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Where is Cataclysm PvP headed?

January 15, 2011

Here’s the sentence that’s striking fear into hearts of all druids everywhere:

Shapeshifts: Entering or leaving a shapeshift no longer cancels root effects. It continues to cancel movement slowing effects.

And as of Friday evening:

Restoration: Disentanglement (new specialization): Causes shapeshifting to remove roots in addition to snares.

It should go without saying, but it doesn’t seem to – judging from the mass hysteria on the druid forums, that this change really only matters at all to druids who PvP on a regular basis.  The uses for shapeshifting out of snares in PvE content are pretty rare, and rarer still are the occurrences when you must shapeshift out of something in order to prevent an insta-death.  Even if there is a snare that you want to break out of right away, the vast majority of snares you encounter in PvE content are magic effects and can already be removed by any resto druid who has taken the talent Nature’s Cure.  (And if you’re running heroic 5 mans without the ability to dispell magic effects, you’re making your life much harder than it needs to be.)

Because the Nature’s Cure talent is also essential in PvP resto builds, placing this specialization tree is incredibly confusing.  Yes, dispelling snares would cost us mana and a GCD (or possibly 20 GCDs if we’re dealing with the masters of the snare, Frost mages … /evil glare), but restos are really not the spec that’s going to suffer from a change to the functionality of shapeshifting – it’s our balance and feral cousins.  Balance druids don’t have the luxury of being able to get far enough down into the resto tree to pick up Nature’s Cure, and – like all casters – need to be able to put distance between themselves and their attackers.  Feral damage and strategy in PvP is highly dependent upon being able to get behind a target, and that’s dependent upon effective gap closers and mobility.  Beyond that, I’m not going to attempt to write about something I don’t fully understand; I’ve never tried balance PvP.  My experience of feral PvP is limited to having a feral arena partner throughout Wrath and listening to the Pink Kitty yell at his monitor whenever Tol Barad is going on.

I have to admit, though, that as a casual PvPer looking in on the murky, foreboding waters of battleground and arenas, I’m kind of confused as to what Blizzard wants PvP to be about in Cataclysm.  Blizzard spent a lot of time and blue text telling us that Cataclysm PvP will not be about dying instantly from burst damage, and has given us ginormous health pools and a change in resilience to back that up.  I’m ok with that plan – I was never a fan of the enhancement shaman who could kill me within 15 seconds of entering an arena by popping all of his cooldowns, and wind shear / purging me into oblivion.  Getting killed and feeling like there was nothing I could have done to prevent it is Not Fun.  Getting killed and knowing that it was my own damn fault because I should have used barkskin, or gotten behind a pillar, or blown my trinket earier may not be Fun either, but what is Fun is learning from my mistakes and knowing that I’ll be rewarded when I come upon a similar situation in the future and better understand how to counter it.

Aside from BURST! and CRITS!, it seemed to this relatively uninformed member of the unwashed PvE masses that the other thing that defines PvP is control.  How long you can keep a healer from being able to cast, or how well you could keep the healer separated from the other members of her team, or how long you could keep the DPS classes locked down while you beat the hell out of their healer – that’s all the stuff I learned (nowhere near perfectly) in Wrath PvP.  With the wide variety of nerfs to the durations of a lot of CC and interrupt abilities (Roots, Hibernate, Freezing Trap, Counterspell, Mind Control, and Sap – just to name a few), it seems like Blizzard is moving away from allowing players to really keep their opponents locked down – and that means Cataclysm PvP is headed in an interesting new direction.

I realize this may be old news to those of you who’ve spent a good deal of time in battlegrounds and arenas since Cataclysm launched, but I’m still attempting to put all the pieces together, myself.  It sounds like Blizzard’s plan is to make absolutely sure that battles take a lot longer than they did in Wrath, and that they’re won by teams who are able to keep constant pressure on their targets.  It won’t be locking down an opponent that allows you to kill her teammate – or at least not in the duration of one CC.  Teams who consistently use their CC and burst abilities at the right time will win over those who mistakenly blow cooldowns when they’re not necessary.  This was true to an extent in Wrath – but not always.  Because healing and damage were both so powerful in Wrath PvP, it was possible to bounce back and forth from 100% health to 10% several times a minute.  With the way Cataclysm healing works, that definitely won’t be happening.

The strange conclusion I’ve come to is that Cataclysm PvP is simultaneously both more and less forgiving than its Wrath predecessor.  It takes longer to die in Cataclysm, which means you can take a lot more damage before you have to get really worried.  Because healing works much differently, however, it’s more difficult to get your teammates back up to full health if they’re starting to get low.  Good management of defensive cooldowns will be even more essential, because we’re moving away from the days when we just popped everything we had right away, knowing that our attacker would do the same.  If all this works, battles should usually be won by the team with more overall skill, and not simply by a team who is capable of putting out a ton of damage all at once.

Given my admittedly limited knowledge of PvP in this expansion thus far, the question in the title of this post is a genuine one – I’d like to hear some other opinions.  Do you feel like battles last longer in Cataclysm PvP than they did in Wrath?  Are fights more strategic than they were before?  How are you enjoying the new desgin in comparison to the old?

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