Monday, October 1, 2007

Baseline Bear...Freebase Feral?

I just had to plug this because it cracked me up:

Valenna the Rogue Tank!

I'm going to have to whip up a Rogue tanking talent spec soon.

In the meantime, what are the mandatory talents for a Bear?

It is often said that Druids are overpowered due to our Feral tree combining our Cat DPS options with our Bear tanking options. Disregarding two mostly separate gearsets and competition for the DPS one, what ARE the differences between a Cat and Bear spec?

Maybe rather than do a spec comparison, I'll outline the baseline talents any good Bear should have and why, before discussing some of the optional talents.

First of all, let's cover the counter-intuitive: the Restoration Tree.

For any serious Feral Druid, this part of their spec will look extremely similar. There are only 3 requirements, though.

First is Furor. Valuable for both specs, it grants a much needed resource immediately upon shifting. You cannot - I repeat: cannot - skip this one. If you do, you will find yourself lacking in situations where you need that resource, be it Rage or Energy.

Next is Naturalist. I cannot count the number of new Druids that stop reading at "Reduces the cast time of your Healing Touch..." The critical part is the 10% damage boost you can get from this talent when specced 5/5. Damage is what Cats are all about, and Bears use it to generate threat. Critical talent.

Finally there's Omen of Clarity. Regardless of its proc-rate, any clear-casting effect is a good one, and that this applies specifically to melee attacks makes it a vital tool for holding aggro and dishing pain.

Now, this isn't all you'll find here of value for the Feral. Two other choices present themselves but both are purely optional.

Some Ferals like picking up Intensity to further the Hybrid nature of the Druid class. After all, Naturalist boosts healing power and Intensity provides that all-valuable mana regeneration, further boosting healing power.

Personally, I like to Power-Shift. What's that? Well, it's popping into caster and back into Cat or Bear for the Rage or Energy. When I'm scratching things with wild abandon, sometimes it's faster to shift out and back for Energy than to wait for the ticks. In Bear it's trickier. Still, it's doable with macros and more practically, between pulls. Both of these habits make Natural Shapeshifter a happy target for my talent points. I can also state with no apologies that many times I've only been able to shift at a critical point due to this talent. Maybe Intensity works just as well, though.

So on to Feral.

At Tier 1, Feral Aggression is crap. No druid interested in DPS will be using Ferocious Bite over Rip...maybe a PvP Feral but we aren't dealing with masochists in this post. The Demoralizing Roar boost looks impressive, but when you realize that it only boosts the AP reduction from 240 to 336, it becomes an obvious waste for Bears.

The obvious choice then, is Ferocity. Reductions in costs are always nice to have.

In Tier 2, the critical choices are Feral Instinct and Thick Hide. Feral Instinct gives us the threat modifiers we need to stay competitive with Protection Warriors. This is a talent you cannot skip.

Thick Hide may not look like much, but as Druids cannot mitigate Crushing Blows in any practical way, high armor is the only avenue we have to minimize the impact when we take one. Someday, when your armor gets to insane totals, you can spec out of this, but most of us reap significant benefit from armor increases. Don't forget, if you have 4000 armor from items in caster form, when you shift to Dire Bear this talent will net you over 2000 more total armor. That's big.

Tier 3 is all mandatory for a serious Bear Tank. Feral Swiftness adds mitigation through dodge (critical since we cannot parry or block). Feral Charge emulates a Warrior's Charge and Intercept abilities in one beautiful talent. This talent alone is what made me a viable off-tank for Gruul.

Sharpened Claws, like Naturalist, may appear to be more of a dps talent than one for tanking. Remember, damage=threat. While our reliance on damage for threat has gone down, it hasn't gone away, but most importantly for this talent is how we use it with the subsequently available Tier 4 talent, Primal Fury.

Primal Fury gives a 50/100% chance to gain 5 rage on a critical strike. So yeah, you guessed it, Bears want Agility not just for the mitigation. Bears want to be crit monkeys for the Rage generation, too.

Predatory Strikes has value not just for opening later talents, but because added AP is added dps is added threat. Savage Fury is valuable for the same reason*.

Feral Faerie Fire is one that might be contested, but here's why I think it's valuable: If you have a significant rage bar (i.e. more than 10 Rage) it can be advantageous to pull from Dire Bear form. Feral Faerie Fire allows this option to be practiced at range. While pulling with Moonfire or Starfire/Moonfire and then switching to Bear will usually offer more inital threat, having a viable pool to work with can make a FFF pull from Dire Bear more feasible. The lowered armor on the target is gravy.

Now we get to the juicy stuff.

First is Heart of the Wild. In Dire Bear this is a 20% Stamina buff. Coupled with the natural 25% boost, this talent is what gives Bears their reputation for crazy health totals. The bigger cushion you can provide your healers, the better off everyone is.

Next is the talent that enables us to stare a raid boss in the face: Survival of the Fittest. 3% to all attributes is nice, and can't be overlooked, but the real reason we all take this is for the Crit reduction. This provides 3% to our ability to avoid critical hits, meaning we only have to make up another 2.6% crit reduction through gear in order to stand toe to toe with a Level 73 Big Bad. Given the horrific Defense itemization in leather, this talent is not optional.

I've seen a few Druids that skip it and go full Resilience, but I have no idea how it works in practice to do that. I wouldn't recommend it, offhand.

Leader of the Pack. Crit crit crit. Not only does this help your rage generation, but it helps dpsers in your groups dish more damage. Coupled with Improved Leader of the Pack and you even show up on the healing meters! It isn't much, but sometimes that little bit of healing is all the cushion your Healer needs to keep up or avoid catastrophe.

Predatory Instincts offers two bonuses. One is to damage and threat. Like the other talents of this nature, it doesn't seem like much by itself, but look at all the other things we've done to increase our damage on the way up this ladder and you can see that the additive benefit is impressive. The secondary benefit is in the avoidance of AoE effects. It isn't much, but given the damage potential of some AoE effects, PI can be a life saver.

Last, but certainly not least, is Mangle. In Cat this replaces Claw. For that alone it's worth having. But in Dire Bear, when tanking, it becomes even more fun. First, it's instant. On a 6 second cooldown, the instant nature of it offsets the percieved drawbacks because unlike Maul, it won't be spending rage on a swing you could be generating it. It's cost can be additionally mitigated by the significant chance that it will crit, resulting in an effectively reduced rage cost for significantly more damage and threat. It also has the relatively minimal benefit of boosting Lacerate damage.

Rogues, however, will love you. Those that pay attention will throw bleeds on any target sporting a Mangle debuff...and EVERY Bear Tank's target sports this debuff...or should.

Bleeds already ignore armor, and this adds 30% to their damage potential. The magnitude of that benefit cannot be understated.

So after all this, you'll still have 8 unspent talent points. What do you do with them? Well, ideally, you should have some ideas and it will depend on how much time you forsee either healing or spending in Cat form.

If you're like me, you might decide that tanking really IS what you want and will work to maximize that with talents like Natural Shapeshifter for power-shifting, or Primal Tenacity for Stun and Fear resistance. Brutal Impact is also popular.

If you are looking for more Cat time, Brutal Impact is still good, and some PvPers find value in Nurturing Instinct. But if you're going to spend a lot of time in Cat, you'll want Shredding Attacks. Certainly there is some Bear benefit there, but the advantages it provides to a Feral dpsing in raids is measurable. Smarter people than I have done the math on it, but if you're a serious Cat, don't skip this one**.

So for the record, this is what I think the baseline Bear spec should look like, leaving 8 points for customization: BEAR TANK MINIMUM SPEC

As always, feel free to pick and choose, and not every talent will work for every person dependent on skill level, gearing, and situation, but this seems to be the best baseline I can find, the most universal and utilitarian.

* Savage Fury used to add to Bear talents as well as Cat and I wrote this with that still in my head, even though it's been quite some time since that was true. One of my readers pointed out that it's a Cat-only talent. So it is!

** The same reader that caught my Savage Fury error pointed out that in that light, Shredding Attacks becomes a more baseline talent for a Bear. Any and all Rage adjustments are valued to a tank, and since we use Lacerate as one of our staple moves (even on non-bleeding mobs), this shouldn't be overlooked. In fact, I need to go respec. =P


Katy Mulvey said...

Any recommendations about when to take which talent as you're leveling up?

There's a fair bit of time before the endgame, after all.

From that perspective, I think having points in both brutal impact and shredding attacks is very useful as you level -- with both of those, you can Pounce and Shred twice before the mob comes out of stun, which speeds things up quite a bit.

I also use one point in Nature's Grasp, which, as long as I'm not fighting a caster or ranged-damage mob outside, gives me a chance to back off, pop into caster form, heal myself, throw a moonfire on the mob, and back into animal form.

I don't know how much time I'll be spending in solo PvE once I get to level 70, but I expect there will be some, and those talents will stay useful.

But that's why you've got those eight free points in the build.

I've chosen to go straight down the feral tree to swiftness, a point in to nature's grasp, then the rest of the way to mangle. Right now I'm working down through the resto tree to OOC, which I'll hit at L62, before returning to pick up Predatory Instincts, and make the choice between Natural Shapeshifter and Primal Tenacity.

John said...

A great overview of the baseline talents for any good Bear tank. Something all bear tanks should know, up there with how to become uncrittable.

My one criticism is that you've suggested taking "Savage Fury" in your base build and "Shredding Attacks" as an optional. I can only assume you've gotten the two confused, as "Savage Fury" has no affect on Bear tanking, it only affects Cat form abilities. "Shredding Attacks", however, affects your main bear tanking ability, Lacerate.

Also, When you mentioned Intensity you only really touched on it's mana-regen for Hybrids, but I truly believe that this should be your next choice outside of the baseline if you're truly set on bear tanking. The 10 instant rage it generates on your enrage is a great help in securing your aggro at the beginning of a fight. Not only do you recieve aggro from power gains, but you have 10 more rage to lay into your target before having to wait to build rage off attacks or damage. Although, If you run with a regular crew that gives you enough time to secure your aggro, then this talent becomes less of a necessity.

Again, Great post! Keep up the great work!

-Azleus of Feathermoon US

Wyrmdog said...

Actually John, you're right, that was an oversight on my part. Savage Fury *used* to affect more and now it's kept solely for cat form.

In that light I'd certainly advocate for Shredding Attacks over it. That said, I use Savage Fury over Shredding Attacks primarily because I don't dps in instances all that often and the added Cat damage while soloing that SF offers is of more utility to me, personally.

As for Intensity, I only touched on it because my personal experience with it is limited. The instant rage is nice, to be sure. I rarely find myself using Enrage though (I abhor the armor drop), so I figured it was one I could skip.

Anyway, I'll go back and edit my post with your observations so I'm not spreading my oversights!


What I did was climb Feral to Feline Swiftness, then went to Resto up to Omen, then went back to finish off Feral taking Cat-centric choices before Bear ones since I spent more leveling time as a panther than a grizzly.

Sounds like you have a solid approach.

Gadzilla said...

This tree is my current set up. I selected MoW because of its obvious overall benefits to stats rather than the benefit of a few rage. I rarely find myself starved for rage when tanking. However, I wish they would make an increasable energy recovery while in cat form. :(