Guardian Druid Guide MoP
Like getting hit by stuff? Like being a big fat bear? This guide’s for you!
In Cataclysm, bears and cats shared the same talent tree (Feral). It was always tough to balance 2 specs squashed together in 1 tree. It caused problems with tank DPS balance, mechanics that take spec into account (ex. Ultraxion), and created lots of other headaches. Thankfully, in Mists of Pandaria, druids gain a 4th spec, Guardian (a dedicated Tanking specialization!)
Whether you’re already a pro bear tank, are somewhat familiar, or just itching to be a big fat bear on your brand new max-level Druid alt, I hope you will find something useful from this guide!
A quick look back
Druid tanking used to be quite simple. You could be a pretty good tank by gearing agility, reforging to dodge (or mastery depending), keeping good uptime on Pulverize, and of course being good with your tanky cooldowns. There is no other way to say this - it was way too simple, easy, and boring. There should be more to separate good bears from bad ones. Survivability should mean more than pressing your big cooldown at the right time. That’s why there has been a shift in design philosophy for tanks:
Passive Mitigation (old): how squishy you are depends on having proper gear and cooldown usage
Active Mitigation (new): how squishy you are depends on your rotation, gear, and cooldown usage
This concept is key and extremely important: Your rotation is no longer to mash buttons and try to do almost as much DPS as a DPS class. As a tank, your rotation now directly affects your survivability!
If you have tanked on any class before, you may be familiar with Vengeance and how it worked. It is the Attack Power buff tanks get from taking damage in PvE content. In MoP, Vengeance has changed a bit:
All sources of damage (not just melee) contribute to Vengeance now.
It no longer caps at 10% of your HP - there is no cap.
What does this mean? You gain more Vengeance the harder you get hit by things. Therefore it scales with the content you are tanking. (Remember - if your co-tank is taunting off you, be aware you may have to temporarily auto-attack or stop attacking entirely since Vengeance has no cap it can be problematic for them if they have none).
Agility was king for druids in Cataclysm because it affected everything important. It increased Dodge, Critical Strike, Attack Power (which directly increased your Savage Defense absorbs via Mastery). But since Mastery has changed, Agility is far less important now. It only gives a small increase to Dodge, Critical Strike, and base 2 Attack Power.
Stamina no longer affects your Vengeance (as mentioned above), but it is the single best statistic to increase your survival. It increases your HP by 14 per point, and Frenzied Regeneration heals by 2.5 per point.
Guardian Mastery is brand new. It is called Mastery: Nature`s Guardian. Simply put, more mastery gives you more armor. It acts as a final multiplier on all the armor your character has. So it affects bonus armor on items too (ex. green text on Kiril, Fury of Beasts).
Expertise & Hit
Expertise and Hit do have an indirect affect on your survivability. The reason being, when Mangle or Auto-Attacks miss, they won't generate the rage for you. You will want to be able to rely on consistent rage generation to use on your Active Mitigation, especially at level 90.
But for right now, you probably don't have to go out of your way to get these stats. It just so happens Druid tanking gear came with healthy amounts of it already, so you shouldn't feel rage-starved. (They are great stats for your DPS if that's what you want to focus on until MoP).
At level 90
7.5% expertise (2550 rating) to not be dodged
15% expertise (? rating) to not be parried
7.5% hit (2550 rating)
The basic stat priority for tanking changed only slightly. Dodge is still very strong for mitigating damage on the combat table, but Mastery is not far behind at all. In fact, I would recommend reforging into some dodge at lower gear levels as follows;
Dodge > Mastery > Expertise = Hit > Crit > Haste
However, once you have some better gear and higher base dodge, the best option for survivability becomes;
Mastery > Expertise = Hit > Crit > Haste
And as for gems, the best options are:
Stamina (Solid) in blue
Agility/Stamina (Shifting) or Expertise/Stamina (Guardian) in red
Critical Strike/Stamina (Jagged) or Stamina/Dodge (Regal) in yellow
Don’t look for these, cause they’re gone!
Thorns – no more pre-casting before pulls for extra threat
Demoralizing Roar – no more 5-6 misses in a row of our 10% damage debuff!
Omen of Clarity – no more random rage-free procs
Challenging Roar – no more AoE taunt
Pulverize – no more crit buff to maintain (don’t worry, there’s lots more to do now!)
Rawr bear smash!
Faerie Fire – 6s cooldown, costs no rage, 25% chance to reset cooldown on Mangle, applies Weakened Armor
Mangle – 6s cooldown, costs no rage, generates 5 rage (or 7 with Soul of the Forest),
Lacerate – 3s cooldown, costs no rage, 25% chance to reset cooldown on Mangle, applies DoT stacking to 3
Thrash – 6s cooldown, costs no rage, 25% chance to reset cooldown on Mangle, applies Weakened Blows
Swipe – 3s cooldown, deals +20% to bleeding targets (synergy w/ Thrash), only used for AoE (low single target damage)
Maul – 3s cooldown, costs 30 rage, never macro to other abilities (you shouldn’t have anyways!)
Rawr bear defend!
Savage Defense – costs 60 rage, increases chance to dodge by 45% for 6 seconds, has 3 charges that regenerate at 1 charge every 9 seconds
Frenzied Regeneration – costs up to 60 rage, heals you for max(2*(AP-Agi*2), Sta*2.5). If less than 60 rage is consumed, it will heal you for an amount proportional to the maximum.
Survival Instincts – same as before 50% DR for 12s on 3m cooldown
Might of Ursoc – our new HP cooldown that gives 30% HP for 20s on 3 minute cooldown
Barkskin – same as before 20% DR for 12s on 1m cooldown
Rawr bear utility!
Skull Bash – our interrupt no longer costs rage and has a 15s cooldown
Bash – is now a talent (see below)
Feral Charge – is now a talent (see below)
Bear Hug – a new stun lasts for 3s, dealing 10% of our HP in damage every 1s, the Druid is immobilized for 3s
Symbiosis - new lvl 87 ability, applied to group/raid member granting them a druid ability, and granting the druid one ability of theirs
Rawr bear other stuff!
Rebirth – battle res now baseline health of 60% (up from 20%), or glyphed for 100% health
Bear Form – now increases the Critical Strike Rating and Haste Rating gained from items by 50%
Shapeshifting – now removes roots (in addition to snares)
Tier 1 (Level 15) (Mobility)
Feline Swiftness is the best default choice since it increases movement speed at all times, and it stacks with boot enchants. Wild Charge is not a bad choice though depending on the encounter the old bear charge can be handy.
Tier 2 (Level 30) (Healing)
If you battle-res often, Nature’s Swiftness makes sense. Renewal goes nicely with glyphed Frenzied Regeneration. Cenarion Ward may be better for some encounters since you can heal others.
Tier 3 (Level 45) (Kiting)
Typhoon has the most potential. It can serve as an interrupt, and prevent damage for a few seconds due to knockback/stun, assuming the adds aren’t immune.
Tier 4 (Level 60) (Effectiveness)
Incarnation is probably the best choice for most situations. It provides on-demand rage by allowing you to spam Mangle, (or Taunt if needed) and you get to be an armored bear to boot! Soul of the Forest is a good choice too, if you prefer more steady rage flow full-time.
Tier 5 (Level 75) (Crowd Control)
All 3 of these talents are good, which is best just depends on the encounter.
Tier 6 (Level 90) (Shapeshifting)
Nature's Vigil is generally the strongest option, since the heal is a smart heal and often heals you, or injured nearby melee, not to mention the damage boost. Heart of the Wild is also a good option if you need the extra health.
Not surprisingly, glyphs are situational. As of right now, I like Survival Instincts since 12 seconds is overkill anyways, Frenzied Regeneration since healers are comfy with mana, and Stampeding Roar for the extra range. For minor Glyphs, Grace is the only “must”, but you could argue any minor Glyph is a must!
Rage has changed substantially. It used to be a basically unlimited resource to let you mash your buttons to your heart’s content. No longer! Rage is precious. It is built slowly compared to before. It is your fuel for your active mitigation so it must be spent wisely.
Rage is no longer generated from being hit. It is generated by Auto-Attacks (6.25 rage), and Mangle (5 rage, or 7 rage with Soul of the Forest). Landing a critical strike with either Auto-Attack or Mangle gives you an additional 15 rage via Primal Fury.
Some other ways to get rage include:
As a Guardian Druid, your top priority when using Symbiosis is to provide yourself with the best survivability option. The best option for mitigating damage on the combat table is Monk, as it gives you Elusive Brew. The other good option is Death Knight, giving you Bone Shield.
In terms of boosting your own DPS (farm content, etc), the strongest option would be Shaman, giving you Lightning Shield, or Paladin, giving you Consecrate.
Hunter gives you Ice Trap, which can be useful for kiting.
The other classes aren't worth giving Symbiosis to unless for some reason they needed a specific spell from you (ex. Shadow Priest - Tranquility, Holy Paladin - Rebirth). This depends on the needs of the raid, but again keep in mind your priority should be to survive.
Mangle hits like a truck and is the only special that gives you rage. You want to Mangle whenever it’s up.
Single Target: Mangle > Lacerate > Thrash > Faerie Fire
Lacerate only has a 3s cooldown and deals good damage, so it will be highest priority of the three to maximize Mangle procs. Use Thrash and Faerie Fire to maintain the bleed and the 2 debuffs.
AoE: Mangle > Thrash > Swipe
Thrash’s chance to reset Mangle is calculated once per target hit, so the more targets it hits the higher chance to get a reset. (Keep that in mind even for the single target rotation). Tab-target to Mangle enemies with lowest threat, as needed. Swipe to fill in the gaps.
Savage Defense increases your chance to dodge by 45% for 6 seconds, costs 60 rage. It has 3 charges, and regenerates 1 charge every 9 seconds.
Frenzied Regeneration consumes up to 60 rage to heal you. If you don’t have 60 rage, it will heal you for a relative percentage. Glyph of Frenzied Regeneration makes it always cost 60 rage and increase healing taken by 40% for 6 seconds, instead of healing.
Maul deals 110% weapon damage, costs 30 rage.
Theory (& Pro Tips!)
You never want to waste any rage on Maul unless you are in no danger (not actively tanking anything, or outgear the content significantly). Your tanky choices therefore come down to Savage Defense (SD) and Frenzied Regeneration (FR). Generally, if you are tanking a heavy physical boss you are able to dodge, use SD. If you are dealing with more unavoidable damage (ex. magic, bleed), use FR.
If that choice is unclear for an encounter, you can consider the following: FR, whether glyphed or not, is less effective if your HP is full (or near full) since it may lead to overhealing. So in most cases, SD is better to use at high HP (to avoid damage entirely), while FR can be more effective at lower HP (to get healed up).
The Frenzied Regeneration heal can be quite strong since it scales with Attack Power (which is high from Vengeance). Whether to glyph it or not depends on the encounter and your healers. Having the self-heal would be better if your healers have mana issues or are incapable of healing you due to some mechanics. Also it gives you something defensive to use sub-60 rage. Glyphing it would come out on top when your healers are comfortable with mana, and are able to land heals on you during the buff. The glyph is also stronger with more dedicated tank healers (ex. 25-man) since it translates to more heals landing during the buff.
Note that if you use SD while you have SD up, it combines the durations (this is not true for glyphed FR!). In other words clipping SD does not punish you at all. In fact, in moments of high rage generation it is possible to “spam” SD and use all 3 charges, and you will find yourself waiting on the recharge time. This is a way to get a nice extended period of high dodge.
You have control over when you want periods of high rage generation. You have Enrage, Berserk, and Incarnation: Son of Ursoc in your toolbox. Enrage nets you 30 rage, and only has a 1m cooldown. Berserk and Incarnation have long cooldowns (3m each), but they allow you to spam Mangle to generate tons of rage. As much as they might sound like DPS cooldowns, you should use them more as Tank cooldowns for difficult content.
If you are not actively tanking you can use excess rage on Maul, or FR (if you’re taking incidental damage), but always try to have 100 rage banked for when you taunt back!
Thanks for Reading!
I am no longer updating this guide so some information may be outdated. I recommend checking other guides and sources below to verify.
Expertise & Hit: