Saturday, January 19, 2008

Its an Armored Bear!

No, this isn't about The Golden Compass (Though I definitely enjoyed the movie, and it really made me wish we could choose fur color and display some armor on feral druids). Instead, I want to touch on one of the hot topics of the feral community. . . the Armor Vs Dodge Vs Stamina tank gear debate. There are roughly a trillion posts made each day on the druid boards touching on this subject, and in most cases they have valid, but narrow-minded points.

First off, there are those who base all of their gearing decisions on other people's theorycraft, such as Emmerald's Gear Guide. And sites like this can really prove to be a great resource, I personally use them to find hidden gearing gems I may have missed. But if you use the list to actually decide what gear to use, be careful. The lists are based around a specific set of stats, and disregard defense and resilience for crit immunity. Not to mention they attach no value to threat generation and other important, non-mitigation factors which, while a secondary concern of a bear tank, carry value nonetheless. Watch your stat balance, or you could easily end up with horribly lopsided stats and crit vulnerability.

I break down a tank's gearing into 4 phases of development: Levelling, Pre-kara, Karazhan/Heroics, and Post Karazhan. In my experience, each phase needs to focus on a different stat/stat balance for best effect. And given the number of times I have been told "You were the easiest tank I've ever had to heal" or "Take some damage, Surania, I'm bored!", I'd like to think my personal gearing philosophy is a good one. But enough flexing of the e-peen. . .

While levelling, tanking gear should be a peripheral concern, at best. Your tanking set is likely to be your DPS set, at least until you hit the outlands. Pick up high armor pieces when possible, ignore defense, and if you expect to be doing much tanking, lean more toward agility than strength for the extra dodge, but ultimately you should be able to tank instances just fine with very little tanking-specific gear.

When you hit 70, its time to start collecting tanking gear. At this point, you have 2 major goals: Build a full set of tanking gear (generally identified as gear with green armor values), and reach uncrittability; 103 resilience, 154 defense rating, or some combination of the two to hit -2.6% chance to recieve a critical strike. One of the biggest, and easiest, steps in this is to pick up a full Strength of the Clefthoof (Heavy Clefthoof) set. Many of your other pieces will come from quest rewards like Manimal's Cinch and Verdant Gloves. Others, like the clefthoof set and the incredible Badge of Tenacity can be found on the auction house. Oh, and dont forget to run LOTS of Steam Vaults (Or, once you get geared enough, heroic coilfang instances). . . The Earthwarden is going to be your best friend for a LONG time. Overall, by the time you start doing instances that drop epics, you should be shooting for at LEAST 12k health, 21k armor, and uncrittability, unbuffed. Dodge is great, but dont stress if you dont have much, armor and health are your best bets for now.

When you hit Karazhan and heroic instances, its time to focus your gearing efforts on armor, while also boosting your stamina a bit. This is where a lot of people start preaching the "all stamina, all the time" gospel, but frankly they're WRONG. Stamina does nothing but provide a time buffer for healers to get your back up. Its spike damage defense, and does nothing for your actual mitigation. As such, if you have enough, you dont need more, there IS such a thing as too much health (not that having too much is a BAD thing, but your item stats are better spent elsewhere once you have what you need). Nonetheless, boost your health to at least 13.5k or so, and crank up that armor (T4 gloves and helm are both great, and despite popular opinion, so are Zierhut's Lost Treads). Oh, and pick up Moroes' Lucky Pocket Watch to go with your Badge of Tenacity, those two trinkets together give you a great alternative to a warrior's Shield Wall, on a 2 minute cooldown. Additionally, there are a TON of good tanking items to be bought with the badges that now drop like candy in Kara, including the new 2.3 batch of Tier 5 equivalent gear, and its crowning glory, the Idol of Terror, the first and only druid tanking MITIGATION idol. Once you have close to 14k stamina, and approximately 29k armor (and likely a good chunk of dodge too, without you even trying), you're ready to graduate from Karazhan (Even if your guild/group isn't).

And then we reach where I am currently, the post Karazhan club. This is where you pretty much drop armor out of the equation and start focusing on dodge and stamina. Yes, I am well aware that the armor cap is 35,880 armor, not 29,000, but I stop you there for two reasons. First, your armor will continue to increase with future upgrades anyhow, and second, this is where you hit the armor cap every time you get the Inspiration or Ancestral Healing buff. And while you cant count on those buffs always being active, they proc often enough when you have a few healers on you to cause armor to start to have signifigant diminishing returns (whereas before this, armor has a SLIGHT diminishing return only, the math of which I'll probably address eventually). So up your agility when you can, both to decrease the amount of healing you need and to increase your threat generation via crits, increase your stamina as needed, and dont forget to keep yourself crit immune, especially as you replace your heavy clefthoof gear.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: If you're dying to damage spikes, you need to boost up your stamina (assuming it isn't a problem with your healers). If your healers are running out of mana too fast, you need to up your mitigation via armor and dodge. And if you aren't having any problems at all, keep boosting your mitigation, and maybe switch to some gear with better threat generation to increase your DPS' ability to do their job. And of course, the numbers I give here are rough guidelines at best, your mileage may vary.

Happy Tanking!


SuraBear said...

I just find it strange for this post to have gotten comments on other folks' blogs and none here. . . so now it has one hehe.

T said...

I've just recently started tanking and this info is great, thanks!

I leveled as feral, but never grouped much (at all actually) and was always kitty. I'm having a bit of a hard time getting used to things as a bear.

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