This Doesn’t Feel Very Good: Feral State of Play in 5.3

Posted in Feral, Rant on Jul 12, 2013

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.

Heard that one before.

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.

[v] *headdesk*

[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.


  • At 2013.07.12 13:53, Tinderhoof said:

    Hey Runy.
    The opening gear levels for Ferals this expac were very rough on us. During the beta they did a compress of crit scaling. I think they also lowered base crit for everyone. This hurt us pretty bad as we were really dependent on those extra combo points from crit. Another thing that was added that changed the way our rotation worked was Soul of the Forest. Because it refunded energy for finishers it actually made wasting combo points kind of a bad thing. In previous expacs if we hit 5 combo points but had nothing to refresh we might use FB, but we might also just keep shredding. Now if you have 5 combos and don’t need to refresh something we just FB. Even if you lose some Rip uptime it still ends up being a DPS up (even at a 463 level). Now at the lower gear levels you won’t run into this as much, but it is something to take into consideration.

    The addition of Rune to the mix made things all funny. In an effort the gain the biggest buff possible from Rune you basically need to reforge your gear to have all secondary stats almost exactly the same with Mastery being 1 point higher (Rune ignores raid wide buffs like Might). Also because it’s an RPPM trinket the more haste you have the more often it is likely to proc (it also ignores raid wide buffs for haste). Haste by itself is still pretty bad for energy regen and attack speed, but having it buff your trinkets plus getting a higher mastery buff out of rune will make you want to bump it up. Also I know Dancing Steel is pricy, but Windsongs proc will screw the Rune proc up, so even getting the old 120 agi enchant is going to be better then Windsong.

    There is a lot to take in no doubt. Enjoy the new Feral. We reforge and regem a lot, but we are still pretty damn fun when you get back into the swing of things.

    • At 2013.07.15 11:00, Runycat said:

      I mentioned this on Twitter, but because of the initial gear crunch this expansion, I actually set my druid aside and started playing my elemental shaman instead. I do, however, miss playing my druid at the level I used to, so I recently dusted her off and started trying to acquire more gear (which has also necessitated constant reforging, gemming, and enchanting). There’s nothing wrong with that process, but it’s definitely slow going.

      I think my point was that I’m not unaware of all the changes ferals have gone through this expansion, but rather that even while adapting to said changes and acquiring more gear, everything still feels extraordinarily slow, and DPS seems lackluster when one examines the effort put into it.

      I imagine I’d be a lot happier with heroic gear, if I decided I wanted to get back into moderately competitive raiding, but I think we can make the argument that you shouldn’t have to have best-in-slot gear to have your class’s playstyle finally feel seamless. I’ll definitely continue to evaluate it.

    • At 2013.07.12 16:38, R said:

      I sympathize greatly with your plight. Through all of Wrath and the early part of Cataclysm I too struggled with making the kitty work to an acceptable performance level. However, I found a solution!

      I leveled my rogue.

      For a while, all was good (very good, after the heirlooms were announced and acquired). However, the MoP stat deflation hit rogues quite hard and the much slower pace of the rotation was unacceptable so once again I was adrift without a leather-wearing melee bloody floor stain[ii] in my arsenal.

      Then I leveled my monk and all is still great.

      Sorry, where was I? Oh, right, kitty rotational and dps issues.

      Wish I could help. My druid is now an ineffective, arm-waving tree who will occasionally heal someone for a tiny amount when shields that the other 5[x] healers have stacked on everyone actually break for a split second. Assuming I somehow anticipate the break in advance. This has generally not been my experience. There are sub-optimal ways to deal with this, however[i].

      My monk, on the other hand, remains a blackout face-kicking, furious junk- or ass-punching[xi] spinning crane kick of awesome[xii].

      [x] What, there’s raiding other than LFR? Pshaw, the crazy things you say, like they’d let a resto druid into a real raid that has the option to run with superior healing classes. Non-warrior tanks, for instance.

      [xi] Within the theme, this would have been more correctly written as -fisting but the imagery was a bit more unintentionally awkward than I was comfortable with.

      [xii] With one notable exception: if you ever happen to acquire Rune of Re-origination as a monk and aren’t at or near the top of the skill pyramid, just vendor it and pretend it never happened[xiii]. Whoever at Blizzard made the decision not to put that item in Ra-Den’s loot table is a very twisted individual. I’m looking at you, crab boy, this has your fingerprints all over it.

      [xiii] Until 5.4, at least, when the monk mastery is being re-designed, I suspect entirely due to the existance of RoRo. After that, it will be just another trinket with a confusing proc rather than a game-breaker that’s literally dropping monk dps all across LFR. These LFR-calibre individuals could just go for a crit proc rather than mastery but when all the guides say that mastery is optimal, how likely is that to happen? The only ones who would even consider that as a safer option will be the ones who a) notice the proc and b) know what to do with it when it does anyway.

      • At 2013.07.15 13:02, Runycat said:

        I feel like I’ve always been somewhat reluctant to re-roll or set my druid aside for any great length of time, largely because it doesn’t feel like an apt solution: I’m always going to find something I dislike or am not satisfied with, regardless of class. I did, however, put my druids aside for a large portion of this expansion and ended up playing my elemental shaman instead (which is great fun). I guess it’s more that I’d like to find a solution to the general rotational sluggishness rather than move on.

        That being said, there seems to be a lot of grumbling lately, and it’s a lot of THIS IS THIS AND I DO NOT LIKE IT AND THIS CLASS IS BETTER without offering solutions. I hope I can change that (at some point).

        And I’d also like to get a monk to max level. Before I realm transferred, I had a Mistweaver at ~45, and while it was interesting, I think I’d rather be DPSing or tanking (especially if the rotation feels less clunky and crunchy). As for your rogue, what spec were you? From what I hear, Combat is still pretty satisfyingly spammy.

        • At 2013.07.18 12:43, R said:

          (minor edit to my original comment, meant legendaries, not heirlooms)

          That’s fair but sticking with a class that isn’t meshing with you isn’t likely to lead to long-term happiness, especially if you have an option. If your druid is your only toon, different story, but in that case you’d probably adapt &/or figure it out. I think the “grass is greener” effect of having other viable toons is where a lot of criticism comes from. Me, I like having lots of toons so I can ride the wave… within reason, I can play who I feel like playing. Sometimes I feel like melee, sometimes ranged, sometimes invincible. Every now and then I just feel like standing back and healing.

          The problem with class griping is … well, most of it is predictably cyclical. I played my rogue in the latter half of Cat, I was able to gear him up quickly and he was able to step into my raid without really causing a ripple. Rogues are a lot more enjoyable to play when they get some gear (haste, specifically). One of the reasons that toon didn’t survive in my top 3 in MoP is because with the gear reset came a major drop in haste. Pushing fewer buttons just isn’t as much fun, any more than it is to play a caster with a 2.7s spell cast instead of a 1.8s spell cast for the same spell. Most toons feel awkward in the early expansion phases since, I’m assuming, Blizzard tries to generally balance them toward end-expansion numbers, not early ones.

          One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed my monk so much is that, despite gear level, she always felt … adequate. She’s been haste soft-capped since early T14 so the rotation hasn’t gotten (and won’t get) any quicker. Even before that, though, during the 5-man period, I never felt particularly constrained by gear. I find hunters are similar. Casters are problematic but some more than others. Healers and tanks are especially bad for this. Melee is hit and miss depending on the class. By mid-expansion, though, with appropriate gear, they should all feel reasonably good if it’s a spec/rotation that you like in the first place.

          And agreed, I’ve been playing some Elemental lately and right now it’s probably my favourite caster spec although I’m due to re-try Frost again, Fire’s been twichy in MoP so far for me, its RNG plus my own personal RNG make it annoyingly sub-optimal too often.

          My problem with kitty is, basically, that I’m not just good at it. I’ve tried, off and on, too many times, including periods where I was a bear main and HAD gear I could convert to kitty for testing purposes. It just didn’t work, it always seemed to take 20+ seconds to accumulate enough CPs for a finisher and I had 2 to keep up, neither of which lasted long enough for me to find the rotation to be comfortable. The rogue rotation (yes, Combat, I didn’t like having to use stealth and Mut was too slow of a rotation for my taste) was a better version of that… similar, but I actually had time to hit an occasional “hard”-hitting finisher, I didn’t spend all my time managing DoTs/buffs/debuffs and not even doing THAT well enough. Monks are just an even better rogues… a 2CP finisher for a monk hits harder than a 5CP finisher for a rogue, it seems, and a full term and power debuff costs all of 1CP and does some more than token DAMAGE, too. Crazy. Rogues get a lot more passive dps so the active abilities have to be softer hits. When I hit a button on my monk, I can see a jump in my dps even late on a boss fight… there’s impact. My rogue still feels a bit sluggish at i480, too, which doesn’t help. I’m sure at some point it’ll feel suitably fast, it just isn’t there yet. Again, though, that’s because I have a monk for comparison… if I just played the rogue, I’d probably be fine with it.

          (I don’t play with scrolling combat text enabled so I don’t get the immediate “hard hit” feedback that most folks get (“holy crap, I just critted for 1M!”), my perception of big hits is a lot more subtle but that also makes it a lot more important that I get some of that feedback)

      • At 2013.07.15 14:38, Dysheki said:

        Good to see you posting, I always enjoyed reading your posts eons ago. (saw a RT from Tinderhoof about you back in).

        Anyhow, regarding pace of DPS – I feel this hasn’t really changed. Everything gets faster with gear. It was this way in Wrath, it was this way in Cata, and it’s this way in now (didn’t start until mid-BC so I can’t comment on that time). Early on in the expansions you focus on uptimes and minimally on FB. At the end of expansions you’re throwing out FBs like candy on Halloween.

        It is a lot more difficult to play than most others for sure but that leads to a more rewarding experience for me regardless of DPS outcome (that said I’m usually extremely competitive with my raid). An assassination rogue may hit more buttons, I dunno, but it’s brutally boring for me because you pay attention to envenom and rupture . . . that’s it. And you don’t even need to worry about bleed strength because you only use rupture for the energy and not for the actual damage. Also rogues are brutally durable. My rogue is absolutely the most indestructible DPSer I’ve ever played (feint is just stupid and I have no idea how it’s still in game).

        Anyway, there is a lot of comedy in what Blizzard did with ferals. They said in Cata that SR was too punishing. Then at MoP they said SR was too easy and brought Wrath style back. But at the same time they put in DoC which is (imo) the most difficult talent to truly master in any spec. It’s just awkward. JUST NOW for the final tier they recognize how difficult DoC is and they tried to change it but sadly the change they wanted to make was bad for the class and they reverted the changes on the PTR (thankfully at least they listened I guess). I enjoy it now after plenty of time with it and it feels second nature, but it’s not easy for people just jumping back in at all. I would recommend just using HotW for now until you get back into it. It’s not the top DPS but it’s very acceptable and you can use it as either a super-tranq CD or a super-hurricane CD for AoE. Or just not use it at all. It’s fine.

        Side note: You CAN clip bleeds. It’s not easy to decide when you want to clip bleeds but add-ons telling you the relative strength of your bleeds are very helpful in this regard. For example, this is AMAZING for tracking bleed strength (there are also other options, this is one that I use):

        • At 2013.07.15 15:31, Runycat said:

          Hey, thanks for stopping by! I’m not one hundred percent certain how this return to blogging will go, but I’m talking a stab at it. At the very least, it makes my WoW time feel moderately productive.

          I do, however, worry that my post is being construed as a, “This is too hard and I’m new and I don’t like it and don’t want to work at it” rant, which truly wasn’t my intention! I didn’t just start playing again; I just started blogging again.

          What I really wanted to highlight is the fact that both Cataclysm and Mists have been strange lands to exist as a feral, and that entry-level gear really strained us in terms of stats. (I don’t even want to talk about Savage Roar in the last expansion, because it sort of felt like the only thing I had to hang my hat on at times. ) In Wrath, we still had crummy gear to start off with, like everyone else, but we were following very different stat-value priorities. In fact, they changed pretty frequently, and both Haste and Armor Penetration made direct damage rotations hugely appealing and fluid.

          All nostalgia aside (and boy, do I ever have some fond and crazy BC memories), Wrath always felt, to me, like the best time to be a feral druid. I could be hugely powerful and versatile, and when I played like a champion and mastered my rotation, my DPS reflected that. What I was trying to say in my post was that I feel like when I have everything finally lining up smoothly (which takes more effort than seems to be usual due to sluggish energy regeneration), my DPS still seems low as compared to other classes at similar gear levels. (I can’t, of course, comment on how well they’re actually playing.)

          That’s what has me frustrated. I’ve tried both HotW and DoC, and while HotW is certainly easier (and has enabled me to perform some clutch off-the-cuff healing and tanking), it’s not as satisfying. I enjoy weaving Healing Touches, at least at the moment, and I feel like it occasionally gives me a needed “breath” in my rotation. It’s also kept me (and others) alive, though I can’t say that I feel particularly fragile.

          I’ll continue to reevaluate how feral feels as I move up the gear ladder, and hopefully that will illuminate a more positive experience.

          And yes, weak auras is great! I was actually considering writing a post about it.

          • At 2013.07.15 17:47, Dysheki said:

            Well, whatever the blogging becomes good luck with it. I know I sure as hell won’t ever blog because it would just be a mishmash of everything – full of rants, absolutely stupid shit that no one would care about except me, as well as stuff I would try to put in to make me look smart and theorycrafters would come in and burst my bubble and I would just throw a temper tantrum throwing things all over the room and yelling at kids to get off my lawn. It would work out well I think.

            • At 2013.07.15 18:07, Runycat said:

              Thanks again, and maybe don’t write it off just yet? (No pun intended.) It’s maybe a post for another day, but part of the reason I stopped blogging was because I thought my blog was supposed to be solely dedicated to progression-raiding druids. When I didn’t have time for that kind of raiding anymore, I felt as though people would assume my opinions were suddenly invalid, and that they’d just go find someone else to tell them what buttons to push. What I was told by prior readers (much later, naturally) was that some of the posts they’d been most interested in were the ones that got a little personal or a little weird. People love rants. So basically, I think you could do well with a potpourri of posts.

              Oh, and theorycrafting. Well, I’ve never been particularly awesome at math. Whenever I wanted to write something number intensive, I created multiple drafts, ran them by folks who are better human calculators than I am, and then took a leap and put it out there. Sometimes people did jump all over me, and I felt like a moron. But more often, someone would be like hey, you’re on to something and here is how it would look if you actually knew how to do basic algebra. I like to think that there are still people out there with a collaborative mindset.

        (Required, will not be published)

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