I was walking back from Starbucks on Sunday morning when it dawned on me that I had not wish any of you a happy new year. I sometimes forget just how long I have been maintaining this blog (believe me, it is a surprisingly long time), and it is readers like you for whom I write; happy new year!

Briefly, there is a patch up on the PTR and while most of the listed changes are bug fixes *cough*magesnerfeddamage*cough*, there is one aspect I would like to discuss more deeply:

Vengeance is no longer triggered by receiving damage from other players.

Okay, I see where Blizzard is aiming to go with this; it makes sense to a certain degree. Allow me to put some things into perspective by saying that yes, Blizzard needed to do something about most tanking classes in the arenas, and yes, this is definitely a change that will affect tanking specs in BGs as well and that might have been needed to a certain degree on a small number of maps. I think that, overall, this change will be warmly received by most BGers (save for the tanks, of course), largely not affect most high-rated PvPers, and generally ruin an interesting and fun way to play the game.

Okay, so you step into a battleground and end up going toe-to-toe with a Blood DK and you do not happen to be a Druid, Hunter, or Rogue; what do you do? Generally speaking, you run or die. How about a more specific case to which most mid-range PvPers can relate - you are running Warrior+HPal and you get into a match against BloodDK+BloodDK; what do you do? There is currently a lot of debate going on over whether this should be a supported style of play, and generally the argument makes its way back to BloodDKs more than most any other tank (though Feral comes up frequently as well since our dps spec also has access to Vengeance).

While I tend to agree that Vengeance is a mechanic that needs to be examined thoroughly in PvP, I do not believe that it is one that needs to be absent from PvP entirely. Largely, I do not see any benefit from Vengeance except in BGs, and let's be honest - BGs are sort of gimmicky PvP anyway and should be taken with a grain of salt when discussing game balances. In the arenas, if you are a tank spec, then you are rolling the dice that you will not be matched against a decent Rogue, Hunter, or Druid, and while Druids seem to be in short supply in 3s, Hunters and Rogues make up half of the DPS toons one faces (more-so Rogues than Hunters... by a HUGE margin).

I think that the Vengeance change just bothers me mainly because of the tone it sets - Blizzard thinks that Vengeance is well balanced in PvE, and is largely unwilling to attempt any changes to it in a PvP context because of the ramifications any change might have on PvE. Many cynics will end up calling this a "lazy fix" because of that tone. These are the types of changes that Blizz has stated again and again that they truly do not want to do but, without doing some extremely hard balancing, are necessary.

I think that one argument that could be made is one for the Blood DKs. Believe me, there is no love lost from me on DKs in general, but I actually do feel for long-time Blood DKs because Blizzard essentially made a stance that Blood was the tanking spec, removed all dps viability from it, and in doing so removed the play-style from any competitive PvP environment except for running flags in WSG and WSG2. Now, when old-time Blood DKs probably just queued up in 2s to get some points for the week and found a comp that works as well as a niche in BGs, Blizzard is again coming in and saying "you should not be viable at this - we are removing that viability next patch."

Once again, it is tone. I do not like how Blizzard approaches some of the changes in the last few months; swinging the nerfbat wildly at anything that peaks up. I feel like this change, in particular, will end up disenfranchising a huge number of players who have come to enjoy the play-style which, around Vengeance, they have built. Moreover, I feel that this nerf is simply another that ends with the casuals feeling a little better (though they are largely still going to lose half their matches and BGs, and will find something new to gripe about) while the players who had found a genuinely interesting way to play the game in the medium brackets are left to pout and again have to go back to the cookie-cutter specs and glyphs and play a game they were probably bored of already.


It is probably worth switching messages here; I have beaten that horse to the ground by now and all of you get it - I do not like the Vengeance change, but I think it will largely "fix" the "problem".

Of course, this does incur new problems. Looking ahead to MoP, now any tanking class is going to have 2 other options except for Druids, who randomly get a fourth option. That is, DKs will have 2 dps specs, Pallies will have 1, Warriors will have 2, and Druids will have 2. Essentially, what ended up happening to DKs was done because it was the "easy" choice to make Blood the tanking spec since they had two separate melee dps specs; doing the same to Druids would have been impossible as any Feral (such as myself) would have quit the game on the spot since no other melee dps specialization exists. In MoP, Blizzard is giving Druids a new melee spec, but it will be a tanking role and Feral will be the melee dps role.

There are a lot of subtle changes happening that are truly laying the ground-work for MoP. Vengeance not proc'ing against Players is just one of the larger one-line changes that sets up the MoP landscape. In essence, MoP will have "tank as a spec" beaten into everyone's head by the time it drops that no one will question it - Blood, Prot (and Prot), and Guardian will be synonymous with tanking. Will tanking specs still be required to tank things like Van/Drek in AV? Will a dedicated tank still be required for IOC? What about carrying flags? Essentially, all the tanking mechanics in the game are going to be balanced around Vengeance and if Vengeance only procs when an NPC hits you, then tanks will have no place in PvP except tanking AV. Even running the flag will be left to survival-heavy classes, but maybe not tanks, since so much of their survivability revolves around Vengeance.

Feral, moving forward, will require a lot of changes. I do not think that many yet realize just how much survivability Feral is losing from the split between Cat and Bear. Survival Instincts, while a strong defensive cooldown, is going to be Guardian-only. Going Bear Form is going to be useless in MoP as the armor and damage reduction, both innate and Faceblock (honestly cannot recall the name), are going to be Guardian-only. Cat Form is losing its innate "20% extra healing received" and really not seeing any new defensive cooldowns in the spec, forcing Ferals to choose talents which provide survivability such as Displacer Beast and Renewal.

Will said talents be enough to overcome our losses? Probably not; at least probably not in my opinion. I feel like there is a ton of choices to be made that simply leave Feral at a strained position vying for any semblance of a niche in PvP. At the moment, Feral is the spec that brings an instant-cast Cyclone, but training said Feral means those instant-casts are few and far between already and removing the damage reduction options we currently have just means we will have fewer opportunities in the future.

What can be done?

Well, I think that MoP is far enough away that we can expect some more changes to be made in many different means, but we must stay vocal about Feral's needs (as well as our wants). In my opinion, Mangle needs to be treated as the PvP dps button. Our survivability, at the moment, relies on our ability to pick up Displacer Beast at the first tier, and if Shred is around what our damage is balanced and it does 20% more than Mangle, then we cannot use Mangle without a change; this means we cannot take Displacer Beast over Feral Swiftness without a change.

I am, as I have done in the past, lobbying for Mangle to provide 2 combo points baseline, and an additional combo point upon critically striking (via Primal Fury) for Feral but not for Guardian. This would be a distinguishing change that would make Mangle a viable alternative in terms of utility and damage-dealing with limited up-time on a kill-target (particularly, with limited up-time to the target's backside, as is mostly the case against mages). Shred would still do 20% more damage than Mangle, as it is currently set up to be in MoP, but Mangling would provide more finishers with a limited up-time; this leads to more ability to use Predator's Swiftness as well as Maim and Savage Roar in a PvP context. Additionally, this allows Ferals to make choices like Displacer Beast without having to worry about how they will ever get behind their opponents.

I feel like Feral will, at one point or another, require an ability to reduce damage aside from Barkskin. Additionally, Feral will be the only melee dps that can do nothing against a caster in order to either reduce damage or immune damage all together, and I am expecting this will change, but I would not be surprised if it were overlooked. Hopefully, we see another iteration of the talent trees and abilities book before too long.

... and there is still the question of how Symbiosis will work and what it will mean for Ferals.