Welcome again to another Monday. I am, as always, your host Reygahnci! Late last week the blues announced that they were going to spin up the 5.0 PTR servers. This strikes me as a bit odd since the feeling I get from beta is that rather large class changes are still happening week-to-week, but maybe it is Blizz's intention to see how the class changes are going to affect live before MoP is released. I think that the timetable that Blizz has laid out has roughly 3 more months until the release of MoP, and soon we can expect to see the talents and abilities list finalized (at least finalized enough to go to live and only requiring small changes for MoP's release).

At this point, neither Guntir or I have played live WoW in about three months (maybe more). Like a dope, I still pay for my subscription, but with RLS running rampant and 2s being somewhat silly (just about every team is either Afflic+Healer or Ret+Rogue) we simply cannot justify playing WoW rather than D3, which is super fun being as we just got into Inferno last week. Additionally, I have been playing L4D again and finally (since the the steam summer sale happened) got L4D+L4D2 for my wife, so we have been going through the campaign to train her up a bit for more competitive head-to-head play.

Looking back at Cataclysm, I have to say that I find myself both impressed and disappointed. On the one hand, I found their story-telling to have improved amazingly; I actually enjoyed questing and grinding my character up more-so than any other expansion. In addition, the zones in this expansion were both thoughtful and well-designed with fluid layouts that led me to actually explore for the sake of exploring again. In Northrend, I did not even bother exploring except to get the title, and in The Burning Crusade, I found all the zones except Blade's Edge to be stale and poorly laid out which resulted in a LOT of "go out and do 3 quests, then travel for 5 minutes to get back to town". To be fair, The Burning Crusade was the first expansion for World of Warcraft, and they were trying new things out. The Frozen Throne was the first expansion where I actually enjoyed questing, but the zones were somewhat dry and lacked a lot of what makes a zone interesting - depth of story. Cataclysm had zones like Vashj'ir which were extreme attempts at a new feel and I think they hit a home run; I can only hope that MoP has more quests/zones like that once it's released (I'm not questing on the beta; I find it ruins my first run-through when it finally goes live).

However, I found myself disappointed when I reached the end-game and started out playing PvP. Blizzard had not seemed to have learned anything from either TBC or FT with regard to balancing. There were, at the onset, obviously superior classes which could be teamed with strong classes to make undefeatable teams. Early on it was obvious that RLS was going to be the continued unstoppable juggernaut as it still had the unbalanced aspects of all three classes - a 70% snare, high mobility, huge survivability, and infinite mana on the healer coupled with three extremely strong CCs. Blizzard had finally addressed the issue of Rogues having two separate 5s stuns that did not share diminishing returns, but then added in Smoke Bomb to make Rogues that much more powerful.

I do not want to go into yet another diatribe about my disdain for imbalances amongst classes; I think that I have a good enough track record on that that all my readers know my feelings. Yet, I am hopeful for Mists of Pandaria PvP. Blizzard has already taken a lot of my suggestions and tried them out on the beta and while they are not being received as all-purpose panaceas to the state of PvP (particularly from Rogues), they are showing a more balanced state of game-play already. Rogues have been toned down in both control and damage, Warlock control has been reduced a bit, Feral quality of life has been improved and we received a number of buffs, and all the healers have had their mana conservation looked at and tuned to (hopefully) be finite. To say nothing else about the state of PvP, it looks like it will be interesting from the vantage point of a strong Feral class in 2s.

Hopefully, double-dps will not be so prevalent this time around, but on the other hand no one wants to see never-ending dps+healer matches either. I have been asking for the mana change for a long time now, since it would mean that matches revolve around a balance of damage out, damage in, mitigation, and successful smart use of resources (with the caveat of being able to drop combat and drink when you can). At least with all healers having finite mana, we would naively assume that matches would not last indefinitely even with damage dealers who can self-heal a bit and have other defensive cooldowns. Personally, I think that Feral+Disc is likely to be one of the stronger 2s comps in the onset of MoP simply because of Dispersion and Guntir getting another CC on a different spell school (let alone all the CC Feral will bring in addition to
supplemental healing).

I wanted to spend a minute discussing talent selection with particular regard to 2s. I have, in the past, spent a lot of time talking about tier5 talents being a toss-up between Ursol's Vortex and Disorienting Roar. I still think that both of those talents could have a place in a 2s context really easily, since they are both strong and Roar does not seem to DR with anything except Blind/Gouge/SS at the moment, but I continuously seem to overlook Mighty Bash. The reason for my quick dismissal of MB early on had more to do with an earlier tooltip which read "activates Bear Form" at one point. Giving the talents another look of late made me realize that the devs have since removed this stipulation and instead made the talent into a melee-range 5s stun on a 50s cooldown that costs nothing but a GCD.

This got me thinking in particular about 2s. I have been begging for Maim to be removed from the game and Pounce be made (via a talent or a glyph) into a 4s stun that can be used at any time, but when used out of stealth invokes a 30s cooldown. Well, Mighty Bash, for all intents and purposes, is roughly for what I have been asking but it is instead a stronger stun with a longer cooldown but without the resource cost. In fact, I find myself looking at Mighty Bash as the answer to my kit in terms of energy issues.

Maim is too expensive.

Maim costs 35 energy, all of my combo points, deals basically no damage, and stuns for at most 5 seconds. Long story short: Maim is a great way to stop dealing damage. The only use I have had for Maim since the Frozen Throne expansion is as a button to hold someone still while Guntir lands Mana Burns, and once again Mana Burn is going away in MoP so I do not see the need to use this ability anymore. Additionally, with the addition of Tree Posse to my kit, I know that I am going to have another 5s stun on a 1min cooldown in MoP that deals supplemental damage to my kill-target. In addition, I am going to need all the combo points and energy I can muster to keep SR and Rip rolling on my targets for full damage, so I cannot spare any for Maim.

That being said, Mighty Bash might be the answer to my prayers in a 5s stun on a cooldown with no cost. This will basically give me 5cps and 35 energy every time I need to stun something, and what is better is that I can use it to stun off-targets as yet another form of CC that does not share DR with my normal CC kit. Cyclone, Psychic Scream, Dominate Mind, and a 5s stun if I need it will bring the lion's share of CC in a 2s team. Even better is that with Guntir being able to deal with melees on his own a little better and me having a DR in Dispersion (should I get into trouble), I can sit on healers and basically rotate 5s stuns every ~30 seconds between Mighty Bash and Tree Posse and keep the healers on their toes (rather, back on their heels).

What I find funny about this is that in the latest patch to beta, the devs have realized just how powerful Dream of Cenarius and Cenarion Ward is for a Feral (we have plenty of spare GCDs and spam yellow attacks... this was a no-brainer), and as such they nerfed Dream of Cenarius particularly with regard to Feral:
Dream of Cenarius now increases healing done by your next healing spell by 30%, down from 70%.
Well, that was quick. I still think that this talent may be worth-while, but it will depend entirely on how strong or weak Feral damage-dealing is in a 2s context. Moreover, it will depend on how good at survival and outlast our twos comp is under normal circumstances. If Guntir can survive on his own rather well, and I can pressure a healer to run out of mana before Guntir does, then I will likely end up taking Dream of Cenarius for the supplemental HoT. However, if it turns out that healers are still not dying even when they run out of mana, I will likely be forced to take Nature's Virgil for the boring-but-effective 20% damage buff (read: 20% damage buff to Berserk, since that is the ability to which I will macro Nature's Virgil as they have the same long cooldown).

Closing thought: if I take Mighty Bash and Nature's Virgil, my talent build is a hilarious "all right-column talents".