What is bear?
The bear is a sub-spec of the feral talent tree and specialized shapeshift form allowing the druid to tank.
The bear’s advantages
- Excellent, even overpowered, single-target threat.
- Traditionally a high-damage tank. This is all to the better in Cataclysm, given how well bear mitigation and avoidance scale with offensive stats (i.e., agility’s effect onVengeance, Savage Defense, and dodge).
- In an interesting reversal of our usual fortunes, we are now the tank with the highest passive magic damage reduction and the highest average avoidance (at least in tier 11).
- The only tank with a cooldown usable while stunned or incapacitated (Barkskin).
- Immune to Polymorph, Seduce, and Disarm (more accurately, the worst effect of Disarm).
- Able to supply Faerie Fire, Mangle’s bleed debuff, a debuff to boss/mob attack speed (Infected Wounds), a debuff to boss/mob melee damage (Demoralizing Roar), and consistent self-healing in addition to a raid critical strike buff (Leader of the Pack).
- When not required to tank, can shift to cat to generate more damage. I will grant that this is a less compelling advantage in the age of dual spec.
- As with all druids, can supply Tranquility, Innervate, and a battle rez to the raid. However, bears are generally the least able to do so at any given time, and the feral Innervate has the approximate effect that a horse tranquilizer would have on Godzilla.
The bear’s disadvantages
- Due to the bear’s lopsided reliance on Mangle and (when permissible) Maul for threat, even one or two misses in the early part of a fight can get hairy. Someone on EJ observed recently that it seems like everything in the bear arsenal is either Mangle or exists solely to make Mangle hit harder, and there’s some truth to that.
- Blizzard’s efforts to nerf the other half of the feral tree often exercise an unfortunate impact on bears. The upcoming patch 4.0.6 is a particularly infuriating example.
- Non-set melee leather in raid content is almost always designed to match rogue tier sets, and we’re usually consigned to hunter-themed polearms for weapons. At best, a feral druid in caster form looks visually schizophrenic; at worst, we look like we hiredLiberace as a personal shopper — a very sad state of affairs for people with fond memories of the Wildfury Greatstaff and Stanchion of Primal Instinct.
- Static form design. The druid is not the class to play if you enjoy seeing what Liberace bought for you in action.
- Bears are the only tank without a ranged silence. While not usually an issue in raids, it can make pulling and positioning mob packs in 5-mans a messy business with impatient or uncooperative DPS.
- Early bear leveling is, to be charitable, a nightmare. There is no AoE threat skill until you get a heavily-nerfed Swipe at level 36, and everything in your arsenal with the exception of Demoralizing Roar is a cooldown until Lacerate at level 66.
- No burst AoE threat outside of a cooldown (Berserk) and no Fear break as of patch 4.0.6.
- Having to compete with DPS for tanking gear can be a huge pain in the ass. While plate tanking gear, jewelry, and trinkets are usually distinguishable by the presence of defensive stats that DPS don’t want, you will find yourself rolling against a legion of cats, rogues, hunters, and enhancement shaman in 5-mans and raids.
- The spec still feels much clumsier these days than I would like. This is entirely a matter of personal opinion, but as someone who’s played both, the bear still feels too much like the warrior tank’s idiot stepchild. The bear is also rarely singled out for praise or even commentary on the Blizzard Tanking forums.
Stats to look for and reforging
Precise stat weights are a function of the gear you’re already wearing, and you’ll need to useRawr to find your own. However, theorycrafters are generally agreed that stat priority is armor, stamina, agility, dodge, mastery, expertise, crit, hit, and haste.
- Armor This reduces melee damage taken and is pretty much your raison d’être as a tank.
- Stamina Slightly less important than it was in the days of go-go effective health Wrath, but still a big deal.
- Agility The bear’s best all-around stat, granting attack power, crit, and dodge (although it no longer grants armor).
- Dodge You will not find native dodge on agility gear, but you should reforge less useful secondary stats into it. Strength tanking jewelry and cloaks will often have it, but it’s rarely worth dropping an agility piece to get. Raw dodge is only ever dodge, whereas agility means bigger Savage Defense shields, more shields, and dodge.
- Mastery Not anywhere near as good as it used to be before the big (and deserved) feral nerf at the end of the Cataclysm beta, but still an excellent stat. Agility pieces with mastery > agility pieces without it.
- Expertise This is a bit like hit, but it works to reduce your target’s avoidance rather than increasing your own chance to hit. Slightly less compelling than it used to be, given that the parry-haste mechanic is now blessedly Gonesville, but still good. The soft cap versus a level 88 (raid boss) is 26 (pushing all dodges off your target’s avoidance table) and the hard cap (pushing all dodges and parries off its table) is 56.
- Critical strike Raw crit isn’t that great, but it does mean more Savage Defense procs.
- Hit Increases your chance to hit, although most of our attacks are “yellow” (i.e., specials) with a greater chance to hit anyway. The bear’s cap versus a level 88 is 961.
- Haste By far the bear’s most useless stat, though Blizzard is considering ways to make it less pointless. For the time being, plan on reforging it into dodge.
How does gearing up work in practice? Look for agility leather with mastery, and reforge the other secondary stat into dodge. You can refrain from reforging expertise or hit if you’re tanking for excellent DPS and you’re worried about threat generation (though this is rarely a concern more than 15 seconds into a fight); just use your best judgment.
Avoid strength tanking jewelry and cloaks unless something has a massive ilevel advantage on whatever you’re already wearing. It’s usable gear in a pinch, but agility is king.
Bear Tanking: The spec
- Feral Faerie Fire for the pull.
- Demoralizing Roar.
- Lacerate three times.
- Pulverize. Yes, it hits like a limp noodle, even with tons of extra attack power fromVengeance.
- At this point, you should have the Feral Faerie Fire, Demo Roar, and Mangle debuffs on the mob, and Pulverize’s critical strike buff on yourself. From here, your aim should be never to let any of these drop.
- Mangle on cooldown. If you’re in a low-rage situation, Feral Faerie Fire on cooldown. Reapply Demo Roar as necessary. Free global cooldowns should be spent on Lacerate. Pulverize whenever you reach three.
- When Berserk procs, Mangle.
- Extra rage can be spent on Maul and/or Thrash. Unfortunately, now that Savage Defense procs have been removed from bleed ticks, there’s no mechanical advantage to Thrashing on a single target, but eh. It’s something to do.
- If you’re AoE tanking, Swipe and Thrash on cooldown. Tab-target around the pull to ensure that threat is distributed evenly.
Rawr will be very helpful for gem choices, but you really can’t go wrong with agility, stamina, dodge, or mastery. Gem for socket bonuses granting either of the three.
- Austere Shadowspirit Diamond The Cataclysm stamina/armor meta gem. Satisfying the yellow gem requirement should be fairly simple with one of the orange gems listed below.
- Polished Ember Topaz A tailor-made bear gem and great all-purpose choice.
- Shifting Demonseye Another good, all-purpose bear gem.
- Delicate Inferno Ruby Pure agility if you’re not concerned about your health.
- Solid Ocean Sapphire Pure stamina if your other stats are fine but you’re worried about your health.
- Puissant Dream Emerald A very useful gem that can be slotted into blue or yellow slots if you’re interested in a socket bonus.
- Adept Ember Topaz Another very useful gem for yellow sockets.
Glyphs are a pretty easy call because there are only three prime glyphs that have any effect on us at all, and the selection of major glyphs is pretty uninspiring.
- Prime Glyph of Lacerate, Glyph of Mangle, and Glyph of Berserk
- Major Glyph of Maul is mandatory for multi-mob tanking. After that, Glyph of Faerie Fire and Glyph of Feral Charge will make your life easier but aren’t really game-changers. Glyph of Frenzied Regeneration is very useful in raids, but the penalty is less inspiring in 5-man content. Glyph of Rebirth should be considered necessary for raid purposes; with combat resurrections limited, you can’t waste one on a player who might die right after the Rebirth.
- Minor Glyph of Challenging Roar is helpful. Otherwise, there are no minor glyphs that have any direct effect on bears. Most feral players traditionally use Glyph of Dash. Glyph of Unburdened Rebirth will save you money on reagents.
Enchant choices are a little less straightforward than they’ve often been in the past; you’ll often get a choice between more effective health and more balanced stats. Again, Rawr is helpful here, as is a little common sense concerning the nature of the content you’re doing.
- Helm Arcanum of the Earthen Ring (requires Earthen Ring revered)
- Shoulders Greater Inscription of Unbreakable Quartz (requires Therazane exalted)
- Cloak Enchant Cloak – Protection or Enchant Cloak – Major Agility. I tend to favor the former.
- Chest Enchant Chest – Greater Stamina or Enchant Chest – Peerless Stats
- Bracers Enchant Bracer – Agility will be the best choice in patch 4.0.6. For the time being, your choices are Enchant Bracers – Dodge or Enchant Bracers – Major Stamina.
- Gloves You’ll have several choices here: Glove Reinforcements, Heavy Savage Armor Kit, Enchant Gloves – Greater Mastery, Enchant Gloves – Major Agility
- Belt Ebonsteel Belt Buckle
- Legs Charscale Leg Armor
- Boots Earthen Vitality or Assassin’s Step
- Weapon Enchant 2H Weapon – Mighty Agility or (if you can afford it) Windwalk
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