The Feral tree is seeing changes to limit the benefits that the other two trees, specifically Restoration, can gain from investing a few points into the first few tiers. We are also seeing changes to the ways in which bears will be generating aggro.
The Faerie Fire (Feral) and Feral Charge swap
Feral Charge is currently an 11-point talent into the Feral tree, which contributing to the advantages that Restoration druids currently have in arena. It allows Restoration druids the ability to charge, immobilizing their target and interrupting spells for four seconds.
Instead, Faerie Fire (Feral), which is not something that a Restoration druid would likely spend 11 points to get, will take up the 11-point spot, with Feral Charge taking its place in the tree 21 points in.
In addition, Feral Charge will be usable in cat form, dazing the target and moving the cat behind it. This will help address the concerns that cat form is not especially viable in PvP, although their crit dependency is still a weakness. It will also be useful in dungeons to catch runners and other out of place mobs.
There are two changes in these notes that seem to be affecting the way future bears might be generating aggro. Feral Instinct currently increases the amount of threat generated by bear form by 5/10/15%. Instead, this is being removed, and Swipe is getting a boost to its damage by 5/10/15%.
It is unclear whether this is a buff or a nerf, but it will definitely shift the mechanics of threat generation slightly by placing a higher emphasis on the use of Swipe. It seems reasonable that Blizzard's intention would not be to nerf a bear tank's ability to generate aggro, and so it is possible that the shift is as effective as the current addition to bear form. It is also being suggested that a threat bonus has been added to the base bear form in an undocumented change, similar to the way warriors and paladins work.
In any case, all tanking classes are shifting a bit in threat generation mechanics, and bear seems to be moving towards damage-based generation. This is also reflected in the changes made to Mangle (cat and bear), which currently increases the damage done by Shred and bleed effects, but with the expansion, will also affect Maul in the same way.
Being a rage dump skill, this will be useful in boss fights, although the extra damage is also a bonus for whenever you have enough rage to Maul.
It stands to reason that the level 80+ bosses we'll be fighting in the expansion will require that all tanks boost their defense in order to be uncrittable. Survival of the Fittest is set to reduce your chance to be critically hit by 2/4/6% instead of the current 1/2/3%.
If applied at current levels, which could be reached early in the future, it would remove the need for a druid to have defense at all against current bosses, except the few that crit using ranged or magic attacks. It will also boost your attributes by the same 2/4/6% over 1/2/3%.
Chance to resist now reduce duration
Currently, Primal Tenacity provides a 5/10/15% chance for the Feral druid to resist fear and stun effects. According to the Beta patch notes, you'll instead be talenting for a 5/10/15% reduction in the duration of fear and the amount of damage taken while stunned.
While this at first might seem to be a nerf, it is important to point out that the current system allows you to be fully stunned or feared 85% of the time, and does not affect the amount of damage you're going to take once you are stunned. Under the possible new system, while you do not have increased resist, the duration of the fear could be shorter for you all the time. While stunned, you'll take less damage, which might not be as helpful for a tanking bear, but will be useful in PvP.
This seems to be part of a larger trend where such resist talents are concerned.
When mana regeneration was altered in patch 2.4, some druids complained about a drop in their ability to shift forms often, which is a widespread PvP strategy. Currently it seems as though Blizzard plans to remove the mana regeneration penalty associated with bear, dire bear and cat form, which should alleviate some of the problem.
Soothe Animal, a seldom-used talent that can help you avoid ending up in combat with a nearby beast, will also work on dragonkin, and the spell itself will be an instant cast. While this is a nice change, it was not high on the wish list for most druids.
The first tier of the Restoration tree currently forces druids to spend talent points that seemingly do not return enough benefit to warrant losing the points; if only it wasn't necessary to climb the tree using them.
The patch notes have not only moved a talent to tier one, but have reduced the number of points needed to acquire the old talents. Let's break this down:
Currently, you must invest 5 points in either Improved Mark of the Wild, or Furor. There is nothing wrong with Improved MotW, except that it isn't useful enough to warrant the use of five talent points. Furor, on the other hand, gives you a rage/energy bonus when you shift into bear/cat form, which is a useful PvP talent, or a great way for a feral to spend an extra five points, but not terrifically useful to the average PvE healer.
According to the Beta notes, Blizzard is keeping Improved Mark of the Wild just as it is, except it will require a mere two points to acquire it. That's three points that can be placed elsewhere! In fact, they can be placed in the 3-point tier one talent, Nature's Focus, which would give you the five points needed to continue climbing the tree.
Currently, Nature's Focus requires five points to acquire, and resides in tier two. It will also expand its effects to modify the new spell Nourish.
You will seldom see trees in arena for two reasons. Currently, they have a 30% reduction in speed, which can be a hindrance when trying to move around or get away. Secondly, trees are elementals and are thus vulnerable to spells that affect elementals, such as Banish.
In the patch notes, the speed penalty is being removed, which will make being a tree in PvP a bit more viable. It will also help out in dungeons like Shattered Halls, where running is part of the program.
Trees will also be able to cast Remove Curse, which currently will push you into caster form, requiring that you shift back into tree after, wasting a global cooldown and a bit of time. In fact, all Restoration spells will become castable in tree form, which means you won't be bumped to caster in order to throw out a big heal. To balance this, such spells (Healing Touch) will not be subject to the mana reduction buff that tree form gives.
Your Improved Tranquility is getting an improvement! Talented, this can reduce the 10 minute cooldown by 25/50%, or as much as 5 minutes. This will be nice in battlegrounds as well as in dungeons.
It also seems that druids will finally be getting a proper, out of combat only resurrection that has no cooldown, called Revive.
Omen of Clarity, which can send a druid into a Clearcasting state, is being changed. It will be a passive spell, which means you need no longer cast it, and it can no longer be dispelled from you. While this a great change, it does cost Restoration druids one layer of dispell protection.
Currently, it is only triggered by melee attacks, which means that it is great for Ferals to pick up, and even balance under the current Moonkin mana regeneration system, but unless you are a tree that is constantly bonking things (possibly PvP), it is not usable.
In the Beta, it will now be triggering from healing spells and damage spells, making it much more useful to busy PvE tree healers, and Balance druids in the Beta Moonkin form.
As we mentioned earlier, Subtlety, the current Restoration talent that Balance druids need to have any threat reduction, will be affecting Restoration spells only. Fortunately, it will require only three points to acquire, down from five, which really helps free up extra talent points.
The effect it has on reducing the chances that your spells will be dispelled will only be viable for heal over time spells, instead of all druid spells. This isn't great for arena, as it will no longer help you keep Moonfire ticking away, Mark of the Wild up, or even Innervate, but the extra two talent points should help balance this out a bit.
Considering that Balance druids will no longer have to invest 15 points into the Restoration tree, this is a positive change for Moonkin.
Tranquil Spirit will also affect the new spell, Nourish.
Don't forget to check read through our analysis of the changes to the Balance tree listed in the official Beta patch notes.