I had a very nice (and funny) email from someone that was looking for a few tips on getting ready to tank.
I’ve covered a lot of different things all over the place, but the biggest problem with being a prolific writer is, after a while someone can have 900+ posts to wade through to try and find where you hid advice or suggestions on what you’re looking for.
Sometimes, having a search function and tags just don’t cut it anymore. If you’re tired of me covering ground you’ve heard a gazillion times, well… sorry. I’m a bear, can I help it if I’m panda-ring to my readers?
Yes, yes, I know, /groan.
First, the email. I love you folks, the emails always cheer me up.
Hi there! I’m a relatively new end-game bear tank with a lot to learn. Lets start with the story:
My guild let me run my first raid, OS, as the main tank. It went surprisingly well
The next day my GM was running H ToC and gave me the opportunity to tank that as well. It was a travesty.
During the very first fight my health shot down like a bullet, far too fast for the healer to catch up, even with survival instincts and frenzied regeneration up. We tried it twice before the group quickly and grumpily disbanded. My GM told me I needed to stack up defense rating, but I read on your blog that bears didn’t need to worry about crits with maxed SotF. So I’m wondering, what stat do I need to work on instead to make me less squishy?
I currently have 24k armor, 32k health unbuffed, 31% dodge chance and 415 defense. My glyphs are Maul, Growl, and Mangle.
Marshmallow Bear Kaliska
Kaliska, thanks a lot for your email. I sincerely hope you don’t let a tough Heroic ToC run get you down on tanking.
The first thing I’ll suggest, is that you keep your confidence up. There is no reason for you to feel you can’t handle the fights. I know that there is a growing feeling among the WoW playerbase that Bear tanks are not as equally strong as others, since the reduction in armor, Stamina and Dodge per Agility that we’ve experienced in past patches.
It’s a perception, based on a flawed premise; that the tanking survivability of the strongest tanking class is the standard, and tanks that are not at the same standard are unable to successfully tank.
In plain language; if my tank is squishier than tank class X, then my tank can’t tank.
It’s not a competition. There is a big difference between being as “good” as another tank (as measured in survivability, a combination of max health, damage mitigation and damage avoidance) and being good ENOUGH to tank fights well.
I’m gonna give you some basic fundamentals for a second here, before moving on to suggestions. I strongly believe in understanding WHY you are doing what you are, and choosing what you do. If you understand and remember the underlying principles that drives your decisions, then in the future, when things change, you know how it will affect you, and you can decide for yourself if you need to change yourself to compensate.
Survivability. It’s one of the two key aspects of tanking. (The other being threat generation, of course).
Survivability is composed of three parts;
- Damage Mitigation
- Damage Avoidance
Health is self- explanatory. The more health your character has, the more damage you can sustain before reaching zero. This directly relates to how long you can go without heals before hitting zero and dying. Health is NOT the primary stat to concern yourself with. If your healing support does a lot of small heals, then if you take 3 huge hits, one after another, the healer can be healing you at max speed, and never do enough healing to overtake and surpass your losses. It’ll take longer to die, but having 100,000 health doesn’t help that much if you’re taking 20,000 damage per hit. To effectively work with your healer and give them time to heal you, you need to reduce the amount of damage you are actually taking per attack. So let’s move on to those other two aspects of survivability, shall we?
Damage Mitigation is the term we use to describe reducing the amount of damage you actually endure when a hit lands. Your armor is what reduces the amount of actual damage you take, but from physical attacks ONLY. Poison, Magic, Flame, these attack types ignore armor. (Protector of the Pack, a Feral Talent, helps against these – more later).
Mitigation of damage is taking the amount of damage from every blow that hits, and reducing it by a little bit. This is what we build up/improve that takes those big hits that causes your health to plummet like a stone, and reduces the damage from each one so your health glides down in a leisurely fashion, giving healers more time to respond.
Bears used to have very high armor, and thus extremely good mitigation of physical damage, because of the way our Dire Bear Form armor multiple worked. Originally, the armor value on every single piece of equipment we wore would be counted for the multiplier. You could easily see a Bear tank in Burning Crusade with 34,000 armor or higher. Burning Crusade, not Wrath.
In modern times, they have nerfed that a good bit, first by reducing the number of equipment slots that count as being multiplied (only worn leather armor and cloaks count for the multiplier now, no Neck, Rings, Trinkets or Weapons count) and then by reducing the multiplier itself.
What this means for us is that, when we look at items to upgrade to increase our physical Damage Mitigation, we need to look at using the leather items and cloaks that have the highest base armor value possible. To be specific; if you are worried about your armor level, then the way to improve it is to upgrade your Helm, Back, Chest, Wrist, Hand, Leggings, Belt or Boots first. Those are the only items affected by the armor multiplier.
It also means (as I will go into later for Damage Avoidance) that any other items that have armor on them, such as weapons, rings or trinkets, are NOT necessarily the best in-slot upgrades, because the armor on them does not multiply. It used to be a given, a no-brainer, that an item with armor on it plus Stamina and Agility was far superior than another item with a teeny bit more Agility and Stam, but no armor. That ain’t the case anymore, unless it’s an obscene amount of armor, like 1200 – 1400. If it’s armor in the 300 – 400 range, or even 600, then you need to look at it’s other stats, primarily Agility and Stamina (and to a lesser extent Defense Rating) to see if it’ll help you Dodge better to avoid those attacks entirely. You’ll have to make a judgment on balancing armor for Damage Mitigation against Dodge for Damage Avoidance (and Stamina or increased Health cushion).
“But wait!” I hear you cry. “What about the magic and fire and poison B.S.? If armor doesn’t work, what does?”
Well, that’s where the Talent Protector of the Pack 3/3 comes in.
You see, Protector of the Pack provides pure Damage Mitigation… and it’s against both physical AND all other types of damage. As such, when you see your armor value as, say, 24k armor and think, “Boy, in Burning Crusade that would be insta-death in Gruuls’ Lair”, you need to now keep in mind that on top of your armor mitigation, PotP reduces all damage taken by 12%. (Changed from my original typo of 3%… thanks Neil. )
And never forget Barkskin as a non-global cooldown ability of awesomeness. More on Barkskin later.
Damage Avoidance is the third leg of the survivability tripod. It’s what it sounds like; how many incoming attacks can you avoid altogether?
Damage Avoidance is very critical to the fundamental preparation of Bear tanking. Damage Mitigation reduces the damage the blows that get through do to you, but Avoidance is making sure you don’t get hit in the first place.
An attack that misses is a beautiful thing for a Bear tank. When specced properly, not only do you avoid the potential damage entirely, but you also get some Rage back for your successful Dodge. Yummy!
For Bears, it is Agility that provides the single largest source of Dodge from gear. The stat also has other benefits, the Crit chance increases the frequency that your damage absorbing bubble procs, and each point of Agility is worth one point of armor. (Yeah, I know. Woo. Oh, be still my excessively beating heart.) Still, Agility is a wonderful thing to gem for and enchant for. It is entirely controllable to gear for. Armor for Mitigation is difficult to gear for, as it’s pretty much driven entirely by item level now. But Agility is something you can stack like a fiend. Dodge Rating is great as well, and Defense Rating (until the expansion removes it) also serves, but the grand daddy to stack on gear is Agility.
Okay, so I covered Health, Damage Mitigation and Damage Avoidance. I know I’ve done it before, but we’ve now gone over it again, so let’s build on it with some suggestions.
Position/Check your Six.
When you are tanking, watch your environment for where you are in relation to your enemies, and watch for non-physical threats.
Now that you know that your strength is in mitigating physical damage, not magic or poison or fire, you now can understand how critical it is that when the poison puddle drops from the Rogue in ToC, you get your big bear butt on out of that green stuff, fast. Likewise when the green smoky fire circle of Desecration is dropped (pretty sure that’s what it’s called) from phase three against the Black Knight. Get thine ass, tank or not, out of the fire.
Along the same lines, since you now know that your Avoidance is primarily based on Dodge… do not let your enemies get behind you. Attacks from behind cannot, CANNOT, be Dodged. Watch your position, many large mob fights consist of the group coming and then spreading out around you to even out their position. This causes them to form an arc, and move to your, um, behind. So practise backing the heck up, swiveling the camera view to see around you frequently, and seeing how you can Feral Charge into large groups and then immediately back up a bit to keep them in a frontal cone. Sometimes, you just can’t get them to stay off your ass, but you can try.
You can try.
Part of this means irritating the heck out of melee DPS. Melee DPS is manuevering behind the targets, and there you go, dragging them around again. TRY to stand still and let the melee hold position when you can, but believe me, if the melee DPS understands that you are only moving to get yourself, AND THEM out of the fire, and to keep yourself from being hit from behind and risking getting killed from fast non-avoided damage, they will forgive you. Hopefully.
“You need to stack more Defense Rating”
Remember that every other traditional tank out there has to use Defense Rating to become uncrittable at this point in the game. Every player that has ever played a tank class and prepared to raid has had the importance of Defense Rating hammered into their heads to be uncrittable, and in the old days, uncrushable. Well, pushing crushing blows off the combat table. (Grrr, shut up Bear, you don’t want to go there.)
Don’t be upset if you meet someone that is unfamiliar with Bear tanks, and they tell you that you need to improve your Defense Rating.
It’s what they know.
Don’t get defensive, it’s a sign to you that they are simply ignorant of bear tanking mechanics. Take the time to be knowledgeable without being defensive or hostile. Just accept that they do not know any better, and try to calmly, and with authority, educate them that while the Defense Rating requirement is currently true for Plate wearing classes, the class mechanics of leather-wearing Bear tanks with 3/3 Survival of the Fittest is different, Defense Rating is unnecessary for Bears, and our mechanic has become so popular that Blizzard announced at Blizzcon that Defense Rating is going away from all tank classes to bring them in line with current Bear mechanics.
Not much more you can say, really. They can choose to believe it or not.
On your gear, I can wholeheartedly recommend stacking Agility, Stamina, Dodge Rating, Defense Rating, and upgrading your actual leather items that are affected by the armor multiplier FIRST when faced with Emblem choices. I’ve posted about gear gemming and enchanting and stat priorities on some of the stickes on the sidebar, so I’m not going to waste your time even more by discussing that again. Just keep in mind priorities; Health to give you a buffer of time before you go down from big hits, but build your active Avoidance through Agility, Dodge Rating and Defense Rating, and work on improving armor to 25k+
By way of comparison, right now. I have about 30K armor, 41+% Dodge, and about 32K Health unbuffed. My trinkets and items with procs are built around improving/increasing Dodge Rating and Agility for Dodge, not armor or crit or attack power.
As far as Glyphs are concerned, I really feel that for tanks, the Maul and the Frenzied Regeneration Glyphs are kinda must haves. Maul having a rage-free second target Maul is just, well, I dunno. OP? And the Frenzied Regeneration Glyph really takes your Survival Instincts and Frenzied Regeneration, abilities you tend to only use when things have gone completely to hell, and improved the synergy all the way around. Not only are you healing yourself, the heals of your healing support are more effective on you so you get back up faster.
After those two, Growl is good for when it’s absolutely imperative to have Growl not miss, but with so much Hit Rating on gear these days, consider changing that one out for either the Survival Instincts Glyph for even better “oh shit” action, or the increased duration Mangle Glyph for even better multi-mob threat in a threat race. I’m currently using the Mangle Glyph, because I haven’t been tanking raid content for a long time. I’ve been seriously thinking of changing that out for the Survival Instincts Glyph that my good friend Elystia sent me.
Long Cooldown Abilities
I briefly touched on Survival Instincts and Frenzied Regeneration already, but there is also Barkskin to consider.
I’m a big proponent of matching your technique to your situation. You can’t do that unless you are armed with knowledge of what you’re going to face. That’s why the groundwork.
Now, I typically face 5 man runs as a tank, and spend my time with highly skilled players with moderate to good gear. As such, I don’t worry about Growl getting resisted/missed that much, because I rarely need it. I don’t worry about stacking the Survival Instincts Glyph instead of the Mangle Glyph, because I almost never need the SI/FR combo, even on a timed Culling of Strat run. And because I rarely need an “oh shit” button, I roll with Barkskin on a macro with Swipe, so it’s cast every time it’s off cooldown. It just helps ease the healer’s load in general on moderate runs
As a new tank, working on your gear, or as a tank raiding real serious content, your situation changes. You ARE worried about those things. Instead of Barkskin being on cooldown, you’re going to want to have it there exactly when you want it, and not on cooldown from some macro.
When it’s critical that you taunt the mob off the other tank (or a healer) at just the right time, like in two tank Puppydog in Naxxramus, Growl suddenly is a main line Glyph.
Yes, Puppydog is his official name. Bite me.
And for abilities with long cooldowns, you want to put them where you can get to them, and practise using them.
How often do you have a Warlock in your group, get a Healthstone, and then don’t use it?
You’re not used to having it, so you don’t have the practiced instincts to reach for it in a critical situation.
DO NOT LET THAT HAPPEN TO YOUR ABILITIES.
Practise using them.
Position the buttons for Barkskin, Frenzied Regeneration, Survival Instincts, Challenging Roar and any other emergency reaction buttons where they are convenient to get to when stressed. Practise them. Go find some large packs of scrubs, aggro them, and practise controlling the group, backpedal moving with the group while keeping them away from your butt, practise selecting various mobs with tab targeting or clicking nameplates or whatever, practise marking with Skull or X on the fly, practise moving your camera view and picking one to Growl taunt, and above all, practise those long cooldown abilities.
I’ts been a long time since I’ve mentioned them, but remember your consumables. Few things give you an edge to get over rough spots like having all those Flasks, Food and even Scrolls in use.
People drop Fish Feast a lot these days, and everyone queues up to the trough. That’s all fine and dandy if you’re a Hunter or a Healer, but attack power ain’t gonna do you a damn bit of good in being less squishy. Instead of eating Fish Feast as a food buff, carry a stack of Blackened Dragonfin around for increased Agility.
Likewise, depending on the group you’re in, you might lack Death Knight or Shaman Agility buffs, and if so, you can buff yourself using a Scroll of Agility, easily made by Inscriptionists.
As far as Flasks are concerned, I do use the Flask of Stoneblood. Using Elixirs can target Agility and health independantly, but I’ve gotten out of the habit of farming herbs for ten hours a week for Elixirs the way I did in Burning Crusade. For the content I’m doing, I’m good with Stoneblood. For an all out effort, you might like to go for the gusto on a more powerful combination of short lived Elixirs.
One last thing. I’ve talked about what YOU can do. Using Thorns and GotW, obviously, is so mandatory it doesn’t deserve comment.
There is one more thing I should mention, that you can keep in mind.
Manage the abilities of your group, where they overlap with your responsibilities.
I’ve mentioned your succeptibility to non-physical damage.
Take the time to ask your fellow teammates to use THEIR abilities to reduce that spell/fire/poison/other damage, when appropriate.
Priests casting Shadow Resistance, Paladins using auras of Fire Resistance, asking Shamans to use Tremor Totems against Fear or Totems to cleanse Poison, etc, etc. Those are not your responsibility to cast, but nothing says you can’t ask for them to be brought to the table to help out.
I think that’s it. Anything else would come under the category of threat generation and aggro management, and that’s beyond the scope of what I set out to talk about. And by now, I bet a 3,310 word reply to your email is a little more than you wanted to deal with, anyway.
I hope that at some point in this, something helped guide you to how to prepare yourself to be standing tall when tanking, and make it through the fight.
If not, don’t hesitate to ask for help in the comments, the readers here often have more insight than I do in some of the options, and they’re excellent about sharing their experience and helping out.
Until next time, when I swear I’ll get a working CoS movie, I’m da Bear, signing off.