How to Mangle: low-level bear talents circa lvl 30

Hello again, friends.

Something that a lot of people misunderstand is what it takes to be a tank. As a warrior, does a shield make you able to tank? Is it the skill derived from years and years of practice? A lot of people are of the mindset that only the “best” or better players than themselves tank and that any trial on their part is wasted effort. This partly stems from the pressure we put on tanks we run with, be they PUGs or guildies, and also from the stories we tell that glorify our tanks to others. Those more in the know understand that while tanking may not be all that difficult there is a definite burden placed upon their shoulders and thus have no qualms about not wanting to tank.

For a bear, unlike a warrior or paladin, we simply cannot shapeshift and be raid-ready or even dungeon-ready. What separates a cat from a bear, both spec’d Feral, is how we apply our talent points. We have no parry, no traditional block (our “block” being our mastery and inferior to a warrior/paladin), and no more massive health pools relative to other tanks; this puts the onus all on our talents and how they reduce the incoming damage we take.

With the Cataclysm revamp of talent trees it has become even harder to mess up any one build. If you are speccing for DPS you take all the +damage talents you can find and choose any utility talents which looks good to you. The same could be said for healing and tanking to an extent. Even still on my holy paladin I find bear after bear, warrior after warrior, paladin after paladin with a spec which makes no sense and gearing like a hummingbird whose veins were pure LSD. While I can go off cursory knowledge I’ve absorbed by those better than I to tell warriors/paladins how they can improve (DKs be warned: I’ve tried to tank as your class and I’ve done OK, but then I’ve tried to study what it takes to DK-tank at higher levels and OH GOD WHAT THE FUCK BLOOD STRIKE so I’m pretty clueless at your class), they are not what I know in my gut… but bears are. I know bears, baby, and I can help you talent.

CONGRATS, YOU’VE REACHED LEVEL 10

Rather than Balance Express or Restoration Bus you’ve taken the Feral Train to bear town and I’ll be your conductor on this joyous ride.

One of the first things you’ll notice when you specialize into the Feral tree is that you gain access to four abilities, three of which are good for us bears: the first is Mangle, which we’ve discussed before; Aggression, a 25% bonus to our attack power; and Vengeance, a wonky little thing that allows us to gain attack power based on how hard we get hit (up to 10% of our base health). We care little for Prowling as a kitty, so we’ll gloss over that.

Since I’ve only gotten to level 30 with my guides, I’ll only focus on the first 11 talent points you’ll use as a RDF tanking bear. Until level 29 (our 11th talent point) we have only 2 talents that help us out with survivability while the rest will focus on rage generation. It’s hard to critique talents this low on the tree without understanding that some/most have secondary effects that other druids may or may not take should they choose (they should not), but the fact that it takes 14 levels of tanking to get any kind of pure damage reduction talent irks me quite a bit. Perhaps I’ll feel less inclined towards anger later on when the RDF tanking tribulations of Pazdingo have lost their sheen in my memory, but for the moment they’re fresh and I’m pretty damn irritated.

This is the talent selection I strongly recommend at level 29:

Let’s dig a little deeper, why don’t we?

LEVELS 10-11: Feral Swiftness. This is an incredible talent to get so quickly into our tree. Any bear not taking this talent should be shot and skinned for their blasphemy. If you’ve read it and are still confused, I’ll be brief: you get 4% extra dodge. There it is, folks. 4% extra dodge. Any extra of our best avoidance stat is a good thing. Another good thing is that it scales, so as we get more dodge we’ll see a bigger increase via this talent.

LEVELS 13-17: Furor. This is an amazing way to gain rage from zero. You should be using it in conjuncture with Enrage at the start of most pulls when you have no rage. It’s also a boon when you decide to quest for a bit while waiting for RDF queues, since all you need to do is pop Cat Form and bam diggity bam you have 100 energy.

LEVELS 19-21: Primal Fury. I took this first, as opposed to the other three options, because it is a very good tanking talent. 5 rage from any critical attack is nothing to scoff at, despite the fact that crit only becomes very good at a much higher level. Since we wear rogue/low-level hunter/shaman gear, we’ll see some crit on our gear, so why not make it count?

LEVELS 23-25: Infected Wounds. This is a very nice tanking talent. It applies a debuff that reduces the target’s movement speed by 50% and reduces the attack speed of the target by 20%. What we care about is the latter effect, which will overall reduce the incoming damage coming from the Big Bads. More goodness.

LEVELS 27-29: Two abilities: Feral Aggression & Thick Hide. The first ability is a decent threat boost in that it reduces the amount of time it takes for us to apply three stacks of Faerie Fire (Feral). FF(F) is something we always want on the boss or as many monsters as we can get it on to increase the damage done to them. What’s not to love?

The second ability is something I want to spend a little time on. At level 29 we’re allowed access to the third tier of talents, giving you a bevy of abilities to choose from. The problem is that only two of them are actually good for bears, while the other two are pretty crummy given the other choices we have. The two that we will eventually fill out are the aforementioned Thick Hide and Feral Charge. Thick Hide is a glorious talent which does a great number of things: the first is that it increases the armor we get from our gear by 10%; the second is that it increases the armor we have while in bear form by a whipping 78%, something which was increased pretty recently in the expansion; the third is that it makes us immune to Bad Things critting us. All things are amazing for tanking, while Feral Charge only lets us run fast on a 15 second CD. Given that, which would you choose as a bear leveling through RDF? (Hint: you want Thick Hide.)

All in all, by level 29 and 30 you should be seeing a great increase in the amount of damage you can take and your threat. You won’t have Swipe yet but you’ll be much more able to hold onto a few things with the glyph’d Maul and liberal applications of FF(F)/Mangle. Things will not be perfect, but know that it is doable.

Please, if you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments. I’m but a humble servant, here to help.

How to bear tank: levels 21 – 30

Paz at level 60. Yay!
Well hello there, friends. It’s been a while and I apologize for that. I haven’t been on Twitter that much nor have I had any real time to spend on the internet rather than my two-night raids. Even if I don’t know you, will never meet you, or you never comment on this blog, I feel like I have to say: you are my friends, and I enjoy this sometimes one-sided dialogue we have. I enjoy blogging and I wish to continue it for the foreseeable future. My job in that regard is to talk a lot, and that’s something I plan on doing no matter how busy my life has a tendency to get sometimes.

Since my last “How to Bear Tank” post a little bit has happened: I was linked by WoWInsider and got at least 1.8k hits on that very day, I’ve had family issues to deal with, and my job started getting really busy. The last two have little to do with my internetlife and, honestly, aren’t that big of a deal. The post that was linked (You are a good tank.) got comment after comment agreeing with me, telling me how refreshing it was to see a call to decency in a game that can be very harsh. It was nice to get validated by part of the community. I’d also be lying if I told you that I didn’t get a smallish panic attack when I noticed the spike in traffic. It’s almost as if I had no idea that putting words out on the internet could cause people to, I don’t know, read them and take notice (no matter how small).

For this installment I’m going to be looking at levels 21 – 30 or bear tanking and, more specifically, how to do it well. I’ll talk about how to use the new abilities you’re going to get and the glyph system you’ll be introduced to at level 25. Tomorrow I’ll be discussing talent point allocation and (time permitting) the dungeons you’ll run in your 20th season. My main goal here is to help, so if I’m wrong about anything drop a line in the comments and let me know what I need to fix so that anyone reading this will have an accurate guide.

Let’s dive into the abilities first.

LEVEL 22
ENRAGE
(No rage, self-cast, 1 min CD)

Enrage is a tool that some would say is very outdated. Like our Warrior brothers (before Shouts gave rage) it allows us to push a button and generate a decent amount of rage. Unfortunately this comes at a cost: for 10 seconds (the entire time you’re gaining rage) you take 10% more damage. Sometimes this can be a terrible thing – other times it will go unnoticed by you or your healers. My personal opinion is to get into the habit of never using it beyond the first pull so that you won’t have to think too hard about when to use it.

Another thing to grasp is what to do after an Enrage/Furor. After popping Enrage and waiting 10 seconds you will have 40 rage. The worst thing you could do is run into a pack of mobs and slam Maul. Ideally you’ll run in/LOS/do whatever needs to be done, Mangle and Growl if there are multiple targets, and wait until your second auto-attack until pressing Maul. (If you’ll remember my last article on bear tanking, you want to Maul over 55/60 rage and not less.)

How to use at level: You’re staring at a group of four mobs and your rage is at zero. Seems like to perfect time to hit Enrage and rush in, right? Wait! You’re forgetting about Furor! (What’s that? I forgot to talk about talent point allocation? FUCK DAMN IT) This wonderful little talent gives us 10 free rage just for shifting into razorblade!bear form. So, let’s rewind our scenario: shift out of bear form and immediately shift back in (I’d highly recommend keybinding this to an accessible key), smash Enrage, wait a few seconds and wreak bloody havoc on the Bad Things.

LEVEL 22
SKULL BASH
(15 rage, 13 yrd range, 1 min CD)

Our interrupt. I love this thing. I also enjoy the fact that we get it early as a reminder that, yes, we can interrupt and that, yes, we should be every chance we get. Keep in mind that until patch 4.1 our interrupts cost rage and have a chance to miss. When the patch drops in a month and a half/two months it will cost no rage and never miss. Now, while leveling we may be hard-pressed to find gear with +Hit, but I’d be lying if I said my Skull Bash missed all that much in dungeons. (Anecdotal evidence! Shame!) It gets worse when you hit the level cap, but while we’re coasting along in Gnomer or Scarlet Monastery we should not have that much of a problem with interrupting.

Side note: the 1 minute cooldown is nothing to worry about. Brutal Impact reduces the cooldown of the ability by 50 seconds, putting the ability in line with other melee interrupts at 10 seconds. The highest level you can reach this talent is at 39, though I’d suggest waiting until 41/43 until filling it out because Leader of the Pack is so awesome. Once 4.1 comes out and Skull Bash can no longer miss this talent will be mandatory for anyone who enjoys being a bigger asset to your group/raid other than being the fuzzy meatsponge.

How to use at level: Bad Thing casting KILL TANK DEATH CLEAVE? Skull Bash that mothersucker, yo.

LEVEL 24
FAERIE FIRE (FERAL)
(No rage, 30 yrd range, 6 sec CD)

Faerie Fire is an ability the we druids get that allows us to reduce the armor of our opponent by 4% of each stack, stacking up to 3 times. Faerie Fire (Feral) is what we, the bear and cat druids, get to use. The only difference between the two is that (Feral) can be used in, SHOCK, feral forms. Feral Aggression makes this ability very handy for us bears as it allows us to dump all three stack of FF(F) on our target at once, giving us a goodly amount of threat and 12% armor reduction on our target.

How to use at level: I use it to pull, mostly. Once you get this ability I would strongly suggest doing the same, as having Growl off CD just in case something bad happens is a great way to plan ahead. As a tank, you’ll be required to plan ahead with such things, so learning them as you’re leveling is a Very Good Thing, indeed. (It’s also decent for a Low Rage Rotation, in which case you use it when you have very little rage but still need to build threat. FF(F) is no slacker when it comes to threat, so never be afraid to use it or spread the debuff around.)

LEVEL 28
CHALLENGING ROAR
(15 rage, 10 yrd range, 3 min CD)

Challenging Roar is a lot like our old friend Growl only it works on every monster within 10 yards of you. How cool is that, guys? Give up? It’s very fucking cool. The 3 minute CD keeps us from being too liberal with its usage, but that does not mean you should be stingy with it if it happens to be off CD and you have no other way to get aggro quick enough. At level 28 you’ll have one AE ability (Glyph’d Maul, which we’ll discuss later) and a worn-out Tab key, so this ability is a godsend for those pulls gone terrible.

How to use at level: Like I said before: don’t be stingy with it, but think about when you use it. If you’re up against three melee monsters, should you really be using Challenging Roar when you can FF(F) one, Growl another, and Mangle the last? I save it for times when two groups get pulled (mostly by DPS who enjoy kissing the floor) or the pull just plain goes wrong. Though that’s my preference, I’m sure you’ll find a sweet spot to give this ability all the love it deserves.

LEVEL 29(?)
FERAL CHARGE
(5 rage, 8 – 25 yrd range, 15 sec CD)

What’s that, an ability not trained but learned from talent points?! Paz, you cry, you’ve gone mad! Mad with the jungle-fever! And to that I retort: yes, I am mad from jungle-fever, but this is no error in judgment. The simple fact is that I forgot to mention how to spec your new bear tank last article and I’m rectifying that very soon. The other simple fact is that it is possible to get Feral Charge at level 29 (though I do not recommend it).

Feral Charge is a fun little thing known as a “gap closer”. For those less educated about context clues, a gap closer is something one can use to get to a monster or opposing player in PVP much faster. (Not to be confused with a snare or root.) Feral Charge costs 5 rage (a relic from when the ability used to interrupt spell-casting as well as rush your furry butt towards a monster/player) and makes you go all “zoom zooooom” towards whatever you are targeting. It’s fun, guys, it really is. You become this chainsaw-equipped death machine, a furry panzerbjorn with a damn rocket strapped to your back, a tank most quick, a metaphor similie metaphor, and it’s so fucking awesome I don’t understand it.

BUT WHAT I DO FOR GLYPHS PLZ

Glad you asked.

At level 25 you gain access to glyphs. Glyphs, in a nutshell, are scrolls you can get from Scribes (who have learned the primary profession Inscription) that are used to augment your existing abilities. Some glyphs make an ability do something else entirely, sometimes they just lower the cooldown, other times they make abilities stronger. What each glyph does depends entirely the glyph in question, as you’d guess.

There are three types of glyphs:

PRIME GLYPHS – These are glyphs which are very easy to understand: they make some of your abilities stronger. These glyphs make things hit harder, heal harder, be harder, etc etc.
MAJOR GLYPHS – These are sometimes easy to understand: most of the times they add additional things to your abilities which can sometimes be useful and sometimes not. Major Glyphs, unlike Prime Glyphs, are not so easy to confine within the realms of “good” and “bad”. Half of the time, depending on your class and spec, Major Glyphs are preference rather than “U MUST TAKE THIS NAO”.
MINOR GLYPHS – These glyphs are extremely easy to understand: they do small things, things which will never make or break the way you tank or heal or do damage.

At level 25 you gain access to one glyph each. Depending on your server or guild you may have to go to the Auction House to get some. Once again, depending on your server, these glyphs can range from between 3 gold and 300 gold. Just know that at level 25 the only glyph that will make a huge difference is Glyph’d Maul. The other ones I mention will not make or break your tanking, but that doesn’t mean you should forget about them: keep an eye on the AH to see them dip when the market is inevitably flooded for a short time.

Recommended Glyphs:
Prime Glyph – Mangle This glyph is easy: it makes Mangle hit things harder. What’s not to love?
Major Glyph – Maul Another easy one: it makes your Maul hit two targets, giving you a very much welcome “AE” at level 25. This will not make things infinitely easier, but it will certainly make your life a little less stressful.
Minor Glyph – Challenging Roar The only bear Minor Glyph with any real purpose: with this your Challenging Roar ability is reduced by 30 seconds, giving it a 2 minute 30 second cooldown. It’s nothing game-breaking but it’s a nice little quality of life glyph.

That’s all for today, friends. Tomorrow I’ll have a post up midday talking about talent points and the benefits we get just from choosing to play the best tanking class in the game.

- Paz

Hello world!

Hello. I am going to be performing an experiment.

As luck would have it, this experiment involves playing a lot of World of Warcraft and writing about it. (Nothing strenuous here, no sir, not from me.) Specifically it involves playing a druid (spec’d Feral to tank) and leveling him through the Dungeon Finder.

Why, you may ask?

A number of reasons: I love bears. I really do. As a tanking class, I love the fierceness of tanking with no heavy plate armor, no shield, no gleaming swords: only your claws, your powerful bite, and your thick fur stand between the hulking boss before you and your squishy friends. You growl, they listen. Your roar intimidates even the greatest of dragons. From your claws drip destruction: a fury more righteous than any paladin, more bestial than any warrior, more blood-caked than any death knight. You are, singularly, the Tank. Your body is your weapon, and you wield it with extreme mastery. (I just got chills, guys, feel my arms.)

But there exists a problem greater than any one person’s love for a class/spec: bears are damn hard to tank as while leveling. Our AE is very silly until we get Thrash at 81 (limited to tab-targeting on a level no other tank has to deal with), our defense is paper-thin until we get our critical dodge talents around the 30th/50th level, and our fundamental “tanking buttons” (Frenzied Regeneration, Barkskin, Survival Instincts, etc.) do not come into play until very high levels. Up until these three things are remedied, tanking on a bear can be hard, requiring more attentiveness and a sharp eye to keep threat on more than three targets. The learning curve is far too high for newer players, in essence.

So… exactly how hard is it to bear tank at a low-level? As much as I can guess, I don’t know. That’s why I’m starting this experiment, to see how far the ball has been dropped on low-level bear tanking or to see how out of proportion the experience has been made into.

I’m starting a new druid, no heirlooms, no gold, no powerleveling, on my home server,  Earthen Ring-US. (Edit: Pazdingo has been made.)

CRITICAL FINAL NOTE: There won’t be anything brain-wrenchingly new on this blog, or even anything remotely new. Everything I say, have said, or will say has been done before by people smarter than I am, with degrees in World of Warcraft Theorycraft. If you’re looking for in-depth analysis on bears, tanking “rotations” or stat priorities, or anything hereby deemed Smart, I encourage you to check elsewhere. All I can give is my impressions of mechanics, encounters, and tanking tips. Someday soon I will compile a list of blogs/resources that know far more about bear tanking than I do, with the hopes that anyone searching online can find what they are looking for.

Thank you, and welcome to Tusks&All!

OHAI! o/

- Paz