Wednesday, September 16, 2009

[Druid] How are bears doing?

Zax posted a comment on an old (yet strangely still reasonably accurate) post about Savage Defense back in the day that I felt dovetailed into something useful now.

I know this is an old entry but I also see this problem, that the breaking point, when an amount of AP is on par with mitigation from an amout of agi/armour, is pretty low. What would certainly help this issue is a possibility to stack SD.
So e.g. lower SD to 15% of AP. Then implement:

Nurturing instinct 2/2 AND Natural Shapeshifter 3/3 - in bear SD can stack up to 2 times, in cat you can proc SD with 30s CD with the basic 15% value, while those 10% are reflected back (subject to critical attack chance ArP and armour mitigation, can't be dodged etc.).
If you have both talents, then it's up to 3 times for bear and 15 CD for cat and with 25% AP value.

The choice of talents, values etc. was just an example, but the point is the should be a way how you can improve this ability from talents.
The hard luck is that Blizz doesn't care about ferals and doesn't give a damn about feral tank and feral cat itemization. I just hate seeing feral set with AP, where should appropriate amount of strength. But this list could be endless x).
Thanks for posting, Zax.

I do think that there is definitely some degree of truth to this. I've written before about how bears use rogue leather, hunter weapons and plate tanking jewelry, and that's still the case. Because of the changes to how armor is done, there's no 'wow' stat that says "I'm a feral" item on it.

Conversely, I don't feel it's true for cats. Cats have been designed well to do well with most of the stats rogues want (though not with the same scaling on each stat) combined with doing well with the stats on hunter weapons and the occasional DK weapon. Cat itemization is better than it's ever been both from the perspective of choice and the perspective of things being designed with ferals in mind. That we continue to have debates about whether agility or armor pen is the best stat is a good indication of this - if there are two stats that can compete for best, it's a sign that the spec is fairly healthy. Furthermore, no dps stat is truly worthless any more.

But still, we have bears and their annoying itemization. I ask you - is that all that problematic? I recognize that the feeling can be sometimes upsetting (side note: why are ferals so emo?) and it doesn't feel good to be getting weird scraps of gear to get things to work. It doesn't feel like your class is finely designed and tuned; it feels like afterthoughts.

But in terms of actually getting things done, bears are in a better position than almost any time in their history (save possibly the end of T6, when they were stupid good). And if you take one thing away, take this away:

As long as bears have the highest armor of all tanking classes and the highest potential health of all tanking classes, they will remain a solid choice for the majority of tanking encounters.

There are going to be gimmick fights where certain things benefit one tank over another. Cooldown usage in Ulduar and Sarth3D, BoPs on heroic Beasts, being unhittable on the adds on Anub'arak, lots of blocking and avoidance on Algalon, AoE threat, burst threat - all of these can favor one tank or another here and there. But in general, having super high health and the highest armor (and more accurately, the highest overall mitigation) will make druids always competitive in tanking.


And with the way blizzard is choosing to do their itemization for bears, this will stay this way. As I talked about in the right way to nerf bear stam went, as long as gems, enchants and buffs scale with the bear multiplier bears are going to have stupid health. Armor is going to also have an advantage due to agility and having higher armor per tier than the other tanks by a small margin (about 100-200 per tier). Keeping protector of the pack means bears will have close to the same consistent amount of base mitigation too. So for the foreseeable future, as long as encounters do not emphasize high avoidance, high threat, or large cooldown requirements bears will do well.

Now, it's reasonable to fear that encounters WILL have those things. But even so, falling back on effective health and mitigation is not the worst thing in the world here, and should result in bears being competitive if not optimal.

Savage defense is basically an afterthought here. I'd honestly like to see it entirely removed and replaced with something more functional and less kludgy. It does do its job, but it's unintuitive, hard to model, hard to predict and rely on, and tends to just be a pain. Like Zax mentioned, making it stronger would also be a good choice. It's curious to think about what it's going to be like when block gets so radically changed.

On a less theory/QQ note, Bears have quite a few advantages going into ToC that I've not seen talked about, especially on hard modes. For starters, their damage output is very strong. Their cooldowns work well with Heroic Beasts (barkskin is available on every tank swap and every worm swap), bears are awesome on faction champs, the high health and damage multipliers on Twins makes them keep threat well and combined with mobility, make them a good choice.

And then there's Anub'arak. I'm talking heroic, mind you. Normal mode is easy enough (not easy, just easy enough) that any tank works fine.

Anub'arak's adds are problematic for a feral. They don't have the interrupts of a warrior, so they can't stop Shadow Strike nearly as easily. They don't have the blocking capabilities of a warrior or paladin, so they'll end up taking a lot of damage. Add tanking is somewhat problematic.

But tanking Anub? Oh, it's great. For starters, barkskin is usable while stunned, meaning that on some of the freezing slashes you can have 20% less damage taken; no other tank can reasonably do this. Oddly enough health kind of sucks to have here; you need to be topped off but want to have as little health as you can possibly afford to due to how leeching swarm works. So you'd think that bears would suck, right? Take away that health advantage and what do they have?

Well, they have superior armor. Armor helps where blocking does not, on those freezing slashes (where avoidance is 0) and in general. If you stack things like Defender's Code and The Black Heart you can get quite a lot of mileage out of having lower health, and Glyph of Indomitability is better still.

They also have much more flexible gearing choices. If you want to drop most of that tanking gear for DPS gear with more avoidance (particularly if you're using agility instead of arpen) you can without unduly hurting your chances. But more importantly, they can easily go with resistance gear.

Why resistance gear? Well, frost damage is part of it, but the big win is Nature Resistance. Leeching Swarm is completely resistable, and as the main tank you will be kept at 100% health most of the fight. That's a lot of healing done to Anub'arak. For our 10-man heroic attempts, I was somewhere between 25 and 30% of the overall healing to Anub'arak.

So what if we go for nature resistance? If we go for a head enchant and cloak enchant, still have leatherworking as our profession and go for the bracer enchant, choose the lesser flask of resistance as our flask and go with a nature resist totem, we can get to 295 total resistance. That's not quite enough to make sure we resist 30% or more, but we don't care about that here; we care about average resistance, and the average would be around 38%.

38% resisting of 30% of the healing corresponds to about 10% less healing done. Basically, by wearing that gear you're contributing your very own mortal strike debuff, albeit a weaker one. And you're taking less damage while not having a ton of stam.

Other tanks can do this, but bears do it best. They can easily remain uncrittable regardless of gear. They can usually maintain a high amount of health while doing this due to how they scale with those health benefits. Most plate tanks aren't leatherworkers; being a leatherworker adds 6% resistance by itself. Losing the flask doesn't hurt that much either compared due to the high health as well.

This was one part of the strategy that we came up with on our Heroic Anub'arak kill, and the overall strategy worked really well; we killed him after 4 tries, getting A tribute to Mad Skill. We had thought about doing it before, but seeing that Premonition did this as well for their bear (Melaar) on 25-man heroic really brought it home. Reducing his healing by 20% meant that we spent the same amount of time in the leeching phase with our dps, but did 6% more overall damage in less time. Part of that was some gear upgrades, but a lot of it was that he healed for 300k less in that time. That's a big difference.

So yeah, you might feel like Blizzard doesn't care about you, Zax, and they don't care about the bear. But that same lack of caring works to your advantage if you think about what your options are.


Honors Code said...

"The hard luck is that Blizz doesn't care about ______ "

You'll find nearly every class feels this way. Look at a Warrior board, Shaman board, etc. You'll see a similiar sentiment.

Anonymous said...

@ Honors
Prot Paly's are loving life right now.
There is a constant struggle to keep all classes =, and the rotation will continue. I think it is in Blizz' best interest to have one class be the king for a little while then nerf them and make a different class the king: this is in regards to dps, tanks, and heals. What needs to happen, and it sort of has, is the classes all being specialized in one type or another. For instance having a bear on boss X would be better than a plate wearer due to the [Devious Disruption of Plate] the so said boss casts… and on and on. The challenge of this type is when you have no bear in raid and you come across boss X. You can’t make everyone happy all of the time, so why not make some of the people really happy for a short time? At least that’s how I see it.

Torosso said...

My guild and I are working on 10man Anub hard.

The biggest issue is the healers having trouble dealing with the raid while I am taking some big dmg.

This is most evident when you get the combo of Freezing Slash (which stuns you) then leeching tick then melee. Thats some big dmg.

Funnily enough we came to almost the same conclusion as you did. I use both armor trinkets (lowering my overall HP) and then also use resistance gear to make it a guaranteed 20% resist (more than 220).

Which as you know is just resist flask + NR back + NR head + totem. Its pretty simple for all tanks but bears loose the least from doing this.

We haven't tried this yet but I am looking forward to killing him this week after not being able to last week.

Bulamis said...

One observation regarding Resistance:
Overall it is not very significant in how much healing you are preventing.

In our kill this past week, I only had Imp GotW. And provided a total of 186484 health to Anub. (10-man)

So if on average I was mitigating 10%, and going to 30% mitigation with some resistance gear, you would shave off only 40k health gained. Roughly about 1 second of dps time.

Is that worth the gear tradeoff?

Torosso said...


Its not so much the healing of Anub that I was trying to reduce but actually the incoming dmg I was taking from the swarm so as to help minimise the healing pressure that was on our healers.

Darksend said...

@ bulamis

in 25 ABSOLUTELY!!!!

there is a reason so few guilds in 25 man have killed it. We are consistently getting phase 3 and after almost a minute into phase 3 he is only at 24-25%.

As to how I feel druids. We are stupid. Gear be damned we are the best tanks right now. Other than paladins we are the highest threat tanks, go check my threat records on wmo. EH is the most important thing right now except on gimmicks. Warriors need some serious help right now.

Kalon said...

Bulamis, I'm not sure how far that parse went, but on our kill he only healed for 700k total. And the difference between the kill and the previous week's best attempt (5%) was 300k healing total. That's 600k damage that he did that was not around, and personally 200k damage on me that was removed (along with 100k healing). That's substantial, and it makes things like raid healing a lot easier. Plus it corresponds to a lot less scary damage. It's up to you; it's certainly not required, but it made things much, much easier for us.

Alaron said...

While I can't speak to Anub (hell, I've only seen the Beasts on normal 10), this reminds me of why I dropped skinning for alchemy...mixology bonus to the lesser resistance flask for solo attempts on Shade/Prince. :)

Xarnen said...

Oh yea we're beyond stupidly good. I actually tanked Icehowl in a Normal 25 PUG for most of the fight (tanks got gibbed on the first two failed wall crashes), in my armor pen gemmed cat spec (e.g no PoTP, Thick Hide, Natural Reaction). Sure it's not "hard mode", but still I was far from being in my optimal tank spec/gear and it was enough to down him.

The great thing I've discovered about how well we're doing in ToC, is that we can do it all extremely well. MT, no prob. OT and muster good cat dps...easysauce.

Darksend said...

my personal problem is with people who complain that druid threat is so much worse than the other classes and that we are the most boring of the classes to tank on. For a while I was buying into it too until I realized how poorly I was playing and a fundamental flaw in my rotation for a stretch once everything got on farm.

Our burst and aoe threat are still slightly lacking but the imp mangle rotation is EXTREMELY FUN. weaving in FF and keeping a 5 stack of lacerate while still swiping when its up and everything is on cooldown with mangle and FF having a different cd. sorry but it is anything but boring

not to be rude but go get a weapon upgrade and learn to use your abilities to their highest potential instead of just macroing all of your abilities into a castsquence macro with maul in it and going drinky-bird afk.

sorry for the rant kalon but its been bothering me recently with the amount of OMG DRUID THREAT SUCKS posts I have been seeing recently.

Anonymous said...

Not related to the article as a whole, but I did want to ask you to please, please not refer to our weapons as hunter weapons. It's hard enough as it is - we don't want people to default to thinking something that wrong. I PUG a lot, so you have to deal with stupid misconceptions often. I won Origin of Nightmares the first time it dropped, but I rolled against hunters. Before that I had lost one of the lesser staves to a hunter.

These are feral weapons that a hunter might like to have at some point. Much like a hot bow or gun that drops is a hunter weapon that a warrior or rogue might like to have at some point.

Staves with agi on them are feral weapons, there can be no other name for them. Yes, a hunter can use them, but by no means should they be ever able to roll on them and win over a mainspec feral.

When you get into the weapons that other melee classes can use that's one thing, but any of them should always win over a hunter.

Kalon said...

Alaron, I'd agree; for bears especially I'd argue that LW/Alch would be a superior combination of talents simply because of the special benefits each profession gives you outside of pure health. JC and BS are more versatile in terms of gemming choices (and thus stat choices) but it's hard to find anything comparable to +95 resistance to anything on demand.

Darksend, it's interesting you bring up imp mangle, because I've poo-pooed that in the past as being not particularly strong or necessary. I do agree that with it the rotation becomes much more intriguing. But have you found it to be significantly higher threat than the theorycrafting? And when I said that for a fight where threat was super important bears weren't the best, I wasn't trying to imply that bear threat was bad, it's just not the best. Paladins (and now, warriors) beat bears. But threat is basically fine for most fights, though it might take a few GCDs to get there.

And I HATE berserk being on GCD. HATE HATE HATE.

Anon, that's a reasonable point - and I agree that staves with agi are definitely for feral cats. But the stats on them are very rarely geared towards a bear. There's almost never any expertise, rarely any hit, and usually they stack arpen instead of haste (especially on the most recent ones). Those aren't 'bear' weapons, and they're not even that great as threat weapons for bears (at least not as good as they could be). The point is that they're not designed with tanking in mind; they're designed to be appealing to cats and hunters, and if bears get some use out of 'em so it goes.

Anonymous said...

I've wondered why there aren't any tank-specific 2-handed maces in Wrath. When Death Knights were first announced I was sure bears would be sharing tank weapons with them. Instead we're sharing DPS weapons with hunters. In either case, it's basically only two classes using the same weapons. I'd have thought having us share with maces would have allowed for more tank specific stats.

Not that expect you to have an insights into the mind of Blizz, it's just a recurring thought I've had.

Darksend said...

I love imp mangle, wouldn't trade it for anything. Although my raid setup allows me to get both imp mangle and MSS and skip IW.

Kalon said...

Yeah, that's the real rub, darksend - I run enough 10-man content without warriors or tanks with both demo shout and a slow that it's fairly important that I keep it around, at least for a while. It'd be nice to be able to drop FA and IW, but I don't see that happening - and really, my threat isn't normally such an issue that it really matters.

Bulamis said...

re: Anon
Blizz's desire when they unified Staves/Polearms for Druids and Hunters was not to create Tanking specific two-handers.

The reason being, is once you have that, its becomes a long time before you upgrade.
And thus trying not to put armor on two-handers anymore.

Having said that, for a decent (at the time) Two-Handed mace that was very good for tanking (DK+Druid) check out Inevitable Defeat.

re: Kalon
For now a Ret/Prot Pally are best candidates to put up Imp Demo Shout. Two-points and goes on without using extra GCDs.

Kalon said...

re: Kalon
For now a Ret/Prot Pally are best candidates to put up Imp Demo Shout. Two-points and goes on without using extra GCDs.

And if I ran with a prot pally consistently, that would be awesome. :) Or for that matter a ret pally that had that ability - but I'd still need the slow.

I might consider dropping FA; it should be up a majority of the time on our heroic Anub kills, and that's the place where I'm mostly worried about not having it. But the slow is still not covered via other means.

Anonymous said...

Kalon do you think it would be worth to use the naure resistance tbc armor kits for 3x8 resistance more over the regular enchants on those slots

Anonymous said...

i mean 4x8 resistance :)

Kalon said...

Anon, probably not. 32 more resistance is likely not going to get you the win, especially when you're swapping things like +10 all stats, +20 agility or 55 stam/22 agility for them. The tradeoff is probably too high.

Unlike Sarth, you're not absolutely needing to hit some specific resistance benchmark, so don't kill your gear set just to get as much resistance as humanly possible. A little bit goes a long, long way here.

Zax said...

Hi, I was quite surprised, but I'm glad I could help :).
To clarify my post, I wasn't whining that ferals are bad in PvE.
Recently I started tanking heroics and I got to a strange point. I had this staff:
And later I got my hands on:

So I was trying to compare the loss of AGI with the gain of AP, when I got to the point, that Savage Defense is just something that goes along with the bear form. It's not effective enought for the player to say "Well, though this weapon doesn't have AGI, the AP will provide equal mitigation.".
I addition, I don't like Blizzard's intention to make all tanks work alike. This has been metioned here already, that why should there be more than one tanking class, if they all have about the same mitigation, health, dps, tps?
It's funny that I play druid, I like WoW druid and scaling of it's with equip and lvl, on the contrary with my favourite game Neverwinter Nights. But to make something clear, I like passive mitigation more than dodge :D. Frankly, I've never played warrior or paladin and I don't want to level them now...
Back to the dodge, it's sort of a big source of spike damage. It can be misleading for the healer, when you start with the boss like "dodge, miss, dodge, dodge" and suddenly it can turn into "hit, parried, hit, hit..".
So while you're doding the boss, he has his atk. speed lowered, the ability to stack up some sort of passive mitigation would be helpful.
Right now how this is countered is just a large HP pool... And that's kinda boring. But still it's something typical for the bear...

And you can clearly see, that Blizzard is going to make tanks alike when looking at the equipment.
The choice of tanking equipement is poor and I don't think it's going to get better. I find it stupid that some leather is good for DPS of mail and plate wearers, that we steal hunters' polearms and they steal our staves. That there is only one tanking amulet I can buy for the Emblem of Heroism, it's the least useful for feral and still, it 2nd BiS pre-raid tanking amulet. Same goes for PvP equipment, half of the pre-raid BiS is Deadly. Seriously, WTH?!

All this is very discouraging and I think WoW druid comunity needs new Alamo figure to keep our spirits up. I just fell like a dog eating leftovers of my master's fast food.
And though ferals still do good in PvE, they are far from flexible in PvP now...

So in conclusion and in realation to your suggested bear bonus stamina nerf, I think this should come from firm distinction, what would paladin/warrior/bear be good and bad at, thus making classes different in essence of gameplay and gaming style, but equal overall. I know that druid scaling needs an overhaul, but I don't think that same passive and active mitigation, HP pool, dps, threat.. is a good way to go.
I've heard one good argument why tanking as paladin is better than tanking as bear... you don't have to look at bear's poorly animated bottom :D. Bear without originality will be a dead spec.

PS: about the resistance, I've read it at wowwiki, so you're right when thinking that certain enchants etc. with appropriate resistance can be more effective in certain boss fights. The shame of it is it doesn't work that well in PvP. :/

Kalon said...

I think this should come from firm distinction, what would paladin/warrior/bear be good and bad at, thus making classes different in essence of gameplay and gaming style, but equal overall.

This is what I want as well. I think there are plenty of ways to go about it without screwing over guilds and making things interesting. Because at the end of the day, a lot of people enjoy being special in some way, and 'tank' isn't special enough.