Cataclysm Final Grades: The State of the Bear Druid
Our next guest post in the Cataclysm Final Grades series comes from another of my guildmates. Chrixus currently serves as our bear tank for both 25 man normal and 10 man normal/heroic content. He is also (despite what he’ll try to make you believe in this article) a skilled boomkin, and spent a portion of the Firelands raid tier moonfiring things to death. (We still cry fat chicken tears together any time we see Hurricane in use during a raid or heroic dungeon.) Today, however, Chrixus will discuss the state of the bear druid throughout the Cataclysm expansion.
Dancing through Cataclysm as a Bear
Every now and then I take a peek at Tzufit’s blog just to see what tidbits I can pick up about WoW and druids. I view Tzufit as a fantastic WoW player and a helpful person, so any knowledge I can ninja from her I try to take advantage. Once I was enlightened to our guilds “secret” druid chat channel, I’ve found her to be a great resource for not only druid stuff but a lot of other WoW-related stuff as well. So when I read about this topic, and Lyshra’s post, I thought maybe I too can write something about my class/spec. I say spec, because honestly, as much as I try to play kitty/boomkin, I’m just not that good at them. So I will try to keep the focus on the big fuzzy bear as much as I can. This is my first attempt at writing anything for a blog, so be gentle.
1. Do you feel that your class is better (in that it is more fun to play, more effective, etc.) now than it was at the end of Wrath? Do you feel that your class is better now than it was at the beginning of Cataclysm?
This is a tough one for me to answer since I didn’t tank or really play him much in Wrath. The only comparison I have is that the off tank in the 25m ICC group I was in was a druid. The warrior tank seemed superior to a druid in that expansion. Now, and this is probably me being a bit biased, I feel as a tank a druid are a bit above warriors and DKs, but just below the paladin. But it seems that each has their place in Cataclysm. For someone who has tanked on all four of them at one point, this makes me happy. I like the balance that tanks seem to have now.
As far as it feeling better now than at the start, without a doubt I feel that it does. A lot of it has to do with gear, but more so with the 2pc tier 13 that gives a druid 100% chance to trigger Savage Defense (SD) from Mangle crits when I have Pulverize active. Since this is something you should always have up, this is a fantastic set bonus. Prior to this, druid mastery was well below the other tanks in my opinion due to RNG. While our mastery isn’t as good as the others, I’ve found it to be much improved and/or reliable with this bonus. One place I noticed a difference is on the Fall of Deathwing encounter. On the third platform where I had to use Frenzied Regen/Barkskin to eat the impale, stacking SD more reliably made a huge difference. Not only do I feel like a more effective tank, I am having a lot more fun playing the bear than the other tank classes I have. I just love the abilities that he brings to our raid group along with the flexibility I have in fights to easily switch between bear/cat to optimize my DPS.
2. How much have you enjoyed or found uses for your class’ level 81, 83, and 85 abilities? Given the chance, what would you have changed about them?
At first I loved the 81 and 85 talents, Thrash and Wild Mushrooms (which I still do), but the level 83 talent, Stampeding Roar, not so much.
Thrash gives a druid tank another AoE attack, but also puts a dot on everything it hits for more damage and threat. I also use it while tanking bosses since the bleed damage gets increased by 30% from our Mangle debuff. Any bit of extra DPS helps and could make a difference in some fights. When I hit 81 I was very excited to get this talent. As far as changing it, the ideas that I had might make it a bit unbalanced such as sharing the GCD with maul, or shortening the CD on it.
Then my next new ability came at 83, stampeding roar. Why in the world would they give me a speed boost to the group? That’s a waste of an ability, I thought. I didn’t start raid tanking on my druid until the Ragnaros fight, so I saw very little use for it prior. Our strategy on Rags called for us to move from one side of the platform to the center when then molten seeds came down. Oh, so that’s what you had in mind when you gave us that ability! It is a situational ability for sure, but one that has grown on me over time. On the rare chance that I’m boomkin, I find myself switching to bear/cat to use it more often than not. I wish the range on the ability was a bit wider, 10 yards seems a bit small.
Ah my good ol’ friends Wild Mushrooms. An AoE that is efficient, deadly, I don’t have to channel it, and it puts the 8% spell damage debuff on everything it hits? What’s not to like? Every time I see a level 85 druid use hurricane, it makes me cry inside. It was an adjustment to use them, but they are a great tool. Not only are they an AoE tool, but can be used on single targets as well. One example is on Hagara. When her shield is up and you’re running around put those shrooms right under her and as soon as the shield falls, detonate them for some nice damage especially if you are in a solar eclipse. As far as changes, I hate having to use a talent point to make them slow things and I wish they had maybe a 6 second CD instead of 10 seconds. I know some people wish they auto exploded but I like placing them and blowing them up when I want.
3. Did you switch mains during Cataclysm? If so, why did you make that choice?
A little about my fuzzball druid Chrixus: He started out as a cow druid back in WotLK. A bunch of friends started a guild on Horde-side (we were mainly Alliance) and I thought a druid would be fun since I had never played one before. He was an alt I liked to play around on for something to do while I wasn’t raiding on my Alliance warrior. When worgen became a playable race, I had to switch him over. I think werewolves are cool, so I had to have one (even if they are more shape shifters than werewolves, but oh well). Thus he went from cow to dog. I leveled my warrior to 85 first and quickly realized that it wasn’t any different at 85 than it was at 80 and was becoming bored. It was a combination of that and my old guild falling apart that drove me to level my druid. For the sake of leveling I respec’d him to bear/boomkin, a very odd combination for me since I had never played either of those specs prior to cataclysm and neither of them were really optimal for leveling. This change was where I started to really fall for the druid class. I’m one of those players with quite a few alts but running around shifting to a different form, instant cast for flight form, stealth, ranged DPS, melee DPS, tanking, healing…the class had everything for me. The icing on the cake was how much my daughter loved to watch him shift forms. Daddy look kitty! Daddy look bird! Bear ROAR! I’m a big softie when it comes to her. So I guess you could say from there I was hooked on druids.
The only time I really tanked in Cata was for dungeons so I could get a group faster – my main raid spec was balance for our 25 man. I picked up off set gear from raids when I could and got geared as any other off-spec would. Then one day, I was asked if I could fill in for a tank in Tzufit’s 10m group working on Ragnaros. They had struggled on him for a while, but eventually we got him. After that they realized the awesomeness of having a bear tank (note sarcasm), so they decided to let me keep playing with them. From there on out I really started taking tanking as a bear a bit more seriously. I read up on specs, strats, add-ons , and really tried to understand the class the way I did the warrior in WotLK.
4. Is your class easier or harder for a fresh 85 to learn now than it was at the end of Wrath? Is this a good or a bad thing?
While I had a tanking background, I never tanked on the druid prior to Cataclysm. To be quite honest, none of the tanking classes are “hard” to learn or play. As far as the druid is concerned, it is definitely easier with the reduced CD on Swipe, the addition of Thrash, Vengeance, and the exponential threat percentage increases. I will admit I didn’t know that Swipe was like Thunderclap back in the day, only hitting 3 targets and they had to be in front of you. I’m torn on whether making it easier to tank is a good or a bad thing. It’s a good thing because there are more tanks for shorter queue times, and newer tanks will likely face less elitism from those special players since they shouldn’t have threat issues. I’m the type of person that learns more by doing than reading, so for me practice makes perfect. Tanking through Cata, I found that if I just mentioned prior to the first pull that I’m a bit new at druid tanking people were quite understanding. Of course you ran into that special person sometimes, but that is what ignore is for. Overall I like the changes because I like people to experience everything this game has to offer. They just made it easier to try something new.
A few things I don’t like. The threat percentage increase. I liked having to work for threat, making sure I was doing my best to keep the mobs on me. Now the only thing I worry about is the other tank, which is not quite as fun to me. The only reason the DPS pulls off me is because I miss or get parried. That leads me to my second complaint. I don’t like that you don’t have to be hit/expertise/defense capped, which I guess means I don’t like the talents that make you immune to crit. I liked having to tweak my gear/stats to get it just right. Can I swap out this tank piece for a DPS piece and still be defensive capped? Things like that were really fun to me, and I may be in the minority on that. I believe I am going back to the BC expansion on that, but it’s something I enjoyed and miss.
5. As a druid tank do you stack agility or stamina?
Since I lack the creativity of most, I stuck with Tzufit’s basic questions but I had to add this one. You could ask a 100 people their opinion and you’ll probably get 50 votes for agility and 50 votes for stamina. To me, it all comes down to what content YOU run. With the increases in stamina on leather gear, and the stamina modifiers being roughly equal, I’m a big agility guy. At this point, I feel I get more bang for my buck with agility. Plus with the content we’ve been running I’ve never had a health issue, or at least it seemed that way to me. I’ve mentioned to Tzufit that if we start going full on with the heroics I’ll probably have to switch some of the agility to stamina. I’ve read quite a few forums where people point to main tank for Dream Paragon, Sejta – the old “well he stacks stamina, so I should as well.” My response to them is: Well are you going for world firsts? Do you run heroic 25 mans? If I ran 25m heroics I’d gem that way as well, but I don’t. I can see both sides of the argument, I just go with what works best for me and that happens to be agility at this time.
Some Final Thoughts and Charging into Pandaria
While I have tanked the majority of the content this patch, I really started tanking when Firelands was current. What I have found is that I don’t enjoy the content this expansion as I did the previous, but I truly enjoy playing my druid. I love the flexibility the feral spec brings. During a fight when I’m not tanking the boss, bam shift to cat and pump out some extra DPS. My druid has the ability to move the entire raid to a spot quickly, putting out solid DPS even as a tank, and not being a mana sponge. While we may not have the mitigation of a warrior, the CD’s of a paladin or the self-healing of a DK, I like the current state of druid tanks. We are unique in the versatility we bring to a raid. We can AoE tank with ease, boss tank like a beast, and survive almost anything. We will see how I feel about the class come Mists of Pandaria. I am a bit leery of the changes to the feral tree making cat and bear separate, as it might take away from some of the uniqueness I’ve grown to love. I’m in the “wait and see” camp.
While I am not the best resource for the current state of druid tanks, I immensely enjoy writing my thoughts and opinions on them. As I said near the beginning, this is my first attempt at writing on a blog. So please be nice. =)