Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Bear Goes . . . Mew?

Minigame time: While writing today's post, I noticed myself inadvertently using the names of my fellow druid bloggers quite a bit. So, lets make a game of it. Can you spot all 8 blog names? Highlight below for the "answer key":

Big Bear Butt, Druid Tank, Ferocious Bite, Of Teeth and Claws, Lost in the Grind, Natural Perfection, Omen of Clarity, Rawr Kitty Kitty

I'll be honest, when I think feral druid, I pretty much only think Bear Tank. Yes, I do know about catform DPS, and have done more reading about the proper care and feeding of cat form than I care to admit. But ultimately, I'm in it for the big bear butt. . . no, not like that! Sicko.

Despite this, I was realizing today just how silly it is for a feral druid blogger to have an entire post dedicated to the proper use of balance spells (albeit in the context of tanking), but nothing at all about catform DPS. And so, today I want to talk about cat DPS rotations, both for soloing and, more importantly, raid DPS. No PvP stuff here, mostly because I have about as much experience in mewkitty PvP as I do in Nuclear Reactor Control Theory.


When roaming Azeroth/Draenor slaughtering the wildlife and denizens, catform is the obvious shapeshift of choice. Occasionally you might find a challenge worthy of using bear form (either large groups or tough elites), but in general the raw killing power of some well placed mangles and a ferocious bite is the order of business.

There are two general approaches used by most druids while soloing: Some, such as myself, prefer to go quickly from target to target, using brute force to kill a mob with a faerie fire pull, mangles to 5 combo points, and a FB to finish the job. Other druids, though, prefer a more elegant approach, utilizing our stunning abilities to keep a mob locked down for most of the fight. They use stealth, pounce a mob, mangle it for the debuff, shred until the stun wears off, and then maybe even use their combo points to maim the target to move into position for yet another shred.

While I personally believe brute force leads to an overall faster killing speed in most situations (and it also lets me use less of my brain, allowing me to just sit back and get lost in the grind), stunlocking does have the added advantage of minimizing the amount of time you have to spend out of form healing yourself, and on tougher mobs can even mean the difference between successfully soloing and spending some time dashing away or ghostwalking back to your corpse.

There really isn't that much to say about soloing. For the most part, you can just kill whatever you want, being careful to not let your health drop too low. There isn't much in the way of an optimal skill rotation when slaughtering nonelites, they dont live long enough to use our best finisher (rip), or to even bother with proper timing of trinket popping (pop it before you aggro, the mob should be dead by the time the buff wears off anyhow). If you get multiple mobs, you might need to shift to bear form and swipe spam the mobs to death, though if you can get away with staying in cat form, I find that doing so gives me more DPS, even if I have 3 or more mobs to swipe.

Bleed-Immune Bosses

Now, lets say you're invited to a group or raid and asked to go all rawr kitty kitty. Even here, most of the pulls are going to be more about spamming abilities until the mob is dead, and less about efficiency, because trash mobs die just as fast, if not faster than nonelite mobs you'd be farming in the wild. Feral Faerie Fire on the approach to a mob, mangle, then shred until the mob is dead. Using ferocious bite when the mob is near death is optional, I tend not to do it unless my energy happens to tick into the 35-40 range at just the right time.

On bosses, though, the name of the game changes. Now you have PLENTY of time to worry about efficient DPS rotations. This is also where your A-game is most important, as bosses are generally the real challenge of an instance/raid. First off, lets say we're fighting a bleed-immune mob like Mechanolord Capacitus or Nightbane. Ew. We have to do this without the assistance of our best finishing move: Rip. Instead, we have to use ferocious bite as our combo point finisher, or just not use a finisher at all.

The truth is, ferocious bite has one MAJOR flaw when it comes to raid DPS. . . it eats all of your remaining energy, converting any extra you had at a very inefficient rate to raw bonus damage. 2.7 damage per point of energy, to be exact. At first glance, this may sound like a good thing, letting you store up extra energy to unleash a bigger bite, but think of it this way: 42 energy adds 113.4 damage to the bite. 42 energy, assuming you have a good feral spec, could instead be used to fire off an extra shred. And if your shreds only do 113.4 damage, you need to file a bug report with blizzard, because I'm pretty sure I could do at least twice that NAKED.

So, when ferocious bite is your only combo point dump, you may not actually want to bother using FB at all. In general, you will only want to bite if you have 4-5 combo points, 35-41 energy, and no Omen of Clarity proc up. That way, you only waste up to 6 energy, while still cashing in your combo points for a rather nice chunk of damage. Note that I'm not providing any numbers here. I might come back to this topic on a later date, but for now, I'm simply quoting conventional wisdom. If you find its more effective to use FB every time you get 5 combo points, you just might be right. And if you find that FB is a waste of energy even when you hit 35 energy exactly, so be it. Just dont be saving up 100 energy just to get the big numbers on a bite, because your overall DPS will suffer for it.

So, how do we DPS against a bleed immune boss? Well, just like any other mob, we open with a faerie fire while approaching the target (or, if preferred, open with a ravage from stealth, but be careful about aggro!). If you have any use: trinkets equipped, pop one, Mangle, and then start shredding. Keep going with the shreds until you either have enough combo points (and the right amount of energy) for a Ferocious bite, after which you should resume shredding, or until the Mangle debuff wears off. When the mangle goes down, do NOT immediately reapply it. Instead, you now want to wait until you have 81+ energy saved up, and then you want to start the process all over again.

This bursty DPS style is used for one very specific reason: Shred is a much more efficient source of DPS than Mangle, but you never want to shred while the mob doesn't have the Mangle debuff due to the 30% bonus shred damage. By saving up your energy, you get to toss an extra shred or two after each mangle, thus upping your Shred:Mangle ratio, and your overall DPS in the process.

Of course, there is one other way to up your shred:mangle ratio, and that is by having another feral druid grouped with you. If you're grouped with another cat druid, they will probably keep up the mangle debuff for you (unless they're expecting you to do likewise), and thus you're likely to never have to apply a mangle at all. And if you have a druid tank, mangle should be up most of the time as well (realize, though, that two missed mangles in a row is not uncommon to a bear, and a double miss will cause the debuff to fall off). If you find yourself running with feral druids often, I would recommend downloading the DeMon (Debuff Monitor) mod and adding mangle to the list of debuffs it tracks. This can give you an easy way to make sure your shreds will be at full effect without having to stare at a million debuff icons.

Bleedable Bosses:

Ahh, this is where a feral druid can really put some hurt on a boss. When bosses can bleed, it allows druids to whip out our big gun, that weapon of natural perfection: Rip. No more do we need to worry about wasted rage from Ferocious Bite. Nor do we want to concern ourselves as much about maximizing our shred:mangle ratio (though its still better if you can use as few mangles as possible). Instead, we now want to focus on Rip uptime.

There are two important facts to know about Rip. First of all, the difference between a 4- and 5-point rip is next to nothing. And since we're now focused on keeping it up as much as possible, that means that its much better to rip with 4 combo points and get that bleed ticking sooner than it is to wait for a fifth combo point. And second, Rip takes 12 seconds to do its damage, ticking every few seconds. Mangle's debuff also lasts 12 seconds. Coincidence?

The attack sequence for rip is a bit different than it was for bite. We still only want to use shred when Mangle is up, obviously, but we also need to make sure Mangle stays up throughout the entire rip, and still want to reduce our casting of Mangle to a minimum. So here's what we do:

1: Keep faerie fire up at all times. Every little bit counts.

2: On the initial pull, mangle and shred up to 4 or 5 combo points (5 only if your fourth point is a crit). When you get there, STOP and autoattack.

3: This is the part you'll be repeating until the boss dies. Wait until you have 81+ energy. When you get there, rip, and as long as the rip hits, follow it up IMMEDIATELY with a mangle. Do NOT mangle and then rip, or the last tick of your rip will happen after the mangle debuff falls. The first tick of rip doesn't happen until 3 seconds in, so you have time. Once mangle lands, spam shred until you get back to 4 or 5 combo points, then let your energy regen again (note that this time spent waiting for energy is the perfect opportunity to refresh faerie fire). Repeat this cycle over and over.

4: Trinkets: You want to pop your trinkets just before you rip. If a trinket's effect lasts 10 seconds, you'll get a rip, mangle, and a few shreds in under the effect. Longer trinkets will apply to multiple rips, and even more shreds and mangles as well. Basically, you always want to save trinkets until you're just about to open up on another burst of DPS.

5: Too many, too fast: Sometimes, high crit and/or lucky crit strings, Omen of Clarity procs, and 2-piece T4 can cause you to hit full energy and 4-5 combo points before your rip is done ticking. When this happens, dont let that extra energy go to waste, throw an extra shred in there! The extra combo point will go to waste, but its better than missing out on "free" shreds! Actually, with regards to Omen of Clarity, you may find it best to always shred when you get a proc, even if you're already at full combo points, if only because it cant proc again while you have a free attack waiting for you.

And. . . thats pretty much it, at least in terms of attack rotations. Follow these simple rules, and you'll be well on your way to inducing a new world of hurt via a flurry of teeth and claws. Nothing too complex, but thats good, because I dont have time to practice complex DPS rotations, I have to work out my bear-pecs!


Anonymous said...

thanks for the informative post. most of the time i read rotations and strats for bear, this is the first time i've come across something for cat (other than the usual mangle -> shred iterations).

Anonymous said...

So, how do we DPS against a bleed immune boss? Well, just like any other mob, we open with a faerie fire while approaching the target (or, if preferred, open with a ravage from stealth, but be careful about aggro!). If you have any use: trinkets equipped, pop one, Mangle, and then start shredding. Keep going with the shreds until you either have enough combo points (and the right amount of energy) for a Ferocious bite, after which you should resume shredding, or until the Mangle debuff wears off.

Why would you want to keep mangle up on a bleed immune boss?

Karellen said...

Last time I was in the zone Nightbane was definitely not bleed immune. I Rip him just before he takes off all the time, so he just keeps on bleeding in mid-air. Did you perhaps mean Netherspite?

Karellen said...

@anon: Even without the bleed effect, Mangle still increases the damage done by Shred by 30%.

SuraBear said...

Exactly, kar.

And . . . that mush have changed, because I know that when I first started doing nightbane, I was doing him as DPS, and I definitely got "Immune" whenever I tried to rip.

. . . though now that you mention it, lacerate DOES stick when I'm tanking him. Bleh. I'll change the example to Curator then (even though he's a bad example too, since you only DPS him 10-15 seconds every 2 minutes).

And yeah, Mangle increases shred damage as well as bleed damage. Mostly because in the early TBC beta, mangle actually did pretty much the same damage as shred (or so I heard, I wasn't a beta tester), thus outmoding two attacks at once!

Anonymous said...

I do have an issue with both bear and cat form with attack range, even after they supposedly "fixed it".

If I am properly positioned at a certain distance from the boss/mob, my DPS is well where it should be with 35% crit and just under 3k AP. But if I am so much as a hair off in either direction, my DPS takes a serious drop.

For instance, when I have 5 combo points on a boss, and a full energy bar I have managed to Ferocious Bite (crit) for as much as 4900+ damage. However, if I am even a 3rd of a step further away, that same FB crit may only produce 1800 damage.

I've worked with Blizzard multiple times. I've reset my UI countless times. Put more memory in my machine, upgraded my video card, removed all mods, dropped my video settings as low as they go, etc. I've doen it all and nothing change. Blizzard insists (as they always do) that this is a latency issue, which is code for "we don't know what the f**k is wrong." I am at the end of my rope with them. All I know is I have 10+ alts and I have no "latency" issues with any of them.

Any suggestions you may have that would help, feel free to fire them off.

SuraBear said...

To be honest, I have no idea how the range bug would change the damage on any attack, other than by preventing you from attacking whatsoever. That sounds like either a string of strange luck, or a major change in raid buff composition (though I have no clue what buffs would lead to that big of a discrepancy)

Though, range bug fix = LOL. Yeah, they "fixed" it, by making the severity of the night elf and tauren range bugs equal. Its still there, and everybody knows it but Blizzard.

Anonymous said...

Btw, in Patch 2.4, undead and mechanical bosses and mobs who were once unbleedable can now be bled. This will certainly help with Bear Tanking ALL end-game bosses.

Matford, Nagrand said...

TBH the primary use of my druids these days is to farm. IMO feral druids are highly under-rated farmers.

We use no consumables, we can patch ourservles up with good burst dps in kitty and surviveability in bear we're ideally suited so grinding mobs for drops, hour after hour virtually maintenance free.

At one of my choicer locations I can easily farm 200-300 gold per hour while watching TV.

I guess the reason druids aren't used much by farmers is that they're not the easiest class to level.

SuraBear said...

I dont know, I found druid to be quite easy to level. Of course, Surania was also my first character, so I had nothing to compare against at the time, but a class that can use mana to heal up whenever needed, but who uses and entirely different power supply (energy) to actually output DPS. . .

Bah, now you have me thinking about rolling a second druid again (I've been toying with having a designated tree druid. . . though with the upcoming nerfbat swing at druid healing, maybe not)

Matford, Nagrand said...

The only other character I've levelled to 70 is a priest. After 40 priests are rediculously easy to level.

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