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Shifting Perspectives: Gearing your bear tank from 70 to Karazhan!


Every Tuesday, Shifting Perspectives explores issues affecting druids and those who group with them. This week John Patricelli, the Big Bear Butt Blogger, comes late to the party with a mammoth of an article that hopes to cover bear tank gear choices from dinging at 70 up to and through running Karazhan with your guild.

Gearing up as a bear tank

As you approach level 70 as a feral druid, your playstyle to this point has most likely been as a Kitty, focusing on causing lots of damage, very swiftly. Kind of like a stripped down, no frills rogue. But with style.

As much as you enjoy being a kitty, however, you just know all your friends want you to tank. With Fury Warriors, Enhancement Shamans, Retribution Paladins and real Rogues floating around, there is no shortage of melee DPS in the game.

But a good tank! Well, that's another story.

While leveling, you can usually get away with saying, "Dude, my gear is not that great. I'm focused on hitting 70."

But rest assured that once you hit 70, everyone will want to see that epic tanking goodness. They're going to want to see your bear butt in Heroics and Karazhan.

If you've been leveling in a raiding guild, they are going to expect you to be gearing yourself up as much as possible without depending on the guild for run-throughs of instances. But to tank a level 70 heroic instance, you're going to need the best gear you can lay your hands on. Right?

The role of a tank, as we've discussed in this column before, is to keep the focus of the enemy on you, and to survive. The better the gear you bring to the fight, the easier it is for your healer to keep you alive, and the easier the entire run will be on the group. So pursuing gear upgrades isn't being selfish; you're just trying to help your team. Really!

When it comes to upgrades, I strongly believe in prior research and planned acquisitions. Determine what your goals are, and identify what items you can obtain to become the best tank you can be, at various stages of time investment and effort involved.

Sure, you probably leveled as cat form DPS or moonkin battle chicken, keeping an eye out for items to help those specs perform. But have no fear, you can still have a solid core of gear waiting for you when you ding 70.

In fact, as we go over the list on the next page, you will see that you should be almost finished gearing up before you ever need to enter Karazhan. Karazhan is not the loot pinata. You don't smack it a few times and it gears you up.

For bear tanks, there are only 4 drops that will seriously concern you in Karazhan, and one of those is best used when you are having trouble staying uncrittable at the highest levels of raiding.

As you level up, keep an eye towards your future. Seek out the gear you can collect ahead of time; crafted gear, quest rewards from chains, and drops from regular instances. You can also run Arenas to get some of the very strong Vengeful Gladiator's Sanctuary PvP pieces that have a lot of good resilience and stamina.

After you have the best quest and crafted gear you can get, it's time to move on to the gear you can collect from Heroic instances and Badges of Justice.

Finally, with your solid set of pre-Karazhan tanking gear equipped, only then should you finish off your tanking set with raids through Karazhan.

Once you've reached that point and beyond, you should be a well geared tank, ready to take on challenges in 25 man raids and Zul'Aman.

Better still, you'll have gotten to that point with solid planning, an awareness of where you need to go, and a strong idea of what you should be looking for next.

Rawr, baby!

Okay, we are talking all about gear upgrades, and proper prior planning.

Your most powerful tool for this purpose is the Windows .NET application Rawr, written and maintained by Astrylian of Whisperwind-US.

Using Rawr, you can import your current character, with all equipped gear and enchants/gems, directly into the application. You can then save it for future reference, and start playing around with it. You can replace individual pieces of equipment to see how it would affect your uncrittable rating, see how Dodge and Health would be affected, maximum armor in Dire Bear form, the whole works. You can change gem types in sockets, change enchants, anything and everything to determine exactly how your character will change with a certain upgrade.

Rawr particularly excels in allowing you to choose various potential gear upgrades, and then see if your proposed combination of Resilience and Defense Rating will keep you uncrittable or not before you get the upgrade, and also allow you to swap around enchants and gems to find that optimum balance between Armor, Dodge, Health and being uncrittable.

The latest version as of this writing is b13.1, and not only includes modules for Druid bear, kitty and moonkin gear, but also has support for Mages, Warlocks and Retribution Paladins. So what are you waiting for? Go check it out!

Stat priorities

In general terms, prioritizing the stats you will want to collect for your gear goes as follows;

The most important goal to aim for at level 70 is to become uncrittable. When you tank level 73 raid enemies, you need to keep your health loss as even as possible. Your healers are working hard to keep you alive, and if you are taking spikes of critical hit damage at unpredictable intervals, your healers will hate you, and will have a hard time keeping you alive.

You become uncrittable through a combination of Resilience and Defense Rating. For an in-depth look at these two stats, see our earlier article on the subject.

In the meantime, remember that with 3/3 in Survival of the Fittest, you only need 415 Defense to become uncrittable. With the Resilience stat making the math a little murky, don't forget to either use Rawr to compute your uncrittable status, or refer to that earlier article for the quick and dirty code that you can enter into chat to test whether your currently equipped combination of Resilience and Defense Rating is making you uncrittable or not.

The second goal for the bear tank is armor. Thanks to the Dire Bear armor multiplier, you can effectively push your equipped armor value up to and past the armor cap. The 'cap' on armor is 35,000. Once you reach that point, any extra armor is wasted. But until you reach 35k, keep piling it on.

The last two key stats for bear tanks are Stamina and Agility. Stamina raises your maximum hit points, while Agility increases your chance to dodge. These two stats, taken in balance, are the final core assets to your tanking.

Once you are uncrittable, you've pushed your armor to the limits, your health reaches past 15,000 unbuffed and your base Dodge is at 35% plus, it's okay to relax a teeny bit and start filling out your tanking gear stats with things like Hit Rating to improve your ability to reliably strike the boss with that urgently needed Mangle.

Crafted and Auction House gear

There are certain pieces of equipment that you can find on the Auction House, or can have crafted for you, that are incredibly powerful and will last you well into your tanking career.

While it's not the subject of this article, one question I get asked fairly frequently is, what crafting profession is best for bear tanks? Well, to be honest with you, Leatherworking and Blacksmithing really don't help us a lot. The items you will want the most for tanking are not Bind On Pickup. Of course, if catform DPS is your thing, Leatherworking can be very nice.

However, if you choose a profession specifically for it's BoP bear tanking gear, then Engineering is very good. The Deathblow X11 Goggles are very powerful tanking goggles until you can get your Stag-Helm of Malorne from Prince Malchezaar in Karazhan, and you can craft certain trinkets that have tons of Stamina such as the Gnomish Poultryizer or Goblin Rocket Launcher. These are all solid items for level 70 tanking up to and including Karazhan.

By all means, discuss the benefits of various other professions in the comments!

And now it's time to get into the list.

Braxxis Staff of Slumber
A random BoE world drop, and equippable at level 64, it may surprise you to find out that, until you reach Exalted with the Cenarion Expedition, there is no finer bear tanking weapon. This can often be found on the AH for less than 100g, and should be considered a must-have until you can get your Earthwarden.

Belt of Natural Power
This belt is, quite simply, the best waist item in the game right now for bear tanks. Requiring amongst more common materials two Nether Vortex, ten Primal Air and ten Primal Shadow to be crafted, it can be very expensive, especially if you are saving for an epic flying mount. However, it is flat out the best belt in the game for your tanking pleasure, and now that Nether Vortex are Bind on Equip, they can be found in the Auction House or purchased from the Badge vendor for 15 Badges of Justice each. If you have the choice between the Belt of Natural Power for 30 Badges of Justice and some farmable mats, or the Waistguard of the Great Beast for 60 Badges of Justice, then in my opinion, with all of the wonderful other items to buy with Badges, the Belt of Natural Power is far better value for your Badges, even considering the Hit Rating on the Waistguard. If your finances can't stretch to get this made right away, then you can settle for a quest reward, Manimal's Cinch, which we will talk about later. Manimal's Cinch is perfectly acceptible for use when working up to and into Karazhan.

Badge of Tenacity
The best, most incredible of bear tank trinkets. I have seen it sell anywhere from 1000g to 1500g. This item is created from fusing Apexis Shards with the Depleted Badge, an item that comes as a random drop from either mobs in Ogri'la in general, or as a potential drop from the Shartuul event. The Badge of Tenacity is wonderful. Well worth the money, or the time you spend in farming it. In my opinion, it is the 'must have' trinket for bear tanks.

Stylin' Purple Hat
An excellent crafted hat for bear tanking that is BoE, and it's fairly easy to find one on the AH. This hat is an excellent starter item for use until you can either replace it with Engineering goggles, the Tier 4 helm from Prince Malchezaar in Karazhan, or Arena S1+ gear.

Necklace of the Deep
Another excellent BoE crafted piece that has amazing flexibility. With two Solid Star of Elunes equipped it provides +21 Agility and +44 Stamina. Better still, this is equippable at level 65. A very good, must have item for the starting bear tank, that can still be a viable piece of gear long past Karazhan, depending on your uncrittable status. Sometimes replaced with the Barbed Choker of Dicipline from Maiden of Virtue in Karazhan when seriously looking for the Defense Rating to remain uncrittable.

Resolute Cape
A BoE crafted epic cloak. This requires a Primal Nether to craft, but with prices the way they are this is an easy cloak to obtain, and goes a long way towards getting you uncrittable. If you already have a good cloak like the Bogstrok Scale Cloak, then getting this is not crucial. But it is a very good tanking cloak, and since it's crafted, you can get it early and have it waiting for you.

Heavy Clefthoof Vest
This is just one of the three crafted BoE Heavy Clefthoof set pieces. Each of the three pieces can be found on the AH, and are truthfully your best bet in each of their equipment slots for a very long time. Each piece is heavy with Defense Rating, great armor, and good gem slots. Even though this is a rare quality item, it is designed almost perfectly for bear tanks. My recommendation on all three Heavy Clefthoof items is to ignore the socket colors and put three Solid Stars of Elune in the sockets to really pack on the health. With three Solid Stars of Elune, this item gives +81 Stamina, and if that doesn't make you cry with joy I don't know what will.

Heavy Clefthoof Leggings
Again, each piece of the Heavy Clefthoof set is a must have to start tanking. Stack three Solid Stars of Elune in here and have a total of +69 Stamina from this item.

Heavy Clefthoof Boots
In the boots, I again recommend you use Solid Stars of Elune in all the sockets. Extremely good tanking boots.

Delicate Eternium Ring
Crafted BoE, it provides +25 Agility, +15 Stamina and +16 Dodge. With all of the Stamina your Heavy Clefthoof gear provides, it's good to get some strong Agility in on your early armor for the Dodge. This should be replaced as soon as possible with more dedicated tanking rings such as the Mok'Nathal Clan Ring or the Iron Band of the Unbreakable, discussed later.

Quest rewards

Cloak of the Valiant Defender
The best tanking cloak you will get from a quest reward. A reward from Ar'kelos the Guardian, the end of a long Netherstorm quest chain that starts here. If you are saving Badges of Justice for other items, or have just been unlucky in instance drops, this is a good cloak to get.

Mark of Tyranny
The Mark of Tyranny is one of the potential rewards for turning in an item you obtain from the dead body of General Drakkisath in Upper Blackrock Spire. It's still a decent trinket when starting your bear tanking at level 70.

Charm of Alacrity
Quest reward from Voidwalkers Gone Wild in Hellfire Peninsula. This trinket is not bad, but certainly nowhere near as useful as the others on this list.

Cleansed Fel Pauldrons
This quest reward is only open to those who chose the Aldor faction. These shoulders are not bad at all, but with the release of the Dragonhide Spaulders, you no longer have to go Aldor to have decent starting shoulders.

Umberhowl's Collar
A quest reward in Shadowmoon Valley. It is the final reward from a very, very long quest chain. The quest starts here for Alliance or starts here for the Horde, carries on through to here, which gives you three quests, each to find a different son. You want Borak, Son of Oronok, which is the quest chain for the Third Fragment, which starts here, and finally culminates in this.
Yes, it is a very long chain. However, along the way there are many rewards, and from what I remember as a feral druid almost the entire thing is soloable depending on your gear at the time. The Umberhowl's Collar is famous for being a ridiculously nice bear tank bracer that might just keep using until you can get the 35 Badges of Justice necessary to upgrade to the best tanking bracers, the Band of the Swift Paw.

Manimal's Cinch
A green item quest reward that is very good for bear tanks. Providing massive armor, high strength, good agility and stamina, it is very nice indeed.
The quest chain starts here. Why yes, yes you saw that correctly. This item is a reward from one of the early quests in the exact same chain you must do for your Umberhowl's Collar. Isn't that sweet? If you are still working on saving your gold to get those two Nether Vortex to craft your Belt of Natural Power, this is your number two belt to use while you wait.

Verdant Gloves
A quest reward in Shadowmoon Valley. The quest chain starts here (Scryer) or here (Aldor), depending on your faction. While these gloves are very good, you might want to obtain the Dragonhide Gloves until you have completed this chain. Make no mistake, this is a moderately involved quest chain that you can't do alone. Before it is done, you will need to make a trip to the Arcatraz. You do not need to actually kill anyone in Arcatraz, you can be brought into a party that has already cleared it, since all you need to do is to find the body of Seer Udalo, the NPC for that part of the chain. But keep in mind that you will have to enter the Arcatraz and interact with Seer Udalo in order to complete the quest.

Reputation rewards

There are three factions that are critical for you to grind.

You need Cenarion Expedition rep at Exalted to get your Earthwarden two handed mace. Seriously. Getting that mace marks your position as being serious about tanking.

After that your next priority should be Shattered Sun Offensive to get your Glyph of the Gladiator at Revered. The Glyph of the Gladiator is a very strong, balanced head enchant. An alternative to SSO rep is Keepers of Time for the Glyph of the Defender at Revered, but as far as I have seen SSO rep is easier to get, and the Glyph of the Gladiator really looks more beneficial.

After those two, you should focus on increasing your Aldor or Scryer faction to Exalted for the shoulder Glyphs appropriate for tanking. Of the two, Aldor has Greater Inscription of Warding, and Scryer has Greater Inscription of the Knight. With the value of Defense Rating, I went Scryer for the extra +5, but you should choose your faction based on the overall value of that factions' rewards and profession recipes you can use.

The reason you work so hard to run every quest for Cenarion Expedition reputation, in Zangarmarsh and in Blades Edge Mountains, is to claw your way to Exalted and get this two handed mace. The best tanking mace prior to 25 man raid content.

Dragonhide Spaulders
Purchased for 17 gold when you have Honored rep with Sha'tar, the Dragonhide Spaulders are an excellent starting tanking choice. In fact, they are better than the Sun-Gilded Shoulder Caps that drop in Black Morass, and almost tied in value with the Shoulderpads of Assassination that drop in Sethekk Halls. As a bonus, you don't have to compete with Rogues for the Dragonhide Spaulders. These shoulders should last you either until you can get the Gladiator's Dragonhide Spaulders or Merciless Gladiator's Dragonhide Spaulders from Honor points or Arenas, or if you don't do PvP, the Mantle of Shadowy Embrace from Keli'dan the Breaker in Heroic Blood Furnace.

Dragonhide Gloves
Purchased for 11 gold when you have Honored rep with Keepers of Time. I recommend getting the Dragonhide Gloves to go with the Dragonhide Spaulders, to get that 2 piece +35 Resilience set bonus. The Verdant Gloves are much stronger tanking gloves than these, and if you can get uncrittable without the set bonus, then those are much better to hold onto prior to getting your Tier 4 Gloves from The Curator in Karazhan. But if you haven't done the Shadowmoon Valley quest chain for the Verdant Gloves yet, by all means grab these gloves.

Regular instance drops

Bogstrok Scale Cloak
The Bogstrok cloak is a good cloak that will last you well into the game. It drops from Rokmar the Crackler in Slave Pens, normal mode, so you have the chance to pick it up fairly early in your career.

Thoriumweave Cloak
Drops from Mechano-Lord Capacitus in the Mechanar, normal mode. It is a great cloak, has very high Stamina and armor. Considered one of the best cloaks for bear tanks in the game, and it's only weakness is a complete lack of Resilience or Defense Rating. If you are uncrittable through other means, this cloak is wonderful.

Shoulderpads of Assassination
Drops from Talon King Ikiss in Sethekk Halls. The Shoulderpads of Assassination, with two yellow gem sockets, is a very good non-PvP tanking shoulder option prior to Karazhan, but with the availability of the Dragonhide Spaulders in patch 2.4, these are no longer a 'must have' for tanking. If you do get them, they are a very viable set of tanking shoulders.

Mok'Nathal Clan Ring
The first (and easiest) instance drop bear tanking ring. It drops from the chest that appears after killing the end dragon boss in Hellfire Ramparts. It is notable that it is NOT unique, and therefore you can wear two of them. A great early bear tanking ring. Some 70 feral druids have been known to stealth to the end boss with a resto druid and duo him just to farm for two of these rings prior to running Heroics.

Iron Band of the Unbreakable
The next instance run ring drop to look for, it drops from Lieutenant Drake, the first boss in Old Hillsbrad (Caverns of Time) in normal mode. It also does not say unique-equipped, so you could have two of these equipped at once. However, the drop rate is low enough that I have not seen any bear tanks with two of these at the same time.

Band of Determination
Ring that drops from Vaxellus in regular Magister's Terrace. With solid Stamina and Expertise on it, this ring is pretty amazing. While you will want to replace this with the Violet Signet and Ring of the Stalwart Protector for your normal tanking, this is outstanding if you acquire it before the others, and even once you have the other two rings, eventually in end game raiding you could expect your armor and defense to be maxed from other equipment. In that case, the Stamina and Expertise on this will truly shine and you could use this once again to great advantage. A wonderful ring.

Cloak of Blade Turning
Cloak that drops from Kael'thas in regular Magister's Terrace. The resilience on this cloak surpasses Slikk's Cloak of Placation. In my opinion, this cloak is a fair goal instead of Slikk's, considering that it drops in a regular instance while Slikk's Cloak of Placation will set you back 35 Badges of Justice. If you have solid gems and enchants on other gear, and you are just a little short of being uncrittable, then the Cloak of Blade Turning is your friend. If you have an overabundance of defense/resilience, then equipping Slikk's Cloak of Placation is a better move, but they are very close. And if you run normal Magister's Terrace and this drops before you have enough Badges of Justice to buy Slikk's Cloak of Placation, then use this and save your Badges for more necessary upgrades in the short term.

Let's take a look at where you can realistically be as a tank with the gear we've covered so far.

As an example, let's use the following list as representing the available starting gear so far;

  • Braxxis Staff of Slumber - with +35 Agility enchant
  • Stylin' Purple Hat - with Glyph of the Gladiator
  • Necklace of the Deep - with two Solid Stars of Elune
  • Dragonhide Spaulders - with Revered Scryer Inscription of the Knight
  • Cloak of the Valiant Defender - with +12 Agility enchant
  • Heavy Clefthoof Vest - with three Solid Stars of Elune and +6 to all Stats enchant
  • Umberhowls' Collar - with +12 Stamina enchant
  • Dragonhide Gloves - with +15 Agility enchant
  • Manimal's Cinch
  • Heavy Clefthoof Leggings - with three Solid Stars of Elune and Clefthide Leg Armor
  • Heavy Clefthoof Boots - with +12 Stamina enchant
  • Mok'Nathal Clan Ring
  • Delicate Eternium Ring
  • Badge of Tenacity
  • Mark of Tyranny

With this equipped and enchanted/gemmed, then you should have the following tanking stats;

  • Uncrittable
  • 24,706 armor
  • 13, 694 health
  • 26% Dodge (37% with trinket activated)

That is very solid pre-heroic and Karazhan gear. Congratulations! You're ready to kick some butt!

PvP Arena gear

I've talked about a couple of items from the PvP rare set 2 that you can purchase from faction Quartermasters when you are Honored. But what about true PvP gear? the wonderful stuff you get by playing in the Arenas? Well, it's extremely good, but never forget the importance of armor to a feral druid. Armor remains the one stat we lean on the most. However, the Resilience on Arena S2 gear, especially the two piece bonus, is pretty strong. The shoulders in particular in the Vengeful Gladiator's Sanctuary are insanely good, and even without the two piece bonus are a massive upgrade over other gear prior to High King Maulgor.

Because the pieces are weak in armor, however, don't strap on your full Season 1 gear and expect to be as solid of a tank as a PvE geared raider that cleares Karazhan regularly and has loaded up on Badge rewards. But to fill in one piece, or as an upgrade for your shoulders (where bear tank itemization is weakest), by all means use it and enjoy!

If you enjoy Arenas a lot and have the points to spend, you might find your best mix is to equip the Shoulders and Gloves to gain the benefits of the two piece bonus. The shoulders in particular are outstanding, and well worth playing Arenas and PvP to get, even if you are one of the folks that hate PvP.

Gladiator's Sanctuary - Arena Season 1

Merciless Gladiator's Sanctuary - Arena Season 2

Vengeful Gladiator's Sanctuary - Arena Season 3

Heroic instance drops

With the gear we've talked about equipped, you should be good to enter Heroics for gear drops and Badges of Justice.

In particular, the Heroic instances that will benefit you the most are Blood Furnace for the shoulders if you don't do Pvp, and Magister's Terrace for the tanking trinket. Once you have grabbed those two drops, you can relax and look into doing whatever Heroic instances you please to grab your Badges of Justice. But make no mistake; Badges of Justice become your strongest path of gear upgrading at this point. Running Heroic instances for Badges of Justice will allow you to purchase some of the strongest bear tanking gear in the game, and will absolutely prepare you for Karazhan and beyond.

Mantle of Shadowy Embrace
Drops in Heroic Blood Furnace from Keli'dan the Breaker. Excellent shoulder upgrade, the best non-PvP shoulders you will find prior to the Tier 4 Mantle of Malorne from High King Maulgor in Gruul's Lair.

Commendation of Kael'thas
Drops from Priestess Delrissa in Heroic Magister's Terrace. This trinket is, and pardon my gushing, pretty darn sweet. If you compare this Heroic drop with Moroes Lucky Pocket Watch, a drop from Moroes in Karazhan, you'll see that this trinket is very well balanced. Moroes Lucky Pocket Watch is all about pure avoidance, a flat 2% Dodge when equipped, and a 10 second boost of 15.85% to your Dodge, once every 2 minutes on use. For most of us, 'on use' effects tend to get used on boss fights, and not too much at other times. But the Commendation of Kael'thas is an 'on equip' effect, and while it's only 8.04% Dodge, it lasts 10 seconds and can proc every 30 seconds as long as you are under 35% health. That means that when things get sticky, it is there to help, even on trash fights. Plus, +57 Stamina makes this one of the highest stamina trinkets in the game at this time. I haven't worked the final math on the proc rate, but it's my opinion that this would be a fantastic replacement for Moroes Lucky Pocket Watch for all but end boss encounters when having high avoidance at a critical moment can be crucial. If you are running Heroic Magister's Terrace, this should be what you are looking for.

Badge of Justice rewards

Ring of Unyielding Force (25 badges)
The Ring of Unyielding Force, prior to patch 2.4, was one of the two best bear tanking rings in the game. That mantle has now passed to the Ring of the Stalwart Protector. Before, it was fairly simple; for 25 Badges you could have a piece of end game tanking gear and forget about that slot. Now, the best Badge ring costs 60 badges, a very hefty sum. And it gets worse; the Ring of the Stawart Protector is great, but it has no Defense Rating. What this all comes down to, is that if you are saving your Badges for tanking gear, I recommend waiting on a ring purchase. You can obtain Iron Bands of the Unbreakable from regular Old Hillsbrad runs, and there are other ring options when starting out. If you are anticipating going into Karazhan soon, the Violet Signet of the Great Protector is not far away. For your very first purchases, save your Badges for something more permanent.

Idol of Terror (20 badges)
The Idol of Terror should likely be your first purchase using Badges. It procs very often, and adds 4.42% Dodge each time it procs, lasting for 10 seconds. That is a nice, solid amount of Dodge for 20 badges. It's also darn great as a feral DPS kitty.

Band of the Swift Paw (35 badges)
In the running for number one first choice of Badge reward to purchase. At this time, this is the very best bear tank bracer in the game, and for 35 Badges is a very cost effective purchase.

Necklace of the Juggernaut (25 badges)
The Necklace has a lot of Defense Rating, but that is it's only claim to fame. It is really outclassed by the crafted Necklace of the Deep with Solid Stars of Elune, and if you have any intention of entering Karazhan, you should save your Badges for other things, and plan on obtaining the Barbed Choker of Discipline from Maiden of Virtue as a neck Defense Rating item.

Slikk's Cloak of Placation (35 badges)
Considered the best bear tank cloak in the game, it just edges out the Gilded Thorium Cloak from Terestian Illhoof in Karazhan. Another cloak you could try to get that is a little weaker than Slikk's is the Cloak of Blade Turning, from regular Magister's Terrace, if you want to save yourself Badges from this upgrade as long as possible.

Cowl of Beastly Rage (50 badges)
If you reasonably expect that you will be entering Karazhan and fighting Prince Malchezaar, you would want to pass this up in favor of the Stag-Helm of Malorne, and keep using your Stylin' Purple Hat. If, however, you are gearing up for Heroics and probably won't get to see Karazhan any time soon, this helm is the best thing you will likely see anywhere, short of the Deathblow X11 Engineering goggles.

Waistguard of the Great Beast (60 badges)
The Waistguard is an outstanding belt choice, having great tanking stats plus the addition of Hit Rating, a stat in very short supply for bear tanks. However, unless you are rolling in hundreds of Badges, I suggest passing on this belt in favor of having the Belt of Natural Power crafted, and saving those Badges for a more valuable upgrade.

Footwraps of Wild Encroachment (60 badges)
These boots are an excellent upgrade. Once all the other smaller cost badge rewards that you want are purchased, I recommend replacing your Heavy Clefthide Boots with these first, before moving on to the hundred badge leggings and chest pieces.

Vestments of Hibernation (75 badges)
Prior to Patch 2.4, this was an excellent chest piece for those unable to obtain the Tier 4 chest piece from Magtheridon. However, with the release of the Embrace of Everlasting Prowess, I say to you, if you have 75 Badges for this, hold on to them just a little longer and get that Embrace. It is well worth it.

Tameless Breeches (100 badges)
The best non-raiding bear tank leggings in the game. If you are already sporting the other bear tanking badge items, and can afford it, these are just outstanding pants. The struggle comes from maintaining your uncrittable status as you replace pieces of Heavy Clefthoof gear. If you are at this point, make sure you plan how you will keep your Resilience or Defense Rating high.

Embrace of Everlasting Prowess (100 badges)
Similar to the Tameless Breeches, this chest piece is outstanding for bear tanking, just wonderful. However, by replacing the Heavy Clefthoof Vest, you are losing a lot of Defense Rating. Plan carefully. Consider using the new Enchant Chest - Major Resilience enchant from SSO rep to help make up the lost Defense.

Handwraps of the Aggressor (75 badges)
These gloves are outstanding, but they are situational. Meaning what? Meaning if you are going to be entering Karazhan, and clearing it, then the two piece set bonus of Tier 4 is too good to lose by taking these gloves. If you get the Stag-Helm of Malorne from Prince Malchezaar and the Gauntlets of Malorne from The Curator, then don't take the Handwraps. If, however, you get the Tier 4 Mantle of Malorne from High King Maulgor in Gruul's lair, then you can reasonably drop the Gauntlets in favor of the Shoulders, and keep the Tier 4 two piece set bonus while also getting some fantastic new Badge Handwraps.

Ring of the Stalwart Protector (60 badges)
The best bear tanking ring in the game, as long as you are able to stay uncrittable from other means.

Ready for Karazhan!

If you've gotten this far, then you're definitely ready to off-tank in Karazhan, and depending on how many Badge of Justice upgrades you've obtained, you could start main tanking Karazhan as part of a strong team. But there are still good pieces to look for in Karazhan to finish off your tanking gear, and you can get even more Badges of Justice to purchase those items you haven't managed to obtain before.

Karazhan upgrades

Violet Signet (reputation reward)
An upgradable ring that is the Karazhan reputation reward from Path of the Violet Protector, a reputation quest chain that you can automatically complete as you reach each new reputation level with the Violet Eye. When you reach friendly with the Violet Eye, the faction that gives you rep for Karazhan quests and kills, you can choose one of four quest chains from a quest giver standing just outside the entrance to Karazhan. The Path of the Violet Protector gives you this ring. Each time you increase a reputation rank with Violet Eye, your Ring gets an upgrade. If you ever do enter Karazhan, after completing the long attunement chain, you will be only at most three nights worth of runs from getting friendly and having this ring. Make no mistake about the quest chains, choose the Violet Protector and get this ring. At the lowest (friendly) level it already has 294 armor, +27 Stamina, and +13 Defense. And it rapidly gets much better.

Moroes - Moroes' Lucky Pocket Watch.
This item is very valuable, in that it adds pure Dodge. The less you get hit, the better for your healers, and that is what Moroes Lucky Pocket Watch is all about. You should always consider the Badge of Tenacity your primary trinket, but this should be number three at this stage. What is number two? Why, the Commendation of Kael'thas, of course.

Maiden of Virtue - Barbed Choker of Discipline.
In my personal opinion, this is an excellent item because it can be used to increase your Defense when you obtain other upgrades, but if you are good on Defense from other means, then it is better to keep the Necklace of the Deep with two Solid Stars of Elune.

The Curator - Tier 4 Glove token (Gloves of the Fallen Defender) - leads to Guantlets of Malorne.
These gauntlets are outstanding. At this stage of the game, even by themselves they are a great item. If you can get a second piece of Tier 4, the two piece set bonus is mandatory for powerful bear tanking.

Shade of Aran - Shermanar Great-Ring.
The Shermanar Great-Ring is better than the Iron Ring of the Unbreakable, but not quite as good as the Ring of Unyielding Force. If this ring drops and you don't have the Ring of the Stalwart Protector yet, then this ring coupled with the Violet Signet should be good enough to use while you spend Badges on other upgrades. You could hold on to this for quite some time, waiting until you are ready to begin saving for the 100 Badge rewards before replacing it with the Ring of the Stalwart Protector. It's very good.

Terestrian Illhoof - Gilded Thorium Cloak.
The Gilded Thorium Cloak is fantastic. If you are lucky enough to get this drop before having purchased Slikk's Cloak of Placation, then I suggest you hold on to this and use your Badges on other upgrades first. This cloak is almost tied in value with Slikk's cloak, and could just about be considered close enough to keep until you enter 25 man raid content.

Prince Malchazaar - Tier 4 helm token (Helm of the Fallen Defender) - leads to Stag-Helm of Malorne.
As with the Guantlets of Malorne, at this stage of progression this is the best helm you can get. The Deathblow X11 goggles are comparable, but when you add the two piece set bonus from the gauntlets, the Stag-Helm comes out far on top.

Post Karazhan breakdown

As you can see, if you thought you were going to be gearing up entirely in Karazhan, you were mistaken. Unlike other classes, feral druids were given a gift and a curse. We can start out strong at level 70 with very powerful gear that can be acquired in solo or 5 man groups. In the higher progression raids, our itemization gets a lot trickier.

You should be entering Karazhan with a strong tanking set, and polishing it off with a few good drops, and a lot of solid Badge rewards.

After some thorough Karazhan runs and rep grinding, if you are the only feral tank on the run and get the drops you need, after two months it is reasonable to think that you could be geared like so;

  • Earthwarden - with +35 Agility enchant
  • Stag-Helm of Malorne - with Glyph of the Gladiator, Solid Star of Elune and Powerful Earthstorm Diamond
  • Necklace of the Deep - with two Solid Stars of Elune
  • Mantle of Shadowy Embrace - with Exalted Scryer Inscription of the Knight
  • Slikk's Cloak of Placation - with +12 Agility enchant
  • Heavy Clefthoof Vest - with three Solid Stars of Elune and +6 to All Stats enchant
  • Band of the Swift Paw - with +12 Stamina enchant and one Solid Star of Elune
  • Idol of Ferocity
  • Guantlets of Malorne - with +15 Agility enchant
  • Belt of Natural Power - with two Solid Stars of Elune
  • Heavy Clefthoof Leggings - with three Solid Stars of Elune and Clefthide Leg Armor
  • Heavy Clefthoof Boots - with two Solid Stars of Elune and +12 Stamina enchant
  • Violet Signet of the Great Protector
  • Ring of the Stalwart Protector
  • Badge of Tenacity
  • Moroes Lucky Pocket Watch

With this equipped and enchanted/gemmed, then you should have the following tanking stats;

  • Uncrittable
  • 29,803 armor
  • 15,664 health
  • 32% Dodge (58% with trinket activated)

That is very solid Karazhan main tank gear.

Final thoughts

Don't be wedded to any one thing that I present to you. As your gear changes, you will find yourself swapping things in and out in an attempt to stay uncrittable. A good word of advice; never throw anything that has solid Defense Rating or Resilience out, or a massive amount of Stamina. That Necklace of the Deep? Once you get your Barbed Choker of Discipline, hold on to it. You may have an overabundance of Defense again someday, and wish you had that big chunk of health back. And vice-versa.

Also, when picking gear, sometimes there are many choices that could be equally as good as far as raw stats are concerned, but have unusual special abilities. You have to use your judgement.

As an example, there are a lot of trinkets out there to choose from. The Darkmoon Card: Madness and Darkmoon Card: Vengeance both have other effects, but mainly give you +51 Stamina when equipped. The Commander's Badge is also very good because of the +45 Stamina. Also, enchanters can make the Smoking Heart of the Mountain for an armor boost and resists.

When you are looking to upgrade, always ask yourself if you are gaining more than you are losing somewhere else.

My dream gear prior to 25 man content

I'll leave you with something to tear apart now, since I know that some of this is going to have to be subjective, and I hope that giving you a definite target to look at will bring out the best comments on other options. Here is what I would think of as the best possible balanced gear choices for a bear tank, without taking into account any 25 man raid rewards or Zul'Aman.

  • Earthwarden - with +35 Agility enchant
  • Helm of Malorne - with Glyph of the Gladiator, Solid Star of Elune and Powerful Earthstorm Diamond
  • Barbed Choker of Defense
  • Vengeful Gladiator's Dragonhide Spaulders - with Exalted Scryer Inscription of the Knight and two Solid Star of Elunes
  • Cloak of Blade Turning - with +12 Agility enchant
  • Embrace of Everlasting Prowess - with +6 to All Stats enchant and Enduring Talasite
  • Band of the Swift Paw - with +12 Stamina enchant and Solid Star of Elune
  • Idol of Terror
  • Guantlets of Malorne - with +15 Agility enchant
  • Belt of Natural Power - with two Solid Star of Elunes
  • Tameless Breeches - with Nethercleft Leg Armor and two Solid Star of Elunes
  • Footwraps of Wild Encroachment - with +12 Stamina enchant and two Solid Star of Elunes
  • Ring of the Stalwart Protector
  • Violet Signet of the Great Defender
  • Badge of Tenacity
  • Commendation of Kael'thas

Final results;

With this set of pre-25 man gear enchanted/gemmed, then you should have the following tanking stats;

  • Uncrittable (barely, lol)
  • 32,796 armor
  • 16,864 health
  • 37% Dodge (47% with Badge of Tenacity activated, 45% with Commendation of Kael'thas activated, 55% with both)

I think that is very solid 25 man main or off-tank raiding gear.

I really hope that you have enjoyed this breakdown of beginning feral bear tank gear, and that you find some of this information of use in planning your next upgrades.

See you soon, folks!

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