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 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.
A strong attack that increases melee damage by X. Effects which increase Bleed damage also increase Maul damage.
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):
(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 the target for X damage and cause the target to take 30% additional damage from bleeds for 12 sec.
Average damage (for me): ~2400
Cooldown: 6s, can be reduced to 4.5s with 3/3 in Improved Mangle
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.)
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.
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.
Taunts the target to attack you.
Range: 30 yds
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
Converts up to 10 Rage per second to health for 10 sec. Each point of Rage is converted into 0.3% of max health.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Causes the target to regenerate mana equal to 225% of the casting Druid’s base mana pool over 10 sec..
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
- Demoralizing Roar (if not kept up by another)
- Berserk (for DPS races)
- (Maul) Keep queued at all times.
- Feral Faerie Fire (to apply debuff if no moonkin)
- Lacerate (If Lacerate not fully stacked)
- Berserk (regular)
- Faerie Fire
- Lacerate (if Lacerate stack is about to drop)
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.
- Demoralizing Roar
- Berserked Mangle
- Mangle (for 2 targets only, tab back and forth)
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.
- Pounce (3sec stun)
- Maim (3sec interrupt, wait for cast)
- 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.
- Cyclonex2 (3sec CC)
- Cyclonex3 (1.5 sec CC) Cyclone on 15s DR.
- Bear Feral Charge, wait for cast (3sec interrupt)
- Bash, wait for cast (3sec interrupt) Go cat, Rake to get a CP
- Maim, wait for cast (3sec interrupt)
- Wait for Cyclone DR to be up, should be about 5-6s…try to get a poly/repentance/fear.
- 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. :)