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Cataclysm Beta: Feral druid specialization and talents

Tyler Caraway

Cataclysm information is currently all the rage in the World of Warcraft community, where it seems as though players certainly can't get enough. Who can blame them, though? Just recently, Blizzard announced that it was hacking all of the talent trees down to 31 points, similar to their state when WoW was first released, and that players would now choose a talent tree to specialize in upon hitting level 10. It's a massive change to the game that's come just after Blizzard released the new talent trees that had previously held 51 points. Without a doubt, this is exciting stuff, people.

Normally, I would say that feral isn't my cup of tea, but I must admit that how Blizzard intended to pull off the seemingly impossible has me more than a little intrigued. Feral is perhaps the most unique talent tree in the entire game as it currently stands -- or at least, it will be now that death knights are having their tanking tree shifted to blood, where it's the only tree that is capable of having two separate specs for two wildly different purposes. To make the tree diverse enough within the limited confines of 41 talent points (the total number of talent points that a level 85 player will have) is a serious task -- more so when you add in attempting to create non-mandatory talents that offer a player, say, utility instead of a raw damage or mitigation increases. Things are certainly going to get interesting for feral druids as beta progresses, and I'm surprisingly excited to see how it all pans out.

With this latest beta push, though, Blizzard finally released the initial preview of the new specialization system and a chance to look over the new 31-point talent trees. Before you get too thrilled about this bit of news, let me be the first to tell you that the druid class as a whole is probably one of the least developed talent trees and specializations at this point. Blizzard has already openly stated this within the beta patch notes; we aren't the only class in such a state, but we're certainly pretty bad at this point. Don't be alarmed if things seem excessively sloppy at the moment.

Specializing as a feral druid

As mentioned, once players hit level 10, they now select one talent tree as their specialization. In doing so, they are granted several various benefits that are associated with that tree -- basically, the previous mastery effects that were granted by spending talent points. They'll also receive a new ability that is tailored to the chosen talent tree. In the case of feral druids, that's currently set as being Mangle, and it seems unlikely that it's going to be changed. Mangle is an exceptional choice as a level 10 ability for feral druids, since they really haven't had anything else at the early levels to use. There's Maul, but that's an on-next-swing attack, and while Swipe is provided fairly early now, its damage is fairly low considering that it's primarily an AoE attack. Mangle is the perfect attack for druids -- it has been for a long time -- so getting it early is fantastic.

Beyond that, there really isn't much that can be said; the remaining benefits haven't been released at this time. It's assumed at this point that none of the mastery benefits have changed at this point, but there really isn't any way to know for sure. It is also possible that there might be additional abilities that are trained exclusively by feral druids that were previously talented, so if there's anything super-important missing in the talent tree, don't freak out just yet; it could still be trainable.

Talent tree

Ahh, the main event. I won't mention every single talent in the tree, just those that are new or altered in some manner.

Fury Swipes Virtually similar to the warrior Sword Specialization, this talent grants a chance to proc an extra attack whenever you make an auto-attack. How helpful that is towards cat DPS, I cannot really say, given that a cat's paws are comparable to a one-handed weapon. What's more important is whether or not the attack will be able to proc additional effects, such as weapon enchants, trinkets or Omen of Clarity. That could potentially make the talent slightly more attractive.

Endless Carnage Currently, this talent increases the duration of Rake, Savage Roar and Pulverize by 6 seconds; however, I would venture to guess that this is slightly incorrect. The talent description separates Rake from Savage Roar and Pulverize, which usually only happens when there are two different durations; otherwise, it would simply state that it increases all three in the same sentence. Given that they are separated, I would guess that the benefit to Savage Roar and Pulverize is going to be slightly higher -- or the tooltip will be corrected to a single line.

Natural Reaction Protector of the Pack is gone. With that change, Natural Reaction is now the mainstay talent of bear tanks. Not only does it increase dodge as previously, but it also reduces your chance to be crit.

Brutal Impact This talent now also reduces the cooldown on Skull Bash, allowing for better interrupting for both bears and cats, which is something they sorely needed. Further, the victims of Skull Bash suffer increased mana cost on their abilities for 10 seconds.

Improved Leader of the Pack The talent has been removed at this time, which makes me weep for feral druid soloing. Perhaps the talent will become trainable, or perhaps it shall return in a future build. Only time will tell.

Currently, the talent tree, all of the druid talent trees, are a little bit on the slim side. The distinction between a cat and a bear spec is only around three talent points, and there are few sub-speccing options within restoration for feral druids. Right now, there needs to be a few more talents added that are more clearly designed for cats or bears exclusively. Without this, it becomes a little bit more difficult to distinguish between a bear and a cat; this causes balancing issues where cat DPS specs can end up being too defensive, or bear tanks can end up being too weak. GC has already mentioned this, and as I've said, the druid trees are very far from being complete. Given more time, we'll see some more changes that'll make it better.

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