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Mists of Pandaria Talents and Specs – DON’T PANIC

The words “DON’T PANIC” are inscribed in large, friendly letters on the front of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

When something new comes, there’s only a few different ways that people can react. If the new thing looks appealing and pleasing to the person, there’s a sense of excitement and anticipation. If the new thing doesn’t hold any interest to the person, there’s a bunch of apathy and boredem. If the new thing looks not good at all to the person, there’s a sense of doom, dread, and panic.

Something new came this week.

Earlier in the week, Blizzard released an early look at the Mists of Pandaria talent and spec calculator. It shows every class, what their new talent tree will look like, and more importantly what the different specs will look like come patch 5.0 and the release of the new expansion.

If you missed it, at BlizzCon it was revealed that talent specs are changing with MoP. Rather than just adding to a specific arsenal of abilities that every class has, each spec will become even more specialized. As an example, only Fire mages will have Fireball and only Frost mages will have Frostbolt, but every mage will have Frostfire bolt.

Between BlizzCon and now, there has been a bunch of speculation about how much each class would change. With the new calculator, it’s shown that every class will be changing, but each class has differing amount of change. The pure DPS classes seem to be having less change than the hybrids, which seems to give the impression that Blizzard wants the spec to do one thing and one thing only – which is what they spec into.

The big disclaimer that has been stated is that this is a “pre-alpha” build, meaning that the information given can and more than likely will change between now and release. Bashiok said that they are giving this information out because they want to get feedback from the players and see what can be improved or tweaked. If you decide to leave a note for Blizzard, just please remember the most important thing (and Wheaton’s Law): Don’t Be A Dick.

Since my main is a Feral DPS Druid, I thought I’d give my impressions about that class.

One big change to Druids is one that all hybrids who can do any sort of healing are experiencing. If you’re not specced into the healing tree, there will be very limited choice for what healing abilities will be present. Rather than having Healing Touch, Regrowth, Nourish, Rejuvenation, and Lifebloom – it’s down to Nourish and Rejuvenation that are baseline. All of the other spells will be available at certain levels if you spec into Resto.

On the other hand, the times when a Bear could do decent DPS while not tanking are long gone. Druids are having the distinction of being the only class that will now have four specs: Balance (Moonkin), Restoration (Tree), Feral (Cat), and Guardian (Bear). If you want to be a bear, you’re a tank and a tank only. Even though this is definitely a loss for Druids, it is bringing us in line with the other classes that are out there. A Protection Warrior isn’t able to do good DPS while still in spec, why should a Bear be able to shift to Cat and do well?

That was definitely one of the benefits of being a Druid in the first place, and we’ll still have a limited capacity for it with the level 90 talent of Heart of the Wild (there are some bloggers out there who think that it will not be very useful at all – which I’m inclined to agree with). However, Druid specs will most definitely be very specialized.

The biggest news that I’ve seen so far is the new level 87 ability called Symbiosis. The text reads: “Creates a symbiotic link which grants the druid one ability belonging to the target’s class, varying by the druid’s specialization. In exchange, grants the target one druid ability based on their class and combat role. Lasts 1 hour and persists through death.”

On first glance, this looks absolutely amazing. Of course, this likely means that it won’t be as amazing as we hope it will be. Lissanna at Restokin gave a really good writeup about how she thinks it will work, and I think she has the right idea. It will probably take a specific ability from each class, rather than taking a random one, and since it will last an hour and persists through death it shouldn’t be left up to chance. Unfortunately, this won’t be able to be properly tested until the beta comes out, so until then we’ll be left with speculation (unless Blizzard decides to give us details about how it exactly works… /wink).

As with expansions in the past, we just have to get used to the “new normal”.  There are things we may not like, but at the moment they’re not set in stone.  If this is how things look when MoP is launched, then there might be some other words being used at the time.

I think that things are going in the right track, but will definitely need some tweaking.  While we see the specs make the player focus on a specific role, there are then talents which encourage us to do other roles… but we won’t have as many tools to do said roles.  It just doesn’t make much sense to me now.  We’ll see how things go as time progresses – just remember, the game isn’t even close to being out yet.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

There are times when I wish I wasn’t as accommodating.  Yet, I only have myself to blame for it.  I try to do things with the best intentions, but sometimes things just don’t work out.

In this case, it all has to do with my DPS specs.  A while back now, I decided to change from feral cat DPS to a boomkin because the guild needed more ranged people.  I volunteered, because I always wanted to try the spec out and see what it’s like.  One of the biggest problems is that I barely make it to the raids due to real life schedules, so in the end I didn’t really do much to help the guild out with getting a ranged class.

Finding that I was missing being feral DPS, I decided to change my second spec (feral tanking, which I had not used once since I got the spec set up and reforged all the gear) back to a kitty and tried it out in a heroic to see how I would do.  For comparison, as a boomkin I would average around 8-10k DPS – which is not very good at all – by any comparison for my gear level.

My first thought was: “Why in the world did I ever switch?”

After doing a heroic Zul’Aman, my average DPS for the entire instance was around 13.6k, and my highest was around 18k for Nalorakk.  At first I thought it was just that instance, but after thinking more I realized that it’s just something I’m so used to doing that it flows easier.

One thing I was really bad about as a boomkin was my DoT uptime.  There were some fights where I was below 30%, because I just forgot to reapply it with being so focused on my regular rotations.  Fortunately as a kitty, the DoTs that I use aer some of the most important parts of my rotation and come naturally.  That in itself is a great way to make sure I don’t slack.

Plus, I found I was getting bored with being a boomkin.  There were definitely fun parts about it, but altogether I was finding that I was just there and not being very excited to instance or raid at all.  Perhaps that’s how I got my priest to 85 so quickly, because I just wasn’t feeling it.

Whatever the case, I’m definitely back to being a feral DPS spec.  I had so much fun with it through my first instance, I don’t care how many rogues and other ferals I have to beat up to get my gear.  As well, if I needed any other reason, the staff that Fandral will drop from Firelands in 4.2 turns cat form into a fire cat form.  ‘Nuff said.  I’m back to a melee state of mind.

Ways to Suck Less

One of my gaming New Year’s Resolutions was to suck less. Unfortunately, this resolution hasn’t been something that I’ve been the best at keeping. Fortunately I’m not failing completely, but I’m still in the process of learning my new role as a boomkin, so there is still that curve to adjust to. I was giving some thought to ways that I can improve, and I came up with the following three points:

1. Use cooldowns appropriately

Abilities have cooldowns for a reason – a decision has to be made as to when the most they will be the most beneficial. Don’t just use a cooldown when it’s up, make sure that it is put to the best use possible. Using Starfall in conjunction with Lunar Eclipse is an example of a small thing that can help boost damage without needing to do too much extra work. Along the same line, using Treants during the air phase of a dragon encounter isn’t really the best timing.

2. Many abilities, handle them!

I’m guilty of forgetting to use certain abilities, but at the same time I use certain others that my raid leader has looked at the combat log and said – “… and you threw in a few random typhoons, I see?” Basically, don’t forget what is available. My personal problem is forgetting to use Wild Mushroom, as I started out as feral and always thought it wasn’t a very good ability to use. The damage was low, the mana cost was high, it was useless. Then Magmaw came around, and I was told in no uncertain terms that I could have used them to help with the adds.

3. Be situationally aware

Again, with my switch from melee to ranged damage, this is a big key for me. Know what is going on around you at all times, and what could happen to you. Good practice for this is the first boss in Deadmines, which gives the achievement “Ready for Raiding” for a reason: if you avoid all the junk that he deals, it’s a good indication that raiding is on the way for you.

These three simple things will help anyone raid better, and hopefully I’ll be able to remember these things as well. Any class can benefit from these tips, once I have more experience under my belt I’ll try to make one that’s more boomkin-specific.

Making Decisions

I hate making decisions with a passion. I truly do not like choosing something and being stuck with it, out of fear that it wasn’t the right thing to do. This ranges from the very small things like what to have for meals (ask my wife, she’d be more than happy to elaborate) and things to do, to very big things like buying a house, making a large purchase, or having kids. I like to think, think again, then think even more about all the options and choices that are out there. Even once I’m sure I know the right thing to do, I sometimes still hold off on making that decision.

Previously I’ve mentioned that I’m an altaholic. This definitely stems from my indecisiveness, as it gives me something to do that’s different without having to worry about making a big change for my main character. Even choosing a main character for myself was a very difficult thing to do for a while during the Burning Crusade expansion, as I was enjoying three different classes in different ways. I’m now faced with a similar choice as I was back then, which is how to enjoy playing my main character.

One of my favourite posts that I’ve written was all about my gradual shift from caster classes to melee classes over the years. To this day, a majority of the classes that I play are melee, and I’ve found that I have more fun with them. A shift in our guild has had me thinking about changing it up a bit, to try something that I’ve always wanted to do but never really had the chance to pursue it fully.

The mythical crit-chicken, the boomkin, the oomkin: the Moonkin.

Boomkin power!Over the years I’ve tried the spec a few times, with not the best success. The first time was due to the old eclipse mechanic and the rotation – I just couldn’t get the hang of it. The second time was at the end of Wrath after 4.0.1 came out and the talent trees changed, but my gear wasn’t very good and my damage suffered because of it. Now, with the updated talent trees along with better gear, I’m getting into the groove of it.

My feral druid damage is quite good. Not the best, but on a single-target DPS race I can get in the top three consistently. The problem with changing specs and gearing up again is that there’s the curve where the damage dealt is not nearly as good, and it can be quite disheartening. Fortunately with every heroic that I run, if I’m not getting better gear from drops I am at least saving up for more gear from Justice Points. Right now I still have a few green and blue quest rewards, and a few crafted pieces as well – nowhere near the best gear that I can get.

For the first few heroic runs, I find that I’m having fun with it. To be honest I was almost hoping that I would not like it, just so that I would convince myself to stay with the way things are right now. My overall damage and DPS is decent for the heroic tier, nowhere near ready for raiding, but enough to be competitive.

This means I have to make another decision. Do I help the guild out by giving them a boomkin, since we have no leather casters? If I do, do I keep my second spec as feral DPS or do I try tanking again? Making decisions truly is not my strong spot. Any advice people can leave in the comments is truly appreciated.

Altaholic-ness, Redux

A while back, I mentioned how much I enjoy leveling alts. To this day the trend continues, and unfortunately Cataclysm has made it even easier to enjoy this hobby. The addition of new races, new race/class combinations, and the complete redesign of the level 1-60 leveling process was just a bit of encouragement. Then I go and splurge on all three heirloom cloaks from guild rep, making it that much easier.

My habit has continued, and it has flourished.

One big thing that I’m a bit surprised about is that two classes that I enjoyed quite a bit before have not interested me as much now. The Warlock, my very first class that I got to the level cap with on the Horde side in Vanilla, has no presence on my character list at all. I tried rolling one a few times, but it’s just not doing it for me right now. Perhaps later. The Death Knight, a class that I thoroughly enjoyed back in WotLK, is now my bank alt. I have one that I’m trying to level through Outland right now, but I think it might be more of that continent’s fault than the DK class itself.

My Shaman just recently hit 65 after simmering on the backburner for a while. I wanted to get geared up and ready for heroics and raids before I focused too much on any alt for a little bit. Now that I’m raiding again (woot!), I’ve been slowly working him through Outland. As I mentioned before, it really is a chore to get through the BC content. I remember trying to rush as fast as possible to 58 so we could get away from the junk of Vanilla content – oh, how times have changed.

There’s the hunter who’s in the late thirties. I was going pretty steady with it for a while, but I’ve lost interest in it for the moment. These phases come and go quite quickly with various classes and how I feel with it. On our old server, I was leveling a rogue with my wife and was having a blast. I tried rolling a rogue a few times already, and it’s just not doing anything for me right now. More than likely, it’s too close to the cat druid that I work on mostly right now.

One character that I was looking forward to rolling at Cataclysm was my goblin priest, and she’s been quite a bit of fun. Checking out the talent trees previously, Discipline looked like a great spec to try out for leveling as it had a good mixture of damage and healing abilities. So far I’ve leveled exclusively through the dungeon finder from level 15 on, just to work on my skills so when I hit a higher level I’m not completely out of it. I’m only level 29, so it’s not really too big of a challenge, but it’s been a good experience so far.

Lastly, I have lowbies of the rest of them: paladin, mage, and warrior. I’ve played a paladin and mage to level cap previously and enjoyed it, and the highest I’ve ever gotten a warrior was to the mid twenties. Some of the higher levels that I have right now are going to be DPS and healing, so I’m thinking a tanking warrior would be fun. Heirloom shield please?

I enjoy the different experiences that I have on each character when I play them. Each has their own different feel, their own nuances that I have to figure out – it’s nice to have such flexibility within the game. Plus, this is all on the Horde side. If I wanted something completely new, I’d work on my Alliance characters… maybe.

Druid New Year’s Resolutions

The new year is finally upon us, and it’s at this time that many people look behind at what was and look forward to what will come.  I’ve done a lengthy series of retrospectives, so I think that can count as my looking behind part.  That being said, I’d like to set myself some goals for my main character, my Druid.

  1. Don’t suck.  I know that should be standard and not necessary to put on this list, but I think it’s important to include here.  There are many ways to suck at WoW, and I don’t want to be one of “those guys” who can’t play his class well.  I may not be the top performer, but I want to do my job properly.  Not only do I have to play my class properly, but I also have to play where I am properly – know the dungeon or raid I’m in, and react accordingly, for example.
  2. Know my role.  Right now my main spec is feral DPS in cat form, which has been my main spec for a few years now.  Thankfully there hasn’t been much change to how things operate and only minor tweaks, so that’s not too much of a big deal.  My secondary spec is restoration, which is quite a bit different for me.  I’ve played a healing class before, and even had it as my main spec on my Paladin back in Burning Crusade – but the playstyle of a Holy Paladin versus a Resto Druid is completely different.  I’m not playing healing whack-a-mole anymore, but learning how to anticipate what is going to happen and be ready for it.
  3. Don’t get frustrated.  Too many times, I see myself get frustrated with some aspect of the game.  I was in a random group on my lowbie priest the other day, and I was getting mad at the tank because he wasn’t holding aggro – but it was his first time tanking, and druid tanks aren’t the best at low levels – and everyone needs to learn.  I’m going to be in this same position when I work up the courage to do a random group as a healer, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be pretty.  (This is one benefit of having a guild – guinea pigs for my starting attempts)
  4. Have fun.  After everything is said and done, this is still a game.  A lot of people seem to forget that, and from time to time I’ve been equally as guilty.  When things get too bad: take a breather, go watch TV, read a book, talk to your spouse, do something to get away from the computer.  Find your happy place, go there, and relax.  Instances, PvP, guild politics, you name it – they can all wait.  This is a game, and treat it as such.  (World of Warcraft is serious business, right?)

I want to get better at the game.  I look forward to our raids, and I’m disappointed if I’m not near the top for my performance.  At the same time, I am glad when I’m not the one that gets blamed for wipes or (even worse) is the actual cause for the wipes.  Enjoyable time in the game is what brings people back, and I think that’s really the core of what I want to accomplish.

The Shaman experiment

Not too long ago, I started a new character as an alt to work on while I waited to transfer my main over from another server. As I’ve mentioned before, our guild decided to move from Vek’nilash to Thrall in the interests of getting a better pool of raiders to make better progress. We had our date of the move, but there was about a month or so of time in between. As I’ve also mentioned, I’m an altaholic, so I was quite excited about being able to start brand new characters and do the leveling experience again – even moreso with the changes coming in Cataclysm.

I had a hard time deciding what class to work on. There were a few that I wanted to try, mainly ones that I had difficulty leveling or staying focused on in the past. Ultimately, I decided on rolling a new Troll Shaman. As of right now, I think I made a wise decision.

Currently, I only have three characters at level 80: a Druid, Paladin, and Shaman. For whatever reason, the hybrid classes seemed to be a good fit for me. However, I’ve only put significant effort into my Druid (currently my main) and my Paladin (a former main), while getting bored of my Shaman incredibly fast. This is quite disappointing, since I put a fair amount of money into him, getting epic flying and dual spec. If I would have known that I wasn’t going to stick with it, I most definitely wouldn’t have spent that extra 6000 gold.

This time I’m doing things a bit differently. When I leveled my first Shaman, I had done it as Elemental with a Resto offspec, with the heirloom shoulders only. This time I’m doing it as Enhancement with no current offspec (but will eventually do a Resto offspec), with both the heirloom shoulders and chest, as well as two heirloom maces. I had gotten to the early 30s without any heirlooms, since I was waiting to transfer things over from the old server, and even while doing that I found it to be incredibly fun.

Once I was able to get the heirlooms over, along with patch 4.0.1 hitting, I went from doing decently to hitting like a truck. I was able to kill elites who were four levels higher than me and barely needing to heal myself afterwards. I’m currently level 44 going between Tanaris and Feralas, and still having a great deal of fun. So far the only thing that I’m not particularly liking is the lack of cleansing. I miss being able to have a poison and disease cleanse while being Enhancement, which made leveling even easier.

Blizzard recently announced some changes to damage dealt at the lower levels, as they say it’s currently a little overpowered. As much as I hate to say this, I agree completely. That being said, I’m certainly not complaining about it at all. As long as I can continue to solo elites, I’ll be one very happy person.

Trying the Shaman again was a big experiment. I wanted to have a character who was versatile and not locked in to one role, but was able to do well at whatever spec I chose. Enhancement is definitely a winner in the new talent tree revamp. This experiment has gone well, and I look forward to continuing it.

Melee state of mind

For the longest time, I was always the same type of character when I played any game. If there was a magic-dealing ranged class, that was me. I was your typical “mage”-class player, for my gaming career up until about three years ago. It was then that I seem to have had a bit of a shift in my mindset of what I enjoy, and I learned to love melee classes.

My very first MMO was a game called Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds (which is pretty much dead by all accounts now). It’s a standard 2.5D top-down RPG where you do the normal stuff: you level up, you kill stuff, you quest, you gain levels, you grow in power. My very first character was a healer, and when I got bored of that, my main character ended up being a mage. I got fairly powerful (by standards of the day), but never near the top of the power listings. I enjoyed being able to blow things up from afar, trying to stay away from those who would tear me apart.

When I started World of Warcraft, my first character was a Druid. I had no clue how to properly play the game at the time, and somehow ended up speccing into the Balance tree. This was back in Vanilla, while the trees were still very broken, and I stopped playing for a while. When I came back, I re-rolled as a Mage, and once again was loving it. I could shoot stuff from my hands, blow things up, and still be far enough away that I (hopefully) shouldn’t die. When we re-rolled to Vek’nilash, my first Horde character was an Orc Warlock, and the time of bliss continued.

It was when Burning Crusade released that things started to change. I had decided to re-roll as a Paladin to help the guild out with class balance, and through the process of leveling up I found out that being a melee class wasn’t so bad after all. I may get hit more often, but there were ways to accomodate that. Once I had hit level 70, I did my time as a healer, so I returned to the back of the raid with my healy hands.

I forget when exactly through Burning Crusade that my wife started to play, but it was at that time that I rolled a Druid to level up with her new Shaman. I specced into Feral, since I read that it was the best one for leveling, and thus began my time as full-time melee. We did quite well while leveling, as long as one of us reminded the other when our health or mana was low. All in all, the process to get to level 70 was quite fun and easy.

I tore things up as a cat, and I got hit in the face as a bear. Through Wrath, I’ve been able to be near or at the top of the charts for DPS, while mastering a very complicated rotation (JFM, anyone?). It gives me a great deal of satisfaction that I can do something well, while still having fun. Going from 70 to 80 was a breeze, and I rarely had to get help for group quests or elite mobs.

To this day, I still have my Feral Druid as my main character, and I plan on keeping it that way for a while. Until the class isn’t fun anymore, I finally found something that I can enjoy and stay competetive in a raid environment.

It’s amazing what happens when you give something a try, isn’t it?

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