Leveling a Druid in Cataclysm: 1-10 and Druid Puddles
Major changes to every class and spec recently hit the live realms. I’ve been having to deal with the emotional trauma of having my bark ripped away, but overall the rearranging of my talent trees (the only trees I have left, QQ) was not the horrendous upheaval I expected it to be. I did a bit of research and combed various resto blogs in order to make an informed decision as to where to put my talent points. I picked my talents. I continued raiding. Nothing really changed for me.
But very soon we will be experiencing the true cataclysmic features of this expansion. Every class is being overhauled from the very beginning into what I have come to determine is a very streamlined and intuitive new system of progression. You have to admit that, being a 6 year old game, WoW has begun to show its age. There were dead zones in leveling that were painful to slog through. There were class mechanics that seemed outdated and sluggish. Bit by bit the intrepid people at Blizzard have been working to fill these holes in quest progression and tweak class mechanics to work for the modern incarnation of the game, but I think I am not alone in saying it really is time for an overhaul of the game in its entirety.
Thus, Cataclysm. I havent been very active in the beta. I wanted to be. But I got my invite only briefly before the fall semester started and I have found my free time slowly chipping away as research, experiments, and countless projects pour in. I did however get a chance to check out the new goblin and worgen starting zones (both fantastic) and level archaeology a little bit (absolutely addicting). I recently rerolled a worgen druid just to see what had been done with the class for the first few levels. I was also tricked into thinking female worgen were available. Imagine my surprise with Tzipporah the female worgen was a man upon logging in. Anyway.
There are no hugely disturbing changes to the druid class at level one. You start out with Wrath and that’s it. Wrath is all you need to take down the mobs for your first two or three quests. At level 2 you get Healing Touch from your trainer (with an accompanying quest). It heals you for full health with a relatively cumbersome cast time: don’t wait until you’re in the red to start casting. Next you will learn Moonfire, which still operates in the same manner and will still help you tick a mob’s health down. You receive Thorns next, which has been overhauled. It’s no longer a buff, but rather a cooldown that causes damage when attacked for 20 seconds. Thorns is best served as an “oh shit” button now. It’s an extra spurt of damage when you have mobs wailing on you. I found it handy when the respawn timers in the beta wigged out and were on instant mode, which meant I had three or four things pounding my face in at a time.
This is your basic setup until about level 8. Somewhere between those times you get Entangling Roots, which is helpful as crowd control when you have more mobs than you can handle. It’s damage threshhold is very low, however, and even a single Moonfire can interrupt the effect.
All of this magic casting business becomes obsolete when you learn cat form at level 8. Yes folks, we get cat form at 8 now. No more wading through agonizing levels of bear form until level 20. Cat form is available from the trainer at level 8 and comes equipped with Claw and Rake and Ferocious Bite right out of the box. You’re set to destroy your enemies in three hits or less. Regardless of your desired spec, at this point the most efficient kill will be one in cat form.
Unless you severely mess up, there should be no need to heal yourself while slashing things to pieces in cat form. If, like me, you have a tendency to barrel in and grab fifteen mobs without thinking, know that you are equipped with Rejuvenation, which is a heal over time spell that works the same way it always has (shorter duration, though).
At level ten you will choose your primary spec and place your first talent point in that tree. The act of choosing a tree does not bind you; you can opt out and browse other trees so long as you do not actually spend any points. Once you spend a talent point, though, you are bound to that tree until you have “completed” it with 31 talent points. Only then do other trees open up for your spending pleasure. So pick your tree wisely or you will have to pay gold to respec.
If you wish to be a healer, restoration is still your preferred spec. Committing to this tree earns you Swiftmend, a powerful tool at the end-game level. On the live realm right now I am just coming to grips with how my healing rotation has changed, but let me say I really do like the Swiftmend+Efflorescence mechanic. You will not gain Efflorescence until much later in your leveling path, but know that once you spec for it, hitting Swiftmend will cause a circle of healing to erupt at the targeted person’s feet that will heal anyone who steps in it. It’s a tough concept for many raiders to grasp: I kept having to remind my raid that the “druid puddle” was okay to stand in but the “icky goo puddle” from Putricide was not. But for right now at level 10, just know that Swiftmend only works if you have Rejuvenation and/or Regrowth’s heal over time effect active on a target. Swiftmend is another “oh shit” button at this level because using it consumes the ticking HoT and does the amount the HoT would tick for for its whole duration instantly as one large heal. It’s a great way to keep an ally up under heavy damage when HoTs are too weak and Healing Touch is too slow. Get used to using it.
If you want to be a fluffy laser-chicken, then the balance tree is still your desire. I’ll admit I have not yet figured out just how lunar and solar power work, though I spent a while on my level 67 balance druid destroying practice dummies in Ironforge trying to rectify my ignorance. Oh well. At this level it isn’t important anyway. For choosing the balance tree you will be awarded with the Starsurge spell, which is basically just a decent nuke on a 15 second cooldown. Use it when it’s available.
I chose the feral tree, because I very much like the worgen druid forms and it is still the easiest way to level in my opinion. Choosing the feral tree awards Mangle. Mangle is the bread and butter talent of every feral druid. It is integral in both kitty DPS and in tanking. It used to be the 41-point talent in the feral tree, which meant leveling druids had to wait until level 50 to earn it. It was a long, arduous, painful trek to 50, but once you had Mangle you became an unstoppable killing machine. Now, feral druids gain access to Mangle at level 10. You can take claw off your bars now. It’s useless. Spam mangle. If you want to get fancy, toss in a Rake too. But two Mangles and my target is usually dead. Cherish it. It used to be so much less fun.
What should you spend your first talent point in? It really doesn’t matter much. For Balance I recommend maxing out Starlight Wrath first, as faster cast times mean more casts before your target gets up in your face. For Feral I recommend Feral Swiftness, as it’s really useful in cutting down travel time and nothing else is really more useful right now. For Restoration druids I recommend Blessing of the Grove, as you will still be questing at this point and the damage boost is going to be useful. But really, for all trees, you can take any starter talent and be fine.
Stat desires are mostly the same as they were before. Restoration and Balance druids will still want to look for gear with intellect and spirit on it. In the early levels this may mean taking cloth pieces because your bonus from wearing all leather will not be available until level 50 anyway. Go for intellect/spirit cloth if you find it, especially from quest givers if the leather item is an agility piece. For Feral druids, look for agility and stamina and to a lesser extend strength. As you level up you will want to take agility instead of strength always, but at the lower levels I found more strength pieces than agility ones. It’s not a huge loss yet.
Enjoy the new streamlined leveling experience; it’s certainly been a blast for me. Remember that you no longer have to train every even level for new ranks of spells. Your spells auto level with you every level. You only need to train new spells.