Threat generation – A (brief) discussion

I think one of the most frequent questions I’m asked concerning Feral Bear Druiding is how to generate threat.

Often, I’m told that the person plays a Feral Druid, and has a hard time generating and holding aggro in group situations, but I don’t really get any specifics to help narrow down what might be wrong.

I’d like to help folks, I really would. But sometimes, talking about numbers of threat generated per second by ability and breaking down rotations and such doesn’t reall answer the question, which is… “what am I doing wrong?”

The answer may just be, “Nothing. You’re fine, it’s your group that needs to lrn2play.”

No, I’m not saying that IS the case. But it may be that you are doing everything to generate threat in a good, solid fashion, but your group, especially in a pug that is unfamiliar with your particular style, doesn’t understand how to work with you or what their timing should be without some suggestions.

First, let me remind folks who might be starting to play a tank class or spec for the first time, or are getting back into it for the first time since before Wrath of the Lich King was released, that Blizzard’s philosophy on choke points and group stress has changed.

I just use the term group stress to describe in general the concept that mechanics of group encounters are intentionally designed to have a team have to learn to overcome various choke points to succeed.

A choke point, of course, is one of the various specific things in an encounter that are made especially difficult, things that you have to overcome to succeed. Healing, Movement, Maximum Tank Survivability, High DPS in a short amount of time to beat an enrage timer, etc.

Once you learn how to handle the choke points reliably, the encounter usually gets put on ‘farm’ status.

There are role choke points, and there are situation choke points.

An example of a role choke point can be as simple as having enough DPS in the group to be able to kill Emalon before he hits the enrage timer.

An example of an encounter choke point is Thaddius, being able to sync your two teams’ DPS so that both mini-bosses die at almost precisely the same time, and then on Thaddius himself, having everyone in the raid be able to coordinate their movement so that they are aware of charge potentials, run to the appropriate spot once they switch, and still tank, heal and DPS well.  

People talk about Heigan and the safety dance, but the distinctive thing that makes that encounter difficult is the sudden requirement of synchronised movement from everyone in the raid. There is no enrage timer, so I’ve heard of teams of two people taking 30 minutes or more as the last two left alive, doing the dance and winning in the end.

Thaddius has that same movement requirement, but not as intensely. It reduces the movement difficulty, but adds the enrage timer so even if you have great movement skills as a team, you still need the DPS to beat the enrage timer.

My point is, prior to Wrath of the Lich King, one of the primary role choke points was threat generation.

In the game before Northrend, you had to learn how to generate as much threat as possible, and stack your gear appropriately, because individual player DPS was often capable of putting out far more damage/threat than what the tank could generate, even with threat multipliers.

From encounters as far back (and well known) as Onyxia, when everyone was required to wand and do white damage only to allow the main tank (usually a Warrior) to get 5 Sunders on the target before being allowed to ‘open up’ with the big guns, so that the tank had a big lead on threat, to as recently as Karazhan and other Outlands raids where DPS had to watch their Omen threat meter like a hawk because it was absurdly easy in the middle of a fight to blow past tank threat, it was something we all had to adjust to.

Tank threat generation was a role choke point. Not the only choke point, but certainly one of the most frustrating, because the better your DPS as a group got, the easier it was for those players to surpass the main tank’s threat. Suddenly, how much damage the entire group could do was throttled purely by a main tank’s threat generating capabilities.

Yes, this is why skills such as a Hunter’s Feign Death shone so highly, and became such a standard part of a rotation. 

Hopefully I have refreshed your memory on this issue? Very well then.

A lot of talk has been made about how crowd control pretty much died out in Wrath of the Lich King, until Ulduar was released. Now teams are rediscovering the joys of CC while tackling the hardest new content, after several months forgetting what CC stood for. What fun!

But what hasn’t been quite as widely talked about is that the choke point of threat generation was also pretty much killed off in Wrath, by design.

Blizzard immensely buffed specced tank threat generation in Wrath, to the point that you really should no longer have to worry about an optimized threat rotation, a serious tick by tick rotation, in any 5 man run or even a larger raid.

Instead, Blizzard chose to put the new main role choke point squarely on the shoulders of the healers.

As a tank, your new focus should be on maximizing your health, dodge and damage reduction first, because you need to give your healers every possible advantage you can in keeping you alive… and more importantly, giving them a chance to be able to ignore you while they heal party members that take ever increasing splash damage.

Most of the new encounters in Wrath involve widespread party damage, to stress the healers. Healer skill and gear and multitasking are, intentionally, what Blizzard wanted the new choke point to be. They have stated in blue posts that they wanted to get away from a single tank’s threat generation being the limiting factor, the choke point, in a raid.

If you have a very high health cap, great Dodge, good physical and magic damage mitigation, and a bunch of ‘oh shit’ abilities, using them at key moments can free your healers to spend that time worrying about healing up the group, and not babysitting you.

I do not do this well myself, at times. I’ll be up front about that. We always have slightly different healer composition on our guild runs, and I’m never quite sure who is doing what. They have a healer channel they communicate their strategy across, and often I ask if the healers are ready, and get told “we’re ready”. And I trust them. I don’t ask the details.

I have tried in the past to call out “Using SI and Frenzied Regen, you can ignore me for now” at key moments, but hey… I get wrapped up in that raid leadering thing way too much while I’m tanking. I forget to articulate what I’m doing to help the healers far too often, and it’s something I need to work on.

You should be focusing on increasing your survivability, and then afterwards buffing your threat generation, not because you have to, but because it will help ensure your attacks hit precisely when you need them to as your main DPS dealers go to godlike levels.

Nowadays, if your gear for tanking is fairly solid from Crafted, Reputation, Heroic drops and Emblem of Heroism rewards, you should never have to worry about the specific quantity of threat it is possible for you to generate.

On a single target fight, your threat should soar into the stratosphere compared to even the most insane DPS… provided everyone is working together with a certain basic understanding of how threat is generated, and by who, and when it’s appropriate for them to get going.

And that is the crux of the problem, I think. It’s not about how much threat YOU generate anymore, it’s about making sure everyone with you understands how they generate threat, and how to handle it.

Let’s assume a normal pull, 3 or 4 targets. As much as I enjoy playing with fancy pulls, they really are no longer necessary.

I once described pulls using a long cast Starfire on one, an instant Moonfire on another, shifting to Bear and throwing a Feral Faerie Fire on yet a third, and then getting ready to start some serous threat generation once they all get within range.

It’s just not necessary anymore. Fun, sure. Hey, the game is supposed to be fun, knock yourself out. Okay, starting on your main target with a big damage spell can be helpful, but if the group is working well together, it shouldn’t really make a difference.

For a regular pull these days, I usually throw down a Feral Faerie Fire on one mob to draw them all to me, and then once in range open with Swipe to generate threat on all mobs.

Once all mobs are within my range, and I may have to do some ranged Taunting, some ranged FFF, etc, maybe a Feral Charge to bring myself into a caster’s range, it all comes down to priorities.

As long as there are multiple mobs, Swipe is my first priority to counteract any direct damage threat generation caused by people being on the wrong target, or global threat from buffs and healing.

Mangle is my second priority, on my main kill target, because of the threat it causes, and because it adds the Bleed effect that Cassieann the Rogue loves.

Maul is my third priority, using it every time it’s available AND I have comfy rage levels (which, when tanking multiple mobs, should be NO issue because your Dodges and Crits are generating rage, and when you Swipe usually one or another thing is a Crit) because it does awesome damage, and when glyphed is nailing two targets for the price of one, adding even more threat on one of the extras.

My last priority is Lacerate, tossed whenever both Mangle and Swipe are on cooldown. Lacerate does reasonable threat, provides a nice DoT, slows my target’s attack speed, and with my current spec each DoT tick has a chance to Crit, which, again, adds to Rage generation and to the new Bubble procs.

That’s it. That’s all of it. The rest is ‘oh shit’ buttons and situationals, when I’ve got the luxury.

If your gear follows some of my previous posts on where you should be at for Heroics, and if you are specced properly,  and if you understand why this is the rotation priority I use… then you should have no problem generating and holding single target or group threat… provided your teammates are working with you, and not against you.

Threat control is not solely your job. Yes, you can put a ton of threat out now. There are times when, no kidding, I know ten seconds into the fight I’ve already dealt all the threat I’ll need for the rest of the encounter before the mob is dead, and can freely go get a Mountain Dew or, realistically, switch to a different target if there is one to build up more threat, or simply sandbag it with auto attack for a few seconds to let rage build up to max in anticipation of the next pull in the chain. 

No, I don’t recommend walking away and getting a Mountain Dew mid-fight. That was a joke. You never know who might be reading this from my guild, and I wanted to make sure you know, I’d NEVER, EVER, walk away from a fight and get a nice, frosty cold beverage. Nuh uh. Nope, not me.

Umm, okay. Moving along….

Yes, if you are prepared and know what YOU are doing, you can generate a lot of threat now. But the rest of the team has their own responsiblity for understanding what threat is, and how to manage it.

For example, if the DPS opens up on your main target when all you’ve done so far is pull with Feral Faerie Fire… the mob will go straight to them.

Yes, I promise! No, I know you’ve NEVER seen that happen before… you’ll have to take my word for it.

A long time ago, I wrote an article for WoW Insider on the Shifting Perspectives column concerning threat generation, and how the actual mechanics of threat works. I probably went into too much detail on it, but I wanted to write a basic primer on how, exactly, threat works in a group, and I think I nailed it at the time. I’ll try and dig up that link and post it here, but in the short term, threat generation works like this;

If you deal direct damage to a mob, there is threat associated with that damage, on that mob.

That mob may be alone, or may be tied as a group with other mobs. If you deal damage to a mob tied to a group, you have generated threat with the mob you damaged, and you have gained the attention of, but generated zero threat with, the rest of the mobs in his group.

At this point, every mob in that group will have their attention focused on you… but only the mob you damaged and generated threat with is actually tied to you. The others are coming after you, but just out of a spirit of camaraderie and goodwill towards their buddy. If anyone angers them, in any way, they will choose enlightened self interest and go racing off to get revenge on whoever pissed ’em off.

If nothing angers the rest of the group, then once they get within your range you can Swipe once, deal damage to all of them (assuming you hit each of them), and generate threat with all of them. NOW they are all tied to you, and as you continue to hurt them all, you will continue to generate threat with them all.

One way many tanks ensure they can quickly generate this group threat is by using Feral Charge to get into knife-fighting range of all of them immediately, popping two Swipes back-to-back to build up fast group threat, and then settle down into single target threat/group Swipe rotations as I described earlier.

Another way, of course, is by doing a line of sight pull, especially with groups of mixed caster/melee, or with groups that start spread out where a single Swipe won’t tag them all. In this case, you choose one mob of the group, use a ranged attack (like Feral Faerie Fire or Starfire or Moonfire), and then turn around and run like hell to get around a corner or other terrain feature so none of the mobs can see you anymore. Once they cannot see you, they all run forward until they can… and that gets them right into your knife-fighting range as soon as they pop around a corner into your snarling face.

Another similar method to accomplish the same thing is to sit your butt behind the terrain feature, let a Hunter put his pet on Passive/Stay, and then let them Misdirect a single mob onto you, sending them all running your way. This works better when mobs do a chain pull effect similar to the Death Knight Death Grip, such as some abominations do, or if some of the mobs have a ranged charge that can stun you in place before you reach the corner.

The key to all of this, is that you are the only one doing any damage or attacking these mobs, until such time as you have established threat by using a threat generating attack. The Hunter, for example, must stop his attack as soon as the Misdirect is done.

The rest of your party generates threat in one of two ways; direct threat, and global threat.

Direct threat is caused by direct damage. If someone does damage to a mob, they generate threat on the mob. The key to direct damage is, only the mob they are doing damage to has threat generated. The rest of the mobs, EVEN if they have zero threat with the tank, will not be pulled away because none of them have any threat from the direct damage attacks.

If you mark a single mob as a kill target, you pull with a Faerie Fire, and everyone opens up on it and only it the millisecond after you nail it with Mangle… not a single other mob should get pulled off of you, because nobody generated any other threat through damage.

If someone opens up with an area of affect damaging attack, however, they are now hitting everyone… and may be applying damage and generating threat with mobs you have not, as of yet, hit.

Thus, why I recommend opening with Swipe, twice in a row, to counteract the tendency of most groups I’ve seen where the Hunter and Mage love to start with AoE. As long as you’re prepared, you should be able to get in your hits before they do… as long as they actually can wait for that first Swipe to go in.

If they want to hit the entire group before there is any remote possibility you could have Swiped them… well, repair bills will either teach them the monetary value of patience, or you’ll get told you suck as a tank.

Now, the other kind of threat is Global Threat. This is caused by all healing… and by all buffs that change your stats.

Global Threat is based off of who is zooming who, who is aware of whom in the fight.

If you have not pulled, and you’re just sitting there, rebuffing and healing and eating food causes no threat with anyone. Nobody knows you’re there.

If the tank, and only the tank, has pulled a group and is fighting, then the mobs are utterly unaware of the rest of the groups’ presence. They are not yet in combat. They can begin to eat food, whatever. As soon as a person does any kind of damage to a mob in the group though, that player is now known to exist by the entire group of mobs.

If a healer then heals that person that had just done damage, the entire group of mobs is now aware of the presence of the healer… and Global Threat will be generated with each heal the healer does, spread out amongst the group.

If the healer then tosses a heal or buff to someone not yet in combat, the group of mobs knows about that person… even though that person has taken no action as of yet. It’s all a chain of whos zooming who.

If someone drinks a healing pot mid-fight, that generates global threat. If someone rebuffs mid-fight, that deals global threat.

If, say, the tank pulls with a Feral Faerie Fire, and as the group is coming towards the tank, the healer casts a minor heal or HoT on the tank, and the tank was NOT at full health at the start? As soon as actual healing is done to the tank, as soon as REAL damage, whether pre-existing or not, is healed, then all mobs that were aware of the tank are now aware of the healer… and threat is being generated by the amount of damage healed, and those other mobs will peel off and head for the healer if they haven’t been directly hit by the tank yet.

You see? It’s all about situational awareness, and knowing when it’s safe to start doing your thing.

For a healer, the first time to cast any spell is after every mob in a group has been tagged by the tank at least once. Because your threat is generated by the amound of actual damage healed, not the POTENTIAL amount healed, then HoTs generate less up-front threat than a Greater Heal on a critically low tank would.

But your threat caused by healing is also spread out over the entire group. If you are healing a target that is fighting 5 mobs, your threat is divided by 5, applied to each mob. It lets the tank quickly build up so much group threat through AoE like Swipe, that there will be no normal way for you to ever pull aggro, if you just wait a second or two.

For DPS, the first time to attack the main target is after the main tank has done at least one initial solid attack. Once the main target gets within range of the tank’s serious attacks, it should quickly become impossible for you to pull threat off the tank on that one target.

For DPS on a group of mobs, the first time to use AoE is after the main tank has had a chance to use an AoE threat generator, like Consecration or Swipe or Death and Decay on the entire group. Only after that point is it safe to throw down on the entire group, and even then be careful of the damage you do, because the group of mobs only gets AoE threat (and Mauls), the main target is the one that’s really getting all the main tank’s love. Your threat from AoE damaging attacks is Direct Threat, and is NOT spread out… each mob is gaining a lot of threat, and you WILL pull aggro from the tank a lot faster than a healer ever will.

So… why are tanks having a hard time holding threat in groups?

I think that, after breaking it down, you can see many potential areas where aggro can be pulled.

Are the healers and DPS waiting long enough for the tank to establish a little threat on the entire group?

Did the tank manage to get ALL mobs in a group in his range to generate threat?

Are the DPS unloading on group AoE before the tank has grabbed threat on them all?

Is one of the DPS targeting, and going all out, on a target OTHER than the tanks’ primary kill target (the mob he is focusing all of his non-AoE threat generating abilities on?)

Is the tank opening up as soon as possible with AoE to generate threat on everyone?

Is the tank gathering the mobs in so everyone is in range, or so that those not in range get CCed so as to not be free to hit the first healer to generate Global Threat?

It doesn’t all come down to ‘the tank sucks’, as much as a group might like to think so.

Responsibility for threat control is in the hands of every member of the group. That’s why everyone is supposed to use a threat monitor like Omen, so you can see the main tank’s threat on the target you are fighting, and make sure you do not go over.

That is why Omen has settings for watching your threat on all mobs that are aware of you, so if you ARE generating global threat or AoE threat, you can watch to make sure you’re not overtaking the tank on group threat on any one particular mob.

And finally… it is why there is so much room for fun when it comes to Taunting abilities.

The core mechanic of a Taunt like Growl, is that it generates zero threat of  it’s own… it only raises your threat level on that target to suddenly be higher than anyone else’s.

This can be fun to play with.

The warning, of course, is it makes no sense to pull with a Taunt like Growl, because while it did get the mob’s attention, it did zero threat. The slightest breeze of healing from a caster and the mob is running away after them.

Taunts are for using in the middle of a fight, when a mob runs free and you need to pull it to you NOW… by jumping your threat above everyone else.

If you have two tanks and one mob, you can totally ping pong the poor mob by Taunting to you, whacking it a few times, and then having the other tank Taunt and whack a few times, and back and forth. The key is you have to generate more threat while it’s on you, and then the other tank has to generate more threat while it’s on him. Gives you something to keep topping when you Taunt.

It’s what the bear boss in Zul’Aman was all about. Timed Taunting.

Another thing, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, is that your Taunt is now ranged.

If you have a single mob at range, and the rest is in your face, and you don’t want to physically go to where the ranged mob is for fear of pulling extra mobs or groups, you can have one ranged DPS attack that ranged mob, generating ranged Direct Threat (and yes, taking damage from that mob), and then as soon as the mob has some serious threat built up on it, you can Taunt it, and the ranged DPS can immediately switch to one of your melee targets.

That leaves you with a lot of threat on that one ranged target, because your threat was immediately jumped ABOVE whatever the ranged DPS had caused. The ranged DPS is no longer causing threat to the target because he’s moved on to your main kill target, and the threat you have on the ranged mob will EASILY counter the global threat your healers will generate, until you get the chance to go after him.

No, you don’t have to rely on Misdirect all the time. You’ve got your own options.

Of course, some mobs are immune to Taunt. God, I hate that. Knowledge is power, and knowing which ones are immune helps your life immensely.

The last thing to remember, the very last thing, is to know that you do not pull aggro away from the tank just by being 1 tick of threat over the tank. You have to surpass the tank by a certain percentage before you actually pull the attention of the mob away.

And the percentage you can go over changes based on how close to the mob you are.

If you are in direct knife-fighting range of the mob, it takes much less threat over the tank to pull aggro than if you were at a distance. 

If you are a ranged DPS class, you want to be at or near to your max range, so that you have plenty of cushion before you go over the tank’s threat.

If you are a melee class, then you want to be aware of what skills and spells you have to dump threat, like a Feral Druids’ Cower, so that when your threat is peaking you can dump it down as you go.

Hunter’s, this is why you want to turn off Growl and turn on Cower when in group situations. Your pets, especially for Beastmasters, do a lot of damage, all in melee range, and your method of reducing the threat caused by damage is by turning the pet’s Cower on Auto.

If Growl is on, obviously Cower should be off, and vice versa.

Okay. I think that’s it. Hopefully, Cassie will have a moment or two to look up and add the link to that old WoW Insider post sometime today. I went into the actual numbers and percentages for all of this in that post, and I just don’t see the need to go into all of that again. Threat has been changed enough that it should be enough for you to know how it works (or be reminded), and to know what to watch, and you’ll be JUST fine.

Feel free in the discussion to go into a lot more detail as to how you like to generate your threat, how you like to pull, what stats you like for getting ‘enough’ hit and expertise to make your shots count when you need them to, and by all means don’t limit it to just Druids.

The main thing I hope for is that post helps answer a lot of the questions that I get about threat generation, and if it doesn’t, by all means ask your question in the comments as well. I figure if I get that many emails about it, there just might be a lot more folks that wonder but don’t ask.

I am NOT a slacker!

Matt had a great thought provoking post over at World of Matticus this morning, the kind of post that gives you lots of fun internal dialogue. I’d link to it, but Matt is bigtime… my new work blocks his website. FIXED!

Essentially… he asserts that some of his raiders are perfectionists, some are slackers, and his guild benefits from having both.

I made a joke about it for my post title… he used ‘slacker’ as his label for a person that, once he achieves a certain level of effectiveness with his gear, is happy. They will of course still enjoy getting new upgrades… but they can play and enjoy themselves just fine without that next incremental loot drop that increases Agility by +2 overall. 

He was pretty clearly NOT trying to be offensive by using the term slacker. I certainly wasn’t offended. Better make sure I get that across, don’t want to unintentionally start a war. :)

I don’t know how he decided to land on that label, but perhaps in Canada they don’t have the same cultural baggage. Here in the States, some well established negative connotations of slackers are portraying them as lazy, shiftless buggers that surf all day, blow off school, and wear neither shoes nor shirt while smoking weed in a VW van in the school parking lot between classes. 

Not that I ever saw “Fast Times in Ridgemont High”, you understand…

So let’s just move past the Slacker label thing. You can call it whatever you want, his description of the player is what I resonated with.

He used Perfectionist and Slacker as labels. Let’s keep his meaning, and just use different, non-value laden terms.

How about, just for the purposes of losing those negative connotations, we call them Performance Oriented and Goal Oriented, instead.

The Perfectionist is our Performance Oriented player. His playstyle is to always be seeking to squeeze that last little bit of improved performance out of his character. He isn’t quite satisfied, ever. There is always an area that he feels could be improved to boost performance.

The Slacker is our Goal Oriented player. He determines what level of performance he needs to attain to achieve his goal, and once at that point, he relaxes a bit and further upgrades are welcome, but are not the key focus of play.

I am totally a Goal Oriented player.

Matt talked a bit about the kind of attitude that gives rise to being Goal Oriented. I’m not going to try and rephrase his excellent writing.

Instead, I’d like to talk about actually being a Goal Oriented player. It’s the point of view I have. In many ways, his phrasing things in this way has helped me to define why I’ve chosen the topics I write about, and how I approach the game.

See, many people I talk to clearly believe that a true player, or perhaps a better way to phrase it is a dedicated player, can never be satisfied with their gear. It often seems that some folks believe you must always be fighting for the next drop.

And for a Performance player, that’s going to be true.

But I am a Goal Oriented player. Hehe… I’m a “Goalie”. 

My intent, when playing in a group, is to be able to effectively perform my role in the group.

If I’m a healer, I need to be able to keep everyone alive, throw down extra buffs and cleanses, and also provide a healing cushion to deal with emergencies and prevent low health based panic.

I’f I’m DPS, I need to be able to provide strong enough damage output to do my fair share (and hopefully a bit more) when taking part in any fight that has a hard enrage timer. Such fights are based around the idea that you must be able, as a team, to do a certain amount of damage in a certain set amount of time. I have to be able to do my part in that, plus a bit. In addition I need to be able to provide what special services my class can offer the group, whether that be buffs or CC or mana or health regen or purges.

And for tanking, I need to be able to avoid enough, mitigate enough, and absorb enough damage of all different types that the healer is not so overly taxed in keeping me alive that she either runs out of mana before the end of a fight, or has no extra time to spare to heal others in the group or provide other services than healing. Almost all of a tanks’ goal is focused on reducing the burden of the healer. The secondary consideration is to be able to provide enough threat on all enemies quickly enough to stay ahead of the max threat output of any DPS, because that lets’ DPS go as all out as they are capable, within the limits of Energy, Rage or Mana.

So for a Goal Oriented player, we need to know our class and the content challenges well enough to plan our gear and stat levels needed to reach that goal.

When we are still struggling to reach our gear goal, we can look for the challenges we know we can handle… or work with friends who are willing to take a chance on harder challenges for the sake of fun, even if you’re a bit under geared by your own standards. This is where you don’t want to try and pug raids or content you know that, by your own standards, you are undergeared for, because it’s unreasonable to ask strangers to have to overperform to make up for your shortcomings. Your friends, on the other hand… well, abusing them is what they’re for, right?

With a gear goal reached though, we can freely volunteer to join a group, even a pug, doing anything we planned for, without worry that we won’t be able to pull our weight or do our fair share in terms of gear.

Whether you’re SKILLED enough to do it is a different subject entirely.

Every time you get an upgrade that pushes you further past your goal (without hurting something else), you can enjoy knowing you are overgeared for what you’re doing, and may even be getting close to ready for encounters you never dreamed of attempting.

Even better… once you’ve hit your gear goal, and you are satisfied that you can perform your role in a group, you are free to begin working on another character, whether it be an alt for fun or a different class that you’d like to raid with.

That’s what I do. I don’t worry about ever becoming the best geared Bear Tank evah. It is meaningless to me. It is, truly, without meaning to me. I am not competing with other Bear Tanks to see who is, like, the Bear Tankiest.

What I worry about is being capable of doing my part in a run well enough while playing with friends that I don’t let anyone down. And if I’m well enough geared to help support a healer or DPS through difficult content who isn’t yet near their own gear goals… BONUS!

I think that, in some ways, how competitive you are in the game has an impacton whether you are Performance or Goal Oriented.

Going back briefly to an earlier post, competitive play or teamwork… I personally want to have fun playing in a group, a grop of successful happy folks… so if loot drops, and my own goals have already been reached, then even if it’s an upgrade… I don’t actually NEED it. Someone else in the run may get more out of it.

If I were more competitive about how I played, more about wanting to be better than other actual people in the game rather than the content, then I’d probably desire those upgrades quite a lot more.

I love knowing that my tank is a solid tank… and I love knowing that, even though she’s got a mix of blues and epics, my Hunter consistently provides comparable DPS in 5, 10 or 25 man content. Not the best DPS, but a decent and reliable amount providing a solid contribution to the success of the group.

And I love feeling that I can play my Shaman, leveling and improving gear, without worrying that I’m abandoning an unfinished toon. I’ve got two that, at a moments notice, I can say “Oh, you need a tank? Sure, hold on.” “Oh, you need one more DPS? Sure, hold on.”

Someday, I’ll be able to say the same about a Healer. :)

I love reading a post that encourages me to think. Thanks Matt, I appreciate it, buddy.

It's worse than that…

Siha at Banana Shoulders, one of my favorite bloggers of all time, wrote a GREAT post today wherin she both extolls and laments the wonders of cooking skillups and buff foods.

Go read the post. No really, please go read it. My post ain’t gonna make no sense unless you gone done read it, y’all.

And yes, that IS how I contract ‘you all’. I grew up in the South, and I claim the priviledge of using both you all and y’all in a sentence.

Yes Manny, Miami counts as the South, and I don’t give a damn what the proportion of Newyawk snowbirds are to locals. Go look on a map. You see that bit of the U.S. that looks like it’s pissing on Cuba? Yeah, check out the lattitude. South. /restmycase.

Okay, that bit of inanity should have given you enough time to go read Siha’s post.

She makes a great point about Dragonfin Angelfish, their usage in Strength food, their utter desirability, and their rarity in spawn points.

What she did NOT, however, mention was that Dragonfin Angelfish is not only the primary material component in Strength buff food….

It’s also the primary ingredient in the Bear tank’s best TANKING buff food!

And wait, it gets better! We need TWO freaking Dragonfish just to make ONE tanking food!

/bastards

So when you castigate Blizzard for making Dragonfin Angelfish and Fishing a chokepoint in your Strength food acquisition… remember, they REALLY made it painful to get that one, damn  food you want most by throwing you up in direct competition with all the Bear tanks on the server.

And we all know just how vicious you have to get when fighting a Bear for that fresh caught fish.

A Bear Tank gear list you can trust!

Allison Roberts at WoW Insider posted the best bear tank gear list out there today, and for those of you still looking at options pre_naxx, it is what you need to bookmark.

Here is Allison’s Bear Tank Gear List.

I personally haven’t followed some of the recommendations there, because I’ve balanced my gear goals a tiny bit differently based on the Heroics and Naxx 10 we run in my guild.

I have not raided like Allison has at end game, so if you need someone’s advice to follow about the choices, you cannot go wrong picking hers. 

How do my personal choices differ?

For one thing, the way armor stats have changed in Patch 3.0.8 means that I place a much higher value on armor on leather items, and much less on rings, neck and trinkets.

So for me, the Dragonfriend Bracers from Wyrmrest exalted weigh higher than the Bindings of the Tunneler, because point for point the increased armor of the Dragonfriend Bracers compensates for lost armor on other items.

Likewise, the armor values on rings and trinkets do not, for me, play as much of a part as the Dodge, Stam and Defense value. 500 armor is still nice, but it’s 500 armor. Period.

And finally, remember to balance your stats. Balance your Agility/Dodge with your Stamina.

Allison did not list the Polar gear in the actual Chest and Foot positions, although she did mention them in the early forward. But those two pieces DO have extremely good armor levels, armor that does get multiplied appropriately, and while they do lack inherent Agility, they posses enough Stamina and gem sockets that it does balance well as long as you are gemming for Agility out the wazoo on these AND other pieces.

Don’t ask me where your wazoo is. If you have to ask, you’re not ready to be told.

So… of every list I have seen anywhere, Allison’s is by far the best.

Just remember that your job is not to blindly follow someone else’s recommendations like lemmings. not mine, not hers, not anyone’s.

Your job is to make reasoned, knowledgeable decisions based on your personal goals for armor value/Physical Mitigation, Dodge/Avoidance, Health, and as an afterthought, Crit/Hit/Expertise/Attack Power.

I have personally seen druid tanks demand to be VoA main tanks because they have the highest health of anyone there. They say it flat out, too. “I have the highest health, I should be main tank. Their health is lower; they suck.”

I love that. Really. Way to represent the class. No wonder I run into people that think bear tanks suck. 

Well, if all you do is gem and enchant for Stamina, then sure, you can get an amazing Health rating.

And enjoy that health, because without the Avoidance from Dodge and the Phyical Mitigation from armor, you’re going to eat a LOT of hits.

I’ve seen some druid tanks aim for nothing but high Agility scores.

Well, that’s great too, any attack that misses is an attack that did nothing to you at all.

I just hope you have enough Stamina to eat the hits that do get through, especially during enrages and frenzies when damage output from a boss can both increase, and happen much more frequently.

I love Allison’s gear list. Great choices, a great way to present it.

Just keep one thing in mind;

With a Pre-Naxx gear goal, you should be trying to balance things so that you have around 32000 Armor, 32000 Health, and 35% Dodge when UNBUFFED.

If you choose to take 30,000 Health in order to get 37-40% Dodge, than that is fine. Perfectly acceptable. An excellent choice. But try not to go too far below a minimum of about 28,000 Health in the search for higher Dodge.

If you choose to take 35,000 to 38,000 Health, or even 42,000 Health, and sacrifice Dodge to get it, try very, very hard not to go below 32% Dodge. Dodge has an amazing impact on your long term survivability.

And for armor, remember that your leather armor items are far more valuable for armor due to the multipliers. The Rings, Neck and Trinket do add up, but the bulk of your armor comes from your Leather. Plan accordingly, the bulk of your armor comes from your leather pieces. So look for LOTS of armor from those pieces.

And never use Armor enchants or leatherworking patches for Armor, because they do not get affected by the armor multiplier, either. Choose Stamina and Agility instead.

Meta gemming

Javan mentioned this in a comment, and I wanted to make sure folks had a chance to see it, I never really talked about it, I just equipped it and moved on.

Yes, the meta gem Austere Earthsiege Diamond DOES, in fact, affect all armor for bears after the multiplier.

That is not a bug, that is working as intended.

According to a post a while back by Ghostcrawler, this is working as intended. Really.

He makes it feel that this is actually the MUST HAVE feral bear gem.

Ghostcrawler’s post says the following;

Some more details to help answer some of the questions we’ve seen:

— Cloaks do have base armor which gets multipled by the bear bonus.
— There is no multiplier on any bonus armor. Not the bear bonus. Not the talent bonuses.
— There is a 2% armor benefit you can get from a metagem.
— The ultimate bear modifier should be 4.7 (Dire Bear form) x 1.66 (Survival of the Fittest) x 1.1 (Thick Hide) x 1.02 (meta gem).
— The best bear we can create in current itemization has 35,907 armor, which is 68.34% mitigation vs. level 83 bosses or 70.21% mitigation versus level 80 mobs.
— Before these changes, you might have been able to build a bear with nearly 40,000 armor, but that relies on using Defender’s Code and Origin of Nightmares, items of such ridiculous power that we were going to nerf them anyway before this change. (Now they’re fine.)
— Note how close that 40,000 armor is to the cap already. :(
— We do have concerns block may be too good a stat for future raids, and we’ll keep an eye on it.
— Equipping a weapon will still boost Savage Roar (and everything else) the way it does currently.

Bottom line: armor was too good for druids. That was a blessing if you could get the items and a curse if you could not.

Now, you may ask yourself, “Bear, if Ghostcrawler said all this, why didn’t you mention it yesterday? Why are you just now bringing it up? It says RIGHT THERE that base armor on cloaks was going to get multiplied. Are you stupid or what?”

Well, see the thing is… I remembered this as the post where GC said that the Meta Gem affected bear form multipliers, and the discussion about our armor multiplying in general. It was only in looking it up again now for the meta gem quote that I went “Oh hey, lookie there. Cloak armor all spelled out in blue. Well, screw me.”

For the word firect from the crabs mouth, go read the post “Upcoming Hunter changes part III”

Okay, so it was changed after to say feral changes. It started out as Hunter, so sue me.

Ghostcrawler answer to comments from the thread include; 



Q u o t e:
defenders code has 850 armor. Is that considered bonus armor? if so than it does not get modified by thick hide and will continue to be 850 armor no matter what.

Defender’s Code will grant 850 armor unless you have the meta-gem.



Q u o t e:
if the wording you posted in your previous post holds true, than obviously only the 8 item slots will be affected by SOTF, but what thick hide affects even with your new post is still ambiguous.

Thick Hide, Dire Bear and Survival of the Fittest only affect base armor. This is the armor on all the base armor on your gear. Leather never has bonus armor, so it’s not complicated. Rings, necks, trinkets and weapons can have bonus armor. This is usually shown with the armor number in green, but confusingly, not always. Cloaks are complicated because they have base armor (which is multiplied) and sometimes bonus armor (which is not).



Q u o t e:
requesting further clarification of what exactly thick hide will and will not multiply.

Thick hide multiplies the base armor on leather and cloaks.



Q u o t e:
also, what exactly does the meta effect, from your wording it looks like it will affect everything.

The meta gem increases all your armor so it’s just a 2% bonus to everything. You want this gem. Fortunately it is not a rare drop like some of the other gear so we know you can get it.



Q u o t e:
finally, in a previous post, you stated that all armor item budget would be reallocated on staves. For example my staff from heroic halls of lightning has 700 armor. Will it continue to have 700 armor that just no longer gets multiplied by anything, or will those item budgets be spent and the staff will gain (purely random here) say 20 agi and 30 stam?

It will get 700 armor that is not multiplied by anything (except the meta).

Mail Call: Gem Choices

Reader mail call!

Greetings!

I have a question about Gems, specifically, what are the best gems to socket for a bear tank. In BC, I pretty much went with all +Stamina gems, but that
doesn’t seem the case now.

Should I;
a) socket to get the gem bonuses, or
b) socket with all Stamina again, bonuses be damned, or
c) socket with all +Agility Gems for the same reason as B?

If you could talk about this in a blog, that would be awesome.*

~ Norith the Wanderer (Aka. Puck in R/L)

Thanks for the email, Norith!

As far as gems go, it’s pretty situational.

If the socket bonus is something that benefits tanking, like Agility, Stamina, Hit Rating or Expertise, then I’d say go with a gem that gives you useful stats and keeps the socket bonus at the same time. There are lots of stats you can choose from.

For gems, any combinations of Agility, Hit Rating, Expertise and Stamina are all excellent split gems, and will also help to meet many of the new Meta gem requirements.

For blue sockets I’ve been putting the +24 Stamina just to stack Stamina in my early Heroic tanking days, and for yellows and reds I’ve been putting in the Agility/Hit Rating Monarch Topaz because early gear is naturally heavy on Stamina and very, very light on Hit Rating.

The more comfortable you are with your Healer, the lower max Stamina you can get away with, and the more valuable pure Dodge becomes, and the more you will want to get Hit Rating and Expertise to get your threat generating attacks to strike home.

Likewise, if you are comfortable with your Stamina, change those blue sockets from +24 Stam to the combo Agi/Stam purples.

I hope this answers that question, and it’s a good one. We get to be a lot more varied in our gem choices now compared to the old days, and I am grateful for it.

Bear Tanking Specs and Gear Pre-Naxx

I have worked the numbers again and again, and as far as I can see, it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other. We may have arrived at different weighting systems, but the end results are mostly the same.

So if you want a great ranked listing of Bear Tanking gear, go visit the Druid Leather page and the Druid Items pages of WoW Think Tank. It’s a solid resource. And I’m not so egotistical that I feel I have to reinvent the wheel on this. I wanted to make sure it was solid… and now I’m sure.

What I’m going to do is waste your time by giving you a base spec, and a couple stages of gearing, with an eye towards helping everyone still leveling to prepare for Naxx. 

So, prepping the feral Druid tank spec.

You know you’re going to HAVE to have a talent spec with 3/3 in Survival of the Fittest to be uncrittable in raids. Period. You know you’re going to HAVE to have 3/3 in Protector of the Pack, as well.

A decent all-in tank spec is something like this, but you don’t have to go all cookie cutter on me. Just make damn sure you have your max dodges, your max armors, and your uncrittable and PotP, ‘kay? If you like more fear duration reduction, fine. If you’d like to have more Energy return and Bear damage boost from Tiger’s Fury, by all means.

In fact, if you’d like to rework things to take 5/5 in Rend and Tear, that’s perfectly valid also. I’ve done some whack-a-mole target dummy action that shows a very decent threat and damage boost from Rend and Tear. I haven’t worried about it myself, because in the Heroics I’ve run threat generation has been the least of my concerns. But it IS a perfectly valid tanking spec choice. And a ton of your damage comes from Maul, now.

Hmm… maybe I better reiterate that.

A TON of your Damage and threat comes from Maul, now.

Shoot, I never really got into that, did I? And this post ain’t the time.

Let me just say in passing that, while Mangle does generate decent damage and threat, and Lacerate is nice, Maul blows them both out of the water for damage and threat. It is well worth being your rage dump when you’re tanking, and having the Maul glyph to have it strike two targets at once is a FANTASTIC return on your glyph investment, and DAMN WELL worth the effort of repositioning yourself and moving around to avoid having that extra attack hit a CC’ed target when you don’t want it to. 

A few points about some of these talents that may not be obvious. Kind of a round-up.

Natural Reaction is an awesome talent. +6% Dodge. And when you Dodge, you get extra Rage. And Bear tanks have three main goals when preparing to be tanks; high health, high armor, high Dodge. You want to Dodge a lot in the first place, and this gives you a ton of Rage for doing what you’re supposed to be doing anyway, like being given a cookie and a pat on the head for cleaning your den. Cave. I mean room.

Primal Fury gives you bonus Rage every time you crit. And Swipe hits all targets in front of you, and every single one of those targets affected by Swipe is considered a seperate attack, each has a chance to crit, and therefore you can gain multiple crits from one Swipe, each feeding you Rage. And what did we say was a main goal of Druid tanks? Dodging? And what is the most point effective way of gaining that? Did you say Agility? And what else does Agility boost? Why, is that Critical Strike chance? Why, I think it is!

Survival Instincts is another great talent. If you put the button to activate it right next to Frenzied Regeneration, and you have the Glyph of Frenzied Regeneration, what you end up with is a whale of a ‘oh shit’ button. If you are an Herbalist with Lifeblood on top of it, you’ve got a sweet little bit of self-heal action going on there. You pop Survival Instincts and it boosts your already large health even higher… and then you pop Frenzied Regeneration and it gives you a healthy HoT that is healing you based on that real high boosted max health you just got from Survival Instincts. And if you throwdown with Lifeblood on top of it, Lifeblood is boosted from the Glyph of Frenzied Regen while it’s active. Yes, yes, Lifeblood does count as a Healing Effect that gets boosted 20% by the glyph. And your healer, who is trying to keep you alive during whatever caused the ‘oh shit’ moment, is going to love that extra 20% also. If you’re healer is dead, and that’s why you’re panicking… it helps keep you alive. Believe me, I’ve used it to do just that several times, especially on Skirmisher pulls in Azjol-Nerub.

Anyway, so you’re leveling your bear tank. And you know how you’re going to spend your talent points. But you’re also leveling your Rogue or Priest or warlock, and you’d just like to know what you should look for in terms of gear, right?

Well, my advice is to start by crafting everything that is relatively inexpensive or getting what is available on the AH, and have it waiting for you.

A good list of crafted gear to have waiting for you at 78+ is;

Head: Eviscerator Facemask (BoE LW)
Shoulder: Trollwoven Spaulders (BoE LW)
Back: Durable Nerubhide Cape (BoE LW)
Chest: Polar Vest (BoE LW)
Wrist: Eviscerator Bindings (BoE LW)
Hand: Eviscerator Guantlets (BoE LW)
Waist: Trollwoven Girdle (BoE LW)
Feet: Polar Boots (BoE LW)

The mats really don’t cost that much, or can be farmed. Or just buy the pieces outright with some of the ridiculous gold you get from questing.

The Polar Vest is outstanding for a starting chestpiece. The mat cost is really not that high at all, it has a very high base armor value, it has tons of Stamina, and it has handy sockets for gems which I filled personally with a couple of Glinting Monarch Topaz and a single +24 Stamina gem. If you do not want to spend the money on the mats for the Polar Vest, I’m not going to argue with you. You have, as a free alternative, the opportunity to stealth solo into Utgarde Pinnacle and claim the quest reward chest piece, the Exotic Leather Tunic. It’s not quite as good when starting out as the Polar Vest, especially if you are playing with a Healer who is just starting out looking for gear with you. But, it WILL do the job.

For the hardcore, and after all, who doesn’t want to be the second greatest (Ali was the greatest, but you can aspire for number two) there are a few more items that you can have crafted for you, or can buy direct off the auction house.

Neck: Titanium Earthguard Chain (BoE JC)
Ring: Titanium Earthguard Ring (BoE JC)
Trinket: Darkmoon Card: Greatness (BoE Inscript)
Leggings: Chain Gang Legguards (BoE – AH World Drop)

The mat cost, **if** you can make your own Dragon’s Eyes, aren’t bad at all for the Titanium Earthguard Chain and Ring. Each one takes FOUR Dragon’s Eyes, and on my server at least they are currently selling for 370g each. So if you have to buy these mats, the Eyes themselves will set you back close to 1400g. Sadly, they are good enough that I’m going to go ahead and make them for myself… because I do, in fact, have a JC to make the Dragon’s Eyes. Your mileage, and the depth of your pockets, may vary. 

The Darkmoon Card: Greatness is just the best damn bear tanking trinket around. If you can make the cards yourself, go for it. I have been working my butt off to make this, and as of this writing I have the Ace through Seven… I just need that Eight to come up and one deck will be finished. I also have the start of a second deck for Cassie. If you have really, really deep pockets, the individual cards on my server sell for about 1200g – 1500g each. Have fun with your 10,000g+ trinket!

A word about the Inscription game, and buying Herbs to Mill to try and get Icy Pigments to craft Snowfall Ink. According to Warcraft Econ, in patch 3.0.8 there will be a new vendor in Dalaran named Jessica Sellers that will sell you 1 Snowfall Ink in exchange for 10 Ink of the Sea. This will drastically increase the number of Darkmoon Cards you can make from the same number of milled herbs. Warcraft Econ credits El’s Professions with giving him the heads up. Two great sites, go check them out! 

Okay, so that covers crafted gear, both easy and hard.

Next, there is one instance you need to run to get a must-have quest reward; Culling of Stratholme. Why? The instance itself is great fun, and for a quest reward you can choose the Handwraps of Preserved History.

Right now, the Handwraps are the best tanking gloves in the game for ferals. Sad, but true.

After the patch, they gonna be nerfed, but they’re still going to be very, very good. 

before.jpg 
after.jpg

Screenshot of ‘after’ courtesy of MMO Champion.

Moving on…

If you have some solid neck, trinket and ring gear from level 70, you can feel pretty good pre-Patch in continuing to use them in Heroics. The trinkets and rings with high armor on them continue to benefit from the armor multiplier.

So, with the gear I listed above, and some solid level 70 rings, neck and trinkets, you are ready to tank Heroics.

Your very first decision?

What Tabard to equip for reputation.

I have personally chosen Wyrmrest Accord first. At Exalted with Wyrmrest, you get to have a nice Dragon mount to add to your collection (yeah, I know… when do Druids ever use a mount? I know, I know…) and you get to buy the Dragonfriend Bracers. These are pretty nice Bracers, and you can get them just by doing other stuff.

You have as an alternative the Kirin Tor, who at Revered have both Leggings and a Feral Tanking Weapon. The leggings are better than the Chain Gang from the AH, so that is a great choice, but the weapon… well, let’s just say there is a much better choice in Heroics, and wait a bit until we get there, okay? It’s not bad, don’t get me wrong, it’s just not what you COULD have.

The Argent Crusade has the head enchant you’re going to most likely want, the Arcanum of the Stalwart Protector at Revered. Since that’s about it, well… darn.

There is one other rep to get if you choose, and there is no Tabard for it. Inscription lets you make yourself some mighty powerful shoulder enchants, but if you ain’t an Inscriber, you’re going to need to think about doing Sons of Hodir. Lesser Inscription of the Pinnacle at Honored, which is the same as the old Aldor Exalted shoulder enchant, and Greater Inscription of the Pinnacle at Exalted

I’ll make you a deal… if you don’t grind the rep, and stick to an Exalted inscription from Aldor or Scryer, I won’t tell anyone if you don’t. It’ll be our bear tank secret.

There is, finally, Knights of the Ebon Blade. The rewards from this reputation just aren’t as good as stuff you can either craft, or get from somewhere else easily.

Okay, so you picked a Tabard, you’ve got starter gear for Heroics. You’re going to get Emblems of Heroism as you do the Heroics, so what do you want to plan to buy with them?

There are five tanking items you can purchase from the Emblems of Heroism that drop in Heroics and 10-man Naxxramus. They are what you should save up for, in order of importance;

Chained Military Gorget (25 EoH)
Valor Medal of the First War (40 EoH)
Chestguard of the Lost Vanquisher, which turns into Heroes’ Dreamwalker Raiments (80 EoH)
Gloves of the Lost Vanquisher, which turns into Heroes’ Dreamwalker Handgrips (60 EoH)
Savage Gladiator’s Dragonhide Helm (45 EoH)

If you are buying the Titanium Earthguard Chain, then I recommend placing the Chained Military Gorget either at the end of your Emblem purchasing list, or removing it altogether.

If you are getting the Darkmoon Card: Greatness, then I recommend your putting the Valor Medal at the third position after chest and gloves, because there is a stellar trinket as a Heroic Drop from Heroic Azjol-Nerub taht is, frankly, better (Essence of Gossamer) .

The chestpiece is outstanding. And, after the nerf to the Handwraps of Preserved History in the next patch, and the accompanying boost to armor value from leather gear, the Heroes’ Dreamwalker Handgrips are going to really shine. So adjust the list where your drop choices deem appropriate.

But the helm. The Savage Gladiator’s Dragonhide Helm is better than either of the two Heroic drops pre-Naxx that we would look for, the Shroud of Darkness or the Mask of the Watcher. Although the Mask of the Watcher, to me, is incredible even though it lacks so much Agility, because of the solid Expertise jump. So while you do Heroics, I’d try to get either of the Heroic helm drops… but if you just cannot get the random number generator to favor your getting a helm the straight way, by all means. Take excess Emblems and get yhe Savage Dragonhide.

And of course, if you’d rather PvP, well. Bring on the Hateful.

So… the Heroics. What to run to look for what from the Random Number Generator? 

Well, your first order of business should be running Heroic Utgarde Keep. Skarvald can drop the Bindings of the Tunneler, a great bracer until you get the Dragonfriend Bracers from Wyrmrest. But the big reward is, Ingvar can drop the Enraged Feral Staff, the best tanking weapon pre-Naxx. This is a big upgrade over Earthwarden, and should be your very first goal. Enchant it with Mongoose and call it a very, very good day.

After that, it’s time to specifically target Heroics for what you feel like taking on.

Heroic Drak’theron Keep has the Keystone Great-Ring to complement your crafted Titanium Earthstorm Ring.

Heroic Azjul-Nerub has the incredible trinket, the Essence of Gossamer. The Essence of Gossamer and the Valor Medal can be your two tanking trinkets of choice quite happily when strolling into Naxx.

Heroic Oculus has the Mask of the Watcher, a great helm. At this point you have the gear to tank Oculus successfully… but the helm drops from the last boss, and the fight has nothing to do with your gear or class. It’s a battle on dragonback, and it requires cunning, skill, and tight coordination. I’ll be honest. I went in there on Heroic, kicked it’s ass on the run, and when we got to the Dragon… no lie, we wiped about 30 times, with all sorts of different people coming in and out, reclearing trash, and taking a good two to three hours over the course of an evening. And we never did kill the bastard. So don’t expect to just waltz in with an overgeared group from a pug and knock it over. Killing the dragon is a solid accomplishment. We plan on running it several times on normal JUST to practise handling our dragons in combat properly.

Heroic Violet Hold has a slightly lower ranked helm, the Shroud of Darkness, but groups to run fast Violet Hold Heroics seem plentiful, it’s not ranked THAT much less, and in your gear and with a solid healer, Heroic Violet Hold is fun and fast and frantic. I pugged it on Saturday and had a blast. Far and away a better choice of a Helm in terms of accessibility.

Heroic Gundrak has a nice upgrade to the Chain Gang Leggings, the Gored Hide Legguards. Be polite with this drop, though. Unlike most leather drops, where what we want won’t be optimum for a Rogue and vice versa, this really is a great set of Rogue leg armor. PLease don’t declare it to be ‘Druid loot’.

The same goes for any leather, now that I think about it. 

So, there you go. Run all of those Heroics, stock up on all those items… and you’re pretty much set to walk into Naxx 10 man as a main tank and be confident that you’re going to be as well geared as you could reasonably expect.

There is a nice epic weapon drop in Heroic Violet Hold… the Staff of Trickery. When the upcoming patch removes armor multipliers from weapons, that will make the Staff of Trickery very, very nice. So if you’re running Heroic Violet Hold, by all means grab that staff and enjoy it. But right now, with weapon armor multipliers still in place… keep the Enraged Feral Staff, please.

If you check out Kalon’s lists for comparisons, you’ll see (of course) that the upcoming PvP gear will all be godlike for tanking bears. If you love PvP, by all means, pursue your PvP gear. It will be very nice.

Any items that just require Honor to purchase… be advised, those Stone Keepers Shards that you get from bosses killed while your faction controls Wintergrasp can be used to buy Honor. 30 Stone Keepers Shards can purchase 2000 Honor by getting a Wintergrasp Commendation.

Also, the Wintergrasp PvP gear that you can buy from Wintergrasp Marks of Honor after the next patch are also very, very nice. That seems to me to be much more interesting to pursue than the Arena gear, much more fun, so take a close look at what’s there. If you have tried Wintergasp and like it… yummy!

A list of all the items in the PTR from MMO Champion, and a quick rundown of those items we can use;

Titan-Forged Leather Helm of Triumph (Wintergrasp Mark of Honor x40)
Titan-Forged Boots of Triumph (Wintergasp Mark of Honor x15)

The boots aren’t quite as nice as Polar Boots, so that’s a ‘meh’ situation, but that helm is certainly the best pre-Naxx we’ll see, so I think doing Wintergrasp enough to buy the Helm sounds like a heck of a goal.

After you have your Pre-Naxx gear all lined up… well, a lot of it will get tossed from a drop in Naxx, so don’t cherish it too highly. Blizzard seems to have intentionally removed Expertise and Hit Rating from a lot of available gear, with the intent of keeping us looking for that next drop in a raid. They give us what we need to reach the next level. A lot fewer drops that are ‘best in class’ in super-early content that keep us from upgrading in raids forever.

But with the gear I’ve listed out here, feel content that you’ll be able to tank Heroics well as long as you work together with a good team.  You’ll find it easy to hit 27k+ in armor, 34k+ health and 32%+ Dodge, and with that kind of health you’ll be able to tank with an adequate cushion to keep pace with your healer… who, in a perfect world, is leveling and gearing up right beside you.

Once your healers are extremely well geared… it’s time to let the health drop in favor of more avoidance, more Agility and Hit Rating and Expertise. You can let those Polar Pieces go for other, more balanced items.

I hope this helps some of you to plan your gear, assuming you aren’t clearing Naxx 25 and beyond already.

Take care all, and Happy New Year!