Although the title of this thread might imply a broader argument that addresses ability pruning, I'm focusing instead on something entirely different and more focused:
Originally I was very disappointed when considering that Combo Points would now be stacking on the player instead of the target, because I figured this was abandoning the most defining limitation of the system, and would have rather seen the mechanics the player can utilize to mitigate it improved. This sort-of blinded me to the important implications for better gameplay that the new take on combo points implies: mostly that of an increased lateral thought process. That is to say, whereas originally combo points by their very nature previously supported a very tunnelvisiony approach, now with them easily transferable that's eliminated. Of course, there was a significant amount of forethought utilized by very good feral players in how they were going to overcome the loss of combo points when situations necessitated target switching, the new system encourages the player to be constantly aware of other targets, and opening the possibility of rolling our complex finishers on multiple targets is not making the game easier for us, but expanding the depth of the spec rather significantly.
Pvp might be the area in which this is most important. The ability to CC other targets through Maim is hard to oversell. Not only does this mean everything stated above but in the control environment as opposed to merely the damage one (which also is immensely useful in pressuring healers in pvp), but has a very neat effect on the value of some talents, namely increasing the value of feral charge in order to accommodate maim's short range, but also, more importantly, maybe toppling the king of the level 75 talent tier. And lastly, it gives invigorated purpose to the inherent mobility of cats.
The second best criticism I originally had for this change in how Combo Points functioned was their increased similarity to other resource systems like rage, holy power, and chi; however, I neglected to consider perhaps the most important distinction between these systems, which is not how they fundamentally function on their own, but instead the abilities they allow the player to use. Combo Point finishers are simply much more versatile and powerful. This shouldn't mean that allowing rogues and furls to wield these abilities with the same flexibility as warriors, monks, and paladins is overpowered, but instead it's important to realize the immense impact it has on how we play these specs, and the shifting of the focus when doing so. In MoP, indisputably, the most powerful utility of the feral druid was being the king of single target dps; stick the feral on anything that needs to die fast, that doesn't die too fast. In WoD, expect this to be completely shifted.
That all is to say that while on the surface, the loss of things like snapshotting might appear to be a dramatic caving-in of the proudly-touted roof of this spec may be preventing you from noticing an equal obliteration of its floor.
Also important to note: the natural downtime in our spec's rotation has never been better defined now that instant cast healing from the spec has never been more powerful. Rejuv from cat form and better healing touches expands the player's focus not only to more enemies in the case of combo points, but to his entire raid.
There are two more ideas I'd like to bring forth. The first is a short argument for putting Entangling Roots back into Predatory swiftness. Let's just bullet point this one (I think I'm getting a bit wordy):
- Retains the formerly most-laterally-thinking ability we had in expansions prior to WoD.
- Eliminates the lackluster and overly-complex qualities into Predatory Swiftness that its limitation in the next expansion to merely healing touch embeds.
- Perhaps a weak enough CC that it justifies its instant cast quality despite the game-wide reduction in these.
Finally, a suggestion. Instead of Cyclone, Ferals would use Hibernate. Hibernate would have a reduced range (to maintain the importance of the druid's spacial awareness and continue the emphasis on cat-mobility that cyclone does), but would work on all living targets, and it would not be tied to predatory swiftness. This would bring perhaps some additional identity to the spec, but more importantly support a distinct counter to the combo point change. Although ferals can now spread bleeds and multidot like never before, it would limit the number of targets for our crucial CC; obviously you can't hibernate a target with dots on it, so you would have to be careful.
The loss here - and the biggest counterargument I can conceive - is the unique gameplay value of cyclone. Unlike many other CCs, cyclone can hurt your cause as much as it can help it. And while I adore this system, I'm not sure if it's best suited to feral, and maybe the hibernate idea is more defining of cats - not only in aesthetic, but fundamental gameplay.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of this, and I apologize greatly for the wall of text.