Part 0: Introduction
Part 1: Why Play a Bear Tank?
Part 2: Talent Overview, Builds, Leveling
Part 3: Abilities, Rotation, Cooldowns
Part 4: Gear/Glyphs/Enchants/Gems/Consumables
Part 5: Addons and Other Resources
So, you’re considering playing a bear tank? Excellent choice! In my (admittedly biased) opinion, feral tanks are the strongest all-around tanks in the game, and the easiest tank class to learn to play. Let’s run down the bear’s strengths as a tank, shall we?
Highest HP and armor of all the tanking classes. While the difference isn’t as great as it used to be, bears still have, in general, the largest health pools and the highest armor. (Slightly above DK’s, and well ahead of paladins and warriors.) As a tradeoff, you have generally the lowest avoidance of any of the tanking classes, since you cannot block or parry. In encounter terms, this means that you will take average damage consistently, with other classes being much “spikier” in terms of their health. Arguments still rage about which is “better,” but in my opinion, druids are the easiest tanks to heal for most encounters.
Easiest gearing of all the tanks. This one isn’t even close. All other tanks have to constantly worry about gearing/gemming enough defense (540) to be uncrittable. Bears are automatically uncrittable, via a talent (Survival of the Fittest). Crafted gear is mediocre for other tanks, but very good for new bears and remains situationally useful. There are three plate classes (war/pally/DK) which compete for gear, and only two leather classes, one of which is fairly rare (rogue). A bear can hit 80, grab some inexpensive crafted gear, and jump straight into heroics; a war/pally/DK will have to get carried as a sub-par DPS or run some normal instances. PVP gear is generally suboptimal for the other tanking classes, but is very viable for bears. Now, in some ways, this can be seen as a negative…if you like complexity, you may prefer a different tank class.
Easiest learning curve of all the tanks. Bears are pretty easy to play competently. Trash pack? Spam swipe/maul. Boss? mangle/FF/lacerate/(maul), repeat. Dying? Barkskin/FR/SI. I don’t have much experience with the other tanks, but from my limited knowledge, they’re much more fiddly. (Again, this can be seen as a negative.)
Good damage/threat when tanking. We’re not the best at single-target threat (see paladins), but we compare well to DK’s and warriors, depending on gear. For AOE threat, we do okay, and have the advantage of being the only class with a no-CD, instant AOE, so we can easily grab threat on all adds.
Excellent damage/threat when not tanking. Again, this one isn’t even close, as we can shift to cat form and really do some appreciable DPS. DK’s do okay, pallies do okay (depending on raid damage), warriors are awful…but none are close to catform DPS.
Good raid utility. While our buffs don’t stack quite as well as a pally (I’d rather have 2 pallies than 2 druids, for example), our Innervates and battle rezzes can easily make the difference between a kill and a wipe.
Hybridization means never being bored. Druids are the only class in the game that can play all four roles…tank, healer, melee DPS, and ranged DPS. Unlike other players, who have to roll (and gear) alts to play different roles, you can just switch gear and talents and you’re ready to rock.
Great solo class. If you’re interested in going back to complete old instance/raid content solo, a bear is probably the second-best option in the game (after blood DK’s). Good AOE dmg plus automatic self-healing plus Savage Defense = win.
Lack of complexity. As mentioned above, bears are pretty easy to learn, gear, and play. This, combined with the optimal gearing strategy for bears at the moment (stack stamina and rely on healers), can be pretty boring. This is why I recommend learning how to feral DPS/ranged DPS/heal well on an offspec.
Interrupts. Find a warrior/DK. We get a charge interrupt (which is only occasionally useful) and a interrupt on a one-minute cooldown…that’s it. Pallies get screwed here as well.
Cooldowns. Our defensive cooldown abilities are weaker, comparatively, then other classes. Yes, they can be used more often, but the relative weakness contributes to the “boring” factor of druid tanking. On a warrior, for example, you can see a damage spike incoming, pop shield wall, and know that saved you. On a druid, you pop what you have, and pray your healers are on the ball.
That’s it for part 1. if anyone has anything to add,please post it in the comments. I’ll be moving on to Part 2, where I discuss Bear talents and talent builds, in a day or two. Have a great day!