So, with the upcoming Mists of Pandaria expansion, not only are both the Alliance AND the Horde getting Kung Fu Pandas galore, but the talent system is getting completely revamped. The old notion of putting points into minor, but necessary, powerups just to get at the core abilities of your specialization is going away. Instead, every character will get the needed core abilities of their specialization as they level up, regardless of talent point assignment, so nobody will be able to make "noob mistakes" and skip talents they absolutely need to be competitive.
So what's left? Utility talents. Those abilities that are always situational, that many deride as "PvP only" because they often involve movement, crowd control, or mechanics PvE bosses tend to be immune to, like stuns. And the kicker? They're not bound to any one specialization any more--in the 5.0 patch preceding MoP (love that acronym >:3 ), everyone will be able to access any talent of their class that's available at their level.
You get one every fifteen levels, and instead of putting points into pieces of talents, where you might have to put 3 or 5 into a talent to see its full effect, you just get one point. And you choose one of three talents at each tier. The other two? LOCKED OFF FOREVER!! ...or until you retalent. Which is apparently going to be as easy as reglyphing is today.
Now, I've seen a lot of booing about how talents are now "all PvP" and can't see how PvE-centered players will benefit from this. As a PvE druid, I'm going to evaluate each talent in the new Druid talent calculator (version seen on Wowhead, since the official WoW community site tends to have issues with the talent calculator on my machine) and try to give my opinion on how it'll apply to my Feral Combat spec, without sounding like a condescending elitist jerk dot com. ;) (No offense to elitistjerks.com, which despite living up to their name has provided me with much-needed ability and gearing information with each expansion.)
Level 15 tier! It's all about movement and Cat Form. Tireless Pursuit: Removes roots and snares, and provides a second Dash while the regular one's on cooldown. With all the root and snare mechanics that go into boss battles these days, and how essential it is sometimes to get that extra boost of speed to avoid "standing in bad", it's hard to see how this could be considered a PvP-only talent.
Displacer Beast: While purging all periodic damage effects is so strong of an ability it seems almost an exploit depending on the encounter (similar to how people were using the "Luffa" item to remove Garrote on the Moroes encounter, back when it was a dps check), the random direction thing seems to push this firmly into the realm of PvP abilities, because of how essential it is not to end up standing in bad. An ability that randomly places you probably isn't a good idea for most PvE encounters... but it's easy to see how it could see emergency use if you get too many DoT stacks on you, in amounts that are worse than any puddle of bad currently on the battlefield!
Feline Swiftness: Flat movement speed increase. Seems boring to most, but with the added complexity of all the new abilities I'm going to get in the expansion, having the speed buff I'm used to is probably the least confusing option here. Yes, that means it's the "noob option", but I LIKE having extra speed in cat form. I'm taking it.
Level 30 tier! This one's angled more towards healing. Cenarion Ward: While having a healing shield to put on the tank in high-damage situations or healers during boss AoE situations is a good idea, it seems more situational than most, and would probably be used more in either PvE or PvP by a resto druid who's already paying more attention than me to the raid's health meters.
Renewal: It's another healthstone, that can be used every two minutes. Awesome. I'll take it for my Guardian offspec.
Nature's Swiftness: Formerly a resto-only talent, this now affects such things as Cyclone and Rebirth, which are things I'm pretty much always going to want to cast instantly in any encounter where I need to use them. If I can possibly macro this to those abilities, I definitely will!
Level 45 tier! This one's about controlling enemy movement--probably the biggest argument for PvP-only abilities since bosses are immune to most such effects. Faerie Swarm: Adds a snare to Faerie Fire. Seems decent enough, but in PvE I'll probably be snaring with my Infected Wounds proc more.
Mass Entanglement: AoE roots; sounds good in theory, but it can't be cast in feral forms and has a cast time. Probably more useful to the ranged specs.
Typhoon: Now we're talking! Sure, knockback is great for annoying enemies and knocking them off bridges in PvP, but it's also something I've always wanted to have for PvE. And it's usable in all forms! Yeah, this tier's probably way more useful for PvP than even PvE trash packs, but still... I finally get some knockback! >:3
Level 60 tier! DPS cooldowns. Kitty bread and butter. PvE? PvP? These are useful EVERYWHERE. *cowcat grin* Wild Charge: If I wanted to keep my old Feral Charge functionality, this is what I'd pick. Movement around the field of battle is often very necessary, especially if you find yourself on the opposite side of a stream of damaging stuff from the mob you're trying to hit (like that one guy in the hallway leading up to Ragnaros that summons lava over the bridge! ERGH!!). However... picking this up has led to me wanting to sprint out of melee range just to leap back so I get a free Ravage. When I can't, I feel like I'm not doing enough for my dps optimization, and when I do, I worry I'm losing too much on autoattacks from being out of range to be worth the free Ravage. And this happens every 30 seconds when it comes off cooldown...
Force of Nature: BONK! This shotgun knocks back both the Scout and his targe...oh wait, wrong game. Ahem. Summon three treants! Woohoo! Nice dps cooldown here, easy to use, creates confusion in PvP... buuuuut the one I saved for last is, again, superior for my uses... though I am interested in seeing what they mean by "Treant capabilities vary by specialization!
Incarnation: Yesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyes*bounce* DIRE CAT FORM!! ...Well, "King of the Jungle" at least. Lets me stealth in combat for 30 seconds, and lets me use Pounce and Ravage regardless of stealth for those 30 seconds. Let me just pair this up with Berserk whenever the boss goes into a vulnerable phase and watch those dps numbers skyrocket like I was swipe spamming on AoE trash... >:3 ...also, at a 3 minute cooldown, it feels a lot more flexible than feeling pressured to feral charge every 30 seconds.
Level 75 tier! More enemy movement control, but just because something's more useful to PvE on trash packs and boss adds than on bosses themselves, doesn't mean it's PvP-only. Centered around bear form the way the 45 tier was centered around casters. Demoralizing Roar: Now just disorients enemies in range for 4 seconds. Finally, I don't have to worry about keeping this debuff up whenever I'm tanking!
Bear Hug: Awesome name. Stuns and deals 10% of bear health in damage every second for 3 seconds. Sounds great for my Guardian spec. Pops bear form for the duration so I'll pass on it for main spec...
Ursol's Vortex: BEAR GRIP! Sure, the Death Knight's signature ability has a much greater range than the 15 yards listed for Ursol's Vortex. Yes, this whole tier is more for Guardian druids than Feral. Of course, it doesn't have a taunt added the way Death Grip does, so I can't use this as easily to keep adds off the healers. But this does not change how awesome it's going to be to yank a trash pack up close to me and start swiping the crap out of them! Or, considering the changes coming... something like Thrash Swipe Swipe Thrash Swipe Swipe Thrash Swipe Swipe Thrasher No Thrashing.
Level 90 tier! Hybridization abilities. The stuff I won't actually get until the expansion hits and I adventure through the lush lands of Pandaria. A lot of players in both PvE and PvP are booing these abilities because it's much harder to see how they affect your main spec, and a lot are probably just going to pick up Disentanglement for the old roots-canceling ability of shapeshifting. But many of those are probably forgetting that shapeshifting to use hybrid abilities has always been a core part of being a druid. I shift out to combat res, or cyclone, hibernate, or root an add, or dispel an enrage. Yes, I lose dps to do so, yes this technically puts us behind "pure" dps classes like the rogue. But that's why a lot of feral damage comes from bleeds, so we can pop out, do something utility wise, and pop back in with minimal dps loss. I think making this behavior more viable as top-end dps is something we should be rejoicing in, since we're already having to do it anyway!! Disentanglement: Not only does shapeshifting remove roots with this, it'll also heal you once every 30 seconds. 20% of maximum health is nothing to /sneeze at, and I'm probably going to pick this up for my Guardian spec--pair it with Renewal and I'll be able to instantly recharge half my health. Hello, Chimaeron. Hello, Baleroc.
Master Shapeshifter: This one seems the most complicated to use effectively, and thus is probably going to be the one the top-end dps druids end up using to eke out just a tidbit more dps on the meters. It's easy to see how it could be worked into a pattern, too--when you're low on energy, pop out and Moonfire to add another DoT, or pop three quick Wraths when you're about to blow Incarnation/Wild Charge and Ravage the crap out of something. Similarly, boomkins could pop cat form and Wild Charge to smack the enemy a few times, then Dash back out and shift back to throw some heavy spells, probably timing it so they do that Eclipse thing at the right time too... if they didn't pick Force of Nature instead to get their trees back. But to me, if I'm doing my dps effectively, I want it to be in cat form. This tier is about taking roles outside what you usually do, situationally... and I want to be good at that for more than just the first three casts.
Heart of the Wild: ...so I go with this. This one buffs my ability to cast pinch heals and ranged damage, AND my ability to pop bear and tank for a little bit without immediately getting pounded into bearburger by boss damage. It will also mean I don't sit around like a lump during phases where the boss is high in the sky and can only be hit by ranged damage. And unlike Master Shapeshifter, I don't have to rely on having shifted roles in the last 15 seconds to do it!
So that's my evaluation. http://www.wowhead.com/mists-of-pandaria-talent-calcul... There's my final pick for feral talents... http://www.wowhead.com/mists-of-pandaria-talent-calcul... ...and Guardian. Note that there are still a LOT of talents that I might swap to situationally. And that is part of the point of the new talent system--there are not going to be any more cookie-cutter builds; you pick what feels right for YOU. Even the "unviable for your spec" talents still have some utility, enough so that you can be perfectly useful in a group situation until you decide to retalent.
Even for the two PvP-centric tiers, the abilities I picked weren't for a flat dps buff, but because I felt they would be cool and fun to use (Typhoon and Ursol's Vortex). Fun to use. FUN. As in, the reason we play video games at all? >:3
For any of you who don't play feral dps or tank druids in World of Warcraft... wow, I admire your tenacity in reading this far. XD