Cookie cutter haters

It has always mystified me why there seems to be a certain disdain towards so-called “cookie cutter specs” in many games. For those not familiar with the terminology, these are basically certain characters/talents/skills that are very commonly espoused to be “best dps” or “best healing spec” etc etc. For example, the cookie cutter warlock raiding spec before WotLK was 0/21/40, with 21 points in demonology to get Demonic Sacrifice and 40 points in Destruction up to Shadow and Flame. It’s not only in WoW, but any game where you have some kind of choice in how to build up a character. There were cookie-cutter builds in Diablo, and even in fighting games there are cookie-cutter teams and strats.

And among the players of all of these games, there is often a feeling of disdain for people who use cookie-cutter strats. “Oh they just blindly follow what’s posted on the Internet. I, on the other hand, am a beautiful and unique snowflake and I like to experiment and come up with my OWN builds.” Note of course that their own builds are just as effective, just that no one else ever discovered them because they are, you know, special.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to experiment, because that is how people learn. The whole reason a cookie-cutter build came into existence was because someone experimented and came up with something that worked out well. It doesn’t matter if you have 3 talent trees with a gazillion different talents, if you are limited to 71 talent points there will be a certain combination of points that will just be better for a particular purpose. It doesn’t matter how creative, or how special you are. If you want to perform the best, you will tend to end up with a cookie cutter spec because it’s normally the best.

The funny thing is, don’t people realise that if their “unique” spec was actually better, wouldn’t many other people also find this out and their “unique” spec would be the new cookie cutter? It’s much more likely that they are actually performing sub-optimally, all just because they want to feel special. Another newsflash: everyone is already special. You don’t need to do something strange just to be different: there are just as many crazies out there thinking the exact same thing. Doing the opposite of what most people are doing isn’t much better than doing the same as what most people are doing; your actions are still being dictated by other people. If everyone stopped using a cookie-cutter spec and started using your special build, would you respec to something else? If the answer is yes, that’s pretty sad.

Some people will say that they just play better with some strange build. Well, quite frankly its not that they play better, they probably are just really bad at using the cookie cutter build for some reason. Instead of actually improving, they prefer to just suck less? I don’t get it…

As mentioned, this isn’t restricted to just WoW. I used to play a fighting game called Marvel vs Capcom 2, which has 56 characters. A player can choose a team of 3 characters to use. Well, of course certain combinations of characters work better than others. This is inevitable if there is any variety at all in the characters, and is the reason why perfect game balance is in a sense unattainable. No one is going to be perfectly equal, the key is to have acceptable trade-offs.

Yet many players, especially new ones, will decry the lack of variety in most teams and boast that they, unlike everyone else, “came up with their own team and it works for them”. Their team usually ends up looking like 3 characters chosen randomly, or because “they look cool” or they have some theme like being all green. Of course, when they get trashed playing against another player who knows what they are doing using a team that is… well, actually a team… inevitably there will come the excuses that they lost because “that’s just a cookie cutter team” or how “ability xxx is overpowered and for losers”.

Cookie cutters are there for a reason, it’s probably because many people developed them over time and there are many strengths. If there is already such knowledge, then it makes sense to use it. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every single time you drive, you take what works and use it. Occasionally, someone will come up with a real humdinger of an idea. This idea will either be worse, or better than the original cookie cutter. If it’s better, then it will become the new cookie cutter. If not, then it was a good try but something was wrong somewhere.

So really, why look down on people using a commonly used build/strat/team? It only makes sense right, otherwise it wouldn’t be commonly used? I just don’t get it. The only reason I can think of is that this is yet another example of players trying to externalise their poor performance. They didn’t lose because they played poorly… they lost because they are “not like those other sheep using overpowered cookie cutter teams”. Uh huh… just like how their dps is below the tank’s, because “they don’t have gear”.

Advertisements

Gear as a signalling effect

I got a comment from Mike on one of my old posts on undergeared players . He disagreed and gave examples about how he has much better runs with well-geared players compared to people running heroics with “poor gear” and how it shows that gear matters very much.

After thinking about this a bit, I realised that gear sort of does matter, but probably not in the same way that most people think. In the anonymity of an online game and especially in pugs, a character’s gear is often one of the few ways you can glean some information about how good that player is. In that sense, gear has a signalling effect in that good players tend to have good gear. Poor players tend to have… “strange” gear. Note that this is not a cause and effect type of relationship but more of a correlation; i.e. people with good gear aren’t necessarily good players and people with bad gear aren’t necessarily bad players.

But since there’s no way you can tell before actually playing with them, you would assume that the player with better gear has at least some experience (he should at least know where heroic nexus is if he has gear from the last boss). Even if they both suck equally, the dumbass with 1200 spell damage should at least do a bit more dps hitting buttons randomly than the dumbass with 1000 spell damage hitting buttons randomly.

You could also probably assume that the person who has better gear has actually put in the effort to research his own class and his options to gear up. In other words, he actually knows how to use an Internet browser. Or can actually read. This probably already puts them miles ahead of the people who somehow can’t understand the meaning of “kill the adds when you get the debuff”.

However, the point still remains that the gear itself has very little real impact on the most important thing: can you kill the boss? For obvious reasons, you shouldn’t need to be in full epics before you do heroics. As long as you didn’t grind up to 80 by killing gorlocs in Borean Tundra, you should be geared out at a level that allows you to kill bosses perfectly fine. It may not be brain-dead easy, but it’s perfectly doable. Hence, you don’t NEED gear. If you’re talking about people trying to do heroics in level 70 greens then yes, you have bigger problems since only an idiot would still be wearing such gear. “I chooz plate and vendor them for the guldz!”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, from Attumen to Illidan our guild never encountered a boss that could not be downed due to gear. A Chinese guild killed Illidan wearing some pieces of level 60 T3 (yes, those items with a godly 30 stamina on chest!!!). On every single boss, you can see a massive difference between first kills and second kills. Learning to play is a huge huge difference compared to a paltry 50 spell damage. Your rogues are not below the tank on damage because they have shitty gear, they are there because they are shitty players. That mage isn’t doing only 800 dps because of his gear, because mages at level 70 with level 70 gear were already doing 1000 dps.

To end, I’ll relate another choice memory from running pug heroics. We went into heroic Gundrak with another feral druid, a rogue and a hunter. The snake boss Sladran has a aoe poison nova which does huge damage, but has a relatively short range and thus can simply be avoided by running out. Ranged classes shouldn’t need to move at all. So when he announces poison nova, all melee runs out, he casts, run back in, rinse repeat and he’s dead.

As expected, first poison nova and everyone gets hit except me and Yannie. Even the hunter got hit. Of course we wiped. After saying “lolz my cloak of shadows was on cooldown” the rogue then suggested we just stay in and zerg dps him down and heal through the poison nova. “That’s how I do it on my priest”. After a second of stunned silence, I told him congrats, enjoy your CoH nerf, but it’s really not hard to just pay attention and run out. We then killed him on the next try (of course the rogue still got hit by poison nova again).

I can imagine it now…
Rogue: LFG Heroic Gundrak, must have holy CoH priest with 2000 spellpower and well-geared dps to kill snake boss in 30 secs! Pst me for invite!

Pockie the Pally: Retnoob, Healbot or Consecratelol

Despite the fact that I post as Pockie, my “main” is actually my feral druid. Pockie has been idling around, doing the Jewelcrafting dailies everyday and other assorted Wyrmrest and Kaluak dailies occasionally. I also played him on and off when my wife wasn’t playing.

Amazingly, he is now 79 >.< He went through a similar questing route that our mains did, doing Borean Tundra followed by Dragonblight and Sholazar Basin, where he hit 77 and finally was able to fly again. After finishing up Howling Fjord and Sholazar Basin, he did some Argent Crusade quests in Icecrown and Zuldrak and is now about 5 bars from 80. The big question now is what he’s going to do once he hits 80.

Retnoob
He’s been levelling as Retribution, which frankly speaking is overpowered and just needs me to press random buttons. Occasionally I actually have to use Divine Plea to get some mana back 😛

Ret is very strong now, despite the crying over the “nerfs”. Most of the ret pallies I’ve grouped with do pretty strong dps even without amazing gear, compared to some sub-1k dps mages and warlocks. I can easily craft myself a Titansteel Destroyer (once my wife’s warrior actually gets to levelling her Blacksmithing…) and buy any other good BoE pieces.

The only problem is that according to the stat weightings on Elitist Jerks, I’m supposed to be a Huntardin >.< Apparently strength is weighted highest (no surprise since 1 str = 2 ap = spellpower for judgements), but it’s followed by agi and ap weighted equally, except that agility provides crit rating. So the gear list ends up being full of items with AP, agi and crit… in other words, hunter mail and leather dps pieces…

Of course I’m not going to take mail and leather over druids, rogues, hunters and shamans. But I’m a bit reluctant to take them in any case since I would actually like to solo a bit and losing half my health bar to kill 1 mob would not be nice. Mail is maybe ok, going down to leather is a bit extreme… Hmm.

Holy
My original intention was to spec holy and heal. This was the whole reason this pally was originally levelled. Similar to my druid, I chose a pally as my healer because they were one of the easiest healers to play (can’t go much wrong with only 2 buttons, small heal or big heal hmmmm which one should I press…).

However, my experiences running heroics lately have started making me reconsider whether I want to heal as a pally in WotLK. I originally thought that pally healers should be quite strong now due to 15% haste after judging, some nice aoe heals on holy light, and beacon of light helping heal the tank. But the new holy pally seems to have a ton of things to do, and most instances seem to have quite high amounts of aoe damage being spread around. Even Yannie has problems on some fights as even the awesomeness of chain heal can’t keep up if she has to move or do other things. I can’t imagine doing heroic Violet Hold and meeting the voidwalker boss… and being a holy pally that has to kill adds. /cry in a corner

In raids, a holy pally should be a bit better as they can then play to their strengths and leave other classes to deal with the aoe damage. Unfortunately, prior to the CoH and Wild Growth nerfs there simply isn’t much for a holy pally to heal. Due to insane mana regen, I don’t even know why druids and priests have any other button on their bar. A priest topped healing by far on 25-man Obsidian Sanctum the other day and all he did was spam CoH 80% of the time. He probably pressed the wrong button for the other 20%. The holy pallies had less than half his healing, I think one of them went to take a ninja-dump halfway through and no one even noticed.

The good thing is that a holy pally should find it easier to get groups compared to Just-Another-DPS, but the strange thing about our server is that we do regularly see many healers LFG for instances. They may suck, but they are still healers… or maybe that’s why they are still looking for groups.

Prot
I’ve been keeping random plate tanking gear from quests if there are no better ret or holy pieces. I’ve never tanked as prot, and only specced prot for a couple weeks when I was aoe-grinding for Consortium reputation.

Even though tanks are in demand, I’m quite hesitant to go prot because I already have a druid tank who is fairly decently geared. No real reason for me to gear up yet another tanking character even if prot supposedly is quite strong now. Besides, if I’m tanking I prefer to have Yannie healing me rather than some noob CoH-spamming priest.

Summary
Right now I’m leaning towards staying as ret, even if getting groups may be harder. I may not have that much time to do instances anyway since I basically play him only when my wife isn’t playing (or is playing some other character like her cute little warlock). With the trend towards no cc and brain-dead dps in WotLK heroics, being a healer sounds like too much pain for too little gain given that there is actually a fairly good amount of healing plate that is craftable or through rep, so why should I suffer through healing 4 noobs for gear >.< Hopefully I can get a few quick groups here and there and just be a less-brainless dps, if not I’ll continue finishing up the many quests which I skipped and getting some rep.

Opportunity cost: Part 2

Gevlon at Greedy Goblin has a series of posts up about how to help the “middle-class” of WoW earn more gold. By this, he means those people who are constantly poor but are at least trying to actively learn ways to increase their gold resources. His first post was to advise them to download and learn how to use Auctioneer, and the second touched on the concept of opportunity cost (which I had previously posted on).

My own view is that Auctioneer is a useful tool, but in the end it is only a tool. I would not recommend ever trusting the prices given by Auctioneer – they can serve as a guideline, but when posting auctions I would never simply go by the -10% rule used by Auctioneer. Firstly, the prices are simply a statistical average, and as such they are based on historical data. It doesn’t tell you what the price is now, it tells you what the average price has been since the time you started scanning. And with the way prices fluctuated wildly during the initial month of WotLK, those aren’t likely to be very accurate. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter if Eternal Fire’s average price was 60g, if someone is putting it up right now for 30g. Your 54g auctions simply won’t sell. On the other hand, even if the average price is 60g, it doesn’t mean you can’t sell it for 70g on some days when there isn’t any up for sale.

So the moral of the story is, you should always have some knowledge of the goods you are selling and you always have to check the current price anyway regardless of what the Auctioneer price is. Plus, you don’t have to undercut by 10% when -1 gold will do 🙂

But one lesson which I think is very very important is the concept of opportunity cost, which not only covers selling BoEs instead of equipping them but also many other activities both in-game and out. Understanding this alone will allow you to spend your time in a much more efficient and pleasant way because you won’t be wasting your resources.

He mentioned the most common fallacy, which is the thought that “it’s free because I farmed it”. The cost of a herbalist levelling alchemy, is exactly the same as that of any other person levelling alchemy because even though no gold changed hands, the value of goods used up remains the same. It is this idea of something having value even if there is no monetary transaction that can be applied elsewhere.

For example, I also previously mentioned that if you need Eternal Fire, there’s no real reason why you have to farm Eternal Fire (skipping the obvious point of why you have to farm in the first place…). Just do whatever gives you the most gold and buy the materials you need! If you are 80, then perhaps you should do some easy quests or dailies. Each quest normally gives about 13g. At the going rate, that translates to 3 quests = 1 eternal fire. At the same time, you can vendor quest rewards for even more money and you get some faction reputation too.

The funny thing is that people do very strange things because they are extremely reluctant to part with gold. They fail to realise that anything has a value, even if no money changed hands. If spending money gets them even more money in return, then not doing so actually incurs an opportunity cost.

The other day a guildie asked if anyone had Autumn’s Glow, and he would trade any other rare gem for it. To someone who understands opportunity cost, the solution is very, very obvious: sell your high value rare gem e.g. Scarlet Ruby on the AH for 100g, and buy Autumn’s Glow for 50g. Instead, he thinks that it somehow doesn’t cost anything because he exchanged it for something he already owns, without realising that by doing so he foregoes the profit on the Scarlet Ruby->Autumn’s Glow. Of course it goes without saying that this person is dirt poor and also thinks 70g frozen orbs are expensive since “you get them for free by running a heroic”. (Must be something about priests, CoH rotted their brains.)

Another example is how there are many people now relentlessly spamming trade, offering to sell their cooldowns. This is again a big mystery to me. As a miner, why would you sell your titansteel transmute cooldown for 30g? You can easily go to the AH, buy the mats at the market price, do the transmute and make quite a bit more profit selling the titansteel bar yourself. You do exactly the same work, with the exception of a few clicks at the AH that takes less than 1 minute.

A similar situation exists with tailors and their cloth transmutes. Each of the specialisations gets a 100% chance to make an extra cloth when they do their specialised transmute. In TBC, shadowcloth easily sold for 40-50g. But there are still many tailors who will sit around shattrah, filling /trade with “selling shadowcloth spec cooldown, 5g”. Even if you give him all the mats, he still has to fly all the way to shadowmoon valley and do the exact same thing. Since a single cloth already sells for a profit, he is suffering a serious opportunity cost by giving away 2 shadowcloth for 5g. I wouldn’t even fly from Shattrah to Zangarmarsh for 5g…

The common reason why people do this? “I don’t have time/am too lazy to farm for mats to do the transmute myself”. Why oh why do they have to farm when it sells perfectly well with materials bought from the AH? The only possible valid reason why they cannot buy their own mats and use their cooldown to get a bigger profit is because they don’t even have ~150 gold in capital to buy the mats. In which case there is already no hope for them (see the priest who cannot afford 70g for a frozen orb but will run 7 heroics trying to get it…)

(She Says) Deflation in Wow

Many bloggers have noticed that deflation is depressing prices in the WoW Economy and they have offered several theories of why it is so.

Tobold thinks that easy access to raid gear means fewer people bother to spend on items to improve their current gear. A low demand theory.

The WOWEconomist theorizes that while the producers of the goods are level 80 and supplying, the consumers (i.e levelling alts) are not in the market for shinies yet. High supply and low demand = lower prices. He expects inflation to kick in Jan09 when people gets into the thick of levelling alts.

The Greedy Goblin believes it has to do with how the rich is swimming in money while the majority of players are poor and are unable to pay for crafted items/ repairs/ consumables.

Indeed, prices of many items on our server has fallen as well. Eternals, ores, cloth and herbs have come down from its prime. While supply has increased, demand has not caught up with the rate of increase. Let’s start by looking at the supply factors.

Firstly, more players are now level 80 and are farming raw materials.

Secondly, players are getting more efficient at farming as they find the best spots to maximize their farming. Wintergrasp for example is packed with ore, herbs and gas clouds. I’ve found much more titanium ore there than I’ve ever seen in Icecrown and Stormpeaks combined. Players can also use their flying mounts to swoop up all the mats. Essentially, this means they get more raw materials per hour of “labor” compared to at the beginning of the expansion.

With lower material costs, profit margin on value-added goods such as BOE gear, flasks and gems should have increased. However, competition is stiff so the fierce undercutting forces prices to fall back and reduces profit margins. Let’s take trollwoven spaulders for example. Last week, material cost used to be 520g and sells for 1200g. Last week’s profit margin = (1200-520)/520 = 131%. This week with lower mat prices, the same item costs 410g and sells for 900g. The profit margin is 120%. As in real life, profit margin will continue to fall as cheap raw materials means professions are cheaper to level (low barrier to entry) and high profit items lure them to enter the market.

On the supply side, BOE gear also have new competiters — Blizzard vendors. In the Burning Crusade expansion, rep vendors did not sell much gear that was worth buying. Even the rare pvp set was added much later in the game. Rep was also very difficult to obtain. In Wotlk, this has changed. Vendors now sell varying levels of gear – rare to epic. And the tabards make it easy for you to reach exalted with the faction of your choice. I’ve personally seen many new players garbed in mainly reputation gear. So that’s money taken out of the system instead of circulating in the economy

On the demand side, I believe players are still buying items. Enchants, gems and leg armor will still sell as prople upgrade their gear. However, WotLK crafted items appear to require less materials compared to TBC. Take the spellthreads for example, Shining spellthread costs 3 Eternium Thread, 2 Crystallized Life and 1 Iceweb Spider Silk. The cost of the vendor item of 3 Eternium spellthread is already 9g(i think?) which is half the cost of the spellthread itself; In comparison, old TBC runic spellthreads were 5 Primal Life and 1 Rune Thread. By reducing the number of mats, demand for raw materials decline even if demand for the end product remains the same.

For BOE gear, it is as WoWEconomist points out, the main consumers of such items, alts, are not there yet. Alts are usually geared up faster in order to close the gap with mains. Getting rep from each faction is a significantly slower process.

The impact of deflation is that things get cheaper and cheaper which increase the value of gold. It also encourages people to save and spend later since they can get more value out of their gold at a later date. Why buy Titansteel bars for 220g now when you can buy it for 180 tomorrow? This may result in a deflationary spiral as players spend less, resulting in furthur decreases in prices. I wonder if real life recessions in many countries have any impact on people’s spending mentality as well. Do they save more in game because they are in conservation mode in real life? Or perhaps lacking the cash to pay for real life excesses, people may be more likely to splurge on some virtual luxuries instead?

(She Says) Healing Blame in the Healing Game

chainhealTobold was lamenting about healer blame and many of his commentators feel the same – that people would blame healers for wipes that are not the fault of healers. Surprisingly, I’ve not met such people in the many pug WOTLK heroics we’ve been running. Before I respecced from elemental to resto for good, I have however met one prima donna healer who really give healers a bad name. She has previously featured as Specimen #1 in Pockie’s post about under-brained players. Or maybe it was part of her tactic to avoid healer blame. What better way than to go on the offense and start the blame game on dps instead!

One of the reasons why blame is usually misplaced is ignorance — not understanding the fight and what went wrong. If you have no idea what is supposed to happen, it’s more likely that you wrongly accuse someone. So let’s say in the last boss on Azjol Nerub, we had a group that wiped massively on him before we gave up. We had a mage who was on his first ever heroic, a rogue whose dps is on the low end and a death knight. The boss burrows and spawn adds. One of the adds are venomancers who spews an aoe poison debuff that stacks and each debuff does 1500 damage per second. As a resto shaman, I already had it easy since I have poison cleansing totem. But the dps was too low/unfocused and we were unable to take down the venomancers quickly enough, leading to the inevitable death. (Also didn’t help that the rogue died to the boss’s pound). Without a clear view of the fight, it is easy for group members to think along the lines of “ok, a healer’s job is to keep me alive. I died. Therefore it’s the healer’s fault”. Just as in the case of Specimen #1, because she didn’t understand the mechanics of the voidwalker boss in heroic Violet Hold, she thought that we did not zerg him fast enough when actually she was one of the clueless culprits who did not kill the adds, leading to our inevitable demise.

And it doesn’t just happen in pugs, while our guild was learning the Archimonde fight, healers get a lot of smack because the tank dies or melee complain that “I never get healed etc etc”. In actual fact, it was because many people are getting caught in doomfires and healers have to spread their heals out and heal reactively instead of putting pre-emptive heals on the tank. In the end, we tackled the fight by asking people to get out of range before fear, running like headless chickens if a doomfire is near. It drastically reduced the amount of doomfire damage and tank healing stabilized. And for those people who complain about not getting heals, I also installed an add-on such as recount that logs deaths and the last 10-20 lines of what happened before that, so I can just tell people to stop eating doomfires for supper. That shut them up pretty quick. Power to knowledge, I would say.

The other theory I have is a lack of bargaining power for healers. I’ve noticed recently that there seems to be a surplus of healers in LFG. One evening, there were 4 (!!) holy priests looking to do the heroic daily and hardly a single dps. As a healer + tank combi, our leverage in a group is much higher since we can just fill up the remaining positions with any dps we find. Sole healers may find themselves less valuable to a group because there are alternative healers who can fill the position.

As a healer, how do you protect yourself from abuse from jerks? Well, there’s nothing much to do about jerks except /ignore but recognizing that the complaints arise from ignorance, it may help to enlighten the group on what went wrong and suggest improvements to overcome whatever it is that wiped you. If dps has not been helping you kill adds and you have trouble healing, then let the tank/dps know. Most importantly, don’t get worked, throw up a big fuss and huff off with your hearthstone. If they insist on being jerks, then you can hearth at will 🙂

Bear pre-raid tanking gear and strat

I was originally thinking of putting in a list of pre-raid gear pieces for tanking druids, but since I can’t access wowhead at work and I’m too busy playing at home… I kept putting it off. Well today is Tuesday and its extended maintenance so…

Altosis has put up a list of pre-raid feral gear which is pretty good, but it seems to have a few key omissions and quirks because he apparently filtered for items that have strictly no defense. I’ll try to put together a few good options here from a variety of sources like Kalon’s but without the raid drops and with some easy quest options.

Head
Weakness Spectralizers are good if you’re an Engineer (will be added in 3.08)
Mask of the Watcher from Heroic Oculus
Headguard of Retaliation from a quest in Utgarde Pinnacle Vengeance Be Mine!

Neck
Titanium Earthguard Chain from Jewelcrafting is good, but quite expensive
Chained Military Gorget is available for 40 Emblems of Heroism, about equivalent to the Titanium Earthguard
Amulet of Wills from normal Halls of Stone

Shoulders
Trollwoven Spaulders from Leatherworking, easy to get and one of the best
Shoulderpads of Fleshwerks from a quest in Icecrown The Flesh Giant Champion

Back
Durable Nerubhide Cape from Leatherworking, recommended
Cloak of the Gushing Wound from Heroic Violet Hold
Cloak of Holy Extermination from Honored Argent Crusade
Bloodbane Cloak from quest in Icecrown The Fate of Bloodbane

Chest
Exotic Leather Tunic from a quest in Utgarde Pinnacle Junk in My Trunk
Polar Vest Leatherworking Frost Resist set
T7 chest 80 Emblems of Heroism or normal Archavon

Wrist
Bindings of the Tunneler from Heroic Utgarde Keep
Njorndar Furywraps from a quest in Icecrown Not-so-Honorable Combat
Eviscerator’s Bindings from leatherworking, it’s one of the cheapest pieces to make so you might be able to pick them up at a discount from leatherworkers notching up

Gloves
Handwraps of Preserved History best tanking gloves in game, but going to be nerfed. From a quest in CoT Strat A Royal Escort
Eviscerator’s Gauntlets from leatherworking, pretty cheap
Rough Climber’s Grips quest in Storm Peaks The Reckoning

Belt
Trollwoven Girdle from Leatherworking, recommended
Sharp-Barbed Leather Belt from Heroic Utgarde Keep
Glitterscale Wrap from revered Oracles

Legs
Gored Hide Legguards from Heroic Gundrak
Mind-Expanding Leggings from revered Kirin Tor
Chain Gang Legguards BoE drop from Violet Hold, quite common
Tattooed Deerskin Leggings from a quest in Violet Hold Containment

Feet
Polar Boots from Leatherworking Frost Resist set
Boots of the Neverending Path Exalted Argent Crusade
Rhino Hide Kneeboots from quest in Gundrak One of a Kind

Rings
Keystone Great-Ring from Heroic Draktharon, best ring in game
Titanium Earthguard Ring from Jewelcrafting, crazily expensive
Ring of the Kirin Tor tanking Dalaran hearth-ring to be added in 3.08, even more crazily expensive
Hemorrhaging Circle from Heroic Gundrak, have to fight all melee dps for it
Ring of Earthen Might from Jewelcrafting
Iceforged Battle Ring from quest in Storm Peaks The Brothers Bronzebeard

Trinkets
Essence of Gossamer from Heroic Azjol-Nerub. Please kick and /spit on any idiot non-tanks that try to roll on this “for PvP”
Valor Medal of the First War for 40 Emblems of Heroism, basically super-upgraded version of Moroes’ Lucky Pocket Watch and best use of first Emblems given the lack of other choices
Monarch Crab if you are a Jewelcrafter, basically the only JC BoP trinket that doesn’t suck
Sonic Booster if you are an engineer
Commendation of Kael’thas is actually still pretty good, I’ve been trying to farm this from Heroic Magister’s Terrace with Yannie. Gotten 1 of each of the other trinkets so far, but no tanking trinket…

Idol
Idol of Terror is currently the only choice. You can solo farm badges in Outland Heroics or if really desperate get the sucky version from a quest in Borean Tundra Get Me Outa Here!

Weapon
Enraged Feral Staff from Heroic Utgarde Keep
Staff of Trickery from Heroic Violet Hold
Stave of Shrouded Mysteries from Revered Kirin Tor

Gear Overview

Feral druid gear is kinda strange right now. I originally decided on a bear as my tank because it was easier to gear up with the Heavy Clefthoof LW set giving huge defense. Now… it’s also relatively “easy” to gear up, but for a different reason. Feral druids basically don’t need anything except armor, stamina and agility (roughly in that order for a starter set). We do not need defense at all since we are uncrittable even if naked due to Survival of the Fittest. We don’t use parry or shield block. There are no longer any items with extra armor, so basically any leather piece with high stamina and agi will work.

The biggest problem starting heroics is survivability, not threat. With the bear form multiplier, armor and stamina will be the highest priority. Agility provides a tiny bit of armor, dodge and crit, but my opinion is that until you reach a certain amount of health dodge should be a lower priority than stamina. You need to avoid getting insta-gibbed by hard hitting bosses, and dodge is merely a chance to avoid that. Without a high-enough health pool, there will always be a chance that you will die to a unlucky burst before your healer can do anything. After you reach a comfortable level, you can start stacking agi to get pure avoidance to reduce the strain on your healer’s mana.

Any other stats will merely be extras since they only add to threat (AP, crit, haste) and frankly as a starting bear, you will have infinite rage on every pull because you get hit like tofu and shouldn’t have threat problems. Expertise is the only other “extra” stat that helps survivability by reducing parries, but I wouldn’t gimp the main stats just to get it.

Some pieces of the Polar frost resist set from LW are actually a pretty good investment if you’re intending to do Naxx eventually (since your guild may ask you to get them anyway for Sapphiron and Kel’Thuzad) and there are quite a few fights in dungeons with frost damage. They have crazy high stamina, high armor due to item level, and best of all they are socketed. E.g. you could put 3x 16 agi gems into the Polar chest and end up with a chest with 48 agi and 169 stamina with high armor and 115 frost resist as well. Pretty decent, with even more stamina if you get the socket bonus. They are also good if there are relatively few options for that slot (chest and feet).

Summary: Wear the highest ilevel item (highest armor) which has high stamina. If you are into PvP, the Savage Gladiator’s Sanctuary set does pretty well also since it has high stamina and sockets. You’ll be doing Heroic Utgarde Keep a lot, and the first rep should be Kirin Tor (for weapon and legs) followed by Argent Crusade (boots, back and head enchant).

Tanking overview

I’ve seen many articles which claim that bears have problems, are the least desired tanks etc etc. All I can say is “Wtf?” I’m seriously at a loss to understand this, unless it’s just the usual “everyone is OP except us” kind of thinking that every moron has. Tanking as a bear is really drop dead easy in every heroic I’ve run so far, provided the group isn’t completely moronic (dumbkin in Strat…)

The biggest problem we will face is the pull. If you don’t get all the mobs focused on you at the start, a simple pull can become really bad. If there are mobs running all over the place at the start, it’s hard for a bear to gather them all up and get them back without blowing a challenging roar because they are not grouped up enough for swipe to hit everything and there isn’t enough rage to spam swipe everywhere because not everything is hitting you (vicious cycle).

So, if you need to pull back, tell your group members so they don’t start nuking mobs before they even get to you. Pull with faerie fire (does huge threat), and demo roar as the pack comes. Why demo roar? Demo roar is a circle all around you, unlike swipe (admittedly swipe radius is huge, it’s more a half-circle than a cone). This helps if for some reason someone in the group generates >1 threat during the pull, which means the other mobs will head for him and might actually get behind you causing swipe to miss. Demo roar is only 10 rage meaning you will definitely be able to do it just after turning bear and immediately on pressing enrage. It also helps reduce incoming damage so your healer doesn’t have to immediately heal you for huge amounts and pull more aggro.

Once you have them targetting you, spam maul (with glyph of maul) and swipe. It’s impossible to run out of rage and you don’t even really need to switch targets, unless dps is being silly and unloaded on a different target than your original (best to mark it with skull, which I hotkeyed). If the pull consists of only 3 mobs but they are very dangerous, remember to pop Berserk and go crazy spamming mangle + maul to dps them down fast. Even if they pull aggro, growl is ranged and has a really short cooldown. Feral faerie fire is a ghetto growl that also works great. For example, an add is summoned mid-combat that heads for your healer, just hit it with feral faerie fire instead of wasting growl.

On a single target, priority is mangle -> lacerate to 5 -> swipe -> lacerate to keep the stack up, hitting maul all the way as long as there is spare rage. Remember to keep faerie fire on the boss and demo roar if he melees hard. Again, threat should really not be an issue and most heroic bosses are tauntable. I literally just spam 1,2,3 (mangle, maul, swipe) brainlessly and press lacerate once in a while and never ever come close to losing aggro.

Bears can easily do 1200 dps in average blue gear in heroic instances so we rarely have any trouble in those fights which require us to kill something (rifts, voidspawns, other group members…).

Again, most of the time any difficulties in heroics are not due to the tank’s gear, but rather some other mistakes by the group that make an otherwise easy pull difficult (trinket + pyroblasting a mob that only has 1 swipe on it…). When I started doing heroics I had 17k hp and 22k armor… which was really pathetic. But we had a good group of players which made even voidwalker + ethereal boss in Heroic Violet Hold very doable. So it just goes to show that +int to player head > +gear to tank.