to Shred (and to Mangle) which increased our weapon damage contribution, and also the changes to the trinket Unheeded Warning which now increases your weapon damage, this trinket is now our BiS trinket by far.

4. A final point is the value of Haste for cats has increased some following the patch, putting it about equal with Crit, and both being a bit behind Mastery.

And finally, in some exciting news on the raiding front, we successfully took down Nefarian on Heroic mode this week!
Derwent, Blackwing's Bane!
This now takes us to 9/13 Heroic, with only Ascendant Council, Chogall, Sinestra, and Al'akir left! We've started work on Chogall now, with the hope that we will be able to take on Sinestra right after (bit unsure whether we need to kill AC before we can face Sinestra or not). Al'akir should fall not long after!

Also, Potion of Illusion + Sandstone Drake is just awesome:

Saturday, 19 February 2011

4.0.6 Thoughts and Healer Cooldown Issues Addressed

The patch has been out for almost two weeks now, which seemed to be a decent amount of time to get a feel of all the new changes and get some raids in with them. We've also made it past the first major wave of hotfixes and the second minor patch (4.0.6a), though for the most part we weren't too affected (well, trees and cats, apart from some fixes; moonkins had several adjustments for damage and for some bugs I think).

There was also some very interesting news for druids in a recent blue post on Incoming Healer Changes:

We agree with the sentiment among some players that Restoration druids and Restoration shaman are lacking in the healing cooldown department. The shaman buff and Power Word: Shield adjustment above should bring all healers reasonably close in terms of throughput. The decision on who to bring then might end up being dictated by the strong cooldowns offered by paladins or priests. This isn’t the kind of thing we can address via a hotfix, but it is something we are looking at for the next major content patch.

They are listening to us! Much of the forums are now abuzz with ideas for what a cooldown we could have would be. I think most people (including myself in the past) tend to jump to the idea of 'casting barkskin on someone else' largely because it feels like the easiest solution, which I think gets suggested in the hopes that because it's arguably simple and not requiring a brand new idea, it might be implemented. As many have also said, though, it would be extremely disappointing if we couldn't use Barkskin ourselves (definitely a crucial survivability cooldown for ourselves), so I would NOT want to sacrifice that ability.

Really, the only cooldown that will really measure up to the ones offered by Paladins and Priests would be some sort of Raid Wall - i.e. something like Aura Mastery or Power Word: Barrier, as those two cooldowns are the primary reasons for stacking paladins and priests at the moment.

I excitedly posted the blue post up on my guild's forums and one of our healers had an interesting thought, though: He felt that it would actually be better to simply nerf the Paladin and Priest cooldowns (AM/PW:B) rather than give druids and shamans new ones. His thoughts were that encounters would eventually have to be designed around having these cooldowns, and could lead to more issues of stacking classes / sitting classes on progression encounters due to issues like, 'this big AE is nature damage, Aura Mastery won't help, sit the pallies,' or 'you can't stack people up for PW:B, forget the priests', etc like that, and that there would likely be similar mechanics issues with any new druid or shaman cooldowns. An interesting perspective, certainly, and one that's certainly not off the table - the blue post did NOT say they were giving us a cooldown, it said they would be looking to address the issue. So keep any hopes within reason!

Largely I think it comes down to keeping some sort of balance, whether that be giving shamans and druids some useful raidwide cooldown or perhaps simply eliminating or nerfing existing cooldowns. As ever, balance is extremely difficult to achieve, especially while trying to keep unique flavours to each class. Time for some brainstorming of druid cooldown ideas! A raidwide cooldown is definitely the way to go in my opinion if they give us something - again, that's largely the reason for stacking pallies and priests at the moment.

I quite like my idea of a druid raidwall from my Healing post of 'Nature's Guardian...the druid calls upon the forces of nature to surround his allies with roots and leaves, reducing their damage taken by x% for y seconds'. Pretty simple, but would be a great cooldown I think. The language is really just for druid flavour hehe.

Thoughts for our actual 4.0.6 changes are primarily Resto-focussed as I've had the most experience gauging the changes for Resto in raids these past two weeks.

Healing output has definitely improved with the buffs, particularly our raid heals. The Wild Growth changes (30% healing buff plus a shorter cooldown) were very helpful. I'm a little wary of any reactions to data leading to a new nerf on WG - the buffs will of course lead to an increase in use of WG, and it and Rejuv will still be a substantial portion of healing done in the very least due to the nature of the heal (multiple ticks on multiple targets), but other spells are most definitely still being used. Combined with the new Rejuv mana cost (20%), both Rejuv and WG feel like they're in a good place - if you try to spam it you'll run yourself OoM, but if you use them well they are very effective, which is a pretty decent balance.

If you aren't saving your ToL cooldown for a specific time in the fight (i.e. specials on Conclave), it can be good to time the cooldown for times of AE damage in conjunction with a mana management strategy. Spreading Lifebloom over the raid in ToL can be incredibly mana efficient for getting additional HoTs around the raid as it's one of our cheapest spells. I've begun doing this in fights like Valiona and Theralion heroic, where damage around the entire raid can be pretty constant, so alternating between spreading LB around the raid in ToL and spreading Rejuvs outside of ToL (both instances using WG as well) helps work into my mana management over the course of the fight.

The patch also saw a buff to our healing mastery, which should be helped additionally by mastery coming into play more due to the shorter WG cooldown and reduced Rejuv cost. There's a nice addon on called Druid Mastery which tracks how much of your heals are affected by your mastery. I haven't tried it yet as I hadn't gotten around to installing it, but I've heard good things and it should be a good help to see just how much of your healing is benefiting from your mastery.

Regrowth had some decent buffs in benefitting from Empowered Touch this patch. I've found myself using Regrowth a bit more than I used to, the 10% boost to its healing from ET and it refreshing LB stacks was definitely a nice improvement. I haven't really bothered with the new Nature's Bounty though, I've only placed one point in it. In 25 mans at least, particularly when focussing on the raid, I'm simply not spot-healing with Nourish enough to really need the reduced cast time. I do think it may find more success in 5 and 10 mans where it may be more feasible to actually use Nourish frequently on raid/party members.

Overall, though, the patch was pretty positive for Resto, we're definitely on the right track. There are still some issues, particularly with talent bloat and the lack of a cooldown, but the cooldown issues are at least on the table to be addressed, and hopefully some talent adjustments may be on the horizon too.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Resto Druid Guide updated for Patch 4.0.6!

I'm back! If you didn't notice I was away, well, that's a bit awkward for me, but I have been moving this past week so have been very busy packing and travelling. On the plus side, downtime loitering about in airports gave me time to go through a much needed update to my Resto guide!

Along with some of the minor updates for Patch 4.0.6, I completely overhauled the Specs section and updated information in the healing and stat priority section. I've got a new Base Spec suggestion up which should be useful for all healing, from 5 man dungeons on up into 25 man raids and progression content, along with additional information on options for flexible talent points to change that base spec around and information on DPS and Utility talents as well. I'll also be fine tuning some of the updates and fixing some additional things once the Patch goes live and I can test out some more of the talents / abilities and also confirm any final changes or hotfixes that didn't show up on the list.

You can see the updated guide at its usual home here: Cataclysm Restoration Druid Guide.

Hopefully everyone is excited for the patch, which looks like it will be landing this week! Resto druids are seeing some nice buffs, most notably a 30% increase to our Wild Growth healing as well as a reduction in its cooldown (8 seconds, down from 10). A small nerf to our Tree of Life duration, but it's not too big so I don't think it will be an issue. We're also seeing some buffs to Regrowth in that it will now benefit from Empowered Touch, so it should gain a +10% bonus and it will refresh Lifebloom stacks on a target.

Ferals are seeing a mix of changes, we've got a 10% damage reduction to our Rake and Rip, but an increase in the weapon damage contribution to our Shred and Mangle (cat) up to 450%. There are also a fair few PvP related changes with Shapeshifting and breaking roots (you can now only break roots with Shapeshifting if you select Restoration as your talent specialisation and also I think Moonkin form will break it), though normal shapeshifting will still clear you of movement impairing effects (slows etc).

For a full list of all the Patch 4.0.6 changes see the MMO-Champ post here: Patch 4.0.6 on Live Realms This Week.

I'll leave this update at that to give you time to peruse the Patch notes and the Resto guide updates!