Okay, Guntir and I went to Oklahoma to visit family for the weekend and we spent a little time discussing some early-on thoughts about Cataclysm. We talked about teams, synergy, debuffs, buffs, cc, and various other facets of PvP that will be interesting in Cataclysm, and how they would come into play. Keeping in mind that this is just Beta and EVERYTHING is likely to change, we came up with some interesting ideas and findings. First things first, let's talk about our assumptions, as these are usually the first to change (or simply be incorrect):

1) HP pools will be much larger in Cataclysm. We haven't seen ANY of the PvP gear for the first season of arenas yet... and we certainly haven't even see the level 85 gear, but this is something that Blizz keeps touting; the gear will be about the same damage output but TONS more HP to make PvP less about global'ing people and more about skillful play and control and damage and positioning and etc. What can we take from this? Well, for one, Priests are going to be less trainable, as they will be able to actually live through a train and heal back up if the opposing team shoots their wad and cannot down the priest in the opener. Think about how a TSG that cannot kill a Priest in Brostorm+Strangulate+HoJ combos... what happens? They lose, that's what.

2) Armor differences are going to be less of an impact in PvP. What does that mean? Well, presumably that means that Cloth will have MORE armor on it, and plate will have about the same or maybe a little more. This is a two-fold assumption... Blizz has stated that it's lame that Pallies are the best starting healers simply by virtue of being able to live through melees better than every other healer, and so they plan on making the difference in armor between classes less weighted in favor of plate. Obviously, plate will still have more armor for tanking purposes, but cloth will not be left in the state of having essentially no armor. This means that Guntir will be less-trainable, Cat Form will have more armor innately, and overall Feral+Disc+something will be a stronger comp in terms of survivability because of this.

3) Mana efficiency... this is going to be the big-ticket item. Essentially, if PvP battles are NOT won in a blanket silence or a CC-chain, then matches come down to either out-playing your opponents (by forcing a player to dip, then landing a good CC-chain giving you enough time to actually land a kill) or playing the mana-game and outlasting your opposing healer's mana pool.

What does this all mean? Well, the idea here is that because Innervate has been nerfed for Ferals (and it has... if you haven't read the tooltip, it has been changed to returning 33% of the casting Druid's TOTAL mana, as opposed to being a huge multiplier on the base... that means a smaller MP-pool means less mana to give... 33% of my 7k mana is not much for Guntir on a 3min CD), we will not have an auto-win against teams which cannot dispel any longer.

However, the Skull Bash + Brutal Impact combo adds an interesting flair to the scene. If Guntir cannot be easily killed (and for these purposes, let us say that all matches go to the mana-game and the first healer to OOM loses), then being able to keep a 30% increased mana-cost on a healer will be absolutely AMAZING... as it essentially forces that opponent to OOM 30% faster. This is a NEW talent/ability/debuff/whatever, and as far as I can tell, it is unique to Ferals at this point of the talent-trees. FINALLY, we have something unique to us that is not completely worthless (horray Soothe Beast, amirite?) and actually might be a staple of the PvP-scene to come.

Let me put it this way... if the MS-effect (which will only be 25% reduced healing received for all classes wielding the debuff) is mandatory now, then it will DEFINITELY be mandatory in Cataclysm if games go to mana-wars. Essentially, their long-cast efficient heals will be healing for less, and thus will require more healing in the long-run... means more mana spent in the long-run... means better-equipped in the mana-war. Therefore, if you can make their spells cost 30% more all the time and they CANNOT make your healer's spells cost more... then you have a distinct advantage in the mana war... right?

More to the point... this means that mana-war-centric debuffs will be all the rage in Cataclysm Arenas, right? Curse of Tongues, MS, and this new "your spells cost more" Skull Bash + Brutal Impact debuff... therefore, when we are making a 3s team, we will want it to be the team which best-utilizes as many of these debuffs as possible.

The comp I had mentioned to Guntir initially needs to bring the most mana-war debuffs/abilities:

1) Mana Burn (duh)
2) Skull Bash + Brutal Impact (the increased cost of spells coupled with an interrupt is going to be HUGE in this scene)
3) Curse of Tongues (makes it harder to use the efficient spells because they take so much longer to cast)
4) MS-effect (makes it less effective to use the inefficient spells because they are reduced in effect by 25%)

Well, Mana Burn and Skull Bash are Disc+Feral, obviously, but is there a single class which brings BOTH Curse of Tongues and MS?

Answer: YES - Hunters

Aimed Shot is being changed and so is Viper Sting. Aimed Shot is no longer going to provide the MS-effect for Hunters, and instead it will be a new school of spells for Hunters called "Venoms". Similarly, Viper Sting is going away in favor of Viper Venom.

"Viper Venom" is going to simply be Curse of Tongues. It will not have a cooldown, and it will not be in the "Stings" category, so a Hunter can keep it up and Serpent Sting and continue dealing max damage as, say, Marks where Chimera Shot is your go-to nuke.

"Widow Venom" is going to reduce healing effects on the target by 25%, is instant cast, blah blah blah. The only plus here is that this will NOT have a cooldown, so you can effectively keep this debuff up on an opponent, even if they have a dispeller (yes, all Venoms are going to be Poison-type for purposes of dispel mechanics).

The only hitch here is that Hunters cannot keep both venoms up on a target simultaneously, right?

Wrong - Lava Breath is going to be making a comeback in Cataclysm, it would seem. That's right, BM-Hunters can train the Core Hound exotic pet and get the auto-cast Lava Breath ability which is a magic dispel but does not share the same problems that befall Viper Venom. What does that mean? Well, it means quite simply that a BM-hunter will be able to keep both the 30% increased cast-time debuff AND the 25% healing reduction debuff on a target.


This comp has ALL the mana-based debuffs listed above, has good peels by way of Infected Wounds (which will not be auto-dispelled anymore because Cleansing Totem is getting axed) and Frost Trap.

This is all subject to change, of course, but this comp is looking extremely strong given the assumptions we have made about Cataclysm... mana-wars could be won by this comp rather easily, and if Blizz does not change the landscape and these things come to pass... F+BM+D could be one of those "straight to 2400" flavors of the month in early Cataclysm... which is exactly what I am hoping for.