Weapon upgrades Bears are horribly dependent on weapon upgrades for threat generation, because our threat doesn't scale very well from leather "tanking" gear. At present, we don't get any attack power from agility, which means that one of the two primary stats available on our gear only gives us offensive power indirectly by way of its conversion to critical strike chance. (The other, stamina, doesn't give us any offensive power at all.) Gaining 20 attack power here or 15 attack power there by upgrading leather pieces just doesn't have the impact that upgrading from, say, Hellion Glaive to Distant Land does. When I returned to raiding after 8 months' absence and upgraded my Twisted Visage to an Anguish, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the majority of my threat issues in 5-mans vanished overnight, even though I hadn't upgraded anything else.
Why it might not happen Oddly, I think this change is basically preordained given the Cataclysm stat changes granting an automatic 2 attack power: 1 agility conversion for leather-wearing classes, guaranteeing better threat scaling. What worries me is that bears are still stuck in that weird no man's land between DPS leather and actual tanking necks/rings/cloaks/trinkets with strength all over them, and we're still not sure how Blizzard's going to handle that (one of the announcements on Friday, perhaps?). Ghostcrawler floated the idea earlier of allowing bears to gain something from strength so that the spec's being mired between two sets of gear doesn't wind up wasting so many stats, so my guess is we'll see something like that.
Either way, I'm getting tired of having the following conversation with people:
Player: I've got tier 9 already, but I just can't seem to hold aggro in 5-mans.
Me: Are you sure your rotation is OK?
Player: Yeah, I'm doing everything I'm supposed to.
Me: (checks armory) Ooh, we gotta get you a better weapon. It's no fun trying to hold aggro against DPS with a Staff of Trickery.
Player: What if I can't raid?
Me: Buy a hilt?
Player: I can't afford one.
Player: I would rather sell my kidneys in a Cambodian night market than set foot in arena.
Me: You'd get a better price in Tokyo.
Player: But the Japanese make you pay import tax.
Me: (wishes this conversation were not taking place)
Cooldowns Honestly, this is the one I'm least sure about, particularly after the recent discussion on tanks and cooldowns. Outside of four-piece tier 10 or trinkets like the Corroded Skeleton Key, we don't have any way to reduce incoming damage outside of Barkskin. Everyone loves the cooldown; nobody really loves the fact that you will still take massive damage from whatever it is you're trying to live through, transferring the larger portion of responsibility for your survival to your healers when they're probably already struggling.
We don't really have any beefy, reassuring "I want to live!" cooldown equivalent to even a glyphed Shield Wall or Ardent Defender. Versus any truly horrible damage, there's a tacit assumption that you'll be relying on someone else's cooldown in the raid, or blowing both Barkskin and Survival Instincts at the same time to enjoy the same survivability another tank accomplishes with only one cooldown. For better or worse, we are still asked to soak the larger portion of incoming damage, and I'm not sure that continuing to be the "soak tank" with Blizzard deliberately trying to run healers out of mana faster in Cataclysm is going to make us an attractive option.
Why it might not happen This is entirely dependent on the kind of raid mechanics in Cataclysm that we can't predict right now, but even absent that issue I'm a little uneasy. For a while I wondered if we might get around something like this by perhaps glyphing Barkskin to provide more powerful damage reduction at the cost of a higher cooldown (much in the same way that warriors can glyph or unglyph Shield Wall as they prefer for different fights), but I have to admit that the "warrior option" has always left me cold. I'm ok with spending money to reglyph for the occasional hard mode fight (e.g., heroic Dreamwalker for tree druids who are otherwise specced and glyphed for raid healing), but a tank strategy predicated on your ability to spend lots of extra gold (note: glyphs are not cheap on my realm) just so you have options is not one I particularly like.
It remains to be seen whether this is even necessary, because Blizzard may very well move away from the hugely mana- and cooldown-intensive approach to giant boss hits that we've seen so frequently this expansion. If we see more fights like Sarth-3D or, say, heroic Festergut and Arthas in Cataclysm, however, I think an additional cooldown option would serve us better than our current over-reliance on the raid's disc priest not lagging that night.
Every week, Shifting Perspectives treks across Azeroth in pursuit of truth, beauty and insight concerning the druid class. Sometimes it finds the latter, or something good enough for government work. Whether you're a Bear, Cat, Moonkin, Tree or stuck in caster form, we've got the skinny on druid changes in patch 3.3, a look at the disappearance of the bear tank, and thoughts on why you should be playing the class (or why not).