Jun 132011
 

When Blizz announced that there was no new raid in 4.1 I was under the impression that major feral changes would happen there and 4.2 would just be a new tier of raiding.  No big changes for any classes.  I was wrong and am I glad.  Unlike previous patches where we had to sift through all the “OMG! The sky is falling, all druids will quit the game” complaining to find real numbers to crunch there is a general feeling of hopeful anticipation in the feral ranks.  Now that a release has hit the PTR it is time to round it all up and present it to you.

Plate wearing Tanks

Agility

  • Death knights, paladins, and warriors no longer receive any bonus to their chance to dodge from Agility. Their base chance to dodge is now a fixed 5%.

This is not a druid change but several people have gotten confused by others stating “tanks” won’t get dodge from AGI.  We keep our dodge benefit from AGI.  This will keep the other tanks from taking our necks and rings to get more avoidance stats.

All Druids

Buffs

  • All class abilities which place a buff on friendly targets no longer generate any threat. This goes for raid-wide buffs like Mark of the Wild and Power Word: Fortitude, as well as triggered effects such as Blessed Resilience or Fingers of Frost, and single-target buffs like Dark Intent and Hysteria. The exception is buffs which directly cause healing or damage, such as Thorns or Renew. Abilities such as these still generate normal threat.

Ummmm….I included this because it is a change to us.  Not really important, but a change.  I have never pulled a boss or aggro by throwning out Paws on someone, and now i guess i don’t have to worry about it.

Crowd Control

  • Many crowd control abilities no longer cause creatures to attack players when they are cast. The creature will not attack the player when the crowd control wears off, and nearby creatures will not become hostile to the player either. However, if a visible player gets too close to the target creature, the creature will remember and attack the player when the crowd control effect wears off. The intent is to make it easier for dungeon groups to manage crowd control assignments and pulling packs of hostile NPCs. The abilities affected by this change are: Hibernate, Entangling Roots, Wyvern Sting (will still cause hostility when it begins to deal damage), Freezing Trap, Polymorph, Repentance, Shackle Undead, Blind, Hex, Bind Elemental, Banish and Seduction.

Another small change that wont affect ferals running in established groups but will help pugs mainly:

Strength nerf

  • Druids now gain 1 attack power per point of Strength, down from 2. They continue to gain 2 attack power per point of Agility while in Cat Form or Bear Form.

When this was first announced it was a “Sky is falling” topic.  We discussed this over and over.  It is a nerf BUT……it isn’t a big deal by any means.  With all the other changes you won’t notice.  This, I believe, is the counter to plate wearing tanks not getting dodge from AGI.  We now won’t grab their strength items and they will keep their grubby hands off of our AGI items.

PVP nerf

  • Entangling Roots and the equivalent spell triggered by Nature’s Grasp no longer deal damage.

I say PVP nerf simply because if you need,depending on the damage caused by Entangling Root in PVE, you are in more trouble than this could ever provide help for.  Really, no one depends on the damage from this.

Innervate

  • Innervate now grants an ally target 5% of his or her maximum mana over 10 seconds, but still grants 20% of the druid’s maximum mana over 10 seconds when self-cast.

Make no mistake,  this is a buff and will scale to be even better.  It is a minimal buff right now, but raid-geared healers have 5 to 6 times more mana then we do.  Crunching rounded numbers from 372ilvl groups show this to be a 3K-5K buff in the amount of mana the healer will recieve.  As we progress in 4.2 and beyond, healers will gain even larger pools of mana making this buff even better.

Cat

  • Omen of Clarity clearcasting buff now lasts 15 seconds, up from 8 seconds.

This can help in very limited capacities but really, you should be popping your ability on proc.  An example of this helping is on the twin dragons fight.  Valiona begins to take off and you refresh your last DOT but 1 more auto-attack goes off and procs OOC.  Valiona is now out of range to use this and Theralion is not yet in range.  A couple of extra seconds to use your proc is very nice here.

  • Ferocious Bite damage has been increased by 15%. In addition, its base cost has been reduced to 25 energy and it can use up to 25 energy, for up to a 100% damage increase.

A buff to FB!  BUT……not enough.  It is still not recomended to FB above 25% health on target until you get the new 4P bonus.  We will talk about the tier gear later.

  • Mangle (Cat) damage at level 80 and above has been increased to 540% weapon damage, up from 460%.

Direct damage buff.  If you have the 4PT11 buff you will notice this right away.  If not it won’t affect you that much.  On fights with alot of target switching requiring you to constently reapply Mangle debuff this will become noticable also.

  • Ravage damage at level 80 and above has been increased to 950% weapon damage, up from 850%.

Direct damage buff but this makes me sad.  This, coupled with the change to bosses allowing FC in melee range, makes me sad.  Imagine the Chim fight with this buff, and no FC min range like it is right now.  Since they are fixing the issue with no min range to FC bosses it is nice that they buffed this to still make it fun to run out and FC back in.

  • Shred damage at level 80 and above has been increased to 540% weapon damage, up from 450%.

So what button do you push more then any other on a boss fight?  Well guess what, that button just got hooked up to a bigger hammer:)

  • Swipe (Cat) now deals 600% weapon damage at level 80 or higher, down from 670%.

I think we all saw this nerf coming.  And so continues the yo-yo that is feral AOE DPS.  On the plus side this isn’t near the level of change our AOE has gotten nerfed in the past so we might be looking at a reasonable balance here.  We still have no sustained AOE but out burst will be nice.

  • Rake initial damage on hit now deals the same damage as each periodic tick (and is treated the same for all combat calculations). Periodic damage now gains 14.7% of attack power per tick, up from 12.6%, and base damage per tick has been lowered from 557 to 56. There is a known issue with Rake’s tooltip being incorrect from this change will be corrected in a future patch

Oh……….My………….Gosh!!!!  With all the direct damage buffs it felt as though we where shifting out of DoTing but this, my friends, is so nice.  This along with swipe nerf has got me in math mode trying to figure out how to AoE again.  More on that to come.

  • Savage Roar now grants 80% increased damage to melee auto attacks, up from 50%.

SR was so weak after Cata drop.  I am glad they did this.

Bear

From Blizz:

Bear damage abilities were scaling too fast with higher gear levels compared to other tanks, so the following balance changes have been made. All the numbers cited are for level 85 characters; numbers will be lower for lower-level characters.

  • Faerie Fire (Feral) base damage has been raised to 2950, up from 679. Attack power scaling has been decreased to 10.8%, down from 15%.
  • Maul base damage has been raised to 35, up from 8. Attack power scaling has been decreased to 19%, down from 26.4%.
  • Pulverize weapon damage percent has been decreased to 60%, down from 80%. Damage per Lacerate application has been increased to 1623, up from 361.
  • Mangle (Bear) weapon damage percent has been decreased to 190%, down from 260%. Bonus damage has been increased to 3306, down from 754.
  • Swipe base damage has been increased to 929, up from 215.  Attack power scaling has been decreased to 12.3%, down from 17.1%.
  • Thrash initial base damage has been increased to 1042, up from 339. Initial damage attack power scaling has been decreased to 9.82%, down from 19.2%. Periodic base damage has been increased to 581, up from 189. Periodic damage attack power scaling has been decreased to 1.67%, down from 3.26%. In addition, a bug was corrected where armor decreased the periodic damage done by this ability.
  • Lacerate initial base damage has been increased to 3608, up from 2089. Initial damage attack power scaling has been decreased to 5.52%, down from 7.66%. Periodic base damage has been increased to 69, up from 16. Periodic damage attack power scaling has been decreased too. 369%, down from 0.512%

All of these Bear changes will result in less bear DPS/Threat but you will be getting new and better gear soon.

  • Natural Reaction damage reduction has been increased to 9/18%, up from 6/12%

Now that is a nice buff.  What bear doesn’t want to take less damage?

Glyphs

  • Glyph of Berserk duration increase is now 10 seconds, up from 5.

The new 4P bonus coupled with this will make for some energy starved Beserks

  • Glyph of Ferocious Bite has been redesigned. It now causes Ferocious Bite to heal the caster for 1% of maximum health for each 10 energy used.

So FB hits harder and costs less.  With this glyph it will now heal a bit also.  Could save your life.

  • Glyph of Innervate now causes the druid to gain 10% of his or her maximum mana over 10 seconds when Innervate is used on a friendly target, in addition to Innervate’s base effect.

I included this becouse of the changes to Innervate itself.  DO NOT use this glyph.

Druid Bug Fixes

  • It is no longer possible in some encounters to use Feral Charge when closer than its minimum range.

Well it was fun while it lasted but really this needed to happen.  I don’t like feeling like I must use a broken mechanic to play.

And now the biggest change of them all.  I seriously need to embed a music file here with something truly epic. No not epic, LEDGENDARY!!!!!!!

Cats and Kettens I give you(pause for effect)

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!FIRECAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

firecat

Honestly I couldn’t care less what the stats are….but they are really good.

I also don’t care what the staff looks like…..but it’s really cool.

All I really care about is that it will make me look like this

firecat 2

And here is a nice video.

So how does it work?  First the staff drops off of Fandral Staghelm.  He is the next to last boss in Firelands.  You might need to bribe/maim/beg/kill the hunters in your group as it is a good staff for them.  Once you have the staff of course equip it.  It works 2 ways.  If you have the staff equipped, you will turn into FIRECAT whenever you enter combat.  Otherwise, it has a 2 hour cooldown that lets you right click it and turn into FIRECAT anywhere you like.  The effect of the use lasts until cancelled or you leave your current zone.  Floofles reported on our forums that he macroed a cancel aura into ALL of his abilities and while raiding was able to make his cat go in and out of FIRECAT mode constantly during fights making what he called a “Disco Cat”.

Well that wraps up 4.2, people.  Of course, 4.2 hasn’t gone live so there is still time for Blizz to make changes, but I like what they have done so far.

As always be sure to subscribe to the RSSfeed and use the forums. Are you on Twitter? I am, follow me @Sylvaneart. Feel free to PM me with any questions you might have, but the forums on this site are your best bet. This will help to answer one question one time instead of one question multiple times. This site is a posting spot for many great cats. If you are the noob with a noob question and are a little embarrassed then a PM will do fine. I will never ridicule you.
Sylvaneart

Nov 082010
 

A few weeks ago, I listened to the Druid Roundtable podcast on Raid Warning, which featured pretty much everybody who is anybody in the druid blogging community. (Unfortunately, they went with a straight Q&A format, and 90% of the questions were resto/moonkin related.) Late in the show, someone asked a question about hybrid specs for ferals, and the UNANIMOUS answer was that it was “unviable.” This has been the consensus of the WoW community for a long time. Some random forum quotes from a quick search:

You won’t be viable for both tank / dps (feral) if you try and go hybrid. You’ll be wasting the raids times. As far as 5mans go (if you only plan on doin 5M) then I’m sure your brain can come up with one and I hope your healer or dps can support your “lol” hybridness.

You could derive a spec that would make you “equally good” (whatever that really means!) at DPS and tanking, but that doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be “good enough” at either.
A hybrid spec is probably adequate for non-heroics, as long as you have two sets of gear and swap between them appropriately.
For lvl 80 Heroics and raiding, you’ll be well behind the curve on DPS, and essentially an ineffective tank, if you don’t specialise.

Guess what? Wrong. It was mostly wrong in WOTLK, it’s wrong for 4.0.1 WOTLK, and it’s definitely wrong for Cataclysm.

Assessing Viability

Determining the viability of a build for DPS is pretty easy- set it up, and run it through a calculator, such as Mew. Here’s the builds I’m using:

Using my DPS/talent point figures that I determined previously, I’ve dropped Primal Madness, Stampede, Predatory Strikes, and a point from Feral Aggression to pick up the key Bear talents (Infected Wounds, Thick Hide, Natural Reaction, and Pulverize). Everything else stays the same. Using the Yawning profile from Mew, here’s my results using the simulator:

  • Full Cat: 16554 DPS (100%)
  • Hybrid: 16355 DPS (98.8%)

1.2% DPS. That’s it. That’s all you lose from the cat side. I’m sorry, anyone who condemns a talent build that does 98.8% DPS of the full build as “unviable” has been drinking the EJ kool-aid. There’s even an option if this is too low for you: Drop Infected Wounds (debuff is applied by DK’s via Frost Fever) so you can max out Feral Aggression, and your DPS rises to 99.3%. Really, the biggest thing you lose is utility/survivability; if you skip the low-DPS talents as a Cat, you can either pick up the essential Bear talents, or get stuff like Brutal Impact/Nurturing Instincts, but not both.

As a Bear? Well, that’s a little harder to quantify, but you essentially lose the small haste buff from Stampede (helpful, but not necessary), the extra rage from Berserk (who cares), and the 50s Skull Bash cooldown reduction from Brutal Impact (ew). Of the three, only the cooldown reduction on Skull Bash is a big deal for self-sufficiency. You’ll have to rely on your DPS to do any necessary interrupts…but that’s always been the case for raiding, so that’s not a big change.

Now, there will obviously be some tradeoffs in regards to gear, if you only use one gear set. However, it’s not nearly as bad as it was before. Gemming straight agility (which you’ll be mostly doing anyway for cat) is a very acceptable choice for bear now, whereas stamina gemming used to be nearly required. Your reforging will be mastery, which is a very good choice for bear as well. Really, the only things you’ll want to switch out will be a helm (so you can use the tanking meta) and possibly jewelry/trinkets, depending on whether you want to emphasize survivability or threat.

Of course, glyphs can be switched as needed, as can consumables. In the worst-case scenario (an emergency in-combat switch from DPS to tanking) you’ll lose about 5-6% DPS/TPS from not having the Mangle/Lacerate glyphs in, you’ll lose 2% armor + some stamina from not having the tanking meta, and some additional avoidance/mitigation from not having tanking jewelry (but you’ll probably make up the DPS/TPS loss from the glyphs)…and that’s it. In short, while you’re not as great a tank as you could be, you’re MUCH better than, say, a DPS-specced Warrior switching to Defensive Stance and grabbing a shield. You still have crit immunity, you still have most of your mitigation, etc.

What about 85?

Let’s take a quick look using the Premade profile in Mew and see what the outlook at 85 is for the Hybrid Spec. From 80-85, two interesting talents unlock in the resto tree, Master Shapeshifter (+4% crit, 3 points with the useless Natural Shapeshifter prereq) and Perseverance (-2/4/6% spell damage). Every feral build will be picking up NS/MS, but Perseverance presents an interesting tradeoff for the Hybrid build. You can skip it, and get 2/2 FA + 1 free point for something else (let’s call it the CatBear build). Or,  you can max it for Bear survivability, but you’ll have to drop down to 0/2 Feral Aggression (we’ll call this build BearCat). Results:

  • Full Cat: 16739 (100%)
  • CatBear: 16584 (99.1%)
  • BearCat: 16482 (98.5%)

Either way, we’re not anywhere NEAR what I would call “unviable.” If your guild is in a fight where enrage timers are super tight and you need every bit of DPS you can muster (Heroic ICC end bosses, for example), than sure, go for the full Cat build. For anything up to that, though, and especially for 10-man content, the extra flexibility provided by the hybrid build FAR outweighs that 1-2% extra DPS.

But should we?

We are a unique snowflake. No other class has anything CLOSE to this level of hybridization, as far as I’m aware. (I’ve heard that a paladin caster DPS/healer hybrid shockadin build is pretty good now, but I don’t know any specifics.) We’re definitely the only tank spec that can still bust out great DPS when not tanking. There are problems with this, though:

  1. Blizzard doesn’t like it. They don’t want classes that can do multiple roles to be able to do them simultaneously, as that devalues other players.  (There’s a blue post on this somewhere, but I can’t find it right now.)
  2. Non-druids don’t like it. (Waah, druids are OP!)
  3. Bear-only players don’t like it. (Yes, I know it’s best if I’m the OT since my DPS in Feral kills WarDude’s DPS in Prot, but dammit! I want to MT!)
  4. Cat-only players don’t like it. (Tank? Wut? How does that help my mad DEEPS? Make the lolret go prot, they’re faceroll anyway.)

Honestly, I really don’t know what to say to these objections. Yes, Blizzard could have fixed this, but it would have taken a serious redesign of the feral tree, and quite possibly gutting one of the feral tree’s two roles. For those who want to ONLY be bears or ONLY be cats…well, I understand wanting to specialize, but you may be hurting your raid by refusing to embrace your flexibility. (Now, if you really want to tank/dps but your RL keeps asking you to do something else, simply talk to the other guy and your RL about rotating from time to time. Your other tank might want to DPS occasionally. In most guilds, it won’t be an issue. If it is, it might be time to find another guild.)

Personally, I LOVE being the “swing” guy. I’ve had raids where I tanked, melee DPS’ed, and healed (dualspec…we’re not that OP), all in the same run, without needing to hold everyone up by respeccing. Hell, that’s why I titled this blog what I did. I’ll be rolling in my “tri-specs” for Cata, and having a blast doing it.

Nov 012010
 

This might be old news to several of you, but Savage Defense is very OP at the moment. Because it scales with our mastery AND Vengeance, the amount of damage absorbed reaches ridiculous levels. It will be more balanced at 85 (once the nerfs go in and our crit rates drop dramatically) but right now, it’s awesome.

(BTW, Reesi has been discussing this extensively at his blog, The Inconspicuous Bear. It’s a great feral tanking blog, if you haven’t seen it yet.)

I don’t have any current raid examples, but I filled in for an AFK tank in a friend’s PUG raid on XT (10) last night. I didn’t have any bear gear on me, but I figured I’d be fine in my cat gear (still rocking the hybrid spec from my guide). We pulled XT…and I was bored. Once the Vengeance stacked up, I was absorbing XT’s entire melee attacks (10-15K) without breaking a sweat.

Never had to use a cooldown; did anyway out of habit. Shifted to cat and ripped up the heart on transitions.

Finished the fight 2nd on DPS and 5th (5th!) on damage taken. I took more damage from Tantrums then I did from actual melee. I think my TOTAL damage taken was around 60K. If the add/bomb/enrage mechanics didn’t exist, I could have soloed him. Wow.

So, just for kicks, I figured I’d see what I could solo now that I hadn’t before. First target- Zul’Aman.

I’d previously attempted Zul’Aman, but only been able to take down one of the aspects. Last night, I dropped all four, with three being one-shots.

  • Akil’zon (Eagle): Tank and spank. The only significant damage you’ll take is when the  stacking Static Discharge debuff gets high; and when you get tossed up in the air, that’ll drop off. I never had to use a cooldown the whole fight, but a lesser-geared bear would still be fine with popping CD’s when the stack gets to 4 or so.
  • Jan’alai (Dragonhawk): Easy tank and spank. Two warders will spawn at the start of the fight; let them be, and they’ll run to the sides and start spawning adds. Swipe/glyphed Maul will take care of the initial adds; once they start piling up, pop Berserk and nuke then down. Once done, just try not to go to sleep. Move out of fire. (I had more trouble actually figuring out how to get to him; the path goes through Nalorakk’s area.)
  • Halazzi (Lynx): First off, range pull the trash in front of him, do not charge in, unless you want to aggro the whole room at once. (Oops.) Once you get him alone, just tank and spank, switching to the totem/lynx when they spawn.
  • Nalorakk (Bear): The only difficult boss in here, mostly due to his bleed in bear form that you can’t mitigate with SD. (Remember, bears are OP.) It took me a few tries to figure out a good cooldown rotation. What ended up working for me was FR  (1st Bear), SI (2nd Bear), Skeleton Key + Barkskin + 4PT10 Enrage + Tranquility (3rd Bear), FR (4th Bear). Obviously, you need to have some decent gear to kill him before you run out of cooldowns. He doesn’t hit too hard in human form and he does a little knockback charge thing, so you can shift and drop a couple hots before he gets back to you.)

Sadly, Malacrass is unkillable solo, at least for us. His signature ability is “soul draining” a target in the raid, which gives him a few new abilities based on that target’s class. Since you’re the only one there, he always gets the Druid abilities, which are apparently his strongest- an uninterruptable/undispellable Lifebloom that heals for 4K/sec, a Moonfire that will QUICKLY stack a dot on you (I died at 15 stacks) and Thorns that will rip you up if you try to go cat and burn him. (Remember, druids are OP.) Oh well.

For fun, now that I’ve got the mechanics down, I’m going to try for a four-chest run next week. I’m also going to try some harder stuff. Magtheridon still punks me pretty good (adds are unkillable and suck up the SD shields), but Void Reaver might be doable. I tried it last night, but he’s linked to all the trash in his room, which takes ages to kill. I gave up and finished some achievements instead.

Hell, I should try Patchwerk. (No way I could kill him before his enrage timer, but it’d be interesting to see how long I could last.) Noth would be interesting as well.

Oct 272010
 

Since the 4.0.1 patch, many ferals have reported an issue with what I’m referring to as “intermediate threat.” Unlike pre-patch, where threat issues were either on the pull (tank missed, I didn’t, oops I’m dead) or late into the fight (sustained DPS > sustained tank TPS), we’re having an issue around 30-45s in. Why? Couple reasons:

  • Tricks of the Trade / Misdirection no longer giving permanent threat (fades after 30s). This is the biggie, as threat meters are not accounting for this drop. Your average raid has 3-4 rogues/hunters, and they’ve been well-trained to use TotT/MD on the pull. Everything looks good, you give the tank a few seconds, then open up full blast, no issues…and you zoom from 80% threat to 110% threat at 30s in (when all those TotT/MD’s expire simultaneously) and go splat.  If you’re fast, you can run out of melee range/Shadowmeld (NE’s) to save yourself, but your mileage may vary.
  • Vengeance issues. Vengeance is pretty complicated in how it works, but it essentially gives tanks more attack power (thus more DPS, thus more TPS) as they tank damage. Unfortunately, it takes time to stack, and it starts to decay far too quickly. Combine this with a tank’s very high avoidance at level 80 (50%+), and vengeance is likely not well-stacked when it’s needed.. Unfortunately, vengeance can increase a tank’s DPS/TPS by as much as 50%, so swingy is bad. Very bad. (For what it’s worth, I think the concept of vengeance was good, but the implementation has been horrible. It’s supposed to be somewhat “optional,” but now tank threat is too weak when it’s low (heroics/lower tier raids, offtanking) and too strong when it’s high. I’ve seen parses from lvl 85 boss fights on beta where the tank finishes first on DPS.)

Solutions (for cats):

  • Save Berserk. We’re used to hitting Berserk ASAP so we can use it again sooner, but that’s not going to do you a whole lot of good. I’d recommend waiting until after your second’s Tiger’s Fury (so 30s delay). As always, a pro move is to figure out the estimated fight duration; if you know you usually down, say, BQL or Festergut in 4m 30s, then using it at 30s and 3m 30s isn’t any loss over using it at 5s and 3m 5s.
  • Preemptive Cower. While initial cowers are somewhat ineffective (10% reduction off 100k does less than of 1m, obviously), you’re still dropping quite a bit. I’d recommend going ahead and using a Cower after you’ve gotten your initial DoTs up and your TF’s worn off (so about 10-15s in), use it again when it’s off CD, and then evaluate.
  • Thorns on the tank. Toss this up during the pull (check with other druids, though, since I don’t believe it stacks). This will add a bit of TPS and rDPS, essentially for free. If you’re high on threat still, start using it on the tank on cooldown. (If the tank has multiple mobs, glyph it and use it on cooldown anyway, as is it just became your highest DPS ability.) For more fun, toss on 3p T1 prepull (yes, Tier 1!) for 10s extra of thorns time…just don’t get caught in combat with T1 on.
  • Hand of Salvation. Enough said, though if you have mages or boomkins, they’re probably soaking up all the salv’s. :(
  • Cataclysm will fix it. Maybe.

Solutions (for bears):

  • If you can’t coax another druid into it, get used to using Thorns pre-pull, and during a fight if you have a few seconds of not getting hit. (Admittedly, I need  to check if shifting out drops your Vengeance stack; not sure.)
  • Have your hunters/rogues stagger their threat-transfer abilities. Your DPS can throttle back, if they have some warning. Avoiding the “30s chain-threat-drop” is key here.
  • Wear DPS jewelry/trinkets. Not recommended for raid tanking (where the stamina saves you from dying to spike damage) but for tanking lower-tier stuff, very useful.
  • Preemptive Challenging Roar/Growl on an accessible keybind. CR doesn’t affect threat, but it forces enemies to target you. Growl adds enough threat to you to vault you to the top of the threat table. You probably can’t react in time to save a melee DPS, but you should always be able to save a caster at max range, unless you’re using the following strategy:
  • Let the aggro monkeys die. Satisfying, though not optimal.
  • Cataclysm will fix it. /hopeandpray.
Apr 242010
 

As I alluded to in my previous post, I’ve been fighting some burnout lately. I attribute it to overspecialization, I think. I’ve spent so much time and effort minmaxing my DPS performance that my fluidity (heh) has suffered. We’re currently working on LK25, and we’re struggling mightily with the Valks/Defiles..we’ve yet to succesfully manage the Defile AND not get people killed. (If anyone has any strategy advice, I’d love to hear it. So far we’re pretty good on transitioning into P2: we stack up behind LK in the center while killing the last raging, pop Holy Wrath/Cone of Cold to stun/slow Valks, let loose with AOE, melee starts to follow them…then Defile comes and everyone dies. :P Only successful defile attempts were when it was on the mages, who managed to Blink it away from the group. 2 secs just doesn’t feel like enough reaction time to get it out of the stack.) Basically, it doesn’t matter right now how much effort I spend on gearing appropriately or planning good DPS rotations, it matters whether I have hyper-quick reactions…and that pisses me off. I could see an eventual Defile nerf, if only because the stacking buff doesn’t really make it any easier to avoid.

Thankfully, we took a break from LK for our Thursday raid, and dropped Algalon-25. After a few early wipes, I switched to heals, and helped take him down.  It’s a very strategically interesting fight for healers, I find, managing the burst raid damage from the black hole explosions vs. keeping the tanks alive. Somehow, landing a tank-saving Swiftmend feels much more “clutch” then topping DPS meters. :)

After that, I logged back in last night, noticed I was still in the raid group, and said “hey, let’s do Kara again. :)” I had soloed most of Kara in ilvl 213/226 gear previously, but never managed to kill Aran or Prince. Much easier in ilvl 264. :P It’s rewarding too…I easily made 700g or so, in the span of a couple hours, not counting three Darkmoon cards and a rare world-drop enchanting recipe. Budget a few more hours if you don’t know your way around…it’s not aggressively linear like WOTLK instances. Quick tips:

  • Prep: Get some Kings drums (fort scrolls are helpful too), some buff food, and glyph Maul/SI/FR. Spec 0/60/11, make sure you pick up Nurturing Instincts. 4pT10 is very helpful for the extra damage reduction CD. I used my cat gear, but did pop in a tank trinket for a few fights. After Opera, make sure you open the back door for easier wipe recovery; after Shade, you can port in by talking to the butler.
  • Attumen/Moroes/Maiden: Tank and spank; on Moroes use Berserked Mangle/Maul to take down add packs. (throw a couple HoTs while he’s Vanished if you need.) Make sure you clear Attumen’s whole wing and Moroes’ room before pulling them.
  • Opera Event: Moderately tough to very tough, depending on who you get. See Allison’s guide for full details, but in brief:
    • Oz: Not too bad. Lots of strategic choices here, depending on your gear level. I usually went kitty and laid down as much burst damage as I could on Dorothee before finishing her in bear. Frost resist gear may or may not help.
    • Romulo/Julianne: Pretty tough. It’s a pretty decent gear check. P1- Go kitty and burn Julianne down. P2- throw HoTs and go bear for Romulo. P3- use Berserked Mangle/Maul/Swipe to bring down their health evenly. You’ll probably need to pop SI/FR at this point. Bash her heals when available. You won’t get all of them, but you should be able to outdamage her healing. You can try to keep them moving…she’ll stop to cast, so you’ll have range for a Charge. Either way, make sure you go Kitty and burn down the remaining one quickly…you only get 10 seconds before they rez their partner.
    • BBW: Good luck. Here’s my strat. If I can do it in Ulduar gear, you can do it too. :P
  • Nightbane: You can only summon him if you’ve done the questline…he’s tank and spank. If you need to, you can LOS his fears/breaths using the inside edge of the platform.
  • Curator/Illhoof: Tank and spank. Pop SI/FR early on Curator so you can lay down max damage during his Evocation. Make sure you clear his room.
  • Netherspite: Tank and spank, but with a catch…you have to pull him out of his room. If you stand right at the door and wait, he will path to just in range of a Taunt/FF…aggro him and quickly run out the door before it closes. You’ll want to pull him up the hallway to the first little room and off to the left, to get him out of the blue beam. Make sure you’re standing with your back to a wall. (Yes, you can get knocked back off the platform…it’s a long fall. :P)
  • Shade of Aran: You have plenty of time to work with, so as Allison recommended, a few resto pieces to boost your healing can help. I one-shot it with pure feral gear, though, so it’s not required. You’ll want to DPS in bursts…shift out every 10-15 seconds to put up HoTs. Don’t use non-instants while close to Aran, as he’ll Counterspell. When the elementals spawn, go bear.
  • Chess: It may not seem soloable, but it’s really not too bad…I one-shot it last night. Here’s my strat.
  • Prince: Biggest gearcheck. P3 Prince was what I couldn’t get through in Ulduar-level gear…had no problems last night. When he knocks you back, throw a HoT.

Finished happy and excited to try some more stuff…might see how far I get in ZA. :)

Dec 082009
 

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

In this final section of my Bear Tank guide, I’ll present a list of additional resources that can help your tanking ability, both in-and-out of game.

Top 5 Tanking Addons

For those that don’t know (how’d you get this far, anyway?), addons are player-made pieces of code that add tools to the game not found in the default WOW interface. They can do many things, and will made your life as a tank MUCH easier. Here’s my top 5. (I’ve noted alternatives to each, in case you don’t like a particular addon for some reason. I’m also not including some addons that are useful but not really applicable to tanking, such as Bartender, Bagnon, Auctioneer, X-Perl, etc.)

  • Omen: Omen measures a target’s current threat levels, and can be configured to warn you when you or other players reach a certain level of threat, relative to the tank.  Omen allows you to be much more proactive with the use of your taunts to save lives. For example, if you see that pesky rogue sitting at 105% threat (remember, enemies change to targets in melee range at 110%, and ranged targets at 130%), a quick taunt will bump your threat equal to his and keep him alive. Without Omen, he likely pulls aggro and gets one-shot before you can react. Other options include integrated threat/dps meters (Recount/Skada).
  • Aloft: The downside to Omen is that it only displays threat on one target at a time, which makes keeping threat in AOE situations challenging. Aloft is an excellent answer to this. It allows for the customization of enemy nameplates, to include colorization based on threat. For example, (and this is configurable) a mob nameplate will appear red when it’s targeting me and I have top threat, turn orange when I lose top threat, and then turn yellow when it targets someone else. During AOE situations, I Swipe away, and change my target to any mobs that turn from red to orange, to taunt them before they can chase after someone else. (Note: this addon is only available on WoWInterface so you won’t be able to get it via Curse Client.) Another option that I’ve heard some good things about is TidyPlates + ThreatPlates.
  • Deadly Boss Mods: Warnings for Boss special abilities- gives you timer bars to see when an ability will happen, and a nice audio warning when it does. It (or something like it, i.e.  BigWigs or Deus Vox) is essentially a requirement for raiding. Keep it updated.
  • VuhDo: VuhDo (pronounced Vudu) is a “raidframe” addon that, simply, shows the health (and mana, if you choose) of everyone in the raid, in a compact form. While primarily targeted at healers (I use it when healing as Resto), this addon still has several uses for a tank. Other options for raidframes include Grid (add Clique for click-casting)  or a raidframe built into your unitframe addon (Pitbull, X-Perl, sUF)
    • Situational Awareness: Hey, wouldn’t it be great to know ASAP when the OT dies (gotta taunt that add!) or the healer assigned to you dies? (time to pop cooldowns!) Vuhdo does this for ya by conveniently greying out the boxes of dead players.
    • Rez/Innervate: Single-click rezzes and innervates. Can’t count the number of times I’ve been on a pug raid where a tank/healer dies and the RL goes “Ala, can you rez the…oh, thanks.” (Admittedly, this is much harder, but not impossible, to do while actually tanking.) I’ve also configured mine to show a (small) display of healer mana, so I can pop an Innervate on the lowest whenever feasible.
    • Raid Composition: I RL PUG raids fairly frequently, and Vuhdo has a feature where it can autosort players by role (tank/melee dps/ranged dps/healer). Nice to have.
  • NeedtoKnow: A fairly simple timer bar addon that monitors specific buffs/debuffs and their duration. It’s nice because it can monitor several buffs/debuffs in the same bar “slot.” If a bar’s missing, I know I need to apply that buff/debuff. (Other options: BadKitty and DroodFocus are pre-configured feral ones, which are nice but I prefer my own config. ClassTimer, TellMeWhen, Event Horizon, and DoTimer are other debuff trackers.) My setup, which works for both bear and kitty:
    • Bar 1: Savage Roar/AP debuff (Vindication/Demo Shout/Demo Roar)
    • Bar 2: Rake/Lacerate
    • Bar 3: Rip/Barkskin
    • Bar 4: Mangle debuff (Trauma/Mangle)
    • Bar 5; Armor debuff (Faerie Fire/Feral Faerie Fire)

Honorable Mentions:

  • Outfitter: Similar to the built-in Equipment Manager, but with additional features. Essential for me, since I’m constantly swapping specs and sets. (I have 3 full sets for bear/cat/resto, a partial set for PvP, a partial set for frost resistance gear, etc.)
  • Mik’s Scrolling Battle Text: Without resorting to the combat log, lets you actually SEE what hits you are dealing out/taking, and what heals you’re recieving. I like having the information in front of me, but I could do without it.
  • Pawn: Pawn is an in-game stat weighting addon. It’s very simple- it takes a set of stat weights that you give it and assigns items a score, based on their stats. This makes questions like “Is that higher ilvl PvP item an upgrade?” fairly easy. Rawr and Toskk’s website (see below) can generate stat weights for import to Pawn.
  • FeralByNight: More of a cat addon then a bear addon, this addon helps with rotations to try to achieve maximum DPS/TPS. It has a bear mode which I don’t trust much, but the cat mode is excellent.
  • Utopia/RaidBuffStatus: More useful as raidleader addons, these help with ensuring buffs are up on everyone pre-pull (RBS) and for tracking  to ensure every class is keeping debuffs on the target (Utopia).

Out-of-Game Resources and Links:

  • WoWHead: Chock full of everything WoW. Think WoW Google. Highly recommended.
  • WoWWiki: Like Wikipedia, WoW style. This and Wowhead should be your first two stops for almost anything. Highly recommended.
  • Curse: The primary repository for most WoW addons. You can download manually, or install the Curse Client for automated downloads/updates. Highly recommended.
  • Rawr: A downloadable program that will, based on your current character’s gear/talents, tell you which items/gems/enchants are upgrades for you, which stats you should prioritize, how much buffs help you, etc. Deisgned for Druids but later expanded to cover most other classes. Highly recommended.
  • Druid Wiki: An exclusive wiki for all things druid. Best known for hosting Toskk’s kitty DPS calculator and bear time-to-live calculator, with gearlists. Excellent Rawr (some say better than) alternative, especially for those at work. :) Highly recommended.
  • Elitist Jerks: By far, the best online forum for theorycraft discussion. Half my posts are stolen from EJ discussions. :) Note: they’re very strict about posting rules, so lurk for a good long time before attempting to post anything. Highly recommended.
  • WowInterface: A secondary addon repository, contains a few addons that Curse doesn’t have. Mostly manual updates, though they’re rolling out an automated tool soon (now?). Recommended.
  • Wow-Heroes: A website that will scan your gear and give you a “gear score,” based on your talents. I use it all the time for checking potential pugs. Recommended.
    WowPopular: A website that lists the most popular talent specs, equipment, enchants, etc, based on data mining. Helpful for finding specs for alts, but it’s better if you know WHY you’re choosing that spec. Recommended.
  • BossKillers: Boss strategies, usually well detailed. Recommended.
  • WoW Official Forums – Generally the occasional nugget of win in a torrent of fail. Not recommended.

Well, that wraps it up for the guide. If you have any comments, additions, or questions, post them in the comments of the respective sections and I’ll reply as soon as I can. Have a beary good day! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) :)

Nov 272009
 

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

In this section, we’ll look at how to kit your bear out in sweet, shiny purples…that you’ll never see since you stare at bear butt the whole time. (ahem.) We’ll also look at the usual accoutrements- glyphs, enchants, gems, food, potions, what have you. (BAM! There’s your word for the day. That’s me, bringing literacy to the WoW world since 2008. It needs it. Badly.)

Stats/Theory

Before we begin looking at gear, I want to review the key bear statistics, and briefly cover a few tanking theory debates/tradeoffs.

Key Bear Statistics

  • Stamina: Stamina boosts your HP, which keeps you alive. It scales well with buffs.
  • Agility:  Agility gives you dodge, armor, and crit. Also scales well with buffs. 
  • Dodge Rating: Umm, gives you +dodge. :) Superior to Defense Rating.
  • Defense Rating: Gives you +dodge and the enemy +miss, but takes a lot more per point then straight dodge rating. Other tanks need defense much more than we do.
  • Armor: Reduces the damage taken from boss melee attacks and some special abilities.
  • Bonus Armor: Though not specifically broken out in the game as such, bonus armor is extra armor on jewelry/weapons that is not multiplied by your Bear Form talent. (This will be important in a bit.)
  • Hit/Expertise: Reduces your chance to miss (hit) and the enemy’s chance to dodge/parry (expertise). Mostly threat statistics, though they play into Savage Defense.
  • Strength/Attack Power/Crit/Haste/Armor Pen: All stuff that make you hit harder/faster. Again, mostly threat statistics, though they also play into Savage Defense.

Now, which of these statistics is the MOST important? Well, that’s where the debates come in.

Survival vs. Threat

You have two major roles as a tank.

1. Don’t die. (Survival)
2. Generate enough threat to keep the nasty (or nasties) attacking you and not someone else squishy. (Threat)

1 is VASTLY more important than 2…simply because it’s much easier to regain top threat (taunt, hunter misdirect, rogue ToTT, DPS’er threat drop, pally HoSalv) then it is to come back to life (druid brez, soulstone). Dying also usually means a few melee DPS are going to die, even if you do get a combat rez. Your DPS will probably argue with you on this point, since poor threat generation on your part makes their job harder; however, they’re missing the bigger picture. For most normal-mode encounters, poor threat generation is a minor problem that can be worked around by the DPS. As such, the gear advice I will present will be heavily slanted towards survival. Now, I’m not recommending you ignore threat entirely; however, the amount of threat generation  you need is very dependent on the DPS of your group, so it’s very hard to properly weight how important threat stats are.  (Now, once you get to things like hardmodes, threat generation becomes more important, since you’re dealing with much tighter timers. That’s past the scope of this guide.) Geting back to the point, focusing on survival naturally leads to another debate- what’s the best way to survive?

Effective Health vs. Avoidance

Tanks handle damage three ways. They avoid it via dodge (and parry for non-bear tanks), they reduce it via armor and block/Savage Defense, and they soak it via large HP pools.  Now, there’s not much you can do for armor, since that’s primarily based on the item level of your gear, so the debates come whether to focus on stamina, for better damage soaking, or avoidance, for less damage taken. There’s good and bad points to both sides.  Avoidance means you take less damage overall, so your healer’s mana isn’t strained as much, and also helps your threat/kitty DPS (assuming you gain it via gemming agility). Stamina, however, works on everything (avoidance is useless against magic and most boss special abilities), and makes you easier to heal, from a healer perspective, since it provides a reliable buffer. Bears also gain the most from stamina, vis-a-vis other tank classes, due to our talents.  As it stands now, I generally recommend stacking stamina, since bosses in TOC hit crazy hard. (Obviously, Anub is an exception.) Agility is good too, however, and I use it on the high ilvl pieces that I share with my kitty DPS set.

Stat Weights

Stat weighting is a systematic way to assess the quality of items, where each point of a statistic is given a “score.” To compare two items to see which is better, you simply check their scores (An addon named Pawn can do this for you in-game). Now, as with all things, the way you weight the scores is extremely important. I present two sets here- one focusing solely on survival, and one that tries to give a reasonable weight to threat statistics. Again, the threat calculations are very open to adjustment, depending on your situation. Kalon has his own set of weightings, complete with a link to Wowhead to show loot lists, on his site.

Bear Weights Surv/Threat Survival Only
Stamina 100 100
Agility 100 90
Dodge Rating 75 75
Defense Rating 70 70
Armor 40 40
Expertise Rating 30 30
Hit Rating 30 30
Strength 25 10
Haste Rating 20 5
Armor Penetration 20 0
Crit Rating 15 5
Attack Power 15 5
Bonus Armor 5 5

Pre-Instance Raid Gear

Bears have it pretty easy when it comes to gearing up. Since we are automatically crit-immune due to Survival of the Fittest, we don’t have to worry about our defense rating, and since we can only dodge, we don’t have to worry about balancing our avoidance scores. Also, our set bonuses are largely crap, so just get the highest ilvl leather (not  caster leather) you can. Your AOE threat generation is going to be pretty bad to start with, so if you’re trying to do PUG heroics with DPS in full T9, warn them to be careful (and then let them a die a few times, if they don’t get it).

Anyway, here’s a quick list of starter lvl 80 gear I put together, that can be acquired totally via solo play/AH purchases. This will get you into heroics, and once you accumulate some badges, you can move on to the better stuff. PVP/Wintergrasp gear is also very good, and can be used as a substitute. BBB has a good starter list on his site as well.

Enchants

  • Head: Arcanum of the Stalwart Protector (+20 def, +37 stam)
  • Shoulder: Greater Inscription of the Pinnacle (+15 def, +20 dodge) or Gladiator (+15 resi, +30 stam).
  • Back: Major Agility (+22 agi) or Mighty Armor (+275 armor)
  • Chest: Powerful Stats (+10 all stats) or Heavy Borean Armor Kit (+18 stam)
  • Wrists: Major Stamina (+40 stam)
  • Hands: Major Agility (+20 agi) or Heavy Borean Armor Kit (+18 stam)
  • Legs: Frosthide Leg Armor (+22 agi/+55 stam)
  • Feet: Superior Agility (+16 agi) or Greater Fortitude (+22 stam) or Tuskarr’s Vitality (+15 stam +8% runspeed)
  • Weapon: Mongoose (+120 agi proc, roughly +60 agi sustained for single-target) or Blood Draining (+2k HP heal <35% HP, roughly every 60s)

Profession Bonuses

Good:

  • Mining: +60 base stam
  • Enchanting: unique +30 stam enchant on ringsx2 (+60 stam)
  • Jewelcrafting: unique Dragon’s Eye gems, +21 stam over Solids (+63 stam)
  • Blacksmithing: two extra sockets (+60 stam)
  • Leatherworking: unique wrist enchant (+62 stam), unique wrist resistance enchants (+70 specific element resistance)

Okay:

  • Alchemy: +50% benefit, roughly, from flasks (+650 HP)
  • Inscription: unique shoulder enchant (+40 dodge)
  • Engineering: unique hand enchant (+885 armor for +20 agi or +18 stam), other cool stuff

Bad:

  • Herbalism: 3600HP/5s free heal on 3minute cooldown
  • Skinning: +40 crit rating
  • Tailoring: +400AP for 15s proc to replace +22agi (bad for tanking)

Glyphs

Not a lot of options when it comes to glyph choice, and most of the glyphs are fairly weak. Pick whichever you like for minors, and as for majors:

  • Glyph of Frenzied Regeneration: FR by itself is fairly weak (3% of max health per second for 10s? That’s like 1200 HPS, or a third of what a geared healer can do). The glyph makes FR also increase all healing on you by 20%, which turns it into a reasonably strong cooldown.
  • Glyph of Survival Instincts: SI is a good tank-saving ability by itself (instant extra 30% current/max HP for 20 seconds). This ups that to 45%, which is great. A VERY well-geared bear can crack 100K health with glyphed SI.
  • Glyph of Maul: Maul hits two targets instead of one. This glyph ROCKS for trash.
  • Glyph of Growl: As Altosis pointed out previously, taunts are considered spells, so even with IFF and your melee hit, you’ll still have about a 5% chance to miss. If that can wipe your group, grab this glyph. Only for certain bosses.
  • Glyph of Berserk: This can give you a slight threat boost for DPS races. Only for certain bosses.

Gems

Gemming’s not too bad, since we don’t have to worry about defense. Let’s look at three possible situations.

  • All: Your metagem will be the Austere Earthsiege (+2% item armor). Great gem. Make sure it’s active…a Nightmare Tear will take care of the requirements.
  • Guild MT: Load up on Stam. You want Solid Majestic Zircons (+30 stam) everywhere. If the socket bonus is decent (+stam or +agi), pop in a Shifting Dreadstone (+10 agi/+15 stam) for a red or a Nightmare Tear (+10 all stats) for a yellow. (Other than the Nightmare Tear, which you can only have one of, there’s not a great yellow gem, though the Enduring Eye of Zul(+stam/+def) is decent. I usually prefer straight stam or agi in yellow slots.) You want big health pools to survive big hits. If you’re having threat problems, some +expertise gems may help, though I’d be very cautious about trying this route, since this will decrease your survivability.
  • Guild OT: Go for more of a balanced approach, since you won’t be tanking every fight, and you’ll want the +agi to buff your kitty DPS. If you care for the socket bonus, use Delicate Cardinal Rubies (+20 agi) for reds, Shifting Dreadstones for blues, and NT/take your pick for yellows. If you don’t, decide whether you want DPS/threat more (+agi) or health (+stam) and go with Delicates or Solids, depending. Personally, my tank set is gemmed with +stam, except for pieces that are shared with my cat set, which are gemmed +agi.
  • Kitty DPS’er who wants to tank a few Heroics: Go straight +agi. You’ll be fine for trash and OT duties. Do use at least one Shifting and one NT for the metagem activation.

Food

Food is easy as well. From best to meh:

  • Blackened Dragonfin: +40 Agility and +40 Stamina. Best choice, use for progression. 
  • Rhinolicious Wormsteak: +40 Expertise Rating and 40 Stamina. Good choice for extra threat.
  • Fish Feast/Any +40 stam food: Not optimal, but perfectly fine for most stuff.
  • Any +30 stam food: Cheap eats.
  • Any +stam food: Super cheap eats. If you’re REALLY broke, Argent Crusade vendors sell Steaming Chicken Soup for 32s, which is +25 stam/spirit. Get this, at least. 

Flasks/Elixirs/Potions

You have a bit more choice here. Your character can have either a Battle elixir AND a Guardian elixir, OR a flask, which counts for both. Elixirs are cheap, and best suited for easier content. Flasks are expensive, but they last for an hour (2 with Alchemy) and, more importantly, persist after death, making them ideal for progression.

Flasks:

  • Flask of Stoneblood: +1300 HP. Best choice, period.
  • Flask of Fortification(TBC): +500 HP, +10 def. The cheaper flask option.
  • Lesser Flask of Resistance: +50 resistance to all schools of magic. May be a better option for magic-damage heavy fights. (Anub’arak in TOC)

Battle Elixirs:

  • Guru’s Elixir: +20 to all stats. These are incredibly cheap now, so I use these for most anything non-progression.
  • Elixir of Mighty Agility: +45 agility. Nice if you feel you need more avoidance, but I prefer the Guru’s if I’m using elixirs.
  • Elixir of Expertise: +45 expertise. Good for supplementing threat.
  • Elixir of Accuracy: +45 hit. Good for supplementing threat.

Guardian Elixirs:

  • Elixir of Protection: +800 armor. A very nice elixir. I rate the  +20 stats or +45 agility/+800 armor combo just slightly under +1300 HP, in terms of survivability.
  • Elixir of Defense: +45 defense. Not very good.
  • Elixir of Mighty Fortitude: +350 health, +20 hp5. Bleh.

Potions/Stones:

  • Indestructible Potion: +3500 armor for 2 minutes. With the double pot trick (pop it right before pull, which lets you use another pot 2 minutes in) you can get 4 minutes of +3500 armor, which is GREAT.
  • Runic Healing Potion: Restores 2700-4500 health. The old standby.
  • Mighty (x) Protection Potion: Absorbs 4200-6000 of (x) element damage. Better then RHP’s for magic damage fights, but you should still prefer Indestructibles unless it’s a TOTALLY magic-damage fight (ie armor is useless).

That’s about it. If you have any comments or questions, leave them in the comments. I’ll be finishing up this guide soon, with some random tips, add-on advice, etc. that didn’t really fit anywhere else. I also discovered my links at the top were broken, so those have been fixed now.  Have a great day!

EDIT: Doh…left out the enchants/professions part…readded.

Oct 292009
 

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

In this section, we’ll look at all your bearish abilities, and then see how to tie those together into a cohesive rotation to accomplish your goal. (I have a single-target, multi-target, and Faction Champions rotation…scroll down for those.) 
Now, my priority list as a tank is pretty simple:
1. Don’t die. Keep all AP/attack speed debuffs up, use pots as needed, don’t stand in fire, etc.
2. Don’t let healers/DPS die; in fights with adds, keep head on a swivel to taunt/FF/charge stuff to get it on me.
3. Maximize my TPS, to not hold back our best DPS’ers.
4. If not actively tanking RIGHT NOW, pop off an Innervate/rebirth/rebuff/cyclone/root/etc. as needed.
5. Learn good kitty DPS to maximize raid DPS when I’m not needed to tank.

The discussion of the abilities below flows from that priority list, which you should always keep in mind.  Before I begin with abilities, however, let’s look closer at rage, our core threat mechanic, and also at the bonuses from our bear form.

Rage
Rage isn’t too complicated. All bear abilities require rage. Unlike mana or energy, rage does not regenerate on its own (rather, it degenerates out of combat). There are four main ways to gain rage: hitting the enemy, being hit, dodging, and abilities. Generally, being hit is your primary source of rage generation for single-target fights. For AOE low-damage situations, your Primal Fury talent gives you 5 rage for every crit, so swiping generally will take care of your needs there. Unlike TBC, where “rage starvation” was a major issue, having enough rage for all your abilities is generally not a problem, and your Enrage ability will save you for emergency situations. If you find yourself running into rage issues consistently in heroics…pull more/faster, since you probably outgear the content. :) Don’t forget that Furor can give you 10 rage when shifting into bear, so shift (or powershift…I’ll discuss that in a sec) and pop Enrage before a pull, to start with 40 rage.

Dire Bear Form
Shapeshift into dire bear form, increasing melee attack power by X, armor contribution from items by 370%, and Stamina by 25%. Also protects the caster from Polymorph effects and allows the use of various bear abilities.
Ah, the spell that makes it all possible. Fun facts about bear form:
1. You are now immune to Polymorph, but are now vulnerable to Scare Beast/Hibernate. That’s a PVE buff (a few things poly, almost nothing does SB/Hibernate).
2. You can break snares and roots by shapeshifting or powershifting. Powershifting is simply recasting your current form; (/cast !Dire Bear Form) it keeps you in bear, but breaks the root/snare. Useful for Hodir, Faction Champs, and some others. Note that this will empty your rage bar and use a GCD, so in a tight threat situation like Hodir HM, it might be best to just take the damage.

Attacks/Buffs/Debuffs

Maul
A strong attack that increases melee damage by X. Effects which increase Bleed damage also increase Maul damage.
Range: Melee
Average damage (for me): ~3800
Cooldown: No CD; replaces next melee strike. Bear base melee speed is 2.5s, reduced by haste.
Cost: 10 Rage (plus no rage gain from the strike)
Glyph Effect: Your Maul ability now hits one additional target.

Maul is the first bear form ability you get, and remains your core strike for threat generation and damage. It is an “on next melee” attack, which means it will replace your next melee (or white-damage) attack with a 3x as powerful special strike. There’s not much to strategize with Maul; use it all the time. This is very different from Warriors, who have Heroic Strike as a rage dump, but prefer to use rage for other abilities, if rage is limited. The easiest way to use Maul (since it’s a royal pain to toggle on for every swing) is a simple macro (using Mangle as an example):

#showtooltip Mangle
/cast !Maul
/cast Mangle

(The exclamation point prevents it from being accidentally toggled off if you hit it twice.) I macro Maul to all my abilities, and I’ve never had a problem with being rage starved, especially with the new Enrage. Generally, Maul will be around 50-60% of your damage done for a single-target fight.
Glyph-wise, the Glyph of Maul is awesome. Berserk + glyphed Maul means you will ROCK DPS/TPS for 2-3 mob pulls. (I regularly top overall DPS meters in H CoS, for example.) Be prepared to switch it out, though, if you’re using CC, or just be careful to put CC’d targets behind you. Crits proc Savage Defense and Imp. LOTP.

Mangle
Mangle the target for X damage and cause the target to take 30% additional damage from bleeds for 12 sec.
Range: Melee
Average damage (for me): ~2400
Cooldown: 6s, can be reduced to 4.5s with 3/3 in Improved Mangle
Cost:15 Rage
Glyph Effect: Increases the duration of Mangle by 6 seconds.

Mangle is your 2nd major attack, learned at level 50. Mangle hits for good damage, and also places a powerful debuff on the enemy that causes bleeds + Maul to hit 30% harder. Mangle is also your 2nd highest priority attack for single or two-target fights, not so much for the damage, as for the debuff boosting your Mauls + cat druid/rogue/warrior dps.  (For 2 targets, simply alternate Mangles on each to keep the debuff up). Berserk temporarily removes Mangle’s CD and allows it to hit 3 targets, which lets you spam Mangle for good damage. Generally, Mangle will be about 15% of your damage done, depending on how much Berserk mangling you do.
Now, as for the Improved Mangle talent, I wouldn’t pick it up. I’ll spare you the math, but a 25% buff to an attack that’s only 15% of your damage done isn’t that great. It works out to about a 2% DPS/TPS boost (when you account for things like FFF GCD clashes, etc); which I don’t feel is worth it for three points. The glyph is also pretty useless for bears, as you should be mangling every 6s (or 4.5s) anyway. Crits proc Savage Defense and Imp. LOTP.

Lacerate
Lacerates the enemy target, dealing X bleed damage and making them bleed for Y damage over 15 sec. Damage increased by attack power. This effect stacks up to 5 times on the same target.
Range
: Melee
Average damage (for me): ~150 direct damage, ~1200 DoT damage (every 3 sec)
Cooldown: GCD (1.5s)
Cost: 15 Rage
Glyph Effect: N/A

Lacerate is interesting. The ability itself only does a tiny amount of damage (100-200) Even fully stacked, however, its damage hardly compares to that of Maul or Mangle, so only Lacerate when those abilities are on cooldown, and once Lacerate is stacked 5x, Lacerate only when needed to keep the stack from dropping off. Like Mangle, Lacerate usually does about 15% of your damage. Crits (from the strike) proc Savage Defense and Imp. LOTP; DoT crits proc SD but not ILOTP.  (I think…have to double check, or maybe Kalon will chime in and tell me.)

Faerie Fire (Feral)
Decrease the armor of the target by 5% for 5 min. While affected, the target cannot stealth or turn invisible. Deals X damage when used in Bear Form or Dire Bear Form
Range
: 30 yds
Average damage (for me): ~1300
Cooldown: 6s
Cost: 0 Rage (free!)
Glyph Effect: N/A

FFF, as it’s generally known, is a key weapon in a bear’s arsenal. It’s ranged, it does a good bit of damage and threat, it costs 0 rage, and it places a helpful debuff on the enemy. Excellent as a pulling attack or a “mini-taunt.” Also good to weave into a rotation once Lacerate is fully stacked. Should do about 5% of your damage if you’re using it on CD.

Swipe
Swipe nearby enemies, inflicting X damage.
Range
: 5 yds AOE around player (may possibly be buffed in 3.3)
Average damage(for me): ~750
Cooldown: GCD (1.5s)
Cost: 15 Rage
Glyph Effect: N/A

Swipe is your main AOE attack; it’s fairly boring, but effective. It has no cooldown, so AOE fights generally consist of mindlessly spamming Swipe and refreshing Demo Roar as needed, until stuff dies. It’s one of the very few AOE tanking abilities that can be used while moving, so at least that’s positive, and it’s better than reusing Lacerate on a single-target fight. Crits proc Savage Defense and Imp. LOTP.

Demoralizing Roar
The druid roars, decreasing nearby enemies’ melee attack power by X. Lasts 30 sec.
Range
: 10 yds AOE around player (may possibly be buffed in 3.3)
Cooldown: GCD (1.5s)
Cost: 10 Rage
Glyph Effect: N/A

Demo Roar is a VERY important debuff against bosses. Attack power works very differently for NPC’s than it does for characters; essentially, Demo Roar means a ~10% reduction in enemy boss melee damage. Except on DPS race fights, your first priority is always always always make sure Demo Roar (or Demo Shout from a warrior, or Vindication from a pally) is up. For hardmode encounters, having the talented improved version (which adds an extra ~5% reduction) is very nice. In general, it’s best to let the palas put it up, since they only have to spend 2 talent pts to get the ability and improved version. (boo.)

Berserk
When activated, this ability causes your Mangle (Bear) ability to hit up to 3 targets and have no cooldown, and reduces the energy cost of all your Cat Form abilities by 50%. Lasts 15 sec. You cannot use Tiger’s Fury while Berserk is active. Clears the effect of Fear and makes you immune to Fear for the duration.
Cooldown: 3m
Cost: 0 Rage
Glyph Effect: Increases the duration of Berserk by 5s.

Berserk is great for small-group tanking. It really shines in heroics, for example, since heroics only have groups of 3-4, usually, and Berserk hits most/all of those, plus instantly spreads the Mangle debuff for epic Mauling. In a single-target environment, it’s still a DPS/TPS boost- stack your Lacerate, make sure Demo Roar is up, and go. Don’t let Lacerate drop, though; if you pop Berserk immediately after refreshing Lacerate (and Demo Roar, if needed) you’ll only have to trade off one Mangle. The glyph is okay (and fun for heroics if you like showing up DPS’ers on meters) but I prefer the survivability glyphs.

Threat Management

Growl
Taunts the target to attack you.
Range
: 30 yds
Cooldown: 8s
Cost: 0 Rage
Glyph Effect: Increases the chance of Growl to work successfully by 8%.

Growl is the bear version of the standard taunt. All taunts work the same way: They set your threat (aggro) equal to the highest person’s threat on that target, and they force the target to attack you for 3s. Simply put, don’t use a taunt if a boss is still attacking you; use it when it goes after someone else. (Or, let them die to teach them to manage their own threat. Depends on how charitable you’re feeling.)
Remember, bosses can go immune to taunt if they’re taunted too often, so if you’re fighting a boss which demands tank swaps, only switch once, not twice. For example, Thorim puts a 10s debuff on a tank (Unbalancing Strike) which demands a tank swap. Don’t taunt back from the OT as soon as your debuff drops; wait until HE gets the debuff, THEN taunt back.
In regards to the Glyph: Growl is the only bear ability that uses spell hit chance, not melee hit chance (so 17% to cap, instead of 8%). Most tanks will not have enough hit (nor should they) to cap Growl normally, so the glyph ensures that swaps go off without a hitch. Very useful for fights requiring swaps, such as Thorim, Iron Council, or Gormok.

Challenging Roar
Forces all nearby enemies to focus attacks on you for 6 sec.
Range
: 10 yds AOE around player
Cooldown: 3m (reducible to 2m30s with glyph)
Cost: 15 Rage
Glyph Effect: Reduces the cooldown of Challenging Roar by 30s. (Minor glyph).

This isn’t as useful an ability as it appears at first glance. CR only forces enemies to attack you; it does not affect threat AT ALL. If you’re way behind on threat, this isn’t going to catch you up…and if you’ve just lost threat, most enemies are going for your ranged/healers, so they’ll probably be out of range anyway. I use this rarely. It CAN be used to compensate for a missed taunt/taunt on CD in certain occasions…since Growl has an 8s cooldown, typically this will hold something until Growl comes back up. If you’re OT’ing adds, be careful you don’t accidentally pull the boss off the MT with it, especially when said boss gets pissy if you’re not in melee range. (Hello, Kologarn!)

Survival Cooldowns

Barkskin
The druid’s skin becomes as tough as bark. All damage taken is reduced by 20%. While protected, damaging attacks will not cause spellcasting delays. This spell is usable while stunned, frozen, incapacitated, feared or asleep. Usable in all forms. Lasts 12 sec.
Cooldown: 1m (off GCD)
Cost: 0 Rage
Glyph Effect: Reduces the chance you’ll be critically hit while Barkskin is active by melee attacks by 25%. (PVP)

Your bread-and-butter damage reduction ability. Not much to say; try to save it for moments that you know you’ll be taking extra damage. It is off the GCD andcan be used almost anytime, even during effects that normally stun/ incapacitate you. (And moments where you’re stunned are generally good moments to use it). The glyph is only for PVP.

Survival Instincts
When activated, this ability temporarily grants you 30% of your maximum health for 20 sec while in Bear Form, Cat Form, or Dire Bear Form. After the effect expires, the health is lost.
Cooldown
: 3m
Cost: 0 Rage
Glyph Effect: Increases the percentage of your maximum health received from Survival Instincts to 45%

This ability does two things. First, it increases your maximum health by 30/45%; second, it gives you 30/45% HP, and removes it 20s later. For example: Say my bear has 40k max HP, and is currently at 20k health. If I pop unglyphed SI, his max health becomes 52k, and he gains 12k health, to now have 32k. This is very useful when you’re about to die (it basically works as a huge health potion) and also proactively, to survive an incoming big hit. (Mimiron’s Plasma Blast.) Note that when the CD wears off, you’ll LOSE the amount you gained as your max drops back down. This cannot kill you, but it will leave you at 1 HP, and can kill you if your healers are not prepared. The glyph is very helpful and should be taken.

Frenzied Regeneration
Converts up to 10 Rage per second to health for 10 sec. Each point of Rage is converted into 0.3% of max health.
Cooldown: 3m
Cost: 0 Rage
Glyph Effect: Increases the healing done to you by 20% while Frenzied Regeneration is active.

FR heals you for 30% of your max HP over 10s. The healing done by FR does scale with SI, the glyph, Battlemaster’s trinkets, as well as other +healing effects. The heal itself is only marginally useful for emergency situations (you need health NOW, not over time), but it can be used proactively very well, especially when glyphed, and is absolutely amazing for soloing old content. With both abilities glyphed, Frenzied Regen will heal for 50-55% of your health.

Interrupts

Bash
Stuns the target for 4 sec (talentable to 5s) and interrupts spellcasting for 3 sec
Cooldown: 60s; talentable to 30s
Cost: 10 Rage
Glyph Effect: N/A

Your interrupt/stun, which, sadly, is the weakest of the four classes. The long cooldown prevents it from being relied on for any fights which REQUIRE interrupts (Vezax). Helpful for trash, I suppose, since most DPS won’t bother interrupting on trash.

Feral Charge
Bear – Causes you to charge an enemy, immobilizing and interrupting any spell being cast for 4 sec. This ability can be used in Bear Form and Dire Bear Form.
Range
: 8-25 yds
Cooldown: 15s
Cost: 5 Rage
Glyph Effect: N/A

Unlike Bash, this ability is incredibly fun to play around with, and useful as well. Many bosses have knockback, and charging back in prevents the boss from moving too much (a good thing). The spell interrupt is less useful in combat (due to the min range) but if you’re good, you can strafe away and charge back in before the spell fires. The cat version is also useful, since you can charge from stealth, and kitty charges take you to the back of the boss (if you want him instantly turned around) Most importantly, however; you take no damage if you charge out of a fall. You know what that means:

Aerial. Bear. Strike.

I’m serious. Fly over your target, shift to bear mid-air, enrage while you’re falling, and charge them before you hit ground. Insanely fun for PVP. (Otherwise known as a Bearbomb.) Just don’t miss. You can do this in cat, too, but it’s not as cool. :)

Other Useful Abilities

Enrage
Generates 20 rage instantly and an additional 10 rage over 10 sec, but reduces base armor by 27% in Bear Form and 16% in Dire Bear Form.
Cooldown: 60s
Cost: 0 Rage
Glyph Effect: N/A

You need rage to do anything, and this gets you started if you’re dry. The armor reduction is fairly minor, so if you need rage for some reason while tanking, don’t hesitate to pop it. Actually, as Kalon pointed out in the comments, the armor reduction means that you’ll probably take an extra +15% damage. I should have explained myself better. Don’t use Enrage while MT’ing big stuff; use it for OT’ing things that don’t hit hard, or when you need to stay 2nd on threat but can’t take any damage to boost your rage, etc. Don’t forget that the King of the Jungle talent gives you +15% damage while Enraged, so if you have it, use it with Berserk for a nice DPS/TPS boost.

Innervate
Causes the target to regenerate mana equal to 225% of the casting Druid’s base mana pool over 10 sec..
Cooldown: 3m
Glyph Effect: Your Innervate ability now has an additional 20% strength mana regeneration effect on you in addition to the effect on your primary target.

If you’re not actively tanking (boss phase change, for instance), toss a healer an Innervate. They’re keeping you alive, after all.

Rebirth
Returns the spirit to the body, restoring a dead target to life with X health and Y mana
Cooldown: 20m (10m in 3.3)
Glyph Effect: Players resurrected by Rebirth are returned to life with 100% health (major glyph); Your Rebirth spell no longer requires a reagent (minor glyph).

Again, if you’re not actively tanking, toss a healer/tank/DPS a rez. Many wipes are saved by timely Rebirths on key raid members. If you’re slick, you can find times while tanking to toss a Rebirth (you only need 3.5s if you’re fast). Don’t get one-shot out of Bear form, though. If there’s another tank up, have him taunt and hold the boss while you rez. The Glyph is not that great, with the exception of constant AOE damage fights (Anub, Iron Council)

Mark/Gift of the Wild
Increases the friendly target’s armor by X, all attributes by Y and all resistances by Z for 30 min.
Cooldown: GCD
Glyph Effect: Decrease the mana cost of your Mark of the Wild and Gift of the Wild by 50%. (minor glyph)

Your buff spell. Use it. Gift is the raid version that requires a reagent and lasts twice as long; don’t forget reagents unless you like separately buffing 25 people after every wipe.

Cyclone
Hibernate
Entangling Roots
Nature’s Grasp
Travel Form
Abolish Poison/Remove Curse

I’m not discussing these spells individually, since you won’t be using them much (if at all) while tanking; but they come in handy for PVP (or faux-PVP…*cough* FC *cough*). Nature’s Grasp can be cast in-form, so it can be used as an emergency CC for trash or something (root it, step away, brez, come back).

Rotations

The term “rotation” is a bit out-of-date. It’s much better to think of your abilities on a “priority” system, and use the higher priority ones when available.

Single-Target

  1. Demoralizing Roar (if not kept up by another)
  2. Berserk (for DPS races)
  3. (Maul) Keep queued at all times.
  4. Mangle
  5. Feral Faerie Fire (to apply debuff if no moonkin)
  6. Lacerate (If Lacerate not fully stacked)
  7. Berserk (regular)
  8. Faerie Fire
  9. Lacerate (if Lacerate stack is about to drop)
  10. Swipe

Summarized, keep Demo Roar up; Berserk early, if you need high threat immediately, if not, wait for Lacerate to be fully stacked, so it can tick during Berserk; always Maul/Mangle; get the FF debuff up before stacking Lacerate if no moonkin, else stack Lacerate first; then go to normal rotation, which is Mangle-FFF-X-X. X is one of Demo Roar/Berserk/Lacerate if needed to keep stack up/Swipe. If you have Improved Mangle, this becomes Mangle-FFF-X. If you’re just starting out tanking, feel free to ignore Swipe entirely; it’s a small improvement to DPS/TPS, but nothing major.

Multi-Target

  1. Demoralizing Roar
  2. (Maul)
  3. Berserked Mangle
  4. Mangle (for 2 targets only, tab back and forth)
  5. Swipe

Yeah, pretty easy, and you can get away with just spamming Swipe + Glyphed Maul. It’s good to tab around a bit when fighting 3 or more targets so that your Mauls spread around some.

Healer Lockdown (For Faction Champions or PVP funsies)

This is fun as hell and really shows off druid shapeshifting abilities. Start stealthed in cat. By yourself, you can get 26s of 100% lockdown, then 19s of the next 26s, then 16s of the next 26s (repeated.) With a helper, you can achieve 100% lockdown. Use Berserk to break a fear, use a PvP trinket to break other stuff. Note that this doesn’t work as well on the tree druid since heals primarily via HOT’s (so interrupts are less important), but you can combo cyclones with a warlock’s banish or a ret pally repentance. Remember that they can trinket one on heroic…typically it’s the first CC, which is a one-shot CC here anyway.

  1. Pounce (3sec stun)
  2. Maim (3sec interrupt, wait for cast)
  3. Cyclonex1 (6sec CC) If you have the instant-nature spell proc, you can wait to interrupt a cast, else time it to land 3s after you Maim. Pop a totem or two.
  4. Cyclonex2 (3sec CC)
  5. Cyclonex3 (1.5 sec CC) Cyclone on 15s DR.
  6. Bear Feral Charge, wait for cast (3sec interrupt)
  7. Bash, wait for cast (3sec interrupt) Go cat, Rake to get a CP
  8. Maim, wait for cast (3sec interrupt)
  9. Wait for Cyclone DR to be up, should be about 5-6s…try to get a poly/repentance/fear.
  10. Start with Cyclone again, repeat. You won’t have Bash available this time, so you’ll need 2 consecutive CC’s from a helper or 1 from 2 others (or your DPS will have to burn through 9s of heals). Don’t forget Warstomp if you’re a tauren.

Wow…3,500 words down. Part 4 and 5 to go. I’ll have to go back and fix the links to/from the other parts of the guide, but I want to get this out now so I can stop looking at it. :)

Oct 232009
 

Allison Robert, wow.com’s excellent druid columnist, recently posted an excellent article asking “what has happened to all the feral tanks?” She gives a list of complaints, which I reprint below:

Complaint #1: Bears just aren’t as visually compelling as other tanks.
Complaint #2: Gear consolidation had a more demoralizing effect on druids than other tanks.
Complaint #3: The need to use DPS leather has resulted in an uncomfortable opportunity cost associated with gearing bear tanks.
Complaint #4: Early Wrath weaknesses in 5-mans left a bad impression on players, and this bled through to raid content.
Complaint #5: Bear gameplay is boring. Too much of the bear’s effectiveness is baked into talents rather than being determined by player skill.
Complaint #6: Gear consolidation often results in druids looking insanely stupid in caster form.
Complaint #7: If the raid needs more tanks, it’s easier and faster to gear up a plate class than a druid.
Complaint #8: A druid who’s dual-specced into healing or DPS has more difficulty returning to tanking than other classes.

I think she has some great points, but I also have some criticisms of her article. The way I see it, these complaints can be summarized into five areas: effectiveness, aesthetics, fun, gear, and opportunity costs. I’ll cover each in a little more detail, in what I consider increasing order of importance.

Effectiveness
Bears were not as capable a tank as other classes in early Wrath.

This was certainly true, back when our AoE was a cone attack and before Savage Defense was implemented. We had an HP/armor advantage over other tanks, but it was small; we had no block ability, which led to us taking a good bit of damage from trash; and holding threat was hard. However, those problems have been fixed for quite some time now, so I don’t think that’s still affecting class/role decisions.

Aesthetics
Bears don’t usually get to see gear upgrades because we’re always stuck in form, and our gear looks like crap anyway, being a hybrid of rogue leather and tanking jewelry.

This point is very real; but it really depends on how much concern you have for your appearance. Me, I’ve always been a numbers guy. I get more of a thrill out of seeing 500 more HP, or 200 more DPS, than I do by seeing a new boot upgrade. Plus, I LIKE looking like a bear when raiding; it’s very visually distinctive. I typically have to mark our other tanks with raidmarks for identification purposes, but everyone always understands me on Vent when I say “run to the bear to get cleansed,” etc. It would be very nice to have something on the form that changed as your gear evolved, though. One of the comments recommended having tattoos, or scars, or some other kide of visual representation, and I wholly support that idea. Also, our animations could use some reworks; the forms look great, but the attacks are underwhelming. Overall, while looks are nice, I don’t think post people care too much about looks, if the gear/abilities are good.

Fun
Bears are boring tanks compared to the other classes.

As with aesthetics, this is more a matter of personal opinion and grass-is-greener syndrome than anything else. I still have plenty of fun when tanking. (Psst. Try changing some stuff up if you’re bored. Glyph Berserk and try to top DPS meters. Do a couple NINJABARE pulls. It’s okay. Really.) I think people have a valid argument that ferals have a smaller toolbox than the other tanks do; we have some warrior abilities, but our druid abilities are limited, mainly because of the form restriction mechanic. If Pallies can bubble others while tanking, why can’t I brez or innervate someone? Hell, let me use ALL my druid baseline abilities in feral form, and we’ll have all kinds of tools to use. (moonfire for pulling, hurricane for AOE tanking, Roots/Cyclone for adds, etc.) Kalon mentioned this in his latest post.

Gear
Bears are much harder to gear than plate tanks, due to stat consolidation and poor itemization.

This is a VERY common complaint…common enough that I decided to run the numbers and check. Let’s look at TOC 25 (normal). There are 10 leather drops (of which 5 are caster) and 16 plate drops, of which 5 are tank plate, 4 are caster, and 7 are DPS plate. There’s an equal number of tank plate and melee leather items. While this seems balanced in theory, it’s actually not. Let’s assume a 25m raid with 3 tanks, 6 healers, and 16 DPS (typical comp).

  • Plate tank items: Desired only by three specs, of which you only have 3 (maybe 2, if druid is tanking). Let’s say a bear tanks half of the time, so your roll odds (or people you have to compete with on DKP) are 1 in 2.5, or 40%.
  • Leather melee DPS items: Desired by the rogue, hunter, enhancement shammy, kitty druid, and bear druid. There are 16 DPS slots in the raid. Some quick mental math tells me, assuming random dps class distribution, that roughly 1 in 4 DPS slots goes to one of the above 4 DPS classes; so your chance of winning an item is 1 in 5. This is slightly mitigated by hunters/enh shammies having mail items to pick from as well, so we’ll call it a 1 in 4.5 chance, or 22%.

So, it is almost twice as hard for a bear to get upgrades as a plate tank, unless your guild runs with tank priority for loot drops. Yuck. Combine this with Opportunity Cost (see below) and I think you have the main reason that feral tanks are disappearing.

Opportunity Cost
The raid stands to lose the least by a feral tank switching roles.

I can’t back this up with numbers, but in general, Druids and Paladins are the most flexible tanks, since they can both dualspec dps or heals. Combine this with the fact that spellpower leather and caster plate is very easy to get off-spec, and that heals are much harder to find than dps, and guess who gets to be the one to switch to benefit the raid? Great! Thanks for switching! BTW, for many guilds, you now can’t roll on tank plate/leather, so you get dropped even farther behind the gear curve, and before you know it, you’re a fulltime healer. Druids take this much harder because they’re much more likely to have a resto off-spec. (According to armorydatamine, roughly 60% of ferals are also specced resto, while slightly under 40% of protadins are also specced holy.)

Is this fixable? Sure, but Cataclysm’s going to shake things up anyway (heh), so we’ll have to see how it goes. Until then…learn to be fluid. :P

Sep 292009
 

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

In this section, we’ll discuss all the relevant feral talents, put them together into some talent builds, and also talk about leveling as feral a little bit. Grab a drink, and let’s dive in. (Note: For almost all talents, you either invest full points or no points, so I’ll only list the description for the full point investment here.) Note: If you want to skip the talent wall-o-text and go right to the builds/leveling advice, click here.

Balance

(Feral druids will never take a talent from the balance tree.)

Feral Combat

Feral Combat, Tier 1:

Ferocity, 5 points. Reduces the cost of your Maul, Swipe, Claw, Rake and Mangle by 5 Rage or Energy.
Get it, no questions. Large DPS/TPS increase.

Feral Aggression, 5 points: Increases the Attack Power reduction of your Demoralizing Roar by 40% and the damage caused by your Ferocious Bite by 15%.
This is a very situational talent. Demo Roar, by itself, is an essential ability for boss tanking, (16% melee damage reduction). The imp. version tacks on another 1% DPS reduction per point. For 25-man progression raiding, that extra 5% reduction in boss damage is very important. However, you’ll give up a lot of hybrid DPS utility. IMHO, best picked up only for progression fights where tank survivability is an issue. (Gormok, Vezax, etc).

Feral Combat, Tier 2:

Feral Instinct, 3 points: Increases the damage done by your Swipe ability by 30% and reduces the chance enemies have to detect you while Prowling.
Without this, you will struggle mightily at AOE tanking. Recommended, but skippable on a situational basis.

Savage Fury, 2 points: Increase the damage caused by your Claw, Rake, Mangle (Cat), Mangle (Bear), and Maul abilities by 20%.
Must-take talent for DPS/TPS.

Thick Hide, 3 points: Increases your Armor contribution from cloth and leather items by 10%.
Very good talent for mitigation. The 10% increase stacks multiplicatively with the 400% increase from Dire Bear Form. Required for tanking, though the least-important “required” talent.

Feral Combat, Tier 3:

Feral Swiftness, 2 points: Increases your movement speed by 30% in cat form and increases your chance to dodge while in cat form, bear form and dire bear form by 4%.
2 talent points for 4% dodge? No-brainer, grab it.

Survival Instincts, 1 point: When activated, this ability temporarily grants you 30% of your maximum health for 20 sec while in Bear Form, Cat Form, or Dire Bear Form. After the effect expires, the health is lost.
Your best cooldown ability, will save your bear butt in a pinch, especially when glyphed. Also allows for insane HP numbers to win tank HP pissing contests.  Get it.

Sharpened Claws, 3 points: Increases your critical strike chance while in Bear, Dire Bear or Cat Form by 6%.
Nothing too great here for Bear, but you need it to unlock two essential Tier 4 talents, so take it.

Feral Combat, Tier 4:

Shredding Attacks, 2 points: Reduces the energy cost of your Shred ability by 18 and the rage cost of your Lacerate ability by 2.
A purely DPS talent, but a good one. Recommended for a hybrid build.

Predatory Strikes, 3 points: Increases your melee attack power in Cat, Bear and Dire Bear Forms by 150% of your level and 20% of any attack power on your equipped weapon. This talent now also causes the druid’s finishing moves to provide a 7/13/20% chance per combo point to make the next Nature spell with a cast time below 10 seconds instant cast.
Some extra AP…the insta-cast nature spells part (new in 3.2.2) will be great for leveling, but not much use for raids. Talent is meh but required, so take it.

Primal Fury, 2 points: Gives you a 100% chance to gain an additional 5 Rage anytime you get a critical strike while in Bear and Dire Bear Form and your critical strikes from Cat Form abilities that add combo points have a 100% chance to add an additional combo point.
Great for rage generation. Take it.

Primal Precision, 2 points: Increases your expertise by 10, and you are refunded 80% of the energy cost of a finishing move if it fails to land.
Expertise is great for boosting your DPS/TPS, and a lot of early leather doesn’t have any. Reccommended, though less necessary once you get to the soft expertise cap. This is also an excellent hybrid talent, as you will probably not be hitcapped.

Feral Combat, Tier 5:

Brutal Impact, 2 points: Increases the stun duration of your Bash and Pounce abilities by 1 sec and decreases the cooldown of Bash by 30 sec.
PVP talent. Skip it.

Feral Charge, 1 point: Teaches Feral Charge (Bear) and Feral Charge (Cat).
Very good for tanking/hybrid DPS, as the mobility lets you get to adds faster, and the interrupt can be helpful on some fights. It’s skippable for a max survivability build, though.

Nurturing Instinct, 2 points: Increases your healing spells by up to 70% of your Agility and increases healing done to you in Cat Form by 20%.
PVP/semi useful Cat talent. Skip it.

Feral Combat, Tier 6:

Natural Reaction, 3 points: Increases your dodge while in Bear Form or Dire Bear Form by 6%, and you regenerate 3 rage every time you dodge while in Bear Form or Dire Bear Form.
Essential tank talent. Take it.

Heart of the Wild, 5 points: Increase your Intellect by 20%. In addition, while in Bear or Dire Bear Form your Stamina is increased by 10%, and while in Cat Form your Attack Power is increased by 10%.
More stam = less dead. Take it.

Survival of the Fittest, 3 points: Increases all attributes by 6% and reduces the chance you’ll be critically hit by melee attacks by 6%. Also grants 33% bonus armor in Bear form and Dire Bear Form.
The best tanking talent in the tree, by far. Makes you uncrittable (540 defense? who cares?), huge stat boost, and big armor buff, all in 3 little points. Need I say take it?

Feral Combat, Tier 7:

Leader of the Pack, 1 point: While in Cat, Bear or Dire Bear Form, the Leader of the Pack increases the ranged and melee critical chance of all party members within 45 yards by 5%.
Awesome talent for raidbuffs, take it. Even if there’s another feral, you need it for PotP anyway.

Improved Leader of the Pack, 2 points: Your Leader of the Pack ability also causes affected targets to have a 100% chance to heal themselves for 4% of their total health when they critically hit with a melee or ranged attack. The healing effect cannot occur more than once every 6 sec.
This talent is absolutely godly for soloing/leveling. Unfortunately, it doesn’t proc off of bleeds, but you’ll still see it pop every 7-8 secs or so if you’re steadily attacking. In a raid, it’s helpful, but it can be skipped.

Primal Tenacity, 3 points: Reduces the duration of fear effects by 30%, reduces all damage taken while stunned by 30% while in Cat Form, and reduces the mana cost of Bear form, Cat form and Dire Bear form by 50%.
PVP talent, skip it.

Feral Combat, Tier 8:

Protector of the Pack, 3 points: Increases your attack power in Bear Form and Dire Bear Form by 6%, and the damage you take is reduced while in Bear Form and Dire Bear Form by 12%.
Essential tank talent, take it.

Predatory Instincts, 3 points: While in Cat form, increases the damage from your melee critical strikes by 9% and decreases the damage taken from area of effect attacks by 30%.
DPS-only talent, skippable.

Infected Wounds, 3 points: Your Shred, Maul, and Mangle attacks cause an Infected Wound in the target. The Infected Wound reduces the movement speed of the target by 25% and the attack speed by 20%.
Essential debuff for boss tanking. However, of all the tanks, ferals probably spend the most, utility-wise, to pick this up, so it’s optimal if another tank can keep this up.

Feral Combat, Tier 9:

King of the Jungle, 3 points: While Enraged in Bear Form or Dire Bear Form, your damage is increased by 15%, and your Tiger’s Fury ability also instantly restores 60 energy.
The bear buff is pretty useless. (you generally want to avoid using Enrage while tanking a boss, because of the armor reduction). However, its one of the best talents for kitty DPS. Hybrid specs only.

Mangle, 1 point: Mangle the target, inflicting damage and causing the target to take additional damage from bleed effects for 12 seconds. This ability can be used in Cat Form or Dire Bear Form.
A key part of both the bear and cat DPS rotations. You’d be foolish not to get this.

Improved Mangle, 3 points: Reduces the cooldown of your Mangle (Bear) ability by 1.5 sec., and reduces the energy cost of your Mangle (Cat) ability by 6.
This is a very marginal ability for 3 points. Without delving deeply into the rotation (I’ll save that for part 3), it lets you Mangle every third attack, instead of every fourth. While good in theory, it causes GCD clashes with FFF, which is also on a 6s CD. It’s a “small” DPS/TPS boost, so I generally wouldn’t recommend it.

Feral Combat, Tier 10:

Rend and Tear, 5 points: Increases damage done by your Maul and Shred attacks on bleeding targets by 20%, and increases the critical strike chance of your Ferocious Bite ability on bleeding targets by 50%.
Required for decent tank DPS/TPS.

Primal Gore, 1 point: Grants the periodic damage from your Lacerate and Rip abilities the ability to critically hit.
While this isn’t a huge DPS upgrade, Lacerate crits do proc Savage Defense, so it’s worth it. Obviously required for hybrid specs.

Feral Combat, Tier 11:

Berserk, 1 point: When activated, this ability causes your Mangle (Bear) ability to hit up to 3 targets and have no cooldown, and reduces the energy cost of all your Cat Form abilities by 50%. Lasts 15 sec. You cannot use Tiger’s Fury while Berserk is active. Clears the effect of Fear and makes you immune to Fear for the duration.
Not required, per se, but VERY helpful for burst DPS, and required for hybrid DPS. When tanking H CoS, I regularly am first or second on the overall DPS meters due to effective use of this talent. (And I’ve never failed to get the drake, either.)

Restoration:

(Not every talent is viable for Ferals…I’ll only list the ones that are, and their feral components.)

Restoration, Tier 1:

Improved Mark of the Wild, 2 points: Increases the effects of your Mark of the Wild and Gift of the Wild spells by 40%, and increases all of your total attributes by 2%.
A buff for all, and a mini-Kings for you. Take it.

Furor, 3 points: Gives you 60% chance to gain 10 Rage when you shapeshift into Bear or Dire Bear Form, and you keep up to 60 of your energy when you shapeshift into Cat Form.
I’m listing the 3pt version here, since this talent is essentially filler to get into Tier 2 (and you’ll be investing 2 points in IMOTW). The rage/energy on shifting is nice for changing to/from DPS, but it’s not necessary at all.

Restoration, Tier 2

Naturalist, 5 points: Increases the damage you deal with physical attacks in all forms by 10%.
Huge damage buff. Required for all feral builds.

Natural Shapeshifter, 3 points: Reduces the mana cost of all shapeshifting by 30%.
Horrible talent, but required for Master Shapeshifter. Certain builds only.

Restoration, Tier 3

Intensity, 3 points: Allows 50% of your mana regeneration to continue while casting and causes your Enrage ability to instantly generate 10 Rage.
This talent used to be somewhat helpful, but the Enrage buff has made the talent worthless. Skip it.

Omen of Clarity, 1 points: Each of the Druid’s damage, healing spells and auto attacks has a chance of causing the caster to enter a Clearcasting state. The Clearcasting state reduces the Mana, Rage or Energy cost of your next damage, healing spell or offensive ability by 100%.
This is, point-for-point, the highest DPS talent for kitty DPS. That said, it’s not that great for bears, as rage is typically not a major issue.

Master Shapeshifter, 2 points: Natural Shapeshifter Grants an effect which lasts while the Druid is in the respective shapeshift form. Bear Form – Increases physical damage by 4%. Cat Form – Increases critical strike chance by 4%.
This talent is essentially 5 points (since you have to pick up the totally worthless Natural Shapeshifter to get it), and it’s not that great for 5 points. Take it only for a high-DPS build (or if you’re lucky enough to have another tank to pick up the attack speed debuff from IW).

Talent Builds at 80

Base + IW (0/53/10), 8 pts to spend
This is your baseline Bear build. At this point, you can choose to go in several different directions. (Infected Wounds may or may not be baseline, depending on your situation, but I include it here to get down the tree.)

Hybrid Tank/Soloing/DPS  (0/60/11)
This is my preferred build. It adds OoC, Shredding Attacks, KOTJ, and ILOTP, to give you excellent DPS and soloing ability. This build lacks Predatory Strikes- if you don’t care about the soloing ability, feel free to drop ILOTP for 2/3. To max it, you’ll have to drop something more valuable, like a point from Feral Instinct (-10% swipe damage), IW (+6% boss attack speed), Feral Charge, or something else. Obviously, if someone else is putting up the attack speed debuff, dropping points from IW is not a big issue.

MaxSurvival (0/60/10), 1 filler pt
This build adds 5/5 Feral Aggression, to give you the Improved Demoralizing Roar debuff (-5% boss melee DPS) and ILOTP, with a filler point to use where you’d like.

MaxDPS/TPS (0/53/16), 2 filler pts, drops IW
This build goes for maximum bear DPS/TPS. It drops IW to pick up Imp. Mangle in the Feral Tree, and picks up OoC and NSS + MS. This leaves you with 2 points to use where you’d like, probably ILOTP (or back into IW, if you don’t have someone else to apply the debuff, and you don’t mind it being slightly weaker).

 Leveling

I’m not going to mince words…leveling a feral druid kinda sucks to start. You don’t get catform until level 20, and even then, cat form doesn’t really come into its own until you get Ferocious Bite/Ravage at 32. Balance, with root + nuke, is boring (kill, drink, kill, drink), but much easier.  That said, this is a feral guide, so you’re sticking it out. :) (See Lissanna’s druid leveling guide for a TON more info as well.) I’m assuming you’re doing the majority of your leveling via questing/BG’s, as it’s almost impossible to find groups for low-level instances (and bears don’t make great tanks until 40 anyway, when they get Dire Bear). Lissanna has some more info on talents in her guide if you do choose to go that route.

1-9:
No feral forms until bear at 10…so pretend to be a caster for a while.

10-19: 5/5 Ferocity, 2/2 Savage Fury, 3/3 Feral Instinct
You get bear at 10, but your only attack is Maul…a stronger autoattack! Yay. If you can make it through the first few levels, you get a glyph slot at 15 (buy Glyph of Maul ASAP; for minors, get one of Dash/Thorns/Aquatic Form) and Swipe (AOE attack) at 16. You should now be pulling two enemies at all times. (Three shouldn’t be too bad, as long as you can root it.) Rejoice that you now get travel form at 16, and cry when it becomes obsolete at 20.

20-29: 2/2 Feral Swiftness, 3/3 Sharpened Claws, 2/2 Primal Fury, 3/3 Predatory Strikes (feel free to pick up Survival Instincts instead if you’re dying frequently).
Like I mentioned above, cat isn’t so hot when you first get it. Claw and Rake (lvl 24) are your only two usable abilities for leveling, as most stuff won’t last long enough for a Rip DOT to really be effective. It’s your choice whether to play weak cat or slow bear. If you decide to stay cat, swap your Glyph of Maul for a Glyph of Claw. Do get in the habit of going cat in non-mount areas when you need to get somewhere, to save time.

30-39: 1/1 Feral Charge, 2/2 Shredding Attacks, 1/2 Brutal Impact, 1/1 Survival Instincts,  5/5 Heart of the Wild
Well, your talents aren’t so hot for these levels, but you finally start getting some usable cat abilities. Ferocious Bite/Ravage/Pounce at 32+36 finally gives you a finisher, a couple good stealth openers, and some options. With a point in Brutal Impact and 2 points in Shredding Attacks, you can get off a Pounce and 2 Shreds before the enemy can retaliate, regen to 35 energy, and FB to finish the enemy off, or Rip if needed. Don’t forget about the instant-cast nature spells from Predatory Strikes…toss yourself a heal, or root an enemy, etc.

40-49: 1/1 Leader of the Pack, 2/2 Imp. Leader of the Pack, 3/3 Survival of the Fittest,  3/3 Predatory Instincts, 1 free feral point (your choice)
With Improved Leader of the Pack, things become much easier, due to the constant self-heal. With Dire Bear/Savage Defense, tanking is now quite doable as well, though you’ll need a decent healer since you haven’t picked up any dodge talents.

50-59: 1/1 Mangle, 3/3 King of the Jungle,  2/2 Imp. MOTW (resto tree), 3/5 Furor, 1/5 Naturalist
You are now OP. Mangle rocks. Toss Claw off your bars…Mangle’s your primary attack from here on out (when not shredding). KOTJ makes Tiger’s Fury go from useless to awesome, as you just got a whole lot burstier. You can almost forget DoTs now…Pounce/Mangle/Shred/TF/Mangle/FB kills stuff fast. Or, hell, just charge and Rake/Mangle/TF/Mangle/Mangle, wait, FB. Not quite as fast, but much less setup time. Now, you have a choice after KOTJ. You can either go into the Resto tree to pick up Naturalist/OOC, and come back for the rest of Feral, or you can go for Berserk now. I prefer the first option, but it’s your decision. Also, new glyph, though there’s not much for ferals to choose from at this level (Most of your choices buff Rip, which you’ll hardly use while leveling).

60-69: 4/5 Naturalist (max), 1/1 Omen of Clarity, 1 free feral point, 4/5 Rend and Tear
Not much to say here. YOu get Maim at 62, which can be used as a (horrible) interrupt, and Lacerate at 66, a key part of the bear tanking rotation. Enjoy flight form at 60…all those collect X quests just became 10x easier.

70-80: 1/5 Rend and Tear, 1/1 Berserk, 1/1 Primal Gore, 8 free points
The big additions here are Swipe (Cat) at 71, and Savage Roar at 75. For soloing, neither is much use. Get used to Savage Roar, however, as it’ll be a major part of a feral DPS rotation.

Wow..3000 words…if you’re still here, congrats. :) Probably should have broken this post into two. Ah well. I’ll be putting up Part 3 in the next few days, going over actual rotations for bears at 80…I’ll see you then.