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Guardian Druid Tank Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities (Legion 7.3.5)

Last updated on Mar 18, 2018 at 15:25 by Vlad 188 comments

Table of Contents

General Information

On this page, we list your Guardian Druid core abilities and how they should be used together (rotation) in World of Warcraft Legion 7.3.5. We also explain when to use your various cooldowns. Then, we go deeper and present all the subtleties that you will need to know if you want to excel at playing a Guardian Druid.

The other pages of our Guardian Druid guide can be accessed from the table of contents on the right.

About Our Reviewer

This guide has been reviewed and approved by Treckie, who has been a long-time leading tank who has competed for world first kills for 5 years. He is one of the casters for both last year's and this year's upcoming Mythic Dungeon invitational. You can watch his stream on Twitch and you can follow him on Twitter.

1. Single Target Rotation for Guardian Druids

The single target rotation for a Guardian Druid is based on a priority system, and its goal is to generate as much Rage as possible.

  1. Use Mangle Icon Mangle.
  2. Use Thrash Icon Thrash.
  3. Use Moonfire Icon Moonfire (if Galactic Guardian Icon Galactic Guardian proc OR if the duration left is less than 5 seconds).
  4. Use Swipe Icon Swipe.

If you are using Pulverize Icon Pulverize, you want to try to refresh it when you have less than 6 seconds left of the old Pulverize; during those last 6 seconds, its priority replaces Swipe Icon Swipe, but it takes highest priority should the debuff fall off.

This is a defensive rotation, meaning that you are most likely going to be using all Rage for active mitigation instead of Maul Icon Maul, but if you are not currently taking damage and about to Rage cap, Maul takes highest priority. Offensively (and especially with the  Icon Jagged Claws traits), Thrash Icon Thrash becomes the highest priority (outside of Maul, if you are about to Rage cap).

If you are using Incarnation: Guardian of Ursoc Icon Incarnation: Guardian of Ursoc, during Incarnation you will end up just spamming Thrash Icon Thrash except to dump Rage on Maul Icon Maul and Moonfire Icon Moonfire to keep the debuff up.

2. Multiple Target Rotation for Guardian Druids

Defensively, the Rage generation rotation does not really change when facing multiple targets unless you have Lady and the Child Icon Lady and the Child equipped. The legendary makes all passively duplicated Moonfire Icon Moonfires generate Rage as well as doing increased damage as long as you have the Galactic Guardian Icon Galactic Guardian proc active (only IF there is a valid second target for Moonfire to hit), forcing you to effectively never really manually cast Moonfire at all (unless the proc is about to run out, which is unlikely, as it lasts for 15 seconds).

Offensively, you should use the following priority.

  1. Use Thrash Icon Thrash.
  2. Use Maul Icon Maul to avoid Rage capping (stop using on 5 or more targets).
  3. Use Mangle Icon Mangle (stop using on 4 or more targets).
  4. Use Maul Icon Maul (stop using on 5 or more targets).
  5. Use Swipe Icon Swipe.

This means that on 5+ targets, your rotation is literally just Thrash Icon Thrash and Swipe Icon Swipe.

3. Active Mitigation for Guardian Druids

As a Guardian Druid, you have one ability that acts as active mitigation: Ironfur Icon Ironfur. In addition to this, you have Frenzied Regeneration Icon Frenzied Regeneration, which is a self-heal but which is also used routinely as part of your playstyle.

3.1. Ironfur

Ironfur Icon Ironfur increases your armor by 65% for 6 seconds. The ability has a 0.5-second cooldown, and applications of Ironfur can overlap. This means that their armor increase will stack, but their duration will not. For example, if you use Ironfur, and then use it again 3 seconds later, you will have 2 applications of Ironfur for 3 seconds, granting you 130% increased armor. After 3 seconds, the first application will have expired, leaving you with 65% armor for 3 more seconds. An important note is that just like Bear Form Icon Bear Form, Ironfur only increases base armor from gear and  Icon Iron Claws, and NOT armor you might get from enchants or trinkets (some trinkets say Bonus Armor, some simply say Armor, but neither work).

Obviously, if you are only faced with Physical damage (which is reduced by armor, something that is not always the case), then using Ironfur Icon Ironfur is obviously a good idea. Note that your Armor damage reduction caps at 85% for Druids, which means that (depending on your gear) you will likely Armor cap at 3-4 stacks of Ironfur Icon Ironfur, which is unlikely to occur any time outside of when using Bristling Fur Icon Bristling Fur.

If the incoming non-magic damage is not reduced by armor, then you will have to use one of your defensive cooldowns instead (Survival Instincts Icon Survival Instincts,  Icon Rage of the Sleeper, or Barkskin Icon Barkskin).

In case the amount of incoming physical damage is very high, you can use Ironfur Icon Ironfur multiple times to overlap them and gain a great armor increase. Note that doing so requires you to pool up Rage.

Finally, always consider your situation carefully before deciding to use Ironfur Icon Ironfur. Since it is pro-active in nature, no matter how low on health you have been brought, using it if there is no new incoming damage is pointless.

3.2. Frenzied Regeneration

Frenzied Regeneration Icon Frenzied Regeneration heals you for 50% of all damage taken in the last 5 seconds, in the form of a 3-second HoT. It costs 10 Rage, has a maximum of 3 charges, and a 24-second recharge time (reduced by Haste). Note that Frenzied Regeneration is not on the global cooldown.

Whereas Ironfur Icon Ironfur is an ability that should be used pro-actively, Frenzied Regeneration Icon Frenzied Regeneration is reactive in nature. The first step in using Frenzied Regeneration effectively is to make sure you only use it after you have taken a lot of damage in the previous 5 seconds, since this will ensure that you are actually healed by it, and that you are not wasting the charges.

However, this is not all you have to consider, since it is easy to waste Frenzied Regeneration Icon Frenzied Regeneration and then not have it available when you need it most. The best time to use Frenzied Regeneration is when you have sustained high damage, will sustain high damage again in the next couple of seconds, and your healers are not in a good position to heal you (either because the rest of the raid is also taking damage, or because they are out of range of you or otherwise unable to heal you). These cases are ideal for using Frenzied Regeneration. Otherwise, if your healers can easily heal you back up (for instance, if you are the only raid member taking damage), then you should try to save Frenzied Regeneration for a more opportune time, but try not sitting on 3 stacks constantly.

4. Taunting

Growl Icon Growl is your main taunting ability. It only works on a single target and has an 8-second cooldown. Its cooldown is reduced to 1.5 seconds during Incarnation: Guardian of Ursoc Icon Incarnation: Guardian of Ursoc.

5. Cooldowns for Guardian Druids

As a Guardian Druid, you 3 important defensive cooldowns.

  • Survival Instincts Icon Survival Instincts reduces all damage taken by 50% for 6 seconds. It has 2 charges, and a 4-minute recharge time. This is a very strong cooldown, best used against truly threatening nukes, since it does not last long and it is therefore not generally great at reducing high sustained damage. In any case, however, it will give your healers 6 seconds to bring you back to high health.
  • Barkskin Icon Barkskin reduces all damage taken by 20% for 12 seconds, with a 90-second cooldown. Barkskin can be used while you are stunned, incapacitated, or asleep. This is your go-to cooldown when damage starts ramping up or when you are up against magic damage; it lasts for a long time, making it perfect for reducing sustained damage.
  •  Icon Rage of the Sleeper reduces all damage by 25% for 10 seconds, and together with the  Icon Embrace of the Nightmare artifact trait adds 25% leech to its defensive capabilities, but also makes it serve as an offensive cooldown, increasing damage by 25%. In many ways, Rage of the Sleeper and Barkskin Icon Barkskin are used in the same way, since they both have relatively short cooldowns. Rage of the Sleeper, however, is usually prioritized in case you want some extra damage output as well, or simply because it is stronger and provides leech which can definitely end up making quite a difference when AoE tanking.

More details about how to best use your cooldowns, and about the cooldowns you can gain from your talents, can be found in our detailed cooldown section.

6. Optional Read: Mastering Your Guardian Druid

Tanking as a Guardian Druid is quite straightforward, and the information provided above should be more than sufficient to allow you to perform your role at a high level. There are, however, a few details you should also understand in order to fully master your character.

6.1. Rage Generation

Guardian Druid tanks use a resource called Rage (Warriors are the only other class in the game to use it). For you to properly master your Druid, you must understand how Rage works.

The Rage bar has a maximum capacity of 100, and is empty by default. Rage decays at a rate of 1 per second when out of combat. In combat, Rage does not decay.

Rage is generated in the following ways:

6.2. Mastery: Nature's Guardian

Your Mastery is Mastery: Nature's Guardian Icon Mastery: Nature's Guardian. It increases your maximum health and healing received, as well as your attack power. The exact increase amount depends on how much Mastery you have.

Notably, Mastery: Nature's Guardian Icon Mastery: Nature's Guardian does not actually increase the value of healing taken but rather a self-heal equal to your Mastery percentage of the heal you received. It does also not work together with several other self-heals like Frenzied Regeneration Icon Frenzied Regeneration, Restoration Affinity Icon Restoration Affinity, and Netherlight Crucible traits that heal.

6.3. Gore Procs

Your Thrash Icon Thrash, Swipe Icon Swipe, Maul Icon Maul, and Moonfire Icon Moonfire has a 15% chance to trigger Gore Icon Gore, which resets the cooldown of Mangle Icon Mangle, and causes it to generate an additional 4 Rage. Making quick use of Gore procs is essential to making sure you that they are not wasted by new procs.

6.4. Detailed Cooldown Usage for Guardian Druids

Playing a Guardian Druid tank is an active experience, in the sense that you will have to regularly and wisely use your active defensive cooldowns to maintain your survivability. Your active mitigation only really deals with Physical damage, however you do have your large health pool and your cooldowns to counter magic damage.

You have 3 defensive abilities, your Artifact ability, as well as a few abilities you gain from talents. Your active mitigation abilities have been discussed above.

6.4.1. Survival Instincts

Survival Instincts Icon Survival Instincts is best used pre-emptively. This means that you should use Survival Instincts before taking a large amount of damage (generally due to a boss mechanic). Additionally, you can use it to prolong your survival if your healers are dead or incapacitated.

It is not advised to wait until you are low on health to use Survival Instincts, but it is so strong that many times it does feel like you stop all damage intake for a couple of seconds when you use it.

Generally, it is best to make use of this cooldown as many times as possible during the fight, since it has 2 charges, and even if you play freely with one of them you will still have the other one as backup. Keep in mind, though, that you may be required to use it at a very specific time, so make sure you save it for that moment.

6.4.2. Barkskin

Barkskin Icon Barkskin is the go-to cooldown when damage starts ramping up or when there is magic damage that you otherwise can not really mitigate. This is a fairly small cooldown with only being a 20% damage reduction, but it lasts for quite a while and on a fairly short cooldown, so it should be used pretty freely. With the amount of health Guardian Druids have, this still makes you able to survive pretty strong nukes even if it is a smaller kind of cooldown. Barkskin can be used while in most forms of crowd control if you find yourself in trouble without being able to use anything else.

6.4.3. Rage of the Sleeper

When using  Icon Rage of the Sleeper as a defensive cooldown, you want to follow the same liberal usage guidelines as for Barkskin Icon Barkskin. With the Artifact trait  Icon Embrace of the Nightmare, you are immune to most forms of crowd control, however it can not be used while being crowd controlled to break free. Additionally, the trait increases Leech and damage by 25%, making it incredibly strong for Mythic+, both defensively and offensively. For raids, you will likely prefer to save it as mainly a defensive option, but whenever used you will do increased damage as well.

6.4.4. Tier 1 Talents

If you have the Brambles Icon Brambles talent, you are more likely concerned about damage output rather than survivability, meaning that you want to use Barkskin Icon Barkskin as often as possible, preferably when tanking multiple mobs.

If you have taken Bristling Fur Icon Bristling Fur, you will just have to make sure to use all of the Rage you gain quickly, so that none is wasted. Since you actually want to take damage while Bristling Fur is active, you should avoid stacking it with Survival Instincts Icon Survival Instincts.

The formula for Bristling Fur is:

  • BristlingFurRage = 100 * Damage / ExpectedMaxHealth

The formula is rather simple, and here is how it works. If you take 30% of your maximum health in damage, you generate 30 Rage. If you take 65% of your maximum health in damage, you generate 65 Rage.

Remember that you will cap out on Armor at 85% (3-4 Ironfur Icon Ironfur stacks, depending on gear) and during Bristling Fur Icon Bristling Fur, it is fairly common to be able to have the Rage to stack it up to 4 or more stacks.

If you have taken the Blood Frenzy Icon Blood Frenzy talent, simply make sure your Thrash Icon Thrash bleed never drops off the targets. Against a single target, you should not be using this talent.

6.4.5. Tier 3 Talents

Keep in mind when using Balance Affinity Icon Balance Affinity that some Mythic+ instances can be very crowded, and it is fairly easy to over-pull, especially if you are using Luffa Wrappings Icon Luffa Wrappings, or when using Incapacitating Roar Icon Incapacitating Roar, as it has close to a 40-yard range.

If you have taken the Restoration Affinity Icon Restoration Affinity talent, then you can cast Swiftmend Icon Swiftmend on injured allies whenever it is needed and when you are not actively tanking (since it takes you out of Bear Form Icon Bear Form).

6.4.6. Tier 5 Talents

Incarnation: Guardian of Ursoc Icon Incarnation: Guardian of Ursoc is mainly to be used as an offensive burst AoE cooldown, however it can also be used to boost Rage generation. Alternatively, it can be used when you need to make extensive use of Growl Icon Growl. Remember that Mangle Icon Mangle hits up to 3 enemies while this cooldown is active, while doing better Rage generation than spamming Thrash Icon Thrash.

6.4.7. Tier 6 Talents

When using Guardian of Elune Icon Guardian of Elune, you want to make sure that, if possible, every Frenzied Regeneration Icon Frenzied Regeneration and Ironfur Icon Ironfur cast you have is empowered by Guardian of Elune Icon Guardian of Elune. Against a single incoming nuke, it is obviously fine to get a non-Guardian of Elune powered Ironfur, as its duration will not be a factor (especially if there is a tank swap after the nuke).

7. ChangeLog

  • 18 Mar. 2018: Made wide-ranging updates to the entire page.
  • 28 Aug. 2017: Updated the multiple target rotations slightly.
  • 07 Jul. 2017: Updated the single target rotation and the Pulverize mentions in all rotations. Removed Catweaving section (since it is now obsolete).
  • 12 Jun. 2017: Updated the page to account for the removal of Mark of Ursol and for changes to Maul in Patch 7.2.5.
  • 27 Mar. 2017: No changes needed for Patch 7.2.
  • 09 Jan. 2017: Added mentions of using Pulverize in the rotations, as well as making various updates to account for changes to abilities in Patch 7.1.5.
  • 16 Dec. 2016: Fixed an error whereby we were referring to Galactic Guardian generating 15 Rage (when it is actually 10).
  • 08 Oct. 2016: Added a mention that the goal of the single target rotation is to generate as much Rage as possible.
  • 29 Aug. 2016: Updated for Legion's launch.
  • 24 Jul. 2016: Added a section on using Guardian of Elune.
  • 20 Jul. 2016: Updated tier 1 talent discussion and added Moonfire (with Galactic Guardian procs) to the rotations.
  • 18 Jul. 2016: Updated for the Legion pre-patch.
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