I've been looking over the Druid forums recently. This is something that I have not done for a while and now I remember why. Seems that there are quite a few posts bitching about how Feral Druids suck now/in the future/for all of time. Poppycock. I'm currently the Cornerstone of Awesome.
When I was in Armored, I was THE Main Tank. I was given to tanking everything, a job I was quite happy with. I remember tanking Void Reaver, and going 4 or 5 blasts before finally losing aggro. You know how it's supposed to switch after each blast? Well, not for me.
And DPS. Let me tell you, on the rare occasion where my tanking services were not requested, I was consistently at the top. No.1 or No.2 in Damage. Always. And this was before my DPS set was as refined as it is today. Nowadays, if I'm DPSing, I'm leading in damage.
This is true even when I join other guild runs. You know, guilds that are beyond my normal progression level.
And remember how I said I was healing Heroic Sethekk Halls with no problem until the one pull? Well, my wife was helping on a couple of pulls, but you can't expect Feral to be Awesome at Everything. Instead we have to settle with merely Good. Oh and that silly lack of ranged DPS capability.
Now I'm not saying Ferals don't have their problems. PvP seems to be one. But I ignore this as I'm not much into PvP. Cooperation over competition, I say. But that is not the general consensus and I recognize that. For the PvP enthusiasts, Feral is one of the hardest specs to wrap your head around. And the benefits of such complexity are not rewarded by the complete domination of those who have mastered the intricacies of Feral PvP. At least not that I know of.
So the things I have to say do not apply to Feral.
Now, I don't want to speculate too much about WotLK, since anything could change at any time, but one of the complaints I read a few times involves the new talents leading to more specialization in Tanking or DPS. Since the talents are up on the official WoW website, they should be relatively stable. I decided to give them try. You can see the result here.
This is very similar to my current talent tree, though it's harder to come to pure perfection with these new talents. Let's talk about a few of them.
First up is Savage Fury. Savage Fury is pretty useless. 10% more damage on Mangle(Cat) and some abilities I don't use. This was good when it affected Mangle(Bear) because more damage = more threat. Now it doesn't and so it's not worth taking. To see why, let's look at when we use Mangle(Cat).
Mangle(Cat) is used in raids without a Bear tank and when soloing. When there is no Bear tank, Mangle is only used when it is not up, or about every 12 seconds. It accounts for very little of your DPS. 10% of a little is not much. If you were focused on DPS solely, you might drop Brutal Impact for this, but I like the stun for tanking and when soloing, it allows for a consistent Pounce->Mangle->Shred. And when you're soloing, the mobs don't have enough health for that extra 10% to really matter. It's not like that 10% is saving you a few Mangles down the road. It will save you one at best. And not that often. And if you are dropping Tank ability to focus on DPS, you're missing the whole point of being a Feral Druid.
Now I realize that some Druids like to use Rake in their raid DPS rotation. Those are Druids that have lesser DPS than I do. Just because Mangle boosts your bleeds doesn't mean you should use all of them. A Shred crit (and it crits often) is the opportunity cost of using Rake. You get more damage out of Shred than you do out of Rake. And that's all there is to it.
This build loses Primal Tenacity. Well, we lost it anyway. One of the greatest benefits of being a Feral Druid is the combination of Primal Tenacity and Predatory Instincts for and rather large chance to resist AoE fears. This is why we are extremely good against Priests. I've dueled many a Priest and the comment is always "You resisted my Psychic Scream like five times!" And that's just a bonus side effect. This also works well on Nightbane, on the final boss of Black Morass, and others I can't think of right now.
Regardless, the talent has changed and is no longer worth taking for PvE purposes.
Predatory Instincts has not changed, but it now suffers from simply not being as good or useful as other talents. Like Rake, it simply has too high of an opportunity cost.
Master Shapeshifter would be nice to have. The only problem is that it's attached to Natural Shapeshifter. Natural Shapeshift is wasted in PvE. PvP, it's a necessity, but PvE, there is no encounter that requires you to shift much. Even when you shift out to throw a heal and a rez, you still have enough mana to shift back. And your mana regenerates while in Feral form. You basically never run out of mana. What this basically means is that you are spending 5 talent points just to get 4% more Bear damage and 4% more Cat crits. And to me, that's not worth it. If you find yourself using Natural Shapeshifter now, this will be good for you. As for me, I can't justify taking it over Intensity, both for the 10 instant rage and the extra mana regen (this is what lets me heal in Feral spec.) Incidentally, Intensity is also probably why I don't need Natural Shapeshifter. Since I regen mana faster than those with Natural Shapeshifter, I can afford to spend the extra mana on shifting.
Something new I did take is Nature's Grasp, and the reason is simple. It's usable indoors. With this, you can CC a mob in bear form. You don't have much of a choice in the matter, but if you are tanking four, you can pop this (it will likely proc on one of the mobs almost instantly,) back up a little and tank three instead, which is much easier. One of the mobs should be down before the Grasp wears off, so you should be able to stick to tanking three mobs or less the whole time.
The only concern I have for Ferals is itemization. Of course, very little high end gear has been revealed, but from what I've seen so far, I'm worried. I'm not worried about not hitting the armor cap. With the removal of crushing blows, as long as we have a significantly higher amount of armor compared to shield tanks, we should be able to keep up just fine. But I don't see any high armor leather. But as there is so little information in this matter, I will withhold further comment on it.
From what I can tell, Feral won't be changing too much. Not for me anyway. I will still be able to DPS and Tank with the rest of them, so I'm not worried. Some of the arguments that the talents we are getting should have been there all along are valid, but this is true for many classes. I look forward to Wrath, not because Druids will finally be super awesome, but because we are already super awesome and the only thing changing about it is that we now get to be super awesome in different ways.