Bear Tanking for Absolute Beginners

Just a quick “overview” style guide for brand new level 1 druids. It isn’t intended to be in depth or mathematical. It’s more of a “how” than a “why” guide. If you need some in-depth answers to high level gearing or spec questions, this guide over at the official forums will answer them. Let’s take a look at the very basics of bear tanking…

First, you have to be Feral spec in order to tank. When you hit level ten, put your first talent point in the Feral tree. Feral Swiftness or Furor are good places to start.

Second, you won’t even get bear form OR the ability to tank until level 15, which coincides with your ability to finally queue for the dungeon finder. However, as I have mentioned before, I don’t suggest you start tanking until level 18. At level 18 you will get Swipe, which makes tanking ten times easier.

Finally, you will want to choose talents that enhance your bear abilities over your cat abilities. Many talents do both. Some talents are exclusively bear-oriented, some cat-oriented. If you’re going to do nothing but chain-run instances as you level then cat abilities are somewhat pointless. If you want to quest in between dungeons, then cat abilities are fine. It’s up to you and your playstyle.


A new level 1 druid has no real choice in his gear. You’ll wear white crap and like it. But as you progress keep an eye out for Agility and Stamina gear. Agility and Stamina are your two top stats. Avoid intellect, spirit and strength. If you happen across a strength item and it is an upgrade for you from whatever low level white item you’re wearing, take it! But replace it with agility as soon as possible, and never roll on a strength item in a dungeon. A bear tank is best served by two handed weapons such as staves and polearms. Once you have access to them in dungeons, avoid one handed weapons like daggers and never use an off-hander. They only have caster stats anyway. As a final note on gear, steer clear of cloth pieces. Their stats will never benefit you and you lose armor, which is important for tanks.


I would advise a new bear tank to ignore enchanting as he levels up. You replace gear too fast for it to be worth the cost of an enchant, but in the event you come across something free or cheap, enchant for stamina or agility.


You wont run across gem slots until you hit Outland, and my advice again is to ignore them since you will replace gear fast enough anyway. But, if you want to gem, slap solid stamina or agility gems in the sockets regardless of what color or bonus is there. Stick to low level gems. Stamina will likely be cheaper than agility anyway.


Glyphs at this level are not required, and I would say don’t waste your time until the later levels. However, as soon as you are able you should pick up Glyph of Maul. It will make your life easier from the get go.

Secondary Stats

As you level you will begin to see things like critical strike and hit on gear. At lower levels it really doesnt matter which of these stats you have on your gear. Bears will generally benefit best from hit, crit and haste. They will gain no benefit from spell power. A high level bear needs dodge; however, you will not find dodge on any bear-appropriate gear. Dodge gear in low level dungeons is meant for paladin and warrior tanks; avoid it.

Your Tanking Rotation

Start by opening up with Mangle on your primary target, then hit Swipe if there is more than one mob attacking you. Use Maul as rage permits. This is the basic level 18 bear “rotation”. Use Growl if a target strays from you and starts hitting another party member. Use Swipe on cooldown if there are multiple mobs. In your 20s I recommend using Faerie Fire to pull initially, and using Enrage to generate rage before the pull. It isnt very complicated and you don’t have a lot of room to wiggle between three basic attacks to hold threat.

A Note on Rage

Rage is your only resource as a bear. You get rage by hitting mobs and being hit by mobs. As such, it is important that you keep threat on whatever it is you are attacking. If the mob runs off to attack someone else, you wont get rage, and if you don’t have rage, you cant attack, which means you cannot get that mob back, which leads you into a spiral of hopeless, ragelessness. This is a problem in low level groups because no one cares to wait for a tank to pull and you’re stuck trying to taunt things.

A Note on Threat

Threat is basically a measure of how much your current target hates you. If it hates you the most, it will attack you. If it starts hating the mage more, it will run off and attack the mage. Your job is to keep that target attacking you at all times. If you are having trouble with this, try marking your current target with a skull to indicate to your group which one to attack. Always use Mangle on cooldown and Maul if you have sufficient rage.

Basic Bear Tanking Stuff

A few key things to keep in mind while you brave the dungeon finder…

1. You should always be the one pulling. If a “helpful” DPS in your group tries to pull, politely ask them not to. Cite your need for rage as a reason if you’d like, but the bottom line is that tanks pull. The end.

2. Never ever EVER allow a mob to attack you from behind. You have no chance to dodge attacks from behind. You want all mobs to always be standing in front of you. Wiggle around to position them correctly.

3. Never at any time shift out of bear form while you are actively being attacked. That’s like a paladin tank taking off his shield and sword. If you shift out of bear form not only do you lose ALL ability to attack (and thus hold threat) but you also lose a huge chunk of your armor and health. That means that if you are attacked it will hurt a lot worse. Your healer will not be amused and when you die neither will your group. There are of course times when a properly timed shift is a good thing, but for beginners remember the golden rule of druid bear tanking: never shift out of bear!

4. You have no ability to silence or pull caster mobs. Get used to it because it doesn’t change. If you find yourself facing a group of mobs where some are melee and some are casters, your best bet is to just drag the melee to the casters so you can Swipe everyone. Later on you may want to control the casters with CC, but since beginning groups dont/wont use it, just be aware that you cannot pull casters to you in any way. You have to go to them.

5. Always carry reagents for your Rebirth (combat rez) spell. Even though you should never pop out of bear form while you’re being attacked, if you have an opportunity to rez the healer and you can’t because you didn’t grab the reagents, you might as well just pop out of bear and let the mobs hit your backside. You’ll die either way.

6. You are quite capable of CC, but only before a pull. Entangling Roots is great for rooting a melee mob (don’t bother on a caster, they’ll just sit and cast anyway even if rooted) and Hibernate later on will take care of pesky dragons or beasts. Do these things before you pull the pack.

7. Know your cooldowns and how to use them. Barkskin and Survival Instincts are your two main damage-reducing cooldowns. You get them both in the mid levels. Barkskin has a quick cooldown and should be used every pull if necessary. Survival Instincts is your “oh shit” button that severely reduces incoming damage for those sticky situations. At low levels, use Demoralizing Roar on melee mobs to reduce the amount of damage they do, and thus the amount of healing you’ll need.

8. Don’t pull faster than your healer can heal, and always pay attention to your healer’s mana. You are a flimsy, delicate shadow of your future self at this level, so abolish any notions you have of being invincible. Learn to pace your pulls so that your healer (who, at low levels, has zero mana regen!) can keep up.

9. Learn to pull small packs, not entire rooms, of mobs. Your upper limit of what you can keep threat on AND not die from is about 3 to 4 mobs. Any more than that and your paultry level 16 quest greens will not save you. If you encounter casters, learn to pull them around a corner so that they have to run to you. When in doubt, always pull back a few yards so that dying mobs wont pull friends.

10. Learn when to leave a group. Normally I don’t advice people to throw in the towel and leave four others stranded, but I have come to learn from my own experiences tanking. Sometimes, you just have to apologize and leave a bad group. Sometimes, people cannot learn and will not close their mouths. For your own sanity, learn to recognize a group of ignorant, rude, incompetent people and politely bow out. Let the next tank who comes try to sort out the mage who runs ahead and pulls ten packs, the healer who tries to DPS, and the warrior who taunts off you every pull. It isn’t worth the headache on your part if you’re just starting out. Tanking can be a lot of fun and very rewarding, but you have to take steps to ensure that it is! If you play the game to have fun, don’t hang around people who arent. It’s that simple.

And finally, if you find yourself in a great group, ask if they want to run again.



About Sylvestris

Gamer, nerd, book worm, baker.

Posted on January 10, 2012, in Beginner Guides and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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