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Shifting Perspectives: Patch 4.0.3a and the road to 85

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Shifting Perspectives for cat, bear, restoration and balance druids. This week, we write ourselves a cheat sheet to haul ass to level 85.

Last week, I promised I'd take a look at individual articles' popularity after the "Why (or why not) to play a druid" series finished, and here it is. In order of most to least popular:

  1. Shifting Perspectives: Why (or why not) to play a worgen druid
  2. Shifting Perspectives: Why (or why not) to play a night elf druid
  3. Shifting Perspectives: Why (or why not) to play a tauren druid
  4. Shifting Perspectives: Why (or why not) to play a troll druid
I'll look at the numbers again a few months to see if they steady a bit; the troll article hasn't been up for as long as its night elf counterpart, so I wouldn't have expected it to be competitive regardless. I will say that the Alliance druids enjoy a significant pageview advantage over their Horde counterparts, and that doesn't give me hope that future population numbers will equalize.

I wrote a lot of today's article because I'm lazy as sin and wanted a quick reference guide available. Past the cut you'll find information for bear and cat druids on hit caps, reputation grinds, the numbers you should have before stepping into heroics, reforging, and a host of other things that would otherwise have required me to get off my butt and Google something. Resto players, I haven't forgotten about you! Your version will go live later this week.

By the way, the above video is a quick look at healing one of the earliest pulls in heroic Grim Batol. I was sorting through my beta videos and realized I'd forgotten to upload it for the worgen lore article.

The bear

I encountered bear tanks just as infrequently on the Cataclysm beta as I did on the Wrath of the Lich King beta, so I'll be watching feral numbers as the expansion kicks into high gear. When things settle down a bit, I'll be revisiting the 101 guides for all three specs covered in the Tuesday column (bears, cats, and restoration). This is just a quick guide to get you through leveling and dungeons on your way to level 85.

Resources: Hit cap at 85 In short, 961 hit if you're tanking a tier 11 raid boss or 721 hit if you're tanking a heroic 5-man boss. 8 percent hit will still be the cap for ferals in tier 11, which is 960.872 hit rating at level 85 (see Elitist Jerks' combat ratings at level 85). Blizzard is planning on having more hit required for future raid tiers, so keep in mind that this is probably going to change. However, you don't need to care about hit as much as a DPS does. Don't bother gemming or reforging it.

Expertise cap at 85 As always, try to reach the soft cap (26 expertise or 781 rating). Any expertise beyond that until 56 is nice but not absolutely necessary. At level 85, this is 780.7072 rating for 26 expertise and 1681.5232 rating for 56 expertise. Beyond 56, you will gain nothing from expertise, although the odds of actually reaching the hard cap are basically zero anyway. As with hit, don't bother gemming or reforging it, but do prioritize an +expertise piece over one without it.

How should I spec? This is a standard bear tanking spec at level 85. Assuming you have the required points in feral at level 80, you'll be working toward Perseverance in the restoration tree. You'll have one point left over in this build to do whatever you want. You'll probably get the most direct use from Stampede, but it's up to you. Yes, Natural Shapeshifter is still a useless pain in the ass.

For leveling purposes, I plan on maxing out Nurturing Instinct and possibly Predatory Strikes. Mob damage in Cataclysm leveling zones is very high, and you'll be popping out to heal a lot. The points you'll need to free up for one or both can probably be stolen most easily from Feral Aggression and/or Endless Carnage.

How should I glyph? Bears don't have a lot of compelling glyph choices, but at least that makes this easy:
Numbers before entering 85 heroics? On the beta, Blizzard "strongly recommended" creating a premade character with Cataclysm blues in order to tackle heroic content, and the average item level on said premades was 333. Bear characters in this or comparable gear had around 29,000 armor, 106,000 health, and 27 percent dodge.

This is enough to keep you alive while tanking two or three heroic mobs. Anything beyond that and your healer will hate you. It goes without saying that you won't have a huge margin for error, so abuse whatever form of crowd control your group offers while you're still gearing up. Yes, this applies to normal dungeons too.

What should I reforge? Haste is our least desirable stat, and you should reforge it into dodge. This is reportedly the only way to reach the avoidance stats enjoyed by other tanking classes in tier 11. If there isn't any haste on your gear, reforge the crit. If there isn't any haste or crit on your gear, you can probably leave it alone, unless by some miracle you get hit-capped (not likely) before setting foot in raids. If your threat's good enough that you can afford to dump some +hit, feel free to reforge that too. Ultimately the reforging question is a bit subjective.

Post-mastery nerf, don't reforge to mastery; just look for it on your gear. It's still a very good stat, but it doesn't trump everything else by a country mile. To simplify things as much as possible, look for agility leather with mastery on it, then reforge the haste or crit on it into dodge.

What stats should I look for? The ideal piece of gear for a bear tank prioritizes armor, stamina, agility, mastery, dodge, expertise, crit, and hit in pretty much that order. (Thanks to Riftmaker on Twitter for correcting this!)

What should I gem for? You won't encounter too much socketable gear while you're leveling, but you're bound to see a few pieces if you tank at all. Shifting Demonseyes should be the default gem if you don't care about a socket bonus: Use Agility, stamina, and/or mastery gems if the socket bonus is useful. A useful socket bonus is anything granting agility, stamina, or mastery. This trifecta will never let you down.
What reputation should I grind first? Kintourn beat me to this just as I started drafting this article. In short, Therazane and the Earthen Ring are what you'll want for their shoulder and helm enchants respectively. You can get to honored with both factions through Deepholm questing (although the Earthen Ring also has a strong presence in Vashj'ir and the Twilight Highlands). Buy their tabards at friendly and keep running dungeons.

However, the Guardians of Hyjal are notable for offering a useful chestpiece (ilevel 333, good enough for starting heroics) at honored, and it's usable as early as level 83. While Blizzard may have tinkered with the rate of reputation gain, I hit revered with the Guardians of Hyjal just by finishing the zone at level 82. The next ilevel 333 chestpiece you're likely to see will be off Setesh in Halls of Origination, so just keep that in mind.
  • The Therazane quartermaster is D'lom the Collector and can be found at 57, 13 in Deepholm.
  • The Earthen Ring quartermaster is Provisioner Arok and can be found at 49, 42 in Vashj'ir.
  • The Guardians of Hyjal quartermaster is Provisioner Whitecloud and can be found at 62, 25 in Mount Hyjal (the Nordrassil inn).
I'll do a full guide to reputation faction rewards soon, but these are the ones likely to do the most for you early.

Filed under: Druid, (Druid) Shifting Perspectives

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