My Little Panda: Trolling is Magic!

So, aside from the drunken hookups, the Con Crud, the masses discovering that Anaheim sucks and Orange County is great, we also found out something else at BlizzCon 2011: LOLPANDAS! Yes, that’s right, the next playable race in World of Warcraft will be everyone’s favorite “D’aww!” inducer from the East. And before you ask, yes, I did use that picture on purpose to attract all the people who love cuddly creatures (animals besides me, of course!).

But really, the reaction of many people on Twitter was, “Blizzard has to be trolling us. Right???” Nope, Pandas are coming to an LCD screen near you, in all their furry splendor, and the only trolling that will go on is likely the pure ownage the new race will introduce in PvP.

Full disclosure: I didn’t go to BlizzCon this year, but maybe I will next year! Yes, I know it’s only an hour away. … Due to medical issues, I don’t drink, and it seems as if getting wasted comprises about 85 percent of the conference.

Anyway, the biggest downer from what we learned about the upcoming Mists of Pandaria expansion is that Pandaren will not be druids. They also won’t be death knights. So that rules out the two classes I play the most. Druids will, however, gain a new buddy in leather, in the monk. These spiritually centered folks will be able to melee dps, tank and — yes, really — melee heal. What they won’t be able to do is be worgen or goblins. I am sure my guild will be happy to have someone in the raid to take loot from me, though our rogue is coming back from Afghanistan. Our warrior tank, who happens to be half-Asian, has called this “the Grant expansion”. He’s already reserved the name Bluceree for his monk. … Sigh.

In case you didn’t catch it, here is the official preview trailer on YouTube:

Here’s a few other things we learned:

  • For now, Blizzard seems to be keeping the 10- and 25-man raid sizes, not moving to a 15-man raid.
  • We won’t be doing normal dungeons at level cap. Instead, we will be doing heroic instances and the new Challenge Mode dungeons (kind of a time trial to earn you extra bragging rights and some unique non-stat Transmogrification gear).
  • Scarlet Monastery and Scholomance will be revamped as heroic instances.
  • Wowhead reports that Blizzard might possibly handle realm-first achievements differently in this expansion, due to complaints that some fights are easier on one raid size than the other.
  • Overall, heroic dungeons will be at about Wrath difficulty.
  • You won’t be able to fly until maximum level, which may provide some more opportunities for world PvP.

Of course, one of the largest changes will be to the talent system. Over 90 levels, you will gain a new talent every 15. The trees we were all used to will be gone. Blizzard explains it this way:

Each talent set is comprised of three talents which fall into a clear “theme.” Some sets will offer utility such as movement speed increases and boosts to survivability, while others will reduce the costs of certain situational abilities. Currently, the goal is to avoid making any particular talent mandatory or to have them play a role in ability rotations directly. Instead, they’re intended to give players interesting ways to customize their characters according to their preferred playstyle.

Now, I am not sure that this will mean raiders will be free from having to choose the “best” spec, because you can only get away from math so much in this game. However, each time you gain 15 levels, you will be able to toggle one of three available talents as active. You will also be able to respec more easily, and if this turns out to be as cheap as Blizzard insists, it will make me very happy as a PvP/PvE player.

You can see Wowhead’s MoP talent calculator here. I am going to rely on bears who are smarter than me to figure out which of these talents are the best for tanking, but Bear Hug, Ursol’s Vortex and Wild Charge sound very cool. Of course, in our fifth talent tier, we are forced to choose between Bear Hug, Demo Roar and Ursol’s Vortex. I’ve always wanted to harness the power of the wind somehow, and Bear Hug may allow druids everywhere the chance to teabag all sorts of baddies into a stun. Typhoon is usable in all forms, and Displacer Beast gives druids their own blink.

Sunnier covered the other major change for druids coming in MoP: the separation of bear and cat. Bears will be known as “Guardians” and cats will continue to be known as feral. Will this mean that bears won’t lose out on abilities that would otherwise overpowered for kitties (especially in PvP)? Or will this hurt cats’ survivability? I was never the best about going kitty for tank swaps, though I probably could have done more damage on progression fights. Sunnier says:

Bearcats as we know them are dead. Bears will not be able to contribute to dps while not tanking in this expansion (apparently because “warriors can’t dps while not tanking”… and now I can complain about all the things warriors can do that bears cannot). According to the devs, we won’t even be able to use Rip or Shred, which dooms us to a life of Mangle-spam forever.

She worries, I think correctly, that the ranks of bears will dwindle by the time we’re bounding across Pandaria. I hope that Blizzard does give us more to keep bears versatile, interesting and awesome by the time we hit Launch Day.

So in closing, no, Blizzard is not trolling with this release. Pandaren monks and Guardian druids are coming. I guess we have to wait to see how many Blizzard customers troll the company back by passing on what many say is a “kids’ game” and a “dumbed down” version of the game they love. I will reserve judgment until then!

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