OKAY... Blizzard has officially removed the non-disclosure agreement set on the Cataclysm Alpha because it is officially moving into closed Beta testing... which means that with a little luck (and pulling some strings), I should have a beta key before too long (again... this is the hope, it took them a little bit longer than I expected last time around).

New Abilities

Stampeding Roar - Though announced earlier than the official reading, has been "designed," so it is probably worth mentioning that it STILL looks rather lackluster for nearly everything. It is an ability which costs either 15 rage or 30 energy (which seems like a lot) has a 2 minute cooldown, and only provides people within 10 yards of you (a TINY radius, might I add) a 6 second 40% run speed buff. I am severely underwhelmed by this ability, and so far there are zero talents which affect it in any way... I keep hoping that something amazing happens with it, be it a few talents that Ferals already take making it better in many ways, or just a completely new redesign.

Wild Mushroom - This ability is much more interesting than I had previously thought it would be. Essentially, you have one spell to set up to 5 mushrooms at 40y range with 5hp which become invisible after 4 seconds, and you have another spell to detonate all mushrooms. This seems pretty boring at face value, but Boomkins are getting a talent called Fungal Growth, which will cause these mushrooms to place a 35/70% snare on the ground when they explode... that's right, Boomkins will have Crippling Poison on the ground wherever they want it with essentially no cooldown. The hitch here is going to be the fact that it takes 4 seconds for the mushroom to become invisible and they only have 5 health. In order for a Moonkin to effectively kite with mushrooms, he will likely have to place a mushroom slightly behind him in a PvP setting and immediately detonate it (it seems you can detonate the mushrooms before they turn invisible), thus causing a 70% snare frost-trap thing allowing the moonkin to shift and make some distance... presumably leaving more mushrooms as he goes.

One of the problems with Mushroom-kiting, as I see it is going to be the cost. Using a Mushroom costs 11% of your base mana which is less than Wrath (14% base); however, you are going to have to use an 11% base to plant the mushroom followed by another 11% base to detonate it... making it 2 GCDs and costing more than moonfire. I have not looked into the Balance talents a great deal, but I do not see any talents which reduce the cost, either, so this could be the prohibitive factor for PvP.

Thrash - I do not want to spend much time on this ability because it does not really seem that interesting for PvP; it is a tanking talent plain and simple. You hit Thrash (which is Bear Form only), it hits everyone for a medium amount of damage somewhat like Swipe does, but then also applies a 6second bleed effect to everyone you hit. Sure, this seems like an interesting utility talent for PvP when you are getting trained into Bear Form by a Rogue and another melee or something and you just want to keep him from restealthing for a moment... Thrash... bam. It has a 5 second cooldown, so the up-time in PvE is going to be 100% in most cases of AoE-tanking.

Skull Bash - OKAY, now we are getting to the interesting bit. Let me start by saying "hey... everyone who thinks this is going to be another charge... it's not." The tooltip currently says "18 yard range," but I have confirmed with testers that this simply does not live up to the game-play. It is DEFINITELY melee-range, and it does NOT "charge" the opponent; this text is simply flair for the ability... it is a Kick, plain and simple.

HOWEVER, Blizzard did exactly what I expected them NOT to do: they made Skull Bash baseline for all Druids, but gave it a 1 minute cooldown and a 5 second school lock. I do not want to spoil the surprise, in case you have not perused the talents or my talent-write-up below yet, but suffice it to say that a reasonably deep Feral talent reduces the cooldown to 10 seconds, so Skull Bash is 100% in line with Kick/Mind Freeze. I am simply ECSTATIC about this!

Redesigned Abilities

That's right... a LOT has changed and a LOT of these changes are subtle enough that you might have missed them (I know most of the forums have missed these so far).

Savage Roar - This is an EXTREMELY subtle change to the tooltip wording which is flying under the radar currently, but it basically has changed the words "finishing move that increases physical damage" to "finishing move that consumes combo points on any nearby target." I know, I know... that is REALLY subtle and it might not mean anything beyond what Blizz said about Ferals and Rogues being able to use combo points that remain on a corpse; however, further to that, it may also mean that we no longer require a target to use SR. That is, we may only require someone within 100 yards to HAVE combo points on them... dead or alive... and we can use SR. That would be a nice little change, but hard to manage in, say, BGs or something.

Savage Defense - I find it funny how when the talents and trees get announced, no one really looks at the abilities... and MOST Feral PvP/PvE-cats do not look at tanking talents. That being said, I do... SD has been changed from a 100% proc on crit which gives a 25% AP shield to a 50% proc on crit which gives a STAGGERING 75% AP. This means that with nothing else, my current Bear Form would have a ~5200 shield proc on a crit half the time... spamming swipe (still spammable) would keep this up-time rather high on average with decent gear, but that is a HUGE shield baseline for Ferals... rather nice... except that it is still ONLY physical attacks... I want to faceblock some magic damage please.

Datah pointed out to me on the wow boards that Savage Defense is less appealing than I made it out to be originally... of course I seem to forget that Feral Attack Power goes away in Cataclysm and of course Bear Form gets FAP... so that means much less AP in Bear Form which mean subsequently less faceblock value... that 5k shield is going to be more like a 2k shield when the smoke settles. Apologies for the misinformation.

Faerie Fire (Feral) - I MIGHT have covered this before, but it should be said again... Faerie Fire is now our Sunder Armor. If you look at Sunder Armor, it has been changed to a 3-stack application MAX, and it only reduces armor by 4% per application, just like Feral Faerie Fire does now. That's right... FFF stacks 3-times, keeps units from going stealth/invis, and reduces armor by 12% max. The duration has been cut down a bit to 30 seconds (from 40 in PvP and forever-and-a-day in PvE), but that makes sense given how it now also reduces armor. Still no cost and has a 6 second cooldown, but there are talents in the first-tier of Feral which reduces the cooldown in Bear Form by 1/2/3/4/5 seconds... so you can get this spammable.

Ravage - I know... I could not say anything before the NDA, but I hinted at this ability becoming MUCH stronger. Currently, Ravage costs 60 energy and deals 385% + 1771 damage. No talents affect it on live, and it is basically a waste unless you have the Berserking buff in a BG and you find a mage with 20k hp and you feel like hitting him for 75% of his life. Ravage is changed to 550% and some damage (unknown at highest rank, as of yet... probably about the same), it is affected by Shredding Attacks which means it will only cost 50 energy talented, and it applies Infected Wounds now... all things considered, Ravage has gotten new legs to stand on. It will be interesting to see if this is an ability worth using over Pounce (and maybe that's where Improved Feral Charge becomes amazing), but so far it seems like a strong opener option again.

Feral Charge - Hey... these cannot ALL be good, right? Okay, they gave us Skull Bash which is a 5-sec interrupt and school lock... the first thing I thought was "OH MAN... FC(B) interrupt for 4 seconds, SB for 5, then Bash for another 5 stun... that's SOOOOO much lockout on a short CD!" Alas, it seems that will not be the reality. Feral Charge (Bear) on live has the tooltip of "Causes you to charge an enemy, immobilizing and interrupting any spell being cast for 4 seconds," whereas the FC(B) tooltip in Cataclysm reads: "Causes you to charge an enemy, immobilizing them for 4 seconds." Bye bye interrupt :-(

Cat and Dire Bear Form - I had a STRONG hunch that this would be the case... Cat/Bear currently read "35% base mana," which is a HUGE amount of mana for Ferals since we do not have any int on our gear; however, we have King of the Jungle to reduce that cost by 60% and Natural Shapeshifter to reduce it by 10/20/30% further. In Cataclysm, however, the 60% cheaper Cat/Bear forms was removed from the KotJ tooltip... this is where my hunch was founded.

The tooltips for Cat/Bear Forms in Cataclysm read "5% base mana." That's right... Cat/Bear are going to be DIRT CHEAP... so cheap, in fact, that an Improved Leader of the Pack proc will ALMOST give you enough mana to cover TWO shapeshift costs... BALLER. More on the implications this will have concerning talents like Natural Shapeshifter in the talents section.

Ferocious Bite - This is one of the last abilities for Ferals which has changed... and it is truly subtle. I believe I am the ONLY person who has noticed this, but who knows. Ferocious Bite currently reads "Finishing move that causes damage per combo point and converts each extra point of energy (up to a maximum of 30 extra energy) into [9.4 + AP / 410] additional damage." Okay, that's not amazing, I will admit; however, the new FB reads as follows:

"Finishing move that causes damage per combo point and consumes up to 35 additional energy to increase damage by up to 100%." Wait... wait... wat? Okay, so if I hit you with a 70-energy (notice the max was upped to 35 form 30) Ferocious Bite, it will do TWICE the damage of the same FB at 35-energy... and that is BEFORE crits come into play? Ferocious Bites have the potential to be HUGE in Cataclysm... to put this into perspective, non-crit FBs land on clothies with no resilience for around 8k in full Wrathful gemming for Agility at 35 energy... which means that if the same implementation were to be fired at 70 energy, it would NON-CRIT for around 16k... you go ahead and mull this over... I'll be down below.

Changed Talents

Okay, I'm not going to spend TOO much time going over talent-changes because there were MANY, and I covered most of them in my other Cataclysm post (Holy Cataclysm Talent Trees Batman!). I AM going to put some of the talents which have changed since my last posting, however.

Primal Madness - This was changed... back? ... to the implementation which gives 10/20 energy for the duration when you use Tiger's Fury and Berserk in Cat Form (was 6/12). It seemed a little underpowered at 12 energy, but 20 energy seems like a good fit for two talent points... it is extremely hard to tell whether this will be something worth picking up for PvP, but it will almost certainly be mandatory for PvE Cats. PvP-wise, it looks like it could be useful if it works like an energy-based Last Stand... you hit TF, you gain 60 energy from KotJ, and you gain 20 more energy from Primal Madness... once TF falls off, you lose that 20 energy. The only problem here is that TF only lasts 6 seconds, so you will gain 80 energy, use two Shreds with it, wait two more seconds and use another Shred, and now you are at the 5-second-mark with 10 energy... you're going to get back up to 20 energy, then immediately lose it... I just don't know if I am going to pick this up for PvP or not.

Improved Leader of the Pack - This is currently a 4% hp heal and an 8% mana return with a 6 second cooldown. In Cataclysm, this is 8% for both, except that apparently now no one but the Feral with iLotP gets that healing. This is interesting in that it makes the talent more desirable for Ferals, but makes Ferals less helpful for tanks in raids. It does not really concern me, I am just happy that it will be an almost 1/10 heal every 6 seconds or so... and the mana return is the same even though Cat/Bear have had their costs reduced so hard.

Brutal Impact - I promised good things, right? Brutal Impact decreases the cooldown on Bash by 5/10 seconds, which means that Bash will be a 50 second cooldown in Cataclysm, and while that hurts, it sort of makes sense with the way Blizz is shaping Ferals to play in PvP. Additionally, it still increases the duration of Bash and Pounce stuns by 0.5/1.0 seconds each, so that is still rather nice. In addition, it (as I promised) reduces the cooldown on Skull Bash by 25/50 seconds... which turns it into a 10-sec CD, 5-sec interrupt which brings it perfectly in line with Kick and Mind Freeze and puts a huge smile on my face.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!!! What? Yeah, Brutal Impact also has this little bit of text on it:

"and causes the victims of your Skull Bash ability to have 15/30% increased mana cost for their spells for 10 seconds." HOLY POOPING JESUS... This is absolutely insane. Even if your opponent is great at juking and fake-casting to draw out interrupts (which healers might again be in Cataclysm since people will be forced to interrupt), you will land a 10-sec debuff that makes all their spells cost 30% more... and in a game where a healer's mana will be finite, this gives Ferals a HUGE advantage... and most importantly, a UNIQUE advantage. We FINALLY seem to have an ability/mechanic all our own... playing with a Priest and mana-burning is going to be that much stronger given that our interrupt will act as a mana-burn (sort of) while they cast for the next 10 seconds... I'm REALLY looking forward to playing with this.

Remove Corruption - Abolish/Cure Poison and Remove Cure are gone forever... all hail our new dispel-overlord!

"Nullifies corrupting effects on the friendly target, removing 1 magical effect, 1 curse, and 1 poison. 17% of base mana, 40 yd range, Instant cast"

The funny thing about this spell... it's baseline. I do not have ANY idea how Blizz thought it would make sense to 1) take away baseline Cleanse from pallies, and 2) GIVE baseline Cleanse to Druids. I cannot imagine that this will remain in the game as-is... it will eventually HAVE to be resto-only... well the Magic-dispel will have to be resto-only at some point... otherwise Guntir will be immune to CC and so will I... it is fairly expensive, so maybe that is their goal... being cost-prohibitive for Ferals might just make it impossible for us to use, but with Shapeshifting so cheap, maybe we CAN dispel Fear/Poly/Hex/etc from others now.

Innervate - I KNOW no one has seen this... it's the biggest Feral synergy-nerf I have ever seen. Innervate goes from returning 225% of our base mana pool to the target to returning 33% of our TOTAL mana to the target. Okay, I get what is going on here... healers are going to have finite mana again and they do not want Feral+Healer to be the best combo ever because of Innervate... but they still want Innervate to be good for Restos and Boomers... easiest way to do it is to make it scale with your total mana. While I am saddened by this, I still recognize that that will be... what... 3-5k mana (at 85) for Guntir every 3 minutes? That, while much worse than the 8k mana he gets now, is still SOME mana that other teams won't have... we'll see how it plays out, but unless something drastic changes here, you will basically never hear people calling for Innervates from Ferals again.

Demoralizing Roar - This ability (while I hinted at it) has been redesigned to NOT be an attack power reduction, but instead a 10% physical damage reduction ability which lasts 30 seconds. It is essentially unchanged otherwise, but it will be a HUGE debuff in PvP now... Warriors' Demo Shout is the same implementation, as well.

Mastery Bonuses

We had the bonuses before... but here are the numbers if you go at least 51 points deep into the Feral tree:

Melee Damage, Melee Critical Damage, Bleed Damage: 8.01% (Cat's bonuses)

Damage Reduction: 8.01% (Bear only)
Vengeance: 5.0% (Bear only... but who cares)
Savage Defense: 32.03% (Bear only)

Damn, the first thing to note is that we're getting 8% more damage in Cat, 8% more CRIT-DAMAGE in Cat, and 8% more BLEED damage in Cat... don't all three of those work with Rip/Rake? I mean... that 10% damage I get from Naturalist affects Rip/Rake, currently... it stands to reason that the Melee Damage (which reads "Increases all physical damage you deal by a percentage" on the tooltip... just like Naturalist) will increase our Rip/Rake damage, too.

Follow that thought with Rip/Rake can crit naturally in Cataclysm, and you get to the point where Melee Critical Damage (which reads "Increases damage bonus from melee critical strikes" just like Predatory Instincts... which increases the critical-strike damage of Rip's tick-crits currently) increases these critical ticks as well. Take the whole thing together with bonus bleed damage, and Rip/Rake are going to be doing a TRUCKLOAD of damage from our mastery bonuses.

The NEXT thing to notice here is that Bear Form is getting straight up 8% damage reduction. You go Feral for PvP as Cat and switch to Bear Form EVER? You get 8% damage reduction... from all sources: physical, magical, w/e. Okay, let's say you take 3/3 Protector of the Pack as well... that is another 12% damage reduction JUST for going Bear Form... that adds up to basically 20% damage reduction JUST from going Bear Form... you couple that with the Demo Roar change, and BAM, 30% physical damage reduction... you take Perseverance too? That's 30% MAGICAL damage reduction just for being a Bear...

Bear Form is going to be our survivability form, particularly now that you incorporate the 15% damage reduction in Cat while stunned which USED to be 30% damage reduction while stunned in Cat form. So, Cat Form gets a little squishier when stunned, which was the biggest reason to NOT go Bear Form ever and you add all these damage reductions to everything while just going Bear Form at all, and you get "under pressure? Go Bear Form (again)!"

Ferals Rejoice, Bear Form is back!

Cataclysm PvP Builds

THIS BUILD, I believe, is going to be the skeleton build. All the other builds will largely be dependent on a few unknowns:

1) Natural Shapeshifter is no longer going to be worth 3 talent points for Ferals. At 5% base mana, Shapsehifting is nigh-free... so we really don't care about 30% reduces SS'ing. Boomkins and Restos may very well still take this so that ToL and Travel Form are cheaper, but Ferals likely won't.

2) Master Shapeshifter is likely to change either position or requirement. It no longer makes sense to force PvE Cats to take 3/3 NSS... the cost is SOOOOOO cheap, there is just no point to take that talent as a Feral... but you DO want to take MSS because 4% crit is rather nice. I expect either NSS to be completely removed, or MSS to no longer have NSS as a pre-req.

3) Naturalist is just STILL THERE... I'm still surprised by this. Again, it is my firm belief that Naturalist is going to go away at some point (or at the very least, it will not increase damage by 10% anymore) because of the way Blizzard has designed the Mastery System... I would be VERY shocked to learn we are still forced to spend at least 16 points in the Resto tree as a Feral to get the maximum damage output before we even start considering utility such as Perseverance (which would bring the Resto tree requirement up to 18...)

OKAY... here's my first look at a Feral PvP Build with the assumption that Naturalist will be going away:

PvP Feral - It has all the DPS talents except Improved Feral Charge (which I simply cannot see being useful in PvP given how awful Feral Charge - Cat is) and I am missing 2 points in Fury Swipes. Originally, I had suggested that this was likely a PvE-only talent, but I have sort of come around, given that we do not need NSS anymore, and if we do not also need Naturalist, then we have an extra point to throw around somewhere... 4% chance to get an extra auto-attack is just enough to keep it proc'ing regularly in PvP, which means a little more sustained damage AND a few more OOC procs.

WELL, that is all I got for now. Keep checking back and I will keep updating!