Over the last few weeks, we've covered how to properly gear your cat for raiding in a Cataclysmic world. Unfortunately, all the gear in the world won't help you if you can't establish a good rotation. Today's column looks at some addons that will help you maximize your performance.
Custom buff/debuff trackers
Let's face it: The default UI is pretty horrible for tracking buffs and debuffs. The interface has vastly improved over time, but it still uses an icon-based scheme, and it appears in the top corner of your display, drawing your attention away from the action. As the feral rotation is very dependent on maintaining a self-buff and enemy debuffs, having a good way to track this information is important.
Need to Know Need to Know is the buff/debuff tracker that I currently use. It's not quite as plug-and-play for ferals as the other two trackers here, but the open design makes it usable for any class. Great if you have lots of alts.
It's very simple to configure everything, as it's all right-click menus; you'll only need to enter the interface screen once to configure how many bars/bargroups you want. After that, simply right-click the bar to set the buff/debuff to track, color, blink, time settings, and many more. It tracks Rip increases via Shred glyph and can track multiple spells per bar (ie. Mangle [Cat] or Mangle [Bear]) and trinket CDs. It can be set up to display a different group of bars for dual specs.
Cat's Eye Cat's Eye is a very intuitive and easy-to-use tracker. Across the top, you have a easy-to-understand combo point display and current attack power representation. Underneath, you have a nicely formatted window, with icons and color-coded bars. By default, green represents an active buff/debuff, blue represents a missing buff/debuff or ability waiting to be used, and red (not shown here) represents an ability not ready to be used (low on energy, on cooldown, not enough CPs, etc.)
The colors are all adjustable, as is frame size, bar order, etc. There is even an icon for the Omen of Clarity proc, which shows up as a white bubble next to the CP display. The horizontal bars represent player and target health, respectively. This is a great minimalistic solution for those who don't want to do a lot of configuring.
BadKitty BadKitty's been around for a while. It was broken for quite some time post-Cataclysm, but it seems to be up and running again. It's divided up into two freely movable modules: Bars, which displays the typical bar list, and Warnings, which replicate the information in icon format. All the bars and warnings can be reordered/shown/hidden, as well as colors/fonts customized to suit. The author is working on re-adding bear support and other features.
There are tons of other buff/debuff/cooldown monitor addons, many of which are excellent. (I personally use Raven for tracking all non-rotation based buffs/debuffs.) If you prefer one of those, feel free to recommend it in the comments! I've tried to highlight feral-specific ones, as well as my current setup.
Rotation addons Rotation mods step the assistance up a notch; instead of just providing information, they interpret it for you. (Note that when I say "rotation," that's shorthand for "priority list." Fixed rotations went out a while ago.) These addons tell you, typically via an icon display, which skill you should use next based on a predefined priority list. These priority lists are dynamically updated, presenting you with an icon that represents the "best" skill to use at that time. The logic for these mods can get very complex and can include factors such as your current energy/mana/focus/RP, time left on buffs/debuffs/cooldowns, enemy health, and many others.
Now, many players consider these type of addons cheating and frown on their use. To Blizzard, as long as the mod doesn't press the button for you (or just create one button that you can spam-click), it's acceptable. There was an excellent WoW Insider post on this issue when Facemauler (one of the first rotation addons for feral druids) came out, so take a look there for a more in-depth look at the pros and cons. Honestly, these types of mods are much less needed for feral than they used to be, due to the simplification of the feral rotation. However, for new players or players RLWK (raid leading while kitty), it's an excellent helper.
One caveat: These helpers are only as good as the logic that powers them. The best addons are ones that use a easily editable script or programming language; those with hardcoded logic are quickly rendered useless if the author stops development. (FeralbyNight, you will be missed.) Also, realize that the logic of these addons is written with the aim of maximizing single-target DPS, with no interruptions. Since almost every raid encounter has multiple targets or DPS interruptions, blindly following the suggestions is not optimal.
Okay, enough fine print. Let's take a look. The addon rotation mod depicted above is called Ovale. At its core, it's a pretty simple concept; push the button that corresponds with the picture. However, several talented scriptwriters (most notably Leafkiller, but many have contributed) have improved the default scripting logic significantly, to the point that the addon now displays two suggestions: one box for the ability to perform next, and one box for the ability after that. More than anything else, this little tweak helps people new to the feral rotation start to understand when and how to use abilities. For the advanced feral, it supports all the latest theorycrafting -- most notably, finding good times to run out of melee to re-proc Stampede.
Installation is pretty simple. Download the Ovale addon as you would any other, and start WoW. The display will look similar to the above (the default scripting logic for ferals is pretty decent). To get the latest custom script, simply visit this thread on my website, copy the newest script from the first post, and paste it over the default Ovale script.
Now, if Ovale doesn't quite do it for you, some other rotation mods include SpellFlash and Phlebotomiser, though I don't have any experience with their recommendations.
Others No post about feral addons would be complete without discussing the excellent addon Hear Kitty. The premise is very simple: It plays an ascending sequence of tones as you gain CPs and a quick note series when you use a finisher. It doesn't sound like much, but I've found that hearing the tones contributes greatly to my enjoyment when DPSing. Of course, you'll always know how many CPs you have without looking. I don't know why I love it, but I do. Check it out at least once.
Finally, I love my combination of VuhDo (raid frames) and RaidBuffStatus (death warnings, among other things). RBS plays an audio tone when a raid member dies and a special tone when a tank/healer dies. As soon as I hear that tone, I make a quick brez decision in my head, and if the answer is yes, simply left-click the character's bar on VuhDo, conveniently marked RIP, to instantly begin casting Rebirth. If the player is out of range, VuhDo dims the character's bar and overlays an arrow with direction/distance information, enabling me to get in range ASAP. This combo has increased my brez speed to the point where I've usually rezzed the tank/tank healer before my raid leader calls for it, and it has turned several wipes into kills.
There are many more addons I could list (Raeli's Spell Announcer is my latest fav, now that Skull Bash interrupts show up), but I'll stop here. Do you have a favorite addon for feral? Post it in the comments!
What race should you choose for your druid? What happened to Tree of Life? How can you get started as a bear or cat in Cataclysm? Shifting Perspectives has the answers!