Welcome to the first in a series of modern tips and suggestions on Bear tanking.

Talent Specs

There are two basic styles of bear tanking spec, depending on the content you intend to be facing.

The two scenarios? Full on raid tanking, or instance and old school tanking.

The difference between the two specs?

In full on raid tanking, you are worried less about Rage generation and are more concerned with maximizing survivability and threat output.

In instance and old school tanking, with decent gear, Naxx tanking gear or better, you can focus less on your survivability, and lean more towards 100% Rage uptime for fast pulls and all-out Threat generation from the start on a rock star facepull run.

Full on raid tanking spec:

My recommended spec for full on raid tanking is: (0/60/11)

Feral Combat (60 points)

Ferocity – Rank 5/5
Feral Aggression – Rank 5/5
Feral Instinct – Rank 3/3
Savage Fury – Rank 2/2
Thick Hide – Rank 3/3
Feral Swiftness – Rank 2/2
Survival Instincts – Rank 1/1
Sharpened Claws – Rank 3/3
Predatory Strikes – Rank 3/3
Primal Fury – Rank 2/2
Primal Precision – Rank 2/2
Feral Charge – Rank 1/1
Natural Reaction – Rank 3/3
Heart of the Wild – Rank 5/5
Survival of the Fittest – Rank 3/3
Leader of the Pack – Rank 1/1
Improved Leader of the Pack – Rank 2/2
Protector of the Pack – Rank 3/3
Infected Wounds – Rank 3/3
Mangle – Rank 1/1
Rend and Tear – Rank 5/5
Primal Gore – Rank 1/1
Berserk – Rank 1/1

Restoration (11 points)

Improved Mark of the Wild – Rank 2/2
Furor – Rank 3/5
Naturalist – Rank 5/5
Omen of Clarity – Rank 1/1

This build is designed, as I said, to maximize survivability and threat generation in a serious raid environment. You will be getting hit hard from bosses and reasably hard from trash, you will have Misdirection and Tricks of the Trade available in most cases, and before a serious boss fight you will have time to set up and get ready. It is most important to you to mitigate every possible drop of damage that you can.

This build relies on using Demoralizing Roar, and keeping it active on mobs all the time. Maul provides Infected Wounds, as does Mangle, so keeping both of those active, most especially Maul, is the second key, but keeping Maul active is important for all Bear tank builds, no stunning revelations there. Finally, working at keeping five stacks of Lacerate on the kill target is more important with this build than using Mangle as soon as it is active, so long as you have someone else in the raid, such as Kitty DPS, keeping Mangle hot and loaded for the Bleed debuff.

This build does not provide a +10% bonus to damage while Enraged, for the simple reason that if you are really, truly trying to maximize your survivability, you do not want to activate Enrage during a serious boss pull. When Enrage is active, it is similar to a storytime berserker rage… you gain more power, but you take more hits in your carelessness. In game terms, you generate Rage over time, but your armor value drops. As a real world example, if you have 28107 armor in Bear form, and you pop Enrage, it will drop by 16% to 23609.88 (effectively 23610 armor). This is not an important amount in instance or old school raiding, but if you are struggling for every drop of survivability in a serious boss encounter, you should have no trouble with Rage generation and should not use Enrage.

With this kind of focus, your gear choices will be designed for maximum survivability… so you will be prioritizing Expertise right under your Agility/Dodge and Stamina until you have eliminated Parry from the enemy arsenal. One of the key things to worry about for spike damage as a raiding Bear tank are Parries, so please keep that in mind while looking at gear choices.

Instance and old school tanking spec:

Why a different spec?

For instance and small group or old school tanking, the focus changes from becoming a pure damage sponge, and shifts more towards a fast paced pull-and-demolish role. You will want to be as durable as possible, it’s true, but you’ll also want to be fast and smooth in picking up chains of mobs and unloading a whole pile of whoop-ass on ‘em. In a raid, it’s fine to have fewer points in Furor because there is no problem in shifting a few times until the Rage pops in. Likewise, Rage generation becomes less of an issue in raids because the bosses and trash mobs all hit much harder.

But if you like doing fast heroics or old school raids where you are taking very little damage at all, having more methods to generate Rage  and maintain it makes the tanks’ job much easier to keep the pulls going fast.

My recommended spec for instances and old school raids is: (0/57/14)

Feral Combat (57 points)

Ferocity – Rank 5/5
Feral Instinct – Rank 3/3
Savage Fury – Rank 2/2
Thick Hide – Rank 3/3
Feral Swiftness – Rank 2/2
Survival Instincts – Rank 1/1
Sharpened Claws – Rank 3/3
Predatory Strikes – Rank 3/3
Primal Fury – Rank 2/2
Primal Precision – Rank 2/2
Feral Charge – Rank 1/1
Natural Reaction – Rank 3/3
Heart of the Wild – Rank 5/5
Survival of the Fittest – Rank 3/3
Leader of the Pack – Rank 1/1
Improved Leader of the Pack – Rank 2/2
Protector of the Pack – Rank 3/3
King of the Jungle – Rank 2/3
Mangle – Rank 1/1
Improved Mangle – Rank 3/3
Rend and Tear – Rank 5/5
Primal Gore – Rank 1/1
Berserk – Rank 1/1

Restoration (14 points)

Furor – Rank 5/5
Naturalist – Rank 5/5
Intensity – Rank 3/3
Omen of Clarity – Rank 1/1

This build removes the extra 2% stats from Improved Mark of the Wild, removes the extra attack power reduction of Ferocity, and removes Infected Wounds in favor of guaranteed 10 Rage per shift, instant 10 Rage on Enrage activation, +10% Damage while Enraged, and a reduced Mangle cooldown. This build is designed with the understanding that you will be using Enrage whenever you feel like it, even on boss pulls, so go for the gusto with the extra damage. Gusto, I say!

In effect, you’re accepting slightly increased squishiness for all Rage, all the time.

When Patch 3.2 goes live, Rage Potions will be useable by Druids. The decision on whether youw ill want to use your potion use in a fight on Rage or on health is up to you, but remember that pots drunk BEFORE in combat don’t count. The instance and old school build will likely see some changes then, since simply drinking a potion before a pull will give you that instant Rage, so putting points into Intensity will then be mostly superfluous. At least, they will if you have an alt Alchemist that can dump hundreds of Rage Potions on you. Until then, this is pretty viable, and I’ve used it to tank heroics, Mount Hyjal and karazhan old school runs, and main tank Naxx 10 mans with no issues. I like the flexibility. :)

A brief note… for tanks new to the Rage mechanic, your abilities cost Rage to use in Bear form, and when you run out of Rage, you are stuck dead until you can generate more, ususally through the damage your auto-attack does or from taking damage by being beat on. The more damage you deal, the more Rage you generate. The more damage you endure, that gets through your avoidance (Dodge, etc) the more Rage you generate. With Bear tanking specs, you also gain 10 Rage through initially shifting into Bear form (100% if specced 5/5 in Furor), you get 10 Rage instantly when popping Enrage if so specced with Intensity, and you gain Rage every time you Crit an opponent, which can happen multiple times with Swipe on groups of mobs. Your Maul, your best Threat generating attack, is NOT on the global cooldown, can be activated whenever you have the Rage to do so… but it replaces a normal auto-attack and does NOT generate Rage. So if you are very low on Rage attacking a single mob, you may find Maul eats your remaining Rage away to nothing. Also, while you are not in combat, your existing Rage drains away. If you are in combat with anything, your Rage stops ‘decaying’. A favorite Bear tank technique is simply to Feral Faerie Fire distant mobs to chain attack, keeping your Rage from ever decaying.

Glyphs

Now before we go further, keep in mind the Glyphs that are most useful for Bear tanking;

Major:
Glyph of Frenzied Regeneration
Glyph of Maul
Glyph of Survival Instincts or Glyph of Mangle (situational).

For Majors, Frenzied Regen and Maul are the best two. With Glyphed Frenzied Regen, not only are you healing yourself, but the affects of healing on you are increased, a very good thing if straits are dire enough to pop Frenized Regen in the first place.

Glyph of Maul is darn near a no brainer. For Bear tanks, the majority of threat generated comes from Maul. It’s critical in your rotation, and having Maul affect two targets for the Rage price of one is precious.

For the last two, it comes down to your group composition. If you feel that you will be the only one providing the Mangle debuff on targets, and especially if you are speccing/gearing for instance and old school raid play, then the Glyph of Mangle is a good choice. Your Rogues will certainly love you. If, however, you can be assured of some Kitty DPS action providing Mangle, then you can safely go with Glyph of Survival Instincts and enjoy the increased health cap when used.

While I would love the Survival one myself, in my guild we have many Rogues. We have few active kitty DPS players. Thus, I go for the Mangle Glyph. Your choice should likewise depend on how you play and who you play with.

Minor:
Glyph of Challenging Roar
Glyph of Unburdened Rebirth
Glyph of Thorns

Even though Thorns is boosted by spellpower, and thus a Moonkin or Tree in your party will give you a more powerful buff, it’s very nice to have 30 minutes on your self cast Thorns. And really, there aren’t very many good options for Bear tank Minor Glyphs, are there?

Rotation advice:

First thing off the bat, you’ll want to have Barkskin up at all possible times. I personally bind it to a frequently used Bear attack in a macro…

#showtooltip Swipe (Bear)(Rank 8)
/script UIErrorsFrame:Hide();
/cast Barkskin
/script UIErrorsFrame:Clear();
/script UIErrorsFrame:Show();
/cast Swipe (Bear)(Rank 8)

I know that there is a way to phrase it so that sound effects are also blocked, but I don’t use any game sound when playing, it interferes with passing instruction and chatting in vent. However, I as always welcome folks to post ther own versions in the comments.

The second thing to do is be aware of the holy trinity of life for Bear tanks…  the power of having Glyph of Frenzied Regeneration, and when in a dire situation, health dropping, Healer preoccupied, dead or stunned, popping in rapid sequence Survival Instincts, Frenzied Regeneration, and, if you have Herbalism, Lifeblood. Keep that sequence of keypresses near and dear to your heart.

Finally, when actively tanking;

  • Pull with a Feral Faerie Fire or other Threat generation attack.
  • When the group is in range, open with a Mangle to apply the Bleed debuff.
  • Use Demoralyzing Roar to reduce the attack power of all mobs once they are in range, and watch the timer on it to keep it refreshed.
  • Use Mangle whenever it’s not in cooldown
  • Keep Maul up, it’s not on the global cooldown so you can keep refreshing it whenever you have Rage
  • Begin using Lacerate every time it’s off cooldown until you build 5 stacks, and then keep 5 stacks on the enemy at all times. Use Lacerate every cooldown, since without being at the hit cap, you can miss one.
  • Use Swipe to maintain solid threat on group mobs unaffected by Maul.
  • Use Feral Faerie Fire every time it’s off cooldown because it generates significant Threat and costs no Rage or Mana.
  • Watch enemy casts, and be prepared to use Bash when appropriate to interrupt enemy Heals.

Once Demoralyzing Roar, 5 stacks of Lacerate and Feral Faerie Fire are on your target, you should be priorityzing your attacks by using, when off cooldown;

  1. Maul (Not on Global Cooldown, refresh every time it goes off)
  2. Mangle
  3. Lacerate
  4. Feral Faerie Fire
  5. Swipe

Okay, that’s it for part one. I think I’ve covered the basics fairly solidly. I look forward to seeing you again with part two.

65 Responses to “Modern Bear Tanking 1: Specs and Rotations”
  1. mannbearpigg says:

    BBB, great blog site and great intro into bear (I tank with my face) tanking. Just dinged 80 last night. My main is a holy pally so this will be a fun change.

  2. Perdissa says:

    Hiya, my druid dinged 80 around the time you wrote this article. I was mucking around for advice on tanking, and had a few disastrous (and discouraging) experience in my first week of tanking. In a H Nexus run, it was so bad that a mage dropped group and told me to l2tank. My buddy DK in the group offered to take over the tanking in his dual spec, which was somehow worse. I almost gave up there and then.

    But. I took a deep breath and decided that I’m gonna improve. Came by your article, and it was really a godsend. Suffice to say, I’m now carrying people through heroics as a feral tank in scrappy EOC gear, but good enough to breeze thru heroics and usually even match good DPS on the meters.

    Just came back to say thanks. This was where my tank got turned around.

  3. Bouncy Gnome says:

    Before reading this post on how to improve my tanking skills I had ( thank god) the same rotation as you named BBB. Although a druid in my guild swears byt the old fasion TBC tanking and that is to pull with FF and start to put up his 5 lacirate before doing anything with mangle or any other ability. He is trying to get me to do that too, but I am a stubbern little bear that does not like to be directed the wrong way.
    Thank for this post, it was a good read and a good guide and defo something I can work with :)
    .-= Bouncy Gnome´s last blog ..no more /cheer part II =-.

  4. Augurs says:

    @Heilwienix

    I currently use a similar macro but since the whole Brewfest event, I grabbed the Savage Brawler Trinket.

    My current “Oh S***!” button is this:

    /Cast Survival Instincs
    /Cast Frenzied Regeneration
    /Cast Barkskin
    /Use Savage Brawler’s Trinket

    And with the Survival Instincts Glyph and the Frenzied Regen Glyph that button will help you survive alot of things.

  5. Ronon says:

    I use these macros also

    Swipe:
    #showtooltip Swipe (Bear)(Rank 8)
    /cast Swipe (Bear)(Rank 8)
    /cast !Maul(Rank 10)

    Mangle:
    #showtooltip Mangle (Bear)(Rank 5)
    /cast Mangle (Bear)(Rank 5)
    /cast !Maul(Rank 10)

    Lacerate:
    #showtooltip Lacerate
    /cast Lacerate(Rank 3)
    /cast !Maul(Rank 10)

    Wondering about the barkskin addition. Would you add it like this..

    Swipe:
    #showtooltip Swipe (Bear)(Rank 8)
    /cast barkskin
    /cast Swipe (Bear)(Rank 8)
    /cast !Maul(Rank 10)

  6. cougaria says:

    I for one was sent to this blog from a guild leader on the moonguard server. I went to black water raiders server and the guild I started with there needed heals so I changed to resto for them. I’m dual spec’d balance. But due to a change in guilds (Im so glad I did) they are allowing me to go back to feral and I’m building a tank. So I love the advise here. So now I’m feral tank/boom and looking for all kinds of advice on end game raiding for feral tank. Gear, rotations, tree etc. Thanks for all that is posted here. Anyone have any suggestions for me?

  7. Morphster of Aggramar says:

    @ Cougaria: Check out http://www.wow.com/2009/02/10/shifting-perspectives-gearing-your-feral-bear-druid-at-80/ Some of it is a little outdated but it’s a great starting point for gear and enchants. As for rotations I usually pull with a faire fire, and if it’s a mob of 3 or less: maul mangle maul lacerate etc. If it’s a mob of 4 or more: maul mangle maul swipe maul swipe maul swipe until back down to 3 or less. Just keep an eye out for losing agro on the mobs. If one gets pulled off switch targets to the mob in question, taunt, maul mangle, and back to maul swipes. If you lose more than one do your aoe taunt. As long as you’re at least throwing up a skull before you pull you shouldn’t much need your aoe taunt. Learning a rotation only goes so far though, so don’t be afraid to experiment and see what works for you. Practice practice practice :) Good luck.

  8. randomguyhere says:

    hey, i was reading this article about a year ago when i was making my tank set and trying to build a better rotation and found that its really easy to get the hit cap now, my character is sitting about 1% over the hit cap due to gear and is also at the point where my targets can no longer dodge my attacks, and i just wana say that once you reach that point getting the Maul glyph is worth it for tanking multiple mobs because you’ll start critting both targets for 2-4k building huge threat along with spamming swipe (i have them macrod together) and in a scenario where you do not have a decent AoE tank like say a bad paladin or some thing its worth being hit capped and having that glyph, although i have used the other glyph mentioned (cant remember what its called at the moment) and it is nice if you aren’t hit capped cuz you can miss your mangle which screws with some DPS and your threat a bit.

    But with that aside my question is if the Mongoose enchant is worth it, and i mean i have been using that and Accuracy (i dont need the hit on it to stay hit capped) to see which is better, and i know right off the bat people will be saying mongoose for the dodge, but my question is since there is a DR on our dodge why not go for more crit to keep savage defense up more, because i was noticing that as you get into longer fights that the savage defense absorbs alot of damage, some times full swings from trash mobs. Just so you get a sense of my stats i have about 40% crit and dodge (give or take a tenth or two), and about 40-41k hp in bear no buffs and 5.1k attack power. but i just wanted to know from some one more experienced than me if the 25 extra crit off that enchant was worth keeping or if i should go for mongoose again.

  9. randomguyhere says:

    sry guess it wasnt a year ago, but it seems like it so far

  10. Disgostu says:

    Hey first of all great site, discovered it when i came out of wow retirement in August i needed to know the new hit cap at lvl 80, fillied with useful info for feral druids and good oppinions. Secondly neither of these builds is great in my oppinion, when your with a well geared raid in toc you will need to push hard to hold agro at the cost of the dps having to slow down due to the inability these specs have to dps, i stick with 0/55/16 build, remove the points from feral agression and infected wounds, put them into master shapeshifter to get the physical damage increase.
    Also mangle as a tanking glyph, pointless, get maul, frenzied regen and survival instincts, you should be using mangle much more often than 18seconds as its another way of getting threat.
    At present i’m siting on 39k hp, 29k armor, 41%dodge, 5696att pwr and a 40%crit, also unlike most druids stacking stamina gems in every slot i’d rather try make use of the gem slot bonus, have alot of agility for the increased armor, dodge, attpwr and crit espicially since the tier 9 set has alot of yellow gem slots, i use +10agility/haste gems in yellow slots, +30stam in blue, and in red slots i use a collection of +20agility, +20expertise, +10expertise+15stamina & +10agility+15stamina. Final thought don’t overlook haste its not just for dps and healers, i’ve found it improves tps greatly.

    Actually another final thought for the previous comment, mongoose enchant its gotta be, no substitute, if not even for the big crits or increased tps you’ll be getting when tanking all those whelps in onyxia, then its for all the dodge and reduced damage you’ll have when they are trying to spank you, mongoose is much more than just crit for a bear tank!!
    [url]http://eu.wowarmory.com/character-sheet.xml?r=Bloodfeather&n=Disgostu[/url]

  11. Vostro says:

    SO, as of 3.2 ( 3.3 upcoming soon ) What is the Bear tank hit cap?

  12. Zemphira says:

    Great site! I’d just like to ask if these talents are still valid as of patch 3.3.1. I’m assuming they are since I didn’t really see any changes for feral druids, but as a new tank, I’d like to be sure I’m specc’ed correctly. Thanks =]

  13. Stormguard says:

    I use this macroand it works well for me.

    /startattack
    /castsequence reset=Combat\Target Mangle (Bear), Swipe (Bear), Lacerate, Faerie Fire (Feral)
    /cast Maul

  14. Jack says:

    @ Stormguard

    I use this macroand it works well for me.

    /startattack
    /castsequence reset=Combat\Target Mangle (Bear), Swipe (Bear), Lacerate, Faerie Fire (Feral)
    /cast Maul

    This is pretty similar to my heroic tanking macro, just kind of a one button spam, which is good because it gets the job done when mindlessly farmin for badges :-D. However I would add a “!” before Maul (example: /cast !Maul) because it prevents you from toggling Maul on and off with each button mash which leads to more consistent use. Although now that I am thinking about it maybe your macro is better simply because it will not use as much rage…will test it out…

    Also to the OHCRAP!!1!!1 macros that include Barkskin (example provided by Augurs above) I find that I get much better use by either macro-ing Barkskin with a more commonly used attack or bound close to a common attack/spell (I have it bound as Shift+2, Demo Roar is just 2) is a better way to go. This is more of a personal preference though, but I found my tanking got easier when I removed it from my “OhCrap” macro and used it on every CD.

    Again B3 love the blog!

  15. fikasz says:

    I love this article and comments made to it. I personally use maul macroed with mangle, lacerate, and swipe as some of the ppl above. I don see the point of macroing barkskin to every attack. I have it macroed with enrage if i need to get some rage while in contact with mobs – i know strange but happens, especialy when i use maul macros in HCs and have barkskin with all my oh shit button abilities, trinkets, bottles, healthstones to make it a realy powerfull shit button.

    I realy enjoy your blog and it helped me with loads of problems at begining of my tanking.

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