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Shifting Perspectives: Feral Druid advice for Karazhan Part 2


Every Tuesday, Shifting Perspectives explores issues affecting druids and those who group with them. This week John Patricelli, the Big Bear Butt Blogger, continues to offer up some tips for new feral Druids that aspire to Karazhan greatness... or who at least want to have some idea of what they can expect.

Last week, we talked about preparing for Karazhan as a feral Druid.

Okay, enough of the preparation. It's time for some fun!

The first question often asked is, what will your main role in the raid be?

The typical answer; it varies, depending on your group.

Okay, enough of the safe answers, I'm going to actually make my own recommendations and give you my own opinions for playing a feral Druid in Karazhan.

As I haven't raided in content more difficult than Gruul and Magtheridon, I invite the more experienced Druids in the community to offer your own suggestions on this part in the comments. But as I am still weekly leading friends into Karazhan as a feral Druid (and a Shadow Priest), these are the things I have learned along the way.

So, what roles can you, the feral Druid, expect to play?

Over the course of one Karazhan run, you could expect to main tank, off-tank, melee DPS, AoE DPS and heal. Yes, all in the same run. Seriously.

So wipe that "I got a tank set, lols I is ready" thought out of your mind.

Continue on after the break!

I can haz specifics?

Karazhan is a raid that takes 10 people. Typically, two classes that can tank, with one of those able to tank AND perform another role when only one tank is necessary (which is most of the second half of Karazhan), two to three healers, and the rest various forms of DPS. A Priest is highly desired for the first half, and two Priests shackling the first half makes everything run ridiculously smooth.

Let's talk about tanking first.

If you are very well prepared for Karazhan as a feral druid, then you can expect to be either the off-tank or main tank for many situations. Because you are a hybrid, you need to be prepared to assume another role when there is a need for only one tank.

When you are partnered with a comparably geared Protection specced Paladin, you should expect to run as melee DPS, except for those occassions where a second tank is required, or when an add breaks free or there is a concern that a single pull will have too much damage in the early stages for the Paladin to handle and one mob will need to be kept occupied for a short period of time. Paladins make outstanding tanks against the predominantly undead mobs in Karazhan.

In such situations, you can be in Cat form wearing your feral hybrid gear mix; stack as much health and armor as you can, with a DPS weapon and Everbloom Idol if you have it. As of right now, you can switch weapons and Idols while in combat, so you can set your ItemRack or gear swapping Addon to swap these two items out for tanking gear at the touch of one button to ease swapping the gear on the fly. When you need to pop into Bear to off-tank or pick up a stray mob, you will have the capability, but you are still capable of effective DPS.

In some situations, where the enemy Mana drains or Silences spellcasters frequently, you can expect to take over the main tanking duties; two good examples are the Maiden of Virtue, where you can use Frenzied Regeneration to help get you through when your healers are Stunned and you have several threat-generating attacks that do not require spell casting,and the Mana Feeder trash pulls prior to Curator where they can quickly drain a Paladin of Mana early on in the fight.

When you are partnered with a Protection-specced Warrior, you can expect to spend more time in the off-tanking role. Since both of you tank using Rage mechanics, which of you operates as the main tank depends more on individual armor and health. However, when everything else is equal, some fights are made easier with a Warrior main tanking, such as Attumen where a Warrior can reduce incoming damage by Disarming frequently, or Nightbane where a skilled warrior can do the Berserker stance-dance to prevent being affected by Dragon Fear.

You should not be upset by taking the off-tank role in these situations. Far from it.

In Cat form, even in mostly tanking gear, you are liable to do a lot more damage than a Protection-specced Warrior would, and as long as you are not main tanking the mobs, you remain free to step back from the fight, shift out and toss a badly-needed Innervate or Battle Rez where appropriate, shift back in and resume DPS. And of course, if the main tank DOES go down, you can pop Bear form and use your Challenging Roar to pull all the mobs to you while the party redirects their attention onto you and your mobs.

So you need to understand that tanking is not a one-Bear show. You should be mentally prepared to look at each situation, and assign the tanking roles to whomever is best suited to the task at hand. And, as you are capable of both tanking AND providing decent melee DPS, you have to be flexible.

Semper Gumby!

So how should you expect to operate when in the melee DPS role?

Providing melee DPS in a raid is significantly different than in soloing situations.

First, you need to understand that your goal is to provide as much DPS as you can without exceeding your tank's threat. However, you need to be able to off-tank in a pinch if necessary, so you cannot have Blessing of Salvation on you.

This means you get to watch your threat output like a hawk, use Cower or shift out very often, and keep one eye open for the chance to maximize your times of high threat to back off and Innervate a caster.

With mostly tanking gear equipped, your DPS will not be very high compared to others in your raid, so you have to make up for it with your usefulness.

If I have the chance, how do I do the MOST damage?

A fair question. If you are working with a tank that puts out insane levels of threat, you want to know how to really maximize your DPS.

The very first step is position yourself behind the mobs you are attacking.

As we detailed in a previous article, Hit Rating, Expertise and Defense for PvE, a mob you are fighting has four ways to avoid taking damage from you; you can Miss outright, they can Parry, Block, and Dodge.

If you position yourself directly behind the mob, they cannot Parry or Block your attacks. Boom, now you only need to worry about Dodges and Misses.

Hit Rating reduces your chance to Miss, and Expertise reduces a mob's chance to Dodge. This is why your pure Cat form DPS gear should have both Hit Rating (142 Hit Rating is required for a Druid in cat form to reduce your chance to miss against level 73 boss mobs to zero) and Expertise, because they work side by side against two different mob defenses.

Okay, so you are going to move behind the mob so more of your hits get through his defenses, and your DPS gear has Hit Rating and Expertise. What then?

There are two different 'standard' strategies to get the most effective DPS in Cat form while raiding.

The first basic DPS strategy is as follows (without considering threat reduction);

  1. Approach the mob in Prowl while the tank attacks it and builds up threat.
  2. Manuever behind the mob to remove the chance he will Parry or Block your attacks.
  3. Pounce the mob to briefly stun the target and apply a Bleed DoT.
  4. Use Feral Faerie Fire to reduce the enemies' armor, improving the entire raid's DPS against the mob.
  5. Attack with a single Mangle to apply the debuff on the target, increasing the damage all Bleed and Shred attacks will do against that mob. Your Rogue friends will love you.
  6. Use Shred as your main attack, getting the most benefit from the Mangle 30% bonus damage debuff. Repeat Shred as often as your Energy permits, and while the Mangle debuff is active.
  7. At 5 Combo Points, use your Rip Finishing Move to get the most benefit out of the Bleed aspect of the Mangle debuff. Since Patch 2.4, almost all mobs, including undead, are affected by Bleed damage.

As you can see, the concept is to maximize the advantage Mangle gives your Shreds and Rips' Bleed effect. If you are melee DPS for a feral Druid tank, then the tank should already be using Mangle whenever his cooldown is up. That means YOU should not need to Mangle, and you can save that Energy for more Shreds.

Watch the mob and renew Feral Faerie Fire whenever it expires, for the reduced Armor on the target helps everyone get more DPS through the target's mitigation. Rip whenever you have 5 Combo Points... and remember Shred is your bread and butter attack for the most damage to the target.

If you are by yourself, Feral Faerie Fire is your responsibility, but if you are partnered with another feral Druid as the main tank, you may decide between you that he will handle refreshing Feral Faerie Fire, leaving you free to concentrate exclusively on Shred and Rip. It depends on the circumstances, and how the tank feels his Rage is developing. If he feels that the global cooldown of Feral Faerie Fire is inhibiting his threat generation, he may ask you to take over the Feral Faerie Fire duty. Just talk about it beforehand.

Wait, so what was the second 'standard' attack method?

The second standard method is to NOT use Stealth or Pounce. Some mobs are immune to Stun, and since you are using it at the very opening of combat, it can leave a tank Rage-starved as he is not getting hit right out of the gate.

Regardless of your class, you should never use abilities that stun a mob when your main tank is low on Rage, since it prevents him from getting hit and building up the rage he needs to generate threat. Especially in the early stages of a fight, if he is starting out from near zero Rage.

It has to be a judgment call, however, since If you are chain pulling and the tank has high Rage built up, it will certainly help reduce the overall damage the tank is taking and ease the burden a bit on your healers.

Okay, so that's how to generate pure DPS, but what about managing my threat?

Managing your threat in Cat form is tricky.

If you are running without Blessing of Salvation, if in fact you have a Paladin's Blessing of Kings or Blessing of Might instead, then your attacks are running wild and unrestrained. Big problem.

Cower is an attack that requires a successful Hit to affect the targeted mob, and if successful, it reduces your threat on that mob by -1170. However, that amount is reduced by Cat Form to 936 (a little known fact is that Cat Form has a built in threat reduction multiplier). Since it is an attack, sadly, it is also affected by Blessing of Salvation... in a bad way.

As you can see, it only affects your targeted mob, it requires a successful Hit to work, and it does not remove aggro, it only reduces your current threat by a set amount.

If you exceed your tank's threat by 110% in melee range, you will pull aggro. At that point, it's a bit too late to remember to Cower.

One way to manage your threat is to replace one of your Shreds with Cower frequently throughout the course of the fight, depending on your position on the threat meter. Cower takes 20 Energy to cast, so it can reduce your DPS a LOT, but it is very effective at throttling your Threat. In this case, Cower early and often.

The other way to manage your threat is to play up your strengths as a Hybrid.

Instead of using Cower when your threat gets too high, choose to play a supportnig role instead.

DPS in cat form until you are both out of Energy and your threat is fairly high. Then, back off, shift to caster, fire off some HoTs on yourself and someone else, perhaps Innervate a caster, and then shift back and enjoy the instant 40 Energy to get back into casting Mangle and Feral Faerie Fire and Shred. During the time you are shifted out and healing, the tank will continue to build his threat and give you more space to DPS when you shift back in.

The downside to shifting and casting is that over a very long fight your Mana will get to the point you just can't do it anymore and still shift back, so take the time to practice using both techniques, namely shift/heal until you are getting low enough on Mana that you have enough for a few shifts and an Innervate, and then stick to Cat Form and use Cower interspersed among your Shreds, with an eye on saving using your remaining Mana for an emergency shift to Innervate or Battle Rez.

As you can see, yes there really is a very good reason for feral Druids to use the Druidbar Addon to see your Mana level while shifted into forms... and to know how much your shifts, Innervates and Battle Rez cost.

All this and AoE too!

Okay, I think healing is a bit out of the scope of this article. In fact, I think an article on techniques for Resto Druid healing in raids would be a great idea. I'll have to bug a friend to write one. I'll simply say now that, as we said in the last article, it is important to have a healing gear set for those times when you can best serve the raid by standing back and supporting the main healers.

But there are quite a few times other times besides healing when you can provide a lot more support to the run than tanking or melee DPS.

There are several situations where you will be facing a group of mobs that are non-elites. The stairs before the Grand Ballroom leading to Moroes is a great example.

The Grand Ballroom has three types of mobs; solitary pathing elites, stationary groups of elites, and stationary groups of non-elites.

The groups of elites can and should be bypassed, but you will want to eliminate the solitary pathing elites and the stationary groups of non-elites.

As the tank or the off-tank, this is a good moment for you to show your flexibility. Since you are specced into feral, you do not have any talents invested in reducing spellcasting threat.

You can help the raid by putting your tanking gear on, asking the healers to be prepared to keep you alive at the start from a sudden jump in burst damage, and then move up to the top of the stairs.

Select a group of stationary non-elite mobs, cast a Starfire at the nearest one, and then cast Barkskin as you back down the stairs to force any casters in the non-elite group to move forward to regain Line of Sight.

Once the group is up in your face, you can cast Hurricane on them, generating a ton of threat (and a nice touch of damage) on all of them, helping to hold aggro on them while the Mages, Warlocks, Hunters and other Druids unleash their own AoE.

Barkskin, of course, prevents your channeled Hurricane spell from being interrupted while the group dogpiles on top- of you. Be prepared to shift into Bear form if your health drops too low, and regardless of your health level shift to Bear as soon as Hurricane finishes casting so you can Swipe to keep them on top of you.

Done correctly, your team can wipe out a group of non-elites without ever losing aggro to the other spellcasters, even without a Paladin tank using Consecrate.

The wrap up.

Okay, that there should cover the basics. Next time, providing that a ton of new hot info about Druids doesn't get released, I'll talk about the different fights in Kara, and some of the strategies I have found to be effective.

Thank you very much for your time, and I really hope that you find some of this to be a help in your future conquests.

Looking for more Druid goodness? Every week Shifting Perspectives provides you with advice, strats and humor for Druids of all specs. Read our complete guide to gearing your Bear Tank for Karazhan, leveling tips for Moonkin and our two part Bear tanking guide.

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