Let’s talk Cat form DPS.
If you leveled your Druid like me, mostly as a DPS cat, you probably have developed your own way of taking down your prey. You’ve gotten used to your power and speed, and I’m sad to say that if you are like me, you might have gotten a bit sloppy in how you fight in cat.
Do you walk up to targets, hit Faerie Fire (Feral), and then spam Mangle until it’s dead?
If so, this post is for you.
There are two main ways we can try to optimize our damage output;
Burst (for soloing and PvP)
Sustained (for Raiding, aggro throttled)
In this post I am only going to focus on Burst DPS.
If you have not been involved in end game raiding much, it is likely that you have, without consciously realizing it, optimized your build, gear and playstyle for Burst DPS.
If you have dedicated Cat gear, then you’ve probably sought out the gear with the highest Strength for the 2.2 Attack Power per 1 point of Strength (with Heart of the Wild bonus), gear with lots of Agi for high Crits, and lastly stuff that has pure Attack Power. Stamina, sure, if you get the Attack Power and Crit goodies first.
Burst is a race to see which goes down first; your health or your targets’. The faster you pump out high DPS, the faster your target goes down, the less chance your target has to hurt you, and the greater the chance you live.
This playstyle can have the effect of encouraging lazy tactics.
With the ability to pop out of cat, hit barkskin, cast your three HoTs and then shift into bear for added damage mitigation and top end Stamina if you find yourself in trouble, it can be very easy to just run straight in as a kitty and pound away, trusting in your shifting roles to keep you out of trouble in the case of multiple adds.
I see it all the time. I have a couple of real good friends who both run rogues. I’ll group with one of them, and shift into cat. We’ll both approach our designated targets. I’ll see the rogue slip into stealth and maneuver behind the target, and I wonder why he is going to all that trouble, right before I run in, hit Faerie Fire (Feral), and start spamming Mangle.
Well, the rogue doesn’t happen to have an ‘Oh shit, I bit off more than I can chew’ technique that lets him suddenly have the healing support of HoTs and the armor of a tank. Instead, he has to rely on being sneaky, on maneuvering for the best possible advantages, and if everything truly goes into the pot, relying on sneakiness like Vanish to slip away, and not just stand and bear the pain.
So rogues get into the habit of approaching each fight carefully, and with forethought. Well, I hope they do, anyway.
I have been guilty, when soloing, of just running up to a target in cat form, without stealth, without Tigers’ Fury, and wailing away spamming Mangle until I’m out of Energy, and then waiting for white damage to take him down that last little bit until I have enough energy built up to pop Ferocious Bite and finish him. Then, maybe a quick shift for a Hot, and shift back and run off after the next one. Why? Well, maybe I’m grinding Kurenai rep at level 70, and I want to blast through those damn Ogres for my beads as fast as I can.
Style and finesse?
Finesse my ass, I want to kill and leave piles of the dead behind me.
Worse yet, with my current gear and enchants, I’m pulling down over 2200 AP in cat form. My crit chance is over 30%. It’s actually encouraging me to be sloppy because so far, I can get away with it.
I finally realized during my rep grinding for Netherwing that I was getting really bad. I’ve been treating mobs of 70’s and multiple pulls like I used to treat Deadmines trash on a speed run.
That sounds good, but it’s not. If you don’t maintain your skills, they won’t be there when you need them for a really tough challenge. And it is good to be proficient in our shifting abilites… but they shouldn’t be the crutch we use to get us past our poor DPS output.
Working on my own skills has inspired me to go over the basics of smart Burst DPS output, and get back in the habit of proper gameplay. Hopefully some of you can find some benefit from these tips, as well.
Remember, we are talking about maximizing your kitty advantages, and treating your opponent seriously and with respect. If you do everything in your power to take him down, and you still have to use your other hard-won shifting skills, then you can at least be happy in the knowledge that you took down a worthy adversary.
One note: Cat form abilities cost energy to use. You start out with 0 energy when you shift to cat form, plus 40 instant energy if specced into Furor.
You regenerate 20 energy every 2 seconds, whether you are in combat or not.
Follow along with this plan for burst damage and use of your feral gifts;
1) As you approach your target, slip into Prowl.
2) As you get close, activate Tigers’ Fury. This does NOT break Prowl. If you time things right, you can activate Tigers’ Fury as you approach your target, and be at full energy before you are actually within melee range.
3) Once you reach full energy and are within melee range, activate Pounce.
You do NOT have to be behind your target, but if you wait until you are it sets up your next attacks perfectly. Pounce gives you a nice 3 second stun plus 1 second if specced into Brutal Impact, puts a DoT on your target and gives you a Combo Point (unless your target is immune, like rock elementals). Pounce costs 50 energy.
4) Now that the target is stunned, move behind your target (if you’re not already there). Shred his butt.
You should be able to pop off two Shreds before the stun wears off, if you have 2 points in Shredding Attacks. If not, you can at least get 1. Shred costs 60 energy (instant cast), and 2 points in Shredding Attacks reduces that by 18. So with Shredding Attacks you need 42 energy per Shred.
When you hit Pounce, your energy dropped to 50. You hit your first Shred, your energy dropped to 8. In 2 seconds, you’ll be able to hit Shred again, and your target will still have 1 second left on his Stun duration. If you are very lucky and specced for it, you might get an Omen of Clarity proc on a Shred and be able to get a third Shred in there for free. You now have 3 Combo points on your target total, and if your Pounce or any of your Shreds were crits, you have 4 or more Combo Points. The target, you will note, is still stunned.
5) NOW you pop off Faerie Fire (Feral).
6) And now the target wakes up, says “Ouch”, spins to face you, and you pop your first Mangle attack right in his face. You now have 4 Combo points minimum.
What you do next depends on your situation.
If your target is pretty low on health, do white damage while you wait for your energy to regenerate enough to pop Ferocious Bite. Ferocious Bite will drain your energy back to zero, but it has a chance to crit and will either come close to finishing off your target, or actually do it. It is, and should only be used as, a finishing move.
If your target is NOT close to death, if he still has decent health and you are going to be getting serious with him, then use Rip to burn your Combo points, and keep up the cycle of using Mangle every time the cooldown is up, and Rip when your Combo points are full.
Rip does a base of 1092 damage over 12 seconds. It also gains a 30% damage bonus from your Mangle Bleed debuff. Rip only costs 30 energy. For a long term fight, it both does more damage per Combo point, and gives you more energy to spend on other yellow damage attacks like Mangle.
Ferocious Bite does a base of 935 to 968. It has the possibility of critting, but it gains no advantage from your Bleed debuff, and it uses every last drop of energy right when you want to be building it for Mangle. I’m serious, only use it as a potential finishing move.
Now, if you are getting freaky on your target, and doing serious damage to him, but you are also taking serious damage yourself, then instead of using Rip when your Combo points are full at some point during the fight, use Maim instead to stun your target.
You instantly stop auto-attacking, and it lets you shift to caster, pop off both Lifebloom and Regrowth on yourself, and shift back into Cat, build up your energy and launch right back into the battle.
Why Lifebloom and Regrowth and not Rejuvenation? I’ll let an expert like Resto4Life answer that one in depth, but I’ve found that on a heal per mana basis in a catfight I like Lifebloom better, and Lifebloom stacks so I can pop it a few times in a row for better heals over time, cheaper than Rejuve if I need them ticking fast.
As an advanced move, requiring you to know your target pretty well, if the target has very high armor, then right after your first Mangle and Rip you should throw a Rake on the target.
Against normal armor targets, Mangle is far superior in effectiveness vs energy cost to Rake. I’m just saying that against high armor targets it’s effective.
Generally, in conclusion, remember you should Mangle whenever the cooldown is up, never use Claw, and reapply Faerie Fire (Feral) if it expires before your target.
Now, THAT is how you go to town like the DPS machine you can be.
EDIT: I’ve been asked to add a Raiding DPS guide for those that will have the luxury of being a kitty DPS, lurking behind the enemy while the Tank is keeping it occupied. I think it’s safe to say that if you tank, there are always going to be fights where the off tank or main tank don’t need you in bear, and so you can switch to cat and mix it up. rather than go into it in detail, I am going to post what Elitist Jerks have in their Feral Druid Megathread, and I invite you to go there for more in depth discussions on the how and the why.
The standard cycle is:
Mangle -> Shred to 5 combo points -> Wait for 70+ energy (preferably 80+), Rip->Mangle, start again.
Due to the way Rip scales with combo points, a four combo point rip is almost as effective as a 5 combo point rip (there is a static gain, AP doesn’t scale between 4 and 5). This makes it quite effective to use a 4 combo point rip if your mangle has already run out (as a non-mangled shred is pretty pathetic in comparison to a mangled one).