Updated Wed, Nov 19, 2008 by Messiah
In this third article covering the new World of Warcraft expansion: Wrath of the Lich King (WotLK) Druid talent trees we look at the feral tree. This is the tree that Druids focus on if they want to either tank or melee DPS. This tree has traditionally been a very strong tanking tree, allowing Druids to tank very successfully. It has however had some issues with DPS, since Druid DPS has not scaled in the end game as well as their tanking ability. This has made feral DPS Druid spots in end game raiding fairly rare. It has also never been hugely successful in the PvP arenas.
This is based off of the talents as of Beta 3.0.1 and they are in no way finalized. Please keep this in mind as many things are likely to change before Blizzard releases the final version of the game.
There have been no changes to either of the first two tiers in the tree.Tier 3
Feral Charge leaves tier 3 to move further down in the tree. In its place you get the old tier 5 talent Feral Fairie Fire. This switch will affect many Druids that can into the feral tree just far enough to get this ability so that they had a stun and charge ability for PvP. While it weakens hybrid spec druids slightly, it will not affect feral druids, who will grab both abilities regardless of location.
In tier four the existing Predatory Strikes talent gains a very nice additional ability granting you up to 20% of the attack power of your equipped weapon while in bear or cat form. While not sure of the exact math this will use, anything that allows your damage to scale with gear is a good thing. Currently weapon damage does not play a factor at all, so weapons are just used for stat buffs. This will give an increases amount of damage increase as you scale your gear up.
There is also a new talent called Primal Precision which increases expertise by up to 10 and refunds up to 80% of your energy if a finishing move fails to land. This is a great bonus for Cat DPS, especially when you are leveling and not likely to be hit capped. Once you reach the new end game at level 80 and are +hit capped then you will not need it, but on the way up, being able to get your energy back when you miss will be a blessing for your DPS.Tier 5
In tier five Nurturing Instincts appears to lose a little power, dropping from up to 100% of your agility gained to healing to only 70%. However, it is in actuality a slight increase due to granting spell power which affects healing more than the old +heal. The actual effect will have to be calculated in game.
Feral Fairie Fire leaves tier 5 to move further up in the tree. In its place you get the old tier 3 talent Feral Charge. If you are going this deep into the feral tree you will want Feral Charge as it is a great way to close distance and to provide a temporary stun effect.Tier 6
There have been no changes to the tier 6 talents.Tier 7
Primal Tendency changes substantially from a 15% chance to avoid stun and fear, to stun and fear lasting up to 30% less time and damage taken when stunned being reduced by 30%. This could be viewed as a boost or a nerf depending who you talk to. Some players really prefer the avoid entirely, while others prefer the reduced time. I think of it as a boost though, since avoiding 15% is the same as 15% less time. You in essence gain an additional 15% time out of these effects with the new talent mechanics.
Tier eight has a new talent called King of the Jungle that when you enrage it bear form it increases all damage by up to 15% and while using tigers fury in cat form it returns up to 60 energy essentially making it free. Both are nice boosts to other abilities and are essentially passive. The increase is nice if you use the abilities, however I tend to have a hard time working more abilities into my rotation, so am not sure burning the global cooldown for these abilities is worth it. Your use of the base abilities will determine if this talent is worth it for you.Tier 9
Tier nine has two new talents Improved Mangle and Infected Wounds. Improved Mangle reduces the cooldown of mangle in bear form by up to 1.5 seconds, and reduces the energy cost of mangle in cat form by up to 6. Infected Wounds causes your shred, maul and mangle to have up to a 100% chance of reducing the targets movement speed by 10% and attack speed by 3%. It also stacks up to 5 times and lasts 12 seconds!Improved Mangle, allows you to cause more damage in both your forms, which is a good thing. Meanwhile Infected Wounds provides a what to keep players or MOBs in combat and stop them from getting away. Feral DPS may become far more prevalent in the arenas due to this ability as it will slow players escape.
Tier ten gains the Rend and Tear talent. It increases damage from maul and shred by up to 10% on targets that have bleeds, and increases the critical strike chance of ferocious bite by up to 50% if the target has bleeds on them. This again adds some damage in feral form and ups your critical rate to boot. There really isn't any choice but to take the talent once this deep into feral.Tier 11
The new final tier talent for the feral tree is called Berserk
Berserk effects you in different ways depending on your form. In bear form it grants +30% health, and your mangle and maul attacks hits 3 targets at a time. In cat form it reduces the energy cost of all abilities by 50%. In addition regardless of form it clears all effects that make you lose control of your character and makes you immune to them for the 15 second duration of the ability!
WOW! This is essentially bestial wrath for Druids! This ability is great for boss fights, a last stand situation or for PvP CC escape or finishes. In bear form it provides a bit more holding power when you are faced with multiple targets, or grants a bit more health when a healer is stunned or feared. In cat form the energy cost reduction will turn into a huge increase in DPS.
Lastly and more importantly, the immunity to loss of control abilities for 15 seconds can make or break the fight for several boss fights, and is a life saver in PvP.
The changes to the Feral tree allow slightly more DPS, some player control, and a last stand type ability. While not everything that Druids have been asking for (a bit more AoE tanking ability), they do seem to address the cat form DPS and provide a bit more threat power. Blizzard has promised more changes to come though due to the reduction of Druid tanking armor, so additional AoE holding power may be coming.
Overall the changes are pretty good and should allow Feral druids to do a bit better in PvP and PvE environments. The exact amount the changes will help may be determined by the gear availability though. I think that most players will be quite happy with the talent changes so far though.