Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Primer on Bear Tanking (Part 3, the Spec and Glyphs)

I previously went over how to play with a bear, and the mechanics of bear tanking. We'll follow this up with an in-depth look at the spec and glyphs, and then finish up with a look at bear gear.

The Spec

I'm going to present a bear-focused spec.  If you want a tanking/dps hybrid, you'll want to shift a few points around.  I'll try to mention which ones you might want to take for that, but keep in mind I'm doing this as a bear, not a cat/bear hybrid.

Here is the spec I am currently running.  It's probably not perfect, but given the nature of WoW I don't think any spec is particularly perfect.  I'll step through what I've taken, what I haven't taken, and what I might change to, one talent at a time.  The only talents in the Balance tree that might be of any use are too far down it to justify taking points in that tree, so I won't bother going through it.  I'll start with the Restoration tree and talk about what you want there, then dig through the entire feral tree.

You want to get to the 3rd level of the Restoration tree.  Omen of Clarity is pretty darned good.  Most places I've read and seen offer a couple of different looks, but almost every one includes that.  So here goes on the resto tree.

Level 1:
Improved Mark of the Wild, 2/2:  I used to skip this, because, hey I'm a bear I don't need to worry about being the person buffing the team, since my guild usually has at least one boomkin and tree along as well.  Then I realized that it increases all attributes by 2%.  I'll take a free extra 2% stamina, agility, and strength please, and thank you.
Nature's Focus, 0/3:  This should be obvious.  It is not even remotely useful to a feral druid.
Furor 3/5: You have to get to 5 points to get to the 2nd level.  Depending on exactly how you lay out your points, you could put 5/5 in this, though, if you wanted.  In my opinion, you aren't going to shapeshift mid-fight, however, and if you really, REALLY need that 10 rage to start a fight you can always shift a few times to get it before charging, not to mention enrage/barkskin.

Level 2:
Naturalist, 5/5: 10% damage in all forms is good mmkay?  This is arguably one of the best reasons to be in the resto tree as a bear.
Subtlety, 0/3: Not a feral druid talent.
Natural Shapeshifter, 0/3: In the 0/55/16 builds I sometimes see, this is taken so that you can get to Master Shapeshifter.  I'm considering moving a few points around to do that, but we'll talk about that in level 3.

Level 3:
Intensity, 0/3: The only reason to take this as a feral druid is if you are seriously always out of rage, even after an enrage... and if you're that badly out of rage, you're not doing it right.
Omen of Clarity, 1/1:  This is, in my humble opinion, the biggest reason to get this far down in the resto tree.  Randomly getting rage-free abilities is awesome, hands down.
Master Shapeshifter, 0/2: As I said above, some 0/55/16 builds take this.  I've always kind of thought it was more of a hybrid cat/bear ability, but I may shift some points out of the feral tree to take it.  5 talent points seems a lot to get 4% damage, but you have to decide if the points you are losing to get it is worth the 4% damage.

And that's it for the resto tree, as a bear.  You don't want to and cannot afford to spend more points in the resto tree, if you want to be a solid bear tank, at least, this bear thinks so.  On to the feral tree!

Level 1:
Ferocity, 5/5:  Maul costs 15 rage, and Swipe and Mangle each cost 20.  A 25 - 33% reduction in the rage costs of your most used abilities goes a long way to making you a viable tank.  Always take this.
Feral Aggression, 0/5: The bear side of this ability, increasing the attack power reduction of demoralizing roar, just doesn't do enough to make it useful.  Very occasionally, massive groups of adds would make this talent worthwhile, but otherwise the limited reduction of the base ability just doesn't make this talent worth it.

Level 2:
Feral Instinct, 3/3:  See Savage Fury.
Savage Fury, 2/2:  Both this and Feral Instinct increase damage output, which for a bear, means increased threat.  The first is important for AOE threat with Swipe, and the second for single-target threat.  I consider these must-haves.
Thick Hide, 3/3:  We need all the mitigation we can get our hands on.  10% to armor is a requirement to bear tank.

Level 3:
Feral Swiftness, 2/2:  Dodge is our only avoidance stat.  Required talent.
Survival Instincts, 1/1:  Perhaps the most important part of our "oh sh_t" buttons.  Required talent.
Sharpened Claws, 3/3:  Critical strike chance is very important for bears, providing rage and threat generation as well as mitigation, and this talent gives us access to a couple other talents we want.  Required talent.

Level 4:
Shredding Attacks, 2/2:  I may move these points elsewhere.  Reducing the rage cost of Lacerate seems pretty good for most Ulduar/ToC content, but reducing it by only 2 may not be worth the talent points.  I would recommend this talent as much more important for hybrid kitty builds.
Predatory Strikes, 3/3:  Increases your attack power (which is both a threat statistic and a mitigation statistic for a bear) by a reasonably significant amount, and gives access to Heart of the Wild, which will be required.
Primal Fury, 2/2:  Remember how I said critical strike is a rage generation stat?  This is why.
Primal Precision, 2/2:  10 expertise (not expertise rating) reduces total enemy avoidance by 5% if Wowwiki is to be believed.  I wasn't running with this before, but I believe this is worth it and took it with gusto in my last respec.

Level 5:
Brutal Impact, 0/2:  I go back and forth on whether this talent is worthwhile.  Bears only get 1 interrupt, and having it up more often is a good thing.  Then again, if you're having to rely on your bear for interrupts, you're probably hurting anyway.  I pass.
Feral Charge, 1/1:  Take this.  Getting into the middle of things very fast is a good thing for a bear.
Nuturing Instinct, 0/2:  You are not healing, and you are not a kitty.  Hybrid kitties don't even want this.  I doubt even pure kitties want this.

Level 6:
Natural Reaction, 3/3:  This is an important cog in our machine, both for avoidance and rage generation.  Take it.
Heart of the Wild, 5/5:  Bears get more stamina for a reason.  This helps us even more.  Must have.  Good for hybrids, too, as it increases attack power.
Survival of the Fittest, 3/3:  I'm not sure where this will be going forward, as Blizzard has stated they are removing defense rating and the point of this talent was to remove a druid tank's need to hit the defense cap.  But that's then.  For now, this is required and does remove the need for a bear to worry about defense rating.  Even without that, though, this talent is worth it since it increases all attributes (yay more stamina and agility!) as well as armor.

Level 7:
Leader of the Pack, 1/1:  A free 5% crit for the entire party or raid?  Yes, please.
Improved Leader of the Pack, 2/2:  This is part of the reason critical strike is a mitigation stat for bears.  The healing is minimal, but added up across the raid it can cause quite a bit of healing, and for us as bears it is yet another way in which we will slow down the hp loss during a fight.
Primal Tenacity, 0/3: This is more of a pvp talent than anything else.  Fear reduction is nice, but in most cases where you care, Berserk will get you through the fear that matters and it's gravy from there.

Level 8:
Protector of the Pack, 3/3:  More attack power, and one of the few ways we have to mitigate spell damage.  Too good to pass up.
Predatory Instincts, 0/3:  Purely a kitty talent.  Ignore at will.
Infected Wounds, 3/3:  These are 3 points that may get moved elsewhere.  I've seen arguments both ways on whether it's worthwhile or not.  The slowing effect is marginal, but I think the attack speed reduction is useful.

Level 9:
King of the Jungle, 0/3:  You should not be enraging in combat unless absolutely necessary, and you should not be shifting in and out of form in combat either.  This is a pretty good talent for hybrid builds, but not useful to a pure bear.
Mangle, 1/1:  Highly important ability for both kitties and bears.  A cog in our threat rotation wheel and does a solid amount of damage as well.
Improved Mangle, 3/3:  These are another three points that may get taken elsewhere.  I wouldn't consider it if I were going for a hybrid build, but as a bear it's not a required talent.  Whether or not you take it affects your optimum threat and damage rotations, but if you feel the points are better spent elsewhere it's not so much of a loss here.

Level 10:
Rend and Tear, 5/5:  Another important piece of threat generation, and damage (especially for hybrids).  Take all 5.
Primal Gore, 1/1:  Gives us another method to get critical strikes, and one that will continue to tick regardless of whether we're still attacking the target, at least until the Lacerate stack wears off.  It's more than worth 1 measly point.

Level 11:
Berserk, 1/1:  Not quite as important for bears as it is for kitties, but still important.  Blow it early on single-target mobs for increased threat and damage, or save it for 3-target threat to hold down aggro versus AOE.  Alternatively, in any situation, use it to protect yourself from, or break out of, fear.

The Glyphs

As a bear tank, there are 2 major glyphs that are very, very important to have.  They make your emergency buttons so much better - these are the Glyph of Survival Instincts, and the Glyph of Frenzied Regeneration.  I've heard some bears are dropping the SI glyph.  I don't think it's worth it, but I can understand why.  (If you need the emergency button that badly.... you're already in trouble).

The other three glyphs that can enter the conversation from the major glyph standpoint are Glyph of Maul, Glyph of Growl, and Glyph of Berserk.  Berserk is best suited for hybrid builds, as kitties get more use out of it.  Some folks prefer Growl for Ulduar, for situations where you rarely need the second Maul target and really absolutely need your Growl not to miss.  I personally prefer Maul as I don't have a lot of issues with Growl missing already.

From the minor glyph standpoint, the only glyph of real note is the Glyph of Challenging Roar, to decrease the cooldown on your mass taunt.  I fill in the last slots with glyphs I find randomly useful, specifically Glyph of Unburdened Rebirth and Glyph of Acquatic Form.  Glyph of Thorns should also be considered.

If you've stuck with me this far, stay tuned for part 4 where I'll cover gear, enchanting, and gemming, but first up I'll share some thoughts on GearScore and similar addons, and later I'll get to T10 set bonuses from the PTR.

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