They already hot-swapped some tanking changes that I mentioned in my previous post. Namely, those 2min CDs with 50% damage reduction have all been bumped to 3min CDs with 50% damage reduction, which definitely makes more sense. The only bit that does not make sense to me is that Warriors have a 2min CD with 40% damage reduction or they can glyph that to a 4min CD with 60% damage reduction... and this is ONLY when they are at least 8 points into the Prot tree. Arms and Fury Warriors will have a 5min CD in Shield Wall which reduces damage by 40% and they can glyph it to a 60% DR for a 7min cooldown.

Again, only the Feral Druids will be able to get this monster damage reduction talent in a DPS tree. I am very worried about the efficacy of a tanking and dps tree rolled into one.

The comps are starting to solidify for season nine. I am thinking of Feral as a utility specialization much in the way that Assassination Rogues played in basically every season during Wrath. Essentially, Feral feels like a decent damage dealer with tons of survivability and a great slew of utility.

1) Instant cast CCs in an era where CCs have cast times.
2) A ranged interrupt on a short CD with a long lockout duration.
3) Free sunder applications via Feral Faerie Fire with 2/2 Aggression
4) A 10% increased mana cost debuff via Skull Bash and 2/2 Brutal Impact.
5) 20% increased healing received in Cat Form.
etc etc...

I am starting to think that NomNomNom (I don't know what it's called anymore) will not be a part of an arena PvP spec. It MAY be too early to tell, but it feels like damage will be lower than in Wrath, but still rather strong during a train. I essentially feel like getting someone to 25% will either mean their death knell or they will be receiving enough healing that even using FB and refreshing your Rip to 16 seconds will not apply much more pressure than simply Shredding again. Again, it is really hard to tell exactly what the PvP scene will be like in Cataclysm simply because I have not really done any PvP in Cataclysm. Guntir has not yet gotten an invite and I have stopped doing BGs because it only shows how effective you are at curb-stomping mouth-breathers.

It is important to note that basically no big-name PvPrs actually get early-stage Beta invites unless they are Friends/Family, and that therefore no big-name PvPrs actually test PvP balance on Beta until the near-end when many more players get Beta invites. Last time around (Wrath's Beta), Guntir and I got our invites before 3.0 went Live, so we were able to play a number of arena matches before Wrath even shipped. We probably had a few hundred arena matches and got well into the 2k range in 2s on the Beta before calling it quits and focusing on game balance reports. This time around, I have not gotten a Beta invite at all (likely because of my forum troubles), and Guntir may have been black-flagged from association, which would make me rather sad indeed. I am only in the Beta by the grace of my friendships with one particular friendship allowing me a stay on his account with a premade Druid... rather kind.

All that being said, there is little point to actually playing on the Beta now without Guntir's presence as a majority of the changes for Cataclysm have been pushed to Live. We can more-easily roll BGs on Live than on the Beta, and there is more draw to do so since we can test out how well we play as a comp rather than as a solo. Again, this is largely a moot point since our BG queues seem to have hit 10+ minutes and we only play battlegrounds such as Strand of the Ancients and Alterac Valley where PvP is actually frowned upon while mini-game goals are the main attention. Sure, occasionally we will get a BG like Warsong Gulch which is largely a PvP battleground with some minor flag-running in the middle, but these are few and far between, and even in these rare instances we end up curb-stomping our opponents simply because we out-gear them so ridiculously.

There is another issue at play here that dwells beneath the surface in Rated Battlegrounds. Guntir and I had a nice discussion about their impact on the game and the PvP scene specifically after lunch yesterday. He points out that there is an ever larger collective fear amongst high-end PvP'rs over Rated Battlegrounds. For example, Hydra has openly migrated battlgrounds with an open invitation to all his high-rated friends. He has started a Guild called "Hydramist" and expects to have a large enough PvP guild to be the best Rated BG Guild in the world. His guild will likely be the best on his battlegroup by a HUGE margin. What is the problem here?

Well, Guntir pointed out that while they (the pro PvP'rs in Hydramist) likely have not even considered how much stronger their guild-bg-rosters will be than any who oppose it, and while it might be fun at first curb-stomping people every single match without fail, it will get old quickly. A huge reason that we play arenas is because it is never a guaranteed win, and it never has been for any comp. Sure, you can get paired against a 2900 team as a 2000 team, and your likelihood of actually winning is a near-zero percent, but it actually being zero would be something else entirely. We play because we LOVE that near-zero percent win. Hydramist will walk into any battleground and be so much more coordinated and skillful than any opposing team that they will likely have a 99% win-ratio and be the best on the battleground, which will cause all of them to lose their inkling to play rated bgs.

The second force at work here is that even if your guys are always online, getting 15 people together for some dedicated hours of BG grinding would be a bit much, particularly when one factors in queue times which will be large enough to keep at least a minimal portion of the arena community out of them. We are not talking about 5 minute or even 10 minute queue times like in the season 1-3 days; instead, we are talking about 15-20 minute queues with a full roster. The last force at play is the randomness factor. When you go into an arena match, you know all your partners and you know what you can expect from them skill-wise. However, when you go into a Rated BG, you need only 5 players minimum to actually queue. What happens when Hydra decides to queue with only 9 players because his 10th regular is sick, and he gets that one awful mouth-breathing-mouse-clicker who is in the game enough to not be kicked from AFK and not contribute anything worth-while? How many matches do you think Hydra will suffer when he queues for a rated BG with 10 guys and gets into AV with 1/10 the population and the rest are botters looking for points with which to buy arena gear?

Ultimately, I feel that Hydra et al. (meaning all the top-rated PvP'rs) will eventually either grow bored or tire completely of the Rated BG scene. I simply do not see the reason for Rated BGs IN ADDITION to the regular battleground. Who would play a regular Battleground instead of a Rated BG when the gear from one is much stronger than the other, and there really is no consequence to losing? Blizzard has entirely removed all incentive for doing normal BGs, added incentives to Rated BGs, and removed any requirements for skill... it will do nothing except create ANOTHER branch of queue times that are not the focus of PvP by the top-end PvP'rs, and will likely end up fractured between the mouth-breathers who know they are bad and will only queue for regular BGs, and the mouth-breathers who think they are good and therefore queue for rated BGs. At the end of the day, the people who actually asked for Rated BGs will end up hating them, the players who merely stand for them will do either rated bgs or the arenas and mock the other, and the hardcore arena PvP'rs will either stick with Arena or be back within a few weeks of the start of season nine.

Guntir made a good point in that Rated BGs are likely Blizzard's attempt at moving the PvP scene from Arenas, but not for the reasons you would expect. There are always going to be class imbalances and there will always be a king of the hill, but Arenas have been astoundingly powerful at illustrating these defects. Arenas have acted as a crucible for refining PvP class balance, and unfortunately for many, Blizzard has simply not enough time or staff to enact quick and effective changes. Additionally, there has always been the different shards of the game between PvP and PvE, and while one may be balanced, the other will not be. In this way, the Arenas have been both the biggest boon and the deepest thorn for Blizzard; the Arenas are the best tool for illustrating class imbalances, but also do it so effectively that the general public can see these imbalances and cry for change.

The accumulated filth of their [Haste] and [Burst] will foam up about their wastes and all the [Druids] and [Warriors] will look up and shout "Save us!"...

and I'll look down and whisper "no."
- Greg Street (read in the voice of Rorschach from Alan Moore)