Mar 152011

In case you missed it, my column for WoW Insider this week discussed feral tank/DPS hybrids again. Kal and I (along with others) got into a good discussion in the comments, which I’d like to explore more thoroughly, since I believe both sides to the argument have merit. Let’s look at things from a time management perspective:

First, theorize a fight with the following parameters:

  • Length: 8 minutes, given current raid DPS.
  • Tank death at some point in the fight.
  • Brez not possible, to make things easier. (Either someone else died earlier, or the boss kills half the raid before the rez goes off, or whatever.)
  • It takes your guild 5 minutes to rez/run back/drink/rebuff/etc.

So, there’s three scenarios.

1) Raid wipes. 0% chance of successful kill. Time lost = rez time + time elapsed during the wipe. (Let’s say you die  halfway in, so say 5m + 4m = 9m).
2) Herobear fails. Time lost = Scenario 1 time lost + herobear time. (Let’s say you extend each wipe by 2 minutes.)
3) Herobear succeeds. Time lost = 0 minutes.

Given the above, it’s an easy calculation: Herobear needs to succeed only 22% of the time to make it a worthwhile choice.

Obviously, you can tweak the parameters some based on your perceptions, which will affect the calculations. Longer runback times or quicker herobear fails (which tend to be my experience) will decrease the success rate needed to be worthwhile.

Why am I looking at this from a time management perspective? Well, I figure for most guilds, the majority of their time is spent on farm content. Anything that speeds farm content = more gear/more reps on progression content. For top-tier guilds, unless they deliberately choose to use a feral DPS as an temp OT (say as a drake tank on H Halfus), this won’t make much of a difference, as they generally spend less time on farm content, and are good at fast wipes. They also are more likely to be challenging content that has a DPS check as a part of every encounter (vs. normal where many fights simply test execution, like Atramedes or V&T). Oh, and it’s also much less useful in 25man raiding.

I’m rambling, but I think my final point is this: You already have a choice between marginal DPS talents (Primal Madness, Predatory Strikes) and personal survivability talents (Nurturing Instincts, Perseverance). I simply propose that bear talents are a third option; not always desirable, but very useful in the right situations. (It absolutely rocks for heroics.)

 Posted by at 8:03 pm

  20 Responses to “Feral hybrids again”

  1. Thanks, Alaron.

    One thing to note here is the cost of being a herobear (or at least having that spec) relative to what you give up. Is it worth it to gain those things and be more detrimental to a raid in order to occasionally save it?

    And 22% is…well, it’s quite high. I can probably count the number of successes in this vein on one hand. Don’t get me wrong – when you get to do that you’re like a rock star snorting Charlie Sheen – but that doesn’t mean it’s the common or even routinely uncommon case.

    I think ultimately that’s the problem with it – that while it’s not effective most of the time – the really vast majority of time, really – it’s more fun. So you want to justify the ways that it could work and how awesome it would be when it does work, and you think about the times that your guildies hold you up and parade you around on their proverbial shoulders singing your praises.

    I also suspect the only real thing that you absolutely need to enable being an emergency tank is Thick Hide. Everything else is nice but not required, or is something that you would want to be a tank on and know this ahead of time so you can tweak your spec for that and be gimped for other things.

    What’s ironic is that your last point – that it’s great for heroics – is what is almost certainly going to make me go herobear spec. At least while I play with moonkin.

  2. Actually when our guild killed V&T heroic our strat was for me to respec out of 10 sec kick and the 3 stack of feral fire into the talents that made my bear form uncritable and take 12% less damage. The way the stacks where lining up we needed a 3rd tank to hold the boss for roughly 6 secs without dying. Just a prime example of when taking more utility can lead to getting the job done

    • Right, but you wouldn’t choose to do that as your spec all the time unless you had to for that specific fight, no?

      You wouldn’t argue that that was optimal for Cho’Gall when you might want to interrupt every 30 seconds or less. And you weren’t doing that to make farming better either.

      I took a spec for HAnub that was completely horrible for almost every fight but HAnub. It gimped rage generation horribly, but it gave me imp demo shout, IW and every survival talent (at the time). I wouldn’t claim that it was a good spec for regular play though. I could use it, and it certainly worked for most other things on farm – but it wasn’t good for them.

      • very true, even still with just SI in our normal cat specs now in days if your ever presented with the situation to go bear and prey to save the raid your pretty much going to do it with or without the other bear talents without giving up dps the Cho example was just xtreme end of the spectrum.

  3. The only semblance I have to “hero bear” would be that I take the 3 talents to be crit immune, but that’s just as much due to a lack of anything else that interesting to take. Been considering taking the 2 points out of the one talent that makes heals on you and your heals better in exchange for the additional armor/dodge one since hell, a healer can “suffer” healing you back up just like anyone else with no talents that increase healing on them, so it’s not like there’s much of a difference…

  4. It’s a choice but you also have to remember that in not taking Nurturing Instinct your making your Tranquility significantly weaker. I don’t have exact numbers but I am sure in the fact that I’ve used Tranquility a lot more times then I’ve gone bear to try to save a wipe. If you really wanted the crit immune talents I’d suggest dropping Brutal Impact as well as one point from Primal Madness.

  5. Eh, I oddly have yet to use Tranquility lol…granted I’m not doing hard modes, so I guess our healers are good enough on reg lol.

    As for my spec, I currently use the following:

    I haven’t actually done any true tanking at all in Cata, but from what little I’ve done Pulverize seems like such a waste considering you can hold aggro fine with just Mangle/Maul spam with the occasional Lacerate and FFF when nothing else is up. So eh, I dunno, I mean like I said, I’ve yet to use Tranquility within my raid group, but I do understand its relative value with Nurturing Instincts for some situations.

    • Given the way the new talent tree was structured it was easy to make my full dps build into a viable hybrid build without significantly gimping my dps (I’m pulling 20k in heroic 5mans and making hunters and mages cry). Basically I took all of the dps talents and filled in the rest with as many key bear talents as I could until I ran out of points. The only things I skipped for dps were Primal Madness, Predatory Strikes and Stampede for the ravage freebie. (*waves at Kalon* good to see you still hanging around, I’ve commented on your blog a few times) I just put this to good use on a 10man Maloriak kill. And as Alaron has stated, since I’m usually second or third on the agro list it comes in handy to be able to bear up when the tank dies.

      • Also forgot to add that I use tranquility on most every fight as well as at least two innervates to maximize my utility. I see tranquility as much as a mana saver as a raid saver. And yes I have nurturing instinct.

  6. I’ve been running hybrid feral since Cataclysm arrived. I did some more serious choices, so I don’t lose 1% dps, but more like 4-5% (at least according to mew), due not only to some missing talents, but also some agi/sta and mastery/sta gems, mastery vs str enchants, etc.
    In near-359 stuff you can tank normal mode bosses in full dps stuff, giving an insane DPS… not critical in 25-man, but it can help in 10-men. In HMs it’s a lot less clear-cut, expecially since the HPs are lacking. Putting in a couple of stamina trinkets helps, but lack of talents like the -6% magical damage is clearly not optimal. OTing of course is another matter….
    Whatever the case, I’ve yet to see a situation where having one specialized spec would have been critical, when we end up with a wipe at 1% it’s usually that a lof ot things went wrong, Since Cataclysm went live, I can remember 1 fight where having a bit more DPS would have helped, in all other cases having people not die would have helped a lot more.
    The hybrid choice allows me to have a second spec which can be completely different, which adds to the fun factor (even if I rarely use it).

  7. Pulverise is used to increase the chance of your SD firing. I think all the math and theorycrafting shows that it helps your survival.

    As for herobear I had this discussion with Alaron before. What is missing from these arguments are the potential downside of less DPS. We simply don’t have the numbers to understand why and how the herobear is actually needed.

    The 22% is based on 2 minutes. But I would argue that 2 minutes is probably much longer then reality. But that again depends on the reason the tank died. I’ll list an example based on 10 man since 25 man has 3 BR’s and I think it would be extremely rare to have burned through all three.

    So the tank died. What are the reasons for this? Most likely he didn’t receive the heals necessary to live. Obvious you say. But look at it further. Was it because the healers were out of mana? The healers are dead? Or just the healers messed up? Out of mana or dead would mean the herobear will follow suit really fast.

    So the best case scenario for a herobear is the healers messed up and let the tank die. You are now tank and the raid DPS is down by about 15% (based on 6 dps 15k avg 2 tanks doing 5K). Now it gets really complicated as we have to figure in how close the boss is to death and if there are rage timers. So going herobear has an opportunity cost associated with it that results in about 2 or 3% less DPS.

    The bottom line is even if that 22% is high it doesn’t factor in the times you wiped due to rage timer. And since we don’t know all the circumstances this whole argument is really hard to quantify.

  8. Hybrid Feral still falls into one of two categories: Hybrid DPS or Hybrid Tank. Each must be considered separately because each has their own factors that must be weighed to determine worth. Also keep in mind that I’m not talking about running a Hybrid spec of a specific fight, because your raid composition fits it (as Qbear relates above); I’m talking about the idea of running Hybrid Feral as one’s normal every-day (every-raid) build.

    Hybrid DPS is a build that is preparing for an emergency situation. The factors that need to be considered are:
    - Hybrid Maximum Damage Potential versus Pure-DPS Maximum Damage Potential (and raid difficulties caused by less-than-maximum output)
    - Raid difficulties caused by lack of assumed utility (I see that Brutal Impact is frequently an optional talent in Hybrid builds, when I’m certain there are far more occurrences of abilities that must be interrupted and ensuing Tank-Death because of failed interrupts, than their are instances where a “herobear” can save the day).
    - Frequency of Tank-Deaths (giving the chance to be “herobear”).
    - Why did Tank-Death occur (if your healers are dead or out of mana, it’s unlikely that quick-shifting is going to save the encounter. It’s likely that a main-spec tank is going to have more time tanking bosses, and thus be more in tune with their mechanics. Any fight that requires specific movement or repositioning is likely to be even more difficult to recover from; you’re just as, if not more, likely to die to the same mechanics that killed your tank in the first place).

    Obviously raid composition has a lot to do with viability of this. If you have a good Enhancement Shaman (the king of interrupts, long may he reign), maybe not packing Brutal Impact isn’t such a big deal; if you’ve got a Hunter doing 30k dps, maybe the lack of optimal damage output isn’t such a big deal.

    In a vacuum, though, the question becomes “is it worth doing X% less than optimal DPS 100%-Z% of the time, to tank at Y% efficiency Z% of the the time.” My guess is that Z in this case should be a (prohibitively) small number.

    When I DPS (pure-DPS spec/build) I’d much rather drop Cat to Tranquility, Innervate, or Brez to stop a wipe or Tank-Death before it occurs; but doing so requires a lot more raid awareness (rather than response to specific stimuli).

    Switching roles, a Hybrid Tank must ask themselves “is it worth tanking at X% less efficiency 100%-Z% of the time, to DPS at Y% efficiency Z% of the time.” Factors include:
    - Hybrid Maximum Potential Survivability versus Pure-Tank Maximum Potential Survivability (not having things like Perseverance, or less optimal gems/reforges).
    - Raid difficulties caused by lack of assumed utility (lack of Feral Aggression, Brutal Impact).
    - Frequency of Encounter Tank Down-Time (you can’t go DPS mode when you’re tanking something all of the time).
    - Benefit of Increased Down-Time DPS (if your raid’s DPS are already beating Enrages and Healer’s aren’t running out of mana, is it even necessary).

    Pure-DPS, Pure-Tank, Hybrid DPS, and Hybrid tank are all viable choices given specific scenarios. My first argument is that the occurrence of a Hybrid DPS successfully “saving the day” will be rare. Rare enough to not bother trying. My second argument is that while the occurrence of Tanking Down-Time for a Hybrid Tank will be more frequent, that extra damage will frequently be unnecessary. Encounter mechanics will decide how viable the build is, but in the current raid environment (and dual-spec allowing you to swap between Pure modes between encounters, instantly), the benefit is marginal. Marginal enough to not bother trying (or at least not building specifically for).

  9. I’m on the hybrid bandwagon. I recently changed guilds, and the new guild wants me to have off-spec healing. I like to tank, but I’m needed as DPS in raids. Previously, I was running 2 specs with full tank and full dps.

    So I go with a hybrid DPS build that allows me enough talents to tank successfully in 5-mans. I can still DPS in raids. I don’t really have any dreams of seeing successful hero-bear moments. Even when I’ve pulled that off in the past, the healers rarely react fast enough to me tanking to prevent a near-instant death.

    I think the point is that everyone has a reason on why they would pick to tank with their optional talents. However, it’s rarely going to be as simple as “do this because it’s x% improvement over that”.

  10. Druid’s are not hybrids. We are stamped with the identity of being a hybrid, but the fact is we spec into one role and that is the role we fulfill in raids and such.

    Your specced feral(kitty), good luck trying to actually tank, you will be dead the instant your defensive cool downs are over. Take a stab at healing during huge aoe’s, well.. healing as a feral is so gimped that dpsing and throwing a defensive cool down would be time better spent (or maybe a tranquility if thats up)

    It’s pretty much the same across the board, a feral (bear) isn’t a very viable dps if you don’t need that third tank, and might as well be sat for a real dps. I remember when I had to heal for Magmaw during the head phase I would go kitty to DPS the head so that I wouldn’t waste mana wrathing and could contribute a little, but yet again, even with that huge DPS increase to the head I was hardly doing anything to that boss.

    I honestly would love it if Blizzard would make druids viable in every role and give us some kind of hybrid tax to compensate for that. I would love to be a class that was able to support the raid in any role that was needed during that fight. This part is unfriendly to ranged, go kitty and rip them open. This is unfriendly for melee, go caster and blow them up with fires from the heavens. We could really use an extra tank for this add… etc.

  11. Right now I’m not 100% sure if my bear spec is even totally necessary using the cookie cutter 0/32/9, because frankly I find myself in cat form in quite a few fights in current content (10mans)
    Ascendant Council – Phase 3
    Cho’gall – Our DK leads off on the boss while I load up dots and berserk in cat, I switch to bear for the debuff while he goes and snags the add
    ODS – I cat form dps the first active member then stay bear the rest of the fight
    Magmaw – Sometimes I’m rage starved coming out of a mangle, and quite frankly until we try heroic mode I just go cat to do damage during the increased damage phase(vengeance be damned)
    Atramedes – Just for mobility during air phase, but that’s a given.
    Heroic Chimeraeon – I dps more than I tank, I just the 2nd feud and every other thereafter

    Conversely our only melee dpser for two tank fights is another feral doing some bear duty. He’s retooled into a more hybridy spec taking thick hide.
    Heroic Chimeraeon – Soaks normal break swings
    Heroic Halfus – Babysits a drake while us regular tanks eat the early massive damage spikes
    Nefarian – Phase 1 – I tank Nef, DK tanks Ony, and the kittybear rounds up adds.

    So there’s certainly lots of ways to take advantage of feral druids. I won’t disagree the dps needs some love and the tanking needs some polish, but by and large ferals are still very valuable in many capacities.

  12. While I can’t say I use this spec on fights where I’m not expected to tank, I think it works as a nice hybrid build.

    I use it for H Halfus. Also used it for H V&T attempts along with a few other normal bosses. It really shines in fights where you NEED to be both bear and cat. I take the Nef adds with my normal cat spec, we haven’t attempted Heroic yet. If the adds hit harder I would use it for that as well.

    In general I use my DPS gear except for stam/dodge trinket. When we were first attempting Halfus I had a dodge set but with the nerfs and our healers gearing up I don’t bother.

    I do miss having charge but for the most part I’m bad about using it anyways. I hit most of the good bear talents while keeping the good cat ones (Primal Madness be gone!). Fights where I’m not needed for kicks I could take the points out of Brutal Impact and put them in Perseverance. Could also get rid of IW for that as wellBear prime glyphs are threat based, using my DPS gear helps that way.

  13. This doesn’t amount to much in quantifiable data, but we did Atremedes last night – tank dies (this was during the “fixate” bug – and i pop hero-bear and tank the last 40% of the fight. Since it’s normal it’s unlikely we’re going to be running into many enrage timer issues, so that problem is scratched off the list. I’m usually a tank for our 10-man run, so my OS is already a tiny bit lower than our dps. However, it’s just nice to be able to pick up the slack instead of waiting to wipe. My first night with a hybrid OS and i’m already sold.

  14. I played warrior at the end of wotlk and when I saw the potential feral hybrid spec had for cataclysm I decided to reroll. In my first raid ever in full kitty gear and 120k hp my “herobear” plan worked out. I saved the raid form failing for the X time on Atramedes by taking over when our MT died and we were out of resses.

    On numerous occasions I’ve saved us on bosses and even more often on trash. I’d say it’s well worth the slight “DPS”-drop you might take to be the little extra in the raid.

    I carry a second bear-kit – where some parts are shared with my kitty-kit. Which allow me to easily be the third/fourth tank or even fill in as MT if the raid needs that. After my target is dead, I can switch over in kitty and do a really fair amount of damage (ie halfus, twilight ascendance council, magmaw, nef etc)

    Sure, if you have shared gear (stacked with agi) – your hp will be slightly lower than the big MT’s – but with stam trinkets you’re probably in the 175k zone even with flask of the winds. Combined with the highest true avoidance (35%+ dodge), probably the highest threat/damage of the tanks, a decent absorb and the best migration from armor. In fact the armor alone is probably 6% more migration than the plate tanks. And when bosses hit for 150k unmigrated, that is 9k less pr hit.

    This is my spec. I lack two useful things, the agi to healing and magic damage reduction. Primal madness would be the only real DPS talent I’ve lost, but it’s simply not worth it. The loss from there, I gain by being better on and trying to plan out of sync TF’s for rip/rake

    Herobear for me is the way to go – I want to be versatile, I want to be able to be the difference between a wipe and a kill and I want to be able to be the difference between a functioning raid and a canceled one.

    On a side note: A true herobear has resto OS to be able fill that part too. All in all, being a kitty/bear + tree hybrid is to me the best pve powerhouse a guild can possess.

  15. I forgot to mention, the I’m one of those who tried stacking mastery/haste/crit but found it annoyingly bad for so many encounters/thrash etc. So I capped hit/exp to be able to do my max DPS at almost times. This also helps my bearkit as the shared gear will have a nice amount of hit/exp on them too

  16. [...] the past month, Jacemora, Alaron, Reesi and Kalon have all highlighted their feral hybrid builds, allowing them to seamlessly switch [...]

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