My feral druid isn't part of a raid guild. She still sits in her mostly abandoned guild started by my coworkers, so if I do any raids with her it's always as a pug, which suits me fine because I can stop playing for a week or two and nobody wonders where I went (because I'm focused on my mains on my primary server).
I tend to be a little concerned about my status as a pugger though, always striving to not be bottom dps. As an alt in a land of ICC 25 geared mains I think it's a more reasonable goal than being top dps.
Since all I have are pugs, I don't want my time wasted by being incompetent or being kicked midway through a run for being incompetent, and I've been able to do that. Though there have been times where I've been completely wasted on the meters, it's typically not fair for me to gauge myself against mages, so I look for other melee, and in particular I look for other feral druids.
One night, after having not played my feral in a while, I wanted to do the raid weekly, but I couldn't seem to get a group for Malygos (maybe people have bad memories?) so I hopped in a VoA 25 led by one of the third tier casual raid guilds. They had a cat druid in there that was decently geared, mix of ICC Lower Spire and ToC stuff. Had the Death's Choice trinket. And here I was in nothing but heroic and emblem gear.
I fully expected to get my butt whooped on the meters, but surprise surprise, I was pulling about 6.2k and the other druid was lagging behind me by a reasonably steady 600-800 dps. It was a personal best for me (having an arms warrior really helped) so I was happy with myself.
The funny thing was, the other druid noticed what was happening as well, and I got a friendly whisper asking how I was beating him when he was better geared than me.
Cat dps is incredibly complicated, so I couldn't begin to tell him exactly what I was doing because there just wasn't enough time between trash and boss pulls. I told him basically that I tried to always keep Savage Roar up, keep Rake up (since arms warrior removes need for Mangle), Shred to 5 cp, and then Rip.
What I couldn't tell him was that I was weaving Ferocious Bites into my rotation (I'm just starting to get comfortable doing that) as long as there were 8 seconds left on Rip, that I was trying to use Berserk strategically during Bloodlust or a trinket proc, that I try to use Omen of Clarity procs for Shreds no matter what, that I try to be strategic about when I use my energy and for what so I don't find myself empty when I need to refresh an important buff/debuff, and most of all that I still considered myself a novice learning a very complicated spec to play. Cat dps is so frantic that knowing the priority list is still a far cry from executing it, which is why mods like FeralByNight (which suggests the player's next move) exist.
I really didn't feel qualified to be telling a raiding druid how to play his cat, and I'm guessing that if he goes to his guild's ICC 25s he's probably playing his main. He must have logged far more hours on his cat than I have on mine, and I'm not at the point where I can look at a damage breakdown in Recount and tell him that he's letting Savage Roar drop too much, or he's bad about refreshing Rake, or he doesn't use Tiger's Fury.
But I guess the fact that he asked at all means that my cat dps was respectable and maybe I wasn't quite the newbie that I thought I was. My feral occasionally got into pugs, but we're talking like raid weekly pugs. They kill a boss and that's it. She had only finished ToC once, and no pug would take her into ICC since her gear score is considered too low and she lacks achievements besides.
He asked how I opened to get Savage Roar up and I told him that I'd Mangle if it wasn't up yet, then follow it with a Rake, and then SR. The important thing is to get SR up and a couple combo points is enough, because it can be refreshed later.
Fast forward a couple weeks, again with minimal playtime on my feral, and I logged on last night thinking to do a daily random and work the AH.
I joined a pug VoA 25 that failed so hard that people left after the first wipe. Thinking I'd do Wintergrasp, since it was up in a few minutes, I queued and ran through my AH options while I waited.
Lo and behold, a ToC 10 group was forming in Trade. I figured ToC 10 might net me some nice gear, so I joined it and we cleared it, but I had no luck on drops (barring a leather caster helm for my rarely used healing set). I did get more emblems though, which was nice because my feral doesn't have the backlog of emblems my moonkin and my pally do. She was getting dangerously low if she wanted any gems for new gear.
After the ToC 10 I queued for a random heroic as dps, thinking to get some kitty practice in, but wait! Someone was LFM for Malygos Must Die! Well, that was a hard weekly to get a group for last time. Might as well go while someone was looking. I came out #1 dps and most stacks of the flame debuff on the boss. Nice to know I haven't lost it in all the months since he was top level content.
I queued in LFD again… and while I was waiting, minding my crafting for the AH, someone was LFM for ToC 25. My lucky night for pug raiding?
And in this raid was… that same feral druid from a couple weeks ago.
He was now gemmed completely for armor pen (I can't afford to, I don't have enough native armor pen on my gear), he had his two piece T10, and the majority of his gear was now from ICC 10/25 Lower Spire.
We sized each other up, and then we were off.
The gear advantage was showing more this time, my lead on Recount much narrower. As far as straight up dps went he was beating me, but I was consistently doing more damage; I had better uptime on my dps. I knew to pay attention to Recount this time to compare our performance, to see what we were doing differently, and the breakdown of our abilities was similar. Top 3 damage was from melee attacks, following by Shred, followed by Rip. He was doing more damage per attack, but I was doing more attacks.
Maybe I do know what I'm doing. Maybe I'm a real raiding kitty now. The difference between our damage done could be attributed to greater raid awareness or use of situational abilities (like Feral Charge to get back behind a boss after having to run away), not because we don't know the priority list of which abilities to use.
I want to get into an ICC run with my feral now. That might be too much to ask on a server obsessed with gear score and achievements (seriously, some people ask for VoA achievements when making a run), but I want to try.
The (EVE) media is poor, so cheap
20 hours ago