As a bear tank, the benefits you are looking for most are agility for increased dodge, damage reduction, and increased health. If you can get all that, then a little boosted damage for added threat generation is a nice bonus.
Which buffs you want at any given time will vary depending on your current raid targets, but there are plenty of different options to choose from.
Only one can be active, counts as both a Guardian and a Battle Elixir, lasts for 2 hours. Effects persist through death.
If you are going to be learning a new encounter and can reasonably expect several deaths, than using a Flask of Fortification or a Flask of Chromatic Wonder may be a very cost effective choice. The Flask of Chromatic Wonder, in particular, is extremely well rounded for bear tanks, as one of our greatest vulnerabilities is to magic damage, plus it increases our Agility and Stamina by 18 each.
However, the boost you receive from either Flask does not, in my opinion, provide greater benefits than using a Battle and Guardian Elixir in combination. Plus, as a tanking bear, you should already have your Defense Rating maxed out to be uncrittable, so the extra +10 Defense Rating from the Flask of Fortification is, technically, irrelevant.
There are other raiding Flasks available, Flasks that can only be used in certain zones or areas. These are designed as cheaper alternatives for guild that are steadily working on progression past Karazhan.
The Shattrath Flask of Fortification and Shattrath Flask of Relentless Assault are BoP from vendors in the two Shattrath banks, and cost one Mark of the Illidari each. A player must be exalted with The Sha'tar, Cenarion Expedition, and either Aldor or Scryers to interact with the vendors.
Marks of the Illidari drop from trash mobs in Tempest Keep, Serpentshrine Cavern, Mount Hyjal and Black Temple. The Shattrath Flasks may only be used in these zones.
As you have to use Marks of the Illidari to purchase these Flasks, and bear tanks get limited utility from Shattrath Flasks of Fortification, it is my opinion that the Marks should be saved for Flasks that have more of their utility applied to other classes, such as the Shattrath Flask of Pure Death for example. Your Guild's rate of progression and frequency of obtaining Marks may cause them to be cheap enough for all your classes to use. If you are using Flasks due to learning new content, however, I suggest you rely on the Flask of Chromatic Wonder instead.
Unstable Flasks can be used in Gruul's Lair and the Blade's Edge Mountain plateaus only.
There are two varieties of Unstable Flasks.
The easiest Unstable Flasks to purchase can be obtained from the Crystalforges in Blades Edge Plateau areas.
The other, more difficult to obtain Unstable Flasks are sold by the Aether-tech Assistant vendor, who only appears during a scripted attack just west of Felstorm Point in Blade's Edge. The attack begins every even-numbered hour according to server time. Players must hold off the attack for a series of vendors to spawn. The Flask vendor is the first one to appear, and sells;
All Unstable Flasks cost 10 Apexis Shards each. The Apexis Shards drop from plateau mobs and can be obtained by completing daily quests for the Skyguard and Ogri'la on the western plateau.
Unlike the Shattrath Flask of Fortification, the Unstable Flask of the Beast and Unstable Flask of the Bandit are highly useful to bear tanks, providing a solid Agility boost coupled with a good Health increase, and boosting your attack power a bit for a nice icing on the cake.
The Unstable Flask of the Beast is ridiculously easy to obtain in large quantities, and if you are frequently raiding in Gruul's Lair, make the perfect choice for your liquid consumable.
Elixirs can be used in place of Flasks. There are two kinds of Elixirs, Guardian and Battle, and only one of each kind can be active at any given moment. Because you can have one of each kind active, you have a greater variety of options to choose from to tailor your active buffs for your current situation.
Unlike Flasks, the benefits of an Elixir only last for one hour, and the effects are lost upon character death. For these reasons, many guilds look at the comparative costs of Flasks and Elixirs on the Auction House, and decide that using a Flask is far more cost effective for raiding.
While this is especially true if your guild raids so frequently that there is little time to farm and craft your own Elixirs, the reality is that most raiding guilds will have at least one Alchemist with Elixir Mastery available to take raw herbs and create your own Elixirs, with the added chance to create extras. Flasks require a Fel Lotus to craft each one, and the Fel Lotus are random drops obtained while gathering herbs.
If your guild members are strapped for cash and have the time between raids, it is a wise choice to farm the specific herbs you need for a given Elixir, and consider any Fel Lotus you may get as a lucky bonus.
I do not personally raid very much anymore, but when I did raid four nights a week I chose to maintain at least one full stack of each of my favorite Elixirs to mix and match on the run rather than use Flasks, with the Unstable Flask of the Beast used for Gruul's Lair.
- Earthen Elixir – Prevents up to 20 damage done by a physical or magical attack. This is per attack. This is a very nice tanking effect, especially for bear tanks that do not have special defenses against magical attacks.
- Elixir of Major Fortitude - +250 Max Health and +10 Health per 5 seconds.
- Elixir of Major Defense - +550 Armor. This does not multiply in Dire Bear form, it provides only the listed +550 armor.
- Elixir of Ironskin - 30 Resilience rating.
For most battles, the normal Guardian Elixir used is the Elixir of Major Fortitude. It provides a nice increase to your max health, which is useful all the time no matter what you are fighting.
However, if you are looking more closely at your individual fights, the Elixir of Major Defense and the Earthen Elixir are both a bit more useful, depending on the situation.
Against enemies that deal out strictly physical damage, the Elixir of Major Defense provides better damage mitigation than the top end health buff of the Major Fortitude, so long as you are not already maxed out on your mitigation.
Likewise, against enemies that deal out mainly magical damage, such as the Maiden of Virtue, the Earthen Elixir is an excellent choice to buttress our weak magical defenses.
And finally, if you are new to bear tanking and haven't quite gotten your gear uncrittable, the Elixir of Ironskin is a perfect short-term solution. 30 Resilience goes a very long way.
How much effort you put into matching your Elixirs against your opponents' abilities is up to you. Many bear tanks stick to the Elixir of Major Fortitude to simplify their consumables cost. I personally prefer to roll with a stack each of Earthen Elixir and Major Fortitude and switch off as needed, with Earthen Elixir used for most of the trash in Karazhan.
My advice is to play with each, and find a mix that suits your style.
I'm sure there can be a great deal of debate over which of these is better.
On the one hand, you get +35 Agility for a dodge bonus of about 2.45%. On the other, you get +15 Agility, +15 Stamina and +15 Strength, and if you are shifting into an occasional backup healing role, extra Wisdom and Int as well.
For myself, I consider the boost to dodge from +35 Agility to override the other benefits, but if you are already happy with your dodge and would like to increase your top end health just that little bit more, the Elixir of Mastery is a very well rounded choice.
I include the Elixir of the Mongoose here because, while it does have less agility than the Elixir of Major Agility, and we don't worry about the crit rating much when tanking, these are much cheaper in materials cost to make. If you are tanking on a budget, and dying frequently, you might want to get the mats for a ton of these until things get better.
You can have one Scroll of each type active at a time. The Scroll of Stamina will NOT operate if you have the Priest Fortitude buff, so the only time the Scroll of Stamina is useful is when you do not have a Priest in your party. The Scroll of Agility and Scroll of Protection, however, both can be applied at any time and do not conflict with any other buffs. If you are doing serious tanking, I recommend keeping a supply of both at all times, and due to their rarity, keeping them in reserve for difficult boss encounters.
Scrolls of Agility, Strength and Intellect can often be purchased from the Field Repair Bot 110G, and the mats for the Field Repair Bot are not that expensive. If you find the cost of Scrolls are too high on the AH, and you don't have time to farm for them in the hope of getting them as a random drop, then one viable, although silly, option is to make a stack of 20 Field Repair Bot 110Gs JUST to activate them and buy the scrolls, and share the Intellect with your guild bank. I have done this as a test myself and obtained ten+ of every type of Scroll by using twenty bots. Your own mileage may vary.
- Scroll of Agility V - Agility +20 for 30 minutes.
- Scroll of Protection V - Armor +300 for 30 minutes. This does not multiply in Dire Bear form, but still provides excellent mitigation if you are not maxed out on your armor.
- Scroll of Stamina V - Stamina +20 for 30 minutes. This cannot stack with Power Word: Fortitude or Prayer of Fortitude. Scroll of Stamina is therefore very useful when you do not have a Priest in your party, but otherwise unnecessary.
- Scroll of Strength V - Strength +20 for 30 minutes. Not that critical for tanking, but added AP for higher threat is always nice if you have it available.
You can only have one food buff active at one time, they last for 30 minutes and the effects do not persist through death.
The two most commonly useful food effects for bear tanks are agility and stamina. While farming the Furious Crawdads for Spicy Crawdad are difficult and often time consuming, if your guild is doing Zul'Aman then they can be bought in limited quantities from Gunter the Food Vendor, an NPC created by using an Amani Hex Stick drop from the trash mobs. Gunter is also known to sometimes restock his limited quantity food, so if your guild has cleared Zul'aman recently, it can be useful to occasionally go in and check if he has some more for sale before the hard reset.
I mention the Spicy Hot Talbuk, because one area bear tanking gear is notoriously light on is Hit Rating. If you are happy with your health and dodge, then the Spicy Hot Talbuk is the food for you.
With the changes in Patch 2.4, Sharpening Stone and Weightstone damage effects now work in shifted forms. I know the feral druid blacksmith is a rare sight indeed, but these are fairly inexpensive to make, and your warrior friends might be blacksmiths and could be persuaded to help you out. These do not help your mitigation, no, but your threat generation will see a very tasty boost from using the appropriate stones. The effects DO persist through death, and last for 1 hour.
And since an off-tanking Druid can get the fullest effect of these when helping DPS in kitty, they are pure win.
Thank you to Avinoch for pointing out that there is one consumable item that is awesome for bear tanking, that I did not originally cover. The Greater Rune of Warding is a blacksmithing item that lasts for one hour, and can be applied to your chest armor. it does not replace the permanent enchant, it merely provides a temporary buff that, much like weapon buffs such as Weightstones, persist through death. The material component is one Khorium bar, but considering this item provides a passive damage absorbing effect, it's a pretty good bargain for a particularly serious challenge.
Thanks again Avinoch, I totally don't know how I forgot it, but you set me straight!
Instant use, limited duration/limited use items
All of the following potions share the same two minute cooldown timer.
Instant Healing items
Instant mitigation items
- Major Protection Potion - Absorbs 2800-4000 Shadow, Nature, Holy, Frost, Fire, or Arcane damage. Lasts two minutes. [Shadow version link used as example]
- Ironshield Potion - 2500 armor for two minutes.
- Magic Resistance Potion - 50 Resistance to all schools of magic for 3 minutes. Does not stack with class buffs/auras.
Instant DPS boost items
- Haste Potion - 400 haste rating for 15 seconds. When you are doing some Kitty DPS, and are not under the threat of tanking squishiness, this potion is outstanding for increasing your DPS output.
Both of the following effects share the Healthstone two minute cooldown timer.
Drums (Leatherworkers only)
Drums are on a cooldown typically shared with items that have a one minute cooldown between use, but there is a two minute cooldown before a character can activate a second Drum effect. Drums CAN be used while shapeshifted! (woot!)
- Drums of Battle - 80 melee, ranged, and spell haste rating on nearby party members for 30 seconds.
- Drums of War - 60 Attack Power and 30 spell damage on nearby party members for 30 seconds.
- Drums of Speed - 15% movement speed increase on nearby party members for 30 seconds.
- Drums of Restoration - 600 health and mana restored to nearby party members over 15 seconds.
- Drums of Panic - 5 enemies within 5 yards are forced to flee for 2 seconds.
The Drums of Battle are considered an incredibly valuable group buff, and many feral Druids are Leatherworkers. These are excellent to use whenever the cooldown makes them available, and since you can use them in your shifted forms, Leatherworking Druids should consider the carrying and use of these as being mandatory raid equipment. Yeah, I said mandatory. They're that good.
Hey, wait a minute. I can't use this stuff in forms. Why are you bringing all that stuff up?
Because, some you might be expected to use a potion just before shifting and Feral Charging in to take on the boss, such as the Major Protection Potions, others can be used in the thick of the battle with the handy help of a swiftshifting macro, especially in Catform.
I have several swiftshifting item use macros on my button bar for tanking. I have one setup to use any Healthstone I may have equipped, I have one set to use a Charged Crystal Focus, which I always keep a stack of on hand, I have one for the Healing Potion Injector, and I have one for Super Rejuvenation Potions.
The basic format I use for my 'swiftshifting tanking item use' macro is as basic as can be;
#showtooltip [name of item]
/use [name of item]
/cast Dire Bear Form
My Healthstone macro then becomes;
#showtooltip Master Healthstone
/use Master Healthstone
/cast Dire Bear Form
My Charged Crystal Focus one is;
#showtooltip Charged Crystal Focus
/use Charged Crystal Focus
/cast Dire Bear Form
You get the idea. It's as simple as pie (or easy as cake) to find out what the activation name of your chosen item is, put it in the appropriate places, and use only in emergencies.
So, why do you say use only in emergencies?
Well, the first issue is, if you have used an ability that puts you inside a Global Cooldown (GCD), then when you activate the macro, the cancelform will work properly since it does not activate the GCD, and the use item will work, but the /cast Dire Bear Form command will fail. You will use your macro when you need it most and be left standing, suddenly squishy, at the worst possible time.
The second issue is, it requires mana to go back into Dire Bear Form. If you are in tanking or DPS gear and use this frequently, you may find yourself without sufficient mana to return to bear form.
The third issue is, even when you activate this and everything works properly, any Rage you had built up is wiped clean, and you are left with only the instant rage gain from Furor to continue tanking.
And lastly, even if everything is optimum, you are free of the GCD, you've got plenty of mana, and everything is great, I have still seen the rare moment when you are still left in caster form at the end of the shift sequence.
Some speculation is floating around about lag delays causing the command to be lost, and things of that nature.
I know that personally, when tanking in bear form, I prefer to save the use of Swiftshifting for healing when you're gonna be dead one way or the other anyway, so give it your best shot. With that in mind, I set it for items that give the highest possible return, such as Healthstones and Charged Crystal Focus, and I keep my finger on the Dire Bear shift trigger so that if it fails, I'm ready to manually shift within a second of the fail.
I play around with it to see when I can break the macro in five man runs, and I do see that occasional 'oops I'm still in caster' on rare occasions. That one second vulnerability can mean absolute instant death in some tanking situations, so I'm serious when I say, be wise and wary before relying on this to tank.
All of the previous applies to kitties, except for the fact that you are far less likely to insta-death if the macro leaves you in caster form. But by the same rule, you are less likely to need a Swiftshifting item use macro for Catform for instant healing. Instead, kitties use the macro to boost their own, and the raids, DPS.
At it's most basic, Powershifting is the term used when swiftshifting from cat form directly back into cat to get the instant Furor +40 energy boost.
The most basic Powershifting macro looks like this;
/cast cat form
If timed correctly, a DPSing cat can burn through her energy and then Powershift to instantly regain +40 Energy and keep DPSing away. Including DPS 'on use' trinket activation commands, Haste Potion use, or Drum of battle use in the macro can streamline your Powershifting quite a bit.
My recommendation is to have at least one Powershifting macro that uses a mana pot, preferably a Super Rejuvenation potion for both healing and Mana. If you are Powershifting frequently to get Furor Energy boosts, you're going to burn through mana fast.
In conclusion, use lots of yummy treats, and you will be a full and happy (and poor) bear!
My thanks to Nightshroud of the Alleria server for the excellent combined list of consumables which helped flesh out the Shattrath and unstable Flask portions of this article, and to Mooire of Ferocious Bite who had, so long ago, introduced me to the fascinating world of swiftshifting and powershifting. Thanks, both of you!