Bear rotations at level 85

I recently read a post by Astrylian over on elitist jerks about the work he is doing for the druid models in Rawr. He talks about the priority system for bear tanks and the way that it changes with gear levels – some abilities will scale more with attack power than others. Here’s the original post, its well worth a read.

I wanted to have a look at the details of this since the modeled rotation is designed for single target tanking. Here’s the priority list that was created in that post:

Astrylian's rotation priorities for level 85 bears

The details of this are interesting. Just looking at the list immediately makes me wonder why Thrash is there – didn’t Blizzard change the class so that AoE abilities (primarily Swipe) are no longer optimal in single target fights? Its very high up the priority list for single targets. I wonder if it will remain as important or if it will be changed later.

Here’s a deconstruction of that priority list:

  1. Mangle: High damage and debuffs the target take 30% increased bleed damage. For bears, that affects Lacerate and Thrash.
  2. Demoralizing Roar: very low threat, but a 10% reduction to damage done by any affected target.
  3. Lacerate debuff: a bleed effect. The damage of this is buffed by Mangle, and having a bleed active will increase the damage of Maul by 20% (assuming that Rend and Tear is fully talented, and it should be for bears). This will also trigger Berserk for more Mangles.
  4. Lacerate stack: 3 stacks of the Lacerate debuff – more bleed damage and the biggest benefit for when Pulverize is used.
  5. Thrash: Does damage to all targets and causes a 6 second bleed effect on them. This bleed will be affected by Mangle and will increase the damage from Maul because of Rend and Tear.
  6. Pulverize buff: a 9% critical strike chance buff with a duration of 10 seconds, or 18 seconds with Endless Carnage talented. It makes perfect sense that this is prioritized just after 3 stacks of Lacerate – less stacks reduces this buff significantly.
  7. Pulverize damage: this is a high damage ability and should be used whenever it can be, on a full Lacerate stack.
  8. Lacerate damage: Lacerate does a fair bit of damage on its own and has become the default filler in the bear rotation.
  9. Faerie Fire (Feral) damage: as well as reducing armor by 12% this spell does decent damage. At some gear levels it will be better than other options, but refer to the post on elitist jerks for this.
  10. Swipe does less single-target damage than pretty much everything else, so it drops to the bottom of the priority list.

In order for Maul to be buffed whenever it is used a feral druid needs to keep a bleed effect on the target. The synergy between Lacerate and Pulverize consumes the Lacerate bleed when Pulverize is used, so if a Maul is used at that point then it may lose the 20% damage bonus. Thrash can remove that issue since it applies a 6 second bleed as well (and has a 6 second cool-down) – as long as Thrash is active then using Pulverize will not cause any abilities to lose their buffs.
Once this is considered it becomes clear why Thrash is in the single target rotation and prioritized directly above Pulverize. The amount of damage that it deals over 6 seconds will have a lot to do with that too – at 10,000 attack power Thrash will deal more damage than a single Lacerate will.

I’ve thrown together a diagram of this priority into a possible rotation below. It basically comes down to this:

  1. Mangle
  2. Something
  3. Something
  4. Thrash
  5. Repeat the above

where the “Something” is the highest priority item amongst Demoralizing Roar, Lacerate and Pulverize.

This ends up looking like a nice diagram with a few choices to make here and there, but pretty much a steady state rotation for single target tanking.

Then we get to consider Berserk; the 30% chance to reset the cool-down of Mangle on Lacerate ticks means that this will proc roughly once every 10 seconds (Lacerate bleeds tick every 3 seconds). Given that Mangle is the top of the priority list this will totally shoot down a regular rotation and force tanks to juggle the uptime of their Lacerate and Thrash bleeds in order to fit the extra Mangles in.
As in the initial diagram, it is more important to keep the Lacerate bleed going than Thrash. Lacerate downtime reduces the number of free Mangles from Berserk.

I really recommend using an addon to track all this information. I use NeedToKnow to track my cat buffs and debuffs and I’ll be doing that for tanking now too. Tracking Demoralizing Roar, Lacerate, Pulverize and Thrash up-times is just enough that the default user interface is not going to cut it.

I hope you found these musings useful. Doing the research helped me understand why the recommended priorities are the way they are. I’m not a heavy theory-crafter but I find going through a process like this to be enlightening on occasions 🙂

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6 Responses to Bear rotations at level 85

  1. Iphigenia says:

    Your diagram is fantastic! I feel like I understand bear priority/rotation much more now than I did ten minutes ago. Thanks very much for making a visual representation.

  2. Ampzilla says:

    Great post!

    One other thing that I’ve been using since 4.0.1 in bear a lot more is Power Auras Classic. I’ve set up two icons to the left of my character. One is for Lacerate stacks (including a number inside the icon that tells me how many stacks I have 1-3) and the other icon is Pulverize, that includes the duration. It’s made tracking those two abilities infinitely easier than relying on the default UI.

  3. Gestalt says:

    Great post. I use Power auras as well, especially so when tracking debuffs/abilities playing my alt tanks. Now it looks like I’ll have to the same on my druid.

    I am assuming that is the optimal rotation for single tank encounters, I am just wondering what the rotation would look like on trash pulls with multiple mobs. Would it be any different?

  4. Antony says:

    Thanks folks, I’m glad you liked the post!

    Gestalt, I do think the rotation will be significantly different for trash pulls. The priority order of abilities will remain almost the same once the battle is full engaged, but for the pull it will be critical to get Demoralizing Roar and Thrash up on all targets as quickly as possible. Once Thrash is up then you should be safe from the healer getting threat from the other mobs for a few seconds.

    I haven’t spent as much time on this as the post, but here’s my current thoughts:
    – Faerie Fire on the first target for the pull
    – Mangle that target before the others arrive
    – Demoralizing Roar (the dps will probably have to hold off for an extra 2 seconds)
    – then repeat the following:
    1 – Thrash
    2 – Swipe
    3 – Mangle or Lacerate as you move through the target list
    4 – Pulverize a target with 3 lacerates on it

    Where Demoralizing Roar fits into this will depend on how close together the mobs are. It might be a better idea to do it after the Thrash and Swipe, but that’s 3 seconds where you could be taking 10% more damage from all the mobs in the pull.

    Mangle will still take priority over Lacerate and using a Berserk proc instead of Lacerate will always be a good idea. Just make sure that one target has a Lacerate bleed on it.

    I’m assuming that Swipe will do enough damage that using it on cool-down is a good idea. It seems silly that one of the two AoE abilities a druid tank has would not be used in an AoE situation. It’s less than stellar in 4.03 at level 80 and there is lots of talking about it on forums at the moment but I cannot see it remaining so poor at level 85. Druids had lots of changes in all the patches during Wrath, so its likely that will happen again.

  5. Gestalt says:

    After banging my head against a wall all night trying to setup power auras I came across a nice code set you can just copy in that gives you all the necessary info for when abilities are ready given certain conditions.

    “Mark of the Wild – do you have MotW and/or Blessing of Kings.
    Mangle available – checks the mangle cooldown
    Free mangle available – checks if the berserk buff is active
    Faerie Fire – is any kind of FF active on the target
    Lacerate – are less than 3 stacks active on the target
    Pulverize – this replaces the lacerate icon when you have 3 stacks of lacerate on the target.
    Maul – maul icon appears to when you have over 50 rage and can afford to dump some rage into this high threat ability.”
    scroll down to Fuzzy Butt

  6. Morannon says:

    Just found this great blog. Thanks for a lot of really good posts and to both the author and the cemmentators for good follow up comments!

    Consider yourself stickied! 🙂

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