How to Bear Tank the Lower Levels Part 1: Gear

Hello, and welcome to what will hopefully be a helpful little series of mini-guides to tanking on your Feral Druid at the lower levels of content.

The situation is one I should have addressed a long, long time ago.

You make a Druid alt, your friend or loved one creates a squishy clothie alt, and the suggestion gets floated that you play together as you level, and the Druid levels as Feral and does the tanking.

First, welcome to the party! It’s good to have you here!

Playing a Feral Druid may seem daunting, especially if you’ve never played as a tank before, and especially if you’ve never leveled a class that tanked at lower levels.

“What do I do? How does this work? Why are those three mobs beating holy heck out of me?!? Hey, I thought I was a tank, and those suckers HURT!!! What am I doing wrong?”

Relax, and let your worries go. It’s really not that bad. There is a lot that you can choose to learn to help things go easy for you, but the core is fairly simple;

If you are tanking, your goal is to grab ’em all, hold ’em all, and still be standing at the end of the fight.

If you are already accomplishing that, then grats… you’re a tank!

See, this is what we mean by Rogue tanks and Boomkin tanks, etc. If you can grab ’em all, hold ’em all, and still be standing at the end, you tanked. Rogues have successfully tanked many things, through guile and kill and a smart mix of itemization, Talents, dodge-tanking and picking their targets wisely.

If, while accomplishing those three phases of the mission, you also did some decent damage, then it’s a bonus. But doing high DPS is mst definitely NOT required.  

The first part of this series of mini-guides will give you some guidance on what to look for in terms of gear, and why.

When soloing, the Cat form of a Feral Druid acts most like a Rogue, but without quite as many evil distracting and stunning tricks. For the purposes of this guide, I’m going to talk mostly about gear for the hopeful leveling tank. The gear you will choose will also be adequate to do solo kitty DPS. It just won’t be optimized for that role. I’ll explain the difference in a little while.

First, what do Bear Tank Druids wear?

Bears wear leather armor for preference, always looking for the highest armor value available.

In Bear form, which you can get at level 10, the amount of armor contribution you get from cloth and leather items is multiplied by 180%.

Additionally, Stamina is multiplied by 25%. We’ll go into that after armor.

Bear form lasts until level 40, when you can get Dire Bear form, which boosts that armor contribution up to 370%.

You can increase this contribution even more by taking three Talent points in Thick Hide for +10% armor contribution (available at level 8), and by taking 3/3 of Survival of the Fittest making you immune to critical strikes from enemies 3 or less levels above you, and +33% armor contribution from items (available at level 34).

The easiest answer to the “Why am I so squishy” question is usually, “Are you trying to tank three of four things at once at level 30? Because you’re tanking in the equivalent of Mail armor.”

Warriors and Paladins also get an armor boost at level 40, they go from using nothing but Mail, to being able to equip Plate. Bears are fortunate, we still use the same type of armor, we just get more out of it.

Why is a high armor value important? What does it do for me, anyway?

The short answer is, the higher your armor value, the less actual damage that gets through per hit from physical attacks.

Here’s a simple scenario. You are fighting three mobs, two Orc Warriors and an Orc Warlock. The two Warriors are up in your face, and beating on you, but they’re not doing much damage. Hey, you must be a badass! Then the Warlock starts casting, and your health drops like a big rock in a still pond. Thwump! Down you go.

Armor reduces, lessens, mitigates physical damage. It doesn’t do a blessed thing against magic. Hence, the age old battle cry, “Kill the casters first!”

Well, wait a minute. How the heck do I mitigate that magic damage, then?

Well, there are basically three ways to deal with magic damage.

First, have a ton of Stamina/Health to eat the blasts, and focus on killing the bastard first.

Second, wait until level 49 and be 100% in the Feral Talent tree, so you can be 3/3 in Protector of the Pack, which reduces all damage you take by 12%, including magic.

Or third, look for gear that has Resistance to the particular school of magic damage you’re going to suffer, like Fire Resistance or Frost Resistance. You used to see this a lot for raiding in places with mostly Fire based damage, such as Molten Core. You still see this with some tanks preparing for Sapphiron in Naxxramas. It doesn’t really have much business in the early levels, though.

Until you’re level 49 (assuming you DO go 100% Feral), your best bet is stack as much Stamina as possible, and target the casters first.

So, armor is covered.

Next priority is the Stamina. As I said, the higher your health, the better when tanking. Can’t go wrong choosing good Stamina. Your bear and Dire Bear forms and the Talent Heart of the Wild all multiply your Stamina, so when choosing between a flat Health enchant or a Stamina enchant, the Stamina is better.

After Stamina, the next core Bear stat is Agility. Put down, the pitchforks, I’ll explain.

Agility is a controversial stat when leveling a Feral Druid, because it does different things depending on whether you are in Cat form or Bear form.

In both forms, Agility provides an increased chance that attacks will be critical strikes, and also increases your chance to Dodge an attack.

  • In Cat form, 1 point of Agility gives you 1 Attack Power. Your attacks that get through do more damage.
  • In Bear form, Agility provides no Attack Power bonuses at all.

Strength, on the other hand, provides 2 Attack Power per 1 point of Strength in BOTH forms.

Strength is great for doing damage in both forms, and since the random enchantment on Leather gear that has Strength and Stamina is called “of the Bear”, it’s a reasonable assumption to believe it’s for Bear tanks.

Don’t get me wrong, Strength is great on your gear. But if you have a choice between Stamina/Agility and Stamina/Strength, take the Agility for the increased Dodge.

So, we’ve got Armor value, Stamina, Agility (and Dodge Rating at higher levels), and Strength.

After these, while you’re leveling, you will find Attack Power, Critical Strike, Hit Rating and Expertise very useful.

Once you are able to gain the Talent Primal Fury (available at level 26, technically), Critical Strike and Agility both combine to help your Rage generation, so Critical Strike moves past Attack Power and Hit and Expertise. You’ll be getting Expertise as soon as you take Primal Precision, anyway.

Once you can get 3/3 in Natural Reaction, so your successful Dodges also get you Rage back, you’ll be loving all that Agility and Dodge Rating you’ve been stacking.

that should do it for gear choices, until you get much higher level.

Once Defense Rating and Dodge Rating become pretty common, you’ll have to factor them in to your decisions.

In talking about Defense, there are two skills, Defense and Defense Rating. Defense is Defense. 25 points of Defense equals 1% Miss, Parry, Dodge and Block. It also serves to reduce the chance you can be struck by a critical attack (not so important with Survival of the Fittest for us Bears).

Defense seems pretty valuable, right?

Well, keep in mind Bears to not Block or Parry. We don’t use weapons, and we don’t have shields. So 2 out of 4 benefits of Defense are wasted. Alo, the biggest draw for the stat is reaching the Uncrittable cap, which Bears can ignore due to Survival of the Fittest.

Defense Rating is by far a key stat for Paladins, Warriors and Death Knights (I think, don’t know much about DK tanks, sorry), and really not a Bear stat. If something with it drops, please check for Plate wearing tanks that might want it before rolling on it, hmm?

Still, Miss and Dodge, mmm tasty, right? Why isn’t it a key Bear stat?

Well, hold on just a moment.

Defense Rating is not the same as Defense. It takes varying amounts of Defense Rating to get just one point of Defense. The higher you are in level, the more Defense Rating you need to get just 1 point. And it’s Defense Rating that’s on gear.

At level 80, you need 123 Defense Rating for 1% Dodge and 1% Miss. That’s a lot of Defense Rating.

Now, there is one other stat to think about and compare.

Dodge Rating.

Dodge Rating is more effective for Bear tanks than straight Defense Rating, because it only takes 45.25 Dodge Rating to get 1% Dodge.

No, you’re not getting Miss at the same time, but keep in mind that whole “When I miss I get Rage” thing. Getting 90/5 Dodge Rating gets you 2% Dodge, and that’s mighty fine.

Now, I’m not going to go into Diminishing Returns. I’m just not doing it again. This is supposed to NOT make your brain hurt.

Let’s just say taht, when you start tanking at low levels, the Agility and Crit and Expertise are all very potent. But as you level, it takes more of each stat to get the same effects. And as you really get high in level, and really get tons and tons of stats, the amount of stat you need for the same effect keeps growing.

Has no effect on you in the early game, just a way of making it super hard to ever reach a perfect 100% Dodge, that’s all.

As far as gear goes, just remember;

  • Armor Value (multiplies from leather and cloth only, not trinkets, rings, weapons or necklaces)
  • Stamina
  • Agility (and Dodge Rating later)
  • Strength
  • Critical Strike Chance (after Primal Fury)
  • Hit Rating (until you have enough to reliably hit your targets)
  • Attack Power
  • Expertise (don’t need that much, Primal Precision helps a lot at low levels)

What does this mean for Heirloom items, btw?

Well, it means that of the choices for Feral Druids:

Repurposed Lava Dredger 65 Emblems of Heroism
Two-Hand Mace
361 – 542 Speed 2.90
(156.0 damage per second)
+68 Agility
+103 Stamina
+15 Fire Resistance
Requires level 1 – 80 (80)
Item level 1
Increases attack power by 1417 in Cat, Bear, Dire Bear, and Moonkin forms only.
Equip: Increases your armor penetration rating by 45.
Equip: Increases attack power by 91.

That’s the best item of all of them right there. Agility and Stamina out the wazoo.

After that, believe it or not is the PvP Heirloom Shoulders.The Exceptional Stormshroud Shoulders have Agility, Stamina and Attack Power, while the Emblem shoulders only have Stamina, Hit Rating and Attack Power. Not bad at all, just not optimized. 🙂

If you have the Emblems, the new 40 Emblem of Heroism (or 60 Champion Seal) Chestpiece is quite nice, because it scales with your level, always providing you with a solid Armor Value for your level, plus good Stamina. My only wish is that they had put Agility on it instead of Attack Power. Ah, well.

See you again soon for pulling mobs and aggro management!

18 thoughts on “How to Bear Tank the Lower Levels Part 1: Gear

  1. Great post! This is exactly what I was looking for. Just rolled a second Druid, first one was Resto/Balance, and needed to find tanking info. Do you have a follow up for this post and if so could you post it in the comments so we can access it easy?


  2. Hey BBB

    Has the sequel to this post about pulling mobs and generating threat been published? Want to start a Bear tank, hoping to just use the random pug tool to learn my trade easier now, and the gear guide is great. Can not find the follow up. HELP!


  3. Hello Big Papa Bear!

    I’m an aspiring beartank that’s doing her research before getting planning out my character. I was wondering if you could share some wisdom on the kinds of enchants that will make life better on the way up to 80.

    I’m told that when you make your attacks as a Bear/Kitty, you don’t actually attack with your weapon, but instead with a modified “Claw” weapon that you automatically have max proficiency in. Bearing that in mind, (HA! Totally unintentional.) does that mean the enchants on our weapons are relegated to stat-stick-hood?



  4. Hi again guys, anyone can tell me an average stats for a 80 bear tank ?? defense rating, crit, hit, dodge etc. etc.

    I want to know how much under or above i’m in certain stats, in order to fix it with gems/enchants.

    Thx in advance


  5. You know, I’ve played a druid for a very long time, and I have several low level druids but I’ve never speced feral. I’ve been skimming over your blog and sort of have the urge to turn one of my lowbies into a tank now. It’s probably something I should learn to do anyway!
    .-= ArchDruid Angela´s last blog ..T 8 Nerf =-.


  6. Great post, should keep it bookmarked for the next time I roll a Druid… 🙂
    Just one thing about Defense (or DR) – Survival of the Fittest does make you uncrittable by bosses at the level cap. However, while leveling, if you want to try content that is intended for higher levels, then the reduced crit chance helps. Don’t know if it would make it more valuable than other stats, but it still benefits more than just dodge chance.


  7. Hi BBB,

    A useful article, thank you! Just lettting you know your link to the Survival of the Fittest talent actually goes to Dire Bear Form.


  8. “Talent points in Thick Hide for +10% armor contribution (available at level 8),”

    WoW! Druids get to second tier talents before anyone else has their first point! WOOT!



  9. Lila, welcome to the fun! I really hope you’re taking the chance now to tank as a Bear as you go, doing appropriately leveled content. It’s a heck of a lot of fun, and you’ll only ever get this chance to see things the way they were meant to be seen once. After that, running through is fun when you outlevel and outgear the content, but it’s really best when you worked your butt off the first time, and can truly enjoy REVENGE!!!

    Gunny, you have made my heart happy. I had wondered what someone could ever possibly think of if they were to create an item that would capture ME in the game… Bacon Explosion Sandwich would nail it! Well played, sir!

    Ahhh, the Big Bear Bacon Sandwich…


  10. Great post, thanks.

    For heirloom stuff, it’s always a compromise. I went with the +hit shoulders with the expectation that I would only be tanking a few times (turned out to be true). +hit is better for dps unless you are fighting green mobs.

    But since the article is about bear tanking, the pvp gear is a solid choice.


  11. This post is great. Not only am I playing a tank for the first time, I’m playing for the first time – my druid is my highest character, currently 42. So much online is about that mystical thing called the endgame, which still seems pretty far away. I’m still a bit confused by it all, and your explanation of gear is really straightforward. Thanks!


  12. Hey BBB, been a long time reader, but never had a druid until recently. After reading your articles for a while i finally decided to level a druid, which has now become my main. my ex mains are a t8.5 prot warrior, and raiding dk tank. I love tanking can’t help it. My wife is a raiding lock. We actually got burn out on raiding and the constant gear grind, so we started leveling new toons. She started a rogue, and i started a druid(with full intentions of resto/boomkin, honestly didn’t want to tank on a 3rd toon). So pretty much all the way up til 70, she actually tanked on her rogue, and i healed her on all the group quests, big elites,etc. She beat me to 80 by two days. i love my wife. anyway at 75, i made the switch from resto/boomkin to resto/bear(didnt want to pug tanks, and my guild lacks in the tank department). So against my original intentions i’m tanking as a bear, but absolutely loving it. At first is was a bit frustrating not having all the tools i’m used to on my warrior or dk, and at low level gear threat generation was just crappy. I’ve persisted and did my homework and have learn to work with tool set that a bear tank has, and quite frankly it’s very refreshing, and a lot more enjoyable. Thanks for your wonderful articles. Keep up the great work.

    P.S Blizzard should make a [Bacon Explosion Sandwich] cooking recipe in your honor.


  13. A really enjoyable read BBB, well done. All the information nicely laid out and easy to understand.

    Now, if had just found that before i had reached 80 with my druid.


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