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Shifting Perspectives: Feral cat druid DPS 101

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Shifting Perspectives for cat , bear , restoration and balance druids. Today marks the beginning of our new weekly feral cat edition brought to you by Chase Hasbrouck, aka Alaron of The Fluid Druid blog. Let the face clawing begin!

Tired of being a laser chicken or green-glowing broccoli? Just got your druid alt to 85? Mostly a bear, but want to up your DPS during non-tank phases? This guide's for you. It will cover the basics of the feral druid DPS spec at level 85 for you Cataclysm cats, including rotation, gear stats, talent and glyphs. I'll be focusing on PvE -- but don't worry, I'll address the many sorrows of feral PvPers soon.

Feral DPS strengths
  • Strong single-target DPS Currently just a bit behind that of assassination rogues and unholy DKs.
  • Excellent survivability With Survival Instincts, Barkskin, and Nurturing Instinct, we definitely don't overwork the healers.
  • Excellent mobility Most melee have a passive +15% run speed buff available to them, but we're the only one that gets +30% via Feral Swiftness. Combined with Feral Charge, we're typically the first melee DPS to reach an add.
  • Lots of raid-wide buffs, including +5% crit and some small raid-wide heals via Leader of the Pack. Also +30% bleed damage via Mangle and -12% armor reduction with Faerie Fire.
  • Tranquility is awesome and not just for restoration-specced druids. Often overlooked, it remains a great raid-wide party heal when paired with Nurturing Instincts. My feral Tranquility has healed for over 200k. That's a lot of healing for 8 seconds. Between LotP heals and Tranquility, I'm often the largest source of raid-wide heals not coming from a dedicated healer.
  • Battle rez Not as overpowered now that you're limited to one rez (or three in 25-man), but still game-changing.
  • Hybrid spec potential A shared talent tree with bears makes a combined DPS/tanking spec very viable.
  • A challenging, interesting, and dynamic DPS rotation


Feral DPS weaknesses
  • A challenging, frustrating, and capricious DPS rotation While the rotation has been made significantly easier in Cataclysm, a less-skilled cat will do much less damage than say, a less-skilled warrior.
  • Weak AoE DPS Kitty Swipe got nerfed hard in Cataclysm, to the extent that multidotting is now our best bet for three to four targets.
  • Weak on fights with lots of target switching Our hardest-hitting attack is Rip, which almost requires 5 combo points to use. Generating those CPs when our cooldowns are down takes quite a while.
  • No gear in forms If you spend a lot of time admiring your character, this spec's not for you.
Stat Priorities: What to look for

Best stats
  • Weapon DPS Feral attack power is dead; weapon DPS is king. In almost every situation, getting a weapon with better DPS is the best upgrade you can make, regardless of the weapon's stats.
  • Agility By far, agility is our best stat. It gives us extra attack power and crits, which affects all our abilities. In almost all cases, optimal gearing revolves around getting the item for each slot with the most agility.
  • Mastery Since we derive a large portion of our damage from bleeds, Mastery (Razor Claws) is our best secondary stat. Any gear without mastery should be reforged when possible. The upcoming patch 4.0.6 will decrease the value of mastery somewhat, but it will remain our best secondary stat.
Okay stats
  • Strength/Attack Power We get 2 AP for each point of strength, but we get no crit benefit, making this primary stat considerably inferior to agility. Leave the strength items for the plate wearers, though consider it if it's a massive upgrade in ilvl (26+ pts) to what you're currently wearing. Strength weapons are an exception; an ilvl 359 strength weapon is better then an ilvl 346 agility weapon, due to DPS. That said, don't roll need on Akirus unless nobody else wants it, as Malevolence is just as easy to get.
  • Critical strike Crits are one of the primary methods that we use to generate combo points due to Primal Fury making this secondary stat very nice.
  • Haste Haste increases our melee damage, but more importantly, it increases our energy regen. It is currently slightly inferior to crit but should become roughly equal after the 4.0.6 patch.
Poor stats
  • Hit Unlike most other classes in the game, we're not too concerned about hit. If we miss a special attack, 80% of the attack's energy is refunded, letting us try again with little penalty. One large caveat: If your raid relies on you as an interrupter, then you DO want to prioritize hit, and take the hit (heh) to your personal DPS.
  • Expertise Just like hit, but doesn't affect our interrupts (since bosses can't dodge while casting). Reforge out of it.
Bad stats
  • Resilience Great for PvP, of course, but horrible for PvE. That said, the four-piece PvP set bonus was so good that it single-handedly made PvP gear better than the equivalent PvE gear; thankfully for new druids, that's being fixed in 4.0.6.
  • Everything else Don't worry about spirit or intellect, for example; they have virtually no impact on our characters. PvPers may want spell penetration, but that's a more advanced topic I'll cover another day.
Talent spec

0/32/9 is your basic DPS spec. I find Primal Madness to be mostly useless, so I've chosen to put the points in Perseverance instead. I'll dig deeper into this in another column.

Glyphs

Prime Rip (essential), Shred (important), and one of Berserk/Tiger's Fury/Savage Roar; I lean towards Berserk, personally.

Major Nothing critical. I'd recommend Feral Charge, Faerie Fire, and Rebirth for raiders.

Minor Your choice though Dash is nice.

DPS rotation for feral cats

Feral DPS has a lot of buttons. You have two debuffs, two bleed DoTs, and one self-buff that all need to be maintained, three direct damage abilities, and two cooldowns. That doesn't even get into defensive/hybrid stuff. While the length of these abilities have been extended for Cataclysm and maintaining them is much less of a John Madden exercise, the sheer number of buttons required can be somewhat disconcerting. I'll work through them one at a time.
  • Keep -armor debuff from Faerie Fire up at all times. You can put this up on the pull and generally not worry about it too much, since it lasts 5 minutes. Don't worry about the stacking bit; Feral Aggression takes care of that.
  • Keep -bleed debuff from Mangle up at all times. Basically, hit Mangle every 60 seconds unless you're lucky enough to have an arms warrior or sublety rogue with you who put that debuff up automatically.
  • Use Tiger's Fury (TF) on cooldown. Burn off some energy via Shredding if you need to avoid wasting the King of the Jungle proc. Don't try to save TF to use with other abilities; you want to activate it as often as possible, unless you're about to enter a burn phase.
  • Use Berserk on cooldown. You can't use TF during Berserk, so it's best to use Berserk shortly after TF. If using a DPS potion such as Potion of the Tol'Vir, stack it with Berserk.
  • Rip with 5 combo points. Rip is your hardest-hitting ability. You want this up as much as possible. If the boss is below 25% health, you can use a Ferocious Bite (of any number of CPs) before it drops to refresh it due to Blood in the Water. It's best if you can bite with 5 CPs but okay if you can't. Biting above 25% can slightly increase DPS but makes it much more difficult to manage a rotation and should be avoided while learning.
  • Keep Rake up as much as possible. Rake doesn't hit as hard as Rip, but it'll still be probably your second-hardest hitting ability.
  • Savage Roar whenever it drops. Unlike Wrath, when DPS collapsed if a SR was left unrefreshed, you can safely deprioritize it now. It helps, but it's not essential.
  • If all of the above is done and you have energy, Shred. Shred is your primary CP generator. Don't burn too much energy on Shreds, though; sometimes you'll want to save energy for more important abilities dropping off.
  • If you have to move/switch targets, don't forget Ravage. 2/2 Stampede will let you proc a free Ravage every time you use Feral Charge.
I highly recommend using some kind of buff/debuff tracking mod, as the default UI is pretty poor at conveying timing information. I personally use NeedToKnow.

Well, that wraps up the 101 guide. I've only lightly touched on several topics, which I hope to cover in more depth in future columns. If you have something specific you'd like to see, let me know in the comments. Now go forth and nom face, not once, but thrice!
What race should you choose for your druid? What happened to Tree of Life? How can you get started as a bear or cat in Cataclysm? Shifting Perspectives has the answers!

Filed under: Druid, (Druid) Shifting Perspectives

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