It was finished.
I spat, again, attempting to purge the taste of gronn from my mouth. Ugh. My ribs still hurt from the powerful backhand which had struck me unawares and knocked me from the ledge, but it was over. Skullcrusher was dead, his minions scattered--and I was ready to take the fight to Deathwing. My eyes lifted, tracing the path of the gigantic corrupted dragon across the sky...
Stones skittered closely behind me, and I whirled to find another druid standing atop a small boulder. His solemn eyes were mesmerizing, but it was the words I heard.
"Bah. Ready for Deathwing? More like, ready to be Deathwing's dinner."
I snorted. "And what would you know, old-timer? Shouldn't you be getting back to your tree?"
The other druid shrugged, and turned away. "As you wish." He abruptly shifted, assuming the form of a great panther, and began to quietly pad away. Suddenly, I noticed that his fur was criscrossed with scars from head to toe, and a nagging feeling arose in the pit of my belly.
"Wait," I said abruptly. "Maybe I've misjudged you."
The strange druid reassumed his elven form, and turned back, smiling. "Good. We've lost too many of our people fighting the Quiraji, Illidan, Arthas, and now this abomination. I don't want to lose another." With that, we began to speak in earnest.
Positioning Undoubtedly, the biggest thing that new feral players need to learn is how to position themselves correctly. When you're leveling, positioning isn't really an issue; most anything you'll be fighting is beating on you, so it's not too much of a concern. For group content, though, the enemies will be controlled by the tank. If he moves, the enemies will move with him, which means you have to adjust to stay in range. I see this all the time in Raid Finder when fighting Hagara; the tank will slide away to dodge Focused Assault, Hagara repositions, and several seconds pass before all the melee catch up. Don't be that guy. If you use the Ovale addon and the script from my forums, Ovale will display the autoattack icon if you are ever out of melee range, as a reminder.
The second key aspect of positioning is simply this: always attack from behind. A basic concept, but difficult to execute if your tank likes to spin the enemies frequently. Not attacking from behind will hurt your damage potential significantly, as your attacks will now have a chance to be parried or glance off for light damage. You'll also be locked out of using Shred, which is our primary attack. Now, it can be difficult to see where the "back" is; a Feral Charge will put you there, or just follow the hunter pets, who will always automatically attack from behind.
Ability Timing All feral abilities trigger a 1 second cooldown before another ability can be used (also known as the "global cooldown" or GCD). This is faster than the majority of other classes, who generally have a 1.5 second GCD. There's no way around it: feral plays fast, and it requires some finger dexterity and good reaction time. Remember that the buff from Tiger's Fury only lasts six seconds; you need to get off as many abilities in that window as you can.
Of course, once the energy and the buff from Tiger's Fury is gone, things will slow down for a bit until it comes back up again. Don't worry if you get overwhelmed; as you get used to playing feral, you'll get accustomed to this cyclical pattern, and things will slow down.
Ability Selection Feral requires not only fast play but some thinking as well. Frequently, I'll get whispers from other ferals during Raid Finder asking for tips, check their stats on Recount, and typically notice that they are Shredding (or Mangling) FAR too much. Shred is primarily a combo point builder and energy dump; even though it will likely be the highest percentage of your damage, it's the one with the lowest priority.
For reference, a good damage breakdown would look something like this:
- Shred + Mangle 20-23% (This will be less on Ultraxion, and your DoTs will be slightly higher.)
- Melee 18-21%
- Rip 17-20%
- Rake 14-17%
- Ferocious Bite 10-14% (This will be much lower, and Shred will be higher, without the 2 piece Tier 13 set bonus.)
- Everything else <15%
Energy Capping Sitting at 100 energy (or higher if under the effects of Primal Madness) is horrible for your DPS. Since your energy regeneration while capped is effectively 0, you're wasting energy that could be used to fuel abilities. This usually happens because you're thinking about what to use next, or trying to fix your positioning, or trying to battle rez, or something to that effect. This is the only case where I'll let you spam unthinkingly; if you're energy capped, just smash that Shred (or Mangle) button a few times, then figure out what you need to do. It's not optimal, but it's much better than sitting there and just autoattacking.
Cooldowns Use them! Tiger's Fury is the perfect example of a "short" cooldown. You'll likely be using this 10 or more times for every boss fight, so there's not much value in trying to delay it significantly. Shred once or twice so you don't waste the energy, hit it, and continue on. (Yes, there are exceptions where delaying TF for a second or two to sync with Rip is better...but in general, it's not worth worrying about,)
Berserk, however, you do want to time properly. Since the Glyph makes it 25 seconds long, and you can't use Tiger's Fury with Berserk active, you'll almost always want to pop Berserk immediately after a TF cast. With this in mind, if the fight features some sort of DPS burn (such as Spine of Deathwing) you'll want to hold off and make sure you have both available when you need them.
Finally, defensive cooldowns are important too. Barkskin is an absolutely fantastic and free defensive ability, as is Survival Instincts. If you're not using these as much as you can, you're making your healers hate you just a little bit more. Remember, Dead Druids Don't Do DPS.
Looking for the latest and greatest in feral cat druid guides? Shifting Perspectives has the answers! Check out our cat 101 for Cataclysm. Also don't miss gearing your cat for Firelands raiding, addons for cat druids and raiding strats for feral cats, as well as our feral cat Firelands boss strats.