Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Druids: cat form DPS

Since we started raiding Ulduar a couple of weeks ago, we have come across some problems. Not in the usual places, like healing and tanking, but in the more unusual arena of DPS. We were failing miserably on several DPS check fights (like Razorscale and Deconstructor), hitting hard enrages without being close to killing them. To address this problem, our raid leader recently made a general request of the guild to start forum threads covering DPS in its various forms with rotations, builds and other tips to begin educating our members and aleviating the problem. We are, after all, a casual guild that happens to raid, not anything close to a hardcore guild. That being said, we do have several members that know their classes very very well and are capable of providing guidance for the rest of us.

I decided to take the plunge and write what I knew about druids DPSing in cat form. Here is the result of that effort:

I don't pretend to be an expert at this, but I am getting more and more familiar with the inner workings and theorycrafting of druid dps in cat form as time goes on.

First lets talk about resources: everyone in this series of posts has mentioned Elitist Jerks and I need to give it a nod also. It is, hands down, the best, most in-depth forum for mechanics of any class out there. The only drawback it has is that it may be TOO complicated. The amount of theorycrafting and mathematically intense calculating on the various threads can scare away (with good reason) the more casual player. For those who feel that much of the information at Elitist Jerks is over their heads, there are a number of more approachable druid blogs that handle various aspects of druiding (TM). For cat dps, the foremost blog, in my opinion, is Karthis' Of Teeth and Claws. He speaks very candidly and clearly about the how to get the most out of your cat in many different situations. Due to the nature blogging, finding the answer to the exact question you have may require a little digging, but in most cases, the answers are there. Unfortunately, a few of his latest posts seem to indicate a degree of burnout, so the position of leading cat blogger may soon be vacated.

DPS as a cat is not what it used to be. We now have to juggle a lot of different abilities and are limited only by our energy regeneration. We can't just mangle-spam and expect to do well on the damage meters. And lets face it: when we are dpsing (unlike healing or tanking) our position on the meters is almost all that matters.

The abilities that we will be using to dps are: Mangle, Rake and Shred to generate combo points, Savage Roar, Rip and Ferocious Bite to use them up and Tiger's Fury to generate precious energy. The basic idea of dps as a cat is to get Savage Roar up and KEEP it up while keeping bleeds, dots and debuffs up as much as possible. While Mangle is not truly desirable for its dps potential, it *is* desirable for the debuff that it applies. If we have a feral druid tanking or another cat druid in the raid attacking the same targets, we may talk ahead of time to see whose responsibility it will be to keep Mangle applied to the targets. In the case of a beartank, they will want to be the one mangling because of the threat it is capable of generating. If there is only a second cat (and no beartank), then generally the one with lesser damage potential should be refreshing mangle.

Use Rake early and allow it to go almost its full duration before reapplying. The up front damage is low compared to the bleed aspect of this ability so we want to maximize energy usage by allowing it to go on as long as possible. As soon as the fight begins use Savage Roar as soon as possible, even if it only with a single combo point. That flat 30% increase in damage is too valuable to wait for 5 points. After that, Shred to 5 combo points, then Savage Roar again to get the 33 sec duration up. Keep using Shred, only stopping to reapply Rake or Mangle as necessary then Rip at 5 combo points. Keep juggling these abilites. If (i.e. when) you run out of energy, use Tiger's Fury to instantly regenerate 60 energy and keep going. If you reach 5 combo points and Rip still has a long time left (8 sec or more) and you don't need to reapply Savage Roar use Ferocious Bite instead. Unless you have the glyph of shred (which I don't yet) this should not occur very often at all.

All this requires carefully watching 1. Debuffs on the boss. 2. Buffs on you and 3. Energy reserves. There are a number of mods to help with this DOTimers is a mod originally developed for warlocks but works really well for cat druids. It shows the debuffs on the boss with countdowns showing how close they are to expiring. I think there is a way to make it show your own buffs as well, but haven't figured it out yet, so I am constantly looking at my own buff timers to see how long I have left on Savage Roar.

Use Berserk every time it is up. Use Berserk every time it is up. Use Berserk every time it is up. Use Berserk every time it is up. Use Berserk every time it is up.

In conclusion:

With beartank: Rake-->Savage Roar-->Shred-->Shred-->Tiger's fury-->Shred to 5 combo points-->Savage Roar-->Rake-->Shred to 5 cp-->Rip, refresh Rake, Savage Roar and Rip as necessary.

Without another mangler: Mangle-->Savage Roar-->Rake-->Shred-->Tiger's Fury-->Shred to 5cp-->Savage Roar-->Shred-->Rake-->Shred to 5cp-->Rip. Refresh Rake, Savage Roar and Rip as necessary.

Oh, and watch your threat...

Tell me what you all think.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Finding a new identity

That's what it feels like. I am still a druid. I am still a restoration druid. But I don't have a feel for how to play any more. I feel like a fumbling, bumbling idiot...

My usual Sunday/Monday 10-man group went to Ulduar yesterday. I used Rejuventation as my go-to heal while stacking all different HoTs on the tanks. Then using Nourish to keep them at max health. Pretty standard stuff. But looking at the WWS reports after the raid, I saw that my HPS took a massive hit from pre-3.1 numbers. And it's not all about Lifebloom. I just can't put my finger on what the problem is.

I was responsible for rooting the adds during the Ignis fight so I missed a lot of heals while we learned that fight. But I felt like my HoTs tick too slowly to make a difference and my direct heals were very sad by comparison to either our shaman or our paladin and I don't think either are geared as well as I am.

I wish I knew what I was doing wrong. I think of myself as relatively skilled and knowledgeable about the game and especially about my class. Last night was rather sobering. Perhaps I'm not as good as I thought I was and I was just coasting on an overpowered healing class.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hunters 101 - part II: hit, crit and AP

In the last installment I covered the concept of threat and tools a hunter can use to manage it. It is impossible to understate the importance of understanding and properly responding to threat issues that arise while in a raid.

In this installment, I am going to talk about some more concrete numbers that affect hunters, their pets and their raids.


The base chance to miss while striking a mob is 5% for 2-handed and ranged weapons and 24% for dual wielded melee weapons. This assumes that you and the mob are of equal level and that you have the maximum allowable weapon skill for your level (400 at level 80). For a boss level mob (the ones with the little skull where their level should be, technically level 83) that chance goes up to 8% for ranged and 2-handed weapons and 27% for dual-wielded weapons. That means that during a boss fight, a full 8% or more than one twelfth of your shots will miss. That is a lot of lost damage, time and mana.

There are two major ways to mitigate this. The first is through talents. Most classes, including hunters, have talents that increase their chance to hit with weapons or abilities or some or all of their spells. For hunters, Focused Aim is a three point talent in the first tier of the marksmanship tree. When maxed out, it increases the hunter's chance to hit with all weapons, shots, skills and abilities by 3%. That cuts down the miss chance on bosses by more than a third and can significantly increase your DPS.

The second way to mitigate the base miss chance is by stacking +hit rating on your gear. Hit rating is not the same as hit percentage though the two are directly related. At level 80, every 32.79 hit rating you have on your gear will increase your overall chance to hit by 1%. Since our goal should be to not miss at all, we need to have a total of 263 hit rating to mitigate all 8% of the miss chance on bosses. If we use this in conjunction with three points in Focused Aim we only need a total hit rating of 164 to never miss.

But what about Fluffy? A hunter's pet doesn't wear any gear. Since a good portion of a hunter's DPS comes from his pet, it behooves the hunter to make sure that his pet does not miss much either. Fortunately, a hunter's pet gets a portion of the stats from his master's gear: the more stamina the hunter has, the hardier the pet, the more attack power, the harder he hits. Pets also get 100% of the hit percentage of the hunter, with a couple of caveats: it is always rounded down. So if you have stacked your hit rating and managed to get your hit percentage up to 7.97%, Fluffy's hit percentage is 7%. So she still has a full 1% miss chance, even though yours is only 0.03%. Here is another caveat: your pet ONLY gets your hit rating. Talents like Focused Aim do not translate to your pet and there are no talents in the beast mastery tree or in any of the pet talent trees that increase your pets chance to hit, so your only recourse (if you want Fluffy to hit that boss every single time) is to stack hit rating up to the magical 263 mark.

The term "hit cap" is bandied about a fair bit. If you have read and understood everything in this post so far, you already know what it is. The hit cap varies depending on what talents they have and what other buffs they are receiving from their race and their raids (draenei have an aura that increases hit chance by 1%, shamans have totems that increase hit chance, etc). At it's most basic, the hit cap is the amount of hit rating after which it is wasted. I.e. if you have 280 hit rating on your gear, 17 points of that offer you absolutely nothing. So while it is important to get your hit as close as possible to the hit cap, it is actually detrimental to exceed it by too much since you are forsaking other stats that may help you in other ways.


Every time you make a physical attack with either a melee or ranged weapon there is a base chance of 5% that it will result in a critical strike, commonly referred to as a "crit". Crits deal double physical damage.

So crits are a good thing, right? You betcha! We all love seeing those massive numbers scroll across our screens. Four things affect the chance we have to get a critical strike. First is the difference between the attack rating of the attacker and the defense rating of the defender. For PvE, this isn't very complicated: your weapon skill is probably 400 and, if the defender is also level 80, his defense is also 400. So it cancels out. Of course, boss level mobs are considered level 83, so their defense is 415. When attacking a boss, your crit chance will be lower by 0.2% per point of difference or 3%.

The second thing that affects critical strike chance is agility. This one is pretty straight forward: as a hunter, for every 83.3 points of agility you have, you increase your chance to crit by 1%.

Next we have critical strike rating. At level 80, every 45.91 critical strike rating increases your chance to crit by 1%.

Lastly, talents. There are a slew of talents that increase your pets or your own chance to critically hit. Lethal shots, Ferocity, Master Marksman and others increase your overall chance to crit. Equally importantly, there are talents that proc (proc is an abbreviation that harkens back to the MUD days that refers to a weapon or item activating with the "Chance on Hit" or "Chance on Use" effect) from crits. For example, Cobra Strikes increase your pet's damage in response to your own crits.

When considering all these options together you can see how important critical strikes are as a part of your DPS arsenal. So what is more important? +crit or +hit? That question is a little more tricky. You cannot stack +hit ad infinitum without crippling yourself. On the other hand, if you focus exclusively on +crit, you will be missing so much, your DPS will suffer considerably. My suggestion would be to gear up to 164 hit rating and put 3/3 in Focused Aim. As you become better geared, keep increasing your hit rating to 263, and gradually remove the points from Focused Aim, moving them to Lethal shots.


Your base dps (before haste or crits or special attacks) comes from your base weapon damage, its speed and your attack power. Every 14 points of attack power increase your dps by 1. Most special attacks like arcane shot, serpent sting and others are modified by your attack power. So the higher your attack power, the higher damage your shots and other special attacks do.

Unlike hit and crit, there is no maximum your attack power can reach and no diminishing returns from increasing it. Other than pure attack power modifiers on gear, your ranged attack power is modified by your agility (1 agility = 1 attack power). There are also a number of abilities and talents that increase attack power: Hunter's mark and careful aim for example.

In the next installment, I will cover Haste and probably delve into some of the nuances of shot rotations.

As always, please leave me a note if you found this post interesting or helpful and especially if you find anything inaccurate and/or blatantly wrong. I try to be as informed as possible, but hunters are not my forte and I have been known to make mistakes.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hunters 101 - part I: Threat

I am going to use these first installments to talk about concepts and statistics that affect hunters: threat, attack power, hit rating and percentage, crit rating and percentage, agility, haste, etc. These are numbers and concepts that may seem somewhat nebulous to a hunter that has gone through the leveling process, simply questing away, shooting mobs without worrying about how much damage he/she is doing and what affects it.

First of all, something that is probably more familiar to hunters than to other classes, and likely the most important concept of all to anyone who intends to do any kind of raiding: Threat. Every mob (any computer-controlled attackable monster, creature or NPC) in the game has what is termed a "threat list" or "aggro list". On this list is anyone that the mob is negatively disposed towards: the hunter and his pet, their group, the entire raid, the random healer that walked by and healed you while you were fighting, etc. Whoever is at the top of that list is the one the mob attacks. Behind the scenes, there is an absolute threat number associated with everyone on the threat list, i.e. George the hunter has 1000 threat, while Snuggles, his pet bear has 1300 threat, therefore the mob is attacking Snuggles.

Pretty much everything anyone does affects that number by a certain amount: damage done to the mob increases it by the amount of the damage, damage done to the mob's allies increases it by a smaller amount; healing (NOT overhealing) increases by half the amount healed; buffing someone on the threat list increases threat by an amount dependent on the buff. Certain classes have threat-generating attacks: for example warriors have heroic strike and druid beartanks have maul, which generate more threat than the damage they do would normally indicate; other classes have ways of reducing their threat: every hunter knows what happens when they feign death. Some classes have an innate increased threat (warriors have a +30% threat built into defensive stance, for example and paladins increase threat generated by holy damage by 90% with Righteous Fury) while others have an innate decreased threat (rogues only generate 80% of their damage as threat). Certain abilities, only possessed by tanking classes: Death Knights, Druids, Paladins and Warriors, enable them to force a mob to attack them, regardless of current threat. These abilities, normally called "taunt" - after the warrior ability - instantly bring up the threat of the tank to whatever the mob was attacking at the time it was taunted. It is important to note that hunter pets' growl does NOT work this way. Growl instantly applies a large amount of threat to the mob but does not force the mob to attack the pet. There is an ability that tenacity pets have called taunt, but it has a 3 minute cooldown and is not nearly as useful as the PC tanking family of abilities. It is also important to note that many mobs in raid and 5-man dungeons including most bosses are immune to taunt-like abilities.

So beyond all these complicated threat mechanics the most important numbers to remember are: 110% for melee and 130% for ranged. What do these mean? Well, if you are in melee range of a mob (the way a hunter's pet or a rogue usually is), it will switch aggro (i.e. stop beating on it's current target and switch to you) when your threat reaches or exceeds 110% of the threat of it's current target. If you are at range from the mob (i.e. NOT in melee range, as most hunters will usually be) you have a little more leeway: you have to reach 130% of the threat of the mob's current target in order to pull aggro.

So what can a hunter do to manage their threat? Well, first of all, you need to know who has aggro (i.e. who is holding the mob's attention) at any given moment. Within the default UI (user interface), there is an option to show the target of your target. Under the Combat section of the Interface options, click on the "show target of target" option and from the drop down menu, select "always". This will put a small frame underneath the frame of your target showing whom it is targeting at any given moment. That gives you an immediate indication when the tank loses aggro, which still happens from time to time, but is much less of an issue now than during BC or vanilla WoW.

Another thing that you could do is install a third party addon threat meter. The threat meter of choice these days is called Omen. Upon downloading and installing it in your Addon directory, you will have a bar-chart on your screen showing relative threat for the mob you are targeting (or the one your target is targeting, if you are targeting a friendly toon like your pet). Most raids and even most 5-man groups these days will expect you to have some sort of threat meter installed.

So how do we put all this together? Well, a good rule for all kinds of raiding and group activities and even soloing in WoW is to be aware of your surroundings. Know who has aggro on what. Is that what is supposed to be happening? Do you need to use your pet creatively to pull that extra mob off your healer? Do you need to wipe your own threat by using feign death? Make sure you lay out your key bindings to give you quick access to feign death, misdirection and other abilities such as your pet's growl. One of your most powerful tools for managing threat (your own and your raid's) is misdirection. You can use this to increase your tank's threat when the your raid's DPS is creeping upwards on the threat meter, you can use it to pull a wayward mob running through the raid onto it's proper tank, you can use it to jump start an encounter and pull to a tank, giving the rest of the DPS a buffer while the mob or boss is being properly positioned. If you are creative, it can save your raid multiple times. With only a 30 second cooldown it is the "go-to" threat management tool.

I think that about covers the concept and management of Threat. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please put them in the comments so I can address them in the main post if necessary.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Another WotLK landmark...

...but probably our last till 3.1.

Yesterday evening, a with a raid only 21-strong at raid time, we struggled for two hours but persevered. With 23 people (two more raiders had trickled in as the evening wore on) we managed, for the first time, to best Sartharion, Tenebron and Vesperon together. Finally, after weeks of frustration, we had managed the Twilight Duo achievement.

There was a fair bit of confusion when Vesperon went down, leading to the death of the MT and three healers. We were left with two healers (I was not one of them) and a DK drake tank that was quick-thinking enough to taunt Sartharion before he breathed all over the raid.

It was very frustrating to lay there and watch while half the raid (11 toons) took down an enraged dragon along with all the blazes that spawned, all the while dodging flame waves managing to stay alive. Hats off to Hyce, the surviving DK tank, and Daeloan and Ceta who where the two surviving healers.


I love my guild.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Some Hunter Love

As many of you know, my wife Taura plays a hunter. She just recently hit 80 and has been itching to come to our raids. She's been to a Sarth kill with no drakes up and the other day she went with us on a heroic Naxx run. She doesn't know the fights, but that's not a huge problem since we sit in the same room and I can give her instructions as we go. Overall, it was a pretty poor Naxx run. We had several undergeared raiders with us in addition to Taura and had some avoidable wipes (Gluth was especially problematic).

After the raid, Taura asked me what she could do to get better. Part of the problem was that she is a BM hunter with a level 75 pet. That will of course change. There are several other problems that I could see: a distinct lack of +hit on her gear, a preponderance of her damage coming from Auto Shot and things like that. I pointed her to a couple of sites like Elitist Jerks and The Hunter's Mark since I still play a hunter on a pretty superficial level and BRK is no longer with us.

She read for a bit and then got frustrated at how much of the nomenclature she lacked and how much of the underlying workings of the class she was ignorant of. She told me that while she loves to play the game, reading all the math and the theorycrafting is boring to her.

So I have resolved to help her. I am going to educate myself in the ways of the hunter and write a few posts that will help Taura (and other hunters with similar issues) to get better at huntering without wading through the amazing breadth of information that is out there. I am going to talk to some of my guildies and see if I can get some of them to write some guest posts for me.

Also, if someone has anything that would be helpful, please put it in the comments and I will try to incorporate it into the posts as I go.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Honest Scrap

I've been tagged. Syll over at has seen fit to honor me with this prestigious award. Here are the rules:

1. When accepting this auspicious award, you must write a post bragging about it, including the name of the misguided soul who thinks you deserve such acclaim, and link back to the said person so everyone knows she/he is real.

2. Choose a minimum of seven (7) blogs that you find brilliant in content or design. Or improvise by including bloggers who have no idea who you are because you don’t have seven friends. Show the seven random victims’ names and links and leave a harassing comment informing them that they were prized with Honest Weblog. Well, there’s no prize, but they can keep the nifty icon.

3. List at least ten (10) honest things about yourself. Then pass it on!

So here goes: I'd like to thank the academy, Blizzard (I refuse to use the Activision part of their name... oh wait... I just did... d'oh!) for coming out with an exceptionally awesome blog-worthy timesink, my amazing guild: Mythos(H) of Feathermoon US for making me want to get online and socialize each and every night of the week, whether we have a raid scheduled or not. Especially though to my wife, Taura for all her support and understanding of my little habit. And of course, to all the thousands and thousands of you (ok... to both of you) who come to this little corner of the Internet just to read my ramblings. It started just from a need to put my thoughts about the game onto paper and thought the weblog was the perfect medium for that. Who knew at the time that it would lead to such an amazing honor as this?

Blogs I find brilliant in design or content... I wish I could throw the honor back at Syll but that's not how the thing works, so here I go:

1. WoW Insider and their great co-lead blogger... excuse me... senior editor Mike Schramm. Technically a blog, but really more of a news and opinion site pertaining to WoW, this is a one-stop-shop for all things WoW.

2. Teeth and claws is a great feral druid blog that I have been following to get better at using kitty form to its greatest deadly potential.

3. The big bear butt and it's author John Patricelli is another amazing druid blog that has shown me that the greatest use of one's face is to absorb damage.

Man... I have entered this game late and everyone I want to tag has already been tagged by others!

4 through 7. As a last notation, I want to acknowledge two people whose contributions have shaped the WoW blogging community into what it is today: Phaelia and Big Red Kitty. These two need no introduction and nothing I could say would do them justice anyway. Unfortunately, both are retired from WoW blogging at the moment and I doubt we will get a response from either of them about this award.

Things about myself:

10. I have way too many alts. All my Feathermoon slots are full and I have started working on other servers.

9. I plan vacations and business trips around my tabletop D&D game (among other things)

8. I am a science geek, as well as a sci-fi/fantasy geek. I hold a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and I actually exersize it trying to cure cancer.

7. I am not American. I am Greek (Cypriot), but have lived in the US since December 28th, 1995.

6. I once got so drunk on Mezcal that I was drunk (not hung over. That came later and, oh boy, was it unpleasant) for two full days.

5. American (U.S.) politics annoy the crap out of me.

4. I levelled my main toon, Runningelk, 1-60 as restoration because I had no clue what else was possible. Then I raided as feral, levelled to 70 as feral, raided Kara as feral, went resto for 25-mans, leveled to 80 as feral and resumed my resto role again. I have spent way too much money on respecs, though not as much as some.

3. My WoW habit has killed my baseball habit. I hardly even follow the box scores any more.

2. My wife and I fell in love over Star Wars quotes in a bar. True story...

1. The light of my life is my daughter, Persephone, affectionately dubbed "Crawling Elk" by my guildmates.