We’ve got a wall of changes staring at us from down the road, and it’s going to be very interesting to see how folks roll with it.
Talked about it before, should be no surprise to anyone that our armor multiplier from Survival of the Fittest is getting cut in half.
We’re also losing some of our Stamina buff from Heart of the Wild in Bear form.
It should also come as no surprise by now that we are getting a bubble (Savage Defense) whose strength is 25% of your Attack Power, and which supposedly procs every time you land a Critical Strike. I’m not on the PTR, I don’t have the time, but I’m sure someone will rush to tell us if there has been a hidden cooldown timer on the bubble procs, or if they proc on EVERY Crit.
Not that I’m all that concerned. Either Savage Defense will balance out the loss of health and armor, and successfully do what Blizz seems to want and make us work harder on chasing gear upgrades, or it won’t. What we see live will give us the answer in due time.
What may surprise you from the PTR is the discovery that our Swipe continues to affect an unlimited number of targets… but now does NOT require a target to be selected. It has become a simple 360° AoE with an 8 yard range, untargeted.
I think that bears repeating.
Swipe is no longer a targeted attack with a frontal arc. It is now an 8 yard 360° AoE.
I see this as being a pretty significant change to how I actually play my bear in tight situations, and maybe you will feel the same if you’re one of us mid-content players. By mid-content, I mean those folks at level 80 who play in 5 man heroic instances, 10 man raids, and the occasional 25 man pug.
Right now, I am quite accustomed… nay, happy… with playing my bear tank as I do, with a targeted frontal arc Swipe. It’s a flavor thing.
I know that it’s quite different as a mechanism than other methods, and while there are of course certain challenges, there are also rewards.
In it’s current form, it’s not, in my mind, any better or worse than other AoE threat generating methods. Just different. It’s… well, it’s bearish.
For example, right now Paladins drop a stationary Consecrate that ticks threat. Mobs can run through it without taking a tick, and not get held up. Likewise for Death and Decay. These two methods of group threat generation are extremely strong continuous threat generators with a 360° field of affect, and their only drawback is they lack mobility.
On top of that, Paladins have had to face the fact that, yes, their Consecrate pulls in a 360° area, but their Shield does not protect them from attacks from any opponents in the rear. Paladins are quite vulnerable to being taken from behind without protection.
(Yes, Graimerin, that joke was for you. You know you like it. lol.)
Also, in close quarters, stationary continuously ticking 360° threat can make the use of Crowd Control quite difficult, if not outright impossible.
On the other side of the tanking spectrum, Swipe has, up until 3.1 goes live, been quite different in technique and effect.
With Swipe, you are not throwing down a field of hate. Instead, you are specifically targeting one mob within your range, and then attacking it, and everyone near him within a frontal arc centered on that target, and all those additional targets may actually be outside your normal physical attack range, but they’ll still get affected by the effects of Swipe.
Swipe is not a passive field you lure the timid daisies into before ravaging them unmercifully. It’s an intentionally timed attack that lasts for the space of a single smackdown, and can let you herd your wayward charges wherever you desire.
Allow me to describe a typical scene for the non-bears in our audience to illustrate my point.
A nice little typical five man run. A group of four mobs ahead.
Say we in the group are all new to heroics, and these guys hit like the Steeler’s offensive line.
Time for a quick three second decision on pull tactics.
One of them is a ranged caster, so he’d be squishy, go down fast… but if we CC him, we’d be lining up the three highest hit point/high armor targets for our first three kills, which will potentially drag the fight out long enough for the CC on ranged doofus number one to expire.
If it does expire without us noticing while mixing it up in melee, or if the three we are fighting give us more troubles that we expected, we might end up with a glass cannon lighting us up that won’t come a-running when I Growl.
I set up for a ranged line of sight pull, intending to dart forward, nail the closest one (that is not the necessarily the marked skull first kill target, he’s just the closest; ranged boy will be my first kill target) with a Feral Faerie Fire.
Why Feral Faerie Fire? Well, I know that Growl does not actually CAUSE threat, it only pops your threat higher than any other person your target is currently aware of. So it’s kinda useless to use as a pull, especially if the Healer throws any kind of ticking heal or stat increasing buff on you afterward. If you pop a Growl on one target and then switch to a different target to start fighting… any heals you get will send that first mob off after the new highest threat person out there likety split. But you knew that already.
Anyway, there is a Mage in the group with me, so as I line up on the mobs at extreme range, I mark the caster as a Skull for our priority kill, and mark one of the most distant melee bullyboys as a sheep target.
I ask the Mage to be prepared to sheep one after I do my pull.
Why after? Sheep causes Threat, so if you have the Mage do a Sheep pull… all the baddies will love the Mage long time. I’m the jealous kind, I want all their lovin’ for myself.
Gimme all your lovin’, all your hugs and kisses too.
So, I’m lined up. I give the Mage a split-second verbal warning so she can begin her long 1.5 second Sheep cast, then I send in my FFF on the closest one, and run like hell away and get around a corner, out of line of sight, and wait for my idiot targets to come running around the corner to me, including my bestest buddy, Mr Caster Who Wants His Face Ripped Clean Off.
As they go running past the party chasing after me, ignoring everyone else because they are quietly standing there whispering to themselves “you can’t see me I’m not here you can’t see me I’m not here you can’t…” the Mage has been casting Sheep, and it goes off on the run.
So there I am, facing two melee and one very squishy ranged…
I make sure I have the very closest mob targeted so when he rounds the corner, my first Swipe goes off fast and lays down a base foundation of threat on all three to counteract initial global healing aggro and bad targeting decisions from the DPS. Not that I’m saying I expect the DPS to be unloading all out damage on the wrong targets a millisecond after the mobs reach me… okay, yes I am saying that.
I change targets if necessary and spike a Mangle into the forehead of caster-boy ’cause I want him to lay down and die first, I prime a Maul to go off that will do tons of damage (for me) AND help build even more threat on one of the other two melee, fire off another Swipe to keep building up group threat, and get a FFF going on my caster main target, global cooldown permitting.
I toss a glance at the displayed targets of each of my team members, a helpful tool that XPerl provides in the party display, so I can tell if someone is, in fact, on the wrong damn target.
Wow, everyone is on target, and caster boy be going down. Yay us!
So, there you have a truly typical line of sight pull around a corner, with CC safely out of range of Swipe. A caster was selected as the first kill target due to his potential damage output being all out of proportion to his health, and rapidly burnt down.
Ah, but what if someone accidentally tags the Sheeped melee, baaing his little heart out, and he springs up and runs around the corner into melee range of the Healer or the Mage before the Mage can get another 1.5 second Sheep cast off again?
If I had Consecrate or Death and Decay, then I would now simply be a singer in a rock and roll band, and tank the extra groupie.
Instead, I have an intelligently controlled, directionally targeted group threat that only fires when I tell it to.
I use my ranged Growl to bring the groupie… err, I mean target, over to me. I give it a cursory Mangle to get it’s attention, and then switch auto-attack to the next true kill target and ask the Mage to reSheep. I stop Swiping and I stop Maul, because I want to control who I am applying threat to. I will restrict myself to Mangle and Lacerate on my kill target until Sheep goes off.
I ask the group to ease off on all heals and AoE, I let the Mage finish the Sheep… and I drag my posse of zombies back a bit, move through them, turn around, and get them all nice and repositioned just the way I like it with the Sheeped mob behind me… and with another Swipe we’re back in business. Even in close quarters.
I have the power to choose how I use my abilities, and can tailor my choices to fit a changing tactical situation in a way that feels, to me, to be somewhat bear-like.
When I Swipe right now, I’m slashing the group in front of me. I can relate to that. It feels… it feels like being a bear.
Using a Consecrate is not worse, of course. It’s just different. It’s a different playstyle than what I’ve gotten used to, with it’s own inherent mechanics. It is absolutely not inferior.
For a Bear Tank, having a 360° threat AoE that does not require a targeted opponent to be within range in front of you will be a powerful buff to our ability to pull in and hold mobs consistently, AND we will be able to control when it goes off.
I have no complaints. It is NOT bear consecrate. At least, not unless they really change the hell out it, and I see no signs of that happening yet.
However, it bears reminding everyone that, if the enemy is behind you, YOU CANNOT DODGE. As you are also not Parrying or Blocking… you’re still gonna need to move that big bear butt when you get surrounded. Mobility is still a factor, even if you can now be confident that if it’s within 8 yards, you tagged it.
I just want to be clear about this… I’m not unhappy with the change. It’s a buff to our threat on multiple mobs, and I’m sure that after I get used to the small changes, it’s going to be a welcome addition to my arsenal of tanking.
In the above example, the only real change will be that if I am in quarters too tight to move more than 8 yards away from the Sheep target, I’ll just stand and tank it and forget trying to re-establish CC. Facing away from the Sheep mob won’t help.
No, I don’t regret the coming change, in terms of my effectiveness.
Humor me, however, as I take a single moment to cherish my current bear dancing manuevers in the dark, as I thrive on the fun of using facing and backstepping and a directional Swipe to be a nimble old bear while I tank my groups. It’s fun, it keeps me hopping, and while I do admit that 9 times out of 10 the standard fast pull overgeared overpowered strategy is ”run in, piss ‘em all off, Swipe and take it”…
When the going gets tough…
It’s time to bring out the dancing bear!