Most WoW theory is about maximizing raid damage. But for the next few weeks we're all playing a different game: levelling up, mostly fighting mobs solo. What's the way to spec for solo play? The big thing is that Shred and Rip are basically useless when fighting alone. We also care about survival, particularly healing and damage mitigation.
Here's some talents that have unusual utility while levelling:
Feral Instinct: Stealth makes a lot of quests go faster and swipe spam is good bear AoE.
Feral Swiftness: moving faster is the #1 way to help you finish quests quicker.
Brutal Impact: Stuns are a big help when solo.
Nurturing Instinct: boosts your LotP self-heal, also makes your emergency Rejuvenation work better.
Improved LotP: passive self healing is huge. Also gives you mana!
Infected Wounds: 10% attack speed reduction on whatever you're fighting.
Improved Mangle: Mangle spam is your #1 cat DPS when solo.
Rend and Tear: Ferocious Bite will be your primary finishing move when fighting solo. OTOH, the Shred bonus is wasted.
Berserk: three minute cooldown means you can use it every two or three pulls
Talents that are not so useful in solo play:
Unfortunately there are way more talents I'd like to take for solo play than ones I'm willing to give up. Here's three possible compromise specs:
Going level 70 to 80 I'd take Berserk first, then Brutal Impact, then Rend and Tear, and finally Shredding Attacks. Of course this is all speculation, we'll see how the game plays.
PS: dear Blizzard. It was nice of you to give Moonkin two free talent points in the 3.0.3 patch. How about us poor ferals? Our tree is too tight.
Back when I started this blog it was mostly to share a bunch of the light theorycrafting I'd done when I switched to feral druid and had to learn about gear, talents, etc. I had a lot of good info about six months ago, but 3.0 and Wrath of the Lich King has thrown all that out the window. And I haven't kept up with my research.
Fortunately Kalon, amazing blogger and occasional commenter on this blog, has done the 3.0 research for me! And for you. Go read his blog. The last three posts are all Wrath preparation gold: Bear item list, Cat FAQ, Bear FAQ. (And new! Cat item list).
I've already done two things thanks to Kalon's blog. I made a level 80 bear outfit with his gear recommendations; I've got items from his lists except pants, shoulders, and one tinket. And I've respecced slightly to get closer to his 0/50/11 spec (I'm still taking Improved LotP over Infected Wounds). Now I just have to go back and read more about his DPS rotations.
Thanks to Karthis for reminding me to read Kalon's blog!
I've got a draft spec for 3.0 now, you can see it here. Comments welcome!
My goal is to take enough tanking talents that I can tank trash and boss adds, but optimize bear threat and cat DPS over bear survival. It's clear that the new feral tree requires a lot of choices at level 70, but since we have a warrior main tanking most bosses in our guild I'm going more for utility. So my logic was to take most of the core tanking talents Kalon recommends on his blog, but make some compromises for DPS. It may or may not work out, but I wanted to try something different.
Survival-wise, I'm missing Natural Reaction (6% dodge) and Protector of the Pack (12% damage reduction in bear form in a raid). DPS-wise, I'm missing Omen of Clarity and Improved Mangle. Also missing my beloved Nurturing Instinct. I used those points on Rend and Tear (more threat and DPS) and Infected Wounds (10% attack speed debuff! awesome utility if it stacks with Thunderclap on bosses.) Basically I'm going to be a somewhat fragile bear, but I should be able to put out a lot of threat and do a lot of DPS as a cat.
So tomorrow's the big day for 3.0. I'm totally unprepared, haven't been following along at all. I figured out what I need to know, though, and once I get the answers I'll summarize here. My big questions are:
I think if I can answer all those questions reasonably well, I can join my guild's raid on Tuesday.
As promised this blog has remained a WotLK-free zone. It's just too much work keeping up with all the changes and besides, I'd rather be surprised. I've even given away two beta keys to friends rather than get into it. But 3.0 is around the corner and I'm starting to want to know what to expect with the new talents and gear. So here's a roundup of some excellent blog posts on 3.0 and Wrath:
No doubt the game's going to change a lot for us. But the sky isn't falling, Blizzard is uniquely good at game balancing and is committed to making ferals viable. So hang tight and be sure not to throw out any gear between now and the 3.0 push.
WARNING: I'm not sure if the following notes are correct. Comments welcome!
Spell interrupts are a fun thing. Interrupts are game-winners in PvP and are essential in a variety of PvE encounters. Druids aren't usually considered master interrupters; that's shamans and rogues. But in fact feral druids have four different abilities that can interrupt spells. The trick is they're all different. As near as I can tell we only have one true interrupt: Feral Charge. But we also have a lot of other quasi-interrupts.
Incapacitates: Maim. Looks like a stun but is a bit different: any damage will break the incapacitate effect. As a side effect, a successful incapacitate interrupts spell casting. Maim is the quasi-interrupt I use most, but if a mob is immune to incapacitates Maim will not interrupt casting.
Spell interrupts: Feral Charge. A true spell interrupt, it stops casting as a direct effect and locks out further casting for a short period. The tooltip "interrupting any spell being cast for 4 sec" makes it clear that Feral Charge is like Kick, Counterspell, or Earth Shock in being specifically a spell interrupt.
In PvP pretty much all four of these interrupts can be used interchangeably. But in PvE most important mobs are stun and incapacitate immune, so the only PvE interrupt we have is Feral Charge. Which is very difficult to use since you have to be out of melee range to initiate it. BTW don't be confused by your combat text saying "Immune". Feral Charge also has a root effect which many mobs are immune to, but the interrupt may still be working.
The game-changer for druid spell interrupts is the Season 3 PvP gloves (also S4). They have the tooltip "Causes your Maim ability to interrupt spellcasting and prevent any spell in that school from being cast for 3 sec." I don't own a pair, but that seems to add a true spell interrupt to the incapacitate effect of Maim. Which is an enormous buff for PvE druids. As I said before; if 3.0 weren't coming out soon I'd be PvP farming up those gloves. But I believe the 3.0 talent trees include more feral spell interrupts, we'll see.
I have a heterodox opinion: it's not that important for cats to be at the hit cap. This came out in a discussion with Willowbear on my cat gear post and I wanted to examine it more.
First off, the basic math. +Hit lowers the chance that you Miss. The hit cap for feral druids is 142. That gives you an extra 9% chance to hit a mob, negating the 9% miss rate against level 73 bosses. Anything above 142 is wasted.
The usual advice for new melee DPS is "get more +hit". This is good advice, because generally when you start out in T4 raiding you have no hit at all on your gear. However, sometimes you have to make tradeoffs between hit and other stats. Hit helps you do damage, but agility/ap/crit makes your hits bigger. You want a balance of the two.
The details of that +hit balance vary depending on your stats. For my cat gear I rely on Toskk to weight it. His model tell me that in my current cat gear +1 agility is worth +1.5 hit. Ie: point for point agility is better for me, even though I'm not at the hit cap. I'll take +2 hit over +1 agility, but I'll take +1 agility over +1 hit. (Which has significant implications for gems). Note that at T6 gear levels the balance is heavily in favour of agility; at lower gear levels, +hit is more valuable.
One thing to watch out for with the +142 hit cap is once you've reached it, you don't benefit from any other hit. Any new gear with more +hit is wasted. Being in a group with a Draenei for another 1% hit doesn't help you. Improved Faerie Fire's +3% hit doesn't help you. Neither does +20 hit from food. If you run at the hit cap, you may be missing out on useful buffs. So there's an argument that it's best to be a bit under the hit cap for cat DPS.
The hit cap math works out differently for bears. Bears don't care much about average DPS, although it sure helps with threat generation. But we very much want predictable DPS. In particular that very first Mangle is critical. If you miss, then you have no threat on the mob and your trigger happy warlock will pull aggro with her first Shadowbolt. Worse, melee +hit also governs the chance that your Growl taunt works; no +hit means your taunt is going to fail 5% of the time on trash. So it's not just that +hit gives you incrementally more DPS and threat, it's that it makes you a more predictable tank.
While +hit is nice for bears, it's hard to find tanking gear with it. I'm a big fan of the Brooch of Deftness for tanking (or the new Shattered Sun Pendant of Resolve), but it has no defence which can create problems. The T5 pants are unusual in having some +hit. But other than that, it's quite a trick to find +hit in tank gear.
By the way, +hit only helps with Miss. You can also be Dodged or Parried; +Expertise helps with that. Ideally cats are never parried because they stand behind the mob, but even avoiding the dodge portion significantly helps DPS. And expertise is even more useful than hit for bear tanking. Not only do you land blows more often, you avoid parries and the subsequent riposte for a quick second attack. Ie: expertise is a mitigation stat for bears, too. There's a lot of debate about what the Expertise cap is, but it's fair to say for feral druids there's no practical upper bound.
Right now in my threat tanking gear I have 129 hit rating, 21 expertise rating. (That's probably too much hit). In my survival gear I have 42 hit rating, 0 expertise rating.
Someone finally wrote the tool I've been dreaming of! WowCardioRaid takes a WoW combat log and renders it as a timeline, showing you graphs of people's health and little dots for important events.
Above is a graph of me tanking Halazzi, the Zul'Aman boss famous for doing scary spiky damage. I've never had a lot of trouble tanking him as a bear, but looking at this graph gives me a new appreciation of the healing challenge. I fiddled with the program settings quite a bit to get a graph that's focussed on damage and heals to me (the main tank). The story is quite a little drama.
First thing to look at is the little green line for me, Flyv. That's my health during the fight. I'm well over 50% of health most of the time except right at the end when I dip to 10%. Scary! You can also see the health for my companion tank Pepped; he's helping out with Saberlashes and tanking the Spirit Lynx add and gets pretty low there a few times. And you can also see the health for the rest of the raid, including the periodic damage people take everytime Halazzi splits and the unfortunate death of Blessing, our shadow priest. (Last damage event was Shadow Word: Death. Oops.) Finally you can see Halazzi's health at the bottom. The sawtooth pattern is not typical of a boss, but Halazzi respawns at full health three times during the fight.
The next thing to look at are the little dots. I used the tool to filter it so it shows dots for four things. White is melee damage from Halazzi, yellow is spell damage from Halazzi, bright green is direct heals on Flyv and dark green is HoTs on Flyv.
Focussing first on the damage, if you look at Halazzi's line you can see a sequence of white dots for his melee attacks. That's your basic combat damage, no big deal. The yellow dots are scarier; those represent his Transfiguration damage to the whole raid as well as Saber-Lashes to the two tanks. You can see the correlations between three of the yellow dots and the whole raid taking damage. There's also Saber-Lashes; it's this spike damage that makes that fight hard on the tank healers. I managed to dodge most of them, but had a string of bad luck in the middle of the fight. And the scary dip at the end is where I happened to take a bunch of melee hits in a row combined with a Saber-Lash (a big one; 6240 damage).
Finally you can look at how the healers healed me during the fight. Our two main healers were Menstumper (paladin, direct heals) and Tracewind (druid, HoTs). There's also a lot of healing incoming from Blessing (shadow priest) and from myself (Improved Leader of the Pack, Lifeblooms popping, and a string of Frenzied Regeneration ticks).
My favourite part of the graph is the two direct heals that came from Pepped, right at the end of the fight when I was about to die. My brother tank saved my life! That last heal is actually a Lay on Hands, an enormously powerful ability. Quick thinking may well have saved our raid.
So that's a quick example of the WowCardioRaid tool. It's got some rough edges in the UI, still a new program, but it's already immensely powerful and fun to play with.
Mining seems to be the most profitable of gathering professions. Ore has two consumers; blacksmiths and jewelcrafters. And gems are consumables, so there's a lot of demand. I imagine Herbalism works out pretty well too, but I know for sure Skinning sucks.
I've been working mining on my Hunter alt as she levels up. It got significantly easier to level mining in 2.4 because smelting now gives more skill points. You can get about 175 points solely from smelting easy-to-find ore. In most cases the bars sell for about the same prices as the cost of the ore, so it's free. That means you only have to whack 200 nodes to fully level mining. Boring if you do it at level 70, but totally easy if you do it as you level up.
Here are the Smelting recipes along with what range of mining levels they're good for levelling up. I've capped these at the point they turn green. You can still get a few more points afterwards but it gets tedious.
300-307: Fel Iron
The big flat spot is 270-300. You're probably anxious to get to the Outlands, but you need mining 300 to mine anything at all out there. I ended up having to do a couple hours of purely mining before I could head through the Dark Portal. A pair of mining gloves can help you out a little.