Friday, July 30, 2010

[Druid]Could it be - a Cataclysm talent tree that almost works?

With build 12644, the Cataclysm beta has a feral tree that is almost functionally useful. I say 'almost' because...well, you'll see. But it's certainly better than what we've seen before, and so far it's the most reasonable feral tree since the 31-point massacre.

For the first time one can spec bear or cat and not actually have to take cat/bear talents. That's pretty neat. Sure, most of the talents still don't do anything, others are not working as intended, and many of the actual abilities related to those talents aren't working properly - but who cares, right? Let's look at the talent trees.

This is a 0/33/8 build, in case you were curious. Most of the points are mandatory, though one could spend the last two points from Improved Feral Charge and put them into the last point of Natural Shapeshifter and one point in Master Shapeshifter. No purely cat talents are taken here, and anything that could give some survival as a bear is taken. It's a very basic build, but as stated above there's not a lot of room for flexibility here. All the talents that aren't taken are basically cat talents with marginal or negative usefulness as a bear. Even Natural Shapeshifter is just filler for Perseverance, as the mana cost for shapeshifting is absurdly low currently. Thanks to giving a mini-charge, I consider Brutal Impact to be mandatory for all ferals. I guess one could spec out of Infected Wounds, but there's really not a lot else you might want as strictly bear.

I do have to say I'm thrilled with the change to Feral Aggression; between it making it apply all three stacks at once, FFF not costing rage any more, and it being a lower tier talent it is much, much better.

One big problem here is that the resto tree, as far as ferals are concerned, is very, very poor. Furor still only gives rage back 60% of the time, but it's the best tank talent there is in the first tier. I assume it'll be improved and made 100% with three points, but that's still not amazing. Blessing of the Grove is useless for a bear, and Natural Shapeshifter is almost useless. It's all filler to get to Perseverance. Then we have the rest of the tree, and one can literally take every single talent that affects bear performance positively with the points. I'm assuming that Enrage still reduces armor (it does currently) - in which case King of the Jungle and Primal Madness remain cat-only. So while the tree looks workable, it's not exactly fun, and there's certainly not a lot of agonizing over what choices to make.

Similarly, let's check out the basic cat build:

This is a 0/34/7 build. And similar to bear, there's not a lot of 'choice' here, though there's a bit more than bear. I'm assuming that Predatory Strikes remains mostly a pvp talent, as doing three rakes at the start of a fight with a 90% crit rate sounds like a stellar way to...pull aggro. While Natural Shapeshifter and Master Shapeshifter are marginal (4 talent points for 2% crit) there's really not a lot of option to spend it on otherwise. The only cat-like utility that could exist is Infected Wounds; I elected to buy Survival Instincts and put the final point in 1/3 Furor. And again, given that it gives you a 10-second charge, I consider Brutal Impact a mandatory talent.

Again, the resto tree just sucks for ferals at this point. There's no compelling reason like Omen of Clarity to go deep in the tree, and no talent like Naturalist that gives a really awesome boost to damage per talent point.

So...if bears don't hugely want resto, and cats don't hugely want resto, why take resto? And that leads me to the main reason why I believe the talent trees themselves aren't done yet: the 0/41/0 build.

This takes almost every useful talent in the feral tree, skipping only Predatory Strikes and a point in Nurturing Instinct. One could swap that around as well, having only one point in infected wounds or something like that. This basically would make a completely functional bear and cat build all in one. What does it lose?

From bear, it loses 6% spell damage reduction, 60% chance of 10 rage on shifting to bear, and potentially 2% more damage.

From cat it loses 4% shred damage, 2% crit chance.

Is that optimal? No. But it's very flexible, and if you don't tank a huge amount (or primarily offtank heavy physical damage dealers) or want to have a feral build AND a spellcasting build, this is a pretty nice choice. It loses no utility from bear, compromises very little on threat and only a small amount on incoming damage. It loses a small amount of damage from cat that may be irrelevant depending on how good mangle turns out to be compared to shred; right now mangle is actually neck and neck with shred with the 10% mangle glyph, though all of that is likely to be modified.

This is made possible by the complete lack of super compelling talents in the resto tree. And not a ton of compelling talents in the bear/cat tree, either.

I don't really like this, honestly; I want the difference between a cat and a bear build to be profound. If you wanted to do that before, you'd lose out on quite a bit of good damage dealing talents (like 10% more damage on crits) and have almost no utility. Now you gain all the utility and only lose a bit of damage. That's not enough.

I hope that the feral tree will gain a few more interesting, cool abilities that make you want to take them and make you sweat about which one you didn't take. I also really want resto to have some close to mandatory talents for both specs, so you can't spend all your points in the feral tree like a n00b who thought they could ONLY spend their points in one tree. Unfortunately we're likely to be pretty close to being done with ferals, at least as far as their talents go; my gut feeling is that we'll see a couple of juggled talents here and there, but largely the next step is going to be balance and number crunching. Still, a guy can hope - and at least this time the tree is mostly sane.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

[General]The dirty secret about armor

This is somewhat based on a post I made on tankspot a while back and references common tanking terms like Effective Health and Time to Live. If you don't know what these mean - read Aggathon's excellent treatise on these things over at Tankspot: Why we do what we do. There's nothing new there for many tanks familiar with these concepts, but it's a well-done document.

But, there's something it doesn't cover - and that's the advantages armor has over stamina. Or at least it doesn't cover it hugely. Similarly, it doesn't cover the advantages that resistance has over stamina in some circumstances.

Effective health is simply how much total incoming damage you could take at once. It is normally referring to physical damage (noted as PEH, or physical effective health) and is simply the following:
health / (1-armor reduction)

So if you have a 50% armor reduction and 50,000 health, you have a PEH of 100,000 - meaning you can take 100,000 physical damage (before armor reduction) before you die. Now, other things like general resistance to all damage (such as protector of the pack) fall in here too, but ultimately it doesn't matter; the important thing to consider is effective health combines the reduction in damage with the amount of health you have.

Similarly, you can look at magical effective health (MEH) as:
health / (1-reduction)

which factors in general resistances and specific ones. Note that for the purposes of effective health, you can't take into account chance; if something could happen that's beneficial (like a block or dodge or SD proc), effective health assumes that it won't happen. Thus for resistance purposes you can take only the minimum resisted value.

So that tells you how effective health works. And you can combine the two values depending on the % of magical damage and physical damage you're expected to take at a given time, and optimize based on that. Now most folks will tell you - often rightly - that the best way to optimize for this is to always go for stamina, even over more armor - because health is in both physical and magical EH and benefits both. And that's true - but only for the calculation of how much damage you could ever take.

Where it gets interesting is in the notion of partial health. And this is where the dirty secret of armor comes in. While effective health is awesome, stamina only helps how much damage you can take at a given time; armor magnifies both how much damage you can take AND how valuable healing can be.

Let's take a very simple example that should be at least somewhat realistic - two tanks with precisely the same physical effective health. One tank has 50k health and 50% armor reduction and no other sources of reduction (or for our purposes they're the same as each other, so they go away) - so using the formula above they have 100,000 EH. The second tank has 40k health and 60% armor reduction, giving them also 100,000 EH (40000/ (1-.6)).

Now, we'll hit both of them with a hit that takes half their EH - a 50k hit. The first tank's health is now at 25k. The second tank's health is at 20k (50k *.4 = 20k). Still the same EH, right?

Now, let's heal them. We'll heal both of them identically for 10k health. This is where it gets interesting.
The first tank goes from 25k to 35k - and their EH is 70k.
The second tank goes from 20k to 30k. Their EH is now 75k. That's a 7% lead in EH over the first tank.

Let's give them another 10k heal:
The first tank goes from 35k to 45k. Their EH is 90k.
The second tank goes from 30k to 40k. Their EH is 100k - up to full. At this point the second tank has a 10% lead in EH over the first!

And that's the dirty secret of armor - and why armor is good. Because it improves the value of healing, partial healing on a tank, it increases the EH of the tank after they've taken damage but before they've been healed to full. That it also makes it more likely they can be healed to full is a nice side effect too. This seems somewhat obvious - since armor reduces damage taken, of course it reduces the amount of health needed to go to full - but the EH model doesn't often talk about partial healing or what happens when your tank is somewhat healed but not entirely. And the bigger the deficit and the larger the amount of heals it takes to get there, the more this becomes obvious.

Yet we don't often have the case where a tank takes damage and then sits there with no heals until they get all the heals at once. Many tank deaths happen because of a combination of lack of enough healing with a set of hits; this was what killed people on Algalon, as an example.

Now the side part of this is that since armor doesn't help with magical damage, this is obviously not as great for things with massive magical burst; in the above example the 40k tank has 40k MEH, and the 50k tank has 50k MEH, which is a big disadvantage. The neat thing though is that resistance math works exactly the same here as armor does - with similar advantages in partial damage and healability. And that means that resistance at certain steps becomes far more valuable than health due to how much damage you can reduce. We've seen this before with Sarth3D and with heroic 25-man Anub'arak, and it's been used nicely sometimes for Sindragosa as well. And resistance also gets a boost from simply being way better at increasing EH than health does; while you can get 110 stamina from a wrist enchant, you can also get about 5% resistance (or 50% of the way to 10% resistance), which is a much bigger boost to MEH than that 1300 health would be normally.

Anyway, hopefully this will give you some intuition as to why things like Unidentifiable Organ is good regardless of whether the stack wears off, or why Petrified Twilight Scale is awesome even with the proc being somewhat meh. It should also give you an idea of why bears were so ridiculous before this as far as being healable, especially back in the day of TBC.

Monday, July 19, 2010

[Druid] Feral Druid Intentions

This is a copy of a forum post I made on the beta forums. I'd love to hear more feedback about it. Note that I didn't make it with the idea that this should be a bitch fest; I honestly don't know what the intentions are of the developers, and this makes it a lot harder to figure out what's going on. I think that if I have a better handle on what the goal is and where they're going, I can make more reasonable suggestions and start tweaking numbers to show where they need to be. WIthout that, it's basically 'that rules' or 'this sucks', and that's not that useful.

One of the problems I've had testing as a feral is that I'm not sure what the intent of a lot of the changes are. Without knowing what the goal is, it's hard to say whether or not something is working, not working as intended but needing tweaks, or simply broken and needs entire revising. I realize that a lot of this is opinion and subjective (whether or not you actually like something is different than whether or not it's working as intended) but I feel like it would be greatly helped if some answers along these lines were provided.

With that said, here's the questions I have.

1. Innervate: Is it intended that innervate is based on the druid's mana? This is a reversion from live, and it effectively nerfs innervate for ferals. That might be the intent, and that's fine, but it would be nice to know.

2. Skull Bash: is it intended that to interrupt, bears and cats back outside of melee range and charge in? This seems like a clumsy mechanic to me (it's like feral charge) but it isn't horrible, just annoying.

3. Primal Precision : is it intended to have 10 expertise baked into the feral forms?

4. Is it intended that berserk remain on the GCD?

1. Pulverize: How should pulverize fit into the rotation? Currently it is not worth the loss of lacerate applications to do a pulverize; you would gain about 30% more threat and 50% more damage simply by keeping your lacerate stack up and doing mauls/lacerate/thrash instead. The buff for damage and tanking is not particularly high. The actual damage is pretty low; lower than mangle and significantly lower than maul. Is pulverize intended to be used without lacerate stacks? With them? Should the goal be to keep the pulverize buff up at all times?

2. Lacerate: Lacerate scales very poorly with AP and does not scale at all with weapon damage. Is this intended? It has a high static threat component, but this makes it scale badly at all levels.

3. Swipe: is it intended to be doing about 1/4th the damage that it does on live, currently? As it stands it is usefess as a threat tool, even if thrash boosted it.

4. Maul: is it intended that maul remains the #1 threat tool for bears? Maul still does 18-20k damage compared to a mangle's 6-7k, and the best rotation is still to maul on every possible opportunity.

5. Mangle: is mangle intended to be just used for putting up a debuff? It is very weak, especially compared to maul.

6. Berserk: what is the intent of this ability? As a 31 pointer, being able to do multiple mangles when mangle is so very weak is quite lame. Bears can entirely skip berserk and only essentially miss a fear break. Is that the intent - that berserk is so weak compared to live?

7. Faerie Fire (bear): it costs 45 rage and 18 seconds to put up a full armor debuff. Is this the intent, or will there be a shortening of the cooldown for FFF?

8. Armor: what should the armor values for a bear be? Currently armor values are about 25% lower than a similarly geared and specced warrior at the same level. Is that the intent?

9. Savage Defense: is it intended to be a static reduction of damage, or will it be changed to a percentage reduction?

10. Endless Rage/King of the Jungle: is this intended to be a useful bear talent? If so, is the armor reduction going to be removed from enrage?

1. Swipe: is swipe intended to be doing about 25% of the damage it currently does on live?

2. Improved Feral Charge: is it intended that feral cats get out of melee every 30 seconds or so, pool energy and ravage 3 times? Or is this intended as an opener but not a constant part of the rotation?

3. Damage in general: my lvl 82 feral in the same gear as on live (a mix of 277 and 264 gear) does about 10% less damage than live. At 80, they were doing about 50% less damage. Is it intended that damage is reduced so significantly? I believe this is mostly due to the loss of armor pen combined with bad scaling, but I don't know whether or not that's the intent.

4. Energy refund: is it intended that cats lose their energy refund on finishers? There is no talent for it any more, but because PP did exist I'm still getting it. I don't know if this is a bug or a feature. It could be an intended design that makes ferals want to gear for hit and expertise more highly, but I don't honestly know.

5. CP transfer: it was mentioned that there was going to be a way for ferals to transfer some CPs around, or at least remember the CPs on other mobs and not lose them. Is this still intended?

6. Ferocious Bite: Is it intended to be used only as a refresher for rip at 25% or in burst situations?

7. Endless Rage: is this intended to give an extra 20 energy?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

[Druid] the first iteration of the 31-point talent tree

As seen on MMO-champ, the latest build of the beta has been released, and with it comes the new 31-point maximum talent trees.

And they're horrible for ferals.

Note that ferals are one of the classes that have had the least amount of time spent on their tree. Expect this to change drastically in the near future. Which is good, because as it stands things are totally broken.

Here's some of the things I know about that are broken that need to be addressed at some point in the Cataclysm iteration:

Tier 1:
  • Predatory Strikes is a mandatory talent. Not useful at all for bears, and only marginal use for cats.
Tier 2:
  • Primal Fury is missing the extra combo point generation for cats. So it's a bear only talent.
  • Bears want all 9 talent points at tier 2. Cats want 5 at best.
Tier 3:
Tier 4:
  • In order to progress, a cat must take one point in nurturing instinct, infected wounds or primal fury.
  • There's no improved leader of the pack.
Tier 5;
  • A cat needs to take Survival Instincts to progress. Or natural reaction, I suppose.
Tier 6 and 7 are 'fine', though Rend & Tear has been reduced to a 3 point talent without changing the scaling (so a nerf from 20% to 12%). Nom Nom Nom has stayed in. Berserk is largely useless for bears, but more on that later.

Resto tier 1:
  • Furor has been changed to a 3 point talent (yay) but the scaling has not changed, so it only does a 60% chance no matter what (boo). Bears can choose between boosting their claw and shred damage by 4% or reducing their shapeshifting costs. Yay.
Resto tier 2:
  • There is nothing worth getting for cats past furor and blessing of the grove. For bears, they want perseverance. Even then, it's only 8 points total in the tree.
Outstanding bugs:
  • If you ever had primal precision, you will have 10 expertise.
  • Combo point generation for cats is horrible without getting extra CPs from crits.
  • Rake bleeds crit for only 1.5x damage.
  • Improved feral charge does not work at all.
  • Thrash does not have any interaction with swipe at all.
  • Mangle debuff lasts for 12 seconds.
  • The mangle ability you get at lvl 10 is the mangle debuff and not the actual mangle attack.
  • Faerie fire (cat) doesn't exist.
  • Bleeds do not scale with haste.
  • Energy regen does not scale with haste.
  • Nom Nom Nom does not function (does nothing for rip duration less than 25%)
  • Shred's cost is not reduced
  • There is no crit damage multiplier for cats (so it's base 200%)
  • Ferals lost 10% AP
  • No improved leader of the pack - no mana regen or health.
  • Innervate scales with the caster's mana, not the target.
  • Pulverize still does almost no damage compared to maul.
  • Mangle does very little damage compared to maul.
  • Swipe's scaling is horrible and does about 1/4 the damage it does on live
  • faerie fire costs 15 rage
  • Savage Defense scales statically with AP.
Some of these will be addressed really soon. Others will be addressed as we figure out balance. In any case, it's not exactly fun to play a feral right now; you have to spam claw.

That's right, claw.

It'll get better. Don't panic! But don't think that things are all that hawt right now. If I don't mention a lot, it's because there's not a lot to mention.

[Offtopic] HLK deaded!

On our fourth pull of the night Skunkworks downed Heroic Lich King on 25man, making us the 70th guild in the US to do it and the 244th overall. Again, we raid 8 hours a week max. Not too shabby.

Congratulations to everyone who has worked so hard to get this done. It's been a long 3 months working on him and sometimes it seemed hellish, but it's also been a lot of fun and an incredible show of what folks can do.

If you're curious we did no strategy changes from last time I talked about it. Well, save one - we brought only 5 healers. It helped but mostly in getting to P3 faster.

Cataclysm news shortly. Spoilers: things are broken and suck.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

[Druid]What are the defining abilities for ferals?

So being lazy pays off - I no longer have to write an indepth analysis of the feral trees, because they're all being nuked to hell. Yes, it's shocking that during the beta things would change so much.

But one bit of interesting news here is the notion that all classes will have their spec-defining ability given to them early on in their life, at level 10 when they choose their specialization. That got me thinking - what really is the defining trait for ferals?

The only one I could really think of was Mangle. Mangle is the thing you build towards that is amazingly rewarding at level 50, and allows you to plow through mobs like butter for the next 15 levels. It was defining for bears and cats, sounds great, and does satisfying damage and threat. It's obviously not the top-DPS thing for cats, but at least from a leveling experience it's all about Mangle.

Now there are other defining abilities too, but that's the big one. I think that if I wanted to get people used to feral abilities early, I'd give them something like this:

Savage Defense

Savage Roar
Tiger's Fury
and maybe the combo of Pounce/Ravage or one of the two.

The nice thing is that this would allow for the completely lame claw to be removed entirely. And get you forms early, which has always been an annoyance.

As far as the end game goes, I don't think this really is going to matter. They've said repeatedly that the dps, utility, rotation, tanking skill or healing skill is not going to change; this is almost entirely a leveling and utilitarian cleanup. It might affect how you get that awesome other talent in another tree, but I even doubt that. It'll affect PvP, but I honestly don't care about PvP, so I'm not going to talk about that :) Still, it'll be nice to see the new trees and hopefully get some rebalancing of the bear/cat talents. And maybe some of them will actually be functional!

[Druid]Some quick Cataclysm observations for ferals

I'll be doing a more in-depth analysis of where ferals are in cataclysm, but that'll take a bit of time. In the meantime, here are some answers to some questions I've seen here and elsewhere.

General questions:
  • Feral AP is gone from weapons entirely. Attacks now scale with weapon damage, and are normalized by speed.
  • Faerie fire is broken for cat and bear; it is untrainable.
  • Mark of the wild boosts stats by 7% and does it for the entire raid/party/whatever.
  • Thorns appears to have been slightly boosted; it does about 110 damage per hit without any spellpower boost.
  • I gained about 5k health simply by leveling up in caster form.
  • Shifting forms costs about 5% of base mana, so it's very easy.
  • Primal Precision has been removed.
Bear questions:
  • Savage Defense has a 50% proc chance per crit, and the shields are 75% of AP * (1+ bear mastery bonus). So with a naked bear, it's 75% * (1.32) == about 99%. Note that because the bear's AP has gone way, WAY down due to the feral AP going away, shields are still pretty small.
  • Maul is king in terms of damage and threat once you get a mangle and bleed debuff up.
  • Maul glyph hits a second target for 50% of the base maul damage.
  • Maul currently is the best thing to do no matter what.
  • Pulverize consumes all the lacerate stacks active on the target.
  • Swipe (bear) does significantly less damage currently; it does about 500 damage per swipe on a crit, whereas it was doing upwards of 2k damage on a crit before.
  • Mangle is effectively pointless aside from as a debuffer.
  • Faerie Fire (Bear) costs 15 rage, if you could use it.
  • Improved Feral Charge doesn't work right now for bears.
  • There is no dire bear form. Bear form is it. Mangle works in bear form.
  • Armor has been significantly nerfed in bear form; I believe it's about 75% of what it was. I'll have to do specific comparisons to see what it is.
  • Tanking, right now, is incredibly frustrating and really not worth it; any multitarget tanking is worse than it was in TBC time, the rotation is lacking, etc.
  • Thrash currently doesn't do anything useful other than damage. It doesn't buff swipe.
  • The tree feels incredibly bloated and not particularly fun.

Cat general questions:
  • Endless Rage doesn't work with Savage Roar.
  • Improved Feral Charge removes ravage from your bars entirely. So it's untestable at the moment.
  • Cats have lost about 30% damage from shred and mangle due to the loss of arpen.
  • Arpen turns into straight crit.
  • With the mastery bonus and the other talents, my cat has a paper doll crit rate of 82% with only self-buffs at level 80. This went to 70% at level 81.
  • Nom Nom Nom doesn't appear to properly refresh rips at the moment.
  • The cat tree in general feels sparse, and the 'fun' talents are basically whether or not you want FA, IW, or something like that. You can take all the damage increasing talents and some of the nice to have things like brutal impact and have talents to spare.
  • Thanks to Darksend: Cower reduces threat by 10% instead of a static amount\
  • Swipe does about 25% of the damage it used to; it's essentially not worth using unless you have more than 8 mobs.
  • In general, most 'new' things are broken or not worth playing with at the moment.
Things I want to test: With primal precision gone, is there a refund on missed attacks and specials any more? I believe there is not - making hit and expertise very important to cats now.

Friday, July 2, 2010

[Druid] Heroic LK, or wtf is up with your spec?

The overwhelming large request for further articles was on Cataclysm talent analysis and reports. I am in the beta and was in the alpha, so I can test things out specifically if you're at all curious - and plan to do similar reports to what I did back in the PTR days with savage defense.

So because most everyone wanted my views on Cataclysm, I'm going to talk about Heroic Lich King.

Well, first I'm going to say that Skunkworks is still recruiting, but not a resto druid for the time being. We are recruiting one Holy Priest (as of 7/2) so if you're interested drop us a line. And if you're totally awesome but only want to demonstrate that awesomeness 8 hours a week, drop a line too.

Second, Heroic Lich King. Ugh. It's a great fight, and it's a hard, hard fight. Defile is one of the most horrible mechanics ever to grace a boss fight; it combines all the intricacies of every single 'don't stand in stuff' you've ever seen and combines it with personal fail issues that you have only seen from things like Teron Gorefiend, where you pray to whatever gods might be listening that "That Guy" doesn't get defile, or someone doesn't DC, or whatever.

We are getting better. We got another 17% wipe this week, and this week was short due to our server maintenance - only 4 hours of raiding. Two weeks to go with the 25% buff. I really think we are on the verge of a kill; changing our stuns helped immensely.

Ah, stuns. What am I talking about here? The hardest part of the fight, IMO, is dealing with the valkyrs that carry off three people while defiles are being dropped on random people and the tank on LK is getting WTFPwned. Aka, Phase 2. Tank deaths are actually not that horrible to deal with and we can often recover from a tank death without losing anyone. Defiles are...getting better, though we (and I) have the occasional fail that wipes the raid. The valks, however, we have conquered.

The valks are a neat mechanic. In case you're not familiar, what they do is target three random people who aren't high on threat on LK and pick that person up, damaging them. They travel in a straight line towards the edge of the room, and drop that person off the ledge to be killed and unrezzable. If they go below 50% health (they have 3 million health) they drop their target and fly to the center of the room, and spam the highest threat target they have with random bolts of death. The goal is to get all three valks moving in the same straight line and reduce all three valk's health to 50% as quickly as possible. Both slows and stuns work on them.

Originally we had a stun rotation of an AoE stun first, then two rogues and a feral building up CP and doing their stun, then emergency stuns. And this...didn't work well. It worked some of the time, but the CP generation was slow, the overall stun time was slower, and we'd get situations where the stuns would be staggered so the valks wouldn't be grouped up well enough. We changed this so that the single target stuns are done by paladins and a prot warrior, then the AoE stun hits, and then we go to other single target stuns come in. And we have backups in case those folks are taken.

Which is where my weird-ass cat spec comes in.

The big one here is Brutal Impact. This doesn't affect Maim at all. Why use it? Because the primary stun I provide is no longer maim, it's bash. This increases the duration by a second, but more importantly reduces the cooldown to 30 seconds - meaning it's available on every valkyr phase.

Of course that means I have to go to bear AND have enough rage when I get out of bear to bash right away. Which of course means...5/5 furor. Sigh. I hate this, so very very much. But it's the right choice. After that I had two points to spend pretty much anywhere I chose, so I went with Nurturing Instinct. Partially this helps with healing me, which is good; more survivability on a fight like this is good anyway. But there's a second benefit - it also improves the power of Tranquility.

When would I need to use Tranquility? Well, when a disc priest is picked up and we have to deal with infest. Or in the throne room for some extra heals.

It's not the 'normal' spec, not by any means. It's certainly not DPS optimal; my ferocious bite crits went significantly down, even with the 25% boost. But with this my stuns became far more reliable and far faster to operate, and I could fill in on a quick stun on each valk phase without worrying about the next. It's very useful, and if you've been doing the maim thing I'd recommend doing this instead; you can still build up CPs on your target, but when it comes time for you to stun just switch to bear and bash; you'll have all that energy pooled when you switch back and not lose any CPs on your target, making it far cheaper than maim.

As to strategy on this fight as a feral cat, here's my basic deal.

Stage 1: stay with melee. Pre-pot using a haste pot, blow berserk after the second shadow trap is placed so that I will likely not have to move and most of the rotation has started. Try to get a full rip and fresh rake and 5 CP and a mangle debuff on LK right before he transitions, so I can get a full SR up when the first raging spirit spawns.

Transition 1: run out if targeted by an orb. Innervate a healer. Use CPs from LK on SR when first spirit spawns, then get 5 CPs as fast as I can, rip, build up more CPs, potentially FB or SR depending. Move to second (even if not dead; dots and others will take care of him). Build to 5 CP, rip ASAP. If I had to SR instead, don't rip - FB. Move to third. Build to 5 CP, rip, rake, move to LK.

Stage 2. Stay on LK for the most part. While you would think swipe damage would be insanely awesome, it turns out that it's not nearly as good as damage on LK can be as a cat. The idea is to build CP on LK, keep SR, rake and rip up, and swipe when you can. Run out early for defile to the non-throne side. Watch to stun if necessary. Use barkskin if targeted by valk. Jump over defiles using feral charge. Use Tranquility in an emergency. Don't waste CPs on FBs if you're moving from LK to a valk; refresh SR early instead. Use berserk on the second Valk phase (the one that coincides with Defile) right after the defile lands, and swipe your ass off. If not then, do it on the third phase.

Transition 2: Again, try to get both bleeds and 5 CP for SR on LK right before. Ignore valks. Same basic strategy as before for the raging spirits, though you may want to get bleeds up on both targets if possible at the end. DPS the hell out of the 3rd spirit and waste all your CP.

Phase 3: go into throne room, don't be a retard. Think about using tranquility. Get out of throne room the first time, run like hell, then move back onto the raging spirit. Kill him. Avoid vile spirits or use CDs and bear form to survive them. Get back on LK. Avoid defiles. Then go back into throne room, don't be a retard, use haste pot with bloodlust, use berserk when you can. Ideally you'll use berserk on the first throne room and then the last one.

It's a lot harder than it sounds. :)