Saturday, 10 April 2010

Cataclysm Druid Preview

Blizzard has posted their plans for Druids in Cataclysm. I'll list the ones affecting Resto and Balance druids and give my initial reactions after the break, so if you don't like spoilers, you can stop reading here. There's diagrams and things though.. :)

BIG DISCLAIMER:  These changes are initial in-development plans.  They are in no way final!  In fact, many of them may not make it past the first Beta version!  Read with a pinch, in fact a whole handful of salt!

The Blue Post
Here's a copy of the changes.  The full forum post is here.

New Druid Abilities

Wild Mushroom (Level 85): Grows a magical mushroom at the target location. After 4 seconds the mushroom becomes invisible. Enemies who cross the mushroom detonate it, causing it to deal area-of-effect damage, though its damage component will remain very effective against single targets. The druid can also choose to detonate the mushroom ahead of time. This is primarily a tool for the Balance druid, and there will be talents that play off of it. No cooldown. 40-yard range. Instant cast.

Changes to Abilities and Mechanics
  • All heal-over-time spells (HoTs) will benefit from crit and haste innately in Cataclysm. Hasted HoTs do not reduce their duration, but instead add additional HoT ticks. Haste will also benefit Energy generation while in cat form.
  • Unlike the other healers, Restoration druids will not be receiving any new spells. They have plenty to work with already, and our challenge instead is to make sure all of them have a well-defined niche. A druid should be able to tank-heal with stacks of Lifebloom, spot-heal a group with Nourish and Regrowth, and top off lightly wounded targets with Rejuvenation.
  • Barkskin will be innately undispellable.
  • Druids will lose Abolish Poison with the dispel mechanics change, but Restoration druids will gain Dispel Magic (on friendly targets) as a talent. All druids can still remove poisons with Cure Poison and remove curses with Remove Curse.

New Talents and Talent Changes
  • Tree of Life is changing from a passive talent to a cooldown-based talent, similar to Metamorphosis. Mechanically, it feels unfair for a druid to have to give up so much offense and utility in order to be just as good at healing as the other classes who are not asked to make that trade. We are exploring the exact benefit the druid gets from Tree of Life. It could strictly be better healing, or it could be that each heal behaves slightly different. You also will not be able to be banished in Tree of Life form (this will probably be true of Metamorphosis as well). Additionally, we would like to update the Tree of Life model so that it feels more exciting when you do decide to go into that form. Our feeling is that druids rarely actually get to show off their armor, so it would be nice to have at least one spec that looked like a night elf or tauren (and soon troll or worgen) for most of the time.
  • Balance druids will have a new talent ability called Nature’s Torrent, which strikes for either Nature or Arcane damage depending on which will do the most damage (or possibly both), and moves the Eclipse meter more (details below). The improved version of Nature’s Torrent also reduces the target's movement speed. 10-second cooldown.
  • Restoration druids will have a new talent called Efflorescence, which causes a bed of healing flora to sprout beneath targets that are critically healed by Regrowth.
  • 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.
Mastery Passive Talent Tree Bonuses

Spell Damage
Spell Haste

HoT Scale Healing

Eclipse: We are moving Eclipse from a talent into a core mechanic of the class and making it less random. Balance druids will have a new UI element that shows a sun and a moon. Whenever they cast an Arcane spell, it will move the UI closer to the sun, and buff their Nature damage. Whenever they cast a Nature spell, it will move the UI closer to the moon, and buff their Arcane damage. The gameplay intention is to alternate Arcane and Nature spells (largely Starfire and Wrath) to maintain the balance.

HoT Scale Healing: HoTs will do increased healing on more wounded targets. The mechanic is similar to that of the Restoration shaman, but with HoTs instead of direct heals. In Cataclysm, we anticipate druids using a greater variety of their spells so there is a distinction between healing and HoT healing.


My Thoughts

Having Tree of Life as a cooldown means that we will be get some healing-increasing boost from using it. The fact that they haven't announced what that boost will be means that they (I assume) have a number of options and haven't decided how to implement it yet.  We'll have to wait until the Beta starts to see what they are planning for it.  I am quite upset to be losing my permanent tree though. Here's my vote of solidarity with Keeva:

Apart from that, for Resto druids... nothing much will be changing by the look of it.  They hope we'll go back to using Lifebloom for tank healing and HoTs will tick faster with haste and more on people with less health, but they are just tweaks really and no new toys to play with is a bit... meh. Our style of healing is unlikely to change, and for that I'm actually grateful because I really like the style we use at the moment.

The planned Balance mechanics changes look interesting, Eclipse in particular.

This is how I visualise the change they have planned:
So it's going to be a balancing act (haha, I see what they did there) between casting enough Nature spells to buff Arcane, then casting enough Arcane spells to buff Nature. I'll look forward to seeing the numbers associated with this.

Not sure about this magic mushroom thing... what exactly are they for? It seems a lot like Hunters' traps - are the mushroom talents in the Balance tree going to include snare effects?  Poisons?

No mention of DoTs also scaling with haste in the original post, but Ghostcrawler confirmed it later on in the thread.  As long as they don't make lazerchicken form temporary as well... 

Arcane Torrent - there isn't really enought information given about this to comment... Is it instant? I assume so given the 10s cooldown. It sounds like it might end up being a timing thing as to whether it is going to move the "eclipse meter" the way you want it to :-/  More info please!

As I said at the start, we'll see how much of this makes it far in Beta. It's possible we'll be looking at a completely different set of changes come Expansion Day. 

Take up your limbs, Tree Druids! Flail in Solidarity!
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