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 how to kit your bear out in sweet, shiny purples…that you’ll never see since you stare at bear butt the whole time. (ahem.) We’ll also look at the usual accoutrements- glyphs, enchants, gems, food, potions, what have you. (BAM! There’s your word for the day. That’s me, bringing literacy to the WoW world since 2008. It needs it. Badly.)
Before we begin looking at gear, I want to review the key bear statistics, and briefly cover a few tanking theory debates/tradeoffs.
Key Bear Statistics
- Stamina: Stamina boosts your HP, which keeps you alive. It scales well with buffs.
- Agility: Agility gives you dodge, armor, and crit. Also scales well with buffs.
- Dodge Rating: Umm, gives you +dodge. :) Superior to Defense Rating.
- Defense Rating: Gives you +dodge and the enemy +miss, but takes a lot more per point then straight dodge rating. Other tanks need defense much more than we do.
- Armor: Reduces the damage taken from boss melee attacks and some special abilities.
- Bonus Armor: Though not specifically broken out in the game as such, bonus armor is extra armor on jewelry/weapons that is not multiplied by your Bear Form talent. (This will be important in a bit.)
- Hit/Expertise: Reduces your chance to miss (hit) and the enemy’s chance to dodge/parry (expertise). Mostly threat statistics, though they play into Savage Defense.
- Strength/Attack Power/Crit/Haste/Armor Pen: All stuff that make you hit harder/faster. Again, mostly threat statistics, though they also play into Savage Defense.
Now, which of these statistics is the MOST important? Well, that’s where the debates come in.
Survival vs. Threat
You have two major roles as a tank.
1. Don’t die. (Survival)
2. Generate enough threat to keep the nasty (or nasties) attacking you and not someone else squishy. (Threat)
1 is VASTLY more important than 2…simply because it’s much easier to regain top threat (taunt, hunter misdirect, rogue ToTT, DPS’er threat drop, pally HoSalv) then it is to come back to life (druid brez, soulstone). Dying also usually means a few melee DPS are going to die, even if you do get a combat rez. Your DPS will probably argue with you on this point, since poor threat generation on your part makes their job harder; however, they’re missing the bigger picture. For most normal-mode encounters, poor threat generation is a minor problem that can be worked around by the DPS. As such, the gear advice I will present will be heavily slanted towards survival. Now, I’m not recommending you ignore threat entirely; however, the amount of threat generation you need is very dependent on the DPS of your group, so it’s very hard to properly weight how important threat stats are. (Now, once you get to things like hardmodes, threat generation becomes more important, since you’re dealing with much tighter timers. That’s past the scope of this guide.) Geting back to the point, focusing on survival naturally leads to another debate- what’s the best way to survive?
Effective Health vs. Avoidance
Tanks handle damage three ways. They avoid it via dodge (and parry for non-bear tanks), they reduce it via armor and block/Savage Defense, and they soak it via large HP pools. Now, there’s not much you can do for armor, since that’s primarily based on the item level of your gear, so the debates come whether to focus on stamina, for better damage soaking, or avoidance, for less damage taken. There’s good and bad points to both sides. Avoidance means you take less damage overall, so your healer’s mana isn’t strained as much, and also helps your threat/kitty DPS (assuming you gain it via gemming agility). Stamina, however, works on everything (avoidance is useless against magic and most boss special abilities), and makes you easier to heal, from a healer perspective, since it provides a reliable buffer. Bears also gain the most from stamina, vis-a-vis other tank classes, due to our talents. As it stands now, I generally recommend stacking stamina, since bosses in TOC hit crazy hard. (Obviously, Anub is an exception.) Agility is good too, however, and I use it on the high ilvl pieces that I share with my kitty DPS set.
Stat weighting is a systematic way to assess the quality of items, where each point of a statistic is given a “score.” To compare two items to see which is better, you simply check their scores (An addon named Pawn can do this for you in-game). Now, as with all things, the way you weight the scores is extremely important. I present two sets here- one focusing solely on survival, and one that tries to give a reasonable weight to threat statistics. Again, the threat calculations are very open to adjustment, depending on your situation. Kalon has his own set of weightings, complete with a link to Wowhead to show loot lists, on his site.
|Bear Weights||Surv/Threat||Survival Only|
Pre-Instance Raid Gear
Bears have it pretty easy when it comes to gearing up. Since we are automatically crit-immune due to Survival of the Fittest, we don’t have to worry about our defense rating, and since we can only dodge, we don’t have to worry about balancing our avoidance scores. Also, our set bonuses are largely crap, so just get the highest ilvl leather (not caster leather) you can. Your AOE threat generation is going to be pretty bad to start with, so if you’re trying to do PUG heroics with DPS in full T9, warn them to be careful (and then let them a die a few times, if they don’t get it).
Anyway, here’s a quick list of starter lvl 80 gear I put together, that can be acquired totally via solo play/AH purchases. This will get you into heroics, and once you accumulate some badges, you can move on to the better stuff. PVP/Wintergrasp gear is also very good, and can be used as a substitute. BBB has a good starter list on his site as well.
- Head: Eviscerator Facemask (BoE LW)
- Neck: Titanium Earthguard Chain (BoE JC)
- Shoulder: Trollwoven Spaulders (BoE LW)
- Back: Durable Nerubhide Cape (BoE LW)
- Chest: Polar Vest (BoE LW)
- Wrist: Eviscerator Bindings (BoE LW)
- Hand: Eviscerator Gauntlets (BoE LW)
- Waist: Trollwoven Girdle (BoE LW) or Polar Belt (BoE LW)
- Leggings: Chain Gang Legguards (BoE World Drop)
- Feet: Polar Boots (BoE LW)
- Ring: Titanium Earthguard Ring (BoE JC) or Titanium Impact Band (BoE JC) or Ring of Earthen Might (BoE JC) or Stained-Glass Shard Ring (BoE World Drop)
- Trinket: Darkmoon Card: Greatness (BoE Inscript)…everything else is an instance/raid drop, unless you’re a JC and can make Figurines.
- Weapon: Silvery Sylvan Stave/Staff of Feral Furies (40 Champion’s Seals from Argent Tournament dailies) or Whale-Stick Harpoon (Revered with Kalu’ak)
- Idol: Idol of Perspicacious Attacks (30 Venture Coins from Grizzly Hills dailies).
- Head: Arcanum of the Stalwart Protector (+20 def, +37 stam)
- Shoulder: Greater Inscription of the Pinnacle (+15 def, +20 dodge) or Gladiator (+15 resi, +30 stam).
- Back: Major Agility (+22 agi) or Mighty Armor (+275 armor)
- Chest: Powerful Stats (+10 all stats) or Heavy Borean Armor Kit (+18 stam)
- Wrists: Major Stamina (+40 stam)
- Hands: Major Agility (+20 agi) or Heavy Borean Armor Kit (+18 stam)
- Legs: Frosthide Leg Armor (+22 agi/+55 stam)
- Feet: Superior Agility (+16 agi) or Greater Fortitude (+22 stam) or Tuskarr’s Vitality (+15 stam +8% runspeed)
- Weapon: Mongoose (+120 agi proc, roughly +60 agi sustained for single-target) or Blood Draining (+2k HP heal <35% HP, roughly every 60s)
- Mining: +60 base stam
- Enchanting: unique +30 stam enchant on ringsx2 (+60 stam)
- Jewelcrafting: unique Dragon’s Eye gems, +21 stam over Solids (+63 stam)
- Blacksmithing: two extra sockets (+60 stam)
- Leatherworking: unique wrist enchant (+62 stam), unique wrist resistance enchants (+70 specific element resistance)
- Alchemy: +50% benefit, roughly, from flasks (+650 HP)
- Inscription: unique shoulder enchant (+40 dodge)
- Engineering: unique hand enchant (+885 armor for +20 agi or +18 stam), other cool stuff
- Herbalism: 3600HP/5s free heal on 3minute cooldown
- Skinning: +40 crit rating
- Tailoring: +400AP for 15s proc to replace +22agi (bad for tanking)
Not a lot of options when it comes to glyph choice, and most of the glyphs are fairly weak. Pick whichever you like for minors, and as for majors:
- Glyph of Frenzied Regeneration: FR by itself is fairly weak (3% of max health per second for 10s? That’s like 1200 HPS, or a third of what a geared healer can do). The glyph makes FR also increase all healing on you by 20%, which turns it into a reasonably strong cooldown.
- Glyph of Survival Instincts: SI is a good tank-saving ability by itself (instant extra 30% current/max HP for 20 seconds). This ups that to 45%, which is great. A VERY well-geared bear can crack 100K health with glyphed SI.
- Glyph of Maul: Maul hits two targets instead of one. This glyph ROCKS for trash.
- Glyph of Growl: As Altosis pointed out previously, taunts are considered spells, so even with IFF and your melee hit, you’ll still have about a 5% chance to miss. If that can wipe your group, grab this glyph. Only for certain bosses.
- Glyph of Berserk: This can give you a slight threat boost for DPS races. Only for certain bosses.
Gemming’s not too bad, since we don’t have to worry about defense. Let’s look at three possible situations.
- All: Your metagem will be the Austere Earthsiege (+2% item armor). Great gem. Make sure it’s active…a Nightmare Tear will take care of the requirements.
- Guild MT: Load up on Stam. You want Solid Majestic Zircons (+30 stam) everywhere. If the socket bonus is decent (+stam or +agi), pop in a Shifting Dreadstone (+10 agi/+15 stam) for a red or a Nightmare Tear (+10 all stats) for a yellow. (Other than the Nightmare Tear, which you can only have one of, there’s not a great yellow gem, though the Enduring Eye of Zul(+stam/+def) is decent. I usually prefer straight stam or agi in yellow slots.) You want big health pools to survive big hits. If you’re having threat problems, some +expertise gems may help, though I’d be very cautious about trying this route, since this will decrease your survivability.
- Guild OT: Go for more of a balanced approach, since you won’t be tanking every fight, and you’ll want the +agi to buff your kitty DPS. If you care for the socket bonus, use Delicate Cardinal Rubies (+20 agi) for reds, Shifting Dreadstones for blues, and NT/take your pick for yellows. If you don’t, decide whether you want DPS/threat more (+agi) or health (+stam) and go with Delicates or Solids, depending. Personally, my tank set is gemmed with +stam, except for pieces that are shared with my cat set, which are gemmed +agi.
- Kitty DPS’er who wants to tank a few Heroics: Go straight +agi. You’ll be fine for trash and OT duties. Do use at least one Shifting and one NT for the metagem activation.
Food is easy as well. From best to meh:
- Blackened Dragonfin: +40 Agility and +40 Stamina. Best choice, use for progression.
- Rhinolicious Wormsteak: +40 Expertise Rating and 40 Stamina. Good choice for extra threat.
- Fish Feast/Any +40 stam food: Not optimal, but perfectly fine for most stuff.
- Any +30 stam food: Cheap eats.
- Any +stam food: Super cheap eats. If you’re REALLY broke, Argent Crusade vendors sell Steaming Chicken Soup for 32s, which is +25 stam/spirit. Get this, at least.
You have a bit more choice here. Your character can have either a Battle elixir AND a Guardian elixir, OR a flask, which counts for both. Elixirs are cheap, and best suited for easier content. Flasks are expensive, but they last for an hour (2 with Alchemy) and, more importantly, persist after death, making them ideal for progression.
- Flask of Stoneblood: +1300 HP. Best choice, period.
- Flask of Fortification(TBC): +500 HP, +10 def. The cheaper flask option.
- Lesser Flask of Resistance: +50 resistance to all schools of magic. May be a better option for magic-damage heavy fights. (Anub’arak in TOC)
- Guru’s Elixir: +20 to all stats. These are incredibly cheap now, so I use these for most anything non-progression.
- Elixir of Mighty Agility: +45 agility. Nice if you feel you need more avoidance, but I prefer the Guru’s if I’m using elixirs.
- Elixir of Expertise: +45 expertise. Good for supplementing threat.
- Elixir of Accuracy: +45 hit. Good for supplementing threat.
- Elixir of Protection: +800 armor. A very nice elixir. I rate the +20 stats or +45 agility/+800 armor combo just slightly under +1300 HP, in terms of survivability.
- Elixir of Defense: +45 defense. Not very good.
- Elixir of Mighty Fortitude: +350 health, +20 hp5. Bleh.
- Indestructible Potion: +3500 armor for 2 minutes. With the double pot trick (pop it right before pull, which lets you use another pot 2 minutes in) you can get 4 minutes of +3500 armor, which is GREAT.
- Runic Healing Potion: Restores 2700-4500 health. The old standby.
- Mighty (x) Protection Potion: Absorbs 4200-6000 of (x) element damage. Better then RHP’s for magic damage fights, but you should still prefer Indestructibles unless it’s a TOTALLY magic-damage fight (ie armor is useless).
That’s about it. If you have any comments or questions, leave them in the comments. I’ll be finishing up this guide soon, with some random tips, add-on advice, etc. that didn’t really fit anywhere else. I also discovered my links at the top were broken, so those have been fixed now. Have a great day!
EDIT: Doh…left out the enchants/professions part…readded.