Akin to my colleague and raidmate Gordrin's comprehensive post on paladin tanking, I finally decided to sit down and write this guide for the new-new feral tanking. I can say that not a whole lot has changed from my original posts on abilities and talents / glyphs during patch 401 and at level 80. However now that I've had a chance to actually tank some raids and getting a feel for how the mechanics will work, I think I'm sufficiently informed for the level 85 version. Hold on to your furry asses and click for the jump!
Druids are one of, if not THE most, versatile classes in this game. We are the only class that can fulfill all 4 roles with the correct specialization. While choosing a druid may seem like an obvious choice, with this selection comes the dreaded hybrid tax!!!! Well, sort of. The theory behind the hybrid tax is simple, because we have such powerful versatility we cannot perform certain specialized roles (ie healing, dpsing, tanking) as well as classes that are not hybrids. While this was a good theory on paper, it is hardly the modus operandi.
Druiding requires one to specialize talents, gear, glyphs, stats, and play style to one specific role - in doing so you drastically reduce your ability to perform in the other roles. For instance, a feral tank can switch to cat form and deal damage (far more than a prot warrior could) but said damage is far less than a feral cat specialized for dealing damage. A balance druid can shift out and throw "off" heals, but is far less efficient than a druid specialize into restoration.
For the intensive purposes of this post I will be focusing on the feral tanking (aka bear tanking) aspect of being a druid. My druid has been main spec tank since the day he hit the level cap, although I have played around with all the druid roles with my secondary spec from time to time.
Bear tanks are all around excellent tanks. We are notorious for our large health pools and huge armor ratings to help us mitigate incoming damage. With recent changes to talents and abilities, some of our weaknesses (no interrupt, weak against spell damage) have become a thing of the past. Bear tanking is exciting, fun, and if done with skill you can become a tremendous asset to your raid team or guild. Tanking as a whole has gone through some serious changes in Cataclysm, however in my experience I see most of the effect being felt at the 5 man level. Make no mistake, during your journey to become a raiding bear you will have to face these challenges (5 mans are what get you there) and this requires a solid commitment to either embrace the new style of tanking or finding a new role.
Patches and Updates - Patch 4.2 Compliant
Patch 4.0.6 - 02/08/2011
Patch 4.1 -Official Drop
Patch 4.1 Heroic Dungeon Drops
Patch 4.2 Feral Bear Changes - 06/27/2011
Feral tanks have a plethora of abilities at their disposal to get the job done. While being a hybrid means we have additional abilities we can use (for example if you shift into car form you can use the cat form of mangle) below are some of the more common tanking ones. I decided to break them up into three separate categories to make them easier to understand.
Swipe - This is our snap aggro for multiple mobs. The damage on swipe is not enough to maintain aggro if the dps are not focusing down a target but it is sufficient to stick mobs to you and avoid a healer from pulling with healing aggro. When tanking more than 3 mobs, this should be in your rotation. Keep in mind this does have a
Maul - This is our excess rage dump. Basically this means maul should only be used in situations where you have excess rage and could not possibly use it all using conventional methods. The theorycraft suggests maul if > 50% rage. One of the mandatory glyphs allows maul to hit a secondary target for 50% damage. This is a requirement for maximum AOE effectiveness. I would also recommend using your OoC procs for maul as well, at least in the capacity of single target.With the changes to the Blizzard UI, OoC has a nice new spell graphic that announces the proc onscreen. It's never been easier to know when you have a free ability. This ability is unique in the aspect that you'll never have a hard time knowing when to maul. You either have infinite rage or not enough.
Mangle - Mangle is our bread and butter ability. By itself mangle will do a substantial amount of damage and apply a debuff which increases bleed damage from all sources by 30%. This debuff can also be applied by warriors and feral cats, however they will be thankful you are doing this for them. This will also increase the damage (and threat) produced by lacerate, another one of our abilities. Many feral tanks also talent into Infected Wounds, which can also be applied by mangle. This means that in addition to dealing lots o' damage, mangle debuffs the target to move 50% slower, attack 20% slower, and take 30% more damage from bleeds. Shake its hand or kiss its baby.
Thrash - Thrash is an AOE ability on a 6 second cooldown that causes all affected targets bleed over a short duration. So far this ability is fairly good although I'm not as excited about it now as I was at it's introduction. Since the threat buff (from 300% to 500%) this is an excellent tool for AOE tanking. Remember if you are tanking 3 or less mobs berserk + mangle may be a better choice.
Lacerate - This ability does front loaded damage and places a bleed on our target. This can be helpful by allowing some threat to continue while moving away from the boss or if the boss becomes separated from you. Lacerate deals more damage per application and will stack up to 3. This ability is also fairly inexpensive to use as well. Cataclysm has added some fun elements to lacerate, mainly with its symbiosis with berserk. When talented into berserk (which you should be), your lacerate ticks have the chance to reset the cooldown on mangle and proc a free one. If you are offtanking more than one mob you can roll a 3 stack of lacerates on each of them for some serious threat as well as an endless stream of free mangles.
Pulverize - Pulverize is a new ability that was introduced in patch 401. The basic idea is to convert lacerate stacks into a temporary crit buff for the druid. The amount of crit granted is increased by the number of lacerate stacks that are consumed. You are granted 3% crit per lacerate stack, meaning at a full stack you would get 9% crit. Overall pulverize feels unpolished, for a couple of reasons. A] It does very little damage itself. In fact one could argue it does less damage than just leaving the lacerate stack and maybe getting a free mangle. B] The 9% crit buff is not harmful but not hugely helpful. Sure we all know more crit means more savage defense, but I'm not crit starved. Maybe 15% would be worth it but 9% just seems lackluster. Regardless of this you want to make sure Pulverize is up all the time. There are several really great PowerAura codes you can get to monitor this ability.
Feral Faerie Fire - F3 is one of our few ranged abilities but also one of the staples. Many feral druids will find themselves talenting into Feral Aggression, which causes one application of F3 to apply all 3 stacks. F3 will reduce the targets armor by 4% per stack, totally 12% at a full 3 stack It cost NOTHING, is ranged, and allows you to threat more on your target - use this liberally. The only thing it doesn't do it walk your dog.
Berserk - This talent is the keystone of the feral tree for both tanks and dps. First of all, this talent allows our lacerate stacks to proc free mangles. Secondly, when activated berserk allows bears to mangle with no cooldown and to hit up to 3 targets. This creates a very large amount of threat and damage if used correctly. It also upsets the melee dps who will curse you for out damaging them. I will typically use this during a particularly tough AOE pull, so be mindful of when to use this.
Bear Form - This is how the magic happens. Bear form increases your stamina by 10% and your armor (from cloth and leather) by 65%. It also allows you to use those bear abilities listed above. Shifting into bear form is your first step into faceblocking. Welcome to bear-dom.
Growl - This is your single target taunt. This will match your threat output with that of the current highest threat target and keep the mob attacking you for the duration of the taunt. During this time it's important to threat hard and / or have the other players reduce threat. Use this when completing a tank swap or to taunt a mob off another player. It is worth noting this has no effect if the target is already attacking you. Keep this on cooldown for when you need it.
Challenging Roar - This is our multi-taunt. Technically this is not a true taunt, as it only focuses all mobs on you for 6 seconds. It does not raise your threat level on the targets but it does give you an opportunity to threat them up to the acceptable level before the roar wears off. I've also used this before when someone pulls a group and I'm at low rage. I'll roar and instantly get smashed in the face, thus creating rage.
Savage Defense - This is the bear form of block. Our critical attacks have a 50% chance of creating a bubble that absorbs physical damage based on our attack power. The base level of a SD bubble is 35% of your attack power. This figure is then modified by mastery, the more you have the higher percentage your bubble will be. With the introduction of Vengeance, we can absorb even more damage. This ability is very similar to the DK Blood Shield in terms of mechanics. This is also another reason why we should be maintaining the Pulverize buff.
Barkskin - This is our one minute cooldown. A good rule of thumb is this; if you are fighting something, use this ability. No, I'm serious. The other day Gordrin asked me "Hey, do you ever not use your one min cd on a trash pull?" My response was "Um, hell no." So basically barkskin will reduce incoming damage by 20% for the entire duration. One of the best things about barkskin is that you can use it while stunned or otherwise incapacitated.
Survival Instincts - This is our 50% reduction cooldown. On a 3 minute cooldown this is an ability you should save for emergency situations or (and this is more ideal) large damage boss abilities. The theory is this; the less damage you take during that time, the more mana your healer can conserve. This is helpful for healing YOU at a later time or helping the raid as a whole stay alive.
Frenzied Regeneration - Also on a 3 minute cooldown, Frenzied Regen will do a couple of life saving things. First of all, this will increase your max health by 30%. If you are below 30% health, it will raise you up that amount. After that it will heal you for 0.3% of your max health per second for 20 seconds. The heal does cost 10 rage per second so use this when you have plenty of rage for max potential. Many bears will glyph the self heal off in favor of increasing incoming healing by 30%. This is highly recommended unless you are in high mobility fight with no healer. As always you can combine FR + SI for an extremely power cooldown.
Demoralizing Roar - Demo Road is one of your more basic tanking debuffs that goes hand in hand with infected wounds. This will reduce the attack power of the effected mobs by 10%! This ability means that you are getting hit a bit softer and in the long run could mean the difference in your healers mana pool. This can also be applied by other classes however if you are tanking a boss there is no reason not to have this debuff up. It also can help grab the attention of mobs during a group pull, but is by no means a snap threat tool. (Special thanks for Morten for reminding me that demo is the bomb!)
Ah yes stats. The magic numbers that make the world (of warcraft) go around. For feral tanks the idea of stats is fairly uniform. Even before the removal of defense, us bearboys had it fairly easy. What I will do is outline current stat weighting and attempt to explain why there is some deviation from that weighting. First things first, the scale itself.
Armor <> Stamina / Agility <> Dodge <> Mastery <> Crit <> Hit / Expertise <> Haste
So this is the stat weighting as outlined by the good folks at Elitest Jerks. What does this mean? Well basically it starts on the left and works it's way to the right in order of importance. That is it in a nutshell but it does get more complicated than that. Each stat is assigned a weight, meaning one point of said stat is worth this much. In order to determine what is a potentially an upgrade and what should be passed, you can use these forumlas (mainly via websites like Wowhead or Rawr) to be in the know. For instance, just because an item has 10 more stamina than your current item with mastery, depending on just how much mastery it has (and in turn other stats which effect the overall "weighting") it may not be an upgrade. There are also a couple of thing to note about the current weighting;
- This scale will change. Nothing is certain except death and taxes.
- Hit and Expertise are fairly low on the list, considering before they were important. The reason is simple; You have to take into account current TPS capabilities (with misses, dodges, and parries) and compare them to current threat generation levels by the DPS. Survival stats are more important than TPS stats that allow you to unnecessarily over-threat the target.
- Dodge over mastery? Yes but only slightly. With changes to Savage Defense mastery is slightly more attractive but has not hedged dodge yet.
- Stamina and agility are tied? Well yes and no. You'll never have to decided against an item that only has one over the other and they are very close in weight. Stamina beats out agility for me because of one reason: Agility increases dodge which helps against physical damage. You gain AP and crit which helps with SD procs but very minimally. Stamina is effective against ALL forms of damage. Speaking about Effective Health has become a bit taboo recently, but I think it still holds some validity.
- Why not favor dodge over agility? Agility is affected by Kings / Mark, which is very important. Agility also gives you a small amount of AP and crit, which straight up dodge does not. Considering one is a primary stat and one is a secondary stat most times you won't have to pick between the two.
- Why is haste bad? It's not bad, it's just not great.
Being that druids are very good at doing many things, the talents trees reflect that. How one chooses a spec can greatly effect the outcome. There are several choices you can make, depending on the situation. I will attempt to outline some possible options that serve many different needs.
Level 85 | Pure Raid Feral Tanking Spec
This is the spec that I use for raid tanking. Like many of my other posts (and due to Blizzard shrinking the trees) I'd like to talk about why I didn't take certain talents. First of all, I left out any cat only talents. These include predatory strikes and blood in the water. Because they do not benefit a bear in any normal application, they are gone. That said, they other omissions I made can be beneficial for bears, if only situationally. For example, king of the jungle increases damage output while enraged. I generally do not enrage during a fight (although I'm not afraid to do so) and spending the 3 points (or should I say NOT spending the 3 points) was a no brainer. Primal madness fits hand in hand with my issues with king of the jungle as well. Now, Nurturing Instinct is a bit harder to peg. It's a great supporting talent, but being able to use Tranquility is a VERY situational aspect. It's not often I'm not tanking at least SOMETHING.
Level 85 | Off Tank w/ DPS Increases
This spec is still considered a tanking spec. It does however offer an increase in DPS talents to offset the lack if survivablity talents. Use this spec if you don't spend much time tanking. For instance, if your guild is running 25 man raids, they generally need 2 tanks - for some rights 3. Use this as your tanking spec, which will allow for you to contribute to the DPS (more so than a pure tank) once your tanking duties are done. Some notable additions are king of the jungle, for better energy management. Some notable omissions are Infected Wounds (which can be applied by some other tanking classes) as well as Feral Aggression.
There has been little to no change in regards to glyphs from the level 80 version for feral tanking. Blizzard may introduce new glyphs (although I don't think there is a need) and if that occurs I will update the information provided. You can read my post on level 80 glyphs here.
- Glyph of Berserk - Berserk + Mangle is currently a staple among bear tanks and this glyph extends smashface time. It's a simple obvious choice.
- Glyph of Lacerate - Now that dots can naturally be crits (without talenting), adding more crit to our staple dot is never a bad thing.
- Glyph of Mangle - Mangle is one of our main threat tools so increasing it's damage is a no brainer.
- Prime Glyphs - This is a list of all the druid Prime Glyphs
- Glyph of Frenzied Regeneration - This removes the self heal in favor for 30% increased healing while active. Recommended.
- Glyph of Rebirth - This allows you to brez your target with 100% health. Considering in situation in which you as a tank may need to rez someone, the healers may not be able to heal them. This a great glyph choice to make. (Special thanks to Kusatteiru for pointing that out!)
- Glyph of Feral Charge - Reduces the cooldown on feral charge. I guess it's not bad.....
- Glyph of Maul - This now only hits the secondary target for 50% damage, very similar to the DK Heartstrike. Recommended.
- Major Glyphs - This is a list of all the druid Major Glyphs.
- Glyph of Challenging Roar - No change to this glyph, reduces the cooldown on our AOE taunt.
- Glyph of Dash - No change to this glyph, reduces the cooldown on Dash, helpful for kiting or getting the hell out of an area.
- Glyph of Unburdened Rebirth - I never like to carry reagents so this is my choice. If you would rather spend reagents over mana you can use Glyph of the Wild instead. It's not really a huge earth shattering deal.
- Minor Glyphs - This is a list of all the druid Minor Glyphs.
So let's see......You have your basic abilities down. You have your stat priorities down. You have your talent tree selected. You are glyphed out the nines. So you are good to go, right? Wrong bear cub. There are a few more things you can do to hedge your odds of success, depending on how much preparation you would like to do. This section can help you win.
Some players get real crazy about gemming. I am not one of them. I like to figure out a basic pattern (based on stat weighting) and stick to it. Below I'll outline the gems I currently use and will continue to use. When it comes to set bonuses, I take an interesting approach. First of all, if I'm able to fulfill gem color requirements and meet set bonuses I will take that road. If and only if the current itemization is so broken (I'm looking at you resto shamans in wrath stacking haste EVERYWHERE) will I ignore set bonuses. I mean hell, they are bonuses.
Meta Gem - Austere Shadowspirit Diamond
Blue Gem - Solid Ocean Sapphire
Red Gem - Shifting Demonseye
Yellow Gem - Regal Dream Emerald
Prismatic Gem - Solid Ocean Sapphire
One of the best ways to spot a decent tank from a bad tank (regardless of item level) is to see if they are enchanted . There are so many scrolls on the auction house currently due to people leveling enchanting, it's almost a crime to not have at least something on your 333 and above gear. Special profession enchants aside, this is your list of good tanking enchants.
Arcanum of the Earthen Ring
Greater Inscription of Unbreakable Quartz
Heavy Savage Armor Kit
Charscale Leg Armor
Twilight Leg Armor
Heavy Savage Armor Kit
Flask of Steelskin
Flask of the Winds
Elixir of Deep Earth + Elixir of the Master (As suggested by reader Kusatteiru)
Crocolisk Au Gratin - If you need expertise
Grilled Dragon - If you need hit
Now you know much of the basics of druid tanking at level 85. You have done your research and if you're still read this far down - congratulations. Not many other people probably are. To reward your patience (or skimming abilities) I'll throw down a nice pre-raid gear list for you. Follow this guide fairly well and you'll be tanking that guild raid in no time flat. The format is simple, I begin with the best gear for you according to bear stat weighting. While not always the case, this will generally be based on the gear iLvl.
Tsanga's Helm - BoT Trash Drop
The Savager's Mask - Zul'AmanHelm of Numberless Shadows - Heroic Stonecore
Jin'do's Verdict - Zul'Gurub
Seliza’s Spear - Heroic Lost City of the Tol’vir
Darkling Staff - Heroic Stonecore
Spear of Trailing Shadows - Exalted w/ Tol Barad faction
Tusked Shoulderpads - Zul'Aman
Thieving Spaulders - Heroic Shadowfang Keep
Caridean Epaulettes - Heroic Throne of the Tides
Gloves of Haze - Heroic Vortex Pinnacle
Stormrider's Raiment (T11) - 2200 Justice Points
Assassin’s Chestplate - Crafted BOE Leatherworking
Shadowtooth Trollskin Breastplate - Zul'Aman
Vest of Misshapen Hides - Heroic Grim Batol
Relic of Golganneth - 700 Justice Points
Relic of Elune's Shadow - Molten Front Dailies (Shadow Warden vendor)
Sandshift Relic - Heroic Blackrock Caverns
Silver Inlaid Leaf - Inscription Crafted
Belt of Nefarious Whispers - Crafted BOE Leatherworking
Belt of Slithering Serpents - Zul'Gurub
Quicksand Belt - Revered with Ramkahen
Red Beam Cord - Heroic Halls of Origination
Stormrider's Legguards - 2200 Justice Points
Leggings of Dancing Blades - Zul'Aman
Beauty’s Chew Toy - Heroic Blackrock Caverns
Amani'shi Bracers - Zul'Aman
Double Dealing Bracers - Heroic Shadowfang Keep
Treads of Fleeting Joy - 1650 Justice Points
Fasc's Preserved Boots - Zul'Aman
Crafty’s Gaiters - Heroic Lost City of the Tol’vir
Mantle of Doubt - Elemental Bonds (Thrall quest line)
Dory's Finery - World Drop
Viewless Wings - 1250 Justice Points
Cloak of Thredd - Heroic DeadminesRazor-Edged Cloak - Crafted BOE Leatherworking
Band of Ghoulish Glee - Headless Horseman (seasonal)
Signet of the Elder Council - Exalted with the Earthen Ring
Elementium Destroyer - Crafted BOE Jewelcrafting
Skullcracker Ring - Heroic Blackrock Caverns
Terrath’s Signet of Balance - Revered with Therazane
Left Eye of Rahj - Heroic Halls of Origination
Heart of Thunder - Heroic Vortex Pinnacle
Porcelain Crab - Heroic Throne of the Tides
Leaden Despair - Heroic StonecoreBedrock Talisman - 1600 Justice Points
Don Rodrigo's Fabulous Necklace - World Drop
Amulet of the Watcher - Zul'Gurub
Mouth of the Earth - Heroic Halls of Origination
Acorn of the Daughter Tree - Revered w/ Guardians of HyjalEntwined Elementium Choker Crafted BOE Jewelcrafting
Addons \ Resources
Deadly Boss Mods - This is my boss mod of choice. This tells you about certain boss abilities and when they are going to happen. This addon is one that is required for raiding in my guild. There are several alternatives, and it's a matter of flavor. I just happen to like DBM.
Bartender - This is my action bar addon. It allows me to resize and move my action bar to my liking. It is highly customizable and basically anything I can think of it will allow me to do. My bar reacts to which form I'm in (ie, displaying bear abilities while in bear form and not while in caster form) and can be made to fade out/in on mouseover.
Omen - This is a threat meter. It allows me to monitor my threat levels on current targets. There are some nice built in features to Omen now. For instance, when a mage pops mirror images (and disperses their threat) it turns the mages threat bar clear and gives you a count down. After the count is over they are back to generating regular threat so be prepared.
Recount - The main use of this addon is to test how much DPS one is doing. This use however is only one of many. I use this to gauge healing, causes of death, number of interrupts, and friendly fire. Meters are not the end all to know who is doing their job, and doing it well. The power in charts lies completely in the hands of those interpreting them.
TauntMaster - This addon is basic raid frame that allows a tank to click a raid member and taunt whatever might be attacking them. Very useful during trash pulls and while doing a tank swap.
TargetCharms - This addon allows me to quickly mark targets with raid icons and to lay down world markers. Also support for a ready checker. This addon is light weight and effective.
Ask Mr. Robot
Well there you have it. This is my basic guild to feral tanking at level 85. As we move deeper into the raid content of this expansion I'm sure there will be plenty to add, and I'm excited to bring that to you. If you have any questions feel free to seek me out either on the blog, via email, or in game. Good luck and have fun!