I hit level 87 last night, trained up enchanting a bit, and called it a night. I just wanted to jot down some of the stuff I gleaned from finally getting Symbiosis and my general feeling of the expansion thus far. First, let me say that I think Blizz did a pretty good job with the landscape and I am enjoying the scenery. Second, let me say that just about every NPC voice in the game comes off as racist (that's probably not the right word; I am annoyed by the redneck pandas as a man of the south). Third, I have no idea how Blizzard plans to reconcile the fact that Ferals are nigh-unkillable now.

Okay, that last sentence may require a bit more explanation (or not... who knows). I have Barkskin, Survival Instincts, Might of Ursoc, instant-cast Healing Touches that crit for 90k fairly regularly, Cenarion's Ward which is basically a free 50k reactive HoT (at level 87; it was closer to 25k at level 85), and now that I am level 87 I have Dispersion. To top all that off, I always have Frenzied Regeneration if things get dicey. All told, I have roughly seven defensive abilities that will keep me alive while saying nothing about utility abilities that might keep me alive like Cyclone, Entangling Roots, Mighty Bash, Typhoon, and the like.

Okay, so I have come to terms with the fact that Guntir is likely to be getting trained in 2s matches instead of me, since I am an unstoppable juggernaut that cannot be killed under normal circumstances. So, that means that I must bring utility to the forefront. I am bringing Cenarion's Ward for supplemental healing, I am bringing instant-cast Healing Touches for supplemental healing, I am bringing Typhoon for exploiting certain maps like Dalaran and Blade's Edge, and as always I have my CC abilities in Cyclone, Entangling Roots, and (what is looking better and better every day) Mighty Bash. I do not want to mince words here, so let me be clear:

Being able to use these abilities without the requirement of shapeshifting out of and back into form is what makes all this possible.

I was trying to explain this to Guntir before MoP dropped, but I do not think I did a good enough job so I will try and get the words out here. Having the ability to use instant-cast nature spells is huge; many old-school Ferals actually hate this mechanic because of how powerful instant-Cyclones can be if your partners know how to pool resources and drop huge burst on a target. However, the biggest problem with instant-casts for Ferals in Cataclysm was that it would knock the Feral out of Cat Form... our dps goes to near-zero for a bit. I have harped on this fact for the longest time (we spend 3 seconds of our 6 second CC shapeshifting) and Blizzard finally agreed that the shapeshifting was too painful and removed it. That being said, since we spent so much of our Cyclones shapeshifting, we would basically never get the chance to use our instant cast procs on anything except Cyclones and Entangling Roots.

With Feral now able to use our instant cast procs in form without shapeshifting and Guntir getting Cyclone, which is in Guntir's Nature School by the way (if he gets kicked on Cyclone he can still heal and vice versa), I can actually spend less of my instant casts on Cyclones and more on Entangling Roots and, more importantly perhaps, Healing Touches. In addition to all these improvements, Feral healing now makes more sense than in any other expansion prior. Again, my Healing Touches are hitting for 45k and critting for 90k and I have barely any PvP Power at all at level 87; when I start getting actual gear my Healing Touches might still heal Guntir for 25% of his total HP in full PvP gear.

How is Blizz letting this happen?

I have no idea... Feral is looking an awful lot like a Ret Pally toward the end of Cataclysm in terms of his ability to off-heal, but we bring arguably more sustained damage and a lot more CC. I remember that no one was really playing Ret+Disc in Cataclysm 2s because (besides 2s not being supported anymore) Ret did not bring enough for a Disc Priest to land Mana Burns. Feral, at least, brought Maim+Cyclone combos for Mana Burns so Disc+Feral was all the rage. Toward the end, it was still about landing Mana Burns, so no one ran Ret+Disc, but 3s was all about Ret+Dk+Disc because of the insane survivability, pressure, and burst the comp could bring. With Mana Burn finally being removed, I would not be surprised to see more 2s comps like Ret+Disc that were simply underplayed for the reason of not being able to sustain against Mana Burns.

However, the one thing I can say is that Feral's utility is really going to open up Disc's playability in terms of mana usage and nuking potential. Guntir is already a pretty good survivalist; he can withstand a beating from a double-dps team for a good while when rotating his cooldowns coupled with my instant-cast Cyclones and really nothing else. When we step into the arena with that same survivability potential on Guntir and me being a target that will never die, I simply do not know what other teams will think of it.

It really is too early to tell, but at the moment I am leaning away from Tree Posse and Incarnation. I tried them both out in BGs prior to MoP being released and I was underwhelmed with the Live implementations. Incarnation has always bothered me; the timing of the ability makes it awkward to pair with Berserk though it seems natural to do so. Additionally, Ravage is a good burst ability, but it is still cost prohibitive given that you can really only do it when Berserk is rolling. True, tying to two together with a macro would make the it seemless, but then you have got to watch your bleeds and pay attention to Ravage damage; it just never really clicked into a comfort zone for me. Tree Posse, being the exact opposite at first, has fallen by the wayside as Blizz has completely neutered the damage. Having an additional stun might be the kind of thing that is useful, but with the Tree Posse only doing 1200 a hit against the target dummies (with no resilience) is just too weak for me to seriously consider.

Therefore, I have been grinding with the new and improved Soul of the Forest. At four energy per combo point returned, I may very well step into the arena with this as my selection. The one thing I will note about Soul of the Forest is that the energy return is awkward when combined with Omen of Clarity or Ferocious Bite, and when you use both it goes full retard consuming zero energy, giving back twenty, then consuming twenty-five more. Basically, an OoC+SotF-FB will end up giving you 5 energy as long as you are between 25 and 75 energy when you use it. Other than that, it is great: Rips are free, SRs give 5 energy back, and I am feeling less and less energy-starved.

Lastly, I am still heavily looking at Dream of Cenarius for the arenas. As I mentioned, I am expecting to use lots of Healing Touches on Guntir for supplemental healing and expecting that he will end up using Cyclones since defensive dispels are so heavily hit this expansion. Essentially, Guntir will end up Mind Controlling a target (which can only be offensively dispelled off of Guntir; I learned that last night), forcing him to walk over to Guntir (if he is not already there), then following that with a Psychic Scream. If the target gets dispelled, then I can follow with an Entangling Roots which cannot be dispelled, and Guntir can follow that with a Cyclone which cannot be dispelled. Other than my Entangling Roots, I will be free to use my instant cast procs as Healing Touches on Guntir so that he will not die from having to use all this CC, and Dream of Cenarius will increase my damage-dealing capabilities by healing Guntir.

It just sounds nasty.