On the official forums, there's a lot of talk about nerfing druids health once again now that DKs have been brought down to the level of mortals (or at least, undead mortals...err...).
And for the record: I agree with it. I've agreed with it for a while Given non-pvp gear/polar gear and comparing best in slot pieces with all tanks across the board, druids have about a 7k health lead over warriors, paladins, and any non-blood DK right now. That's before epic gems and before the DK nerfs as well, so if anything this gulf will only increase in the future. That's about 15% more health than other tanks. Now, part of that is that druid itemization is shockingly 'better' than a lot of plate tanking itemization; there simply aren't that many hardmode T8.5 items out there that are exceptional, and there are quite a few hardmode leather items that are. But it's a continued saga from WotLK release, and it'll continue.
The fact is that bears aren't quite on a level playing field. They haven't been for some time - basically, since crushing blows got removed. With that removal, the idea of bears being the high armor, high HP tank just doesn't make sense. It made sense originally in that bears were supposed to be this buff, hard-to-kill thing that took tons of damage too; that was the concept. Along the way, though, they got about the same avoidance as other tanks, higher health, and higher physical mitigation. They also got pretty decent magical mitigation too. And they ended up taking exactly the same hits without crushing blows.
But without crushing blows, why does a bear need higher health and armor than another tank? This might make sense if avoidance numbers were far apart from each other, but it turns out that this really isn't the case; avoidance is largely close to each other as tanks. So they're taking about the same incoming damage physically. And with Protector of the Pack, they're taking about the same magic damage.
And barring cooldown use, it doesn't make sense for one tank to simply be better in all ways than other tanks.
Now, you can't take cooldowns out of the equation entirely. That's not reasonable, especially with the design of so many fights being 'blow cooldowns in scary place and survive'. But balancing around lack of cooldowns with average mitigation doesn't make sense either; it means that either you're the best tank because cooldowns don't matter, or you're the worst because you do. There's no middle ground.
Part of the real problem here is how well bears scale with only a couple stats. I've talked about this before and predicted the actual gain bears would get, and have been largely accurate. The biggest deal here is, of course, how well bears scale with stamina. Specifically, for every point of stamina on gear, enchants, gems or buffs bears gain the following multipliers:
1.25 for bear form
1.1 for heart of the wild
1.1 for Blessing of Kings
1.06 for survival of the fittest
1.02 for improved mark of the wild
For a grand total of 1.63 stamina for every stamina point. Now, part of this is to make up for the deficit in stamina on leather vs. plate tanking gear; leather has about 25% less stamina than plate, so that makes sense. And most other tanks get close to the same kinds of multipliers other than bear form for their stamina; 1.1*1.06*1.02 is a 18% multiplier for base stamina, which is in line with other tanks to a large extent.
But what doesn't make sense is the bear multiplier applying to everything else. For example: a warrior gains about 1.16x stamina per point of stamina after all buffs. A druid will get 1.63 stamina for every point. So improved fort gives 214 stamina normally; for a warrior that will be 249 stamina. For a bear, that's 350 stamina - a difference of 101 stamina!
Just from fort.
Similarly, every solid sky sapphire gives a warrior about 26 stamina. It gives a bear 39 stamina.
Every leg enchant gives a warrior 64 stamina. It gives a bear 90.
Heart of iron gives a bear 265 stamina; it gives a warrior only 188.
These sorts of things are why bears get nerfed every patch. With that high of a multiplier, bears simply win more every time they get an upgrade relative to other tanks. Warriors have some compensation in that they have higher base stamina and they get things like a gun slot and typically more gems, but that's a static value; by comparison, bears simply have a huge multiplier to wield scarily away. And at some point that isn't going to be balanced.
Which requires a nerf - until the next time.
So let's try a thought experiment (with math!) What would happen if the bear stamina multiplier applied only to the stamina on leather, and only the base stamina? In other words, all stamina found on non-leather (cloaks, trinkets, rings), all gems, all enchants, all buffs - they're all going to only be given the non-bear multiplier, which is 1.1 (hotw) * 1.1(kings) *1.06(sotf) * 1.02 (motw) = 1.31, about.
What would that mean?
Let's take my current character in their balanced set as an example. This doesn't take into account sockets or anything like that, but it's otherwise correct. It doesn't stack stam exclusively, has a few shared slots with cat that use agility, has a mix of agility and stamina enchants when it made sense, and only uses one PvP piece (the bracers). I also have JC and LW for my buffs. A full list of the gear can be found at the end.
Here's the breakdown of how stam looks on that gear:
That's right. 728 stam from the leather only. 1529 stam from everything else.
With this setup we have roughly 3690 stamina currently, after all buffs save food. If we applied the bear multiplier to stamina only on leather, what would be the result?
In practical terms, this is a reduction of almost exactly 5k health in this situation. This bear would go from 48.7k to 43.7k, give or take a bit. Now, 43.7k sounds awfully low compared to some other tanks, I will admit - but that's just my general bear prejudice talking. As far as tanks in a similar gear set, it's almost precisely on the money; this is a tank without any hardmode gear, not fully T8-upgraded in all slots and only wearing one stamina trinket.
So that's...actually pretty close to reasonable. It's a big nerf, mind you, but the value is pretty good and it wouldn't require a lot of balancing relative to warriors (which I'm considering the benchmark right now). Let's take the next test case - the bear best in slot. This will be without any PvP gear or polar gear, and while it will gear for stamina heavily, it will not do so at the cost of juicy bonuses or socket bonuses. It will use two stamina trinkets though. Again, full list of gear at the bottom.
At the start, this bear would have 57.7k health. A similarly geared warrior has about 50.5k health.
In this example, the bear has 2826 stamina from all sources, of which 2045 is from non-leather and 781 is from leather. Currently that bear has 4621 stamina.
With bear only applying to leather? 3952, or a loss of 668 stamina, taking their health from 57.7k to 51.0k.
Which is again almost exactly the same as a similarly equipped best in slot warrior with a similar gearing strategy (it's about 1k higher). Which is just about perfect.
What's good about this strategy is that it's future-proof. Bears will scale a bit faster than warriors, but that's acceptable to blizzard (as shown by paladins in TBC) so long as it's not by more than 10% or so.
What's not good is that without that health lead, druids become much less interesting on certain fights because of their lack of potent cooldowns. So if this did get changed, I would hope that the cooldown situation would also be addressed.
Now you might say that you could get to this result in other ways - and you could, at least to start with. You can remove HotW's bonus, which would reduce health by about 3.5k to 4k. You could nerf SotF and MotW as well. The problem with all of these things is that it still leaves bears with a huge, huge stamina multiplier as a base. Sure, it's a nerf now, but it would mean that bears would still get 30 more stamina than a warrior for every 100 stamina they both get. Eventually, that will break. This way, it won't break until sometime well past the end of the expansion; it can't, since the numbers are essentially the same for all tanks.
Furthermore, it means a lot of degenerate gear choices go out the wayside. Gem slots are not the sole arbiter of whether gear is awesome or not. DPS jewelry becomes somewhat more usable.
It doesn't fix the PvP or polar set gear, and that is a legitimate problem. However, PvP gear only gives about a 2k health lead over non-PvP gear, if you use all of it. That's still within a 10% margin of error, and still better than what we have now.
It also doesn't do anything to fix armor. I think that the 4-5% difference in avoidance between the druids and the rest of the tanks can deal with the armor, honestly. 4% more mitigation vs 5% avoidance seems like a wash.
Now, I hear some druids really like having huge health pools. Okay. They also like having huge armor. Hmm. A bear can't have the same baseline mitigation as other tanks but have higher armor and higher stamina while maintaining similar avoidance levels. Either their avoidance would have to be nerfed, or their base mitigation would have to go away.
If you really want to have health and armor aplenty, I think the only way to fix that would be to remove protector of the pack. In that situation, druid health and health scaling would be unchanged (which would break druids later on in icecrown), but their incoming damage would be 12% higher than currently. They could even get a buff to armor to compensate for this. I don't think this is a good long-term design idea, but I can see the value in it; a lot of bears don't care about whether or not they're easier or harder to heal so long as they have tons and tons of stamina and armor. That would be one way to go about it.
Anyway, there's my idea for fixing the stamina issue so that it's no longer so insane for bears. I do expect some criticism here, but try and make it somewhat constructive if you can. Also, check out the gear choices and see if they make sense or not. Enchants were kept the same across both sets for ease of use.