Currant had known deep in the pit of her stomach, that the moment the giant mounted its drake that things were about to get bad. Had she known just how bad, maybe she would have run back the other way. As it was, she was committed, along with the unlucky souls she was trying desperately to protect.
Her massive paw crashed down on on the skull of yet another unliving Vrykul and she could feel it collapse like the shell of an egg, spatter and all. She bared her bloodied teeth and shook her muzzle back and forth as Valenna left a dagger in the corpse at her feet taking the fallen Vrykul’s spear. She turned and threw in a single motion that defied Currant’s ability to figure out how she’d bothered finding her target, and the shaft sped upward, barely arcing. All about them, the steaming corpses of the Vrykul’s companions littered and stained the snow, bones jutting upward like the broken stalks of rotting plants.
Valenna’s eyes narrowed in critical appraisal of her throw and she panted, her breath turning to mist as she did, "That’s the last spear." The sound of worry in her voice was unmistakable, even through the filter of Currant’s ursine senses. Currant could hear the drake screaming in pain from the spear, watching as its wings folded and the creature began a deceptively lazy drift toward the ground, black blood trailing behind it like streamers. Valenna bent and retrieved the blade she’d left in the corpse and wiped the gore on the leg of her armor.
The ice-crusted thing on the drake’s back – Skadi if the informants were to be trusted – merely grunted in annoyance and leapt from it’s back as if it were any other surface and slammed into the ground, shifting bodies and snowpack alike with the impact. Snow sprayed about its fur-bound feet and settled around it, obscuring for the briefest of moments, its features.
When the snow settled, Currant found herself gazing into the visage of hate. Skadi was slicked in the rime of Northrend, from the bristle of the fur on its armor to the glowing blue spots that stared out at her from the blackness beneath its horned helmet. It opened its cracked lips and bellowed. The sound that issued forth was nearly visible, the air seeming to shake. While her companions winced, Currant roared in challenge, and charged forward just as it did the same.
Valenna seemed to ripple and fade as she dashed through the corpses of Skadi’s minions with the grace of a dancer. Valenna’s war-sister Khat and an insane gnome with spiked red hair approached less gracefully from Skadi’s sides, their heavy armor slowing them some, and they lashed out at the giant’s legs, their massive blades biting deep, but not deeply enough to slow it.
Currant slammed into the giant, the mass of her bear form almost overwhelmed by the mass of the undead hero that met her, and its hammer crashed down on her head. She felt it through the heavy fur that covered her, and even caught the crack of the hammer hitting her skull and her world faded to a blur. Her ears stopped working and something inside her head was violently trying to get out. Behind her eyes it threw itself from side to side, pushing at her and scraping at her ears, threatening to split them with the repetition of contact, scrubbing her insides raw.
She looked again and Valenna had appeared behind the hateful thing that had landed in their midst, and was lashing out with her glistening wet blades, severing tendons and straps of leather with equal abandon. The gnome shoved a blade of his own through Skadi’s leg, only to be backhanded and sent sprawling through the snow and cutting a miniature furrow that only stopped at a stone wall. Khat ducked under the whirling storm of Skadi’s weapons and backed out to a temporarily safer distance.
Currant could taste blood in her mouth and feel it seeping from her ears, the sticky treacle matting her fur. A small song coursed through her mind, like the distant hum of bees. Soon it turned to the creaking of branches and the rustle of leaves. The taste of blood became the clean crisp sensation of an icy stream and with sudden clarity, Currant took in the sounds of battle around her: the creak of leather, the gentle roughage of metal on metal and the soft thunk of weapons biting flesh.
With a suddenness, the bright blue in the depths of Skadi’s helmet shifted and Currant could see it looking past her and toward the last of her companions, Phaelia. It too, had heard the gentle songs of restoration her magic brought, and somehow even its dead mind knew she was the most dangerous of its opponents.
It lifted its bloody hammer from Currant and turned toward the singer.
Currant blinked and lunged forward, a black-clawed paw catching the giant’s pelvis and pulling it to its knees. It turned back, rage filling the air, and the three warriors pressed their attacks. Currant dug her claws into every rotted opening she could find, holding the monster still while Khat and the gnome brutally hacked off its legs at the knees. Currant bit hard into its chest and it began to thrash, knocking Khat to the ground but exacting a much higher toll from the gnome. The poor thing’s skull broke apart messily as Skadi’s blindly thrashing hammer struck home. His corpse fell spraying to the ground, painting the snow much differently than the zombies that had fallen before him.
One of Khat’s massive blades severed an arm at the elbow and Valenna managed to find enough of an opening to break in and nearly sever the thing’s head with two precisely executed slashes. It was all the opening Currant needed. She lunged forward and grabbed Skadi’s head in her mouth as it lolled about uselessly and she wrenched hard, pulling the entire thing to the ground. She held it there while Valenna and Khat finished dismembering it, working her powerful teeth over the helmet to the weaker faceguard. When she had it solidly in position, she bit down hard. The helmet bent and broke and the gut-wrenching taste of dead flesh filled her mouth.
She shook it free and stepped back, her form flowing backward from that of a bear to that of a night elf. She turned and spat out what was left of Skadi. Phaelia was breathing heavily and when their eyes met, she shook her head, "I…I couldn’t…it was…too fast."
Breathing more heavily than she realized, Currant nodded, "It wasn’t your fault. I’ll see to him." She turned toward the fallen gnome and began to call on Elune.
A lot is being said these days about Druid tanking viability. Some of it is well-informed, some of it is apologist, and some of it is downright lunatic fringe. We all have opinions and insight and math but sadly, many of us seem to be thinking similar things.
Since hitting 80, I’ve only tanked a handful of encounters and fewer instances, spending most of my time as DPS. This isn’t really a problem, it just isn’t what I expected. I spend most of my time as a cat and was pleased to find the other night that I was competitive with other DPS in a raid. I was only pulling 2200 DPS in my mostly pre-heroic gear (crafted epics and leveling blues mostly), but I was pleased to beat out more than one hunter. Our career DPSers still did better than I did because they really know what they’re doing, but hey, not bad for a mostly-tank, right?
At any rate, I’ve been complaining recently about a lot of the changes, but though I whine and cry to my friends, I’m usually very tempered in my actual responses. That said, there are some issues that still need addressing. Commonly cited on the forums recently are issues with AoE tanking in general and Swipe in particular, itemization, and a lack of tanking tools.
Let’s look briefly at each:
AoE Tanking. Swipe.
By some measures, Swipe allows us the greatest AoE TPS of any single AoE tanking ability, and few of us will contest that. The problems with the ability are tactical, really, and much of it can be solved with less spastic DPS.
First, it’s a targeted frontal cone. Most of the time, this fact is immaterial and it seems to me that the ‘cone’ is nearly 180-degrees, making it a VERY nice frontal cone. It strikes EVERYTHING in that area. Again, very very nice. It can crit like crazy given the typical Feral’s crit chance and means that when tanking multiple mobs using Swipe, we are pretty much never Rage-starved. It does nice damage, to boot.
Problematically, it is targeted. In theory, this is a null-issue as we can simply re-target and keep on that Swipe button. Realistically, I often lose sight of my target and it’s not unknown for me to fail to notice that my target has moved out of range and I’m just sitting there for several seconds. As any tank knows, you can lose mobs in those seconds depending on the situation.
A far more pressing problem is mob pathing. Far too often a mob will run behind us and out of Swipe. While no tank actually wants a target behind them, those with true AoE abilities can afford to ignore them if they need to, in spite of the hit to mitigation they’ll take. It’s usually trash that does this and therefore the loss of mitigation is merely annoying. For the Druid, however, a mob behind us is a mob that is literally not being tanked.
More commonly cited is the frequency with which a Druid tank loses mobs in a pack to the DPS, especially when there’s AoE DPS being thrown about with reckless abandon. While I’m of the opinion that the above-mentioned positioning issues are largely to blame, it has been pointed out that this could be avoided by allowing Swipe more front-loaded threat. Such a change was recently announced.
This runs the risk of giving us far too much threat, but does allow for our laying off the Swipe button long enough to work in Barkskin, Demoralizing Roar, Mangle and other abilities without materially impacting our threat. Interesting.
There is also a noted lack of tanking tools.
In general, I don’t think this is a huge problem. I’m seriously pissed off that Warriors have appropriated some of my abilities (Enraged Regeneration and Damage Shield in particular – especially since both appear to be improved versions of what Druids have, at least in some ways) it’s probably only fair, with a short cooldown Barkskin usable in forms and Survival Instincts being given to Druids. Still, it rankles.
But Druids do have fewer tanking tools. The common retort is that "Druids can heal and buff and DPS." Really? As the player of a Druid I didn’t know any of that. Seriously. I’m glad you guys are here to tell me these things. :eyeroll:
This is not the post to debate the merits of Druid utility. Suffice it to say that Druids sacrifice breadth of utility in a role for breadth of utility in a class. Warriors do the reverse. Druids have fewer tanking tools. Period. End of debate. This is true. I don’t need a lot of tools to tank and I’m not actually concerned with asking for more. Would a true AoE ability be nice? Absolutely. Can I make it work without one? Absolutely.
This, however, leads us to itemization.
Because we have so few tools to tank with, we also have fewer statistics we can use. Bears have Agility, Armor, Stamina, Dodge, Expertise and Hit to worry about in our tanking gear. Warriors and Paladins add in Strength, Parry, Block and Defense. Because all tanks share rings, trinkets, cloaks, and necklaces, this often puts us in the unenviable position of using gear with a lot of wasted itemization. This is especially true if, as many posters have said, the armor items will still be best in slot, just by smaller margins.
True, we can use Strength to raise our AP, but it’s more efficient and practical to get that other places. Strength is like Haste: it’s okay if it’s there, but we’ll never go looking for it.
Add in that we’re using Rogue gear for our leather an we see a near pathological resistance to itemizing for Bears at all. Holy Paladins, Moonkin, Restoration Druids…all have specialized itemization needs as well, and continue to get it. Cats get by just fine using Rogue gear, so it’s not totally bleak, but Dire Bear is increasingly looking like something we’re only supposed to do when there aren’t any willing plate-wearers around.
We still tank and we still tank well, don’t misunderstand me. But when the spec and role you want to play has gone from picking up the scraps from other classes (pre-BC) to getting targeted itemization (pre-Wrath) and then back to picking up scraps from other classes (now), all while some other specs continue to receive targeted itemization, it makes you wonder what the game wants you doing.
Blizzard has given us new talents, allowed us to be competitive for the leather we do use, and made many fundamental changes we’ve needed for ages though, so I can’t help but feel that the state of the Druid as a class is pretty good. I even think the upcoming armor change will ultimately be beneficial in freeing up itemization options (though I have some real issues with the implementation – it feels too much like a Band-Aid). I just want reassurances that I won’t be hearing: "This is so much easier with a Warrior/Paladin," when I tank for much longer.