Rare White Elk Day – Answering a Letter

Yeah, I know, I almost never do this on the blog. This was a damn good question, so what the heck. I’ll push back the other four posts I was in the middle of writing to answer it.

Hey there, I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and I have started
down the druid road.  I’ve got 3 toons at 80 already (all of which
happen to be hordies on Kael’thas), but at the prodding of my
guildmates, I made a druid.  Well, it wasn’t so much prodding as me
saying “Druid or Rogue” and the general consensus come back “druid.”
I haven’t played one since the closed beta, but I’ve already enjoyed
it a lot more than I did then.

So, to my inquiry… I can’t find much on the “leveling” aspect of the
class that’s been updated since TBC.  Do you have any generalized
advice or suggestions?  I’m drawn to feral, which is supposed to be
the hotness in terms of leveling and versatility, but I’m kind of at a
loss for which direction to take my talents.  Is it better to lean
bear in terms of leveling and survivability, or is it better to shoot
for raw damage and roll cat-esque talents?

Thanks!

Chris

First, thanks for the letter, Chris. And damn good questions.

Let me first get this out of the way; if what you want is the absolute smoothest or fastest possible leveling experience, I would go with Balance.

The reason is attitude more than anything else. When you start at level 1, you start as a caster, and are stuck in it until level 10. That get’s you accustomed to the gear and playstyle. You have crowd control, ranged attacks, all sorts of fun stuff.

When you get Bear at 10, unless you’re rich from higher level toons you typically don’t totally redo gear choices, and having half caster/half bear gear or spec just sucks from 10 to 20. Plus, Bear is very underpowered in terms of DPS from 10 to 20 compared to caster style. If you DO max out the agi/str/stam/armor value gear and go with Feral Talents, then you’ll do great as a partner of another DPS player as a bear, but you really won’t enjoy the soloing from 10 to 20.

Now, once you are level 20, and you’ve got Cat form, it’s a hard decision. Again, to go Cat, you have to completely regear from your caster stuff with all new gear with Strength/Agility/Attack Power/Crit/Stam as your stat choices.

As a refresher, in Cat and Bear, 1 point of Strength equals 2 Attack Power, and in Cat form ONLY, 1 point of Agility equals 1 point of Attack Power.

I’m going to assume from your letter that you want to go Feral as you said, and my blessings upon you. I chose Feral because I love it… I’m not about what feels easiest, personally. Also, there is a lot more leather Cat gear than there is leather caster gear in early levels, thanks to our friends the Rogues.

Cat DPS is similar to a Rogue, you’ve got Stealth, you’ve got Finishing Moves and points, you use Energy as you use abilities, etc.

The biggest tradeoff is that you lose stunlock capability and massive evil in toying with your pray for the ability to shift out of Cat form to cast instant heal over time spells on yourself, and then shift into Bear to wear multiple opponents down.

I’m writing a series of articles about low level Bear tanking right now, and I wasn’t planning on talking about Cat DPS, because there are several great Cat DPS blogs.

But in general terms, as a player focused on Cat, you’ve got very good DPS. You’re DPS won’t be as big a burst out of the gate as a Rogue, but it will be very good compared to other melee. On single targets you’ll be extremely powerful, and I would level using Talents to maximize that Cat power.

Even so, the Feral Tree combines enough other things that your Bear form won’t just be an afterthought. 

And because of that, by maximizing Cat and keeping balanced Feral Gear, you’ll find that it’s multiple pulls where you’ll really tear things up if you take the time to have fun.

I’ll give you one example.

Say you’ve got three mobs in front of you. By level 30, you’ve got Bear Swipe and Maul, and in Cat form you’ve got Claw and Rip. You’ve also got both Rejuvenation and Regrowth, and of course Entangling Roots.

Assume there is one caster in the group.

You can start in caster form at max range, cast Regrowth on yourself (while out of combat), cast an Entangling Roots at a melee fighting target far from the ranged mob (so you won’t be in melee range while dealing with the caster) and then pop into Bear and activate Enrage, run up to the ranged mob (Demoralyzing Roar) and begin going to town on both targets, using Glyphed Maul primarily on the caster, and Swipe of course, burning him down. 

The caster will die, and the Entangled target will probably be free and on you at this point. If you’re health is getting low, then you can cast Rejuvenation right from your button bar to automatically pop you into caster form, and then decide whether to pop back into Bear and keep going, or into Cat for faster DPS if you think you can take two at once.

Once the second one is dead, flip into Bear if you ain’t already there, Bash the last one to stun it, pop into caster and cast another Regrowth and Rejuve, and then leisurely finish him up.

I say this is a three mob pull, but honestly, I’ve done this for over 15 in a row, in a stream. Using Cat when low numbers of mobs are on you, Bear when you’ve got several, and Bash and Rejuvenation and Regrowth to keep health coming in as you go makes things very fun.

Sound difficult?

If so, then you might not really be cut out for Feral. You’ve got all these tools to use, and you can really use them to screw with the enemy by remembering your strengths;

  • Each form has a purpose.
  • Caster Form has solid DPS ranged spells, but instant cast heals over time that keep ticking regardless of what form you’re in are awesome.
  • Bear form is very durable, has attacks to hurt multiple mobs, especially if you’re geared appropriately and have a Rejuve and Regrowth ticking away on you. Plus, you get Maul Glyphed giving you big whacks on two targets, and a single target Bash stun for you to shift out and cast more heals.
  • Cat form is kinda squishy, but does great single target DPS, and if your health starts dropping, you’ve always got the Rejuve/Bear combo to fall back on.
  • Most of all, fast DPS in Cat at the cost of being squishy, or slow DPS in Bear with the benefit of greater mitigation and higher health from the same gear, gives you the power to use your judgment on the fly to decide what’s best in your current circumstances.

As far as a leveling Talent spec, what I’ll do is invite some of my blog readers that run their own awesome Feral Cat blogs to help you out. I’m really focused on that wierd subsect of people like me, that like to level as a focused Bear tank and play grouped the whole way. I’m not testing leveling a Cat druid at the moment, and what the heck… I’d love to see some attention go to the Cat Druid bloggers that rock.

I hope that some of what I’ve said helps, Chris, and I look forward to hearing more of your experiences as you level!

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11 thoughts on “Rare White Elk Day – Answering a Letter

  1. Levelling as a druid used to suck, but I would say now feral is much easier. First off disabuse yourself of the notion of “regearing” at lvl 10 when you get bear form. How much gear did you have really? Second Cat and Bear dps has gone through the roof since 3.0 and bear ability to grind has improved greatly. The same goes for any of the tanking specs you do 90% of the damage of a pure dps when you know how to play it and you take 10% of the damage. you can really move from mob to mob or take a group with no problem.

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  2. Long reply. Skip if you don’t care about the why’s of my advice . . . but the gist is to start as balance until mid 20s, then start accumulating feral gear and respec feral somtime around level 30ish to level up as a cat. Prioritize str > agi > crit until you’re ready to move into Northrend, then agi > crit > ap/str. And always hit when you can get it.

    I feel pretty comfortable with that advice for levelling through Outland, anyway. I assume it won’t change too much in Northrend . . . but it’s good for the first 85% of your levelling, at least.

    Now here’s why:

    I’ll second the advice to play balance for the first 20-30 levels. You’ll get more dps from spells and you likely start each fight with a ranged pull + roots anyway. I found that as long as I’m only facing 1 mob, it didn’t even pay to go bear once he got into melee range . . . just take the hits to face while you cast the last wrath or two to finish him off, heal & move on. Just remember to stock up on melon juice every time you run through an inn (I always carried two stacks) and mana oil and smoked sagefish are your friends.

    If you find that you like the ranged dps game, stick with balance. The effect talents have on spellcasting dps always seems real incremental . . . but once you try playing without Vengeance you’ll notice what a huge difference it makes and how all those talents build on each other. As soon as you can pick up Dreamstate, you’ll want to. And while you will read that Spirit is awesome for Druids, even Boomkin, that really doesn’t apply until you can start taking Improved Moonkin form at level 41. Until then, mp5 > spirit. And Int will always trump everything: big mana pool, Lunar Guidance, Dreamstate, and it contributes some to mp5 on its own. Take spell power when you can get it on an upgrade. Eventually, you’ll want to prioritize spell power over everything, but not until you’re comfortable with your mana pool. Which didn’t happen for me until the late level 60s.

    Finally, remember to check cloth gear in the AH, you don’t have to always take the leather quest reward, and you are totally justified in rolling on cloth drops if they have better spell casting stats than your gear.

    Once you start approaching level 30, though, the main benefit of balance (other than, possibly, play preference) is probably going to be if you have someone you play with regularly to tank for you. Then you never have to worry about pushback, or pulling too much . . . just fire away. Otherwise, for levelling, in the feral tree you pick up sharpened claws, primal fury & precision and cat dps just takes off. You kill things just as fast as in balance and never have to take mana breaks. The only time you’ll usually cast spells is a Healing Touch between fights (if you take a lot of damage) or often just a Rejuvenation as you run to the next fight. Maybe, if sneaking up behind the target will aggro too many tightly packed mobs, sometimes you’ll Starfire/Moonfire a ranged pull. Mostly you just pounce, kill, move on.

    All the advice to stack on Agility over everything else as a Cat is good advice once you start getting up towards level 70. Until then, feral druids get so much crit from talents that they generally lack attack power to fully take advantage of the crit chance. So until you’re picking up quest rewards or drops that you intend to take into Northrend, I suggest you prioritize strength over agility or crit. I mean, if the gear is a good upgrade, don’t pass on it just because it’s agility/crit heavy . . . but everything else being equal, STR > AGI > crit. And take hit when you can get it on an upgrade. While levelling through Outland (when it became feasible with gems) I even stacked on more hit than the suggested 8% simply because it diminshes as you level and I found myself often fighting mobs ~5 levels higher than me.

    Levelling as a bear? I’ve got to admit that chain pulling tons of mobs and coming out hardly dinged up if at all is extremely satisfying. Most of the time, it won’t go as quickly as pulling them one at a time in Cat form . . . but there are always exceptions. Such as in tightly packed areas where you’re probably going to pull 2-3+ and have runners anyway. And as a bear, you will be able to solo elites that would pulverize your cat form.

    While you can take the cat talents and use bear form in those situations, if you plan to tank regularly, you definitely want to take the bear emphasis talents. They contribute significantly to your damage mitigation. Levelling as a tank has the benefit of #1 being easier to get into PuGs. But more importantly, in my experience at least, a good tank & healer really anchor a PuG. So getting proficient at one of those roles increases the likelihood of a good PuG experience from totally random to 50%+.

    If you do decide to level as a Bear, either because you want to level through instance runs or just because it’s the playstyle you like, I’ll second the advice you read in this blog all the time. Agility, agility, agility from the first level you decide you want to play bear. Get your dodge up. Stam will come. Gear just has it. Don’t shun gear with strength if it’s a good upgrade, because str is also good, but you always want to prioritize agility first to increase your survivability during those chain pulls.

    You probably don’t want to level as a Resto druid. I’m levelling one of my druids resto with a group of buddies hitting all the instances we can. We need a healer and I said I’d do it. I’ll tell you though, as soon as dual spec came out I went and grabbed a boomkin spec. Druid healing is awesome good times. Questing to level up between instance runs is a laborious grind.

    If you do decide to play a resto druid, your favorite stat is spell power. You get Intensity early enough that #1 spirit is as good as int for you very early and #2 mana is never really a problem. As long as there are other spellcasters in your group, you will probably be able to just let your mana pool refresh on its own while they take drink breaks. Especially with the new improved innervate. I’ll go an entire instance without a single drink while our mage downs a stack and a half. BUT, your HoT ticks aren’t very big unless you have a lot of spell power to boost ’em. So you want a lot. Just in case I hadn’t made that clear yet. Eventually, you’ll want to stack on haste, but it’s not really available much until Outland and even then it’s not really more important than spell power . . . you just want it when you can get it.

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  3. Thanks for answering my questions! 😀

    Lisanna, I’m going to add your site to my bookmarks list as I’m typing this. No, really, I just did that!

    Rahl… That is wonderful insight… Wow.

    BBB, Thank you, thank you, thank you a thousand times over for taking the time to answer my question. As I was reading through your walk through how to deal with packs of mob’s… I just kept thinking, “Man, that sounds AWESOME!” My 3 80’s are a DK, a ‘lock, and a shaman (he’s the oldest by far, and started his career on Thunderlord). I’m stoked to try my hand at something that can meet so many roles without having to dual spec. 😀

    Anyway, back to work… And again, I really appreciate the comments from everyone.

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  4. Its sounds silly but if you are going ferral you want to put your first 11 talent points into resto all the way up to Omen of Clarity.

    This will give you
    IMoW
    +10 % AP
    Clear Casting through omen
    60% chance to gain rage / 60 % energy when changing forms

    Then start pumping talents into ferral tree.
    Once you are at 40 respec to get mangle then build upto Omen again!

    GL and happy leveling!

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  5. I leveled as Bear, dual boxing it with a Warlock using Recruit-a-Friend. Loved it.
    After 60 I stayed Bear, slowly burning my way through Outland. I tried Cat for a while, but couldn’t really get into it. After glyphing for Maul and reaching Berserk I cannot see how I’ll ever go to Cat or Balance. Being able to chain-pull groups of mobs and burn them down with little or no significant health loss is just SO appealing to me. And if I ever feel stressed, I just pop Berserk and Mangle away! Can’t say I’ve ever needed to Bash, nor switch forms – I’ve found that the damage I take while trying to shift-heal isn’t worth it.

    About the only thing I’m worried about is my gear. Now at 72, I haven’t seen a lot of +Str/+Sta gear – so I’ve been collecting +Agi/+Sta instead. Seems to be working. I plan to level as Bear all the way to 80, I enjoy it that much.

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  6. I have jumped the talent spec the whole time I have leveled. I really love feral. I am not confident on tanking but I still have a bear tank spec. I use the same combo you just mentioned about multiple mobs. I have been so surprised when I walk away from a fight (a little low on heal and all). I am almost 80 and in icecrown and the mobs just run up on ya if your not paying attention. Trust me the bear/jump to heal/jump to cat or back to bear thing is great!!!

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  7. I recommended that my wife level as feral, and she’s been pretty happy with that. The trouble with leveling balance is that keeping the ranch while you pew-pew… not so easy. but she took to cat form like nobody’s business.

    And with feral there’s not need to take breaks to eat/drink. When you’re finished you generally have a full mana bar waiting to heal you up. I don’t expect that she maximizes the feral options, but nether have I honestly. Stuff just dies too quickly unless you’re looking for red mobs

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  8. I have a druid at level 20 I am having fun with.
    My main is a level 80 hunter, and secondary is a level 60 paladin. I do not plan on throwing gold at this druid.
    I will go try a “balance” druid as you suggest. I would love to read some pointers from your buddies on your post!

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