While finishing the bear, tree and cat gearing guides, I dickered over whether it'd be worth it to examine the Cataclysm talent changes. It's kind of dumb to devote a column to changes that, for all we know, Blizzard slid into the upcoming beta just to scare data miners, but I finally decided ... what the hell. I enjoyed watching Wrath's development during its beta and often wish I'd written more about the class changes as they evolved. Anyway, this is a snapshot of what we know in May 2010.
There is the minor matter of the, uh, Cataclysm talent changes no longer being publicly available. As with all alpha leaks, there's the ever-present threat of Blizzard raining lawyers on your head like some Biblical plague, but then I thought -- what good is working for an evil corporation if I can't marshal our own soulless legal tyrants? And how much fun would it be to watch Blizzard legal battling Aol legal? Aol's lawyers hate life and themselves, and this is the stuff of great entertainment. Why not haul out the deck chair, pack a lunch and have the traditional American day out at the Ninth Circuit Court enjoying the Fisticuffs of the Damned?
I can say that, outside of the new stuff, the existing feral talents look mostly unchanged, although a few have been moved around and some removed (buh-bye, Sharpened Claws. It's now what Savage Fury is, and in the tree's 1st tier). I'm not sure whether that's because Blizzard's simply added the new talents and hasn't gotten to the point of altering the old ones, or if they're just satisfied with how feral's worked out. We're coming off a great expansion, so I wouldn't be surprised if that were the case.
For anyone interested in additional commentary on the first wave of Cataclysm talent information, the Fluid Druid and Tree Bark Jacket had great writeups on the feral and restoration talents respectively (although, as Alaron notes, it's not like there were a ton of feral changes to talk about with the MMO Champion leak). Be forewarned that the new Cataclysm talent trees were taken down when I was about 75% through drafting this article, and I wound up having to tidy things up without having access to anything other than second-hand descriptions of the changes. I apologize if some of the following information sounds confusing as a result, and I'll try to clarify if anyone needs.
There was literally only one feral change in the Cataclysm alpha talents
Screw that, here's the new stuff!
- Endless Carnage: A new 2nd tier talent increasing the duration of Rake by 6 seconds and Savage Roar by 8 seconds. Useless for bears, but a huge boon for cats that echoes a few of the Wrath tier set bonuses that made the "rotation" more forgiving.
- Improved Feral Charge: A new 3rd tier talent. Increases the damage done by your next 3 attacks by 5/10% in Bear Form after you use Feral Charge (Bear), and Ravage will temporarily not require stealth for 3/6 sec after you use Feral Charge (Cat). Hmmm. I can't say that this would be absolutely required for bears (although definitely helpful for all those times you Charge into the next 5-man pack), but the Ravage one for cats is interesting. Ravage has been a skill in search of a reason to exist, truth be told; it doesn't afford you the control you need for a PvP fight (Pounce is the default opener for obvious reasons), and using it as an opener on a boss is a waste of energy given the debuffs you need to get up. It'd probably still be a waste on fights where the boss has to "activate" like Saurfang, but on fights where it's not unusual to Charge the boss after the tank's grabbed him -- which is almost every fight in the game -- this could be useful. More info when the beta goes live and people who are not me are given beta keys because they didn't write an article on the Death Grip bug and I swear to God that watching those goblins NPCs go flying off the dock was one of the funniest things I've ever seen and yeah I know I'm going to hell and there are no beta keys in hell.
- Primal Madness: A new 9th tier talent yoked to King of the Jungle. Tiger's Fury and Berserk increase your maximum energy by 10/20 while active, and your Enrage and Berserk abilities instantly generate 6/12 Rage.
- Nom Nom Nom: No, seriously, that's what it's called. You know they'll never keep the name, which is a pity, but we can bask in its temporary awesomeness. Ferocious Bite on a target at or below 25% has a 50/100% chance to instantly refresh the duration of your Rip. A few commenters had consigned Ferocious Bite to the dustbin given the upcoming gear reset and stat consolidation; lower crit levels and lower armor penetration make it a much less attractive ability, and its status in the cat rotation was precarious enough given the difficulty of adding it without screwing over your energy. If this goes live, FB has a more firmly cemented place in the cat repertoire as a sort of Execute/Drain Soul mechanic.
- Pulverize: Primal Gore has disappeared -- the ability for DoTs to crit is now standard for everybody in Cataclysm -- and this is in its place. Interestingly, it's also the only bear-only talent that's been added. Lacerate now deals 252 bleed damage for each application on the target, and "increases your total attack power by 2% for each Lacerate stack consumed." I'm not sure what they mean by consumed there -- does it just mean a stacking buff of 2% attack power for each Lacerate on the target -- but this seems like an intriguing sustained threat boost.
- Shred's base energy cost is now 50. Talented via the new Shredding Attacks (Reduces the energy cost of your Shred ability by 5/10 and the cost of your Lacerate by 1/2), this drops to 40.
- Maul's base rage cost is now 10, dropping to 5 after an unchanged Ferocity, although I assume it will continue to cost more at higher rage levels as Blizzard's previously indicated.
Resto has four new talents and a host of changes to old ones.
- Efflorescence This is the talent previously discussed in the class change post, "sprouting a bed of healing flora" beneath the feet of a player critically healed by Regrowth, but these are the first solid details we've seen. A max-rank Efflorescence proc will send 30% of the amount healed by that Regrowth to targets within 15 yards over 7 seconds. The tooltip was a little ambiguous, so I'm not sure whether it can only be triggered by the direct heal component of Regrowth (I'm guessing that that is in fact the case) and whether "the amount healed by your Regrowth" means only the direct heal or the spell in its entirety. I'm hoping it's the latter. As an aside, Efflorescence is only accessible to people who've put three points into Living Seed (see below), so ... yeah.
- Perseverance A new five-point talent reducing all spell damage taken by 10% at max rank. It's low enough in the tree that I suspect it's intended to be a bear talent in addition to its obvious use as a PvP talent for druids of all stripes.
- Blessing of the Grove One of the restoration tree's many multi-purpose, low-level talents, this provides a flat 4% increase to Rejuvenation's healing, a 4% increase to Claw/Mangle damage for ferals (Claw needs it) and a 6% increase to the damage done by the direct portion of Moonfire. Fairly straightforward.
- Fury of Stormrage While I could be remembering incorrectly, I think this was relatively far down the tree, which is interesting insofar as it's a hybrid damage/healing talent. At max rank, you gain a 60% chance on each Nourish cast to get a free insta-cast Wrath, and Moonfire on a target below 25% health has a 60% chance to give you an insta-cast Starfire. This seems like it's tailor-made for restokin specs in arena, and with everyone getting an extra five talent points on their way to 85, it would not surprise me if those are exactly the players for whom this talent is intended.
Improved Mark of the Wild Gone. This isn't surprising, given Blizzard's desire to axe talents that are just flat improvements to class buffs.
Nature's Focus No change.
Furor No change.
Naturalist Naturalist has moved into the space previously occupied by Intensity (see below). Consequently, you'll need it to access Nature's Swiftness, so it's now virtually required of all restoration (in addition to feral) druids.
Daaaaaaaaamn, son. Blizzard's serious about moving Healing Touch back into its status as a mainline heal, which isn't a role that the spell's held since classic (Dreamstate aside). My rebellious James Dean-esque approach to raid healing specs and the Healing Touch glyph may not survive for much longer.
Subtlety No change.
Natural Shapeshifter No change.
Intensity Gone. Welcome to OOMsville, Population: You. Healers are going to face the real threat of going dry (a change that, to be frank, still terrifies me), and talents like this are being killed right and left.
Omen of Clarity No change.
Master Shapeshifter No change.
Tranquil Spirit No change.
Improved Rejuvenation No change, although a Swiftmended Rejuvenation will now get the benefit of this.
Nature's Swiftness No change, but it's now been yoked to Naturalist (see above).
Gift of Nature Gone. Another flat improvement we'll be kissing good-bye, although with HoTs gaining both haste and crit, I'm not sure we'll notice the absence.
Improved Tranquility I've previously described this talent as needing to be "dragged behind a barn and killed with an axe," and while Improved Tranquility's still clinging to life, it's been subjected to an interesting change. Rather than affecting Tranquility's cooldown, it now provides 50% damage reduction to the druid while channeling. Blizzard's also mentioned that Tranquility should be raid-wide. Between that and the damage reduction from this talent, Tranquility becomes an ass-saving cooldown par excellence. The threat reduction is unchanged.
I'm still not sure that it's going to be worth taking in most PvE builds (subject to the kind of raid encounters we see in Cataclysm), but it'll almost certainly be a required talent for PvP.
Empowered Touch This is another interesting one. The existing Empowered Touch is one of the flat increases to the efficacy of a spell (in this case, our two direct healing spells, Healing Touch and Nourish) that Blizzard's terminating with extreme prejudice. The new Empowered Touch is somewhat akin to the restoration shaman's Tidal Waves in that it impacts the desirability and throughput of different spells depending on what you've previously cast, or -- in Healing Touch's case -- raid conditions. Swing and a hit!
Healing Touch will heal 10% more on a wounded target below 25% life, and Nourish has a 100% chance to refresh Lifebloom on your target. Both bonuses are pretty obviously oriented toward tank healers, even more so than the current talent, and the Nourish component would go a long way toward ameliorating Lifebloom's sky-high cost for "rolling" it.
Nature's Bounty No change.
Living Spirit Gone. I'm really starting to wonder just how much mana regeneration we're going to lose when the Cataclysm content patch hits.
Swiftmend No change.
Natural Perfection Rather than adding a flat 3% crit to all spells -- a big deal, given the upcoming HoT changes -- this simply reduces all damage taken. This changes Natural Perfection from an indifferent PvE talent usually taken for PvP purposes into ... an indifferent PvE talent usually taken for PvP purposes.
Empowered Rejuvenation In a curious departure from Blizzard's now-familiar practice of killing off flat increases to spell efficacy, Empowered Rejuvenation is unchanged. Then again, the talent's a linchpin of the restoration druid's HoT-based healing, so eh.