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Shifting Perspectives: Reforging guardian druids for dummies (or better yet, crit)

Allison Robert

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Shifting Perspectives for cat, bear, restoration and balance druids. This Tuesday, a cheerful question-and-answer session comes to a screeching halt.

The following is a partial transcript of questions I have received ingame or via email since the launch of Mists of Pandaria, accompanied by their answers:
  • What's the hit cap for bear tanks now? Versus a level 93 raid boss, it's 2,550, or 7.5%. If you're only running heroics, it's 2,040, or 6%. Thanks, Arielle!
  • What the hell is going on with resto in raids? I don't know, but I suspect it's a version of the problem that plagued resto in the early days of Cataclysm. More on this next week when I've looked at more World of Logs parses. In the meantime, don't forget that other healers' (cough, monks) being overpowered renders us underpowered only by comparison.
  • Do I need to worry about the "hard" expertise cap? Eh. It should be fairly easy to reach the soft cap (or get close to it) once you're sitting on heroic-level gear. After that, whatever expertise you get up to the hard cap is gravy, because if your rage income is enough to keep Savage Defense at maximum uptime, additional expertise won't really have a serious impact on your survivability.
  • How do you get blood out of a shirt? Hydrogen peroxide.
  • (From my raid leader) When will our scrub-ass warlock get to 90 so we can raid? I don't know, sir.
And the last:

How should I reforge my bear tank?

(Fidgets.) Uh, well ...

Shifting Perspectives Reforging guardian druids for dummies or better yet, crit
The lack of the One True Answer

"How should I reforge my bear?" is one of those perennial questions without a simple answer. These are somewhat annoying, because the binary level of "good" choices and "bad" choices is strangely comforting. Having selected the "good" choice renders us safe from criticism, whereas selecting the "bad" choice means we are either very brave or very incompetent. Whenever a question doesn't have a simple answer, there's always the lurking fear that you've chosen poorly, that some hit squad trolling the armory is chortling at you from behind their monitors, and that you could be playing so much better than you are.

We all know it's irrational, but there's still something unsettling about not having a ready answer. It's even more unsettling because during Cataclysm we just reforged the most useless stat on our gear into dodge and went on our merry way. Occasionally I miss that.

But fear not. Let us spend a few moments untangling what looks like a more complicated issue than it actually is.

What are your reforging options?

Ground rules: You can't reforge a primary stat (e.g., agility), and you can't reforge into any stat that's already on your gear (e.g., more critical strike on a piece that's already got it).

So this is what you'll see on your trip to the local reforger:
  • Parry What? What, what, what are you doing? Turn in your bear card and go sit in the corner.
  • Hit As advertised. Increases your chance to hit a target up to 2,550 rating (7.5%) versus a level 93 raid boss, beyond which there is no benefit to the stat.
  • Expertise Expertise reduces the chance that your target will dodge or parry your attack. Expertise is "hard-capped" at 5,100 rating (15%) versus a level 93 raid boss, beyond which there is no benefit to the stat.
  • Dodge As advertised, more passive dodge.
  • Critical strike As advertised, more passive critical strike. Bear Form grants a 50% bonus to crit from items, and the passive Primal Fury means an additional 15 rage with every auto-attack and Mangle crit.
  • Mastery We have Nature's Guardian, so more mastery means more armor.
  • Haste Faster white attacks, more rage. As with crit, you'll get a 50% bonus just by being in bear. Much better for us than it used to be, but still not as good as crit, hit, or expertise because it doesn't impact Mangle.
7 options, 6 of them useful, but only four are effectively without caps. (Well, you can cap armor at 75% physical damage reduction and crit/dodge at 100%, but let's not kid ourselves about actually seeing those numbers on a character sheet.) Which are you supposed to pick?

Remember that discussion we had two months ago about a certain mantra you should be repeating to yourself?

The rage extends life, chants the implacable legion of bears. The rage must flow.

Yes. Your first responsibility is to ensure you keep Savage Defense and/or Frenzied Regeneration running, and that means making sure you have adequate rage. No amount of reforging or gemming for anything else will ever afford you the survivability benefits granted by hitting these hotkeys regularly. (Mostly. More on this in a moment.)

Knowing this, the three secondary stats that most directly impact our rage generation -- crit, hit, and expertise -- are the most immediately compelling, and this is where we have to ask the following crucial question:

What's your rage income and are you comfortable with it?
  • "I don't have enough rage. My life sucks." Actually, "My life sucks" isn't far off the mark for a bear with insufficient rage generation, because it means you can play perfectly but still be a pain in the ass to heal. If you aren't getting enough rage, you need to focus on the stats that have the greatest effect on it -- crit, hit, and expertise. (But which? We'll talk about this in a moment.)
  • "My rage generation is OK, but I feel like I could be doing better than I am." If you have steady rage generation but it never seems to build as quickly as you'd like, that probably means your hit and expertise are fine but you need more crit. (Either that, or it means your rotation needs work.)
  • "I'm drowning in rage like Twilight aficionados are drowning in tears over the approach of Breaking Dawn part 2." Interesting analogy. Shine on, you crazy diamond.
Shifting Perspectives Reforging guardian druids for dummies or better yet, crit
If you need rage, how do you pick between crit, hit, or expertise? Reaching the hit and expertise caps means that every swing will generate rage, which is an attractive prospect. However, the single largest source of your rage is always going to be Primal Fury, which is triggered by auto-attack and Mangle crits. Arielle once put it in a way that I find very helpful, which is that hit and expertise guarantee steadier and more predictable rage generation, but crit guarantees more rage generation. Obviously, both have value. Crit is better because, hey, more rage, but crits have a not-so-mysterious tendency to not happen when you don't hit the boss.

I reforged for both hit and expertise early on under the magnificently unscientific and yet understandable rationale that I HATE the sound you get when a hit is parried or dodged. I would probably have been equally fine reforging for crit, but after getting three Mangles parried by the second boss during a very early Niuzao Temple run, I was in no mood to do anything other than beat the living s%^$ out of a boss. Anyway, you'll see just as many dividends from gemming pure crit or something like expertise/crit.

Is there such a thing as having too much rage?

Sort of. Once you've reached a "rage income" that allows you to keep Savage Defense at maximum uptime (which can only ever reach 75% of a fight), additional rage generation will only impact your survivability insofar as it provides you with larger Frenzied Regeneration heals. At this point, you should be reforging for dodge or mastery depending on the fight. Because armor is the single best stat in our arsenal, mastery is typically the better pick.

Are these "rules" universally true for all bears?

Eh. A lot of this article has been written with pre-heroic, heroic, and early normal raid players in mind, largely because rage generation quickly ceases to be an issue in better gear. If you're pushing heroic raid content with bosses that hit like freight trains, you're likely to get more survivability from gemming stamina and reforging mastery, i.e., maximizing effective health. But that's been the case since amoebas first emerged from the muck and started tanking, I dunno, rocks or something.

Seriously. Use your best judgment.

Bored now. Can you boil this down to a TL:DR?
  • If you don't have enough rage, try to get hit and expertise-capped and reforge for crit.
  • If you have enough rage, reforge for dodge or mastery.
  • There are certain fights where specific stats will outclass others for no other reason than boss mechanics.

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.

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