I am not currently a feral druid, but I levelled Elk as feral (60-70) and subsequently built a reputation as a half-way decent tank and pretty good cat DPSer. This blog article is going to contain some of my thoughts concerning the strengths and weaknesses of the feral druid, a single feral talent build that will serve both a cat and bear druid, some discussion of the attributes and stats most important to ferals; so be prepared for a relatively lengthy read.
Feral druids are comfortable in cat form or (dire) bear form. The former, acquired at level 20, will be the major DPS form the druid will find himself in while levelling all the way until he (or she) gets to the level cap. It has an incredibly fast attack speed, 1.0 sec, faster than any weapon available in game, and is limited only by the regeneration speed of his energy (20 energy every 2 seconds), much like a rogue. Bear and dire bear forms increase the armor and stamina (and hence the health) of the druid by a fixed percentage modifier. One thing not reflected in the tooltip is a 30% inherent increase in the threat generated by the bear's attacks (this means that every 100 points of damage a bear does will be perceived as 130 by mobs). These changes make the bear a very capable tank.
Threat is a very important concept to understand as a tank (or as a DPSer or healer, for that matter). Any action taken by any character in game generates threat. How much threat a character has determines whether or not a mob will attack him. A tank's job is to build threat on one or more mobs, so that they will continue attacking him while ignoring the rest of the members of his group. There are excellent write-ups on the subject elsewhere on the web (Wowwiki), so I won't go into it any more than I already have.
Tank tools are split into two categories: threat and mitigation. We have already discussed a bit about what threat is. Mitigation is equally (if not more) important to the tank. The more damage you mitigate, the less damage you take and the easier it is for your healer to keep you alive. Conversely, as you take less damage, you generate less rage and so are unable to generate as much threat since most abilities that build threat use up rage. So it's a delicate balance. When compared to warriors, beartanks have some advantages and disadvantages. Bears have higher armor and more health than equivalently geared warriors, but the warriors can parry and block so they have slightly higher overall mitigation. This, of course, is a gross oversimplification, and I may go into it in more depth in the future, but is enough for this current project.
Concepts a beartank should become comfortable with include threat and mitigation, discussed above, but one should also be aware of the numbers that feed into those concepts: attack power and crit % for threat and armor, defense/resilience and dodge for mitigation. Balancing these numbers on the character info pane is a delicate process. Here are how the numbers stack up:
2.36 defense rating = 1 defense25 defense = -1% chance to be crit by level 70 opponent,25 defense = +1% dodge39.4 resilience = -1% chance to be crit by level 70 opponent,39.4 resilience = -2% damage from crits39.4 resilience = -1% damage from DoTs1 agility = 2 armor14.7 agility = 1% dodge1 agility = 0.1% chance to crit1 strength = 2 attack power14 attack power = 1 dps
So what are good numbers to shoot for? 11,000-13,000 health unbuffed is not an unreasonable starting point. 24-26,000 armor is also relatively easily doable. The only magic number for a feral druid is, in my opinion, the most important one: 415 defense. Mark that one down. 415 defense. At that point, in conjunction with the talent "Survival of the Fittest", a druid tank becomes uncrittable. And because beartanks can neither block nor parry, being uncrittable becomes the single most important milestone for a newly minted 70 beartank.
The typical talent spec for beartanks is a 0/47/14. This contains all the talents necessary to tank well and many that cross over to make cat form a powerful dpser. Some time in the future, we'll talk about how to use all the tools at the disposal of the bear to grab and hold aggro.