Working with the Druid Tank
As usual when I talk of other classes, I am not that class. I gladly accept clarifications and corrections and additions – but please be able to show some specifics. Remember I’m a healer, and the tank is my symbiote. [As always when I write these otherclass articles, corrections abound. Edits are like this.]
Let’s start with the weaknesses of a druid tank to get them out of the way first – because there are some strengths that deserve a good hard look as well. Weakness one: The druid tank has no threat enhancers. [Right off the bat, I'm reminded that the Bear form gets the same bonus Defensive stance gets - 30%, plus up to 15% from talents. Also, there is bonus threat for Lacerate, Mangle and Maul.] Oh, there are a couple of spells that do high threat for the damage they do (faerie fire being an example), but the they don’t add to or multiply the threat from other actions.
The second weakness of the druid tank is the lack of a ‘come back here’ talent or skill. If a mob gets distracted the druid has to physically touch it to regain its attention.
As a consequence, the druid tank doesn’t do well if trying to hold the attention of more than two mobs. Either a lot of CC is needed, or the tank’s got to spend a LOT of time developing a solid hold on the extras before locking down kill target one. And while the tank is still getting everyone’s attention is a bad time for you to be healing — yet the increase in mobs make the need MORE likely. [Lots of disagreement here, with a good point. While the druid may lack some threat bonus for the various targets, skills such as SWIPE allow attacks on larger numbers of foes - and damage causes threat.]
Which brings us to the benefits of the druid tank. First and foremost, the druid tank is predominately a mitigation tank. Not much skill in avoiding damage, but lots of skill getting tapped and asking the foe, “that’s a hit? let me show you a HIT.” What this means as healer is that you are far less worried that a sudden hit (much less a crit) is going to plunge the tank’s health into (or through the bottom of) the red zone. Damage is smooth, not spiky.
The druid can heal himself. When tanking, there is absolutely no way he’s going to do so. To heal he has to shift out of bear form, cast, then change back. [Well, with a minor couple of exceptions. There's an ability that allows a small amount of health to return when the player crits - and it's a party buff ability. And in desperate times the druid can burn rage to generate health. Otherwise, however, the preceding is correct even if it's to use potions or bandages or anything like that.] Picture if a paladin had to drop to wearing cloth armor to heal himself and you get the idea of why this would be bad. Yes, the druid’s wearing leather – which is better than cloth, but when plate’s getting big holes you’re talking the difference between thin and thick paper.
As a healer with a druid tank, then, you must pay even more attention to your threat bar than normal. You also need to establish good communications with the tank, and you absolutely HAVE to remember that when – not if, but when – you pull a third mob’s aggro that you have to run TO the druid for help. The druid knows more than two is tough and is going to be watching for the mobs that try to leave, but less running is more clawing, lacerating, and mangling.
OK, let’s come back to druid threat. [See the preceding edits and apply throughout, here.] As I said the druid doesn’t have much in the way of threat enhancers. But in addition to lots of improvements to damage mitigation the druid has a lot of damage enhancers. Indirectly, that is threat enhancement. Look at it this way: Say the base damage of a strike is 100 points – with 100 points of threat. The warrior has skills that would increase the threat by about 10. The druid has skills that instead would increase the damage by about 10. The result either way is about 110 threat. The mobs the druid is tanking are going to die faster, and for at least two of them they are NOT going think of you as george, regardless of the heals.
Do druids make good tanks? They can. Their skills and talents are
not optimized for tanking [by damage-threat, not threat bonus above threat.] but they can be used for this quite effectively. (OK, I can hear the yelling. Let’s revisit the role of tank. The role of the tank is to ensure that only the tank takes direct damage. The better the tank, the less healing goes to other players.) That’s all that matters, really, because tanking is a player (not character) skill. A Warrior or Paladin has all these nifty skills and talents loaded up that make it EASIER to be a tank, but… it’s not what you’ve got, it’s how you use it.
But again – as a healer with a druid tank your job will be both easier and harder. Easier because the druid will usually be an easier partner for the five second waltz. Harder because extras keep trying to cut in. Plan and balance accordingly.