New Druid Abilities
Thrash (Level 81): Thrash deals damage and causes all targets within 10 yards to bleed every 2 seconds for 6 seconds. The intent here is to give bears another button to hit while tanking. Talents will affect the bleed, such as causing Swipe to deal more damage to bleeding targets. 5-second cooldown. 25 Rage.
Stampeding Roar (Level 83): The druid roars, increasing the movement of all allies within 10 yards by 40% for 8 seconds. Stampeding Roar can be used in cat or bear form, but bears might have a talent to drop the cooldown. The goal of this ability is to give both bears and cats a little more situational group utility. 3-minute cooldown. No cost.
Wild Mushroom (Level 85): Grows a magical mushroom at the target location. After 4 seconds the mushroom becomes invisible. Enemies who cross the mushroom detonate it, causing it to deal area-of-effect damage, though its damage component will remain very effective against single targets. The druid can also choose to detonate the mushroom ahead of time. This is primarily a tool for the Balance druid, and there will be talents that play off of it. No cooldown. 40-yard range. Instant cast.
As a sometimes bear druid, there's a lot to like about getting Thrash. It's another multi-target attack spell, will buff damage from Swipe with talents, and give us another button to press to prevent multi-target/ heroic tanking from getting too monotonous. The name makes me think of sharks in the water, but... maybe that's just me.
Stampeding Roar seems kind of weird to me, since it sounds like the bear/cat is scaring their party members into running faster. While I can think of instances where this would be useful, it just doesn't like something you do to people to you like. (Unless it's angry feral raid leader who wants people to stop dying in the fire.)
Wild Mushroom... made me laugh, because... well... I'm a getting a magic mushroom. It's an absurd spell to give an already absurd-looking creature. I'm sure there will be jokes about moonkin and their magic mushrooms, but if any spec could get away with having those, it would probably be us since we're already ridiculously plush owlbears.
I just have odd mental pictures of myself detonating mushrooms around the corners of dungeons... Engineering done moonkin style?
Changes to Abilities and Mechanics
All heal-over-time spells (HoTs) will benefit from crit and haste innately in Cataclysm. Hasted HoTs do not reduce their duration, but instead add additional HoT ticks. Haste will also benefit Energy generation while in cat form. Unlike the other healers, Restoration druids will not be receiving any new spells. They have plenty to work with already, and our challenge instead is to make sure all of them have a well-defined niche. A druid should be able to tank-heal with stacks of Lifebloom, spot-heal a group with Nourish and Regrowth, and top off lightly wounded targets with Rejuvenation. We want to add tools to cat form and depth to bear form. If a Feral cat is going to fill a very similar niche to that of a rogue, warrior or Enhancement shaman, it needs a few more tools -- primarily a reliable interrupt. Bears need to be pushing a few more buttons just so the contrast between tanking and damage-dealing is not so steep. Barkskin will be innately undispellable. We will be buffing the damage of Mangle (cat) significantly so that when cat druids cannot Shred, they are not at such a damage-dealing loss. Druids will lose Abolish Poison with the dispel mechanics change, but Restoration druids will gain Dispel Magic (on friendly targets) as a talent. All druids can still remove poisons with Cure Poison and remove curses with Remove Curse.
Oddly enough, they mention that hots will benefit from haste and crit, but not dots. Oversight? Though moonkin aren't as dot heavy as a warlock or shadow priest, we dot more than say an ele shaman or a mage. It seems poor to not give it to us. [Edit: Ghostcrawler clarifies in a later post that dots will be effected.]
As far as the resto changes do, I like the toolkit as-is. I don't think we need another healing spell. Mind, I've never raid healed as resto, but with three kinds of hots, a quick heal, a super big heal, and an AoE hot I think we have a pretty good toolkit, and now restos will be able to dispel magic. I also like that all druids will keep the ability to cure poison and remove curses, and we won't be like the paladins who are losing their cleansing abilities if they aren't the healing spec.
For the feral end, I'm looking forward to get a reliable interupt. It's kind of annoying that cats fill a rogue-like niche, except that we can't interupt. I've been on ToC 25-man runs with my feral and have been told to help with interupts because the rogues in the group were failing, but I can't reliably do it because I need to make use I have at least one combo point up and it's on the GCD.
Buffing Mangle (cat) will be sweet too. Most fights it's possible to get around to the back of the boss, but sometimes it's hard, either due to bad tanking, the boss not cooperating, or there's a void zone/fire/slime puddle right where I would like to be standing. Admittedly though, I'd like this the most for PvP. Other players are less considerate about letting a cat druid Shred them from behind if they can help it.
New Talents and Talent Changes
Tree of Life is changing from a passive talent to a cooldown-based talent, similar to Metamorphosis. Mechanically, it feels unfair for a druid to have to give up so much offense and utility in order to be just as good at healing as the other classes who are not asked to make that trade. We are exploring the exact benefit the druid gets from Tree of Life. It could strictly be better healing, or it could be that each heal behaves slightly different. You also will not be able to be banished in Tree of Life form (this will probably be true of Metamorphosis as well). Additionally, we would like to update the Tree of Life model so that it feels more exciting when you do decide to go into that form. Our feeling is that druids rarely actually get to show off their armor, so it would be nice to have at least one spec that looked like a night elf or tauren (and soon troll or worgen) for most of the time. We want to make the Feral cat damage rotation slightly more forgiving. We do not want to remove what druids like about their gameplay, but we do want to make it less punishing to miss, say, a Savage Roar or Rake. The changes here will be on par with increasing the duration of Mangle like we did for patch 3.3.3. Balance druids will have a new talent ability called Nature’s Torrent, which strikes for either Nature or Arcane damage depending on which will do the most damage (or possibly both), and moves the Eclipse meter more (details below). The improved version of Nature’s Torrent also reduces the target's movement speed. 10-second cooldown. Restoration druids will have a new talent called Efflorescence, which causes a bed of healing flora to sprout beneath targets that are critically healed by Regrowth. We plan on giving Feral cats and bears a Kick/Pummel equivalent -- an interrupt that is off the global cooldown and does no damage. We feel like they need this utility to be able to fill the melee role in a dungeon or raid group, and to give them more PvP utility. We want to make sure Feral and Balance druids feel like good options for an Arena team. They need the tools to where you might consider a Feral druid over an Arms warrior, or a Balance druid over a mage or warlock. Remember that the PvP landscape will probably look pretty different for Cataclysm with a focus on rated, competitive Battlegrounds.
Okay, now for the part that has the resto druids up in arms, and with good reason! Tree of Life is going to change into a cooldown! No more grumpy, hotting trees running around? I don't think the player base is going to go for it. Ever since Tree of Life came out the restos have really made that shape their own.
The argument about having at least one spec that can show off armor is pretty weak to me. I don't think anyone is going to choose a spec based off that, and restos like being trees.
I've never heard a resto complain they're giving up a lot to be who they are. Truthfully, a bored resto druid who wants to help dps a boss would probably outdps bored holy paladin trying to do the same (because goodness knows I need a good set of circumstances to break 1200 dps on Gillien). Sure they have to drop tree form, but they can. Restos are still competitive in arena as well, popping in and out of tree form as needed, just as any other druid might with their own shapes.
I will say this. I have a baby resto druid that's now level 36. If it looks like this Tree of Life change is going through, I'm going to make sure I level her far enough that I can chain run some instances as a tree before that goes away. I like the trees.
The rest... is okay. Ferals will get some PvP love, hopefully (I want to get back into PvP with Darkker for Cataclysm, especially with rated battlegrounds). So will balance druids.
It's too early to tell exactly what Nature's Torrent or Efflorescence are going to do other than add some more damage (perhaps as another nuke?) or more healing (maybe additional hot on top of the regular hot?).
I'll cover the masteries tomorrow.