Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Kitty DPS at level 80 in 4.0.1

ETA: Additional post with some updates here!

Some quick news first, Cataclysm finally has an official release date of 7 December, 2010! Post here.

Also, as the game world (or at least specs et al) did not blow up this past Tuesday, Patch 4.0.1 is not yet live. It is most likely coming next Tuesday (12th), but I'm not promising anything! As ever, dates can change and nothing has been officially announced (as of this writing, at any rate).

Following my post on Druid healing in 4.0.1, I thought I'd spend some time on Feral DPS in 4.0.1.

Cats are getting a bit of a mixed bag in the upcoming patch and in Cataclysm. We have some nice new talents (even if 'NomNomNom' was retitled 'Blood in the Water', which makes it sound like it should boost our Seal-form dps I think!) which, while not really game changing, are still nice boosts. Those who have struggled with kitty dps in the past will find the buffs and debuffs a bit easier to maintain, while those who enjoy the complexities of kitty dps will be pleased to know that you still have to be sharp as ever to maintain them all. We have a new, reliable interrupt off the GCD for both cat and bear form (and new Brutal Impact which can reduce its cooldown, making it on par with other classes' interrupts). With the new armour specialisations, we shouldn't have other classes yoinking our BiS pieces (oh, the raging I've seen over Tossk's Maximized Wristguards when warriors have rolled on them in pugs....).

In fact, the only real downside for cats right now seems to be in terms of actual damage numbers. As is my understanding (and correct me if I'm wrong), warriors are in a similar position right now on Beta and PTR, and a lot of the issues seem to stem from the disappearance of armour penetration a a stat (as arpen was a massive boost to all physical damage classes). I could have sworn I saw a blue post mention in passing that the developers were aware that both warrior and feral damage was low and hadn't finished being tuned, but I can't for the life of me find that post again (if anyone has seen it and can source it for me, I would appreciate it). Because of that, do not quote me on it! But I'm hoping I did actually read it and didn't just imagine it in my hopes for a fix.

Just doing a straight comparison of simple DPS self-buffed on a dummy on live and on Beta, it seems like I've lost about 2k in straight DPS. (This is with the same gear BUT, some different stats due to the arpen gem change, and missing some talents because of the new level cap). That all being said, don't panic! Simple numbers aren't the end of the world and, especially with more testing on the PTR, Beta, and when patches and more go live, hopefully the numbers will be tuned up. Cat gameplay itself is not facing any drastic changes (and have some really nice alterations in my opinion), and changes in simple numbers (rather than entire abilities) are a lot easier to come about.

Also, do keep in mind, Blizzard is NOT trying to balance all the classes around level 80 at this patch - this is all in preparation for Cataclysm, and for ultimate balance at level 85. EVERY class is going to be out of sorts for a while, and damage roles in particular will have very prominent and easy-to-see changes just from watching the damage meters in fights. The change in level cap will also affect which points we can get - you will be 83 before you can get Master Shapeshifter, which means at minimum 4% less crit than you have currently.

On to how to prepare for patch 4.0.1!
For one, if you haven't already, stock up on some gems. You may want to check the currency converter on MMO-Champ to see just how many Justice Points your current Emblem stock will get you, but I might suggest to play it safe and pick up gems now with Emblems rather than waiting (as gem prices will be changing too). It's looking like the Honour Gem quartermasters are removed as well, so if you have spare honour lying around (gems are 10k each) you may like to pick up some with that too. I suggest picking these up before the patch day as I expect many people will be taking advantage of high demand following the patch, so AH prices will likely be high.
All Armour Penetration gems will be converting to Crit Rating gems in 4.0.1. They will also all become yellow. For cats, the best bet for gemming seems to be replacing those crit gems with Agility (Delicate Cardinal Ruby). While you theoretically could keep the crit gems, remember - Agility contributes both to your attack power in Cat Form and to your crit rating, and Agility will scale with Kings and Gift. Also - Hit gems are becoming blue gems in 4.0.1 (from yellow). Most cats need to gem for hit with ICC gear and you may find yourself losing some socket bonuses where you've placed Hit gems into yellow sockets. Socket bonuses are arguable but you may find you still wish to take them, in which case you may have to shuffle your hit gems around as well as your new Agility gems.
You may also need some new enchants, the first which springs to my mind is the Executioner enchant (which increases arpen on proc). Likely your best bets for a replacement enchant will be Mongoose or Massacre
As with Resto and Balance, I recommend stocking up on some glyphs pre-patch, as they will likely shoot up in price on the AH as well.

At level 80, I'm planning on using the following spec at level 80:

As mentioned earlier, we do not have enough points at level 80 to pick up Master Shapeshifter, so we will have a crit loss until at least level 83. A number of the new talents are boosting our buffs, debuffs and energy. Blood in the Water will be excellent towards the ends of fights - you won't have to worry as much about whether throwing in some Ferocious Bites will result in your Rip falling off. Endless Carnage is increasing Rake and Savage Roar durations. Predatory Strikes is increasing our Ravage damage and Stampede makes it easier to actually use Ravage in our rotations, particularly on movement fights. ETA: Playing around on Beta, I've also realised another great boost to Stampede - because we get 10 seconds to use Ravage, you can Feral Charge a target while stealthed, get off a Pounce while still stealthed to get that bleed up, and be able to pop Berserk and still have time to get that Ravage in before launching into your full rotation. With Predatory Strikes increasing Ravage crit chance on targets above 80% health, it's great to throw that into our opening attacks.

Primal Madness is a nice boost as well - increases our maximum energy by 20 during Savage Roar and Berserk. On top of that, haste will now feed our energy regen. I will say this - despite my actual numbers being lower, it was definitely a lot easier to keep all my buffs and debuffs up, and I found myself both having the time and the energy to work in Ferocious Bites a lot more frequently. The difference in energy does feel noticeable (to me at least!).

You can see as well; there are enough points for me to pick up Thick Hide (a Bear/tanking talent which makes me uncrittable) and Survival Instincts, a useful survivability tool. There are enough points remaining for me to pick up Master Shapeshifter and Brutal Impact at 85. 


Prime: RipSavage RoarShred. These three glyphs are still as crucial as ever.

Major: I'm still undecided on Major glyphs. It seems like we have the potential to be flexible here (and even be able to pick up some Bear glyphs). Feral Charge seems like a potentially good glyph, particularly as it would allow us to work in more Ravages in a fight. Rebirth might be a nice utility glyph to have in raids, particularly to assist healers when you need to Battle Rez someone. The Major glyphs still feel quite open to me. I'd be interested in doing more detailed research on the Ferocious Bite glyph and in seeing some theorycrafting on it. Preventing it from converting extra energy into damage seems like a waste of extra dps, although perhaps it would have some use in keeping energy levels up. However, as I was not feeling energy starved on Beta, I don't really see an advantage to this glyph in a PVE context.

Minor: The only crucial Minor glyph is, as ever, Unburdened Rebirth. Glyph of Dash is still very useful. Challening Roar may be a nice glyph to have as feral (particularly if you pick up those Bear talents in your spec) for emergency tanking situations to keep adds off of healers. Your minors are pretty flexible though.

In terms of our actual rotation: Really, not much is changing in 4.0.1 and in Cataclysm (so far). The main difference will really be working in Ravage more into fights and likely using Ferocious Bite much more than we do currently (especially towards the ends of fights). (For more information on the actual rotation and maintaining our buffs and debuffs, check out my Kitty DPS guide).

Movement fights will offer the best use for Stampede/Ravage. Some examples in ICC when you can use Feral Charge (Cat) and throw in a Ravage!
- Marrowgar: Jumping to Bone Spikes or back to Marrowgar after a bonestorm.
- Lady Deathwhisper: Leaping to LDW between waves of adds, leaping to adds themselves, or leaping back to LDW after running away from ghosts.
- Gunship: Leaping onto the Battle Mage .
- Putricide: Leaping onto the green or orange goo or Professor Putricide.
- Rotface: Leaping back onto Rotface after Ooze Explosion.
- Princes: Leaping between the Princes on each target change.
- Blood Queen Lanathel: Leaping back to BQL after fear/BloodBolt Whirl.
- Dreamwalker: Leaping onto adds.
- Sindragosa: Leaping onto Frost Tombs or Sindragosa (though be careful of Tail Smash).
- Lich King: Leaping onto Raging Spirits; onto the Lich King when running back from dropping off a Necrotic Plague, back in after transitions or after dpsing valks.

You can also use Feral Charge to open fights - if you're running in and unable to start stealthed, you can cast a Faerie Fire on the run in then Feral Charge, hit a Ravage, then launch into your normal rotation. You also have 10 seconds to use Ravage in before you lose the proc, so you don't need to use it right away - you can refresh another debuff beforehand if needed or, as mentioned earlier, if you start and Charge stealthed, you can get your Pounce in beforehand.

In summation; mostly good changes in terms of talents for Cats. The patch will be a little trickier for dps in terms of rebalancing stats around, as the removal of arpen is very significant for us, affecting both our dps and our gear stats as they shift to accommodate the change. It's seeming like cat dps will be taking a hit in this patch (though we will see when it actually goes live), but hopefully this will be taken care of soon if it is a problem. Though also, do keep in mind, Blizzard is NOT trying to balance all the classes around level 80 at this patch - this is all in preparation for Cataclysm, and for ultimate balance at level 85. EVERY class is going to be out of sorts for a while, and damage roles in particular will have very prominent and easy-to-see changes just from watching the damage meters in fights. Again, don't panic! Have fun, check out the new talents, and play around with your gear and stats (reforge if you need to!) to see what works for you. With a quick glance at Toskk's DPS Gear Method, it does not yet seem to be updated for 4.0.1 (and I'm not positive if it will be - if anyone knows for sure, let me know). I'll be keeping an eye on that and similar sites, as they are all extremely helpful for balancing stats on gear for dps.

ETA: There is a successor to Tossk's DPS Gear Method called Mew. There's a nice write-up of the programme over at the Fluid Druid, which includes some screenshots as well as how it works. There's an online version of Mew here (requires java), a downloadable binary here, and a code developers can download here. Yawning of No Chicks Allowed developed it and also wrote up a very detailed guide to kitty dps which is up on the WoW forums here, definitely worth a look!

As with my Resto guide, I'll begin preparing a full Feral dps guide for 4.0 and Cataclysm. Again, it will be a work in progress, as changes are still coming in and will continue to do so at least until Cata's release, if not for some time after as well.


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