Guardian druids are among the original tanking classes in World of Warcraft, but the most recent expansion has presented some unique challenges for Guardian Druids. Other tanks are able to self-heal more effectively, but druid tanks remain the monarchs of stamina and agility. If you tanked in previous expansions, you’ll note a distinct shift from utilizing rage for aggro management to managing your active mitigation.
This guide is meant as a general overview and quick start guide for guardian druids. For help tanking specific instances, including Mythic Plus timed runs, see my YouTube series.
This above graphic indicates my preference in building my artifact. It is generally agreed upon that “Embrace of the Nightmare” is the primary artifact. It takes your artifact “Oh Shit! Button” and makes even better. It technically counts as a self heal with the improved Leech. If you use it in combination with frenzied regen, it gives your healer a much easier time.
The second talent is actually best chosen based on your play style. In the graphic, I chose Adaptive Fur because I tend to place emphasis on keeping Ironfur up with at least 2 stacks at a given time. Many pulls/bosses have combination magic damage and physical damage. Adaptive Fur gives you passive magic resistances based on the damage being dealt but the mob, and I feel like it gives me additional tankiness that I don’t have to spend rage to stack Mark of Ursol.
The alternate argument is Gory Fur makes your mitigation ability half as expensive and you can therefore stack more mitigation with less rage. Either ability has it’s advantages, I ultimately took Adaptive Fur because the talents on the top side of the artifact tree are tankier, while the bottom side of the tree offers crit/damage which I didn’t find to be as helpful to my tanking.
***Stars indicate other good choices in the same tier.***
Tier 1 – Blood Frenzy
Blood Frenzy plays well to the druid’s strengths. Druids are excellent AOE tanks by utilizing a combination of Thrash and Swipe. Although the new druids are not especially rage starved, the additional passive rage for each Thrash helps to improve damage mitigation by getting your Ironfur back up quicker.
Bristling Fur is an active 8 second ability on a 40 second cooldown that also improves mitigation, but does require altering your spell rotation to best utilize it. I like to simplify as much as possible in order to pay closer attention to actual fight mechanics and raid leading. There’s nothing wrong with choosing Bristling Fur if it fits your play style better.
Brambles is altogether weaker. It’s essentially on the 60 second Barkskin cooldown and therefore not as useful. The AOE damage is minuscule beside your Thrash and Swipe abilities. I just don’t find it as useful.
Tier 2 – Wild Charge
Wild Charge offers you the ability to charge a mob in a 25 yard range, immobilizing them for 4 seconds. It’s less useful as a crowd control that as a means of getting to a mob quickly and controlling the mob. As a tank, you’ll often find (especially in pug or combination groups) that the second you Moonfire a mob to pull it the DPS goes all out and makes it difficult for you to control the mob. Wild Charge gives you an extra few seconds to control the mob, during which time the mob can’t dash away.
Alternatively, Guttural Roars improves your Stampeding Roar ability, reducing the cooldown and increasing the range. I have considered switching to this because many of the raid fights depend on your ability to move the raid in and out of certain phases (for example, Il’gynoth). It’s worth your consideration.
Displacer Beast has no reliable use for the Guardian Druid.
Tier 3 – Restoration Affinity
Restoration Affinity gives you passive self-healing of 3% every 5 seconds. This gives your general increased tankiness. Feral Affinity only gives you Feral abilities that you’ll never really need, since you can change specs whenever you want between fights. Balance Affinity gives you a 5 yard range bonus on your Moonfire that could improve your ability to chain pull in certain situations, but overall does not outweigh benefits of Restoration.
Tier 4 – Mighty Bash
This tier is loaded with situation-specific talents. The overall best talent is Mighty Bash, because it gives you a second spell interrupt on all non-immune mobs and a short additional CC. I use it almost every time its up on 50 second CD.
Typhoon is a reliable CC available in all shapeshift forms and would also serve as a CC in many of the situations I currently use Mighty Bash for. However, Typhoon makes mobs untargetable so you cannot continue to burn down a Typhooned target, making it a little less useful in many boss add situations.
Mass Entanglement is a nice CC to use at the beginning of an encounter, but the CC breaks easily any time the mob takes damage and is overall less useful than the other two talent options. If it fits your playstyle, go ahead and use it.
Tier 5 – Galactic Guardian
I currently use Galactic Guardian because it procs early and often. 15 rage is a lot, and you can often store the proc’d Moonfire to quickly put up two stacks of Ironfur. Or add additional rage to quickly put up a Mark of Ursol, if necessary.
Incarnation: Guardian of Ursoc allows you to stack quick damage and build threat quickly. If you find that you’re having trouble maintaining agro or building agro quickly at the beginning of fights or at phase-changes, this might be worth taking.
Soul of the Forest builds less rage than Galactic Guardian and has no meaningful use in AOE tanking, which we’ve established is a strength of Guardian Druids.
Tier 6 – Guardian of Elune
Since Mangle is the guardian druids highest priority skill, Guardian of Elune is a natural choice because it increases the mitigation time of Ironfur or Mark of Ursol (or increases the power of frenzied regen). All of these skills directly improve the druid’s tankiness.
In some situations, Survival of the Fittest would be a good fit because it reduces the CD of Barkskin and Survival Instincts, allowing the player to have improved tankiness with these abilities. Overall, it’s usefulness is less effective because it will not proc as often as Guardian of Elune. Ironfur remains the primary mitigation skill and allows for improved tankiness over time. Survival of the Fittest would help improve the druid’s ability to respond to spike damage. You could consider it if this is a specific weakness of yours.
Earthwarden just doesn’t offer the same amount of tankiness that either other of the tier 6 skills do. It’s not worth taking.
Tier 7 – Rend and Tear
Rend and Tear is the best talent because Thrash is a primary offensive ability in your rotation. You can AOE tank mobs and place stacks of Thrash on all tanked targets, thereby reducing damage taken from ALL of them. It’s a great talent.
Lunar Beam does AOE damage to targets in front of the druid. It also provides an additional significant self-healing ability, which may prove to be more useful than Rend and Tear, specifically in non-AOE tanking situations.
Pulverize doesn’t provide any damage and not enough damage mitigation to be worth taking.
Stat Weights: Stamina [18.01] > Mastery [15.01] > Haste [13.51] Versatility [12.01]> Agility [10.51] > Crit [9.01]
Generally, Legion gear stacks enough stamina in the base stats that it’s not worth using customizables to stack additional stamina. When making decisions on which pieces of semi-equal gear are a better fit, the above chart gives stat priority. When choosing gems, inscription, and enchants, versatility and/or mastery are your best bet.
I greatly prefer Versatilty to Haste, because that’s how I play my druid but the above formula has appeared elsewhere and is the community stat weights. Still, I value Haste lower because the versatility improves my tanking directly. You wouldn’t be wrong to change them around, though.
When building rage and threat, generally keep moonfire debuff up on the target and refresh when Galactic Guardian procs. Mangle generates rage and the druid should use it on CD. Thrash is your primary stacking debuff, since it will stack three times. When all of those CDs are down, use swipe to maintain threat.
If AOE tanking large groups, use thrash and swipe as much as possible. Use mangle on CD to continue generating rage.
When distributing the rage once it’s near 100, I never use maul. You can always rage dump into an additional stack of Ironfur since maintaining 2-3 stacks is the best physical damage mitigation. As druid tanks begin to become overgeared in Legion content, there is a chance that Ironfur stacks would put you over the armor cap. I’ll revisit the use of Maul then. Mark of Ursoc is not a stackable buff. Rather, when you click the skill it will refresh the current Mark of Ursoc timer. Try to only use the spell when the previous Mark of Ursoc has just or is about to expire.
Your primary cooldowns are Barkskin and Frenzied Regen. Of note, Barkskin, Survival Instincts and Rage of the Sleeper are proactive damage mitigation. Frenzied Regen heals 50% of the damage taken in the last 5 seconds, minimum of 5% max health. To best utilize this cooldown, try to use it when you’ve taken a damage spike. Still, you’re guaranteed 5% max health, so I also use it when I’m expecting a damage spike. It still mitigates the damage and reduces the acute healing requirement from your healers.
Thank you so much for reading my guide! I’m open to hearing your comments on why you tank a certain way, or if you prefer a different rotation to mine. Please leave a brief comment about your rationale because I may add it to the guide!