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Shifting Perspectives: Cat 101, part 3

Allison Robert

9. Basic cat gameplay:

Three words: JOHN F^%*$ING MADDEN.

The cat "rotation" is, in reality, a series of debuffs with varying priorities. Under ideal circumstances, you are able to keep all of them up for the length of a boss fight.

  1. If there is not another source for Faerie Fire or Feral Faerie Fire in the raid, apply it.
  2. Get behind the boss and stay there.
  3. Get Savage Roar up quickly and do not allow it to drop if at all possible. If dropped (this is unavoidable on many encounters), get it back up again. This cannot be over-emphasized. Not having SR up puts your DPS in the toilet.
  4. Get Mangle up, or ensure that it is on your target (via another cat, a bear druid's Mangle, or an arms warrior's Trauma).
  5. Get Rake up.
  6. Shred to 5 combo points.
  7. Rip at 5 combo points.
  8. Here's where things start getting weird. You now have a series of cooldowns and debuffs to juggle for the length of the fight, with the aim being never to allow Savage Roar, Mangle, Rake, or Rip to drop (or at least to keep their dropped time to a minimum). Keep reapplying them as necessary.
  9. If Omen of Clarity procs, use it for a free Shred. If Rip and Savage Roar are both up with 8 seconds or more to go on their timers and you have 5 combo points, use Ferocious Bite. It is very difficult incorporating FB into the rotation as it consumes all of your energy. If you are learning cat DPS, don't bother using it at all until you're adept at recognizing the periods where FB can be used without endangering another debuff.
  10. Tiger's Fury at 35 energy or less (assuming 3/3 King of the Jungle).
  11. Time Berserk around a trinket or weapon enchant proc (ideally both, but there's an element of luck there). Using it during Bloodlust/Heroism isn't as important.
Sound complicated? It is. Cat DPS is arguably the game's most difficult rotation, and certainly the easiest to screw up. If you have any amount of latency or don't have a Mangle bot (being able to drop Mangle from the rotation simplifies matters greatly), it becomes still more difficult.

I highly recommend use of the mods FeralByNight and/or BadKitty to school yourself on the proper rotation. Although FeralByNight is no longer being updated (and the community sorely misses Nightcrowler, its author) the basics are still there. It's a "suggester" mod telling you the most ideal skill to use at a given moment. While not flawless, it's an invaluable tool that shows what an ideal rotation looks like, in addition to giving you a breakdown on your exact stats (chance to hit, crit, etc.) versus a given target. There is no better way to get a handle on what cat DPS looks like when you're new to the spec.

After you're more familiar with with the basics of a cat rotation, you should download and use BadKitty. BadKitty allows you to watch debuff timers and clearcasting procs without "suggesting" skills, and it's significantly easier to customize and use than FeralByNight. Additionally, experienced feral players with a better handle on the rotation and the particulars of a given fight will recognize when FeralByNight gets things "wrong" (i.e. FBN will keep suggesting the same rotation regardless of fight conditions), and get better DPS out of the more hands-on approach afforded by BadKitty.

Plenty of other players customize other debuff and cooldown mods to work with cat DPS, but whatever you do, the default UI does not work very well with the spec and should be avoided at all costs.

10. Gems

Unfortunately, gem choice is entirely a function of the stats your existing gear supplies, which is one of the reasons that a tool like Rawr is virtually required.
  • Meta: Relentless Earthsiege Diamond. For the socket bonus (which requires a blue gem), you should use a Nightmare Tear in a blue slot somewhere on your gear (traditionally in the helm or weapon).
  • If the armor penetration on your gear is less than 400: Socket pure agility or (when needed) agility/hit, agility/haste (at high gear levels), hit, or hit/expertise.
  • If the armor penetration on your gear is greater than 400: Socket pure armor penetration.
  • If the armor penetration on your gear is greater than 400 and you have an armor pen proc trinket (Mjolnir Runestone, Needle Encrusted Scorpion, or Grim Toll): Subtract the amount of armor penetration granted by the trinket's proc from 1400 and gem armor penetration until you reach the number that's left. After that, gem agility. Actually, because this probably makes no sense whatsoever, just go read the Elitist Jerks page on this and scroll down until you reach the section on armor penetration rating, which will tell you what number you'll need by trinket. The goal here is not to waste the armor penetration proc by putting yourself over the hard cap.
  • If you can reach 1400 armor penetration (the hard cap) passively between gems and gear: Whatever's left for your sockets should be gemmed for agility, hit, expertise, or some combination of the three.
  • Should I gem for socket bonuses?: If you get more than 4 agility for doing it and it's convenient, go for it. If not, don't bother.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why stats are being simplified for Cataclysm.

11. Glyphs:

The three primary choices are:
It is not for nothing that two of the above glyphs directly impact your ability to keep debuffs going for an extended period. However, if you do not have a "Mangle bot" with you, you will want to substitute Glyph of Mangle for the Shred glyph. For 5-man work, Glyph of Berserk is often preferable, as trash and often bosses die so quickly.

Minor glyph choices for feral druids do not have any direct impact on DPS, and are mostly a matter of personal preference. However, Glyph of Dash is convenient, Glyph of Unburdened Rebirth will save you money on reagents, Glyph of Aquatic Form will make you the fastest thing in the existing game while in water, and Glyph of Thorns or Glyph of Challenging Roar are both convenient if you spend time tanking.

12. Endgame enchants:

Enchants for cats are pretty straightforward:

Every week, Shifting Perspectives treks across Azeroth in pursuit of truth, beauty, and insight concerning the druid class. Sometimes it finds the latter, or something good enough for government work. Whether you're a Bear, Cat, Moonkin, Tree, or stuck in caster form, we've got the skinny on druid changes in patch 3.3, a look at the disappearance of the bear tank, and thoughts on why you should be playing the class (or why not).

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