Back during The Burning Crusade, I knew an extremely disgruntled warrior tank (not Matthew Rossi) who was generally mad at the world about everything (again, not Rossi) and considered the universe to be implacably biased against his good self (may I repeat, not Rossi). While summoning raid members to Tempest Keep one evening, we were having a nice chat, by which I mean grousing about the hassle of tanking Al'ar in the age of the missable taunt.
"&%*," he said. "Bears have it so easy. I have to &%($*% macro Shield Block to every $#$(%* ability in my &%()#@ action bar so I don't get ^%$(#( crushed. Not like you. You just sit there and ^%*#%( live through everything."
"I'm sorry," I said, although I wasn't really. I envied warriors for many reasons, but Shield Block spam was not among them, and I was privately glad that despite the bear's many issues, I didn't have to keep hammering one button every few seconds just to stay alive.
(Beta players are already reaching for the Valium. They know where this is going.)
I'm not yet in the Mists of Pandaria beta, but while reading through the news emerging from the servers, I had to spare a thought for my Angry Warrior Tank friend of yesteryear and how &%#(%* pleased he'd be to hear that we now know his #$^@%# pain.
What's the new tanking model? The basic idea is that we attack to generate rage, and then spend rage on survivability skills. For example, Mangle gives us rage, and Savage Defense spends it. (Boy, does it ever spend it.) This isn't a hard-and-fast rule, however. Damage skills like Maul and Thrash consume rage rather than generate it.
I just got on the beta. Holy &%*, what the &%*$ happened to all my %&$#% rage? Are you my Angry Warrior Tank buddy, and did you reroll to a druid? Unfortunately, we don't get rage from taking damage any more. As for the rest of the rage issues, uh, we'll get to that. Keep in mind that not everyone is agreed on whether rage generation is OK or not.
What abilities have we kept and how have they changed? I'll try to keep this as brief as possible. The Mists of Pandaria version of Wowhead isn't yet updated, but thanks to Arielle, this should all be accurate as of Monday:
- Mangle Costs nothing and generates rage but no longer applies a bleed debuff. Same 6-second cooldown as it is now.
- Lacerate Costs nothing but doesn't generate rage. The ticks have a chance to reset the Mangle cooldown. However, it now has a 3-second cooldown.
- Swipe Costs nothing but doesn't generate rage. Otherwise, pretty much the same deal (3-second cooldown, 360-degree threat generation) as it is right now but does 20% more damage to bleeding targets.
- Thrash Costs 15 rage. Now provides the damage reduction that Demoralizing Roar currently does and also provides a chance to reset the Mangle cooldown. However, as Arielle observes on the beta forums, with DPS able to provide the same debuff more easily, and Thrash costing valuable rage, there'll be a strong temptation not to use it at all if someone else can.
- Maul Costs 30 rage. A high-cost rage dump in a world where your main priority is keeping Savage Defense or Frenzied Regeneration running. At the moment, very few bears on the beta seem interested in using it at all, and this is probably the skill that has suffered most in the transition to Mists. Ghostcrawler's said it's a skill you'll probably have to think hard about when to use.
- Savage Defense Now a 6-second cooldown costing 60 rage and reducing damage taken by 40%. It sounds kickass, and if the issues with it get ironed out it will be, but it's the single most controversial and problematic mechanic in guardian druid tanking for a reason we'll address shortly.
- Frenzied Regeneration Now a short cooldown along the lines of Savage Defense, and the cost varies depending on a glyph.
- Faerie Fire Still around and pretty much the same deal as it is now. Can be replaced by the talent Faerie Swarm at level 45, but that means not getting Mass Entanglement or Typhoon.
- Skull Bash Still pretty much the same deal, though fortunately it costs no rage.
- Enrage Identical to its present form.
- Growl Identical to its present form.
- Survival Instincts Identical to its present form. Now has a new glyph associated with it that's basically a version of Glyph of Shield Wall.
What abilities have we lost?
- Pulverize Welcome to Gonesville.
- Challenging Roar Buh-bye. Oh, and ouch.
- Feral Charge Replaced by the new Wild Charge talent at level 15, but it means you have to give up getting Displacer Beast or Feline Swiftness.
- Demoralizing Roar See ya! The damage reduction is now baked into Thrash.
The issue that gets mentioned most is Savage Defense/Frenzied Regeneration and their effect on the bear rotation. 60 rage for SD is steep, and 6 seconds isn't a very long time (albeit longer than the 3 seconds the skill got previously). A lot of players don't like that active mitigation is basically code for short-duration buff management. You remember that drinking bird that you used to put on your Swipe key back during Wrath of the Lich King? Get it out of storage.
This has even bled through to stat priorities on the beta. Primal Fury has survived as a specialization bonus, so crit is making a reappearance.
But do we have to have Savage Defense or Frenzied Regeneration up all the time? The rage bar says no. Your heal team says yes. Your DPSers are too busy trying to reach the bottom of the glue pot to form a coherent opinion. Ghostcrawler says if you're good, then yes.
We'll go with yes.
- Kittyvicious: "With Lacerate having a cool down and the lack of Pulverize or other abilities, 25% of fights I'm standing there with not enough rage to use a mitigation ability and no way to generate more threat."
- Tappin: "I'm just babysitting the SD timer and hovering over Renewal in case my healer gets behind. Even for content I outgear, I feel squishy and can't afford to take my eyes off of SD or risk using Maul."
- Jashiliter: "SD makes it feel like your rage bar is a binary thing. Either you have enough for SD, or you don't. You're not monitoring rage levels and spending resources for efficiency, you're just waiting for 55 rage and spending it every single time."
- Arielle: "Reducing the number of buttons you want to actually push from 7 (Mangle, Demo, Lacerate, Pulverize, Thrash, FFF, Maul) to 3 or 4 (Mangle, Lacerate, FFF/Swipe) is a step backwards - to the point of Wrath-era 1-button Bear tanking."
- Fasc: "Rage influx is already looking to be pretty high just at the entry heroic ilvl blues. Rage is coming in from failed autoattacks and Mangles regardless, so we get a nice steady stream of Rage (12.5 rage from autos, 5/7 from Mangles, plus bonus 15 Rage from Criticals). It won't be a stretch to hit nearly 100% uptime of SD, even with us using Thrash to maintain our own Weakened Blows (which isn't ideal)."
- Reesi: "I have to thoroughly agree about the uselessness of Maul. There is really no incentive to push it and the argument that it can be used for tank downtime (cat form, anyone?) or for doing more DPS in content we already outgear is a really poor one. If we can only safely use Maul for outgeared content or for when we're not actively tanking, then its design is a failure."
As for monks, brewmasters are so new on the scene that nobody knows quite what to think of them, but let's make an early prediction: One of the legendaries in Mists of Pandaria will be an agility staff or polearm.
What is the most common worry expressed with guardian druids on the beta right now? You mean apart from Savage Defense? That would be our mastery, Nature's Guardian.
How much damage will guardian druids be doing as cats? I don't know, but it's safe to say that the bearcat approach to content is dead. Pop into cat form, and you'll find yourself missing Rip, Ravage, Shred, and Savage Roar. Sorry, folks. But people are still seeing more DPS from cats than bears even on a guardian spec. It's just a lot more boring.
What do we get and give from Symbiosis? This is what we know so far, but none of it is actually in the beta yet. Everything we know is from datamining. Some of the most interesting stuff you can get is the death knight's Icebound Fortitude, the mage's Mage Ward, the priest's Fear Ward, and the warrior's Spell Reflection. Sweeeeeeeeeet.
Shifting Perspectives: Bear and Resto Edition takes a peek at healer balance in Dragon Soul, discovers why bears and PvP gear are a pretty good mix, lends advice on gearing up to hit the Raid Finder, and helps you level a druid in the Cataclysm era.