Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Are You Cat or Bear Specced?

I imagine that for the majority of druids, the answer is "both". But while most feral talents dont favor one form or the other, it is still possible to build a spec that leans further one way than another. So today lets take a look at the feral talent tree (and the extension to it in the resto tree) to get a good idea of how our talents break down. Note that this is strictly from a PvE raiding standpoint, as well. Oh, and dont worry, I'll still be playing with the new pages on my calculator, but I'm a sucker for a special request, and this topic was big enough to warrant more than just a casual reply in comments.

Please note, I am not advocating cat-only or bear-only builds. No matter how good you, your gear, and your skills are, you WILL be asked to perform both roles during your career as a feral druid, so you wont want to skip the critical skills for these roles.

Universal Talents: These are the core talents that any feral, whether bear, cat, or balanced between the two, will want to take.

Sharpened Claws 3/3: More crits means more rage and threat for a bear tank, and more damage and combo poitns for cats. A must have.

Predatory Strikes 3/3: 105 attack power ups your DPS and threat a little bit, but the real reason this talent is a must have for all specs. . . its a prerequisite for Heart of the Wild.

Primal Fury 2/2: This talent ups your rage efficiency in bear form (ESPECIALLY while swipe tanking), and speeds up combo point generation (Remember, keeping rip up is our first priority) for cats. Cool beans.

Heart of the Wild 5/5: The shining star of the feral tree. Incredibly good bonuses in both forms (and if you powershift, you get the extra bonus of a much larger mana pool). If you dont take it, you're insane.

Leader/Improved Leader of the Pack 3/3: These two talents combined give us our incredibly valuable raid buff, with a group-wide total of 25% crit, and a lot of health returned if in a fully melee group.

Predatory Instincts 5/5: Ups your crit damage by 10% (Making crits hit for 220% damage, not 210%). More damage is. . . well, more damage in cat form, as well as more threat for bears. Also helps you against those hard-to-avoid AoE spells, like Tidewalker's Tidal wave (assuming you're tanking it) or Magtheridon's fire patches (assuming you get shaken into it during an earthquake, or are having a blonde moment).

Mangle 1/1: I was tempted to say this is skippable for cat druids (as long as you have another feral druid keeping mangle up in a raid), but really, for one point, every raiding feral druid should have mangle, especially since sometimes you just cant get to a foe's backside to shred (Aran during flame wreath, for example).

Furor 5/5: I recommend this for both flavors of feral druid, if only because Improved Paw is such a crappy talent, you need one or the other to get to the rest of the resto talents, and your friendly neighborhood tree druid probably has it anyhow (And nice side bonus: You dont have to help rebuff *snerk*). Its a very nice talent though, giving bears another 10 rage to start a pull with (and 10 rage to start with after hitting the Hunnypot). But the real beauty is cat druids with this, as they can use it to powershift for extra DPS (and if you're trying to get into a raid as pure DPS, you should probably be looking for all the boosts you can get).

Naturalist 5/5: 10% Bonus damage means a lot of extra DPS and threat. Dont even think about skipping it.

Omen of Clarity 1/1: Who can complain about free attacks? With how amazing the 2-piece T4 bonus is for us, who would dare pass up a 1-point talent that gives us twice the effect or more (assuming equal proc rates).

This gives us a total of 33 talent points that any feral druid would be INSANE to skip. Notice that I didn't include quite a few talents that most people consider core abilities. . . I'll explain why a singleminded druid might possibly skip them as I get to them.

Bear-Focused Talents: These are talents which a druid focusing on only bear tanking would take, while one who only cared about catform might possibly skip.

Ferocity 5/5: For bear druids, ferocity is a crucial part of our arsenal, making our Mangles, Swipes, and Mauls cost 5 less rage each. If you never plan to don your bear skin, you might be able to skip it, though, since these days, a raiding kitty only benefits from the reduction on Mangle, an ability you only use once every 12 or more seconds, and may never need to use if you have a bear tank or other cat druid putting up the debuff for you. I'd still recomment getting it though, since there are some fights where getting behind the mob may not be an option (Aran during flame wreath comes to mind), and at that point you have to use Mangle as your main attack.

Feral Instinct 3/3: This is absolutely critical for maximum bear threat generation. All that a pure cat would get out of it is a bit stronger stealth, something that is by and large useless in a raid, since you're unlikely to be grouped with 24 rogues and druids doing stealth runs on Tidewalker.

Thick Hide 3/3: Although some folks say that you can drop this talent once you get armor values over the cap, I think keeping this talent and using some lower armor, higher stamina/agility/hit gear would be preferable, or just keeping the extraneous armor for mobs that sunder and the like. For cats, this would give a minimal reduction in damage taken by physical AoEs, and as most such AoE attacks are avoidable, can be safely skipped.

Feral Swiftness 2/2: 4% pure avoidance is, well, at the very least 4% less damage taken, and taking less damage as the tank is always a good thing. For cats, the movement speed is completely moot unless you mainly raid ZA, and the dodge is, once again, only good for dodgeable AoEs, which are generally avoided entirely.

Feral Charge 1/1: Its a bear form ability. One that I wouldn't skip as a bear tank, as it allows you to quickly get to a mob that may have peeled off of you to taunt/threat dump it back to you. Generally, if a cat needs that much mobility, they need to run AWAY from a mob (and lucky us, we have dash for just such occasions).

Faerie Fire (Feral) 1/1: Feral Faerie Fire is extremely helpful as a pulling move, if nothing else. It can also give you something to use if you're rage starved for a small bit of extra threat. Honestly, I'd advise all druids to get this, since its just one point, and cat druids are in the best position to reapply Faerie fire mid-fight, since they often are stuck autoattacking to regen energy.

Survival of the Fittest 3/3: Another absolutely crucial bear talent. This is the only way a bear will ever reach uncrittability without heavy investment in PvP gear. Cat druids may find that 3% extra Agility, Strength, and Stamina are helpful as well, and thus I advise both cats and bears to pick this one up.

Primal Tenacity 3/3: This is something only bears will probably be interested in. It'll give you a small chance of resisting things like Nightbane's fears, or those annoying stuns that leave you unable to dodge or build threat. Ultimately, though, I find this talent to be too unreliable to, well, rely on, and thus feel it is an optional talent for bears, and quite nonessential for cats (though resisting those same fears from nightbane can save you from some painful cleaves, tail swipes, and the like). Nonetheless, a bear-focused druid would probably pick this one up.

Intensity 3/3: This does absolutely nothing for cat druids. For bears, it lets you, when combined with Ferocity, start any fight with at least 40 rage, enough for a very respectable front-loaded threat pile. Another one of those talents you can live without, but if you're only focusing on tanking, a very good choice.

Cat-Focused Talents: These are talents which a druid focusing on only cat DPS would take, while one who only cared about tanking might possibly skip.

Feral Agression 5/5: Especially when 2.4 comes out and makes undead and mechanical mobs bleedable, this talent is not that great for most boss fights (which I always focus on, trash mobs are called trash for a reason). But a focused cat build would likely pick this up (as well as Ferocity) to improve their trash DPS, especially since the second tier feral skills are largely useless in catform on raids. PS: You'll notice I don't even mention the improved Demo Roar component of this talent. Thats because, even improved, a warrior's unimproved Demo Shout will overwrite our shout, and a warlock's Curse of Weakness will drop any mob's AP to 0 (I dont remember the exact number, but mobs only have something like 250 AP)

Shredding Attacks 2/2: Shred is your bread and butter DPS ability in groups. Reducing its cost by 18 energy is HUGE. If you dont have this talent, you have no business being in catform on a raid. Bear druids will generally want this too, at least until they reach the breakpoint where swipe is better threat on single mobs, since its basically one free rage per second on your typical Mangle->Lacerate x3 threat rotation.

Savage Fury 2/2: This talent falls into the same category with Ferocity, really. It only affects your mangles, and if you're in a raid group where someone else is keeping the mangle debuff up, this does nothing for you. But, once again, if you ever cant get to a mob's back, this talent will up your yellow DPS signifigantly. Absolutely WORTHLESS to bear druids since 2.0.10.

Natural Shapeshifter 3/3: In a raid setting, the only reason you really need this talent is if you're using Furor to Powershift in cat form. a 30% reduction in shifting cost means you can powershift nearly 43% more often. A bear tank will only really shift into form once every 2 minutes at most (to pot), and should regen more than enough mana in those 2 minutes to forego this talent.

PvP Talents: These two talents (as well as Nature's Grasp) are not likely to be taken in a pure raiding spec, and are more geared toward PvP purposes.

Brutal Impact 2/2: The only time I ever stun in raids is when my growl is resisted while reacquiring a rogue mob (in which case if I cant get aggro back in 4 seconds, I'm probably not getting it back in 5), or to pounce those annoying drum-pounders on the way to dragonhawk in ZA (But usually just spam Entangling Roots on them instead). Generally, you only need that one extra second of stun in PvP (or if you prefer using stealth tactics when you solo, but we're talking raids here).

Nurturing Instinct 2/2: Feral druids make CRAPTACULAR offhealers, since they wear absolutely zero spell gear (save for maybe a couple pieces of gear with a little int on it). If you find yourself needing to shift out to heal often, a macro to switch to a healing weapon/offhand/idol is going to do you much more good than this talent. In 2.4, it looks to be getting a buff, but even then, I doubt cat offhealing will be a very viable strategy, and the only reason to get this for raiding would be the 20% extra healing recieved while in catform (which I dont see warranting 2 talent points).

Putting Together Specs:

So, lets use this breakdown to put together a cat-only spec and a bear-only spec. First, we pick up our universal talents, giving us a 0/22/11 core build that must be common to both specs. It leaves us with a lot of holes to fill in our feral tree, especially near the bottom.

Filling in our bear spec will all of the bear-focused talents, we come up with a 0/43/14 spec, though we still have a single talent point hole before the 25-point talents. Going back a second time and picking up all the cat talents that are recommended for bear (That is, shredding attacks), we fill that hole in, and come up with a 0/45/14 + 2 spec.

If we instead fill in our cat spec, we first come to a 0/31/14 build, with plenty of holes in the feral tree. Picking up the recommended bear talents for cats, we still come up short, with a 0/40/14 build. Lets say we pick up Feral Swiftness to fill in that hole (and giving us a better chance to survive when we're stupid and stand in front of that cleaving mob). So our final cat-focused build is 0/42/14 + 5.

Now, both of these builds are similar, but not *quite* similar enough to allow us to make them the same with those few extra talent points left over. HOWEVER, lets say we drop Feral Agression (Trash killing and soloing/PvP talent, we can live without it in our raiding build) and Primal Tenacity (Personal choice, you can drop Furor or Natural Shapeshifter if you don't need the extra 10 rage on pulls, or don't powershift). Now, looking at our cat spec, we have 10 talent points to blow. Just enough to pick up Feral Instinct, Thick Hide, Feral Charge, and Intensity. And in our bear build, we now have 5 spare points we can put into Natural Shapeshifter and Savage fury. And guess what, doing either of these two things gives us something interesting. . . MY spec! And I really dont miss the talents I lack from both the cat- and bear-focused builds, so its not like I'm sacrificing to be a hybrid, we can literally get the best of both worlds.


Anonymous said...

Regarding Nurturing Instinct... The Tier 5 set for Ferals has a 2-piece set bonus that makes your next Regrowth 2 sec less in casting, essentially making it an instant cast, when shifting out of Bear or Cat form. With that in mind, having the 2.4 bonus to healing from Nurturing Instinct may make it worthwhile.

SuraBear said...

Its not as big a buff as you might think, that T5 bonus. Yes, it can, if combined with NI, give a cat some limited ability to throw an emergency heal (as in, the tank is dying in 0.2 seconds if he doesn't get 2k more health).

But save for that rare occasion when you need the heal immediately after popping out, remember that regrowth puts you on the global cooldown of 1.5 seconds (which, as any resto druid will tell you, means that instant regrowth still has an effective cast time of 1.5 seconds). Thus, you're only really saving 0.5 seconds, since shifting back into catform relies on that cooldown timer.

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