What do you do when you’re not satisfied with your DPS output? Well, first I evaluate my sobriety.[i] If that’s not at issue, I complain about it to Lycentia and deflate into a wasted husk of futility. After five minutes or so of that, it’s time to get serious. I start by asking myself a few simple questions.
1. Did I die?[ii]
2. Was I forced to DPS in front of the boss?[iii]
3. Was there a lot of target switching?[iv]
4. Did I forget to eat/flask?[v]
5. Is there a lot of movement in this encounter?[vi]
These kinds of DPS discrepancies can usually be addressed (or even written off[vii]) with a few tweaks. But when low DPS becomes a perennial struggle, it’s time to seriously overhaul your play. Sometimes it’s just a matter of acquiring better gear or reforging what you have for maximum efficiency, like ensuring you’re prioritizing Mastery Rating over Haste, for example. You can even Ask Mr.Robot or place your faith in the reforging templates available in ReforgeLite.
But when that isn’t enough, you evaluate your rotation. While I wholeheartedly enjoy not having to be the mangle bot anymore, we now have the added complexity of managing Thrash and Predatory Swiftness[viii] procs. You should be keeping up Savage Roar, Faerie Fire, Rip, Rake, and Thrash, and making sure you’re not clipping the dots. If any of those buffs, dots, or debuffs wears off, your damage suffers dramatically until you manage to get them back on track. It’s very easy to screw up and play inefficiently. I’m often tempted to sneak in a Ferocious Bite when I’d be better off refreshing Savage Roar or waiting another three seconds for Rip to fall off.
What else? You need to keep an eye on Omen of Clarity. Opportune Omen of Clarity procs are the best way to keep Thrash on the target—a free Thrash means that you’re not penalizing your rotation by wasting fifty energy without gaining a combo point. You also want to avoid hitting Tiger’s Fury as soon as it comes off cooldown; if you have more than thirty-five energy, you’ll waste it. You’ll want to take advantage of Berserk, too, but if you activate it when you’re low on energy, it’s not going to help you much.
There’s more, and you can get down to fine details analyzing logs and using SimulationCraft, but my point is that optimal feral DPS requires considerable micromanagement. We know this—it always has. Part of the joy of cat raiding is successfully handling a relatively complex rotation and seeing huge DPS gains. Since Cataclysm, though, it’s felt…clunky. Ponderous. Stretches between Shreds sometimes feel like minutes. The effort involved in managing our rotation does not ever seem to equal the damage being done. As someone on Twitter confessed, optimal play still seems to land ferals in the middle of the DPS pack. Couple this with the problems inherent to melee, and it becomes pretty discouraging.
Listen—I’ll admit that I’m not rocking the best gear these days. Maybe I’m even a little lazy, a little cavalier about my maths. But comparing my elemental shaman to my feral druid speaks volumes. With very minimal effort[ix] and monitoring, I can do eight bazillion damage on Brewnette. I still optimize my rotation and scrutinize my gear, but it’s never a chore. It’s breezy. Chain Lightning is joyous. I have useful minions. I can cast Lightning Bolt on the run without activating any additional spells, and I can even still turn into an animal. What’s not to love?
I miss feeling that same gleeful exhilaration while playing my druid, and I can’t help but feel like it’s not just me. How can we make the feral experience better?
[i] Oh, like you haven’t had a drunk Karazhan night. Come on.
[ii] Stop being stupid and use your damage-reduction cooldowns next time.
[iii] This is actually less of an issue than it used to be thanks to the initial damage equalization between Mangle and Shred. It is, however, still better to Shred whenever possible because it’ll do more damage on bleeding targets.
[iv] Generally not conducive to any rotation that requires ramp-up time, especially if the targets die quickly.
[vi] The more you’re moving around, the less time you’ll be able to punch the boss.
[vii] Let’s face it—some bosses are designed to be handled more technically; the glass cannon approach isn’t always feasible.
[viii] Assuming you’ve taken Dream of Cenarius, of course.
[ix] Flame Shock, Lava Burst, Elemental Blast, Lightning Bolt, Earth Shock—rinse and repeat and maybe drop some totems.