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Shifting Perspectives: Bear and tree druid Q&A

Allison Robert

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Shifting Perspectives for cat, bear, restoration and balance druids. This week, we rummage through our email.

This column was originally going to be a thorough review of the new Zul'Gurub and Zul'Aman experience for bears and trees, but I ran into a few issues when most of my groups caused me to consider leaving the planet. Personally, I still hope for a PTR PuG that doesn't explode in a firestorm of threats and recrimination after the tank eats an entirely avoidable 120,000 damage spike to the face after ignoring instructions on clicking cauldrons that give huge buffs to damage avoidance and didn't I mention the cauldrons at the start of the run while we were buffing because I'm pretty sure I did and here comes Mr. Ragequit.

Honestly, I don't know where I find these people, if they are people. For all I know, the vast majority of characters pugging the "new" Rise of the Zandalari heroics on the PTR are disaffected bots still angry over the loss of so many brothers and sisters on the live realms, but I'd like to think that a collection of scripts and macros would have more pride in the quality of its work.

Oh well. With luck, I'll have a few more successful groups to add to an article next week -- but in the meantime, we have a few reader questions to answer.

What's the best bear spec for soloing old raid content and heroics?

This question's been appearing in my inbox more and more lately, maybe because players tend to explore solo content as they finish off the available raids. After toying around with a few different builds, I tentatively arrived at this bear soloing build.

Truthfully, it doesn't differ substantially from the standard level 85 bear tanking spec. The main difference is dropping something like Endless Carnage or Feral Aggression for Nurturing Instinct. If you're soloing somewhere you can realistically expect to be in cat form a lot, you'd even want to dump both in order to pick up Predatory Strikes as well. Rake and Savage Roar uptime is substantially easier to manage when you're confined to the front of a mob and can't Shred, and Pulverize uptime while soloing old content isn't as big a deal.

Out of curiosity, I took a road trip to heroic Shadow Labyrinth (remember how much of a nightmare that place was at 70?) and kept testing bigger and bigger pulls for the fun of it until being unpleasantly reminded of the Cabal Deathsworn's Knockdown ability. Don't forget, folks; your avoidance while stunned is still a flat zero. This is occasionally problematic when you've made friends with 30,000 mobs.

What are the TankWatch stats this week?

Unfortunately, I don't have any updates since my last report on March 8. I've been focusing on my PTR toons lately, not least because Blizzard preserved one of the bonuses it added to the Cataclysm beta: free (albeit random) race changes and character redesigns! It's a lot of fun to play around with.

So what's causing the apparent lack of bear tanks from the early dungeon finder?

It's probably a lot of different things, but I suspect the lack of an early AoE threat tool (we don't get Swipe until level 36) and the current 6-second cooldown on said tool are playing a dominant role. What interests me about the bear tank numbers is also the distribution; you see a few bear tanks early on, and then they pretty much vanish somewhere in the 20s. To me, this suggests that early bear players are trying to tank low-level content, but they're giving up quickly.

There will be an article on this, I promise. I'm just not comfortable writing it until I have enough data to feel confident that my experience through the dungeon finder has in fact been representative. Each tank I add to my list represents one PuG on my goblin or worgen priest, so it's slow going at best.

Any big surprises on the PTR?

Nothing really that relates to druids, but for some reason that is utterly beyond me, older Wrath content (Sarth-3D 25-man, most notably) seems to be absurdly popular on the test realms. Maybe people are just curious to see how fast they can burst down a tier 7 raid boss these days, I dunno, but it seems like every time I'm in a city, a raid's being advertised.

Are you going to update Shifting Perspectives: Restoration 101 for Cataclysm?

Ooph. I had no idea I hadn't done that yet. Yes, I'll get that updated soon! I did update Bear 101 for Cataclysm, and you'll find that at Shifting Perspectives: Feral Tanking 101.

What's wrong with the bear on the PTR? Is that a new strafing animation?

Something's off with the bear model on the PTR, yes, and it's most obvious while the bear's sitting or dancing. Oddly, the particular strafing animation it seems to produce is pretty similar to the bear's strafe from classic WoW (Nerf Druids 3 by Azgaz). I actually prefer it in some ways -- the bear seems to sit a little higher off the ground -- but I'm pretty sure it's just a bug.

Do restoration really need a new cooldown?

The question over a damage reduction cooldown for restoration is a divisive one, and I can appreciate that not everyone's on board with it.

I'll put it this way: There've been a few times this past week while pugging the new Zul'Gurub and Zul'Aman that I've heartily wished for a cooldown along the lines of Guardian Spirit, because a catastrophic tank mistake in new content basically means a wipe for everybody. You can make the (completely reasonable) argument that healers don't exist to save people from big mistakes and that wiping to someone else's is just part and parcel of playing an MMORPG. All very true.

But the upshot is that druid healers are categorically incapable of rescuing a group that might otherwise have been playing pretty decently. A tank who gulps the Breath of Hethiss attack from the two adds before the new version of Venoxis without a damage-reduction buff from a cauldron will find herself taking a dirt nap within 2 or 3 seconds. I saw the dungeon first as a tank without any clue what this attack did and was saved by the timely intervention of our group's discipline priest and Pain Suppression. The next run, I was healing, and a tank who forgot to reapply the cauldron buff got stomped. It would be correct to point out that in both cases, the underlying problem is not the druid's lack of a cooldown but tank error. However, three healers having an "Oh s%&t!" button for said error and one of them being up the proverbial creek in that context is no great recommendation for the latter over the former.

Three paladins or three priests can heal Cataclysm raid content and be prepared for this eventuality. Three shaman ... I'll have to get back to you on that one after we see what impact the new Spirit Link totem has. Three druids -- no. It comes down to what a spec can and cannot do, and the druid's sole response to massive burst damage on a target is to scramble wildly to outheal it. This is not always possible.

I think there's something to Carebear's assertion on Elitist Jerks earlier this month that something is very screwy with the underlying design of the restoration talent tree at the moment. It's an idea I'll be looking at in another upcoming Shifting piece once I organize a few thoughts. For the moment, the discussion on the linked EJ page does a pretty good job of encapsulating ideas on both sides of the debate.

Shifting Perspectives helps you gear your bear druid at 85, tempts you with weapons, trinkets and weapons for bears, then shows you what to do with it all in Feral Druid Tanking 101. We'll also help you gear your resto druid.

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