I am, of course, talking about the content push that will have ferals getting their new talents, skills and horrible itemization coming in the 'upcoming weeks' while TBC is the big kahuna. We don't know what build we'll be getting, we don't know what talents or skills will be changing, and we have no clue what will be done for itemization.
So let's everyone panic a bit.
Now that we've gotten that out of our system, let's talk about what build we're going to spec to. Keep in mind - this is a spec for Burning Crusade. This isn't the lvl 80 spec or even what you'll be leveling with come Wrath. This is trying to answer the question of what you should be raiding with when the patch comes out for Burning Crusade content. (thanks, Felkan - I totally left this out)
The big thing to note is that with only (hah) 61 points, there is no way to get both Omen of Clarity and Berserk in the same build. Omen of Clarity is being changed to be far, far better in Wrath/3.0 (it will proc only on white attacks but it will proc all the time), giving cats a huge dps boost. Berserk is a huge dps boost but only for 15 seconds every 5 minutes.
The important thing is this: If you want to tank, you'll take berserk. If you want to DPS, you'll take Omen of Clarity.
I've not fully made up my mind on that, to be honest. Bears have been getting by without berserk for a while now, and it's been okay. But omen of clarity doesn't do that much for tanking, and berserk is just a silly good ability for tanking. It's worth it for tanking Archi alone. It's worth it for tanking flames, given how much damage and threat you can put out. And it would be good to get it into your available buttons so you're more used to it. Plus it's damn fun. Omen of Clarity is kinda boring, but being able to mangle three targets while getting tons of rage and doing massive damage AND not taking as much damage? Ooh, fun times.
Of course, it is likely that ferals are going to get a major revamp to the talent trees coming up soon. Who knows what the talents are going to be like? This could easily be out of date tomorrow.
That doesn't stop me from rampant speculation. :)
With all that being said, I think I'll be going with the 51/10 build. The goal of this one is to have a good selection of tanking talents while being able to do good (if not the best) damage as a cat. Just so you don't have to swap back and forth, here's what it looks like, text wise:
Balance (0 points)
Feral Combat (51 points)
3/3 Feral Instinct
3/3 Thick Hide
2/2 Feral Swiftness
1/1 Faerie Fire (Feral)
3/3 Sharpened Claws
2/2 Shredding Attacks
3/3 Predatory Strikes
2/2 Primal Fury
2/2 Primal Precision
2/2 Savage Fury
1/1 Feral Charge
5/5 Heart of the Wild
3/3 Survival of the Fittest
1/1 Leader of the Pack
2/2 Improved Leader of the Pack
3/3 King of the Jungle
3/3 Infected Wounds
3/3 Improved Mangle
Restoration (10 points)
More importantly, here's what's been skipped:
Rend and Tear
Omen of Clarity
Let's go over each talent and see why it was picked.
First off, the easy ones - the ones that didn't change (or their base ability didn't change:
Sharpened Claws ( a prereq for primal precision)
Feral Faerie Fire
Heart of the Wild
Leader of the Pack and Improved Leader of the Pack
All of those are mostly straightforward for tanking and are pretty much a requirement for tanking. You might quibble with faerie fire, but I use this so often personally that it might as well be a requirement.
Now, the things that are changed or that have competition (and thus were not taken):
Feral Aggression, even with the buffs to ferocious bite, is still not particularly good. Demo roar still is not as good as demo shout, and ferocious bite isn't good even with full buffs like rend and tear. Skip it.
Brutal Impact is nice to have but does nothing for most encounters save M'uru adds. Skip.
Feral Instinct isn't the best talent, though it's very good and exceptional for keeping multiple mobs tanked. This combined with 4pT6 will make swipe by far the best threat talent to spam. I think with this alone it'll be better than lacerate is.
shredding attacks could be cut in favor of all sorts of other abilities. It's unclear whether cat dps would be so horribly nerfed by the lack of OoC that it wouldn't be worth it to even try. I'm assuming that some cat DPS would like to be done. They do offer some wiggle room though, so think about this when you're doing your bear's spec.
Predatory Strikes got even better, increasing the AP of your weapon by 20%. And of course it's a prereq for Heart of the Wild.
Primal Precision is the biggest improvement to threat that a bear can take for two points. This is expertise skill, not rating, which means these two points reduce parries by 2.5% and dodges by 2.5% - or, essentially, increasing your total threat by 5% while helping out with mitigation. If you have a ton of expertise on gear this might want to be cut, but I don't see how you'd get it.
Savage Fury doesn't help claw and rake anymore. Instead, it helps both flavors of mangle and maul. A huge threat boost for the two points.
Not that you would have skipped Feral charge anyway, but it also has a cat version.
Nurturing Instinct got nerfed anyway, but you simply don't have the points to get it any more. Too bad; I liked having it when healing on Bloodboil and Illidan.
Survival of the Fittest was also a must-have, but now it removes any need for any resilience or defense on gear. This alone is going to boost feral druid tanking by quite a bit, given all the itemization that can be otherwise freed up.
Primal Tenacity was always mediocre, but now that it only reduces duration instead of giving a flat resist it's much worse. And we don't have the points to spare.
King of the Jungle is essential for cat energy (and makes Tiger's Fury awesome!) but will also add a nice threat boost when enraged, helping out early on fights for snap aggro. Not essential, but nice for both cat and bear. And I wanted to play with it some.
Predatory Instincts was...tough to cut. 10% crit damage is a big deal for cats or bears, and the aoe avoidance was nice if erratic. The problem is that it's simply not as good as Naturalist. I could see a reasonable argument to take this instead of shredding attacks and King of the Jungle, and clearly this would be better for bears than shredding attacks/KotJ is. But again - trying to make a build that will allow good tanking and good dpsing.
Infected Wounds is another iffy one. I am assuming it will work on all bosses the same way thunderclap does. (This isn't currently the case on the beta servers, but I can hope, right? Thanks anon) If that's not the case, this can be skipped entirely. Otherwise it's very useful and helps out quite a bit when a warrior can't tclap for you for whatever reason.
Improved Mangle is another big boost for bear threat, effectively increasing mangle threat by 33%. It will take the place of a swipe/lacerate in the cycle, though, so it's not perfect, but it will definitely be a threat boost. The cat mangle cost reduction will help a lot with farming and somewhat on damage. This might not be as good as predatory strikes; I need to work the math out on that a bit more.
Rend and Tear is simply not enough of a boost to anything. The ferocious bite bonus is great for farming but not useful enough for raiding. The maul boost, even assuming 80% of your damage was in mauls, is not as good as predatory strikes or naturalist. Same goes for shreds.
Berserk is just too fun, and is that ohshit button that bears have been asking for for years. It isn't essential - and if you do want to do max dps as a cat, this isn't for you. (I'll be doing that build tomorrow). But for tanking? Oh yes, please.
Furor is mostly for cat regen; powershifting is ridiculously powerful in wotlk because of it. Any serious cat dps must have this. The tanking aspect isn't so special, but that's okay.
Naturalist is one of the better threat talents a bear has. Pity it's in the resto tree. It's good for cat and bear. It's not a pure 10% threat boost, but it's pretty close, and it does help with cat quite a bit.
For a pure bear build with no interest in going cat, I would go with something like this. Which I don't think is all that interesting, but some folks would want it. More overall threat, a bit more non-dependable mitigation. But no versatility.
Check back tomorrow for the cat build. Weird.