Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bear Tank Basics, By K the Warlock

I have altisms disease. I freely admit it. But it isn't a problem. I can do my job well no matter what alt I'm currently afflicted with. Admittedly, some alts I do better with than others, but I still do a good job.

Lately, I've been afflicted with druidism. It's a nasty smelly disease that sometimes turns me into a cat, bear, bird or some odd sea mammal that I think is supposed to be a sea cow.

What? You've never read The White Seal by Rudyard Kipling? Either read the short story (which is good) or look up sea cow in a dictionary.


With my variety of disease, I sometimes become afflicted for short periods of time, during which I'll instance or farm or just have fun. This time, I've become afflicted with the desire to tank. Kathe, my druid, has been a tank since the early 60's. Before that, she was some resto/balance hybrid I think for solo-leveling. Don't ask me, I'm weird.

Without using any of Big Bear Butt's Druid Tank List gear (at least, not knowingly!) I was tanking Shadow Labs, Steamvaults, Shattered Halls. And doing it well. I wasn't uncrittable (defense in the mid 300's). I had somewhat lowish hit points (for a dire bear, that's in the neighborhood of 11k) and somewhat lowish armor points (13k). I had a good healer and good party members, which as in all things, can make up for my lack in gear.

But K, I hear someone ask in the background, you already have a tank, a warrior. Why a second tank?

Because it's different. Because druid is fun. Because I want to. Question answered.

It's true, I do have a warrior. She's all in blues. She's uncrittable. Not sure about uncrushable. She has good armor for a non-raiding-heroicing-Karaing-warrior, she has good hit points as well given the same caveat. But aggro management is so different.

With a warrior, it's all about the devastate and revenge and shield bash and stance-dancing and intervene and intercept and this shout and that shout. Which is hugely enjoyable, don't get me wrong. But so very very different from bear tanking.

With a bear, it's all about the lacerate. Oh, there are a few other things too, but lacerate lacerate lacerate... and omen of clarity. <3 Omen of Clarity. Oh, what's that? 100% reduction in rage cost? MUAHAHAHAHA! Warlocks need a skill like that. Instant cast shadow-bolt with 100% mana reduction and 100% increased damage. That's not asking much, is it?

(By the way, <3 is a sideways heart. Short for love.)

I play a game with my druid tank. If I lose aggro or don't have aggro on something, I don't taunt it. I know, I should. But I see how many lacerates it takes to pull it off of something (with the caveat that I'm in the neighborhood of their threat. If I was tanking against my own warlock, I wouldn't be trying the lacerate-game. I'm assuming an 'on par with me' group.). My average is 2 lacerates and I have aggro back. Without taunt. It's much fun. Of course, you do need to have a decent healer for this lacerate-game, because depending on what is hitting said poor-punching bag, they may not last two lacerates. But usually they do regardless of healing, otherwise they probably don't have any business being in a regular instance. (Mind you, I am not talking heroics).

So... the basics. I'm 0/47/14. The 14 in restoration include the 5 points in furor, 5 points in naturalist, 3 points in intensity and 1 point in the above-mentioned omen of clarity.

With intensity, I have the ability to instantly generate 10 rage with enrage. So, if for some reason I'm in bear form and I don't want to switch out and in again (because I have the nifty ability to generate 10 rage instantly when I transform into bear), I tap enrage and boom, instant 10 rage. Sure I take a hit in armor when I do that, but when it's needed, it's there. With omen of clarity, I build threat faster because I don't need as much rage to lacerate the hell out of something.

(It's also useful in cat form for those times I'm killing something solo. You pounce to stun, mangle to increase your damage from the cat-backstab ability, and then hopefully at some point in time, Omen's popped, which means you can usually backstab immediately, before the stun effect of the pounce wears off.)

The other 47 are in, naturally, feral combat. Obviously, anything that pertains only to cat-form, I have 0 points in. I'm not a DPS-feral. I'm a tank-feral. I won't go down the list of what points I put where, since those are probably pretty self-explanatory.

So, the average fight starts. If I have adequate crowd control and I have only one mob to worry about at a time, I charge. Charge has the bonus of getting me there faster and stunning the mob in place for a few seconds. So even if I have DPS that opens up before I have a chance to hit it, the mob isn't going to be running all over the place just yet. (Caveat is that it's in safe range TO charge, if it's too near other mobs, I don't charge, I faerie fire, back up, THEN charge.)

Since the mob is hitting me (as I'm right there), and I'm hitting it (because I'm there too!), I almost immediately have enough rage to lacerate twice. Then I usually mangle. Everytime the cooldown for mangle is up, I mangle. I lacerate until I have stacked 5 lacerates on the mob. If the CC isn't up by me, I then add swipe and maul into the mix. Swipe, though not as much threat/damage as maul, has the benefit of being instant. I lacerate when it's up. I mangle when it's up. Even though I have 5 lacerates stacked on the mob, I continue to lacerate. It doesn't continue to stack, but it does continue to generate threat.

Usually BEFORE the first mob is dead, I turn, find the next mob I'm killing, and feral charge it. Chances are, unless the first mob is a healer, it will be dead shortly. (I do this when the first mob is about 5% alive). If it's a healer, I stay on it to make sure.

The benefit of charging the 2nd mob in the line before the first is dead is that my aggro-whoring DPS group members have to finish killing the first mob BEFORE they can switch to the second mob. This gives me adequate time to be able to land a few lacerates and at least one mangle before they start in on this mob. This allows me to hold aggro better. This strategy works with my warrior too (sans lacerate and mangle, she has to do things with a weapon and shield, not just teeth and claws). I don't worry about losing aggro on mob #1 in the last few pathetic moments of it's life. If my DPS is adequate, (by that, I mean group DPS, not MINE in particular), it will die before it 1: switches off of me and onto someone else or 2: before it reaches said someone else.

(On the flip side, I do this with DPS as well. If I'm DPSing, in the last few (10 and lower) percentage points of it's life, I tend to up my DPS as much as I can. If I pull aggro off of the tank, no big deal. It's dead before it hits me anyway.)

So, feral charge #2 and lacerate-lacerate. I should have more than enough rage that this is immediately doable. The feral charge locks it in place so it can't go after whomever CC'd it, and since no one else was hitting it (or should have been hitting it), I gain immediate aggro control.

#3, #4, etc. on down the line!

Now, there will be times when I have to multi-tank targets. No problem. A little dicier, but that just adds to the fun!

So, I have X and Y. (I picked Y because Y is easier to type than Skull.). X is second, Y is my skull so it dies first.

I'm in caster form. I make sure everyone else is ready to pick up their charges. I then starfire the X. While I'm casting starfire, I change target to the Y. As soon as starfire casts, I moonfire the Y. Then I go furry. This is when tapping the improved enrage can come in handy.

So, my party members, because they are wonderful people, have control over their CC mobs. The X and Y are by me. Depending on whom gets to me first, I lacerate them at LEAST once. I then switch targets to the second mob and lacerate it, too. While I'm doing this, I'm looking around at where I am and where my CC'd mobs are. I back away from the CC to a place where I can swipe without breaking anything. By this time, I'm back on the Y who is the main target. I've tossed a few more lacerates and mangle's on it. With 1 (or 2) lacerates on the X, swipe should keep it on me and off the healer. As soon as (or slightly before) Y dies, I've switched to X and I've started to up my threat on it, the same way I've done on anything else. Then feral charge #3, etc.

Occasionally, you'll have multiple-multiple mobs to tank, such as the large pulls in SH. Provided I don't have a rogue to worry about (or even if I do), I use hurricane. This gets everyone pissed off at me IMMEDIATELY. If I have a rogue sap, I try to position the sap to the edge of the group, so I can position my hurricane such that it WON'T hit the rogue sap but will hit everything else. (Depending on how close you are to said mobs, barkskin helps with this maneuver.)

I tell people to wait on DPS for a minute while I sink aggro on 3 mobs. I do this in roughly reverse order. The second or third (whomever) I lacerate, then the second or third, whichever I didn't get first, I lacerate. Then I switch to the main target and go to town. This shouldn't be an issue with rage, because I should be getting hit by three mobs. At the SAME TIME as I'm doing the above, I'm backing away from any CC and swiping, otherwise the healer is going to be getting a visit soon. Other than initial sinking of aggro on the second and third mob, it isn't much different than two-mob tanking.

If I have to tank 4 mobs, that one... is a bit tougher. Namely because swipe only hits 3 mobs. However, lacerate the main target that everyone is hitting 3 times, then toss a lacerate or two on everything else. I try to go -- main target-maintarget- offtarget1-offtarget2-offtarget3--main target a few times to maintain -- off1-off2-off3-main if it's still alive.

If you discover that your healer is pulling too much initial aggro on those big pulls because they have to heal your non-dodging-sorry-ass, rejuvinate and refresh yourself immediately before starting your pull. This should 1: lessen initial healing aggro since they don't have to heal you massively at the beginning 2: sink more aggro on you since you're healing and fighting! Look at you, you can multi-task! and 3: cause the shaman in the group to complain that they never get to heal because of earth-shield, rejuvination and refresh .. by the time all three are out, everything is dead. It's great fun!

For mobs that are being CC'd. Always make sure your group knows if they're having trouble, they CAN TELL YOU! And they should. You're a BIG FREAKING BEAR! If you can't handle one more mob hitting on you, then you suck. They're a clothy or a leathery or a something else that isn't a BIG FREAKING BEAR! Go ahead and feral charge their target -- don't worry, your main target will follow you. Unless it's a 'I can't CC this anymore for some reason -- ie: warlock succubus is down' do NOT mangle or lacerate this target if you can avoid it. Otherwise the ticking damage will not allow it to be CC'd again. This is mainly an issue with hunter's traps being resisted or accidentally used on something else. You just need to keep it off the hunter long enough for them to lay another trap.

(sometimes the fastest way to get to a loose running around crazy mob is to BACK UP, so you can charge it. Benefit #1 you aren't chasing it like a loon with it always just out of reach as the person it's hitting runs away from you because they're a frantic dummy (RUN TO THE TANK! PLEASE!), #2 if you charge it, it stops running around due to the effect of feral charge, #3 uh... hi? But seriously, if it's too close or you're chasing it, either back up or stay still so it gets into range to charge at it.)

Unless I've still got two (or three) loose mobs to control, I tend to just ignore the no-DoTing rule and add it to the things that I'm currently tanking. You should be on ventrilo with your group or some other way of talking to them, so you can tell them that the new CC-now-tanked mob is next on the list before any other order you may have previously been doing.

And that's it. It's fun. :)

By the way, hunter trap targets you may have to do more than feral charge and lacerate. You may need to *gasp* taunt those, mainly due to the way that hunter's have to trap. The other CC types don't do any damage to their target (unless they're a warlock, then they may be searing pain'ing their target to keep it off of their succubus), so you can pull aggro easily. A hunter has to shoot it a few times (or more!) to get it into their trap. So you're working uphill on those fellows.

As for gear ... I'm less than 40 thick clefthoof leather from my chestpiece. I'm halfway along the quest lines that BBB lists in SMV. I have my stylin' hat. I have my deep necklace. I have one good defense ring and one mixed-stat ring (Ogre Slayer's Band). I'm at uncrittable (425 defense), I have, when fully buffed, between 14-15k life (depending on what constitutes fully buffed!), I have 17k armor, I'm at 20 or 22% dodge. I'm feeling furry and frisky!

Which, by the way, ever notice when you're out in the world and you're trying to play as your bear instead of catform for killing stuff, your rage generation is sucktacular? It's because you dodge too much in the world and they don't hit hard enough when they do land a punch. Isn't that funny? I find it amusing. You spend all this time going -- need more dodge, need more dodge! and then later on you go, 'Damnit! I'm dodging too much!'.


  1. Usually BEFORE the first mob is dead, I turn, find the next mob I'm killing, and feral charge it. Chances are, unless the first mob is a healer, it will be dead shortly. (I do this when the first mob is about 5% alive). If it's a healer, I stay on it to make sure.

    This is huge. It took me a while to figure this out on Owaru. If I'm multitanking in a heroic, I'll pull the Skull and X back, Hammer of Justice( 6 sec stun, tons of hate ) the X and go to town on the Skull and maybe use a consecrate. By the time the skull is at 5% I'm switching targets to my threat up on the X.

    I need to change neshura's pull macro. I think she has it set on "Oh my god it's a paladin tank trapping is going to suck" mode and uses a full rank distracting shot. With a druid tank it should only take Arcane Shot Rank 1.

  2. Switching before the first mob is dead is what allows a tank to hold aggro against high DPS classes that don't know how to wait or hold back. At the beginning, sure, they'll wait because it's the beginning, they know to wait. But in the middle of a fight, chances are, they aren't going to be thinking about waiting for the tank to land aggro. If they're anything like me, they're wanting to kill kill kill!!! :)

    Yeah, with a druid tank unless I do something to IT, it shouldn't take more than an auto-shot. :P