Wednesday, October 6, 2010

4.0.1 Druid | Feral Tanking Abilities Overview

Current information here: Feral Druid Tanking: A Level 85 Guide 

Let's begin by saying this assessment is complied partly on looking into the abilities and partly on limited experience on the PTR. I didn't want to come to you all uppity like with just the PTR patch notes in hand and try to create a feral tanking guide without getting some experiencing actually playing it. What I can say tentatively is that I'm scared. More about my scared bear self after the jump.

I'm not scared the way I was when Blizzard changed the mechanics on Aspect of the Viper pre-Wrath, I'm scared like the first time I had the chance to tank a raid and have 24 other people rely on me to not suck it up. The reason is simple yet fascinating, AOE tanking is changing to the extreme. On the live (patch 3.whatever) servers bear tanks are basically tackling AOE tanking with a simple Swipe/Maul macro spam. This is fairly good at keeping the majority of adds on us with the occasional straggler. However with the patch and expansion comes changes to BOTH swipe and maul that will not only modify the way we use them but the way DPS operates in general.

Changed Abilities
Swipe - The rage cost on swipe has gone up from 20 to 30 rage, which isn't really an issue considering it now also carries a 6 second cooldown. This means the days of swipe spam ARE OVER! Comparatively this is much like the warrior thunderclap without the debuff (which is provided by another talent of ours). I've been finding myself charging into groups and opening with a swipe just for that snap aggro then using it on every cooldown. I've found fast that you can't muck a pull and swipe your way into position, you either got it or you don't.

Maul - Maul is mechanically the same with one crucial difference, it's now double the rage cost. At a measly 15 rage pre-patch us bears could afford to macro maul in to just about everything short of F3. With this increase in cost, maul is reserved for times when you are generating rage faster than you can use it. If you happen to miss that aforementioned swipe at the pull you may find yourself never using maul.

Lacerate - Now stacks to 3 instead of 5. Yippee.

F3 - Nothing real earth shattering comes to mind with the changes to F3. Now it basically stacks up to 3, however with talenting you can have it apply all 3 stacks at once. The 3 stack F3 (now aptly dubbed 3F3) does more front end damage when reapplied than a single or double stack. I'm still on the fence about talenting to have all 3 applied at once, I use F3 fairly regularly and I don't really foresee an issue getting it up to 3 stacks. Another nice little bonus is the total armor reduction at 3F3 is 12%, up from the old F3 which was 5%.

Survival Instincts - This whole ability has been revamped for Cataclysm. While it used to mimic the warrior Last Stand, now it mimics the warrior Shield Wall. I honestly like the change, I would rather have universal damage reduction over more health any day of the week.

Frenzied Regeneration - This modification I'm really excited about. Frenzied Regen now takes the place of our last stand PLUS retains the rage into health conversion. So basically for our tanking cooldowns we combined the two we had and gained a shield wall. How awesome!

Savage Defense - Well there are a couple of changes here, mostly positive in my opinion. First of all the bad news, SD is not a guarantee proc from crits anymore. It's a 50% chance to proc the bubble. The good news? Well the bubble absorbs more and is effected by Mastery. This we like. While the old incantation absorbs damage equal to 25% of your attack power while the new ability absorbs 65% of your attack power. Not to bad, right? Well it gets better with Mastery! You gain Savage Defender with your Mastery set which increases your absorption by 32% PLUS an extra 4% for each point of Mastery you obtain. Just doing some napkin math (like Gordrin likes to do) I basically figure that my SD procs half but absorbs 4 times the damage. Give the amount of crit we'll end up with, it's likely that the halving of the proc won't even be noticeable either. All in all good changes.

Berserk - This talent is basically the same, save for one important detail. It allows the periodic damage from your lacerate to proc a free Mangle. Given the new UI (which incorporates features from many toolbar addons and Power Aura's Classic) you can basically watch for the proc then quickly spam Mangle for some increased TPS. I think it's a nice addition, however it does create some disparage between when to leave a Lacerate stack (to get the proc) and when to Pulverize it. More on that later.

New Abilities
Thrash - Discovered at level 81, this is the one talent I'm super excited about. It's basically a combination swipe+lacerate.....pause for it......ZOMG. That's right, for 25 rage on a 6 second cooldown we get a AOE attack with a bleed. I really think this will be the solution for snap aggro now that swipe is also on a 6 second cooldown. To my knowledge they do not share a cool down, meaning once we have thrash we can use either swipe or thrash once every other global. I'm excited about this one.

Pulverize - Pulverize was a talent that I was really excited about when I first heard of it. This talent consumes your lacerate 3 stack and deals damage. It also grants a melee crit buff to the tune of 3% per lacerate stack. The damage component of pulverize on paper seems substantial (120% weapon damage PLUS 450 per lacerate stack) but I was very surprised when I tested it on the PTR. It basically hits like a warm spring breeze. Because lacerate is our source of free mangles, sacrificing the dot (even if for a global) is a costly thing to do. If pulverize did say, equal damage to mange and granted the crit buff, it would be worth converting it. However when pulverize hits for 2.5k and crits for 5k (compared to a 3k- 9k- mangle) it's dissappointing to say the least. I'm not saying that pulverise is out of my rotation for now, but I wish Blizzard would give it a once over before it goes live.

Skull Bash - There isn't one bad thing about this new talent. Skull Bash is a combination of a short ranged feral charge and a bash. With 2 points into Brutal Impact the cooldown on this ability is 10 seconds! We basically get a charge kick. Finally us bears have a reliable interrupt / silence! We rejoice!

Stampede - This is not really a stand alone ability, but it's connected with feral charge. Basically when you feral charge you gain 30% melee haste for 8 seconds. I can only imagine this is to help quickly establish threat, and honestly I'm ok with it. Just giving us a haste buff seems kind of boring, but it is functional. They all can't be cool amazing procs,  you know?

Stampeding Roar - This is one of those odd ball abilities that might be cool but I don't think it will be essential for us tanky type bears. It basically grants everyone around you 40% increased movement speed for 6 seconds. I liken this to soul well, it's not a must have talent but when it's used (and used correctly) it can be a nice surprise. I would love to have this on Syndragosa as I'm running to the stop of the stairs for the air phase.

Vengeance - This is a passive ability given to all tanking classes that grants attack power based on the amount of damage the tank receives. The more damage incoming, the more attack power is added. I really like this ability, especially now that our relics don't have some kind of booster proc. It's nothing to write home about, and there really isn't anything bad to say. Just moar smash.

There you have it!
Those are the new and "improved" talents in our feral tanking arsenal for the new patch and looking forward into Cata. I always operate better with a firm understanding of the tools I have, now putting them into practice is another thing all together. I'll put together a video or something about the actual rotation eventually. I'm also looking to post some information on glyphs, reforging, and talent specs in the new future.

Enjoy!

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