Feral Tanking: What Have You Done to Me Lately?

6 11 2008
Posted by Ghostcrawler November 4th:
ARMOR
We are changing the way bear armor works so that bonus armor on items does not receive the bear armor multiplier. Specifically this means that trinkets, rings, necks and cloaks with bonus armor will not be multiplied by the bear bonus. The normal armor on leather will still be multiplied by this bonus. We are also going to remove bonus armor from Feral staves. You’ll get your bonus armor from the leather you acquire.
Examples:
1) A ring that grants 100 bonus armor will now grant a bear 100 armor (not ~470 armor).
2) Leather legs with 253 armor will still grant a bear ~1190 armor (not 253 armor).
3) A feral staff will now grant 0 armor.
We are making this change because armor is such a good stat for bears that it makes taking pieces with bonus armor a non-decision and we don’t want acquiring these pieces, which tend to not be common, to be so much of a barrier to a druid who wants to tank a raid.

This change will NOT be in effect when Lich King ships. We are letting you know this now so that you don’t go through heroic efforts to acquire items like the Badge of Tenacity, or Defender’s Code. Defender’s Code, with 850 armor, will still be a good trinket. But it won’t be an insanely good trinket for a bear.

We will adjust the bear armor modifiers so that your net mitigation does NOT go down with these changes. Let me repeat: this is not a nerf to Feral armor. It is a change to the amount of armor you get from gear with bonus armor.

MANA
We are adding an effect to a deep Feral talent (something like Primal Tenacity) to further reduce the cost of shapeshifting into cat or bear by 50%. This talent will stack with Natural Shapeshifter for a total cost reduction of 80%. PvP-focused druids can get both talents to shift easily and often despite, no longer having Int on gear at level 80.

PROTECTOR OF THE PACK
We are removing the group requirements from this talent. The new tooltip will say: “Increases your attack power by X and reduces the damage you take in Bear Form and Dire Bear Form by Y.” The values of X and Y themselves are not changing.

Again, these changes will NOT be in Nov 13 for Lich King’s launch. We will add them in a patch that will come out sometime before the major Ulduar content patch. We’re letting you know now so that you can choose quest rewards and loot drops accordingly.

  Now, I’ve had my opinions before on the state of Feral tanking. What’s happening here is curious to say the least. They’re right about one thing here; “armor is such a good stat for bears”. In fact, it’s an absolutely critical one, along with stamina and agility. The problem is, it’s something that is becoming increasingly harder and harder to come by. Allow me to expound…

  I can understand the changes to leather armor pieces with the shift towards more homogenous gear. I don’t like these changes, personally, but I understand them. The positive here is that it will greatly expand a Druid’s choices for gear selection. BC Druid tanking gear is was a fairly linear and straightforward thing with select pieces that were “must haves” in the progression chain. Once you got to somewhere around SSC / ZA, it became more divergent, but we all started the same. Acquire entire crafted Clefthoof set. Earthwarden. Manimal’s Cinch. Verdant Gloves. Badge of Tenacity. Strength of the Untamed. More or less, every Feral had the same targeted gear. Now, they’re looking to make life easier on us (theoretically) by introducing a greater list of items to choose from that can be effective tank pieces.

  At the outset this sounds like a great idea that will open some doors. Realistically? I’m willing to wager that this great “wide world of gear” isn’t going to materialize. There’s still Bear gear and Rogue / Cat gear. As a responsible Feral, I always maintained a solid Cat and Bear set that I toted around at all times. After the Great Armor Nerf of 3.0.2, I experimented with switching out some of my previous “Cat” pieces with my tanking set… and found that not a one of them was desirable alternative. So, from a gear perspective, the conclusion that I have to draw on this is that it’s ultimately going to be an issue, and perhaps an even greater one than it is now. We, as Feral tanks, will still continue to seek a few specific pieces that don’t favor Rogues as much as they favor us. Gear that is itemized for stats like Critical Strike and Attack Power shall remain the province of Rogues and Cats. Stamina and (to a lesser extent) Strength will favor Bears. Agility and Dodge, both. The point being that there is a twofold issue here: #1, the old problem isn’t really addressed, as bear-specific stats are still just that, and we’re still likely to be targeting a narrow band of gear; #2, due to the push towards neutered gear, we’re not going to be able to easily meet our needs within that targeted realm. It might even make acquiring proper Bear gear more difficult since it could be perceived as marginally valuable to some Rogues, especially the type that roll more on the purpleness of the item instead of proper class itemization.

  Compounding the problem is this post. Despite the mess that is leather gear presently, there were still the old standbys for armor – trinkets, rings and weapons. What was lost in the apparent charity towards Rogues could still be somewhat compensated for in more Warrior / Paladin related items that allowed for a Bear to outfit the auxiliary slots with equipment that would meet their needs insofar as a survivable armor mitigation number. Under the questionable auspices of removing “a barrier to a Druid who wants to tank a raid”, they’re now removing the multiplier from these items.

  My initial reaction to that is not good. Of course it’s hard to get the necessary pieces to be an effective raid tank; it’s not for everybody. It’s what separates the wheat from the chaff. It’s the difference between a serviceable offtank and a dedicated raider. It’s not your birthright to tank the heavies, it’s something that must be paid for and earned. If you had to run Old Hillsbrad 6 times to get your Iron Band of the Unbreakable, then that is the price for glory. I ran Shadow Labyrinth FOURTEEN times to get that damned Lifebloom idol. It’s a tax to be paid, and stripes to be earned. It’s how you learn to master your class.

 How this is a boon, I don’t know. If I want to tank a raid, I’ll gear myself accordingly. Just like your Mage grabs a nice Fire Resist set to tank Krosh Firehand in the High King Maulgar event, Bears have specific mitigation gear for their needs too. Fun, different trinkets for variety? That’s called “Cat gear”, Blizz. No matter what, there will be specific trinkets that a raid tank is expected to use. Presently, the Badge of Tenacity is one of the more common ones. It provides consistency through a large boost to armor, and a great situational ability with a high +Dodge use. With this development, the likely trend is going to go towards the unreliable, items like Moroes’ Lucky Pocketwatch. Yes, it has a similar on-use effect as the Badge. What it doesn’t have is the consistent element. A stat like +Dodge may save your bacon in a fight. It may also happen that you fail to dodge that 6000 point hit when you’re sitting in a critical situation between heals at 5800 health, where armor mitigation would save you 100% of the time. As much as I enjoy an insane dodge percentage, tanking and mitigation is about the sure bet. If we should just leave everything to dodges, why not have Rogues tank? Because it’s stupid, that’s why. Unfortunately, Bears are trending more and more towards gimmicks at the expense of reliable consistency, and that’s what I can’t stomach.

  The loss of armor on Feral staves, I can’t even begin to fathom. For starters, these are DRUID SPECIFIC pieces. Sure, your Huntard can roll on Terestian’s Stranglestaff. Go ahead, I’ll laugh at you when you’re standing in line at the Auction House. That’s because the real power for it is clearly meant for Druids, and it’s obvious. Within this whole category of Druid 2-handers are several options which *clearly* trend towards Bear or Cat usage. Earthwarden, or Braxxis’ Staff of Slumber, or eventually the Wildfury Greatstaff or Pillar of Ferocity are Bear weapons. They have stats like Strength, Stamina, Dodge and Armor. Without question, these fail at Cat itemization. The attainability question comes into play, but it’s really a non-factor to me. Any Druid can get a Braxxis staff and drop an agility enchant on it, and that will allow you to tank an awful lot. The fools tank with the Staff of the Wild from the Ring of Blood, which offers far less mitigation. The bottom line is, there are Cat staves and there are Bear staves. It’s never been an issue that some work for one spec and some for others. No Cat wants to waste itemization on defensive statistics. No Bear wants to waste mitigation to gain offense, either. Sure, an armor capped Bear can afford to equip a Cat staff to prop up his dodge that much more – but this is a rare animal indeed. Acquiring enough pieces of gear that you can afford a non-tanking staff is flying right in the face of what they’re alluding to when they say that they’re removing “barriers”.

  Now, the same post states that this isn’t going to impact our net mitigation. As things are still in a state of flux, I’d like to believe that this is the case. How they’ll do it, using the base values of items that are already given – that is the question. The simple solution would be that the armor percentage from Dire Bear goes up, in some sort of collaboration with Thick Hide. Perhaps they raise the armor bonus from Thick hide to 10/20/30%, for instance. This may help to solve the raw armor number issues, but creates new problems. Blizz is on record multiple times as making changes to specs that deeply impact PvE, but are made due to inequity and exploitation in PvP. Placing a heavy amount of armor so early in the Feral tree, or making the base change to Dire Bear, is going to cause imbalance issues with Moonkin or (more likely) Resto and Hybrid specs who can access a core tanking talent so early. Thus, the likely solution is to beef up that talent and move it deeper into the talent tree, should it be the preferred means to an end. The other options would involve modifying the more gimmicky talents to somehow achieve the necessary mitigation. There are already too many changes made with PvP needs in mind, in my opinion. As a player who disdains PvP, this rankles me. It’s even worse because PvP, in my mind, should not be considered on par with PvE when making decisions. This is a PvE game with happy-funtime PvP distractions for those that choose to embrace that instead of raiding. It’s enough of an annoyance that PvP “welfare epics” are more effective in PvE than are hard-won raiding counterparts in PvP without the added insult of unadulterated chaos in the talent specs of raiding players.

  It’s an issue as it stands now because the armor numbers are taking enough repeated hits that they’re coming down to Warrior and Paladin numbers. This is unacceptable. Both of those classes have significant mitigation abilities outside of armor and dodge – and dodge coefficients have been lowered already. If I’m going to depend on armor, health and dodge for tanking, then they’d better all fall in line well above the numbers for classes with parry and block to compensate.

  Also, there is this issue, posted by Ghostcrawler on September 5:

  “As far as scaling is concerned, we’ve made great efforts to scale abilities so that upgrading your gear doesn’t totally change their effectiveness. Here’s the problem with Feral druids: because they have so few stats (in the sense that e.g. parry and spellpower aren’t important to Feral), it’s easy to focus on those stats. If those stats scale really well, then we run into problems where druids can either hit the caps or get such high numbers that the content starts to break. Once druids hit the armor cap in BC, they could start improving dps stats which would eventually have overshadowed other tanks in both mitigation and threat. When they stacked agility, agility and more agility, it just improved their tanking and damage really quickly.”

  By removing alternate ways to augment the primary mitigation driver in armor, you’re on a slippery slope. If the armor situation is addressed by augmenting talents like Thick Hide or Dire Bear, no matter how deep into the talent tree it gets, you’re placing the class in a position where minute changes in armor at a low level will see the heavy multipliers producing a great, and possibly overpowered, change at the end of the line. If you don’t add in the multipliers, you have Bears with armor values equal to Warriors and Paladins – which by no means fits the definition of equality among the tanking classes. In fact, with things as they stand, Bears are the very definition of that which Blizzard was hoping to avoid until they get to Naxxramas. Anyone between the level of 70-79 in Outlands isn’t going to be looking for a Bear to tank their instances unless it’s the only person they can dredge up, because the gear (what with the ultimate design for the talents being setup to provide parity at 80, supposedly) can’t possibly catch up to the level of the challenges by then. Things as they stand currently just aren’t set to jive with this “scaling” concept that they’re trumpeting so much in the blue posts, and they’re getting further and further from being in line with each passing post.

  In the end, I just can’t help but thinking that they’ve broken something that was fixed, and rather than revert back more towards the original design, they just keep breaking it more and putting it back together until it works again. What is the motivation for this? Are we attempting to make changes solely for the sake of change, so as to avoid any kind of a stale feeling over the next 2 or so years before another expansion? I’m admittedly pleased with the Restoration tree, and Feral Cats + Moonkins are looking like some very viable DPSers. Right now, though – and for the foreseeable future – Bears suck, and this make me a sad panda. Remember how tanking felt around level 34, 36 or so in a place like Scarlet Monastery before you got Dire Bear? That’s what we’ve become again. Please, quit stripping me of my tools to play my class and spec! It’s hard enough to find tanks anyways without nerfing the existing ones into the ground. I saw the other day that Galoheart at Ardent Defender is hanging it up because he’s fed up with his class and spec being screwed around with all of the time. if this is the kind of result that you’re looking for, grats. I’ll go out on a limb and guess that it isn’t, though… and that’s where the real changes need to happen. Quit removing the fun out of the individual classes! The model wasn’t so broken that simple changes to dodge coefficients and slightly reduced armor values wouldn’t have fixed it. Now? Let’s just say I’m waiting for the miracle. 

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