Trial of the Champion: Yikes!

I may have that name wrong, but if I say that I’m talking about the new 5 person normal/heroic instance, I’m sure you’ll know what I’m talking about.

It’s been a bit of a busy week, but that’s no excuse for not having set foot in the new 5 person instance. Last night, Cassie and I wanted to rectify the situation, so we asked some folks in the guild if they’d be willing to give it a try.

We went into normal mode first, with Falromord as a warrior tank, myself as a resto healer, and Wetfoot, Cassieann and Pushpin for DPS, a Survival Hunter, Combat Rogue and Death Knight, respectively.

Normal mode was a comedy of errors as I relearned healing on the fly in a brand new instance, after tanking a lot recently. “What does this button do again? Where the hell is the button for Nature’s Swiftness? Shit, I forgot treeform for the whole run! Aw shoot, I forgot to use Swiftmend instead of Nourish again.”


Okay, it wasn’t really that bad, but it was pretty frantic.

About the time I pulled myself together, we’d finished normal mode Trials, and had some interesting perceptions of the run.

Then we went right back in on Heroic mode, and… umm, well, we won? 

I wouldn’t call it a smackdown, but we were still standing and had loot at the end of it, so woot!

Whether in normal or heroic, the first section consists of fighting as a group while mounted with a lance, followed by being dismounted and fighting as a normal team with tank, DPS and healers.

When you enter the instance, there is someone you talk to for starting the fights. Before that, you might look around and notice the lance racks and mounts around the edge of the large circular chamber where ALL of the fighting takes place.

You can come in, if you don’t have a Lance you can grab one from a rack, mount up, and start stacking Armor/Defend.

When you start the encounter, three champions of the opposing faction, races varying per encounter just as Moroes’ guests do, come out. Each has an entourage of three suckups with them.

You get one champion sending a wave of three suckups at you, and once those are down the next three come, and then the last three. Once all the suckups are downed, the three champions come out to get lanced.

As I’m sure you know, once a champion is dismounted, he’s on the ground and stunned for about ten seconds (much less in heroic mode… or maybe it only felt that way). Then he gets back up, and heads for the nearest mount at the wall, ready to get mounted and return to battle.

Once a champion is dismounted, you can run over him with your valiant steed to trample him back down again. There are no special commands, buttons or abilities to trigger. You literally ride over him, and he gets flattened.

In your favor, if YOUR mount loses health and you get dismounted YOU can run over to a mount along the wall and remount and get right back in the fray. Watch out, if you are on foot and they run over you, YOU get trampled. Word to the wise.. DUCK!

One other thing, and something we abused the heck out of… throughout the entire instance fight, whether on a boss or not, whether in heroic or not, if you die, you can release to graveyard nearby and come RIGHT BACK IN IMMEDIATELY.

Warning, if you release and THEN the boss dies before you come back in and gets looted, you might still be able to get your Emblems, but you won’t be able to roll on loot. So folks, please don’t be fast to loot. Remember, rez/recover first.

Anyway, what we did on heroic, that we worked out on the normal run, was to have two designated ‘tramplers’. Cassie was trampler #1, and I believe Pushpins was trampler #2. As soon as the first champion was downed, Cassie just ran over that bastard endlessly.

As soon as the second champion was downed, Push ran over that one. The rest of us just kept repeatedly charging and breaking the third champion. Zero problems.

Zero problems until all three went down, at any rate. We were dismounted instantly, and even though we knew it was coming, we all died from being spread out when the standard part of the fight began.

I think for our next shot, we need to have the person with aggro work on using melee attack to kite the champion to one constant location, while the rest use shield breakers to keep them weak, and make them die in one pile, then rinse and repeat, so that we’ve got one controllable pile. They hit hard enough to damn near oneshot cloth.

Anyway, once we all died on the dismount, we came back in and easily beat them once prepared. Just made sure to kill the Orc (we’re Alliance) first, since his Whirlwind attack is pretty brutal on a melee heavy group.  

Now, I could try and go into detail on fights two and three… but I think this post has gotten pretty long, and I’d rather tackle it a few more times to nail down the ins and outs.

What I will say, is that on the Black Knight, we found kiting the boss around was successful, because when he drops the green crop circle with wisps of smoke, it does a lot of damage over time plus has a big slow effect, and when lots of people are in it, healing the whole group gets VERY tough. It makes bears whine about healing stress. It’s ugly. Also, on the final encounter, Shadow Resistance is awesome, because he does a Shadowbolt volley on everyone that hurts hefty amounts.

The fights stress a healer a ton… at least, in my iLevel 200 gear I felt it stressed me out a lot, I healed my butt off, in many cases simply spamming Nourish on the main tank and letting DPS drop like flies to try and make it through. As I said earlier, we heavily abused the fact you can run in from the graveyard in mid-fight.

Damn, that instance is fun, though.

I’m sure that folks that are in Naxx 25 gear or higher probably do it on snooze mode, which is as it should be considering the quality of gear it drops. But for a 5 person team in Naxx 10 gear and heroic epics and crafted, it’s tuned really well. It’s a heck of a challenge, but you know that it CAN be done, and done well, once you get it down. And it is very fast.

Oh, one other thing if you haven’t done it yet. There are three encounters, but it drops not three epics, but five. The first encounter has one epic drop, and each of the next encounters drops two. Five iLevel 219 epic drops for one heroic run of 30 minutes is… well, expect it to be the new standard instance for an evening, yes?

Share your own tips, let us know the different things that you found that work well on that. I think it was a lot of fun fighting Onyxia in our nightmares… even if she DID fear us all over the place.

Are you a melee master, healing dilettante?

I’ve been told that there is some interest in my experiences picking up healing as an off-spec, and how it’s going, after all my time strictly playing an in-your-face bearcat.

Now, I try not to pretend that healing is a foreign concept to me. I had, once upon a time, played my Druid as a healer in 40 man situations, before there were such things as tree forms, and I didn’t really enjoy it all that much.

I’ll be honest; part of the reason for my distaste would be that I played Feral through ALL previous content, solo and in groups, even in Blackrock Spire raids, and loved it, even if all the real raiders sneered at my feral-ness. “Feral Druids suck”, they’d say, “If you want to raid with the big boys, you need to go heals.”

I bitched, pissed and moaned about it, and made it as clear as I could that my love was feral, but the gear itemization and Tier sets for Druids at the time seemed to side firmly with the raid leaders… go Resto or go home.

I really wanted to see the fabled 40 man content. It was my choice, I could have refused and been benched, but I decided to go ahead and go Resto for raiding with the guild so I could see what was up with all that funky stuff.

And so, 40 man content was how I learned. And it was kinda sucky. In pre-BC raiding, it seemed to me that, in our guild anyway, out of 40 players fielded on a given evening, 25 or so were real damn good, 10 or so were fairly decent, and 5 flat out sucked.

Learning to heal in Onyxia with 5 idiots in the mix was challenging, fun, stressful, and gave one a greater appreciation for the classics.

I don’t care what you want to say, the fact is that if you are a designated healer, you are responsible for the health and well-being of these people placed in your care. You are the angel of life and death… and when one of your charges dies, even from acting stupid, you STILL blame yourself for not saving them.

It’s stressful to watch, helplessly, as idiots die. Although it is pretty amusing after the fact, if you’ve got video.

Learning to heal in Ony and Molten Core also left me with a desire to SEE what was going on, rather than peeking occasionally past 40 health/mana bars on my screen.


As a Feral Druid, I know I’m experienced in how I do things, and it’s smooth and comfortable. The playstyle feels fluid. Maybe TOO fluid.

When picking up an alt, I learn the playstyle of the different class, and, maybe because it truly is a different character to me, I find it pretty easy to keep the button presses and keybinding combinations unique to each one in their own little worlds. I don’t try to Mangle while playing a Shadow Priest. :)

In changing the spec of a character I have only played one certain way for so very long that I’ve worn grooves in the keystrokes, it’s a different story.

I think, in some ways it would have been easier to start a new Druid and raise her as Balance/Resto than it has been to take Windshadow and add a dual spec.

It would have been easier, but not nearly as much fun. :) 

When I decided to try healing on Windshadow, the considerations were;

  1. Getting the best gear I could before expecting others to trust their lives to me.
  2. Getting a healing spec that wasn’t just something someone told me to do, but was a spec where I understood why I had chosen the Talents I did,  and what the implications would be for a playstyle.
  3. Learning how to play.

Thanks to wonderful Resto Druid bloggers such as Bellwether, and brilliant fellow guildies Lady Jess, Jardal and Algenon, the spec and gear choices were the easy parts of that to work out.

Obviously, it was very convenient to be able to main tank Heroics and Raids with one fully decked out gear set, and pick up those healing pieces that other players didn’t need. I could gather up the discards that would have been sharded and build a starter set that is the next best thing to a main set.

With judicious crafting, Emblem purchases, Heroic drops and even Naxx gear, my starter set was a mixed blessing. By being so powerful, my early forays into healing, while successful, did not encourage skill, because high Spellpower and Mana baselines let me use brute force and still succeed. This becomes apparent when you see the advice people have for me on healing Loatheb for the 3 seconds, since timing of Lifebloom blooms is a skill I have yet to develop, and it hadn’t occured to me to test Rejuve ahead of time to know that 1 heal tick per 3 seconds of Rejuvenation shows other things like Tranquility would have been much more effective.

Yes, gear and spec were the easy parts. Learning to play is the true challenge.

The in-depth aspects of learning to play will come as I research each ability more, determine the heal to mana efficiency, and plumb what ticks when, and for how much.

At the very beginning, though, there was a ‘learn2play’ aspect I had to decide on, that would affect the rest of my playing of the class.

To use a healing mod, or not?

In the old days of 40 man healing, Decursive existed and let you easily cast Remove Curse/etc when a player was affected. I know that many folks had far more fancy customizations of it, predictive healing and selective downranking so as to heal just right without a single dollop of overhealing and wasted mana, but I didn’t get into it that far before Blizzard crushed it’s functionality.

Hmmm, let me talk about that for a second. I know how things are now, but when healing in 40 man raids, things were tuned pretty tight on healing and mana. Many of you probably remember this vividly, but some of you might have taken up healing long after this stuff. Here’s a history lesson for how healing has changed.

Prior to Burning Crusade, it was not only common but very nearly required for a Resto Druid to have 4 or 5 ranks of Healing Touch on your bar, and to intimately know where their healing min and max values were when coupled with your +healing, and what their various cast times were, so that you could cast a Healing Touch that would do just the right amount of healing needed, for the minimum Mana cost, with the fastest cast time possible.

One of the signs of a master Resto Druid was nailing exactly the right Healing Touch to top off at the perfect moment without overhealing, because healing meters and overhealing meters were zealously watched for signs of wasted Mana.

Now, of course, with more utility from HoTs, and every HT rank costing the same amount of Mana, and with lesser ranks of spells gaining less bonus from +healing/+spellpower, downranking mastery has gone the way of the dodo. For the most part, so has Healing Touch, except for instant cast heals with Nature’s Swiftness.

Should you care? No, I just think it’s good to remember sometimes how things have changed in all aspects of the game… and how hard it was back in the day to envisage where the changes Blizzard was making would leave us in the end.

I think that, if you look at where we started with healing, and where we are now, and how things continue to change moving forward, a case could be made that we should never, ever expect any changes in a Patch to be the final change. Over time, things are always changed and adjusted, and once those changesd are absorbed into the system and we adjust, another small set of changes are made. Blizzard is, through skill or luck, driving change slowly and surely to an ever more interesting end. I think rather than demanding to know when we have finally reached the destination.. we should instead settle back and enjoy the ride.

Sorry. Bearwall. Moving back on topic…

To use a healing mod or not?

Basically, it comes down to a decision.

Do you want to heal by selecting a portrait and then casting heals on that chosen target, and use focus targets, and point and click on button bars or memorize spell numbers for click-selection and hot key pressing….

Or do you want to install an addon that will let you assign various spells directly to mouse+key combinations, letting you cast mouseovers for everything, but will require you to memorize what the hell all those combinations ARE?

Each one has a basic mode, and then ever-increasingly advanced variations and additions.

With the basic point and click heal, you mouseover a character portrait, click on it to select the person, then mouseover the appropriate spell to cast it, then mouse back up to select someone else, and then mouse back down to click a spell again… or spells…

The next advanced step is to have those spells in numbered slots, and then click to select a portrait with one hand while selecting spells to cast with the number pad/bar.

From there, well, the sky is the limit. Utilizing true keybinds for spells, keybinds for character/target selection, focus targets to have two people selectable simultaneously, hot keys, and macros out the wazoo. You can absolutely master healing without ever using an addon, and there are folks that take pride in doing so.

One argument I’ve heard in favor of this, is that when big patch changes come, fancy addons can be broken for days or weeks, and it’s a sad state of affairs when a player can’t raid because his addon is busted.

Choice two is to go with a healing addon to help you streamline target selection and casting.

Healing addons are pretty much designed to let you easily retain movement of your character by placing both target selection and spell casting in a one button, minimal mouse movement control scheme, all controlled with the mouse hand. The other hand can be using other keybinds and the movement keys, etc.

Addons can either be complex toolkits that will let you do the world… once you figure out how to get it set up, or can be pretty much set up for you like VuhDo. Either way, the biggest learning curve for them is learning an entirely new way to control your character, and memorizing which key/mousebutton sequence controls what, so that when the shit goes down you don’t get flustered and forget your controls. The more commonly used spells need to have the easiest key combinations, and if you’re learning as you go, then when you decide half way into your playing that Rejuvenation really should have been a mouseover left-click and Lifebloom really should have been mouseover right-click, and Remove Curse really should have been moved to Mousebutton 5 closest to the thumb, and Innervate could be Mousebutton 4 away from thumb… well, time to retrain your twitch reflexes, isn’t it?

And if you play multiple classes, each using the healing addon… hehehe.

It’s a big decision. You want to start something that you’ll learn with and get reflexes started quick. It should be EASY to actually cast the Lifebloom, the difficult part should be learning the intelligent time and situation to use it.

When I looked at the options… I chose to use an addon, because I never had before and I had heard great things about how they could help speed up the casting on multiple targets, which is where a Resto Druid shines.

When I went to choose an addon, I chose VuhDo because I studied configuration choices on Clique, and all the additional addons created to modify the base program, and I compared that to the ‘out of the box’ setup of VuhDo. VuhDo promised me that I could install it, and go straight to configuring my mouse button combinations in a graphical interface style even I, a healer come lately, could use. Healbot, I can’t speak on, because although Paraclesis uses it, I’ve never seen it modeled on a blog, so I didn’t try it. :)

See, I still play a Feral Druid as my main. What I wanted was something to quickly bring me within reach of doing healing, without making it the intense focus of my playing. And I wanted to cut down the point and click delay as much as possible. I wanted to be capable of casting a heal faster than the global cooldown would let me, so my slow reflexes were as minimized as possible.

VuhDo allowed me to do that, by letting me setup various mouse combinations and letting me cast all spells as mouseovers on a special health bar setup. I can actually SEE what is going on around me as I heal, and I can even move around and heal on the run after a very short time practicing, not because I’m that good, but because the addon IS a good crutch, and I accept the limitations.

If you are also a Feral Druid, or another melee type, and you’ve been thinking about healing as a dual spec… an addon like VuhDo or Clique or Healbot can certainly give you a jumpstart on doing it with quicker reaction time. You might be gaining that speed by relying too much on an addon, and losing a certain amount of flexibility and professionalism that designing your own network of keybindings and macros would give you… but if it is your off spec, that could be a choice you’re willing to make, just like I am.

Either way, it’s always good to know your options, and to plan what you’re going to do accordingly.

I’d be curious to find out what other healers use to heal, and what they think the strengths and weaknesses of their chosen method may be.

Hmm, since three out of four Sidhe Devils Gone Wild folks have healers, maybe that would be a fun topic for the podcast someday, too. Have people write in their preferences and discuss ’em.

Well, we’ll see.

Have a great weekend!

News Flash: Healing Plague Wing bites!

Tanking is sooooo much easier than healing, I swear.

I love tanking Heigan, for example, because all ya gotta do is hold threat, watch your own abilities and use as appropriate, and dance. Bonus points for shifting out of Bear and tossing Battle Rezes and Innervates as necessary, of course, but come on… that’s all part and parcel of being a Bear tank. If you have problems tossing emergency Battle Rezes, you’re probably doing it right in the first place and don’t get enough practise. :)

Yes, I do get a lot of practise.

Healing, though… damn, that’s a pain.

Dancing: check.

Throwing heals around: check.

Dancing while watching everybody else’s health bar and tossing heals around frantically to keep everybody that might have a problem with dancing alive: oh, holy shit!

The first shot we took at Heigan, I’m not ashamed to say I bought it on the dance.

I was prepared to just accept that I screwed up somehow, but half the raid bought it at the same time, in the same place, and it really did look like we ate a big, fat lag spike. I dunno, I’d like to blame it on lag, but maybe I just wasn’t on top of the game on that one.

Second shot, and I have to say, I was dancing on pure instinct. Normally, as a Bear tank, I can spend all my time on the phase two dance running from perfect spot to perfect spot, centered in the middle of the safe zone.

As a healer, I spent the entire time watching the health bars and casting Rejuve, Rejuve, Rejuve, Nourish, Rejuve, Rejuve, Nourish, bam bam bam bam. I basically rolled everybody, all da time.

I ran the dance between the zones purely by instinct, because my attention was totally elsewhere. I’m just a natural born dancer, I guess. It is tons harder to heal multiple people and dance at the same time, compared to tanking or DPS, though. far, far harder.

We all almost managed to live through the second one, too. :) We did far, far better and beat in his little pointy head.

Still, whew! That stuffs intense, yo.

And then, of course, comes the creme de la creme of the healers world, with everything but Yul Brenner.

Loatheb. What an appropriate name, because loathing does come into play, here.

I asked for someone to tell me what exactly the role of the healer was here, what with the whole ‘can only heal for 3 seconds’ thingie.

You know, that never sounded good to me. Call me kookie, but I look at my Global Cooldowns, I look at my cast times, and even with Nourish and Swiftmend and Nature’s Swiftness/Healing Touch, I’m just not seeing this happen for a whole raid.

What, study it from a healer’s perspective beforehand? Why would I do that? Our healers have always been so on top of things, I never had to.

I’d just roll on in, ask the healers if they knew what to do, and they’d lift their heads temporarily from the smack they talk in their private healer channel (thought I didn’t know about that, eh?) and make shooing motions for us to get a move on.

So, here’s how it was explained to me last night.

Healing effects only work for that brief three seconds… but you can cast your HoTs on the target whenever you’d like.

SOOO…. if a Tree were to dump a Rejuve on everyone starting at such a time during the lockout that they would still be active for that critical three seconds when the window opened up… and Regrowth for the extra squishy… and you were poised to nail some Swiftmend/Nourish action when you could actively cast and have it work during the three seconds, it’s not that bad.


Well, heck, I can do that.

I think.

More or less.

Well hell, whattaya know, it worked!

But not without heart failure. And I think Luis died.

But I successfully healed in Loatheb. Luis dying is a small price to pay.

I feel all spiffy now!

I could talk about what a great job the guild did, how much they kicked ass, the healing, the tanking, the blistering DPS… but what the heck, you hear that stuff all the time.

I will say, I do have a newfound appreciation for the job healers do, and a frowny face for the way Blizz likes to stress out healers. It’s hard to look at any proposed healer nerf after seeing stuff like that, and not want to smack someone in the mouth for making their job that much harder.

On the other hand… it sure is fun to win!

A fascinating forum discussion

Over in the tanking section of the official WoW forums, a fascinating discussion (to me, anyway) is taking place.

Lovenectar of Dalvengyr had this to say;

I’m not sure I understand the logic behind using class representation when deciding how to balance classes for PVE. I’ve seen GC, on several occasions, allude that since a lot of people continue to play warriors, they’re ok. It’s as if Warriors are intentionally being left as is in hopes that people will reroll to help balance out class representation. Why is balance amongst class representation pursued? Does it really even matter?

There are also comments being made that guilds are still using Warriors in Ulduar, so they must be ok. This doesn’t make sense either. Yes, they CAN tank the content, but not as easily as other tanks and without providing the equal benefits other tanking classes provide.

The fact that Warriors are still used, despite their shortcomings, makes me believe that there’s probably factors other than class performance that are contributing to Prot Warrior representation.

They’ve been around and been capable of tanking effectively for longer than any other class. Therefore, there will be more just because the amount of time they’ve been available. This extended amount of playtime would also lead to a stronger bond to their toon. A warrior of four years won’t be as willing to reroll because another class is more effective at tanking and guilds won’t can their long time tank just because he won’t reroll… most of the time.

These factors, and I’m sure there are more of them, make me wonder why representation is even considered. Why is a class deemed “ok” because people still play them? If you really want to bring the tanks in line with each other, wouldn’t it be more effective to base any changes or tweaks on the performance of the classes?

This attitude that, even though Prot Warriors have the lowest DPS, TPS and take more effort to AoE tank effectively, are ok because people still play them is a little perplexing to me. It’s like dedication is being punished with massive amounts of inconvenience. Does class representation take precedence over class performance?

I was impressed, I thought that was pretty well written, even if, as usual, a bunch of folks felt the need to do the old ‘beating a dead horse’ wah wah afterwards.

Lo and behold, Ghostcrawler responded.. and responded, and responded.

I think all Feral Druids might be a little surprised by the discussion that followed;

Q u o t e:
This. If less people are playing rogues than say, hunters, Blizzard wants to know why. Is it more fun? Is it too powerful? Can they make hunter gameplay more fun?

This is true.

Q u o t e:
Basically this is what I think of for why they consider it. GC has said that they are afraid of buffing warriors too much because they previously were THE tank class and that perception is still carried by a respectably high number of people. They want to make sure the other tanks are considered equally effective tanks, so they are being very careful how they buff warriors because if they over buff them they will have just destroyed everything they were trying to change about the majority perception within the community. They also take into consideration whether they are being effective in the current content and since they are they haven’t had any need to do anything in an emergency mini-patch way.

And so is this.

Let’s consider a totally hypothetical example (and I am being serious about that):

Say we did some extensive data extraction from Ulduar and found that only 5% of guilds use Feral tanks when learning hard modes. Assume for the sake of my very contrived example that we could somehow select for those guilds with a potential to beat the encounters, but that the encounters weren’t on farm yet. Assume that the sample size was somehow large enough that the statistics are not at fault in any of this data collection. (I’m trying not to let you Kobayashi Maru your way out of being able to resolve the scenario.)

Now, let’s also assume that we convinced ourselves beyond a shadow of a doubt that using a competent and appropriately geared Feral tank made most of the hard mode encounters significantly easier. Assume that the community also felt the same way — that it wasn’t a dark secret.

The fair thing to do from a balance point-of-view would be to nerf Feral tanks. This will likely cause the percentage of them to drop from say 5% to 2% or virtually nil. A game designer should look at that and say: Yikes!

You can argue that maybe the bear is just a horribly frustrating spec to play and so nobody does it despite its advantages. I don’t really buy that though. Players tend to say that about all of the classes, and I don’t see a lot of evidence that Ferals are somehow unique in this regard. Furthermore, many of our players will do things that are soul-crushingly frustrating if they think it might confer to them a small advantage, which is often why we nerf such things — to save players from themselves so to speak. It’s just hard to resolve how, in this particular example, why more guilds don’t go stampeding towards druid tanks if they are overpowered.

It’s a tough question — what to do with the overpowered but underplayed spec, assuming it doesn’t have any crippling gameplay flaws? What do you do with the spec that is wildly popular but underpowered? Do you make them somehow less fun (even if it’s relative) so players try out the other specs? I think saying “just make all the specs as fun!” is a cop out. We try to do that all the time, but I don’t think that will ever result in as many shamans as warriors.

This is why I say we don’t balance around representation. We don’t tweak numbers until we have 25% of each tank in Ulduar.(Or should the number skew higher towards DKs since they have more than one spec? Or should the numbers skew lower for paladins and druids since fewer races can be them?) But we do have to consider representation when we’re making changes.

Okay, so he says that this is a totally hypothetical example. Nobody needs to get in a frothy blind panic, okay? Not that there is anything panic worthy there, just saying. Some folks seem to rush to the panic stage a teensy, weensy bit.

Let’s be honest here for a moment, shall we?

I play a Feral Tank. I’m not going off of what my friend Bob done told me once while we were in a sports bar about how the class plays. No random word of mouth, no stereotype or perception is informing my views on how the Feral Druid playes. I actually play one myself, and have for a long time.

So, that being said, Ghostcrawler, I’m not sure where you got the concept that nobody plays them because they are ‘a horribly frustrating spec to play’, a position that you then went on to reinforce by suggesting that other people playing other classes could say the same thing so it’s not a compelling enough argument, but I’m here to tell you… I find absolutely NOTHING frustrating, in any way, about playing a Feral Tank. I find it to be a delightful, captivating experience, and compared to other classes I’ve played, I find the Feral Tank abilities to intuitively work together in a clear, understandable way. I personally feel that each ability serves a specific, clearly understood purpose, that the Talents themselves are self-explanatory for the most part, and all things considered, feels to me to be an outstandingly well designed and implemented class. Kudos to you and the entire developer team. Job well done.

Whoever told you we were horribly frustrating to play needs to maybe actually play one. And, if the people complaining are angry with the class because they sucked at tanking with one, rather than blame the class design… perhaps they need to, like, suck less.

Wait, we were talking hypotheticals, right? Oops!

Or were we?

But wait, there’s more!

Q u o t e:
Feral druids are in a similar boat. They’re quite powerful, but there’s still a perception that they’re squishy. Why? I have no idea. People really do have some silly bias against ferals. Granted, these aren’t top-end raiding guilds, but there’s enough out there that the myth carries enough weight that when people are at the character selection screen they think tank and roll warrior or paladin. When they see druid they think, “healer or moonkin.”


Feral druid tanks are somewhat rare, especially among some of the most hardcore, progression-focused guilds. Now, as I say below, hardcore guilds may be the most likely to stick with their current MT (who to be fair, is likely a warrior because these guilds have been around awhile). There are definitely Feral tanks out there — there are a lot of WoW raiding guilds after all. But if they are as good in 3.1 and 3.2 as some players predict, then why aren’t there more of them? Why isn’t every guild recruiting one? It’s an interesting phenomenon and I’m not sure I could adequately explain it.

Now, this is some interesting stuff… why does it feel like the ‘entirely hypothetical’ situation wasn’t so hypothetical after all? Are us Bear Tanks really that rare? I’ve said before, fairly recently, that I don’t see them that often, when I talked about why we needed the nerfs and mused aloud at the thought that if we were so OP, why ain’t there more guilds looking specifically for them when trying to get pugs going on Trade channel.

This seems, to me, to indicate that not only are they rarely called for by name for casual pugs, but that they’re also pretty rare in established top end raiding guilds, too. I guess I have no way of knowing, because he is talking about the top 5% of bleeding edge progression guilds, and I don’t hang with them folks. They are serious kick ass folks, and I’m, um, not.

For the player he is responding to, though, can I just say that it’s been over a year since I or anyone I talk to just automatically associated them with Moonkin or Healers? That ship sailed in BC.

But wait, there are lots more Ghostcrawler posts to come!

Q u o t e:
Leveling up a druid is probably one of the worst experiences in the game, according to most people I talk to anyway. A paladin only being slightly better. A lot of work has been done to ret to make it into a extremely good damage dealing tree. Which makes leveling one both fun and fast.


Wow, I disagree. I found leveling a druid to be much, much easier than leveling a warrior once you get cat. My warrior leveled on a stack of health potions and a high repair bill. Paladins are trickier, because they have some really nice benefits and some really slow aspects of leveling. I will leave you with the tidbit that paladins are the least likely class to be abandoned at low level. What does that mean? I’m not sure I have any idea.

Q u o t e:
That said, druids have been nerfed EVERY single patch in this expansion. This is not QQ. Its just a matter of fact.

It’s a curious fact though. It argues that we never nerf them enough because we keep having to do it again and again. Does that mean we have a double standard and are too nice to druids?

Be careful trying to use facts like this to prove anything. Number of nerfs or number of patches nerfed are not very informative values.

Q u o t e:
I think the answer is very simple to be honest. If the spec is overpowered, even if absolutely no one plays it, it should be nerfed. Same if a given spec is underpowered. One’s performance in a raid should not be dictated by how many other people play the spec. What I’m trying to say is that over power and under power are entirely independent from popularity.

I don’t think they truly are independent though, not by a long shot. I can understand that viewpoint from a pure game design standpoint, but I also think if we gave druids a 25% dps buff and it stuck that you would see players flock to them in no time. This is more true of PvP than PvE, but I still think it’s true of PvE. We saw rogue numbers decline in 3.0 when they were underpowered and they have since returned. Now maybe my hyopethetical example above never actually happens, but I sort of suspect it does.

Q u o t e:
If we’re talking about cutting-edge guilds, and the community generally agrees Feral tanks are better, the first reason can’t be it- most of them would prefer the better tank class. The second reason is plausible- an existent tank could reroll to the better tank class, but he’s giving up his epic loot, his epic flyer training, his four “Gigantique” bags and his Traveler’s Tundra Funmoth. And for what? So he can, after a lot of work, be part of the overpowered class du jour? When you have no idea how long that overpowered-ness will last, it’s a risky investment.

It is an interesting phenomenon that some of the most cutting-edge guilds are the least likely to change. Now, they certainly have the resources and mindset to change if that’s required. If we made a boss that could only be tanked by a mage with a half Arcane half Frost build, they would mysteriously produce one. But they tend to be conservative. They have their roster and they know what works for them. If their traditional MT can beat a boss, they will probably do it that way, even if another tank would give them an advantage. They would only use the advantage if they couldn’t beat it the way they wanted to (and this does happen). For less than cutting-edge guilds, they might see more of a benefit in switching tanks. And yet… these guilds are also the least likely to be able to attract amazing players with good gear of other classes at a moment’s notice, and they are likely to see a much bigger improvement just by tightening up their game than they are by changing their roster. This is why I often say tank balance doesn’t have to be perfectly equal. It just has to be close enough.

Okay, so let’s check that out…

First, umm… Ghostcrawler, you DON’T have to nerf them all the time. You just choose to do so, and the reason might just be that you didn’t choose the right things, in the right proportion, the first time. 

May I submit to you the idea that choosing one aspect of a classes’ defense and nerfing the shit out of it, like you did with armor, does not do anything other than reduce the amount of attention we pay to armor as a stat?

And then the next time deciding that bears weight gear with Agility too highly, and so they must need their dodge value nerfed?

Maybe this really means that you are overnerfing one aspect at a time rather than doing a balanced adjustment across the board, and we compensated for your massive armor nerf by going with Agility. We had balanced gear before, and then we adjusted. We’re already talking about how to adjust again. So what will you nerf next? Health from Stam Talents again? 

We asked for a bit of balance when the armor thing came out, and giving us snarky comments about all the changes being needed and maybe you just didn’t hammer us hard enough the first time doesn’t address core concerns. 

If you can articulate what your goal is for a class, and balance the nerfs a little more across the board to achieve it so we don’t have to totally reitemize, maybe it wouldn’t be all nerfs, all the time? Just a thought.  

It’s funny to me, in a way, that the one thing that Ghostcrawler seems surprised about is that people would be hesitant to change characters entirely just for the sake of progression. If a Feral Tank is better, why wouldn’t they switch? If we make them need a Half-Arcane, Half-Frost specced Mage, they’d come up with one, right?

Well, GC likes to point out the fallacy of arguments, so how about this reason… because a high end raiding guild probably already has a Mage, and if the fight requires a change in spec, the player is still playing the same character he or she knows and loves and is happy with, and that uses the same Spellpower/Int/Spirit/Hit Rating gear stats. Modifying a spec a bit, while requiring learning a different way of playing, at least keeps you with the same character.

If a fight requires changing from a top geared Protection Warrior to a top geared Feral Druid, however, those are two entirely different characters… and maybe doing so will require changing who the person playing the main tank is. I don’t know about other guilds, but in the guilds I am familiar with, there are only a few folks that step up and accept the tanking role in raids, and guilds get used to their particular playstyles. There is a comfort zone for the guild. Is it really surprising that which tank classes are consistently played in guilds would remain fairly constant? Unless you change the player doing the tanking, it seems probable to me that the class you have as a tank would stay the same.

The discussion actually, to me, comes down to one surprising thing; Ghostcrawler IS surprised that people don’t swap classes and specs at the drop of a hat for the sake of progression. As though progression really is the most important priority that a person can have, and all else is frippery.

Considering the state of the game, I can understand that. The other stuff is tacked on to keep non-progression players amused while the serious folks get down to the real business. I can understand that… and I don’t have a problem with it, either. I am happy playing the game I’ve got, I feel my casual playstyle has been addressed quite well (comparatively speaking), and I don’t need the focus of the game to change to match what I am interested in. I like being social, and I’m delighted with how much of the game has been expanded for my playstyle enjoyment.

That still doesn’t change the fact that after 80 levels, and some hardcore playing, it’s gonna be ever harder for someone to pop a brand new max level character out and also get skilled enough, and geared enough, to make it feasible to swap one out for another. DKP and Random Number Generator loot, remember? You’re going to want to bring your best guns, and one person with TWO tank characters who is the go to main tank is going to have to make a decision who to gear up first.

Sure, in 10 and 25 man Naxx and stuff, do both. But for the Ulduar raiders and beyond, it’s gonna get back to focusing on one go to character.

Sorry, got off on a tangent.

The point here is, Ghostcrawler is saying that if a class is overpowered, it will be looked at hard for being nerfed, but they DO take representation of the class into account when they make a decision of how hard to nerf.

And amusingly enough, they get surprised when people hold some sort of wierd attachment to their characters, and don’t toss them off the bus the second another class is (mathematically speaking) marginally better at a role.

But we’re going to nerf you damn Druids anyway. :)

Hey, I’ve got a question!

If players are not changing characters/classes for hard mode raids based on the mathematically optimal chances for success, but are instead playing the same toons they are used to, enjoy, and have had past success with…

Why the heck does anyone need to be nerfed in comparison to someone else’s performance?

It’s not because of making every tank equal with every other tank… GC said it himself, they think close enough is good enough.

So why? Why waste our time changing the rules and gear itemization? What the heck is the point?

I’ll tell you why, and it’s a good reason.

They do it at this level, because of world firsts and top end raiding guild competition.

They want to make sure that the bleeding edge progression guilds are all equally challenged by content. They want that world first accomplishment to be a feat worthy of admiration, and if a class is under the spotlight of being PERCEIVED as overpowered, there are always those that will marginalize the accomplishments of others based on that perception.

It’s a simple fact, if content is perceived as being too easy with x class, and a guild using x class gets a world first, QQ results.

Class balancing is going to be a fact of life so long as there is a perception that one class is overpowered in comparison to others. Accept it, and move on. All we can hope is that classes are researched and tested extensively before actual changes go live.

Me, at my level of progression, I am not affected much. I do read the news and wonder at the thought behind it, but all I really ask, at the end of the day, is that when the developers are done with this latest round of fundamental class changes, is that every tanking class have the potential to handle the content, so everyone gets to go have fun.

Oh, and one other thing; after this round of fundamental class changes… take a break with the change stuff. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m getting a bit of class change fatigue over here. Leave it alone long enough for people to forget about the last four mechanics changes, huh?

Just, you know, allow us to settle in and enjoy the game without wondering what next months’ class mechanics changes will bring.

I do think it’s silly that things are, what, so bad that every couple months we need some big changes to class mechanics? Really?

And no, I don’t think the problem is that you didn’t nerf us hard enough the first three times, thanks much.

Enthusiasm: It's what keeps me going!

You know, there’s always something going on somewhere to talk about. Whether you folks think it’s relevant to what you expect here or not, well, that’s another story.:)

Last night, the Druid Q&A by Ghostcrawler and the Blizzard Community Team went live, and I read it, chuckled a bit, and hit Lady Jess with the high points I knew she would enjoy. Sure enough, I sent her into a Jessrage. All in good fun, of course.

Thing is, there’s a lot of nice discussion about the past, current and future overarching direction of the Druid class, but it was short on specifics I really felt needed to be discussed, at least from a Feral point of view. There was some confirmation that Feral tree split spec for either optimized Cat or Bear is working as intended, there was the surprising idea that they would consider changing things so that we would have to shift frequently, apparently because they want to see us wearing the artwork of the gear they designed (note: I stay in forms because I chose the Druid FOR it’s forms… me choosing to be in a Bear form all the time should be, in my opinion, considered a class design WIN, not a freaking problem. FWIW, anyway.).

But, there was nothing in the Q&A I was all that enthusiastic about talking about. I came up with what I thought would be a cute name for a post about it, “QQ&A”, but there wasn’t even anything I was particularly enthusiastic about crying over.

See, I already had two plans for blog posts for this week, and that’s not even counting the PBeM story post I’m still in the middle of, that is with Lauchlin, but that I scrapped because in my humble opinion it drifted into ‘teh suck’.

I’m enthusiastic about writing these other things, and not the Druid Q&A. So, I’m not gonna talk about it.

It’s not that I’m not enthusiastic about Druids. Far from it, I have literally done nothing BUT play my Druid with delight for weeks now, both Tank and Heals.

What brings me back blogging time after time? I’m still enthusisatic about what I do. There’s always something new, and I go bounce/bounce/bounce my Big Bear Butt off doing it. It ain’t never boring. If things seem quiet, well hey, bring your own fun!

Here’s a few examples of the things we’ve done lately, things that I’ve been having fun with.

I like soloing things as a Bear, but it’s too easy doing old world stuff. So, the thought occured to me, I’ve got this level 80 Hunter that is all decked out for raiding as a BM with a Spirit Kitty… why not Dual Spec my Hunter… as another Beastmaster? TWO Beastmaster specs? I can have my second spec be strictly designed to maximize pet survivability and damage, and I could take my Bear pet (named “Clawsome”), and I could go have fun soloing Attumen, a mount soloing spec-and-pet system.

Basically, I could be a Bear tank two ways. :) Maybe even see if my guild is crazy enough to let me do a Heroic with my Bear pet tanking. Sigh. It’s just… something that sounds fun, and gets my enthusiasm for new things going, ya know? So yeah, I got the Dual Spec and pet and all, haven’t had a chance to go take down Attumen. Why? Because while on the way, literally, to Karazhan, landing in Duskwood, Ratshag and his lovely and talented fiancé Shianti wanted me to come do Heroic Violet Hold.

I do so… and then have to go to bed. And later that same night, I’m told, Shianti liked my idea of doing Karazhan SO MUCH that she wanted to go try Attumen right away that night… and the damn Attumen mount dropped, and she got it.

That would have been MY instance of Karazhan… so by rights, that’s my mount drop she got. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. It was all an evil plot by Ratters, I’m sure.

Okay, another example.

I’ve been doing Argent Tournament dailies every day, to build up seals and work towards Crusader so when the 3.2 changes hit and Heirloom chestpieces are available, I can just pick one up immediately. As of last night, I’m done with Darnassus and Exodar.

Well, I’m banging around doing Threat with Jardal and Kaelynn, and Barre asks in Guild chat if anyone has the Molton Core zone drop enchant, Enchant Weapon – Spell Power.

It’s a rare drop in Molten Core, a weapon enchant that does +30 Spell Power and that can be applied to level 1 weapons… like Heirloom weapons.

Nobody does, and someone mentions Jess spent two days in Trade channel before she found someone that could do it.

Well, heck, right? I ask Jardal and Kaelynn if either has an enchanter. Jardal does, a level 62 Prot specced Paladin.

So I ask him if he’d like to bang around in Molten Core, like right after dailies, see if the enchant drops? Sure, sure.

So Jardal, Kaelynn and her 80 Rogue, my Druid tank and a few guildies all head into Molten Core on the spur of the moment of a Monday night, just for the heck of it.

We ended up doing a 100% full clear that night, just because it was so easy with level 80 tank, healer and 3 to 4 DPS to keep going.

And guess what?

Sure as hell, the Enchant Weapon – Spell Power does, in fact, drop. Thing has, according to WoWhead, a 1% drop chance on only a few bosses… and even if Blizzard upped it’s drop chance recently, it’s not BoP anymore, so it is farmable, and it’s still pretty rare. And now we have someone in guild that can do it. :)

Sometimes, it’s a good idea to remind yourself, the game is truly great, but shouldn’t be expected to always have to come up with new content, and work to keep your bored short attention span mind all engaged.

Sometimes, it’s nice to remember, you can take the initiative to look for things that sounds fun yourself, and then go out and do them

If you think about WoW, and you can literally find nothing about the game that you feel enthusiastic about, then it’s not really the game’s fault in my opinion. Maybe it’s time for you to go find something you ARE enthusiastic about and do it! Take a break, you know?

Fantasy Football Leagues are about set to kick off here in the States, Summer is here and there’s lots of stuff to do out of the house, there are great books and movies out there, concerts, whatever. Go out, go bowling, dance at a club, have fun. Get enthusiastic with life.

I still find WoW keeps me coming back, having fun and talking about it.

I guess I’m just getting pickier about what I write about, though.

Druid Q&A? I’ll let handle the dissection if that’s all right with you folks.