For both cat and feral druids, a “rotation” has been scrapped for managing buffs/debuffs in WotLK. You don’t get to just cast 1233333 or something like that. You now have to manage multiple abilities for both specs. I sat down to try and write out feral & moonkin “rotations” to add to the leveling guide, looked through a bunch of different DPS guides, and came to the conclusion that there really isn’t a good way to introduce end-game rotations to beginning druids (I’ll get back to that task later!).
For moonkin, instead of a rotation, it is now about managing the DOTs (insect swarm and wrath), along with managing the Eclipse procs to time when to use wrath to buff your starfire (or in 3.1, for some people it will be the other way around). Most moonkin do this by using the Squawk and Awe addon to manage their debuffs & buffs. You will also need to work in using treants (on a 3 minute cooldown), and sometimes starfall (on a 1.5 minute cooldown in the next patch) if you have the mana for it.
The whole thing was a lot easier to explain when the PvE rotation was simply to spam starfire & refresh HOTs as needed. Eclipse adds a whole extra level of complexity, especially with how the 3.1 changes interact with the two different possible eclipse procs. I mean, now, do we use starfire to proc wrath, or wrath to proc starfire? It depends!
At a certian point, you’d think that watching all the different timers would be a good way to play the game. However, it looks like wrath’s global cooldown clipping problem is still making Eclipse problematic for moonkin. The whole issue seems to be making moonkin not so fun for some people at the highest tiers of raiding.
For feral kitties, it’s all about managing (in order of importance): savage roar (3 to 5 combo points), mangle, rip (5 combo points), & rake. You pop your other cooldowns & abilities as needed (IE. tiger’s fury). The basics of feral DPS is using shred to generate combo points while keeping up all the other buffs/debuffs as needed. The best information I’ve found on a cat druid raiding damage strategy has come from “of teeth and claws”. His guide on how to do cat damage had to be broken into a four different posts, just to describe how to do damage as a cat druid. I swear, it used to be a pretty simple rotation before the latest expansion!
Now, we all know that just spamming one button is really boring. Having a predictable enough rotation that you can program it into a macro and just spam the macro all day is something else Blizzard is trying to avoid (this is something I remember rogues and hunters doing not that long ago). Is buff and debuff management better than having consistent rotations? Does it make the game more fun?
Feral druids are still complaining about things like shred requiring the druid to be behind their target. While the shred issue has to do less with the buff/debuff management, it looks like some druids don’t like to do all that mangement, it is also possible to use mangle instead of shred at times where you can’t stand directly behind a boss.
Some days, it feels like playing a damage dealing druid well still requires more skill and intelligence than the average class. However, the EJ thread on mage’s frostfire bolt talk about “priorities” rather than rotations, so it is not just druids who are managing (rather than rotating). It’s possible that these really fast decisions that we have to make in timing all our abilities to maximize our damage is what makes damage dealing in WotLK actually fun. Or, are we longing for the days of a 1 2 333333 (repeat) rotation?