EDIT: This article has been updated for patch 3.3 and Icecrown content. Please click here to see a guide to gearing a bear druid as of May 2010.
My main spends most of her time tanking, so I have a little more experience with the gear on this list as opposed to others. Dan O'Halloran will be writing a guide to gearing a Cat Druid next week, and with that we'll be rounding up pre-raid gear for all 4 specs.
As with our entry on pre-raid Restoration gear at 80 and our entry on pre-raid Balance gear at 80, this guide assumes that you do not presently have access to either 10-man or 25-man raids, and if I miss any piece that you've found helpful, please drop a comment and I'll make sure it gets added. I should also add that this gear set presumes you are gearing your bear tank with an eye toward main-tanking in raids and/or tanking the more difficult heroics. If you're mostly DPSing or off-tanking, please feel free to swap in more DPS-oriented pieces prioritizing +hit and +crit over +expertise, +dodge, and stamina. Before we get any further, some helpful links:
- Toskk's Bear Tank Time-To-Live Method, allowing you to look at upgrades from the context of your present set of gear and calculate how long you can go without healing assuming different talents and items.
- ThinkTank on pre-raid gear: While I don't think that Kalon's been able to update this for patch 3.0.8 yet and he weights items a little differently than I do, this is a terrific list. He'll also give you a much better sense of just how good PvP gear is right now (much to my everlasting annoyance concerning arena).
- Rawr: Use it. Know it. Love it.
- Big Bear Butt on +hit, +expertise, and +dodge conversion and numbers that you will need at 80.
As stated on our previous guides, this is how I'm organizing gear:
Best overall: If there's one piece that's just better than anything else you can get, I'll have it listed here. Most of these will cost you Emblems of Heroism, a truckload of gold, or a hideous amount of honor, however.
Best drop/s: Self-explanatory, the best (typically heroic) 5-man drops you can get.
Best quest piece: Also self-explanatory, but fair warning -- if you're looking to get most of your pieces outside of 5-mans, many of the quests rewarding the best pieces are linked to dungeons or group quests.
Best faction piece: If a quartermaster offers a usable piece, it'll be here. You'll get convenience at the cost of having to deal with pieces that are usually a dog's breakfast of stats, though.
Runner-up: This is kind of a catch-all term for good, usable, or even excellent pieces you can get by other means. If there's a blue or epic BoE piece floating around the AH, or a workhorse 5-man drop you can also use, it'll be here. Some of the pieces in the runner-up slot may seem odd for inclusion there (e.g. epics like raid BoE's), but as far as I'm concerned, if it's going to cost you a ton of gold to get them, they are firmly optional. You do not need to be equipped in full epics to raid as long as you're not lazy about enchants and gems.
Enchant: Just in case you have any gold left after gearing up.
EDIT: An incorrect build was previously linked here -- the link has now been fixed.
A quick word about PvP gear: if you wind up with any of the Savage, Hateful, or especially Deadly pieces, you're probably fine to use those in lieu of some of the gear here, particularly Hateful or Deadly. Hateful is i-level 200, Deadly is i-level 213, which is equivalent to 10-man and 25-man raid loot respectively. If you're using a lot of PvP gear, the main difference you'd note between a PvE-geared and PvP-geared bear would be threat generation. PvE gear is much better for this, and I suspect that's because most of the stat allocation for resilience on PvP gear is coming out of attack power.
Would this be a problem early on? Probably not. Between 70 and 80, or while gearing DPS at 80, you are unlikely to encounter threat issues. But you will have to work harder, particularly in 5-mans, to maintain threat as your DPS gets gear. People who scoff and say you don't have obviously never tried tanking for trigger-happy Naxx-25 Mages specced into Hot Streak. God, I hate that talent.
And before anyone asks, yes, you can get the Polar Set made, socket it full of stamina or other goodies, and use it to tank until something else drops, but it's generally not a good idea to use it for all-purpose tanking in the long term because your avoidance will be abysmal and your healers will hate you. Healers who hate you often "forget" to press their Guardian Spirit buttons while Sartharion charges up a 70,000 damage Flame Breath.
Best overall: Titan-Forged Leather Helm of Triumph, available for 40 Wintergrasp marks. As much as it absolutely kills me to say this and I am at my computer dying a slow, painful death, this is an extraordinarily good i-level 200 helm and it isn't light-years behind the best raid piece, Hood of the Exodus from Naxx-25.
Best drop: Mask of the Watcher, from the cache of Eregos in heroic Oculus, or Shroud of Darkness off Zuramat the Obliterator in heroic Violet Hold.
Best quest piece: Headguard of Retaliation, from the quest Vengeance Be Mine! in Utgarde Pinnacle.
Best faction piece: n/a.
Runner-up: Eviscerator's Facemask, a Leatherworking BoE.
Enchant: Arcanum of the Stalwart Protector, available at revered with the Argent Crusade.
Meta: For almost every situation you'll want the Austere Earthsiege Diamond. However, if you're one of the many Druids now tanking Sartharion with 3 drakes up for your guild, try to find a Jewelcrafter with the Effulgent Skyflare Diamond recipe. However, fair warning: a tester on EJ found that the Effulgent Skyflare may not quite work the way we thought it did...
Best overall: Titanium Earthguard Chain, a Jewelcrafting BoE.
Best drop: Shadowseeker's Pendant, off Jedoga Shadowseeker in heroic Ahn'kahet, or Amulet of Wills, off Sjonnir the Ironshaper in normal Halls of Stone.
Best quest piece: Betrayer's Choker, from the quest Betrayal in Zul'drak, but this is a relatively early piece.
Best faction piece: n/a.
Runner-up: Chained Military Gorget, available for 25 emblems of heroism. Since the changes to bear armor contribution from non-leather/cloth items went live, the Gorget and the Earthguard Chain are now a lot closer to each other. In a pinch, try the AH for the world drop BoE Torta's Oversized Choker.
Best overall: Trollwoven Spaulders, a Leatherworking BoE.
Best drop: Sprinting Shoulderpads, off Elder Nadox in heroic Ahn'kahet, or Spaulders of the Careless Thief off Grand Magus Telestra in heroic Nexus.
Best quest piece: Shoulderpads of Fleshwerks, from the quest The Flesh Giant Champion in Icecrown, or Charred Leather Shoulderguards, from the quest Diametrically Opposed in Halls of Lightning.
Best faction piece: Not amazing for bears, but in a pinch you can use Spaulders of Frozen Knives, available at honored with the Sons of Hodir.
Runner-up: Eviscerator's Shoulderpads, a Leatherworking BoE, or you can try the AH off the very unlikely chance that a Naxx-25 guild is selling the raid BoE Spaulders of Egotism.
Enchant: Greater Inscription of the Pinnacle, available at exalted with the Sons of Hodir. If you have at least 400 Inscription, you'll want Master's Inscription of the Pinnacle instead.