A Cyclical Rotation
Feral druids have two "cycles" that they must manage at all times. The first cycle I alluded to previously, and is a simple one of using basic attacks to build your combo points, then a finisher to spend them. Overlaying that cycle, however, is the cooldown of Tiger's Fury. When TF is available for use, you want to use abilities as quickly as possible to reduce your energy low enough to maximize TF's benefit. When TF is on cooldown, you want to use abilities as slowly as possible (a concept known as "energy pooling") to keep energy free to refresh DoTs as fast as possible. Of course, when Berserk is available, go nuts.
Here's the most critical abilities you need for DPS'ing.
- Shred Basic attack. Increases combo points by 1, or 2 on a crit, and extends the duration of Rip. Your primary direct-damage ability, but it only works from behind, so paying attention is key; it's far too easy to miss the error message that your attacks aren't hitting. If you are stuck attacking frontally, sub in Mangle instead. (Mangle no longer has a bleed debuff, so this is the only case in which you'll use it.) In all cases, you'll sub in Ravage while using Incarnation.
- Rake Basic attack. A damage-over-time ability that hits (or "ticks") six times over 15 seconds. Increases combo points by 1 (2 on crit). You'll want to keep this up and ticking close to 100% of the time.
- Savage Roar Finishing move that provides a 30% damage buff for 18 to 42 seconds, depending on the number of combo points used. This is the most important finisher you have: you want this up at all times, as you hit like a kitten with it down. Single-target, AoE, any situation. If possible, you want to refresh it at 5 combo points to cut down on energy use, but if it drops, put it up immediately with whatever combo points you currently have. When glyphed, you can use SR with 0 combo points, which is very helpful at the beginning of a fight.
- Rip Finishing damage-over-time move that ticks 8 times over 16 seconds; damage is based on number of combo points used. If Rip is on the target, the next three Shreds (or Mangle/Ravage) will add 2 seconds and an additional tick. Second in priority to Savage Roar.
- Ferocious Bite Consumes all your current energy (minimum of 25, maximum of 50) and combo points for a large direct-damage attack. If the target is under 25% health, a Ferocious Bite will also refresh Rip's duration. (This refresh is known as the Blood in the Water or BitW effect, after the Cataclysm talent.) You can use this if you're finishing something off, but you won't use it too much in groups above 25% health; you won't have the energy or combo points to spare..
- Tiger's Fury Immediately generates 60 energy and increases damage done by 15% for 6 seconds. Use this on cooldown. I can't stress this enough; people try to save it, which is a bad idea 99% of the time. Shred a few times to burn off some energy, use it, and keep going.
- Berserk For 15 seconds, all of your abilities cost 50% less energy. Unlike TF, this one you have some flexibility on; use it when you've got a chance for some uninterrupted damage time. Note that Tiger's Fury is locked out while Berserk is active; to best combine the two, save your Berserk for immediately after a TF use.
- Soul of the Forest / Incarnation / Force of Nature Your level 60 talent choice. Soul of the Forest is a passive bonus that effectively lowers the cost of all your finishers. Incarnation is a 3 minute burst cooldown that gives you a sweet armored form and some extra damage (by swapping Ravage for Shred). Force of Nature is the old balance treants on a 1m CD that also stun your target. Overall, SOTF is the best choice, with FoN being good for fights that require burst. Incarnation looks cool but is rather lackluster.
- Heart of the Wild / Dream of Cenarius / Nature's Vigil Your level 90 talent choice. Heart of the Wild is a passive bonus that also adds the ability to go off-role (healing, ranged DPS) temporarily. Dream of Cenarius completely changes up your rotation by asking you to weave in healing casts to buff your damage abilities; Nature's Vigil is another burst damage cooldown that also adds some splash healing. Overall, Dream of Cenarius has the best theoretical DPS, but the DoC rotation is very difficult to use optimally, so I generally recommend Heart of the Wild.
- Swipe Basic area-of-effect (AoE) attack. Also generates combo points, so you can swap in Swipes for Shreds when you have a primary target and a few extras running around.
- Thrash AoE damage-over-time ability that ticks 6 times over 15 seconds. If a pack of enemies will last for a while, you want to Thrash them first then Swipe away.
Cats can't use their claws all
- Faerie Fire This ranged ability does no damage in cat form, but applies the Faerie Fire effect, which prevents the target from turning invisible, and the Weakened Armor effect, which reduces the target's armor by 12%. You'll have plenty of free GCD's while waiting for energy to refresh, so get used to refreshing it when you can.
- Rebirth This lets you resurrect another player in combat. This capability, known as a "battle rez/brez," used to be an iconic druid-only ability before it was spread to a few other classes, but mastering its quick use can be the difference between a kill and a wipe. (You can only use 1 brez per fight, or 3 brez's in a 25-man group; don't bother trying to save the second/fourth person who dies.)
- Barkskin A 20% damage reduction ability, lasts for 12 seconds. Not going to save you if things are really intense, but has saved my furry butt in "oops" moments tons of times. For beginners, you may want to just macro it to Tiger's Fury so you don't forget to use it; not really worth saving except in specific situations.
- Survival Instincts 3 minute CD. A 50% damage reduction ability, lasts for 12 seconds. Unlike Barkskin, this WILL save you if things are intense, so keep it handy.
- Predatory Swiftness / Healing Touch Every time you use a finisher, you have a chance to proc Predatory Swiftness. This lets you instant-cast in-form a few Nature spells; you'll primarily use this with Healing Touch as a self-heal, or if you're feeling skilled, as a tank/raid heal.
- Omen of Clarity Every time you autoattack, you have a small chance to proc Omen of Clarity, which makes your next ability free of cost ("clearcasting"). This doesn't change things up much, as your rotation will remain the same; just try to use OOC as soon as it procs, as it can't proc again while one is already active.
- Tranquility This mega-group heal is channeled (meaning you can't do anything else while you're using this) but it WILL save your party in a pinch. Best used with Heart of the Wild and a macro to swap in an intellect weapon.
- Mark of the Wild This buff gives 5% to primary stats for you and your group.
A new ability for all druids in Mists of Pandaria is Symbiosis. This level 87 ability grants both the casting druid and his/her friendly target one new ability. The ability received by the druid is based on the druid's spec and the class of the target, while the ability received by the target is based on the target's spec and class.
Confused yet? Yeah, me too. There's very few combinations that are strong both ways, which means you'll inevitably end up choosing to buff yourself or buff your group/raid. If you choose yourself, the best Symbiosis choice is a Rogue or Warlock, since they can give you Redirect or Soul Swap. Both abilities will significantly shore up feral's primary weakness, which is target-switching fights. You could also choose to use Symbiosis with a Paladin or Priest to get Divine Shield or Dispersion, to help keep you alive.
If you're looking to buff your raid, though, the best option is to Symbiosis a tank. All of the tanks get an extra cooldown via Symbiosis, which makes them almost the default choice. Other than that, everything else is highly situational, so check out this full list of Symbiosis abilities
for more details.Rotation
The feral rotation is generally acknowledged as one of the hardest in the game. Here's a simplified version to get you started.
- Savage Roar, if it's down. Always.
- Tiger's Fury on cooldown. (Only if below 30ish energy, Shred/Rake if you need to.)
- Berserk on cooldown. Use right after a TF for best results. Delay use if TF will come off cooldown in 15 seconds or less.
- Any other DPS cooldowns you have (Nature's Vigil, Incarnation, Force of Nature) use on cooldown.
- Ferocious Bite to extend a Rip if the target's health is below 25%. Prefer to use at 5 CP, but use at any CP to keep the Rip rolling.
- Shred to extend a Rip, if you haven't used three yet.
- Rip, if you have 5 CP's and it's down.
- Savage Roar if you have 5 CP's and the SR/Rip timers will expire within 4 seconds of each other. (This is called a "desync" and is an advanced tactic.)
- Rake, if it's down.
- Shred (or Ravage during Incarnation) filler.
For AoE fights, you'll still be keeping SR up at all times, but you'll Thrash first and then Swipe as you get energy.Talents
This isn't Cataclysm where you pick your talents once and you're done; now, you'll want to switch up talents as necessary for certain fights. Take this general recommendations with that in mind.
- Level 15: Feline Swiftness or Wild Charge. Displacer Beast is beyond terrible. Feline Swiftness is a great passive but Wild Charge is amazing for short bursts of movement. Either one's a good choice.
- Level 30: Any. Nature's Swiftness gives you an on-demand instant heal/rez, similar to Predatory Swiftness. (if you have PS up and use NS, the next cast will consume both buffs- beware!) Renewal is a simple instant heal, but with a longish CD. Cenarion Ward is great for leveling, but tends to become overhealing in a group. All are reasonably good choices. Note that going with DoC at level 90 pretty much forces you to take NS.
- Level 45: Any. All of these talents will be useful only in very specific situations. If you can use it, take it. Faerie Swarm is probably the least useful because we already have Infected Wounds.
- Level 60: Soul of the Forest. If the upcoming fight has a specific burst requirement, pick up Incarnation (for long, widely spaced burst) or Force of Nature (for shorter, smaller burst). Otherwise, stick with SOTF, especially when gearing up.
- Level 75: Mighty Bash. More situational talents. Ursol's Vortex is pretty nice but hard to use, Disorienting Roar is pretty meh. I'll take the 5 second stun in any form, thanks.
- Level 90: Heart of the Wild. While Dream of Cenarius provides the highest DPS in theory, I can't justify recommending it for a 101 guide. Therefore, I'd go with HOTW for the passive buff + added utility, swapping in Nature's Vigil for burst requirements.
Glyphs are much less important than they used to be for most classes; however, the Glyph of Cat Form and the Glyph of Savagery are pretty much chalk, with the last choice being more situational. I think Survival Instincts or Shred would be my pick.
Stat Weights and Enchants
- Glyph of Cat Form Absolutely essential. If you're in Cat for any significant length of time, you need this glyph. No exceptions.
- Glyph of Savagery Mandatory for feral raiders, now that SR is more important than it used to be.
- Glyph of Survival Instincts Of course, this glyph will be encounter-dependent, but for fights where you don't have a preplanned use for SI, I think I prefer this version of the ability. You're not a tank so you don't need the full duration, you just need to survive until the healer can get to you.
- Glyph of Shred Has definite upsides and downsides for PvE. Downside: Shredding from the front (as opposed to moving behind the enemy first) means the target gets a chance to parry. Upside: After Berserk/TF, you're likely very close to energy cap anyway, so it's less bad to Shred from the front than lose some energy.
- Glyph of Dash When it was minor, it was great. As a major? Not so much.
- Glyph of Rebirth This used to be mandatory; now that Rebirth returns a player to 60% health instead of 20%, it's not required anymore.
- Glyph of Faerie Fire Good for applying FF with a bit more flexibility.
- Glyph of Ferocious Bite Not recommended, at least for the first tier. You won't be biting all that often.
- Glyph of Might of Ursoc Situational, but nice. If you need to survive one BIG spike, take this.
- Glyph of Prowl Handy, but pretty situational; cats don't have a big stealth toolbox.
- Glyph of Skull Bash I generally wouldn't recommend this, except for very specific situations.
Feral's pretty easy, compared to other specs. Get the best weapon you can, then get as much agility as you can. After that, you've got two options. Reforging to mastery is the best theoretical DPS option, but for most players, I'd recommend reforging to 7.5% hit and expertise to ensure no missed sttacks; the DPS penalty is slight.Consumables
Several more options here than we used to have, thanks to the new focus on cooking. Unlike in Cataclysm,
to get the best-possible food, you can't rely on a feast; you'll need to cook/buy your own.
That's it for now! I'll keep this post edited with changes to the theorycraft as they occur. Keep your claws sharp!
Looking for the latest and greatest in feral cat druid guides? Shifting Perspectives has the answers! Check out our guide to soloing instances and raids, as well as our top gear recommendations and feral guides to the Siege of Wyrmrest Temple and the Fall of Deathwing.