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As a raiding kitty gears up through Icecrown Citadel and the following hard modes, he or she is likely to start pushing several different stat caps that currently limit certain statistics.  Some of these caps are more important than others, and some of them are related to others in the way that you gear for them.  The stat caps that you’ll want to worry about are:

The Armor Penetration Cap: At 1400 armor penetration, you reach the hard cap of 100% armor reduction.  Any armor penetration beyond that is worthless.  It’s good to still look for pieces of gear with armor pen on them, however gemming will need to be adjusted accordingly so you’re not over this cap by much.  Usually it is good to switch an armor pen gem to an agility one if it will take you over 1410 armor penetration.  At that point the agility gained is worth being slightly under the cap, as opposed to half of the stats from an ARP gem being completely wasted.

The Critical Strike Cap: This is much different from the Armor penetration cap.  As your agility increases, so will your critical strike chance.  Once your critical strike chance hits 73.3% all your auto attacks (your white damage) will either crit or be glancing blows, as there is a flat  29% glancing blow chance for  all white attacks.  At this point, critical strike chance loses value, and hit and expertise gain more value, as the more white attacks that land, the more crits there will be.  Keep in mind when trying to figure out your crit chance raid-buffed to count in procs and buffs from items such as your idol, or your trinkets.  It can be helpful to use a tool such as Rawr to figure out how the uptimes from said items will affect your crit chance.

The Hit Cap: While generally not a very valuable stat to use at lower levels of gearing (a cat druid’s dps has a comparatively low contribution from white damage), when a cat is pushing the critical strike cap, it becomes almost essential to also be at the hit cap.   As one approaches the crit cap, white damage percentage goes up to a point that hit capping is something you definitely want to do.  Try to do this through as few gems as possible (especially if you would go below the ARP cap) through the use of hit enchants, to get to the cap of 8% hit.  If you’re alliance, DEFINITELY only gear to 7% hit rating, and make sure you run with a draenei in your group.

The Expertise Cap: Similar to the hit cap, this stat reduces the chance that a boss has to dodge you when you dps it from behind, and this stat gains importance as the crit cap is attained for the same reason that hit rating does.  The cap melee concern themselves with is 26 expertise, or 214 expertise rating.  This is another cap that you want to reach through as much passive gearing as possible, and certainly don’t gem for it until hit and armor pen caps are both attained.

Items and Enchants that greatly affect or are affected by these caps:

The choice between Mongoose and Berserking: As said above, when one approaches the crit cap, the value of crit and agility diminishes.  So as you get closer to the crit cap, the value of the Mongoose weapon enchant decreases drastically.  Also, the haste given from the mongoose enchant has recently been stealth-nerfed by blizzard, so the haste is no longer a contributing factor.  When you get to the point where idol and trinket procs (such as Deathbringer’s Will or Death’s Verdict) will put you at or over the crit cap, it is a good choice to drop the mongoose enchant for berserking.

Hersir’s Greatspear (and it’s heroic version): This is a great weapon to have available to you (especially the heroic version)  The armor penetration and hit it provides pretty much guarantee that you’ll be capped for both stats, and it helps simplify gearing and gemming immensely.  I’m still currently using the heroic version of this weapon, as heroic 25-man weapons  stubbornly refuse to drop.  When I finally do get my hands on Heroic Distant Land or Bloodfall, I’ll be somewhat sad to drop this weapon, as it simplifies gearing immensely.

Distant Land and Bloodfall (and their heroic counterparts): While these weapons will always be upgrades due to the feral attack power bonus gain, they do tend to make gearing to the hit and armor penetration caps much more diffcult.  Even if you do end up losing several hundred armor pen due to the upgrade, it will still be a dps benifit to you, as you will gain large amounts of agility, feral AP, and haste.  The heroic versions of these weapons are also very likely to get you crit capped as well, so make sure to account for that.  Distant Land is better than Bloodfall by a hair, due to less stamina and more  dps stats.

Lasherweave Legguards (and the two upgrades): These pants are very important, as they have a lot of expertise on them.  These will certainly be the first set of tier that you will want to use your marks of sanctification on, as the higher-ilevel versions give even more, and put you pretty close to the expertise cap.  This is the best way to passively gear for expertise, and this makes running Ikfirus’s sack of Wonder something you don’t want to do (running a piece of gear with more ArPen is much better).

Enchant Gloves: Precision: This is a nice glove enchant to use once you start pushing the crit cap, especially if you’re still worrying about staying as close as you can to the Armor Pen cap.  This would generally be replacing the standard feral glove enchant of +20 agility to gloves.  This is the equivilant of switching an epic hit gem for an epic agility gem.  This way, you can get an extra 20 hit rating without having to lose 20 armor penetration.

Deathbringer’s Will (and its heroic version): Any good feral knows that this is a must-have for the armor pen and the awesome proc.  However, this is still worth mentioning, because it is good to consider that one of the three stats that procs is 600 agility, which provides a lot of crit.  Make sure to keep this in mind, as many ferals will be well over the crit cap when the agility option procs.

COMING SOON: Sharpened Twilight Scale: The armor penetration on this trinket is pretty astounding.  I don’t know what the exact numbers on this are, but I expect it will become best in slot for ferals along with Deathbringer’s Will.  This will also clear up a lot of armor pen issues you’ll have if you’re running with Distant Land or Bloodfall.

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Note: Although this is a blog about UIs, I’m not going to be going into the details of many specific addons, besides ones that aid Feral DPS.  The specific addons that one uses for a UI is very much up to the player’s personal preference.  Rather, I’ll be going into ways to organize a UI, and get the information you need as simply as possible.

So, after a long hiatus from this blog, I thought I’d give it a go again, hopefully I can keep up with it, and not get too distracted by everything else, at least its the summer.

So anyway, UI’s.  It’s generally my belief that a well-designed and well thought out UI is the mark of a good player more than a lot of things can be (can anyone say GearScore?).  The construction of a good UI takes intelligence, time, research, dedication, and most importantly, the ability to acknowledge mistakes and learn from them.  I can actually track my growth as a player through my screenshots folder, watching as my UI grow and change from essentially Blizzard Stock UI,  to the logically constructed one I have currently, entirely based on streamlining and simplifying the job I need to do in a raid.

Before we get into the meat of my Kitty UI design philosophy, let’s take a look at the chronology of my UI, from the beginning until now.  I’ll be skipping some of my intermediate stages where there aren’t drastic changes.

February 14th, 2009

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Pretty much standard, stock, Blizzard UI here, with only windows for Recount and Questhelper.

March 5th, 2009

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Made this one after reading this blog post (which still has some great UI info) which really inspired me into moving away from stock blizzard UI.  Flaws in this are pretty obvious, with class timers taking up a large space in the center of my screen.

May 28th, 2009

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Finally started looking into improving my unit and raid frames.  I flirted with Xperl for a little bit.  Clutter has been reduced a bit, but is not perfect by any means.

August 7th, 2009

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Dropped Xperl for Pitbull, and picked up map and chat mods.  This point is where I really started zeroing in on what I wanted my UI to be.

January 13th, 2010

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This is when I started to actively cut out clutter from my UI, and clean u my action bars.

February 17th, 2010

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An extremely short flirtation with Elkano’s Buff Bars.  This is around the time that I realized how I wanted to structure the last bit of my UI.

February 18th, 2010

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Added data text, tank frames, and tweaked a few things.

Current UI

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This is pretty much what I’m running currently, aside from a few small tweaks.  You can see a video of it in raid combat as well.

As you can see, as I grew as a player, my UI changed with me, becoming more logical as I became more knowledgeable about the game itself.

Although my current UI is extremely addon-heavy, there’s really no need for it to be, this is my personal choice.  Depending on one’s personal preferences, one can do something very similar without using up as much memory with addons.

All UI’s  are essentially different ways of presenting in-game information.  Some people need different types of information than others.  For example, since I am a guild officer and do a lot of raid-leading, I need a good amount of information regarding how the raid is set up, and if raiders have certain abilities available.  Thus, if you take a look at my UI, I have  a raid cooldown list and Main Tank frames near the bottom left of my screen.  To many people this could be excess information, and would not really be needed in a UI, so they shouldn’t let these things take up space.

That being said, there are a few basic UI design rules that are good to follow:

The less clicks, the better.

The less clicking through menus, button pressing, and slash command typing you do, the better.  A good UI gives the player all the information and abilities they need with as few menus as possible.  For example: if you find yourself having to constantly go to your menus to switch out situational spells and macros, you might want to add another action bar on your screen somewhere.

Don’t cover up your character.

If you’ve got windows, bars, frames, or timers covering up your character or the area immediately around it, that’s not good.  Whether you’re farming, questing, or raiding, it’s imperative that you see what’s going on around your character, as void zones, gathering nodes, or quest objects could appear there at a moment’s notice.  In fact, the more space you have around your character that’s free from bars, windows, and the like, the better.

Raid frames are good.

If you do any form of raiding at all, it’s good to have frames set up to see all of your raid.  There are many boss mechanics and abilities that require you to see what member of the raid is doing what, and potentially target them for an ability (the best example of this is the bite mechanic on Blood-Queen Lana’thel in ICC).  Awareness is a huge thing in raiding, and raid frames allow you to be aware of your fellow raid members around you.

Too much information is a bad thing.

There is such a thing as too much.  If you’re having trouble finding a place to put a set of information, it is likely that there is something, somewhere in your UI that you don’t need out there.  Figure out what you use on a regular basis.  If it’s something that you don’t use that often, it shouldn’t be on your main UI.  This also goes for anything extra that could be covering up something important.

These are good things to work with, and as long as you generally keep them in mind, it will be hard to go wrong with your UI, no matter what addons you use.  But that’s enough UI basics, lets get into how this applies to feral druids.

Kitty UI Specifics

Unfortunately, the default Blizzard UI is not very helpful to an optimal kitty dps rotation.  The main reason for this is the way blizzard sets up target debuff monitoring.  With the default settings, your rips, rakes, and mangles can get caught up in a large mix of debuffs that other players have put on the target.  Beyond this, it is close to impossible to track exactly how much time is left on said debuffs, which is key to knowing what abilities to use next to maximize your dps.

There are several mods out there that are helpful with this, but my preferred addon has always been Badkitty.  To me it can give all the information you could possibly need for kitty dps, and ways of customizing the frames and windows to what your own preferences are.  Badkitty also allows for more independent thinking than other feral  mods, such as Facemauler and Feralbynight, which is key for movement fights or fights with multiple targets.  If you look at my UI screenshots, I tend to have my Badkitty warning frames (that give a countdown to when an ability will run out or come off cooldown) at the top center of my screen, and the Badkitty timers (monitoring Rip, Savage Roar, as well as my energy and CPs) near the bottom center.

Another great thing to have as kitty, and as a melee dpser in general, is some form of error blocking mod.  Such mods block the annoying red text that pops up in the center of your screen whenever you don’t have enough energy or an ability is on cooldown/GCD.  As a melee class who is generally spamming buttons pretty rapidly, I’ve found it a blessing to block many such errors, and most mods allow a “whitelist” to be created of errors you still want displayed.  The one I’m currently using is ncError, but there are several different types

Beyond the absolute necessity for a form of class timer, it is important that all dps kitties remember that they are druids.  As such, Rebirth, Innervate, and Tranquility should all be available if someone calls for them to be used, as the timely use of any or all of them can potentially save a raid wipe.

Well, that about does it for what I have to say about UIs.  Hopefully I’ll have the time and will to get another post up late this week, or early next.  I’ll be talking about what it’s like to be a kitty in Heroic ICC.

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