Bears and Other Tanking Changes in 4.2

The Firelands are coming! A little too soon for me, since my guild is still one boss away from fully completing all the content, but I’ll welcome a change in environment. Even though the change is from one fire-covered city and shadowy tower with a fire-covered basement to an entire fire-covered realm

For the full list of changes, go here.

As always, my Bear Guide and Gear List have been updated to reflect 4.2 changes.

General (Relevant) Changes

First off, a general change that indirectly affects tanks through their healers.

All healing critical strikes now heal for 2 times a normal heal (+100%), up from 1.5 times a normal heal (+50%).

So instead of those big heal crits hitting for 45k, they’ll hit for 60k. Yay more heals!

And the two most important changes of all:

Players are once again free to dance in combat (without causing graphic errors).

All character races now have a /roar sound.

Many crowd control abilities no longer cause creatures to attack players when they are cast. The creature will not attack the player when the crowd control wears off, and nearby creatures will not become hostile to the player either. However, if a visible player gets too close to the target creature, the creature will remember and attack the player when the crowd control effect wears off. The intent is to make it easier for dungeon groups to manage crowd control assignments and pulling packs of hostile NPCs. The abilities affected by this change are: Hibernate, Entangling Roots, Wyvern Sting (will still cause hostility when it begins to deal damage), Freezing Trap, Polymorph, Repentance, Shackle Undead, Blind, Hex, Bind Elemental, Banish, Seduction.

This will be a huge change to the way crowd control works in 5 mans. Basically, every major crowd control will act like Sap. Using a crowd control will disable the target for the expected amount of time, and once that time runs out the target will continue to ignore the caster as if nothing had happened.

Bear Changes

Bear damage abilities were scaling too fast with higher gear levels compared to other tanks, so the following balance changes have been made. All the numbers cited are for level 85 characters; numbers will be lower for lower-level characters.

Faerie Fire (Feral) base damage has been raised to 2950, up from 679. Attack power scaling has been decreased to 10.8%, down from 15%.
Maul base damage has been raised to 35, up from 8. Attack power scaling has been decreased to 19%, down from 26.4%.

Pulverize weapon damage percent has been decreased to 60%, down from 80%. Damage per Lacerate application has been increased to 1623, up from 361.

Mangle (Bear) weapon damage percent has been decreased to 190%, down from 260%. Bonus damage has been increased to 3306, down from 754.

Swipe base damage has been increased to 929, up from 215. Attack power scaling has been decreased to 12.3%, down from 17.1%.

Thrash initial base damage has been increased to 1042, up from 339. Initial damage attack power scaling has been decreased to 9.82%, down from 19.2%. Periodic base damage has been increased to 581, up from 189. Periodic damage attack power scaling has been decreased to 1.67%, down from 3.26%. In addition, a bug was corrected where armor decreased the periodic damage done by this ability.

Lacerate initial base damage has been increased to 3608, up from 2089. Initial damage attack power scaling has been decreased to 5.52%, down from 7.66%. Periodic base damage has been increased to 69, up from 16. Periodic damage attack power scaling has been decreased to 0.369%, down from 0.512%.

As Blizzard said, Bears were doing way too much damage and scaling way too well. I know that the difference between my threat and damage compared to my paladin co-tanks was astounding. It got to the point where I was chosen to tank bosses in the beginning simply because it let our damage dealers go full out right away. That kind of advantage would have only gotten more severe as bears got more gear. They had to make this change before bears became the default tank for dps race encounters.

These nerfs should put our base damage in line with the other tanks’ threat and damage. You’ll notice the threat loss if you’re in heroic raid epics (or have an average item level greater than 359), and your threat won’t scale nearly as well as it used to. Your rotation should stay roughly the same, the main difference being that Feral Faerie Fire will always be the third highest threat move (behind Mangle and Thrash), instead of sometimes the 3rd best threat move, if your vengeance is high enough. (However, I never use FFF unless I’m pulling or I’m responsible for the armor debuff, because it still can’t proc Savage Defense.)

Druids now gain 1 attack power per point of Strength, down from 2. They continue to gain 2 attack power per point of Agility while in Cat Form or Bear Form.

Bears (and cats) will never again experience the temptation to roll on strength maces or tanking accessories. All in all, we will lose around 900 attack power. Cat damage has been increased to compensate for this change (also to compensate for weak scaling). Bears will lose a tiny bit of threat; they will also lose some blocking power through Savage Defense.

Natural Reaction damage reduction has been increased to 9/18%, up from 6/12%.

I’m not really sure why we’re getting this buff. We already have the best passive damage reduction of all the tanks, and now we’re getting even more. I imagine it has something to do with Savage Defense’s poor scaling, though a total of 24% magic damage reduction still feels way too strong. Either way, it’s still a strong defensive buff.

Glyph of Berserk duration increase is now 10 seconds, up from 5.

This glyph was already among the prime bear glyphs; I guess this buff just solidifies its position. This change could quite possibly make it better for off-tank dps than Glyph of Rip, though I haven’t tested that out yet.

Cat Changes

I bring up the cat changes because, as I always say, a bear’s best utility is cat form. Other than losing our attack power bonus from strength, kitties get some love.

Ferocious Bite damage has been increased by 15%. In addition, its base cost has been reduced to 25 energy and it can use up to 25 energy, for up to a 100% damage increase.

Mangle (Cat) damage at level 80 and above has been increased to 540% weapon damage, up from 460%, and bonus damage has been lowered to 302.

Rake initial damage on hit now deals the same damage as each periodic tick (and is treated the same for all combat calculations). Periodic damage now gains 14.7% of attack power per tick, up from 12.6%, and base damage per tick has been lowered from 557 to 56. There is a known issue with Rake’s tooltip being incorrect from this change will be corrected in a future patch.

Ravage damage at level 80 and above has been increased to 950% weapon damage, up from 850%, and bonus damage has been lowered to 532.

Savage Roar now grants 80% increased damage to melee auto attacks, up from 50%. The Glyph of Savage Roar remains an unchanged bonus of 5% to that total.

Shred damage at level 80 and above has been increased to 540% weapon damage, up from 450%, and bonus damage has been lowered to 302.

Preliminary theorycrafting shows that these buffs will increase cat damage by 7-9%. Whoa, that’s huge! The cat secondary stat priority is shifting around because of these changes, though at the moment all those secondary stats are close to the same and the general rule will remain “reforge for stats you like”.

The cat rotation will not change. No, despite its buffs, Ferocious Bite is still not worth using unless you’re specced into Blood in the Water and your target is sub 25% health. It’s not necessarily a damage loss to use Ferocious Bite when you have 5 combo points and time left on Savage Roar and Rip, but it’s definitely not a gain. I really wish Ferocious Bite was part of the normal rotation because spamming Shred at 5 combo points is very boring at times, but it is immensely hard to make that ability better than Shred while not letting a full-energy version one-shot someone in PvP.

These buffs to our nukes (as opposed to our bleeds) makes weapon damage even more dominant for cats. A consequence of this change is that [Unheeded Warning] will be your best-in-slot trinket all the way up to Heroic Ragnaros. If you have one, treasure it. If you don’t have one, beg your guild to give you the trinket instead of making a 10k gold profit. Or just buy one off the auction house.

Glyph of Ferocious Bite has been redesigned. It now causes Ferocious Bite to heal the caster for 1% of maximum health for each 10 energy used.

The current version of Ferocious Bite on the PTR requires a base 25 energy and can use an additional 35 energy, for a total of 60. That’s a 6%-of-your-total-hp heal on an ability that’s rarely used, requires set up, and leaves you energy starved. I might use this in my pure PvE kitty spec because there just aren’t very many good cat glyphs, though I’m not excited about it. I can see this glyph being a tiny bit useful in a fight like Cho’gall, where the last 25% is the most dangerous and you’re spamming Ferocious Bite anyway. In most other fights, the heal will simply go unnoticed.

It is no longer possible in some encounters to use Feral Charge when closer than its minimum range.

This is referring to those fights where you could feral charge an enemy while still in melee range. These were typically bosses with huge hit boxes like dragons and Cho’gall. Say goodbye to the freebie Ravage in 4.2.

Entangling Roots and the equivalent spell triggered by Nature’s Grasp no longer deal damage.

Now you won’t break sheep if you accidentally cast Entangling roots on top of it.

Innervate now grants an ally target 5% of his or her maximum mana over 10 seconds, but still grants 20% of the druid’s maximum mana over 10 seconds when self-cast.

This is a big nerf to caster druids’ Innervate, but a minor buff to ferals’. The 4.1 version of the spell grants mana based on the size of the druid’s mana pool, which was about 5k if cast by a feral; the 4.2 version grants mana based on the size of your target’s mana pool, which will could be anywhere between 5k and 10k in current gear.

Swipe (Cat) now deals 600% weapon damage at level 80 or higher, down from 670%.

This is a minor nerf to kitty AoE. Not like we didn’t see this coming. It felt so wrong that I could shift into kitty during a few add phases and blow properly-specced damage dealers out of the water with my swipe spam.

And finally, what’s better than a legendary for a feral druid? A fire kitten. This is an effect that comes with Fandral’s Flamescythe. The fire kitty effect appears whenever you’re in combat. Ironically, Ranseur of Hatred is a very small way superior to Fandral’s Flamescythe for cats, but it’s only around 40 dps and totally not worth sacrificing fire kitty.

Other Tanking Changes

Not a whole lot of changes this time around.

Death knights, paladins, and warriors no longer receive any bonus to their chance to dodge from Agility. Their base chance to dodge is now a fixed 5%.

Death knights, paladins, and warriors now receive 27% of their Strength bonuses as parry rating, up from 25%. This conversion still only applies to Strength above and beyond their base Strength.

These changes are similar to the hit druids took to their strenth. Tanking paladins, warriors, and death knights will not be so interested in the rare agility accessory with mastery, which is good. They will lose some dodge, but they are compensated by increasing the amount of parry they receive from strength.

Holy Shield has been redesigned. This talent is now an activated ability off the global cooldown. It grants 20% increased block amount to a paladin’s shield blocks for 10 seconds, with a 30-second cooldown.

Protection Paladins traded their long term mitigation for another cooldown, and most paladins agree that this was a favorable trade. The 4.1 version of Holy Shield was a passive buff that increased the amount their shield blocks by 10%, so from 30% to 40%. In 4.2 it will be an active ability with a 30 second cooldown that increases the amount their shield blocks by 20%, so for a total of 50%. Pallies will take a bit more damage over the duration of an encounter because they will usually block for only 30%, but they now have an extra cooldown if things get dangerous, making them that much more survivable.