Bears: Still In Business
Since the original World of Warcraft launch, when druids who specialized in Feral talents at end-game were laughed at, feral druids - particular bears - have had a rough time. The only leather-wearing tank class, and one without either parry or a shield, bears face unique challenges in terms of facing content and game balance.
Bear tanking is still a strong, viable option in Cataclysm, and is equal to other tank trees. With their own unique strengths - including higher armor and health values than other tanks, as well as immunity to disarm and polymorph - bears are a great option for end-game tanking.
Optimal Feral Tanking Talents
- Required Talents:
- Primal Fury
- Feral Charge
- Thick Hide
- Leader of the Pack
- Survival Instincts
- Natural Reaction
- Recommended Talents:
- Feral Swiftness
- Infected Wounds
- Feral Aggression
- Brutal Impact
- Endless Carnage
Useful Restoration Talents
- Heart of the Wild
- Natural Shapeshifter
- Master Shapeshifter
Useful Balance Talents
- The Balance tree can be disregarded, as it offers no useful tools for a bear’s toolset.
Note: A feral DPS spec can be built to be a hybrid tank, featuring most of the durability and threat of a bear, optimal for off-tank situations. Recommended is 0/35/6.
A bear’s glyph selection is limited, but there are a few essential or helpful glyphs for bears. These are:
- Prime Glyphs: Lacerate, Mangle, Berserk
- Major Glyphs: Faerie Fire, Maul, Frenzied Regeneration
- Minor Glyphs: Challenging Roar
Vengeance and Savage Defender
There are two new mechanics in Cataclysm bears need to understand: Vengeance and Savage Defender.
Vengeance is an ability granted to all tanks, and increases a bear’s attack power by 5% of the damage they take in a hit, for up to 10% of their health. This ability is designed to grant a bear scaling threat based on their gear and the content they face, and tanks into account a bear’s Attack Power and Stamina.
Savage Defender comes from a bear’s mastery rating. This is a special ability, proccing from a critical hit which will grant a shield of, at minimum, 35% the bear’s attack power, on the next hit that the bear takes. Increasing Mastery Rating and Attack Power increases the amount of damage absorbed, while increasing Crit Chance will increase the frequency of Savage Defender procs.
Stats: What’s Really Important?
Currently, there is some speculation as to specific stat weights for bear tanking in Cataclysm. Up until the end of beta, bears valued mastery over all other stats; prior to Cataclysm, bears valued armor and stamina higher than any other stat. However, bear stat values are now more complex and require an understanding of primary and secondary stats.
A bear’s primary stats are Stamina, Armor, Agility, Dodge, and Mastery.
While previously, bears’ primary mitigation came from stamina and armor, to such a point they could have massive values beyond other tanks, that is no longer the case. However, both of these stats are still of high primary usage for a bear, particularly stamina, which improves the tank’s vengeance.
Agility grants attack power, physical critical chance, and dodge. Attack power affects both Vengeance and Savage Defender directly, as well as a bear’s general threat; crit chance improves their ability to get a free Mangle from Berserk as well as the chance to proc Savage Defender.
Dodge is the only direct mitigation stat that bears have available, which makes it of high use. Mastery improves the amount absorbed by Savage Defender.
A bear’s secondary stats are Crit, Expertise, Strength, Hit, and Haste, in roughly that order.
As discussed above, Crit affects the chance to proc Savage Defender. Because the base proc rate is 50% off a bear’s crits, it is not necessary to consider this a primary stat; however, it should be the next stat to consider after mastery.
Expertise and Hit were both highly valued by tanks until the release of Cataclysm. Current content does not support a boss that parry hastes, and taunts may no longer miss, highly devaluing the primary reasons for using these stats. Incidental hit and mastery is acceptable, but it is no longer necessary to gear these to their caps.
Strength grants only attack power for bears, and should be incidental on non-leather pieces only. Because bears seldom auto-attack, haste is unnecessary.
Threat: What you need to know
While direct threat has been removed directly from many of our abilities, there are still key tricks in both single target and multi-target tanking to keep high threat.
For single target threat, bears should follow this priority system:
- Maul when rage is greater than 70
- Pulverize when Lacerate is at three stacks
- Lacerate to three stacks
- Faerie Feral Fire
- Demo Roar
Mangle is the bear’s best single target threat. The Berserk talent grants the chance for Lacerate ticks to grant bears a free Mangle. However, Lacerate stacks should also be regularly cleared with Pulverize, to grant the bear increased critical strike damage for increased threat and Savage Defender procs. Maul is also very useful, but has a high rage cost and should be used only when the bear has high rage.
Multi-Target (AoE) Threat
Although Swipe is now on a six-second cooldown, a bear’s AoE tanking is still relatively easy, and follows a simple priority rotation:
Thrash acts very similar to Swipe, but hits harder and places bleeds on the target. Lacerates can and should be used as filler, through tab-targeting on the enemies, in between Thrash and Swipe cooldowns. This adds more bleeds to each target, as well as increases the chance for free Mangles. When free Mangles do proc in an AoE pull, use them in place of a lacerate on targets that need more threat the most.
Best In Slot: Pre-Raid
This best in slot list does not assume any crafted gear that is Bind-on-Pickup. It does, however, make use of crafted Bind-on-Equip gear and Justice Points. If points are able to be saved, a bear can also dip into Valor Point purchases in the Best in Slot Raiding list. Where gear is hard to obtain, a secondary option is listed.
Head: Helm of Numberless Shadows
Shoulder: Embrace of the Night
Cloak: Wrap of the Great Turtle
Chest: Assassin’s Chestplate
Bracers: Double Dealing Bracers
Gloves: Stormbolt Gloves
Belt: Belt of Nefarious Whispers
Legs: Leggings of the Burrowing Mole
Feet: Boots of the Predator
Relic: Sandshift Relic
Best in Slot: Raiding
While crafted Bind-on-Pickup gear is not assumed in this list, all other available gear is considered. For bears, Tier 11’s “off piece” will be the chest, meaning that bears should pick up helm, shoulders, gloves, and legs for their Tier pieces. Given the unavailability of dropped relics, the Relic of Golganneth is the first recommended Valor Point purchase.
- Head: Stormrider’s Headpiece
- Shoulder: Stormrider’s Spaulders
- Cloak: Cloak of Biting Chill
- Chest: Sark of the Unwatched
- Bracers: Parasitic Bands
- Gloves: Stormrider’s Grips
- Belt: Belt of Nefarious Whispers
- Legs: Stormrider’s Legguards
- Feet: Storm Rider’s Boots
- Weapon: Malevolence
- Relic: Relic of Golganneth
- Rings: Signet of the Elder Council, Lightning Conductor Band
- Neck: Necklace of Strife
- Trinket: Bedrock Talisman, Symbiotic Worm
The new reforging system lets players adjust one secondary stat on their gear and swap a portion of it for a more desirable stat.
For bears, it is recommended that Haste, Hit, and Expertise be reforged into Dodge. Reforging Crit or Mastery to Dodge is also an option, although not necessary.
Why not reforge to Mastery? While Mastery was extremely powerful in Cataclysm beta, it has been since toned down. While it is still very useful for bears, in the first tier of available content for Cataclysm, the chance to dodge outweighs the damage absorption gained by Savage Defender. It is predicted that later tiers of gear will emphasize Mastery over Dodge.
Gems, Enchants, and Consumables
A fully-equipped bear will want to maximize their gear by using the correct gems, enchants, and consumables.
- Meta: Austere Shadowspirit Diamond
- Blue: Shifting Demonseye or Solid Ocean Sapphire
- Yellow: Adept Ember Topaz or Regal Dream Emerald
- Red: Delicate Inferno Ruby or Shifting Demonseye
Bears are relatively flexible in their gemming strategy; anything with their primary stats will work optimally. Gemming pure stamina is no longer a recommended option, and bears should flex their gemming around their survivability needs.
Gem slots may be filled with the same color when the socket bonus grants a primary stat. If it does not, it is recommended bears use Delicate Inferno Rubies or Solid Ocean Sapphires.
- Head: Arcanum of the Earthen Ring
- Shoulder: Greater Inscription of Unbreakable Quartz
- Cloak: Enchant Cloak - Protection
- Chest: Enchant Chest - Peerless Stats
- Bracers: Enchant Bracer - Major Stamina
- Gloves: Enchant Gloves - Greater Mastery
- Legs: Charscale Leg Armor
- Feet: Enchant Boots - Earthen Vitality
- Weapon: Enchant 2H Weapon - Mighty Agility or Enchant Weapon - Windwalk
- Flask of Steelskin
- Mushroom Sauce Mudfish