So let's go skim the patch notes quickly -- /flick flick flick -- and try to answer the most important question first:
Is Tauren cat form still in the game?
Man, %*#$ this patch.
Leaving aside this EGREGIOUS OMISSION, we're going to take a look at the preliminary Druid changes in patch 3.1 past the cut here, and courtesy of Michael Sacco and some data-mining gnomes, we also have the Druid Tier 8 shoulder graphic, which is pretty cool and reminds me a lot of Tier 5. I'm also seeing some undocumented changes in the game files off MMO Champion, but I'll have to examine those later today. I haven't been able to get on the PTR yet, so I can't confirm whether these changes have actually gone live on the test realm.
NOT ACTUALLY A DRUID CHANGE BUT IT AFFECTS DRUIDS MORE THAN ANY OTHER CLASS
Death Knights: Plague Strike and Blood Plague no longer remove HoT's. Plague Strike's damage increased quite a bit to compensate.
Bwa ha ha! Eat it, you miserable, overpopulated, overpowered walking corpses!
Oh God, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I need to stop setting off interclass warfare like that. Someone might get hurt.
Anyway. What else is here...
ABOLISH POISON: Now ticks every 3 seconds, up from every 2. Now lasts 12 seconds, up from 8.
Eh. My first thought when reading this was that this isn't going to make combat versus Rogues or Hunters more pleasant, but not having to reapply this as frequently is a pretty big plus. Rogues aren't doing so hot in arena right now. In a move that has shocked the world, Hunters are, for some unaccountable reason. Not that you'd catch me dead in arena nowadays. Or alive either.
Proceeding to the Balance tree --
OWLKIN FRENZY: Owlkin Frenzy is now properly considered an Enrage effect. Now also does not trigger from spell hits, only physical ranged and melee attacks.
With respect to PvE, Owlkin Frenzy was always an iffy talent at best, but one in which 1 or 2 points might be worth your time if you didn't need to pick up raid utility talents. There's sufficient raid damage in important Wrath encounters (e.g. Malygos, Kel'Thuzad, Sapphiron, Grobbulus) that the occasional proc would ultimately provide a damage boost, though not a large one. Because nearly all raid damage is magic-based, the 3.1 change basically shuts OF down for good as a PvE talent.
With that said, it always found its best use in PvP anyhow, and in that respect it's definitely a nerf to Moonkin viability versus casters. However, procs off physical damage have been preserved, and at the moment that's where most of the damage is coming from in arena. I confess, though -- I've never PvP'd as a Moonkin. Thoughts?
That's the only confirmed talent change for Balance so far, so let's head to Feral --
NEW TALENT -- PRIMAL GORE: Grants the periodic damage from your Rake, Lacerate and Rip abilities the ability to critically hit.
Blizzard's been asked about allowing DoT's and HoT's to crit previously. If I'm recalling correctly, they've said that when classic WoW went live, they didn't have the ability to program it, but since then it's an idea they've bounced back and forth a lot, athough it's not necessarily simple to implement from either an itemization or class design perspective.
This looks pretty amazing on the outside (and depending on the proc rate, might very well be), but fair warning: don't be surprised if the damage modifier on Ferocious Bite gets nerfed in order to compensate. Ghostcrawler's mentioned recently that they're concerned about Cat burst in PvP (which is a very valid concern between Rend and Tear -- to which Primal Gore is currently linked -- and Feral Aggression) and were looking for ways to increase Cat sustained damage while reducing burst. Granting Rip and Rake the ability to crit is kind of an elegant solution to this problem, as both are necessary bleeds in the Cat high-DPS rotation.
Oh, and before I forget, this also affects Lacerate, which should be a very welcome damage/threat buff for bears. A 5-stack of Lacerate right now should be ticking for somewhere in the region of 700-1K depending on your gear, gems, and enchants, and a crit on this would be lovely.
SAVAGE ROAR: Now considered an Enrage effect.
Hrm. Enrage effects can be dispelled by Hunters' Tranquilizing Shot. Food for thought.
Restoration is getting a few more confirmed changes so I split the post into two parts. Also, Druid Tier 8 shoulders on the next page!