Thursday, 11 September 2008

[Druid] New Druid on the Block: Gearing a Bear Tank Part 1

[Druid] New Druid on the Block: Gearing a Bear Tank Part 1
Overview of Bear Tanking in Regards to Itemisation

EDIT: Due to the proximity of the WotLK release date, I'm not sure whether to actually write part 2, since it seems kind of redundant. LET ME KNOW (by posting a comment) if you want to see Part 2 (items to get in order to become an effective Feral tank, and start tanking the harder 5 mans, and possibly Heroics/Kara). I'm more than happy to write this if there's any interest in it.

Note: this post was turning into a monster, so I decided to break it into pieces. While overall it's meant to be on gearing a tank, and items to pick up at 70 (or before), this installment will cover the stuff to look for on items.

So, my druid turned 70 on Tuesday afternoon, at about 15:15.
I really want to heal in 2v2 and 3v3 arena, but figure I should also gear a tank, especially since I spend a lot of time in Feral spec.

So I thought I'd quickly document what I'm doing to gear my druid up. I was wrong. This is gonna take a while, lol.

(NB: where ratings, e.g. defense rating, are mentioned here, they will be treated as for a level 70, since the effect of ratings decreases with level).

WARNING: contains numbers, I'll italicise some of the theory (viz., numbers) to make it easier to read.
For bear tanks there are a few things you really want from items, basically as much armor, agility and stamina as possible, since bears scale incredibly well with these stats (especially items like Thoriumweave Cloak, since you get a massive armor multiplier in Dire Bear Form).
Tanks need to reduce the damage they take by as much as possible, and make life as easy as possible for healers (healers oom = dead tank). For bear tanking you want a lot of health, a lot of dodge (since this is the only avoidance available to bears) and a LOT of armor (the only mitigation available to bears). Most importantly, however, you want to be uncrittable.

Mitigation vs. Avoidance:
To avoid confusion here, I'm going to use 'mitigation' to mean reducing damage taken, and 'avoidance' to avoid taking damage. E.g. armor is mitigation since it reduces the physical damage you take from attacks by a %, and dodge is avoidance, since when you dodge an attack you take no damage at all. M'kay?

(NB: most of the information covered below can be found in WoWWiki.)
A raid boss is treated like a level 73 mob, and will have a crit chance of 5.6% against you, while a heroic boss at level 72 will have a 5.4% crit chance against you. If you can be crit (for double damage), you run the risk of being crit-spiked to death before the healers can react. This is not a good thing.
If you're a Bear tank you MUST have 3/3 Survival of the Fittest, in which you only need 2.6% crit-chance reduction to be uncrittable in raids. Crit-chance reduction is obtained through Defense Rating, and Resilience Rating.
60 points of Defense Rating (and there is a difference between Defense rating, and straight up defense, in that Defense rating converts to defense skill at a decreasing ratio as you level) or 39.4 Resilience Rating to be uncrittable in any and all Raids. You'll need a total of 415 defense skill to achieve the 2.6% (this includes the 350 base defense at level 70), or 156 Defense Rating. Alternatively, you can use 103 Resilience Rating to achieve the same effect.
In essence you want to make sure that (Defense Rating/60) + (Resilience Rating/39.4) >= 2.6. In this case you'll be uncrittable, and this should be the number one priority of all raid tanks (Paladins and Warriors will achieve uncritability in other ways).

Resilience versus Defense:
Resilience, at 39.4 points needed to reduce chance of being crit by 1%, is obviously more efficient than Defense, at 60 points needed to achieve the same effect. However, Defense also increases the chance that you will be missed by an attack and that you will dodge an attack by 1% per 60 rating, thus giving you some avoidance as well (although resilience will give you reduced damage taken from DoTs, a minor effect). NB: Defense skill will also increases your chance to Block or Parry attacks, further increasing mitigation gained from +Defense, but Dire Bear druids don't use shields, and can't parry with their big clumsy paws, so Bears gain a lot less benefit from +Defense than Warriors or Paladins (making Resilience a more viable option for Bears than the plate-wearers).

Thus although Defense Rating is less efficient than Resilience at making us crit immune, it's secondary benefits make it worth more point-for-point if we can get enough to reach the 2.6% mark - despite the fact we don't obtain maximum benefit from Defense.

In conclusion, if you have the options to become crit immune through using defense, go for it. If you're just under the 2.6% uncrittable mark, however, and you need to really squeeze maximum efficiency out of gem slots/enchants, then go for resilience. And be prepared to resocket fairly often as your gear gets upgraded (although feral tanking items from raids are few in number).

Also, don't throw away stuff that has high defense or resilience after you get an upgrade, you never know when those 5 points of defense you can't seem to fit in anywhere can be obtained through a minor downgrade.

Dodge and Agility:
Bears are special. Everyone knows it, even if they won't admit it. In terms of Dodge, Bear Druids (and Kitties) get 1% chance to Dodge for each 14.7 points of Agility which is a better ratio than every other class (Rogues are next at 20 Agi:1% Dodge, Warriors worst at 30:1%, and everyone else is at 25:1%). And then there's Dodge Rating, where Druids, like everyone else, get 1% Dodge for around 19 Dodge Rating. Phoaw. So basically, Agility is more efficient for avoidance than Dodge Rating? And it gives a decent increase to Crit chance (improving both rage generation and threat), plus some small amount of armor? Talk about maximising returns, that's pretty awesome. In essence, Agility >> Dodge Rating if we are forced to make a choice. Which doesn't mean Dodge Rating isn't nice, more mitigation is always welcome, but Agility is just bucketloads better. And it goes well with Blessing of Kings, and leather items with Agility are pretty common (apparently Rogues use Agility for something as well, or so I've heard). Agility is awesome. Remember this.

So as we've seen, Agility is pretty damn awesome for Druid tanks. But we also need a bit of health to survive the hard hits, the crushing blows, and those nasty spellcasters that Blizzard does not give us any mitigation against. None at all. While Warriors get Defensive Stance and more (and even more), and Paladins get a few nifty tricks (such as Spell Warding, and Ardent Defender), Druid tanks must rely on large health pools and hope the healers are both well geared and can maximise their mana efficiency.
So, "large health pools", but how large is large? Quite large, actually. A properly spec'd Feral Druid can make each point of Stamina go a long way, and a properly geared Feral Druid will have a lot of Stamina.
Let's have a look at all the bonuses I can currently think of/remember (bearing in mind that by default, each point of Stamina provides 10 Health).
Dire Bear form - the biggy, and the reason we're writing this. A solid 25%. That's a lot.
Heart of the Wild - another 20% from talents if you put 5/5 points into it, why you would do anything else as a Feral druid is beyond me. This is a key talent.
Survival of the Fittest - remember the discussion on becoming uncrittable above? This talent is the reason we only need to reach 2.6% (rather than the normal 5.6%), which frees up a lot of very difficult itemisation (i.e. having to wear mostly PvP gear for the resilience), and also gives us 3% increased stats.
Tauren racial - gives us another 5%. Since we can't all be cows (it'd be Udder Madness), we'll point out that "those other guys" get 1% dodge.
All in all not bad, giving us a total of around 15 Health (14 if you're purple) for each point of Stamina we have (this is a lot). So Stamina is another stat Bears should stack wherever possible.

Armor is the last big stat that really defines the Bear Tank. Dire Bear form grants a massive amount of bonus armor, and the Thick Hide talent boosts this some more. The way I understand it, Thick Hide is applied multiplicatively on top of Dire Bear, so an item giving 100 base armor would yield (100+(100*400%))*110% = 550 Armor to a Bear tank. That's a lot. And if we choose items with a heckuva lot of armor already (Blizzard really gave bears some love in TBC), we start seeing some big numbers. More on this in the items section. (NB: items like Glove Reinforcements do not receive this bonus, and neither do enchants. Only the base armor on the item is considered for the bonus).

Anyway, with some of the numbers and general concepts out of the way, it's time to move on to items that are worth noting for the starting druid tank.
A good guide can be found here, however I'm going to make a list of my own with commentary on items.

At the moment I can't seem to find the time to do any instancing, so my gear is almost entirely crafted, obtained through soloing or one-of group quests.
I've pretty much finished getting items that don't require me to run instances, except for the Shattered Sun Pendant of Resolve, with the Scryer proc (which is completely and totally nuts). In fact if your druid is going to go feral a lot, seriously consider Scryer over Aldor; Scryer prioritises +Defense and Aldor +Dodge on the shoulder enchants, and the Scryer proc for Shattered Sun Pendant of Resolve gives +100 Expertise, compared to +100 Dodge from the Aldor proc. As discussed above, while Bears are masters of dodging, they don't really need dodge rating, because Agility is vastly more efficient for us. On the other hand, Expertise can really boost our threat by decreasing the chance our white (rage-generating) and special attacks will hit the target and not be dodged/parried/blocked.

And after that brief tangent on the awesome of SSO necklaces, it will soon be time for me to move onto 5mans and heroics to get the last few upgrades I want for Kara. The items I'm particularly looking at are Thoriumweave Cloak (from Mechanaar), Earthwarden (requires Exalted with Cenarion Expedition), Verdant Gloves (from the pre-raid part of the BT attunement chain, requiring a trip to the Arcatraz). But all of these will be discussed in the next post (or perhaps the one thereafter).

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