Monday, September 8, 2008

It's Raining. I Swear!

So, while I'm not sure I'm ready to commit to blogging on a regular basis again, I really feel inspired to write at the moment. Lately, I've been feeling the urge to return to my furry roots when we start moving into Northrend (Which means The Rambling Bear will likely REMAIN The Rambling Bear, not the Rambling 'Lock or some such). However, I've also been keeping a close eye on WotLK developments, and the current feral druid situation in the beta has me very, very worried. After reading today's installment of the Big Bear Butt (from which today's title comes, by the way), I've come to the point where I have to speak my mind.

Now, before I start my ramblings, let me make one huge disclaimer. I am not in the beta. Nor am I a psychic. And I realize that feral druids are still due a major second pass by the development team. I know that what is currently on beta is not what will be going live. But I also remember what it was like to be a horribly underpowered spec that people laughed at.

The reports I've been hearing from the Beta are bleak. The most poingant of them comes from a guildmate of mine who plays a healer, and has been in Naxx10 with a variety of tanks. In short, Warriors and Paladins are rock solid, and a breeze to heal. Death Knights are a bit squishy, but their self healing abilities help to mitigate some of that. But bears are about as resilient as a wet sponge, and are a huge pain in the ass to keep alive.

This doesn't surprise me, though. Blizzard has taken away bears' one true claim to fame: our huge amounts of armor. In fact, they've stopped itemizing for feral druids altogether, we now have to wear rogue gear. I read somewhere that a bear in the best set of level 80 blue gear has somewhere around 29k armor. Meanwhile, my T4 geared arse sports 33.5k. On top of that, we no longer get an extremely high Agi->Dodge ratio.

"But Surania, look at all the awesome tanking talents we're getting to make up for that!".

Ok, lets look at those amazing new tanking talents:

We get another 6% "baked in" dodge for three talent points. Adding that to the 4% we already had, that gives us a total of 10% avoidance from talents. Guess what, folks, Warriors and Paladins get that, too, though half of theirs is parry. Our only advantage here is that we only spend 5 talent points, and they spend 10.

We get 12% across-the-board mitigation for three talent points. Warriors have this, more or less, as a base ability. Theirs (Defensive Stance) is only 10% mitigation, but they get a talent that boosts their spell mitigation to 16% (And judging from what Magisters' Terrace looks like, I expect to see more and more spell damage getting flung around in the expansion). Also, we can lose this mitigation during fights, while warriors can not. I don't know if you still get the full bonus if a party member dies, but I imagine it starts dropping if one of your allies gets mind controlled, and wouldn't be surprised if you suddenly lose some mitigation if a raid member loses connection suddenly during a fight.

We get an emergency button on a 5-minute cooldown for our 51-point talent. Last stand, to be exact. It's actually a bit stronger than the warrior ability, in that it has a shorter cooldown (8 minutes for warriors). And it also boosts our ability to generate threat while active, which is a nice side effect for sure. But I'm not worried about threat, really, I'm worried about survival. So great, we get last stand. As a sidenote, Paladins are getting a shield wall of sorts, themselves, in a re-tooled Divine Protection which only reduces damage taken by half, but does not drop aggro any more, and is on a much, much shorter cooldown than shield wall. And it also stacks very nicely with Ardent Defender, since SW tends to get popped when low on health to begin with.

We get crushing blow immunity. As do all tanks. The mechanic has been changed to only happen when mobs are 4+ levels above you. We also retain our crit immunity, as SotF has had its effect doubled.

We do still get a bit more armor than our plate brethren. The figure I've read (which I don't have a link to at the moment) seems to indicate bears will have about 6k more armor than plate wearers, 28k armor to 22k armor. Nothing to sneeze at, certainly, but it's nowhere near what we have now. Oh, and we still seem to have slightly more health, too, an extra 10% or so.

So, we're looking like plate tanks with extra armor, right? Well, kind of, except our one advantage (~6k more armor, and a slight health advantage) is offset by lots of things we DON'T have:

We don't get a block mechanic. Sure, blocking is no longer as critical as it once was, since bosses will no longer crush tanks, but at the same time, blocking has been seriously buffed via a revamped strength->block value formula. I haven't seen any numbers as far as how much a level 80, geared warrior or paladin blocks for, but I imagine it's probably breaking 4-digits per block. That, alone, will likely make up for our armor advantage.

We don't get parry. This alone wouldn't be a problem, but since they're also taking away druids' favorable agi->dodge conversion, and not giving us bear tank gear with +dodge or even +defense on it, our ability to avoid attacks is far lower than our plate brethren.

We don't get as many "Oh, shit" buttons as warriors. I'm not saying we should, but the fact is they get both shield wall and last stand, while we only get the latter.

So, basically, we get to be more-or-less on par with plate wearers as far as mitigating each hit goes, but we also are getting hit a lot more often. I have a solution, though, and it would, I think, both be thematically appropriate (as bear fur really shouldn't be harder to penetrate than iron plates) and a fair tradeoff.

Make Nurturing Instinct apply to all forms. I really think it's as simple as that. We get hit, say, 30% more often than plate tanks, but it's 20% easier to heal us back up from those hits. Combined with our health pool advantage, I think this simple change would make bear tanks able to compete with warriors and paladins, but without overshadowing them. We'd retain a bit of our flavor, as we'd be slightly less resistant to death by spike damage (due to the health pool), but would take a bit more mana to keep up under normal circumstances.

Think about it, Blizzard. The best solution to a problem is often the simplest, after all.


Karthis said...

You're suffering from a case of premature speculation. Simmer down, yah silly bear.

Blizz only just implemented one of the new core feral tanking talents - Mother Bear - which appears to exist solely to reduce incoming damage to bears. It's sure to get tweaked and twisted around until we're just as survivable as before.

Besides, if you look hard enough, all of the classes are screaming "the sky is falling" on some level.... but raids opened on the beta a mere TWO days ago. Right now abilities and talents and game mechanics are based on theory..... the reality of how things work in practice has yet to crystallize. Give it time.


Tonnes of playtesting and tuning left to be done.

gnomeaggedon said...

"premature speculation", mmm I like that... catchy...

Kalon said...

For the most part I agree with you, though not for the same reasons. I think Naxx (and Bears) will be tuned so that it'll be acceptable to bring any of the tanking classes. Pallies and warriors are both a bit ridiculous now, and druids are not.

The problem comes after Naxx.

Simply put, none of our tanking strengths scale well with rogue gear or the tanking gear that is in the non-armor spots. The gear that will be dropping is loaded with itemization that improves only threat, and only a few stats actually improve both threat and survivability. Because of this, our itemization budget is much worse than any of the other tanking classes.

And because of that, druids look to fall behind.

The dev's solutions to any problems with scale or with not matching up seems to be giving more talents that do not scale with gear. Mother Bear is an excellent example: for this, it appears that bears get more mitigation early on than warriors do. But all it does is push a bit of when the scaling overcomes the base awesomeness. Sound familiar? That's because it's exactly the same situation we've already seen in BC, where Bears were the best tank to start out with, got good in T5, and then quickly shrank back down.

SuraBear said...

Actually, Kalon, Mother bear DOES scale with content (but not with gear). Fighting a level 50 mob that hits you for 100 without MB reduces the damage done by 12. Fighting a level 80 mob that hits you for 10,000 reduces the damage done by 1200. Dodge, too, actually scales with gear, the more dodge you have, the more dodge is worth. Going from 20 to 21% dodge isn't worth nearly as much as going from 90 to 91% dodge, for example.

Nonetheless, I am worried about the scaling as well. If they want us to use rogue gear, and scale using rogue gear, then they need to make attack power do something for our scaling *coughAPtoArmorconversiononmotherbearcough*

Kalon said...

I never said that Mother Bear doesn't scale with content. It just doesn't scale with gear. And my point is that at some point, if tanking classes do not scale equally with gear but the gear available to them is otherwise equal, you have one of two choices:

Both are balanced at the start, and one gets better faster than the other
One is worse than the other at the start, and may match up at some point down the road, only to diverge again.

There are ways to get around this - you can have it so that one tank has better talents that scale better with content than the other, while the other has better talents that scale with gear. That's pretty complicated to balance. Or you can massively limit the gear that one tank can get. The latter is basically where ferals are right now, which ends up meaning pvp gear turns out to be awesome for totally weird reasons.

And as it stands in the beta, right now, pvp gear is best (and much better than the feral sets) because of the high stamina. Which means that ferals both do not scale as well with gear as other tanking classes AND the gear that is provided for them is not optimal either.

It's a really bad situation as it stands. I hope that it is resolved.

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