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:
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.