Warlords of Draenor Alpha Notes: First Impressions

warlords of draenor

Wow it has been a while hasn’t it? My last blog post was back in September. I apologize for the lack of updates or responses to comments. I’ve been quite busy with my personal life between work and school. I had even taken a small break from the game about 2 months ago, but now I’m back and fully-committed!

So what exactly has happened between my last blog post and now? Well, a whole boatload of information has been tossed our way. The new World of Warcraft expansion “Warlords of Draenor” is seemingly upon us and soon we will be experiencing Outland….before it became Outland!

Blizzcon dumped some information on us, but more recently, the Alpha patch notes were released with a whole bunch of changes that are noteworthy. You can find the full list here at the official website. I’ll be going over changes that are relevant to Druids, both of the Balance and Restoration variety.

Stat Squish

In order to bring things down to an understandable level, we’ve reduced the scale of stats throughout the game, back to as if they continued scaling linearly through questing content from levels 1 to 90. This applies to creatures, spells, abilities, consumables, gear, other items… everything. Your stats and damage have been reduced by a huge amount, but so have creatures’ health.

We’ll have smaller health pools, mana pools, and the numbers we see from damaging/healing abilities will be smaller, but we’ll still “feel” powerful relative to our level. Older content is going through the same squish, so you shouldn’t notice any difference compared to now. Smaller numbers tend to be easier to understand. It’s also good to know that you’ll be able to solo older content just as easily as you do now.

Raid Utility

Various classes bring various abilities that provide utility to parties and raids. We talked about one type of utility in the Buffs and Debuffs section, above. However, there are other types of raid utility, and it’s been in need of more attention. In general, raid utility, especially raid-wide defensive cooldowns, had grown too strong. So many classes and specializations had defensive cooldowns that we had to make raid damage extremely high, as raids would be stacking or chaining together multiple cooldowns. We’d like to return to a system where it’s the healers who heal through the scary moments, not the damage dealers, for example.

Druids

  • Tranquility is now only available to Restoration Druids.

This was needed. The amount of raid cooldowns available to non-healer roles was getting far out of hand and were essentially stepping on the healers toes. Everyone should bring meaningful utility, but not at the expense of trivializing another role. Non-Resto Tranquility was one of the worst offenders here since when paired with Heart of the Wild, it was just as powerful as a Restoration version. Yes, the cooldown was fairly long, but it allowed you to bring less healers on a few encounters. Let the healers worry about the raid’s survival, that’s their job.

Retuning Healing Spells

To that end, we’re buffing heals less than we’re increasing player health. Heals will be deliberately less potent compared to health pools than before the item squish. Additionally, as gear improves, the scaling rates of health and healing will now be very similar, so the relative power of any given healing spell shouldn’t climb so much over the course of this expansion. For those concerned about what this means for raiding, don’t worry—we’re taking all of these changes into account when designing Raid content for Warlords of Draenor.

Welcome back to triage healing! Many people consider the triage healing of early Cataclysm to be a nightmare, but not I. I absolutely loved it. It was full of decision-making. This should be what healing is about, making smart decisions. SoO healing is probably the worst tier I’ve ever healed in terms of enjoyment. It’s just not fun to spam your biggest heal 100% of the time without any repercussion.

Absorbs are also being toned down and the amount of instant-cast heals are being reduced. Wild Growth got hit with a 1.5 second cast-time, but I’m not too worried about it.

Periodic Effects

Ultimately, we’ve decided that snapshotting isn’t a productive mechanic for the game. The vast majority of periodic effects in the game that snapshotted no longer do so. The only exceptions are ones that do damage based on a percentage of a previous ability’s damage (such as the Ignite from a Fire Mage’s Fireball, or the periodic damage on a Windwalker Monk’s Blackout Kick), as they inherently act as a delayed damage multiplier to those abilities.Temporary effects which buff the damage or healing of other spells specifically will continue to do so for their lifetime; for example, Unleash Flame (which increases the damage of the shaman’s next fire spell by 40%), when used on a Flame Shock, will continue to increase the damage of the periodic effect for its entire lifetime, despite being consumed when the Flame Shock is cast.

  • Periodic damage and healing effects now dynamically recalculate their damage, healing, Critical chance, multipliers, and period on every tick.

A couple spells actually already update dynamically (Efflorescence, Healing Rain, etc.), this is just applying it to all periodic damage and healing abilities. While snapshotting added some level of “depth” to gameplay, it wasn’t necessarily skillful as addons typically told you when to use those abilities. In WoD, there will still be a level of attention needed even with the removal of snapshotting. You’ll still want to cast Starsurge or Pyroblast during those stat procs. It’s worth noting that a few exceptions still exist for snapshotting, Eclipse damage bonus being one of them.

This also opened up the opportunity to revise how we handle refreshing periodic effects. For the vast majority of spells and abilities, we had a standard rule that any refresh would add the new cast’s duration after the next tick of the existing effect. In simpler terms, you can refresh anywhere between the last and second-to-last tick of a DoT or HoT with no loss. Warlocks had a special passive that changed this logic to allow refreshing with no loss anywhere in the last 50% of a DoT. We liked the flexibility that this provided; though felt it was a bit too powerful. No longer tied to whole tick times, we chose to extend the mechanic that Warlocks had to all classes, but reduce it to 30%. Everyone can now refresh their periodic effects anywhere in the last 30% of the duration for full benefit, and no lost tick time.

  • Recasting periodic damage over time and healing over time effects that are already on the target now extends those effects to up to 130% of the normal duration of the effect.

This reduces the DPS loss of DoT/HoT overriding, which I am completely guilty. Rather than having to wait until right before the last tick goes out, you can refresh it a couple of seconds before instead without worry of a DPS/HPS loss.

One other thing I wanted to mention: There are no more Haste breakpoints. None. Zero. Zip. Gone. To make Haste more valuable to classes that may lean heavier on DoTs/HoTs they added “partial ticks” to the end of every duration. Your spells will still tick faster with Haste. This is also calculated dynamically if you get a Haste proc.

Now to the actual class changes for Druids:

Druid

  • Enrage has been removed.
  • Innervate has been removed. Mana costs for Druids have been adjusted accordingly.
  • Mangle (Cat Form) has been removed. Mangle (Bear Form) remains unchanged.
  • Nourish has been removed.
  • Shred is now available to all Druids.
  • Swipe (Bear Form) has been removed. Swipe (Cat Form) remains unchanged.
  • Symbiosis has been removed.

Symbiosis being removed it not surprising as the ability was too complicated. Nourish being removed is also no surprise. It was never used outside of low-level dungeons. I wasn’t expecting Innervate to be removed, however, in a recent update of Alpha notes they may be trying out some active mana regen mechanic that includes a new version of Innervate. Stay tuned for that.

  • 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).

This is a new cooldown available with the removal of Symbiosis.

Overall, we are happy with Balance’s rotation, however there are a few tweaks coming through Draenor Perks. With the changes to Periodic Effects, we’re slightly modifying Eclipse to allow it to retain the gameplay it had before.

  • Eclipse now increases the damage of all Nature spells (or Arcane, depending on which Eclipse state is active) cast while it is active. This means that for example: a Moonfire cast during Eclipse will receive the Eclipse benefit through its whole duration, even after leaving Eclipse. The reverse also holds true; a Moonfire cast before entering Eclipse will not benefit from that Eclipse until it is recast.

This just explains the intent of allowing Eclipse to continue snapshotting Moonfire and Sunfire.

Balance Draenor Perks:

Allowing Starfall to hit an additional target is a boon for our cleave ability. The other big change is to our AoE. Wild Mushroom is making a comeback and in possibly a big way. The way they interact with Hurricane/Astral Storm to increase in damage could be quite potent. The other big change is how Hurricane/Astral Storm now generate Balance Power to keep our rotation “going”. A big problem Balance has is when we stop to channel our AoE, we end up stalling our rotation and it’s slow to pick back up again. This could be the solution we’ve been looking for.

Restoration Druids got a few changes as well. In Patch 5.4, a Glyph was introduced where you could choose to attach your Efflorescence to Wild Mushroom, instead of to Swiftmend. That was a rousing success, taken by nearly all Restoration Druids, and felt like a much better situation to us, so we decided to remove the glyph choice, and bake it in permanently. Secondly, while we are fine with the playstyle where a Restoration Druid blankets their Raid in Rejuvenations, the Swift Rejuvenation passive made that too strong, and also limited their scaling with Haste. We removed that passive, to encourage using other spells more, but still allow Rejuvenation blanketing as a playstyle choice.

  • Swift Rejuvenation has been removed.
  • Swiftmend no longer causes Efflorescence. Instead, Wild Mushroom (Restoration) now causes Efflorescence to appear at the mushroom’s location.

Glyph of Efflorescence is baked in baseline now. No surprise there. The removal of Swift Rejuvenation came as a surprise, but I can understand their reasoning.

Restoration Draenor Perks:

Rejuvenation is getting bumped to 15 seconds. This will be fairly signficicant to our output and somewhat offsets the loss of Swift Rejuvenation. Ironbark is getting more utility which is awesome. It’s now somewhat of a pseudo Pain Suppression/Guardian Spirit where it will reduce damage and increase healing done to the target. Living Seed is getting a bump in effectiveness, but I don’t see it being a huge boon for our output.

Overall I’d say I’m cautiously optimistic about the changes. There are definitely things they have greatly improved upon, but I’m still skeptical about some talent changes. Speaking of talent changes, I’ll be going over those in a future post since the talents will likely change 50 times before we hit Live. For now take a look at them over at Wowhead.

4 Responses

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  1. If you pvp cyclone now DRs with fear so no lock/ priest will be a viable comp anymore.

    1. I think we’ll see further changes to Cyclone, maybe a duration increase to counter the new DR with Fear. It being undispellable without a Mass Dispel still makes it quite powerful. As always, this is Alpha, so there will likely be future changes.

  2. Nice post, great to see you’re back again :)

    1. Thanks! It’s great to be back!

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