Druid Tanking

By Boro, Night Elf Druid, EU Twisting Nether and Athinira, Tauren Druid, EU Ravencrest
Updates by Astrylian, Night Elf Druid, US Kilrogg

With this article we will try to give a comprehensive guide on what druid tanking is and how you can tank the most efficient.

“The Tank’s job is to get aggro, the team’s job is to let him keep it.”

Aggro and Threat

To be a good Druid tank you first need to know what tanking actually means. And especially what Aggro and Threat is. Aggro in its simplest form is having the mob or boss on you. Threat (also called hate), is a cumulative total each mob builds up over time that determines who the mob aggroes on. Threat is generated only by people the mob or boss is aware of. You get aware by a mob when you start doing damage, cast a heal or (de)buff a person the mob is already aware of. Each threat someone generates is cumulative, it adds up and it doesn't decay over time. Healing generates 50% of what is being healed. Meaning, if you heal a person for 1000 hp, you generated 500 threat. Only the healer generates the threat, not the one that is being healed. Damage done to a mob or boss generates 100% threat. If you melee a mob for 500 damage, you generate 500 threat. However, alot of classes have an innate threat reduction. For example, a druids catform has a innate threat reduction of 29%. So the above 500 damage done would generate (500-(500 * 0,29)), 355 threat in catform. Different classes have different ways of reducing or increasing the amount of threat they generate. Besides generating threat from healing and doing damage, you can also generate threat from gaining rage. This corresponds to 5 threat per point of rage.

So you can say that a mob or boss has a threat table. A table that shows how much threat every member of a party or raid has build up on that particular mob. The one that is on top of that table is the usually one that has aggro. Aggro is sticky, which means the mob stays on the one at the top of the threat list and will not switch aggro to a new target until it has 110% of the current target's threat if in melee range or 130% if outside melee range. Pulling a mob or boss with a so called body-pull generates no threat, but it will put yourself on its threat list and until you deal any threat to the mob, someone else can pull aggro by doing anything that generates threat. So its wise to have a tank do the initial pulling or have a feigning or misdirecting hunter do it.

Druid Threat Mechanics

You can find an explanation of druid threat mechanics here.

Importance of Assisting

Its more then common that you will be tanking multiple mobs at the same time in World of Warcraft. It is important for the druid tank to build up threat on each of the mobs that have to be tanked so that it will give him aggro from all of them. When that is done, its the team's job to let the tank keep aggro on the mobs. Because its fairly difficult to maintain aggro on larger groups of 3 or more mobs it is important that the tank knows on which mob people will generate the most threat on. This way the tank can generate more threat on that particular mob so the DPS classes can kill it as fast as possible, while the warrior only need to generate sufficient threat on the other mobs so that the healer(s) doesn't get aggro from them.

Assisting is therefor very important in a party or raid. It gives the tank better insight on which mobs to generate the most threat on while DPS takes it down and still generate enough threat on the other mobs so they don't run to the healers. Thats why its preferable that hunters don't use multi-shot right after the tank has pulled the group of mobs or that any other class does AoE damage to early on. If you are a tank in a party or a raid and you see people do these kind of mistakes then tell them to wait with the AoE, multi-shot, chain lightning etc until you have build up sufficient threat on all of the mobs.

To ensure everybody is assisting the same mob at the same time you can either say before the pull in which order the dps have to take down the mobs or you can use the build in Icons blizzard implemented so you can mark up each and every mob. You can just tell the DPS to first kill the Skull then Square, Coin, Cross, etc. If you can not set those icons because you are not leader of the party or assistant of the raid, ask for it. It will greatly improve the total performance of your party or raid and at the end they will be greatfull to you for doing such a good job. Assisting is one of the most important tasks of a party or raid to do.

Let's Tank

Now that you know and understand how threat and aggro works and that you instructed your party or raid on how to assist on the various mobs, you can start with the actual tanking. It is important however that your party or raid knows exactly what to do, how to assist, when to attack etc, before you proceed.

Single mob or Boss Tanking
Tanking a single mob or a boss is maybe the easiest thing to do as tanking with a druid, but that doesn't mean you don't have to concentrate. Especially before bosses I would enrage before you pull the boss. This way you got around 30 rage to start with so you can immediately start off with some attacks. Don't pull the boss yet while you still got the enrage buff on you. It lowers your armor and thus you will receive higher damage. Just enrage and wait till it almost fades out and then pull the boss with Faerie Fire(Feral). At the same time press your Maul button. This way when the boss gets into your melee range it will deal out an instant Maul, which you can follow with an instant Mangle. This will give you some nice threat to begin with. After that use Demoralizing Roar. This will reduce the amount of damage you will recieve. After these 3 ability's, your party or raid usually start DPSing, so its important you keep yourself nr. 1 on the threat list of the boss.

Since The Burning Crusade is released druids have a new ability that generates threat. Lacerate is our new ability to build us up more threat. It is usually at this point of the fight you will start applying Lacerate. Between the Mangle's you can apply Lacerate. It gives an innate threat when applying. It has a damage over time component as well, but the damage gives threat an insignificant amount of threat (20% of damage). Do not just stack it to 5 and then refresh it, keep spamming it constantly between Mangles. If you have extra rage, you can use Maul as well, however be careful not to drain your rage and not have enough for the next Mangle. Mangling every 6 sec should be your highest priority.

After this it mostly comes down to keeping every debuff on the boss. Reapply Faerie Fire when the cooldown is over (ragefree threat), Demo Roar when its about to run out and in the meantime keep on chaining Mangle when the cooldown is over, and Lacerate between the Mangles. If you got enough rage to spare you can also put in some Mauls for extra threat building. If you do this and you got the proper gear, there is very little chance you will loose aggro on that target.

3-mobs Tanking
Tanking multiple mobs at the same times requires quite some concentration and help from your party members. It is always best to build up a few seconds of threat before the DPS start their damage dealing. So tell the party or raid when to attack the main target. You can either tell it in party or raid chat or you can tell them to start DPS after 3-5 sec. This means you say you have build enough threat on all the mobs so DPS can go all out on the main target.

Just like at the boss pull, I suggest you enrage before you pull. It is always best to pull a mob or a group of mobs when you got rage. Without rage you can't do anything. When you got sufficient rage you can start pulling the group of mobs by casting Faerie Fire on the mob that the DPS classes will have to kill first. Just like with Boss tanking press Maul when the mobs are coming to you, this will grant you an instant maul when they are in melee range. Start with Swipe, this will give generate threat on all 3 mobs followed with a Demo Roar. At this point the mobs are hitting you which gives you more rage to use more ability's. Cast a mangle on the main mob again followed by more swipes. At this point, DPS can begin on the primary target. Your attack rotation should be identical to single mob tanking, except with Lacerates replaced with Swipes. Keep in mind that for most bears, Lacerate will do significantly (hugely for 64-69 lvl bears, and bears just beginning the 70 instances) more threat than Swipe to the primary target, so your overall threat generation against the primary target will be slightly lower. After several Swipes to ensure that the other 2 mobs don't go for the healer or any stray dps, you can switch to lacerates on the primary target if you feel you need the extra threat.

When the DPS target is almost dead (5-10%) switch to the second mob that the DPS will have to kill. You will start generating more threat on that one so that DPS can just go all out on it and kill it as fast as possible. Always make sure you keep Demo Roar up, Swipe as much as possible between Mangles.

4-mobs or more Tanking
You can tank more then 3 mobs at a time, but this is not desirable because it only complicates the situation. To hold aggro on 4 mobs or more you pretty much start like you would with tanking 3 mobs. Only now you gotta Tab between mobs alot more to keep aggro on them all. Just like always, assisting is very important here, so talk before the pull to your party or raid on what the order of kill is. While tabbing through all the mobs, Swipe while returning to the main target to thrown in a maul and mangle.

However, its not desirable you tank more then 3 mobs at the same time. If you got classes in your party or raid that can crowd control, use them. More of that in the next section.

Control: Less is More

All nice and well you can tank 3 mobs or even more at the same time. But if you have members in your party or raid that can crowd control, use them! Fewer mobs you to deal with means more control you have over the situation. More control means less chance of something going wrong and your group will do better overall. So whenever you have the ability to crowd control mobs, do it! Maybe you don't find the need much in 5 man instances, but when you start doing Heroic dungeons crowd control comes more and more important.

Just like assisting, tell your party or raid what they have to control. Ask to be party leader and put icons above the mobs and identify what the symbols should represent. For example: Skull is first kill, Coin is sheep, Square is banish, Cross is Sleep, etc. Just assign each icon to a crowd controller. They are then responsible for keeping that mob controlled until you're ready to deal with it. It's also important to set up a kill order in advance so the party or raid knows what mob you're going to attack next. Some methods of crowd control can't be reapplied, like Sap (and Freezing Trap, to some extent - unless you're partied with a Survival hunter). So killing those mobs is more important then killing the mob that is being sheeped or shackled, because those can easily be reapplied. A recommended order to take down Crowd Controlled mobs would be Sap, Trap (non-survivalist), Seduce, Trap (survivalist), then finally Polymorph/Banish/Hibernate/Shackle, ordered by ease of re-application of crowd control.

When tanking in a crowd controlled situation you need to be very sharp and look around you to see what the status of each crowd controlled (CC) mob is. When the CC runs out you have to be quick to intercept the mob and make sure you are tanking it because that mob will go after the person that cast the spell, so you may need to rush to their aid. Don't be too quick to pick up CC'd mobs, especially when dealing with Freezing Trap; a common method for Hunters to chain-trap is to pull the mob to themselves with shots in such a way that they pass over the trap, move some distance away, and then lay another trap and wait for the first to break. The mob will still have the most threat for the Hunter and will run right to him over the trap already in place. If that mob reaches your squishie due to resists and commences with the beating, then it may be advisable to Charge over and pick it up, but it will just make them mad if you break their CC due to excessive haste.

Always have Growl ready so you can force the mob to attack you while you start increasing your threat level on him. You don't have that much time to build up threat so you gotta make sure you have enough rage to do a Maul + Mangle combination. This usually provides enough threat to lock the mob onto you while you load up Lacerates. Also tell your party or raid in advance to give you a few seconds after a CC breaks to build up threat, as it is far more efficient to wait a few seconds before beginning DPS than to play tag with an enraged beastie and scream obscenities at the tank.

Tanking Talents

Not all druids can tank end-game instances; you need the right talents for it to work. As a druid you'll need to be feral spec in order to be a successful tank. Below is a list of the most vital druid tanking talents. Each talent is given a rating between 1 and 5, depending on how important they are for optimal tanking.

  • Feral Aggression (+40% on Demo Roar) | 1/5 in 5 man content, 4/5 in raids, 1/5 if you have a warrior/lock applying Demo Shout/Curse of Weakness
  • Thick Hide (+10% armor) | 5/5 - since Druids cannot block or parry we rely solely on huge amounts of armor, health, and dodge to mitigate incoming damage.
  • Feral Instinct (+15% threat) | 5/5
  • Feral Charge (ability) | 5/5
  • Feral Swiftness (+4% dodge) | 4/5 in 5 man content, 5/5 in raids - again, because we cannot block or parry, our sole avoidance trait is dodge.
  • Sharpened Claws + LotP (+11% crit) | 5/5
  • Primal Fury (+5 rage on crit) | 5/5
  • Faerie Fire (Feral) (Armor debuff and ranged pulling) | 2/5 for Overall tanking, but should be taken because of flexibility in pulling and added damage and threat.
  • Heart of the Wild (increased stamina) | 5/5
  • Survival of the Fittest (3% more stamina/agility/strength + 3% less chance to get critted) | 5/5
  • Primal Tenacity (stun/fear resistance) | 2/5 if you don't have Predatory Instinct, 1/5 if you have Predatory Instinct
  • Improved LotP (selfheal on crits) | 4/5 in both raids and 5 man content. This talent is easily overlooked, but its in fact one of the most awesome tanking talents there is. In a heroic, the amount of self-healing on a longer pull is amazing, and in raids, its basically an extension of your HP by 600 every time you crit. Even if you aren't the one tanking, say you're DPSing in Cat form, your tank will benefit from your aura.
  • Predatory Instinct (More damage on crits, AOE avoidance) | 5/5 - this helps us tank AoE spamming bosses.
  • Mangle (ability) | 5/5, amazing agro generation, complements Lacerate like they were made for each other
  • Naturalist (more damage/threat) | 4/5 - Resto talent
  • Omen of Clarity (Clearcasting) | 4/5 in 5 man content, 3/5 in raids - Resto talent
  • Intensity (more rage with Enrage) | 2/5 - Resto talent

Note that for standard 5 man tanking, the talents above that improved your ability to generate threat (crit, damage, general threat increase) is the most important talents, mitigation ain't that important. Once you move on to raiding or Heroic Instances, talents that improved your damage avoidance and mitigation becomes much more important (Thick Hide, Feral Swiftness, etc.). The list has now been updated if the talents change value when going from 5 man content to raids.

With the above list you can come up with a couple of different talents speccs that you can tank with. Two examples could be:
0/47/14 - One of the strongest tanking spec available for druids
2/45/14 - Cat/Bear combi spec with a few PvP options included

Tanking Stats

As a tank it's very important you have the proper gear for it. The more damage you take, the more healing you will require; the more mana a healer has to use on you, the faster they'll run out of mana, and once they're out of mana it's game over. Minimizing your damage intake via a combination of mitigation and avoidance should be your primary aim.

The first thing you want to attain as a druid tank is to "crit immunity". This means that critical hits are pushed off the attack table, meaning a mob will be unable to critically hit you, which is very desirable especially in heroic instances as well as raid content. To reach crit immunity you will need 475 defense skill. This is quite a lot. However Druids have a talent (Survival of the Fittest) that reduces the chance of being critically hit by 3%; if you have this talent you will only need 415 defense to reach crit immunity. If you have some resilience gear you will need less defense skill, but defense skill also grants dodge chance and chance to be missed. Level 70 mobs and bosses have a base crit chance of 5%. Most raid bosses are level 73 and thus have correspondingly higher critical chance, meaning you will need more crit avoidance to become immune. Monsters have a weaponskill of (5 * Level), giving a level 73 boss a weapon skill of 365, giving him 3 * 0,2 = 0,6% increased chance of getting a critical strike. Hence you need 5,6% reduced crit chance when tanking level 73 mobs/bosses. When you put your tanking gear together, make sure that together with the Survival of the Fittest talent and Defense and Resilience rating you end up with at least 5,6% less chance of being critted. This will make you immune to crits in PvE.

Now that you have made sure you can't be critted, you gotta make sure you take less damage from the normal hits. More armor is the key to that. The more armor you have, the less damage you will take. I suggest you get a minimum of 20k armor if you want to be serious in tanking heroics and starting Kara. More is always better until you reach what is known as the damage reduction cap - at 35,880 armor you will be unable to improve the level of damage mitigation you have.

Armor won't help you against spell damage however, so having a large pool of health points is also very desirable. It also gives your healers more room to heal, and a relaxed healer is a good healer. 12k HP is the recommended minimum for heroic instances or starting Kara. It can be done with less, but more health means your healers have lots of time to react, which is vital.

Besides being crit-immune, having alot of armor and health, you will also need to be able to avoid hits all together. It is nice that your armor will decrease the amount of damage you take, but it is still damage that your healers need to heal up. With enough dodge you can avoid melee damage to a certain degree. If you dodge a lot of attacks your healers will have to heal less, meaning their mana will last longer. The downside of high dodge is that you generate no rage from hits that you dode, and you can't maintain high threat with no rage. So if you dodge so many attacks that you don't have enugh rage to hold aggro on all the mobs, remove some dodge items and replace them with high stamina or armor items. If you have no problems with rage then more dodge is very welcome. 30% dodge is a good starting amount for Heroics and Kara. Agility should be your primary source of dodge. Even pure dodge rating provides less dodge than agility. Agility also increases your crit, which will increase your threat.

The above stats are primary to reduce the amount of damage you receive. In order to hold aggro and generate enough threat on all the mobs you are tanking, you will need to do damage to all the mobs. To do that you need some decent Attack Power and Crit. Crit also gives you additional rage if you got the Primal Fury talent. Both are aspects of druid tanking you shouldn't be neglecting. If you can't keep aggro on all the mobs while doing all the ability's described in the previouse sections you might need to hit harder (or your party/raid didn't do exactly as what you told them to do :P). If it is the first, then you might need to get more items with Attack Power, Strength and/or Agility.

Addons / Interface Tips

When you are tanking, whether its in 5 man instances or in 10-25 man raids, its always good to have a good overview of your party/raid. A way to increase that overview for you as a tank is by using some addons that give you more information over what is happning around you. Some usefull addons and interface settings that can help you while tanking:

  • Press 'V' when you are tanking multiple mobs. This will show a mobs healthbar above their head, so you can see which mobs are being DPSed or are low on health.
  • Enabled Target of Target in the interface menu or use a Unitframe addon like ag_Unitframes or X-Perl. This will show you what the mob you are tanking is targeting. Easy way to see if you need to growl or not.
  • Natur Enemycastbar - Shows duration of debuffs (faerie fire, demo shout, lacerate, mangle, etc) aswell as what your target is casting (spells or ability's)
  • BigWigs Bossmod - Gives important information about raidbosses during the fight.
  • TauntWarn - This mod will let others know when your growl has resisted by a mob or boss.
  • Omen Threat Meter - Addon that shows the threat list of a mob or boss. Very recommend to have the whole raid have this addon.

Optimizing Your Bear Gear

Rawr is a program to help you optimize and play with your bear gear. Check out its page here on the wiki, for details.