The Hit Cap And You
One of the biggest falsehoods that gets perpetrated on the druid forums is that the first thing you should do is stack hit to the cap. This is not exactly true.
Feral druids do not suffer a huge penalty from misses or dodged attacks in PVE DPS. Our white damage is a modest portion of our DPS compared to most classes, and we don't have significant damaging procs like rogues' poisons or DK's Blood-Caked Blade. Our missed specials only cost 20% energy. We are not GCD-limited or on a fixed rotation, so we don't lose much time. Mathematically, hit and expertise rating are simply not as good, point-for-point, as agility.
This doesn't mean that hit rating is bad. Hitting more often DOES increase DPS reasonably well. Reducing misses smooths your cycle out, allowing you to pay less attention to whether or not your last attack connected, which makes DPS easier. It simply means that if you have a choice between exactly-equal amounts of hit rating and agility, you should probably take the agility.
The Crit Cap and You
Once you start collecting a lot of very good gear, you may start to bump up against the crit cap. Due to the way the combat table works for white attacks, if your chance to glance, miss, be dodged, and crit all add up to 100%, you cannot increase your white crit rate any further. For ease of use by average players, all final crit cap numbers are as they would appear on your character sheet in a standard 25-man raid, and assume the presence of all raid buffs. This number will be higher than your actual crit rate on the boss, due to the level difference. You should check it in combat, with permanent effects active.
To find your white crit cap, add your hit chance and your dodge reduction from expertise to 66.3%. If your crit chance was higher than that, your white attacks would all be crits, glances, misses, and dodges, and adding more crit would not increase your white damage any further, however your special attacks, which are calculated differently, would still increase.
Even if you hit the crit cap, the models for Cataclysm still indicate that Agility is your strongest primary stat. However Hit and Expertise rating overtakes Mastery/Haste and Crit for the strongest secondary stat. You would want to consider capping out Hit and Expertise at the expense of secondary stats but it would be a net DPS loss to sacrifice Agility even at this gear point.
Since this guide's aim is for you to have to do as little math as possible, I give the number that you will get if you look on your character sheet while in combat. Assuming hit and expertise caps, you will become white crit capped when you have 80.8% crit on your character sheet.
Stormrider (Tier 11) 2-peice: Increases the periodic damage done by your Rake and Lacerate abilities by 10%. This is decent.
Stormrider (Tier 11) 4-peice: Each time you use Mangle (Cat) you gain a 1% increase to attack power for 30 sec stacking up to 3 times, and the duration of your Survival Instinct ability is increased by 50%. This is decent but you end up having to Mangle twice as often as you would otherwise to keep the buff up. Preliminary experimentation with full T11 shows that it's not important to get to 3 stacks within the opener, but once it's stacked to three, keeping it that way is the single most important thing you should be focusing on (Restacking it costs *a lot* of damage).
For people who like math, and understanding what's going on behind the scenes.
Weapon Tooltip Top End / Weapon Speed (Unhasted) + AP / 14 = Cat Top End
Weapon Tooltip Bottom End / Weapon Speed (Unhasted) + AP / 14 = Cat Bottom End
Distant Land (Heroic): 625 - 939 Damage Speed 2.40
Cat Top End = 939 / 2.4 + AP / 14 = 391.25 + AP / 14
Cat Bottom End = 625 / 2.4 + AP / 14 = 260.41 + AP / 14
Bloodfall (Heroic): 886 - 1330 Damage Speed 3.40
Cat Top End = 1330 / 3.4 + AP / 14 = 391.17 + AP / 14
Cat Bottom End = 886 / 3.4 + AP / 14 = 260.58 + AP / 14
Top end damage does not matter. Speed does not matter. Look at Weapon DPS. Assuming they're equal, look at the stats.
Total AP from character sheet
Mew (the tool that succeeds Toskk's) uses unbuffed character form stats so determining cat form AP without logging into the game should no longer be neccecary.
For those that are curious this is how you can calculate it.
GearAP <- ArmoryAP / 125 * 100 (Character sheet value includes Aggression's 1.25x multiplier)
GearAP <- GearAP - (Str - 10) * 2 (Character sheet value includes Attack Power from Strength)
CatAP <- (((Agility - 10) * 1.05 + (Strength - 10)) * 2 + GearAP + Level * 2) * 1.1 * 1.25
If you've done it right, you should have your total AP, plus or minus rounding error.
Many weapon enchants, most notably Berserking, Mongoose, and Executioner use the Proc-Per-Minute, or PPM, mechanic. They are set to proc on average a certain number of times in one minute - most of them set at one proc per minute.
The PPM mechanic works by assigning a proc chance which depends on two factors: the PPM of the effect, and the base attack speed of the weapon. Since a 3.5 speed weapon attacks 17.14 times in one minute, a 1 PPM enchant on that weapon would have a 1 / 17.14 = 5.83% chance to proc anytime the weapon hit the target. If you put it on a 2.5 speed weapon instead, its chance would drop to 4.16%.
Haste does not affect this chance, and it applies to special attacks as well. So if you add 20% haste, you get 20% more procs from autoattacks. And each special attack keeps that original chance to proc the effect as well.
Now, cat druids have a fixed 1.0 attack speed. This means that weapon enchants have a paltry 1.66% chance to proc on any given attack, which is why they are less effective for us than other classes - while we should get on average the same number of procs per minute from autoattacks, our special attacks have a much much lower chance of proccing the enchant, and we do not attack on every GCD like some other classes.Crit Cap
Because white damage uses a one-roll system, with "hit" as the default result for an attack that doesn't fall into any other category, it is possible to push hit completely off the attack table for white attacks. This happens when your chance to miss, chance to be dodged, chance to get a glancing blow, and your crit chance all add up to 100%, leaving no room for regular hits. With no hit or expertise, this is at 100 - 8 - 6.5 - 24 = 61.5% crit.
The hard white crit cap, when you have pushed dodge and miss off the table through hit and expertise, is 76% - at this point, all attacks will either crit or glance. Beyond this point, nothing you do can increase the number of white crits you get.
When you reach your crit cap, but are not yet hit/expertise capped, the value of hit and expertise increases by 50-80%. This is because, under the crit cap, adding hit converts misses into regular hits, essentially. Over the crit cap, however, you're converting misses straight into crits, which of course do more than double damage. Therefore, once you reach the crit cap in raid buffs with just your idol procced, hit and expertise become your best stats until you are once more under the cap, or until you reach their respective caps.
There is a further 4.8% difference between your character sheet crit rate and your actual chance to crit the boss, due to the three level differential between you and your target. If your character sheet says 50% crit, you'll actually crit 45.2% of the time. This is why the actual crit cap of 76% is different from the number you will see in section 3 of this FAQ, since my goal in this guide is to write primarily for non-theorycrafters, and it's easier for them to work with their character sheet.
AOE Damage Caps
Swipe is affected by AOE damage caps. The maximum damage that can be done by a single Swipe is equal to the amount it would do to 10 targets. This allows it to scale with gear but still limits its damage.
For instance, if your swipe hits a single target for 1000, when used on 10 targets it would do a total of 10,000. If you hit 20 targets, swipe will still do 10,000 damage, which means it would hit each of the 20 mobs for 500 damage. Increasing your stats so that it hits a single target for 1500 increases your cap to 15,000.
Crit chance and damage is applied after AOE caps.
Hit cap at 85 Like the bear, the cat is considered a one-handed attacker, so your hit cap in tier 11 will be 961 hit versus a raid boss or 721 hit versus a heroic 5-man boss. Again, the hit cap is likely to rise in tier 12. As with the bear, hit isn't something you should go out of your way to get. Most of our damage is yellow with an inherently better chance to hit, and there's only a small penalty for missing a finisher given that the now-vanished talent Primal Precision's energy return component has been baked into the spec.
Expertise cap at 85 Try to get to the soft cap (26 expertise/781 rating), beyond which expertise is functionally useless for a melee DPS. Mobs can't parry from behind, so once you've knocked dodge off their avoidance table you don't need more expertise. As with hit, don't drive yourself nuts trying to get it.
What reputation should I grind first? As with bears, you'll want to get started on Therazane as early as possible for their shoulder enchants. However, your helm enchant will come from Ramkahen in Uldum, which you probably won't encounter as early as they'll find the Earthen Ring. Once you've gotten to revered with Ramkahen, schedule a trip to their quartermaster (Blacksmith Abasi at 54,33 in Uldum) for both the Arcanum and the Quicksand Belt.
As with the bear, keep an eye out for Guardians of Hyjal rep as well; their Sly Fox Jerkin can last you all the way to heroics, and you can get it as early as level 83.