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Category Archives: Play Styles

Sage/Sorcerer Leveling: 1-20 DPS

Playing a Sage/Sorcerer
For the most part, playing a Sage/Sorc is much like playing a spell caster in any other MMO. In the world of SWTOR, they’re the only real spell casters in the game. While you can get a caster feel from some of the ranged classes (Trooper, Smuggler, Bounty Hunter, Imp. Agent) most of what they do doesn’t really feel like casting, at least not to me, unless you’re playing their healing spec.

Concerning Sage/Sorc DPS, there are two primary trees available to you and they each have their own feel. The Telekinetics/Lightning tree is the turret casting tree, where you’ll spend the majority of your time remaining stationary while you simply turn left or right as needed while you spam-cast your spells. You do have some spells that you can use on the move, but you’ll have a loss of overall DPS if you use them without needing to move. The Balance/Madness tree relies on damage over time (DoT) effects and channeled spells for the majority of it’s damage and is much more mobile as most of the spells you’ll use in those trees are instant cast either by design or thanks to talent-based procs.

When you reach level 10 and take your advanced class of Sage/Sorcerer there’s going to be a complete change in how you handle combat. Out of all of the classes and advanced classes, the Sage/Sorc AC has the largest shift in playstyle because you’ve just spent 10 levels killing things primarily with melee attacks with some occasional spells thrown in (maybe) and now you’re never going to use another melee attack again. Some players do play low level Consulars/Inquisitors trying to focus on spell casting, but since both of your damaging spells have cooldowns you’re really better of just beating things up in melee.

In addition to the switch from melee to casting you’re also going to notice that your spells now actually have a decent range on them. Telekinetic Throw(Force Lightning) jumps up to 30 meters by default as does Project(Shock), and your new spam-cast spell, Disturbance(Lightning Strike), is a 30 meter cast as well. You also get to quintuple your Force pool from 100 to 500, and your primary crowd control spell Force Lift(Whirlwind) goes from an 8 second duration up to 60 seconds. All of these changes combine to make one heck of a shift in playstyle, so you’ll want to find a few things to kill to get a feel for your new life as a real caster.
Turn the page to find out more…

 

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Druid Leveling: 1-29 Feral

Playing a Feral Druid
Feral Druids are an odd class to play at low levels. It’s almost like Blizzard tried too hard to make us viable with a limited tool set early on and then slowly trickled in all the other abilities that we actually need to be more than mangle-spammers. In short, if you’re new to playing a Feral Druid be prepared to relearn how to play your class every ten levels because our spells are scattered all over the place.

Feral is also somewhat unique because it’s both a tank spec and a DPS spec at the same time. That also makes your talent choices interesting because some talents benefit both roles while others do only one or the other. You’ll need to decide whether you want to focus more on DPS or on tanking, or if you want to play that middle ground as much as possible.

While playing as a Cat you have the option of using stealth to move around undetected in PvE and PvP, though you don’t get any direct benefit from being in stealth right away. As a Bear you just run up to things and smack things in the face until they’re dead. For most of the leveling process Cat damage is based on bleeds and burst while Bear damage is based on steady, repeated blows that utilize the Bears added survivability to be able to live long enough for those steady blows to win you the fight.

Important Spells & Abilities
I’m going to do the spell breakdown a little bit differently this time around than I have in the past. I’m going to break down the important spells based on which forms you have available to you (Caster/Normal, Cat, and Bear) and also which type of spell it is. Druids are the ultimate hybrid class and even though a LOT of the spells you learn aren’t important to being a Feral Druid I want to cover the ones that are worth noting so that you have a firm grasp of what you’re capable of.

I’m still not listing every single spell (though close to it) as not all spells are useful to every spec.

Note that all numeric values are taken from the level 29 version of the spell for the purposes of this post.

Caster Form (Levels 1-8)

  • Wrath (1): Deals 45-49 Nature Damage to the target.
  • Moonfire (4): Burns the enemy for 11-13 Arcane damage and then additional Arcane damage over 12 seconds.

I list these spells primarily because this is what you’ll use to level until at least level 8 since you have no forms to choose from until then. However, it’s also important to be familiar with these if you’re going to PvP. As a Feral Druid there’s a lot of crowd control that you can shrug off, but being rooted in place is not one of them. In cases like those, you need to be able to pop out of your feral form to attack with spells. Even as Feral I keep Moonfire keybound an in reach for just such an occasion. I’ll get into more detail on when using Moonfire and other caster spells is a good idea as a Feral even though using these spells pops you out of your Cat/Bear form in a later post directed specifically at PvP.

For leveling from 1-8, you’re basically going to spam Wrath and/or Moonfire until your targets are dead.

Cat Form (Levels 8-29)

  • Cat Form (8): Shift into Cat form, causing Agility to increase Attack Power (2:1). Also protects the caster from Polymorph effects and allows the use of cat abilities. Shapeshifting frees the caster of movement slowing effects.
  • Claw (8): Claw the enemy, causing 100% of normal damage plus 38. Awards 1 combo point.
  • Ferocious Bite (8): Finishing Move causes damage per combo point and consumes up to 35 additional energy to increase damage by up to 100%, and heals you for up to 1% of your total max health for each 10 energy used.
  • Rake (8): Rake the target for Bleed damage and additional Bleed damage every 3 seconds for 9 seconds. Awards 1 combo point.
  • Mangle (10): Mangle the target for 354% normal damage plus 3 and causes the target to take 30% additional damage from bleed effects for 1 minute. Awards 1 combo point.
  • Prowl (10): Allows the druid to prowl around (stealth), but reduces your movement speed by 30%. Lasts until cancelled.
  • Ravage (22): Ravage the target, causing 664% damage plus 3 to the target. Must be prowling and behind the target. Awards 1 combo point.
  • Skull Bash (22): Charge and skull bash the target, interrupting spellcasting and preventing any spell in that school from being cast for 4 seconds.
  • Tiger’s Fury (24): Increases physical damage done by 15% for 6 seconds. Requires Cat form. Does not break prowling.
  • Cower (26): Cower, causing no damage but lowering your threat by 10%, making the enemy less likely to attack you.
  • Dash (26): Increases movement speed by 70% while in Cat form for 15 seconds. Does not break prowling.
  • Feline Grace (26): Reduces damage from falling.

In case you haven’t noticed, Druids get a crapload of spells. And these are just the ones that you use strictly in Cat form.

As a leveling Cat the most important spells for you are: Mangle, Rake, Ferocious Bite, Prowl and Ravage. Prowl (stealth) and Ravage are used as openers and with decent gear you can one-shot a lot of quest mobs with Ravage. Especially if you buff your damage with Tiger’s Fury first. Mangle is your spam-attack, Rake is your primary Bleed, and Ferocious Bite is your finisher. We’ll get into more detail about how to use these in the sections below.

Claw is mentioned SOLELY because it’s your only decent attack from level 8-9 in Cat Form. At level 10 you’ll take this off of your bars and never look at this worthless piece of garbage again. This spell only exists to give non-Feral Druids an attack to use while in Cat Form, it’s not meant for you. It costs more Energy than Mangle and does a fraction of its damage, so don’t use this ever again once you reach level 10.

While Skull Bash won’t see much use while you’re leveling, it’s good to stay familiar with it and keep it somewhere easily reachable. You don’t need to interrupt spells from quest mobs, but if you develop that habit now you won’t have to worry about trying to get into the habit when you reach max level where dungeon and raid fights demand interrupts.


Bear Form (Levels 15-29) [jump to tanking]

  • Bear Form (15): Shift into Bear form, increasing armor by 120% and Stamina by 20%. Significantly increases threat generation (500%), causes Agility to increase Attack Power (2:1), and protects the caster from Polymorph effects and allows the use of bear abilities. Shapeshifting frees the caster from movement slowing effects.
  • Mangle (10): Mangle the target for 88% normal damage plus 93 and causes the target to take 30% additional damage from bleed effects for 1 minute.
  • Demoralizing Roar (15): Reduce the physical damage caused by all enemies within 10 yards by 10% for 30 seconds.
  • Growl (15): Taunts the target to attack you, but has no effect if the target is already attacking you.
  • Maul (15): An attack that instantly deals 35 physical damage. Effects which increase Bleed damage also increase Maul damage.
  • Swipe (18): Swipe nearby enemies, inflicting 51 damage. Damage is increased by attack power.
  • Enrage (22): Generates 20 Rage, and then generates an additional 10Rage over 10 seconds.
  • Skull Bash (22): Charge and skull bash the target, interrupting spellcasting and preventing any spell in that school from being cast for 4 seconds.
  • Faerie Fire (24): Decreases the armor of the target by 4% for 5 minutes. While affected, the target cannot stealth or turn invisible. Stacks up to 3 times. Deals damage and additional threat when used in Bear Form.
  • Challenging Roar (28): Forces all nearby enemies within 10 yards to focus attacks on you for 6 seconds.

Did I mention Druids get a crapload of spell? Here’s the list of the ones strictly used in Bear form.

Bear form is most often used for tanking, but it’s also a strong option for leveling; especially for those of you who enjoy using AoE and fighting multiple mobs at once. All of these spells are important in one way or another. For boss tanking Mangle, Demoralizing Roar, and Maul are your primary spells with Growl getting an honorable mention in case you’ve got some strong DPS in your group. For questing or fighting trash your major spells are: Mangle, Demoralizing Roar, Maul, and Swipe with Challenging Roar and Growl being mentioned again for those DPS that might draw agro in dungeons.

We’ll talk more about Bear tanking later on. For now, know that if you’re going to be bear tanking you’ll make use of basically all of these spells. The least likely spell for you as a tank is going to be Skull Bash since you usually have DPS focused on interrupts, but if you can add yours to the mix then you only strengthen your group.

Healing Spells (Levels 3-29)

  • Rejuvenation (3): Heals the target for 70 every 3 seconds for 12 seconds.
  • Regrowth (12): Heals a friendly target for 182-202 and another 57 over 6 seconds.
  • Revive (12): Returns the spirit to the body, restoring a dead target to life with 35% max health and mana. Cannot be cast when in combat.
  • Rebirth (20): Returns the spirit to the body, restoring a dead target to life with 20% health and mana. Can be used during combat.
  • Remove Corruption (24): Nullifies corrupting effects on the friendly target, removing 1 Curse and 1 Poison effect.

I wouldn’t ordinarily bother listing healing spells on a guide written specifically for a Tank/DPS spec, but Druids are special.

There’s a method of healing that we call pre-HoT’ing, which is casting Heal over-Time (HoT) spells on your tank before they pull so that you nullify or greatly reduce the amount of initial damage that they take once combat begins. Bears operate off of a Rage mechanic which starts at 0 and fills up during combat. Because of this you can take great advantage of pre-HoT’ing yourself while questing or during dungeons to lessen the load on your healer. If you’re always out of Rage between pulls then you can also make use of your talents for a free 10 Rage after casting your HoT’s to give you a head start in the pull.

The most likely spell for you to use in a pre-HoT is Rejuvenation because it has a longer duration and a cheaper mana cost. Regrowth only lasts for 6 seconds and it’s a front-loaded HoT as well as expensive, so only use it when you know there’s going to be a lot of incoming damage or when you need to top yourself off from the last pull.

Rebirth is mentioned because being able to resurrect someone mid-combat is pretty stinking useful. Revive I mention only because I can’t believe how many times I’ve had people die in pugs and nobody in the group has or has bothered training a resurrection spell. Learn it. Use it. Love it.

Remove Corruption deserves special mention because you can’t use Prowl (stealth) while you have DoT’s on you because taking damage removes you from stealth. You can enter prowl, you just won’t be able to stay in it for more than a second or two. Removing curses and poisons that deal damage can save you a lot of problems when playing as a cat.

Utility Spells (Levels 4-29)

  • Thorns (5): Thorns sprout from the friendly target causing Nature damage to attackers when hit. Lasts 20 seconds.
  • Entangling Roots (7): Roots the target in place for 30 seconds. Damage caused my interrupt the effect.
  • Teleport: Moonglade (15): Teleports the caster to the Moonglade.
  • Aquatic Form (16): Shift into aquatic form, increasing swim speed by 50% and allowing the druid to breathe underwater. Also protects from Polymorph effects. Shifting frees the caster from movement slowing effects.
  • Travel Form (16): Shift into travel form, increasing movement speed by 40% and protecting you from Polymorph effects. Only usable outdoors. Shifting frees the caster of movement slowing effects.
  • Omen of Clarity (20): Your damage spells, attacks, and auto-attacks have a chance to cuase you to enter a Clearcasting state. The Clearcasting state reduces the Mana, Rage or Energy cost of your next damaging or healing spell or offensive feral ability by 100%.
  • Faerie Fire (24): Decreases the armor of the target by 4% for 5 minutes. While affected, the target cannot stealth or turn invisible. Stacks up to 3 times.
  • Innervate (28): Causes the target to regenerate 5% of their maximum mana over 10 seconds. If cast on self, you regenerate an additional 15% of your maximum mana over 10 seconds.
  • Sooth (28): Soothes the target, dispelling all enrage effects.

Yep. Crapload.

Thorns is a really cool spell that actually puts out a surprising amount of damage. The bad news is, it kicks you out of bear/cat form to use it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cast it, but it does mean you should generally avoid doing so mid-combat. This is another spell you should be casting in between pulls for extra damage. If you’re not the tank, cast it on your tank between pulls instead of yourself.

Entangling Roots isn’t used much by Ferals in PvE, though it’s pretty common in PvP. In terms of leveling and questing I like to use this when I’m gathering mostly so that when I don’t want to fight a mob I’ll just root them in place, gather my node and then leave. If you’re a Bear that’s pretty much the only time you’ll cast Roots in PvE.

Teleport: Moonglade is a free ticket to your class trainer any time you want it. Moonglade also has a couple of professions trainers (Herbalism and…something else, I think) and a couple of vendors that sell items that often can be flipped on the AH for a decent profit.

Aquatic Form and Travel Form are both great for mobility, and they can both be cast while you’re in combat. They’re fantastic for PvP, and occasionally useful in PvE.

Omen of Clarity is worth mentioning because you’re going to see those two bars of green leaves pop up on your screen from time to time and you might as well know what it means. Omen of Clarity (OoC) essentially makes your next attack or heal free, so you generally want to make use of the OoC proc by casting a spell with the largest Rage/Energy/Mana cost that has the most benefit. For Feral that’s almost always going to be Mangle or sometimes Ferocious Bite in Cat form, though you may also want to use it for a quick Regrowth if you need some emergency healing.

Innervate doesn’t mean much to Ferals since you almost never use mana, but your healers will love you for casting it on them.

And last is Sooth. Sooth is very often overlooked by Druids because you get it at such an early level and yet have virtually no reason at all to use it. For leveling purposes this spell can pretty much be ignored since anything that does enrage on you will likely die within a matter of seconds if you’re attacking it in Cat form. In dungeons you’ll occasionally run into a boss that you can use this on where it’s useful, but it breaks Cat/Bear form so doing so is risky. The main reason why I mention it is because it does have some definite uses in PvP against Warriors and some class pets that have enrages.

Leveling a Feral Druid

  • Questing Single Mob Stealth: [Cat Form] Prowl, Tiger’s Fury, Ravage, Mangle, Rake, Ferocious Bite, Mangle spam
  • Questing Single Mob No Stealth: [Cat Form] Tiger’s Fury, Mangle, Rake, Mangle x1-3, Ferocious Bite
  • Questing Multi-Mob: [Bear Form] Mangle (mob 1), Demoralizing Roar, Maul, Swipe, Maul, Mangle (mob 2), Swipe, Maul

Questing Single Mob
The fastest way to kill things 1v1 is to use Prowl to sneak up behind them, pop Tiger’s Fury for added damage, and then use Ravage for big burst damage followed by Mangle for even more burst. If the mob manages to survive, you follow that with Rake’s bleed effect which is 30% stronger thanks to Mangle’s debuff, and then Ferocious Bite as a finisher. If the mob still isn’t dead, switch to spamming your Mangle attack until the mob is either dead or has 5 combo points on it at which time you Ferocious Bite again and then return to Mangle spam.

Rarely should you ever have to worry about normal mobs surviving through that full rotation as a Feral.

While using stealth is often looked at as the “right” way to play a Feral, it’s not really necessary. It’s perfectly acceptable to just run up to something and Mangle it’s face a bit before using Ferocious Bite to finish them off. This is most effective when you’re in heirloom gear or other good gear for your level rather than a hodgepodge of whites and greens that don’t add Agility.

Questing Multi-Mob
Using AoE to take down groups of mobs is my favorite way to kill things. This rotation is also what you’ll use when tanking dungeons. Those four spells are the key to tanking form level 15 up to level 69. For that massive stretch of levels there’s virtually no change at all to your rotation for taking. You can assign Mangle, Maul, Swipe and Demo Roar to your 1-4 keys and after hitting Demo Roar once at the beginning of a fight you can spam 1-3 without even looking at your monitor for the rest of the encounter and you’ll do just fine.

The reason why I mention using Mangle on multiple targets is two fold. First, Mangle is your hardest hitting attack so spreading out that big damage will help bring all of the mobs down faster and more evenly time-wise. Second, because Mangle increases Bleed damage by 30% which Maul takes advantage of even though it isn’t a Bleed effect. By default Maul only hits a single target, but with a Major Glyph you can make it hit two targets which is why it’s great for AoE situations.


How to Tank: 29 Feral Druid
Tanking on a Bear Druid is easy while you’re leveling. Before patch 4.3 it was a little bit tougher because Bear Form didn’t get its full defensive bonus until higher levels, but now you get it from level 15 on. To see which spells you’ll be using as a Bear, refer to the Bear Spells section above for a list of all the spells you’ll need to have ready in this level range.

Tanking as a Bear is incredibly simple at early levels. It can be a little bit boring since you’ll be using the same three attack spells over and over as they come off of cooldown, but tabbing through multiple enemies to keep threat spread out over all the mobs can keep it a bit more interesting.

Pulling
There are three methods of pulling that you can use: body pull, feral charge, and faerie fire.

Body Pulling is simply running into the group of mobs and letting the presence of your toon draw the agro. This is the simplest method of pulling, but also the least effective since it generates no threat at all.

Feral Charge is a bit more effect since it’s a gap closer, meaning you rush right in quickly and get started with combat and threat right away.

Faerie Fire is much like Feral Charge except that the range is longer and you’re not closing the gap any faster than with a body pull.

The most effective way to start a pull is to combine those last to. You do this by casting Faerie Fire on the target furthest away from you, then casting Feral Charge on the mob closest to the center of the pack you’re about to pull (any mob in the cluster will work, though).

Once you’re in range of the mobs your first priority is to cast Demoralizing Roar to reduce the damage of all of those mobs. From there you move on to your damage rotation.

Damage Rotation
Until you learn Lacerate at level 66 there are only three spells you’ll need to worry about for your damage rotation: Mangle, Maul and Swipe.

Mangle is a solid burst of damage on a single target, with a 6 second cooldown.
Maul is reasonable damage on a single target, with a 3 second cooldown..
Swipe is an AoE attack that hits all enemies within 8 yards of you, with a 3 second cooldown.

You want to try to use Mangle on each target in the pack at least once so that Mangles +30% Bleed damage debuff is on as many targets as possible. The reason for this is that Maul benefits from Mangle’s debuff even though it’s not actually a Bleed effect. Another reason why we’re spreading it around instead of just focusing one target is because you also want to use the Glyph of Maul which makes Maul hit two targets instead of one, so being able to increase Maul’s damage by 30% on multiple targets is just free, extra damage.

Since Maul and Swipe both have 3 second cooldowns, you’ll alternate these a lot, with Mangle thrown in when it’s available.

If you’re facing a boss or a single mob, you can leave Swipe off the list and just use Mangle/Maul as they’re available, filling in the empty spaces with Faerie Fire until you have 3 stacks of it (the max).

Taunts and Drawing Agro
Bears have two taunts, one that’s single target and one that’s area.

Growl has a single target, and an 8 second cooldown.
Challenging Roar hits all mobs within 10 yards, forcing agro (not threat*) for 6 seconds, and has a 3 minute cooldown.

Growl is going to be your primary taunt because of it’s significantly shorter cooldown. The main thing you need to know about taunts, if they’re unfamiliar to you, is that terms of threat a Taunt puts your threat equal to the person who currently has threat. So if their threat is 500 and yours is only 300, your threat meter immediately jumps up to 500 to match theirs. This is important to remember because taunting something doesn’t just instantly guarantee that the problem is going away. Unless you do something to generate more threat on that target than whoever had threat before is continuing to generate on them, you’re going to lose it again.

For example, if a Mage pulls threat on one mob and you taunt it, but don’t do anything else, if that Mage continues to cast spells against that mob he’s going to steal threat again as soon as he reaches 130% of your threat level (assuming he’s at caster range and not melee range, or else it’s only 110%). The way you combat that is to use attacks on that specific mob to generate a significant enough threat lead that you will not lose threat again before the mob is dead.

If you taunt a mob and they’re not close enough for you to just hit them right away to reestablish agro, use other means of generating agro such as Faerie Fire or use your Feral Charge to close in with the stray mob, followed with Mangle to boost your threat back up.

Challenging Roar forces everything in its radius to fight you for 6 seconds no matter what the threat levels are. Even if your threat level is 300 and theirs is 3 million, you’ve got agro for those 6 seconds. The key issue here though, is that this isn’t an actual taunt. A taunt resets your threat level to match whoever had threat at the time, where this spell leaves threat levels where they are an instead just makes the targets ignore everyone else until the spell ends.

In order to use this spell effectively you need to follow it up immediately with as much AoE as you can. That means hitting Swipe, Maul, Demoralizing Roar, and anything else you have to throw at them (like Engineering explosives). As a Bear you generate threat at 5 times the amount of damage that you put out, and no DPS classes near your level should be able to put out 500% of your damage. Certain spells, like Faerie Fire, also generate threat which is not based solely on damage, but you don’t need to know all the math behind those so I’m not going to mention it.

[Note: I've had some trouble finding the exact percentages that are used currently for pulling threat. General consensus on twitter was that 110% is correct for melee range threat, while there's some confusion on ranged being 120% or 130%. I'm not an expert on threat, so if I got the numbers right just let me know and I'll get it corrected.]

Talent Spec: 29 Feral Druid

  • Feral Swiftness 2/2: Increases your movement speed by 30% in Cat Form and increases your chance to doge while in Cat or Bear forms by 4%. In addition, your Dash and Stampeding Roar have a 100% chance to remove all movement impairing effects from affected targets when used.
  • Furor 3/3: Grants a 100% chance to gain 10 Rage when you shift into Bear form, allows you to keep up to 100 of your Energy when shifting into Cat form, and increases your maximum mana by 15%.
  • Fury Swipes 3/3: When you auto-attack while in Cat or Bear form, you have a 15% chance to cause a Fury Swipe dealing 310% weapon damage. This effect cannot occur more than once every 3 seconds.
  • Primal Fury 2/2: Gives a 100% chance to gain an additional 5 Rage anytime you get a critical strike while in Bear form and your critical strikes from Cat form abilities that add combo points have a 100% chance to add an additional combo point.
  • Feral Charge 1/1: Teaches Feral Charge (Bear) and Feral Charge (Cat). Bear – causes you to charge an enemy, immobilizing them for 4 seconds, 15 second cooldown. Cat – causes you to leap behind an enemy, dazing them for 3 seconds, 30 second cooldown.

This is the spec that I would recommend for level 29, regardless of whether you want to be a Bear tank or a Cat DPS. I have some alternative suggestions down below, in case you like the sound of some of those better for your early leveling. The Feral tree is packed with lots of really cool talents, and depending on what your focus is in game you may prefer one over another.

Feral Swiftness is one of the more iconic talents of the feral spec, allowing you to move faster in Cat form and granting an extra 4% dodge while you’re in a feral form. Increasing your movement speed is often considered a trait of PvP, but it’s a quality of life thing that does have uses in PvE as well. I suggest you spend both of your first points to max this out.

Furor is a stable for every Druid, regardless of spec. For Ferals the main thing is free Rage when shifting into Bear form and not having your Energy drained when shifting into Cat form. It’s a big time saver, and it’s especially useful when tanking so that you’re not constantly having to body pull and start from scratch every time.

Fury Swipes is free damage. Whether that free damage is helping you deal more damage as a Cat, or it’s helping you deal more damage (and thus, more threat) as a Bear, it’s helping no matter what.

Primal Fury is the most changeable talent on my list. It gives you free Rage as a Bear and free combo points as a Cat, which both serve to make you more effective in combat. This is more important for Cats than it is for Bears as oftentimes you can end up with excessive amounts of Rage as a Bear and nothing to dump them into, where a Cat can often end up starved for energy and get better damage on their finishing moves from free combo points without having to spend the energy to generate those points otherwise.

Substitutions:
If you’re going for a straight Cat build and you know you have no interest in tanking, then there are a couple of other choices you might want to consider.

Predatory Strikes 2/2 is a good substitute for points from Furor. It will give you an extra 50% crit chance when using Ravage on targets above 80% health, and give your finishing moves a 20% chance per combo point to make your next Nature spell an instant cast and cost no mana. This is very much a PvP talent, but it also adds survivability in PvE by giving you access to free and instant healing or crowd control spells.

All four of the talents on the 2nd tier of the Feral tree are good. Infected Wounds 2/2 causes your primary attack skills to slow the target’s movement by 25% and their attack speed by 10% which is great for survival and PvP. Feral Aggression 2/2 increases your Ferocious Bite damage by 10% and causes your Faerie Fire spell to apply all 3 stacks of FF in a single cast.

Glyphs

Prime Glyphs

There’s really no question of which glyph is better for you here. Mangle is your primary attack for both Feral forms. The only time I would settle for Tiger’s Fury is if you can’t find or can’t afford Mangle.

Major Glyphs

If you’re going to participate in Bear tanking, use Maul. If you’re a crazy cat lady, use Ferocious Bite. If you don’t have heirlooms, use Thorns.

Maul gives you no benefit as a Cat, and FerBite gives you no benefit as a Bear, so if you’re going to specialize in one or the other then don’t go for a glyph that does you no good.

Thorns does a lot of damage for a cast-and-forget spell, but only if enemies have enough time to hit you. If you have fully enchanted heirlooms and you’re slaying things in a couple of globals, then Thorns isn’t useful to you either.

Minor Glyphs

I’m going to leave the minor glyphs up to you. Personally, I love the Aquatic Form glyph because I hate moving slow and I love taking advantage of water areas in PvP that my opponents cannot. Dash is another favorite of mine since I’m all about moving faster and doing it often. Unburdened Rebirth is first on the list because in practical terms it’s got the most benefit in the long run if you play with other people in your group.

Gearing Up Your Feral Druid
When choosing your gear your top priority is Agility regardless of being a Cat or a Bear. If you’re a Bear tank then your secondary stat is Stamina. If you’re a Cat, then your secondary stat is Agility.

No, that wasn’t a typo.

Other stats that interest you are: Hit, Crit (Cat), Haste, and Dodge (Bears).

You can get some pretty decent Agility gear from the Leatherworking profession at all levels. It’s the one profession I have never maxed on any of my characters, so I don’t wish it upon anyone, but if you know a LW or have on already then you can get yourself some decent upgrades in advance.

If you like to run dungeons, you can get some pretty nice upgrades.
Ragefire Chasm: Chest, Cloak
Deadmines: Cloak, Weapon, Legs
Wailing Caverns: Chest, Belt, Boots, Legs, Gloves, Shoulders
Shadowfang Keep: Shoulders
Blackfathom Deeps: Legs, Bracers, Weapon, Gloves
Stormwind Stockades: Helm (Alliance only), Boots, Legs
Gnomeregan: Rings, Bracers, Chest (Alliance only),

Macros
At Cynwise’s suggestion, I’ve decided to put the macros for each class on their own page. For Druid macros, simply click on the following link, or look under the Macros menu at the top of this page: Druid Macros.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 9, 2011 in Druid, Guide, Leveling, Macro, Melee, Player vs Player

 

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Heirloom Farming Methods

[Update 09/17/13: Conversion rates between Honor and Justice Points has been increased from 375>250 to 500>250, causing a significant increase in the amount of farming required.]

Heads Up – F2P Heirloom Guides Coming Soon
During the past couple of weeks I’ve had a lot of increased traffic on my heirlooms guides, and I’ve had more contact from readers than I have for quite a while. With F2P twinking on a rise right now a lot of people are wondering why I haven’t bothered to cover the PvP heirlooms in my guides. In short, I have.

PvP heirlooms, in general, are not as powerful as PvE heirlooms. PvP heirlooms are defined as those that grant a bonus to Resilience, while PvE heirlooms are those that do not. PvP Heirlooms don’t often show up in my guides because they aren’t as good as PvE heirlooms and if I’m going to write a guide then I’m going to do it with optimization in mind.

However, for the sake of all those F2P players, there will be an heirloom guide soon that’s directed specifically at you and how to go about farming heirlooms for each class taking into account the amount of time it takes to farm Honor and the relative value of PvE pieces versus PvP pieces.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled blog post…
There are multiple ways to farm heirlooms in the game right now, some of which are faster than others. Prior to Blizzard making the change that now allows us to convert Justice Points to Honor and vice versa, some of the heirlooms were theoretically out of reach for players that did not take part in the activities that rewarded the type of currency used for the different heirlooms. Thanks to that change though, the heirlooms can be purchased by players who enjoy any combination of questing, PvP, and PvE.

Today we’re going to take a look at the possible farming methods and how quickly you can farm certain heirlooms. First I’ll explain the various farming methods, and then I’ll give my opinion on which methods of farming I suggest for different types of players.

Methods of Farming

Farming Justice Points (JP)
Cataclysm Instances: 140 per dungeon, 7 per week = 980 JP/wk
Cataclysm Heroics: 70 per boss (varies by dungeon)
Weekly Wrath Raid Quest: 138 JP
Honor Conversion: 375 Honor = 250 JP 500 Honor = 250 JP, no limit
To see a full list of the ways to farm JP, see Wowhead’s listing of Justice Points (JP).

Heirloom Costs: Armor 2,175, Shoulders 2,175, Weapons 2,175-3,500, Trinkets 2,725

I mentioned this type of farming first because the Justice Points are the currency for the majority of the heirlooms available, and because between the JP and Honor heirlooms, JP are almost always the better choice.

Easy Farming: As far as easy farming goes, running the seven random Cataclysm dungeons each week is the “easiest” way to farm JP. The few times that I have farmed dungeons for JP, it took me 1-2 evenings worth of LFG to finish all seven. You never know, even in normal dungeons, how good or bad the rest of the team will be in LFG, and you may or may not be able to talk guild members into doing this farm with you to speed it up. [Update: As I am no longer actively playing WoW, I don't know what the easiest way to farm straight JP is right now.]

Fast Farming: The fastest way to farm JP, that I know of, is to actually farm Honor instead and then convert it to JP. A few months couple of years ago Cynwise wrote a post called The Carrot and the Stick which talks about this a bit. Because of how much of each currency you earn in relation to the activities that grant them, you can earn Honor at a significantly faster rate than you can earn JP, making the conversion rate of Honor -> JP faster than farming JP itself. In the time it takes me to farm seven dungeons for just 980 JP, I can farm roughly two whole heirlooms worth of Honor.

Heroic Farming: While most people farm Heroics for extra Valor Points, each heroic boss does reward JP as well. How much JP you get per dungeon depends on how many bosses the dungeon has to offer. Do you want to run dungeons that have seven bosses for more JP/dungeon, or do you want to run dungeons with only 3-4 bosses for more JP/hour? How much time you have to run them is the real deciding factor. If you’re farming Heroics anyway, you might as well get some heirloom profit out of the deal too.

Farming Honor Points
Heirloom Costs: Armor 2,175, Shoulders 2,175, Weapons 2,175-3,500, Trinkets 2,725

The PvP Heirlooms that originally appeared in Wintergrasp are purchased with Honor. In most cases, the PvP heirlooms are not as powerful as the PvE heirlooms. They can be better for PvP at some levels because they all offer Resilience, but they gain that stat at the expense of other stats so in most cases you get better heirlooms from JP than you do from Honor.

The great thing about Honor is that it can be farmed on any toon from level 10 on, which is especially important for free account players since they don’t have access to a character that can farm JP. It’s also good for people on new accounts who like to do PvP while they level since they can buy heirlooms even without having high level characters.

The most efficient way to farm honor is to do so on a high level character because the higher your level (and your opponent’s level) the more Honor you receive, and the higher your level the higher the Honor rewards are from completing battleground tasks such as capturing flags/nodes or destroying towers/gates/NPC Leaders. But, just because you get more honor at high levels than you do at low doesn’t mean you can’t farm for heirlooms on low level toons.

Honor Farming Without PvP: There are two ways you can farm Honor without doing any actual PvP. First is the Wintergrasp daily quests which each reward 24 Honor. The only quests there that require some form of PvP are the ones that want you to destroy enemy siege vehicles or to protect your own siege vehicles, all others can be done with no PvP at all (you can kill NPC’s for the one that asks for 10 kills). Winning Wintergrasp gives you Honor as well, and since Cataclysm I have not seen more than 8 people in WG at one time, making the battles extremely fast and easy. Losing Wintergrasp should give you honor as well, but I honestly haven’t lost in Wintergrasp since Cataclsym so I have no idea how much it is.

If you control Wintergrasp then you can take advantage of the second type of PvP’less Honor farming, which is Northrend dungeons. While your faction controls WG, all Northrend dungeon bosses reward Honor in addition to their normal rewards. During Wrath you got Stonekeeper Shards for killing the bosses while in control of WG, but with the currency consolidation of Cataclysm those shards were converted to Honor.

Thirdly we have Northrend’s PvP Daily Quests in areas such as Grizzly Hills’ Venture Bay. You will get flagged for PvP while you do some of these quests, so it’s possible that you’re opening yourself up to being ganked by passers by, but in my experience most of Northrend is pretty well dead right now and you shouldn’t have a problem. This honor grind isn’t especially fast, but it is a way to farm honor and gold at the same time, and one of these quests in particular is infinitely repeatable for 9 honor each time. It’s the quest that makes you pick up a small container of something that causes you to move incredibly slow while carrying it, so it does get very boring but at least it’s possible.

Fast Farming: If you want Honor fast there are a few options. Tol Barad is first on the list because it gives high amounts of honor regardless of win or loose, it’s typically finished quickly, and so many people are killed in such short bursts of time that Honor adds up fairly quick. Second is the Call to Arms (CtA) and/or Random BG queues. Call to Arms is most beneficial when it’s applied to battlegrounds that are already known for high honor rewards such as Alterac Valley (AV), Strand of the Ancients (SotA), and Isle of the Crusader (IoC). Call to Arms happens every weekend, while during the week your only option for bonus Honor is Random BG queues. [Update: TB is still a decent source of Honor, but now almost nobody actually goes there so it does take time and you'll often end up there alone and you may be the only person there the whole time or you might find yourself up against a group of 4-5 people with the same idea and you get slaughtered. Still a decent source of honor considering time investment, but it's not exactly fun these days.]

Wintergrasp is still a fairly decent place to farm up some quick Honor by doing the quests and scoring a victory. It’s an easy place to score a quick 200 or so Honor.

Farming Champion’s Seals
Seals/Day from Daily Quests: 14
Seals/Day from Heroic ToC: 3
Heirloom Costs: Armor 60, Shoulders 60, Weapons 60-95, Trinkets 75

The heirlooms that you purchase with Champion’s Seals are the same that you purchase with Justice Points.

In order to farm Champion Seals you need to have completed the full quest line in the Argent Tournament located in Icecrown. Once you’ve opened all of the quest lines you need to select the Champion’s Purse as your reward for all of the daily quests as each one rewards a single Champion’s Seal. You’ll also get another three from doing a full clear of Heroic ToC each day.

You can easily get 14 Seals per day solo, and may or may not need help clearing H-ToC. If you just do the daily quests then you can earn a new heirloom piece every 5-6 days. It’s a slow process compared to the other types of heirloom farming, but it does offer other side benefits such as earning gold and racial faction reputation, and extra Seals can go towards purchasing pets and mounts.

If you’re not in a hurry to farm heirlooms with this method, then just doing the daily quests and skipping the Heroic ToC clears. Doing this will add 1-3 days of farming per heirloom. I haven’t tried to solo H-ToC, so I don’t know how easy or hard it might be. With level 85 characters I suspect that it will be fairly easy to two-man the heroic version.

Farming Guild Reputation
Available Heirlooms: Cloaks and Helms
Heirloom Cost: 1,200g (Cloaks), 1,350g (Helms)

This grind is a different type of grind. Rather than earning rewards that you use to purchase the heirlooms this grind rewards you with the ability to purchase them in the first place. Both of these types of heirlooms are purchased with gold, and both require you to be Honored with your guild. Your guild itself must also be level 10 to unlock the Cloaks for purchase, and level 20 to unlock the Helms.

This is the only way to get access to heirloom cloaks and helms, and I suspect that Blizzard will keep it that way.

For some people 1,200g is nothing at all, while for others it really can be quite a grind. When you look at purchasing all of the different helms and cloaks available those numbers can really add up quick as well. There are a lot of different ways to earn gold in WoW, and I’m not about to go into details on the various ways. If you want easy gold farming, do your daily quests at level 85. If you want a bit more work, start playing the auction house. If that’s not enough, start playing the auction house while maximizing your characters professions and flipping potentially lucrative items.

Farming Fish
Required Fishing Skill: 1+

There’s only one fish farming heirloom, but it’s also the only way to obtain this heirloom and the only one of its kind as of the current patch (4.2).

The Dread Pirate Ring requires you to win the Kalu’ak Fishing Derby which takes place every Saturday at 2 PM server time, lasting for 1 hour or until someone claims the prize. In order to win you must be the first person to catch and return the Blacktip Shark to the quest giver. You can catch the shark in any Northrend fishing pool, and there is no specific rank of fishing required in order to catch it. If you decide to farm for this heirloom, be aware that this tournament typically lasts for less than 10 minutes.

If you’re serious about farming for this ring, I suggest you do a little research before hand. If you would like to know how to best go about winning this tournament, I direct you to the master fishermen of El’s Extreme Anglin’.

Farming Suggestions

In this section I want to address you, the reader, to help you decide what kind of farming might be best suited to your particular playstyle.

Raiders
If you classify yourself primarily as a raider, then you’re likely in the habit of running heroic dungeons, and you probably hit the JP cap regularly. If this is the case, then farming for heirlooms is part of your normal activities (as you likely are already aware). In addition to your regular Heroic runs though, try to add in the seven Normal dungeon runs each week as well. As a raider you likely have gear that far outclasses the normal dungeons, which should make running them significantly faster (especially if you have a full group of raiders running them).

If you’re in a guild where the players who raid are set and you’re already geared far beyond heroics and JP purchases, then your next best option is most likely PvP. If you’re already fully geared beyond the usefulness of heroics then you’re probably sick of seeing the dungeons and can’t stand the thought of farming them anyway and PvP could provide a nice change of scenery for you.

Also keep in mind that the Honor -> JP conversion doesn’t have to wait until you have an entire heirloom’s worth of Honor. If you have 2,000 JP and you’re trying to buy an heirloom that costs 2,175 then the fastest way for you to get those extra points is probably going to be a quick trip to Tol Barad which should get you more than enough Honor for a single conversion that will give you another 250 JP to get that purchase. Mixing and matching activities like this doesn’t hold you back in farming for heirlooms. Just keep an eye on how much you need versus how easy it is to obtain more and what you have the time to do.

Some raiders like to enjoy their downtime away from the raid and take it easy. For you I suggest the Argent Tournament farming of Champion’s Seals. There’s a good chance that those of you who fall into this category have already farmed this area for every mount and pet it has to offer, but it’s still a legitimate method of heirloom farming if you’re still looking for heirlooms.

PvP Haters
People who can’t stand PvP, like my wife, will most likely stick to farming Heroic dungeons and/or the seven weekly normal dungeons for their Justice Points. Since you’re not going to participate in PvP, the next best option to dungeons is going to be the Argent Tournament.

If you fall into this category, refer to the Raider category directly above. You’ll follow that same advice, minus the PvP portion. Since you’re not into PvP, you have little reason to bother with even looking at the PvP heirlooms. However, there are still three items that the PvP vendors offer that don’t have an equivalent item from the PvE vendors: Battleworn Thrash Blade (procs extra, free attacks), Pristine Lightforge Spaulders (plate caster shoulders), and Inherited Insignia of the Horde/Alliance (PvP trinket with Resilience).

Of those three items, the one you’re most likely going to be interested in is the Pristine Lightforge Spaulders as they are the only piece of plate-caster heirloom armor in the game. You may or may not be concerned about the Thrash Blade, it’s a good weapon if you like to use enchants that proc, but even then it’s outclassed by most of the JP heirlooms regardless. Very few of you will be interested in the Insignia as it’s a PvP trinket and very little PvE content has enough crowd control for you to concern yourself with having it.

PvP Lovers
If you’re into PvP, then you’re already on the fast track for heirloom collecting. Arenas aren’t going to help you with heirlooms unless the season is about to restart. Arenas award Conquest Points which cannot be used to purchase heirlooms. Non-Rated Battlegrounds are the primary source of Honor points, and that’s what you need for heirlooms.

Most Honor heirlooms are overall weaker than the Justice Point heirlooms. While most of the stats will be either the same or very close to one another, the Honor heirlooms replace one or more attributes from the JP versions with a bonus to Resilience (a PvP stat for those that aren’t aware). That’s why PvE heirlooms are usually more powerful than their PvP counterparts, because Resilience isn’t always useful (especially in PvE where it’s almost worthless).

If you’re going to farm for the PvE heirloom via PvP activities, you’ll have to convert your Honor into Justice Points to buy them. It costs 375 Honor to purchase 250 Justice Points, so you’re taking a 33% loss during the conversion. That’s a pretty hefty conversion fee, but you can still farm Honor more than 33% faster than you can farm JP, so you’re still ahead in terms of time investment.

Most heirlooms have a similar item on the other side of the PvP/PvE fence, but not all of them. A couple of the items that are PvP only are: Battleworn Thrash Blade (procs extra, free attacks), Pristine Lightforge Spaulders (plate caster shoulders), and Inherited Insignia of the Horde/Alliance (PvP trinket with Resilience). For those three items you need to farm Honor instead of JP, so if you want those then you’re already on the right side of that fence and don’t need to bother with a conversion fee.

You should also consider running at least some of the seven weekly dungeon runs that award Justice Points. Most of these can be done in a reasonable amount of time and doing a couple of them back to back should give you a BG or two worth of JP after conversion. If you can’t stand LFG and you don’t have guildmates that want to run normals, then by all means forget about these and stick to PvP.

Solo Gamers, Questers, and Altoholics
If you fall into this category then there’s no clear cut path that you’re going to follow by definition of this classification. If you like PvP at all, then PvP is your fastest source of heirlooms with the assumption that you don’t mind doing quite a bit of PvP. If you’re the type that likes to dip their toes into a bit of everything then you’re actually in a pretty good spot for heirloom farming because you can get all of the different types of currency and use them as needed.

While doing straight PvP farming is faster than doing straight PvE farming, the fastest method possible is to actually combine the two methods by taking advantage of all of the options that grant large amounts of JP and Honor. Take advantage of Tol Barad when you see it up. If you don’t like PvP much, try to stick to the large groups and assist the other people rather than running off and doing your own thing. You can also help in TB by driving the siege vehicles to the towers if you’re on offense or going to destroy those siege vehicles if you’re on defense. Take advantage of Wintergrasp as well, as participation is usually very low which means victory is often easy, and the quests there are very quick and easy to do for extra Honor.

Whether or not you participate in the Argent Tournament is up to you. Since these types of players are more likely to spend time on multiple characters, you may or may not feel that a third form of farming is worth your time. JP and Honor can both be mixed and matched as needed because of the conversion, where Seals are Seals are Seals, end of story. On the other hand, doing these dailies on multiple characters every day means you can get basically one heirloom every week per character. So if you have three characters that will farm all of the quests, then you’ll be able to buy roughly three heirlooms every week. It might not be as effective at mass farming as PvP or dungeon runs, but it’s also less time intensive and can be done here and there as you have time as opposed to long stretches dedicated to dungeons or BG’s.

Trial Accounts
Your only option for getting heirlooms is to farm Honor in battlegrounds. F2P accounts that participate in PvP are twinks even if they don’t want to be twinks because those accounts are forced into the 20-24 twink bracket. Farming Honor can be a real struggle for you, especially if you’re only getting WSG queues and have problems with capturing flags.

Warsong Gulch is the single-worst battleground in the entire game for honor rewards, and farming kills by camping the graveyard does almost nothing to counter this fact. If you are on a trial account and are specifically farming honor to get heirlooms queue for Arathi Basin. Do everything in your power to get the gold together to buy your mount, and then go to AB.

When the time comes to decide whether you want PvE heirlooms or PvP heirlooms, there are a couple of things to consider. First there are some PvP pieces that while lacking secondary stats do have higher +Stamina values which might be appealing to you. Second is that PvE heirlooms cost significantly more than PvP heirlooms because of the 33% conversion fee. To give you an idea, take a look at the comparison below of Honor values between both types of heirlooms.

Honor Values
PvP Heirlooms: Armor 2,175, Shoulders 2,175, Weapons 2,175-3,500, Trinkets 2,725
PvE Heirlooms: Armor 3,375, Shoulders 3,375, Weapons 3,375-5,250, Trinkets 4,125

As you can see, once the conversion is taken into account, that’s a lot of honor farming on a character who might average anywhere from 30-150 honor per game. Also, keep in mind that if you are going to do the JP conversion, there’s still an Honor cap of 4,000 so if you get anywhere close to that number you need to start converting to JP so that you don’t end up losing honor from already being capped. Only the cheapest JP heirlooms can be purchased with a small enough amount of honor that you won’t break the Honor cap.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on October 28, 2011 in Caster, Guide, Leveling, Melee, Play Styles, Player vs Player

 

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New Heirlooms in 4.3

In Patch 4.3 the Darkmoon Faire is going to get a nice little revamp (details here). I’ve never been too big on the faire beyond abusing the vendors there to get high selling mats for cheap vendor prices that I could toss on the AH for a quick, easy profit. My lack of interest almost made me ignore the information regarding the faire, but I was bored anyway (and about to leave work for the day) so I figured I might as well take a look.

Most of what the notes mentioned weren’t bad, but nothing that would get me otherwise interested in the DMF, until I stumbled onto this:

“We have adorable companion pets inludin’ a fez-wearing monkey, a plethora of profession recipes, toys, balloons, souvenirs, delectable carnival snacks and beverages, heirlooms for the little ones, and even replicas of long-lost suits of armor that we’re offering for your Transmogrification needs.”

Unfortunately for us, there’s no more mention of heirlooms in the article, so we don’t know for sure what it refers to. It could be new heirlooms, it could be existing heirlooms, or it could be other items all together that they simply used the word to describe. Without the details, one can only hope and imagine.

But wait… we do have details!
Turn the page to find out more…

 

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WoW Ironman Challenge

Yesterday on twitter, Vrykerion asked: “How far do you think you could make it in WoW without ever equipping a green or higher item or spending a single talent point?”

I’ve asked myself similar questions before, so after mulling it over for a second I threw out my initial thoughts, “@Vrykerion depends very heavily on your class. I bet I could make it to Outlands at least in all whites/trash.” Which, to clarify, was me saying that I’m sure I could get to Outlands with every single class, but how far beyond that you could go would depend on the class.

We got a few more people to chime in on that discussion as well, during which I accepted the challenge and gave it a name: The WoW Ironman Challenge. Several of us talked about what rules should apply to such a challenge and then Vrykarion made it all official in his post (link in the challenge name).

Deciding to take this challenge means you have to choose your class, and to a somewhat lesser extent, your race.

The Rules
1. Use only white/grey items.
2. No spending talent points. No specialization at level 10. (Regular skill training is fine.)
2. No Primary or Secondary Professions other than First Aid.
3. No means of XP boosting (No Recruit-A-Friend, No Guild, and obviously no Heirlooms)
4. No consumable bonuses (food, potions, elixirs, etc) – Rogue Poisons allowed
5. No enchants.
6. No Groups. (Since clarification was requested: That means no dungeons, no Dungeon Finder, no battlegrounds, no anything that puts you in a group and no grouping up with people to quest or anything.)
7. No Death Knights.
8. No Glyphs

There you have it. No gear with stats on it (including enchants), no talent points or spec. No means of increasing your experience gains or having other people helping you. No items that boost your stats at all, including consumables. No professions other than First Aid.

We’re currently discussing whether Rogue’s should be allowed to use Poisons and whether or not we’re going to allow Glyphs to be used. Poisons fall under the category of consumables, but they’re also the Rogue’s form of class buffs (though why Blizzard doesn’t make them spells like the Shaman instead of purchased goods is beyond me). Glyphs we just overlooked initially so we’re bringing it up now just to be sure we’ve got everything covered. Updated with the answers to these questions. Rogue poisons will be allowed. Glyphs will not be allowed.

Initial Thoughts
My first thought with this was Troll Hunter. Hunter being the top choice because you can kite for days while dealing solid damage which can pretty well negate all of the disadvantages of taking the challenge in the first place. Troll because they deal extra damage to beasts as well as having increased regeneration which would further increase the advantages while minimizing the disadvantages.

I don’t think there’s an easier choice available for a challenge like this. Pet classes have a clear advantage since the pet can make up for some of your loss of damage, while also adding a level of defense. Casters would follow next, and melee bringing up the rear.

Horde racial abilities would be more helpful as they increase damage output. Some Alliance racials could prove rather useful, Draenei healing and Night Elf defenses in particular.

Races
I’ve had a fair amount of information concerning races on this blog over the years, and my time spent with twinks has made my racial min/maxing second nature. Generally speaking, Horde races have aggressive racial abilities that would help them in this challenge by adding power in combat that is otherwise lacking from gear without any stats. Alliance races typically have defensive racial abilities that would help them in the opposite manner, helping them survive the longer encounters.

Without going too much into detail, let’s look at the advantage that each race would bring to this particular challenge:

Alliance
Draenei: +1% Hit, 20% heal over 15 seconds,
Dwarf: +1% Crit with guns, 10% damage reduction that also removes poison/disease/bleed effects
Gnome: +5% mana pool
Human: +3% Spirit
Night Elf: -2% chance of being hit, Shadowmeld to allow combat reset
Worgen: +1% crit

Horde
Blood Elf: Defensive silence that also restores 6% mana or 15 Rage/Focus/Energy
Goblin: +1% Haste, can launch a rocket to deal ranged Fire damage
Orc: Increased Attack Power and Spell Power for 15 seconds, +5% pet damage
Tauren: +5% Health, 2 second AoE stun
Troll: +5% damage to beasts, +1% crit with bows/thrown, +10% health regeneration, +20% haste for 10 seconds
Undead: Restore 35% health and mana by consuming a corpse

The racial traits I listed are ones that help with this challenge in particular by providing stats you otherwise don’t have access to because of the gear restrictions, or which provide a benefit which can make up for that lack of gear-based stats.

Classes
Class choice is the most important piece of this puzzle. Choosing the right class can make this challenge much less challenging while choosing the wrong class can make it very difficult. In general, pet classes will have the most advantage followed by casters and then melee classes.

Pet classes (Hunters and Warlocks) have an advantage not only because they have a pet adding to their damage dealing or which can take hits for them, but also because they are more easily able to kite mobs which will allow them to eventually kill the targets no matter how low their own defenses may be. The Hunter is the top dog here because their spells are based on Focus, rather than mana, which restores itself over time which means that they can literally kite a mob for as long as it take them to kill it.

Casters have an advantage over melee because their damage is only based on their stats, both for the power of the spells as well as how many times they can cast it from a limited mana pool. Melee classes still have their power based on their stats, but their damage is based very strongly on their weapon damage. For some level ranges that’s not going to be much of an issue, but in the second half of Vanilla content some classes are extremely limited in their weapon selection for this challenge, which is going to make those level ranges significantly more difficult than they otherwise would be.

Druid: great versatility, great healing, good kiting, decent crowd control
Hunter: fantastic kiting, pet assistance, non-stat-based energy source
Mage: some kiting ability, great crowd control, “free” damage via Arcane Missiles, good buff spells
Paladin: great healing, great buff spells
Priest: great buffs, great healing, poor mana management
Rogue: good survivability, non-stat energy source
Shaman: good heals, great buffs, best stat versatility
Warlock: pet class, great crowd control, somewhat easily renewable energy source
Warrior: non-stat energy source, “free” healing, good buffs

My thoughts on how these classes are ranked, from easiest to hardest: Hunter, Warlock, Druid, Mage, Shaman, Warrior, Paladin, (Death Knight), Rogue, Priest.

I put the DK in there, even though we’ve disqualified them, because I think that’s where they would stand if you were to immediately replace all of their gear with grey/white items after rolling them and before doing any quests.

Research
Last night I did a little research on weapons, looking primarily at ranged weapons for Hunters and at interesting items I could use in slots such as jewelry. I had both better and worse results that I had expected going in.

For most classes, the weapon you use is going to be pretty key to your performance; casters being the exception. I knew going into it that low level white/grey weapons would be pretty easy to find because that’s what most of the gear at that level is until you start getting into greens and then blues from dungeon drops. I wasn’t expecting their availability to drop quite so drastically in the 30’s though.

Ranged weapons are pretty common up to level 31 at which point they become nearly non-existent until you reach Outlands. From level 31-59 there are only four ranged weapons available, and all four of them are trash items that drop from mobs, and the only one that has more than a 4% drop rate only has a higher (7%) drop rate if you kill elite mobs for it.

Once you get to level 60 you can buy a weapon that should serve just fine through all of the Outlands content, and other vendor weapons open up at 70 to get you through most of Wrath content. The best ranged weapons you can get for this challenge come from Cataclysm dungeons and raids, and can be equipped at level 74. They offer almost twice the DPS of everything you can get in Wrath content (101.6 DPS vs. 55.9). The bad news is, those level 74 trash drops are the best option you’ll have for the rest of the challenge.

I haven’t had a chance yet to do my research on the other classes, but I’ll get there before too long. For casters I’ll be looking at armor since weapons will be nearly pointless for all of them (Shaman and Druids being the exception). For melee classes I’m looking mostly at weapons since they are key.

Now You Tell Me
While my initial thoughts were to roll a Troll Hunter to overcome as much of the challenge’s pitfalls as I could, I’ve not actually decided what I’m going to roll for this challenge. I’m not sure yet whether I’m only going to do this once, or if I’m going to do it on multiple toons, either. Maybe I should go with the Hunter to see the challenge on easy mode and do another class as well to see just how hard it can really be.

I want your opinions on this challenge, though. What do you think will be good race and class combinations for this challenge? What combinations would you like to see me attempt with this? If you’re going to join in the fun, what combination(s) are you going to try out yourself?

I wouldn’t mind doing this on more than one toon, as I think it’s an interesting way to level the character that can show you how powerful a class truly is, or isn’t.

If you decide to join us in the Ironman Challenge, keep us informed of your progress through comments, email, twitter, or a blog of your own if you have one. I’m also opening my Notebook to anyone who accepts the challenge and would like to guest post their experiences with it here on my blog.

 

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Shadow Priest PvP Guide

PLEASE NOTE: This guide was written in 2011 and has not been updated since. Some of the information is still applicable, but as far as actually playing the class consider all of this incredibly outdated.

It occurred to me a few days ago that I haven’t actually put anything related to Shadow Priest PvP on the blog since shortly after I first started. Since that’s really the only thing I’ve done on that toon since the time I first got into arenas, I think it’s time I shared some of what I’ve learned.

As Fox Van Allen of WoW Insider was looking for Shadow PvP sources for his article this week, I decided I’d better fire up that speech-to-text software and get my virtual blogging fingers moving.

Getting Your Rear in Gear
The first step of getting into PvP is your gear. If you’re starting from scratch then your quickest method of gearing is crafted gear, which will be consist of pieces from the Bloodthirsty Embersilk and Bloodthirsty Fireweave sets. Overall, the Embersilk set has more pieces with the stats you’re looking for, but you should look at Fireweave as well just in case there are pieces you’d rather have from it (the Fireweave Pants in particular). The only set bonus on these is a 2 piece that grants +400 Resilience, which most likely stacks if you want to grab at least two pieces from each set for twice the bonus.

These new crafted pieces are actually really good, almost as good as the Vicious pieces. While they’re very close in raw stats, even higher in some cases, than the Vicious gear, they have a comparatively weak set bonus and no sockets where the Vicious gear has 8.

From there you’ll have to start your grinds of Honor and Conquest points to purchase better gear. Honor farming will get you the Vicious Gladiator’s Raiment and Vicious Gladiator’s Investiture sets. The Raiment set is the DPS version, and Investiture is the “healer” version. I list both of them because even though the healer version is supposed to be for healers, many Shadow Priests will still prefer it over the Raiment for the 4 piece set bonus since the DPS 4pc kind of sucks.

Blizzard has discussed methods of preventing Priests from getting dual 2pc bonuses by taking some pieces from both sets, but as far as I know they haven’t actually done it yet so you can still double-dip in the Vicious sets, or you can go for the 4pc bonus of your choice. The Raiment gives you Crit, Haste, and Mastery while the Investiture gives you Spirit (Hit), Crit, and Haste. The Raiment 4pc lowers the cast time of your nukes while the 4pc Investiture makes your PW:Shield remove movement impairing effects and make you immune to slows for 4 seconds when cast on yourself.

Regardless of which Vicious set you aim for first, make sure your first purchase is the gloves for an extra 3 seconds off of your Psychic Scream cooldown. Gloves are cheap, and they’re the only piece that offers an additional bonus on top of just raw stats, so they’re your best initial purchase.

Once you start farming your Conquest points via Arenas and Rated Battlegrounds, it’s time to start grabbing Ruthless Gladiator’s set pieces. The set bonuses and which stats are given from which set remain the same as the Vicious set, they just have higher values of the attributes. If you want your gloves to be your first Ruthless purchase instead of your first Vicious, that’s fine as well.

I’d give you a Wowhead link to the Ruthless gear, but those links are a little odd right now. If you want to look at individual pieces then you can do a search for “Ruthless Gladiator’s” on Wowhead and it will pull up the list for you. Once Wowhead gets the items linked right, I’ll add a link to the post, but right now the set bonus is linking back to a set a few seasons ago so I’m going to leave it out for now.

Are You Ready? (Stat Goals)
There are a few stat goals that you want to meet before you get started with PvP, though what goals you have is going to depend on what PvP activity we’re talking about.

If you’re just now getting started and BG’s are what you’re focusing on, then just go in there with whatever you’ve got quick and easy access to. If that’s all PvE gear, that’s fine. If you can get your hands on some crafted pieces or have some Honor points sitting around for Vicious, then grab what you can and keep on going.

If you’re getting ready for Arenas, then you want to shoot for around 1,500-2,000 Resilience before you get started unless you aren’t too bothered by losses. If you’re looking at RBG’s or more serious Arena play, then you want to shoot for a minimum of 3,000 Resilience before you get too serious about them.

Spell Penetration is a pretty big deal. If you’re new to BG’s then whatever you can get is better than nothing. If you’re looking at serious play though, then you want to shoot for the cap of 240. This cap is easy to hit, you can do it with a cloak and a ring, or a cloak and an enchant and call it done, but make sure you don’t skip out on this cap. Only Mages can actually reach that 240 range, while all of the other classes can be covered by just 195. Mages can deal some crazy burst damage though, so I suggest you aim for 240.

Hit is another important stat, and PvP being PvP, the cap on hit is fairly low. Shoot for around 4-5% hit, preferably through the use of Spirit rather than the actual Hit stat so that you’re getting mana regeneration out of the deal as well. A lot of off-set PvP gear will give you the option between a piece that offers Hit and another that offers the same amount worth of Spirit – always go for the Spirit piece. You’re shooting for somewhere between 400-500 Spirit to hit that cap.

Spec’tacular (Shadow PvP Spec)

Above is spec that I prefer to use in the arenas. I didn’t put any points Improved Shadow Word: Pain which other shadow priests often ask about, mostly because I rarely use my DoT spells when doing arenas, which is my preferred method of PvP at level 85. I also didn’t put any points into Paralysis, even though it’s another CC ability, which is another question often asked. This one I don’t use mostly because it’s only situationally useful, and in my arena teams our first kill target is usually a caster which makes limiting their movement worth very little.

Improved SW:Pain isn’t bad if you’re actually using your DoT’s. If I were focused on larger arena teams or BG/RBG’s then I might try to find points I could place there. Paralysis can be good, especially against melee teams or in other PvP settings, I just don’t take it as a matter of personal preference for my 2v2 setups.

Glyphs
I use the glyphs that best fit my playstyle. With 2v2 being my focus, I’m primarily dealing damage via nukes rather than DoT’s and using my glyphs for extra survivability or utility.

Prime: Dispersion, SW: Death, Mind Flay
Major: Psychic Horror, Fade, Mass Dispel
Minor: Fading, Levitate, Fortitude

Dispersion reduces the spell’s cooldown, which is especially useful to me in arenas and RBG’s. SW:Death causes the cooldown to instantly reset itself once per 6 seconds if you cast it on a target below 25% health and it doesn’t kill them, which is almost always when you’re dealing with PvP targets because of Resilience; it’s one of the most important glyphs you can take if you’re going to do arena. Mind Flay is the only damage spell that I use in every match regardless of my opponents or which form of PvP I’m doing, so I take it over SW:Pain because I know I’ll utilize it no matter what.

Psychic Horror is one of the most useful spells we have access to, so reducing it’s cooldown by any amount is worth it to me. Fade is great for reducing the cooldown of its spell which allows me to break movement debuffs with Fade instead of having to potentially waste something more important like Dispersion. Mass Dispel is one I value a lot for reducing the cast time of Mass Dispel down to 0.5 seconds, as the reaction time on removing a Paladin’s bubble can easily be the difference between victory and defeat, and not removing a DK’s ice cubes in time can cost your team a BG match.

The minor glyphs are all pretty boring. I use Fading only because there’s so many freaking Frost DK’s out there right now slowing me every 2 seconds, so reducing its mana cost is a real bonus. Fortitude is for those Purge-happy Shamans out there removing your buffs like nobody’s business, cutting the cost of reapplying the buff in half. Levitate is there just because I hate dealing with reagents and never want to find myself needing to do a crucial BG jump only to find in midair that I have no reagents.

Your Tears Fuel Me… (Crowd Control and Cooldowns)
Arena matches are more or less decided by two things: Crowd Control and Cooldowns.

Crowd Control
We have a few different forms of Crowd Control (CC) available to us. First up is Psychic Scream, an AoE fear spell. By default this has a 30 second cooldown, which can be lowered by 4 seconds with talent points, and by an additional 3 points with the PvP Gloves. You can also use the Glyph of Psychic Scream to cause the targets to tremble in place instead of runny around crazily, but it increases the cooldown by 3 seconds. I’m not a fan of using the glyph for this spell, but I do love reducing its cooldown for more frequent use. You can use this spell either defensively, causing melee targets to run away from you or your teammates, or you can use it offensively as a spell interrupt or to get some free cast time on a target while he and/or his healer can’t respond.

Next up is Psychic Horror, a talent-purchased spell that causes the target to tremble in horror for 3 seconds and also disarms them for 10 seconds. The default cooldown on this beauty is 2 minutes, though you can lower it to a minute and a half with the Glyph of Psychic Horror which I definitely suggest that you do. Defensively, I use this to strip melee classes of their weapons and to get some distance from them (or closing that distance if it’s a Hunter). Offensively, I typically cast this on healers to either burn them or their teammate(s) down during the 3 second “stun”.

Next we have, Silence which is semi-CC, I guess. It’s a ranged silence that lasts for 5 seconds. The cooldown is 45 seconds long, and sadly there’s nothing you can do to reduce that. Defensively this is best used on enemy casters, Paladins, or Shamans. You can also use it defensively on Warriors, especially when you see them rushing into a group of your team during BG’s as they’ll often use their Shouts which this will stop. Offensively, this is for healers first and DPS casters second. I typically use this on healers unless I’m facing a Mage, in which case I’ll hit the Mage right after he burns his cooldowns.

Then we have the crowd favorite, Mind Control which lets you take control of an opponent for a few seconds. In BG’s I use this to make people jump off of cliffs, or in AV I like to control the tank or healer while they’re fighting our bosses. In Arena this is best used either to remove a healer while your partner(s) focus the DPS, to force people into Line of Sight (LoS) situations, or in a chain AoE effect. The chain AoE effect is Mind Control (which turns them into an ally), Leap of Faith to pull them to you (which also breaks the MC channel, turning them back into an enemy), and then Psychic Scream to fear them away.

Last on our list is the nearly worthless, Shackle Undead. It’s only useful against Death Knight ghouls in PvP. I see very, very few DK’s in PvP actually using their ghouls right now other than to summon and then immediately sacrifice for health. Power shifts all the time though, so you want this somewhere that you can easily cast it even if it doesn’t necessarily merit its own keybind.

Cooldowns
We have a lot of really good cooldowns as well. Some of our cooldowns are also our CC, but here are the others.

Fade doesn’t seem much like a PvP cooldown at first glance, but talents in the Shadow tree cause it to become one. By default its only real use is to make enemy pets drop you as their target, though that typically only works in BG’s against people who don’t really know what they’re doing. The cooldown is 30 seconds, but you can reduce that by 9 seconds with the Glyph of Fade and another 6 seconds with the Veiled Shadows talent. The Phantasm talent in the Shadow tree also causes Fade to remove all movement impairing effects which is why it’s on my cooldowns list. I do use the Glyph of Fade, but don’t get it confused with the Glyph of Fading which just reduces the mana cost.

Fear Ward is a fairly good defensive cooldown, preventing the next fear effect used on the target. It has a 3 minute duration and a 3 minute cooldown, with a glyph that reduces the cooldown and duration by 60 seconds. I don’t bother with the glyph, but I do like the spell itself. The best use of this spell is to use it when you actually need it rather than just starting the match off with it, but it’s hard to judge when your opponents might use a fear and when they won’t so you might want to use it as a starting buff regardless if you’re not good at reading your opponents.

Hymn of Hope is a mana regenerating cooldown, the use of which is hard to really say in a blog post as it can be very situational. It’s a channeled spell that can restore mana to your teammates as well, but because it’s channeled it leaves you vulnerable. If you have a chance to cast it without being harassed then great, but if not then you’re best bet is to get whatever use out of it you can and sick your Shadowfiend on someone either right before or right after you cast Hymn of Hope. Doing this will maximize your mana return. The cooldown on this sucker is a whopping 6 minutes, so don’t expect to be able to use it very often.

Shadowfiend is a really cool mana return cooldown which summons a little shadow monster to go beat up your enemies and restore your mana every time he hits. The cooldown is 5 minutes, but it can be reduced by 10 seconds with points in Sin and Punishment and another 60 seconds with points in Veiled Shadows. The glyph is pretty mediocre, and I wouldn’t suggest it as my Shadowfiend almost never gets killed.

Divine Hymn is an AoE healing cooldown. It’s similar to a Druid’s Tranquility spell, restoring a fair amount of health to targets within range while you channel it. I use it for my 2v2 team every now and then, but most often in BG’s and RBG’s.

Leap of Faith is a fantastic spell, pulling a friendly target to yourself. The cooldown on this one is 1.5 minutes with no way to reduce it. I most often use this to actually save my teammates in arena, pulling them to me followed by a bubble and then a heal if I can afford it and have the time to do so, or to just give them time to run and heal themselves or whatever they can do. However, you can also use this offensively both to pull your melee members over to a target or in a CC combo that I mentioned above which is to Mind Control an enemy, followed by Leap of Faith to bring them to you, followed by Psychic Scream to make them run away. This is best used on healers, but it’s also great for peeling melee off of your teammates.

Dispersion is last up on the list, our keystone talent at the end of the Shadow tree. Dispersion is great for restoring your mana, but it’s also fantastic for breaking out of CC since it removes all roots and snares, and it also reduces all the damage you take by 90% while it’s active. The cooldown on this is 2 minutes, but can be reduced by 45 seconds with the Glyph of Dispersion. I usually use this for the damage reduction, and pretty often for the mana regen as well. I usually cast either a Psychic Scream or a PW:Shield when the effect wears off, depending on the situation. I like to try to force tunnel visioned melee targets to follow me during Dispersion and then CC them where I can LoS their healers before burning them down.

Face Melting (Offensive Spells)
There are two methods of damage dealing that we can use: direct damage and damage over time.

For arenas I almost never bother with DoT’s other than to pressure healers. With so many high-burst classes in arenas right now I have to go with direct damage in 2v2 which means Mind Spike and Mind Blast spam. Using these nukes along with CC, I typically kill my focus target within two rotations unless I’m forced to play defensively. When I’m forced to defense, I will use my DoT’s, but if there’s a healer on the other team I won’t bother unless I can afford the time to cast Vampiric Touch first. I use Mind Flay primarily to set up Archangel procs for mana regen and the damage boost, or to slow melee that are harassing my team, or to slow our kill target if he’s trying to get LoS.

When I’m doing a direct damage rotation I use either Mind Spike x2, Vampiric Touch, Mind Blast, or Mind Spike x3, Mind Blast, depending on my current mana situation. To get the most damage out of this rotation you want to build up your Shadow Orbs (at least 1, 3 if possible) through Mind Flay cast, activate Archangel once you’ve got 5 stacks of Evangelism, and then go to town with the nukes.

In BG’s or in 3v3+ arenas I use my DoT’s all the time to keep pressure on as many people at once as I can so that I can then focus my nukes on the healers. When I’m not in 2v2 arena, I also tend to use the majority of my cooldowns and CC defensively, save for when we’re burning down a healer or a flag carrier in which case I’m likely all offense. If you are going to use your DoT’s, then your optimal rotation is SW:Pain, Mind Flay until you get at least 1 Shadow Orb, Mind Blast, Vampiric Touch, Devouring Plague, and then spam Mind Flay.

Devouring Plague deserves a special mention here because it’s our only source of spammable, instant damage. The mana cost for spamming it is pretty steep, but if you need to kill someone who’s low on health or you need to get them within that 25% range so that SW:Death deals its full damage, then it’s worth the price. Typically, I kill targets with SW:Death casts, and it usually takes two casts to kill someone, but for those times that I don’t manage to finish them off Devouring Plague is the answer.

Shadow Word: Death is how I kill almost every target because that’s what it does and it does it well. With all the resilience and healing that goes on in PvP though, I almost never kill a target with a single cast, I have to have the Glyph of SW:Death to instantly remove its cooldown when it fails to kill so that I can cast it again. When I’m not close to killing someone, and I have spent at least 10% of my mana, I use SW:Death if it’s active to trigger the Masochism talent which restores 10% of your mana when SW:Death fails to kill a target.

Heward’s Handy Haversack (Other Useful Spells)
You get bonus points if you know where that title came from, and extra bonus points if I spelled it wrong and you can prove it.

Some spells that you need to keep in mind whenever you’re doing PvP can be the deciding factor in a match.

Power Word: Shield is one of the few healing-type abilities that we can use that doesn’t kick us out of Shadow Form. In my 2v2 team I’m typically casting this on my partner because everyone loves to focus him while they let me melt their faces. When my partner switches to his other toon in the team though, the rolls are switched. Combining PW:Shield with Dispersion, Fade, Psychic Scream/Horror, and Silence make me one of the best kiting machines around which is often an easy when if we’re facing opponents prone to tunnel vision.

Cure Disease does just what it says, and it too can be cast without breaking Shadow Form. Other Shadow Priests are about the only ones you’ll use this against.

Dispel Magic isn’t quite as great as it used to be (no) thanks to current changes which allow only the healing specs to dispel your teammates. You can either remove two Magic debuffs from yourself or to remove 1 buff from an opponent. I don’t often use this offensively, even though I really should, instead I’m typically defensive with this.

Mind Vision is a spell that so many Priests simply dismiss, but it’s so incredibly useful in PvP. It won’t do you much good in arenas because they’re all so small, but in BG’s and RBG’s it’s fantastic. I use this most often to track down EFC’s so that I can tell my team where the flag is going, or to find my own EFC to know his path so that I can move to assist him. It’s also great for spying on other locations around a map such as Arathi basin or Eye of the Storm, though, allowing me to report on the defenses of each location.

Mana Burn is another spell ignored by the PvE crowd, which means a large portion of the PvP crowd forgets it exists as well. If you’re having trouble bringing down a healer, it’s because you didn’t burn his mana first. It’s especially effective against Paladin healers, but it’s a great spell against any caster. Whether you’re better off burning mana or just nuking someone has way too many variables for me to go over, but definitely do not ignore this spell, especially in arenas.

Holy Nova deserves a mention just to find those stinking Rogues, Druids, and Mages (invisibility). You don’t want to spam this because of its mana cost, but it’s the only proactive method you have to finding stealthers.

Mass Dispel is last up on this list. It’s an AoE dispell that can clear up to 10 debuffs from your team and up to 10 buffs from your opponents. The most important thing to remember about this spell is that it can dispel buffs that are otherwise impervious; namely a Paladin’s bubble and a Mage’s Ice Block spell. Letting a Paladin be immune to everything for 10 seconds is never a good idea if you can help it, nor is allowing your whole team to sit frozen in a Death Knight’s Hungering Cold spell. Mass Dispel can take care of all of that. And don’t forget to use the glyph that goes with it, reducing its cast time from 1.5 seconds down to 0.5 seconds.

 

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