The undocumented changes went live – and as I result, I have rougly 11k more armor, around 45k in total. This should help a lot with the feral tanking – the amount of damage we took was quite a bit higher than other tanks.
I’ve been looking at Argaloth fight logs – as he has easy-to-separate magic attacks and requires two tanks. The other tank has been a mediocre-geared warrior or a better-geared paladin – and in both cases, I have taken quite a bit more physical damage, about 10..20%, which is a huge deal in raids (obviously not with Argaloth – he is a healer/DPS check, piece of cake for tanks).
It seems that some bears had leftover “ghost” talent from pre-Cataclysm, which allowed them to absorb more damage, compared to the new bears or these who weren’t in bearspec when Cata hit. As Bashiok explains in the official forums:
After the designers looked into this issue more, there appears to be a pretty complex series of bugs that may have led to where we are now. I’ll do my best to explain.
Early on in Cataclysm, it was concluded that druid tanks took too much damage and we deployed a hotfix to buff their armor through Thick Hide. Originally, we had thought that 4.0.6 was just updating the Thick Hide tooltip as well as the armor display on the character sheet for the earlier hotfix, but we think now that the armor buff itself was actually correctly applied with 4.0.6, and the previous hotfix had never taken hold properly.
The reason we missed this is because there is no easy way to know what your armor actually is when you can’t trust the tooltip – you have to have things beat on you and see how much damage you take. This test was tainted by a second bug however, where some druid characters were invisibly retaining the 12% damage reduction benefit of the obsolete Protector of the Pack talent. Even though we removed that talent, its effects were still benefitting some characters, and we didn’t know who or how many. Again, there is no easy way to know if your druid was affected without a lot of testing. We knew about the Protector of the Pack bug but were hesitant to try and mess with it too much via hotfix since bear survivability was where we wanted it to be for those characters and we didn’t want to risk making anything worse. In any event, those characters appeared to be taking the correct amount of damage, so we thought the Thick Hide hotfix was successful. In reality, we think we were seeing the Protector of the Pack damage reduction and not the Thick Hide armor buff.
We believe the 4.0.6 patch finally removed the Protector of the Pack effects while finally getting the Thick Hide buff applied. Characters who had the Protector of the Pack benefit won’t see their survivability change much (they lost damage reduction while gaining armor), while characters who lacked that talent will see their survivability improve (they gained a lot of armor). The good news is that current bear survivability in 4.0.6 appears to be where we want it to be for everyone.
We’re still not 100% sure that the above explanation is what happened, but it seems consistent with our observations. Again, as of 4.0.6, bear armor should now be correct.
On the downside, I think bear damage might have been nerfed a bit too much. I cannot be sure, as the patch hit EU realms yesterday – and I was kitty in Blackwing Descent in the evening (and got a nice ring from Omnitron). I’ve only tanked Love is in the Air apothecaries since the patch – and I had mild aggro issues there with 18k DPS mage. But that is hardly a conclusive evidence. Hopefully I will be tanking Argaloth (and possibly BwD) tonight, so we’ll see.