New project: Tanking through the levels

Alternative title: Patience my butt, I want to tank something!

I see a lot of questions from folks wanting just a little advice or guidance on tanking with a Bear in lower levels.

These requests don’t fall on deaf ears, the simple fact is that it’s been impossible for me to really know what to tell you.

It’s been years… really, many years, since I leveled a Druid.

Yes, I leveled Feral, but I mainly focused on Kitty DPS, in a time when speccing a cross between Feral and Restoration gave you reasonable soloing Kitty DPS, Bear survivability against around 3 mobs, and Nature’s Swiftness + Healing Touch was in almost every Feral build for a quick Bash/shift for Insta Heal and back to Bear combo.

I’m saying a long, long time ago, when Onyxia 40 mans and Molton Core were still the hot tickets, hehe. Should I mention my lawn, the luxurious nature of it’s grass, and the desirability of youths to remove themselves from it’s environs now?

This was back when you may have thought you could do anything, but when you got into raids, the only Druid specific loot had healing stats on it. Yep, the role according to Blizzard’s itemization for a Druid in raids was Healing, there were no Tree forms, and the only raiding Tier gear that dropped for druids had healing stats. Period.

Okay, sorry, as much as I like reminiscing about the good old days with you, and love hearing your stories about the good old days as well (No, really, I really look forward to your long comments, they are like mini-posts I get to read all day), that’s not the point.

The point is, it is nearly unbelievable how much the Druid class has changed since I leveled Feral.

The class has changed dramatically, the Feral spec has gone from being a joke to being highly respected, the gear choices have gone from non-existant to sweet Heirloom stuff, and the tanking opportunities have blossomed for at-level content with cross-server LFD in Azeroth.

There’s just no way I could do more than study, extrapolate from other people’s data, and guess, really. No first hand knowledge to share.

Well, hell, that ain’t gonna cut it.

So what I’ve been doing is playing a new Druid.

No, seriously, I deleted my old Druid alt and created a brand new Tauren Druid, specifically as a laboratory for tanky leveling purposes.

I don’t advise you to wait for my posts about it, as the alternative post title says, you don’t want to be patient and wait for some schmuck to tell you what to do, you want to get out there and have fun now.

But I’m intending to spend most of my time on this alt tanking in random LFD, in level appropriate content. And I’ll post about my results, bookmark it on the sidebar, and provide a venue for your comments and additional suggestions.

I am, at the time of posting this a level 16 Tauren Druid with the full range of Heirloom items.

For sake of reference, the best Heirloom items for you if you intend to actually Bear Tank your way up from 20+ and are twinking are:

There is also an excellent Ring, the Dread Pirate Ring, that is an Heirloom with solid Bear tanking stats. It comes as a quest reward for winning the new Kal’uak Fishing Derby, and I’m listing it after the above stuff because I ain’t got it. And, now that I’ve let the people on my server know about it (those that didn’t already), chances are good I never will, lol.

Now, I know that this list doesn’t help a damn bit if this is your first character. None of those items are available to you without a level 80, and the wherewithal to spend some Emblems on alts. But I’ll be doing my best to take that into account as I level.

My professions are Skinning, and Leatherworking. Dual gatherer Mining and Herbalism would be more useful to tanking low levels, but you can craft some good gear with Leatherworking, and I’ve never done LW before, so what the heck.

If you aren’t using Heirloom items, then I think if you look closely at seeking out items with high armor values, as much Stamina as you can get, followd closely by Agility, and afterwards Strength, then you should be doing very well early on.

Level 16 Bears have the following tools at their disposal;

  • Growl (ranged Taunt)
  • Maul (Single target high damage/threat, and you have a single Major Glyph slot available that you can use for Glyph of Maul)
  • Swipe (Bear) (AoE threat)
  • Demoralyzing Roar (enemy damage reduction)
  • Bash (single target stun)
  • Enrage (instantly generate 20 Rage, plus another 10 Rage over 10 seconds. Drops Armor value in Bear form at early levels a LOT)

Aside from Swipe, there aren’t any instant cast attacks like Lacerate or Mangle available at this level to establish single target threat. But these tools are still a very decent repertoire with which to start your Bear tanking travels.

This is going to be pretty interesting, but I’m fairly excited to see what comes of it.

29 thoughts on “New project: Tanking through the levels

  1. Lol – yeah for sure Lio – thing is he doesn’t die :s He’s a guildy & we’re always on vent together, his aggro thievery is done in fun, he’s actually an exceptionally good player & would never mess around like that in a serious progression raid. That said, it’s also all in good fun when I get on my lowbie shammy healser whence I wreak my vengeance by letting him die horribly. =D

    Again though in instances with strangers who pull aggro, I still do my best to regain the aggro without complaint, just because I really do think the more challenging the situation is, the faster I will improve, so I don’t necessarily mind them doing it providing I can manage to regain the aggro & heals is managing OK with it. However it’s one thing for that to happen at low levels & quite another for it to happen at level cap when repair bills are so much more expensive – if it starts happening at level 80 I will definitely take your advice 😀

    But I digress, the reason I am yet again spamming up your comments section B3, is to share this link from tankspot with fellow bears who may not yet be aware of it: it contains information about, & a link to an addon called snowfallkeypress which makes abilities activate on key press rather than key release. Apparently this will improve your reaction speed on instant cast abilities by something in the order of 100ms.

    Anyways looking forward to reading more posts about your Baby bear BBB & also everyone else’s experiences, tips & feedback via the comments section.
    Thanks for the information & entertaining reads you provide in your blog BBB, I very much enjoy reading your stuffs 😀
    Have a good one everyone & enjoy playing your little bears 😀


  2. I hate to be snarky, but the best way I’ve found to deal with the ret pally / death knight / hunter that just has to pull aggro from me is to pull something else for rage, and get ready to taunt the mob back when they die. I prefer to warn the healer, who is often happy to assist, as aggro thieves make them work harder for no good reason.



  3. Well I was levelling my bear with a bunch of guildies lowbs – we are all about level 40 – 48ish and we found ourselves unable to get heals for Mauradon. I volunteered to do it – so I mailed myself the caster leather heirloom chest & shoulders and picked up some caster leather bracers I had in my alts guildbank & off we set. I healed Mauradon at level 40. In bear spec. With only only 3 pieces of caster gear. 😛 Is there nothing a druid can’t do? 😀 :D. Good to have a mage in the group to make water – mana regen in bear gear & spec isn’t really very fantastic at all. 😮

    Apart from that bit of (very fun) silliness I found an addon that makes my life as a novice bear tank very much easier – Tidy Plates. This addon is a similar concept to Cael’s name plates & Aloft, both of which I also tried. For me personally tidy plates is the perfect combination of functionality & “works straight out of the box, no configuration required”. For tanking there is a separate modular addon that works alongside Tidy Plates called Threat Plates. I love this mod – just makes managing aggro on big bunches of mobs so much easier. 😀

    One of my guildies is levelling a Ret Pally, he is level 45ish, so a little higher than my (now) level 43 Bear. He delights in stealing all my aggro & I find it insanely difficult to get them back – no matter how I Growl, Roar, Charge, Maul & FFF, his TPS just outdoes mine. I don’t mind so much because I’m pretty sure struggling with him to regain threat will make me a better bear, but any pointers on gaining my threat back from an aggro happy utterly OP Ret Pally would be very much appreciated.

    I’m also levelling a Prot Pally tank through the new LFG system – and I have to say – much as the Prot Pally is incredibly OP by comparison Bear, the Bear is just so much more fun – it looks way cooler & has much more varied & interesting range of abilities to play with, even at this low level. The limitations on the bear (Need more rage anyone?) are a challenge that makes it much more fun to play.


  4. Verb, those trinkets Shadow mentions are very helpful, once you are at the level that you can get those quests.

    Clique is absolutely NOT a must have for druids, so don’t take that as a direction that all druids do that you didn’t know about. At all.

    Healing Touch only becomes an instant cast when you have specced deeply enough into Nature’s Swiftness to be able to first trigger Nature’s Swiftness, and then cast Healing Touch on yourself for an instant cast heal.

    However, one thing you CAN do is use your Bash to stun a mob in front of you just long enough to swift shift into Healing Touch or, even better, Rejuve + Regrowth, and then back to Bear.


  5. I’m going to approve those comments at this time, Shadowstride, but any further comments by anyone that are phrased as orders of what someone MUST do rather than as a recap of what YOU did and how it worked out, FOR YOU, will be dumped as spam.


  6. Oh BTW…make sure you pick up the quests for Mark of the Chosen and Guardian Talisman as soon as possible. They both proc constantly and will make things much easier if you are going my route.


  7. Not that I’m aware of but I know that as my gear has become better and better, it appears to be proccing more often. I’m stacking agility and stamina and it’s going off more and more often.

    Two things will help you tremendously.

    1. Go to and get Clique. It’s very easy to set up and allows for one-click Healing Touch. You could macro but this is a great little add-on.

    2. Both you and the GF go to and download Mik’s Scrolling Battle Text. It’s very easy to set up and is a must for a rogue and an almost-must for a druid IMO. Go to triggers and select Predator’s Swiftness and make the font super big. Since it’s instant cast, I find that while tanking I can cast it on myself and pop back into bear form without really taking damage so it’s a life-saver. Obviously the days of my doing this are coming to an end as the mobs hit harder and harder but it’s great for questing.

    Also, if you are playing with a rogue, you are absolutely going to love it when you get Rend and Tear 5/5.


  8. @Shadowstrike this is SUPER super super helpful!

    Excuse my newbiness: The one thing I’m wondering is how you manage the instant Healing Touch? Can Predatory Strikes be triggered by a Bear ability?

    I’m working on a very similar build! Currently at lvl 28 and leveling with my fiance (rogue) and I can’t wait until I get to Improved Leader of the Pack. I’m lacking hugely on the healing front while soloing at the moment. We pull 4-5 mobs at once (2-3 lvls higher than us) and I drop like a rock!


  9. I can tell you a little of what you have to look forward to since I’m doing the same thing. I started my Horde druid on Day 1 of WoW and he was a hardcore raider for ages, but about three weeks ago I found out a friend of mine is playing Alliance on another server so I’m currently leveling a night elf druid. Leveling feral druids now is insanely easy and I can tell you what has been successful for me.

    First off, I *hate* cat form. Don’t get me wrong…I was consistently in the top 5 DPS on raids. It’s a powerful build but I really just don’t like DPSing as a druid. I like tanking. With this in mind, I was pretty miserable until I hit the high 30’s when I could finally start questing as a bear.

    Honestly, you level so fast in the beginning, it’s not a big deal where you spend your early points. Keep in mind I am leveling naturally without any benefit of Heirloom gear. With the experience bonus, I’d imagine you could level twice as fast.

    Because my intention was to quest in bear form as soon as possible. Basically, for maximum leveling speed to begin with, you’re a caster then switch to cat form questing so:

    Ferocity 5/5
    Savage Fury 2/2
    Thick Hide 3/3
    Sharpened Claws 3/3
    Feral Swiftness 2/2
    Primal Precision 2/2
    Predatory Strikes 3/3
    Primal Fury 2/2

    Now I can begin to get myself set up for uber-bearness:

    Feral Instinct 3/3
    Survival Instincts 1/1 (This + Frenzied Regen will become your best friend)
    Natural Reaction 3/3 (I know a lot of people would stamina stack but dodge + night elf racial = tons of rage for Swipe/ Maul macro)
    Feral Charge 1/1 (What can I say. I am a bear. I like to charge)
    Leader of the Pack 1/1
    Improved Leader of the Pack 2/2 (With this, you will eliminate your down time to ZERO)
    Survival of the Fittest 3/3

    With my play style, this was all a breeze but after this it got tricker to figure out where to put talents. There are a lot of arguments to be made but here’s the route I went:

    Infected Wounds 1/3
    Protector of the Pack 3/3
    Mangle 1/1
    Heart of the Wild 5/5
    Infected Wounds 3/3 (I went back for this)

    This is currently where I am at level 57 and I think my next 2 points will be going into Improved Mark of the Wild.

    On days that I have time to play, I average 2-3 levels. This is not obsessively playing for hours on end, but typically just running through a bunch of quests, running all quests for any instances I run and making sure I run the daily PUG. MAKE SURE you run the daily PUG. The drops you get from your bag are nicer than anything you can get anywhere else and a couple of the pieces are insanely good.

    I try to concentrate on kill quests…anything that will allow me to run around and collect mobs while continuously spamming my Swipe/ Maul macro. Using tab to cycle through and ensure every mob has FF on them, along with the Glyph of Maul = an insane amount of damage. My preference is for mobs like trolls or humans…anything that will run away from me and bring friends into the range of my swipe. Seriously, while doing the Tanaris pirate quests, I cleared the entire village without ever stopping using this build. I find it’s more effect to keep tab targetting through the mobs and concentrating on the mobs that have the highest health, because otherwise you kill single targets too quickly and you run low on rage. With iLoTP and your dodge, you will have almost no downtime and you can insta-heal yourself with Healing Touch and go right back into bear form whenever your ability goes off (which is constantly).

    Highlights with this build:

    I tanked Mara when it was really too high for me and was able to tank 10 elites (2 packs of the flowers {1 big; 3 little} + a patrol) that were 2 levels higher than me without losing aggro and never going below 50% health.

    When I ran ZF, for the event, I pulled every mob at one time and just spammed swipe. Never went below 40% health and never lost any major aggro.

    When I ran Sunken Temple, I just ran around the ring and grabbed everything and then ran into an alcoves to kill them with AE.

    At any rate, I hope you’re having as much fun leveling a druid as I am. They are insanely over-powered and I’ve survived some pulls that I never even would have thought of trying in vanilla WoW.

    One piece of advice I can give from recent leveling is when you hit 58, go to Outland and to a dozen or so quests for a few gear upgrades and then go back to the old area and quest until you are 60. With just a few pieces of Outlands gear, you can fly through the old areas and you get 8-12k xp a pop. With the new dungeon group finder, instance quest xp is too fast to resist.


  10. No worries, Verb. Just been getting a whole lot of “tell me how, teach me how, fix my gear, answer me this, why don’t you, you should do” kind of emails lately.

    That’s all fine, since most folks provide enough info on the situation to give me some basis for understanding the problem and helping, but I recently got one that gave me nothing but vagueness, and then was outraged that I didn’t hop to.

    So I like to occasionally remind folks… don’t make any money here, this ain’t my job, I do this for fun. So cut the bear a little slack. 🙂

    My Little Bear is only 22, and even that is pretty amazing, because I hate barrens leveling. I switched from Barrens to Tarren Mill at 20, and found multimob solo questing in Tarren Mill, in the syndicate area and amongst the level 24 -26 Hillsbrad farm areas tough going. Got two levels out of it, but I’m thinking of moving on to somewhere more intermediate to get the next two levels before returning… if I can figure out where.

    My next Bear goal is getting an at-level Shadowfang Keep group as the tank. I’m right in the window for it, and one way or the other it’ll be interesting.

    I’ve got Glyph of Maul and Glyph of Throns equipped at the moment, I am a Leatherworker so I crafted the Deviate Scale belt (it’s a blue quality, get the recipe as a quest reward from doing Wailing Caverns), and I got two “of the Fang” drops from Wailing Caverns, Legs and Boots, both great Bear tank items. Also got a +5 Stam cape. Good mix of gear. At 21 I was popping over 1k health, which I think is pretty good at that level for tanking.

    I admit, I am specced fully Feral right now, trying to get down to the Expertise talent. After that I may shift around.

    As I said, I’ll try and keep posted on the project, but it’s very, very slow to get groups when I’m on, and I just don’t have two hours to devote to waiting for one low level run during the week.


  11. @BBB Touché!! 🙂 Pardon me for venting my frustration over low level tanking in crap gear 😛

    I’d guess the leveling is going quite fast with all of those heirlooms? Between the item and the exp gain! (Not sure if they stack or not)

    Have you had any luck AE tanking around lvl 25 or so? I’ve had no trouble holding agro on single targets, but when tanking a bunch, I can never seem to hold them all. One eventually slips away to a mage casting blizzard. I’m wondering if it would be worth it to wait on the feral talents and build my Resto-based talents to increase rage generation.

    I’ve added Glyph of Maul and will see if that helps, but in general I’m thinking that a large boost in rage (initial shifting rage, the extra 10 from Enrage and the occasional Clarity proc) might be better threat-wise at this level than the increased dmg/crit strike from Savage Fury and Sharpened Claws.

    I’ve referenced your previous post on how the atk power and damage of a well geared tank affects each ability, but I haven’t done any tests yet to see how these numbers are affected say at level 30.


  12. Verb, it would be great if people paid me to do all the things they’d like me to do during my playtime. 🙂


  13. As someone leveling a druid and being frustrated seeing Paladins round up a group of 6 mobs and effortlessly hold them close with a Consecrate, I’m happy to see you getting ‘back to basics’ so to speak 🙂

    However I must admit that using a bunch of Heirloom items probably puts you in a much different position than those of us using some green crap staff and barely squeaking by on the agro meters.

    It would be great to see you go through the leveling process ‘au naturale’ and keep the heirlooms off. Perhaps I’m in the minority, but this druid of mine has no items passed down from higher level characters as I’ve just returned to the game after a few years. My tanking experience is probably very different than it would be with a bunch of great gear 🙂


  14. Great post and responses! I just rolled a 2nd druid myself, and have to say i’m having a lot of fun tanking at low levels with this one. I am finding the lack of rage regeneration and fewer skills at my disposal challenging and interesting. It really makes me appreciate my level 80 bear that much more!


  15. BBB, I hear ya man, it’s been years since I leveled my druid too (started in sept 05, it was and always has been my main =P) however I leveled 5/15/21 iirc. With my spec I learned that I was a worthwhile flag runner at level 20 and started pvping. However I never tanked until TBC. Rage Generation for a feral druid just wasn’t there. Also, I was a complete noob as to what I was doing, everyone said I had to heal to be viable, so I healed. Hell, there was those that wouldn’t let me single heal 5 mans because healing druids weren’t “very good single target healers” (for those that don’t know, we only had HT, ReG, Rejuv, and Innervate had to be talented). As my spec, I had Nature’s Grasp, some dmg mit and ap increases with melee crit and Nature’s Swiftness along with other +healing talents.

    I honestly just went with my gut.

    However, for those that do want to bear tank to 80. I recommend hotting yourself up and then charging in =)


  16. Also, not to be too picky but Lacerate’s main threat comes from the periodic damage and the boost to maul. I know you mentioned the maul bit but it should be emphasized that if you’re in a group with some hot dps don’t reapply lacerate until it’s low on time, keep swiping.


  17. Another small point. Demoralizing Roar applies threat to the targets hit. It’s not a swipe, but it does generate threat and significantly reduce incoming physical damage.


  18. I ❤ The new LFG on my baby bear so much "D

    Yay – thank you for writing this "D I'm so happy i have a bear proficient blogger levelling a bear through the LFG system to pickup pointers from – feral spec is a mystery to me – I levelled my main as balance and it raids as resto (and sometimes balance). I decided to level a drood as a feral because with a druid as main, I would really like to learn about the feral side of things.

    I've never tanked before this – its a lot of fun "D 😀 People arent seeming to die, I'm not sure if thats due to me being (relatively) effective or perhaps I've been lucky with good heals to carry me. One thing I'm having trouble with – I see on my raid frames when someone has some aggro, but when theres a bunch of mobs, I sometimes can't target the offender quickly (I'm using both click targetting & tab). I downloaded Caelnameplates, but its red bars arent clear enough – I think i might grab aloft & see if that makes it a bit clearer for me.

    I'm off to copy your macros now! 😀
    Thanks again, hope you enjoy levelling your baby bear and post lots more about it.


  19. You, will, SMASH!

    I traded spots with my best friend. I’m the belf priest, she’s the cow drood, but appropriately specced for heals/tanking. We’ve done nothing but obliterate instances since the new LFG tool launched. 😀


  20. I think you are going to have alot of fun. My first real toon was a prot warrior ( he recently turned 3 yrs old ). I levelled him prot from Deadmines up. Not the fastest method to say the least… my profs were herbalism and alchemy and I went through hundreds of health pots. A couple of months ago I rerolled with my gf on a different server. She wanted to play a priest so decided to roll a warrior again. It was alot of fun learning the basics of tanking again. I know I forgot the basics when heroics and raid trash was just round them up and aoe them down.

    Can’t wait to read up on your experiences


  21. Awaane, that’s very true, and important for people to remember when leveling, that until deeper into the Feral tree you don’t get the Talents that give Rage back per Dodge, or Rage back per Crit.

    Stamina and high armor value are kings, but I do think that Agility has it’s place next to Strength.

    Do you think I need to mention that Bears only get Attack Power from Strength, while Cats get Attack Power from BOTH Agility and Strength?

    Well, I just did. When I say to take Agility as a stat, it is with the knowledge that the only thing Agility gives Bears is Crit Chance, Dodge, and 1 pt of Agi = 1 pt of Armor. No Attack Power.


  22. Now we just need a post for the other deeps to understand how to group with a lowbear tank.

    BTW can you post some talent guidelines? as in things you should have at various levels to be effective at tanking.
    .-= Kattrinsaa´s last blog ..Flailpugs are Us =-.


  23. Three words: Feral Faerie Fire! True, you get it two levels later at 18, but it’s most definitely worth a mention. Ever since the new LFG tool came out I’ve been noodling around with my baby feral that hasn’t seen the inside of an instance in years. My two other druids leveled balance/resto and while my main druid is 100% feral, I’d never experienced feral below level 60 (aside from one horribly misguided attempt at bearing up to tank ZF on my then baby balance druid, which had me spamming FFF and demo roar like no tomorrow). And while there’s plenty to occupy a bear’s cooldowns at 80, there’s just isn’t much at all at level 28 so between the general lack of buttons to push as a baby bear and the rage issues, FFF is quite the godsend. Plus it’s a hoot to see from the meters just how much of your damage ends up being FFF if you stay on top of its cooldown.


  24. Biggest problem will be rage generation. You wont have the talents that turn agility into rage (from dodging and crits) for a few dozen levels but that’s your future so don’t forget about it. Until you get the power to turn agility into rage it’s best to just deal and take damage with strength, stamina and whatever hit rating is available.


  25. Hey BBB,

    Thanks for this. Learning to tank as a bear/warrior is so much different than doing it on a pally. In fact, I just finished the post where I am doing the same thing you are, starting over, on a hunter and a pally, but not using the heirlooms.

    I leveled through the first 50ish levels on my hunter before BC hit, and the first 50ish levels on my paladin before Wrath. Leveling now is so much different and I am interested to see how the changes affect these classes. Keep it up!
    .-= For the Pie´s last blog ..Operation: Lowbie =-.


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