For the brand new Bear tank, a few fun facts about bear tanking to help you understand why you do what you do, and how things generally work.

We’ll assume you visited my previous post about Specs, and are specced with the key Bear Tanking Talents.

This is in a nutshell how Bear tank abilities work;

  • Mangle makes your Lacerate (Bleed) do more damage, Lacerate (Rend and Tear Talent) makes your Maul do more damage.
  • Mangle and Maul both can apply Infected Wounds in a  target, slowing them down (Infected Wounds Talent).
  • Swipe is instant cast, and costs Rage. (It is affected by the global cooldown).
  • Swipe affects a 360 degree radius around the Bear.
  • Swipe can affect targets that are slightly outside your normal melee range at the moment. Keyword: Slightly.
  • The target of Swipe does not have to be physically in range for Swipe to activate; Swipe will still normally affect targets that are within your range.
  • Bears cannot Dodge targets behind them.
  • Bears can cast Swipe while moving.
  • Every time you successfully achieve a Critical Strike, you activate a personal damage shield/bubble. It lasts for one hit, regardless of how much the damage of the hit would be, and absorbs an amount based on your Attack Power.
  • Every time you successfully Dodge or achieve a Critical Strike, you get a small amount of Rage back.
  • You also get Rage from dealing damage, and from TAKING damage.
  • Growl is a Taunt that forces a targeted enemy to focus on you. It causes NO threat. All it does is raise your threat to be the highest your target sees. If your target has only seen you, it does nothing. If someone else has passed your threat on the target, it RAISES yuor threat level for that target to match.
  • Growl can miss.
  • Survival Instincts raises your maximum Health when activated. Frenzied Regeneration heals based on your max Health at the time it is activated. Casting Frenzied Regeneration immediately after Survival Instincts gives you bigger FR self heals.
  • Barkskin allows you to reduce all damage you take by 20% and can be used to survive attacks that would otherwise kill you. The Tier 9 4 piece bonus reduces the cooldown, further encouraging you to use it often.
  • Demoralizing Roar is an AoE ability that reduces a mob’s attack power (by 575 with talents), reducing the damage you take.
  • Feral Faerie Fire is free to cast in bear form, causes damage and a large amount of threat, and is a great rotation “filler” if you’re waiting on a global cool down.
  • Maul does not consume a global cooldown, can be added to other abilities in macro form so that it is always queued when you use Mangle or Swipe, for example, and when Glyph of Maul is used it strikes two targets. It does a very large amount of threat. Using Maul replaces a normal Rage generating attack, so using it when at low to zero Rage at the beginning of a pull can be dangerous without activating Enrage first.
  • Challenging Roar is not a true taunt like Growl – mobs will be forced to attack you for a short time, but it will not raise your threat level with them to be the highest. At the end of the effect, their threat list will be restored. While active, use high threat generating abilities to re-establish aggro on mobs. 
  • Enrage generates Rage, but the armor reduction applies to final armor value, not ‘base’ armor before multipliers. With a balanced group, this should simply mean that you take slightly more damage while Enrage is active, and this causes even more Rage to build up. Warning healers that you will be temporarily more squishy can be helpful.
  • Lacerate is a bleed that Bears can use and stack to 5. Not only is it good threat but when talented with Primal Gore it can crit and activate Savage defense, this is very useful when stunned as you can still mitigate some damage if Barkskin is on cooldown.
  • Demoralizing Roar is great to use right after a charge – not only does it reduce the damage you will be taking from mobs, but it also has more range than swipe which reduces the likelihood of a mob being missed by swipe and going after the healer.
  • Berserk is highly useful and has multiple applications. If you are facing mobs or a boss that frequently fears, popping Berserk after the pull can allow you to spam Mangle along with Maul repeatedly without interruption by Fear, allowing you to keep the boss in one place and establish a lot of initial threat. Additionally, as Berserk allows your Mangle to hit three adjacent melee targets in front of you, you can pop it to establish high initial threat on three targets when feeling stretched thin by solid DPS using AoE. 
  • Ignore what the people who don’t know Bear Tanks tell you… Bear Tanks fully Talented in Survival of the Fittest do NOT need Defense Rating at all. It is a useful stat, but is NOT required to become uncrittable. Blizzard likes it so much that they are giving every OTHER tank class a Survival of the Fittest type Talent in Cataclysm. 
  • Damage absorbed by bubbles, such as those cast by a Disc Priest, still gives the Bear that it is cast on Rage comparable to the damage that would have gotten through. Don’t ask your Priest friends to hold the bubble.

This list is purely for a short form “bullet points to be aware of” kind of list. Comments are welcome for one sentence tips to add to this list. Simply mention your tip in the comments, and I’ll add it to the list. Thanks!

I hope folks will offer tips on how these things can be used in day to day life.

I’ll kick it off, by mentioning that you can target a distant enemy spellcaster that will not come to you, and while he is targeted and outside your melee range, you can use Swipe to cause threat on near targets and Feral Faerie Fire to build threat on the distant target. Select your close Skull kill target, Maul and Mangle and such, then select the distant target and Grow if necessary, Feral Faerie Fire for threat. Assuming your group not doing massive AoE, the only aggro you have to stay ahead of on distant targets is healing aggro. If they ARE doing massive AoE and hitting the distant target… kill close spellcasters first, then kite the melee enemies over to the distant so he IS within range.

38 Responses to “Intro to the basics of Bear Mechanics”
  1. Eluniar says:

    Barkskin allows you to reduce all damage you take by 20% and can be used to survive attacks that would otherwise kill you.

  2. Fearful Bear says:

    I did not know about the dodging bit! o.o A warrior once told me not to stack too much dodge or I’d be rage starved. Thank you! : )

  3. Ursinus says:

    Demoralizing Roar is an AoE that reduces a mob’s attack power (by 575 with talents) reducing the damage you take.
    Feral Faerie Fire is free to cast in bear form, causes damage and threat, and is a great rotation “filler” if you’re waiting on a global cool down.

  4. Jey says:

    You had said that swipe hits everything but only slightly outside of melée range and I don’t know what melée range distance is but swipe hits things within 8 yards and when imbranking it seems like pretty far away. Generally the range is enough that if you stand between two casters you can usually hit both with swipe however the best way to measure the distance is just a lot of practice. A good way to get a hold on the distance away that you can be might be to go hit a target dummy to get rage and then judge the distance away that you can hit one of the dummies from. Keep in mind that even though swipe takes a global it is one of the most adjustable aoe tanking tools that is had by any tank and as it is our only way to generate threat in aoe situations you don’t have to worry about using your global, just make sure you que up maul and your main target should stick to you pretty well.

  5. Ciran says:

    Thanks BBB, you just made feel like an idiot ;) I’ve been bear tanking since vanilla and never realized that I could just keep that distant caster locked down with Growl and FFF… Not that it would have been possible in vanilla as easily but still.

    For the tip I’d like to state the obvious: Maul does not consume a global cooldown and is our highest threat ability. Keep it going all the time if you have rage. And don’t forget Glyph of Maul!

  6. Thistlefizz says:

    Here are a couple of questions I thought of while reading this. True, I could probably find the answers with a little research, but if you are looking to improve this list, providing answers to these questions might help.

    Is growl subject to the same diminishing returns that a warriors’ taunt ability is? Which of the bear abilities are considered spells that can be silenced? What kind of spell interrupt/silencing abilities do you have as a bear? Would you consider Maul and Feral Charge part of the key bear tanking abilities? What would be your bullet point description of them?

    This is a great list though. I’m currently working on getting a bear of my own to 80 and this will certainly help me when I finally make the leap from cat to bear. Great job and thanks!

  7. Ailuros says:

    Since most people kill casters first, if you know a pull has a caster use FFF > Feral Charge – you have threat on your target, you’re in melee, and it won’t be casting on you. Just be sure to get a swipe in right away in case someone generates some threat while you’re charging.

    If you outgear a heroic (or are confident with your healer) and are getting rage starved, pop enrage just before engaging or even while in combat. The lower armor should also get you some additional rage on top of this. If things get dicey, it just gives you an excuse to use those defensive CDs you’re too bored to use anyways.

    Your challenging roar is not a true taunt – mobs will attack you for a short time, but will not stick to you. Bash a target that will die soon, taunt one that will be beating on a party member after the roar is over, and try your damndest to swipe everything back.

  8. Eluniar says:

    Lacerate is a bleed that Bears can use and stack to 5. Not only is it good threat but when talented with Primal Gore it can crit and activate Savage defense, this is very useful when stunned as you can still mitigate some damage if Barkskin is on cooldown.

  9. Fangtastic says:

    Demoralizing Roar is great to use right after a charge – not only does it reduce the damage you will be taking from mobs, but it also has more range than swipe which reduces the likelihood of a mob being missed by swipe and going after the healer. I really noticed this on the trash packs in the Pit of Saron on the ramp up to the tunnel and in the tunnel gauntlet. Its helpful to make sure its always up.

  10. Lheaf says:

    Love this post! I find these comments awesomely helpful, too. The beauty of Maul is that it doesn’t consume the Global Cool Down. So I made macros for my normal tanking skills (lacerate & swipe) and added /cast !Maul after /cast lacerate and /cast swipe so that every time I use lacerate or swipe, if I have the rage and Maul isn’t already being used, it gets used again.

    The only problem is that if I’m not getting heavy doses of rage I can run out pretty fast :/ Zero rage is bad.

  11. Paona says:

    Something more of a PVP consideration, but a bear is a bear is a bear, even on a PVP server: Bash will give you enough time to cast Cyclone… which gives you six seconds to patch yourself up, or cooldowns to finish, or to cast Entangling Roots, or run the heck away.

  12. Malphailuron says:

    Maul is your biggest damage dealer; pick up the Glyph of Maul to capitalize on that, and toss a Lacerate on your target(s) to benefit from 5/5 in Primal Gore. Done properly, you can make two targets stick to you forever, and sometimes put out enough damage to constitute a fourth DPS. Just be careful of delicate CC like Polymorph or Shackle Undead!

    Rage starvation can sometimes become a problem—sometimes you overgear content that much, sometimes your DPS is all attacking different targets and you’ve got nothing hitting you anymore, sometimes your healer is a Disc priest and all those shields are keeping you alive but lowering your Rage gain, or sometimes you want to use (or already have used) Frenzied Regen but find yourself low on Rage. There are a number of tricks here: you can recast Bear Form (using a /cast !dire bear form, which will drop form then immediately recast) which will give you Rage if you’re specced into Furor; you can use Enrage, then click off the buff (or use a /cancelaura macro) to drop the armor penalty; or you can use a Greater Rage Potion. Depending on talents and how you want to spread your talent points in Restoration, combining these can give you 50-100 Rage within a single GCD.

  13. Helistar says:

    Growl can be useful to open a pull if you are rage-starved and with enrage on cooldown. You can taunt the closest mob, forcing it to hit you and this providing some rage to handle the pack. Useful if you’re in a hurry, or in case a DPS ninja-body-pulls while you’re unprepared. It’s better than FF because in case a DPS decides to go all-out on the mob, you will NOT lose aggro as long as the fixating effect lasts (6 secs), which is enough to regain aggro via mangle/maul.

  14. Poneria says:

    If you’re having trouble on multiple mobs with voracious DPS’rs, you can pop Berserk and go mangle-bot. Mangle will hit 3 targets and has no extra cooldown (only the GCD is mandatory). I like to combine a Berserk pop with plenty of Swipe and glyphed Maul.

    @Thistlefizz, as far as I’ve noticed while tanking, Bears have Bash and Feral Charge for stun/interrupts, but we don’t have any non-stun interrupts. Not to mention Bash has a 1min CD and Feral Charge is useless when you’re in melee range. While trying to OT some attempts on Iron Council, the only way we could get Brundir to move to the back with me was for me to charge him and a dps warrior to interrupt him for me, then for me to taunt Brundir off the warrior.

  15. Iron says:

    When tanking multiple mobs: Maul should be queued 100% of the time (ie. always except during Maul!), spam Swipe, Mangle and FFF 100% uptime, barkskin 100% uptime
    When tanking single mob: Maul should be queued 100% of the time, Mangle and FFF 100% uptime, Lacerate to keep 5 stacks up, barkskin 100% uptime

    In that order. If you end up with downtime and nothing to click when tanking multiple mobs, either bash or lacerate or demoralizing roar. If you end u with downtime and nothing to click when tanking single mob, swipe or bash or demo roar – depends on whether you need extra threat (Swipe) and if the target is ‘bashable’ (non boss).
    .-= Iron´s last blog ..Tanking Tip: ICC Trash Rep Farming =-.

  16. Ends says:


    Rage starvation can sometimes become a problem—sometimes you overgear content that much, sometimes your DPS is all attacking different targets and you’ve got nothing hitting you anymore, sometimes your healer is a Disc priest and all those shields are keeping you alive but lowering your Rage gain, or sometimes you want to use (or already have used) Frenzied Regen but find yourself low on Rage.

    I say purely in good-hearted jest that “GC says you are doing it wrong“.

    Seriously, this is pretty common misconception and one that needs to die. Rage gain via shields was fixed in patch 3.1. From the patch notes:
    You now gain rage when damage done to you is absorbed, such as through a Power Word: Shield.

  17. Karthos says:

    I’ve a question…. What’s the best way to deal with a pull with multiple casters? Point in case if H FoS… there are several groups that have up to 4 casters, and as a bear, I just can’t do enough to grab their attention 100% of the time.

    Best I can manage, is to charge thru a few, spamming swipe, try and drag them on top of each other, which usually leaves 1 or casters. Then when Charge is available, charge-lacerate-mangle, and head back to the group, where the dps are trying to steal my aggro :P. Also, growl + FFF if i see they’re attacking someone else. But is there a better way we can do this? Really wish bears had some kind of silence…. like the other tanks :P

  18. bigbearbutt says:

    Thistlefizz…. damn, okay, those are smart questions. I’ll get on that right away.

    Karthos, it sounds like yes, you are doing it right. About the best you can hope for is to assign keybindings for Skull and X, use them to target mobs, ask your party when you form to focus DPS on those targets only on the pull, and hope for the best.

    I know what mobs you mean in Forge of Souls, and I love those pulls. I do exactly what you describe, I’ll mark the most distant spellcaster as my Skull, I’ll run through the group Swiping as I Growl and FFF the distant Skull, dragging the melee with me as I go, I’ll establish solid threat levels on my Skull as fast as I can, getting the rest of the melee with Swipe and Maul, and I’ll have my view swiveled so that I can see the other ranged casters that I tagged with a couple Swipes while I ran in. With the CaelNameplate Addon I use that glows red when I have threat and goes dull when I lose it, I can see if I start to lose one from healer aggro or AoE, and I’ll target that one, Growl and FFF, and keep local Swipes. If I’ve got a really good lead on threat compared to the rest of the group (as shown by Omen) or if my Skull dies, then I’ll Feral Charge to the next ranged caster on my list, and repeat the process, watching a third ranged caster if necessary. If you plan it, and practise it, then the key is knowing who amongst your enemy will be melee, and who won’t.

    And after all, isn’t that the largest part of being a tank? Analysizing the tactics of the enemy, and preparing your own actions according?

    Remember, on ranged mobs, you don’t HAVE to stand there until it’s dead. You just have to maintain the highest threat level so it stays hitting YOU. If you build up 100,000 threat on him, and he’s at 30% health and the nearest DPS is at 45k threat… go after the next one with Feral Charge. All that matters on ranged targets is that you keep threat.

  19. Fangtastic says:

    Good points BBB. I too followed your tip and use CaelNameplates, that helps tremendously.

    I was having some trouble targeting specific mobs in a cluster quickly that DPS was pulling off me and found a super cool thing I can use Vuhdu for. You can configure Vuhdu to show the mobs targeted by players. You can also make Vuhdo show threat (as a percentage bar) that each player has on their current target.

    So what happens is, I can see at a glance which DPS is not following the kill order and if they’re about to pull aggro, I can target their target from Vuhdo and immediately Growl+FFF or whatever them to keep them from peeling off me. Between CaelNameplates and Vuhdo, I find I have much greater awareness of what is going on.

  20. Copey says:

    Another Lacerate tip is that some classes (rogues off the top of my head) will very much appreciate you keeping your bleed up as it helps them do more dps.
    Also, feral cat druids will appreciate you keeping your mangle up at all times as well as it will save them energy that they can apply to something else.

    Glyph of Maul is super awesome…most of the time. But beware when there are times when you DON’T want to hit multiple targets. With the death of CC this isn’t as much of a problem, but the current last boss in Icecrown is such an example (I realize this is a starter guide, but there are other places that this is the case as well, I just can’t think of them at the moment). You do not want that glyph to accidentally trigger one of the adds to hit you. Just keep that in mind if you have the glyph, and especially if you have it macroed to Lacerate or Mangle.

    Also, Caelnameplates blew my mind. Seriously, I don’t know how I made it this long with out it.

    The biggest “Pro Tip” you can ever learn is that you most likely don’t know everything, and there is always things to improve on.

  21. Paona says:

    @Poneria: Actually, Feral Charge does not stun. What it *does* do is a snare.

  22. Kaethir says:

    awesome post. linked!
    .-= Kaethir´s last blog ..Merry Christmas! =-.

  23. Javan says:

    Damage absorbed by bubbles, such as those cast by a Disc Priest, still gives the Bear that it is cast on Rage comparable to the damage that would have gotten through. Don’t ask your Priest friends to hold the bubble.

    This… God, this! I am astounded at how many people still think bubbles will stop you from generating rage. It’s true for bears and for warriors. My wife is a disc priest and I absolutely love disc priests – their bubble essentially means I have close to 60k effective hit points (when including Savage Defenses).

    And to help with Fizzle’s questions:

    Which of the bear abilities are considered spells that can be silenced? – Demoralizing Roar / Challenging Roar for sure are affected by silence. I’m not sure beyond that – Feral Faerie Fire may also be. I don’t think the bear yellow attacks are affected.

    What kind of spell interrupt/silencing abilities do you have as a bear? – Bash, 60 second cool down (30 second talented).

  24. Kzanol says:

    Did I miss (glyphed) thorns on your list?
    I you’re MTing (OTing to a minor degree) make sure you have a stack of GoMaul and GoAnything (maybe Growl, if you’re not (spell)hitcapped) to be prepared to replace GoM on certain bosses (#4 in ICC comes to mind) where you really don’t want to hit a second target.

    If you’re going to macro maul to (all in my case) attacks, keep an emergency exit open for low rage times. use [nomod] to chain maul for example, getting “pure” attack skill when you call macro shifted (Shift pressed)

    Beside the scope of a Bear’s 101 on Tanking, I’d say that if you have to choose between to almost equally weapons, take the slower one. It hit’s harder for the first maul (which is your first attack when in range, if you right clicked your target) and consumes less rage during fight.

    BTW thx for the hint about priest’s bubble, I used to run heroics as “Don’t bubble the bear, I need rage”. ;)

  25. Kzanol says:

    Macroing barksin to enrage is some thing I like until I’ll get my 4pc10 bonus. ;)

  26. Growley says:

    > Growl can miss.

    Are you sure about this?

    It’s a spell and is subject to the spell hit needed (spell and melee hit rating converts a bit differently) and if you have about 9% melee hit rating (hard to avoid with standard tanking gear) and the glyph of growl (gives 8% extra) then you’ll reach the “cap” and can’t miss taunts.

    If you’re skipping the glyph you’ll almost certainly miss a few taunts however… :)

  27. Malphailuron says:

    My mistake on the bubble thing. Haven’t had a regular Disc healer in awhile, and when I was thinking of times I was consistently Rage-starved, my mind went back to BC.

    Well, good to know.

  28. Dave says:

    Like others, i have Macro’d Maul to just about every ability (Maul, Lacerate,Swipe). I was afraid at first that i was going to rage starve myself so i added in a which makes it so if i hold Shift while i do the ability it does not Queue Maul. But to be honest, while tanking Heroics and Raids I have yet to be rage starved after the initial Pull.

    As far as the “Bubble Comment” just to rub some salt in your wounds :P If you are running with a Disc Priest, not only will you get the same rage when Bubbled, but you’ll actually get more since most Disc Priest spec into Rapture (Provides an extra 25 Rage when the PW:Shield is consumed)

    My main use to be a Disc Priest… so a sore subject LOL

  29. Deandre - Dalaran says:

    Innervate. Innervate. Innervate. You can’t use it safely in combat, but between fights it will make your healers worship your fuzzy-butt…if they notice it.

  30. Jey says:

    Someone said that they were having trouble on spread out caster mobs. One way to deal with this if you have no silences is to not stand beside one mob but to instead stand in the middle of the mobs. What I mean is that instead of trying to hit your main target with maul just stand within 8 yards of your targets and only swipe.

    Secondly I have seen a large number of people talk about the maul glyph. The maul glyph is REALLY good for heroics but it starts to lose it’s flair in raids when you have another tank to help with the aoe pulls. I believe that for raiders you should have glyph of survival instinct for the extra health in the oh crap moment as well as glyph of frenzied regeneration for an additional 20% healing when frenzied regen is active which goes excellent with the glyph of SI when they are used together and the third glyph is glyph of growling because a missed taunt is NEVER good and this one glyph pretty much stops your growl from missing.

    PS. I really like what this post is trying to do.

  31. caliokiegirl says:

    Thank you so much for the tanking guide. My main is a feral druid, and there is so little information out there for us. I have scoured almost every website looking for any little tips. This is so helpful. She is a level 60, and just starting to get into the more difficult zones and dungeons. I feel better at seeing that some of my problems are common problems. I look forward to using some of these tips, and I have a disc priest as an alt, so I got some tips for her as well. I look forward to reading more of your blogs BBB.

  32. Harr says:

    Hey there. I love your blog and this post in particular is very good, and undoubtedly very useful for bears out there. However, I wanted to verify something. I had read up on wowwiki.com about dodge , and the only thing it says is that mobs can dodge attacks from behind them, so I’d assumed that was the case with my toon, as well. I also suspect that might be true, as I’ve tanked some bosses with my big bear butt-first before (such as the boss in ToC 5-man who blinds anyone looking at him periodically), and didn’t notice any more damage than front-wise. Can you verify that it’s true that player character’s cannot dodge attacks from behind them (ideally, by providing a source)?

  33. Harr says:

    Okay, answered my own questions with about 50 posts over at elitistjerks.com and mmo-champion.com. Thanks again for posting this! :)

  34. energica says:

    Great site. One question that I have not found the answer. What is dodge cap? for heroics, toc, and icc? I am at over 50% but my hp is lower than most bears. do i need to drop some agi or dodge for stam?

    Also on the casters in FoS specificly the 4 with 1 shade. I mark the shade and let dps hit him since he resets aggro anyway. This gives me time to gather the casters and bash on or 2 if dps is low. After getting some threat and a few yells from the healer I pick the shade back up. The rest of the time is runnin around keeping the casters focused on me. Personally I think the trash in FoS is harder than the bosses! lol

    I have a moto. If the tank dies blame the healer, if the healer dies blame the tank, if dps dies … tell them not to tank!

  35. Morphster of Aggramar says:

    @ energica: The reason you haven’t found out the dodge cap is there isn’t one per se. A good rule of thumb is to get around 40% dodge. Dodge only counters physical attacks so having more hp helps in magic heavy fights. Consequently you should always gem for stamina unless the socket bonus is at least +6 agility or stamina, and then use a gem with + stam and +agility both.

  36. Spawnofmoose says:

    Personally, I’m having an issue with aoe tanking. Namely on Ony, and anything else that involves >4 targets at any given time.

    Is it just me, or is swipe a terrible aggro generator? Everyone makes me tank whelps (assuming no DK) but I can’t hold aggro on them in the 3 sec I’m given before AoE happens…

    I’m I broken or gearing wrong? Spawnofmoose, Staghelm (wow-heroes should have my tank spec/gear saved)

  37. Q says:

    @ Kranzol

    “Beside the scope of a Bear’s 101 on Tanking, I’d say that if you have to choose between to almost equally weapons, take the slower one. It hit’s harder for the first maul (which is your first attack when in range, if you right clicked your target) and consumes less rage during fight”

    WRONG. Sorry, but your attack speed is normalized in bear form. The base damage of the weapon is converted into attack power for use in feral forms. A 1.6 and a 3.6 will still both swing at 2.5 (ignoring haste) in bear form. Therefore, you should completely IGNORE the weapon speed when comparing items for use as a feral bear.

    The same is true for cats, except that their base swing speed is 1.0, rather than 2.5.

  38. Eldoroth says:

    Hi there:

    I’d like to translate this post into Spanish and publish it in my guild’s public forum so that everyone that wants to start with a bear can read it. I am simply requesting your permision to do it. You’ll get all the credit, of course, and will be referenced as clearly as I can.

    Thanks in advance, I’ll check for your answer.

  39.  

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