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Build Shop: Druid 0/47/14

Eliah Hecht

Last week I asked for Druid builds. How many of the builds I got do you think were Feral? That's right, all of them. Never let it be said I can't take a hint; here's a Feral build for this week. The tree is enjoying a justifiable period of popularity right now, I think. Every druid I regularly group with is Feral, and bear tanks do a great job. Tanks are in demand on my realm, so I haven't seen many druids get a chance to go kitty and shred some face butt, but when I have seen it it's been pretty impressive. And of course, like any other class that can heal, if they carry a healing set they can be pretty solid off-healers.

I got two 0/47/14 builds from two different people. One build included Intensity and Savage Fury, while the other one had Brutal Impact and Natural Shapeshifter. For reasons I'll get into later, I prefer the first variant, by Athaliana of Moonrunner, so that's what I'll look at here. Oh, and to answer your question, bwest0526, there is, as you can see, no set reason why builds have to be 0/41/20 or 31/0/30 or other such patterns like that. However, talent trees are designed such that particularly appealing one-point talents are placed at 11, 21, 31, and 41 points into each tree, so many builds go into trees with the goal of getting one of those talents, and then put the rest of their points in a different tree for some other purpose. The 21, 31, and 41 point talents especially tend to be very good values in many cases.

This build is one that eschews the traditional 41/20, 40/21, or 31/30 talent distributions. After 14 points in the Restoration tree, it becomes almost entirely worthless for anything but healing, and since this build is (hopefully) never going to be a main healer, we can use those extra six points to more fully flesh out Feral. This allows us to take almost every available point in the Feral tree.

What do we skip? Feral Aggression has never been a very impressive talent. The AP reduction of Demoralizing Roar is not huge, and Ferocious Bite is hardly a staple attack in most environments (PvP being perhaps a notable exception). Furthermore, the talent it's up against is extremely solid: it's hard to beat cost reductions on the most used skills.

We skip Brutal Impact, because pretty much every mob of note is stun-immune. Again, this would be much more worthwhile in PvP. Finally, we skip Nurturing Instinct, because healing is not a major focus of this build. For a druid more concerned about versatility and less about maximizing Feral power, this might be a good talent to take; with 300 strength, that's a respectable +75 healing per talent point.

Every other possible point in Feral is taken. The fact that we can do this so easily underscores why Feral is such a good tree: it's very streamlined. There's not a lot of trash talents in it, and it's quite easy to take all the talents you want to tank well and dps well. It also explains why almost every Feral druid makes a good tank: there aren't a lot of choices to make when it comes to which talents are good to take for tanking. Warrior tanking talents are spread out through Arms and Prot, but for both Pallies and Druids, they just have one tree that they need for tanking, essentially. The situation is similar for healing talents: Priest healing talents are scattered around in Holy and Disc, but every other healing class has just one healing tree, and therefore is able to pick up all their important healing talents a lot easier.

There is one talent in Feral that we do take that is of suspect utility: Predatory Instincts. Most talents in this position are very strong; this is where many classes' " Empowered" talents live, which usually give substantive boosts to staple skills. Indeed, the other two Druid trees follow this pattern, with talents that increase the spellpower coefficients of commonly used spells. Predatory Instincts, on the other hand, gives a mere 10% boost to melee attacks' crit bonus, bringing crits from 200% to 210%. This has the net effect of increasing damage by 10% of your crit rate. If your crit chance is 15%, for instance, you gain 1.5% damage. Pretty weak for 5 talent points. (15% appears to be a reasonable average for Feral druids, who don't seem to focus on crit that much.) It does have a secondary effect, 15% increased chance to avoid AoEs, but that underwhelms me as well; it just doesn't seem like it'll make that much of a difference.

Edit: thanks to numerous people who pointed out that druids get an extra 11% crit from talents that are only active in Feral forms. But let's be generous and say you're rolling with 30% crit as a bear/kitty; that still means this talent gives you +3% damage (and helps make your damage more spiky, which is no good as a cat). And for the 15% reduction from AoEs to stack up as 1% reduction per point, you'd have to be taking at least 6.7% of your damage as AoEs -- is that really the case? Of course, I guess since this is a dual purpose talent (more damage out, less damage in), it's alright if it's less than 1% per point for each purpose...still, it doesn't seem as strong as it should be for its position.

However weak that talent is, though, I don't see anywhere that 5 points would be more useful in a heavily Feral-focused build. Perhaps they would be well moved to Nurturing Instinct and/or the Resto tree for a more hybrid-focused build.

Speaking of Resto, what have we got in there? Furor, for some instant rage or energy on shifting, is immensely handy. It also allows one to "power-shift" -- shifting out and then back into form in order to gain some quick rage or energy. Obviously mana-intensive and not viable when tanking, but the technique has its uses. Next, Naturalist is a blast of minty fresh goodness when compared to Predatory Instincts. This talent is only 5 points deep, is in the healing tree, and still gives more than five times as much benefit to damage as a talent that requires 35 in the melee tree? Something's not right here. And that's not even to mention the vital cast time decrease on Healing Touch.

The last four points of this build go in Intensity, for some more quick rage generation (and extra staying power when healing), and Omen of Clarity, a talent that I think any melee class would kill for. According to the Druid Wiki, this procs 2.5 times per minute, or once every 24 seconds, on average. If you use it on Mangle, that's worth 0.63 rage per second in bear form and 1.67 energy per second in cat (taking Ferocity into account). There are probably better skills to use your OoC procs on, but Mangle seemed like a good skill to use for example purposes.

Oh, and why not Natural Shapeshifter? Simple: we're not going to be shifting that much, and it wouldn't be worth the points. An automatic 10 rage from every Enrage is much more worthwhile. Again, Natural Shapeshifter seems like a talent that would see quite a bit of value in PvP, but for a PvE build, I'd agree with the decision to skip it.

Anyway, that's the build! And having looked around at a few of my Druid friends' builds, 0/47/14 does seem quite popular. Here's hoping Druids don't get nerfed anytime soon; it's nice to see a good thing going for them for once. What do you think, feral folks? How would you tweak this build, and is my math off on Predatory Instincts, or is it really as awful as it seems?

Next week: I dunno! Could be anything, I'm wild and crazy that way. I've gone through each class once, so I can't think of any particular reason to do one class over another. What would you like to see? Drop me a line, keep sending those builds, and may you never have to respec because you accidentally put a point in Throwing Weapon Specialization like I did one time (I was very glad when they removed that talent).

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