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.