Thursday, April 9, 2009

[Druid, 3.1] 5 reasons that ferals make the best offtank in 3.1

Karthis recently posted on the tanking requirements that will be found in Ulduar. This is pretty accurate and what I've found to be true, though it doesn't mention hard modes; they'll require slightly different requirements. What this doesn't say is who is best for what role, and where a feral druid fits in best. I'll get to that in a bit, but I need to cover some history.

Prior to 3.1, druids were the optimal offtank. This was because of a variety of reasons, but most notably because of two primary factors:
1. Their gear could be used for both DPS and tanking in some reasonable fashion
2. Their spec could be tailored to do both good tanking and good DPS at the same time without a respec

This meant that a feral could reasonably be expected to DPS and tank and know both roles well. This was a continuation of the BC model, and in fact actually improved on it due to how they nerfed armor in 3.0.8. Now you could not only just change gear and DPS or tank, you didn't have to change gear! You could just tank in whatever and be fine.

In 3.1, this changes a bit with the advent of dual specs. It's expected that all tanking classes will have at least one 'useful' other spec in my guild so that they can switch if necessary and not be a total gimp for an encounter while still having a chance at drops. That's the real key; if they didn't need anything from that boss, they'd simply sit out in favor of a better DPSer. I'll get to why this is in a second.

This entirely removes factor 2 from the equation above. If any warrior can spec to DPS before a fight, being able to tank and DPS in the same spec is functionally irrelevant. It might be convenient, and it might allow things like a feral's secondary spec to be resto - but it's not affecting anything in a raid, exactly.

Here's the thing though, and what I fully expect to get a lot of flak for: ferals are still going to be the best offtank. Here's the list why:

  1. Any fight that has a tank requirement for only part of the fight. A feral will have significant advantages over other tanks. Even in full tanking gear and a full tanking spec a feral druid does significantly more damage than any other tank. Not as much as a full cat spec and good cat gear, but we're talking about a 1k difference in DPS between a feral and a prot warrior. This is slightly not as good as it was in 3.0.8 due to the higher stamina requirements on gear/enchants/trinkets, but at the same time a lot of dps and tanking gear is shared. It helps that the T8.25 gear is superior for bears, stat wise, but also has superior set bonuses for cats too - that's another set of gear that is almost certainly going to be shared.

    So fights like Thaddius or Malygos where a second tank is needed only some of the time? Druids win, hands down. That being said, there aren't that many opportunities for this sort of min-maxxing in Ulduar. Iron council could use the third tank to swap to dps. XT could use an offtank picking up adds on the phase change. And...that's about it, at least so far as we know. Not exactly stunning, right?

  2. Ferals will have superior DPS gear over other tanks. Now, this might not be true going into Ulduar. Guilds which have had everything on farm for months may have all of their tanks totally outfitted in offspec DPS gear to the point where they're as well-geared as the next DPSer. I don't believe this will be true (betrayer of humanity doesn't drop nearly enough for us, for example), but even if it is, it won't matter. Because as soon as a feral gets their first tier drop, they're better geared for both tanking AND dps than any other tank. Any other tank must get two sets of tier gear, a separate weapon (or weapons), trinkets and sets of jewelry, etc. A feral can continue to double dip and get close to or best in slot for many slots and gem/enchant them optimally for either role. As it stands right now a druid can (for example) get T8.25 gloves and chest and gem/enchant them optimally for both bear and cat in one go. The best DPS trinket is also the best tanking trinket (or one of them at least). Favor of the Dragon Queen is still one of the best tanking necks. This isn't as true now as it was before due to the higher requirement of gemming/enchanting/gearing for stamina that the 3.1 HotW nerf does, but a smart bear will try and maximize as many shared pieces as possible and then get two sets of gear when the gems/enchants differ significantly to offer a clear advantage (the head and legs are two traditional options, and others can be depending on profession).

    Any other tank does not remotely have this flexibility. Even a death knight using DPS 2-handers as their weapon still must enchant for tanking or DPS. Because of the stamina and defense requirements for plate gear, virtually no shared gear exists for plate wearers. The long and short of it is that even if a feral's DPS gear is on par with a tank's DPS gear now, they'll quickly have an advantage when getting more gear in Ulduar. A good raid leader will maximize this advantage. Furthermore, even if the gear can't be shared most of the gear is still DPS-centric. A helm enchanted with Stalwart Protector and gemmed with Austere isn't as good as a DPS-centric helm, but it's still a leather helm with tons of agility and AP. Plate tanks have virtually nothing that can double in this way. Thus, it will take significantly longer for the plate wearers to get comparable DPS gear to the ferals - and by the time they do, chances are the encounters will be on farm.

  3. Ferals will tend to have more experience DPSing. This one I admit is very subjective, but I think it's realistic. The amount of people that roll ferals and know nothing about DPS is I think quite small. The ferals I've encountered have known quite a bit about both how to tank and how to DPS. BC ferals had a lot of experience DPSing as a feral while being expected to offtank here and there, if not tanking the whole way. That was the BC way: if you as a feral weren't willing to tank and DPS, you weren't really pulling your weight.

    Plate tanks are not necessarily so inclined. Some will have been DPSers for a while at some point, or even prefer it. Others will have rolled that warrior to tank first and foremost, and have no interest or inclination to DPS. Others will have simply never dabbled in it at all; as an example, one of our tanks went from a prot paladin to ret for the first time on Brutallus.

    I realize that this is entirely anecdotal, and there exist no hard numbers to compute that show how many ferals prefer only doing bear, only doing cat, or doing both in some fashion. I still suspect that this is so. I'm curious what others out there think.

  4. No other tank can tank as well in DPS gear if you really need to. This is more of the 'hero' thing that you see now and then. Because of Survival of the Fittest and how armor works, and even with the HotW nerf, ferals will still be able to switch to bear and tank adequately in some situations while wearing DPS gear. They won't have as high of stamina as another tank, but they'll have far higher stamina than a DPS of another class will. They won't take crits either, and their avoidance and threat numbers should be significantly higher. Whereas if you ask a ret paladin to tank in a pinch, they'll have significantly less armor, avoidance, and huge gulfs in stamina as well as not being able to avoid taking critical hits.
  5. Innervate and battle res are huge raid buffs that are impractical often when tanking 100% of the time. This speaks to the scenario where you have two or more tanks and you're trying to figure out which to have swap spec. Do you have the prot paladin go ret (so you have two ret) or do you have the feral go cat? All the other raidwide buffs can be covered by another feral or other classes entirely, but single abilities are not. Another battle res and innervate for a progression encounter can mean the difference between a wipe and a win. At the same time, there are plenty of fights where if you are tanking, you can simply not reasonably do this. Ulduar has these in spades: Ignis, Vezax, Hodir practically, Freya, Auriyaya - none of these fights have significant breaks where you could reasonably expect to res someone if you're in the middle of tanking. Other fights like XT or Iron Council have breaks where you can, but you might not be able to when you need to.

    Does any other tank bring this kind of class utility? Not particularly. The closest might be a paladin, but most of that utility is in raid buffs which they would bring anyway while tanking.

Now, what this does not mean is that I am saying that ferals are only good for offtanking in Ulduar. Make sure you understand that. For the record I don't think ferals are significantly disadvantaged in fights in Ulduar as they stand and as we know about them - though I also think that other tanks bring significant advantages to tanking encounters that druids really don't. The only fight where a feral may make it easier is on normal-mode Hodir, where they can wear FR gear and still tank significantly. Pretty much everything else favors another tank, primarily because of cooldowns and avoidance. Still, there's nothing that says a feral can't tank anything in there, so if that's what your raid feels is best for whatever reason (skill, gear, experience, social reasons) that should be fine.

I personally am a bit saddened by this, as I don't like the notion that because other tanks can't do DPS that ferals are basically forced to. This was the model for BT, and it wasn't fun at all. Some solutions I've seen have been to enforce specific gearing requirements for tanking similar to how they were in BC (with armor and defense/resilience) and allowing innervate/brez in bear form with a talent (but only in bear, so cats wouldn't want it). And personally it doesn't really matter a ton; my raiding time is much constrained for the future, and I'll likely be doing it only part-time if that (and often, raiding on my wife's toon, a holy priest). Still, I'd like to see more fights advantage druids or at least level the playing field a bit, and I'd like to see other tanks get more incentive to do DPS (or possibly disincentivize druids a bit).


Jacemora said...

Just a little perspective...

I started playing WOW when BC released. I picked a druid because the possibility of tanking, dpsing, or healing all with one class was appealing to me with the limited time a father of 2 would have to play the game.

What I found was that once I hit 70 and wanted to tank for established guilds was that I was going to be an offtank regardless due to these established guilds having warrior or even pally main tanks already.

In BC I was still called on to main tank some fights like Tidewalker or Azgalor but typically was expected to be an OT for trash or hateful strikes while DPSing when not needed.

This role can get frustrating especially since it tends to be misunderstood by other classes (ie. why is that tank dpsing, why is that cat trying to tank, don't even get me started on pulling with hurricane) and wanting to collect gear for both dps and tanking.

With the release of wrath and the continuing changes so we need less specialized gear it is making things easier in both time spent raiding for gear as well as looking like a loot whore.

Can we MT all the content as well as the other classes? IMHO it doesn't matter that much because established guilds already have their MT especially where progression in concerned. For that same reason I don't think you will see a lot of DK MT's unless the old guild MT decided to swap mains.

Sure, there are always new servers, players, and guilds that come online and now druids might be a more viable MT option but you rarely end up with a guild compromised of entirely new players so it will be influenced either by healers used to healing warrior MT's, old warrior MT's coming into the new guilds, etc. This same mentality I think is true for taking on feral druids for DPS.

I love my duality role and I like being good a both tanking and dpsing. Being a good player with that kind of versatility I think goes a long way in having a raid spot for the times the warden (aka wife) lets me play.

Karthis said...

Nice write up, Kalon.

I totally get why a lot of druid players are adverse to the notion that Druids are superior off tanks - after all, tanking is a fun role, and comes with a fair amount of glory.

But in the same breath, all of the tanks have areas where they're strong in - and Druids just happen to be ideal off tanks. We can still stand toe-to-paw with anything in the game - but it's often not OPTIMAL for us to do so.

JohnD said...

Cool, well I wish you every success with your limited raiding time in the future.

I'll certainly keep you informed of what druid tanking is like in 3.1. I'm going the MT tanking team route. I respect the fact that many players enjoy using theory to decide how they and their friends will play the game. I dont take that route myself - my idea of fun is tanking with a tight raid of super competent players. Offtanking as a standard role is just just too monotonous. You can say that's what we're "best" at. But I think the assumptions behinid how you define "best" are just that - assumptions. And they represent a certain philosophy about wow, which again, is just a choice, not a given.

Jacemora said...


"Offtanking as a standard role is just just too monotonous."


How can tanking one moment, dpsing the next, tossing out brezzes, innervates, or heals the next be more monotonous than Main Tanking? If anything feral tanks as OT's have it better than any class in the game as far as keeping the same raids interesting over time imho.

Totally understand Karthis comment about glory of the the MT but I have found that I get just as much when I save a raid from a wipe by switching to bear and taunting a boss from killing others just in time. This is definitely more of a Wrath thing with kitty gear being tank viable (Talented non-crit ftw) but does wane as the other tanks get geared and die less... lol

I don't know about others but I think I am pretty well respected in my guild filling the OT/wipe prevention/Brez/innervate/top 10 dps'er/MT role.

JohnD said...

Yeah thats cool I totally understand. Glory of MT is just the fun of having a boss's attention entirely focused upon your character. its just fun being a tiny weeny bear standing in front of a huge beefy dragon. Its just fun! I cant explain it any more than that. Running around after itsy bitsy whelplings is not as much fun for me. I'll take my turn like everyone else, I'm not selfish. But fun is just one of those factors that's very personal :)

Karthis said...

"Offtanking as a standard role is just just too monotonous."

Heh - I find MTing very monotonous most of the time.

Rarely any reason to deviate from a standard attack cycle, rarely any reason to move around, very few opportunities to react to chaotic situations on the fly (since you NEED to keep the baddie glued to you)...... etc.

It comes down to personal preference, I guess. We can all find different things fun.

Kalon said...

JohnD - thanks for coming by, and starting some interesting commentary. We do tend to largely decide who is going to MT something based on who is best suited for it, and how many other tanks we need for it, but we're not total ogres about it. And if it's not working out, we'll end up switching things up a bit. Some people end up doing better at certain roles than others.

However, you still can't just ignore the advantages. Understand what you're giving up, at least. :)

For me, the most invigorating tanking experience, bar none, was tanking flames of Azzinoth for Illidan. Second to that would probably be Brutallus. One MT role, one OT role, and really the flames blow everything else out of the water. The tension of doing it, the phase change, the requirement of doing maximal threat while moving and while watching for laser beams and trying to position so that the melee group gets the most time to kill the thing? By far the most complex tanking job I've had. And that was an OT role.

By comparison, standing in front of Sarth is deadly boring to me. Malygos is pretty fun though. Sarth? Bah. I'd love to tank adds or drakes some time.

JohnD said...

Great blog btw!

You see thats interesting because it is so personal. When I tanked the flames of azz, I was more concerned about how silly I looked in FR gear, and being like a little kid on a long journey: mommy, are we there yet? I just wanted to see what loot he dropped tbh. Oh - and feeling mildly annoyed that I'd never get to tank the big guy myself. Tanking Illidan was abou the myth and lore of an end game baddie I'd heard so much about. I was thrilled to walk into his room for the first time and see him in contemplation - its one of my high wow moments. But bummed I couldnt tank him. It's about lore & meaning to me, more than about the complexity of the tanking role.

Bob said...

I agree with all your points except #2. I think the reason druids tend to have better dps gear than most other tanks is more due to culture than class mechanics. While I do share some gear between my dps and tank sets, it is mostly that I put in some dps gear into my high threat or high dps tanking set. The only piece of gear I really share is my Greatness (agi) card. Everything else is unique. Even things like the T7.25 shoulders that I use for both I have multiple sets so I can gem and enchant differently. Plate tanks are perfectly capable of doing the same, it is just expected of druids while it never was before for warriors. In my experience, Pallies were expected to have holy gear available so they could help heal when they weren't tanking. Once other tanks get used to the idea of having to actually work at doing something other than tanking, I see no reason they won't have viable dps sets too.

As for the MT vs OT debate, I think it really comes down to personal preference. I love being an OT. Tanking on some fights and being top 5 dps on others is a blast. The best thing about Wrath, IMO, is that druids are perfectly capable of doing either. Once dual specs come out, so will all the other tanks. Things are by no means perfectly balanced yet, but I think tanks are more balanced now than they have ever been.

Seleria said...

I'm definitely one of those one-or-the-other kinda people you were mentioning. I really don't know kitty form well. I don't know gearing well. I did my research to be the best bear I could and just never bothered with kitty.

My bf is a prot pally that leveled with my holy priest as prot. He's never been ret. When asked to go ret, you could just SEE the gaping jaws through the screen when he said he'd never dps'ed as a pally.

I enjoy hybrid classes because of their utility. A druid is going to bring brez, motw, and innervate regardless of spec. They'll also bring an aura-type buff of some sort. But I also like certain characters to do certain things. My priest heals. She'll never be shadow. My druid tanks. I don't want to be a kitty. I feel gimpy as a kitty and that's the exact opposite of how I see my beastly bear, dammit.

I personally don't mind being a kitty if the situation calls for it. But I mean situation, not 90% of a run. That's something I'm not looking forward to.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you whole heartedly. As a bear with full raid buffs, I hit 50K health. (Polar gear and Tear 7.5) I still tell others to MT because of all the reasons listed. I get flack from others for this but tell them that our best roll is the OT.

LOL, on a side note. My favorite "Boss" to "Tank" is the Frogger boss right after Patchwerk. 27K hit from a blob? Pssht!

Anonymous said...

Another well written post Kalon.
I have one question though, which can be the biggest reason why feral druids are the best off tank.

Are bosses in Uldur tauntable?
If the bosses are tauntable, a kitty or hybrid speced feral druid can just pop bear, taunt, barkskin (and maby one oh no butten) and tank the boss for 15 seconds if the MT dies, while the MT is battle ressed, healed and buffed. The MT can then taunt the boss back and the feral druid goes back to kitty cat.

Anonymous said...

When discussing offtanking as a feral druid, raid spec also comes to mind.

You can take a look at "Of teeth and claws" where feral specs are discussed.

Shamad said...

Personally I've found that being drake-tank on Sarth3D is the most fun tanking job in the current content and is overall a interesting and dynamic role. I see no reason to try and force myself into a MT role if there's more fun to be had as OT.

Ps. I do think that using a paladin OT for trash-like mobs will be a better choice in ulduar, even if they only tank part of the encounter. Druids are probably best suited for being the single-target OT.

Kalon said...

Anon -
Are bosses in Uldur tauntable?

Some are, some aren't. Not as many are tauntable as they are in Naxx. Mostly, things hit hard enough that I'm not sure you could reasonably survive for 15 seconds if you weren't well-prepared for tanking. But things like Thorim, Iron Council, Razorscale and Auriyaya are all tauntable. Hodir, Freya (I believe), Vezax, Mimiron and most of the robot area are not.

Anonymous said...

Hello all my druid name is reek. I start my druid at the start of BC, I have always been bear, I was also MT on 90% of the fights unless it was one of those gimmiks fights. Got as far as BT and MH never manage to get to sunwell. (due to lack of numbers)

Now into WOTLK and I have tanked everything we have killed, currently progressing in uldaur 7/14 hc (i think) 10/14 normal, I have to say I realy hate it when the other tanks say but you do better DPS. Guess what, I dont care. If we where failing to down boss due to inrage timers then they might have a point. We tend to fail due to 80% of the raid lie dead on the floor.

In regard to BR and other ablities, even when MT you can still use them I know this as I do as saddly we have 2 druids in guild.

I dont have a kitty set its tanking set or nothing I have just got a second spec and went for healer as I have a full set (not that I have ever healed)

I like tanking and I can cat it when needed but its not something which I find intresting or that much fun.