- Author: Oxykitten
- Date: November 20, 2021
- Expansion: WoW Classic
Welcome to our Feral Druid tank guide for WoW Classic: Season of Mastery! This guide aims to take an in-depth look at everything to do with Feral Druid tanks; each facet of what it takes to play the class to its fullest will have its own section described in detail. In this guide, the terms “Feral tank” and “Bear” will be used interchangeably.
The scope of this guide includes:
- Role and viability of Feral tanks
- Gameplay and rotation
- Stat priorities
- Talent specialisation choices
- Raid buff and consumables
- Profession choices
For additional information on levelling, Best in Slot gear, and Feral DPS guides, refer to the navigation pane above for my other relevant guides.
Role of a Feral Tank in Season of Mastery
Druids are often referred to as the ‘Jack of all trades’ of Classic WoW. Druids can heal, tank, and DPS. However, relative to other classes they do not excel at any one role, and thus they are also known as ‘master of none.’ For a long time, this was thought to apply to Feral tanks as well, whereby bears could tank dungeons passably, but not meaningfully contribute to an endgame raid. However, this mindset changed considerably throughout the course of Classic WoW, and playing a Feral tank to its maximum potential makes them completely viable in a raid environment.
When played correctly, a Feral can match the average threat of a Fury/Prot warrior tank while having significantly higher mitigation (reduction in damage taken, or ‘tankiness’). However, Fury/Prot tanks continue to have a higher maximum threat through the use of offensive cooldowns (namely recklessness and death wish), as well as a higher maximum mitigation by equipping a shield and using defensive cooldowns (namely shield wall and last stand). More importantly, Fury/Prot warriors do significantly more damage while tanking – and when not actively tanking – than bears do, and for this reason primarily feral tanks continue not to be the optimal choice of tank in Season of Mastery.
Pros and Cons of Feral tanking
Pros of Feral tanking
- Easy to play:
Feral tanks are very easy to play, with a simple rotation and straightforward gearing. This means that although warriors are the better tank with perfect execution, it is common for Ferals to perform better in an average guild.
- Great balance of threat and mitigation:
Through the use of Manual Crowd Pummelers, Feral tanks can produce a lot of threat. And, through their 460% armor modifier in Bear Form, they can reach high levels of armor and therefore mitigate a lot of damage. Although Fury/Prot warriors can reach higher levels of threat and higher levels of mitigation, they cannot do both at the same time, making Ferals strong on threat-sensitive, hard-hitting fights like Broodlord Lashlayer, Ouro, and Patchwerk.
- Hybrid tank/dps specialisation:
Since Feral Combat is a single talent tree, a Druid can easily pick up all the most relevant tanking and DPS talents, allowing them to tank and DPS at virtually full potential in both roles. This means that on encounters only requiring one or two tanks, an offtank druid can go into Cat Form and deal respectable damage. Furthermore, a Feral can even gear in a way that allows them to do both roles in a single encounter; for example, they can tank an add, then go back to Cat Form and continue DPSing once it dies.
- Reduced gear competition between tanks:
In Classic, raid gear is very scarce, and with 40 players in a raid, the competition is fierce. Having all warrior tanks in a raid leads to a lot of competition between the tanks who want the same pieces. Druid tanks wear leather, and therefore share only a few pieces (usually rings and trinkets) with other tanks. This makes them easy to gear up without taking loot away from other raid members.
Cons of Feral tanking
- Low DPS:
Although the threat produced by Ferals is very respectable (due to high threat multipliers on their abilities), their damage done is very low. Fury/Prot tanks can easily do twice as much damage as a bear, especially on cleave (multi-target) fights. While ferals get a strong damage boost in Cat Form when not actively tanking, this unfortunately cannot compare to the damage of a Fury/Prot warrior in Berserker Stance. This is the main reason top speed-running guilds will not bring Feral tanks to their raids.
- A lot of effort to be competitive:
In order to produce enough threat to be competitive with warrior tanks, Feral druids need to use Manual Crowd Pummeler. This weapon, when activated, increases a druid’s threat output by nearly 50%. However, it only has 3 charges, with each use lasting 30 seconds, and it drops off of a level 30 boss in Gnomeregan with an estimated 33% drop chance. This means that for every 90 seconds of threat sensitive tanking time, a Feral needs to use up a Pummeler.
In practice, druids will often farm 15 or more of these every week to use in raids, which on average takes 45 Gnomeregan runs. This translates to a little over 2 hours in Gnomeregan, but since we can only enter 5 instances per hour, this is spread out over 9 hours a week. You can see below what a typical Feral’s bank looks like! In addition to the flasks, potions, and other consumables used by tanks, this means that playing a Feral tank to its full potential is no small feat.
- Some bosses should not be tanked by a Druid:
Unfortunately, there are a few bosses in Classic that should not be tanked by a druid. The most obvious example is Nefarian in Blackwing Lair, who can force all druids into Cat Form for 30 seconds. On a Feral Tank, this massively increases their damage taken and equally reduces their threat generation. Other bosses include Loatheb and Sapphiron in Naxxramas, who simply deal too much damage per second for a Druid to comfortably tank them. To be clear, a Druid can tank any boss in the game; these bosses are simply far better suited to warriors.
Feral Tank Rotation and Gameplay
Single target rotation:
- Maul on every swing, and:
- Faerie Fire (Feral) if the Faerie Fire debuff is not on the boss; otherwise:
- Swipe if above 40-60 rage and the excess rage will otherwise go to waste; otherwise:
- Faerie Fire (Feral) on cooldown.
- Exactly the same as on single target, but switch targets between melee swings to spread them out
- Goblin Sapper Charges (only usable by engineers) are extremely useful for multi-target threat.
The Feral tank rotation is extremely simple: it relies fully on Maul. While Maul does not deal much more damage than a regular auto attack, it is extremely strong for two reasons: firstly, Maul has a 1.75x threat modifier, meaning that Maul generates 1.75 times more threat than an auto attack dealing the same damage; secondly, Maul is an ability and therefore cannot result in a Glancing Blow, whereby melee attacks have a 40% chance to deal significantly less damage (and generate significantly less threat).
Because Maul occurs on a bear’s next melee swing, it does not trigger a Global Cooldown, and can be used alongside other abilities. Therefore, using Swipe in addition to Maul is beneficial when the Druid has excess rage; using Swipe at low rage and therefore causing the Druid to not have enough rage for Maul is very detrimental to their threat generation. This is because Swipe does very little damage and rage, and its damage dealt does not increase with attack power. When low on rage, using Faerie Fire (Feral) on cooldown generates a small amount of additional threat, and refreshes a very powerful debuff on your target.
Note that Maul is tied to the Druid’s swing timer and generates nearly all of its threat. Since haste effects (such as Manual Crowd Pummeler, or Chicken Squawk from Gnomish Battle Chicken) directly decrease the swing timer, they increase the number of Mauls cast and are extremely powerful on Druid tanks.
In terms of Feral-specific gameplay, what you do most often depends on your tanking position. If you are the Main Tank in a raid (which is a perfectly viable role for Ferals, but more commonly taken by a Warrior), you will most often be in Bear Form, tanking the main target. As an offtank, however, Ferals will often switch between Bear Form and Cat Form throughout a raid. Many Feral tanks will think of themselves purely as a tank, rather than a DPS, but in truth, Feral is a single, hybrid role that includes both tanking and DPSing. Not taking advantage of your toolkit and versatility is an unfortunate mistake that is far too common. In fact, the only reason I separate these guides into tank and DPS is because they’d be far too long otherwise! If you plan to play a Feral Druid well, make sure to read up on how to optimise your DPS performance as well; all my guides will be linked within this one.
More generally, tank gameplay is engaging and can be complex. This is mainly to do with positioning, i.e. making sure your target is standing in the correct place and facing the correct direction. Generally, your target should always be facing away from the raid, as melee DPS get parried from the front; this reduces their damage output and causes the target to parry haste, whereby your target hastens their next swing after parrying an attack. This is very dangerous for a tank, who can suddenly take two swings in an instant and die unexpectedly. Aside from that, many enemies have frontal-cone or cleave mechanics where anyone they are facing takes damage.
Tank gameplay and positioning is largely dependent on specific boss mechanics. Still, standing in a safe place, facing away from the raid, and having spatial awareness are key factors in tank gameplay that keep it engaging even when all you do is press Maul on repeat!
In the past, many guides would list “stat priorities” for different classes, suggesting to stack X stat before Y stat and so on. In reality, optimising your character is far more about balancing the values of different stats to come up with the best overall gear set possible. For example, while 1 Stamina is better for a Feral tank than 1 Agility, 2 Agility is better than 1 Stamina. So, while your stat priority could be Stamina > Agility, that wouldn’t help you accurately decide between two pieces of gear. Luckily, I’ve done all the work for you; I have published detailed Best in Slot (BiS) gear guides for tanks and DPS at multiple gear levels.
Still, it is valuable to have an understanding of why some pieces of gear are better than others, so I will give explanations as to why each stat is given its value. This can get a little complicated, so don’t feel you need to read it in order to play Feral well; following my BiS lists will get you the same result. I’ve therefore put my stat priorities section in a reducible tab below; only venture in if you’re interested!
Talent Specialisation Choices
There are a few choices when it comes to Feral talents, and the choice generally comes down to how much value you want to place in bear-specific talents as opposed to cat-specific talents. As discussed in the Feral Tank Rotation and Gameplay section, Feral Druids are able to tank and DPS in the same spec, and this should be taken full advantage of.
Therefore, I suggest two variations of the same core spec which picks up all the most important talents in each role. The first will be ever-so-slightly tank focused, and the second will be ever-so-slightly DPS focused. Any in-between of these two specs is suitable, and I will go into detail on which talents are mandatory, and which are not.
Tank-oriented Feral Spec – 14/32/5
This Feral specialisation takes all the core talents for both roles, then chooses less important tank talents such as Primal Fury and Thick Hide rather than the DPS-oriented alternatives. This is effectively the basic Feral spec, and will serve you well for anything you need to do.
DPS-oriented Feral Spec – 14/32/5
This Feral specialisation takes all the core talents for both roles, then chooses less important DPS talents such as Blood Frenzy and Feral Aggression rather than the tank-oriented alternatives. Note that Ferocity is an important tanking talent, but in a raid environment, reducing the rage cost of Maul from 10 down to 7 is not essential if you are the fourth tank, do not tank very threat-sensitive targets, and DPS a lot of the time. In this spec, you should always use Idol of Brutality in Bear Form, and Idol of Ferocity in Cat Form. If you feel uncomfortable dropping 3 points in Ferocity, going for 5/5 Ferocity and 2/5 Feral Aggression is very reasonable for a better balance of tank value.
Open the tabs below if you’d like a run-down of how important each talent is.
PvP Feral Spec – 1/29/21
Now, I will preface this by saying I’m no expert when it comes to PvP. However, I felt it was important to at least include an example of a PvP spec in this guide. This build is called HOTW/NS and is commonly used in PvP, as deep feral is very weak for Classic PvP (think of a rogue that does less damage and has no utility or crowd control). This is played more like a restoration druid, but retains some ability to do damage in forms; this is useful for conserving mana and can help win battles against mana-dependent enemies, such as Shadow Priests. A lot of the talent points can be moved around depending on preference, but the key points are Nature’s Swiftness and Heart of the Wild.
Note that this build has sometimes been recommended as a tank/heal hybrid spec for PvE. While this can work for tanking or healing dungeons to find groups more easily, it makes you bad at both roles and is not recommended for raids. Furthermore, fights where an extra healer is useful in raids are generally the same fights which require additional tanks, making a tank/heal hybrid far less useful than a tank/dps hybrid (which Feral druids are by default).
Buffs and Consumables
This section will simply list the relevant buffs, debuffs and consumables that Feral Tanks benefit from in raids. These are roughly ordered from highest to lowest impact.
In terms of maximising your character’s performance, there are very few professions that provide any value. Do note that it is not mandatory to go for these professions (depending on the expectations of your guild).
- Engineering: Engineering is by far the most impactful profession for Feral tanks, or indeed for any class in the game. The use of Goblin Sapper Charges allows for a source of threat on multi-target scenarios, a particularly weak point for Druids. When used by most or all players in a raid, they also allow for a massive burst of AoE damage which can help on a lot of encounters. Additionally, Gnomish Engineering allows you to craft and use Gnomish Battle Chicken, which when used correctly gives you and your party 5% melee haste for 5 minutes; this is the best trinket in the game. Finally, engineering unlocks a number of trinkets and other useful tools that make it exceptionally strong in PvP, as well as a lot of fun to play around with.
- Blacksmithing: The only other profession that gives long-term value. Blacksmithing allows you to craft and use Glimmering Mithril Insignia, which makes you immune to fear effects for 30 seconds. Because Druids have no innate ability to break fears, this trinket can be very impactful for tanking any fight with fears, such as Onyxia, Magmadar, Nefarian, or Gluth. Blacksmithing also allows you to craft and apply your own Iron Counterweights, which can be quite convenient when applying them to many Pummelers. This can be done in a trade window with another blacksmith, but must be done one at a time and can be quite time-consuming.
- Enchanting: Enchanting allows you to craft Smoking Heart of the Mountain, which is a Best in Slot trinket for Phase 1. However, you do not need to keep enchanting in order to equip the trinket, meaning you can level it to 265/300, craft it, and then drop it for another profession.
Overall the best professions for a Feral tank to keep are Engineering and Blacksmithing. Engineering is very impactful; Blacksmithing is much less so, but is the only other profession that provides any value to your character. Therefore, I recommend engineering as a must-have profession, with the other profession slot being personal preference.
I hope this guide has shown you that, despite the stigma around Feral tanks, they have the potential to fill a tank role in any raid. It cannot be denied that Warriors are the better class, primarily due to their massive damage output even while tanking. However, if you are willing to put in the effort (through consumables and gear planning), performing well as a Feral in Classic is a rewarding and fun experience.
Thank you for taking the time to read our Feral Tank guide for Season of Mastery. I hope it was helpful, and if you have any questions or suggestions please feel free to leave a comment below, or find me as Oxy on the Druid Classic discord.