Two new abilities, but mostly improved versions of older ones:
- Faerie Fire and Feral Faerie Fire: This is an interesting little spell that makes life hell for Night Elves and Rogues in PvP (or at least it does if the latter doesn't have Cloak of Shadows up) but is also invaluable for physical DPS classes in PvE. If you're leveling Balance, you'd really only want to slap this on mobs in group situations where your tank or melee/Hunter DPS could benefit from it (or if you invest points in Improved Faerie Fire) -- the armor reduction doesn't affect your own spell DPS. Faerie Fire (or the Feral version, they're the same deal) is a good DPS boost for a Bear/Cat, however, and costs no rage or energy. Because Feral Faerie Fire also has quite a nice threat coefficient (and free damage!) in Bear form, you'll want to use it for many, if not most, pulling situations (or at least get it applied quickly).
- Hibernate: Tremendously useful while scouting or questing in areas with Beast or Dragon-type mobs, although be forewarned that it does place you in combat (unlike Soothe Animal at level 22).
- Entangling Roots, rank 2: standard upgrade.
- Maul, rank 2: standard upgrade.
- Nature's Grasp, rank 2: standard upgrade.
- Regrowth, rank 2: standard upgrade.
Two words: Cat Form.
Interestingly, there's a Great Cat Spirit in Moonglade, which suggests that Blizzard was initially planning to incorporate a Cat Form quest into the game alongside its Bear counterpart. Like the Bear, the Cat starts life as only a shadow of its future self, but it's still a significant boost to your offensive capabilities. Anyone who's played a Rogue will already be familiar with the basic playstyle (although a former Rogue is likely to be frustrated with the Cat's lack of early options), but if you've done something like Aces High! and/or the Malygos encounter, then you have an inkling of what you're in for, as the dragon vehicles use a similar combat system.
Most Cat damage abilities award something that is called a combo point, which you will see appear directly to the right of your enemy's character portrait on the default UI (lots of mods and scrolling combat text can also tell you how many combo points you have). With at least 1 combo point on your target, you can use what's called a finishing move, with more combo points awarding a higher damage or longer-duration finishing move. The object is to kite that #*%(# Ret Pally through the lake next to the Blacksmith with aquatic form then root him as he starts running out of air hahahahahaha that was amazing (sorry, flashback) accrue CP's on the target, and either kill the enemy with a finishing move or ensure a hastening death with a DoT. Truthfully, you're not likely to spend much time on finishing moves while you're leveling, because a well-geared Cat is increasingly likely to kill an opponent within the space of a few seconds, but they will come in handy on higher-health targets.
Cats begin with the following:
- Prowl: The Druid version of the Rogue's Stealth. If you're not already experienced with the basic mechanic, then as a quick rundown, Prowl doesn't actually make you invisible to mobs or enemy players. What it does do is greatly reduce the distance at which they are able to see you (that link is well worth your time, incidentally; it's a classic account of a Druid's soloing Kibler's Exotic Pets). If you get close to a hostile NPC (particularly if they outlevel you), you'll usually see them suddenly turn in your direction after realizing that something is there. They'll go back to doing whatever they were doing after a harrowing few seconds unless you move closer to them. At this point, they'll not only realize that you're there, but they're likely to attack you out of stealth. The distance at which mobs will aggro you while you're stealthed increases for each level you're below them, and the only thing that will really teach you what you can and can't get away with is hard experience. Feral Instinct (which every Feral Druid should have) will increase your stealth level to that of a Rogue specced into Master of Deception. Night Elves also have a racial advantage over Tauren, gaining a passive +5 stealth. And -- race and talents aside -- endeavor to stay behind every mob or player you need to sneak past while stealthed. Even if they massively outlevel you, they can't see a stealthed player behind them.
- Claw, rank 1: Right now this is your main damage-dealing ability, and it won't be replaced in that capacity until Mangle (Feral's 41-point talent). It awards one combo point per successful hit, unless you have 2/2 Primal Fury, in which case a critical strike will award two combo points. At level 20, this is the only ability you have that will award a combo point, so you'll be using it a lot.
- Rip, rank 1: At 80, this ability will be the single highest contribution to your DPS, but while leveling you're not likely to get as much use out of it simply because targets are likely to die before it runs its full course. Even so, experiment with using a 2 or 3-combo point Rip on a target while you continue to Claw and see what works best for you.
As you've probably noticed, the Cat doesn't start out with a lot of abilities, which makes the early playstyle pretty simple. You can open from Prowl if you want, but you don't have any moves that benefit from it just yet. It's usually faster to start pulls with Feral Faerie Fire, Claw to 2-3 combo points, then Rip. Don't forget that you still have your caster abilities too, and you're perfectly capable of starting DPS in caster and switching to kitty. This is particularly effective for higher-health targets, especially if you leave Moonfire ticking on them when you shift forms. However, this tends to run you through mana pretty quickly -- shapeshifting, as you've probably discovered by now, is expensive -- so for the purpose of leveling speed you're usually better off staying mostly in caster or mostly in Cat and speccing accordingly.
Apart from your shiny new Cat, you'll also get the following at level 20:
- Starfire, rank 1: This and Wrath are the two bread-and-butter Druid nukes, but unless you have it talented through the Balance tree (the very first points you put into Balance should go into Starlight Wrath), it's a whopping 3.5-second cast. Even talented, it's still a lengthy cast, so it finds its best use while you have an enemy rooted, or using it as an opener. I'm also fond of opening with a Wrath, then starting a Starfire cast as Wrath travels to the mob. This results in a fairish amount of burst. Otherwise, if you're leveling Balance and you have something chewing on you while you're casting, Moonfire and Wrath (and later, Insect Swarm) are better choices.
- Demoralizing Roar, rank 2: standard upgrade.
- Healing Touch, rank 4: standard upgrade.
- Mark of the Wild, rank 3: standard upgrade.