There are some fairly major changes happening on the PTR for Patch 4.0.6 at the moment, with every class and spec getting adjusted and in most cases adjusted significantly. Here’s my take on how this will affect feral druids.
The major changes affecting ferals concerns a balancing of the damage contribution of their attacks and several PvP changes that will affect PvE as well. The full patch notes can be found here. The significant items I’ve identified below are taken from that list.
* Barkskin is no longer dispellable.
* Entangling Roots and Hibernate now have a PvP duration of 8 seconds.
* Lacerate damage has been reduced by approximately 20%.
* Mangle (Bear Form) weapon damage (at level 80+) has been reduced to 235%, down from 300%.
* Mangle (Cat Form) weapon damage percent (at level 80+) has been increased to 460%, up from 360%.
* Maul damage has been reduced by approximately 20%.
* Prowl is no longer broken by enemies using Demoralizing Shout or Demoralizing Roar.
* Rake damage has been reduced by 10%.
* Rip damage has been reduced by 10%.
* Shapeshifts: Entering or leaving a shapeshift no longer cancels root effects. It continues to cancel movement slowing effects.
* Shred weapon damage percent (at level 80+) has been increased to 450%, up from 350%.
* Skull Bash’s lockout time has been reduced to 4 seconds, down from 5.
+ Berserk (instant Mangle proc) now has a new Spell Alert identifier. In addition, Berserk no longer breaks Fear or makes the druid immune to Fear.
+ Infected Wounds now has a PvP duration of 8 seconds.
+ Pulverize weapon damage percent has been reduced to 80%, down from 100%.
o Glyph of Entangling Roots redesigned. It now reduces the cast time of Entangling Roots by 0.2 seconds, rather than making it instant cast.
# The night elf racial trait Shadowmeld can now be used while shapeshifted.
# The tauren racial trait War Stomp can now be used while shapeshifted.
I went looking for some information on how the cat form changes would affect us, and found a fantastic post on the official forums here. It is always positive to see a reasoned and constructive post on the official forums and in this post, Yawning not only meets those criteria, he also gives some very reassuring news for feral DPS. The effects of this change are very small for this tier of content, but they do indicate that feral DPS will scale better in future tiers. At several gear levels, from live realms and from Beta pre-made characters, the difference was less than 100 dps, well within the expected differences from RNG when you are looking at values between 16,000 and 22,000. As long as threat for bears continues to be viable, I have no problem with reducing their (relatively very high) damage output. Although we have not yet seen raid encounters where threat is a major issue, it will undoubtedly arrive at some point in the expansion, but if bears can keep aggro as well as other tanks it will be a level playing field.
There has been a LOT of discussion in every forum I’ve seen about the change to shapeshifting. Much of that discussion has been vitriolic, including the post that had pages and pages of an ASCII middle finger directed at Blizzard. Although shapeshifting cancelling any movement reducing or rooting effect has been a core ability to the class for 6 years and it was apparently balanced enough to make it through that period without ever being considered for removal, in a supposedly minor patch Blizzard are planning on removing the ability for shapeshifting to cancel roots. As mentioned, it will still cancel movement impairing effects. So, take a look at those two different abilities: roots and snares. The majority of feral PvP, as far as I can tell, should be absolutely fine. There will still be ample opportunity to escape snares and the majority of movement affecting spells will be snares rather than roots. Although the change is unexpected and the outcry is loud (very loud indeed on some forums), I do not think it is quite the drastic destruction of the druid class that some people believe it to be.
PvE damage is pretty much the same but will scale better. Tanking threat should still be fine. PvP will be slightly harder against classes with fear and root abilities. The world is not ending, although like Jacemora said, it does hurt to see my PvE abilities detrimentally affected by the PvP “balancing”. As druids did through the changes in TBC and Wrath, we will survive and continue to be competitive.