The idea of Bear “utility” is an incredibly sore subject for a lot of people (yay controversy!), because when you get right down to it there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot we have. We don’t have fancypants buttons to push for every situation while tanking. The spells we have that are useful to the raid require us to leave Bear Form. We don’t have really good self healing (who needs it? Those silly DKs get absolutely trucked if they’re not being played by a robot), and we don’t have any kind of raid cooldown outside of a short sprint with a tiny range (Hey… hey. I like that spell and use it all the damn time when I’m tanking, thank you very much).
A lot of people look at tank utility as something that has to be done while tanking. No ifs, ands, or buts. If you can’t be uber while tanking, then what good are you? I personally feel that’s a load of bollocks(am I allowed to say that without being British?). Okay sure… You look cool charging around all over the place, stunning mobs, or finishing off a boss when the healer and DPS have died. Fine. We have the short end of the stick for Heroics utility and that makes people angry.
Let’s reign in the self pity, here(because I am way too lighthearted for that nonsense). Heroics are not the only facet of level 85 gameplay. I am a raiding Feral. Plain and simple. I speak about Bears with raiding in mind. And aside from the casualist of casuals(or rarely played alts), raiding is where a lot of tanks want to end up. What we lack in Heroics utility, we make up for by kicking ass in Raids. We have raid utility. But here’s the deal, it’s not what everyone wants it to be.
Alright, so if it’s not some super cool button, then what is it?
(Told you it’s not what you wanted it to be)
How is more DPS considered Utility? Reesi, you be crazy. Well that I won’t deny. If I ever remember to push record before a podcast starts, I’m sure Arielle would delight in blackmailing me with some of the random crap I say and do. But seriously here, a Feral Druid’s ability to DPS is most certainly utility. We are the DPS tanks. We use DPS gear, we gem a DPS stat, we use DPS trinkets. The only that isn’t centered around DPS is our reforging and some of our enchanting choices.
We are capable of doing very good DPS while tanking. It’s also dependent upon your RNG with missed hits, crits, how long you’re on the boss for, and how much average vengeance you have during the fight. But here’s the thing, this extra DPS is not something we can do while tanking. The real DPS starts when there’s a tank swap and we can go to Cat and tear is up. That’s why so many people, and not just druids, have a problem with this kind of utility. It isn’t a massive self heal, or raid-saving cooldown. It’s extra DPS which just equates to seconds shaved off the kill time. It doesn’t provide tangible results for anything that’s stressing the raid right then and there, and often times is just something to gloat about. And to be quite honest, it doesn’t feel very Tanky.
To which I reply: So freaking what?
Feral Tanks are the only tanks that are able to have high DPS when not tanking. All other tanks lose Vengeance (except smart warriors, but Vengeance gained from Vigilance isn’t much) during swaps and with it, their DPS. If a Bear chooses to do nothing but stay in Bear Form for the entirety of a fight, that’s his choice. But he is definitely not maximizing his potential as a feral.
Well blah, blah, it’s not a tank’s job to carry bad DPS or to care about it. It’s not really about carrying DPS. But you should care about what you’re doing when not tanking because if you’re not tanking for a period of time there is no reason NOT to be DPSing in Cat and trying to maximize that. Being a Feral Tank is not about being a Bear ALL the time. It just isn’t. Druids were built with the ability to be hybrids. The only tree to retain that original hypothesis from Vanilla to some degree is Feral, so what’s the harm in making use of it?
Not convinced yet?
Over half the boss fights in Tier 11 allow Cat DPS. Argolath(Okay, he might not count because he’s loleasy), Al’akir(depends on strat in P1 and P2, but definitely in P3), Magmaw, Chimaeron (if you’re pro), Nefarian(again, depends on strat/raid size), Halfus, Twin Dragons(heroic only), Ascendant Council and Cho’gall all present the opportunity to throw more DPS into the fight by going into Cat Form. That’s a significant amount of fights.
But why would you want to? Why is more DPS utility? Simple: It kills the boss faster. If you have ever done any kind of progression, hardcore or not, you can appreciate high DPS and getting that boss dead. And even if you haven’t, you most certainly have been in a pug or raid where the DPS just plain sucked(Did you know Anub’rekhan in Naxx2.0 has an enrage timer?). In addition to being phenomenal single target tanks, we help our raid kill a boss better than any other tank. DPS Check with tank swaps? Bring a Feral tank.
I’ll even throw in an example or two: Heroic Ascendant Council is probably the most frustrating Heroic I have ever tanked. Phase 1 was okay, Phase 2 made you want to choke something, and Phase 3 could go south very quickly and has one of the tightest DPS checks I have seen in a while. We were getting 1-5% wipes constantly(when we made it to p3, that is). The next raid night I adopted a hybrid build and was doing significant damage to the Monstrosity. More than even some of the real DPS, and all I had to do was Shred (more to it than that, but you know). We eventually killed it that night, and I don’t think we could have when we did if I was not going beyond “just a tank”.
Example two: I was not part of our first Heroic Cho’gall kill. This for 2 reasons: I didn’t have Divine Guardian, and I didn’t have Heroic Leap to handle the Adherent placement. Fine. Progression is progression. I understand the need for custom made comps, even if I’m not included. The next week back was the repeat kill, which is just as important as the first. You typically bring the same composition if you can help it, and it’s pretty important to keep the same tanks. Our Warrior started having internet blackouts, so they brought me in and made a tweak to the Adherent strategy so our Paladin could tank them and position well for the AoE.
I used the same hybrid spec and DPS’d when the paladin was tanking Cho’gall(“Reesi, fucking taunt.” I NEED MY RIP UP DAS, GOD). Not only are Rip and Rake awesome for tank swaps (90k TPS, sup?), but I had the GM wonder why we were beating the DPS timer for the P2 transition with the same DPS comp. The same transition they used Heroism in order to even get to it quick enough. 14k sustained DPS on Cho’gall from the tank might have had something to do with it… Opposed to the, what… 7k? 8k? a non-feral tank does with zero vengeance. The raid could use Heroism to get through P2 faster for the kill now, not to get to the transition faster.
That has a tangible benefit and is extremely useful. And that is my utility to my raid(aside from being an uber tank in general ;) ).
Even if your raid has no problems meeting the DPS checks, there is still no reason for you to frump around in Bear Form when you aren’t tanking anything. Okay, there is one, but that involves the other tank dying and you having immediate aggro and going splat before you notice in time to shift(I blame Das). If it’s something you’ve never done, then do it. At the very least, give it a try. One of the biggest things that drew me into Bear tanking was their ability to have high damage while tanking. It made the other tanks cry(why can’t WE do that damage, qq!). And now we can do high damage while both tanking and not tanking. (Whee 19k on Magmaw in tank gear – I coulda done better!)
Don’t take your spec for granted. There’s much more to being a good tank than just letting the boss hit you in the face. Using everything you have available to you makes you a good tank. The reason some warriors are considered amazing? They use everything at their disposal whenever they can. The same goes for Paladins and DKs. For Druids, using everything involves using Cat Form. You’d only be hurting yourself by ignoring it as a possibility just because it doesn’t involve tanking.