Cata to Mists Beta – Initial Class Impressions (Part One)

I mentioned in the previous post “What are you playing in Mists?” about the changes in classes between expansions. I have one of every class on live, not all at max level, but I have a feeling for how most of them play. I haven’t played all specs of course therefore not all of these will mention differences. If I’ve not played it on live I won’t know what the differences are. However, some classes have changed a lot so even though I loathe them on live they look like they could be a firm favourite in Mists.

It’s all about how they feel and I say how they feel because I’m not one of the super smart theory crafters. I don’t know whether changes are good or bad in terms of the numbers, I just know how the class feels to play. So this is about how I think the classes feel. Might be light on details, this is not a class guide for Mists, this is just a what I like and what I don’t I guess. I’m not including the healing specs as unless you level by dungeons they don’t come into play until the end game. Even if you do level using dungeons most people quest a little which requires an offensive spec, that’s what I’m covering here.

– Protection
Ah the class I know best. Right well the protection heartbeat rotation has gone the way of the dodo. I covered this spec in a post a while back and not much has changed since then. We’ve got access to Hammer of Wrath back since then, which despite only being able to use it at the end of the fight, feels better than when it went missing. Before I felt like I was missing a button, now I feel like I have enough buttons. It’s odd not having Holy Wrath anymore but that was only ever a filler ability and some occasional useful cc (Raggy anyone?). As I think I said before the spec feels a lot more like ret now than it’s previous incarnation. It’ll take some getting used too but the survivability is quite good. I just took on 3 level 90 mobs at level 86 in cata gear and won easily. True it’s a copied paladin rather than a premade but it’s an old copy so my ilvl is 386, hardly top of the tree. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this does soloing now with Word of Glory no longer on a long cd and with a new HoT that you can talent for. However, this is of course as a trade off against block having a reduced potency. We’ll have to see what happens but it’s an exciting time for my favourite class.

– Retribution
This feels similar to how it is on live. Inquisition is just as important to have up as that makes a big difference to how quickly the mobs go down. However, there’s been a big change to how Exorcism works, it’s now an instant cast spell so can be used even when it doesn’t proc. This reduces the amount of dead time, waiting for something to come off cd. Aoe is markedly different with Hammer of Righteousness taking the place of Divine Storm (which still exists but in a much altered form). With Prot feeling more like Ret and Ret gaining one of Prot’s signature abilities the two specs are very intertwined. It makes you wonder what could be achieved with Prot in Ret gear or vice versa much like how Death Knights can tank in dps gear now. I think we’re still going to have to babysit Inquisition but holy power is generating better now so it should hopefully not be such an annoyance.

– Paladin Conclusion
We live in interesting times. This class is my favourite and it’s playing ok in my initial impression. I think you’ll be able to tell easily between good paladin tanks and poor ones with the changes. There’s no easy heartbeat rotation any longer which makes tanking much more of a challenge – something that I’m looking forward to mastering. However, it’s capabilities are still very much uncharted. I am Paladin 95% of the time on live and I love soloing old content. I’m also likely to be the main tank for my raid team in Mists so I really hope that this class lives up to everything I need it to be. As it’s my favourite class it really deserves more posts focusing just on it and nothing else and I’m going to try and do just that.

– Protection
I’ve not really played this much at all on live. Throughout cata my warrior was gatherer only as I didn’t like the class. I just took my premade and battled three level 87’s at level 86 (with just my premade gear) and I managed it but not with the ease I took three level 90’s on my paladin. Part of that will be familiarity as despite the changes the paladin has had it’s still the same class I fell in love with. In this fight I also felt I was hitting Devastate too much as the other abilities weren’t proccing at the same rate that they did before. However, I did have enough rage to hit other buttons so it was more that I wasn’t prodded into pressing them that kept me on Devastate. The second group I took (of 6 level 87 mobs) bizarrely went better. There was good aoe damage going on and thanks to Victory Rush I ended the fight near full health.

– Arms
I’ve not played Arms on live except briefly when someone asked me why I was specced prot. I complained that I was having trouble killing some mobs and they recommended I switched to a dps spec rather than the tank spec I was in. Predictably this tanked my survivability, so I went back to Prot in short order, for the rare occasion when a mob attacked me while gathering. Playing it on beta much like Prot feels improved, so does this. I can kill mobs and not die which is always a good thing. There’s a lot of buttons to hit. I have rage and it just works really quite well. Overpower seems to proc quite a lot, and without an addon like OmniCC to track cd’s, hitting the lit up ones is the method I’m going with. It can sometimes feel like a one button job but there are other buttons to hit. I always have enough rage (such a change from live I can’t even tell you) and so when I can read guides and learn how to do it properly, then I think this class is going places.

– Fury
I’m not sure whether I like Arms or Fury better in terms of the warrior dps specs. They’re both quite similar obviously and while Arms has Overpower to hit a lot this has Wild Strike. Fury has a bonus in that you can dual wield two-handers which I can’t do on my paladin which is just fun. I feel somehow though that Fury is missing a button maybe with Raging Blow which can only be used when it procs. Perhaps if that could be used all the time it would flow a little better. Again I know very little about warriors so it’s possible I’m missing something obvious.

– Warrior Conclusion
What a change from cata, at least in how the class feels. I’ve been reading the WoWInsider warrior section and Matt Rossi and I disagree about the rage generation. He obviously knows so I’m not going to say he’s wrong. However, from a layman’s point of view I feel like the class is much improved. I feel like I have enough rage now to be able to do more than press one button and die. I actually like this class now and I never thought I’d say that. I’ve been a die hard warrior hater throughout cata and I never thought that would change. However, if the warrior plays in Mists proper like it does on the beta then I’ll definitely be dusting it off. The only hard decision I’ll have to make will be what spec to go with.

– Cat
When they announced that they were splitting cat and bear, and making druids have four talent trees, I was uneasy. I loved my kitty, both for itself and the ability to go bear in an emergency. However, even if the ability to tank in an emergency went I didn’t want the feel of the kitty to change. I loved it how it was. Well I’m pleased to say that so far it doesn’t feel like anything much has changed. We’ve lost the base ability to leap behind our target however we can talent in for that. We won’t get a free Ravage anymore but I’ll take what I can get. For levelling talenting for the extra movement speed might be better than Wild Charge but the option is still there. I purposely pulled the same level 90 pack I took on my paladin and the days of cat bear tanking are over. They kicked my butt in seconds. I used to hit Enrage and then Frenzied Regeneration and then I didn’t even need a healer to emergancy bear tank. Well you still have Frenzied Regeneration but it’s weak on cat and Enrage isn’t available. As a spec cat is the same as it ever was but the flavour days of catbear are over which is really kinda sad.

– Bear
In the interest of comparisons I took the bear specced bear to take a look at the level 90 pack. Even with Enrage, Frenzied Regeneration, Survival Instincts, Barkskin, every button I could think of to press they kicked my butt in very short order. Now I know that asking a premade geared level 86 to take on three level 90’s isn’t exactly fair, however it does give me a more accurate picture of the class than the easy levelling mobs given that I know bear reasonably well. This spec has changed a lot and not for the better. The survivability isn’t what it should be. Now I’m not saying that I should have been able to take those level 90’s but hitting ever cd I had I should have lasted longer. As it was it didn’t feel like I was in a tank spec. The trade off with tank specs is damage mitigation vs damage dealt. Well it didn’t feel like I got any mitigation and my dps was still not so great.

– Balance
I’ve never even looked at this spec before. I know that you turn into an owlbeast and that’s about it. I took it to the dummies to have a play. On the plus side I barely touched my mana, I was clicking buttons randomly for several minutes and never went under 90%. Doing the same on my mage tanks it completely. A few buttons light up occasionally and there’s a separate resource system with moons and suns. I don’t know how to control which one you get but you hit a few buttons and one of them lights up. You then get lit up buttons and spells turn instant cast and it’s interesting enough I suppose. However, it’s a little beyond my realm of understanding. I’m not a caster and haven’t been for a long time and so it’s not much of a surprise that I’m not enjoying a caster spec.

– Druid Conclusion
Thank you, thank you, thank you for not changing my kitty. You might have removed the fun ability to emergency tank when I’m kitty in a random dungeon and the tanks an idiot. However, that was a little overpowered I guess, but the important part of how the spec feels hasn’t changed. I won’t be bear tanking in Mists unless they increase the survivability to be on line with other tanks, and my little experiment with balance will probably be the only time I ever do that.

I didn’t even bother taking the mage out to kill mobs, instead I took it to the dummy room. They’ve changed this class so you don’t get a damage boost using spells from your spec, instead you use the best ones I guess. In the absence of having some number cruncher theory person tell me what they are I tried to rebuild my fire spec from live. A lot of the abilities are missing. This class feels like a mess now and something that I’ve played since wrath just doesn’t make sense to me. Perhaps after I’ve read a guide when Mists goes live I’ll understand it better. However, for now I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot barge pole. The whole thing just doesn’t flow at all, or make sense. Now I admit to being not exactly fond of my mage but at least I understand it on live. As it is on beta I feel like I don’t have hardly any buttons to press and I tank my mana after just a few spells. Initial impression – not favourable.

– Survival
My hunter on live is level 83 so I know the class reasonably well but not as well as some others. This spec plays quite well on live. At level 83 in levelling gear I can put out the same dps than my mage which can get into Dragon Soul. I don’t think that that’s particularly balanced to be able to pull 12k dps as a level 83 but it is what it is. Now I don’t know whether it’s the better gear (premade) or whether it’s a change to the class but I felt like I had more focus and it was regenerating better. On live I spend most of my time between cd’s of Explosive Shot casting Cobra Shot to regenerate focus. In fact sometimes I have focus now but no abilities to spend it on – a real improvement.

– Beast Mastery
When I was level 81 I complained that I was having trouble killing mobs before they killed me while levelling. My friend who has a hunter told me to switch specs away from Beast Mastery and I got a 5k dps increase doing just that. Now I don’t know what the numbers are like but the spec feels ok. Buttons light up a lot so I presume that’s procs. There’s always something to hit and like with Survival I’m not having focus problems anymore. I think that mobs might be dying a bit faster but I’m not sure. Survival plays the same as it does on live pretty much but, with my shaky memory, I think this is playing different. I think that I have more that I can do in addition to what my pet can do. A real option you could say.

– Marksmanship
I’ve never touched this spec before today’s experiment. This spec is the only one that I had  focus issues on and the only one without access to Cobra Shot which meant I had to wait till focus regenerated. It’s not a bad spec it destroys mobs in short order. It feels quite bursty so I guess if you can kill the mobs before you run out of focus then it’s very quick death dealing. I preferred the flow of the other two specs as I don’t like having to wait and not able to do anything. It makes me feel helpless and I don’t like that.

– Hunter Conclusion
Survival is very similar to live and Beast Mastery flows well though I don’t know what the numbers are like. The removal of minimum range is a great quality of life improvement. The changes overall feel like they are for the better and solidify my decision that my hunter will take the place of my mage as my ranged dps option.

I’ll cover the other five classes in another post as this is already a lot longer than normal. Win some, you lose some. Warrior is looking good but mages are looking awful. Not quite polar opposites to live but I will play my mage on life, I won’t touch my warrior. I’ve a feeling the mage will be getting mothballed in Mists. I really need to look at Paladins in more depth. I know enough about that class to be able to test it some more. I’d like to look at Warriors, but as much as I’d like to be one of those pioneers who works out what’s best, I’m just not that smart. When I don’t know anything I’m better off waiting till a guide comes out. Harsh, but true. Anyway, so far the balance is in Mists favour in terms of the changes being made, more are for the better than for worse. We’ll see what happens with the other five classes next week.