wotlk classic pve feral druid tank rotation & cooldowns

As covered in the overview, one of Feral druids’ weaknesses is their poor threat generation relative to other tanks. However, this should not be a problem for druids, as although their threat may be lower than other tanks, it should still be well above DPS players’ threat when played correctly. It is therefore important to know and correctly execute the appropriate rotation for both single-target and multi-target threat generation, which this page will focus on.

An important part of tanking in Wrath of the Lich King is active mitigation. Tanks have defensive cooldowns that they need to know how and when to use in order to survive certain boss mechanics, or simply to reduce incoming damage and make healers’ jobs more manageable. Druids have some new abilities for this purpose in Wrath, and these will also be covered here.

Single Target Rotation

  1. Refresh Lacerate if it is at 5 stacks and about to drop
  2. Mangle on cooldown
  3. Faerie on cooldown
  4. Lacerate if under 5 stacks
  5. Maul
  6. Swipe only if you have excess rage

The above list functions as a priority order for which abilities you should use at any given moment. This means you do not start a fight with Lacerate, but if at any point in the fight a 5-stack Lacerate is about to fall off, the best ability to use is Lacerate. Using an ability “on cooldown” means to use it whenever you can, i.e. when it is not on cooldown (kind of counterintuitive, I know).

Note that Maul is not tied to global cooldown, and it can and should be used alongside the other abilities listed. However, I list it as 5th on the priority order because it costs a lot of rage; you should not use Maul if it will mean that you cannot Mangle due to being rage starved.

Area of Effect Rotation

  1. Use a Sapper if you have engineering
  2. Use Berserk and spam Mangle for its duration (if 2-3 targets)
  3. Swipe
  4. Maul while ‘tab targeting’ (hit tab in between melee swings to spread your Maul out between enemies)
  5. Mangle a target if you are about to lose threat on them
  6. Growl a target if you have lost threat on them
  7. Bash a target if you have lost threat on them
  8. FeralCharge a target if you have lost threat on them
  9. ChallengingRoar if you have lost threat on multiple targets

The multi-target rotation for Feral tanks is extremely simple; really, all you need to do is hit Swipe and Maul. Now that Swipe hits all targets near you, Ferals are competent AoE tanks and threat should not be much of an issue.

However, it is still possible to lose threat, and knowing how to react in those situations is part of what separates a good tank from a great tank. Ferals have a number of tools at their disposal, and using them on cooldown to keep loose mobs controlled until you can build threat on them again is a key skill.

Overview of Abilities

Offensive Abilities

  • Mangle continues to be a Feral’s bread and butter for threat generation in Wrath of the Lich King. While the other listed abilities do come closer to its value now than they did previously, hitting your Mangle on cooldown will still be important.
  • FaerieFire gets a massive buff in Wrath, now generating an enormous amount of threat. This not only means that you will have considerably more initial threat on your target when using FaerieFire to pull mobs, but you even use it on cooldown as part of your rotation! As an added bonus, it has no rage cost, and only has a 1 second global cooldown (as opposed to the 1.5 seconds on other spells).
  • Lacerate is a stacking bleed debuff with a low rage cost and high threat on initial application. It is a strong filler ability, and at 5 stacks does a lot of damage and generates a lot of threat. You should not rush or compromise your rotation to initially build 5 Lacerate stacks on a target, however once you have 5 stacks you should maintain the debuff.
  • Maul has been buffed in Wrath to generate more threat, and therefore has moved up on the priority list to be a core part of the rotation, and not just a “rage dump” (ability used only when the player has excess rage which would otherwise go to waste). Maul is not tied to the global cooldown, and can therefore be used alongside other abilities. Just don’t use it if you’re too low on rage, as it will prevent you from casting your higher priority abilities.
  • Swipe has been buffed in Wrath to hit more than 3 targets, almost single-handedly making Ferals’ AoE threat viable. However, it continues to be fairly weak for single target threat generation, and should only be used as a rage dump if other abilities are on cooldown and there are already 5 lacerate stacks on your target.
  • Berserk is a new ability in Wrath. This powerful offensive cooldown buffs both bears and cats. For a tank, it removes the cooldown on Mangle, allowing it to be spammed for the duration of the ability which is great for your single-target threat generation. Additionally, it allows Mangle to hit 3 targets, which is incredibly powerful for multi-target threat.
  • Enrage is the same ability as before, giving you a little bit of rage but reducing your armor in return. It should generally not be used in combat, but is important to use before pulling to start encounters with a decent rage pool.

Defensive Abilities

  • Barkskin has been buffed in Wrath to be usable in all shapeshift forms. This has changed it from an almost completely useless spell (in PvE) to a great defensive cooldown. While 20% damage reduction for 12 seconds is not a very powerful cooldown (compared to shield wall, for example), it only has a 1 minute cooldown meaning it can be used frequently to reduce your average damage taken. On encounters where you expect a damage spike, make sure to save it for that, but otherwise using Barkskin on cooldown is ideal.
  • SurvivalInstincts is a new ability in Wrath. It provides 30% bonus HP for its duration, and can be further buffed with SIglyph. It is a very powerful defensive cooldown to be used either in anticipation of or in reaction to a dangerous situation (either due to high damage intake or reduced healing).
  • FrenziedRegeneration is mostly the same ability as before, though it now scales off of total HP making it slightly less weak. Ultimately, it’s worth using for a bit of extra healing when needed, but the healing-over-time nature of the ability makes it weak as a defensive cooldown and unlikely to ever save you. The new FRglyph makes it a little bit more useful and interesting, but this glyph is probably not strong enough to use over other available glyphs.

Utility Abilities

  • Growl is a Druid’s taunt ability, which forces a target to attack you and brings your threat on the target to equal the previous player’s threat. In Wrath, this ability can now be used from ranged, meaning you no longer need to chase mobs around to get them back on you.
  • ChallengingRoar is a Druid’s AoE taunt ability, forcing all nearby targets to attack you for a short duration, but not equalising your threat (meaning they will go back to the top threat player after it ends. Its cooldown has been considerably reduced in Wrath, from 10 minutes to 2.5 minutes with CRglyph.
  • FeralCharge allows the Druid to close gaps to a target, which is useful to combat any knockback mechanics. Additionally, the spell interrupt and root effects are useful for controlling mobs in multi-target scenarios.
  • Bash is a stun one a 1 minute cooldown, and is useful for controlling mobs. It now also interrupts spellcasting (if the target is immune to stun, but not to interrupts, for example) which provides good utility in raids.
  • DemoralisingRoar could perhaps be considered a defensive ability, but I place it as utility as it is a debuff for a target rather than a defensive buff for oneself. AP reduction is an important debuff to reduce damage intake by the tanks, but can be applied by Warriors and Warlocks as well – these spells do not stack. The talent points to improve this ability are quite costly for a Feral and should probably be picked up and applied by another class.

Gameplay

A Feral tank’s role in Wrath may either be as the main tank or as an off-tank. They are completely viable in either role, so which one a Druid plays will depend on what their raid needs from them. As a main tank, a druid spends most or all of their time in Bear Form, following the relatively simple but still fun rotation outlined on this page.

As an off-tank, a druid will spend a lot of their time DPSing in Cat Form, as relatively few fights in Wrath require multiple tanks. The Feral DPS rotation is quite complex, and knowing both well is a lot of fun. This versatility between DPSing and tanking has been the highlight of Ferals in previous expansions, and is personally my favourite role. However, with Dual Talent Specialisation being usable in raids, this is no longer unique to Ferals, as any class can switch between their tank spec and their DPS spec between encounters.

More generally, tank gameplay is engaging and interesting. Tanks carry a lot of responsibility for how smooth a raid is; tanks set up pulls, and therefore set the pace of the raid. They should gear and consume responsibly, as a tank death often means a wipe which significantly slows down the raid. In Wrath, active mitigation plays a part in this as well; using your defensive cooldowns at the correct times to avoid death is a tank’s responsibility, so you can’t just blame healers anymore! Furthermore, rotation mistakes may affect their threat generation, which every DPS in the raid will notice.

A lot of tank gameplay is based on mob positioning, for example facing mobs away from the raid to avoid cleave mechanics and avoid melee DPS getting parried. Tanks often need to play around boss mechanics, and therefore generally need to know raid mechanics better than other players. While all that may seem daunting, it means tank gameplay is always interesting, even with a simple rotation!

 

About the Author

Oxykitten

I've been an avid WoW player since Vanilla. At 6 years old, I was slowly progressing through Blackfathom Deeps and levelling up with my brothers. Since Classic Wow launched, I've found a new way to enjoy the game; participating in Feral Druid theorycrafting communities and performing well in an underdog class has been a fun challenge. I hope to be able to share all I've learned with anyone who shares that interest!
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3 months ago

Maul Glyph should also be noted in the passage:) Thank you for this clever guide.

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