Dream of Cenarius: How it works and how to use it
UPDATE: As of patch 6.0.3 changes, the information in this guide is no longer relevant. While the new Dream of Cenarius provides a buff to healing touch, it no longer provides any dps benefit.
One of the most discussed talents in the Druid Tree, which also adds a layer of complexity to the Feral Druid DPS cycle, and is currently the highest DPS yielding talent in its tier. But a lot of people don’t really understand how it works, which is where this overview comes in.
So, what is it?
If you look at the Druid spec screen, you’ll see there’s a choice at level 90 of 3 abilities, all designed to increase healing or damage in some way; Heart of the Wild, Dream of Cenarius, and Nature’s Vigil. HotW is a static 6% buff to all your primary stats plus the added benefit of an on use option which will let the caster better perform tasks which are not supported in their current spec. Nature’s Vigil is a straight 20% damage or healing buff (will be changed to 10% after patch 5.2). Then we get to Dream of Cenarius.
According to simulations, Dream of Cenarius is currently the highest DPS potential for Feral Druids (source), if used correctly. It is also the most difficult to use effectively. The multiple conditions make this sound a lot more confusing than it is. As a feral druid this is what you need to pay attention to:
Wrath, Starfire, Starsurge, andmelee abilities increase healing done by your next healing spell by 30%. Tranquility is not affected.
Nourish,Healing Touch , and Regrowthincreases the damage done by your next 2 Moonfire or Sunfire casts by 50% orby your next 2 melee abilities by 25%.
Basically this has 2 important features you should pay attention to:
- Your normal melee abilities will give you a buff which will increase the potency of your next heal. (Not terribly important, but useful to know.)
- When you cast Healing Touch, you will get a buff with 2 charges, which will increase the damage of your next 2 melee abilities – that means Rake, Shred, Mangle, Rip, Ferocious Bite, Thrash or Swipe – by 25%.
The added healing from this talent is nice, but more just an added benefit of the talent. It is important not to get these mixed up though, as they both have the same buff name. The healing buff makes your Healing Touch heal a useful amount (I think mine is reguarly 60-70k non-crit), and can be used to keep yourself alive or topped up, or someone else.
So what does this mean?
Now you’re probably thinking to yourself, so what? 25% sounds nice but it’s only for 2 abilities, whereas Heart of the Wild gives me 6% increase primary stats! And, when am I going to get a chance to cast a Healing Touch in combat?! Well, these are great questions which I can answer. If your question is “why should I heal if I am DPS?”, then check your mail as there is a slap on its way.
I’ll start with the second one first. For a long time, Feral has had an ability called Predatory Swiftness.
What this means is that every 5 combo point finisher you use will give you 100% chance to get this ability. Prior to Mists of Pandaria, using this ability for any spell would make you leave Cat Form. This put Feral at a disadvantage to other classes like Ret Paladins and Enhance Shamans who would get instant cast heal procs but suffered less opportunity than Feral who had to cancel form to cast, then reenter cat form costing 2 GCDs instead of 1. This made using these procs in a PVE environment illogical except in emergencies.
However, now any spell you can cast with Predatory Swiftness will not make you leave Cat Form if it is successful. This means you could use every single Predatory Swiftness proc you get during an encounter and potentially lose 0 DPS or uptime. Although if you try to cast Healing Touch without Predatory Swiftness or Nature’s Swiftness, it will cause you to shift out of Cat Form. Potential accidents can be remedied by using a macro such as this:
/console autounshift 0
/use Healing Touch
/console autounshift 1
I hope by now if you were very confused about this talent, you’re starting to say to yourself ‘Oh! I think I know where this is going!”.
Now back to the first question, why would I pick this talent over a flat 6% stat increase which doesn’t require me to do anything special? How can Dream of Cenarius do more damage than that?
What you need to keep in mind for this is that because of combo point mechanics (and Feral mastery) some attacks and finishers will do considerably more damage as a single move than ordinary combo-generating moves (the exception here is Rake which is a combo builder). The other thing you need to know is about dots and snapshots. As a Feral, whenever you use a bleed move, a “snapshot” is taken of your current stats – including procs, potions, Tiger’s Fury and so on – and these stats are what determines the damage of that move throughout its duration, until it is refreshed at which time it creates a new snapshot. For more detailed information on this, click here, and go to section 9.2.
If you are to look at your breakdown of damage over most encounters, you should see something similar to rake and rip doing roughly 20-25% of your damage each. So when we are looking at choosing what to use a 25% damage increase on, we should obviously start with our 2 most damaging abilities. Here is a small breakdown of how much certain abilities do compared to each other with my current gear on a target dummy:
- Rip: 324, 249 (extended by 6 seconds), 29,477 average tick
- Rake: 133,323, 22,220 average tick
- Shred: 42,336 average damage
- Ferocious Bite: 69, 142 average
By no means is this a representative sample, but you can see the huge difference in damage between some moves.
Because of the large portion of damage that comes from Rip and Rake, the Dream of Cenarius charges should ideally be used on them. Guides which tell you to use HT straight after a PS proc are incorrect. Ideally you want to be using it on 4 or 5 combo points before applying or refreshing Rip, or to buff your next Rake. If the target it below 25% you’ll want to use it for Ferocious Bite, assuming that your current Rip was either applied with DoC or was applied when you were doing at least 25% more damage than normal.
But this is where it gets difficult. After you use a finisher and get your Predatory Swiftness proc, you only have 8 seconds to build up to 4 or 5 combo points to get the most out of your next Rip or Ferocious Bite. This alone is why this ability is so difficult to get the most of. Not only are you watching up to 5 different timers, with DoC you’re now watching 7; the increase being Predatory Swiftness which is 8 seconds, and Dream of Cenarius charges which is thankfully 30 seconds. Sometimes you simply will not be able to build up to another finisher before your 8 seconds is up. Consistently missing DoC buffed bleeds will seriously diminish the value of this talent to the point where it is below the value of Heart of the Wild. However even if you cannot get another finisher in, never let your PS go to waste; 25% more on a shred or thrash is better than nothing at all.
There is some hope – if you wish to see it that way. There are 2 very important spec choices which, because of the way they interact with DoC, are near mandatory to use together. These are Nature’s Swiftness and Soul of the Forest. A build using DoC should look something like this.
Nature’s Swiftness allows you, every 60 seconds, to cast a free healing touch which will activate DoC, thus greatly increasing your opportunities to have a DoC buffed Rip ticking. Once again, this should be used on 4-5 combo points. Soul of the Forest is passive and you will barely notice you have it. However, energy back every time you use a finisher will obviously make it easier to build up to your next finisher because of the energy refund.
In order to make the most of DoC, you should make sure you bind your HT in an easy to reach bind so you can hit it on time with minimal disruption to movement or DPS. Likewise, NS should be easy to reach and possibly close to HT. If you refer to my macro guide, there are a few helpful macros for HT and NS.
So a lot of writing, but to simplify things, this is a condensed list:
- When you use a finisher, you have a chance to get a Predatory Swiftness buff
- If you use this for Healing Touch, you will gain 2 stacks of Dream of Cenarius, increasing the damage of your next 2 melee moves (not auto attacks)
- You should ideally use Healing Touch when you are on 4-5 Combo Points
- After you cast Healing Touch your next move should ideally be Rip (5 CP), Rake or Ferocious Bite
- This should not stop you from performing your usual DPS cycle; the usual priorities apply
- If Rip is or has dropped off and Nature’s Swiftness is available, use NS + HT on 4-5 combo points.
I hope you like this guide and found it useful. If you have any advice, questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment.