Shifting Perspectives: Druid changes in the Legion expansion

Welcome to Shifting Perspectives, Blizzard Watch’s (semi-)regular column for druids of all specs. We’re still working on hiring permanent Druid columnists. No, really. Until then, you got me. The guy who launched the column in 2007.

The Legion Druid class preview has dropped and confirmed a number of things we learned earlier in the week at the BlizzCon Darkmoon Faire class session. Cat and Tree Druids are getting small tweaks, Bears are moving away from dodge to get closer to their class fantasy, and Moonkin are finally losing the dreaded Eclipse mechanic. In addition, Druids are finally getting a well thought-out way to shift into one of their other forms mid-battle and still be effective in the form of Affinity talents. What does this mean for the Druid class? Let’s dig in.

Shapeshifting done right

I’m excited for the new Affinity talents for a number of reasons. To recap, when you choose a spec you will be presented with a row of three Affinity talents to choose from consisting of the other three Druid specs. For example, a Resto Druid will be presented with the choice of the Balance Affinity, Feral Affinity, and Guardian Affinity talent. The Druid can then activate the chosen talent to shift into that form with access to many of that spec’s core abilities and be much more effective than if they shifted the traditional way. How effective? We don’t have numbers yet, but any non-Guardian Druid should be able to effectively off-tank as necessary according to @warcraftdevs:

As a healer in a raid, you’ll likely not be shifting forms mid-battle, but as a Cat Druid, being able to step in to tank an add or as a Moonkin being able to pump out some emergency healing can be critical in preventing a wipe. And, honestly, this is one of the reasons I originally rolled a Druid: To be fluid in the role I take given the situation. These new Affinity talents allow me to do just that. Note, however, that you won’t be able to shift every time your rotation is up:

This will replace Heart of the Wild.

legion-cat-feral-druid-header

In addition, the chosen Affinity talent confers a permanent passive buff that is present no matter what form you’re in:

Become a Watcher
  • Balance Affinity – Astral Influence: Increases the range of all spells, abilities, and autoattacks by 5 yds.
  • Feral Affinity – Feline Swiftness: Increases movement speed by 15%.
  • Guardian Affinity – Thick Hide: Reduces all damage taken by 10%.
  • Restoration Affinity – Ysera’s Gift: Constantly heals the Druid, or allies when the Druid is at full health.

So if you are that Tree Druid who isn’t going to be using the shapeshifting function of your Affinity talent in a raid, you can still benefit from Balance Affinity’s extended range or Feral Affinity’s increased movement speed. Yes, these abilities are already in the game, but they do give the Affinity talents an extra feature if you aren’t interested in the shapeshifting part.

The other reason I’m excited about Affinity talents is it gives us a way to fill a secondary role without having to take a secondary spec. I’m very fond of the dual spec system (or tri-spec or quad-spec that have been promised in Legion), but the problem with the expansion is the introduction of our class specific Artifacts. These new spec-based weapons will require a great deal of effort to level over the course of the expansion and while I would love to have one for all four Druid specs, that doesn’t seem likely given what we’ve learned about them so far. There has been promise of a way to catch up if you decide to change your main spec during the expansion, but with the Affinity talents we can focus on one Artifact and still be effective in a secondary role.

Balance Druids

The Eclipse mechanic has been broken since it was first introduced, honestly, and the latest iteration is probably its worse. Thankfully the devs are scrapping it altogether and going with a system that is giving Moonkin more control. The new system looks straight-forward with resource builders and resource spenders based on the fantasy of calling down the stars from the sky.

While we haven’t seen all the abilities and talents, one concern is that Moonfire and Sunfire will not generate the Astral Power needed to cast the big spells, Starsurge and Starfall, which are tied into the new Mastery: Starlight. Moonkin will have to focus on their two nukes, Lunar Strike and Solar Wrath, to build the new resource and not just spam DOTs. Finally, only Balance Druids will have Innervate now.

Feral Druids

While the devs are happy with the spec and are just applying small tweaks, the community is concerned that the lack of effective AOE damage is still not being addressed. Certain encounters (Blast Furnace, anyone?) are all about AOE damage for the DPS specs. While not all specs can be good at all things, a little more love in the AOE department wouldn’t hurt. This could possibly be addressed in the new talent system being rolled out, so we’ll wait and see where this one goes.

With the introduction of the Affinity talents, we may also see the long awaited return of the mighty bearcat. Though note that cat’s current ability to use Rejuvenation will be removed from the spec, but Predatory Swiftness will remain.

wow-legion-druid-guardian-bear-header

Guardian Druids

The dancing circus bear image implied by the Agility-fueled Dodge mechanic prevalent in bear tanks will finally be put to rest. With Dodge off the table, new abilities will help deal with incoming damage such as Ironfur and Mark of Ursol as well as a revamped Frenzied Regeneration that feeds into the Mastery: Nature’s Mastery. Fury will be built primarily from auto attacks and Mangle. Bonus: bear tanks get to keep Moonfire as a pulling and filler spell. There’s even a talent that procs Moonfire off your damage ticks including bleed damage.

Restoration Druids

Tree Druids are getting very few tweaks: mostly just a change to their Mastery. The current Mastery: Harmony gives the Druid a 10% boost to direct healing and a 20 sec 10% boost to HOTs when a direct heal is cast. Druids just have to make sure to fire off a direct heal every 20 seconds to keep the uptime on their HOT boost from dropping off. The revised version of Mastery: Harmony is a little more complicated but potentially more powerful, giving you a 10% boost to healing for each HOT already on the target.

This could be huge when you have stacked HOTs on a tank (Rejuvenation + Regrowth + Lifebloom + Wild Growth + maybe Efflorescence). If you have no HOTs on a target, there’s no boost when casting a single target heal, but you will get one on the first HOT you cast:

Hopefully Efflorescence will proc the new Mastery so you can have a group stand in the circle and know you’ll get the healing boost on that group. We’ll know more when the beta launches and we see how everything interconnects.

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