Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cooldowns 104: The Special Case

Baby bear! Looka them new duds! Wow those're shiny! Why what's that?! You have four whole pieces to tier 10! Guess what you got?!

Episode 4-I mean 10: A New Cooldown

The 4 piece tier 10 bonus is amazing. It takes one of your abilities, Enrage, and turns it from a double-edged sword into a shiny light from parted clouds and something you want for both offensive and defensive purposes.

Enrage has a base effect of giving you rage at the cost of reduced armor for as long as the effect is active. Once you put on that last piece of tier 10, though, all of a sudden... you get rage! You get reduced damage! You get a NEW CAR! Wait, no, scratch that car bit. But the rest is true.

Once you have 4t10, Enrage gets a lot more useful. I don't have 4t10 yet, but when I do, I'm pretty sure I'm gonna start every pull with it and probably blow it in conjunction with Barkskin and sometimes I will get enraged when I'm sitting on my bench in the north bank. Essentially, since it's a relatively short cooldown at a minute, it's worth blowing it every chance you get.

If you don't have 4t10, then here's how I get around the reduced armor: I hit enrage, and then wait 8 of the 10 seconds the effect is active. The extra 2 seconds give me a chance to get in and do the pull and start the fight while I still have all the rage I'm gonna get, and with all the armor returned from the effect falling off just before I get punched in the face. Small thing, but I like details.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Cooldowns 103: Turning a Glass Jaw Into a Granite Skull

See that mob? He sees you. He sees you rollin'. He hatin'. Which is exactly what you want! Excellent. So you hate right back. You've got him mad, so mad! And all of a sudden, all that mad.... well, he learns how to punch you in the head REALLY, REALLY HARD.

This is where you scream "Oh God My FACE!!"

First, let's take a look at defensive cooldowns. These are the cooldowns that will keep you alive. In every bear's toolkit, there are a whole bunch of little things that are powerful on their own, but when used in the right combinations, make you utterly unkillable.

Frenzied Regeneration is an ability that works like a warrior's Bloodrage, except in reverse. Meaning, it takes rage you have, and converts it into health. This ability is best used when you have plenty of rage, as it won't make health from nothing.

Survival Instincts raises your max HP by 30%, and raise your current HP to proportionally the same value. When the effect ends, the "bonus" HP is lost, but your current HP stays the same, unless it is over your normal max HP value, at which point it will just become your max HP.

Barkskin reduces the damage you take by 30% and also takes away spell pushback. Since bears don't cast spells, the pushback doesn't matter for us too much. But, the 30% damage reduction is great.

Those are the talent cooldowns in your toolbox in bear form. There are more cooldowns to think about though, in addition to these.

Potions! Bears should eat Indestructible Potion like they're candy. Because they are candy. Delicious, bear-food flavoured candy. Indestructible potion increases armor by 3500 for 2 whole minutes.

Healthstones! If you have a warlock in your party you must make them give you candies. All the time. Don't worry, they're used to it. A healthstone, realistically, gives you the option of popping an indestructible potion and a health potion at the same time.

Trinkets!! Trinkets are very important, because most of the higher-end trinkets have a use ability that will either increase armor, increase dodge, heal you, or something else useful. When blowing cooldowns, it's best to use a trinket with a combination of other cooldowns so that its effect is best enhanced.

If you're an herbalist, you get one last cooldown to play with: Lifeblood. Lifeblood is a self-cast HoT that doesn't break bear form. At rank 6, it heals for 3500... but that increases in proportion to your maximum health. So it stays about as powerful, no matter how geared you get.

Now, there's a few options for using cooldowns. There's the "use every single one as soon as you can" philosophy, which will make you look like you're just naturally super OP. Another one is to write a couple of long "oh shit" macros, one, two, or three... depending on how many times you anticipate needing them. Another is to communicate with your primary healer intensively, and use your cooldowns in conjunction with theirs, which effectively makes your cooldown toolbox that much bigger. I'm a macroer. Here are the macros I wrote to blow my cooldowns in 2 separate buttons: one blows all my cooldowns that up my mitigation, and one blows all my self-heal cooldowns. I'm an herbalist, so I have lifeblood, so, if you want to use my macros and aren't an herbalist, just take the lifeblood line out.

My macros are:

/cast indestructible potion
/cast barkskin
/cast survival instincts
/use 13
/s can't touch me!

/cast Fel Healthstone
/cast Lifeblood
/cast Frenzied Regeneration
/use 14

I put the /s and /y lines in to make sure to let my healer know I've done a little bit to try and make it easier on them, either because I know a lot of damage is incoming, or they need to concentrate on keeping either my offtank or the rest of the raid up through lots of AoE.

So that's defensive cooldowns. As a tank you really only have one offensive cooldown, which is Berserk. This causes your Mangle to have no cooldown, and makes your mangle hit 3 targets instead of just one. I like to use this when we bloodlust, because mangle is the highest-threat move I have, so it gives me a little bit easier a time hold threat against a bunch of bloodlusted dps.

And that's about what I have to say about that.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Bear Gear 102: The Fashion Police

Ok so, a baby bear steps into the room and goes all out to town. There's Feral Faerie Fire flyin' around, faces are getting mangled, there's blood pouring out of miscellaneous lacerations all over the place, things should be good right? Except, why is baby bear getting smushed in the face? BEAR FACES ARE HARD LIKE ROCKS! Baby bear! You're whiffing all your moves! What is going on here?!

The healer for baby bear takes a look and Oh. My. God. Baby bear has mixed stripes with polka dots, there's even a pair of purple shoes in there. This will not do. It's time for the fashion police!!

Every Mob is Crazy 'Bout a Sharp-Dressed Bear

Bears get the benefit of a relatively straightforward stat list and priority chain. Essentially, for now, it goes: Stamina > Agility > Expertise > Hit > AP > all that other stuff. Stamina maintains a slight priority over agility, but it's fairly close, at least, as far as I'm concerned. Which brings me to an important point: Stam vs. Agi is a hotly debated thing in the bear world. Here's what I've dug up as to why so far.

The Agility first camp says that effective health is more important than straight health pool. If you're not familiar with what effective health means, I found you a nice doober about it. Free calculator included! Basically, effective health is how long you can go without a heal when something is punching you in the face really really hard. Now, since agility contributes to armor, dodge, and crit, it's giving you a powerful meal deal of mitigation. Armor will make the hits hurt less, dodge makes the hits land less, and crit means you get to proc savage defense more. Bear bubbles are kinda fun, after all. People in the agility camp figure that since us bears have so much health just from straight gear, we gotta gem, enchant and buff agility and nothing but. The thought goes, what good is 80k hp when one punch from that rotten guy over there takes away 30k of it?

The stam camp says, listen you guys we were designed to be soaker tanks who just eat punches in the face because we can. Who cares if we're getting hit for 20k on a regular basis? We can have 100k health pools! Screw mitigation! Our enormous butts are our mitigation! Since stamina gives us health, and we need health, we need stam stam eggs and stam eggs bacon and stam-- wait, no... wrong reference.

I personally fall in the middle of these two camps, with a slight preference to stamina. I've tried both extremes, and I see advantages to both. So what I generally do when I'm deciding on an upgrade is I'll take a higher stam piece if I don't lose agility, or if I lose only a little bit that I can make up for with gems or enchants. I will gem to fit a socket bonus of 8 or more stamina or agility. I enchant almost exclusively agility, and gem mainly for stamina. This balance makes me a threat monster that's hard to punch into the ground, but doesn't leave me dead if something DOES manage to punch me.

But wait, there's more! Let's talk tier bonuses. The 4t10 bonus is the greatest bonus ever given to bears. It takes Enrage from being a double-edged sword to being a beam of sunlight from the recently-parted clouds. Now, technically, raw stat-wise, the basic tier 10 doesn't stack up against the off-tier badge stuff you can get, but that does not matter. That bonus is worth it. Druids are a cooldown-based class (and I'll ramble about that more later) so getting another mechanic to abuse is awesome! However, if you have any shot at the little statue things to upgrade your tier 10, then do it. Best of both worlds, right? I'm aiming for gloves, shoulders, head and chest (but I'm not quite there yet) for my bonus. Then I've got the ICC crafted boots and I'm getting the pants to match them. Everything else I have picked up where I can. I'm not going to make loot lists. Those are long and boring and there's plenty of sites who do that way better than I ever could. But, when considering and upgrade, your main focus should be on improving stamina or agility, or, ideally, both. Everything else is kind of a bonus. Badge gear and tier gear is usually a nice safe bet, and while defense rating is not optimal, don't turn down a piece just because it has some defense on it. But don't take away a tin can tank's parry item. That's just mean.

That's what I got to say about that.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bear Threat 101: The Basics

The inspiration for this post comes from the amazing wow_ladies community on livejournal, where I find myself often commenting on posts from other bear tanks asking for tips on threat maximisation, gearing, gemming, rotations, macros, and so on. I noticed after the seventh or eighth time that I was basically putting together the same words in the same order every time, and since it's long, I figure hey, I'm gonna make it into a nice, short, concise link format.

Part the First: What The HELL AM I DOING?!

I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING! DOES IT LOOK LIKE THIS?! First off, let's just establish that the mainstays of your bear rotation are: Feral Faerie Fire, Feral Charge, Lacerate, Mangle, Swipe and Maul.

Depending on the way you want your pull to be set up, your opener will either be Feral Faerie Fire (FFF) or FFF and Feral Charge together on most pulls. There's other, more elaborate pulls, but we'll get there later. Basically, if you want to drag the mobs to you, then you're going to be just hitting FFF and waiting for them to come say hello. If you want to bring the fight to them, you hit FFF and Feral charge together and go be annoying to them.

Once you've got a mob or seven in your face, now is where you start up with the rest of those mainstay abilities. Your tactics will change a little depending on the nature of the fight.

For trash pulls, especially large ones, you're going to want to start with a mangle on your main target, and then swipe a little, and your main priority is going to be tab targeting around to get mangles all over the place, swiping constantly, and getting your delicious glyphed maul to hit as many of them jerks as you possibly can. Throw mangle at something every time it's off cooldown, and just swipe and mangle until the AoE kills off the pack.

For a trash pull where there's a kill order and relatively few mobs, what I'll do is charge in, FFF one, growl at another, mangle a third and then do the same tab target dance as a truly trash pack. But, I'm going to apply mangle to my first and second targets, then concentrate on each kill target as the previous dies. When I'm concentrated on a mob, I'm doing the same thing as I would for a real live boss:

When you're pulling a real live boss, you pull them whichever way you like best, then you're going to immediately mangle, then lacerate, then lacerate again until mangle comes off cooldown, then lacerate some more, until you have a full 5 stack of lacerate. At that point you gain a whole lot of wiggle room. Because a full-out bear rotation, just like everything else, is not so much a fixed rotation as it is a set of priorities based on which move dishes out the most threat per application. Your priority will go: Mangle, Lacerate/Swipe, FFF. Once you've got a 5 stack of lacerate going, the math starts to get a little fuzzy, and lacerate will give about the same threat as a swipe will. This is useful to know for bosses with adds, or bosses like the Blood Prince Council where you might end up tanking two bosses at the same time. In essence what I try to do is alternate lacerate with swipe once the lacerate stack is full, and swap it out with FFF if I notice I'm getting close to the end of mangle's cooldown. Why? Because FFF has a shorter GCD than all your other abilities, so if you FFF in the last second of mangle's cooldown, it will spend less time off cooldown and not being used.

Please note, everything stated above assumes you're either manually queueing up maul at every single possible moment, or you have maul macroed into your other offensive abilities. I'm a macroer, I macro maul to damn nearly everything. Here's the macro I use:

/cast Ability
/cast !Maul

You just have to swap the name of your ability in with the word Ability, and choose the little black icon with the red question mark on it to show the ability. The line /startattack has a nifty little side effect: it will target the closest mob if you aren't targeting anything, which makes switching targets easier mid fight. The exclamation mark in front of maul means it won't unqueue maul if it's already queued. I macro maul into my mangle, lacerate and swipe abilities, but not my FFF, as I have personally seen a couple of glitches happen where a los pull won't happen because of it. I'm not entirely sure why, and that doesn't seem to happen to everyone, but hey, try it out and see for yourself.

When tanking, don't ever forget Gift of the Wild or Thorns. GotW will give you a boost to all stats, including stam and agi, your threat and survival stats, and thorns will double your threat output. Well, ok, not really double it, but it will certainly bring it up, and here's why: Thorns generates threat based on the mob hitting you, not you hitting the mob. So, if you hit the mob and the mob hits you at exactly the same time, you gain threat from punching the crap out of the mob, and then you gain threat again from scratching the mob's fist on your angry, angry thorns.

Those are pretty much the basics. I got more macros for doing gimmicky stuff, more other macros for blowing cooldowns, and other random advice to give, but those belong in other posts for ease of reference, so let's just call these basics covered.