Things all druids can look forward to the next patch are the new bear and cat forms. I'm rather pleased with the tauren druid forms. Even if I'm not sure how much I'll like them, even the worst of them looks better than the ones we have, but I also feel for my night elf brethren whose bears have sideburns and whose cats wear bracelets and strange neck dongles. I liked the night elf cat form the best of the old models and if I was a night elf I'd be sad to lose it.
All leveling druids will be happy to get travel form at level 16 and flight form at 60. I have a baby resto that is at level 20 (yes, I'm insane enough to have started a third druid and level it resto no less) and my feral is 59, a hair away from 60. Faster travel will always be appreciated, especially for my feral, who is located on a PvP server. (Eat my tail feathers, gankers!)
Also of use to all druids is the change to Innervate.
Innervate: Duration reduced to 10 seconds, and cooldown reduced to 3 minutes. This means each use of Innervate will give half as much mana as before, but it will be available twice as often.
Sure, it'll cost another GCD in a long running boss fight, but the flexibility more than makes up for it. I usually don't need the full benefit of my Innervate in a raid, so now I can use one cooldown on myself early in the fight (to top up) and then have another one available later on when a healer is more likely in trouble. Also, for a longer fight I'll be able to use Innervate a third time.
Perhaps even more than my balance druid, my feral alt is going to like this change. Feral mana pools are so small that the current version of Innervate is overkill, but running out of mana as a PvP feral is a real possibility with all the shapeshifting and spot healing a good druid does. You can tell who the bad ferals are in a battleground because they never shift out to heal themselves, even when combat is over.
- Balance of Power: Now reduces all spell damage taken by 3/6%, rather than reducing the chance to be hit by spells by 2/4%.
- Eclipse: The Starfire and Wrath buffs from this talent are now on separate 30 second. cooldowns. In addition, it is not possible to have both buffs active simultaneously.
- Owlkin Frenzy: Now also restores 2% base mana every 2 seconds for the duration (10 seconds) in addition to its current effects.
If Balance of Power wasn't tied to spell hit I wouldn't have taken it, but the chance to be missed has no doubt factored into my survivability at some point or another. Though there will no longer be an increased chance to be missed, the overall damage I taken will still be less (making this change a buff) since the flat percentage of damage reduced is higher than what would be missed. It's nice, but not a reason to increase the desirability of this talent from a raiding perspective. I think it's probably more of a PvP change since feral has had similar avoidance chances changed to reductions.
Eclipse is a flat out buff. Now as soon as one eclipse is down we'll try proccing the other. This will also make us less dependent on mods such as Squawk and Awe to track how long we should be casting our chosen nuke during the internal cooldown. We'll always want to be swapping nukes after eclipse anyway. I'm sure there will be an inflection point where it will be desireable to change nukes without proccing an eclipse (say you're trying to get a lunar eclipse, but Wrath isn't cooperating and the lunar cooldown is almost up), but the less mod/theorycraft-inclined player will not suffer as much if they choose to just twist eclipses as they come.
Graylo did bring up a good point in that this means the Starfire and Wrath idols become outdated with the Eclipse twisting. Will one be better than the other anymore? The solar and lunar eclipses have pulled about even to each other depending on gear/latency with Ulduar. Is it really any good having an idol that only affects half of our new rotation?
The change Owlkin Frenzy is a bit odd to me. I'm not sure why it exists. Generally I expect some kind of synergy between the different benefits provided a buff (if there's more than one), but I don't know what the connection is between increased damage, no spell pushback, and mana back. If a moonkin is getting hit, does that mean it also needs more mana?
I'll be the first to admit I am the worst moonkin a person could possibly challenge to a duel (as in I'll lose so fast you'll wonder how the hell I can possibly be competent at the rest of the PvP I do), so I'm probably not the person who should be commenting on this talent, but I think it won't make much of a different in arena, and probably not in battlegrounds either. If my arena team is on a moonkin we don't care how much mana it has. We don't drain. How many times is a little extra mana regen going to help a focus-fired moonkin stay alive?
It seems this change would shine the most when the moonkin is being hit by splash damage, where it's taking damage but isn't likely to be immediately killed. PvP moonkin will no doubt have this talent anyway and derive some benefit for it, but it still seems an odd combination to me.
- Mangle: Ranks 4 and 5 base points reduced by about 11%. Scaling from attack power unchanged.
- Rake: Ranks 6 and 7 base points on initial and periodic damage reduced by about 7%. Scaling from attack power unchanged.
- Rip: Ranks 8 and 9 base points and points per combo point reduced by about 6%. Scaling from attack power unchanged.
- Savage Defense: The animation for gaining this buff will no longer make the bear stand upright
- Shred: Ranks 8 and 9 base points reduced by about 10%. Scaling from attack power unchanged.
- Swipe (Cat): Percent of weapon damage done reduced from 260% to 250%.
If you're not sure whether or not you use the affected kitty ability ranks, they're all abilities gained from levels 71 and 80. Clearly high level cat dps is being nerfed, but pre-WotLK leveling cats should be all right. My guess is that both ranks had to be nerfed or the highest level rank would not be much of an improvement (or maybe even weaker) than the previous rank.
I'm not sure if the Mangle nerf affects both bears and cats, since that would affect bear threat, but I'm pretty sure it affects cats given everything else that is cat-specific. The Savage Defense fix is nice, but cosmetic.
The puzzling thing is that Ghostcrawler said that they're trying not change cat form so that it's useless in the hands of lesser skilled players. The cat form "rotation" is incredibly complex as is right now, leading to amusing flow charts such as the one linked here. This nerfs the dps for all players, but hurts the bad players as much as the good.
Good raiding cats have to be positionally aware of where they are relative to the boss as well as managing an incredibly complex set of buff/debuff/DoT priorities. There are mods to help with the latter, but the players who go to the effort of finding those mods are often the hardcore players who least need the help.
- Lifebloom: The final heal that occurs when this spell blooms has been reduced by 20% on the base and on the spell power coefficient.
- Empowered Touch: Now also increases the amount of bonus healing effects for Nourish by 10/20%.
- Improved Barkskin: No longer provides dispel resistance to all effects on the druid, but now reduces the chance your Barkskin is dispelled by an additional 35/70%.
And Lifebloom is nerfed once again. I used to use it a lot while healing as balance for 5-mans or as the occasional backup raid healer during TBC, but these days I only toss it up if I already have a rejuv on the target and I feel they need a little more healing. I nearly always expect that Lifebloom will bloom on anyone except possibly the tank, and the bloom is a nice heal I've come to count on. It costs only a single GCD put out, and heals for a nice amount some seconds later. Perfect if you don't expect your target to die in the time it takes to bloom.
But it's been nerfed. I suspect this was largely a PvP nerf since I don't recall hearing that Lifebloom blooms heal way to much in PvE, but resto druids can be insane in arena. Squishy resto druids aren't a problem, but a well-geared one with plenty of resilience can take a lot of punishment with minimal impact to its ability to heal. Even if you incapacitate them for a few seconds, if they have hots up, their teammates are still getting healed.
I suspect Improved Barkskin is being nerfed for the same reason. Keeping the Barkskin itself is important for the druid, that's why they use it in the first place. No one wants their emergency button purged off of them. But this way it'll be easier to get rid of the hots and supplemental buffs that the druid may have.
In what appears to be the sole buff for resto, Empowered Touch is a talent is going to affect Nourish as well. Since the advent of tree form (which at the time could only cast spells with a HoT component to it) Healing Touch has fallen to the wayside, making this talent lackluster; more of a filler for lack of anything better to put points into. Healing Touch might be macroed to a Nature's Swiftness for a big emergency heal, but it's a long cast compared to anything else in the druid's arsenal.
I'm not sure that the bonus to Nourish will make the talent that much more appealing to resto druids, seeing as some of them have taken to Nourish like burning hot oil being poured down their throats, but that said, restos do use it (I've seen them doing it in arena!), so this talent should get some more usage, or at least a second glance.