The new patch is supposed to drop Tuesday, the long awaited live release of 4.0.1.
With this patch comes the revamped Talent Trees. The modifications to existing abilities. Mastery at level 80 and beyond.
You know, all that jazz.
What doesn’t come out is new leveling, group or raid content.
Or new races.
What does this all mean for the excited Bear tank?
Talent Tree research for Bears
When you look at the new Talent Tree and try to figure out your spec, the very first thing to keep in mind is the Blizzard philosophy; nothing really matters until you reach the top level.
That was level 80. You used to be great. You coulda been a contenda. Not any more. Even though you can’t actually get to 85 yet… as far as the mechanics are concerned, that’s the new max level.
Right now, all you’re really concerned with is how to respec your Talent Tree so you can right back to tanking your group runs. Or soloing Karazhan. Or Onyxia, for that matter.
But the new Talent Tree is intended to be filled out with a moderately balanced spec after you reach 85. By the same token, you’re not expected to Bear tank group runs effectively without all your key abilities… and Thrash (the new AoE attack that adds a Bleed effect to your foes) isn’t even available until level 81. So, after December 7th. See you then?
Please, don’t get frustrated when there are Talents you’d really like that you just can’t reach. Yes, get frustrated that you can’t get Thrash until the expansion, but you still want to run ICC now. That’s just annoying. But it too will come in due time.
The point here is, you can’t get all the goodies in the Talent Tree… but with a new expansion THAT close, just over the next horizon, nobody is really going to care all that much. They’re going to be dreaming of end game raiding with new loots and challenges to overcome. As long as you’ve got the essentials, you’re going to be okay in current content. And with level 80, you CAN get the essentials.
One last word on Talent Tree concepts.
Even if you were at level 85, you still couldn’t get everything you’d really like for Bear tanking.
Thanks to Blizzard’s desire to give us tradeoffs and too many choices so there can’t be one single “cookie cutter” spec, what we’ve got is a Feral tree where, even if you’re passing on all the Kitty focused Talents, you’re still gonna have stuff you’d love but can’t afford. Deal with it as best you can.
With so many “sidegrades” in the Tree, your judgment is going to be even more important when it comes to choosing what to take.
So, it’s not about the math… it’s about knowing what you should be looking for.
This is the time to get back to basics. What do Bear tanks really want?
- Survivability – the ability to take multiple damaging blows over time.
- Avoidance – the ability to completely avoid being hit.
- Damage Mitigation – the ability to reduce the actual damage taken per hit by a little bit.
- Increased Threat – grabbing the attention of enemies so they don’t eat your friends. Even when your friends look really tasty.
- Rage Generation – the ability to build the resources needed to cast anything except Growl, Feral Faerie Fire and auto-attack.
It’s just that simple.
How did we get to the current “AoE it all down, and forget about skill” situation?
Gear has currently gotten to the point that, in 5 person runs that still give valuable Frost Emblems, Stamina, Agility, Armor value, Attack Power, Critical Strike and Hit Rating all went waaaaay beyond the Heroic balance point.
With a Tank in reasonably available gear levels, you can ignore Survivability, Avoidance, Damage Mitigation and (with Swipe and grabbing big groups of mobs) Rage Generation.
All that leaves you with is holding Threat… and boy, with all that AP and Hit and Crit, if we Swipe spam we could just about stay ahead of the DPS, who are all AoEing as well.
So, Tanks got used to charging in as fast as possible, grabbing big groups, spamming their AoEs and waiting for the DPS to burn everything down… and you walk away virtually unscathed.
Hold on tight buttercup, the road to Cataclysm is going to be a bumpy ride.
In Cataclysm, all those things you ignored in 5 mans become important again.
Raiders, especially raiders of hard mode challenges, will rejoice that skill will return to pre-eminent importance.
But… not just yet.
Not until the new content, new leveling, new raids.
For now… we will still be facing the same content, BUT… there will no longer be Defense Rating on Plate tanky gear.
We still have our own Talent that makes us uncrittable, it’s just changed it’s name from Survival of the Fittest to being rolled into Thick Hide. Thick Hide is now the first “big” core Bear tank Talent.
All the other tank classes now have their own version of that… and no longer need Defense Rating. In fact, all that Defense Rating will vanish, to be replaced with other stats.
But we’ll stay the same.
Think about that. We will effectively have the same gear as before, stat allocations should continue mostly unchanged for us. But all the other tank classes will suddenly have a Talent taking care of that Defense Rating… and their gear will have either more Stamina or more DPS grade stats which will add more Threat to their output.
Plus, we get a high rage cost Swipe with a 6 second cooldown, and no Thrash.
I am NOT saying it’s all doom and gloom. We’re still going to be OP and uber compared to current content.
What I’m doing is reinforcing my earlier point… we are no longer at the max level. We no longer will have our balanced end game abilities and talents. We MUST adapt and overcome.
When you look at your skills and Talents, try and flush your preconceived ideas of running in 5 mans or being OP as a tank. When the new content DOES come, you will be hit like a freight train wants your lunch money. You will not have insanely ridiculous AoE Threat generation on everything.
You must get back to the basics. Survivability, Avoidance, Damage Mitigation, Threat and Rage.
So. That is far and away enough preamble. The Talent Tree.
When we choose the Feral Tree, we gain Mangle at level 10 instantly rather than having to pay for it. So we get a nice instant cast attack that does reasonable single target threat, and also applies a debuff to the target that makes Bleeds do more damage… a debuff that now lasts 60 seconds.
Any player leveling a Bear tank under level 51 should be very happy with this development.
Plus, you can get a free, no Rage-cost Mangle sometimes when you Lacerate a target that has your Mangle’s Bleed debuff on it. Just saying, that’s kinda cool, right? Oh wait, Omen of Clarity go bye-bye for us. Well, so we keep the effect, sorta, while losing the Talent. Fine. We can work with it.
Second, at level 10 we will get Vengeance. Vengeance is the new Tank ability that gives you increased Attack Popwer based on the damage you take. Each whack you take gives you an individual AP buff that lasts 10 seconds… they do stack cumulatively, but after 10 seconds, the first whack a mole buff you got drops off. So, you get hit – hit – hit… you get buff – double buff – triple buff… and then first one drops after ten seconds and you go back down to double buff… and then the second one drops and you go down to just the third buff all by itself.
Get it? I knew you did. And it should be quite nice… for the first ten seconds of a fight, we’ll build up our AP bonus… then we’ll stay level until the fight is over, new damage adding buffs to replace the ones that drop off. Then it’ll all be gone 10 seconds after the fight’s over. Seems pretty reasonable to me… knowing, as I do, that in the new content it’s gonna take longer to complete each pull, so 10 second duration should be pretty well balanced.
Finally, you SHOULD have the ability to learn Mastery from the trainer at level 80, and get a 32% increase to the amount of damage absorbed by Savage Defense. We won’t have gear with Mastery (unless it comes with the stat overhaul), but it’s still very useful at it’s baseline. And it’s also another reason we will continue to love Critical Strikes.
Remember that list up above. Critical Strikes trigger Savage Defense (our one hit bubble shield), and the more Crits, the more bubbles. More bubbles means more mitigation, so go go Crit Bear!
Now, Savage Defense is seeing some big changes, too. It’s not a guaranteed 100% bubble on a crit. It’s down to 50% chance on a crit. But it DOES absorb more damage. A lot more. Lots and lots more!
The model for Cataclysm, in terms of tanking in general, is to have high health, lower than customary avoidance, and focus on Mitigation. Dealing with a steady stream of damage, rather than spiky hits. Healers will be dealing less with twitch reflexes on instant saves against two big spikes in a row, and more on managing mana over longer duration fights against steady streams of damage.
Mastery with Savage Defender isn’t just another ability, it’s a clue as to the overall change in the tanking paradigm; steady, not spiky.
Yes, we still want Agility, for both Dodge and Crits. The balance has definitely swung towards heavier weighting for Stamina Stacking, though.
Okay, so my recommendations and review of the Feral Talent Tree (for Bears).
The first Tier gives you three choices;
- Feral Swiftness (0/2)
- Furor (0/3)
- Predatory Strikes (0/2)
If you’re leveling, I’d personally suggest starting in Feral Swiftness for your first levels, go 2/2 and then fill out Furor. Predatory Strikes is a solid Kitty Talent, and of no use for us big ol’ Bears. Dodge and moving faster as a kitty are always in demand.
That brings us to level 17 already, and on to the second Tier.
Tier two has four Talents to choose from, and a hard decision.
- Infected Wounds (0/2)
- Fury Swipes (0/3)
- Primal Fury (0/2)
- Feral Aggression (0/2)
Now, Fury Swipes is awesome as a Kitty, and it’s also a reasonable Threat boost as a Bear as your Critical Strike values rise. Now, how is that possible when Maul replaces a normal auto-attack?
I’ll tell you how… because Maul no longer replaces an auto-attack! It’s now an instant cast attack costing 30 Rage with a 3 second cooldown! And it’s off the GCD too, but with a cost of 30 Rage, PLEASE don’t macro it… talk about Rage starved!
This isn’t my saying Fury Swipes is great, it’s just my way of saying that your abilities no longer replace auto-attacks, so this is a steady percentage of boosted auto-attacks unaffected by Maul in Bear form.
Primal Fury is a key Bear talent, providing Rage generation as you Crit. Definitely a must-have as you level.
Infected Wounds is a delicious ability for tanks to have, seeing as it’s core function is to keep fleeing enemies in your range longer, and to slow down the rate of their attacks that do damage to you. With two of your bread and butter attacks, Mangle and Maul both applying the debuff, and with Maul still getting Glyph of Maul (even if the second target does only take half damage now) it’s a very nice Talent to consider.
Feral Aggression is the real tease, though.
You see, Feral Faerie Fire is no longer a single cast spell. It’s still free, but it can now stack up to 3 times on a target… you get Feral Faerie Fire at level 24, and it does damage based on your attack power (remember that Vengeance thingie?) and also increased Threat in Bear form. It also has a 6 second cooldown.
Feral Aggression, damn them, when fully Talented applies all three stacks to the enemey target at once… leaving you free to use it on a second target on your very next cooldown, instead of wasting it on getting a second stack on the same target.
Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of this for low level Bear tanks needing more single target Threat generating attacks on multiple mobs. This with three stacks on one cast, plus Mangle and Maul will be very nice.
For leveling, I’m going to suggest you start with 1 point in Fury Swipes, switch to 2 points to fill out Primal Fury, and then have a very hard decision that you can only answer from personal experience; which is closer to being true – you feel like you’re taking too much damage, or you feel like you’re not generating enough Threat?
If you feel particularly squishy, take Infected Wounds 2/2, and if you feel like you need more single target Threat all up front, especially on your pulls, go with Feral Aggression 2/2. But only one or the other.
Me? I took Feral Aggression. But please, go with your gut on this one. Infected Wounds also rocks!
You’re now level 27, and the third Tier is open to you.
Tier 3 consists of;
- King of the Jungle (0/3)
- Feral Charge (0/1)
- Stampede (0/2)
- Thick Hide (0/3)
Now, at this point I have to say, if you’re Bear tanking, you fill in Thick Hide. It’s a core defining tank Talent, rolling increased armor multiplier benefit and uncrittable by targets three levels higher than you all into one.
King of the Jungle may seem confusing… is it good? Is the follow up good?
Allow me to help you make your decision, by telling you that the mechanic of Enrage has changed.
Enrage used to decrease your armor by 10%. It was a slight reduction in physical damage mitigation.
Not anymore. Now, when you activate Enrage, you take a 10% increase to all damage suffered for the duration of the effect. That’s 10% more damage suffered, to the tank. You. Not just physical, all damage. And you’re a long, long way away from spell damage mitigation, my friend.
With the changes to Enrage, it’s my recommendation that you only use it while in combat if fighting scrubs. Don’t use it on tough fights. And that means don’t ever use it on tough fights at end game in Cataclysm.
It’s best use is as a pre-planned, pre-fight manuever to stand there and build up Rage, and only Feral Charging or pulling with FFF after the Enrage 10% damage debuff wears mostly off.
And if you’re not popping Enrage in combat a lot… who cares if you’ve got a damage bonus while Enraged?
Your mileage may vary… 10% is NOT a big deal while leveling, unless you love grabbing lots of mobs at once. And with the Swipe cooldown changes, that’s gonna be iffy anyway.
My personal recommendation is for Bears to skip King of the Jungle (and the follow up, Primal Madness) entirely, and take 1/1 in Feral Charge, and then 1/2 in Stampede. Stampede 1/2 increases your Melee Haste by 15% for 8 seconds after you Feral Charge. I personally use Feral Charge all the time.
Why take Feral Charge if you’re going to be getting improved Skull Bash later, with Talents to reduce it’s cooldown to 10 seconds?
First, Skull Bash costs 15 Rage. Feral Charge (Bear) is free. Second, a 15% Melee Haste at the start of your fight is a good thing to bring faster Threat generation. Marginally. :)
Third, you do get Skull Bash at level 22, and Feral Charge is first possible at 35, but until level 43 you’re not going to be able to have that 10 second cooldown on SB. For hopping from mob to mob quick across the room to intercept wayward mobs, I do so love my Feral Charge.
If you would like to skip Feral Charge and Stampede in favor of going back and filling out either Fury Swipes or Infected Wounds… please, by all means. I will say that taking the Stampede melee haste, and going back later to fill in Fury Swipes for more auto-attacks in those initial 8 seconds might be a valid Threat boost.
But still. Tier 4.
- Leader of the Pack (0/1)
- Brutal Impact (0/2)
- Nurturing Instinct (0/2)
Please, dear lord, don’t take Nurturing Instinct. Just, don’t.
I feel that Leader of the Pack is just a must have for kitty OR Bear, and with the advent of Skull Bash and it’s charging across the room spell interrupt/school lockout, I am all in favor of 2/2 in Brutal Impact.
As an aside… Feral Charge no longer interrupts… it roots. Your spell caster interrupt/school lockout is Skull Bash. Period.
That leaves us with 2 more points to spend somewhere else to advance.
You could go 2 in Infected Wounds, 2 in Fury Swipes, 1 and 1 in Feral Charge and Stampede (depending on where you went earlier), or even 1 to fill out Stampede and 1 to boost Fury Swipes, making it more effective after a Feral Charge. It’s kinda up to you.
Me, I’m going to go with 1 in Stampede to fill it out, followed by 1 in Fury Swipes at this point. I’m anticipating more of a desire at earlier levels for greater Threat and damage generation than reduced damage, at least at these levels.
This unlocks Tier 5 for us, and we’ve got a real solid selection of Bear Talents.
Tier 5 includes;
- Primal Madness (0/2)
- Survival Instincts (0/1)
- Endless Carnage (0/2)
- Natural Reaction (0/2)
Natural Reaction, available at level 49, is another Bear defining Talent. Damage Reduction, Dodge increase AND Rage generation, all in one. It’s a must have, early and often. This brings you to level 52 once it’s filled out.
We didn’t take King of the Jungle, so Primal Madness is locked out. That leaves Survival Instincts and Endless Carnage.
Survival Instincts, at this level, should definitely get your next point. SI used to be your “oh shit” button to be used with Frenzied Regeneration. SI would increase your max health by 30%, and then Frenzied Regeneration would heal you for a percentage based off of that higher health pool.
Surprise! Frenzied Regeneration has been buffed to have the 30% health pool increase built right in! It’s a new all-in-one!
Sadly, the new version of Glyph of Frenzied Regeneration takes away the self-heal aspects of it, boosting healing done TO you by 30%. Of course, you can swap Glyphs in and out once you learn them, so you can change it for solo to group play.
Getting back to Survival instincts, if it ain’t a flat 30% health pool increase, what is it?
Why, it’s a 60% damage reduction spell with a 12 second duration. 60%! Wahoo!!!!
Oh, but it’s got a 5 minute cooldown. Awwwww…..😦
Now, about Endless Carnage.
Do you want it?
Do you want it right now if you’re leveling?
Endless Carnage is mostly a kitty Talent, except for it’s affect on the new Bear ability Pulverize in Tier 6, and now is a good time to talk about Tier 6, because Endless Carnage is a big part of it.
You can’t get Pulverize until level 65. It’s a very nice attack, plus when you use it after stacking Lacerate on your target, you get increased Crit chance for 10 seconds… 18 seconds if you took your two points in Endless Carnage.
Remember what we said about Crit? More Crit equals more Rage, plus more bubbles for damage reduction. Yay! Plus, you know… more Threat, too.
If you’re leveling, though, it doesn’t do you any good to take Endless Carnage now. In fact, I’d rather recommend you fill out Fury Swipes and Infected Wounds (if you haven’t already) and then Rend and Tear as you level, and respec out of those points just enough to take… 1 more in either Fury Swipes ( to finish it) or 1/2 in Infected Wounds before going 2/2 in Endless Carnage, 3/3 in Rend and Tear, and 1 in Pulverize once you finally DO reach 65.
Blood in the Water is, of course, all kitty, all the time. Pass!
This leaves us at our final point in the Feral tree… Berserk at level 69.
So… are we done here? ARE we?
I’m afraid we are, and there’s a good reason for it when the max level is 85.
In the Restoration tree is a 2nd Tier Talent we’re really going to want for end game Bear tanking… Perseverance (3/3). When fully specced it reduces all magic damage by 6%. That’s a whole lot of spell damage reduction to always be on. Barkskin is great for the 12 seconds it’s up, but 6% is 6%.
And that means, in order to get it, we need to go 3/3 in Heart of the Wild (which is awesome), and then spend two points somewhere. Like, Natural Shapeshifter. Boo.
Then you can put 3/3 in Perseverence, and decide what to do with your last ever Talent point. Do you go with 4% increased physical Bear damage from Master Shapeshifter, or do you go back to fill out that one more point you’re dying for in Feral?
It’s up to you. There are a lot of areas that are must haves, but there are also “but that would be good too” Talents.
EDIT: I’m sorry, I’m up late, I forgot to post my “But wait, the level cap is 80 right now” modification.
Since the current level cap is 80, Perseverance is not attainable. Instead of putting those last two points in Natural Shapeshifter, I suggest you spend them in filling out Infected Wounds and Stampede instead. So, my current recommendation for a level 80 Bear tank before Cataclysm raises the level limit to 85 is;
My apologies for the original omission. Your Blog Feed must have been confusing.
This, concludes my “Where should I start when they change my Tree” review for patch 4.0.1.
I hope you see it through in style!
For more information on exactly what has changed and how tanking works for Bears in Cataclysm, I’d like to direct your attention to Dustcart’s post in the tanking forum of the WoW forums, which is far more complete and succinct than I would be. It’s a great job, and should answer all of the rest of your questions. I haven’t seen anyone else say it better, so please give it the love it deserves.