Okay, I've been talking about the new specs and what-not for a couple days now (almost a week) and I haven't really gotten into the specifics. I get questions like "how the hell are you running holy+mangle with any success at all!?" all the time, what with neither being well represented at all above 2k. The quick-n-dirty answer to such questions is that Guntir and I have almost always explored the realms of untouched territory in hope of finding something off the wall that no one has ever seen. I believe we may have done that (again... our spriest+destro team was pretty strong in season3/4 but we couldn't get past rogue+priest at 1800 to the 2k druid+warrior teams... if we got above 1900, we would have likely skyrocketed to 2k+... but that's neither here nor there).

Here is Guntir's Holy spec... it's insane, we know. It's a hodgepodge of all the good talents at the bottom-tiers of Disc and basically all the HoT talents in Holy.

Here is my spec, which is a pretty basic Mangle build... but it's a bit unorthodox for me given that I am always talking about how our team is such a strong turtle-team and I don't have Protector of the Pack.

Let's talk about the strengths of each spec. Obviously, I've been going on and on about Feral stuff forever, now. The Mangle build has all the same stuff one would expect a PvP spec to have: SotF, iLotP, Primal Tenacity, Improved Mangle, etc. The only thing I have switched up is taking Improved Mangle makes me drop points out of Protector of the Pack and because of this, I have taken up HotW (for the extra stam in Bear form ... and the extra AP in cat as a side-note) and Survival Instincts. I know, I said I never used Survival Instincts, and when I have PotP, I don't usually need to because that inherent 12% damage reduction in bear form is just SOOOOO powerful. Another thing I should make mention is the glyph choices: Rip is obvious as it is the bread-n-butter of the Feral PvP dps cycle; Mangle is there because I was a Shred spec and just never found a better choice (although, Glyph of Survival Instincts is looking better every day), and Glyph of Barkskin.

In case I haven't made the point before now: go get Glyph of Barkskin before they nerf it. Glyph of Barkskin essentially gives you the 20% damage reduction you normally get AND -25% chance to be crit every minute... it's insane. Couple that with resilience (I have about 600 which is ~6% crit chance reduction) and Survival of the Fittest and you're talking about -37% chance to be crit every minute on TOP of -20% damage reduction. Have you any idea what happens when rogues attack me with this up? Not a damned thing, they find me like water on rock. Ret pallies, too, find me very difficult to kill as their wings is on a similar (though shorter) cooldown; if you can time your Cyclones appropriately, you can completely negate their wingsbomb with bearform and barkskin... you can even toss yourself heals with Frenzied Regeneration.

Changing directions, for a moment, I would like to talk about the reason I am even trying out the Mangle spec. The reason is that while Shred is certainly more damage and comparable combo point generation in its best case, the majority of the time at the higher ratings, teams realize the weakness of most ferals and can strafe-defense their way out of effective burst damage. Getting the best damage possible out of Shred requires so much build up that the rest of the strengths of the spec are almost lost completely. Shred requires Mangle, a bleed, and Savage Roar to be effective. It also requires you to be behind your opponent and NOT energy starved. The main problem we were running into was that good teams would just focus me toe-to-toe and I would lose the ability to effectively build up combo points, pressure the opposing healer to heal, and keep up the prerequisites for making Shred more effective than Mangle WHILE using Maim to get behind the opponent. The entirety of the damage hinged upon Maim hitting for full duration and Tiger's Fury being up. This isn't usually a huge problem, but it led to inconsistent damage output against the higher rated teams which allowed the opposing healers to almost drink at will.

Switching to Mangle as my primary attack, it doesn't actually matter anymore if there is a bleed up on my target when I'm hitting mangle. Obviously, I want to keep bleeds up as much as possible, but if there isn't, I'm not penalized for using Mangle instead of the bleed THEN Mangle. Also, many opponents find it hard to believe that I would be spamming mangle anyway, so they still try and strafe-kite me to stop my damage, which can get them in trouble if they aren't careful. Also, because I'm using Mangle so much more often than Shred against good teams, I'm also generating combo points much more frequently, which allows me to effectively get up my bleeds and apply pressure, which forces the opposing healer to stay in combat and not drink, which allows Guntir to pressure with mana burn more effectively and often.

Speaking of Guntir, his Holy build basically relies on a few tidbits in order to be effective. I have written before about Blessed Resilience and Lightwell, so I will not bore you about those ad nauseum. The other aspects of the Holy build that are strong are Guntir's HoTs; if you notice, Guntir is taking Empowered Renew, Divine Providence, and a few other HoT-related talents. The reason that he takes these is because Renew and ProM have become his bread-n-butter. While I am in cat form, his ProM will tick off of me for about 6k and his Renew will tick normally on me for 4-5k. These abilities are instant cast, they are easy to keep up during points of pressure, and many teams won't think about dispelling them under normal circumstances (because they're so cheap as compared to dispel, especially when the opposing team has mana burn; the one-track minds of priests is astounding. Priests could honestly just sit on Guntir mashing dispel and their rogues would kill him in a matter of seconds, but most priests think they're facing a disc, so they're just going to mana burn). Another aspect of Guntir's build that is very powerful is Body and Soul, which does a couple of really neat things: first, it allows him to get ANOTHER abolish poison on himself against rogues, it allows him to do double-trouble-dispels against rogue+dk teams, and it lets him break away from melee on a fairly regular basis, especially with me snaring them. The only other ability that makes the build interesting is Guardian Spirit, which is particularly effective against teams which do big burst damage and do not have an MS effect (read: ret pallies). Essentially, Guntir can use it as a burst heal that does 50% of his health, or he can use it to heal with since the 1 minute cooldown when it isn't consumed is very strong (from the glyph).

Okay, well that's basically all the nooks and crannies of our specs, but it is not yet time to say "well that makes sense, time to spec that way and play, amirite!?" You would be wrong, particularly so if you are not a feral being teamed with a Holy priest. Guntir seems to think (and I believe him) that Feral is the ONLY class/spec that could be effectively teamed with a Holy priest. The reasons for this are simple: Holy is an extremely mana inefficient spec and requires drinking and peels a LOT of the time; Holy's mana inefficiency gets worse when it has to dispel CC effects off partners because dispel is no longer a cheap spell; Feral is an extremely mobile spec with access to great survivability if played right.

Mobility is a HUGE factor for Holy priests; being able to get away from an opponent isn't helpful if you've just gotten away from an opponent who then quickly turns his attention to your teammate and needs heals, thus pulling the priest back into the fray. Feral druids have huge amounts of mobility given the right talents, so it is very natural feeling to see Guntir "sprint" away from an opponent which leads me to CC him and switch to his partner. This gives Guntir ample opportunity to drink back some mana and drop MS effects while I apply pressure to the healer. This strategy really trips up most healer+dps teams because the dps who was CC'd now has to decide what is more of a threat: his healer being attacked or my healer getting back to full/full. If the dps decides I'm the bigger threat, I can turtle until Guntir arrives on scene winning the mana war, and if the dps chooses Guntir, I can pressure the healer until it's time to restart this glorious cycle again (Guntir "sprints" away and I CC and pressure the healer).

So there you have it, that's the long version of why this comp actually works and why it likely wouldn't work for any other dps (although, one could make the argument that it would work with an Arms warrior, being both ultra-mobile and essentially un-fearable... plus an MS effect would make this comp a little stronger in terms of pressure output. The only problem is that warriors can't turtle quite as effectively as ferals... but I'd trade it for an ms effect... let alone two >_<).