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Shifting Perspectives: A peek at the beta cat

Allison Robert

Every Tuesday, Shifting Perspectives explores issues affecting druids and those who group with them. This week, we wonder why Shred doesn't seem to appear in our combat logs.

My main is now 85 on the beta, and I've parked her at a training dummy from time to time to see what cat DPS looks like. Truthfully, I'm not sure that the resulting information is worth a damn, but it is representative of what you'll be seeing on a beta cat at the moment in questing gear.

Of the three specs we cover in the Tuesday column, cats have changed least, which I think is all to the good. Cats are emerging from Wrath in the best place we've ever been, with an interesting rotation and high damage potential subject to player skill and fight conditions. Blizzard seems to have concerned itself mostly with not changing what ain't broke and has instead moved to address some of the factors that have historically crippled cat DPS unfairly.

Most important: What happened to Nom Nom Nom? It is now named the utterly disgusting Feast of Flesh. Blech.

What are the feral spec bonuses? You'll get a lot of stuff for free simply because you picked the feral specialization, namely:
  • Aggression: Attack power increased by 25%.
  • Feral Instinct: Reduces the chance enemies have to detect you while Prowling.
  • Shapeshifter: Reduces mana cost of all shapeshifting by 60%.
  • Mastery -- Razor Claws: Increases the damage done by your bleed abilities by X percent. Each point of mastery increases bleed damage by 2.5 percent.
While this doesn't apply to cats, bears will also get the benefit of Vengeance and Savage Defender from having picked feral specialization.

I tank and DPS a lot. Am I going to get screwed over by having to pick only one? No. You get both as a result of going feral, but the bear benefits (Vengeance, Savage Defender) are exclusive to bear form, and the cat benefits (Feral Instinct, Razor Claws) are exclusive to cat form. The more generalized benefits (Aggression, Shapeshifter) apply to both.

What spec should I expect to use? The screenshot above is the one I'm using for the purpose of testing (link is here if you want to see it on Wowhead), but I'm not sure if I'd recommend it for raiding at 85. Survival Instincts and Nurturing Instinct may wind up being compelling talents, subject to what raid damage is going to be like (and if you're a hybrid bear/cat player, you'll have to free up points for Thick Hide at the very least). Healing efficiency has really taken a hit, and the additional survivability granted by both talents in conjunction with Leader of the Pack is such a huge advantage that I've honestly wondered how long that's going to remain the case.

Otherwise, if you take every talent that affects cat DPS or has a chance of affecting it, you'll have two points left over to do whatever you want. Cats have definitely had the easiest and most streamlined "speccing" process of the three specs I cover here.

How much does shapeshifting cost? Between Shapeshifter and Natural Shapeshifter (still required to get Master Shapeshifter, but now a two-point talent), shapeshifting costs are ridiculously low. At 85, it's 186 mana to shift to either Bear or Cat Form. Before you ask, Travel Form, Aquatic Form and Swift Flight Form are all 484 mana. This is out of a mana pool of 23,886.

What's questing and leveling like on a cat? With the increases to mob damage, it's pretty easy to get wrecked. Interestingly, this does not apply to caster mobs; weaving Skull Bash and Maim will keep them shut down for a long time, to the point where cats are likely to be a genuine threat against casters in PvP for the first time in ... ever. But if you're running around the world and you accidentally pull two mobs rather than one, switch to bear immediately. You are very likely to die otherwise.

What's the cat rotation going to be like? It should be fairly similar to what it is right now, but a lot more forgiving in that Savage Roar is much less crucial to DPS viability. Rather than affecting all of your damage, it now affects white hits only, so while it's required for optimal DPS, it's no longer in the position of wrecking everything you do if it falls off.

Otherwise, I don't think the rotation will change much, apart from some situational things. Assuming you've talented into Improved Feral Charge, Ravage is probably your best option for starting a fight (or rejoining it), as it's basically a guaranteed crit if your target is above 90 percent health. With Feast of Flesh (barf), Ferocious Bite will probably move into the space now occupied by Rip once your target's below 25 percent health (assuming, of course, that you already have Rip on the target to refresh).
What's our damage like right now? I went back and forth over whether it was worth it to record this. I'm pretty sure that feral DPS is still bugged to hell and back, but the numbers might be useful if you're looking to see what each skill is doing in relation to its counterparts. This is the damage I've recorded as a fresh 85 in leveling greens and blues on a raiding (i.e. level 88) dummy. Keep in mind that, because Uldum, the Twilight Highlands, and most higher-level dungeons haven't yet been itemized, you will definitely see higher numbers than this when Cataclysm goes live. This is just a record of what I'm seeing with an average ilevel of 308.

Energy cost 35
FFF up? Yes
Glyph of Mangle? No. There's no Wowhead link for this yet, but it's a new prime glyph increasing Mangle's damage by 10 percent. As you shouldn't have to Mangle more than once per minute anyway (assuming you have to do so at all), I would assume this will see more use as a bear glyph for threat purposes.
Average hit 2,136
Average crit 4,213

Mangle and Shred have moved a bit closer in damage than they currently are on the live realms, so in situations where you can't get behind something to Shred it, we're not quite as badly-off as we are on live.

Energy cost 40
Mangle up? Yes
FFF up? Yes
Average hit 2,824
Average crit 5,610

Still the bread-and-butter direct damage ability and -- glyphed, of course -- extending Rip.

Energy cost 35
Mangle up? If you ever apply a bleed to a target without Mangle being up, please turn in your Cat Card immediately.
Average tick 1,867
Average crit tick 3,734

Same basic skill, but now -- as with all DoTs -- the ability to crit without having to devote talents or a tier bonus to it. Business as usual; get it up, and keep it up.

Energy cost 30
Mangle up? Do you have to ask?
Glyph of Rip Yes. See below.
Average tick 1,101
Average crit tick 2,203

All Rips were done at five combo points, which is standard operating procedure. I'm also using the new Rip prime glyph (increasing the periodic damage of Rip by 15 percent), as it should be standard for all cat players at 85, at least as things stand now. As in Wrath, bleeds are contributing the largest portion of our DPS, and mastery is going to rock hard for us.

Ferocious Bite
Energy cost 35, plus up to 35 additional energy (same mechanic as on live)
FFF up? Yes
Average hit 7,216
Average crit 14,244

As with Rip, Ferocious Bite is only being done at five combo points here, and it now has an interesting, vaguely Execute-like mechanic from Feast of Flesh (God, I hope they rename that talent).

Energy cost 60
FFF up? No. For some reason, Feral Charge caused a massive lag spike for me, so I elected to go the classic route and Ravage out of stealth.
Average hit 5,328
Average crit 10,024

As always, you can Ravage out of stealth, but the ability's more useful with Improved Feral Charge, which allows you to get off two or even three Ravages on a target back to back (assuming you get a lucky Clearcasting proc). As I've mentioned before, this is massive, massive damage, especially because you're all but guaranteed a crit on at least two of them.

Feral Faerie Fire
This is now a stacking armor debuff identical to Sunder Armor, and they no longer stack. Feral Aggression, which is intended to give you all three stacks with one cast, seems to be intermittently bugged.

Glyphs have now been divided into prime, major and minor categories, and they're undergoing heavy revision. It's probably too early to devote any serious time to them, particularly because major glyphs for the feral spec haven't really been implemented yet. Bears, for example, have no prime glyphs unless you count Mangle, and cats don't have any major glyphs outside of Claw (reducing energy cost by five) and Rake (preventing the target from fleeing).

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, from a look at the disappearance of the bear tank to thoughts on why you should be playing the class (or why not).

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