Bears Still Need More Flavor

Don’t freak out. It’s still beta; it’s all a work in progress. Bears in Mists of Pandaria are still like bears in Cataclysm but with the cat half of their toolkit cut out and nothing filled in to replace all that flavor. It’s up to us to keep things from staying the way they are. With the power of <announcer voice> CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM!

To start out, look at the difference between my beta monk’s action bars and my beta druid’s.

Monk Action Bars (with the side bar edited in)
Bear Action Bars

My monk has 33 skills on his action bars, compared to my druid’s 23 skills. Both of them are missing a few minor skills so these are just approximate numbers. Number of buttons doesn’t necessarily correlate to insufficient flavor or uninteresting class design, but on the surface level it’s a bit disturbing.

What I’m trying to get at here is that despite the brewmaster still being new and relatively incomplete, bears still have much fewer buttons to hit. Their flavor is lacking. I do believe we can see some changes as long as we keep talking about it. So let’s start brainstorming.

Problem 1

Bears lost a few key bear abilities, either losing them to talents or to modified game design. These abilities include: Feral Charge (Bear) (now a talent), Bash (now a talent), Pulverize (totally gone), Demoralizing Roar (totally gone), and Challenging Roar (gone). That’s not even listing the cat skills we lost.

Survival Instincts

Now a few of these spells needed to go because they were relics of 8 year old MMO design. They weren’t fun to begin with, but at least they gave bears some other options.

Might of Ursoc (SI and MoU actually do look very subtly different)

The current rotation on beta looks something like this: Mangle on cooldown > Lacerate to 3 stacks > Spend rage on Frenzied Regen or Savage Defense (in most cases, FR) > Thrash to keep debuff up. If you have excess rage you can Maul, but I hear Maul is pretty disappointing damage these days. Oh and Swipe if you have nothing else to do, even on single target. As long as you have a bleed effect up, Swipe does decent damage now.

In practice, you’re hitting Mangle and Lacerate like a bajillion times. No thanks, this will not do. It’s fine if this is just the beginner rotation, but it’s the same for all skill levels. I mean, bears are lacking skills so badly that they have no choice but to fill their rotations with AoE skills. The AoE and single target rotations are almost identical. Where’s the skill in that?

Personally, I’d like to see Pulverize added back into the game but with another effect. It could be a short term defense, and introduce some interesting choice and conflict. You could consume your lacerate stacks for a cute little damage reduction, or keep your lacerates ticking and proc extra mangles to use on the rage consuming defenses.

For example:

Costs 0 rage
Does x amount of damage and consumes your Lacerate stacks. For each Lacerate consumed, creates a shield that absorbs Y damage.

Or they could start adding completely new abilities that have cool effects. Maybe an attack that deals damage, consumes some rage, and contributes to your next defense.

Costs 10 rage
Does x amount of damage and increases the effect of your next Savage Defense by 5%.

(This is pretty obviously a clone of Tiger Palm, but I’m just brainstorming here.)

Cenarion Ward

They could make bears more interesting by giving them a few 20-45 second cooldown spells. The only one they have now is Cenarion Ward, an optional talent. Why not make a strong rage consuming ability for this time slot? Elune knows druids need more interesting choices to spend rage on.

Organic Endurance
Costs 60 rage
45 sec cooldown
Reduces damage done by 50% for the next 3 hits.

They could also move spells around, like give Savage Defense a longer cooldown but a longer duration. Then short term cooldowns could be a choice between Frenzied Regen and the proposed Pulverize. Or something like that. There are so many possibilities!

Frenzied Regeneration

I’m also a huge fan of procs. We lost Omen of Clarity and while it was never all that interesting of a proc for bears to begin with, there’s always room for more!

Untamed Cultivation
Every time the druid dodges, s/he has a small chance to activate a free Rejuvenation, castable in bear form.

I could keep going. Coming up with names for bear skills is a lot more fun than I expected.

Problem 2

Bears lost their delicious bearcat flavor. Most people agree that this will be a good thing in the long run, but right now it makes bears feel empty. They’re like warriors but without all the cool protection warrior abilities (and even warriors are being a bit emo about their current MoP state). They’re like other druid specs except they don’t really have that unique draw that the other specs have. I’m no expert, but I always think of cats having the flavor of being a melee dot class, restos using lots of hots, and moonkins have their own unique resource system. And bears, well bears bleed things more than warriors I guess. They have access to a lot of interesting talents that all the other druids have access to. So what’s there to draw new players to the class?

Ursol’s Vortex

It’s a bit harder for me to come up with ideas for this one, because I don’t really know what they could do here. Certainly fleshing out the rotation would help.

My impression of the other tank flavors are:

  • Warriors – physical guys with a shield and cool procs and situational abilities
  • Paladins – magical guys with a shield and cool raid utility and heals
  • Death Knights – necromancy guys with dots and everything revolves around their one signature ability
  • Monks – hard to say at this point except we all know they’re drunken brawlers who will probably end up handling burst very well
  • Druids – passively very survivable and can dps as an off tank really well

Bears are left with “passively very survivable”, which is more like a plain flavor. Like butter. It’s nice to cook with, but you don’t want to eat it all by itself and it’s still not as exciting as, say, ginger (I love ginger).

Potential flavors for druids are:

  • Nature – Using nature to protect yourself or getting angry when nature is hurt.
  • Feral – Not thinking logically or in a civilized manner, always wanting to bite things.
  • Ursine – Bears are scary. They run faster than you’d think, sleep during the winter, and eat everything (it seems).
  • Offensive Defense: Improving your survival by being really aggressive.

I looked at the internet and bears commonly represent duality. For example, they’re really powerful killers, but usually stick to eating dumb little fish and berries. If anything, this discovery could suggest a dual-resource system. Maybe bears can have both rage and harmony (name not finalized), and warriors would get something else that’s not harmony. Harmony could be used for defensive abilities and rage could be used for offensive abilities. That’s the easy solution. It’d be even cooler if it somehow played into the offensive defense flavor. I can’t think of how that’d happen, but it might be awesome.

Mass Entanglement

Bears are sort of developing a healing/nature flavor, with Frenzied Regen being so strong. Blizzard could improve upon that if they wish.

There are many ways to flesh out guardian druids. Please share your own ideas!