It is Not Monday, I Know!

However, the talent calculator was released by Blizzard and it has some truly interesting stuff worth discussing, and it seems to have answered a lot of my questions.

Firstly, take note that Wild Charge has been updated to include Cat Form, which does exactly what Feral Charge Cat and Stampede do on live - leap behind an enemy and cause your next Ravage to cost no energy, not require stealth, and have no positioning requirement. This means that tier4 largely must be considered as the "Wild Charge Tier" for PvP Ferals. Also worth noting, Wild Charge has effects for non-shapeshifted (which we knew about), Travel, Flight, and Aquatic Forms as well (which we did not). I admit, when I first read about Wild Charge, I thought it would be governed by the specialization chosen by the player, but now I think that it will be given to all Druids who take Wild Charge and the effect will simply vary depending on the form.

What is interesting about this revelation is that the non-shapeshifted version of Wild Charge is actually amazing in terms of survivability; it is essentially Leap of Faith except that the Feral can decide when to use it. The macro possibilities will be rather insane, but the ability itself will be great. Imagine a "cancel cat form, wild charge [target=guntir]" macro - it would be a 30s CD to use as a get out of jail card on maps like Blade's Edge, Sewers, or even RoV in certain scenarios. Similarly, Travel Form is basically Blink plus a 20% damage reduction for 10 seconds. I do not know if these sorts of abilities will remain to live because Wild Charge seems grossly overpowered for Resto, but who knows.

Otherwise, the talent tree is largely unchanged for Ferals. More interesting is the Feral specialization and the abilities given. We still get Bash at level 8, but interestingly it is defaulted to a 5s stun now (instead of 4) and does not matter what specialization is picked (that is, Balance and Resto also get the 5s stun of Bash). Similarly, Pounce is a 4s stun by default and every spec gets it for free.

Of the spec-based abilities Ferals get, Tiger's Fury coupled with King of the Jungle (from live) comes as no big surprise. Mangle only reads "Damage varies by shapeshift form", which I think is funny because Wild Charge looks like the old Shadowform tooltip: "Wild Charge, Chapter 1 ..." Similar to this is Rip, having been given "Glyph of Shred" or whatever it is called now by default - increasing the duration of Rip by 2 seconds whenever Mangle or Shred lands on a Ripped target (max 6). I am truly wondering what is to become of the Glyph system since many of them are now on the abilities baseline.

Blizzard suggested that Mangle would no longer increase Bleed damage and that it would do roughly the same, but slightly less, damage as Shred; however, when we look at Shred (which is a Feral-spec-only ability now) we see the new tooltip says "Shred the target, causing 540% damage plus 335 to the target... Deals 20% additional damage against bleeding targets."

Looking at Mangle on live, it claims to do 540% damage as well, so the real differences here will be 1) positioning requirement, 2) 20% more damage from Shred, and 3) Mangle costs 5 less energy. Obviously, this will require the finalized numbers to make an actual assessment, but I am still not sold on Mangle being "very close to Shred" in terms of damage per second. This is definitely a step in the right direction; Mangle is easier to use in PvP for sure, and without that additional 30% multiplier from Mangle to Shred, it gets much closer. My in-the-head-napkin-maths say that would equate to 9 Mangles for every 8 Shreds and 20% more-again of 8 Shreds is basically 9.6 Shreds at the same damage as Mangle. That is roughly a 6.25% increase in damage for using Shred over Mangle in the long-run.

I also find it interesting that the old tooltip for Savage Roar has returned: "Finishing move that increases physical damage done by 30%." The Savage Roar on live specifically says auto-attacks, but the one on the talent calculator looks a la early Wrath. Forgetting, for the moment, that this is probably just a mistake, this could mean the old rotation comes back in flair in MoP without the requirement of Mangle. Additionally, if we are Mangle-spamming in PvP anyway, this will be easier to maintain and it probably stacks ludicrously with Tiger's Fury. Again, this is likely a mistake (I hope), but it would be interesting otherwise.

Okay, we finally have an answer - Predatory Strikes is back in full force: finishing moves have a 20% chance per combo point to cause the next nature spell with a cast time less than 10 seconds to become instant cast and cost no mana. Things are still early on, but it would be interesting to see if Blizzard has plans to, like Nature's Swiftness, allow the nature spell to be cast in form. I am holding my breath and crossing my fingers, but that might be way too overpowered. Additionally, while Predatory Strikes does nothing for Ravage, Ravage now simply has an innate 50% additional critical strike chance against targets above 80% hp.

Interestingly, also still present is Dash and Stampeding Roar in their current forms and causing the removal of all roots and snares. In the case of Stampeding Roar, I understand this completely as it is useful for your teammates, but with Disentanglement on the table, why Dash? Additionally, with these abilities still granting root-breaking, why does Tireless Pursuit exist if it is simply another Dash? I would say that this is going to mean much steeper costs on shapeshifting, but we still have Leader of the Pack to restore 8% of our total mana, so I am sort of at a loss.

Notably missing is Remove Corruption; it seems that only casters will have access to dispels of these types in MoP. For instance, Balance has Remove Corruption which removes a Poison and a Curse, but Feral does not. Oddly, both Elemental and Enhancement Shammies have Cleanse Spirit to remove a curse. No idea if this is intended or not, but it is early-on in development, so who knows.

A new ability, near as I can tell, is called "Might of Ursoc", which increases maximum health by 30% and increases health to 30% if below that. Lasts 20 seconds on a 3min CD. This is obviously a survivability ability, but it does not specify Bear Form, so that is a bit odd. I would have though at least it would say "activates Bear Form" as Demoralizing Roar and whatnot does.

Additionally, something interesting about these sorts of abilities is that they all "activate Bear Form" now, rather than requiring the form. This is interesting because canceling a form never caused a GCD before, and using a form used to cause a GCD; I wonder if Blizzard is finally getting around this by allowing abilities out-of-form which cause the form to fire at the same time as the ability. This makes the game play more fluidly depending on whether Shred/Mangle/Rip/etc get the same treatment. That is, say you are in Cat Form and you want to land a long stun and also use Rip, you could, potentially, hit Bash which would stun the target for 5 seconds and activate Bear Form on the same GCD, then when that GCD ends hit Rip and get back into Cat Form on the same GCD that Rip was applied. At the moment, no Cat Form abilities which deal damage state "activates Cat Form", so this might be a non-issue, but it is something to think about.

I have been saving the best for last, of course; Symbiosis is a new ability learned at level 87:

4% of base mana
30 yd range
Instant cast
Creates a symbiotic link which grants the Druid one ability belonging to the target's class, varying by the Druid's specialization.

In exchange, grants the target one Druid ability based on their class and combat role.

Lasts 1 hour and persists through death.
Okay, well... that is insane. This does not say whether the target must be friendly or hostile (or either), but based on the wording and the fact that it lasts 1 hour and persists through death, I have to imagine that it is only usable on friendly targets. If I am understanding the ability correctly, and I make no guarantees that such is the case, then Symbiosis will allow me to gain an ability from Guntir based on my role (dps) and give him an ability based on his role (healer). Maybe this is like a friendly-only version of Dark Simulacrum? I am having a hard time even speculating on exactly how this will work.

I AM excited, however.

I hope that it does not steal an ability from my friend and myself, but I could see that happening as well. Something like, I "take" Mind Blast as a Feral from a Priest so that priest can no longer use Mind Blast, but instead they "take" Regrowth from me (haha, I just looked; Feral will not have Regrowth, Nourish, or Lifebloom).

More than likely, this will mean that Guntir would receive a new ability in Rejuvenation or something, and I would get access to Shadow Word: Death or something. We would each still "have" these abilities, but we each gained one of the others' abilities based on our specs.

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Those Were the Days

Another Monday, another chance for me to wax nostalgic. Firstly, I closed escrow on my new place last week and moved in over the weekend; I am super-tired, but love the new place entirely except for one thing: I believe the windows are old and have poor weather stripping. It got down to ~48 last night (not too cold for some people, but in Southern California, that is considered low) and it could not have been more than 52 or 53 in my home >_<. We have a fire place, but a family member who did our home inspection said not to use it until we get it inspected by a professional. Anyway, I am still excited.

Okay, I didn't know exactly what I was going to write about today, and I had one of those "oh come on Rey, you only suggested the once a week on Monday thing like two weeks ago, you can't fail now!" Then it hit me; I guess I just should start writing it instead of writing about how I came up with it... it's early... leave me alone.

So, a growing concern of mine has to do with the "we want Hybrids to feel more hybrid-like again and use non-main-role abilities more often" stance that Blizzard has taken toward Druids in MoP. I am truly worried that Ferals will be balanced around having to get out of a fight and throw 3 Wraths (or something) every now and then to deal our best melee damage. This may be effective in a raiding environment where boss mechanics may make melee range impossible for 10-15s every now and then and therefore a reason would exist for a Feral to pop out and start lobbing Wraths until the end of the phase, then get back into the fray with increased physical damage for a short period, but balancing Feral damage around these sorts of mechanics will simply make Feral a lackluster option for PvP, where doing anything less than your maximum for any period of time is a waste.

The flip-side of this is that Warriors and Rogues (in particular) are getting abilities to use from range that will do decent damage when not performing their primary role. I suppose it could be that Blizzard is planning on making melees balanced around their physical damage, but trying not to punish them on raid encounters that require more than tank-n-spank. In fact, the more I think about this, the more I see it being an actual possibility that Blizzard simply wants all the melee classes to have something to do (besides die in the fire) when the fight calls for short periods of "get out of melee". For instance, if the ranged classes can just sit there and pelt the boss with icebolts over and over again, then the only way for the melees to compete is for them to be in a tank-n-spank situation in which the melees can go whole-hog as well.

Interestingly, in most fights (that I remember from my raiding days) the ranged will have to move or die in the fire, and even some encounters had entirely mobile phases (safety dance comes to mind readily) where the ranged could only use instants. AHHHHHH, it is all coming together now - the melees ONLY use instants while in melee range and can do so while mobile; the ranged ONLY use cast-time abilities while stationary and cannot do so while mobile. However, the ranged classes can use instants while on the run and most melees cannot do anything while not in melee range. If we look at encounter dichotomy, then we see why Blizzard is doing this: enable the melees to contribute while not able to perform their primary positional role in the same way that casters can. Okay, so when a Mage has to move, he'll spam Scorch (if talented) to keep his DPS up, and if a Feral has to get out of melee, then he'll drop some Wraths on the boss to keep his DPS up.

What is most interesting about this is that if Blizzard gets this right, then those talents at Tier6 are useful in PvE, but definitely not mandatory. When compared to Disentanglement, both Heart of the Wild and Master Shapeshifter look stronger provided that the raiding content actually has fights which require these sorts of mechanics; yet, when I think about PvP, I have to imagine that the normal Wrath-spam will be close to the HotW Wrath-spam, since it only increases our Intellect by 50% of our agility. I am sure that the numbers are not set in stone, but it is probably going to be close enough that it is a worth-while button to press in a raid encounter, but not a required one. That being the case would mean that Wrath is a semi-powerful button to mash in general.

Blizzard said that Ferals will be getting Nurturing Instinct by spec in MoP, and that it would be powerful enough to make using a Wrath a worth-while endeavor in the situations where melee is impossible for 5-10s for one reason or another. What intrigues me is whether this will impact healing as I expect it will impact nuking. Since Blizzard has largely done away with the idea of healing-vs-damage spell power, Nurturing Instinct is likely to remain "gives X% of your Agility as spell power and causes heals to be 20% more effective on you while in Cat Form". If our mana pool is gigantic at baseline (as discussed in the previous post) then we can assume that we could actually use a fair few heals before running out of mana, and if we assume, too, that Leader of the Pack is still in MoP as our only form of mana return then we may have windows of healing followed by a return to the dps role in PvP.

Really quickly as an aside, Innervate is based off of the casting Druid's total mana and all Druids will have the same mana pool regardless of spec in MoP. Either Innervate will have to change, or we will bring the best buff in the game for healers. Likely, Innervate will be changed to be spirit based since that will be the regen stat, but who knows.

Okay, why did I name this post "Those Were the Days"? Back in Seasons 1/2, Feral was bad. Feral was god-awful, truth be told. Feral was better than it ever was in Vanilla, but it was still terrible to behold let alone play. In season 1 or 2 before the days of Feral Charge Cat or Infected Wounds, we would occasionally get out of range of our targets when trying to land a killing blow, which almost always led to the inevitable Moonfire-spam. Moonfire was an ability that was not terrible for Feral. I do not really recall why; we may have had some talents that simply made it work out that way, or we had an instant which did not scale well from spell power and thus had a high base damage; whatever the reason was, Moonfire-spam was the kill-shot we had against runners.

Obviously, Blizzard does not want Feral to end up spamming Moonfire as a killshot attempt at runners; we have many (and I mean many) abilities to close the gap between us and our foe, but with this focus on "Hybridity" in MoP, I cannot help but wonder if Moonfire will be one of those spells I end up putting back on my bar for those rare cases where I need to take down a Grounding Totem while my nuking-buddy is winding up a CC or something critical. It will be interesting to see, if nothing else. I am sort of hoping that we do not need to put Moonfire back on the bars - I am looking at the talents and current abilities and saying "I don't even know where Typhoon will go let alone Moonfire >_< ! ! !"

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On an Issue of Stats Continued

I know, I know... I promised one post per week, but this came out today and I had to write something.

Okay, so here is a quote from GC concerning the upcoming change to healers with regard to mana pool scaling around int.

For healers, there should not always be a clear cut answer. Intellect may still be the superior stat, but not by as much as it is today. (Again, for healers -- DPS specs aren’t designed to run out of mana if they use their regen mechanics every now and then.) Mana pools can still be large (we are thinking 100,000 mana at level 85) so that it doesn’t feel too bizarre to existing casters and doesn’t feel too much like rage or energy.
Okay, so the idea is that mana pools will be static in size and never change; that is, if you have a mana pool then the amount of intellect you have will not change the amount of mana you have.

Guntir pointed this out to me and it hit home, allow me to state that again:

If you have a mana pool then the amount of intellect you have will not change the amount of mana you have.

Okay, so while on Live Resto/Balance Druids have 100k mana pools, for example, because they have huge amounts of int from their gear and gems and whatever else; however, Ferals only have 26k mana because none of our gear has intellect on it. Now are you starting to see the issue? Ferals will potentially have 100k mana pools in MoP simply by virtue of this new mechanic. Intellect will no longer matter, so Druids, regardless of spec, should have the exact same mana pool size. This is HUGELY interesting!

I was concerned about us having access to Disentanglement, particularly because of the statements that Blizzard had released concerning Feral and how it was the escapist class and how other melees did not have the option etc. I was concerned that Disentanglement would be an option Ferals could take, but then Shapeshifting would become this hugely expensive move that would take a majority of our tiny mana pool and cause shapeshifting to become a choice with the consequence being that we may not have the mana for an instant-cast Cyclone later (or what have you).

Feral being a Druid with the same mana pool as a Resto Druid, on the other hand, is hugely appealing. We will just have to wait and see how this plays out.

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On an Issue of Stats

Before I get into the stats, I thought I would share some thoughts on this little quote about MS-effects:

We dropped the healing debuff from 50% to 10% some time ago, but were convinced at 10% that it was hard to appreciate the effect at all. We want to try Mortal Strike et al. at 25% to see if it feels useful but not mandatory. If 25% is too much and 10% is too little, then it may mean the entire mechanic may not have much of a future. We decided to only change the debuff for the warrior, rogue, and hunter, restoring the original relationship between “strong” and “weak” MS that we had in Lich King.
Essentially, Rogues, Warriors, and Hunters will once again have the most potent healing debuffs in the game. At 25%, however, they are half as powerful as they were in Cataclysm. What strikes me as interesting in this change is the question of source - where does Blizzard see a lack of warrior, rogues, and hunters in high-end PvP? To be fair, I have been out of the game for a few months now and have honestly not kept up with the flavors of the month and who is on top, so it could very well be that I simply am not noticing that caster-cleaves are back in force or that DK+Spriest+Druid is the best threes comp around. I simply do not know; however, I would still guess that Rogue/Warrior/Hunter representation in the arenas is more than adequate with their 10% healing debuff.

In any case, the most interesting bit here is the suggestion that MS-effects may end up being removed entirely if 25% turns out to be too strong. The reason that this intrigues me, other than the fact that these overpowered mechanics are finally on the chopping block, is that Blizzard is not willing to delve any deeper than numbers. They suggest that if 10% is too weak, and 25% is too strong, then it is a problem that they refuse to solve by trying again at 15 or 20%. On the one hand, I think this is because Blizzard does not want to disenfranchise players by changing this value every other week, but on the other hand it may be more to the intrinsic problem that is anti-scaling.

I have discussed MS-effects ad nauseum, so I will try and keep this brief - at the core, MS-effects scale inversely with a healer's power, and while a healer's power scales pretty linearly with gear (which scale exponentially during the course of an expansion, but is pretty much static during a season), MS-effects cut that growth in half (or by a tenth, or a quarter - whatever the value of MS is at the time). What ends up bring the issue is that at some point MS-effects are either powerful enough to cause concern for a healer, or they are simply a mana-burn in that the healer has to use more mana than in the absence. Either way, this put teams without an MS-effect at a disadvantage, unless they can do 10% (or 25% or whatever MS is) more damage overall and therefore cause the same healing requirement of the opposing healer. For the longest time, the former was true, and for a very brief period in Cataclysm, the latter was true. I fear that going to a 25% MS will bring back the "non-MS teams will be at a disadvantage", and ultimately Blizzard will have to scrap the effect as the suggested in the quote.

To the stats! Blizzard had a "dev's watercooler" discussion about stats. Particularly, the issue of exponential stat growth was discussed. This is something that I talk about at every expansion, it seems - the public gets a glimpse of some of the gear that is released and goes bonkers over the absurd stats on each piece. Way back when TBC was released, we saw greens that had three times the amount of stam on them than tanking purples from Black Wing Lair. Then in wrath we saw the same thing but with primary stats like intellect and agility. This cycle continues every single expansion; how else could Blizzard get the public to buy those expansions unless the gear upgrade continued growing and forcing the out-dating of one's current gear?

In this, we see a growing problem - each expansion shows damage increasing in an exponential fashion. In Vanilla landing a 200 was a big hit; in TBC 2000 was huge; in Wrath we saw some caster cleaves dropping 10ks on people in a gcd; and finally, we are in Cataclysm now and I quite some months ago while dropping 30ks on Mages with FB or Ravage fairly regularly. While this damage is not going up exponentially (as my mathematically inclined readers will note), it is definitely going up in a non-linear fashion, and growing roughly with our stats on gear. If we look to MoP, then those 30ks that I can drop may well be 50 or even 75k hits, which would mean people should have something like 250k hp... some bosses in Vanilla did not have that much HP.

So, Blizzard has basically discussed two options: 1) the "MEGA DAMAGE" option and 2) the "squish" option. Basically, mega damage would be allowing the trend to continue, but updating the scrolling combat text and whatever else to accommodate "10M damage" (to show 10 million damage, as an example; I would imagine that 10K would be more inline with MoP) in the far future. I am not a fan of this method because it honestly does not fix anything. Damage will still be growing at this ridiculous rate and while people will be excited about seeing huge numbers, they will not be killing anything any faster, so it will not really matter.

exponential growthThe squish option basically acknowledges that each expansion's end-game content always causes exponential growth (as you can see in the image to left which I am borrowing from MMO-Champion). Notice that the growth while grinding is usually very small and the end-game makes everything crazy.

exponential growthThe squish method aims to resolve this issue by retroactively reducing the ilvl (or just flat stats) of each previous tier, thus reducing almost all the "current" gear into greens/blues from the next expansion.

As an example, when MoP comes out, if this were to be done, then our current gear would drop from ilvl 391 to perhaps ilvl 99, and MoP's gear would start at 100.

Also notice that the last tier, MoP (represented in red), has a HUGELY steep growth in the end-game when compared to the previous "squished" tiers. This is the interesting bit - the end-game tier would still grow exponentially at the time it was new, but once a new expansion comes out, all that gear basically gets squished down into blues/greens of the first level in the next expansion. This is exactly what happens at present, but it is done by the next tier being as strong as that exponentially grown tier of purples before it while the squish method essentially artificially does this by spot-reducing the end-game gear of the then-defunct expansion.

Blizzard rightly worries about causing players stress under this model by having us going from 30k crits at level 85 to 5k crits at level 90. However, if the HP pools support it, we are still simply doing a portion of our target's health, and the actual numbers do not really matter except to make the player feel better when they are huge. Personally, I like this method the best as it actually aims to wrangle in the out of control growth.

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Class Balance Q&A

I know I said I would try and only post on Mondays from now on, but damn... some of these questions are the ones I asked on Monday. Check it out!

Comment From Christina Thomas

I noticed in a sample of the druid talent tree coming up in MoP, that there seems to not be many restoration-specific talents. In fact it seems a lot like hybrid-esque talents. Is this intentional? Will the lack of restoration talents be made up for in the spells they get?
The overall philosphy of the Druid talent treee is to bring some hybridization back to the Druid class. The 4 Druid specs have become very focused on never using the forms that they do not specialize in. We would like to bring the whole class back together more. So, interesting functionality themed around the different combat roles has been introduced. Some players have objected that they aren't good at the other roles, and those abilities aren't worth the global cooldown they cost. To address this, we are making the existing Nurturing Instinct talent baseline to both Feral and Guardian Druids, and making a new talent which grants attack power based on Intellect for Restoration and Balance Druids. That will make the occasional use of core class abilities that require other forms useful even to the Restoration Druid. In addition, the combination of talents may let a Restoration Druid do things like use Demoralizing Roar, which cc's nearby enemies, triggers an instant heal (from Disentanglement), and increases armor and health all in a single gcd. That capability is useful to Restoration Druids even in a raid setting.
I am not entirely sure what to make of this... it seems like they are honestly trying to bring back the "hybrid" feel of Druids, but in all honesty Feral only became a worthwhile PvP option when that hybrid-mindset was diminished to near extinct. When we have utility built around doing something other that min/max-stuff, we tend to suck at min/max stuff. As long as Blizz promises that while in a min/max environment, we can perform up to par, then I do not mind being designed with a little utility flair thrown in on top.

Comment From Bellajtok
A lot people are worried that with druids being able to do well at our other roles, we'll see the return of the "hybrid tax". It's the same old story: if we can perform any role when needed, raids will stack us, unless we don't do as well in our specific roles, in which case we're bad at what we most want to do. What assurance can we get that we won't have this problem?
We are very interested in opening opportunities for more hybrid gameplay in druids, as you can see in the level 90 talent tier, while still allowing an option for players who want to never do anything outside their role. We don't intend for that added hybridization to be offset by any sort of DPS nerf. While DPSing, a druid's DPS will be entirely competitive with other DPS. We hope to see druids that do things like, "DPS in Cat Form most of the fight, but during one phase, when healing is super difficult, pop out of Cat, hit Heart of the Wild, Tranquility, and spam heals on the raid to help top everyone off, then go back to Cat and resume DPSing." In that sort of the situation, the Cat will have spent less time DPSing than other DPSers, but his/her DPS while DPSing would have been competitive, and in exchange helped save the raid when healers were falling behind. You can probably think of many situations where this would be useful in raid content, or in some 5man content, and frequently in PvP. To clarify a bit further on how the druids will perform at their off-roles: Ferals and Guardians will have Nurturing Instinct, which increases spell power based on Agility, and Balance and Restoration will have Killer Instinct, which increases attack power based on Intellect. They will have a smaller toolbox of spells for their off-role, but the strength of those spells will be competitive, when under the effects of those hybrid talents.

Correction, not a new talent, a new baseline abiltiy for Resto and Balance that grants ap from Intellect.
What I do not like about this explanation is basically that the two talents in question are essentially PvE-specific (Master Shapeshifter and Heart of the Wild) while Disentanglement is a hugely overpowered PvP abilities for most Druids. I guess I should be less argumentative, as this will allow us to be back where we were mobility-wise before we got nerfed in the face and forced to sit in roots with no breaks.

Interestingly, this makes our decision at the first talent tier less interesting; we simply will not have to take Tireless Pursuit since Disentanglement will largely override it.

Comment From L
In the old talent trees, a lot of the talents gave players spec-specific gameplay mechanics that are core to its gameplay, such as the Mage's Hot Streak talent. Others, such as Infected Wounds for Druids, also provided important benefits/mechanics, but might not be necessary to take depending on raid composition (i.e. if another player brought the debuff). With the new talent system, how are these mechanics going to be incorporated into the classes? It would seem overwhelming to players to roll all of the core spec mechanics into the "Level 10 Pick Your Spec" decision, and are talents like Infected Wounds going to be made choices of some sort, or are they also just going to be rolled into the spec?
In most cases, if it's a fun mechanic, we give it to your spec. All Fire mages get Hot Streak at a certain level. Feral druids (but not Guardian druids - the new bear spec) learn Infected Wounds. As with every expansion, we are taking a close look at buffs and debuffs, simplifying the matrix a bit, and making sure you don't feel like you are locked into a certain debuff.

BADASS! I love you Ghostcrawler!!! So, this means that PvP Ferals will likely take Typhoon over Faerie Swarm for most teams just for the added control.

Comment From Clayton Nash
Are there any plans to simplify the feral cat druid dps rotations or are you happy where they are right now?
The Feral rotation has been simplified slightly in 4.3 by renaming the Glyph of Shred and allowing it to trigger off Mangle instead. In addition, in 5.0 Mangle will no longer cause a bleed damage debuff and so no longer be required in the rotation. At that point, the two abilities will be interchangeable, changing only by whether a Feral Druid can attack from behind or not. That will make Feral easier to play in high movement encounters and encounters with facing restrictions. The current Feral Charge and Stampede talents are becoming part of Wild Charge, so you can select not to have that complexity with Ravage. Past that, we are pretty happy with the rotation and feel there is a strong Feral community that enjoys the current rotation.
WHOA. Well, this means that Incarnation is off the table for PvP (likely) since Wild Charge will be a huge mobility and burst talent that is nigh-mandatory for PvP... but that's okay, I'm glad it is still in the game.

Comment From Monopedia
With the previously mentioned removal of the +bleed debuff will Feral druids have Mangle taken away to become Guardian only and Shred lose its positional requirement. Without the bleed debuff and its obvious lower damage output than shred, Mangle is extremely situational especially when somebody else is already providing the ability. Or will Mangle debuff on the target just increase the feral druids bleeds and shred damage?
Mangle and Shred will both exist for Feral (cats). Mangle will no longer apply a debuff, but will be usable from any facing, whereas Shred will offer slightly more overall DPS if you are able to stay behind the target. Guardians (bears) will have Mangle, but not Shred.
In case this was confusing from the other post talking about Mangle-vs-Shred. They will both be there, but Mangle will not improve bleeds or shred's damage. Shred will do a little more damage overall, but the gap is closer now... maybe we just Mangle in PvP finally???

Comment From Michele
I think this is the main question that feral druids seems to have right now: when you said that Shred will do "slightly" more damage than Shred, did that mean that mangle is going to get buffed a little to provide less penalities in the several encounters we can't Shred? Because the difference between those skills is pretty big currently.
Our own internal numbers show that once the Glyph of Shred works from Mangle as well as Shred, the difference between a Mangle and a Shred rotation is actually fairly small (in the 5% range).
Whoa... yeah; if Mangle and Shred are honestly within 5% damage of one another, Mangle-spam will become the PvP norm and we will never have to get behind our opponent again. That would be GLORIOUS.

Comment From Dennis Mooney
There hasn't been any questions answered about Resto Druids yet. Can you talk about our extremely weak state in PvP and the fact that we're the only healer not only not seeing a buff but seeing a nerf in 4.3?
We will definitely be addressing some of the PvP weakness of Resto Druids in 5.0. For one, the ability to recreate the Restokin builds of earlier expansions was introduced in the talent trees. Carefully selecting talents like Typhoon and Wild Charge together will give Restoration Druids a lot more opportunity to control. One of the new abilities Resto Druids will get baseline is a replacement for Barkskin that can be cast on others with the same effect and cooldown. Finally, we have a new level 87 ability abiltiy in mind for all Druids called Symbiosis that will blwo your mind and potentially add a lot of flexibility and utility, including survivabiltiy options.
I only included this because of the new ability, Symbiosis, for all Druids that will blow my mind and potentially add a lot of flexibility and utility. No idea what is meant by this, but a great teaser to keep in mind.

Comment From NateDosMil
As a Druid, I feel that the level 90 talents feel too much like work. You guys put so much effort into making the Moonkin unique and more complex, so why force us to shift more often to "fill other combat roles?" Poor kitties are going to have a nightmare of a time dealing with this...
The level 90 Druid talents deliberately come in 3 different levels of work required. Heart of the Wild is perfect for an encounter where there is a period where increased healing is needed for a short time, and dps is not the need of the encounter. Something like the Chimaeron encounter where more healing is needed at certain times, and dps is less important. Master Shapeshifter targets the Druid who is willing to do a lot of work shifting back and forth or occasionally needs to heal or damage, such as Blood Queen Lanathel, where a Tranquility boosted by the talent would help your group a lot during her air phase. Disentanglement is there for the "lazy" Druid who doesn't want to do that work, but still gets some benefit from a well-timed shapeshift.
Soooooo basically the PvP Ferals get Disentanglement; a talent which used to be baked into the class. Oh well, we will gladly take it over those other two rotting piles of dog-vomit.

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Let's Talk Turkey!

I really wanted to get into discussing the blue post concerning stat points in the future and how to get around the exponential growth problem, but I have resigned myself to finishing what I started (though I also pseudo-promised this would be published Monday and it is in fact Tuesday). Therefore, I ought to finish up talking about the talents as we know them.

Before we can get into the issue of actually picking talents, we need to understand the role which the Feral of MoP will need to play in PvP. By the looks of the talents, Feral has access to some truly amazing utility talents which could potentially net us some truly interesting builds, and if nothing else we will have a wide arsenal of abilities which lay outside the scope of dealing damage. Additionally, we cannot take for granted that which we currently have; with the talent tree toss up coming in MoP, we may end up losing some current talents in favor of ground-shaking balance adjustments - we may not have Predator's Swiftness any longer and therefore may not have the ability to throw out instant Cyclones after finishers.

Why do I say that particularly? Well, if I look at the talent trees directly, I notice that all Druids have access to Nature's Swiftness in the second tier. Further to that, it also increases the duration by 50%, so that Cyclone would last 8 seconds in PvP (9 otherwise) like most other CCs. Again, this is just speculation and should be taken with a grain of salt, but it is important to acknowledge these types of possible caveats so as to not get one's hopes up. Personally, I do not believe that Blizzard will allow Nature's Swiftness to go ahead as-is because an 8s duration instant Cyclone from a Resto Druid would be an atrocity.

Okay, as the title suggests - let's talk turkey!

I find the first tier the most interesting, though not for obvious reasons. I think that every Feral sees the allure of an ability like Displacer Beast; we all have begged for something like this for a LONG time, but the cooldown is much longer than I would have imagined. Again, taking nothing for granted and treading lightly, we may be cautiously optimistic that simply specializing in Feral will innately lower this cooldown somewhat while leaving it as a longer cooldown for Resto/Balance, but I do not know for sure. The truly interesting thing about the first tier is that of the other two abilities, they were something which we had taken entirely as Feral previously - we are accustomed to moving 30% faster while in Cat Form and for the last few months breaking roots and snares when using either Sprint or Stampede. Yes, this tier is the most interesting to me because it implies a lot about the state of talent trees and how Blizzard aims to force choices amongst players in the future. Personally, I am leaning towards Displacer beast simply because of the huge number of things it does - teleports in a random direction 20 yards (quite a distance), removes all periodic damage effects (CloS on steroids), and puts us into prowl for 10 seconds.

Essentially, Displacer Beast is Blink, Cloak of Shadows, and Vanish rolled into one on a 3min CD. This can be used either offensively (again, assuming that we will continue to have access to Feral Charge Cat and it providing a free Ravage after use) or defensively as a get out of jail free card. Its true utility will only be seen in implementation; by this I mean that if we purge all DoT effects, stealth, THEN teleport so as to keep enemies from even GUESSING to where we have gone, then it will truly be an amazing talent (and one which even Restos and Balance druids will likely take). Even if it teleports us, then applies the purge+vanish effect it will still be worth-while, I imagine, but it will give away our "random" positioning which would truly be the strength of the former.

My pick: Displacer Beast

The second tier is interesting in that Nature's Swiftness has been changed to allow for an 8s Cyclone castable in Cat Form every three minutes. This is basically Blind on PCP... there is only one thing in the game that can break Cyclone (another taken-for-granted assumption) and that is the trinket. Most Druid teams essentially fish out trinkets with Cyclone and then use their longer CC-trains on the target when trinket is down. This allows for a longer train, in many cases, but also gives potential to dispels and damage-breaks and the like. However, if Cyclone is now a does-not-break-on-anything Blind which also keeps the target from receiving healing, then it may be worth taking just to set up some extreme CC-trains.

Again, I do not expect Blizz to allow NS to go live as-is... it would truly be too overpowered even at a 3min CD. The other option for Feral is Renewal. Essentially, every 2min I can simply give myself 30% of my hp as a self-heal in case I need a button to survive. I suspect that we will not have access to Survival Instincts any longer in MoP being as the Bear and Cat specializations are being pulled apart at the seam, but I could be wrong. My guess is that Renewal will be the button we press instead of SI when we need to survive a few more seconds, but I could be way off base and maybe we will still have SI in our arsenal (would be great) and this is just another button to press when your healer eats a CC train.

Because Cenarion Ward is a heal and based around spell power, I do not see Ferals picking it up.

My pick: If we do not have Predator's Swiftness anymore, Nature's Swiftness; else Renewal.

The third tier is another amazing tier in terms of interest. Faerie Swarm is basically our Feral Faerie Fire as-is, except there is a tacked on 50% snare thrown into the mix. Now, I have no idea what Blizz is playing at here; it could be that Blizzard is removing Infected Wounds in favor of forcing Ferals to pick up Faerie Swarm and gain a ranged snare on the GCD (a la hamstring + range), but who knows at this point. I suspect (and truly hope) that Infected Wounds remains in the game and Faerie Swarm is simply a snare aimed at helping Balance and Resto, though if Resto has access to a snare, then they would be the only healer with one (as far as I know) and that seems a little bit weird to me. If I were in Blizz's position here, I would be looking to give Balance a ranged snare (a la Slow) and some added utility for mixing with physical damage-dealers, so I would rewrite Faerie Swarm to say "When in Boomkin form, Faerie Swarm also causes a 50% snare for 15 seconds" so that the intention is clear. This would allow Infected Wounds to remain as-is and would give Balance Druids an option for ranged utility and a snare for escape.

Mass Entanglement was something I was truly excited to see until I read the "Cannot be cast while in Bear Form or Cat Form". I do not know why this stipulation is on there, as having a 2s cast AoE root effect would be strong but probably not overpowered, particularly if we are forced to stand still while casting it. Oh well. It looks like it's going to be an area of effect spell like Death and Decay, but then apply Entangling Roots to everyone standing there once it fires. I expect Restos will take this in a heartbeat, but the other option is also interesting.

Typhoon is back! I do not know why this is not simply a staple of the Balance specialization; it has been as long as Typhoon has been. I guess the new staple is Solar Beam, though I would be lying if I said I had not hoped that Solar Beam was going to be one of the new talent choices which Feral could acquire. If Infected Wounds remains in the game for Feral as our snare, then I will definitely be picking up Typhoon. Having played Boomkin for a while during season 8 (for funsies and to get my Arena Master title; Boomer was for 5s while Feral kind of sucked in 5s), I can say that Typhoon is one of those abilities that can entirely change the game, and while Feral is up in people's grills most the time, we occasionally need to peel someone off of Guntir, and Typhoon gives a 6s 50% snare and knocks the target away, and since priests have access (currently; no idea if this will remain in MoP) to an ability which breaks snares, Typhoon is a must-have for a Priest healer on the team. Additionally, Typhoon allows Ferals to cheese some fights on certain maps by knocking a player down and making a match 2v1 or 3v2/1 for a bit, and that advantage is HUGE.

My pick: If we have Infected Wounds, then I will take Typhoon. If we no longer have Infected Wounds as a snare, I have to take Faerie Swarm.

The fourth tier is another one of those tiers which caused me to sit and think for a few minutes. Wild Charge looks like it will likely be the Feral Charge equivalent and while it does not currently have a Cat Form version, I expect it to be the Feral Charge Cat we have come to know and love of late - charge an opponent and allow a Ravage out of stealth with no positional requirement for 8 seconds. However, maybe this is just a utility talent and there will be something else in store for Cat Form and the Feral specialization will have the Feral Charge Cat functionality built into the spec. I cannot know at this time.

Incarnation is, essentially, Shadow Dance on ... I am running out of drugs that make people stronger at this point. It allows the Feral to use abilities which require stealth for 30 seconds AND it allows, during those 30 seconds, for the Feral to use Prowl. The latter portion mentioned here may seem like a non-issue, but recall that being able to use Ravage instead of Shred is a huge dps boost, and having access to a combo-building stun instead of a combo-consuming stun means utility and damage output. I have been asking for a long time to have access to Pounce on a cooldown instead of Maim, and now I apparently have access to such a talent. Although, a three minute cooldown for 30 seconds of crazily increased damage output and control may actually overwhelm my need for Feral Charge... I know... that is how insane this talent is.

Think of it this way: for THIRTY seconds, you are allowed to use Ravage instead of Shred. Shred requires Mangle be applied and a Bleed be applied in order for it to do great damage, then you have to get behind your opponent and start Shredding. It is difficult to get behind an opponent sometimes and getting there while Mangle/Bleeds are applied is even tougher. Ravage, on the other hand, requires you to be behind your opponent for full damage. One would still want to have Mangle and Bleeds applied for additional supplemental damage, but Ravage will do full damage regardless. Additionally, one can use Pounce to stun the target in place for four seconds to line up a few Ravages. However, the kicker is yet to show itself; Ravage costs 60 energy, so it is a bit expensive and cannot really be spammed. That is, unless the Feral has Berserk activated at the same time, then someone could fire off 4 Ravages in a row before becoming energy-starved under normal circumstances. I really do not know how I feel about this talent versus the ability to use Feral Charge Cat, but if FCC is baked into the specialization and Wild Charge does nothing for us, then the choice is a no-brainer.

Force of Nature is unwieldy at present and the damage from the tree posse is less than amazing, but as an honest talent, it may receive some much needed love from the Devs and get an overhaul. Additionally, the talent states that capabilities will vary from specialization to specialization, so it may have some truly interesting abilities to offer Feral once the specifics have been worked out. I will keep my ears open on this one.

My pick: If we have FCC from the specialization, then I will take Incarnation; if Wild Charge ends up replacing FCC, then I think I will likely take Wild Charge, but Incarnation is still on the table if mobility is strong enough without the charge and some dps is required.

The fifth tier is absolutely my favorite tier. This is the CC-tier, if there is such a concept. Demoralizing Roar is essentially an AoE blind that lasts for 4 seconds on anyone within 10 yards of the Druid (which is reasonably large, but not super-large of a radius). Additionally, the talent reads that using this ability would force the Druid INTO Bear Form instead of requiring Bear Form, so it seems like this will truly be accessible for Ferals to use while in Cat Form; maybe this ability is a set-up for Bash on a CC-target (Demo-roar everyone, follow those 4 seconds with a 5s stun in bash on the train, follow that with a cyclone???). Additionally, this is on a 30s CD... this is absolutely bonkers to me being that it is an AoE CC that does not (at present) share diminishing returns with either Cyclone, Stuns, or Roots. I would imagine Restos take a good long look at this one.

Ursol's Vortex is like... no I'm going to stop that now. Essentially, it is an AoE Deathgrip on a 30s CD. The talent suggests that it is useable in all shapeshift forms, which leaves me wondering if that means that it cannot be used while not in form (Caster Form)... which would mean that Resto could not pick it up, though they probably would not anyway as they are usually trying to escape from baddies, not bring them closer for hugs and kisses. I like this talent for Feral, maybe more than Demo Roar (even though the idea of having even MORE CC appeals to me greatly). Think about it in terms of "with Typhoon"; if I go to a ledge on Blade's Edge or Sewers maps and bring everyone to me, I have to take one step and turn around to Typhoon - instant match-reset button. I am really looking forward to testing this out.

Bear Hug is an interesting ability, but as it is largely a self-CC that does pretty decent damage to the target (it will do 30% of your HP to the target and we can basically assume that that will be about 30% of their HP as well) it is not an ability I will be considering at first.

My pick: PROBABLY Ursol's Vortex just for the added control outside of the scope of CC. Also, bringing a kiting player to me for damage is a huge boon for when Feral Charge Cat is on CD.

The last tier is arguably the worst and most boring. Heart of the Wild is still in the game as a "do some other role almost half as well as the main-spec'd would" on a HUGE 6 minute cooldown. I simply do not see this talent as being anything good. It could be that Innervate has finally been removed from the game and HotW is how Feral is supposed to regain our mana, but we really should be past the point of relying on mana anyway (unless we're spamming heals in a probable-loss situation). Additionally, it increases our hit rating... Blizzard still does not seem to grasp, or they have more changes in store to address, why Feral does not really care about hit rating past the 4% (or w/e) needed to land a kick in PvP.

Master Shapeshifter is another, albeit passive, talent which allows the Druid to perform some non-main-spec'd role poorly-but-better. Essentially, it says that throwing out 3 non-instant spells would increase attack power by 30% for 15seconds. I have no idea what the wash is, but my guess is that the 10-15 seconds it would take a Feral to lob out 3 spells to gain that 30% more attack power would be more than lost in damage NOT dealt during the ramp-up time. Blizzard keeps trying these hybrid styles of play and they simply never work. Bear and Cat are different specs now... Blizzard can allow Druids to stop being hybrids in this ridiculous sense.

Disentanglement heals the Druid for 20% of his maximum hp every time they shift with a 30s CD in addition to allowing the Druid to remove Roots and Snares via Shapeshifting. This is a no-brainer; every Feral will take this ability unless shapeshifting has been drastically changed for MoP.

My pick: Disentanglement (though I hope that Blizz does something to change HotW and Master Shapeshifter... they are simply awful at the moment and I would like a choice at the highest talent tier).

Well, those are my picks for the moment. Of course, I will try and keep everything as up-to-date as possible and post updates when applicable, but I am excited about the prospect of some of these combinations (like Typhoon and Ursol's Vortex). We shall see.

Next time, I hope to get into the stat crunch and Blizzard's musing on how best to address exponential stat growth throughout expansions as it is truly an interesting subject of debate.

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