Sep 282009

Part 0: Introduction
Part 1: Why Play a Bear Tank?
Part 2: Talent Overview, Builds, Leveling
Part 3: Abilities, Rotation, Cooldowns
Part 4: Gear/Glyphs/Enchants/Gems/Consumables
Part 5: Addons and Other Resources

So, you’re considering playing a bear tank? Excellent choice! In my (admittedly biased) opinion, feral tanks are the strongest all-around tanks in the game, and the easiest tank class to learn to play. Let’s run down the bear’s strengths as a tank, shall we?


Highest HP and armor of all the tanking classes. While the difference isn’t as great as it used to be, bears still have, in general, the largest health pools and the highest armor. (Slightly above DK’s, and well ahead of paladins and warriors.) As a tradeoff, you have generally the lowest avoidance of any of the tanking classes, since you cannot block or parry. In encounter terms, this means that you will take average damage consistently, with other classes being much “spikier” in terms of their health. Arguments still rage about which is “better,” but in my opinion, druids are the easiest tanks to heal for most encounters.

Easiest gearing of all the tanks. This one isn’t even close. All other tanks have to constantly worry about gearing/gemming enough defense (540) to be uncrittable. Bears are automatically uncrittable, via a talent (Survival of the Fittest). Crafted gear is mediocre for other tanks, but very good for new bears and remains situationally useful. There are three plate classes (war/pally/DK) which compete for gear, and only two leather classes, one of which is fairly rare (rogue). A bear can hit 80, grab some inexpensive crafted gear, and jump straight into heroics; a war/pally/DK will have to get carried as a sub-par DPS or run some normal instances. PVP gear is generally suboptimal for the other tanking classes, but is very viable for bears. Now, in some ways, this can be seen as a negative…if you like complexity, you may prefer a different tank class.

Easiest learning curve of all the tanks. Bears are pretty easy to play competently. Trash pack? Spam swipe/maul. Boss? mangle/FF/lacerate/(maul), repeat. Dying? Barkskin/FR/SI.  I don’t have much experience with the other tanks, but from my limited knowledge, they’re much more fiddly. (Again, this can be seen as a negative.)

Good damage/threat when tanking. We’re not the best at single-target threat (see paladins), but we compare well to DK’s and warriors, depending on gear. For AOE threat, we do okay, and have the advantage of being the only class with a no-CD, instant AOE, so we can easily grab threat on all adds.

Excellent damage/threat when not tanking. Again, this one isn’t even close, as we can shift to cat form and really do some appreciable DPS. DK’s do okay, pallies do okay (depending on raid damage), warriors are awful…but none are close to catform DPS.

Good raid utility. While our buffs don’t stack quite as well as a pally (I’d rather have 2 pallies than 2 druids, for example), our Innervates and battle rezzes can easily make the difference between a kill and a wipe.

Hybridization means never being bored. Druids are the only class in the game that can play all four roles…tank, healer, melee DPS, and ranged DPS. Unlike other players, who have to roll (and gear) alts to play different roles, you can just switch gear and talents and you’re ready to rock.

Great solo class. If you’re interested in going back to complete old instance/raid content solo, a bear is probably the second-best option in the game (after blood DK’s). Good AOE dmg plus automatic self-healing plus Savage Defense = win.


Lack of complexity. As mentioned above, bears are pretty easy to learn, gear, and play. This, combined with the optimal gearing strategy for bears at the moment (stack stamina and rely on healers), can be pretty boring. This is why I recommend learning how to feral DPS/ranged DPS/heal well on an offspec.

Interrupts. Find a warrior/DK. We get a charge interrupt (which is only occasionally useful) and a interrupt on a one-minute cooldown…that’s it. Pallies get screwed here as well.

Cooldowns. Our defensive cooldown abilities are weaker, comparatively, then other classes. Yes, they can be used more often, but the relative weakness contributes to the “boring” factor of druid tanking. On a warrior, for example, you can see a damage spike incoming, pop shield wall, and know that saved you. On a druid, you pop what you have, and pray your healers are on the ball.

That’s it for part 1. if anyone has anything to add,please post it in the comments. I’ll be moving on to Part 2, where I discuss Bear talents and talent builds, in a day or two. Have a great day!

  21 Responses to “The Feral Tanking Guide, Part 1: Why Play a Bear Tank?”

  1. […] 0: Introduction Part 1: Why Play a Bear Tank? Part 2: Talent Overview, Builds, Leveling Part 3: Abilities, Rotation, Cooldowns Part 4: […]

  2. I’ve recently switched from a prot war to a bear, and there are 2 things that you mention that I feel the need to comment on.

    1) Ease of gearing. You mention that bears can start quick with crafted gear, but the reason I was able to gear my bear so fast from fresh 80 to raid tanking was PvP gear.

    Bear’s can grind gear to fill holes on the side from raiding which allows someone who has the time which gives a big jump on the other tanks. PvP gear is good tank gear, little low on threat but great for stam/agl.

    2) Threat, actually with the changes to devistate (both the documented dmg double and the undocumented threat boost) a war with Dev glyph should be the best single target tps tank assuming equivalent gearing.

    Rest of this is dead on. Bear has incredible survivability but severly lacks in utility/complexity assuming you’re the MT and can’t afford to shift.

    • Ateve-

      Thanks. I’ve added the part about PVP gear for bears. On threat comparisons, I’m not a member of a HC progression guild by any means, so I just have vague impressions (and I always beat our warrior tank on threat…but he’s still working on his Heroic Strike spam). Berserk has always solved my threat problems. :) Anyone else care to comment about the differences in single-target tank threat? For that matter, I’d also be interested in knowing which fights it’s actually relevant in…i.e. the boss enrage timers are so tight that Tank X is preferred over Tank Y because of tank dps/threat, instead of survivability. I’m thinking heroic Hodir (back in the day), Beasts, and Anub…not that I’ve even close to running heroic anything.

  3. […] 29, 2009 by Alaron Part 0: Introduction Part 1: Why Play a Bear Tank? Part 2: Talent Overview, Builds, Leveling Part 3: Abilities, Rotation, Cooldowns Part 4: […]

  4. Hello, great reading.

    Im MT since my level 70, always feral, never try moonkin or tree, i really like tanking, (i have alts to taste range action), as tank i like the role of “Dont touch any of my guildies, come and get some, i will give you a big load of whoop ass on you…”

    I never get boring in a single or massive pull, cause sometimes a superb geared guildie than me, pass over the aggro and im able to save their uncareful ass, so i charge/growl/mock/insult/spit the boss/mob to do so ( i know, i know, but our OT’s sometimes sux in doing their job bleh)

    Nowaday in our guild, flexibility its the key; we got more tanks by now, so in some bosses im OT and in others like Anub im Cat to do some DPS, but i hold Bear spec/gear* to change form in case some tank dies or many adds come out in order to balance the damage on low hp tank… very often i save healers and big dps’s in bear form, takin the add to a tank, and then change to Cat form to continue dps’n. No need to mention the usability of BRess & innervate.

    So, you can say Bear its not complex at tankin, but its fairly complex in the use, fast reaction and creativity on how you apply your little arsenal of useful abilities and talents.

    * about gear, sometimes i combine bear/cat (survability/dps) gear depends on situational general Raid DPS/heals; as commented, i rely confident in our healers, but always depend on raid configuration.

    Just to end my comment, a paiful thing as Bear its to make clear to all those dps-reccount-zombies, that a Bear needs to generate aggro before the dps-fest begins, damn!!! So i use a more painful way to educate them… the dps-reccount-zombie who steal my aggro, will die… no growl, no charge, no nothing to save her/him, repair bills and zero dps-reccount will get them in line… when fight ends, i just do some bear dance over his decayed corpse… “you deserve it zombie muhahaha”

    • mk7,

      Thanks for reading. Yeah, I don’t get bored tanking, either, but there’s fewer buttons to push then say, a warrior (assuming you’re MT).

  5. […] 29, 2009 by Alaron Part 0: Introduction Part 1: Why Play a Bear Tank? Part 2: Talent Overview, Builds, Leveling Part 3: Abilities, Rotation, Cooldowns Part 4: […]

  6. […] 27, 2009 by Alaron Part 0: Introduction Part 1: Why Play a Bear Tank? Part 2: Talent Overview, Builds, Leveling Part 3: Abilities, Rotation, Cooldowns Part 4: […]

  7. I’ll add that as a feral you have the most options, especially if you off-spec for restro. Need a tank? Got it. Need DPS? Kitty on duty. Need heals? On it. You’ll never have a problem finding a group again.

    On Wildhammer, tanks are the number on sought role for PuGs (both raid and 5 man). I suspect that it’s the same on other realms as well.

    The downside is that if you do spec as tank capable, be prepared to tank and ONLY tank. Very often it’s easy to get pigeon hold into just that one role. I find it sometimes tedious when it’s all that you are expected to do despite being capable of doing more.

    Oh, and Bear-Bombing large packs of mobs for farming (rhinos and mammoths in particular) NEVER gets old! :D

    • Absolutely. My favorite tactic for doing the “kill 15 Scourge” daily is aggro as many as possible (using proximity aggro/taunt/FF) and then run around while spamming Swipe. No other tank can AOE on the move like we can.

      Yeah, don’t pigeonhole yourself. Bear tanking can get old…that’s why I generally spec feral DPS/resto these days. I can still tank a heroic if I want in cat spec, and I can respec if I want to tank a raid (interestingly, my experience is that heroic PUGS generally wait for a tank, while raids usually wait for heals).

  8. I’m resto/fail-tankerbear on US Aman’Thul.. Ranked about 60 out of all trees alliance side on that server (not bad for a noob girl). As a bear I have 38.something HP, 38dodge ub ectect..
    But somehow the whole “girl” thing seems to have jinxed my abilty to tank. I fail. Miserably. On single targets I’m fine, but when it comes to aoe tanking trash, I find myself switching between targets, running backwards and forwards trying to pick up free-roaming adds. Clothies get insta-ganked unless I have my leet pocket healer with me, and even then it’s not a given we wont wipe. I also always tell ppl to hold back on dps will i have aggro, i make them up but I still have my issues. Challenging roar is nice, but it has a long cd, even if glyphed(yes i have it glyphed)

    You say threat is easy to maintain, I use a recommended rotation, I’ve gemmed agi and a bit of expertise to pick my it up, but none of it seems to work. N toc and lvl 70 instances are fine, but with 46-48k hp in 10 mans, I would enjoy the challenge of trying something different, without half the raid fearing for their lives.

    • Hey OTH…grats on the resto stuff.

      I looked at your armory…you’re logged out in resto gear, so can’t comment there, but your talent build is a bit off for the balance points. Move 3 points from Furor to Naturalist…that’s a 6% damage increase from your current spec.

      Everything else is situational, so hard to comment. If you are undergeared compared to your group…as is usual when you’re gearing a new spec…then you’re going to have some threat problems, its unavoidable. However, if it’s the same person who’s constantly pulling threat, then it’s more likely their issue, not you. I frequently see people pull single mobs off me on AOE trash because they’re single-target dpsing, not AOE’ing.

      Another thing…don’t freak if someone pulls aggro on a trash mob…just taunt it back. I have taunt bound to a mousebutton so as soon as I see it run off I can grab it back, hit it with a maul+mangle, and go back to swipe spamming. BTW, mages can iceblock and warlocks can shatter, so if they die after they pull aggro, it’s their fault. :)

      • Cheers, I’ve been meaning to respec those points for a while now. Hopefully the extra damage helps out.
        I wouldnt say I’m undergeared, if you want to look me up on wow-heroes you should be able to see my other gear. Got some nice toc10 pieces.
        But anyway, thanks for pep-talk, decided to run a few heroics with my fiance(prot/arms war) with him dpsing in tank gear, so if all goes to shit he can pick up my slack and i’ll taunt back. I spose it also has a lot to do with practice, I’ve been too much of a pussy.
        See how I go :)

  9. […] 8, 2009 by Alaron Part 0: Introduction Part 1: Why Play a Bear Tank? Part 2: Talent Overview, Builds, Leveling Part 3: Abilities, Rotation, Cooldowns Part 4: […]

  10. Hello all…..First off i am a new-bee…..It get s very confusing reading and trying to figure what eveybody is talking about using shot hand writing often however with time i’m sure the rest of the pieces will fall into place.
    For my main I chose the druid…..I mean come on…talk about cool…a shape shifter that can heal….wow.

    My problem lies here:
    I cant hold agro…I have tried everything….spam swipe/maul….played with the talent tree aspect….switched gear in and out…back and forth trying to get the correct mix and still I keep getting booted or asked to leave due to my lack of expierence in being unable to keep the damage on me…after 10-15 seconds all the enemies leave me for the other toons….and man do the get mad….i’m not some moron who doesent care however I am finding in turn…so many ppl have so many other toonbs that nobody want to help out or take time for a new-be….they get pissed off and leave or ask me to do so.
    I have read through part 1 and must tell you this is the only place/site that i have been that has put the way you have( in a good way). and you are helping me understand further and deeper how to play the role correctly…however any other tips anybody can help me with keeping massive agro….no tips to small or to large…please all the help I can get is really helpful…Thanks again for your time on this matter.

    • Thanks for the kind words. Unfortunately, there’s no magic good aggro button…bears don’t have much other than glyphed Maul and Swipe. If you’ll link your armory, I’ll take a closer look for you.

  11. Hey there,
    I’m an aspiring bear tank and i was just wondering if this guide is still a good source of information for patch 3.3, or if too much has changed.

  12. […] 28, 2009 by Alaron This page has moved to my new site! Please visit Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Bears, whither art thou?The Feral Tanking Guide, […]

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