Announcing changes to the Big Bear Butt blog

I have a few announcements for you, my friends.

First, I want to thank all of you who have read my writing here on the blog, whether it be just once or for months and even years. I may not have been the most consistent writer in terms of topic or mood, but I have always tried to be honest with myself and with you. Even in the most grumpy of my posts, I’ve always tried to be entertaining. Failing that, I’ve gone for distracting. Failing even that much, I’ll settle for irritating.

I’d especially like to thank everyone who has ever commented on the blog, or who has taken the time to email me with questions, or just to say hi. You may not understand how it feels unless you’re a blogger, but when someone takes the time to go out of their way to say “hi !”to you, it really does lift up your spirits and help you feel connected to the people on the other side of your writing. Talking into a vacuum becomes akin to talking to yourself… and I’m crazy enough already, thank you very much.

Verily, if your commenting here has helped me maintain what passes for stability, you’ve performed a valuable public service. Thank you.

Second, I want to let you know that the Big Bear Butt blog, written by me, the BBB, will continue. It’ll be right here. I ain’t going anywhere. I like you folks, and I love writing. I’ll keep writing posts, and they’ll go up here. Sometimes, if I pester her enough, Cassie will hopefully post as well. I don’t foresee there being many changes in the tempo, OR the length of my bearwalls. Just so you know.

Third… what KIND of posts I will write ARE changing. This is my big announcement.

If you come here to read the randomness that goes up, well and good, nothing will be really changing for you.

Storytime, trucking stuff, WoW stuff and life in general, RPG stuff, my Converging Forces story, whatever happens to be my enthusiasm that particular day, basically exactly what I’ve been doing here for the last year. That’s going to continue.

Here’s the deal. If you only have me in your feedreader because every once in a blue moon I put up something about World of Warcraft Druid Bear Tanking, if that is all you are interested in, if you’ve been getting tired of all these “offtopic” posts… now is the perfect time to take me off your feedreader.

Keeping me on your feedreader is just like trying to teach a bear to rappel down a mountain without tempting him with bacon first. All it does is irritate you, and if you get angry and demonstrative, piss off the bear. Nobody wins.

So if that’s what you’re here for, theorycrafting posts and the latest news about WoW Feral Druid Tanks, it’s been a wonderful run, but it’s time we said our farewells, and our courses began to diverge.

Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog, and I hope that you have, at least once or twice in the past, found my site useful for preparing to tank in general and as a Bear Druid in particular.

God bless.

Why the sudden change. It’s pretty much a change that’s been coming for a long time.

I originally started writing guides and tips on Feral Druids in the beginning, years ago, because there was nothing whatsoever out there for Bears. I loved my Bear, everyone said you COULDN’T be an effective Bear, and I knew that was hooey. I loved it, and I felt that with some encouragement and a few tips, others would discover it was super fun awesome time too.

Sure, it was presumptive of me to assume that the advice I felt I had to offer would be either helpful or welcome, but what the heck. I didn’t really expect any audience except for my small circle of friends. So, no worries. I figured maybe 7 to 10 folks would see what i was writing, and we could chew the fat over this or that.

The biggest thing really was I wanted to have fun writing and I really did feel that I could fill that need, and help folks wanting to get started if someone somewhere had actually Googled “How the heck do I bear tank?”

It’s been a long time since those days.

Heck, it’s been a VERY long time since I was the lone Feral Druid voice in the blogosphere. A VERY long time. It’s been so long, that entire new MMOs have gone through beta, went live, and then hit the bug zapper since anything I wrote was fresh or relevant.

Nowadays, if you’d like some theorycrafting tips or advice on playing a Feral Druid, there are many people out there not only writing useful blogs, but who really want to be the person you can rely on for your Feral Druid knowledge. Sure, some of them are craving attention, desperate to be noticed and admired for their big brains, but others are genuinely nice people that are coming into their own voice and have new, fresh ideas and experiences to share. There are a lot of really valuable, wonderful writers out there that would love to help you.

All of them are out there, both the arrogant asshats and the super-considerate helpful writers, and more are beginning their blogging journies every day. I am now far from alone, and you no longer need my ancient experiences to guide you. As if you ever did.

You need a fresh perspective and a new vision. 

If I’m going to be totally honest, I was never really cut out to be the “mentor” website person in the first place. I tried my best, but in time I did discover that a lot of people that read theorycrafting sites, and write theorycrafting sites, and comment on theorycrafting sites are driven by a desperate need. A need for what, I genuinely don’t know, but there is a lot of competitiveness in the theorycrafting arena, a lot of arguing for the sake of trying to score points, or be “right”, or whatever. A lot of ego on naked display.

It’s out there among bloggers, too. I’ve seen bloggers that never say anything unless it’s to comment about how someone else is wrong and start arguments and link back to themselves, and I’ve seen bloggers that comment in other’s blogs that if you want to read a “real” theorycrafting blog, go back and see them instead of this crap you’re looking at. No lie.

I’ve seen enough in dedicated theorycrafting sites to know I’ve seen too much. I have nothing personally to prove to anyone, no desire to be the big bear on campus, just a delight in writing and having fun.

Back when I saw the ever increasing rise of nastyness in the comments here and in the blogospere in general, I decided to let the theorycrafters and elitists go jerk themselves off and stopped writing those kinds of posts. I’ve never regretted it, not one single day. Many of the most offensive I simply blacklisted. The tone around here improved overnight. If you feel you have the right to piss in other people’s pools, don’t be surprised when they don’t invite you back for the next party.

I’ve never really thought of myself as being smarter or more knowledgeable than anyone else. I never considered myself a “theorycrafter”. I’ve always figured, if I could do it, anyone could, and wouldn’t it be nice if someone was there to offer some help and suggestions so they didn’t make the same stupid mistakes I did?

With that in mind, I always tried to write guides and tips and suggestions and lists aimed to help encourage people to be confident, to learn the fundamentals, to be brave enough to get out there and find their own path, and to understand how everything works together well enough on their own to make informed decisions, relying on no one, and certainly not on any website to tell them what to do.

I’ve never wanted to be the guy that does a guide that says “You must do what I say, follow this checklist, and come back here so I can tell you what to do next.” I’ve wanted to be the guy that says, “Here, these are the tools that will help you get started. Go, learn how to use them, and become a greater Bear Tank than I ever was. Discover your true potential, and be the best you can be. Now go forth, and rock the joint. And if you think of me… bounce.”

I’m looking around the blogosphere now, I’m reading Elitist Jerks, I check out the Druid column on WoW Insider (love you, Allison Robert!), I see the new posts going up daily on the Inconspicuous Bear and The Bear Flank and others too numerous to mention, and I can see that the function I was once covering is taken care of very well these days. I am an archaic heirloom of times gone past, and there are now plenty of non-asshat Feral Druid bloggers that write for normal people, not just to impress other elitists with how mathy and special they can be.

For me, the final decision to stop writing guides and Feral Druid rules posts came when I knew that I will not be raiding or even running instances come Cataclysm.

I do think that a person that is going to be assuming the mantle of authority for writing tips and strategies about performing your role in group events should actually be performing that role in a group in the latest content. The writer should speak from personal experience about what works, and what doesn’t work.

That ain’t me right now. And it won’t be me.

And so, to the wonderful people that have come here for Feral Druid guidance in the past, to you I truly do breathe a sigh of farewell. It’s been a wonderful journey together, but you have many more miles to go yet ahead of you, and many more adventures to share. Here by the fire is where my bones wish to lie, sleeping warm and snug while the cold of winter rages on outside, but you hear the wind howl, and feel not the cold, but a delicious excitement at the prospect of a new dawn, and a clear horizon.

Go you on your journeys, discover the adventures that yet lie in wait, and know that I begrudge you nothing, and I wish for you only the best in all that life and WoW has to offer. There is nothing more that I will have to give you, no guidance, no teachings, no wisdom. All that I have to offer you now are my well wishes and prayers that your journey will be a prosperous one, and as you do head out into the Cataclysm of tomorrow, know in your heart the truth that your journeys are yours and yours alone.

Thank you all, so VERY much for allowing me to feel that I have been of help to you in the past. My own journey with you has been fun, but there is bacon on the fire, and I’m so very tired…

When you find yourself in the front of the pack, charing into the enemy, if you happen to think of me, I only ask…

Do it on the Bounce!

Can you spot the Inconspicuous Bear?

This is one of the things I really look forward to the most, as a blogger.

I’d like to welcome to the blogging fold Reesi, the author of a great new Bear Druid blog, The Inconspicuous Bear.

Reesi may be new to blogging, but she has outstanding credentials as a Bear Tank expert, having played as a progressive raiding Bear Tank for most of Burning Crusade and all of Wrath.

Moreover, Reesi has a Bear Tanking in 4.0.1 guide on her blog, showing that even in the earliest days of writing for her blog she’s got it going on.

So please, go check it out, go check her out (that didn’t sound right, did it) and give her a very enthusiastic welcome from the BBB community. You folks have shown me a lot of love, much of it undeserved, over the years. I hope that in Reesi and The Inconspicuous Bear, you’ll find another excellent writer that you’ll enjoy reading in the months (and years?) to come.

Welcome, Reesi. Best of wishes to you, and good fortune!

Introducing Cassie the Superbear!

You may know me as an avid Bear Tanking Druid fan. You might even be familiar with my love affair with the Beastmaster Hunter. You might even be aware that I dabble occasionally with the glories of Retribution Paladins, and have dipped my toe in the Paladin Tanking side of things.

I’ve also mentioned, in passing, that I’ve been leveling a Warrior as pure tank, and I’ve even started a Death Knight that’s made it as far as 73 before Patch 4.0.1 sent my poor Blood spec spinning into disarray.

What you might not know is that I have a Mage. I haven’t really been too open about it here, before now.

The reason for my being relatively close-lipped about it is that I am not leveling my Mage at my own pace, nor am I acting as a solo player.

I am playing a Mage that is 100% Frost from day 1, in honor of Krizzlybear (of Frost is the New Black fame) and I’m trying to delight in all things Magey to do justice to the brilliant inspirations of Larísa and Gnomer, who are exemplary examples of Mage excellence in action.

But this story is not about me.

I am playing a Mage, but I never am in the front lines, learning how to survive life in the jaws of the big meanies as I desperately try to fling long cast time Frostbolts.

No, I’m safe and sound in the rear with the gear.

The reason for this is that my Mage never goes anywhere, for any reason, without being just one step back and one to the side of my protector, my stalwart defender, Cassie the Bear Tank.

We made our characters together at the same time, we traveled to meet, and we’ve quested together ever since.

Sure, there have been times when months have passed where we just couldn’t get our schedules in sync to play together. Sometimes, the enthusiasm is on you to level your other characters, such as my time getting my Rogue finally to 80.

But the one thing we have remained true to, is that we keep our characters within 1% of a level in experience with each other. When we go turn quests in, if she dings, I ding seconds later. Twins!

If there are class quests for one, the other does cloth quest turn ins to even out. We have the same Heirlooms equipped for the same bonus XP. If we gather instance quests, we run each other through on our mains, and then try and balance our remaining rested and the mbos killed so we end up even.

We are now both level 53, so we’ve had a pretty good run of it so far.

We’ve played through a lot of the original content, and with all of our kill experience halved, it’s stayed about even with the boosted Heirloom XP. We have skipped some old school stuff, but not as much as you might think.

All along the way, I have been the silent coach, there to answer tanky questions, but mostly to provide emotional support as Cassie levels a tank all the way. No Kitty for her!

As our characters have grown, I’ve been able to see first hand the challenges a leveling Bear Tank can face, especially when paired with a fast cast DPS with strong AoE and an itchy trigger finger.

At times I’ve had to provide a lot of emotional support, because the one challenge that she has had to struggle with was Rage starvation.

Sure, Swipe was an instant cast with a solid 360° effect and reasonable Threat output, and sure Maul was Glyphed, and of course she had and used Feral Faerie Fire. And when it comes to Growl incoming mobs in the middle of a fight, I have rarely seen anyone better than Cassie.

No kidding, one of the hallmarks, in my opinion, of a great instinctive tank is how well they react to sudden changes in the overall environment. How strong their situational awareness is. Do they do a pull, and then get locked in to what is going on with these few mobs, and lose sight of what’s going on elsewhere?

Time after time, we’d have a group of mobs we’re fighting, Cassie tanking and me hopping around and Freezing and blasting with Cone of Cold and having a grand time, and some pathing mob comes around a corner, sees me, starts running towards me and BOOM! Growled in and on Cassie instantly. Or FFF sparks it’s distinctive fireflies on it’s head.

Sometimes I’d see two mobs come in, in close quarters area, from two different areas, and before I have a chance to say anything, there is a Swipe on the existing mobs, a Feral Faerie Fire on one, and a Growl on the other.

She persists in saying she’s not a good tank, because she doesn’t tab target. You gotta love it.

But as good as she is at being aware of her surrounding environment and handling the mobs quickly, she has struggled nearly every step of the way with Rage starvation, and it has made the leveling process a huge pain in the butt for her.

You see, it takes a long time before a leveling Bear gets all the Talents that return Rage on Crits and Dodges. Plus, Enrage has a fairly long cooldown when you’re running from group to group.

You might say that it’s okay if Enrage is on a comparatively long cooldown, except that as a Human Mage, I don’t have little Heals I can send her way. And with the large groups we’d been pulling, after each fight she’d be down by a third of her health. So, she’d shift out and toss some self-heals before shifting back… leaving her at zero Rage for the next pull, with Enrage still on cooldown.

I finally leveled my First Aid to be able to use Heavy Frostweave, and she’d started getting used to calling out “Need a Bandage”, instead of shifting out, but still. Of all the experiences we shared, Rage starvation was the single biggest roadblcok keeping her from truly enjoying what she was doing.

I don’t know how long it may have been since you’ve leveled a character that uses the Rage mechanic, but it can be incredibly painful. Where other classes start with every possibility available to burst out of the gate, Warriors and Bear Druids start with zero… and only a very, very few abilities available to us.

It’s incredibly frustrating to start any fight at zero Rage. It means that most of your good stuff is locked out while you struggle with a limited selection of low cost or free spells, and auto-attacks, waiting for the Rage to build so you can get to use the “good stuff”.

Anyway, that all marked the state of our play until a few nights ago.

As annoying as the Rage thing was, we were still wildly successful. We certainly never had a worry that we’d die, no matter what we pulled, up to and including my bullying her to pull Elite Dinosaurs in Ungoro Crater… “C’mon, you can do eeet… pull him! Trust me, you’ll be fine! I swear I’ll shoot him!”

Turns out elite dinosaur tastes just like chicken.

Cassie had the Threat generation, no matter what we fought, and I had the tools to kill everything in about three seconds, mostly with Frost nova and Blizzard. Frostbolt? What’s that? Heck, that takes too long. Who cares that half my Talents were all about Frostbolt?

So it’s been successful, and mostly fun… but the whole Rage starvation thing, plus the way it left Cassie feeling behind the curve when it came to doing damage because so many abilities weren’t even ready before I had finished blowing everything up made it kind of a drag.

Well, all that was before Patch 4.0.1, and I’m here to tell you… this patch worried the heck out of me.

I’ll be straight with you… my playtime with Cassie is one of the few things I still really enjoy about the game. That, chatting with friends online like Chawa and Regis, and leveling new stuff in new(ish) places.

I really looked at the Patch as having the potential to ruin our shared playtime.

We had two seperate and distinct roles we’d fallen into. Cassie grabbed the mobs and pinned them in place, keeping them focused on her with Threat, and I had the DPS to burn them all down faster than they could kill her.

With the new Patch, and most specifically the changes to Rage mechanics and the addition of a Swipe cooldown and 30 Rage cost, would Cassie be able to build Rage and hold threat?

Last night, after having created our new Glyphs, determined our new specs, arranged our new spells where we thought appropriate, and having trained up, we decided to try it all out by moving to a new zone; Searing Gorge.

I was fully prepared to sacrifice my glorious Frost Nova/Blizzard combination in favor of single target attacks, but I wasn’t happy with it. Frostbolt’s cast time is so damn slow! I wanna shoot ’em up FAST!

But with cold.

We didn’t even have the flight path to Searing Gorge, so we flew on into Loch Modan, rode through the Badlands, and as Cassie stopped for a few Herbs, we learned that not only did she get XP for herbing, but it was shared with me! That’s pretty interesting.

Entering Searing Gorge, we rode through the zone, grabbed all the quests and the flight point, and started the circuit.

Ahem.

WTF was Blizzard smoking?

Cassie fired up Feral Charge, and that’s about the last time she stood still for the rest of the night. I spent the whole rest of the night running my ass off trying to keep up.

Frost Nova? Yeah, right. Blizzard? Well, maybe, if she had grabbed enough she felt like slowing down long enough to kill ’em in place.

Frostbolt? Get real.

Hey, you know we were in there two hours before I remembered I had a Water Elemental perma-pet now. Never did bother summoning it. Why bother? The mobs were dead before the damn thing’s cast time would have mattered.

Self heals? Wouldn’t that require leaving Bear Form?

I’ll cut to the chase.

With the new Talent Tree, at level 52 I had told her that every core Bear Tank Talent was available to her. As a Feral, she now gets Mangle up front. Maul is instant when and if she wants it.

She never really had the chance before to know what it felt like to be a Bear with all the tools before. She hadn’t even had all three points in Thick Hide in the old Talent Tree, and of course she’d just finally gotten Leader of the Pack before the Patch hit.

Now, she’s got everything I consider a core Bear ability except Lacerate, and of course Berserk is still just out of reach.

She specced as I’d suggested for leveling, with full points in Fury Swipes and having 3 insta-stacks of Feral Faerie Fire, but nothing in Infected Wounds yet.

But let’s be honest. That’s not what it’s about.

What it’s about is we went out there in Searing Gorge, Cassie charged in, and from that point on she was never out of Rage, even using Swipe whenever it was off cooldown or if she felt like it.

She never dropped in health or needed heals, ever, from Leader of the Pack.

She darn near didn’t take any damage.

She generated INSANE single target threat out of the gate, with Mangle popping 4,800 threat in the first second alone, forget mentioning FFF or Maul or auto-attacks. My Ice Lance, in comparison, was doing about 230 threat per shot. Yes, for the pedantic, Ice Lance is a weak instant cast attack, but it’s still worth mentioning.

What really made the difference, though, was her damage output. Having played for a few days straight right before the Patch hit, we had a very solid idea of where our respective power levels were at.

She not only had the Rage to use all of her toys, and the health to never have to pop out of Bear form, but she also puts out enough damage to make a Frost Mage weep now.

I’m not kidding. It’s ridiculous. It was all I could do to keep up.

And the change in Cassie’s attitude was simply amazing. She went from always feeling a little uneasy from not having Rage, to being an overconfident Superbear, charging into everything and just tearing it apart. If I lingered for so much as a second to look at quest text, I’d better move my ass and Blink, because the next group was liable to be dead already.

With pungent commentary as to who was carrying whom, I might add.

And the group AoE situation ain’t really bad at all. Swipe is on a long cooldown, sure, but with a Bear that charges in, pops Mangle and then Swipes, if you’re DPS, fire off your single target attacks on that Skull kill target a few times, and then use an AoE.

I never pulled group aggro. And damnit, by the end of the night, I was really trying.

I started having to cheat to pull threat on mobs nearby but not ACTUALLY in our current group of targets, and even then, Growl and FFF pulled ’em back off before I could have the satisfaction of gloating about pulling.

So, yeah, Cassie? Superbear. Ridiculous Superbear. If you were worried about running with your friends while leveling, stop. If they have even the remotest clue, and if you actually Keybind Mark current Target as Skull to your F1, or however you like to get a fast target mark up, and they attack your primary single target for a few seconds before tooling up their attacks, you’re gonna do FINE.

Now, the bad news.

I swear, if someone doesn’t tell me how to customize this new built in Power Aura bullshit real soon, I’m gonna stop playing my own Bear.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the built in Power Aura functionality. I especially love how, when one thing triggers a “free” spell ability on a proc, the spell button that just became free (or instant cast) actually lights up on my bar.

As a Frost Mage, seeing my Ice Lance button light up was cool. For my Bear when I was testing things, seeing Mangle light up because I could cast it for zero Rage cost was nice. Very useful.

BUT!

Power Auras is proccing every time Savage Defense is procced.

I do not need that. Talk about TMI.

And of course, that’s not the only thing a Bear tank has for a proc, and they are ALL getting displayed by Power Auras.

I looked everywhere on my own last night and couldn’t find an option to customize or turn off any of the procs. Hopefully, there is one, and someone knows where to find it.

Because there is so much awesome about playing last night, the enthusiasm, the fun, the speed…

But at the end of the night, Cassie was not amused at all the flashing lights and symbols from Power Auras that was covering up her screen real estate, for abilities like Savage Defense that she had no actual control over.

Sure, it’s nice to know she had a bubble for a second. If she had to trigger it by pushing a button, that would be one thing. But, you know… I think we can safely turn that one off.

Oh, and for those wondering about how I feel about my Frost Mage this morning…

Wow. Talk about fun. Just, sheer fun. What a great set of changes. I never missed Frost Nova or Blizzard, I was simply having too darn much fun.

Now, if only I can survive Cassie’s newfound enthusiasm for eating great big groups of enemies. We actually did the entire Searing Gorge at a dead run last night, no pauses or shifting or heals, and that includes everything in that underground Dark Iron Swarf area, with the pillows and everything. I’ve never seen taht done at the run before.

At that rate, Azeroth ain’t gonna have many zones left to explore.

Nurturing Instinct sees a Buff!

Woot!

MMO Champion just announced today that, in the next patch that sees Swipe getting it’s Rage cost decrease, we’re going to ALSO get a change to another talent in our Feral tree, Nurturing Instinct!

To quote MMO;

Nurturing Instinct (0/2) now increases healing spells by up to 50/100% of your Agility, up from 35/70%.

That’s a pretty big buff to the Talent.

I knew that when I saw that change, I just HAD to get online and share that with you.

This is a game changer, folks. This is the change that I know I, for one, had really been waiting for.

In fact, I was just saying to Cassie the other night, “All this stuff is all well and good, but the one thing our Feral tree really needs is a buff to the effectiveness of Nurturing Instinct!”

I want to thank everyone that spent their time and energy to make this change possible.

Here’s hoping it goes live!

I’ll be working up my new Bear tanking recommended spec as soon as we have a release date.

I’m working on Bear Tanking tips pre-Cataclysm

I am not ready for a real post yet, but I’m working on it.

See, the first thing is, there are bugs we still have to contend with. As was noted, Skull Bash ain’t working right, for one thing. It’s hard to make any kind of definitive statement when things are NOT at a live and ready state.

Who would figure that when it went live, it still wouldn’t be ready to write about.

Going along with that is the fact they’ve already announced an upcoming change to Swipe. It’s currently got a 6 second cooldown and 30 Rage cost, so using it up front for initial aggro takes some planning. Like, popping Enrage, letting Rage build up and the 10% damage taken increased buff fall off, THEN Feral Charge and Swipe.

More steps, but doable, right? And with our Talents, Swipe on multiple mobs should give us back some fast Rage to keep going with single target threat. Hit one mob with Feral Faerie Fire, tab to a second for Mangle, tab a third and hit Maul if you’ve got enough Rage, and then settle in on your main marked kill target.

Should work, right? 

But they already plan on changing it to a cheaper cost… 15 Rage. Hey, makes it easier to use early, so that’s good. Isn’t it?

Well, to be fair they’re also cutting it’s damage and threat generation by 50%. AND the 6 second cooldown stays the same.

That’s, frankly, gonna bite.

I can see why they would go that way… they want us to be able to stay ahead of Healer threat on groups, but ONLY Healer threat. They want DPS to have to pay attention, focus on specific targets as part of the team, and suffer the consequences for sloppy play. Sloppy in this case meaning hitting any other target besides the one the Tank is focusing the majority of their attention on.

This is NOT the end of the world. But it can sure feel like it.

Obviously, those of us that’ve been doing this for a while remember quite clearly the days of Burning Crusade. We didn’t have Swipe then, we didn’t have Berserk and a 3 target Mangle, and we managed. We got by.

Boy, was my blog popular. Why? ‘Cause all I talked about was tanking lots of mobs without AoE threat generation. lol. Go figure.

See, we could do it, but it took work, and it took the willing assistance of our friends amongst the DPS to perform crowd control on marked mobs, watch their threat levels on individual mobs with Omen, attack only the designated targets in the designated order, and to not break crowd control once applied.

The key difference here, of course, is that the Burning Crusade content was tuned for crowd control and single target threat generation, and the times when we fought groups we had 3 to 4 mobs, rarely 5, and everyone was used to that.

Wrath of the Lich King not only introduced the AoE threat generation all tanks had asked for, but it had also introduced upper level content that was designed with large scale threat generation in mind.

Instead of 3 or 4 mob groups, we got 5+. Lots of group encounters, situations where little guys go running willy-nilly everywhere.

Your very first trip into Utgardt Keep gave you an idea of what was to come.

The challenge became how to pull everyone close together to get them in range of your AoE. Silencing ranged casters or pulling them with Death Grip became the new “I wish I had that” tank envy ability.

Me, I loved, and STILL love, being able to bop back and forth from mob to mob with Feral Charge to apply threat on whoever needs it but ain’t coming. It was our own thang, and I liked it that way. I still like the concept of Skull Bash, and my only gripe is I think they made it expensive for us to use with a reduced range because of it’s awesomeness in PvP. Which, I don’t do. But hey, we take what we get.

Now, we’re back to Burning Crusade basics. We’ve still got new modern doodads like AoE Swipe, but it’s been drastically reduced in effectiveness and availability.

But we still have the Wrath of the Lich King design.

I don’t have an immediate answer for you on how to make this work until Cataclysm. I did want you to know I’m working on it. I’m going to do my best to test things out, and try to come up with an updated guide. Probably after the Raid from the Heart.

Short term, now more than ever I think Tidy Plates and Threat Plates are a must-have set of addons for Bear Tanks (available from Curse). Knowing exactly who you are losing aggro on at any given time is the key to knowing who to target in what priority to apply Growl, Mangle, Feral Faerie Fire or Maul to. Or use Challenging Roar, which I see getting more and more valuable now.

In the meantime, until I can do some in-game testing with the live build and get some better modern day tactics described incorporating our current spells and Talents, I invite you to refresh yourself on the basics with Threat mechanics and the concepts of tanking multiple targets without AoE threat generation by reading this ancient post of mine from 2007 concerning exactly that;

Bear Tanking Strategies for Multiple Mobs

It’s very, very old, but threat mechanics themselves haven’t changed. Rage generation has.

If we could do it back then without Threat Plates or Swipe or Glyphed Maul, by damn we can figure it out now.

I can tell you right up front what the most valuable ingredient is going to be; playing with people that know how to play old school style, instead of being rock star AoE hit whatever they like balls to the wall DPS meter demons.

I cannot WAIT to tank my first LFG random. It’s going to be so much FUN!

Managing Cooldowns

It’s probably something everybody’s already on top of, but I thought it’d be fun to trade our methods for managing cooldowns and arranging our button bars.

Why? Because it’s something everybody has to do, and some folks might have ways they like that someone else will think is an interesting idea to try.

For example…

I was playing my Warrior the other night (Prot spec while leveling) and noticed I had a neat ability called Concussion Blow on my toolbar.

Okay, so I get a single target stun. That’s cool. My Rogue got a lot of use out of that little button while leveling.

But wait! When I got that ability and stuck it on my button bar, I put it where it’s a little away from my ‘use all the time rotation’ abilities. It’s over in the area of my button bar where special abilities with long cooldowns get placed and saved for rainy days.

See, when I lay out my button bars, I use the default layout… with all ‘extra’ button bars enabled. Left, Right, and both the ones on the side. I do that so on borked/broken addon patch days, I am mostly unaffected. Vanilla WoW cured me of UI changing addons forever.

I arrange the center of the bottom bar with the abilities I use most often, and then radiate outwards from there in both directions for the lesser used abilities. Typically, pulling/initial abilities radiate outwards to the left, while healing or taunting/aggro control abilities move out to the right. I’ll start the pull on the far left, gravitate to the center for the most ufrequently used abilities, and when I need to pop something special dart the mouse to the right. If it’s utility or situational, OR cross-form, then it goes right above. I’m looking at YOU Druid and Priest!

The abilities that complement them, or should be triggered first, or are situational/utility typically go on the bar right above, again starting in the middle for most used/fastest cooldown and working outwards to both sides.

This leaves me with a small area in the middle of the button bar where I’ll be spending most of my time, and a relatively short distance for mouse travel no matter what other ability I need at a moment’s notice.

I did that automatically, because first, I like clicking buttons, and the more alts I make, the more I click buttons. I just don’t use number keys for abilities on all these alts. On my Druid, sure, I use number key shortcuts. But not the alts, thank you very much.

Second, when I did a time analysis study on the ‘pick and place’ SMT equipment I used to program, it was very clear that this method was the second most time effective technique in picking and placing surface mount computer components from feed trays.

Lemme ‘splain.

In building modern circuit boards, you use what are called surface mount components. Rugged components are still soldered ‘through hole’ style, connectors and toggle switches and big doodads, but the rest are small, flat bottomed components that are shipped in reels. You load these reels up by the hundreds into a pick and place machine, one reel per part. So, you’ve got a long bank of hundreds of reels of computer parts. In the center of the machine is a fixed pick and place head, basically a vacuum system attached to teeny nozzles that can move up and down and rotate, with camera inspection.

The entire rack of parts reels is on moving rails. The pick and place vacuum head is fixed in the center. So, when you program a machine to build a circuit board, you have a list of all the parts that will be populating the board. You have sizes, shapes, part #s, etc. You want to create a build program that will populate a single circuit board in the shortest time possible, because the board is going along on a conveyor one at a time, and the longer you take to place parts per board, the fewer possible boards you can build. It’s a natural choke point.

So, say you’ve got 1200 parts to place on a single circuit board. You’ve got maybe 230 different part numbers. You use 250 of one particular part, 80 of the next, 63 of the next, and so on.

In this second fastest technique, the first thing you do is analyze what the most frequently used parts are. You want to minimize travel time of that big honking rail full of reels of parts. A single parts reel can be from 1 inch to 5 inches across depending on the size of the part in it, and if you’ve got hundreds of reels on a machine, travel time sliding that rail back and forth to get from one reel to the next to present a part under the pick and place head is… slow.

So it’s all about minimizing rail/reel movement as much as possible. Orrr…. minimizing mouse movement as much as possible? Eh?

Now, you might think that the best way to do it is stick all of your most used reels on one end, and slowly work your way down the row.

The problem with that is, when you optimize your pick speed, you find that you have to take ergonomics of rail motion into account… and also the fact that frequently, in order to minimize PCB board travel (that thing you’re sticking the parts on, which itself has to move around for the fixed pick and place head to stick parts down), you’ll start populating one section of the board… then when it’s mostly full, move on to populating another PCB board section.

You end up wanting to come back to those most frequently used parts throughout the course of the board build, not just blow through them all up front. If you stick them all at one end of the reel rail, then after a while you go all the way down one end, get a part, and all the way back to the first, over and over again.

So, when in a situation where you have several parts (buttons), some used more frequently than others, some with longer delays before able to be used again, and some you need to come back to more often than others, it’s more time effective to put your heaviest hitters in the center of the rail (bar), with the lesser used parts (buttons) going further and further out in each direction based on frequency of use, linked part associations and length of cooldown. Err, pick speed.

I’ve done a lot of time studies on programs like that, and it just works real well. So, if you’re, basically, a clicker, it’s a great default system for button placement. :)

Now… when you really crunch the numbers, this is, as I said, the second fastest button clicker technique I know.

You want fast? You take rotation sequence into account, and you streamline those sequences to make the mouse flow smooth across the board, then mirror it for secondary button placement about the bar. I actually did that with my 969 rotation for my Paladin tank button arrangement. Since you’ve got a fixed cooldown sequence for the rotation, it only makes sense to optimize placement based on mouse movement and associate buttons with similar cooldowns.

Anyway, for me, a button clicker with lots of alts, that’s what I do. And a lot more information than you care to know, I’m sure.

Where I am going with this behind the scenes look at the way I setup my button bars/UI, is that I had initially placed Concussion Blow with the ‘long cooldown, to be used in tight spots only’ abilities on my bar, up on the top bar and far to the right of bottom center.

Re-familiarizing myself with the abilities caused me to take another look at Concussion Blow.

The cooldown is only 30 seconds.

Well, dip me in mustard and call me a weiner if that wasn’t a bad mistake, pardner.

I typically break cooldown abilities into sub categories.

There is the “this is my oh shit button, to be saved for when it’s REALLY an oh shit situation”, and then there are the “this is pretty good, but the cooldown is long enough to only break it out on boss fights, and trash fights when I can expect the cooldown to be up when the next boss fight done cometh”.

And then there are the cooldowns that go into the sub category of “short enough to pop every bloody fight at least once in the beginning.”

A few examples?

Enhancement Shamans have one of the medium cooldowns, boss fight plus early trash – Shamanistic Rage. Geez, a 1 minute cooldown sounds bad, but it’s up for 15 seconds and gives you just tons of mana on top of the damage reduction. I pop that sucker all the time.

Feral Druids have Survival Instincts, which is great but on a 3 minute cooldown. That’s definitely long enough to make it an “oh shit,” held in reserve button. But, it’s also complementary to another long cooldown, Frenzied Regeneration, which is, hey, on a 3 minute cooldown.

Now, one common method of getting the most out of that 3 minute long cooldown is to only use those two together. You pop Survival Instincts, which raises your maximum health, and then you pop Frenzied Regeneration, which bases healing per point of Rage off of max health AT THE TIME IT’S ACTIVATED. So, SI boosts Healing Per Second/Healing Per Rage of FR when triggered first, for the entire duration of FR.

A few folks I know, during boss fights, actually don’t do this. What they do is stagger the cooldowns. Instead of one really big huge whomping heal with a 3 minute dead time, they space it out, taking the reduced survivability benefits of only having one effect up at a time, in exchange for having them up twice as often. 1.5 minutes and pop, 1.5 minutes and pop… If all you need is a little ‘oomph’ to help your healers out, why drop the big bomb when a well placed single shot will do?

But what about Barkskin? Barkskin is right on the edge, isn’t it? It’s a 1 minute cooldown, so if you’re doing fairly middle of the road content, heroics and easy raids, it’s no problem to incorporate it into a macro that pops it whenever it’s off cooldown. It’s not on the global cooldown, so no worries on working it in. 100% uptime. Doing this means it’s uptime is maximized, so you’re getting it’s benefits and saving your healers’ mana as much as possible for the long term fight over the course of a run.

BUT… 1 minute is long enough, and Barkskin’s 20% damage reduction is powerful enough, that if you’re raiding something serious you most likely want it OFF a macro so you can pop it in sync with a boss attack, perfectly timing that 20% damage reduction for when it’ll do you the most good. Like, say, when the entire raid is taking massive damage, and you want to give the healer on YOU the chance to ignore you for a few seconds to help keep the squishies alive.

The trade off, of course, is then you’ve got another button to remember to pop during the trash fights, and that might lead to suboptimal usage and reduced overall uptime.

Umm, wah.

Oh, wait.

Anyway, I wanted to bring it up all up to see if I could inspire you to share your own thoughts on how you like to arrange your abilities, what your philosophy behind it may be, maybe even what UI addons you just couldn’t live without, and how you like to control your cooldowns.

And to leave you with this one, key point…

The only truly bad use of a long cooldown ability is when you save it for a rainy day… and then never use it all when it might have saved your butt.

Practise using them! Much better to use them all the time and sometimes have them on cooldown when you’d like them than to never use them at all!

If you use them all the time, and get used to using them, then after a while you can back off and use them more strategically.

But use them!