Some thoughts on feral forms
A couple of post ago, I wrote about how gear has specialized more for us Druids here in Outland, and how over time I ended up with 4 separate outfits to manage. It actually wasn’t hard to manage them with Outfitter, but I was questioning how useful it was to have 4 separate outfits. In the post, I had decided to get down to just three outfits: A bear outfit, my primary outfit, for solo adventuring and instance tanking, a cat outfit for high dps, and a healing outfit for instance healing. I promised to share the results and my thoughts with you.
So before I talk about how my experiment played out, we need to have a talk about what should be important to us in our different forms. So let’s have a little chat about bear form tanking, cat form damage-dealing and caster form healing.
I’m not big, just big-boned!
As bears, we are focused on tanking, at least in instances. Tanking is used by a lot of folks to mean a lot of different things, so lets be clear on what it really is. Tanking is not dealing damage and killing things – that is the responsibility of your dps classes. Tanking involves soaking up damage from mobs and keeping them focused on you via aggro management, so your other “squishier” classes can do their healing and damage dealing jobs. As a tank within an instance and within your guild, you are competing against warriors primarily, paladins secondarily.
So for tanking, there are some obvious things you want: high armor and health, aggro generation and high resistances. Armor is pretty straightforward and is a basic attribute of many of our equippable items. I like the fact that some of the Outland feral weapons also have an armor bonus. (Read my post on feral weapon choices for more details). High health is linked primarily to Stamina as you get 10 extra health points for each point of Stamina (with a % bonus for Heart of the Wild talent if you have it). There are a variety of ways to get high resistances. Generally I don’t worry so much about resistances unless facing an instance or boss known to generate high damage in a particular school of magic. Then you can begin to use specialized gear and potions to mitigate that threat.
Aggro generation is somewhat of a mystery to me, and admittedly I am still learning the finer points of this aspect of tanking. Aggro is based on threat. There are no specific attributes that I know of to directly increase threat, although we do have the Feral Instinct talent that directly increases our threat in bear form (and as a bonus also increases our chance to avoid detection while prowling). Damage dealing also generates threat as does any debuff spell like Faerie Fire (which, by the way, is a great spell for pulling). I can tell you that as bears we generate a good amount of threat. I’ve pulled aggro off of every class in the game with just a couple big paw swipes and a maul or a mangle. The real art of aggro management for us bears comes into play when there are multiple mobs or when a squishie steals aggro from us. But that discussion is for another day…
There are two other not so obvious aspects to tanking you might want to think about also. Agility can be a great benefit to your bear form for tanking as it benefits you in two ways: armor and dodging. For each point of agility you get an additional 2 points of armor; and for every 20 points of agility your change to dodge an attack increases by 1% (based on wowwiki.com, level 60 basis). As we said above, armor is good for tanking, it doesn’t matter where it comes from. Even though we also said a tank’s job is to soak up damage to let everyone do their job, avoiding damage altogether (while maintaining aggro) is even better.
The other non-obvious attribute is defense. Yea, it seems obvious now that you’re reading it, but with it not being a prime attribute I think it’s easy to overlook it. Defense helps us tanking bears in a variety of ways including increasing our chance to block, parry, dodge or make our attacker miss. Defense also increases our chance to avoid crushing blows and critical hits. Again – our job is to soak up damage. Avoiding damage altogether is even better.
Listen to me now: everything else is fluff. Your job as a tank is to absorb damage and maintain aggro – end of story. You may think that’s a dirty job and guess what – you’re right. I advise you to track down some well respected warriors, buy them a deviate delight or two and listen to their stories. Or find some blogs or websites by warriors and read their tips and tricks. If they are good, they won’t be talking about damage dealing, they’ll be talking about taking damage and maintaining aggro. Too many druids I see go looking for Strength bonuses or attack power bonuses. These are for your cat, not your bear. Maintaining aggro and absorbing damage lets the Priests heal, it lets the rogues and cats do high damage, it lets the Warlocks do their area effects – it’s simply frees everyone else up to not worry about being attacked and let’s them do their job.
So, checklist for Feral Bear Tanking:
- Of primary interest: Armor, Stamina, Defense, Aggro generation
- Of Secondary interest: Agility, Defense
- Nice if you can get it without sacrificing the others: Resistance increases
Here Kitty, kitty, kitty…. Ouch!
In your cat form, you are a damage dealer on par with rogues. It should be obvious, but I’ll say it anyway: damage dealing kills things. If something is dead, then it can’t hurt you anymore. So other than crowd control techniques, damage dealing is very important to your group in permanently removing mobs from play, thereby reducing the amount of damage your tank and/or party is taking.
Melee damage dealers also have to learn how to manage aggro and threat. Unlike the tanks above who want aggro, as damage dealers we desperately want to avoid it. While as cats we get a huge increase to our damage output, our armor is unaffected. So, if we inadvertently grab aggro off our tank for that elite mob you’re all fighting then you’re going down pretty quick unless 1) your tank can get aggro back or 2) you have a damn good healer in the group. You may be saved, but the effort other party members will need to go through to keep you alive may in the end cause a wipe for your group. It may not be obvious, but if the healer’s mana gets depleted, or too many mobs get loose from the tank’s aggro, you may cause the downfall of your party.
So as cats our job is pretty basic: kill things without getting hurt. A secondary role we can fill is to solo enemy squishies. Some of the most fun I’ve had as a cat in instances is sneaking up on that caster that’s getting ready to hurt my fellow adventurers and burn him down. Given their low hit points, I’ve found that even elite casters can be soloed in your cat form if they close in level to your own. As a damage dealer within an instance and within your guild, you are competing against rogues primarily, casters secondarily. The caster is kind of cheat as they just stand back and rain death down from above, they really don’t get in there and get their hands dirty… 😉
So we all know where damage comes from, right? Weapons; it even lists DPS on the weapon: damage per second. But that’s just the start as it’s only the damage the weapon does. The final damage that weapon does can be very different depending on who wields it. From the weapon’s base DPS, you then look at Attack Power, which is a computed attribute. The more Attack Power, or AP you have the more damage you personally add to the weapon’s base damage.
So what is AP based on? strength and Agility (in cat form at least). Again, I’m using the wowwiki.com formulas as my basis. They are usually pretty accurate, but the caveat is that I’m not sure that there has been much updating since The Burning Crusade. Based on wowwiki, strength adds more to AP than agility, but they both have a direct relationship to AP and therefore damage. And don’t forget that agility helps your dodge and crit changes so don’t go solely for strength over agility. So anything with strength or agility bonuses is a definte consideration for your cat form.
Also, in Outland, there are lots of weapons and armor with bonuses to attack power. There are two flavors: attack power and feral attack power. I’ve never seen “feral” attack power defined but I assume it just means the bonus is only applied while in a Druid feral form. There are some great AP bonuses floating around out there that. I wrote a post previously talking about druid weapons, in particular weapons with attack power bonuses. Maybe sometime in the future I’ll address druid armor choices also.
So if you’re wanting to be a pure damage dealer then strength and agility are all you’re looking for. More than likely you will find many items that have these attributes also have some stamina. I like getting some stamina increases to raise my health. Without the significant armor bonuses you get in bear form, you are very vulnerable to damage, especially in instances against elite mobs with special abilities. Also, remember that you are going to be a secondary concern for healers who will primarily be focused on the tank. As noted above, defense is another good attribute for staying alive as it will help you avoid some damage altogether.
Another gear attribute to consider is +hit bonuses. I must admit I’m not really up to speed on how these work, so let me look into that a little and get back to you.
So, checklist for Feral Cat DPSing:
- Of primary interest: Strength, Agility, Attack Power bonuses
- Of Secondary interest: Stamina, Defense
- Nice if you can get it without sacrificing the others: Resistance increases
One other thing I would recommend for both your forms is to download and install a threat add-on. I, in addition to most folks I know, use KLH ThreatMeter. This add-on will help you see the threat you are generating against a target compared to others in your party. It is invaluable in upper level instances particularly for boss encounters that are aggro sensitive. Download it, use it, understand it.
This post has gotten way longer than I intended so I’m going to stop now. I had intended to talk about Healer attributes also, but we will cover that in a forthcoming post.
My normal disclaimer – I am not a stats junkie or WoW expert in any way. This post contains my own thoughts and observations limited as they may be. Please share your comments, especially if they can educate us all on the finer points of this topic.