Sorry things have been quiet around here lately. I’ve been absolutely swamped at work the past couple of weeks which is where I do most of my blogging and blog-related activity (like answering e-mails). Here’s a wrap up of the changes affecting Druids over the past week, along with some of my impressions.
- Koraa Follows up on Lifebloom Change
- Downranking No Longer Possible
- Spell Pushback Changes
- Feral Summary
Developer Koraa went on to respond to further questions about the previously reported coefficient reduction of Lifebloom, asserting that Blizzard rarely nerfs an ability for the purpose of PvP balance if it effects PvE, confirming that this is an intentional PvE nerf. She goes on to explain that Flourish, Nourish, and talents like Living Seed are intended to help compensate. It appears that she did, in fact, misspeak in her earlier post about the intention for Druids to be high throughput healers, which is comforting.
I’ve noticed many players use the "PvP excuse" as a way to dismiss that abilities or spells are too good in PvE. For example, Illumination… that wasn’t nerfed for PvP reasons (like many believe).
Whenever we change abilities we always consider the outcomes for all aspects of the game, very rarely will we change an ability that will reduce it’s effectiveness in PvE or PvP for the sake of the other. And if we do, it’s intended.
In the case of Lifebloom, it’s too good in both aspects of the game. Again, it’s not our intention to merely just reduce the effectiveness of Lifebloom, but to also introduce new healing mechanics (Flourish, Nourish, talents like Living Seed and the improvements to Tree of Life) to compensate.
HoTs are intended to be effective in HPS and efficient, but have the drawback of requiring time to heal. The issue today is that you’ll HoT a player who got hit by a big AOE, and some other class will use a downrank direct heal and cause you HoT to be ineffective. This is being addressed through downrank penalties. We want other classes to say "Hey, I could heal that guy back up who just got hit by that AOE, but I’ll let the Druid do it instead and preserve my mana." Note that I’m not saying random AOE damage is not what HoTs are only intended to be for, I’m just using that as an example.
Of particular interest is the quote, “The issue today is that you’ll HoT a player who got hit by a big AOE, and some other class will use a downrank direct heal and cause you HoT to be ineffective.” which speaks directly to another important change coming down the pipeline …
Developer Wryxia explained a significant change to the game’s spellcasting system that’s coming in Wrath of the Lich King:
As you may have noticed, in this latest build we have updated spells and abilities using mana. These no longer cost a fixed amount and instead they’re a percentage of your base mana, not including any mana increase from Intellect. For the most part this should mean mana-based spells and abilities are costing roughly the same amount as they do in the live game, though there might be some slight changes either up or down. But we have tried to keep them as close as possible to the same mana cost for a level 70 as they are now in the live game.
What will change though is that lower rank spells will lose their appeal. We have made this mana cost change purely to prevent downranking, which is an unintended technique that we were not at ease with. We’ve previously tried ways to discourage it, but have decided that we’d rather find a solution than continue to find ways to penalize those who choose to downrank. The solution we chose was to make downranking obsolete, encouraging people to always use their highest rank of each spell and nothing else.The highest rank of a mana-based spell or ability will now remain the most powerful effect, but at the same mana cost as earlier ranks.
We’re certain that for some people this will cause a period of readjustment. Hopefully removing a few more of the extra buttons you’ve been pressing will eventually be seen as a good thing; it might also be easier for some people to do their role without having to learn to downrank. We are anticipating such a big change may have some teething problems, perhaps causing balance issues, and we’re all set to deal with them as they arise. In the meantime, we appreciate any comments and feedback related to this change.
Another Blizzard poster by the name of Zarhym commented on this change, as well:
In the latest WotLK beta push, we made a large change to the mana cost of spells. All player spells now cost a percentage of base mana rather than a fixed cost. Base mana is a special value determined by the player’s level and class, regardless of any effects or items that increase intellect. It is the size of a player’s mana pool if the player has zero intellect.
This change was made primarily to prevent downranking, as it’s a technique that was never quite intended. Rather than continue to find ways to penalize players for casting low-rank spells, we decided to essentially make doing so obsolete. If rank 5 and rank 6 of a spell cost the same amount of mana, but rank 6 does more damage/healing, then there is no reason to consider casting rank 5.
So, each spell line (eg. Frostbolt, Shadowbolt, Greater Heal, Rejuvenation, etc.) has a fixed percentage of base mana that it costs for most of its ranks. That means each time a player gains a level the cost will go up some. The percentages were picked to attempt to keep the costs relatively similar to what they are currently in World of Warcraft. For most spells, that percentage will drop some when the player receives their highest-rank spell in existing Burning Crusade content. This was done to better fit the existing cost curve, and to keep the mana cost for level 70 players as close as possible to existing costs. Level 70 characters will see most of their maximum rank spells change in cost slightly up or down, but not by significant amounts.
We anticipate there being some balance concerns due to this change, and our development staff will be ready to implement new spells, abilities, or talents to resolve those issues as the testing process continues.
This is a significant change to those healing classes who rely on having multiple ranks of their largest heal available to them, adjusting their selection based on their target’s current health, most notably Priests who frequently downrank Greater Heal. Healing Touch-based Druids would also be affected by this change, but I suspect that HT-based builds may be going the way of the dodo in Wrath with the introduction of Nourish and improvements to Regrowth. What this will effect is the downranking of Lifebloom. While in live we only have one rank to work with, Wrath will introduce two new ranks of Lifebloom. While mana costs aren’t yet set in stone, our third rank of Lifebloom is projected to cost about twice the mana as our first, representing a significant increase in the cost to maintain a stack. This combined with the reduction to its heal over time coefficient will likely go a long way toward bringing Lifebloom down a couple of steps in terms of efficiency.
According to an earlier quote by Koraa, Blizzard was concerned about HoTs being overwritten by downranked spells. It seems that Blizzard’s intention is for HoTs to see a greater percentage of effective healing done. An admirable goal, but the main reduction to effective healing from our HoTs is not because Priests, Paladins, and Shamans are actively downranking single target heals but instead because of AoE and multi-target heals like Circle of Healing, Prayer of Mending, and Chain Heal. With the addition of the Paladin AoE heal, Beacon of Light, and Flourish, these “fire and forget” group heals are going to be even more prevalent in Wrath.
Lifebloom is currently cheap enough to throw on a target on the chance that something else doesn’t “overwrite” the HoT. Nonetheless, Regrowth is already often a better choice for raid healing.This will exacerbate the difference, and this makes using a slow-acting Rejuvenation and the HoT-portion of Regrowth less viable for raid healing. While the stated intention is to allow heals over time to be used for raid healing, the combined effects of increased mana cost, a decreased HoT coefficient, and more widespread group healing will have the reverse effect.
This change will make using an addon that displays incoming heals practically essential, and I hope that we’ll see something built into the UI that makes this process smoother and less resource intensive. Non-Druid healers may also want to consider configuring their raid frames so that heals over time — even those they didn’t cast themselves — are displayed since mana conservation is going to be a much larger concern. Of course, this would have been helpful to the raid as a whole before the downranking change, and it’s certainly not a widespread technique. Healers are often too concerned with not handicapping their own stats.
Finally, the elimination of downranking will have a significant effect on one of our deep Restoration talents, Replenish since it will no longer be possible to derive its benefits by casting a 20 Mana (assuming Tree of Life) Rank 1 Rejuvenation.
However, lest you deride the 3/3 talent mercilessly, consider the fact that assuming assuming a 20k mana pool in Wrath of the Lich King, we can use a Rejuvenation to gain an average return of 120 mana:
Mana /Tick = 0.15 * (0.02 * Total Mana)
In Tree of Life, Rejuvenation is projected to cost around 516 mana. This change will make a Rejuvenation effectively cost 120 less mana when cast upon oneself, which is a 23% mana cost reduction. This mana is effectively “transferred” to someone else if you cast it on them. However, this gets back to the basic problem that Rejuvenation is too slow acting to not get overwritten by another healer. Even if a healer opts not to overwrite the Rejuvenation that’s been cast on her, another healer almost certainly will, at least in a 25-man raid.
Of course, the obvious solution to this problem is to modify the talent such that it reads, “Makes the target immune to group heals.” Heck, I’d just settle for making them immune to Brain Heal.
A change with tremendous PvP-implications is that being made to the way that spell pushback works. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, spell pushback refers to the delay incurred while being hit and casting a spell. To quote the current description at WoWWiki:
The first attack will set your casting time back by 1 sec. Any [subsequent] attack will set it back by a lower amount. The amount decreases by 0.2 sec with every attack, down to a minimum of 0.2 sec per attack. However, no attack will actually increase the casting time. For example if you cast only 0.2 sec. of a spell, it would only be set back by that amount.
This means that three successful hits could delay your spell’s casting time by 2.4 seconds; four would delay it by 2.8 seconds. In Wrath of the Lich King, this dynamic is being changed:
- When casting a spell:
- The first and second hit will add .5 secs each to the cast time.
- All hits after the second will have no effect.
- When channeling a spell:
- The first and second hit reduces current duration by 25% of total duration each.
- All hits after the second will have no effect.
This means that the maximum pushback for any number of hits will be 1.0 seconds, making it much easier to deal with fast-hitting pets, Rogues, Feral Druids (sorry, guys), and a group of melee whose interrupts all happen to be on cooldown. While this may initially seem like a buff to healers and spellcasting DPS of all sorts, keep in mind that one of the strengths of a Restoration Druid is their ability to use insta-cast HoTs, both to “heal on the run” and to guard against spell interruption and pushback. This change will be make Priests, Paladins, and Shamans more competitive relative to Druids. Despite this, I view it as a positive change that will make healing less tedious and frustrating in PvP.
For a Warlock’s view on this change, I invite you to visit Horns’ post, Spell Pushback Gone.
There are way, way too many posts regarding Feral tanking for me to post on a blog labeled “Resto4Life", and this post is already growing like the opposite of a shriveled up, rotten broccoli-looking Tree of Life, so I’ll try to summarize what I’ve read so far:
- Bears will become more viable MTs at the expense of some of their OT ability. It will still be possible to OT if that is your desire.
- With the addition of a new tanking class and improvements being made to Bears and Paladins, a Protection Warrior will no longer be required for a raid to be successful.
- Bears will not see the high armor values they saw in TBC due to the desire to streamline the items dropped in raids.
- Ferals they will get potions and weapon procs and are intended to be able to perform better than in TBC.
- Blizzard does not consider the "convenience" of a hybrid tank/melee DPS to be a compelling enough reason to bring Feral Druids to a raid. By forcing a Feral to choose between a primarily tanking spec or primarily cat spec, they hope to make each character more desirable overall.
- "We will be really disappointed if there aren’t bears main tanking Naxx and later raids, and cats that, if not consistently as high as Rogues, are at least a lot closer than they are now. "
- Druids are not yet considered "finished" and are due for a review before ship. "We’re not done with Ferals" is stated about 4-5 times.
- Blizzard does not intend for "talent bloat" (among existing talents) to be the way to force Druids to choose between Cat and Bear, but instead wants to introduce new talents that will strengthen one role or the other.
- Feral tanks need more attention to bring them up to par with Paladins and Warriors.
- Ferals may see an increase in utility to make them more viable, though no concrete information is available.
- Bears will have larger health pools and Warriors will have higher mitigation.
Finally, kitties can rejoice in their newfound faster feet with Feral Swiftness now active indoors. Just be careful as I’ve known a few cats to have difficulty avoiding walls indoors!
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