Today I’m going to be talking about the basics of the basics when it comes to low-level bear tanking. Later on I’ll get into some tips that I’ve learned in my experience, but the majority of this post will be going into discussion about what spells we get and how to use them. Most of this will be basic on a level bordering inanity, but I feel it’s necessary to assume that at least one person reading this has never touched bear form as this entire blog is dedicated to a lower level of gameplay (as opposed to the level cap).
Quick note: tanking is going… well, it’s going. At the start my two biggest problems with tanking were survivability and maintaining aggro. At around the 20th level most of my aggro problems had been resolved (by better gear and just plain being a higher level) but the survivability issues are still there and in a very big way. This topic warrants a post of its own, but I thought I’d share my experiences so far before getting into the nitty gritty.
After the cut we’ll stop the jabbering and get onto the meat of this post.
When you started your druid, you were not feral. Cursed by the Loa, you were Balance. (Cringe! Horror!) You shot weird green lightning from your hands, shot things with moonstuff, maybe even (shudder!) healed something. The levels wore on, and on, and woefully on, until something magical happened around level 8.
What glee! Exuberance! You could melee! You could rawr! Swipe swipe swipe, and down the Bad Things went, felled beneath your paws. Gnolls ran, the kobolds cried out, and some Defias Henchmen may or may not have peed a little.
Yet, in the back of your mind, something was missing. Some element out of reach. It yearned to be touch, cradled, nurtured to life. And then, not seven levels later (five levels after appropriately choosing the Feral specialization and receiving the boon of Mangle), it came to you, ramming into your mind and heart like some semi-truck made of fur and hate. It was bear form, and suddenly there were no other forms. Caster form was ugly. You’d seen some moonkins and, haw haw, no thanks. Even cat form paled in comparison to this, the truest of forms.
And then you had no idea what to do. What’s a bear even supposed to do? Does it heal? (Maybe with all of its ANGER.) Does it… erm, shoot weird green lightning (OF MALICE)? Maybe it’s a pet class, able to tame hunters (HUNTERS OF RAGE)? Once again, though, clarity shown through the veil of ignorance and you knew. Somehow, you just… you knew, okay man, you had to be there.
The purpose of the bear is to piss Bad Things off and then get really pissed off in return so it can smash their face with his/her massive claws. (They are not paws, I swear to the Loa, they are not paws. Paws are something small kittens have. Poodles have paws, okay? Bears have razorblades attached to chainsaws on their hands. Do you want to cuddle up with that? Do you? Really? You, uh… you got a number?)
This is your calling. You know it to be true. But now the question looms: what the fuck do I do? Well, tiny druid, Papa Paz is gon’ tell you what the fuck you’re gonna do. You want to druid tank, and what’s even more noble is that you want to do it while leveling. Maybe once, maybe for a bit, maybe that’s how you want to level. If any of the above are checked yes, then there’s one thing you need to learn, and it’s something every tank learns sooner or later.
You’re going to fail. You are. Probably more than once. Probably a lot, man. But here’s a secret no one told me when I first started tanking, way back in ’06 on a paladin (yeah, I know right, what a joke that was): that’s okay. It’s okay to be bad for a little bit. It’s okay to fail. To be honest, seriously failing is the only way I know how to improve. Unless I am deep in the shit and crying my eyes out I will not learn a lesson. Sad fact, but very true.
Maybe you’re different. Maybe you’ve got potential to be good at tanking, maybe even at World of Warcraft in general. If you do, I’d like a pound of whatever you’re smoking, ’cause I’ve been playing this Loa-forsaken game for going on 6 years and I’m still kind of terrible. But just because I’m not the best doesn’t mean I can’t give out great information that I sometimes (read: most of the times) don’t follow, right?
You start off at level 15 with four abilities. Let’s take a look at them.
(No rage, 30 yrd range, 8 sec CD)
Learned at level 15
This is it. This is what makes the Bad Things pay attention to you and not the person with the glowy hands or big gun. As a tank, your job will mostly center around you being able to keep the attention (or aggro) of the enemies your party are facing. Growl, in this regard, is the best way to get any monster attacking you. Other abilities make monsters more likely to attack you, but Growl will make them attack you. Savvy?
The 8 second cooldown on Growl is not bad at all, really, unless you’re trying to gain the attention of a lot of Bad Things at once without the boon of AE (Area of Effect – means things that hurt a lot of things, rather than one thing, y’dig?), in which case it’s okay rather than really fucking cool.
How to use at level: I use it to pull, really. Beyond that, use it as mentioned above. It’s a really great ability, and one every tank should be on bended knee over (especially since patch 4.0.1 took away the chance for a taunt to miss).
(15 rage, melee range, 6 sec CD)
Learned at level 15
Mangle. Mangle, Mangle, Mangle. I love Mangle. I really do. It hits like a bastard (when it’s not being dodged, parried, or completely missing) and it puts a sick bleed bonus debuff on the target. Granted, at this level, there are few bleeds that players have access to, but hell, I’m more than okay with this. This is something that we love-level bears want to be spamming. At 15 rage, you’ll more than likely always have enough resources to smash this key when it comes off cooldown (and yes, you should smash it, smash the key down like it stole your car, you are Ghostcrawler and you just saw a paladin so SMASH). There is no downside – at this level – to using this key on every mob you can get your razorblade/chainsaw hands on.
How to use at level: SMASH.
(30 rage, melee range, 3 sec CD)
Learned at level 15
Okay, so you’ve Growled. The Bad Thing is looking at you with its game face on and you’ve got its attention. You’ve Mangled, as well, so it’s on cooldown for a few more seconds. You’re sitting at around 55/60 rage, with a melee hit coming very soon. What now? Maul is what now, son. Maul does not hit as hard as Mangle does, but there are a lot of things going for it: it has a 3 second cooldown, meaning you’re going to be firing a lot of these babies off; it has a sick animation, epitomizes the fury of every bear tank before you; it’s off the GCD, meaning you can hit it whenever you want (rage permitting); Mangle increases its damage; it’s your rage dump and it is your very good friend.
There is one caveat: if you do nothing but spam Maul you will run out of rage. There is no maybe, you will. At this level we are not getting enough rage to justify using it every time it is off cooldown. At 85, when you are tanking raids or 5-man dungeons, this may or may not be a sound thing to do. I say “may be” because I’ve seen people macro it into every attack and do fine, and I’ve seen the opposite. For now, though, use it when you’re above 55 rage and you’ll be fine.
How to use at level: Do you have more than 55/60 rage? Is Mangle on cooldown? Use it, my friend. Maul with impunity.
(10 rage, 10 yards around the caster, no CD)
Learned at level 15
This ability is very weird, guys, because it’s our first real AE ability we get (and the only one we get until Swipe @ level 36) and the only one that is not on a CD until Lacerate (@ level 66). It does no damage, but it reduces the physical damage done by enemies within 10 yards of you by 10%. That’s not bad at all, especially since our defenses are not so great the second you hit dungeons at level 15. You want this debuff on every Bad Thing you’re fighting. The only time I’d say not to use it is when you have a savvy warlock in your group casting Curse of Weakness on bosses.
How to use at level: Let’s say you’re coming up on a pull with four monster: run in, or pull with Growl, and Demo Roar when you can get all of them around you. Demoralizing Roar does, in fact, generate aggro on targets, thought not a whole lot at all. Just using Demo Roar on a mob will not get it to pay attention to you for more than half a second, but that half second should be all you need to tab and key up a Growl/Maul/Mangle and keep that sucker stuck on you for glue.
I… I think I’m done for now. I have an idea to do mini-strats for… oh God, maybe all of the low-level dungeons. It’ll be a guide geared towards ANY tanks, not just the bears, so look out for that when I’ve decided to waste my life away crawling more dungeons to do these things. (I also have other ideas for posts that I just need to get started on. Expect frequent updates for the time being, as I’m just crawling with ideas.)