First of all, thanks to Gzilia for starting the original thread. Also, thanks to Leafre, Retovia, Alski, Qieth and all those that contributed to the Bear threads this far and will keep contributing further - this is by no means a work of my own, but a collection of many people's doings.
The purpose of this thread is to sum up knowledge around Feral druids, in particular Bear tanks. I am pasting data from other posters and sources. If you feel like adding up to it, or correcting any wrong data, just add more replies. I will try to look at them and edit/correct the first post, so to keep it somewhat ordered.
So let's start.
That tough furry guy
A guide to Bear tanking
Druids have the option to develop their melee shapeshifting forms through talents in the Feral Combat tree, with important synergy from the first tiers of talents in the Restoration tree.
In particular, Bear Form, and its further upgrade, Dire Bear Form, allow a druid to turn into one of the four tanks in the game. We'll focus on stats, talents, glyphs, rotation and mechanics designed to develop the tanking skill of Bear druids.
First, let's look at our Tank Forms:
Bear Form: Shapeshift into bear form, increasing melee attack power by 30, armor contribution from cloth and leather items by 180%, and Stamina by 25%. Also protects the caster from Polymorph effects and allows the use of various bear abilities.
The act of shapeshifting frees the caster of Polymorph and Movement Impairing effects.
35% of base mana, Instant cast
Dire Bear Form: Shapeshift into dire bear form, increasing melee attack power by 120, armor contribution from cloth and leather items by 370%, and Stamina by 25%. Also protects the caster from Polymorph effects and allows the use of various bear abilities.
The act of shapeshifting frees the caster of Polymorph and Movement Impairing effects.
35% of base mana, Instant cast
As you can see, both of them do basically three things. They improve the druid's armor, so that it pairs (and often surpass) the armor of a plate-wearing tank class. They improve the druid's health, so that we can compensate for the lower base health the druid class has, and gain more benefits from items. This in particular is important, since this kind of multipliers give us on of the best stat conversion in game. I'll go on this further in this post.
Last thing, they allow the use of Bear specific abilities, which are our real tank skills.
A Bear strong points are: they are straightforward to gear up, they have a pretty easy rotation to maintain when tanking, they have a bigger health pool compared to the other tanks, and posses both a good physical mitigation, due to high armor and Savage Defense (see further in this post), and a good avoidance.
The downsides are the lack of critical abilities for when emergency situations occurs, and the lack of active defensive abilities against magical- based bosses.
The Bear defenses: how does a Bear druid avoid getting killed by a boss? The answer lies in these things.
- Dodge: this is the bread and butter of druid's avoidance. Dodge improves from agility, from dodge rating, and from defense.
- Miss rate: coming from defense skill and some racial attributes, this represents the chance of anyone missing your character. It's the second form of avoidance a druid has. The miss chance is based on the level of both the attacker and the defender.
- Armor: the basic form of mitigation you have against physical attacks. The more armor you have, the larger a % of the attacks' damage you will take away. The reduction from armor is capped at 75% of the damage. This translates into roughly 50.000 armor for level 80 Bears against raid bosses. As for Miss, the reduction from armor depends on the level of the attacker and the defender. The reduction shown on your character screen always refers to opponents of your same exact level. It will increase if the opponent is lower, and decrease if the opponent is higher.
- Savage Defense: trained as a baseline skill at level 40, this represent Bears' own form of Block. It is an effect triggered by the Bear itself scoring a critical hit against an enemy. This will give the Bear a temporary shield buff, that will last a maximum of 10 seconds, or the next received hit, whichever comes first. This Savage Defense shield will then absorb damage equal to 25% of the Bear's own Attack Power. Thus, Savage Defense scales upon a Bear critical strike chance (for the activation), and Bear Attack Power (for the effective reduction). It is important to state that Savage Defense mitigates only non-avoided hits, so if you dodge an attack the shield will not break, only post-reduction damage, so armor and any other form of mitigation will be considered before applying the shield, and only on physical damage.
- Protector of the Pack: this is a talented ability, so only those Bears that actually spend points on it will receive this buff. PotP gives a flat, unchanging 4/8/12% damage reduction against both physical and magical damage, as long as you are in Bear or Dire Bear form.
- Survival of the Fittest: this talent is the very core of druid tanking. Three points in Survival of the Fittest gives us what all other tanking classes have to get from gear, enough defense to be immune to critical strikes from bosses. Bosses have a 5.6% chance to do a critical strike, but because of the -6% we get from Survival of the Fittest, we do not have to search for gear with defense rating in order to be viable tanks. Defense thus classifies for a druid as a pure avoidance stat.
The Bear stats. In other words, what do we need to look for.
Bear benefits, as you saw, from agility, dodge rating, defense, armor, critical strike, and AP. Furthermore, they benefit from stamina, which will convert into health, expertise, the skill that lowers the enemy's change to parry and dodge, and hit, that lowers our chance to miss an enemy.
What is important to realize is that our best avoidance stats, agility, dodge rating, and defense, are all subjected to what is called Diminishing Returns. This means that, the more actual dodge chance you have, the higher the agility you will need to improve that chance by 1%. Agility and dodge rating concur to the same form of avoidance, dodge, and thus are subjected to the same DR, which is calculated, as I mentioned, not on your actual rating, but on the total chance that you have to dodge. Defense, which gives both dodge and miss chance, enters the same DR when it comes to dodge, but sets on a different DR for what concerns our chance to me missed. This is important in order to continue scaling.
Important: recent changes to the DR curve have seem to state that what we once knew as the "dodge threshold", past whom Defense would become better than Agility for avoidance, is now out of concern. It seems now, from various calculations, that the curve cuts higher, around and over 60% dodge, which takes thousands of agility to reach. We can assume safely, now, that agility is never worth trading for defense due to the DR. Or, at least, not at a point we can reach.
A quick note regarding expertise: like hit, it improves the chance that one of our blows effectively strikes the target, however, there is a difference. Due to the game design, parrying one attack reduces the swing timer of the next following attack, and this works both for players and for NPCs. When it comes to raid bosses, this mechanic, known as parry-haste, can greatly improve the boss damage output, endangering the life of the tank. Thus, expertise, reducing the enemy's chance to parry, qualifies not just as a threat stat, but also as a form of mitigation, effectively lowering the number of counterattacks.
Since the original time this guide was written, the stat priorities have been changing around a lot.
It is advisable, gemming-wise, to mix up stamina and agility until you hit the last tier of content, where usually having a health buffer by stacking stamina is of good help, especially when progressing.
By no means this is meant to support blind stamina stacking regardless of the situation, or blind agility stacking either.
The point is: you need to keep an eye on your avoidance, even when buffering your health. If your gear allows you to have enough avoidance per-se, then it's not a problem. If it doesn't, you may need to support it via gems and enchants. Same thing around for health when stacking avoidance.
It is also notable that armor has an increasingly important effect the higher you go into raid tiers. Thus, armor-enhancing items have grown in importance.
It is also essential to understand that this is a general advice, what really is important for a specific tank largely depends on his current stats and equipment, as well as his specific raid composition. While a guide is useful for a general purpose, only direct experience will make you understand what's best for your own raids, for your own guild.
A quick note added after many requests:
- the Hit cap for Bears (and Cats as well) is 8% against a raid boss, which translates into 263 hit rating. If you are Alliance and can afford a Draenei buffing you, the hit cap is 7%, which translates into 230 hit rating.
- the expertise Dodge cap, also called "soft cap", is set at 6.5% reduction, which is 26 expertise. This can be achieved with 214 expertise rating, or with 132 rating if you have Primal Precision. The Parry cap, known as "hard cap", is set at 14% reduction, which is 56 expertise. You need 460 rating to get here, or 378 if you have Primal Precision.
The Bear talents
Without pretending to go into a deep explanation for every single talent (maybe to add later, or if someone else wants to do it), I will list the most common builds used by Bear druids. Remember, that this is only considering tank-oriented builds.
Disclaimer: this is in no way a build discussion comparing their strength and flaws, merely a list. I'd be glad if someone would like to take up the work of building a Feral Talent Builds thread.
First spec - with King of the Jungle and Imp.LotP
Second spec - with Master Shapeshifter
Third spec - with Feral Aggression (maximum mitigation spec).
Following, two specs without Infected Wounds. Now, a quick word on the debuff. It is, plain and simple, a 20% damage mitigation against every mob (saved for very heavy magic ones). No NPC in the game is immune to Infected Wounds. Not any raid boss, not even Sartharion under the shield. It has become since the introduction of dual spec of primary importance for tanks to provide the necessary mitigation debuffs themselves. You can't hope for a benched offtank to be there and do it for you know. He will most likely be doing DPS. Also, it is a good philosophy to be self-sufficient, especially for those in 10men-oriented guilds. So if you want to skip over IW, it's at your own risk.
Fourth spec - with Master Shapeshifter
Fifth spec - with Feral Aggression
The Bear glyphs
Glyph of Maul
Glyph of Mangle
Glyph of Survival Instincts
Glyph or Frenzied Regeneration
Glyph of Growl
Glyph of Thorns
Glyph of the Wild
Glyph of Unburdened Rebirth
Glyph of Challenging Roar
Most glyph configurations now count S.I. and Frenzied Regen ad mandatory glyphs, since they're the only one that support directly your survivability. The third glyph slot is contended between Maul (the first choice for heroics, dual-tanking and AoE), Growl (for fights where taunting is essential and one miss can lead to a wipe), and Mangle (for extremely TPS fights).
Since changing glyphs can be done anywhere, just before a boss encounter, it has become a common practice to carry some glyphs around and switch them following specific needs.
The Bear enchanting and gemming
# head: Argent Crusade revered - Arcanum of the Stalwart Protector
# shoulder: Sons of Hodir honored/exalted - Lesser/Greater Inscription of the Pinnacle, honor points for Greater Inscription of the Gladiator or Master Inscription of the Pinnacle, Inscribers only
# cloak: Major Agility, Mighty Armor at higher tier levels
# chest: Powerful Stats
# bracer: Greater Stats, Expertise, Fur Lining - Stamina (Leatherworkers only), Major Stamina
# gloves: Major Agility, Expertise, Precision
# legs: Forsthide Leg Armor
# boots: Greater Fortitude, Tuskarr's Vitality, Superior Agility
# rings: Stamina (Enchanters only)
# weapon: Mongoose
Some times you'll see druids using Heavy Borean Armor Kit on gloves and chest. They give the most health for fights when almost all that matters is the sheer number of your HP. Generally, it's not advisable to use such enchants, unless you know exactly what you're gonna use them for.
There's a trick to it, which covers gems as well: don't copy the best tanking druid in the world. He's gearing for his own specific needs for extremely hard fights that may require very peculiar gear choices. Not all Bears will face the same situation as the very best one, and gear is largely dependent on similar factors.
# meta slot: Austere Earthsiege Diamond
# blue slot: Solid Majestic Zircon / Sky Sapphire, Shifting Dreadstone / Twilight Opal
# red slot: Delicate Cardinal Ruby Scarlet Ruby, Shifting Dreadstone / Twilight Opal, Accurate Ametrine / Monarch Topaz, Glinting Ametrine / Monarch Topaz
# yellow slot: Rigid King's Amber / Autumn's Glow, Accurate Ametrine / Monarch Topaz, Glinting Ametrine / Monarch Topaz, Enduring Eye of Zul / Forest Emerald, Vivid Eye of Zul / Forest Emerald
The Bear equipment
First off, a good reference: RAWR.
RAWR is a program that allows you to load your character, define a typical situation (building your talent trees, and defining your raid buffed situation) and then find the best upgrades for your *current* gear. While it is (as everything) not perfect, it is a reliable source for Bears looking for gear optimization.
It's been a while since I updated the guide. It's time to make a good clean-up. Since new players will now gear via Heroics and the Triumph emblems, I've removed the old pre-raiding, T7 and T8 levels gear lists.
Following, is a list of gear you can easily aim for just by farming heroics:
Head - Runetotem's Headguard of Conquest - 50 Emblems of Triumph
Neck - Shard of the Crystal Forest - 19 Emblems of Conquest (downgraded from Triumph)
Shoulders - Duskstalker Pauldrons - 45 Emblems of Triumph
Back - Platinum Mesh Cloak - 25 Emblems of Valor (downgraded from Triumph and Conquest)
Chest - Runetotem's Raiments of Conquest - 50 Emblems of Triumph
Bracers - Bracers of Swift Death - crafted
Gloves - Runetotem's Handgrips of Conquest - 30 Emblems of Triumph
Belt - Belt of the Twilight Assassin - 28 Emblems of Conquest (downgraded from Triumph)
Legs - Runetotem's Legguards of Conquest - 50 Emblems of Triumph
Boots - Treads of Dismal Fortune - Trial of the Champion, heroic mode / Blighted Leather Footpads - Halls of Reflection, heroic mode (harder to acquire and not as good, in my opinion)
Ring1 - Clutch of Fortification - 35 Emblems of Triumph
Ring2 - Mark of the Relentless - Trial of the Champion, heroic mode (I know it has Parry, but the rest is too good not to consider it your best option) / Keystone Great-Ring - Drak'Tharon Keep, heroic mode
Trinket1 - Glyph of Indomitability - 50 Emblems of Triumph
Trinket2 - The Black Heart - Trial of the Champion, normal mode
Idol - Idol of the Corruptor - 19 Emblems of Conquest (downgraded from Triumph)
Regarding the weapon: this is a bit harder. Your easiest shot will probably be Marrowstrike from Trial of the Champion, heroic mode. Additions to that are Orca-Hunter's Harpoon from HoS heroic mode, probably better but harder to obtain, Tower of the Mouldering Corpse from Forge of Souls heroic mode, same-level, better itemized, (imo) a bit less easy to farm, and Staff of Feral Furies form the Argent Tournament, either by doing the quests, or by farming Champion's Seals inside Heroic Trial of the Champion. Less stamina, but nice armor addition.
A sub-par alternative is Staff of Trickery from Violet Hold, heroic mode.
If you can afford the gold, then Battered Hilt becomes your target, giving out Lightborn Spire at the end of its questline. By miles the best weapon you can get your hands on before entering Icecrown Citadel, and even that it's a good shot until you meet weapons with 264 item-level. The Hilt goes from around 7000 up to over 15000 gold, depending on the server, so it *is* pretty damn expensive. The alternative is farming the Icecrown three heroic dungeons until one drops and you win it. Good luck, we all know the pain.
A quick note regarding the names: I play horde, so what you're seeing are the horde versions of the items. For the Tier 9, they Alliance counterparts are simply called "Malfurion's" something, for the other items, either they have the same name (e.g. Bracers), or they can quickly be found on Wowhead. Following the link for the Horde version will lead to the item page. There is one tab named "See Also" that shows the Alliance counterpart for the item. Even the Hilt isn't obviously horde-only, despite the race requirements shown on the one I linked. The Alliance version exists as well, they are simply implemented separately.
The Bear rotation
Before going into what our tanking chain of abilities will be in practice, let's explain what stands behind a tanking cycle. As a tank, our job is split into two different things: survival and threat. The first one is usually achieved by a correct gearing and a wise use of class-based and item-based cooldowns in order to mitigate the incoming damage as much as possible. When it comes to druids, the survival abilities do not fall under a short cooldown, saved only for Demoralizing Roar.
Thus, the tanking cycle is based upon our second need: threat.
A threat rotation is build upon the idea that to maximize our TPS - threat per second - we need to use our highest threat skills as often as possible, and the "weaker" ones inevitably take place only when the better part of the arsenal has been depleted.
What are then our threat moves, and how do they order up in terms of strength?
They order up this way:
Maul > Mangle > Faerie Fire > Lacerate(dot) > Swipe > Lacerate(front damage)
Let's go into details:
Maul: with nearly twice more threat than the second move, Maul is by far our strongest threat holding skill, and the bread and butter of our tanking rotation. The real downside is, it's "on next melee", which means that we'll not receive rage from the next it, but instead spend 10 to activate Maul. In heroics, especially on overgearing situations, this is a limiting factor. In raids, bosses hit hard enough that this isn't an issue. In an ideal situation with nearly endless rage, Maul is to be shot off at every possible attack, completely replacing white hits. Most bosses allow this, and parsing data from Naxxramas and Ulduar will eventually show that only 5%, often less, of a Bear's total damage come from white hits, and Maul stands at the top.
Mangle: at first place among the GCD skills, Mangle is another important threat skill and one of our top priorities. It also generates a debuff that increases bleeding damage and Maul damage, boosting two of our tank skills. It is important to keep up and use at every cooldown. In conjunction with Berserk, Mangle gives a great snap aggro for both single target and multimob tanking.
Faerie Fire: buffed and buffed in the recent patches, Faerie Fire now is the third highest threat move. It also gives a flat 5% reduction to the mob's armor, making the rest of our physical attacks (as well as the raid's) stronger. Even if it sits on a full 5minutes duration, it is useful to use it every time it gets off cooldown. Plus, it's ranged and costs no rage, making it an ideal tool for pulling.
Swipe: the Bear's aoe skill. It hits all targets around the bear, it has a low cost, and it can be spammed. All in all, a good tool for aoe tanking. As things stand, it is also a nice skill to use against a single target. This will be our main filler when the rest of our abilities are rolling or on cooldowns.
Lacerate: in two words, bleeding dot. Once stacked up, it gives a nice damage rolling on the target (boosted by Mangle), making it a source of sustained threat and further boosting Maul due to the effect of the Rend and Tear talent. It is important to note that while the rolling dot is a good source of threat, the initial application is not, so a Lacerate-spam has the clear downside of not letting the ability reach its full threat potential. On a numerical side, Lacerate initial threat has roughly half the efficiency of Swipe. This makes Lacerate important to stack up at full effect, namely five charges, and then just to refresh before it expires.
Behind all these falls Demoralizing Roar, which configures more a survival skill than a threat one. Demoralizing Roar is to be kept up at all times, but just refreshed when it is near expiration. It also important to note this: while this scale of Attack Power reduction may seem weak when someone thinks about a player, NPCs' attacks are greatly based upon the NPC AP values, and greatly scale with it. Tools like Demoralizing Roar go great lengths in reducing the effective damage income.
Said this all, the tank rotation is pretty simple, and it comes down to this:
- unless Rage starved, Maul at each and every swing
- refresh Demo Roar
- use Faerie Fire at every cooldown
- use Mangle at every cooldown
- refresh Lacerate
- fill with Swipe at every free global cooldown
The fight usually starts this way:
- pull with Faerie Fire
- Demo Roar
- Mangle (if talented)
- Lacerate x2
- Lacerate x2
If Mangle isn't talented, then it's Lacerate x2, Mangle, Lacerate x3.
It is advisable to build some rage and use Berserk as soon as possible for a great initial aggro, and then start the common rotation. It is vital that Lacerate and Demo Roar do not fall off even under such a cooldown. For Lacerate in particular, the aggro loss in building the stacks again is much greater than sacrificing a single Mangle to refresh the debuff.
For multi target tanking, it's all much simpler: start with FF and Demo Roar, then Maul at every possible chance and Swipe at every global cooldown.
As I mentioned under the glyph section, it is highly recommended that you take the Maul glyph, which effectively doubles our strongest attack when hitting more than a single target.
These are some simple and commonly used macros. The following three are designed to queue Maul every time you use one of our main skills, so to never miss one. Beware they can be a pain sometimes if you're rage starved, they are mostly conceived for raiding.
/cast Mangle (Bear)()
/cast Swipe (Bear)()
The #showtooltip command will display the tooltip of the first ability, as well as its cooldown (for Mangle). When you create the macros, choose the ? icon. It will automatically change to match the skill.
Am I ready? Druids suggested stats
This is to answer the question "Am I ready to tank heroics/10men?"
Try to ask yourself some questions first: do you have a tank-oriented spec, including PotP, SotF and Natural Reaction, which are mandatory for a tank? If you do, then we can look at the stats.
My personal suggestion would be to aim for 30-35% dodge and 24k hp, unbuffed, in Dire Bear Form. That should be enough to make you tank heroics easily.
On this side, consider the PvP rewards, the Trollwoven crafted items, and the Polar crafted items, as good things that can help you reach those stats.
A quick note regarding 4.0: we've been wondering for a while about stat changes, since Blizzard declared all leather and mail classes will be deriving AP from agility only, at a rate of 2AP per agility point (in regards of AP disappearing from gear).
Thanks to Auroro, who questioned Ghostcrawler and got us the answer (I'm quoting GC literally):
We've also heard Blizzard say that "crit immunity will be as simple as pressing Bear Form". Whether that will effectively lead to the crit-reduction component of SotF being implemented into Bear / Dire Bear, or remaining the same, we have no means of knowing, until they announce something official. We will see if there are news to it in the Cataclysm Druid Preview on the next day(s).We talked about druids in bear form also getting AP from strength. Strength won't appear on leather and no piece should have Str and Agi together, so it's not like they would really double dip. That lets us still have tanking necks, rings and cloaks with strength on them that are attractive to all 4 tanking classes.
Almost all the items in the game are going to have to change. In many cases this is just a sweeping pass we can make on all gear, such as replacing the Agi + AP on leather with just Agi. So don't worry too much about what happens with old gear and talents mixed with the new stat system. The gear and talents in many cases must change.