Thursday, July 31, 2008

[General] It's official - no more crushing blows

This post by Ghostcrawler confirms what testing had already revealed - that crushing blows are no longer part of the game for raiders:

Crushing blows used to apply to mobs 3 levels above you, which included most bosses. The change was to make them apply to mobs 4 levels above you. If you are running an instance of the appropriate level, you will not be crushed.

Crushing blows originally served a dual-purpose: they discouraged you from attacking mobs much higher level than you, and they made bosses more challenging. Now they only fulfill the first role. We have plenty of other knobs to make bosses more challenging that feel less random.
This is a pretty big change of course. It's hard to say exactly what this will do to the tanks as far as their roles are, but here are some situational concerns:

Currently, Druids are good tanks for fights that crush because of their absurd armor - at least until a warrior's armor starts catching up. At that point bears are essentially confined to tanking non-crushing mobs, where their armor is better than blocking mitigation. In WotLK, all mobs will no longer crush. However, armor on items appears to be scarce. The net result of this is that because of the armor multiplier any piece of extra armor will be exceptionally valuable for mitigation. The armor cap will be 49k for level 83 mobs; this will be very difficult to meet if bears must use rogue gear for tanking purposes and not get bonus armor on the majority of gear they have. But at least as it looks right now bears will be the kings of physical mitigation for all fights. This means that Druids are once again stuck in the same situation they were before: if itemization is good, druids will be great. If it is not, druids will be poor.

Paladins, on the other hand, get it kinda hard here. One of the strengths of paladins was their lack of crushing blows relative to a warrior; because of the number of charges on holy shield, it was very unlikely that a paladin would take a crush unless lag was hit. This is only going to improve with the overlapping holy shield ability, but now it becomes irrelevant. The good news is that block value will now be a primary stat for a paladin, so this may become a much better mitigation stat with holy shield in place, even rivaling armor mitigation for druids. Still, they are no longer the tanking type to go for if you need to make sure you do not get crushed. They're the only tanking class in the game that can tank Illidan once Lich King hits without taking a shear, however. That's an interesting change. What it means is that blizzard can design more shear-like mechanics where a certain attack must be avoided/blocked every X seconds, meaning that only a paladin could tank that. I suspect strongly we'll see at least one fight like this in Wrath, and possibly more than one.

I'm happy to see this removed. It was an odd mechanic that hindered druid tanks in odd situations and had the unfortunate behavior where crushing blows happened more often relative to normal blows the more your gear improved. With the changes to Holy Shield having overlapping cooldowns paladins no longer have to focus on keeping something up which warriors have taken for granted (uncrushability), which in turn will make their gearing choices much, much easier early on.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

[Druid] Tanking the Flames of Azzinoth, finale

Haven't actually talked about what we're up to and what I'm up to all that recently. Big changes have occurred.

Fire and Blood downed Illidan a few weeks ago. We've killed him twice since. The second time got me the Thunderheart Chestguard, so I am 5/8 T6 now, the first in my guild to get there. In all three kills I have been one of the two flame tanks, and my job is to get the first one.

It's really one of the best tanking experiences there is for a druid, even if it's very short. There's a lot of mobility, of thinking where you need to be, planning moves and repositioning. There's a huge amount of worry about threat and putting out as much as humanly possible while dancing around. And then there are the eyebeams. The fun, crazy eyebeams.

I'll write more about it when I have time, hopefully with some fun screenshots from our next kill. But yeah...Illidan is what I look forward to doing, as I get to do everything as a druid in that fight. Well, other than actually, ya know, tank Illidan. Stupid shears...

Friday, July 25, 2008

[Druid] What gear to get for WotLK

While I've seen a lot of articles and comments on what actually is out there for feral druids, what changes are being made (or not) to talents and skills, what I haven't seen is a good write-up of what this actually means to you in terms of gearing up. Especially for the level grind. Not that you want to optimize entirely for Wrath grinding, but...having gear that you will not replace any time soon will be very helpful starting out, both for money and for ease of use. I'll try and make a note of gear that you should specifically get now while you might be able to easily obtain it as well, but for the most part this will be a generic 'look for these sorts of things' not 'get this, then this'. If there's enough interest in the latter I'll aim to do that too.

Personally, I'm pretty bothered by what I've seen so far in WotLK. The two big issues ferals had were their subpar itemization for bears and their lack of scaling for cats relative to other melee DPS classes. For bears, the answer seems to be 'use rogue leather and like it' - which means bears will be using the same gear they're getting in TBC for a long, long time, and only replacing things when they get a tier token. This is exactly the problem that exists right now in T6; the only thing fixed is the lack of reliance on pvp to solve uncrittability. For cats, nothing they've been given scales with the gear that they'll be competing for; rogues need hit and scale well with haste thanks to their dual wielding, but cats are treated like they have a big 2-h weapon. So all the gear that is coming out for rogues...isn't that great for cats. The flip side to that was that cats had an advantage in high crit rates relative to rogues thanks to their agility boost, but that's being rebalanced so that the crit rating is the same for agility for all dps classes...meaning again, the same gear a rogue gets gives them more of a dps boost than a feral druid could ever get. Make no mistake - I don't want a feral druid to be competitive with a rogue's DPS. That's clearly ridiculous. What I would like is for them to be competitive with other hybrids, such as ret paladins and enhancement shamans. From what I've seen, that's not going to be the case, especially not without something like a Dire Cat-=level improvement. Anyway, enough QQ. On to the analysis.


The big change is not in actual mechanics or what is different in terms of stat weighing; it looks like agility will still be a very solid stat for dodge purposes, stam will be good, and armor will be good. With the change to Survival of the Fittest, bears will not need to have any extra defense or resilience, making defense fairly poor as an avoidance stat and making resilience pointless. (Resilience is also unusable in instances and when not pvp flagged in the real world, so it's even more useless). This means a lot of the itemization woes go out the window, but at the same time a lot of gear becomes less than optimal.

The big difference is that in WotLK, it is looking like there is going to be almost no leather gear with additional armor. Thus, the Tier-6/T6.5 gear is going to be superior.While it will not have the stamina and raw agility that some of the WotLK gear will have, it will have nearly twice as much armor. As an example, check out Constellation Leggings vs Thunderheart Leggings. Potentially a difference of 20 agility and 20 stam (or if you prefer, 30 agility and 5 stam) with a whopping 300 armor. The tier pieces have highest armor in the game. This isn't all that revealing, as if you're a feral you'd want to be getting these anyway. It does mean that if you're wearing something like Tameless Breeches and want to use that instead of the T6, you should seriously spend the DKP on the T6. Because of this, items with extra armor outside of the tier are going to be very valuable as well. Footwraps of Wild Encroachment are a good choice, belt of natural power is a good choice, etc. Again, nothing new; these were all good items before for a bear.

Of course, because of the requirement for uncrittability being removed thanks to talents, pvp gear is pretty irrelevant. Especially given its fairly low armor relative to other gear. So if you don't have a non-pvp item in a slot available to you, now's the time to grab one. One example is the Band of the Swift Paw vs Vindicator's Dragonhide Bracers. The latter is a lot worse in WotLK despite it being superior in TBC.

This also means some rings/trinkets/amulets need to be evaluated. The first one is Badge of Tenacity Already one of the best bear trinkets, this will become even more valuable in Wrath if they don't end up making two good armor trinkets early. I'd go so far as to say buying these and not equipping them may be a good choice, as they would likely sell for quite a bit later. Rings such as Ring of the Stalwart Protector with its lack of defense, high armor, stam and dodge are perfect and are unlikely to be replaced particularly soon. Amulets are likely to not be a particular issue given that Amulet of Wills exists in the Beta, and eclipses pretty much everything else for a bear. The only thing better might be Collar of the Pit Lord, though this is inferior with its defense and lack of armor.

For enchants, you can throw all those +defense and +resilience enchants out the window. Go for agility when you can, stam when you can't go for agility, and dodge/defense when you can't go for either. The glyph of the defender now beats out everything else.

So armor, armor, armor. Got it? Hoard anything with armor.


Cats are a very different beast. (C wat I did thar?) Unlike bears, cats are having a lot of their core stats changing and mechanics modified in WotLK, and as such a lot of the gear you have will simply not be optimal. The biggest change is the agility nerf. Agility translated to crit at a rate of 25->1%, which was stellar. That it also added AP was another great bonus. This is being changed to a 40->1% rate, which is in line with almost all other DPS classes. It also means gear that was optimized superbly for TBC is now much worse. Furthermore, strength is being stated as one of the stats to go for by comparison. This is a bit alarming, as there are no pieces of leather gear in WotLK with strength on them. Hopefully they'll fix this, but for now it means itemization for cats is pretty poor. On the flip side, +crit is going to be a much more valuable stat than it was previously. Haste is still not so great, hit is still a bit poor but will likely be better than now thanks to the lower crit rating we'll have (and thus the more likely chance there'll be of not having more combo points in a cycle), expertise is still decent, and armor pen will still be okay, good if you can stack more. AP will also be decent, but not as good as the rare strength.

Put that all together and the best gear you can look for is...PvP gear. I wish I were making that up. PvP gear comes loaded with crit, strength, some hit, armor pen, and has good other stats to match all of this. The resilience is wasted, as is the extra armor, but it is still going to be a lot better than a lot of the gear you've got on right now - especially if you loaded up agility. As an example, the Nether Shadow Tunic with it's potential 66 agi, 52 hit rating and good stam is probably not as good as Vengeful Gladiator's Dragonhide Tunic, since that has armor pen, strength and crit instead of agility and hit. The Midnight Chestguard, which was once much worse than Nether Shadow, becomes a lot better as well. str/crit gems may be the way to go too.
In terms of weapons, the brutal Gladiator is better than Stanchion now (not that it really matters). If you can't get either of those, the Staff of the Forest Lord is still great, though it's barely ahead of the VG staff. In general if you try and get the VG set, you'll have a good head start on itemization for cats, even if you have better options in other places now. That's how different things are. Unlike bears though, chances are that cats will be replacing their purples with blues fairly early on. Just make sure to not ignore the +crit items this time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

[Druid] Blizzard gives and they take away.

From the beta forums, we have this:

We have no plans to implement a "Dire Cat" form at this time. "Dire Bear" exists for the sole purpose of upgrading the Feral Druid's armor value to match the Warrior/Paladin etc. (Druids get no shield)

We do, however, intend to allow Druids to be able to use items and enchants with procs in forms, which I believe will work in the next beta build (don't hold me to it though).


I think what Kalgan meant was that we intend to do different texture variances for Druid forms, including Cat form. Which is true, though not sure how soon we're going to get that. They may come from a repeatable quest, or through inscription.

Regarding the "Feral Range Bug," that really is not a bug. Have a Warrior, Rogue or any melee class play without using a snare and you'll encounter the same issue. The issue is that the server and client are not sync. When you try to do damage to the target, while your client shows him on your screen, the server disagree's and gives you an error. Snares help alleviate the problem, which is what we're giving Feral Druids in the form of "Infected Wounds" for the expansion.

So yay, we get cosmetic enhancements.

Boo, we don't get actual DPS enhancements. Sigh.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

[Druid] Badge gear for Cat form

Here's part 3 in the continued saga of gearing up your cat form on the ever-increasingly oddly-named blog. One of these days I'm going to actually start writing about tanking.

If you're wondering about that...lack of focus in tanking, you're not alone. I had always figured on being a tank simply because of the shortage of them, but when you play a druid you're never just a tank. You're a feral druid. You have options. Having problems with keeping 30 mobs interested in you? Start with hurricane + barkskin for a few seconds on you, then switch to bear at 50% health. Problems pulling or keeping melee-immune mobs? Hit 'em with a moonfire. Raidwide damage causing problems? Throw up your tranquility. And above all else, as a feral druid, if you're not tanking you can do significant damage, even in your tanking gear.

That's the big reason why you should be gearing up and thinking about it. In every encounter you need to know whether you'll be tanking full time, no time, or some of the time - and how your gear can be optimized to fit this. Having gear that works well in both tanking and DPS roles is tough, but it can be found - and I think I'll talk about that in the future as well. Having gear that is best for one or the other is also important.

While I'm thinking about it, I'll sum up some of my rationale for gear choices both before and now:

  • Agility remains the single best DPS stat for druids until well past T6-level content. Because of fast attacks that do not scale all that well with AP combined with combo points and the rip/mangle cycle, agility is by far the best stat to stack. It gives a high crit rate combined with AP for DPS, and allows switching to bearform for an absurd dodge rate and armor. It isn't just good for cat DPS, it's the best. That it's also really great for bear form puts it over the top. Crit rating doesn't scale with Blessing of Kings and doesn't convert as quickly as agility does, nor does it add AP.
  • Hit Rating and Expertise are both excellent. While it is not crucial for max dps that hit rating is capped (at 142) and expertise is capped (at 96), both will increase your dps faster than almost anything else. Hit rating tends to be fairly easy to come by; pvp gear has it, rogue gear has it, and even some tier pieces have it. Expertise is much harder to get. This makes the Shard of Contempt so strong, because by itself it is close to expertise-capping a druid. In any event, both of these are solid stats that should be looked for to a point. Hit and expertise (especially expertise) is a very solid stat for Bears as well.
  • Strength was thought to be as good as agility and could be interchanged, but this has been shown to be basically wrong. While it does scale well with Kings and does give good amounts of AP, critical strikes make up so much more damage (and do more than 200% damage) that Strength tends to be blown away. The only time this isn't true is when you have a high crit rate relative to your damage done; in that case, increases in strength and AP will be better than increases in crit, and you should optimize for that - but that's very rare. Because strength does not add any block for a bear, it tends to not be great as a threat stat for tanks either.
  • Stamina is not really known as a solid DPS stat, but because it is so good for Bear Form it's worth mentioning that going for gear with both agility and stamina is a solid strategy. Having high stamina in cat form is very solid as well; it allows for emergency tanking in a pinch, survival in damage-heavy fights and more versatility overall. While it isn't as necessary in T4, T5 and especially T6 really push you to get stamina. Don't skimp on it.
  • AP has the same problems that strength does but also does not scale with blessing of Kings.
  • Crit doesn't give AP, doesn't give dodge, doesn't scale with Kings and is poor as a Bear stat. Unless the item has ludicrous amounts of crit, agility will win handily. So will strength, most of the time.
  • Haste does not help out all that much. It only speeds up white attacks, and only marginally. A haste pot ends up being a lot better than an insane strength pot because of the amount of haste you get, but for actual itemization it's best to skip it or not consider it a major factor in a decision.
Now, onto the badge gear! These are organized by what I would consider to be the highest to lowest priority for obtaining. Note that this isn't absolute; you should always look to get what is the best upgrade for the gear you currently have. It's silly to go after the badge staff if you've already gotten the VG staff, for example. For this, I'm presuming gear that is obtained either pre-Kara or in Kara. Use your judgment, use Rawr, and make the choice that makes the most sense to you.

I'll also be using the concept of DPS to badge ratio, both as an absolute and as a relative. Basically, this is a way of showing how much bang for your buck you'll get per item. This ratio demonstrates how much DPS you'll be getting for every badge you spend, which is a good measure of what you should get first. The absolute value is the absolute value of that item compared to being naked in that slot; the relative is the value compared to an item you would get from Kara-gear or somewhere equally easy (pvp, quests, etc). I've used Rawr for these values based on some of my gear (not using T4/T6 bonus slots, but otherwise high-level gear that was not hit-capped or expertise capped) The absolute value will be abbreviated ADtB. The relative will be RDtB. This list is mostly by relative value (RDtB) but makes some changes along the way depending on what other upgrades are out there and how long you'll be likely to use the gear. Also note that I did not bother evaluating older pieces of badge gear in the same slot if one in another slot was better unless it served a different purpose. For example, the Shallow-grave Trousers are not worth thinking about when you can get the Trousers of the Scryer's Retainer, as they're both for cat form only and one is strictly better.

  1. Everbloom Idol
    15 Badges, ABtD: 1.529, RBtD: 1.333 (upgrade from Idol of the Wild)
    I was pretty surprised about this. I knew this was the best idol to use for single target DPS (the best for raid DPS is Idol of the Raven Goddess), but I had no idea how efficient this was on the bang for your buck scale. At 15 badges, this can add a huge amount of DPS. Note that if you have the Idol of Feral Shadows this becomes much worse of an overall upgrade (.1333 RDtB) but it's still very good. It also has no upgrades in the future.
  2. Staff of the Forest Lord. 150 badges, ADtB: 1.47, RDtB: .333 (upgrade from Stranglestaff)
    For a cat leaving Kara this is by far the largest upgrade to DPS you could get. If you've already got your PvP maul or staff this may not be so great, but otherwise it is by far the best short of a completion of your 2pT4 bonus. It's about 30 DPS better than the Staff from Zul'Aman, 50 better than the Stranglestaff, and even 20 better than the MG staff. This has a higher ABtD and RBtD ratio than anything else. There are only two items better; the brutal gladiator staff and the stanchion of Primal Instinct, and both will not be obtained for a long, long time.

  3. Trousers of the Scryers Retainer
    100 badges, ABtD:.53, RBtD: .08-.20 (upgrade from Skulker's Greaves or Midnight Legguards)
    If you're unlucky to not get the Skulkers (or all the other DPS classes beat you on the roll) these are one of the biggest upgrades you could possibly get. Huge hit, agility, stam and two sockets meant for delicate gems gives a great piece, perfectly itemized for a cat. The only strictly better pants are from Felmyst.
  4. Idol of Terror
    20 badges, ABtD: .438 RBtD: .179 (upgrade from Idol of the Wild)
    This is typically one of the first badge pieces bought by a feral since it's cheap and gives a very large boost to a Bear's tanking abilities. It's also a decent cat idol. It's especially good when soloing as you'll have the proc up virtually all the time.
  5. Tameless Breeches
    100 badges, ABtD:.465, RBtD: .01-.14 (upgrade from Skulker's Greaves or Midnight Legguards)
    The nice thing about this piece is how good they are for bears too; even gemmed for agility and agility/hit they have more armor than T5, huge stamina and great agility. They aren't as good as other options for cats and are comparable to Skulker's, but if you need to skimp on badges and want to get something for both your bear and cat set, this is a really good hybrid piece to go for.
  6. Angelista's Revenge
    60 badges, ABtD: .4333, RBtD: .0917 (upgrade from Garona's Signet Ring)
    While this isn't the best bang for your buck it's up there pretty high, plus it upgrades a slot that has very few good upgrades in the path and which upgrade very slowly. Most of the better upgrades for this are in Black Temple and beyond. If you have two solid rings you may not consider doing this one, but if you have one good ring (like Garona's) and one bad one, this is a good choice.
  7. Nyn'jah's Tabi Boots
    60 badges, ABtD: .617, RBtD: .083 (upgrade from Edgewalker's Longboots)
    Another well-itemized piece for cats, this is essentially a direct upgrade in every way from the Edgewalker's. They do not have a reasonable upgrade until Mother Shahraz or Sunwell either, so they should last a very long time.
  8. Handwraps of the Aggressor
    75 badges, ABtD:.44, RBtD: .053 (upgrade from Gloves of Dextrous Manipulation)
    The only real reason these are so low is because you may have your 2-piece T4 bonus and one of those pieces may be the gloves. If that's not the case with you, these are a really strong piece of gear that only gets replaced with T6 or Sunwell gear. That they're also one of the best Bear pieces of gear is another good reason to grab these.
  9. Tunic of the Dark Hour
    100 badges, ABtD:.54, RBtD: .10 (upgrade from Shadowprowler's Chestguard) This is another piece that has better upgrades elsewhere. In particular the Vengeful Gladiator's Dragonhide Tunic is as good and will be great for Bear form as well, especially in resistance fights where maintaining crittability is an issue. However, if you don't have it or don't have access to that, this is the best chest you can get before Tier 6 content and is only slightly worse than the Nether Shadow Tunic (the best you can get from T6). If you plan on doing arena I wouldn' bother with this, but if you don't want to, go for it.
  10. Belt of the Silent Path
    75 badges, ABtD: .493, RBtD: 0-.12 (upgrade from guardian's pvp or Girdle of Treachery)
    The belt slot is an odd one for cats, as there are a ton of options that have nothing to do with instances available. If you have the cash, the Belt of Deep Shadow is one of the best in the game, especially if you're close to the hit cap. If you're at the cap, the guardian's pvp belt is very strong. There's even the Waistguard of the Great Beast, which is pretty decent for Cats and Bears both (though not best for both) If you have any of those, don't bother with this; this is strictly inferior to the first two and only slightly better than the waistguard if you aren't hit-capped. If you don't have any of those and have Kara-level gear, this becomes one of the best options for upgrading per badge that you can. I'd recommend going elsewhere as there are other options for your badge loot, but take a good look at it first.
  11. Waistguard of the Great Beast
    60 badges, ABtD .708, RBtD: 0-.583 (upgrade from guardian's pvp or Girdle of Treachery)
    Just slightly worse than the Belt of the Silent Path, these are still a better bargain and serve both bear and cat decently. Not the best choice for either though; you're probably better off going with Belt of Natural Power for Bear and picking something else for cat. Still, a strong option, especially if you're a bit cash-strapped.
  12. Bloodlust Brooch
    41 badges, ABtD: .436, RBtD: .121 (upgrade from Core of Ar'kelos)
    This is another one that you have to evaluate yourself. If you have a Shard of Contempt and Hourglass of the Unraveler the brooch doesn't compare so well. If you're stuck with poorer trinkets, however, it's quite good. It's also cheap. I'd recommend getting it if you need it, but don't get it until later in your career as there are plenty of non-raid options that can drop beforehand.
  13. Footwraps of Wild Encroachment
    60 badges, ABtD: .617, RBtD: 0 (upgrade from Edgewalker's Longboots)
    These are not as good as the Nyn'jah's Tabi Boots, but they are excellent bear boots and end up being better than Edgewalker's when hit-capped. A good Bear and Cat upgrade.
  14. Embrace of Everlasting Prowess
    100 badges, ABtD: .45, RBtD: .02 (upgrade from Shadowprowler's Chestguard)
    Another decent Bear/Cat mix, these aren't much of an upgrade for Cat but tend to be a fairly large one for Bear, especially on avoidance. I would put this off for a while in favor of other bear/cat pieces higher on the list.
  15. Master Assassin Wristwraps
    35 badges, ABtD: .736, RBtD: 0 (upgrade from Vindicator's Dragonhide Bracers)
    These have a very high absolute value because they're so cheap, but there are a ton of upgrades from all over the place that are better than these are - and almost none can compare to the Vindicator gear. If you can get the Guardian gear that's even better, as there is only one drop from Sunwell that comes close. If you really refuse to do PvP these may be an option, but keep in mind that the vindicators are also one of the best bear pieces for maintaining uncrittability after getting rid of your clefthoof set, so they'll likely serve a double purpose.
  16. Band of the Swift Paw
    35 badges, ABtD: .613 RBtD: 0 (upgrade from Vindicator's Dragonhide Bracers)
    These aren't as great a deal as the Master Assassin wraps, but they're the highest-armor bracers for bears in the game and are very good as long as you can get your uncrittability elsewhere. They're this low because they're not that good for cats and you really, really should be getting the Vindicator's bracers instead.
  17. Brooch of Deftness
    35 badges, ABtD: .383 RBtD: 0 (upgrade from Shattered Sun Pendant of Might)
    This is an exceptional threat item for bears but only a decent one for cats. With the Shattered Sun neck pieces, this is not quite as strong as it used to be but is still decent. If you don't have the SSO rep or don't want to get it, this can be a good option, especially if you go Bear a lot. It is not as good as the next item for cats but the hybrid piece makes it better in my book.
  18. Choker of Vile Intent
    25 badges, ABtD: 1.01, RBtD: 0 (upgrade from Shattered Sun Pendant of Might)
    A very cheap item for what you get, this has been superceded by the Shattered Sun necks. If you can't get those for some reason and don't want to get something else, this can be a good piece - but keep in mind that the Worgen Claw necklace is basically identical to this. Probably not worth the upgrade.
  19. Blood Knight War Cloak
    25 badges, ABtD: .852, RBtD: 0 (upgrade from Vengeance Wrap)
    Not a strong item at all. Two different cloaks from Kara are better, and the Vengeance wrap is better with good gems. Unless you're very unlucky and cheap, skip this.
  20. Dory's Embrace
    60 badges ABtD: .282 RBtD: 0 (upgrade from Vengeance Wrap)
    This is situationally decent if you stack armor pen, but most druid gear doesn't have it. As such it is more expensive than the Blood Knight War Cloak while being less useful. Don't bother.
  21. Mask of the Deceiver
    50 badges, ABtD: 1.18 RBtD: 0.01 (upgrade from Stag-Helm of Malorne)
    While this is slightly better than the Stag-Helm, that doesn't take into account the 2-piece bonus. With that, this is far, far behind. If you must get a helm instead of the Stag-Helm, get Merciless Gladiator's Dragonhide Helm instead and save your badges.
  22. Cowl of Beastly Rage
    50 badges, ABtD: 1.04 RBtD: 0 (upgrade from Stag-Helm of Malorne)
    Even comparing to Cowl of Defiance this isn't very good. If you are really strapped for gear, go with the Merciless Gladiator's Dragonhide Helm instead. But really, go for the Stag Helm.

Monday, July 14, 2008

[Druid] The Cat From-Karazhan gear guide

Thanks to BBB, I now have a few readers. Or at least had a few readers before taking a vacation and not updating in a couple weeks. Sorry guys. On the flip side, I got to see Endor. It's pretty amazing to go to a park and be able to see where they filmed certain parts of a star wars movie, remembering where they did this and that. Mostly it was amazing just going to see these huge trees that have been around longer than Europeans had been in the Americas.

Hadn't quite remembered in RotJ that there were so many mosquitoes on Endor. Hmm.

Anyway, onto meaty bits - Cats and Karazhan! Or more accurately, Cats and what you should look for in Karazhan. What I've found tends to happen to most ferals in terms of gear is something like this:

1) you get priority for bear gear
2) you get to roll against warriors and priests for tier gear
3) you get whatever bits and pieces people don't want for cat gear

What this means in practice is that for the most part, you won't get a lot of gear out of Kara for your cat on the first few tries. Fortunately everyone runs Kara a billion times for badges anyway, and a lot of the leavings are great for cats. There's a lot to offer a cat too in here, but keep in mind that quite a bit of this gear will be replaced very quickly by badge gear, pvp gear and other sources. Here's a list of the gear you should aim to get out of Kara, ordered from highest priority to lowest.

Stuff you'll never replace:

1) Stag-Helm of Malorne. Drops from Prince. This is a great piece of cat gear with a good socket bonus, a decent socket (agi/hit is good here), tons of strength and is in a slot that is very hard to find upgrades for. The next best obtainable items are all pvp gear. The important thing to note here is the set bonus:
"Your melee attacks in Cat form have a chance to generate 20 additional energy"
The 2-piece Tier 4 set bonus is so ridiculously powerful it's not funny. It's kinda sad, actually; the most optimal setup for a druid geared in full T6 and a fair amount of sunwell is to still keep 2 pieces of Tier 4 gear for this bonus. Only when you have every single piece of great loot from Sunwell does it make sense to get rid of this. It's that good. And even more importantly, the T5 and T6 helms are not that stellar for catform, so this is likely one of the two pieces of T4 gear you will use. Between the good enchant you can get for it, the ability to use a dps meta instead of a tanking meta and that T5 and T6 simply aren't great for kitty, you'll keep this for a long, long time. Until this drops, run Kara weekly.

Stuff you'll replace maybe, sometime, if you get lucky:

1)Drape of the Dark Reavers. Drops from Shade of Aran. This is a really strong cloak for Cats - agility, stam, and hit rating all are strong and scale well over time. The only time this isn't as good is when you're hit-capped, but it's still excellent to have options. There are better cloaks - but they drop from Kael'Thas in The Eye and Teron Gorefiend. Or some big ass demon.

Stuff that you'll replace if you're a raider:

Garona's Signet Ring. Drops from Curator. This has a lot of possible replacements, but all of them are either from T5, T6, or Sunwell. PvP doesn't cut it here either. The high agility and hit are the big winners here.
Ring of a Thousand Marks. Drops from Prince. Not quite as good as Garona's Signet due to the flat crit rating instead of agility, this is still a good piece and better than anything you'll get pre-T5, save Angelista's Revenge.

Stuff you'll replace when you get your badges together:

Edgewalker Longboots. Drops from Moroes. These are a very good piece that should last a long time. Agility, hit, and stam with only attack power as a meh stat all make it nice, and the two sockets make it somewhat customizable. It will be upgraded via badges, but it is a small upgrade and will be upgraded fairly late in life.
Skulker's Greaves. Drops from Netherspite. These are some of the best pants you can get in the game. The badge pants are better, but they're also expensive and only a slight upgrade here, so it's very possible these will be the last piece you upgrade. One interesting thing to note is that the Tameless breeches are both great for bear and cat form, so you may want to use those if you can't get these. If you can get these though, jump at it - the potential high agility is great.
Terestrian Stranglestaff. Drops from Terestrian Illhoof. This thing is awesome. Oh, sure, other staves do more DPS. Other staves have better stats. But nothing matches the coolness of having a squid on a stick, save perhaps voodoo gnomes. It's not a bad DPS staff either, and will work well until you can replace it via badges.
Gloves of Dextrous Manipulation. Drops from Attumen the Huntsman. Really stellar glove stats here combine with two sockets to give a nice piece. These are only slightly worse than the S4 gloves when socketed with two delicate living rubies, and will only be a small downgrade from the badge gear you can get.
Gauntlets of Malorne. Drops from Curator. You should already be going after this for the bear form gear, but you still should go after this for cat at least for a bit. Getting the 2pT4 bonus is amazing. The gloves themselves are pretty poor for dps, but the bonus is sexy.

Stuff that you'll replace as soon as you do some pvp:

Girdle of Treachery. Chess event. These socketed with a couple of living rubies are pretty strong. Depending on your hit rating, either the Guardian's belt (if you've got enough) or the Belt of Deep Shadow or
Belt of the Silent Path (if you don't) are better upgrades, and either require pvp, badges or money to get. I'd recommend getting the Guardian's Belt and saving the badges, in case you were curious, but the best choice is to spend the cash.
Zierhut's Lost Treads. Random drop. These aren't that bad, but you can get better PvP items, better badge items and hopefully a better drop from Karazhan itself. They're not bad for Bear form either, but quickly are eclipsed by other gear there as well.

Stuff you'll replace when you grind some mats:

Cowl of Defiance. Drops from netherspite. This has no meta gem, but even in spite of that it's not horrible. It's just not that great, and every pvp helm you can get eclipses this. It's comparable to the Cobrascale hood, which isn't that great either.
Chestguard of the Conniver. Drops from Nightbane. These are better than most pre-Kara items, though the VG chest is better. The real thing you'll likely replace this with is the Shadowprowler's chestguard, which is better and not too hard to grind out. Not a bad item to get if you can't get better or are strapped for cash/time.

Stuff you'll use until you get lucky or not lazy:

Bladed Shoulderpads of the MercilessDrops from Chess. These aren't great. The Pvp shoulders are better for cats, but more importantly most of the shoulders mentioned in the pre-Kara gear guide are better. Skip these unless no one wants 'em and you don't have anything better.
Grips of Deftness. Moroes drops these. They're decent, and they help with expertise. They're not as good as the other options in Kara though, and they will be replaced soon. If you want to play with the effects of expertise, these aren't bad. Otherwise skip 'em.
Worgen Claw Necklace. Drops from Attumen the Huntsman. This isn't a bad piece, but the Shattered Sun Pendant of Might is a better DPS piece and can be bought after you've gotten rep. Since you should likely be grinding rep anyway with them, it's a no-brainer.
Mithril Band of the Unscarred. Drops from Netherspite. Not a strong item, but rings are hard to find. Probably skip this unless you're very desperate.
Mithril Chain of Heroism. Drops from Chess. Better than the saberclaw, but still a poor piece. Skip it.
Saberclaw Talisman. Drops from Shade of Aran. Really poor piece. Most quest items are better than this, as is the SSO pendant mentioned above. Skip it unless you're really lazy.
Royal Cloak of Arathi Kings drops from Moroes. Really bad piece -worse than the quest reward in Nagrand for that silly bird quest. Skip it entirely.
Bracers of Maliciousness. Drops from Maiden. Another very meh item with no agility, strength or hit. There are many better bracers from non-kara sources. Skip this.
Rapscallion Boots. Drops from Shade of Aran. Bad name, worse stats - this is the pair to the Bracers of Maliciousness in terms of bad itemization for cats. Skip it.
Romulo's Poison Vial Drops from Romulo, opera event. A very poor choice given how druid attacks work and the lack of dependence on maxing hit. Skip this for almost anything else.

And that's it! Here's a quick cheat-sheet for gear to look for, organized by boss, and color-coded for awesomeness (red) to not great (blue). Note I left off any items I recommend to skip off the list.

Attumen the Huntsman:
  • Gloves of Dextrous Manipulation
  • Worgen Claw Necklace
  • Edgewalker Longboots
  • Nothing!
  • Nothing!
  • Gloves of the Fallen Defender
  • Garona's Signet Ring
Terestrian Illhoof:
  • Terestrian Stranglestaff
Shade of Aran:
  • Drape of the Dark Reavers
  • Cowl of Defiance
  • Mithril Band of the Unscarred
  • Skulker's Greaves
Chess Event:
  • Bladed Shoulderpads of the Merciless
  • Girdle of Treachery
  • Helm of the Fallen Defender
  • Ring of a Thousand Marks
  • Chestguard of the Conniver
Next up: how to spend your badges.