Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Future of Bears

Bears saw little new in Wrath of Lich King as far as active abilities are concerned, retaining the Burning Crusade approach to single and multi-mob tanking strategy.  Here are some changes that I would like to see made to bears for Cataclysm.  This isn't supposed to be a call for buffs (although they are welcome), I just want Druid tanking to be more interesting.

AOE Tanking Fixes
I have a couple ideas for making Bear AOE tanking more effecting and more interesting.

Mangle Procs
A proc could be added to Mangle to encourage its use in AOE tanking situations.  Naturally, this proc would need to more than make up for the missed Swipe opportunity.  I have two ideas for this:
  1. The proc makes your next Maul a 360 degree AOE,
  2. or the proc buffs your next Swipe in some way.  It could just do a straight buff to damage or add a bleed component.  A bleed effect would also interact with Mangle's buff to bleed damage.  This would make bleeds be the Bear Druid's 'thing.'.
More after the cut.

    I had an idea to change Swipe to be an on-next-attack ability.  This would free the Bear to use other abilities, and give Bears a single target and an AOE rage dump.  This would also differentiate Druids from Warriors, and free up a glyph slot since Bears probably wouldn't feel the need for Glyph of Maul anymore.

    An idea I like better would be for a Swipe Glyph that whenever you dodge an attack, your next Swipe on that target does increased damage.  I currently have ~40% dodge, and if the buff was 50%, this would average out to a 20% buff over time.  Furthermore, this would help with the threat starvation that can occur with gear scaling for rage-based tanks.

    It should be noted that I'm not asking for all of these ideas to be implemented.  They are all just separate approaches to remedy the issue or boring AOE tanking.  Ideally, I would like it if I had a better lead on my DPSers in AOE situations and if I had the privelage of using other abilities while doing so.  I think a combination of one of the Mangle procs and one of the Swipe buffs would be ideal.  That would certainly overpower Druid tanks, but when a new expansion comes around, that allows the developers to juggle various ability coefficients around to make things work nicely.

    I have several issues with Thorns. To sum up, it becomes worse as I gear, and at a frightening rate.  It doesn't scale with Attack Power, the Bear's damage scaling stat, but it does scale with Spell Power.  Now, this isn't an issue if you have a Resto or Balance druid who's willing to cast it on you.  However, if you don't, maximizing the utility of thorns requires carrying around Spell Power gear, switching it on, casting Thorns, switching it off, then healing yourself for the all the health you lost in the process.  :(   As a matter of fact, as the Bear gets better gear, Thorns scales down, because the Druid is hit less often.

    So I first suggest that Attack Power scaling be made to Thorns in some way.  Whether it's built into the baseline spell, through a talent, included in Bear Form (look at Shadowform), or a new version of Thorns that scales with Attack Power and doesn't stack with the current version (Wild Thorns).  I would just like for Thorns to reward my collecting of new gear.

    On the same note, I would like it if Thorns didn't scale negatively with my Dodge%.  Perhaps there could be a talent (or glyph or something) that when you dodge, there is a chance to build up charges of some sort that will buff the next Thorns proc.  After all, wouldn't it make sense for a Bear to benefit more from Thorns than the other tanks?

    I actually created a Suggestion Forum thread on this topic that received some pretty good feedback (better than I was expecting, I figured nobody would care).  The major concern regarding this is in PVP, where Rogues apparently have trouble with Druids.  I say, "Bah! Who cares." but some people apparently do.  That's enough about Thorns.

    Other Things:
    These are some other suggestions aimed at making Bears more interesting and differentiating them from the other tanks (specifically Warriors).

    Bears are scary, are they not?  So why then, do Bears not have an effect that is based on this quality.  Sure, they have Demoralizing Roar, but that is simply a copy of Demoralizing Shout.  I don't want them to have a fear effect, but I like the idea of the Bear being very scary, causing the enemies to do less damage through intimidation.  There could be another 'Roar' that reduces damage done by all enemies by a small percent for a small duration.  This could be used for when bosses do large AOE bursts.

    Another idea, although not much related to the 'scariness' concept, is adding an effect to Bash to make is useful against bosses, where it causes the target to do less damage for a period, likely a small amount of damage reduction for a short time.  Here, we take an existing ability and change it to be useful for bosses.  These two ideas reflect a possibility for Bear tanks to not only help mitigate damage to themselves, but also to mitigate damage to the party/raid.
      Shove?  Drag?
      One of the problems that Bear tanks face is the inability to deal with situations where there are two or more casters/ranged and nobody else can silence/interrupt.  It's a rare situation, but it happens, and it's inconvenient to rely on others to do your dirty work.  However, Blizzard has said that they don't want to simply give all tanks the same toolkit, so a ranged silence probably won't ever come.  But what if a Bear could shove or drag a mob to the position where they want them?  I have a few iterations on this idea.

      My first idea involved charging through the enemy and carrying them with you.  But the inexplicit distance covered could be an issue that makes the ability imprecise.  Then I had the same idea in reverse, the bear drags the melee range target backwards, but that felt even worse.

      My second idea involved targeting an enemy and then placing an AOE like targeting area on the ground.  This would make the Bear charge the targeted area and drag those enemies to the targeted enemy.  I also had the idea in reverse, where the targeted enemy would be carried to the targeted area.  These last two ideas seemed too complicated to be practical/easily usable.

      Then I had my moment of inspiration.  Gal'darah.  I've ended up running Gun'drak as one of my instances everyday it seems since the Dungeon Finder was released.  So my final version of the idea is one where the Bear picks up a melee range target, similar to what Gal'darah does, and the Druid is free to move them around for a period of time.  How long the ability lasts, whether or not any damage is done, cooldown, cost, whether or not the target is incapacitated are not things for me to debate/derive.  I love the flavor of this idea, and it doesn't seem much more dangerous (in a game-mechanic sens) than the various existing knockback effects.

      There are several ways that Bear could be improved or made more interesting.  These include allowing Mangle to have an affect on a Bear's AOE tanking, encouraging its use, and allowing dodge% help to combat the difficulty of producing threat at higher avoidance levels.  There are also areas in Bear themes that haven't fully been fleshed out, such as how scary Bears are, or the possibility that a Bear could carry something in its mouth while still moving.  I will now leave you with an ability idea that makes me drool, but will probably never happen.

      Feral Fury
      Some sort of cooldown. 
      Gives the Druid the benefits of Bear and Cat form, including those benefits that come from talents for the duration.  This would allow Feral PVPers to sport a nice defensive cooldown w/o leaving Cat Form, and it would allow Feral Tanks a nice DPS boost without sacrificing survivability.  Just imagine tanking a boss in Cat Form for a while.

      Ah, but I can dream...