Between lollygagging here at WoW Insider Central and engaging in some extracurricular indolence, I've often wondered where I'd take the column after finishing the bear pre-raid post. I could write something on how to theorycraft the highest-HPM tree, I thought, or get around to testing whether weapon skill has an unintended effect on bear threat. Look at the potential return from Eclipse procs as a function of fight mobility? Argue whether it's worth it to take Feral Aggression in a hybrid feral build? Or compose an entire column as a mockument to T.S. Eliot's most famous poem:
Q: Let us go then, you and I --
All good ideas. But then we received the following missive from that enemy of all that is good and right in the publishing world, the editor:
MEMO: To all WoW Insider class columnists
FROM: You know who.
TEXT: Write something on how your class will deal with the upcoming dual-spec system in patch 3.1, or Dan "One-Eye" O'Halloran will "remember" where he left his whip.
"Well," I thought. "That sounds like a good idea too."
Before anything else, you want to ask yourself what you really want out of the new system:
- Do you find yourself in raids knowing that, no matter how required your spec is for certain encounters, you'd be contributing more on others with a different one?
- Are you more interested in saving the huge piles of gold you've been spending switching between your most-requested specs?
- Or do you constantly change specs in order to PvP?
a). A Moonkin who runs a spec without Improved Faerie Fire and one with it (in case his raid's Shadow Priest with Misery doesn't show up), or:
b). A bear who only runs a spec with 5/5 Feral Aggression if 2/2 Frailty or 5/5 Improved Demoralizing Shout isn't available.
-- if you're in this boat and prefer to play the spec you're already using, then dual-specs will find their best use for you as a means of covering or not covering raid buffs without having to drop a ton of gold. Because that's using the system to address problems caused by raid attendance or composition while still occupying the same role, the answer to the question of, "How do I spec?" is pretty simple: pick a best-case scenario spec (when someone else has brought a raid buff) and a worst-case scenario one (when they haven't). Tonight we're more concerned with dual-specs giving you the opportunity to bring an entirely different role (or vastly increased damage) to a stable raid or group play.
Going between PvE and PvP builds (or cycling between two PvP builds) seems fairly self-explanatory. I will freely confess; as of patch 2.4.2 and 3/3 Survival of the Fittest being buffed to effective crit immunity versus raid bosses, I forswore all current, future, or hypothetical involvement in PvP, so I'm only really able to discuss it as an (admittedly interested) observer.
If you're a hardcore PvPer and regularly swap between a PvE build for dungeon- or raid-running with your guild and what you actually use in battlegrounds or arena, then your way forward should be pretty clear -- and markedly less expensive. If you're primarily interested in swapping between different PvP specs (Restoration, for example, often gets destroyed by the vast legions of Death Knights now overrunning battlegrounds, but may be what your partners still depend upon for 3's), I would simply use your best judgment as to which spec has encountered the most success in different environments.
On to the PvE builds!
FERAL (BEAR) and MOONKIN (PvE): RAR RAR, PEW PEW
Bizarre as this combination sounds, I've thought about it -- and it might also be a good option for you depending on your raid's typical composition. My guild's two moonkin have had attendance issues lately, which often leaves our raids without one and has a correspondingly negative impact on our casters. Moonkin Aura, Improved Moonkin Form, and Earth and Moon are better contributions to overall raid DPS than Leader of the Pack (unless your raid is overrun with Hunters and melee DPS and you're the only feral). And, to be honest, I enjoy playing a moonkin a lot more than I currently enjoy playing an extremely ugly cat.
On that note, a bear/moonkin spec would allow me to forget that Tauren cat form even exists, so...sign me up.
Pros: Allows you to enjoy two very different playstyles. Ranged DPS is less a liability on most (current) raid bosses than melee. On fights where you're not tanking, your guild lacks a moonkin, and you have a lot of casters, you'll provide more raid DPS (and/or avoid duplicating LotP with another feral around).
Cons: Having to collect two entirely different sets of gear is a hassle, neither gear is optimized (or even particularly good) for cat DPS or Restoration in the event that you respec out, and if you're not that experienced with one of them, it'll take time to learn how to play it well. Then again, that could be said of any spec. Also, a melee-heavy raid will get more DPS from LotP than it will from the aforementioned Balance buffs even if you don't have another moonkin.
MOONKIN (PvE) and FERAL (CAT PvE): I WANT YOU DEAD AND I DON'T CARE HOW
The dual-spec of choice for people who just want to see the world burn.
Pros: Either spec will allow you to blow through enemies like Kleenex. Large numbers. More large numbers. And more large numbers after that. A sideline in kitty will also allow you to get some off-tanking done for your guild if needed.
Cons: Cat builds have limited usefulness in the event that you'd need to tank something bigger and meaner (although I am very intrigued by Kalon's recent work on the extent to which you can get away with cat gear and talentswhile tanking raid bosses, and have experimented with this on heroic achievement runs where DPS is a major requirement). Running a two-DPS dual-spec is also heavily dependent on your guild or server having a decent supply of tanks or healers around to allow you to keep pew-pewing.
I'm very skeptical of the extent to which that's true, and would encourage most Druids to run at least one spec that will enable them to get a group or raid off the ground a lot faster.
FERAL (BEAR) and FERAL (CAT PvE): NOW YOU SEE ME, NOW YOU DON'T
This is probably going to be a popular (if not most popular) dual-spec choice for raiding ferals. You sacrifice a lot of DPS in order to run a dedicated bear build, and a lot of mitigation and avoidance to run a dedicated cat build. On fights where you don't need to tank, you should be putting out as much damage as you possibly can, and on fights where you DO need to tank, there's no reason to make the healers' job harder that it already is. A prime example would be moving from Sapphiron to Kel'Thuzad in 25-man raids, or going from Malygos to a Sartharion with drakes up (provided that you haven't already lost your Sarth-tanking job to a voidwalker).
Pros: There's some amount of gear overlap here (more so once Savage Defense goes live and +crit becomes a hybrid stat) and if you've been playing feral for a while, you're probably accustomed to frequent switches between bear and cat already. A bear/cat dual spec basically gives you the opportunity to supercharge what you're already doing with minimal fuss.
Cons: Eh. I really can't see any. You'd have to be crazy to be feral and not have bear and cat sets already.