Leveling a druid through the 20’s is going to be either extremely easy where you finally catch a break, or it’s going to break you and cause you to give up on the character.
Druid Form Names
Since I know at least some of you will not be familiar with all of the druid lingo around the web, I’m going to take just a second to talk about the name of some of the various forms. I am talking about commonly used names here, not every single thing people will ever call you in your various forms.
Caster Form (Level 1) This is the easiest one to get confused if you are a new druid. When I first started seeing this I thought it was just another name for a Moonkin. Resto druids were always called trees as far as I knew, so surely Moonkin would be the form called “caster” right? Wrong. Caster form is your regular form, whatever your base race is. Caster form is Tauren/Night Elf form. Another way of saying it is that Caster Form is the lack or absence of a form, which is to say using no special druid forms at all.
Bear Form (Level 10) While there are actually two bear forms, Bear and Dire Bear, they are both referred to as simply Bear Form. In battlegrounds you might hear it called Tank Form in some battlegroups, but the vast majority call it Bear. Bear Form has its own special attacks and a separate action bar for those attacks as well. This form is best for tanking and in mid-later levels it can be used for melee-ranged AoE grinding.
Aquatic Form (Level 16) I don’t really hear this one called anything other than what it is. Sure, you hear nicknames for it from time to time while you play and such, but when people are talking about it in forums or blogs it is either Swim Form or Aquatic Form. This form is used only for travel, and only while swimming. You are able to attack in this form, but cannot cast spells, and this form has no special attacks nor its own action bar.
Travel Form (Level 16) This is another one called most often by its actual name. I have heard it referred to as “run form” in battlegrounds a couple of times, as well as “cheetah form”, but primarily this is Travel Form. As with Aquatic Form, this one is used for travel (land-based) and while you can attack in this form you cannot cast spells and it does not have a dedicated action bar either.
Cat Form (Level 20) Cat form is known as cat form; pretty simple. I have seen it called by different names from time to time, but none of them stick and are usually made in jest anyway. This form is used for melee dps. Back in the day it used to be used as a bit of a mini-mount as you can spend talent points to get +30% speed while using the form. Now that travel form shows up at level 16 instead of level 30 though, it’s not used so much for that. But, that speed increase can still be used and since you can be in Cat form while indoors it’s still great for moving around quickly when you are otherwise unable to mount.
Here we have the most important icons for you to familiarize yourself with while leveling your druid through his 20’s as a feral cat.
From top to bottom, left to right:
Cat Form is how you will spend all of your time in the 20’s except when you have to take a break for a few seconds to heal yourself. Nature’s Grasp will be your primary source of Crowd Controll (CC) since you will not be in caster form very often. Faerie Fire (Feral) reduces your target’s armor making them easier to kill.
Rake is how you will start most of your rotations. Claw is your primary attack in cat form and the ability you will spam more than any other. Rip is your finishing move and how you spend your combo points; not used very often in early leveling as most mobs will be dead before Rip would be useful.
Prowl is the druid’s version of the Rogue’s Stealth ability, allowing you to sneak up on your targets. Tiger’s Fury boosts your damage for 6 seconds, and Shred is your biggest attack but has to be used from behind the target.
These abilities will be discussed in more detail in the sections below.
Leveling 20-25: Secondary Zone
Rotation Option 1: Claw, Claw, Claw, Auto-Attack
Rotation Option 2: Prowl, Shred, Claw, Claw, Auto-Attack
Explanation: When you’re first starting off as Feral, you can kill most things just by spamming Claw. Using your finishing move is a waste at this level, but you’re free to use it if you wish. Most mobs will die to three claws and whatever damage you deal with your regular attacks in between; assuming of course that they don’t die before then. If mobs are lasting notably longer than that, then you may want to look at getting some better gear with more +Agility on it.
Now, I’m not sure that all secondary zones can extend to level 25 or higher, but I would imagine they probably do. Regardless of where you go, just make sure the mobs are close to your level. For my druid, this area is the Barrens. I’ve been hanging out here since level 12 and loving it. Quests are everywhere here, and mats for all professions are easy to find here.
When you use Claw your auto-attack will kick in all on its own, so there’s no need to activate that yourself or via a macro like I suggested during your Teens. Whether or not you use stealth is up to you. Sometimes I use it and sometimes I don’t, it just depends on what is going on at the time and how fast you want to move.
If you want to get into the stealthy side of the cat form, then go ahead and pull up Rotation 2 and give it a shot. Shred uses a lot more energy than everything else you have right now, but it does some high damage. Sometimes I stealth and then just start off attacking with Claw instead of Shred to save the energy for more Claws. At this point, do what you feel works best for you.
Where the Barrens is normally dull and boring for me I actually had quite a bit of fun there with the druid. Maybe it was because I could be a cat and sort of ‘fit in’ with the place. I don’t know why I enjoyed it so much this time where I have not enjoyed it previously, but I had a blast. I liked it so much that I actually stayed in the Barrens until level 27 with this druid, though I did gain a few levels from running instances.
Leveling 25-30: Pick a Map, Any (level appropriate) Map
Rotation Option 1: Rake, Claw, Claw, Claw, Rip (if needed), Auto-Attack
Rotation Option 2: Prowl (stealth), Shred, Rake, Claw, Rip, Auto-Attack
Explanation: Mobs at this level are going to start running away from you more often, and at higher speed, than the lower level areas you have been in up to this point. Using Bleed effects like Rake and Rip on them help you to maintain control of these running mobs without having to worry so much about overpulling. Make use of Tiger’s Fury and Faerie Fire as needed to help with the mobs you face.
There are two spells I pointed out at the top of this post that I have not mentioned yet: Tiger’s Fury and Faerie Fire. These two spells are utility spells to be used whenever you feel it might help or may be necessary.
Tiger’s Fury gives you a slight boost to your damage dealt. It’s not huge, but it does help. I tend to use this a lot more when I am using the Prowl/Shred method of attack, and pop Tiger’s Fury while still stealthed, right before I attack with Shred. You can use it whenever you want, and with a fairly small cooldown time you might as well pop it whenever it’s not on cooldown.
Faerie Fire lowers your target’s armor, making them easier to hit. A lot of the mobs at this point are not going to have a great deal of armor anyway, but it never hurts to lower your chance of missing. I don’t cast this nearly as often as I do other spells, but it can be a great help. In PvP, I slap this on every Rogue that I ever see because it also prevents the target from being able to use stealth.
Personally, I like to take just about every character I ever level into Hillsbrad Foothills to quest during my mid-20s and early 30s. Sometimes I will take Stonetalon, Ashenvale, or Thousand Needles instead, but I like Hillsbrad enough that I go there more than all of the others combined.
This is about the time that mobs you face are going to have more hit points so that just spamming claw will not quite do the job. This is where I change up my rotation to include Rake first and actually put some use into the Rip finishing move. Rake is a bleed effect, meening that it takes away hit points over time. It also deals a bit of damage to get you started off and awards you a combo point. Follow that up with a couple of Claw attacks to build further combo points and dish out some respectable damage as well, and then finish off with Rip.
There are two reasons why I use both of the bleed effects at this level, and that is because of the high population of humanoids. Humanoids love to run away like a bunch of sissies when they get low on hit points, and I hate having to chase down a mob only to find that they’ve agroed another mobs or six, and then having to go crazy fighting them all off while also trying to stay alive myself. But using Rake and Rip to put bleed effects on the targets, I have a chance of killing them after they run so that I don’t end up facing off against too many mobs for me to handle.
If you go to Hillsbrad before level 25 then you will likely find yourself running out of low level quests to do around level 27 or so. Hillsbrad is a bit of an oddity in that it gives you a lot of quests in your low-mid 20’s and then hits you with quests in your low-mid 30’s and skips over the high-20’s all together. A lot of people find that hard to play through thinking that they have to go find somewhere else to quest.
If you are are going to quest in Hillsbrad like I do, then wait to go there until level 25 and then you should have enough quests to get you up to level 30 before moving into the next zone. I also like to do a lot of grinding in Hillsbrad as there are mobs all over the place as well as nodes for various professions. I love grinding the mobs in the Yeti cave in particular once I get around level 27 or so, and early on I focus on the farmers and peasants in the small farm areas.
A lot of quests in this area send you into areas that are thick with mobs. You have two options here as a Cat Druid. First, you can go right in and just own everything with your claws grinding mobs in the area for experience along with your questings. Secondly, you can take advantage of Prowl to stealth through most of those areas and only fight where you have to.
If you choose to grind mobs while questing here then you are like me and will find a pretty fast and steady source of experience. If you prefer to use Prowl, then you may actually level up faster from being able to do so many quests in so short a time. While you do lose time in walk/run speed during prowling, you also aren’t spending that time fighting trash mobs.
If you find yourself out of quests in the upper 20s, go ahead and jump on over to Arathi Highlands. Some of the quests here are going to be higher level for you, but there are at least some quests to do. Arathi is my location of choice for leveling through my 30’s anyway, so I always end up bringing my characters here.
I don’t have any particular macro suggestions for use as a Feral druid in the 20-29 bracket. Most of what you do is fairly simple and easily done and doesn’t require a lot of extra effort for anything.
Where I use the macro to start attacking while also casting Wrath for the balance build, your opening attacks with feral will always start attacking for you by default.
Talent Points and Glyphs: Level 21-30
Glyph of Rip This glyph extends the duration of the bleed effect on Rip, which in turn increases your overall damage.
Glyph of Thorns No change here over last time. This glyph increases the duration of Thorns from 10 minutes to 1 hour. It saves you some downtime but that’s about it. It’s a solid minor glyph and one that will serve you for many levels.
Glyph of Aquatic Form
This glyph will be included for just shy of forever, and I still prefer it to Thorns myself. I still find it useful in 3.2 even though Travel Form which is also received at level 16 will move faster out of water. This glyph is not as useful as it once was, but it is still a great glyph and I have no intention at this time of replacing it even with Thorns. There is no doubt that this glyph went from epic to decent in a single patch though.
Gearing Up for Feral
As I mentioned previously, the key to Cat DPS is always Agility. The two best sources for Agility for starting out in your 20s are the “of the Fang” set as I mentioned last time, and the gear made by the Leatherworking profession. You get more Attack Power from Strength, but Agility gives you Attack Power, Dodge, and Crit all in one stat.
I have a level 21 Hunter who has his Leatherworking maxed for his level at 225, which allows me to make gear for up to level 33 characters. The gear that you make for around level 20 is not all that heavy in materials and you can probably farm it pretty easily if you have Skinning yourself, or it should be fairly cheap on the Auction House if you’re not one for farming.
You can look for “X of the Fang” set in Wailing Caverns, or call up a Leatherworker and have them make you some solid starting gear. Grab a weapon that either adds to your Agility or has a solid “Chance on Hit: ” proc on it and go to town. As a Cat Druid you either want bonus stats or you want procs because the damage of the weapon itself means absolutely nothing. A weapon that has its own proc along with an enchant that can proc, such as Black Malice with the Fiery Weapon enchant is an excellent example of a dual-proc weapon that can increase your dps greatly.
If you don’t have the luck, or the gold, to get a weapon like that then don’t worry. A weapon with bonus Agility on it will still serve you well. If you can find one with both Strength and Agility on it, then even better. Weapons that add straight Attack Power are alright as well, but I will take raw stats over AP any day so long as they are fairly close in value.
I have confirmed that proc-based enchants work in druid form as well, so if you’re able to twink to any degree than you can use both Fiery Weapon and Crusader on low level druid weapons and claw much face. If you don’t have access to these enchants, or prefer to save your money for other things then feel free to do so. I personally like to feel overpowered for my level, so I don’t mind blowing gold on enchants or gear I may very well replace in 2 levels. It just doesn’t bother me in the least.