A look at our Bear Tanking future in Wrath

Welcome to my first ever look at the future direction of Bear Tanking in Wrath.

Remember, I am not going to be telling you that things as they are in the Beta right now are finished. From what Ghostcrawler has said, we have to believe that what we see now is two builds previous to what they are working on. But I think there is enough history built up now to talk about a few directions we seem to be headed.

So buckle up, buttercup!


I’d like to start by reviewing the things that have been said specifically about the future of Feral Druid tanking by Ghostcrawler in the Wrath Beta Forums.

First, many statements in megathread called Feral Concerns in WotLK;

Ghostcrawler (August 2nd);

The design is for bears to be viable, end-game main tanks. The design is for cats to be viable, end-game melee dps. In both cases you are going to need the right talents, good gear, skill and companions who can back you up — I don’t mean to imply raiding will be easy. 🙂

If you want to do a little tanking and dps, you probably won’t be as optimal at either, though you’ll probably always be better at switching between the two than other classes. In order to be as good at tanking as the other classes, you might have to give up a few talents that maximize your dps, and vice versa. This is a good thing — it lets you choose to actually be a main tank.

We are adding a new class to Lich King, as well as improving the raid viability of specs such as Arcane mage, Survival hunter and Balance druid. That means you have 30 available specs for 25 slots. There are two ways to design around this problem. One is that there are 25 mandatory specs and 5 that shouldn’t be raiding. Boo. A more fun, interesting and ultimately fair direction is that you actually have some choices in who to bring. Imagine running a raid with no warrior tanks at all. 🙂

Don’t worry about your bears. The armor and other changes were done to fix itemization issues, not to nerf druids. You’ve already gotten the ability to drink pots in bear form and benefit from weapon enchants and windfury. We have plenty of knobs to turn to make sure you can do your job even better than you could in LK.

This was an extremely promising comment by Ghostcrawler that really felt like they were trying to balance things so we could remain viable, but also balanced with everyone else.

Seems fair to me. As long as we are not the class that is called last at the playground, then I’m just fine with it. Make me put my points in tanking Talents to maximize tanking, and feel the pain of reduced DPS in Cat form. Or put less points in both Kitty and Bear to reduce effectiveness in both, but be ‘okay’ at either. That seems extremely fair to me.

Ghostcrawler (August 4th);

The changes made to things like armor were done mostly to solve itemization problems. We didn’t make them to nerf Ferals (or anyone). We did them because we started to consider bosses who needed to drop 30 different pieces of armor (or tokens to trade for them or whatever) because classes and even specs were heading off into distinct niches. You’ll get something to make up for it. No, you aren’t there yet.

We’re not entirely happy with the way the Feral ended up in BC. The idea was that you could be a decent tank and a decent melee dps class, so Ferals were something you wanted to bring if you weren’t the kind of guild that swapped different people out for every boss. But I don’t think “convenience factor” is ultimately a great value to bring to a raid. The problem was we were kind of stuck because if we made Ferals end-game tanks and amazing melee, then the rogues were screwed, because they couldn’t go respec to tank or heal.

But now we have a chance to add some new talents, and we’d like for some of them to be the kind that let a druid declare that she is more of a cat or more of a bear. It doesn’t have to be shoehorning two whole talent trees into one, but even offering a few choices would go a long way.

I didn’t mean to sound condescending. The pot example was to offer that we haven’t forgotten about bears. My point was NOT: hey, you lost armor but gee you got health stones, so why all the QQing? It was cool to see those big armor numbers on bears, and we have some plans for how to replace them (and not just with pots).

The DK gets a lot of attention because it has a lot of catching up to do. There were no DKs in UBRS or MC or TK or even Arathi Basin. Nobody knows how their abilities and power system are going to work so we feel like we have to cover a lot of the ground that was explored literally years ago for some of these other classes.

We will be really disappointed if there aren’t bears main tanking Naxx and later raids, and cats that if not consistently as high as rouges, are at least a lot closer than they are now.

Again, reinforcing the idea that we will be given choices in our Feral Talent tree to be either an optimized Bear or Cat.

There are also hints that we would be using the same item drops as Rogues in the future, and making them tanking pieces with our Talents.

There is also the unmistakable suggestion that Feral Druids were never meant to be viable end game tanks in BC, that we were supposed to be okay fill-ins for smaller guilds.

So we get the idea here that we have actually been better in Burning Crusade than they wanted us to be. They did not intend feral druids to have strong DPS and Tanking from one Talent Tree.

This means that, for the Developers working on Wrath balancing, they are looking at Druids as having been buffed by mistake in BC.  We now know that Bears were considered overpowered because of our solid DPS and tanking both from the same Talent spec.

What does that mean for us?

We have to hope that they have seen how much the Druid community has been embraced as flexible tanks, and instead of nerfing us back to what they originally wanted, a hybrid weak in both DPS and tanking, they instead work on seperating the DPS Talents and the Tank Talents better in the Feral tree so you have to choose to be very good at one or the other, but not both.

Continuing on…

Ghostcrawler (August 5th);
Player Quote:
The implication of GC’s post is that they are going to try to throw somethign at us and wait til we are being regularly sat out of naxx raids before they do something about it. The fact is that they need to really look at druid’s now and not then before fixing us.

I didn’t mean to leave that impression. Druids are not all done and ready for live. We need to “really look” at druids before ship. As I have posted in other forums though, we don’t generally look at all classes all at once. We work very collaboratively, which unfortunately means classes get appraised one at a time. (We don’t yet feel like we’re out of time though — no worries there so far.)

Player Quote:
what i got from the post is that they were disappointed that ferals in one spec could tank well and dps well (their words not mine) and so want feral druids to “specialize” in either feral tanking or feral dps through talents which sacrifice the ability in the other form.

Someone reference the druid nerfs in BC. I think this was partially the reason for them (as well as bears being able to do a lot of dps as bears, IIRC). We don’t think druids NEED to choose bear or cat. But it would be nice if you had the option of choosing bear > cat or cat > bear. Going that route lets us justify your being an awesome tank (because you’re giving up some dps) or vice versa. I don’t think anyone is arguing (I hope) that all Ferals with any spec need to be as good at tanking as prot warriors and as good at dps as rouges just by shapeshifting and swapping gear. I think we all know the outcome of such a design. But there is a difference between “as good as rogues” and “worth bringing on a raid.”

Player Quote:
and i know that dps druids are eager to be doing alot better dps at the expense of tanking, but that train of though is going to lead to either feral bloat or a complete watering down of talents so that they just affect one form as others have suggested. this seems rather shortsighted and takes away from being a feral druid which is a single talent tree that can do two functions, i may tank more than i dps or vice versa but i’m not a feral cat/tank i’m a feral druid.

We don’t think it needs to be bloat or watered down talents. We think just a few talent changes or new talents could accomplish this. The alternative is the model where every Feral is an okay tank and an okay melee class who gets brought on raids for Innervate and battle rez.

Player Quote:
Tanking: In order to make bears MT later raids, we need to not only keep up with the joneses, we need to surpass our current levels. Most use Warrior MT’s TBC, as I’m sure you know. If you want to spread the MT’ing around, then Feral Druids, Paladins, and yes Death Knights need massive buffs to their tanking, on a scale that Blizzard doesn’t seem to be close to approaching. Blizzard will also need to stop making gimmick fights that favor warriors like Illidan, Reliquary, and every single raid boss that fears.

Yes, totally agree. At the moment (meaning in LK) I think paladins are close to or surpassing warriors. Ferals and DKs need some more attention. I want to stress that we have made virtually NO attempt yet to line up the tanks and compare their abilities, threat, mitigation and dps. We are not yet at that stage. It’s coming, and we will get even more data when everyone is at level 80 in the beta.


Player Quote:
Are we going to have a repeat of bosses like Kael’thas and Illidan where druids can’t tank them because we can’t block and/or spell reflect? Are we going to continue to have encounters that overtly favor warrior mechanics in that manner without encounters that similarly favor other tanks in the MT role? This is relevant to all of the tank classes, not just druids. I think we’re all assuming some kind of caster gimmick raid encounter that will be massively easier or just plain impossible without a deathknight.

As far as gimmick fights, in order to have four viable tank classes, we’re just going to have to avoid that kind of encounter. We hope we can do so without making every boss fight feel too similar. We have no problem if paladins are better at some bosses than others, so long as a guild that runs with a druid MT isn’t months behind the paladin MT guild because the encounter is so hard without the paladin.

So there we got a whole bunch of thoughts Ghostcrawler shared with us.

Variations on a trend, returning to the idea that yes, while some players want to be rockstars at both melee DPS and Tanking, the truth is that we are going to have to choose one over the other to specialize in, or the other tank classes will be pissed that they don’t get that level of DPS, and the Rogues will justifiably be angry they don’t get DPS all day and Tank too.

However, there are also signs that tanks in general may get buffed DPS, so they will be less irritated when our DPS is decent in Cat form when specced as tanks.

Ghostcrawler (August 12th)

We’re not done with Ferals. The builds you get are often a week or more behind ours, and that assumes that a designer actually went in and made changes. It’s impossible for us to balance the threat and mitigation of the 4 tanking classes until we can take a look at the level 80 characters, wearing raid-level gear, and fighting a raid-level encounter. None of that content is done yet.

I said above that I think the old design of “You can’t ever be a MT, but you get to be a terrific OT” feels dated. But in order to be a MT as good as a paladin or warrior, you can’t also dps as well as a Fury warrior with the same spec. I don’t think anyone is asking for that, but realistically the only way to address is it with talents. (And before someone asks, if you like the OT role, you can still do that too.)

I’m fine bouncing between druid, warrior, paladin and death knight forums posting “You will be able to MT Ulduar without gimping your raid” every few days if that’s what it takes. 🙂

More reiteration that for us to be solid main tanks, the Talent tree will be where changes are made for us to decide to max our Cat DPS or max our Bear Tanking. Also a reminder, of course, that we need to stop whining, they ain’t done yet.

Ghostcrawler (August 12th)

Those statements aren’t mutually exclusive. A druid can be a better MT on some fights and a warrior a better MT on some fights without the fight being impossible for the other class. I can’t promise that each raid will have an equal number of fights that benefits one tank over the other, and ultimately it shouldn’t really matter. If your guild has a bear and prot paladin as your 2 MTs for LK raiding, you are good to go. At no point will you stop and say, “Gee if we only had a warrior MT, we would have beaten that boss by now.”

The comments on “niche” are more to address concerns that the 4 classes have to be carbon copies of each other. Warriors, like other tank classes, are worried that with all of the changes, their role will somehow be eliminated. I am trying to reassure you all that that is not the case. I think we can have say druids have larger stamina pools and warriors have more mitigation without making one of them the tank that 90% of raids run with.

Now, again I am pleased to see that when Bear Tanks are mentioned, it is as one of four tanking classes that are intended to stand as equals. I will have zero problem having weaker DPS than Rogues as long as I can choose to maximize my tanking so I am equally viable, at a certain gear level, as another tank class. Give me the choice, that’s all I ask.

Also, making sure to get the point across, until they actually finish specs and Talents, and then look at comparing each tanking class across the board, and THEN work on itemization at 80 in raids, there is no way for us to really know what is going to happen.

Ghostcrawler (August 16th)

Nobody can really compare a level 80 prot warrior to a level 80 feral druid because those individuals don’t exist yet. Therefore, we have made almost no attempt to compare their tanking stats except to say “Man, bears could probably use something like Last Stand and something like Thunder Clap” and “Hey, let’s make sure bears don’t have to scrounge for rare +defense leather or even +resilience in order to be uncrittable.” That work is coming.

Bears are able to tank some end-game content even on Live, so I don’t think they are orders of magnitude behind warriors. In situations where they struggle, it is sometimes because of crushing blows or mechanics introduced specifically to drive warriors to tank, Shear for instance. I’m going to be tanking Ulduar on my bear, so I’ll be the first to complain if I feel the class design isn’t up to it.

As far as the previous poster who likes the Feral as the tank / dps hybrid, I don’t think anything we’re doing will really hurt that. You may be 5-10 talent points behind a tank-focused Feral or a dps-focused Feral but if you liked OTing the bear boss in ZA and then dps’ing on the eagle boss, you should still be great at doing that. The difference is the bear who does spend those talents on threat, mitigation and oh snap abilities instead of +Shred can actually be a raid’s primary main tank.

Again talking about splitting the Talent trees for Bear and Cat. At this point, does anyone doubt this is what will have to happen? And if you look at the Talent trees as they are now, do you really think they are done? I don’t see the big split that he keeps talking about, so I have to figure they’re not done yet.

I think they have some pretty big changes still in store to divide Cat from Bear in the Talents.

Ghostcrawler (August 18th)

Armor is one of the most important stats a tank can have. We aren’t trying to keep bears from getting it.

The change to itemization was done solely to avoid having so much diversity in the items we could drop. It’s lame when you’re leveling up to keep seeing quest rewards that are NOT itemized for your spec (which TBH is still a problem we haven’t solved for Feral weapons and idols). It’s lame when your raid kills a boss and he drops say elemental mail, healing leather, and a spellpower mace, none of which your group can use. Having bears, cats and rogues all desire the same leather drops isn’t a panacea — it helps some problems, but it creates others. Having bears run around with as much armor as a rogue would be a big, big problem.

Fortunately there are plenty of ways to give bears the armor they need — through talents (like the crit resistance one) or through Dire Bear form itself for example. Even if another tanking class ends up having slightly more armor than a druid, the differences should be so minor that neither of you is at a significant disadvantage on a boss.

Now, we are going to seriously look at the Armor issue later here. But for now, I’d like to mention that, earlier in his comments, Ghostcrawler called Druids the tanks that are known for having the highest Health, and Warriors the tanks with the highest Mitigation.

So if we remember that, and then look at his comment here about Druids not necessarily expecting to be the kings of high armor, well….

You should be able to see the shape of the bitter pill we are going to have to swallow, when we see the effects of the “Oh, Druids were more powerful than we intended in BC” wave that is coming down the road. Our Health will still be high, but kiss your living on the edge of the Armor Cap goodbye.

Ghostcrawler (August 19th)

Tanks need armor, tanks need avoidance, tanks need health and tanks need threat generation. A few oh snap abilities don’t hurt either. That applies to all 4 classes and any differences in the final numbers will almost certainly be minor… because if they aren’t, then a class risks being unable to tank a particular boss. Believe me, we do understand the math.

I also hope you can appreciate that whenever I say the goal is to have 4 classes that can tank any encounter, some players worry about homogenization and losing what is unique and precious to them about their class. When I assert that we’ll try to keep classes as different as possible (without violating the primary goal of letting them tank), other players interpret that as “Oh, so we get to be the crappy tank?” 🙂

A particular class MIGHT be better at a particular encounter. We’re okay with that as long as A) you aren’t prevented from progressing if you lack that class, and B) your class is less desirable because it is seen as less effective.

Bears need to be compensated for less bonus armor on leather and lack of parry and block. Period. We haven’t added those talents or bonuses or whatever they are going to end up being yet because the game isn’t in a state where we could say e.g. what amount of armor a L80 tank needs to handle Patchwerk. Pointing out where you think bears (or any class) fall short in mitigation (or any aspect of tanking) is helpful. This is a beta though, and there is going to be a lot of iteration until we’re happy with everything.

He made one statement here that we have to hold on to… “We haven’t added those talents or bonuses or whatever they are going to end up being yet.”

Now that they do have people at level 80 running Naxxramas, we ought to start seeing some new changes in the Talent trees. Right?

Ghostcrawler (August 24th)

We do want to give Ferals who want to focus on being cats some excellent melee dps. We do want bears to be end-game tanks. We want to see serious guilds with a bear MT and a death knight OT.

What held us back from that before was that the kitty could turn around and tank almost as well (and sometimes better) than the Prot dudes who abandoned any hope of competitive dps in order to be able to tank for their guild. Clearly (I hope) a class that could do rogue-level dps and warrior-level tanking with the same talent build is the kind of thing that makes other players a little miffed.

But we’re reevaluating a lot of old (and some admittedly tired) decisions for Lich King. Not only will tank-spec classes be able to do a lot higher dps (not the highest in the raid mind you, but higher), but we think it’s fine for a Feral to nerf their tanking ability a little in order to go for high dps, or lower their dps a little in order to be amazing tanks.

We don’t think it will take a complete overhaul of the Feral tree. To be honest, I think it’s a pretty fun tree. But it will definitely take some changes to the tree you see on beta today. Imagine 5-10 talent points that significantly increase your survivability but do nothing to your dps. Take those points and you’re a tank. Ignore them and you’re melee dps. Take a few here and there and you are as flexible as you are today. I’m not saying that is the final or even only sollution. But that implementation gets brought up quite a bit.

That should pretty much cover what they intend. Doesn’t it? It’s the same thing, over and over.

We’re going to see the Feral Talent tree split up more between Cat and Bear, but what we have now is not done. We have to expect that we’re not going to be able to be top main tanks and still keep our high Cat DPS, but we’re not going to have our Cat DPS nerfed too bad because the DPS of all Tanks will be raised.

And the most painful thing we will have to learn to address is, our strength will no longer be hitting the Armor Cap. We will be focusing on high Health, but our Armor will be reduced and other methods of mitigation will be mixed into our Talents.

Now we come to the most recent comments made by Ghostcrawler last Friday.

The thread on Friday was a request for clarification on the removal of exceptionally high Armor on some leather items by a player named Failure (love that name, btw).. 

Ghostcrawler had a LOT to say in response.

Ghostcrawler (September 5th);

There are a lot of huge changes in the expansion though. Warrior tanks are worried they won’t be useful anymore because their big niche (surviving crushing blows) was given to all tanks. Paladin tanks are concerned because better AE threat is being given to all tanks. Death knight tanks are worried that they are going to get nerfed because of the damage they’re doing. Druids are worried that they won’t have the armor they are used to, and might be inferior tanks because of it. Almost every class is worried that their unique raid buff won’t gaurantee them a spot in the raid any longer. We’re worried about pulling it all off. 🙂

Druids have talents like Thick Hide, Natural Reaction, Mother Bear and Survival of the Fittest in part to make up for the fact they aren’t wearing plate, parrying or blocking. Is that enough mitigation to make them just as good end-game tanks as the other three tanking classes? We don’t know yet. We haven’t finished our testing and nobody on beta is in Naxx yet. If Bears are getting clobbered or their healers are running out of mana trying to keep them up, we’ll fix it.

As far as scaling is concerned, we’ve made great efforts to scale abilities so that upgrading your gear doesn’t totally change their effectiveness. Here’s the problem with Feral druids: because they have so few stats (in the sense that e.g. parry and spellpower aren’t important to Feral), it’s easy to focus on those stats. If those stats scale really well, then we run into problems where druids can either hit the caps or get such high numbers that the content starts to break. Once druids hit the armor cap in BC, they could start improving dps stats which would eventually have overshadowed other tanks in both mitigation and threat. When they stacked agility, agility and more agility, it just improved their tanking and damage really quickly.

Warlocks were in a pretty similar situation with spell damage. They wanted almost nothing else and kept stacking the same thing and pretty soon they outstripped similar classes.

From a design point of view, the challenge isn’t making druids amazing tanks and dps. The challenge is preventing them from getting too good too easily. (Note, mean old Ghostcrawler is not saying we’re trying to keep Ferals really weak. Just remember that while your goal as players is to get as good as possible, ours as designers is to keep you in proportion to other classes.)

Is Mother Bear as effective at level 80 as it is at level 70? Yes. Does it scale with AP or armor? No. Does getting AP and armor still make you a better tank? Yes. Will you spec out of Mother Bear when you reach a certain gear plateau? Unlikely. Until recently, Sunder Armor did not scale. It was just crappier the better your gear became and was less effective at generating threat as everyone else’s threat increased.

As to cats, we don’t know yet if their dps is too low or not. We should have a better idea soon.

I really don’t think they’re that far off, but if I’m wrong and bears collapse on Patchwerk, we’ll change the numbers until they can stand up. We’ll try to change the numbers in intelligent ways so that bears are tanking Arthas too and not standing in the back healing the warrior tank.

Likewise, if cat dps is always near the bottom of the dps damage meters, we’ll fix that too.

There isn’t any actual armor with bonus armor any longer. It was just too problematic a stat. It does still exist on non armor pieces: the rings, necks and maybe cloaks. The way the game is designed, tanks need a certain amount of armor and we’ll make sure you have it without having to resort to PvP gear or Sunwell gear. As I have said before, we can boost the bear intrinsic bonus or Thick Hide or come up with a new scalar off existing stats. This feels like a solvable problem to me.

Personally, I would love to be able to get rid of Feral Attack Power as a stat. It feels a little kludgey and it makes itemization harder because you can’t share with anyone else in the game. It’s like having a libram for your main weapon. But it’s not going to happen for Wrath, at least not initially.

Can you see the tone I’m talking about? The way it feels like the Devs are still a little miffed we were viable main tanks in BC, and did very well at it, and by golly they’re gonna fix that? And, after they see if we get crushed, they’ll look at bringing us up a bit?

Just saying. Not doom and gloom, but I’m not gonna start carrying around a banner saying “We are fine and will rock in Wrath, no worries here.” either.

It kind of goes hand in hand with the ‘if we see Cats are always at the bottom of the DPS list, then we’ll fix it.”

How about testing it before you put it live? Please? No fix it after it goes live patches three months down the road? Please?

Whatever, it’s far from live right now, so we’ll see.

But hey, let’s talk about this Armor thing.

We have been told that leather items with exceptional Armor are not going to make an apearance in Wrath. And from what I have seen, they are not changing the mechanics of the game to move the Armor Cap, or to change the effectiveness of existing Armor scaling (the way they made other stats in Burning Crusade suddenly become LESS effective from level 60 to level 70, scaling with your level so you needed more of the same stat to maintain the same effect).

No, it looks like the Armor Cap remains the same, and the effectiveness of Armor remains the same.

So, what does this mean if we get 10 more levels of gear? If you are already at the Armor Cap, does this mean we are done? 

Let’s take a look at what they are doing with Armor values.

Over the weekend MMO Champion released the stats for the class sets, the 5 piece set that will be equivalent to Tier 4 from Karazhan and beginning 25 man raids in BC.

Yes, I’m sure you know that Naxxramas 10 man has been opened on the Beta, groups are raiding it, and the loot is dropping.

So far, it looks like each class’s complete first set will be available in Naxxramas, and I am quite happy at that. 

Let’s compare JUST the 5 piece sets between the Rogue and Feral Druid. Let’s see what the Devs are thinking right now in terms of what a set specifically for Feral Druids would entail.

I’m only looking at the 5 pieces of the Armor Set. I am not going to presume to look at any other gear that each class might be able to equip at 80. Remember, the Feral Druid set listed here is what they have created specifically for Feral Druids to use. This is not a set that both Rogues and Druids can equip, and balanced for both.

So, in terms of itemization, if any gear should have stats specifically to make a Feral Druid drool, this would be it. 


Now, if you look at these stats side by side, you’ll notice a few interesting things.

First, it seems to me that the biggest difference is simply how much Stamina Feral Druids are allocated compared to Rogues.

Same Armor, almost the same Agility, Rogues get more Hit Rating, but we get far more Expertise, we get the same Attack Power…

Now, I’ll grant you, these sets have not had their set item bonuses added yet.

But I think this shows clearly the intentions that the Developers currently have for our itemization.

We ARE going to be rolling against Rogues on nearly every leather item.

It is going to be Dire Bear form and our Talent tree that takes the stats on leather and enhances them for us to use as tanks or DPS, and we’ll be looking for gear with Stamina on it to boost our Bear.

Now let’s have some fun… 

Let’s compare our existing Tier 4 set, the Malorne Harness, with the Naxxramas 10 man Feral Druid set. ‘mkay?


From this, yes we can see that at level 80, our Agility and Stamina are going to be much higher. Ridiculously higher. Anticipate some serious reworking of mitigation values.

Our total Armor, on the other hand, decreases, arguing that the current Armor Cap is going to remain fixed, and the current intention is for our Armor to decrease down to a level more in keeping with other tanks, while we might hold on to the high Health.

My advice?

You might want to hold on tight to any piece of gear that has high Armor value (such as the Badge of Tenacity) until we see how things shake out.

Take note that the Intellect has been removed, we have no pure Blue sockets in the new set, and we have no Defense Rating at all.

Defense Rating may or may not be necessary depending on the final version of our Talent Tree.

But we will not be able to socket any pure Stamina gems at all in this set and still maintain the +36 Stamina/+4 Agility socket bonuses.

I’m not drawing any conclusions here.

It’s all far from finished. I bet we see a lot more changes to come, especially in our Talent tree.

But I do find it interesting that, yet again, it seems like the Developers identify those things that we will need the most… and then don’t give them to us. Why?

If we are going to want Stamina, and you know we are going to want Stamina, why not give us a single Blue socket on our feral gear to actually get the socket bonus? Is this going to be another Heavy Clefthoof thing, where they knew what we were going to want, and gave us different colored sockets just to be cute? And we just said screw it and put Solid Star of Elunes in anyway?

Where is the synergy in that plan? To make us put Hit Rating gems in the gear to get the Stamina from the socket bonus? Why not simply put blue sockets in, and then give us Hhit Rating or Expertise as socket bonuses?

I mean, the way I see some folks play, people who play the game for fun and don’t live on forums and blogs and theorycrafting sites, the way these happy players seem to think is, if Blizzard put a red socket on there, then they should use a gem that goes with a red socket. Right?

They don’t anticipate that Blizzard is just screwing with them, and if they actually put a red gem in there (or purple or whatever) then they are reducing their own effectiveness if they don’t do the math.

Yay, maths. Way to go.

I guess it’s too much to ask that Blizzard gives us sockets that, if we put a like colored gem in them, it would be the most optimum way to socket our gear. At least for our class set.

Lol, is one of the Developers a Jewelcrafter, and they want to make sure they have high demand for a bunch of different cuts?

Anyway, I’m finding it all fascinating.

If I had a single prediction, it would be that Feral Druids are going to be weaker than all other classes as tanks, and weaker than all other classes at DPS, even when fully specced one way or the other at the beginning of Wrath. 

And I think it will then take some vigorous howling to get us brought back up to where we can be single target main tanks again.

But I won’t be howling too loud, because I’ll be too damn busy playing through the quests, and looking forward to Naxxramas.

I know that, with three different classes at 70, I’m going to be having a ton of fun, one way or other.

They can’t nerf them ALL.

42 thoughts on “A look at our Bear Tanking future in Wrath

  1. Excelent post. I’m incredibly worried this is going to cause a lot more trouble than its worth, and I’m worried this will be offputting to a number of current druid tanks contining to play as a bear. Currently rogues were upset at sharing gear with hunters a problem thats been fixed now with int/atp change (although on exceptional pieces it will still remain I’m sure)

    For example, T6 helm now has the less armour than the Cursed vision of sargaras, an item I waited a great deal of time for as an offspec item. It with the upcomming changes offer more stamina (via socket bonus) and tanking stats we could use, like hit rating and omg crit, with the loss of 8 agility.

    While yeah its old gear, it kinda screws a lot of peoples thoughts. Will i be able to tank brutalus now with 25k armour in bear? I have no doubt we will have the stam and the dodge to be equal to our plate wearing chums, but I’m seriously worried that we will be a bitch to heal those times we do get a pounding.


  2. As new lvl 70 druid, it’s bad to hear that they thing we are too good at DPS and Tanking. I find it hard enough to keep aggro as it is, and DPS is the only consistent way. It’s nice that they want to let us drink pots in bear from, but there are macros available that do quick switches between caster and bear forms, thank you. Also glad to hear that it’s not just me that thinks the heavy clefthoof set bonuses are off. I hope they at least keep the DPS/Tanking differentiation towards the bottom of the tree. If it does, I could easily see people taking the cat side of the talent side tree, along with SotF, and then relying on the gear for tanking. Incidentally, the new leatherworking patterns will have the ability to add +90 stamina to bracers – which combined the increased armor for rogues quoted in this article might give them an advantage…


  3. Not exactly, BW. The problem is, base paw damage is based on level (up to 60, at which point it stagnates). However, that would mean your DPS scaling would be extremely subpar as you progress through level 80 content. The rogue’s weapon DPS would continue to go up, while your paw’s base damage would stay the same from quest greens to T9 weapons.


  4. So I was wondering, if they want to reduce items that give feral AP and they want us to do comparable DPS to that of a rogue, why don’t our paws have an increased base damage? I’m mean really, wouldn’t that shoot two birds with one stone?


  5. I have to say that it’s disappointing to see that Blizzard hasn’t yet put much thought into druids, as druids seem to be performing miserably in beta right now.
    One might think they get the basic stuff done during an early stage of development and use the beta stage for any tweaking or bugfixing. After all they have all the formulas, know the bosses, etc. and they could have tested all these game mechanics before even one line of code was written…

    From Ghostcrawlers posts I get the idea that they still have a lot of work to do, in order to divide cat and bear apart. It’s okay to be not the raids top damage dealer or primary tank, when we can switch between the to roles easily. Deciding whether we want be cat or bear is okay for me as well, but as soon as we’re forced to decide, being just a “viable tank” or a “viable damage dealer” is not an option anymore. So I guess there has to be done more than just adding a few more talents.

    It’s however good to see that we (if everything works out) can use the same amor items for bear and for cat. And I’m not worried about competing with rogues for gear, other classes have to compete with up to two other classes, and from what I’ve seen, if you’re the tank, others will pass on the stuff for you if they know that you need it.


  6. hi guys,
    i have been thinking a lot about loot homogenization especially in relation to druids.
    it seems that leather gear will be shared with rogues and tank cloaks/rings will be shared with the other tanks. In a way this makes sense as useless drops to the whole raid were a problem. The issue is we all need differant stats….
    what if..
    the awesome ring of tankness had various stats as now but varied according to which class picked it up… so a ring with str/stam/agl/whatever had either armour for druids/dk or shield block for war/pally.
    this way the drops are useful to someone more often and also have the stats they most want.
    then i thought…
    no int on rogue stuff. well most of the time we don’t want int but moreso pvp. kitties don’t really need armour but bears do….. what if having made gear different slightly for diff classes druid gear changed slightly with form. so armour went to AP in cat form or crit to armour in bear form or whatever…
    and some stats from feral gear converted to SP/int in caster form….. not massive amounts. not OP stuff just enough to allow us to be hybrids once more in PVP as feral. enough so that itemisation points aren’t wasted.
    the 1st part allowing stats on the same gear to vary with the class to which owns it (as soulbound item) would help every class but the 2nd part seems to solve the no mana/ our heals are a waste of time issue.
    just to be clear i am asking that our heals in feral gear be similar to an enhance shammy in enhance gear with the stats change with form gear. not a total feral gear becomes out and out caster gear in caster form.
    i will cease rambling now but i wanted to ask what people think in a safe druid area 1st. can people make sense of what i am saying? if so do my ideas have any potential traction??? should i just shut up?


  7. Personally I see the problem as being that we’re told one thing and seeing another. We’re told that we’ll be viable tanks in end-game content, and then looking at gear that drops from that content and we wonder how that’s possible given the current stats.

    My 70 feral is in beta right now. I leave him at 70 because I like to compare my stats, and currently the only thing that makes the outlook bleak is gear itemization. Side-by-side comparison with his stats wearing the exact same gear on the live server vs. beta: in beta he gains 20 armor, about 300 health, 1.7% dodge, and 600 ap. All gains. I think he loses 1% crit or something.

    However, that’s wearing level 70 gear (some tier 4, some pvp gear, some badge/rep vendor stuff – the usual feral piecemeal). But at level 80, the gear is apparently going to be VERY different.

    I’m not exactly happy with the way things look to be going for us, but I do remain at least partially optimistic. I’ve been a feral that’s picked up Nightbane after the main tank has gone down. I tanked him to the next flight phase, popped a battle rez on the tank, dropped back into kitty, and kept going to the kill. All in DPS gear. The idea that my talents determine if I’m DPS as opposed to my gearset determining that is a nice thought to me. Less gear to lug around, and I’ll be even better capable of maximizing my effectiveness as a hybrid. If they can pull it off that is.

    Still, I shed a tear at the loss of my massive amounts of armor…


  8. I just wanted to point out that no one is hating on GhostCrawler or Blizzard. We have two viable raiding builds: healing and tanking. After the expansion some builds will be left in the cold. You can tell people that every build in every class will be equal, and that’s what they’re trying to do, but it won’t happen in reality.

    I do believe players with a more involved base get more attention. Case in point: GhostCrawler today to Moonkin’s: “[Sorry,] I am focused on tanking an awful lot right now.”


  9. I have to say, I don’t understand the hate. If I read through Ghostcrawler’s posts I see two themes:

    1) All tanks will be equally good
    2) You will have to choose to be a better tank or dps (or mid-level both)

    The response seems to be, Ghostcrawler is lying, druids will suck. Or the claim that after 5 years of work building the most successful game ever Blizzard doesn’t know what they are doing.

    Maybe I am Mr. Sunshine but I’ll take what she says at face value and I am excited about Wrath.

    Also, related to armor; Ghostcrawler says pretty clearly we will get more mitigation abilities to make up for lost armor. OK, I’m good with that. Why assume she is not being truthful?

    I like the idea of picking from a wider range of gear, rather than having to go with the limited high-armor pieces.

    Frankly, I don’t see the part in any of this that says, “Feral Druids will not be viable tanks”. In fact I see her state very clearly the exact opposite.


  10. Dunno about you, cozy, but I’d much rather have gear that’s actually well-itemized for tanking drop less frequently than have gear that is meh for tanking be our tanking gear. Sure, those DKs, paladins and warriors all have to roll on the same plate tanking gear – but it’s plate TANKING gear.

    Whereas we’re trying to figure out how crit helps mitigation.

    Druids went from having poor itemization to having no itemization. It’s like they combined the worst elements of paladins and druids into a new, super-suck itemized class – and instead of the paladin case, where the majority of the gear is itemized for tanking aside from a few pieces like weapons which are threat, druids have the majority of their items itemized for dps with a few items like weapons for mitigation. It’s bizarre.


  11. “Surely the flipside of “more classes want to roll on this loot” is fewer occasions when loot drops and gets disenchanted?”

    Which makes it harder to get enchants of course, raising prices on stuff and making us do more dailies…

    Right now I find that raids prefer to take ferals over rogues in 99% of the cases because they can hybrid very easily. I’ve been with a feral who was in full dps gear for Nightbane, our MT died, and he switched to bear, picked up aggro, and tanked the fight from 55% to kill. All he switched out was his staff to the SSC tank stick. Yes, we’ve got Kara on farm, but he’s also doing MQoDPS and buffing the other melee. That’s tough for a rogue to compete with.

    That said, I don’t like what they’re talking about doing. It makes me wonder if we’re going to wind up back in the pre-innervate spell days where we can only come along as healers.


  12. I wanted to thank you for summarizing this. I have been following it but there has been so much water under the bridge it is hard to explain it to people who haven’t been playing along at home. Reading Ghostcrawler’s responses is like getting kicked repeatedly in the groin. I just want to scream “WHY CAN’T YOU UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT OF EFFECTIVE HEALTH?!?” at my computer screen every time I see a new post from him.

    BBB is pretty much standard reading for most Feral Druids. I hope that such a high-profile “rant” gets enough visibility to make an impact on the Devs.

    I am on the fence. On one hand, I want to hold off on the QQ until they finish their “class balancing” pass. On the other hand, if something is wrong, now is the time to try to get it fixed. Do we really want Patch 3.0 to hit and find ourselves unable to tank Karazhan?!? What happens to a guild that has a Feral as a MT when 3.0 hits? If the Devs get it wrong then that guild has no progression until some hotfix gets rolled out or maybe they are done raiding until the actual expansion. I realize that this is also true for Paladins and Warriors, but I don’t understand those classes enough to comment if they are on the right direction or not.

    The 75% mitigation from Armor is still the “cap”, but you do need a much higher value to get there vs. a level 83 target than a level 73 target. As the Rambling Bear said, it looks like that cap is going to be 49,905 in the expansion. A value that is wholely out of reach for most tanks. If you have full T6 gear, a +Armor necklace from the expansion, and you have Ancestral Fortitude/Inspiration proc, you might be at the cap. Good luck getting there in the Expansion though.

    I think the suprising comparison is T4 to Naxx10. Yes, you end up with a lot more Stamina/Agility on the Naxx gear, but you end up with a lot more armor on T4. It becomes much more lopsided when you compare T6. I wonder if Blizzard will go back and change the T4-T6 sets the way they are doing it for Warriors/Paladins. If they don’t, T6 gear is going to probably be used way past Naxx10….

    The new Tanking Staff from Naxx10 (630 Armor) and Armor on Necklaces may help mitigate the hole a little bit…but they are going to have to turn some serious screws to get it right. Mother Bear is a step in the right direction but it remains to be seen if they went far enough.


  13. Semantics. I swear, I’d enjoy blogging more if people didn’t love correcting their interpretation of what they think I meant. Why not just ask?

    If the armor cap FORMULA remains unchanged, then the armor cap remains unchanged. It scales to level as always, as we have covered many, many times before.

    If our actual armor on each item upgrade decreases as we increase in level, then instead of our armor in Dire Bear form increasing to match as you might have expected, the actual effect will be to have our effective armor value reduced in proportion to the cap.


  14. Just one thought from a Rogue here. Blizzard always said and says that Rogue will remain the main melle DPS class, i.e. cats will come second or third. This means that as long as the Rogue is not finalised it will be difficult to design the druid right.

    Hopefully, they change the loot requirements a bit. I always hate it to roll against all classes because they might need the leather piece at some point. Especially hunters are a pain.

    Anyway, I am looking forward to the release. It will be fun to see how it will go.


  15. Surely the flipside of “more classes want to roll on this loot” is fewer occasions when loot drops and gets disenchanted?

    Gearing up: I’ve been really pleased with how it’s been possible for me to achieve heroic-capable tanking gear without unreasonsable amounts of normal instance running. I hope I can do that again in wotlk.

    For tanking, I’m not sure that physical mitigation is the be-all and end-all; there’s quite a lot of encounters with magic or AOE damage in. If bears were given some abilities against that then that would help to balance us.


  16. SuraBear: Hopefully in LK with the reduced number of armour pieces in general they’ll actually include a plausible amount decent AP/Melee DPS mail for the hunter and enhancement shammies at all levels and we’ll be able to go to “right, no rogues or ferals want that; any hunters or shammies want a roll?”


  17. unfortunately blizz has proven in the past to not be very competent when predicting changes.

    i do hope that they release with druids fully fleshed out. otherwise i dont think i will be playing wow again for the expansion.


  18. Cozy:

    Plate tanks compete with 3/30 specs, so assuming equal distribution between specs 1 in 10 people. In turn, feral druids will compete with at least 4/30 specs, and since DPS warriors, hunters, and enhancement shamans also tend to roll on leather DPS gear, that’s a definite minimum. So I would definitely suspect that competition will be much tighter for leather gear than it will be for plate.

    And if you’re letting offspecs roll against main specs for gear. . . feh?


  19. Just a passing note on your comment that you feel that you’ll be sharing gear drops with rogues…

    By the looks of it, warriors, paladins and death knights will all be after the same pieces of tanking plate.

    You get to duel one class in a 5-person instance for loot, and probably not more than 5/25th of the raid. Those of us who tank in plate might get stuff okay from 5-persons (well, it’s tanking armour, and I’m the tank, thanks!), but when you factor in the 25-persons, and that we can have up to 2 plate tanks, 6 plate dps and 2 plate healers (it’s for my off-spec!)…


    At least with the “normalisation” (my choice of words) for plate-tanks, there’s more likely to be a drop we want.

    Just a thought.


  20. BBB thanks for the great article. I’m a casual raider and loved your insight in gearing up my druid. It was my first and only level 70 and I proudly geared him from nothing into SSC (so far, guild is still actively progressing). I have your articles to thank for that. With not enough time to really follow the druid developments this was a great read and I can only hope that druid tanking turns out alright in the expansion. I recently got into the beta and the talents do look promising but by the sounds of things I have a lot of reasons to worry. All us druid tanks can hope for is to have faith in the developers that they will test and make the changes to make us good tanks and OT’s as well. Lets just hope they do it before launch and not a 3 month patch.


  21. BBB says:
    “Can you see the tone I’m talking about? The way it feels like the Devs are still a little miffed we were viable main tanks in BC, and did very well at it, and by golly they’re gonna fix that? And, after they see if we get crushed, they’ll look at bringing us up a bit?”

    Sorry, but I don’t really see that tone at all. It sounds to me like the devs are being very thoughtful about the balance of the class. Yes, there are changes in store, and people generally don’t like change.

    In my raids, we have both warrior and druid tanks. We have rogues, mages, warocks, and druids who can all top the damage charts on a given day. Blizzard’s ability to balance classes is, to me, amazing. But if we wait for everything to be perfect, the game will take even longer to come out. So let them get it close to perfect and release the game. Then with ten million playtesters, they can make adjustments. That’s just having realistic expectations.


  22. Can you see the tone I’m talking about? The way it feels like the Devs are still a little miffed we were viable main tanks in BC, and did very well at it, and by golly they’re gonna fix that?

    I have to say, I really don’t see that tone, or at least not in the post you were referring to.

    That said, it’s a great overview of the state of the feral tanking union – I feel all informed and knowledgeable now! 😉


  23. Ok, I’ll admit I only skimmed your article my first time through, mostly because I had already been following Ghostcrawler’s posts. One thing I missed on my first pass was your assertion that “Our total Armor, on the other hand, decreases, arguing that the current Armor Cap is going to remain fixed”. It sounds like you’re thinking that the current NUMBER (35,880) is going to be the same at level 80, which I can all but gurantee you is not the case.

    Note that the armor cap is actually based on the fomula (taken from wowwiki):

    DR% = Armor / (Armor + 400 + 85 * (AttackerLevel + 4.5 * (AttackerLevel – 59)))

    For levels 60 and higher. When you substitute in 73 for the AttackerLevel (the level of current raid bosses), and solve for 75% DR% (The hard cap on armor mitigation), you get the aforementioned 35,880 number.

    However, when we change the AttackerLevel to 83, the level of bosses in WotLK raids (presumably, anyhow), the armor cap changes to a much higher number:

    .75 = Cap/(Cap + 400 + (85*(83+ (4.5*24))

    Which, when solved for Cap, gives us an armor cap at 49,905. And of course, blizzard could always change the armor calculation (they did it for TBC, after all), but it seems unlikely to me.


  24. Long time reader, first comment ever…

    BBBB, I just wanted to say thank you for an obviously well-researched and thoughtful post. I’ve been a bear tank ever since I started playing and yours is my go-to blog.

    I’m choosing to reserve judgment until launch, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a keenly interested observer in the meantime. Keep up the great work!


  25. It’s disconcerting to hear that he believes we scaled too well in BC, because as it stands we’re still #2. Apparently even that is too good because we were only supposed to be “decent tanks.” When he said “all tanks are created equal,” I think he forgot to add “but some are more equal than others.”


  26. I’m a hunter first, druid second who’s been playing since the beginning of WoW. I’ve seen class highs and lows and while I think it makes sense to be cautiously optimistic, what I love about these changes is that mechanically speaking they have a LOT of easy and fast options to tune druid tanking and dps up/down. This is vastly different from the druid feral spec. and hunter survival spec. at launch where it really felt like the whole tree was impossible and needed a complete overhaul. Even if they didn’t touch the feral tree in terms of removing bloat or adding new talents, by changing the values of a few things (Mother Bear or bear form +X% armor) they can vastly change the playability of the spec. I’m guessing we’ll see a high tier talented “oh shit” button or two for the tanking people, and maybe a passive DPS buffing talent for the DPS people.


  27. Thanks for a thorough writeup.

    I’ve also been following the direction, and I’m very positive about the direction on ferals in wrath. We’re still in beta, so I’m not drawing any conclusions. They have gone to enormous efforts to reassure the community. Maybe its just all brainwashing and I fell for it 😛

    Pre-BC was before my time, so I cant really comment. But tanking was a much younger sport back then, and we’ve all learned so much. When I login today, I see an excellent game, with a very viable tanking spec & gear for druids. I’m sure its just going to be even better in Wrath. As one blue post said recently if ferals couldnt tank without a parry ability, guess what would happen? Its a joke example, but he was making a serious point: Dont panic!!!


  28. I don’t know why blizzard is having so much trouble seperating bear druids from cat durids. Either set default as ot/ok cat dps and have 2 talents on the same tier. One which is +% bear threat/armor and -% cat dps and one which is the opposite. Or make cat/bear dps the default and have 5 talents +/- as appropriate. Seems simple. Maybe i am missing something.



  29. Thanks for this. I appreciate the summary and the comments.

    I love love love being a beartank. Bear iz 4 tanking! But I am leery of the changes they say are coming. I’ve been playing for almost 4 years now and am hesitant to believe a word Blizz says about anything until I have seen it myself.

    I want bears to be awesome tanks. I want cats to be awesome DPS. I am ok with having to choose which one I really want to be. But I think we are going to end up screwed.

    To that end, I too will have at least 3 70s going in to LK. My mage, my bear, and my retired BM hunter. If things turn out like I think they will, at least I’ll have a devilsaur…….


  30. Blizz has been through the howls of the druid class. I would think they would not want to go through it again. If it’s in the name of normalization, why wait until an expansion to “fix” it… giving an entire class the false belief that things were working as intended.

    It is too soon to draw any conclusions.

    *holds breath*


  31. I think the problem with BC, especially recently, is that Druids could get Tier-4/5 level tanking gear without ever entering a Raid. Between badge gear, arena/PvP gear, etc. and the fact that much of the Tier 4 and 5 stuff wasn’t that great for tanking, it was all about getting the half-dozen or so pieces with a huge armor buff (Badge of Tenacity, Rings, Thoriumweave cloak, etc.) and stacking Agi and nothing else was of interest.

    I don’t want to go back to that itemization. I want upgrades in every instance and every dungeon.


  32. The blue thread worth reading is this one…


    In that thread, a player goes into details of how druid tanks are “bad” in current LK builds/gear.

    FWIW, Blizzard really hasn’t started on kitty dps yet. That is referenced somewhere in a recent blue post (I think it is in the current 5 druid blue threads on MMO). Honestly, they just finished (?) rogues in the most recent beta build. Until rogues are nearly done we can’t expect them to finish kitty dps or (to a lesser extent) bear tanks as we share gear in many cases.


  33. @ Gwaendar:
    They can’t nerf them ALL.
    If your three classes are drood, lock and paladin, yes, they can.

    Yah, that’s what I have.


  34. Sadly I agree. By the expansion oddly enough i also should have 3 70s, a druid (main) and a shadow priest and beastmaster hunter.

    I’m expecting to have fun still but its a bad business decision by wow to not make every class and spec really drool over wraith. as it is I dont blame those who are thinking of not buying it.


  35. Well Gwaendar, I got a feral druid, shadow priest and beastmaster hunter.

    Looks like Blizzard LOVES my BM hunter, so I know I’m good there.

    Rambling Bear, I’m trying to keep my mind open and receptive on this.

    But yeah, I remember only too well. And I look at the current Talents, and wince.

    I read what Ghostcrawler writes, and the tone seems to say, voer and over, “Trust us, we’re professionals. We know what we’re doing. Trust us. Don’t worry, it’ll all work out.”

    And I keep hearing that Marine voice in the back of my head, saying “Don’t piss down MY back and tell me it’s raining.”


  36. I’m not in the beta, but what I’ve been hearing from those who are in the beta is basically “Feral druids suck. Cat DPS sucks, and Bear mitigation is atrocious”. So basically, the current beta build has feral druid 3.0 on track for a return to feral druid 1.0.9.

    When I first saw the new talents, I was an optimist. I saw we were getting 6% more dodge, and that we were getting our own defensive stance, and I was in awe.

    But now I realize you need to take that in context. Warriors already have defensive stance. Warriors already had that avoidance (we now have 10% avoidance from talents, just like our plate wearing cousins, they just get half of it as parry). We used to have huge armor to make up for our lack of a shield (which is a very signifigant source of armor, and blocks mitigate more than ever). We used to have a huge agi->dodge conversion to make up for our lack of parry. We now have neither of these.

    I await druids’ second pass with bated breath. As it stands right now, we’re as effective as a prot warrior who never trained the parry skill and tanks with a two-hander.


  37. The itemization similarity to Rogues strikes me that they want Feral Druids to DPS first, and Tank second. It would seem that they want to encourage Druids in an off-tank role rather than a main tank one. This would be more in-line with thinking of them as a Fury Warrior equivalent rather than a Protection Warrior equivalent.


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