Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cataclysm Bear Raiding Spec (4.03)

The following an overview of a dungeon/raid talent build for Bear tanking. In this build I pass over abilities that are nice during solo or PvP play and focus strictly on what's useful for group play. This is also not meant to be a hybrid build of any kind. It's optimized strictly for running as a Bear.

The Base Build

These are the 34 talent points that I would consider to be at the heart of any Bear build. Your mileage may vary, of course. But this is as good of a starting place as any.

Restoration - 3 points
Heart of the Wild - 3/3
A pretty key talent here that I don't think any Druid build (of any spec) is going to pass over. For Bears, this jumps our Stam a cool 6%. If you've been playing around in Cata so far, I don't think I have to explain why more health is a good thing.

Feral - 31 points
Feral Swiftness - 2/2
Being that Bears can't Parry or Block (technically), Dodge becomes incredibly important for our overall damage reduction. We get a lot of it through the Agility on our gear, but 4% for a couple talent points is also a good bargain.

Furor - 3/3
Not really an essential talent, but the guaranteed 10 rage on shift is nice. It gives us some breathing room when we're called to help out with CC. Throw an Entangling Roots or a Hibernate and then shift and you're not completely Rage starved.

Infected Wounds - 2/2
There are a lot of abilities and talents that reduce enemy attack speed, but I generally don't like to depend on other people for my own survivability where I don't have to. As a tank, that's my job. Plus, as a tank, I'm the most likely to be attacking the boss 100% of the time. So it makes sense for me to be the one responsible for applying these types of debuffs.

Fury Swipes - 3/3
There's room for debate on this talent. I like, it though. With my current weapon this equates to a 15% chance of getting a free hit for 3.2K - 5K damage. And that's if this can't crit (I'd have to look at some parses to see if I could even determine that). Over a long fight, that can really add up, both in terms of damage and threat. (Edit: Thanks to Ampzilla for confirming that this does, indeed, crit. That makes it a little more valuable as a 3-point talent.)

Primal Fury - 2/2
Rage is what we use to do what we do. A rage starved bear might as well be holding a big neon arrow that says "go attack him." With all the agility we stack as Bears, we crit. A lot. So getting Rage for something we do a lot...hey, that sounds like a good deal. (Plus, the more Rage we generate, the more we can Maul. And Mauling is fun.)

Feral Aggression - 2/2
This is another one of those not-entirely-critical talents. But there some points you need to put in arbitrary places to unlock lower tiers and this gets my vote for one of them. The only-needing-one-application-of-F3-to-get-full-stacks is kinda nice, though.

Feral Charge - 1/1
This is just one of those essential Feral talents I could never imagine being without. Great for those I-need-to-get-there-and-hit-that-now moments.

Thick Hide - 3/3
An absolutely essential talent for Bears. Without this, you're no less squishy than a Cat. And the whole crit-immunity thing, too. Just a little important.

Leader of the Pack - 1/1
Another one of those essential Druid talents. A passive crit buff to your whole raid is a good thing. So is the 4% self-heal every 6 (or so) seconds.

Brutal Impact - 2/2
I can't tell you how giddy it makes me to have this talent available to us. Skull Bash is my favorite new Druid ability in Cataclysm, bar none. I no longer have to depend on other people to interrupt that boss ability that's going to kill me. But Skull Bash on a cooldown of 1 minute, or even 35 seconds just isn't good enough. 10 second cooldown? <Insert George Takei "Oh my" here>.

Survival Instincts - 1/1
A super-charged Barkskin on a longer cooldown. Every Bear needs this button on their bars for emergency situations.

Endless Carnage - 2/2
Pulverize is already a tough ability to really get a feel for. It doesn't hit incredibly hard and it consumes our stacks of Lacerate, meaning we lose the damage/threat from the bleed and have to spend 3 GCDs stacking it back up again. That said, the 9% crit bonus is very good, since Crit actives Savage Defense, our version of Block. With Pulverize in the game, Blizz is going to continue trying to balance us having it in our rotation, so it makes sense that it really is something we're going to want to be using. And without the extra 8 second duration from this talent, it goes from a debatable ability to a less-than-useless one.

Natural Reaction - 2/2
Less damage, extra dodge, and more Rage. Easiest 2 points on the tree.

Rend and Tear - 3/3
Another talent of somewhat debatable value. For 3 points we get a 20% increase in Maul damage to any bleeding target. If you have a Cat, Rogue, or Warrior in your raids, this is pretty good, as the bleed uptime will be just about 100%. If you have none of those, you're completely dependent on having Lacerate up...which you'll occasionally be consuming with Pulverize. But you do need 3/3 here to get Pulverize...

Pulverize - 1/1
As you can see from having discussed Endless Carnage and Rend and Tear, there's a lot of debate going on over the relative value of Pulverize. I think it's a good idea and an interesting ability. I just don't think it's quite where it needs to be yet. Hopefully Blizz is getting a lot more data from current play than they were during Beta and are tweaking it appropriately to get it to line up with where they want it to be. Still, like I said earlier, we are at least partially balanced around having that crit buff up. So get cozy with it.

Berserk - 1/1
Not as good for Bears as for Cats, but still a very nice talent to have. Especially when you need to get snap threat on a group of (up to 3) targets or need to help burn them down very quickly. Unlimited Mangles for 15 seconds can do a LOT of damage. When your raid leader tells the DPS to blow all their cooldowns, you want to be using this to help out (and to keep up, if it's early in the fight).

The zero pointers
Predatory Strikes, Nuturing Instinct, and Blood in the Water provide no benefit to Druids in Bear form. They're good for hybrid builds or if you really, really want to put some points there for those times when you may be going cat. But if your goal is to be a primary tank, you'll be wanting to skip these.

The rest
At this point you're left with 7 talent points to spend and a few places you can choose to spend them. Where you do will largely depend on your personal play style and needs.

King of the Jungle (Feral, 3 points)
I'm pretty much against ever using Enrage in combat. I'm not saying there's never a reason to do it. But the times when you are willing to take an additional 10% damage should be very few and far between. That said, maybe towards the end of the encounter when your healers are going all out and you've popped Barkskin and Survival Instincts (and maybe Frenzied Regeneration, too) you can afford the extra damage output 3/3 here will get you. Maybe you need it to beat that enrage timer. Or maybe your healers are awesome enough that they're okay with you taking the extra damage for 15 seconds every so often. I'd be hard pressed to personally spend points here. But to each his own.

Primal Madness (Feral, 2 points)
I could have grouped this KotJ because...if you're going to go that deep, you may as well go all the way. Still, there might be some reason you want the occasional damage buff but don't feel the pressing need for extra Rage at the same time. So this is still hanging out on its own as a take-it-or-leave-it option.

Stampede (Feral, 2 points)
The value of melee haste for Bears is pretty questionable right now. It doesn't feel like it's all that great. And 2 points for 8 seconds of it only after having Charged doesn't feel like a great bargain. That said, if you're charging something as a Bear, there's more than a 90% chance that you're trying to gain aggro on it--whether that means you're pulling it off one of your other raid members, or just pulling it cold. A little extra attack speed is a little extra threat you can generate in that 8 seconds.

Natural Shapeshifter/Master Shapeshifter (Resto, 3 points)
I lump these together because no PvE Druid would take Natural Shapeshifter on its own. The goal here is to get Master Shapeshifter, and you're going to have to spend 3 points to do it. Is 4% increased damage (threat) worth 3 points? Tough call.

Perseverance (Resto, 3* points)
Tanks in general, but Bears especially, don't have a lot of defense against spell damage. Whatever amount of damage a spell does, that's what we're going to take. Perseverance is one defense against that. 6% isn't a huge gain, though. And it's costly. Not only do you have to spend 3 points here to get it, but you'll need at least 2 more (beyond the 3 in Heart of the Wild) in the first tier of the Resto tree to even unlock this talent. Blessing of the Grove and Naturalist don't really do anything for us, so you'd probably be putting the points into NS, at which point you'd also be putting one in MS just to justify it. That's 6 total points for a 6% spell damage reduction. If your healers need the help keeping you up, or you're already going for the threat increase of MS, it might be worth it.


  1. Just wanted to add that Fury Swipes can indeed crit, and crit it does quite often what with Pulverize up and whatnot.

    On a given raid night (looking at guild logs) my Fury Swipes crit 22 of 62 times totaling 4.5% of the total damage done. Not bad..

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