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A realistic look at druid tanking


Druids have received some significant changes in the coming 2.0.10 patch, but while there's lots of complaint and speculation, there's little agreement on what the changes will actually do for druids. But the loudest complaint is that druids will no longer be able to tank and will be once more reduced to a pure healing role. Note that there are no changes to cat or moonkin effectiveness or damage output, which does leave DPS as an option (in both PvE and PvP) -- but with so many classes able to DPS and so few classes able to heal, druids are reasonably concerned about being marginalized. The facts on bears from the patch notes are as follows:
  • Bear/dire bear form's health bonus has changed from +25% health to +25% stamina. While this sounds like a non-change, this means that +health enchants and health-increasing potions or flasks are no longer considered in the bonus calculation, resulting in a loss of health for some druids.
  • Dire bear form's armor bonus has been reduced from +450% to +400%.
  • The talent Savage Fury no longer affects mangle (bear), maul, or swipe. Savage Fury previously increased damage done by those abilities by 20% for two talent points. The ability lacerate is the only bear ability that is not effected by this change, but only because it wasn't effected by the talent previously. (This talent will still have benefits to cat form, but no longer benefits any abilities in bear form.)
  • The talent Predatory Instincts has been changed from a critical damage increase of 3/6/9/12/15% to a critical damage increase of 2/4/6/8/10%.
  • The rage normalization equation has been adjusted to grant more rage.
While we won't know the full story until the final changes hit the live realms, by piecing together some of the data coming from players on the PTRs, I think we can make some reasonable guesses. Curious? Keep reading.

On the official forums, poster Zelvar has compiled some numbers on the exact changes. He averaged damage from a series of 30 samples, and came up with the following information.

On live, he has the following stats, self-buffed:

HP:.............................11791
Armor:.......................17894 (62.89% redux)
Damage Range......388-449
AP:..............................1363
Crit:.............................23.54%

And was getting the following damage results:

Average Maul damage against the 66 Clefthoof Bulls in Nagrand: 502
Average Maul critical against the 66 Clefthoof Bulls in Nagrand: 1100

Average Mangle damage against the Clefthoof Bulls: 556
Average Mangle critical against the Clefthoof Bulls: 1408

On the PTR, he has the following stats, self-buffed:

HP:.............................10893
Armor:.......................16345 (60.76% redux)
Damage Range......388-449
AP:..............................1363
Crit:.............................23.54%

And was getting the following damage results:

Average Maul damage against the 66 Clefthoof Bulls in Nagrand: .432
Average Maul critical against the 66 Clefthoof Bulls in Nagrand: 932

Average Mangle damage against the Clefthoof Bulls: 376
Average Mangle critical against the Clefthoof Bulls: 858

And if you compare these numbers, you get the following data:

Health decreased by 898 (7.62% reduction)
Armor decreased by 1549 (8.65% reduction)

Maul damage down an average of 70 points (13.94% reduction)
Maul crit damage down an average of 168 points (15.27% reduction)

Mangle damage down an average of 180 (32.37% reduction)
Mangle crit damage down an average of 550 (39.06% reduction)

This level of reduction is obviously major for bears attempting to PvP. However, with cat and moonkin damage untouched (and with moonkin armor buffed), druids should still have options for PvPing. However, for tanking, these changes are more significant. Of course there's the obvious reduction to health and armor, but even these aren't the most important part. Unlike warriors, who have sunder armor and other abilities specifically to generate high threat and hold aggro, druids primarily maintain aggro by damage (they only have one ability that specifically generates extra threat, and that's lacerate, gained at level 66). With damage done equaling threat, and damage being reduced this could mean a big problem to druids attempting to tank -- putting them right back in the ranks of second-class tanks, after a short time at the top.

Of course the test realms can change all the time, and there may yet be undocumented changes we don't know about. In my mind, if the problem Blizzard was trying to solve was the bear's damage abilities and mitigation abilities in PvP, then an across the board damage reduction would be the way to do it. However, to maintain viable tanking and aggro-holding abilities, some sort of increased threat would need to be added to compensate, and to the best of our knowledge, that didn't make it into this patch.

Filed under: Druid, Patches, Analysis / Opinion

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