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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.