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Shifting Perspectives: The state of feral raid DPS in patch 4.2

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

Now that we've got several weeks of 4.2 data under our belt, I'd like to take a look at DPS across the classes to see how feral shakes out comparatively. Obviously, this is a topic that is always heavily controversial, so I'm doing my best to document my opinions using hard data rather than anecdotal observations.

My primary tool for this is going to be the charts from Seri's wonderful site, raidbots.com, which aggregates public data from World of Logs reports. I know several guilds don't report to WoL, but it's still a wonderful data source for information.

Methodology note I'll be looking at the Top 100 data set for 25-man normal, with occasional references to heroic. 10s have a wide variety of buffs, which makes normalization much more difficult, and heroics are comparatively sparse in terms of data allocation and have several other confounding mechanics that make them less than ideal for comparing classes.

Also, when ranking classes, I typically take the top-performing spec from each, excepting shaman and druids, for 12 total. My assumption is that top players will more than happily switch specs to whatever is optimal for the current fight, if the cost of switching is relatively trivial (respec, reforge, regem, etc.). However, they will generally not respec if it requires farming a whole new set of gear. If you want to debate this assumption, feel free to bring it up in the comments.

Single-Target DPS: Baleroc

Overall spec ranking 11/12
Melee spec ranking 5/6
Feral DPS 90.9% of top
Top 4 classes Mage (100%)/warrior (98.4%)/hunter (97.9%)/rogue (95.9%)

So, my high hopes from early 4.2 did not materialize, and feral ended up remaining one of the lower specs for single-target DPS. That said, things are not that bad here; 11 of 12 specs are within 10% of the leader (ret is at 88.5%), which is probably as close to balanced as WoW is ever going to get. So, we're balanced for single-target DPS but just a bit on the low side of balanced.

Now, I'm certain someone is going to take my numbers and use them to justify that we need buffs, which is expressly what I'm not saying. Single-target is fine. I'm much more concerned about the numbers on some of the other fights.

Two/Three-Target DPS, Split: Shannox

Overall spec ranking 11/12
Melee spec ranking 5/6
Feral DPS 79.7% of top
Top 4 classes Priest (100%)/balance druid (97.1%)/warlock (96.8%)/rogue (84.6%)

As one might expect, we're not very good at maximizing DPS on fights with multiple targets that are spread out. Notice the relative dropoff between priests/moonkin/warlocks and the next highest; that's how much of a difference multi-DOTing can do. This difference is enough that you can start to see the effects in recruitment/slotting for 10-man guilds pushing progression on heroic Shannox.

How so? Well, flipping over to the 10-man heroic All Parses data for a second, there were 1,252 balance parses over the last 14 days, compared to 437 feral parses, or a 2.86:1 ratio. In comparison, 10-man normal All Parses shows 3,628 balance to 2,091 feral, or a 1.73:1 ratio. In other words: Ouch. If you play feral and have been sat out for heroic Shannox, I sympathize. I guess it's to be expected that feral would do poorly on a fight that features widely spaced targets, but what about all of them bunched together?

Two/Three-Target DPS, Bunched: Staghelm

Overall spec ranking 12/12
Melee spec ranking 6/6
Feral DPS 83.1% of top
Top 4 classes Rogue (100%)/priest (91.3%)/elemental shaman (90.7%)/warrior (90.4%)

Well, that's a bit better, I suppose. It looks worse then it is, really. Combat rogues are so overpowered on this fight that they push the baseline up for everyone else, so we're within 10% of the majority of the classes. We're bringing up the rear, but the rear isn't really that far back.

AOE DPS: Lord Rhyolith

Overall spec ranking 10/12
Melee spec ranking 4/6
Feral DPS 64.8% of top
Top 4 classes Priest (100%)/mage (95.7%)/balance druid (93.1%)/warlock (90.8%)

Now, this is bad. This fight isn't a very good comparison of AOE DPS, admittedly, due to the Immolation mechanic, but melee absolutely suffer here, in general. As an aside, there are lots of mechanics that punish you for bringing extra melee ... are there any that punish you for bringing extra ranged? Any at all?

One interesting anecdotal data point: The parse containing the #1 feral for this fight (24.2k DPS) also contains an arcane mage who just barely topped her on DPS but didn't even crack the WoL top 200 for his class.

So what keeps me from just throwing up my hands, posting long walls of text on the Blizzard forums that get ignored, and declaring that feral is terrible for this tier? Well, two things. First, we do decently on Alysrazor, if we get to fly. We're not nearly the best, but comfortably middle-of-the-pack. I don't want to break down the numbers in great detail because it's essentially a gimmick fight, but for once I'm just happy that we're not the worst choice to go do something. Secondly, and more importantly, we actually do decently on Ragnaros. Let's take a look.

Not standing in Stuff DPS: Ragnaros

Overall spec ranking 8/12
Melee spec ranking 4/6
Feral DPS 90.7% of top
Top 4 classes Rogue (100%)/warrior (98.4%)/priest (98.1%)/mage (95.3%)

Well, I did say decently, not great. Our comparative advantage comes from add spawns that show up quickly and die quickly. Swipe does somewhat better, since things are dead before you empty your energy bar and lose steam.

This fight also features one of the few things that melee is decidedly better at than ranged: add control during the transition phases. This might not show up on DPS numbers, but it's definitely a contributing factor.

So how does Blizzard address this?

I agree that the numbers don't paint the prettiest of pictures. "Oh yay, if I push myself to put in 10% more effort than my mage/lock/moonkin/priest friend, I might be able to match him! Woo!"

I'd like to suggest some happy solution that makes things all even again, but I just don't see one. Casters, and hunters to a lesser extent, have a huge comparative advantage that melee do not; they get to switch targets and begin DPS almost instantly, regardless of where the target is placed. Melee, of course, get to run to the new target and get behind it, taking valuable time.

Just once, I'd love to see a fight where the boss had a chance to parry spells cast from the front. The forum threads would be epic.

Now, some melee classes have advantages of their own. Combat has insanely good cleave. Frost has great snap AOE. Fury ... well, fury just kicks ass at the moment. Unfortunately, ret, enhancement, and feral (sadly) need something. I'm not certain what that is, though I have a few ideas. I can safely say, though, that it's no fun when the best you can do is merely average.
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 Firelands raiding, addons for cat druids and raiding strats for feral cats, as well as our feral cat Firelands boss strats.

Filed under: Druid, (Druid) Shifting Perspectives

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