Shifting Perspectives: A first look at Mists of Pandaria talents for feral druids

Chase Hasbrouck
C. Hasbrouck|10.31.11

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Shifting Perspectives: A first look at Mists of Pandaria talents for feral druids

At BlizzCon 2011, druids received the groundbreaking news that we were changing to a four-specialization model. With this news, plus the new talents that were revealed, obviously large changes to the spec are planned. With today's column, I'd like to look at the talents that were revealed during Blizzcon, and make some first guesses as to what players will be looking for. Of course, the standard disclaimer applies: this is pre-alpha stuff, so I won't be commenting on numbers specifically, just the design choices. Feel free to follow along on the Wowhead MoP talent calculator. Onward!

Tier 1: Movement

  • Feline Swiftness: Increases your movement speed by 10% and by an additional 20% while in Cat Form.
  • Displacer Beast (Instant, 3 min cooldown): Teleports the Druid up to 20 yards in a random direction, purging all periodic damage effects and providing stealth for 10 sec. Attacking or taking damage cancels this effect. Using this ability activates Cat Form.
  • Tireless Pursuit (Instant, 3 min cooldown): Removes all roots and snares, and increases movement speed by 70% while in Cat Form for 15 sec. Does not break prowling. Using this ability activates Cat Form.

I'm happy that movement choices come first. At level 15, you spend a LOT of time walking from place to place, so any movement talents are welcome.

Feline Swiftness is likely your default choice, replacing Feral Swiftness. The vast majority of your playtime is spent moving your character from place to place, after all, so let's get there faster! Let's face it: the stationary tank-and-spank model is mostly dead, so being able to move faster is a key part of good DPS. Not to mention, it's always annoyed me when playing my resto off-spec that I didn't go faster in cat form, so I'm glad I'll be able to pick this up there as well.

Now, I think this choice is a pretty good example of the "optimal, but..." design. The other choices are clearly more intended for PvP, but they could very well be useful for survival on encountersthat feature large periodic damage effects or roots/snares. Displacer Beast is interesting if the Charge->Ravage mechanic stays in (my guess is it does) but the random component will make it confusing to use, so it will likely be only useful as an escape in PvP. Finally, my guess would be that Tireless Pursuit heralds the removal of Stampeding Roar, or possibly Dash.

Tier 2: Healing
  • Nature's Swiftness (Instant, 3 min cooldown): When activated, your next Cyclone, Entangling Roots, Healing Touch, Hibernate, Nourish, Rebirth, or Regrowth becomes instant, free, and castable in all forms. The healing and duration of the spell is increased by 50%.
  • Renewal (Instant, 2 min cooldown): Instantly heals the Druid for 30% of maximum health. Useable in all shapeshift forms.
  • Cenarion Ward (Instant cast, 30 sec cooldown): Protects a friendly target, causing any damage taken to heal the target for 2660 every 2 sec for 6 sec. Gaining the healing effect consumes the Cenarion Ward. Useable in all shapeshift forms. Lasts 30 sec.

Your two best choices here appear to be Nature's Swiftness or Renewal, with Renewal as the default choice. A free 30% self-heal every two minutes is absolute gold for burst survivability in PvE or PvP; it's like having your own pocket healthstone.

Nature's Swiftness is less special, though the main impact to feral is to make Rebirth castable in form. Bears have been asking for a Rebirth-in-form for years; this will likely be a difficult choice for them. Us cats lose much less from shifting out to rez, so I don't see this as a viable choice unless paired with Master Shapeshifter (see Tier 6).

Cenarion Ward appears to be the odd man out. I don't really like the concept of a HoT that triggers on damage; I can see Resto taking it, and possibly Balance, but it's likely that feral gear will cause a healing effect that's too small to be worthwhile. Now, if they make it non-gear-specific, it could serve as a filler in a DPS rotation, but I see it as mostly overheal.

Tier 3: Balance

  • Faerie Swarm: Decreases the target's armor by 12% for 5 min and reduces the target's movement speed by 50% for 15 sec. While affected, the target cannot stealth or turn invisible. Deals 49 damage when cast from Bear Form. Useable in all shapeshift forms, but incurs a 6 sec cooldown while in Bear Form or Cat Form. This talent replaces Faerie Fire.
  • Mass Entanglement (2 sec cast, 1 min cooldown): Roots all enemies within 12 yards of the destination for 8 sec. Damage caused many interrupt the effect. Cannot be cast while in Bear Form or Cat Form.
  • Typhoon (Instant cast, 20 sec cooldown): Summons a violent Typhoon that strikes targets in front of the caster within 30 yards, knocking them back and dazing them for 6 sec. Useable in all shapeshift forms.

This is the tier of AWESOME for ferals. Well, okay, not really, the choice here will be wholly situational and likely mostly irrelevant to PvE, but who hasn't wished for an AoE root after seeing it in Firelands? Depending on the type of add control you're looking for, you'll want either Typhoon or Mass Entanglement. Feral PvPers will likely prefer Faerie Swarm, though it will likely have a cooldown of some kind on the slowing effect. You'll likely pick up Faerie Swarm as well for PvE encounters without adds, assuming that basic Faerie Fire keeps the 3-stack model.

Tier 4: DPS

  • Wild Charge: Grants a movement ability that varies by shapeshift form.
  • Incarnation (Instant, 3 min cooldown): Activates a superior shapeshifting form appropriate to your specialization for 30 sec. Example (Feral): King of the Jungle. Improved Cat Form that allows the use of all abilities which normally require stealth, and allows use of Prowl while in combat.
  • Force of Nature (Instant, 3 min cooldown): Summons 3 treants to assist in the Druid's current combat role. Treant capabilities vary by specialization. Usable in all shapeshift forms.

Hmm. while The choice for this Tier is likely the most impactful one yet, in terms of DPS, it's probably the least interesting. Amazingly smart people like Astrylian and Yawning will sim out the behavior of each talent and determine which one generates the highest DPS, and you'll pick that one. If anything, I hope they find a way to add an element of risk-reward to the choice; something like Force of Nature is an easy clicky for some extra DPS, while Incarnation totally changes the rotation up while it's active: hard to master, but a bigger DPS boost if you can. Wild Charge (the likely Feral Charge replacement) will likely grant Ravage, as it does now, and will continue to be a good choice for fights like Ragnaros where adds NEED TO DIE NAO.

One more thing. With the removal of the King of the Jungle talent, that's going to make our model of energy regeneration look very different. Currently, we have a very spiky model. You can go from spamming Shred as fast as you can during Berserk or after a Tiger's Fury, to waiting for 5-6 seconds for energy to regen to use another special. No TF energy regeneration means that ability costs will likely go down across the board, which will be a good thing.

Oh, and I'm sad that I won't be able to have Wild Charge and Incarnation at the same time.

Tier 5: Bear

  • Demoralizing Roar (Instant 30 sec cooldown): The Druid roars, disorienting all enemies within 10 yards for 4 sec. Using this ability activates Bear Form.
  • Ursol's Vortex (Instant 30 sec cooldown): Conjure a vortex of wind that pulls all enemies within 15 yards toward your own location. Useable in all shapeshift forms.
  • Bear Hug (Instant 1 min cooldown): Melee attack that stuns the target and deals 10% of the Druid's health in damage every 1 sec for 3 sec. Effect canceled if the Druid moves away, attacks, or takes any other action. Using this ability activates Bear Form.

This tier needs some more thought in order to create abilities that are useful to non-Bears. as it stands now, the only that will be of interest to the typical feral is the Bear Hug ability, and only if the damage makes it a reasonable filler ability. A Demo Roar/Mass Entanglement or Ursol's Vortex/Typhoon combo presents some interesting options for PvP, though. I can't see Resto or Balance liking any of these.

Tier 6: The Handwavy Tier

  • Heart of the Wild (Instant, 6 min cooldown): Dramatically improves the Druid's ability to serve combat roles outside of normal specialization for 45 sec. Example (Feral): Grants 50% of Agility as Intellect, increases hit rating by 100%, and increases armor by 95% while in Bear Form. In addition, regenerates 2% of maximum mana every 5 sec.
  • Master Shapeshifter: Improves the Druid's effectiveness at briefly switching between forms. Your melee abilities increase your spell damage by 10% and your non-instant spellcasts increase your attack power by 10%. Both effects stack up to 3 times and last 15 sec. each ability used which benefits from one of these effects consumes one application of that effect.
  • Disentanglement: Shapeshifting now removes roots. In addition, shifting into a form heals the Druid for 20% of maximum health. This heal cannot be received more often than once every 30 sec.

I'm calling this the "handwavy" tier because so much here is dependant on implementation. Heart of the Wild could be the answer to my prayers and provide cats the ability to still save the day in bear form (something I protested in my last column). It could let us be that extra half-healer for high damage phases in 10-mans, where you don't quitei have the healing to get through with 2 healers, but can't meet DPS requirerments with 3. could just let us be throughly mediocre fill-ins. We'll see.

Master Shapeshifter is MUCH more interesting. If it works out like they've theorized, we could see an entire new level of complexity added to the feral DPS rotation. Low on energy? Instead of just auto-attacking, shift out and cast a Wrath or two while it regenerates! I'm really looking forward ot seeing how this works out. Finally, It feels poorly placed here; it feels like a Tier 1 talent.

That wraps it up for the talents. Next week, I'll dive a little deeper, and we'll look at the story that everybody's missing: what talents didn't make the cut, and what happens if they go away? As always, leave your thoughts in the comments!

Looking for the latest and greatest in feral cat druid guides? Shifting Perspectives has the answers! Check out our cat 101 for Cataclysm. Also don't miss gearing your cat for Firelands raiding, addons for cat druids and raiding strats for feral cats, as well as our feral cat Firelands boss strats.

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