Oct 232009
 

Allison Robert, wow.com’s excellent druid columnist, recently posted an excellent article asking “what has happened to all the feral tanks?” She gives a list of complaints, which I reprint below:

Complaint #1: Bears just aren’t as visually compelling as other tanks.
Complaint #2: Gear consolidation had a more demoralizing effect on druids than other tanks.
Complaint #3: The need to use DPS leather has resulted in an uncomfortable opportunity cost associated with gearing bear tanks.
Complaint #4: Early Wrath weaknesses in 5-mans left a bad impression on players, and this bled through to raid content.
Complaint #5: Bear gameplay is boring. Too much of the bear’s effectiveness is baked into talents rather than being determined by player skill.
Complaint #6: Gear consolidation often results in druids looking insanely stupid in caster form.
Complaint #7: If the raid needs more tanks, it’s easier and faster to gear up a plate class than a druid.
Complaint #8: A druid who’s dual-specced into healing or DPS has more difficulty returning to tanking than other classes.

I think she has some great points, but I also have some criticisms of her article. The way I see it, these complaints can be summarized into five areas: effectiveness, aesthetics, fun, gear, and opportunity costs. I’ll cover each in a little more detail, in what I consider increasing order of importance.

Effectiveness
Bears were not as capable a tank as other classes in early Wrath.

This was certainly true, back when our AoE was a cone attack and before Savage Defense was implemented. We had an HP/armor advantage over other tanks, but it was small; we had no block ability, which led to us taking a good bit of damage from trash; and holding threat was hard. However, those problems have been fixed for quite some time now, so I don’t think that’s still affecting class/role decisions.

Aesthetics
Bears don’t usually get to see gear upgrades because we’re always stuck in form, and our gear looks like crap anyway, being a hybrid of rogue leather and tanking jewelry.

This point is very real; but it really depends on how much concern you have for your appearance. Me, I’ve always been a numbers guy. I get more of a thrill out of seeing 500 more HP, or 200 more DPS, than I do by seeing a new boot upgrade. Plus, I LIKE looking like a bear when raiding; it’s very visually distinctive. I typically have to mark our other tanks with raidmarks for identification purposes, but everyone always understands me on Vent when I say “run to the bear to get cleansed,” etc. It would be very nice to have something on the form that changed as your gear evolved, though. One of the comments recommended having tattoos, or scars, or some other kide of visual representation, and I wholly support that idea. Also, our animations could use some reworks; the forms look great, but the attacks are underwhelming. Overall, while looks are nice, I don’t think post people care too much about looks, if the gear/abilities are good.

Fun
Bears are boring tanks compared to the other classes.

As with aesthetics, this is more a matter of personal opinion and grass-is-greener syndrome than anything else. I still have plenty of fun when tanking. (Psst. Try changing some stuff up if you’re bored. Glyph Berserk and try to top DPS meters. Do a couple NINJABARE pulls. It’s okay. Really.) I think people have a valid argument that ferals have a smaller toolbox than the other tanks do; we have some warrior abilities, but our druid abilities are limited, mainly because of the form restriction mechanic. If Pallies can bubble others while tanking, why can’t I brez or innervate someone? Hell, let me use ALL my druid baseline abilities in feral form, and we’ll have all kinds of tools to use. (moonfire for pulling, hurricane for AOE tanking, Roots/Cyclone for adds, etc.) Kalon mentioned this in his latest post.

Gear
Bears are much harder to gear than plate tanks, due to stat consolidation and poor itemization.

This is a VERY common complaint…common enough that I decided to run the numbers and check. Let’s look at TOC 25 (normal). There are 10 leather drops (of which 5 are caster) and 16 plate drops, of which 5 are tank plate, 4 are caster, and 7 are DPS plate. There’s an equal number of tank plate and melee leather items. While this seems balanced in theory, it’s actually not. Let’s assume a 25m raid with 3 tanks, 6 healers, and 16 DPS (typical comp).

  • Plate tank items: Desired only by three specs, of which you only have 3 (maybe 2, if druid is tanking). Let’s say a bear tanks half of the time, so your roll odds (or people you have to compete with on DKP) are 1 in 2.5, or 40%.
  • Leather melee DPS items: Desired by the rogue, hunter, enhancement shammy, kitty druid, and bear druid. There are 16 DPS slots in the raid. Some quick mental math tells me, assuming random dps class distribution, that roughly 1 in 4 DPS slots goes to one of the above 4 DPS classes; so your chance of winning an item is 1 in 5. This is slightly mitigated by hunters/enh shammies having mail items to pick from as well, so we’ll call it a 1 in 4.5 chance, or 22%.

So, it is almost twice as hard for a bear to get upgrades as a plate tank, unless your guild runs with tank priority for loot drops. Yuck. Combine this with Opportunity Cost (see below) and I think you have the main reason that feral tanks are disappearing.

Opportunity Cost
The raid stands to lose the least by a feral tank switching roles.

I can’t back this up with numbers, but in general, Druids and Paladins are the most flexible tanks, since they can both dualspec dps or heals. Combine this with the fact that spellpower leather and caster plate is very easy to get off-spec, and that heals are much harder to find than dps, and guess who gets to be the one to switch to benefit the raid? Great! Thanks for switching! BTW, for many guilds, you now can’t roll on tank plate/leather, so you get dropped even farther behind the gear curve, and before you know it, you’re a fulltime healer. Druids take this much harder because they’re much more likely to have a resto off-spec. (According to armorydatamine, roughly 60% of ferals are also specced resto, while slightly under 40% of protadins are also specced holy.)

Is this fixable? Sure, but Cataclysm’s going to shake things up anyway (heh), so we’ll have to see how it goes. Until then…learn to be fluid. :P

Oct 092009
 

So, I woke up this morning, saw that the T10 set bonuses had been released (including a VERY puzzling Resto bonus), and hit my usual blogs expecting some informed discussion.

Guess what? Apparently, nobody cares about the bonuses, and what they mean for upcoming fights, etc., etc., they’d rather complain about how hideous the T10 Resto Druid helm looks. Confession time: I have honestly no idea what most of my armor pieces look like…I’ve had my helm turned off ever since I got the gimp mask (better known as the Titan-Forged Leather Helm from WG). Anyway, now that we know what really motivates our beloved resto druid bloggers, let’s take a look at the druid set bonii.

Bear 2P Bonus – Your Swipe (Bear) and Lacerate abilities deal 20% additional damage.

This is a decent bonus. The extra damage on Swipe is nice for AOE tanking, obviously, and since every tank class got an AOE ability buffed with the 2p, I’d imagine that we’ll have a good bit of that in Icecrown. (Not to mention that our AOE range on Swipe was increased.) Lacerate only accounts for about 10% of our damage, so it’s not as good a bonus as it is for, say, the prot warriors, who got their 20% buff on Shockwave and Shield Slam.

Bear 4P Bonus – Your Enrage ability no longer decreases your armor and instead decreases all damage taken by 12%.

This is a VERY nice bonus. (of course, all the tanks got something like this for their 4p). 12% mitigation every 10s works out to an extra 2% mitigation overall; of course, with something like this, you may very well end up chaining it with Barkskin for a 32% mitigation effect every minute. Can’t wait to see the boss that these cooldowns were built for.

Cat 2P Bonus – The cost of your Rip ability is reduced by 10 energy.

This is pretty bad. Let’s do some quick mental math. With the Glyphs of Rip and Shred, a Rip lasts 22 seconds (12s + 4s for Rip glyph + 3*2s for Shred glyph) Assuming you can keep 100% Rip uptime, the set bonus saves you 10 energy every 22s, or roughly 27 energy per minute. That’s about half of one Shred…so you get an extra Shred every minute and a half or so. That puts it around 80 extra dps, assuming an average Shred hits for 7k damage.
However, you’re not going to be able to keep a 100% Rip uptime. It’ll certainly be boss dependent, but I’d probably cut calculated dps values for the set bonus by a third to a half for single-target fights, depending on movement/phases/etc. Add fights are a more interesting case, though, since you’ll be able to Rip a second earlier then usual. For comparison’s sake, I’d say the 2pT9 bonus is worth double this.

Cat 4P Bonus – The periodic damage done by your Rake ability can now be a critical strike.

This sounds great! The theorycrafters are going to have to give the final word on this one, but our crit rates are going to be through the roof, so a 6-7% DPS increase seems about right. We’ll have to see what the stats look like on the Tier gear to know whether this signals the death of ArPen stacking…the crit from agi now benefits an additional ability, but the agi cap’s getting mighty close, as I predicted in my ArPen FAQ.

Restoration 2P Bonus – The healing granted by your Wild Growth spell reduces 0% less over time.

As I mentioned in the comments to my previous post, this is pretty good, but not game-changing. If I remember my WG numbers right, it hits for about 800 to start, then 760, 720, etc., ending at 560. 4760 total per target. If they remove the cost reduction, that’ll jump to 800*7=5600. That’s a very nice increase, about 17%. Unfortunately, due to the mechanics of the spell, the last few ticks (which gain the most from the set bonus) usually get overhealed. Lisanna thinks (and I agree) that the 0% is a placeholder, and that they’ll eventually settle on a partial cost reduction, but not total. 50% sounds about right to me.

Restoration 4P Bonus – Each time your Rejuvenation spell heals a target, it has a 2% chance to jump to a new target at full duration.

Wow. Ok, let’s break this down. There’s several big unknowns here:
1. Does it “jump” (ala PoM) or copy? If it “jumps,” (i.e. Rejuv falls off current target, starts fresh on second target) then I’d call the set bonus harmful, not beneficial. I can’t believe Blizz would do that, so let’s call it a copy (i.e. every Rejuv tick has a 2% chance to create a Rejuv on another player)
2. How is the target picked? Smart targeting makes this more useful; random targeting, not so much. Will it jump to a target that already has Rejuv? If so, will it just refresh the HOT or add a full duration of time? Does it have a range limitation? I’ll assume random targeting/refreshing/all players in range.
3. Is the new HOT affected by Nature’s Splendor (does it get the 3 extra seconds?). Is it Swiftmendable? Let’s say yes/yes.

Basically, it boils down to this. In 3.2, you could roll Rejuv on 15 targets (while keeping WG on CD.) Now, you can keep it up on 12. Each Rejuv has a 10% total to proc another Rejuv, so we’ll end up with slightly over 13 targets having it, if the heal is smart. If not, we’re looking at 12.5, since half those Rejuvs will be wasted on people who already have it. Someone explain to me how this is a good set bonus, as currently written?

Balance 2P Bonus – When you gain Clearcasting from your Omen of Clarity talent, you deal 15% additional Nature and Arcane damage for 6 seconds.

I’m not as familiar with Moonkin as I am with other specs, so I can’t do any math on this, but it sounds fairly weak. OOC generally procs about 2x/min or so for moonkin, so you’re looking at 12 seconds of buff time per minute, for a theoretical 3% damage bonus. Unfortunately, you’re going to lose some of that due to spells not perfectly matching the buff duration. I also have no idea how it stacks with Eclipse or other stuff, which would make it better.

Balance 4P Bonus – Your critical strikes from Starfire and Wrath cause the target languish for an additional 5% of your spell’s damage over 4 seconds.

That’s it? A 5% damage boost, but only on crits, and only on SF and Wrath, drops it to like 2% (assuming the DOT’s don’t overwrite, which would REALLY suck). That’s horrible (considering the Feral DPS 4p)

Oct 062009
 

Work, ugh. Quick roundup of good druid posts from other sites since I don’t have the time to do my own:

Bears: Kalon at Thinktank has updated his gear guide to include Ony and PVP gears. Basically: Top-tier PVP gear (Relentless) is close to BIS, just behind 25-man heroic gear. PVP gear = more survivability; PVE gear = more threat. An invaluable resource as always.

Cats: Not much new here; so I’ll take the opportunity to tout FeralByNight again. FBN is a DPS rotation tool that continually analyzes several factors (your buffs and their time remaining, # of CP’s, energy, boss HP, positioning) to give you the “best-choice” solution for maximum DPS. It’s not perfect, and you won’t get your max DPS until you learn when to go against its reccomendations, but it’s perfect for learning feral priorities.

Moonkin: Graylo and others have talked about WiseEclipse, the addon that can increase your dps considerably by maximizing your Eclipse uptimes. Read Graylo’s post at Gray Matter for more details.

Trees: Some discussion about the nerf to Rejuvenation in 3.3 at Restokin. Blizzard seems to be gently but firmly pushing us into the “support healer” role by nerfing our ability to heal burst raid damage. I might expand this into a full post later, if I get a chance.

Bear guide to continue soon(TM).

Sep 292009
 

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 discuss all the relevant feral talents, put them together into some talent builds, and also talk about leveling as feral a little bit. Grab a drink, and let’s dive in. (Note: For almost all talents, you either invest full points or no points, so I’ll only list the description for the full point investment here.) Note: If you want to skip the talent wall-o-text and go right to the builds/leveling advice, click here.

Balance

(Feral druids will never take a talent from the balance tree.)

Feral Combat

Feral Combat, Tier 1:

Ferocity, 5 points. Reduces the cost of your Maul, Swipe, Claw, Rake and Mangle by 5 Rage or Energy.
Get it, no questions. Large DPS/TPS increase.

Feral Aggression, 5 points: Increases the Attack Power reduction of your Demoralizing Roar by 40% and the damage caused by your Ferocious Bite by 15%.
This is a very situational talent. Demo Roar, by itself, is an essential ability for boss tanking, (16% melee damage reduction). The imp. version tacks on another 1% DPS reduction per point. For 25-man progression raiding, that extra 5% reduction in boss damage is very important. However, you’ll give up a lot of hybrid DPS utility. IMHO, best picked up only for progression fights where tank survivability is an issue. (Gormok, Vezax, etc).

Feral Combat, Tier 2:

Feral Instinct, 3 points: Increases the damage done by your Swipe ability by 30% and reduces the chance enemies have to detect you while Prowling.
Without this, you will struggle mightily at AOE tanking. Recommended, but skippable on a situational basis.

Savage Fury, 2 points: Increase the damage caused by your Claw, Rake, Mangle (Cat), Mangle (Bear), and Maul abilities by 20%.
Must-take talent for DPS/TPS.

Thick Hide, 3 points: Increases your Armor contribution from cloth and leather items by 10%.
Very good talent for mitigation. The 10% increase stacks multiplicatively with the 400% increase from Dire Bear Form. Required for tanking, though the least-important “required” talent.

Feral Combat, Tier 3:

Feral Swiftness, 2 points: Increases your movement speed by 30% in cat form and increases your chance to dodge while in cat form, bear form and dire bear form by 4%.
2 talent points for 4% dodge? No-brainer, grab it.

Survival Instincts, 1 point: 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.
Your best cooldown ability, will save your bear butt in a pinch, especially when glyphed. Also allows for insane HP numbers to win tank HP pissing contests.  Get it.

Sharpened Claws, 3 points: Increases your critical strike chance while in Bear, Dire Bear or Cat Form by 6%.
Nothing too great here for Bear, but you need it to unlock two essential Tier 4 talents, so take it.

Feral Combat, Tier 4:

Shredding Attacks, 2 points: Reduces the energy cost of your Shred ability by 18 and the rage cost of your Lacerate ability by 2.
A purely DPS talent, but a good one. Recommended for a hybrid build.

Predatory Strikes, 3 points: Increases your melee attack power in Cat, Bear and Dire Bear Forms by 150% of your level and 20% of any attack power on your equipped weapon. This talent now also causes the druid’s finishing moves to provide a 7/13/20% chance per combo point to make the next Nature spell with a cast time below 10 seconds instant cast.
Some extra AP…the insta-cast nature spells part (new in 3.2.2) will be great for leveling, but not much use for raids. Talent is meh but required, so take it.

Primal Fury, 2 points: Gives you a 100% chance to gain an additional 5 Rage anytime you get a critical strike while in Bear and Dire Bear Form and your critical strikes from Cat Form abilities that add combo points have a 100% chance to add an additional combo point.
Great for rage generation. Take it.

Primal Precision, 2 points: Increases your expertise by 10, and you are refunded 80% of the energy cost of a finishing move if it fails to land.
Expertise is great for boosting your DPS/TPS, and a lot of early leather doesn’t have any. Reccommended, though less necessary once you get to the soft expertise cap. This is also an excellent hybrid talent, as you will probably not be hitcapped.

Feral Combat, Tier 5:

Brutal Impact, 2 points: Increases the stun duration of your Bash and Pounce abilities by 1 sec and decreases the cooldown of Bash by 30 sec.
PVP talent. Skip it.

Feral Charge, 1 point: Teaches Feral Charge (Bear) and Feral Charge (Cat).
Very good for tanking/hybrid DPS, as the mobility lets you get to adds faster, and the interrupt can be helpful on some fights. It’s skippable for a max survivability build, though.

Nurturing Instinct, 2 points: Increases your healing spells by up to 70% of your Agility and increases healing done to you in Cat Form by 20%.
PVP/semi useful Cat talent. Skip it.

Feral Combat, Tier 6:

Natural Reaction, 3 points: Increases your dodge while in Bear Form or Dire Bear Form by 6%, and you regenerate 3 rage every time you dodge while in Bear Form or Dire Bear Form.
Essential tank talent. Take it.

Heart of the Wild, 5 points: Increase your Intellect by 20%. In addition, while in Bear or Dire Bear Form your Stamina is increased by 10%, and while in Cat Form your Attack Power is increased by 10%.
More stam = less dead. Take it.

Survival of the Fittest, 3 points: Increases all attributes by 6% and reduces the chance you’ll be critically hit by melee attacks by 6%. Also grants 33% bonus armor in Bear form and Dire Bear Form.
The best tanking talent in the tree, by far. Makes you uncrittable (540 defense? who cares?), huge stat boost, and big armor buff, all in 3 little points. Need I say take it?

Feral Combat, Tier 7:

Leader of the Pack, 1 point: While in Cat, Bear or Dire Bear Form, the Leader of the Pack increases the ranged and melee critical chance of all party members within 45 yards by 5%.
Awesome talent for raidbuffs, take it. Even if there’s another feral, you need it for PotP anyway.

Improved Leader of the Pack, 2 points: Your Leader of the Pack ability also causes affected targets to have a 100% chance to heal themselves for 4% of their total health when they critically hit with a melee or ranged attack. The healing effect cannot occur more than once every 6 sec.
This talent is absolutely godly for soloing/leveling. Unfortunately, it doesn’t proc off of bleeds, but you’ll still see it pop every 7-8 secs or so if you’re steadily attacking. In a raid, it’s helpful, but it can be skipped.

Primal Tenacity, 3 points: Reduces the duration of fear effects by 30%, reduces all damage taken while stunned by 30% while in Cat Form, and reduces the mana cost of Bear form, Cat form and Dire Bear form by 50%.
PVP talent, skip it.

Feral Combat, Tier 8:

Protector of the Pack, 3 points: Increases your attack power in Bear Form and Dire Bear Form by 6%, and the damage you take is reduced while in Bear Form and Dire Bear Form by 12%.
Essential tank talent, take it.

Predatory Instincts, 3 points: While in Cat form, increases the damage from your melee critical strikes by 9% and decreases the damage taken from area of effect attacks by 30%.
DPS-only talent, skippable.

Infected Wounds, 3 points: Your Shred, Maul, and Mangle attacks cause an Infected Wound in the target. The Infected Wound reduces the movement speed of the target by 25% and the attack speed by 20%.
Essential debuff for boss tanking. However, of all the tanks, ferals probably spend the most, utility-wise, to pick this up, so it’s optimal if another tank can keep this up.

Feral Combat, Tier 9:

King of the Jungle, 3 points: While Enraged in Bear Form or Dire Bear Form, your damage is increased by 15%, and your Tiger’s Fury ability also instantly restores 60 energy.
The bear buff is pretty useless. (you generally want to avoid using Enrage while tanking a boss, because of the armor reduction). However, its one of the best talents for kitty DPS. Hybrid specs only.

Mangle, 1 point: Mangle the target, inflicting damage and causing the target to take additional damage from bleed effects for 12 seconds. This ability can be used in Cat Form or Dire Bear Form.
A key part of both the bear and cat DPS rotations. You’d be foolish not to get this.

Improved Mangle, 3 points: Reduces the cooldown of your Mangle (Bear) ability by 1.5 sec., and reduces the energy cost of your Mangle (Cat) ability by 6.
This is a very marginal ability for 3 points. Without delving deeply into the rotation (I’ll save that for part 3), it lets you Mangle every third attack, instead of every fourth. While good in theory, it causes GCD clashes with FFF, which is also on a 6s CD. It’s a “small” DPS/TPS boost, so I generally wouldn’t recommend it.

Feral Combat, Tier 10:

Rend and Tear, 5 points: Increases damage done by your Maul and Shred attacks on bleeding targets by 20%, and increases the critical strike chance of your Ferocious Bite ability on bleeding targets by 50%.
Required for decent tank DPS/TPS.

Primal Gore, 1 point: Grants the periodic damage from your Lacerate and Rip abilities the ability to critically hit.
While this isn’t a huge DPS upgrade, Lacerate crits do proc Savage Defense, so it’s worth it. Obviously required for hybrid specs.

Feral Combat, Tier 11:

Berserk, 1 point: 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.
Not required, per se, but VERY helpful for burst DPS, and required for hybrid DPS. When tanking H CoS, I regularly am first or second on the overall DPS meters due to effective use of this talent. (And I’ve never failed to get the drake, either.)

Restoration:

(Not every talent is viable for Ferals…I’ll only list the ones that are, and their feral components.)

Restoration, Tier 1:

Improved Mark of the Wild, 2 points: Increases the effects of your Mark of the Wild and Gift of the Wild spells by 40%, and increases all of your total attributes by 2%.
A buff for all, and a mini-Kings for you. Take it.

Furor, 3 points: Gives you 60% chance to gain 10 Rage when you shapeshift into Bear or Dire Bear Form, and you keep up to 60 of your energy when you shapeshift into Cat Form.
I’m listing the 3pt version here, since this talent is essentially filler to get into Tier 2 (and you’ll be investing 2 points in IMOTW). The rage/energy on shifting is nice for changing to/from DPS, but it’s not necessary at all.

Restoration, Tier 2

Naturalist, 5 points: Increases the damage you deal with physical attacks in all forms by 10%.
Huge damage buff. Required for all feral builds.

Natural Shapeshifter, 3 points: Reduces the mana cost of all shapeshifting by 30%.
Horrible talent, but required for Master Shapeshifter. Certain builds only.

Restoration, Tier 3

Intensity, 3 points: Allows 50% of your mana regeneration to continue while casting and causes your Enrage ability to instantly generate 10 Rage.
This talent used to be somewhat helpful, but the Enrage buff has made the talent worthless. Skip it.

Omen of Clarity, 1 points: Each of the Druid’s damage, healing spells and auto attacks has a chance of causing the caster to enter a Clearcasting state. The Clearcasting state reduces the Mana, Rage or Energy cost of your next damage, healing spell or offensive ability by 100%.
This is, point-for-point, the highest DPS talent for kitty DPS. That said, it’s not that great for bears, as rage is typically not a major issue.

Master Shapeshifter, 2 points: Natural Shapeshifter Grants an effect which lasts while the Druid is in the respective shapeshift form. Bear Form – Increases physical damage by 4%. Cat Form – Increases critical strike chance by 4%.
This talent is essentially 5 points (since you have to pick up the totally worthless Natural Shapeshifter to get it), and it’s not that great for 5 points. Take it only for a high-DPS build (or if you’re lucky enough to have another tank to pick up the attack speed debuff from IW).

Talent Builds at 80

Base + IW (0/53/10), 8 pts to spend
This is your baseline Bear build. At this point, you can choose to go in several different directions. (Infected Wounds may or may not be baseline, depending on your situation, but I include it here to get down the tree.)

Hybrid Tank/Soloing/DPS  (0/60/11)
This is my preferred build. It adds OoC, Shredding Attacks, KOTJ, and ILOTP, to give you excellent DPS and soloing ability. This build lacks Predatory Strikes- if you don’t care about the soloing ability, feel free to drop ILOTP for 2/3. To max it, you’ll have to drop something more valuable, like a point from Feral Instinct (-10% swipe damage), IW (+6% boss attack speed), Feral Charge, or something else. Obviously, if someone else is putting up the attack speed debuff, dropping points from IW is not a big issue.

MaxSurvival (0/60/10), 1 filler pt
This build adds 5/5 Feral Aggression, to give you the Improved Demoralizing Roar debuff (-5% boss melee DPS) and ILOTP, with a filler point to use where you’d like.

MaxDPS/TPS (0/53/16), 2 filler pts, drops IW
This build goes for maximum bear DPS/TPS. It drops IW to pick up Imp. Mangle in the Feral Tree, and picks up OoC and NSS + MS. This leaves you with 2 points to use where you’d like, probably ILOTP (or back into IW, if you don’t have someone else to apply the debuff, and you don’t mind it being slightly weaker).

 Leveling

I’m not going to mince words…leveling a feral druid kinda sucks to start. You don’t get catform until level 20, and even then, cat form doesn’t really come into its own until you get Ferocious Bite/Ravage at 32. Balance, with root + nuke, is boring (kill, drink, kill, drink), but much easier.  That said, this is a feral guide, so you’re sticking it out. :) (See Lissanna’s druid leveling guide for a TON more info as well.) I’m assuming you’re doing the majority of your leveling via questing/BG’s, as it’s almost impossible to find groups for low-level instances (and bears don’t make great tanks until 40 anyway, when they get Dire Bear). Lissanna has some more info on talents in her guide if you do choose to go that route.

1-9:
No feral forms until bear at 10…so pretend to be a caster for a while.

10-19: 5/5 Ferocity, 2/2 Savage Fury, 3/3 Feral Instinct
You get bear at 10, but your only attack is Maul…a stronger autoattack! Yay. If you can make it through the first few levels, you get a glyph slot at 15 (buy Glyph of Maul ASAP; for minors, get one of Dash/Thorns/Aquatic Form) and Swipe (AOE attack) at 16. You should now be pulling two enemies at all times. (Three shouldn’t be too bad, as long as you can root it.) Rejoice that you now get travel form at 16, and cry when it becomes obsolete at 20.

20-29: 2/2 Feral Swiftness, 3/3 Sharpened Claws, 2/2 Primal Fury, 3/3 Predatory Strikes (feel free to pick up Survival Instincts instead if you’re dying frequently).
Like I mentioned above, cat isn’t so hot when you first get it. Claw and Rake (lvl 24) are your only two usable abilities for leveling, as most stuff won’t last long enough for a Rip DOT to really be effective. It’s your choice whether to play weak cat or slow bear. If you decide to stay cat, swap your Glyph of Maul for a Glyph of Claw. Do get in the habit of going cat in non-mount areas when you need to get somewhere, to save time.

30-39: 1/1 Feral Charge, 2/2 Shredding Attacks, 1/2 Brutal Impact, 1/1 Survival Instincts,  5/5 Heart of the Wild
Well, your talents aren’t so hot for these levels, but you finally start getting some usable cat abilities. Ferocious Bite/Ravage/Pounce at 32+36 finally gives you a finisher, a couple good stealth openers, and some options. With a point in Brutal Impact and 2 points in Shredding Attacks, you can get off a Pounce and 2 Shreds before the enemy can retaliate, regen to 35 energy, and FB to finish the enemy off, or Rip if needed. Don’t forget about the instant-cast nature spells from Predatory Strikes…toss yourself a heal, or root an enemy, etc.

40-49: 1/1 Leader of the Pack, 2/2 Imp. Leader of the Pack, 3/3 Survival of the Fittest,  3/3 Predatory Instincts, 1 free feral point (your choice)
With Improved Leader of the Pack, things become much easier, due to the constant self-heal. With Dire Bear/Savage Defense, tanking is now quite doable as well, though you’ll need a decent healer since you haven’t picked up any dodge talents.

50-59: 1/1 Mangle, 3/3 King of the Jungle,  2/2 Imp. MOTW (resto tree), 3/5 Furor, 1/5 Naturalist
You are now OP. Mangle rocks. Toss Claw off your bars…Mangle’s your primary attack from here on out (when not shredding). KOTJ makes Tiger’s Fury go from useless to awesome, as you just got a whole lot burstier. You can almost forget DoTs now…Pounce/Mangle/Shred/TF/Mangle/FB kills stuff fast. Or, hell, just charge and Rake/Mangle/TF/Mangle/Mangle, wait, FB. Not quite as fast, but much less setup time. Now, you have a choice after KOTJ. You can either go into the Resto tree to pick up Naturalist/OOC, and come back for the rest of Feral, or you can go for Berserk now. I prefer the first option, but it’s your decision. Also, new glyph, though there’s not much for ferals to choose from at this level (Most of your choices buff Rip, which you’ll hardly use while leveling).

60-69: 4/5 Naturalist (max), 1/1 Omen of Clarity, 1 free feral point, 4/5 Rend and Tear
Not much to say here. YOu get Maim at 62, which can be used as a (horrible) interrupt, and Lacerate at 66, a key part of the bear tanking rotation. Enjoy flight form at 60…all those collect X quests just became 10x easier.

70-80: 1/5 Rend and Tear, 1/1 Berserk, 1/1 Primal Gore, 8 free points
The big additions here are Swipe (Cat) at 71, and Savage Roar at 75. For soloing, neither is much use. Get used to Savage Roar, however, as it’ll be a major part of a feral DPS rotation.

Wow..3000 words…if you’re still here, congrats. :) Probably should have broken this post into two. Ah well. I’ll be putting up Part 3 in the next few days, going over actual rotations for bears at 80…I’ll see you then.

Sep 282009
 

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

So, you’re considering playing a bear tank? Excellent choice! In my (admittedly biased) opinion, feral tanks are the strongest all-around tanks in the game, and the easiest tank class to learn to play. Let’s run down the bear’s strengths as a tank, shall we?

Strengths

Highest HP and armor of all the tanking classes. While the difference isn’t as great as it used to be, bears still have, in general, the largest health pools and the highest armor. (Slightly above DK’s, and well ahead of paladins and warriors.) As a tradeoff, you have generally the lowest avoidance of any of the tanking classes, since you cannot block or parry. In encounter terms, this means that you will take average damage consistently, with other classes being much “spikier” in terms of their health. Arguments still rage about which is “better,” but in my opinion, druids are the easiest tanks to heal for most encounters.

Easiest gearing of all the tanks. This one isn’t even close. All other tanks have to constantly worry about gearing/gemming enough defense (540) to be uncrittable. Bears are automatically uncrittable, via a talent (Survival of the Fittest). Crafted gear is mediocre for other tanks, but very good for new bears and remains situationally useful. There are three plate classes (war/pally/DK) which compete for gear, and only two leather classes, one of which is fairly rare (rogue). A bear can hit 80, grab some inexpensive crafted gear, and jump straight into heroics; a war/pally/DK will have to get carried as a sub-par DPS or run some normal instances. PVP gear is generally suboptimal for the other tanking classes, but is very viable for bears. Now, in some ways, this can be seen as a negative…if you like complexity, you may prefer a different tank class.

Easiest learning curve of all the tanks. Bears are pretty easy to play competently. Trash pack? Spam swipe/maul. Boss? mangle/FF/lacerate/(maul), repeat. Dying? Barkskin/FR/SI.  I don’t have much experience with the other tanks, but from my limited knowledge, they’re much more fiddly. (Again, this can be seen as a negative.)

Good damage/threat when tanking. We’re not the best at single-target threat (see paladins), but we compare well to DK’s and warriors, depending on gear. For AOE threat, we do okay, and have the advantage of being the only class with a no-CD, instant AOE, so we can easily grab threat on all adds.

Excellent damage/threat when not tanking. Again, this one isn’t even close, as we can shift to cat form and really do some appreciable DPS. DK’s do okay, pallies do okay (depending on raid damage), warriors are awful…but none are close to catform DPS.

Good raid utility. While our buffs don’t stack quite as well as a pally (I’d rather have 2 pallies than 2 druids, for example), our Innervates and battle rezzes can easily make the difference between a kill and a wipe.

Hybridization means never being bored. Druids are the only class in the game that can play all four roles…tank, healer, melee DPS, and ranged DPS. Unlike other players, who have to roll (and gear) alts to play different roles, you can just switch gear and talents and you’re ready to rock.

Great solo class. If you’re interested in going back to complete old instance/raid content solo, a bear is probably the second-best option in the game (after blood DK’s). Good AOE dmg plus automatic self-healing plus Savage Defense = win.

Weaknesses

Lack of complexity. As mentioned above, bears are pretty easy to learn, gear, and play. This, combined with the optimal gearing strategy for bears at the moment (stack stamina and rely on healers), can be pretty boring. This is why I recommend learning how to feral DPS/ranged DPS/heal well on an offspec.

Interrupts. Find a warrior/DK. We get a charge interrupt (which is only occasionally useful) and a interrupt on a one-minute cooldown…that’s it. Pallies get screwed here as well.

Cooldowns. Our defensive cooldown abilities are weaker, comparatively, then other classes. Yes, they can be used more often, but the relative weakness contributes to the “boring” factor of druid tanking. On a warrior, for example, you can see a damage spike incoming, pop shield wall, and know that saved you. On a druid, you pop what you have, and pray your healers are on the ball.

That’s it for part 1. if anyone has anything to add,please post it in the comments. I’ll be moving on to Part 2, where I discuss Bear talents and talent builds, in a day or two. Have a great day!

Sep 282009
 

Hello, and welcome to The Fluid Druid feral (bear) tanking guide! Over the next five sections, I will show you everything you need to know to be an expert bear, capable of taking on anything Arthas can throw at you. (With proper healing support, of course.) Some admin notes: This guide is written on the intermediate level, and assumes you are familiar with basic WOW skills and mechanics, such as movement, targeting, and cooldowns, and basic WOW terminology (DPS, aggro, threat, etc.) I will briefly cover early-game tanking, but much of the content is intended for max-level players. (I also use the words “bear tank” and “feral tank” interchangeably, by the way.) I will cover the following topics:

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

Note: This guide is current as of patch 3.2.2a. Feedback is appreciated.

Sep 182009
 

I just had one of those playing nights that reminded me how OP druids are much fun I have now having a druid main. (BTW, There’s an excellent post on Altosis about how the continued accumulation of achievements, mounts, pets, etc. has made mains “more mainy,” and some good discussion about hybrid classes vs. pure classes. Check it out.) 

  • 8:30 PM: Joined my casual guild’s Ulduar 25 raid, as a tree. (I haven’t been raiding much recently, since I’ve been spending more time with my family, so it was nice to be back.) Guild had been working on him for two weeks, mostly struggling with construct tanking, from the overheard vent chatter. I log in, sub in for a DPS, and we one-shot him. (Yeah, it was all me! Really!) :)  2nd or 3rd HPS for the fight, if I remember correctly, a nice belt replacement for my healing set, and I finally got the Siege 25 achievement done. Went on to Iron Council…almost one-shot, but had a bad death rune/lightning whirl combo on Runemaster. Tried a couple more times, but Steelbreaker kept one-shotting our tank with rune-powered punches, so we called it for the night.
  • 10:30 PM: Switched to my Bearcat spec, pulled top DPS during a H Oculus run (daily), and did the 4 Ruby + healer strat on Eregos to get the Emerald/Amber Void achievements. Incredibly easy.
  • 11:15 PM: Win the easiest Wintergrasp ever…wow. On defense, I usually go resto and heal the zerg, but there was no zerg. Horde only had 1 workshop for probably 90% of the battle. Cool moment: About 6-8 horde successfully reached the wall, killed a couple of our guys and started clearing turrets. I ran back into the keep, spec-changed/gearswitched to Feral (Outfitter/DualSpec addons, how I love you for two-click changes. BTW, Does anyone else feel that they need a phone booth or something when they change gearsets?), stealthed out to the group, and solo-killed the 2 demos that were rolling in before getting zerged. “Kitty’s in ur rear, shredding ur demos!”
  • 11:30 PM: Join a PUG VoA 10…I offer to tank or heal, but incredibly, we have enough of each, so I stay dps. One of the tanks bites it on Koralon at about 20%, so I blow my last CP”s and shift to bear, eating the Meteor Fists with SI+Barkskin. Sure, I died pretty quickly as the healers weren’t prepared…but I got the tank through that Meteor Fists, giving the rest of the raid enough time to finish him. AND…got my first piece of T9! It’s not much of an upgrade, though, going from T8.25 legs to T9.10, though, so now I’ve got to rethink my EOT gear strategy. I had planned to buy the Duskstalker shoulders next (since I’m still using the T7.25 in that slot, with 4pT8), but I may buy the T9 gloves first for the 2pT9 set bonus, since I’m using T8.10 in that slot. Hmm.
Sep 042009
 

Mitigation and Avoidance

Ah, the most familiar leg of the triangle. Mitigation and avoidance, combined with healing (see Part 1), is how you survive long enough to actually take down boss massive HP pools solo, since your healing in feral form isn’t that great. As a bear, you have three main sources of M&A: Armor, Savage Defense, and Dodge.

Assumptions

  • Example Boss hits for 10k damage per attack, and attacks every 2s, giving him 5000 DPS (unmitigated).
  • We have 40k HP, 30k armor, 5000 AP, 42% dodge, and 40% crit.

Armor

Armor (or Damage Reduction) is your most important defensive statistic. Simply put, it reduces the damage from incoming melee attacks, which is typically the largest damage component of most fights. The formula for Armor is Armor*100/[Armor+(467.5*AttackerLevel – 22,167.5)], which can be reduced to [Armor / (Armor + 16,635)] x 100 for boss level mobs (skull = your level +3). Armor also has no diminishing returns…while it appears to (since you need more and more armor for each 1% of DR), each 1% of DR is more valuable than the last. Let’s use an example:

Using the assumptions above, with 0 armor, you die in 8 seconds. With 15k armor, you have 47.4% DR. This reduces EB’s DPS to 2629 and kills you in 15.21 seconds, for a 7.21 sec increase. With 30k armor, you have 64.3% DR, which reduces EB’s DPS to 1784 and kills you in 22.42 seconds, for a 7.21 sec increase. Got it?

Remember: Armor is useless against magical attacks…and bosses that debuff your armor (like Prince Malchezzar) can suck.

Savage Defense

Savage Defense is a very interesting mechanic. Basically, every attack that crits (including bleeds with Primal Gore) will proc SD, which will reduce the next hit by 1/4 of your attack power. Your basic rotation gives you 1.3 times to crit per second (counting melee/Maul, Mangle/Lacerate/Swipe, and Lacerate bleed, not acounting for haste). This means that in general, assuming you can keep up a full DPS rotation, you should have around 75% of hits affected by SD on a single target, and more on multiple targets. (Kalon at Thinktank has done much more extensive theorycrafting on this.) If you have 5k attack power, that means 75% of enemy attacks will be reduced by 1250, after they are already reduced by armor.
Essentially, what this means is that SD is GREAT for low-level stuff, and meh for raid-tanking. Continuing our example above, the boss currently doing 1784 DPS will now do 1315 DPS, which is roughly an extra 25% mitigation. Against something that hits really hard (like Patchwerk, for example, who does like 80k damage per attack), a 1250 damage reduction is a drop in the bucket, and gives you MAYBE 0.5% of additional mitigation.
Also, getting stunned sucks. I’ve actually died to Moroes trash when I got stunned and hit with the 0 armor debuff at the same time…ouch.

Avoidance

Avoidance is pretty simple for druids. Each boss melee attack has a 7.8% chance to miss + your dodge, which is usually slightly above 40%. I won’t do a full-on dodge analysis…just remember that it comes primarily from your agility, plus any extra dodge rating youy have.  Not counting agility procs (Mongoose, DM:G), you can generally expect about 50% avoidance while soloing, and much more on trash (which will have a much higher miss chance). Assuming 50% avoidance neatly reduces EB’s DPS in half, to 657 DPS.

Indestructible Potions

Indestructible Potions are GREAT. They give you an extra 3500 armor, and can be used twice (if you use one pre-pull). Using the stats above, an extra 3500 armor should reduce EB’s DPS to 595, which translates to 7440 HP saved, or twice that with two. A great improvement over a healing potion. They’re not as great for raids, where the threat is typically burst, not sustained damage, but are still very helpful.

Summary

Using the Healing calculation from part 1 (336 HPS), EB only does 321 sustained DPS, which gives you over two minutes to kill the boss. That’s where DPS stats comes into play, in the next installment.

Aug 262009
 

I’m working on a long guide talking about soloing content as a Druid. Basically, I’m trying to model each leg of the “holy trinity.” If we know our DPS and boss HP we can estimate boss TTL (time to live). If we know the bosses’ abilities and our mitigation/avoidance/resistance we can model DTPS (damage taken per second), and with calculating our HPS and max HP, model our TTL (time to live). If  our TTL > boss TTL, we win. Obviously, skill/RNG/lag/whatever will cause deviations from the math…but that’s okay, WoW’s still a game, not a spreadsheet. :) This is not intended to be EJ-level stuff, BTW, this is just me having fun with math and trying to learn a little more about WoW mechanics in the process. In any event, here’s the start of the HPS section.

Assumptions:

  • 40000 hp (not unreasonable solo, with MOTW/stoneblood/food buff/stamina scroll/profession bonii (AND new LW kings drums…woot patch notes)
  • 40% crit
  • Unlimited rage (boss tanking)

Improved Leader of the Pack

Improved Leader of the Pack is your primary self-heal, and is critical for boss soloing.  It is affected by Nurturing Instinct, but only in cat form. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure it’s affected by Frenzied Regeneration when glyphed.

  • 60 attacks per minute capable of proccing ILOTP (20 Maul, 40 swipe/lacerate/mangle/FF…sadly, Lacerate bleed crits from Primal Gore do not proc ILOTP, but they do proc Savage Defense.)
  • ILOTP has 6s cooldown; procs on average every 7.5s or 8 attacks per minute. This is probably a bit conservative of an estimate (doesn’t account for haste, math’s a bit rounded) but it’s close enough.
  • Therefore, 40k hp = +1600 HP ILOTP tick * 8 = 12800 hp = 213 HPS. If you assume 1.33 ticks (on average) are buffed by glyphed FR and glyphed SI (see below), that increases to about 220 HPS.

Frenzied Regeneration/Survival Instincts

Frenzied Regeneration is your secondary self-heal, and is key to your tactics. Pretty much, for most bosses, if you can live long enough to Regen twice, you’ve probably won.  Normally, SI by itself is fairly useless when soloing. However, when combined with FR, it makes your FR tick for more (since it uses the new higher HP value for calculating healing done). Occasionally, for dps race type bosses, SI may be better used as a last-ditch spurt of extra time to kill the boss. I’ve calculated the healing done from all the abilities singly, in combination, and with the glyphs: see below.

Abilities Max HP Total Heal (HP3M) HPS
FR 40000 12000 67
FR (Glyphed) 40000 14400 80
FR + SI 52000 15600 87
FR + SI (SI Glyphed) 58000 17400 97
FR + SI (FR Glyphed) 52000 18720 104
FR + SI (Both Glyphed) 58000 20880 116

FR is affected by spell crit, and ILOTP is buffed by the FR glyph, so these numbers are a bit low.

Healing Spells

In theory, every boss should be easy- when you get low, just heal yourself, right? Sadly, there’s a couple big problems. First, your armor turns to tissue paper in caster form. Second, you have no healing talents, and no healing gear (unless you talent Nurturing Instincts). Third, you lose all your rage. No rage = no attacks = no Savage Defense (bad.)

With that in mind, many bosses have pauses where you can safely get a cast off and shift back to bear.  In general, if it’s a pause where you can stay still, Regrowth is your best bet, if it’s a moving pause, Rejuvenation. For a long pause, Tranquility is great.  For example, against Moroes, once you kill the adds, he’s quite easy if you shift out to drop a Regrowth every time he vanishes, which will nicely help counteract the bleed damage. 

Now, if it’s a boss who attacks with primarily magic attacks, then your armor’s useless anyway. In that case, healing spells + NI become a lot more vital.  I haven’t had a chance to try it, but I’d imagine you could macro a swap to a healing weapon to get extra spellpower, Regrowth+Rejuv, and go back to cat (which, if you have NI, buffs HOT’s by 20%).

Other Healing Stuff

Lifeward is a good situational enchant for trash, but doesn’t proc enough on a single target to be worth it on bosses. Blood Draining is good in theory, but the threshold to trigger it is too low for you to make optimum use of it with Frenzied Regeneration. I’d stick with the +agi from Mongoose. Likewise, it’s better to use Indestructible Potions for most fights, rather than health potions. Pot right before the pull then pot during fight gives you almost 4 minutes of extra armor.

Summary

Currently, though, we know that if we have glyphed SI and FR (and there’s not much other choice for bears, really) the boss must break 336 DPS (shown in Recount as DTPS) to overcome our healing ability. If the boss does 436 DPS, for example, then we have a -100 HPS delta, which means we have a TTL of 400 seconds, and must then kill the boss before that…and that’s where DPS stats come into play. Stay tuned for Part 2, where I break down mitigation statistics.