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Guardian Druid Tank Rotation, Cooldowns, and Abilities — Battle for Azeroth (BfA) 8.3

Last updated on Apr 01, 2020 at 00:00 by Pumps 26 comments
General Information

On this page, you will learn how to optimize the rotation of your Guardian Druid, depending on the type of damage you will be tanking. We also have advanced sections about cooldowns, procs, etc. in order to maximize your survivability and DPS. All our content is updated for World of Warcraft — Battle for Azeroth (BfA) 8.3.

If you were looking for WoW Classic content, please refer to our Classic Feral Tank Druid rotation.


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 keep your damage over time effects ticking and to use your strong, Rage-generating abilities on cooldown.

  1. Keep Moonfire Icon Moonfire ticking.
  2. Use Thrash Icon Thrash if your target does not have 3 stacks of the bleed yet.
  3. Use Pulverize Icon Pulverize at 3 stacks of Thrash Icon Thrash to maintain the buff, if talented. Ideally, this replaces a Swipe Icon Swipe cast.
  4. Use Mangle Icon Mangle.
  5. Use Thrash Icon Thrash.
  6. Use Moonfire Icon Moonfire with a Galactic Guardian Icon Galactic Guardian proc, if talented.
  7. Use Maul Icon Maul to dump Rage, if you do not need the Rage for Ironfur Icon Ironfur or Frenzied Regeneration Icon Frenzied Regeneration.
  8. Use Swipe Icon Swipe.

If you are at risk of capping Rage within the next cast and you are not going to spend it on Ironfur Icon Ironfur or Frenzied Regeneration Icon Frenzied Regeneration, Maul Icon Maul becomes the top priority for the next cast to prevent wasting Rage.

Optimal use of Pulverize Icon Pulverize involves casting it between the Thrash Icon Thrash cast that put your target at 3 stacks of the bleed, and the next Thrash cast so that you can begin building stacks again right away. It is ideal to wait as long as possible between these two casts before casting Pulverize, to allow Thash to tick at maximum stacks for a longer period of time. Additionally, it is ideal to replace what would have been a Swipe Icon Swipe cast so as not to miss out on casts of your more powerful spells. If this is not possible, it is better to replace a Moonfire Icon Moonfire or delay your next Thrash Icon Thrash than to delay a Mangle Icon Mangle cast. Pulling this off requires you to look ahead to your next several casts and identify when the best time to Pulverize will be. Note that this execution is purely for increased damage output — defensively it makes no difference whether you perform these optimizations, or if you only Pulverize every 20 seconds to maintain the buff.

If you are talented into Incarnation: Guardian of Ursoc Icon Incarnation: Guardian of Ursoc, you will prioritize Mangle Icon Mangle at all times for Rage generation, or on up to 3 targets for damage output. On 4 or more targets, Thrash Icon Thrash deals more damage per cast. Using Maul Icon Maul to dump excess Rage is a damage increase on up to 3 targets. It is also worth maintaining Moonfire Icon Moonfire on one target during Incarnation, keeping in mind that you should refresh Moonfire just before you enter Incarnation so that you only need to refresh it once during the cooldown.


Multiple Target Rotation for Guardian Druids

Defensively, the rotation does not significantly change as the Rage you generate does not depend on the number of targets.

Offensively you will use a similar priority, except at certain numbers of targets you will begin to leave certain spells out of the rotation.

  1. Keep Moonfire Icon Moonfire ticking on up to 2 targets.
  2. Use Thrash Icon Thrash.
  3. Use Pulverize Icon Pulverize at 3 stacks of Thrash Icon Thrash on up to 2 targets, if talented.
  4. Use Mangle Icon Mangle on up to 4 targets.
  5. Use Moonfire Icon Moonfire with a Galactic Guardian Icon Galactic Guardian on up to 3 targets.
  6. Use Maul Icon Maul to dump Rage on up to 3 targets, if you do not need the Rage for Ironfur Icon Ironfur or Frenzied Regeneration Icon Frenzied Regeneration.
  7. Use Swipe Icon Swipe.

This means that on 4+ targets, your rotation will consist exclusively of Thrash Icon Thrash and Swipe Icon Swipe.


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 a self-heal Frenzied Regeneration Icon Frenzied Regeneration. While Frenzied Regeneration is not strictly considered "active mitigation", it is nevertheless a core part of your rotational toolkit and you will make frequent use of it.



Ironfur Icon Ironfur increases your Armor by 75% of your Agility for 7 seconds. Multiple applications of Ironfur may overlap and stack their Armor increases, but their durations will not stack. For example, if you use Ironfur, and then use it again 3 seconds later, you will have 2 applications of Ironfur for 4 seconds, granting you 150% of your Agility as Armor. After 4 seconds, the first application will have expired, leaving you with 75% of your Agility as Armor for 3 more seconds. Agility buffs and procs increase the amount of Armor you gain from Ironfur.

Armor is extremely effective at reducing Physical damage intake, and as a result, having at least 1 stack of Ironfur Icon Ironfur up as often as possible is recommended. Additionally, you will occasionally want to pool your Rage in order to put up multiple stacks of Ironfur for a short period of time to deal with a spike in damage. There is a hard limit to how much Armor can reduce your incoming damage by, at 85%. This is unlikely to be reachable with any real consistency outside of Bristling Fur Icon Bristling Fur, but it is worth noting.

Armor does not normally reduce Bleed damage (typically this is presented in-game as a "Physical DoT") or Magic damage, although there are exceptions to these rules which appear on a case-by-case basis. When faced with Bleed or Magic damage, you will find Ironfur Icon Ironfur ineffective, and should instead use your defensive cooldowns to reduce the damage, or a well-timed Frenzied Regeneration Icon Frenzied Regeneration to heal yourself. Keep in mind that if you are tanking a boss, you are almost always taking auto-attacks in addition to other damage sources. Auto-attacks are Physical and as such it is still worth maintaining Ironfur Icon Ironfur on most encounters.

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


Frenzied Regeneration

Frenzied Regeneration Icon Frenzied Regeneration heals you for 32% of your maximum health, in the form of a 3-second HoT. It costs 10 Rage and has a maximum of 2 charges with a 36 second recharge time (reduced by Haste). Frenzied Regeneration Icon Frenzied Regeneration can be used both proactively and reactively, either to top yourself off in anticipation of incoming damage or in response to being brought to low health after a big hit.

A key element of using Frenzied Regeneration Icon Frenzied Regeneration effectively is ensuring that you do not inadvertently cause overhealing, both for you and for your healers. To do this you will need to anticipate how much damage you are likely to take in the next 3 seconds, and compare it to how much healing you are likely to receive. Since your self-healing is very limited, making good use of each charge is critical.

Another consideration when using Frenzied Regeneration Icon Frenzied Regeneration is the recharge timer. It may be tempting to Frenzied Regeneration every time you are brought moderately low, but doing this could leave you without charges for a truly dangerous moment later on. Try and save at least one charge of Frenzied Regeneration for periods where you may not receive the assistance of your healers (if they are busy healing the rest of the raid, for example).



Growl Icon Growl is your main taunting ability. Growl forces the target to attack you for 3 seconds. During those 3 seconds, you generate additional Threat against that target. Growl has an 8 second cooldown, but can be reduced to 1.5 seconds during Incarnation: Guardian of Ursoc Icon Incarnation: Guardian of Ursoc.

Guardians have no additional taunting mechanisms.


Cooldowns for Guardian Druids

As a Guardian Druid, you have two important baseline cooldowns.

  • Barkskin Icon Barkskin reduces all damage you take by 20% for 12 seconds, on a 90 second cooldown. Barkskin is usable will stunned, incapacitated, or asleep. This will be your first line of defense against dangerous spike damage, as well as your primary way of reducing magic damage, or simply as risk mitigation to smooth your damage intake for your healers. It has a short cooldown, so use it liberally!
  • Survival Instincts Icon Survival Instincts reduces all damage you take by 50% for 6 seconds. Survival Instincts has 2 charges and a 4 minute recharge time. This is your major defensive reduction, to be used against lethal spike damage or "tankbuster" mechanics. Its short duration and long cooldown means it should be used sparingly.

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.


Optional Read: Mastering Your Guardian Druid

Tanking as a Guardian Druid is fairly straightforward; the information provided above is sufficient to perform at a reasonable level of proficiency. However, there are several more advanced topics that you should understand in order to fully master your character.


Rage Generation

Guardian Druid's primary resource is Rage.

The Rage bar has a maximum capacity of 100, and is empty by default. Rage decays quickly out of combat. In combat, Rage does not decay.

Rage is generated in the following ways:

  • Activating Bear Form Icon Bear Form grants you 25 Rage (leaving Bear Form empties the Rage bar).
  • Auto-attacks generate 4 Rage.
  • Being auto-attacked generates 3 Rage (can only occur once every second).
  • Mangle Icon Mangle generates 10 Rage (+4 with a Gore Icon Gore proc and +5 with Soul of the Forest Icon Soul of the Forest).
  • Thrash Icon Thrash generates 5 Rage.
  • Moonfire Icon Moonfire with a Galactic Guardian Icon Galactic Guardian proc generates 8 Rage.
  • Bristling Fur Icon Bristling Fur generates 1 Rage per % of max health taken in damage while active.
  • Blood Frenzy Icon Blood Frenzy generates 2 Rage every time a Thrash Icon Thrash bleed ticks on any target (Thrash ticks once every 3 seconds, reduced by haste).

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. For every 1% Mastery, you gain 1% increased health and healing, and 2% increased Attack Power. Guardians start with 4% Mastery baseline.

Notably, the increased healing component of Mastery: Nature's Guardian Icon Mastery: Nature's Guardian does not increase the healing from Frenzied Regeneration Icon Frenzied Regeneration or Restoration Affinity Icon Restoration Affinity, although it does affect the two spells in that both heals scale with maximum health, which is increased by Mastery.


Gore Procs

Your Thrash Icon Thrash, Swipe Icon Swipe, Maul Icon Maul, and Moonfire Icon Moonfire have 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 ensuring that they are not overwritten by new procs and the Rage wasted.


Detailed Cooldown Usage for Guardian Druids

Guardian Druid is a primarily proactive tank. You must be prepared with active mitigation and defensive cooldowns before you take damage. This is in contrast to reactive tanks, who first take the damage and then react to it by healing themselves up.

As such, preparation plays a large part in tanking effectively. Wise use of cooldowns and coordination with your healers is critical, and can be the difference between a boss kill and a wipe. The best way to prepare for an encounter is to look at the damage profile of the fight (either from a log, or by reading the Dungeon Journal) and plan out what cooldowns you'll use, when you'll use them, and whether any gaps need to be covered by healer external defensives.

You have two baseline defensive cooldowns, as well as a few more that you can talent into. In general, unless you are sure you will die otherwise, it is not advised to overlap your defensive cooldowns as it is often overkill and wasteful to spend them that way.



Barkskin Icon Barkskin is the go-to cooldown when damage starts ramping up or when there is magic damage that you cannot otherwise mitigate, or just as a general damage reducer to take some of the burden off of your healers. A 20% damage reduction may sound small, but it lasts for quite a while and is on a fairly short cooldown, so be sure to use it frequently. Guardians have a lot of health and passive mitigation, and the amount of damage you can prevent with liberal use of Barkskin may surprise you. Keep in mind Barkskin can be used while in most forms of crowd control and in most shapeshift forms, in case you find yourself caught out of Bear Form Icon Bear Form or unable to move out of a mechanic.


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 a boss mechanic). Additionally, you can use it to prolong your survival if your healers are dead or incapacitated. Unless your strategy requires you to use both charges at specific times, you can get away with making frequent use of at least 1 charge.

Except for in emergencies, do not wait until you are already low on health to use Survival Instincts, as it is usually too late to save you at that point.


Abilities and Cooldowns from Talents


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 talented Bristling Fur Icon Bristling Fur, you want to use it before you take a large amount of damage to gain Rage quickly. Try and avoid overlapping it with other cooldowns if you can avoid it (as long as you won't die otherwise, of course), as you will take less damage and therefore generate less Rage. Make sure you are also spending the Rage you gain before you cap, so it does not go to waste.

The formula for Bristling Fur Icon Bristling Fur is rather simple:

  • BristlingFurRage = 100 * Damage / ExpectedMaxHealth

Basically: 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.

If you have taken the Blood Frenzy Icon Blood Frenzy talent, simply make sure your Thrash Icon Thrash bleed never falls off any target. If you are following the rotation outlined above, this should rarely be an issue, if ever.


Tier 5 Talents

Incarnation: Guardian of Ursoc Icon Incarnation: Guardian of Ursoc is mainly used as an offensive burst AoE cooldown, however it can also be used to boost Rage generation. Alternatively, it can be taken when you need to make extensive use of Growl Icon Growl, for example if you are having trouble holding threat on multiple enemies. Remember that Mangle Icon Mangle hits up to 3 enemies while this cooldown is active. Your Rage generation is significantly increased during Incarnation, so keep an eye on your Rage bar so you do not cap out and waste Rage.


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).


Tier 7 Talents

If you are talented into Lunar Beam Icon Lunar Beam, you want to use it as often as possible, ideally when it can hit a large group of enemies at once. You can also use it as an emergency self-heal in a pinch.



Catweaving is a playstyle where you shift back and forth between Cat Form Icon Cat Form and Bear Form Icon Bear Form while not actively tanking, in order to squeeze extra damage out of the Feral abilities you gain when talenting into Feral Affinity Icon Feral Affinity. Catweaving is an advanced topic and significantly complicates the rotation. It is not recommended for those who are just picking up Guardian Druid, or when you are learning a new fight. That being said, when done correctly, it is a significant DPS increase over staying in Bear Form on single target, and with a bit of caution it can be done with a low risk factor.

Catweaving does not work on every encounter. It requires there to be frequent periods where you are not tanking or taking damage, since you have far less health and damage mitigation in Cat Form Icon Cat Form. If you are unsure if catweaving is possible on a fight, it is always better to play it safe and stay in Bear Form Icon Bear Form. It should go without saying that catweaving is 100% focused on dealing damage, and does not compromise for survivability whatsoever.

First, we must discuss resources in Cat Form Icon Cat Form, because they are significantly different from Rage in Bear Form Icon Bear Form. You have two resources in Cat Form — Energy, and Combo Points. Energy is used to cast all of your abilities in Cat Form. You begin with 100 Energy (the maximum amount you can have) and as you spend it, it regenerates at a rate of 10 Energy per second, increased by Haste. Combo points are a secondary resource that you build and spend through your rotation. You can generate up to 5 Combo Points using your generator spells Rake Icon Rake and Shred Icon Shred, and you can spend those Combo Points on finisher spells like Rip Icon Rip and Ferocious Bite Icon Ferocious Bite. Finishers will always consume all Combo Points, and the more they consume the more damage they deal when cast. Energy regenerates while you are out of Cat Form, including while you are in Bear Form, which is what enables catweaving in the first place.

The primary goal of catweaving is to apply your powerful Feral bleeds Rake Icon Rake and Rip Icon Rip to the target. In order to do this, you will need to build Combo Points while in Cat Form Icon Cat Form using Shred Icon Shred and Rake until you have 5, and then spend them on either Rip, or Ferocious Bite Icon Ferocious Bite if Rip is already ticking. However, you are limited by how much Energy you can spend in Cat Form at any given time, and once you run out of Energy you want to shift into Bear Form Icon Bear Form to continue using your powerful Guardian spells while waiting for your Energy to regenerate. Typically you will be able to cast 3-5 spells before you are out of energy. This process of shifting into Cat Form, spending your Energy, then shifting back into Bear Form is known as a "cat cycle".

Cat cycles will typically begin when you cannot cast anything but Swipe Icon Swipe in Bear Form Icon Bear Form. That is, your more powerful Guardian spells (Mangle Icon Mangle, Thrash Icon Thrash, Maul Icon Maul, and Galactic Guardian Icon Galactic Guardian-empowered Moonfire Icon Moonfire) are either on cooldown or unavailable. It is at this point when it is worth shifting into Cat Form Icon Cat Form to spend Energy. While in Cat Form, the priority is as follows:

  • Cast Rip Icon Rip if you are at 5 Combo Points and Rip is either not ticking, or will fall off before you have another chance to re-apply it.
  • Cast Ferocious Bite Icon Ferocious Bite if you are at 5 Combo Points.
  • Cast Rake Icon Rake if Rake is either not ticking, or will fall off before you have another chance to re-apply it.
  • Cast Shred Icon Shred.

Make sure that you do not begin a cat cycle that you cannot finish before you have to resume tanking, as that time is usually better spent pooling Rage for Ironfur Icon Ironfur.

When you are catweaving, you want to start the fight in Cat Form Icon Cat Form, in Prowl Icon Prowl. Your co-tank will pull the boss and you will immediately begin a cat cycle from stealth. This is because applying Rake Icon Rake from stealth empowers it, causing it to deal 100% more damage. If possible, you should let this Rake tick all the way to completion, as you will lose any remaining empowered ticks if you overwrite it.

Here are the recommended talents for catweaving. Rows that do not affect performance are omitted, and should be treated as personal preference:



  • 01 Apr. 2020: Minor Update to Catweaving rotation.
  • 14 Jan. 2020: This page has been reviewed for Patch 8.3 and no changes are necessary.
  • 01 Oct. 2019: Minor wording, mainly mastery fix.
  • 24 Jun. 2019: Updated for Patch 8.2.
  • 14 Apr. 2019: This page has been reviewed and no changes are necessary for the release of the Crucible of Storms raid.
  • 10 Dec. 2018: Updated for Patch 8.1.
  • 15 Aug. 2018: Added section for catweaving in execute.
  • 13 Aug. 2018: Updated for Battle for Azeroth launch.
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