While I was writing the Survival of the Fittest article, I was thinking on something. Many people who play melee damage characters often comment about how often they spend time face down in the muck for half of the fight. Some have the luxury of plate or dodge mitigation, but it never seems like enough. Those familiar with ranged damage (more so in older instances than modern ones) will tell you to spec pure damage and let the healers keep you up. Maybe that works for them, but we’re in the fray. Some bosses make it really hard to keep at their side, and sometimes all it takes is a single spinny-roundy or green cloud you didn’t catch in time to put you out.
Thus, this article will be about focusing on keeping your fuzzy kitty butt alive. There are those who will disagree with my points of view here, and given my experience, maybe they’re right. Still, I think it’s a meleer’s responsibility to be as self-sufficient in their survival as possible, and that’s the attitude we’ll be going into this thing with.
You’re a lucky sort. Almost all gear these days seems to come with Stamina. Most Critty Kitties will be using Rogue-ware, as its the latest trend in dominatrix fashion, so you’ll be getting primarily Agility and Stamina. You can actually afford to go balls-out offense. If you find you’re just not staying alive, you do have options, though. A wealth of tanking leather and druid weapons are available. If a few good ones fall to you for being the feral in the party, save them just in case. You’ll probably only have to compete with the Survival Hunter for them. Your group and your DPS may not approve of your clothes, but in an undergeared situation, it might just be better to go in doing less damage than spending the fight face down dealing zero damage.
While you do have a cornucopia of tanking talents to boost defense, many of them are Bear-only. Boo. Bear is greedy. But, all is not lost. Kitty comes equipped for the job too.
Improved Mark of the Wild – We’ll start off with a minor off-spec talent. You probably won’t bother if you’ve got a Resto tree in your usual raid group, but if no one else has it, this has good all-around bang for its buck. +2% more to all of your own attributes in addition to improving one of the best buffs in the game. More armor, attributes, and the ever-elusive resistances. If no one else in your group has it, you can’t go wrong with it.
Thick Hide – The Thick Hide vs. Feral Instinct debate is a raging, axe-wielding, possibly menstruating one. You’ll probably take one or the other, and when leveling, I always took Feral Instincts. But, the stealth element is somewhat underplayed in group instances, and whether Swipe (Cat) is worth buffing is arguable. +10% armor isn’t going to make Azeroth move, but it might be worth more than Feral Instincts to you.
Feral Swiftness – I consider this one mandatory. The speed buff gets you out of harm’s way and back into the fight. Your mobility is both extra damage and defense in a sexy little bundle of death. +4% dodge is an extra ounce of defense that the average platey has to spend 4 talent points to match.
Survival Instincts – Identical to the Warrior’s Last Stand, except that you don’t have to go down a different tree to get it. It can still be a stubborn beast to fit into a build, and I’ll admit, it’s often one of the first things I cut out. It’s more worth your while the higher your HP gets, since it heals based on a percentage (and thus will always be of more use to a tank than you). The other problem is remembering you have it.
Predatory Strikes – You’ll be taking this one anyways, simply for the raw attack power. But I tossed it in because of the instant-cast heals it makes available. They can be a life-saver.
Nurturing Instincts – There are those who refuse to take this talent. I refuse not taking it. I consider it irresponsible, really. They see the +healing, and go “*scoff*, I’m a DPS, not a healer, thank you very much.” But the part we want is part Beta: +20% bonus to all healing you take as a cat. A lot of small heals fall around a busy battlefield. The more often you’re topped off with quick or stray heals, the less attention you need compared to your party members. This also improves Improved Leader of the Pack, which may just keep you topped off on your own.
Survival of the Fittest – We discussed this earlier, we did we did. Crit Immune and +6% to all attributes. Probably your single best durability talent. You want this, you do you do.
Improved Leader of the Pack – Either the single best group buff you can offer, or worthless. If you have a Bear tank in your regular group, she probably took this, and yours doesn’t stack with hers. Since you can easily crit once every 6 seconds, this will be a steady source of small heals for you. Nurturing Instinct will improve that heal by 20% (but won’t improve it based on your +healing), giving you an extra 0.8% of your HP each time.
Primal Tenacity – This is primarily a PvP talent, and probably won’t make it into your regular builds. There are bosses that make heavy use of stuns and fear, so you might bring it along conditionally. Probably not, though.
Predatory Instincts – Extra damage is always welcome in my home. You’re probably looking at maybe an overall +1% to 1.5% increase per point, depending on your crit chance. The focus here is the 30% less damage from AoE attacks. Sometimes, you’re going to stand in the fire briefly. Sometimes, bosses blast all the melee around them to knock them back. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that poor kitty is going to get caught in some mess. This applies to a lot of the damage you can expect to take, and 30% is no small dip. Don’t ignore this one.
Berserk – I’m posting this one mostly as a no-no. Berserk makes a great fear-breaking trinket in PvP, but if you save it for that in an instance, you’re wasting it. It creates a HUGE burst of damage, and should be popped off on each and every boss that can afford the aggro spike. I learned this one from experience. Even when the situation arises to use it to break fear, I have to spend a second or two of potential super-damage running back to the target. No bueno.
The Strat: HP > 0
I harp on this a lot, but I’ll say it again. As Kitty Kit Kitterson, you have two traits to hone to a razor’s edge: Awareness & MobilityTM. It’s really easy to get tunnel visioned when staring at those buffs and bleeds, but you’ve also got to find the backside of your target, get there, recognize threats, and get away when necessary. Your #1 survival tool is your own head. A few pointers to further the point:
Stay Out of the Green Sh** – It may be self-explanatory, but we all seem to forget from time to time. Those flames/fumes/tentacles on the floor hurt. You’re probably more resilient than many to them, but hurting yourself is still bad. Get out!
Optimal Attack Location – To get off your Shred and to improve your accuracy, you want to be behind your target. However, many many large enemies like dragons and giants have rear-attacks. Some also tend to do instant 180 turns from time to time, just to annoy you. The optimal spot is typically on the side, just slightly to the rear. They won’t hit you with their tails/back-kicks, and if they flip-flop facing, you’re a tiny side-step from being in position again.
Billy Don’t Be a Hero – More basic knowledge, but worth repeating. One of the worst things you can do for your own safety is to pull aggro. Attack the target that the tank is properly tending. Don’t feel its your job to pull things off of the healer, cuz you’ll just get in the way. Don’t rush the enemy healer in the back, just because you think you’re the only one smart enough to notice it. Call it, get the tank on it, then shred with the peace of mind that comes with not having your skull caved in with two blows.
Back of the Class – This is more a tanking issue, but it’s spelled my doom a time or two. A good tank should face enemies away from the group. One reason is so everyone gets the nice juicy backside exposed to them for the rocking and the socking. The other reason is because if there are more enemies ahead, they will be… well… ahead. A wandering patrol is far more likely to come in from the front. If you’re the furthest ahead because you had to go there to get behind the enemy, you’re the first thing they will see, and it won’t be pretty. It’s not something you have a lot of control over, but be aware of the situation and watch your own back.
Barkskin – You forgot you had it, didn’t you. Ah-aah-ah-aaah (yes, I am five years old) , I knew it! It’s not just for casters anymore. Barkskin works in all forms, doesn’t have a painfully long cooldown, doesn’t trip the Global Cooldown, costs nothing, and offers a short burst of very good damage reduction. If you can’t be bothered to remember you have it, I suggest macroing it to an ability you will remember, like:
/cast Runic Healing Potion
You’ll at least pop it every time you go to use a potion, which is probably an appropriate time to assume you’re freaking out. If you have any other defensive abilities, like Lifeblood from Herbalism, go ahead and macro it to that too. Basically, anything you already use to mitigate damage.
I Will Survive
Melee damage has a bit of a stigma. People picture us primarily horizontal. It’s a challenging role and we get a lot of hate for it. But respect can be earned. Stand tall and proud. Or, er… As tall and as proud as a kitty can. Come to think of it, we are always horizontal…
Ugh. Long, wordy, potentially informative… where’s that delete button? Alright, alright, I’ll leave it, but under one condition! I want to see related posts for Death Knights, Ret Paladins, Rogues, Enhancement Shaman, Fury/Arms Warriors, and, heck, even other ferals. Lots of people talk about how to maximize your damage, but it seems somewhat glazed over in the area of staying alive. How do you keep your melee DPS alive? Then I can sit back and read them while posting random topics about how casual I am. Your challenge is posed!
Your fortune cookie:
As long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive!
Edit: Haha, awesome! I have become the BlogAzeroth shared topic of the week! >>Forumeth Posteth<< Okay, so I did post it there, meaning I wasn’t exactly nominated for my blinding brilliance so much as I was the only person to make a suggestion for that week. (Running unopposed ftw) And as I hadn’t really planned to be omnipotent topic of an entire week, I hadn’t paused to consider that Melee DPS isn’t exactly a universal topic. Whoops. Still, the bloggers of WoW-land are resourceful, and so be sure to watch that space for creative individuals adapting the topic to their interests.