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Introduction

Hello Guardians! Earlier this evening Blizzard posted a first cut at their alpha patch notes. In this post I’m going to dig deep into them and dissect the changes as much as possible. As per normal (even more so) remember that these changes ARE ALPHA AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE. That being said, let’s get started.

Some of these changes we’ve already seen at Blizzcon, but a lot of the Guardian specific ones are new.
 

General Mechanics Changes

Agility no longer provides an increased chance to critically strike with melee and ranged attacks or abilities. The base chance to critically strike is now 5% for all classes. There are no longer different chances to critically strike with melee, ranged, and spells. There is a new passive, named Critical Strikes, which increases chance to critically strike by 10%. It is learned by all Rogues, all Hunters, Feral and Guardian Druids, Brewmaster and Windwalker Monks, and Enhancement Shamans.

Removing dual-Crit scaling makes sense really. It was just really messy in reality to have to worry about multiple sources of Criticals. In return we get a baseline increase to make up for the difference. That’s fine.

Each point of Agility or Strength now grants 1 Attack Power (down from 2). All other sources of Attack Power now grant half as much as before. Weapon Damage values on all weapons have been reduced by 20%. Attack Power now increases Weapon Damage at a rate of 1 DPS per 3.5 Attack Power (up from 1 DPS per 14 Attack Power). Attack Power, Spell Power, or Weapon Damage now affect the entire healing or damage throughput of player spells.

I’ll be honest, the whole Attack Power and Weapon Damage thing was just getting really confusing for a lot of people. 1 AP per point of Strength or Agility just makes everyone’s lives easier, and I like the conversion of 3.5 AP to Weapon Damage as well. The nerf to weapon’s damage is likely just to accommodate the removal of base ability damage.

Celestalon later confirmed in a tweet that only the appropriate classes will benefit from Strength or Agility. That means we won’t have to worry about wanting Strength items after this change, or vice-versa.

The amount of Dodge gained per point of Agility has been reduced by 25%.

Nobody cares about the Dodge gained from Agility nowadays anyway. But it makes sense that they’re reducing the contribution of passive mitigation stats in favour of more active mechanics.

All players now have a 100% chance to hit, 0% chance to be dodged, 3% chance to be parried, and 0% chance to glance, when fighting creatures up to 3 levels higher (bosses included). Thick Hide now also reduces the chance for attacks to be parried by 3%.

We’ve known this was coming for a while, but now we know exactly what the changes are. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, and everyone is happy to see these stats gone anyway.

Weakened Blows was a debuff that mattered almost exclusively to tanks, and that every tank automatically applied. We removed the debuff and reduced creature damage to compensate.

Yay! It was a stupid debuff anyway that was a relic from Vanilla. Good riddance.

Weakened Armor and Physical Vulnerability were effectively redundant, both filling the role of increasing Physical damage taken by the target. So, we removed Weakened Armor and widened the availability of Physical Vulnerability a bit.

Yay! The difference between these two was actually quite annoying, and it was very critical to have both.

As part of a push to combine the different types of Haste in the game as much as possible, we merged Spell Haste and Attack Speed into just Haste, which benefits everyone.

And there was much rejoycing! Plus it’s an actual haste effect, which means GCD reduction (more on that later).

We like that tanks can provide meaningful DPS to their group, however, it swung wildly based on the fight, even surpassing the dedicated damage dealers occasionally. To solve this, we’re going to remove the offensive value of Vengeance, but preserve the defensive value, by making it increase the effect of your active mitigation buttons, instead of Attack Power.

Nobody saw this coming. Nope. Noone. Not a one. /sarcasm

In all seriousness this is a good change. Vengeance cheesing was probably the most common thing to take advantage of this expansion, and Druids mostly got the short end of the stick on that one. It’s a great boon to tank balance overall.

Resolve: Increases your healing and absorption done to yourself, based on Stamina and damage taken (before avoidance and mitigation) in the last 10 seconds.

Cool. Neat buffs to survival with a shorter window, which means more responsiveness to changes in incoming damage. Sounds fine by me.

Druid: Revive, Monk: Resuscitate, Paladin: Redemption, and Shaman: Ancestral Spirit now cost 4% of base mana (down from between 10% and 50%).

BEST CHANGE NA.
 

Perks

Guardians have gotten a bit of an overhaul in the latest set of patch notes. Mostly good changes, but a couple annoyances here and there. Let’s start with the perks as seen on WoWHead. Note that apparently these are earned randomly while you level, but you will have all of them by level 100:

  • Enhanced Tooth and Claw: Tooth and Claw now also makes Maul free, and can accumulate 1 additional charge. This pretty much solves any problem I ever had with T&C. In ToT you heavily modified your rotation around whether or not you had a proc, and if the next swing of the boss was already capped out or not. This outright solves that problem by removing the Rage cost, which means it’s always an advantage to press the button. The extra charge meanwhile basically makes it impossible to waste procs, given that they take so long to generate anyway (on average).
  • Empowered Berserk: Increases the duration of Berserk by 5 seconds. What’s not to like about this? It now becomes an even 15s (10 GCDs with no Haste), rather than the silly 10 seconds we have now. Great change.
  • Enhanced Bear Hug: You are no longer immobilized by using Bear Hug. Again, nothing not to like about this change. That was the single most annoying thing about that button in the first place, and now it’s gone.
  • Improved Mangle: Your Mangle deals 20% additional damage. Uh, sure. I guess.
  • Improved Maul: Your Maul deals 20% additional damage. Weeeeeeeeeeee.
  • Empowered Thrash: Increases the periodic damage of your Thrash by 50%. More damage. ALL THE DAMAGES.
  • Empowered Bear Form: Bear Form grants you an additional 20% Stamina. More EH? Sure, why not?
  • Improved Barkskin: Barkskin provides 10% additional damage reduction. It’s important to note here that there’s no reference to removing the buff to Barkskin’s cooldown that we received in 5.4. But it’s more likely to be a difference maker now.
  • Improved Frenzied Regeneration: increases the healing from Frenzied Regeneration by 10%. Can’t say no to more healing.

 

Mastery

One of the changes mentioned is something I’ve alluded to for a very long time, both here and on various forums or podcasts.

Mastery: Primal Tenacity causes the Druid to gain a Physical absorb shield equal to 16% of the attack’s damage when they are hit by a Physical attack. Attacks which this effect fully or partially absorbs cannot trigger Primal Tenacity. Mastery: Primal Tenacity now also passively increases Attack Power by 12% (percentage increased by Mastery), in addition to its current effects.

Obviously our +Armor Mastery was very boring, and to be quite honest, mostly worthless. Our new Mastery gives us a shield of (2*Mastery)% of the last physical ability that hit us. It’s not clear what specifically qualifies as a “Physical Attack”, but I suspect the wording is general enough to imply that anything Stagger works on, our new Mastery would work on. This makes it very effective at smoothing out incoming damage not only from melee swings, but abilities that plagued us throughout this expansion (Blood Rage, Snapping Bite, Triple Puncture…..). The benefit is also low enough that it won’t be effective to stack pure Mastery or anything, but getting a little bit here-and-there will most certainly be beneficial….depending on the encounter of course.

The extra DPS bit is just to make it do something offensively, and therefore have tank DPS keep pace with your real damage dealers.
 

Rage Generation

Another one of our sore points this expansion was the almost complete passivity of our Rage generation. This has been significantly overhauled.

  • Auto-attacks now generate 5 Rage (down from 10.9 Rage).
  • Lacerate now generates 10 Rage, has no cooldown (down from a 3-second cooldown), but no longer has a chance to reset Mangle’s cooldown. and apparently still resets the CD on Mangle.
  • Thrash now generates 2 Rage every time it deals direct or periodic damage, has no cooldown (down from a 6-second cooldown), but no longer has a chance to reset Mangle’s cooldown.
  • Faerie Fire no longer has a chance to reset Mangle’s cooldown.
  • Primal Fury now generates 5 Rage (down from 15 Rage) when you dodge or non-periodically critically strike (up from only Auto Attacks and Mangle).
  • Mangle now generates 30 Rage, and its cooldown is reduced by Haste.
  • Bear Form no longer increases Haste and Crit from items by 50%, but instead causes Haste to reduce the global cooldown.

So close. Oh, so close. Each of these changes individually is a great change. Less reliance on Crit, a GCD that scales with Haste, more control over Rage generation, and AoE Rage generation. All good changes. The teensy problem is that our “rotation” is now even more boring than it was before. With the removal of FFF and proccing Mangles, our rotation is now 100% fixed – which is bleh. The only thing that changes is that you get to spam more Lacerates between applications of Thrash at higher Haste levels. /barf

You’ll see why I’m so salty in a second when we get to talents.
 

Ability Pruning

A number of buttons that we kind of expected to die have in fact, become deceased. These are:

  • Enrage: Not surprising. Became mostly irrelevant after T15 and was annoying to use anytime other than the start of a pull because it costs a GCD.
  • Innervate: YAY! I was sick of seeing this button my bar. For srs.
  • Swipe: I don’t particularly care about Swipe. We’re gaining AoE Rage generation anyway, plus this button would just feel absolutely horrible to press with the other Rage changes.
  • Symbiosis: This one I wasn’t expecting, but am not surprised by. I’ve previously referenced a tweet from Holinka indicating that it was going to be changed to be defensive CDs only. But think about that for a second. How would a Guardian having Cloak or Deterrence not be the most fucking overpowered thing in the universe? It was impossible to balance, and I’m glad they finally figured that out.

In return for losing Symbiosis, we gained something else:

Survival Instincts is now available to all Druid specializations. Survival Instincts now reduces damage taken by 70% (up from 50%) with a 2-minute cooldown (down from 3), and for Feral and Guardian specializations can have up to 2 charges (up from 1).

I literally have nothing bad to say about this. Literally 0. I actually think it’s probably way too overpowered to be completely honest. Of course that 100% depends on encounter design, but taking that at face value and putting it into SoO mechanics I’m like “welp I guess I literally just never die? mmmk”. We’ll see what happens though.’
 

Talents

I’ll admit, there’s some doozies here.

Heart of the Wild no longer provides an increase to Hit chance or Expertise while active, and no longer increases Stamina, Agility, and Intellect.

I don’t have a problem with this change, at all. We were always the ones that benefited the least from the “main role boost” to begin with, so that’s not really a loss. We also retain the best parts – the ability to assume another role for a period of time when we’re not tanking. Fine by me.

Dream of Cenarius – Guardian: No longer increases the critical strike chance of Mangle.

This is now way way way way way too expensive. You’re essentially costing yourself 10 Rage every time you use an HT, and since they’re no longer boosted by Vengeance/Resolve (except when you use them on yourself) there’s actually 0 incentive to press the button except when you’re not actually tanking anything at that very instant. It remains to be seen how it specifically ends up being balanced against Frenzied Regen, but I just don’t see that happening. This talent is basically dead to me until the HT becomes off the GCD.

Nature’s Vigil, while active, increases single-target damage and healing caused by healing spells by 16% (down from 25%), and all single-target damage spells also heal a nearby friendly target for 35% of the damage done (up from 25%).

Once again Nature’s Vigil will probably turn out to be the clear winner in most encounters. Splash healing with no extra thought required. Granted it won’t be as “smart” as it is now, but at least you can use it while tanking something.

Guardian of Elune – Savage Defense now lasts 4 seconds, and increases your chance to dodge by 100%.

I actually think this is pretty neat. Imagine how awesome it would be if you were guaranteed to dodge every single Snapping Bite? That would be really awesome. Obviously this will purely be a choice made based on encounter mechanics, but it’s a pretty neat talent that plays into our active mitigation. I like that.

Bristling Fur – You bristle your fur, reducing all damage taken by 50% for 3 seconds.

Much improved over the previous incarnation (huehue) for sure. Having an extra major cooldown is nothing to shake a stick at, and I would be very surprised if this doesn’t see at least some use.

Pulverize – A devastating blow that consumes 3 stacks of Lacerate on the target to deal 500% weapon damage, generate 30 Rage, and reduce damage taken by 20% for 10 sec.

And now you understand why I’m so salty. This is literally the perfect missing piece to the new rotation. I expect most Guardians will end up with this purely for the rotational engagement, when there’s no very specific reason to pick one of the other two. It’s just so terribly disappointing that Pulverize is a talent, when it should quite clearly be part of the core rotation. Heck, you could even scrap the damage reduction if you wanted. Just please please please please please make it a rotational ability.

And then Celestalon had to go and tell me they re-added the chance for Mangle to reset on Lacerate hit. Ok. The entire previous paragraph is worthless now :|

It actually makes Pulverize more tricky to use than first appears, since you have to balance Mangle procs vs Pulverize uptime. I almost think that the duration should be extended to maybe 12 or 15 seconds in order for you not to feel like you’re in panic mode when trying to manage Rage generation and Pulverize. In any case, I feel significantly less negative about it now.

Hello Guardians!

There isn’t really any “news” to talk about per-se, more like some community driven content I wanted to draw your attention to. These aren’t in any particular order, mostly just whatever came to my brain first.
 

Blizzlist!

My friend Kristin has started a weekly community-driven newsletter about Blizzard’s products, called Blizzlist. It’s a really neat way of distributing important and/or neat content from Blizzard or the community to others. I highly recommend subscribing. You won’t regret it!
 

SoO Raid Guides

If you didn’t know yet, for this tier I’ve been doing video guides specific to Guardians for each encounter in the Siege of Orgrimmar. They start out rather rough but over the course of the tier I’ve managed to nail down the overall look and feel rather well I think. Obviously going into Warlords the goal is to produce the videos at a much faster pace, split amongst Reesi, Buraan, and myself. In any event the two sets of guides are linked below.

 

New Player Guide!

Late last week WoWHead published their set of “New Player Guides” designed to help players that boosted to 90 get a handle on their chosen class and spec. I had the pleasure of providing the content for the Guardian Guide. Obviously I don’t think anyone here will be particularly interested in it, but I did want to mention it as something I had fun participating in.
 

Sentry Totem is Live!

Sentry Totem is another project that I’m excited to be helping out with. Sentry Totem is a site where you can receive expert advice and assistance on how to improve playing your chosen class and spec. I am obviously not implying that you now have to go there to ask questions or get help as a Guardian. I am participating to help out Tickle, and nothing more. I actually seriously doubt many – if any, even – Guardians will post there. TiB isn’t going anywhere nor will I stop helping people here.

I wanted to make this crystal clear to everyone because I’ve seen instances in the past where assumptions have been made about the actions of one person or another on the internet. I obviously don’t want anyone to make any ridiculous assumptions about me or my association with Sentry Totem, hence my post here. I should also clarify that I am not receiving any monetary compensation for any work I do at Sentry Totem – by my own choice – nor will any “tips” be passed on to me – again my by own choice – if you want to support TiB, we have a donation button up in the top-right corner. Again I’m not asking you to do so, I’m simply telling you that if you want to contribute to the Guardian community and feel that $$ is the best way for you to do so, go ahead and donate. The money is deposited into an account that can only be used for site maintenance and hosting fees.

Anyways, enough soapboxing from me. Enjoy your week!

Hello Bear Fronds!

There’s not much to talk about this week, but I did want to mention a couple things.
 

Dev Watercooler Part 2

There was a second part in the latest Watercooler series, this time focusing more strictly on healing. There isn’t anything that specifically relates to tanking here, but you can make some implications, even for Guardians specifcally. With the shift more towards better decision making with healing it’s far, far, more likely that we’ll see tanks being prized for their ability to stay alive on their own. That’s a change I’m fine with really, since it’s more “tanky” and seems in line with the previously announced change of de-coupling Vengeance from offense.

For Guardians specifically this blog post all but confirms that we’ll be seeing changes to Ysera’s Gift, Nature’s Vigil, and possibly Tranquility. Although it’s not really clear whether or not we’ll even still have Tranquility in Warlords. Only time will tell.

If you’re interested Ashunera wrote up a very good analysis of the changes, which you can read here. Jasyla also wrote something slightly more snarky which I enjoyed.
 

Realm Maintenance

Rho from Realm Maintenance interviewed me for this week’s episode of Realm Maintenance. It was a lot of fun to be on a show that wasn’t my own, and I wish I got to do it more. Go check it out, as he puts a lot of work into this show and it really pays off.
 

Final Boss

In case you’ve been living under a rock, you might not know that Buraan and I will be on Final Boss this Sunday! I’m really excited since both Bay and Ana are friends of mine, and I’ve been a fan of their show since day 1. Don’t worry, Buraan and I are already planning some shenanigans. :D

You should come watch! 1pm PST (4pm EST) this Sunday the 16th of March over at their twitch stream.

I was originally going to do this in like a Pastebin or something, but then I realized that screenshots are useful. Basically a couple friends of mine were recently musing about connecting to Twitch chat through an IRC client. Then I realized that I had promised them instructions like a week and a half ago – and promptly forgot. So here they are.
 

How To: Connect to Twitch Chat with an IRC Client

Step 1: Get an IRC Client. Any old IRC client should work for this, but personally I use mIRC. That means all of my screenshots will be for mIRC, but you should be able to translate them into the client of your choice.

Step 2: Add Server Info. This is actually pretty easy. You just set up a new server with the information shown below:

Step2

The “Password” field in the screenshot above will be the password to your Twitch account.

Step 3: Configure Identd Info. Again this is simple. Simply configure as shown below:

Step3

The “User ID” field in the screenshot above will be your Twitch username.

Step 4: Connect. Once your server is configured, select and connect to it. You will be prompted to enter a channel name:

Step4

Enter the name of the Twitch channel you would like to connect to, preceded with a hashtag (“#”). For example if I wanted to connect to my channel I would enter “#deastin”. Click “OK” and you’re good to go!

Hello Bears!

We haven’t had one of these in a while since there hasn’t really been anything to talk about. But on Thursday Celestalon posted a developer blog and followed it up with a bunch of tweets. I’ll cover whatever pieces of the Guardians might care about, but it isn’t much.
 

Dev Watercooler

There really isn’t much here honestly. We already knew that the stat-squish was coming, even though I haven’t mentioned it specifically. It doesn’t really impact any specific class overall, it’s just a change for the overall improvement of the game.

However all of the base damage modifiers are being removed, of which we have a ton. Our abilities don’t scale as well as other classes’ – most notably Monks and Warriors – but have higher base damage. Ideally this won’t be a problem in Warlords, and the damage of all tanks will scale at somewhat the same rate.

The next part of the watercooler talked about Racials. Since Worgen racials remain unchanged (1% Crit, Darkflight), the other three Druid races become the following:

  • Night Elf: 1% Crit during the day, 1% Haste at night. Quickness now also grants 2% movement speed.
  • Tauren: 2% Critical Damage/Healing, Stamina bonus that scales with level.
  • Troll: Berserking now grants 15% Haste instead of 20%. Has +20% Experience from Beasts instead of damage.

Of these Night Elf and Tauren are the obvious choices for tanking, purely for the extra survivability.

I’m not really worried about the pruning of abilities. Druids in general don’t really have any “extra” abilities that can be removed without causing any problems. Of course there are things like Innervate which should just be outright removed from Guardians, but taking away abilities from the spec that we don’t need is perfectly fine.

The changes to crowd control aren’t really that interesting for Guardians. Heck, Blizzard doesn’t even know what they want to do with tanks in PvP yet.
 

Blue Tweets

That wasn’t even the biggest piece of news either. Most of the interesting stuff was passed on through Twitter after the blogpost went live. I’ve summarized the most interesting and relevant information below.

Might annoy some specs that benefit from one stat but not another (e.g. feral druids benefit from crit, but not haste)

We’re making sure that everyone benefits from them.

Normally things like this doesn’t really interest me. However there could be an interesting implication here. Consider that Feral really doesn’t like Haste other than what it does for Rune. At first glance the only real way to make Haste attractive to Feral is if bleeds were to scale with Haste like other DoT effects do. Now consider Guardians. Haste is basically a negligible DPS increase for us, we only get it for the increase in T&C procs and better Rage generation.

What if our bleeds also scaled with haste? That would be kinda cool.

Wait, the ONLY offensive cooldown will be Hero/BL/etc? Every other one is gone?

No, only *raid-wide* offensive cooldown is Bloodlust. I’m referring to removing Stormlash and Skull Banner.

Well that was kind of a no-brainer. This shouldn’t surprise anybody.

What of the Raid Wide CDs, other than Bloodlust, like devotion aura?

Defensive cooldowns stay. May tweak them of course, but as a concept they stay. Only offensive one will be Bloodlust (etc).

This tells me that their minds aren’t 100% made up on what to do about non-healer raid cooldowns. We know for a fact that something is going to change about them, but it’s not clear exactly what yet. Given how annoying Tranquility is to arrange for Guardians already, it will either become easier to use or get axed entirely from our spellbook. I don’t particuarly care which way they go, but the latter is definitely easier to do.

When are we getting those changed from Haste to Amp? Makes much better sense as raid cooldown

Based on our experiments with the SoO trinkets, we’re holding off on doing Amp and Cleave as stats, at least for now.

Again, surprising nobody.

That’s everything that qualifies as “news” at this point. Everything else has long-since been confirmed, and is just Celery re-answering the same questions over-and-over again. Assuming no new crazy things come out in the next week, my next post should be about simming Heart of the Wild DPS as a Guardian!