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.


~ by Kirk on September 1, 2007.

16 Responses to “Working with the Druid Tank”

  1. That’s a fairly accurate assessment of druid tanking.

    I always defer tanking multiple mobs to the warrior if the group has one, but I tend to find that I can hold aggro on a single mob more easily than the warriors I work with, even when a crit-happy mage/boomkin/hunter is tossed into the mix.

    One last thing: Challenging Roar is a great “oh crap” skill in the feral arsenal that allows the feral tank to become the target of all surrounding beasties for 6s. It can be a group saver.

  2. As a tanking druid I must add something to your very interesting post.

    Tranquility, generates threat as well. It’s been a life saver when situations get out of control. I could say that it works as a chanllenging roar, only so much better since it also heals your party.

    My trick is:

    Shapeshift into caster, since tranquility needs the caster to be channeled, cast barkskin (All damage taken is reduced by 20%. While protected, damaging attacks will not cause spellcasting delays). Cast Tranquility (Regenerates all nearby group members for 1518 every 2 seconds for 8 sec.) You can toss an innervate when you’re still with barkskin. Shapeshift back to bear and keep tanking!

    After this, your healer will regenerate mana, and your party will have -if not full health- health enought to get out of that crappy situation without dying.

    I hope this is helpful for you on your healing duties… 😉

    Best regards…

  3. Well, as a previous poster mentioned, druid tanks have Challenging Roar. They also have Growl for another “oh crap, the crit happy fire mage just pulled aggro.” But I respectfully disagree with you over the point you made about bears not being able to hold aggro as well as a warrior on multiple mobs. (Neither the warrior nor the bear can compare to a paladin for AoE tanking, so I’ll concentrate on the other two tanks.) If a druid throws lacerate on all the mobs, mangles the MT, and weaves mangles with swipes, it should create more then enough aggro.

  4. Ok, I’ve got a few points to clear up on this one. First off I have a 70 warrior who has tanked through Kara (to Illhoof) AND a 70 Feral druid (70 for only 9 days and has tanked through kara (to Prince) and his tanked his first Heroic SP just last night) So please take these comparisons as informed by a player of the classes in question. My wife is MH on 90% of my runs/raids so I do have a passing familiarity with the comparative impact on the healing side too.

    1. Threat modifiers. Def stance for a warrior = 30% threat buff (45% talented)
    Bear stance for a Druid = 30% threat buff (45% talented) these are both on all damage

    There is a flat bonus threat on Maul the same as on a warrior HS, and there is a flat bonus on the druids’ Mangle to match the Prot warriors’ Shield Slam.

    “Faerie fire” is mostly used for a ranged instant pull. Not as a threat generator in and of itself.

    2. “Come back here” talents. The druid has the same type of skills as a warrior in this respect. A taunt (10sec cool down, like a warriors untalented taunt) and a challenging roar, which works just like the warrior challenging shout (all mob aggro for 6 seconds)

    Druids also have Swipe which is actually better than the warrior’s cleave in most situations. Swipe hits 3 targets instead of 2 (cleave) and is an instant hit not an on next hit that stops rage generation (like a warrior’s cleave does). With omen of clarity + Imp LOTP Swipe is a fantastically efficient way to generate aggro on more than one mob.

    Final note on this point is Feral druid have “Feral Charge” that is better than the warrior intercept because it does not require a stance shift (and loss of rage) but immobilizes the target for 4 seconds, and is on only a 15 second cool down (Intercept is 30)

    3. Your right on the mitigation front a druid has a much bigger HP pool and AC level to mitigate damage with at the same gear level as a warrior. The warrior does have some advantages to even this out though. Def stance = -10% damage (magical not just physical Like the druids AC is). Plus spell reflect and shield bash give the warrior a nice edge in tanking and mitigating damage from Spell casters.

    4. Druid self healing. Druids can do self heal while in bear form. They even group heal. Any tanking druid will have “Improved Leader of the Pack” this increases all melee Crit for the party by 5% and when a melee crits they heal themselves for 4% of their max health. On an 18k druid HP that is 720 per crit which normally procs every 6-9 seconds. The druids also have a single “oh crap” button, “frenzied regeneration” converts rage into health for 10 seconds. This ticks at about 250HPS (can crit heal). Druids do have a lack in that they cannot pop pots/healthstones while in bear form, so mark up one more for the warriors side.

    I hope this clears things up a little.

  5. I’d also like to add a few comments.I’ve got a 70 Priest, 70 Paladin and 70 Shaman – all of which I’ve extensively PvEed and PvPed with. My husband (who posted above) has a 70 Warrior and a 70 Druid, both of which I’ve had a lot of experience healing … so I’d like to add the Healer perspective.

    I don’t know what kind of Druid tanks you’ve been running with but I prefer Storm’s Druid to his Warrior for a number of reasons.

    (1) The Druid can output an amazing amount of DPS while still mitigating massive amounts of damage.

    (2) I’ve found there are a lot less damage spikes when healing a Druid. The damage intake is a great deal more steady than a Warrior, which means it’s a lot easier for me to pre-empt the healing … something which is particularly important on my Paladin who has a lot less “Oh Shit!” buttons than my priestess.

    (3) I’ve found the Druid is a lot better at maintaining the aggro on multiple mobs. If 1 mob did get loose, my husband’s warrior had intercept but I’ve found that the Swipes keep a lot more mobs on the Druid and if 1 does get out … Feral Charge is a godsend. Not just for taking the damage off me, but immobilising the mob for a few seconds, giving the healer time to recover and get back in the swing of things.

    (4) Not to mention, Improved Leader of the Pack … imagine having a tank that tops up his health by 700HP every 6 secs or so. And also tops up the health of other melee who crit … I love it!

    The downsides are that the Druid can’t Pot and there’s no last stand. I did like being able to yell “I’m stunned/silenced/feared etc. Pot!”. However, because the damage intake of the Driud is so steady, even when things go to shit, it still maintains that steady intake. And I can still yell “Frenzied Regeneration now!”

    But we’re just talking raiding/instancing here. Imagine soloing out in the big wide world … I have a tank that can root a mob, shift out of form, throw a heal and an innervate on me when things have gotten rough, shift back to bear and we’re off again. Not a tactic for instancing .. but fantastic when we’re questing.

    I’ve healed a lot of tanks in my time … and as a healer, I’ve found it is a hell of a lot easier to heal a bad Druid tank, than a bad Warrior tank. I really do think that Warriors got the short end of the stick when Blizzard was working on the classes.

  6. Going to agree with the only two points of disagreement that I have enough experience with enough to speak on.

    1) Druids can hold aggro on more than two mobs with ease. As a matter of fact, three is perfect, because of swipe. I am currently alting with a beartank, and he’s able to hold just as many as his warrior was without problem.

    I couldn’t tell you how much more skill this required on his part, but from comments he’s made, I’d say not much.

    2) Improved Leader of the Pack is a small heal, but an important one. It’s not going to save the day, but it certainly makes the healer’s job easier. A bit like having Vampiric Touch up, but a little weaker.

    For TRUE heals though, you’re right. For the “oh, crap, the healer isn’t going to make it (or is dead)” – the bear tank is out of luck.

    3) Addendum – one drawback is potions. No potions while in bear form, none at all. No heal potions, no rage potions…nothing.

  7. For all above, thank you for comments and corrections (as always). I want to point out that I got most of my info from various Druid tank guide sites. That said, I want to point out a couple of small, well, clarifications.

    Reading Storm’s very informative post required me to go doublecheck some things, and I find I need to stand by part of what I said. The warrior has more skills that magnify threat. The druid makes up for this with more damage. Example – not sole, but one – is the cleave/swipe discussion. Swipe does only the amount of threat that it does damage (modified by stance bonus). Cleave has an ADDITIONAL threat beyond both damage and stance bonus. There are a couple of exceptions — Mangle, for example, has a threat value of 150% damage. Storm used Shield Slam as a comparison, though it actually does a heck of a lot more threat (and damage).

    Folks, I’ve worked with outstanding tanks of all stripes. And I’ve worked with a lot more average and less than average tanks. When you get down to brass tacks, with a good tank the healing job is easy: Do what you need to keep the tank alive, and trust the tank to make it possible for you to do that. I’ve had epic-geared regular Kara/heroic running druids fail, and I’ve had terribly undergeared pally tanks succeed. In the end it’s the PLAYER, not the class.

    What I’m trying to do is note the niggly little details that make the druid and the pally and the warrior different from the POV of the healer. I missed the growl and the challenging shout. And didn’t know about the little trickling heal and the ‘burn rage for health’ ability. I’m pleased that talented druid tanks can hold multiple mobs as easily as warriors – but experience with just shy of 100 druid tanks and over 150 warrior tanks tells me that’s the exception, not the rule.

    For most healers encountering most druid tanks in pugs, they should expect the druid tank to not hold multiple mobs quite as well as warrior (prot spec) tanks), but balancing that the druid holds the one or two mobs it DOES grab much, much better. But once you’re in the instance, adjust to what the situation IS, not what it’s SUPPOSED to be.

  8. Mangle (bear) doesn’t have an extra plus threat on it (but at the same gear level the higher damage is creating about the same threat as a Shield Slam). The 6 second cool down links the 2 in my mind, I apologize for misrepresenting it.

    Cleave does get a small flat threat bonus however so does Swipe. One of the changes in 2.1 (I think) was to make druid threat on Maul and Swipe a fixed bonus, like the warrior HS and Cleave. This was because it was scaling up too much.

    Another comparison is Sunder Armor and Lacerate, both get a hefty (and comparable) threat bonus. In short a druid has more than enough skills to create aggro and dump rage into threat with big multipliers. (I’ll stop beating a dead horse now)

    Player skill > spec / gear

    A bad tank is a bad tank no matter the class. It’s like a good healer; you can make up for being an off spec or a little light on gear. There is however no replacing skill and a good knowledge of your class and the classes you’re working with. It’s all down to player skill in the end.

    Worth noting that a Prot warrior is going down a road that totally gimps him/her for solo work out in the big wide world. Because of this; if you party with one you’re probably getting a warrior with a fair idea of his class and decent gear. Feral druids can be a much more hit and miss affair, Feral is a very balanced tree that can be used well for PVP, tanking and DPS. So the PUG Feral Druid might not be a good tank or have any tanking gear.

    On a side note:
    Thanks for writing the blog, It’s nice to read what people are thinking and discuss WOW game mechanics / strategies etc. Unfortunately the official forums are not a place to go for intelligent or rational discussion 😛

  9. re threat – if you can link studies or patch notes on your corrections I’d appreciate it. Sorry – link or tell me the right ones. I’m getting conflicting information from ‘people of good will’. Nothing new, honestly — it’s something that drove me to do my own theorywork.

    re skill v spec – amen. Note my article about race-class census information, and the LIKELY peculiarity that this means a Dwarf Rogue (for example) is a preferred player. Similar issue, actually. (Actually, priests run into the same, though most of us spend at least a few levels as shadow just to level, breaking at some point to level holy and get into the groove.)

    Side note – you’re welcome. Thanks for insightful responses.

  10. Well I’m eating crow today. While chasing links for patch notes etc I found this. Looks like Mangle DOES have a built in +threat like SS.

    “Mangle(Bear): Damage increased by 15%, but bonus threat reduced so that overall threat generation will be unchanged.”
    World of Warcraft Client Patch 2.1.0 (05/22/2007)

    “The Druid ability Mangle (Bear) will now generate 50% bonus threat.”

    But Swipe does not

    “”Swipe” has had its threat bonus multiplier removed.”
    “Maul” has had its threat bonus multiplier changed to a flat value similar in threat per time to “Heroic Strike”.”

    I shall have to read the “race-class census” article in full. The logic behind a player who is an unusual combination of class and race might = greater skill doesn’t immediately jump out at me. That could be like saying a female tauren druid is better than a male because there are less of them right? I do happen to play with an exceptional Dwarven rouge though.

  11. race-class first – no logic. It’s a ‘human nature’ experience of mine. The popular classes seem to have a significantly higher than average number of… less than impressive players. That would give the impression – not logic, just intuition – that the unpopular choices would tend to be populated by higher than average number of good players.

    Re crow – Crow turns out to be somewhat tasty. Much like pigeon (adult squab). It’s usually a slightly gamier meat, however, much like pheasant or quail. That’s experience, not just reading about it. I’ll add only that given how often I have to prepare it for myself (figuratively speaking) it’s a good thing the taste is not as low as its reputation.

  12. Give me two equally skilled tanks to pick from and I’ll take the druid over the warrior.

    I did heroic Underbog last night with a druid tank, rogue, warrior and lock for dps. We went through it in 55 minutes. No deaths, I had to drink 3 times througout the instance, felt like UBRS.

    Then I went to heroic Mechanar with a warrior tank, rogue and warrior (same as previous run) and a hunter in place of the lock. Took us longer and we skipped the lady before the end event. There were a few deaths (mostly me dying). I had to drink lots. It just wasn’t as smooth. I had gone to Mech on the weekend (with a druid tank) and kept thinking: “and they call this heroic why?”

    One thing I think makes the druids so good is that most have been healers in the past at some point (or still are, like one of our main tanks who respecs resto for pvp in between raids). It seems several were resto before the expansion and know how it “feels” between a tank and healer when all is well. How’s that for esoteric?! 🙂

  13. I’d like to throw a quick note at the bottom of this (even though this discussion seems to have died down)-

    Any tank is only as good as the group he’s in. Tanking multiple mobs is always a disaster when your DPS decides to attack whoever they want. The results are almost always horrible when the group as a whole is uncoordinated, no matter how good the healer and/or tank is.

    Any group that is reasonably coordinated can make it far easier on the tank and healer. DPS that works on the same target and does a decent job of CC can greatly decrease the amount of damage going into the group and increase the speed with which any single mob is taken out.

  14. Trustee – yep. Provided secondarily that the kill team controls their DPS so they either kill the mob so fast it can’t leave the tank, or just enough DPS the tank still stays on top of the threat table.

    But I agree.

  15. a very interesting post..knowing how healers would feel on healing us (Druids, Thank you =) .

    However, druids do have certain “techniques” that would guarantee them holding multiple mobs with no problems.

    It just depends on your druid and how is s/he holding them, and of course that would be done primarly with the group’s help by , for example, focusing their fires toward the first mob to kill.

    We can heal our selves through out our Improved talents, but it would be “stupidity” for druids to heal them selves during fights!…i’d never do it, nor recommend it.

    Druids can Hot them selves with reju/growth/Lfebloom prior to fighting, which would increase their threat generation(especially Lifebloom) and ensure a smooth start of the fight. or, if you built quite enough aggro, you can tell your dps ppl to go white for 10 sec so you could go frenzied (a 10m cool down bear-spell)

    It just that there are many techniques for druids to get around many things that suit different situations. for example, u can instantly save healers, when they aggro, by charging+bashing the target..that would give healers time to reheal them selves and for the DPS to catch up..or even for the CC-er to reCC

    IMO, it all depends on the techniques and the group’s help.

    Thank you

  16. And another thing i forgot to mention.

    I’d not worry about my threat thru heroics or raids as long as u dont spam your atomic nukes on the first seconds of the fight.

    with high-geared DPS, just make sure u dont miss ur lecerates+ mangle (when it finishes CD)+ maul with renewing your FFire.

    Additionally, each DPS with an aggro-reset or aggro-reduction spell ought to utilize such spells; which imo these spells should be done with every kind of tanks not just druids.

    oh and KTM is a bless.

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