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Feral Druid State on Shadowlands Alpha - Spell Changes, Covenant Abilities, Bloodtalons
16.06.2020 um 02:23
Feedback and opinions on the state of Feral Druid on the Shadowlands Alpha including spell changes, covenant abilities, Bloodtalons and more!
Feral, long the whipping boy of the WoW community and the butt of many jokes, the eternal meme regardless of whether it deserves it or not. Feral in Shadowlands hasn't received a whole bunch of changes but it's received some - good, bad and middling. The content to test feral in has been limited due to the alpha state of Shadowlands but Torghast has been available as have some dungeons and some questing content.
Initial Disclaimer: There's still much that hasn't been tested, we've seen almost nothing of the Soulbind or conduit system, let alone the legendary system, and based on the recent splurge of posts it's pretty clear that Blizzard aren't done with class changes. There has been a lot of negativity in the feral community, some justified and some unjustified, so the aim of the article isn't to tell people what to think or how to feel about the changes but instead to facilitate discussion and to put across how I feel about the changes to a class that i am exceptionally passionate about.
About the Author
Some of you may already know who I am, but for those who don't:
Hi, My name is Guiltyas, I have played feral for a number of years and for some unknown reason I'm extremely passionate about it. I'm highly active in the
, I write the
here on Wowhead and I have somehow tricked <Pure> on Turalyon into trialing me as a Feral druid going into Shadowlands.
In addition to all of that you can find me on
(where I occasionally publish a feral related podcast),
(where i will be extremely opinionated about all kinds of subjects) and infrequently
(much of the alpha testing that my opinions here are based on can be found VODed there).
After all that waffle I'm sure anyone reading will want to get into the actual Feral talk.
What has Changed
For a full list of all the Druid changes currently on Shadowlands Alpha there's a handy list of all datamining up to this point that can be found
Base Druid Changes
- Has been added as a baseline spell for all Druid Specs, I don't think this will be particularly impactful in PvE but there are some fringe cases it might be useful, no complaints about this change.
- Has been added as a baseline spell for all Druid Specs, I've discussed this in more detail in a later section!
- Has been added as a baseline spell for all Druid Specs, much like
. I don't think this change does much but I'm not going to complain about it!
Feral Druid Changes
- Now only has a single charge and a 3 minute cooldown, I've discussed my feelings on this and the Barkskin change above in more detail below.
Feral Talent Changes
- has been redesigned. It now affects your next two finishers and procs after casting Rake, Thrash, and Shred within 3 seconds of each other, I've discussed this in detail below but for those who dislike reading, I quite like this new design!
Affinities now have additional utility effects attached to them, I think that this is a good step but I've discussed my thoughts more below.
- Now grants
- Now grants
- Now grants
Herz der Wildnis
- Has been added as a Talent where Typhoon once was, My thoughts on this are connected strongly to my thoughts on the affinity changes, I quite like it but I do think it could be better. I've discussed this in more detail below.
Covenant abilities being the new central power system of Shadowlands it will likely have big impact on the state of classes. We've only seen the surface of system so far which presents itself in 2 abilities you obtain from signing on with each covenant: a generic utility ability and a class specific combat ability.
I'm sure anyone following the discourse around Shadowlands will be aware of some of the issues that people have raised with the wide system so i'll avoid harping on about it past this one statement, not being able to swap covenants at all is an awful system that actively punishes anyone who wants to participate in multiple aspects of the game with almost no redeeming benefit. It is awful and it should change.
So onto my thoughts about the actual abilities themselves.
- This is by far and away the most boring of any of the covenant abilities. It's a boring 1 minute CD stat increase. I cannot stress how dull of an addition it is. While it conjures images of a better time (Symbiosis) in actual fact it's a fairly one dimensional ability that grants an uninteresting stat bonus. To add onto how boring of an ability it is it also has some issues, I think we learned way back in Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm that single person buffs that increase power just cause drama in raids (Hello Hysteria and Dark Intent).
- To add onto an exceedingly boring class ability comes an exceedingly boring Covenant ability. The main combat part of this is a flask that will heal you for a portion of your health and remove bleeds, poisons, and diseases. It also gives you access to a talent changing station and a repair bot. I think the ability is fine and will probably be fairly useful on some fights. It's not very interesting or fun though.
- Stacking damage boost on a 3 minute CD, the Idle period can also be stacked by non combat abilities such as
, also has some extremely nice quality of life, if you are CCed while the buff is ticking down it will not trigger the negative effects from being Idle, Nothing too fascinating outside of that but it does give our rather lackluster CDs a bit more oomph.
- There's been a LOT of talk about this particular covenant ability and how "gamebreaking" it is. I definitely don't agree. I think it's super overrated and has super limited combat value, especially on a spec like Feral with such high baseline mobility. There's no such thing as too much mobility but there certainly is such a thing as diminishing returns on your mobility, the more mobility you have the less you need more, and I think this lands solidly in that category (especially with a cast time attached).
- Fairly short CD DoT/HoT that also empowers your own DoTs/HoTs. Due to the way the CD and duration line up you can have 2 of these out for some multi-target value. I have the least strong feelings about this particular ability. it feels fine to play, and anything that boosts our DOT value is kind of A-okay in my book.
- I actually think that this is the best covenant ability for feral. The shield is pretty large baseline and you can make it even larger. The channel time is a bit annoying but it has a really long duration. It's not super flashy but it's more interesting than Kyrian
Konvokation der Geister
- I had some strong words about this Covenant when I tested it initially, since then it's been improved but it's still a bit of a mess. This ability casts 16 different druid spells in 4 seconds, now more strongly favoring your spec spells which is good, but the variance can still be frustrating. To make it worse it has other issues, it is a 4 second channel which is cancelled by moving, which for a spec that is a) melee and b) so mobile feels AWFUL, you would not believe the number of times that I cancelled it by melee strafing when testing it. I think the best way to think of this from a gameplay perspective is basically that it's a big
but it feels significantly worse than either of those abilities to use. Hopefully this is reiterated upon.
- Much like
this lands in the "do we really need this much mobility" category, and we kind of don't but this particular ability is a lot more interesting (who doesn't love a collection minigame). I actually also think this has more potential combat value than door of shadows due to it's Instant nature. Baseline however the form is about as fast as Travel form, so on outside fights we won't gain that much value from the movement speed.
The Elephant in the Room
The Elephant in the Room in this case is something that hasn't changed, and it is the number 1 thing that should change. It is a very large and a very loud Elephant and it has left metaphorical footprints in the metaphorical butter. For those who aren't sure what i might be referring to, the elephant is
. If i had one wish going into Shadowlands it would be changes to this particular talent.
has multiple problems, it is too strong, it takes away from the rotation, it's not enjoyable. Talents should add to a spec, they should improve it.
instead takes a functional and enjoyable baseline rotation and it subtracts from it. The definitive aspect of feral for most of it's existence has been
and maximizing the damage of your
is the polar opposite of that, instead it drives the majority of the damage budget into
, which has other side effects in terms of balance, impacting your choice in other areas of the talent tree.
In the last two expansions, feral has gone from two very different extremes, the early Legion feral (Spinning Plates), where you maintained 3 different dots and a maintenance buff, and the current BFA version of Feral where you maintain 1 dot and then build and spend on
. While personally I loved the Legion iteration it's understandable that it WAS an extreme, much like this iteration is also an extreme.
defines the entire talent tree due to it's strength, it makes taking the other talents in that row a monumental single target loss which can make AOE a difficult decision, do you want to do AOE with predator or do you want to be able to do Single Target. Even if you were to remove the 20% damage increase to
that is part of
, it would still be the best single target talent by a significant margin.
I understand that enjoyment is subjective but
is not a fun talent,
is a historical high point in the rotation, your bleeds are up and you get to spend your combo points on the big hitter.
dilutes that down to nonexistence, The rotation is so saturated with casting bite that it's no longer meaningful, and as you are biting so frequently damage has to be removed from other sources,
become less important and the high point of the big
is watered down.
Hopefully changes are coming to this particular row and this particular talent, because it is my number one problem with Feral both now and in Shadowlands.
has been redesigned, it now triggers when you've cast
within 3 seconds of each other, and affects your next two Finishers. The tooltip mentions
but it does also affect
. While I was a big proponent of the live Iteration of
, this changed version actually plays quite nicely and I've enjoyed playing it on Alpha.
This version of
drives pooling gameplay far better than the current iteration does. Pooling has historically been a core part of the feral play pattern, however anyone playing live feral will know that you have so much energy that the periods that you actually have to pool are almost extinct. This version of
actually enforces that gameplay pretty well, in order to have enough energy to cast all 3 abilities within 3 seconds you'll need to have high energy (or a
One of the complaints I thought that i would have is that it would feel clunky on AOE having to cast
. Fortunately the content available to test has plenty of AOE to try this out! It took a bit to get used to it but it actually plays fine. With the removal of
naturally falls out of the single target rotation and the value of
on AOE also drops. This means that on both AOE and single target 2 of the buttons are buttons you want to press regardless of
so you can think of the 3rd button (
) as being the "trigger".
One specific issue that I have seen is that if any of the abilities in this chain are parried or dodged or otherwise stopped then
won't trigger, this seems like a pretty clear bug to me rather than intentional design but nonetheless hopefully that gets fixed!
I still think that there is room for improvement here, as i think that the pooling being in the middle of a finisher cycle does feel a bit odd but the
change is fun to play and seems broadly positive.
Affinity Utility (and Heart of the Wild)
This section discusses two changes as they are strongly connected, Affinities now grant additional utility abilities on top of the abilities that they currently grant,
. There is also a new (returning) talent in place of where
Herz der Wildnis
Herz der Wildnis
empowers your currently selected Affinity and it is as far as i am aware the first time since the new talent system was implemented that an optional talent selection was dependent on what other talent you have selected.
This talent is fine, for Feral it's not too game breaking and it largely exists as a utility talent on the row. However, it does exist in a gray area where MAYBE on some fight it could be a throughput option when combined with
, which I am not a fan of. It seems like such a no brainer to me that this talent should instead be baseline. I've been shouting from the rooftops or to anyone that will listen that
should stay in this slot,
Herz der Wildnis
should be baseline and
should be the utility option offered by
, this would make so much more sense. It's bizarre that
stays as a Resto and Balance unique ability while
is now shared to all Druid specs.
As to the Affinities granting additional utility options, this is something I've suggested for a while so I'm very happy that they seem to have chosen to go this route and make affinities more than a glorified passive option.
This was one of my other big worries earlier in Alpha however in recent builds I'm more than happy with the changes that have been made.
now has 1 charge and a 3 minute Cooldown and
has been added as a baseline spell. This is a change from live where we have 2 charges of
on a 2 minute recharge.
I think in a significant number of situations the combination of
is a better defensive toolkit than the existing one. It allows you to use a smaller defensive frequently while also having a much larger defensive available if needed, or potentially if you combine both and
a monumental defensive (which is probably overkill in most situations!)
sucks. I'm not going to beat around the bush,
is an awful CD. It's a 3 minute CD, which to start off with is already awful, they typically line up badly with trinkets and raid mechanics and if they're too strong fight length defines your damage. To add onto being a 3 minute CD it's also just flat out a bad one, the damage impact from
has been smaller in the past than it is now that's true. That still doesn't make it a good CD, Over the years Feral has been band-aided with more and more energy and
has gotten worse and worse as a result. Honestly,it's also kind of just a boring CD as well, it's not really fun. There's no big damage point and you kind of just continue doing the same things you were outside of
just a little bit faster.
Part of the problem is that Burst is inherently more useful in a fight than sustained damage so being a class with an offensive CD that doesn't really do it's job is real bad. I could list a load of ideas I've seen or thought of myself for how
or Feral CDs could be changed but I think i would probably run out of space. As it is
is currently a better CD than
is so I hope this gets addressed because frankly,
8.1 added an AOE specific talent row to feral, consisting of
. The purpose of this row was to reduce or eliminate the need to choose between Single Target and AOE. The problem is however that only one of these talents gives any value on Single Target,
completely dominates the AOE portion of this talent row.
has potential to be good but it's been untouched and so it's stayed as a pretty bad option, I don't think it's been used once this expansion.
With the addition of AOE capping on Alpha this status quo has been enforced even more,
has escaped being AOE capped while
) have been hit with a 5 target cap. Ideally this would mean that changes were made to this row to drive
into being more of a Bursty small pack AOE option while
continues being the premier sustained mass AOE option, and hopefully some changes to
to make it an interesting choice rather than another dead talent.
I've left this till last as it's the eternal feral bugbear, feral specific utility. Over the last decade raiding philosophy has changed, we dropped from 25 man to 20 man, bring the player not the class became once again bring the class with the addition of raid buffs, fight's continued to promote bringing as few melee as possible (outside of a few exceptions). So with melee slots on the low end and certain melee being mandatory (hello Demon Hunter and Warrior) why do you bring a feral?
was once a decent argument in my mind but with all druid specs now having access to it (along with shaman) that's been eroded. This leaves feral in this weird spot as a damage bot, at the mercy of tuning.
This is something that I would like to see change, obviously on Alpha tuning hasn't been done so it's far too early to be able to judge how this will end up, but to use Live as an example. I believe that feral is solidly upper middle quartile, it's the top of the middle of the pack. This isn't a bad place to be but Feral's reputation is far worse than it would seem to be based on throughput.
Personally I've never had a problem finding a raid spot (other than a brief stint in Uldir), but I've been lucky in that regard. If we actually consider it, assuming classes are tuned equally why would you take a Feral Druid over:
Demon Hunter -
Mantel der Schatten
Retribution Paladin -
Death Knight -
This is a problem we share with Windwalker* and Enhance as well, our group utility is lackluster and we exist in a highly competitive spot, this needs to be addressed.
*Windwalker is in a weird position as despite having a mandatory debuff they don't really get to see the benefit of it due to the strength of the other 2 specs (primarily Brewmaster)
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