Patch 8.1 is upon us! Let’s talk about what’s changing for Guardians.
- Craggy Bark is being replaced with Burst of Savagery. This change is retroactive; any existing azerite pieces with Craggy Bark on them will change to have Burst of Savagery instead.
- Intimidating Roar is being replaced with Ursol's Vortex.
- Stampeding Roar’s cooldown is reduced from 2 minutes to 1 minute.
- Wild Charge is no longer subject to the global cooldown.
- The Guardian damage aura modifier is being increased from +4% to +16%.
It’s no secret that Guardian was not in a great place in 8.0. We ranked among the lowest represented tanks in raids and dungeons (alongside Prot Warriors), largely due to our poor utility in both small and large groups. These changes attempt to directly address our pain points, but they miss the mark in a few key areas.
The new Azerite trait Burst of Savagery is interesting in concept, but is severely undertuned in practice. On average, if you are filling every GCD, you will see a Gore proc roughly every 10-20 seconds. Assuming the best case (every 10 seconds), this means you’ll see an additional Gore proc due to this trait roughly every 67 seconds. On a 6 minute fight, this amounts to a grand total of… 72 extra Rage. The Mastery bonus on the trait is nice, but it’s not enough to make the trait worth taking.
If I were to suggest a fix to Burst of Savagery to make it viable, I would simply make it allow Mangle to proc Gore at all times (in addition to keeping the Mastery buff).
The replacement of Intimidating Roar with Ursol's Vortex is a fantastic change. This removes an effectively dead talent with a very useful mass CC tool that fills a previously gaping hole in our group utility. Ursol’s Vortex, incombination with Typhoon can function similarly to a Gorefiend’s Grasp for Blood Death Knights, albeit with a smaller range but also shortened cooldown.
Stampeding Roar having its cooldown lowered is an interesting change. The prevalence of Guardians as raid tanks throughout Legion was due primarily to the strength of Stampeding Roar in combination with Guttural Roars, a talent which increased the radius and lowered the cooldown of Roar significantly (and was replaced by Tiger Dash in 8.0). When Guttural Roars was removed (and Balance Affinity was nerfed from 5yds to 3yds), Stampeding Roar lost a lot of its value, and with it went the main reason to bring a Guardian over any other tank. This change seems intended to restore some of the value to Roar, but it’s also important to note that encounter design plays a significant part in determining whether Roar is valuable or not. When Battle of Dazar’alor releases next year, we’ll see if this change is actually impactful enough to warrant celebration. I’m optimistic it will.
The damage aura buff is quite significant and should help address our threat maintenance issues both in raid and in dungeons. Not much else to say here, other than it was warranted.
The removal of Wild Charge from the global cooldown is a welcome enhancement, though fairly minor for us.
How will we fare in 8.1?
While these are solid first steps towards addressing the many issues of Guardian Druid, I feel that there is still a lot of room for improvement.
As mentioned, our self-sustain capacity is significantly worse than other tanks. Restoration Affinity has done an admirable job attempting to fill this gap, but I don’t think it’s comparable to what a Death Knight or Demon Hunter bring at a significantly lower cost. Doing any healing to yourself (outside of Frenzied Regeneration) requires you to leave Bear Form, drop all of your Ironfur stacks and any Rage you had, spend a GCD or two casting the heal, and then re-enter Bear Form with 20 Rage and have to build back up. The cost is simply too high right now to perform such a basic and fundamental aspect of the tanking role, especially in dungeons.
Additionally, we still don’t have a baseline offensive cooldown to assist us with snap threat. It remains to be seen how this damage buff will affect our overall damage and threat, but I don’t imagine that it will have much impact on the burst threat that so many Guardians struggle with today. Not to mention that offensive cooldowns are just fun to use; they break up the rotation and keep things interesting. I think it says a lot that our one talentable cooldown ( Incarnation) actually makes the rotation more boring while it’s active.
That being said, I don’t want to spend the entire post reiterating complaints that I have made many times before. There are some positives to take away. For one, all of the changes we received are all buffs, some of them quite significant, and they will have a direct impact on Guardian’s viability in raid and dungeon content.
And to be fair, changes don’t occur in a vaccuum; while the lowest performing tanks (Guardians, Warriors) are receiving buffs, the top dogs (Blood DKs, Brewmasters) are being nerfed. It’s too early to tell what the net result of all these changes will be when considered as a whole, and we will have to revisit this question once we are closer to the release of the next tier once the dust settles.
Other 8.1 Non-Guardian Changes
- Feasts and Spirit Flasks will now give you Agility buffs in Guardian spec! No more having to swap to Feral before every pull to get the right food buff.
- If you still want a Stamina food buff, you can get some Seasoned Steak and Potatoes instead.
- There’s a second new food, Honey Potpie, which has the potential to be very good for us in dungeons, granting us the ability to kite attackers more effectively.