Why I might abandon the feral spec entirely in Mists of Pandaria*Posted: April 16, 2012
*See end of post for title asterisk reference.
A bit of backstory
Back in the period roughly between 2008-10, the feral druid community was blessed with several very useful blogs dedicated to ferals cats and bears. Since then, some have disappeared – either because the blogger left the game (Feral Aggression – my favorite – and Of Teeth And Claws), or ceased posting (Primal Precision) – while others tend to post way less often nowadays (The Fluid Druid, Think Tank, Druid Of The Moon, etc.). There are others that I can’t recall at the moment, because they’ve long been absent from my reader.
What’s true about this is that the decline in some of these blogs coincided with my rapid drop in interest in playing as a cat.
In Wrath, I ran as feral for both raids and PvP, killing up to and including all of the end bosses (and Onyxia, Sartharion, and Malygos) except for Yogg-Saron, Algalon, and Hallion, as either a cat or bear.** I got to be pretty good at it, in large part because of the advice, strategies, theorycrafting, and enthusiasm of these bloggers.
When 4.0.1 hit, expectations for the feral class were low among us, because ferals were weak throughout the beta. As a result, I didn’t even touch my druid for two days after the patch, focusing (no pun intended) on learning a new rotation with a new resource for my MM hunter. In the meantime, ferals were buffed in a hotfix to compensate for their low damage, and after that were sitting pretty. Bleeds were pretty strong from that point until the great kitty Mastery nerf, which happened as Tier 11 raiding was getting into full swing if I recall correctly. Before that, though, PvP as a feral was very fun. Admittedly, bleeds were likely too powerful, and the nerf was much deserved, but it was great while it lasted.
My Cata feral experience
When ferals lost their ability to shapeshift out of snares, PvP became more difficult, although that was eventually fixed to some extent when Dash and Stampeding Roar gave us the ability to break them on a cooldown. In general, feral druids have had a strong PvP expansion, with the ability to do some nice burst damage with adequate bleeds and good mobility. In this expansion, I have gone exclusively feral for PvP, and have enjoyed its mobility, utility, and Skullbash, being able to defend flags well as a bear, and immunity from being sheeped or hexed, as well as from having my bleeds dispelled, among other things.
On the PvE side, things have gone very differently. Once I hit 85 and ilvl 329 (12/2010), I began running heroic dungeons. I quickly became very frustrated with the melee PvE experience. Uptime has always been an issue for melee classes, but it became even more so with the difficulty of heroics at that ilvl, the changes to healing and mana, and the abundance of area damage in places like Throne of Tides. I found myself having to be away from mobs/bosses quite a bit to stay out of “fire”, self-heal, and to not die in general. This, among other things, led to me taking a month-long break from the game in January ’11.
When I returned, I stuck with PvP for a while and avoided dungeons on the druid, concentrating instead on my hunter, with whom I got plenty of dungeon experience. Eventually I got to a point where I wanted to play my druid more, so – since I was much more comfortable playing a ranged toon at that point, and there was a rather well-known issue where T11 content in particular favored ranged – I cobbled together a pretty bad set of balance gear and started learning the spec. For the remainder of the expansion, other than a couple of times where I’ve tanked, or played feral for a specific boss fight (like Erudax), I’ve played balance exclusively and become fairly comfortable with it.
I still quested as feral for the most part during Cata, although lately I find that I don’t care which spec I’m playing to quest, since my best PvE set is a balance set anyway. Generally, though, playing a kitty still feels crunchy, bursty, and fairly fast.
Not looking forward to Mists of Pandaria
At least, not as a feral. Here’s why.
Back to blogs: at this point, there are really only two feral blogs that I follow anymore. One is The Fluid Druid, as I mentioned above. The other is one that I began following at the beginning of Cataclysm, Druidify.
Reygahnci at Druidify plays PvP pretty much exclusively. He is an arena veteran, and I have never done arenas, but I find his insights into PvP as a feral druid to give me better perspectives on my own play. If you’ve never heard of Druidify, I highly recommend it. Lately, he posts about once a week.
Recently, Reygahnci began posting about his beta impressions, and his most recent two articles have me feeling pretty pessimistic about playing a feral in MoP.
In the first, he talks about the differences between his level 85 cat on live and beta. Here is a very small sampling:
- Savage Roar now buffs all damage by 30% and is considered an enrage, which is easily dispellable. Live, SR is an 80% buff to white swings only.
- White swings are much, much more powerful: on live, they hit for 1.5k and Crit for 3k; on beta they hit for 5k and Crit for 10k. With SR up, they go up proportionally to the Savage Roar buff definitions on live and beta, respectively.
- Critical Strike is way down, from ~42% live to ~28% on beta.
- And more. Check out his post.
In his analysis, Blizzard seems to be moving a lot of melee damage away from burst and toward sustained damage. Hence, the massive increase in white swing damage, Savage Roar change, and Critical Strike drop. High sustained damage is going to require high melee-range uptime, as white damage as a percentage of overall damage is going to go up significantly. Granted, druid mobility looks pretty good in MoP, but this is still a significant negative when it comes to PvP.
In his most recent post, he’s even more blunt in his analysis of the situation: one of the first sentences is basically “Why you should play a monk instead of a feral druid.” In it, he goes through and gives all of the reasons monks are better than ferals, and the evidence is pretty damning: his monk in ilvl 378 gear is significantly out-damaging his ilvl 403 kitty.
One of the worst things he mentions is that monks will be able to dispel bleeds, which is just not cool for ferals (among other specs). Not cool at all.
I find myself, here in the beta stage, not looking forward to playing a feral druid in the next expansion. This is a bit of deja vu, obviously – I felt very similarly at this stage of Wrath. It’s not a fun feeling.
However, I’m in a different place in some ways with regard to the druid. For one thing, Anacrusa, while having by far the most achievement points, is not my main raiding toon, and no longer my only PvP toon since I can play the hunter as well. For another, I’m basically an expansion removed from seriously raiding as a cat druid. As a semi-competent balance druid, I’m at a place where I feel I have the confidence to not only raid as a moonkin, but to level as such, and also to PvP as balance, when Mists of Pandaria comes out.
It seems like it will be a good time to let the feral thing go. And this may be true even if they undo some parts of the “sustained damage” philosophy for melee classes.
It does seem like feral is historically one of the more volatile specs. Perhaps that’s just because I’ve played feral for a while, but between the end of Wrath and now, we’ve finally gotten that interrupt we were missing, were hotfixed to be OP, then nerfed and hobbled by the Mastery and shapeshift changes, had damage tweeks to our Shred and Mangle abilities to make them more similar while still never fixing the positioning issue, and so on. Made to burst, made to bleed, made to do sustained damage. Given mobility, stripped of mobility, given some mobility back.
Personally, I like a feral druid to be bursty. Alternatively, I’ll take a druid with strong bleeds. I’ll even take a druid with a combination of the two. But I’m not interested in playing a druid that’s as dependent on white damage as Reygahnci and Alaron (The Fluid Druid) see us being. That just seems both more difficult and stupid – or less fun in general.
*For those hunters who have something against feral druids – and I know there are many out there (OutDPS-ers, WHU-ers, etc., along with those of both classes who hate each other for stealing “their” weapons, which is going away in MoP anyway) – yes, I play a feral druid sometimes, and I am proud to say I’ve done so fairly well. I also play a night elf hunter. I don’t give a rip about all of the anti-night elf / anti-feral antagonism; humorous or not, it has no effect on me.
**I did toy with healing toward the end of the expansion, but that was out of sheer boredom, and I wasn’t very good at it.
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Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!