I've glossed the eight common player arguments from October 2009 as to why bears were an unpopular tank and then examined how applicable they seem today. You may find reading the original article
to be helpful.#1: Bears aren't as visually compelling as other tanks.Then:
As Alex Ziebart
observed behind the scenes here, the druid class in WoW
breaks one of the cardinal rules concerning MMO design -- it is impossible to "advance" the character, given that the druid is almost always in form.Now:
No change. The druid is not the class to play if you like seeing your cool gear in action, unless you're a restoration player (which was its own can of worms
). However, I'm still not sure that the static form is a strong argument for why druid players aren't playing the bear particularly, as it's a problem that, until Cataclysm
, was shared by all four druid specs. As far as I can tell, druids have a 10-11% share of characters at level 85, which is ideal representation given that there are 10 classes in the game. If static form design isn't keeping people from playing the class itself, then there's no reason why it should be keeping people from playing the bear.
Unless people just really hate the bear model while tolerating the moonkin and cat forms. Are you out there?
Otherwise, I was surprised to see a few players on the tanking forums
make note of the animation issue recently. We finally got a neat avoidance animation during Wrath
(it's in the screenshot above), but the bear is still the least compelling tank from both an art and animation perspective.#2: Gear consolidation had a more demoralizing effect on druids.Then:
No matter what you're using, it feels like Blizzard's irritably shoving you into someone else's gear.Now: Cataclysm
has been a solid win in this respect -- at least so far as leather is concerned. The introduction of armor specialization discouraged players from seeking gear outside their own armor class, so we're no longer competing with just about every physical DPSer for melee leather. The huge benefit conferred by armor penetration toward the end of Wrath
led to drops like the Frostbitten Fur Boots
and Toskk's Maximized Wristguards
being best-in-slot for just about every physical DPSer in the raid barring the enhancement shaman, and that was maddening.
However, plate tanking gear is still overwhelmingly distinguished by the presence of defensive stats like parry, block, and dodge that DPS players don't want, and there are relatively few "crossover" plate pieces suitable for both roles. To the extent that plate tanks can expect to compete with DPS for gear at all, they'll only be interested in strength gear with hit and expertise on it. Even that's only going to be attractive (if minimally so) to death knight players; paladin and warrior survivability is in no way impacted by either of these stats.
So the situation is definitely much better than it used to be, though bears still have more potential loot competition in any given raid. Agility leather is now functionally "restricted" to rogues, cats, and bears, but agility rings, cloaks, necks, trinkets, and weapons remain attractive to rogues, cats, bears, enhancement shaman, and hunters. Now that I think about it, we're actually somewhat worse off in Cataclysm
because strength tanking jewelry and cloaks are so inferior to their agility counterparts.
So maybe the gear issue's ultimately a wash. We're better off with respect to melee leather and worse off with respect to jewelry and cloaks.#3: The need to use DPS gear results in an opportunity cost for the raid.Then:
A raid that chooses to prioritize drops toward a bear tank is, at least in the short term, costing itself improved damage from its melee DPSers and/or hunters ... (By contrast), if your raid doesn't
prioritize drops toward tanks, odds are pretty good you're going to be upgrading your tanking set a lot more slowly than your buddy the prot pally.Now:
No change, but I never thought this played a big role in tank selection anyway. It's just an unintended nuisance for agility-based DPSers if your raid prioritizes tanks for gear first. If it doesn't -- or if you pug the majority of content and have to roll against everyone for drops -- then yes, you will spend a lot more time trying to get gear than your plate tank counterparts.#4: Early weakness in the expansion bled through to raid content.Then:
We're not bad tanks. We're just the tank whose particular weaknesses are least suited to how players expect to complete modern heroics.Now:
Eh. The bear started Cataclysm
in a much better place than it did in Wrath
. The lack of Savage Defense
in early Wrath
, coupled with the bear's relatively weak AOE threat generation, was noted by players fairly quickly in 5-man content. This was also before Swipe
was changed to a no-target, 360-degree ability; the previous version left the bear as the only tank without a 360-degree aggro generation tool. As you'd expect, this wasn't fun
on any event with moving mob spawns. We entered Cataclysm
much better equipped to handle the strain of tanking new heroic and raid content in blues.
However, as long as Savage Defense works the way it does, the bear -- and for that matter, the death knight -- is doomed to start every expansion at a noticeable disadvantage relative to block tanks. There is no substitute for block's impact on survivability while trash/AOE tanking, and there are certain raid encounters (most notably heroic Nefarian) where this is a real problem. More on this next week.