Mixology 101: It’s Like Freshman Year all over again, but without the hangover. And more Cats.

Posted by in Feral, Technical, WotLK

For the duration of Burning Crusade, most questions about Feral DPS consumables could be explained with one word: Agility. LIKE IT! Unfortunately, the AGI heyday for Cat DPS is fading. Point-for-point, AGI gives us less of an AP gain than STR, and we can potentially gain more from straight Critical Strike Rating than AGI alone. A balance between AP and Crit % remains crucial for optimal DPS (more about that later), and to that end, we have a plethora of battle elixirs to choose from now. How do you decide?

For purposes of this discussion, we don’t give a shit about any stat that isn’t boosting our raw damage. Cat is for FITE! Assuming a basic Feral build that includes 5/5 Heart of the Wild (without the Alchemical benefit of Mixology), we can gather the following information about some of our favorite spirits:

Awesome, I threw some numbers at you like I know what I’m talking about. Let’s sort through them quickly. Usually, a combination of elixirs provides a better net benefit than a single flask—flasks are just a lot more cost efficient if you know you’re going to be dying repeatedly. But here’s a quick comparison:

Elixir of Major Strength + Elixir of Major Fortitude = ~116 AP and 350 Health (and an additional 20 hp5).

Flask of Endless Rage = 180 AP.

For a loss of 64 AP, you gain some fairly negligible health stats. Normally, I’d argue that any extra health is good health, but if your job is to be a one-dr00d assassination machine, forgo the 350 HP and hp5 and reap the benefits of half the equip value of a heroic DPS trinket (i.e. Bandit’s Insignia). Remember that a cat with 18,000 health can essentially heal herself for 720 hit points every time that iLotP procs. Trust that your healers will be able to make up for 350 HP and do yourself a favor: go for more damage.

Although the Flask of Endless Rage (and trailing soon after, the Elixir of Mighty Strength) top my shortlists for kitten drinks-of-the-year, you can potentially get a bigger damage increase by using either the Elixir of Accuracy or Elixir of Expertise. If for some insane reason you’re not hit capped at 8% or soft-expertise capped at 6.5%, using the Elixir of Accuracy or Elixir of Expertise will provide the biggest damage increase—because you’re actually able to connect with your target every time. There’s no point in boosting your AP, Crit, or anything else if you’re going to miss.

Chances are, however, that you’ve already fulfilled your Hit and Expertise obligations with gear. What about stocking up on Elixirs of Mighty Agility? For Cats, AGI is much less useful than it used to be. Despite the simultaneous increases to both crit and AP, you lose approximately 128 AP as compared to the Flask of Endless Rage or .42% Crit as compared to the Elixir of Deadly Strikes. It’s certainly not a bad choice, especially if you find yourself frequently switching from tank to DPS roles, but by evaluating the difference between your Critical Strike% and AP, you stand to potentially gain more by using a consumable to dramatically amp one over the other  (rather than a little of both).

Critical Strike is still important. You can stack AP and STR forever, but you’ll want a corresponding amount of Critical Strike (via Critical Strike Rating and AGI) to gain the largest DPS benefits. I could draw my own pictures for you, but why do the work when Tossk of Kael’thas has been doing it forever? He’s got a fantastic graph that illustrates approximately when +1 AGI is > +1 STR, and vice versa. The giant red line that marches steadily upwards represents the place where 1 AGI approximates 1 STR—your theoretical happy place you want to find eventually. You can see where you stand by plotting your position on the graph using your own data.

If you find yourself lacking in terms of critical strike (where +1 AGI > +1 STR), you may want to opt for the Elixir of Deadly Strikes rather than a flat out AP boost (since you’ll get nearly 1% Critical Strike out of it). If you’ve somehow managed to acquire an absurd amount of Critical Strike already, focus on improving your AP (via Elixir of Mighty Strength of Flask of Endless Rage). See how easy this shit is?

Armor Penetration is a little more complicated, but a basic formula is as follows: to increase your melee DPS against a target by 1%, you need to lower a target’s Damage Reduction from Armor by 1%.

DR%=Armor*100/[Armor+(467.5*AttackerLevel – 22,167.5)]
Which simplifies to:
DR% = [Armor / (Armor + 16,635)] x 100
A target with 10,000 armor would have a DR% of ~37.54. Great.
2.92% of 10,000 AC = 292. 10,000 AC – 584 AC = 9,708.
The new DR% = ~36.85.

Your elixir has thus increased your total physical DPS by .69%. This isn’t altogether significant. What if you have more? With 15% Armor Penetration (~231 Armor Penetration Rating), you will have a DR% of ~33.81, which brings your total physical DPS up by 3.73%. That’s much more significant, but we’re forgetting something pretty important here: your personal Armor Penetration applies after armor reducing debuffs are applied to a mob, making your own Armor Penetration less effective. Let’s use that same monster with 10,000 armor to illustrate.

Five Stacks of Sunder Armor = -3,925 AC
10,000 – 3,925 = 6,075 AC
New DR% = ~26.75
2.92% of 6,075 AC = 177.39. 6,075 AC – 177.39 AC = 5,897.61 AC
New DR% = ~26.17

After all’s been said and done, your little orange elixir has only increased your physical damage against the target by a pitiful 0.58%. Physical damage. Bleeds, like the DoT applied by Rip and Rake, ignore AC entirely and thus two major sources of our damage don’t even benefit from this shit. TL;DR—MATH IS HARD AND ARMOR PENETRATION REALLY ISN’T WORTH IT.

This leaves us with the Elixir of Lightning Speed. As I’m sure you know, Cat single-paw attack speed is normalized at one second, which is pretty quick already. Think about it like this: if you’re attacking with two weapons and dealing only physical damage, Haste sounds pretty great. The faster you hit, the more white damage you do, the more DPS you do. Unfortunately, we animal-types run into the same problem with Haste that we do with Armor Penetration—a good portion of our damage is dealt via Bleeds, which aren’t affected by Haste at all. Additionally, the lion’s share of our damage is dealt via yellow damage, whereas Haste speeds up the time between white damage attacks. Get the picture? It’s not a useless stat if you happen to have it, but there’s really no reason you should make a point in obtaining it.

Conclusion? If you’re a Hit and Expertise capped Cat, you’ll likely benefit the most by a Flask of Endless Rage or an Elixir of Deadly Strikes (with an Elixir of Mighty Fortitude). Base your decision on what you need more to balance out your stats: Critical Strike or Attack Power. Now go get drinking!

Thanks to Kalon for proofing a few sections of this for me!