I realize that this blog is titled "Bored Druid Musings" and I spend an awful lot of time talking about my warlock, but I go where the news is. Essentially, there is nothing new to report on Druids as of late, and I was contented with the position they were in beta. That is to say, if WotLK were released today, I think that all druid specs would have a good base from which to advance in both PvE and PvP, and they would scale better than they currently do. Do I think that the talent trees are perfect? No, there are some things that need changing, and some abilities need revision, but for the most part, I think that the current beta build holds much promise for hybrid classes. That being said, there was a beta patch on Friday, and as I write this blog, mainly, while at work, I did not have a chance to reflect on some of the changes (this is also true of the warlock builds... they changed the 45-tier and it's amazing now... but another time).

In one of my younger posts on this blog, I touched on some of the pros and cons of being a druid (of any spec), and here they are summarized again for your enjoyment:
Feral Pros-
1. Mobility / Speed
2. Damage

Feral Cons-
1. Mana reliance
2. Lack of utility
3. No snares/slows
4. No cc
5. No procs

You can go back and reread that earlier post if you want to see my reasoning behind these, but I am going to simply assume that I am right and move forward.

As of today's listed feral changes, they have addressed cons 3, 4, and 5 with Infected Wounds, being able to begin casting while shapeshifted with auto-deshift, and we are being giving items and procs in form. To a lesser extent, they have added provisos for 1 and 2, as well with Berserk reducing the shapeshifting reliance on snare-breaking and Savage Roar bringing utility to all melee classes in the party. As for the pros, the mobility/speed issue is being revamped to work indoors, which is good, and the damage output is being increases for ferals across the board via the "un-nerfing" of ferals by adding maul and mangle(bear) back to savage fury, King of the Jungle, Tiger's Fury being buffed in general, Berserk, Rend and Tear, etc.

All things considered, the feral builds will be amazing... but split. What do I mean by that? Well, one of the key aspects of being a feral was that currently, a full feral build could be either a tank or a dps, but not amazing at either. Prior to the Feral nerf of 2.3, ferals were great dps and great tanks in the same build, but after the nerf (and many many many scaling issues), dps fell behind and tanking was mediocre. A lot of the core feral talents have been revamped to scale, which is a long-due change, but additionally, the multiple talents have been added up and viewed as a whole of "how can we simulate the difference between tanking and dps without having 2 separate talent trees like warriors."

So, the conclusion was that there will be good tanking abilities, and good dps abilities, but they will be separate. Take Shredding Attacks, for example, and notice that it only really improves Shred, which is a core dps talent. True, it does buff Lacerate, but not enough to warrant taking that versus a different talent for a "tank-only" build. If you want to tank Sunwell, you cannot take this ability (in the new talent trees) because of all the other good talents for tanking; the same is true with Brutal Impact and many more.

However, there are some changes that I do not envision going so well. For instance, the agi:crit ratio has been dramatically reduced from 25:1 to 40:1, which will mean that instead of sporting around 40% crit at the top tier of PvP gear, druids will likely be getting gear with only agi/crit rating on it and be HOPING for 30% crit with LotP up. What does this mean? Well, for one it means that we have the option of opting out of Primal Fury for PvP (when your specials crit, you gain an extra combo point) because of its relatively questionable utility in PvP now. Instead of walking around with 30% (or more) crit against resilience-capped people, we'll be walking around with 20% perhaps. I believe that 10% does make the difference, because at low tiers of resilience, the skill will be amazing still in keeping combo points up for useful abilities such as Maim, Savage Roar, and Ferocious Bite (which MIGHT not be terrible now against bleeding targets with Berserk up and running). It is also unclear which will be the best finishing move against low-armor classes between already-bleeding-FBs because of Rend and Tear or Rip, since Rip will now scale at 5-cps. Either way, I wouldn't be surprised seeing double dps teams with a feral and they try to time gibs along the lines of "5 combo point rip, get up 5 cps again, START THE GIB, Berserk, Ferocious Bite (80% crit), King of the Jungle, shredshredshred, FB again," etc.

Okay... I can go on and on about the Feral talents and abilities until we're all blue in the face... but the point is this: I cannot come up with a good PvP feral spec. That's right... I can come up with 50 specs that I consider amazing on my warlock, but I simply cannot grasp a great feral spec that has everything I want. I am not in the boat of "well I want to tank AND dps... what to do what to do," but rather, I am in the boat of "I want to dps in PvP... but how best to do that given all these options." There are just so many good talents that it is becoming impossible to decide between them...

Okay, kitty will definitely need all the crit talents because of the agi:crit nerf, so that means Sharpened Claws (duh) and Master Shapeshifter (harder). The latter means a minimum of 12 points into resto... with probably 13 being the reality of "fewest points spent in resto" because of Omen of Clarity being passive and marginally better [question mark]. It's hard to tell if "only procs off white attacks" will mean much in short fights, though it was always a boon to see "pounce, fff, shred, [ooc] shred, [tick] shred" when opening a fight. I suppose that it will be a definite knock on burst damage, since yellow attacks restart the swing timer, but then again, maybe they plan on our white damage scaling a little better because of this... who knows. Okay, so far the spec has a good base, 0/15/13, with Feral Swiftness (which works indoors... horray for WSG again) and OoC/MSS. Also, we're basically done with points in the resto tree... let's focus on the feral tree now.

This next tier (the 15-point tier) is arguably the best and most bloated tier for ferals. At a total of 9 possible talent points to spend at this teir, and arguably all of the talents being, if not amazing at least, useful. However, I have to go with the best talents first, in an attempt to only spend 5 points per tier... so we'll go with Shredding Attacks and Predatory Strikes. Also, PS does not irk me as much as it used to. Currently, it is "+150% of your level in AP" for a 3-point talent, which is just meh when compared to Shredding Attacks and Primal Fury. However, in WotLK, Primal Fury is a little less appealing, and PS is completely needed for HotW... so this tier is a no-brainer. Plus, PS now scales with the FAP on the equipped weapon... which is amazing.

Okay, we're at 0/20/13 now, and looking pretty good. We definitely need some of that sexy new feral charge, but it becomes unclear where to put the rest of our points for this tier. Savage Fury is getting un-nerfed... but cat form is getting so much that we might not need to dps in bear form anymore. Additionally, if you plan on going double-dps as feral (or even... plan on playing without a healer in arena most the time), then you can skip Nurturing Instinct. Personally, I like where FFF is put now, and the armor ignore is HUGELY becoming a melee stat du jour. So, let's put one point into FFF, 2 points into Nurturing Instinct (I play solo a lot, so healing is nice), and 1 point into Primal Fury. The next tier is a no-brainer... 5 into HotW.

At this point things are getting disheveled. We have a nice looking 0/30/13 build going, but now we are missing some talents that I think will be ground-breaking. Let's see... we'll just keep moving down until we have our 51-points in there, then see where we stand with the rest. At this point, LotP is necessary, but for PvP the new Primal Tenacity wins out over iLotP. I put 3 in PT, 1 in LotP, and Survival of the Fittest is SO buffed from it's original, that we can put that 1 point remainder in there right now and get the equivalent of two points of the current talent. Next, we are a dps build, so we need to put all 5 at this tier into Preditory Instincts, and Mangle. Finally, we get those talents we really needed all along, we have to take all 3 Infected Wounds. At this point, I put the last point into the remaining point of Primal Fury.

Next, we take all 5 of Rend and Tear because those Ferocious Bite crits will be in the 8ks at level 80. Then we take Berserk. Okay, we're sitting at 0/51/13 with seven point remaining. WHAT TO DO!?!?!? Well, firstly, I like King of the Jungle so much, so I put 3 points there. At this point, we have 4 points to spend, and 4 places to put 2 points (actually, 3 places to put 2 points, and one place to put 3). Personally, unless you are going to be taking AoE of Cleave damage in a raid, then I do not think that iLotP is all that useful anymore, so I will likely be skipping it entirely. Also, I do not think Improved Mangle is all that useful because a feral's main source of damage is from Shred, not Mangle, and while it would be nice to have a 29 energy Mangle, it certainly is not a make-or-break talent. Also, Savage Fury being buffed is nice, but I just do not see enough PvP-centered abilities for Bear form anymore, and thus can ignore the extra damage. This leaves me with either putting points into SotF, Primal Precision, or more Naturalist. Essentially, SotF is 4% more stats, which is a rather nice passive effect, however Naturalist is 6% more damage done period. At this point, with the stat allocations for 80 virtually unknowable, we cannot run the numbers to see which would be a better investment in the long run. Admittedly, we could take 2/2 or 1/3 and get the benefit from both of them, but on the other hand 10 expertise and 80% energy refunded when FB does not land is amazing sounding.

I suppose that, for now, I will just bite my lip and go 2/2 into SotF and Naturalist. That would give me this spec, which seems like a good dps spec... maybe it is just too early to tell... or maybe I just have been out of feral for so long that I cannot be sure anymore. I will just have to wait and see what the expansion brings.