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Shifting Perspectives: Analyzing patch 4.2's feral DPS changes

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

I was done. Really, I was. I was going to use this deployment to catch up on some reading, maybe a few PSP/DS games that I never got around to finishing, regular geek stuff. (Infinite Space + DS = win.) I was content.

Then came FIRECAT. An item that finally makes me stand out from the hunter pets? CAT DURID IS 4 FIER! Here's hoping they don't extend this to the other forms; last thing we need is names like Smokey for bears, Firewood for trees, and, um, Extra Tasty Crispy for moonkin. I'm sold. Here's my

$15, Blizz; I'm coming back, 4-digit pings or no. Onward!

4.2 changes: The breakdown
  • Druids now gain 1 attack power per point of Strength, down from 2. They continue to gain 2 attack power per point of Agility while in Cat Form or Bear Form.
This is a small nerf, but a necessary one. While the average druid isn't going to have a lot of strength anyway, this significantly reduces the benefit you'll gain from strength buffs, such as Battle Shout. In might seem counterintuitive, but this is actually a GOOD thing; it means we won't be as reliant on a specific buff in order to do good DPS. If you don't raid or otherwise regularly run with a DK/enhancement shaman/DPS warrior, this nerf actually means very little to you, and you'll be able to enjoy all the other buffs we got.

The downside, however, is that strength jewelry and weapons went from being "poor substitutes" to "horrible substitutes." For example, Akirus the Worm-Breaker goes from slightly better than Jin'do's Verdict to worse than a ilvl 346 blue.
  • Ferocious Bite damage has been increased by 15%. In addition, its base cost has been reduced to 25 energy and it can use up to 25 energy, for up to a 100% damage increase.
  • Glyph of Ferocious Bite has been redesigned. It now causes Ferocious Bite to heal the caster for 1% of maximum health for each 10 energy used.
This is finally moving in the right direction. In 4.0/4.1, FB was never used except as an execute-type ability, in conjunction with the Blood in the Water talent. Many ferals, including me, found the risk/reward playstyle of weaving in FB's in WOTLK to be entertaining, and were upset when this rotational element was removed. Berserk periods were especially annoying, since you'd rapidly gain CP's from spamming Shred, and have nothing to do with them. The damage still needs a little boost to make it clearly superior to Shred, but the 15% bump plus the healing from the glyph (which every raiding cat should pick up, not having a decent third option) will make it competitive, especially with the 4pT12 set bonus. I'm still running numbers on this one; the Savage Roar buffs may still end up making it not optimal, but it's much closer than it used to be.
  • It is no longer possible in some encounters to use Feral Charge when closer than its minimum range.
This "bug fix" is actually a moderate nerf for 4.0 content. By using Feral Charge on cooldown with the Stampede talent, ferals were able to get a mostly-free Ravage! periodically, without having to move out of range and lose DPS. It wasn't usable on most fights, but for the ones it was it added a "free" 3-6% DPS. From first looks at Firelands, it looks like we'll be switching targets enough that we'll have plenty of chances to FC, anyway.
  • Entangling Roots and the equivalent spell triggered by Nature's Grasp no longer deal damage.
FINALLY. The damage it did was always inconsequential, especially for ferals, and the damage ticks had a nasty habit of breaking the roots early. Very happy about this change for heroics. I still miss the insta-roots glyph, though...it made it so much easier to "rootenate" pulls. (Yes, that's kin to a hootenanny.)
  • Innervate now grants an ally target 5% of his or her maximum mana over 10 seconds, but still grants 20% of the druid's maximum mana over 10 seconds when self-cast.
Good: Feral innervates are equal to resto/balance innervates again for trading to others, and they scale "better." Bad: They're all now equally almost worthless for trading to others. Toss it to a healer if you're in a phase transition; or don't, nobody will notice, really.
Looking on the bright side, it might be somewhat useful if you can line it up with a healer's Power Torrent proc. I could see healers pushing 150k mana pools in T12, so it'll help a bit more than you think. It remains to be seen if mana will continue to be a challenge for healers like it was in earlier content. Also, we won't have to worry about losing (as much) DPS when we shift anymore. (Aside: Blizz, making a set bonus that falls off when we shift forms is not a good way to encourage the hybrid gameplay you were talking about, k?)
  • Omen of Clarity clearcasting buff from now lasts 15 seconds, up from 8 seconds.
Not a significant buff for PvE; you want to use up OoC ASAP anyway so it has the chance to proc again. It will definitely help for Arenas, though.
  • Swipe (Cat) now deals 600% weapon damage at level 80 or higher, down from 670%.
So doubling the damage was too much? Who would've thought? Sad but necessary. Less dying from threatpulls on trash is good, I guess.
  • Glyph of Berserk duration increase is now 10 seconds, up from 5.
Not a big fan of this change. Prior to this, TF/SR/Berserk were all reasonably close in value, which allowed for some personal choice; now, you're pretty much locked into a Rip/Shred/Berserk set. Hopefully, they tweak the SR glyph a bit upwards to account for this. This is probably a PvP change; after feral lost it's root and fear break abilities, it was too easy to simply CC and wait out a Berserk.

That said, Berserk + Swipe was amazing AOE damage in 4.1; the extra 5 seconds may help make up for the reduced damage on Swipe.
  • Mangle (Cat) damage at level 80 and above has been increased to 540% weapon damage, up from 460%, and bonus damage has been lowered to 302.
  • Shred damage at level 80 and above has been increased to 540% weapon damage, up from 450%, and bonus damage has been lowered to 302.
  • Ravage damage at level 80 and above has been increased to 950% weapon damage, up from 850%, and bonus damage has been lowered to 532.
The base damage was reduced significantly, making this not as large of a buff as it first appears, but it more than accounts for the strength nerf all by itself. I'd have been happy just with this change; the next two are pure gravy.
  • Rake initial damage on hit now deals the same damage as each periodic tick (and is treated the same for all combat calculations). Periodic damage now gains 14.7% of attack power per tick, up from 12.6%, and base damage per tick has been lowered from 557 to 56. There is a known issue with Rake's tooltip being incorrect from this change will be corrected in a future patch.
  • Savage Roar now grants 80% increased damage to melee auto attacks, up from 50%. The Glyph of Savage Roar remains an unchanged bonus of 5% to that total.
I saved the best for last. This buff is huge. Rake's first hit was always fairly small; bumping the first hit up to a full tick of damage adds a good 15-20% DPS to the ability. Same for SR; that tweak also adds a good 15-20% DPS to all our white attacks as well. This devalues Rip significantly, which ALSO means we'll do better at target switching, which has long been one of our weak points.

Putting everything together, things are looking great for ferals. Napkin math suggests a 5%-10% increase in DPS, depending on your gear, plus better scaling as we roll into Firelands. I'll be posting as I can; looking forward to sharing again.

Looking for the latest and greatest in feral cat druid guides? Shifting Perspectives has the answers! Check out our cat 101 for Cataclysm. Also don't miss gearing your cat for Cataclysm raiding, addons for cat druids and raiding strats for feral cats.

Filed under: Druid, (Druid) Shifting Perspectives

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