Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Final Class Grades: Cataclysm

We're at that time ladies and gents. Dragon Soul is slowly but surely becoming old hat, the stories have been told, and we're starting to hit the pre-expansion doldrums with full force. Cataclysm is nearing its end and there's no escaping that truth. In spirit of this truth, Tzufit from Tree Heals Go Woosh has set up a post asking, in so little words, how fellow bloggers would grade the changes that their character(s) have experienced in this expansion. Check out the original post here. I may or may not skip a few questions, just because I'm lazy like that!

I'm actually going to talk about my two favorite classes/specs in this post, those being enhancement shaman and feral (dps) druid. Feel free to agree or disagree with any of my points, for these are my opinions as I see them at this point in time.

Do you feel that your class is better (in that it is more fun to play, more effective, etc.) now than it was at the end of Wrath?  Do you feel that your class is better now than it was at the beginning of Cataclysm?

Enhancement: In a lot of ways, yes yes and yes. At the end of Wrath we were plagued with poorly itemized gear (Armor Pen), semi-wonky synergy with our spells, and reeeeally low survivability thanks to an oddly smallish health pool. Thankfully Cataclysm helped to level out health pools, improved upon spell synergy (I still hate Searing Totem though), and Blizz gave us that tasty stat called mastery. AoE at the end of Wrath was alright for this spec, not stellar but I managed to hold my own just fine for the raids I was participating in. With the Cataclysm changes though enhancement became rather frustrating, at least with 4.2 (I missed most of patch 4.1). I loathed AoE situations, especially when the mobs had low HP. I also felt that despite my decent gear, it was much easier to put our numbers with my lesser geared feral. With 4.3 we saw a drastic change with enhancement's AoE system though, and while it's far from perfect (four globals, minus a possible totem switch, to let off ONE pulse of AoE? Granted, it's pretty OP) it's a far cry from the juggling crap we had to deal with in 4.2. I'm definitely finding myself enjoying the current play style of enhancement, regardless of minor tweaks I'd still like to see with the spec.

Feral: Wrath cat > Cata cat. In Wrath feral was a pain in the furry butt. In order to perform well, you had to juggle crazy things such as the ArP cap, crit rating (I think I had 60% or so unbuffed at the end of Wrath, and my druid wasn't all that geared), and an INSANE dps rotation. I loved it. If you could juggle your stats and rotation priority, you could dominate nearly every fight. For Cataclysm Blizzard eased up on the rotational difficulty for kitty. Instead of being okay and pulling mediocre numbers or being a perfectionist and pulling ridiculous numbers, you now can choose between being okay and pulling okay numbers or being a perfectionist and pulling okay numbers. Feral does okay on all single target fights save for Ultraxion (thanks Blizzard for tossing an unobtainable positional requirement on that one), semi-almost okay on target switch fights, and really "meh" on AoE fights thanks to swipe nerfs and severe energy starvation. I love feral to bits, I really do, but my cat has seen very little love in Dragon Soul thanks to the frustrations of playing the class currently. I'm definitely looking forward to what changes that may come around in Mists of Pandaria.

Did you switch mains during Cataclysm?  If so, why did you make that choice?

I considered it during Firelands. My druid has always been my next-in-line choice behind my shaman, and honestly I was having a lot more fun as a cat than as enhancement during 4.2. However, I'm glad I stuck to my main of 5+ years, as she's now a blast to play in Dragon Soul.

What were your class’/spec’s strengths throughout Cataclysm?  What were its weaknesses?

Enhancement: Consistent damage and while some of our buff utility has been stripped away thanks to class homogenization, we still do bring flexibility to a raid  where buffs are concerned. I've already touched on how for a good chunk of this expansion one of enhancement's biggest weaknesses was the class's lack of AoE viability. Now? AoE is one of our strengths, provided of course that the mobs live long enough. While we're still missing out on an on-demand single-target dps cooldown (wolves have been nerfed substantially due to PvP OPness issues), we do provide decent and consistent single target damage.

Feral: Strengths include raid flexibility (kitty/bear tanking), decent burst with cooldowns, and amazing mobility.  Weaknesses are sustained (keyword here) AoE, slow ramp up times, and energy starvation. The slow ramp up times cause some fairly serious issues with target switching. Getting to different targets in a quick fashion is not at all an issue, losing refreshes on bleed up time, having to start from square one with ALL of our bleeds (often without cooldowns up since TF is used when available/low energy), and no ability to switched gained combo points during immediate target switches, thus wasting precious energy. Cata cat is a different sort of juggle from Wrath, and unfortunately the Cata raid-target swap juggle yields very little satisfaction for even the best of executions.

Did you enjoy the addition of the mastery stat?  What did you like about it, or, what would you change?

For both of my favorite specs I absolutely LOVED the addition of mastery. Sure, I miss ArP as a feral, but over all I approve greatly of this stat. It's potent without necessarily making damage *too* over powered even if one stacks it pretty heavily, which for both characters I do. Alright, so my shaman's AoE might be disgusting with the addition of mastery, what of it? Let me have my fun!

Is your class easier or harder for a fresh 85 to learn now than it was at the end of Wrath?  Is this a good or a bad thing?

Enhancement: In some respects I think it is quite a bit more difficult for a new level 85 to learn how to play this spec well. Don't get me wrong, you can faceroll with enhancement and still achieve decent numbers, but to properly watch everything this spec has going on (Searing Totem timers, Flame Shock DoT, CD timers, weaving in Earth Shock, survival CDs, pet targets for both wolves and Searing totem ect) can take a few choice tracking addons and a bit of skill. Personally I think it's a good thing. I enjoy a more challenging priority system. If I didn't, I'd go play an arcane mage.

Feral: So much easier. You can completely flub your rotation, bleed/Savage Roar up times, and still manage to come out okay, provided you aren't purely auto swinging. I suppose in a way this is an okay way to play if you're new to the game, but as an ex-Wrath kitty, I miss having to force myself to play at an insane skill level in order to pull amazing dps. Forcing myself to properly execute everything with my rotation, only to have someone faceroll next to me and only do slightly less dps doesn't compel me to put more time into learning the ins and outs of my character or to spend more time on her. Easier game play only makes me want to faceroll on her once a week and leaves me bored. Again, if I wanted easy game play I'd level up my mage already and play her as arcane.

Overall, do you enjoy the playstyle of your class more now, at the end of Cataclysm, than you did prior to patch 4.0 at the end of Wrath?  Why or why not?

Enhancement: Yes. This is partially due to improved class mechanics and in part due to my heavier involvement with the inner workings of the class itself. I'll freely admit I was still a bit of a noob at the end of Wrath and I wasn't aware of a lot of things. I hit things with axes/maces, and I was happy. Not having to rely on Searing Totem's horrible AI and being able to AoE off of our fire totem was nice, even if it was far from ideal for our elemental brothers and sisters. While not all of our current mechanics are perfect, our current play style isn't terrible either. For now I shall be happy with what we have and continue to blow up bad pixels in a PvE environment!

Feral: No, sadly. The decrease in difficulty (re: all the QQ in this post) has killed a lot of my love for this class's play style. I still love being feral, love the shape shifting aspect of it and the fluid physical movements of the cat model, and the mobility of the spec. The low potential damage out put and fight-based viability is a bit soul-crushing to me though. I'm really hoping for good things in MoP for this spec. I want to see more glory for all of the raiding ferals everywhere!

So there you have it folks, my opinions on the state of enhancement and feral dps at the end of Cataclysm. Disagree? Wish to talk about the class of your choice? You should do so, and when you're finished you should send a link to your article to Tzufit. If you missed the link to the original post and are to lazy to scroll back up through this post, here's another one. Let the blogging world know what your thoughts on this expansion are!

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