Friday, February 1, 2008

ACLaBT3: Earthwarden V. Wildfury, and Low-Rage situations

peace.jpgToday, I'm going to look at our two most used endgame tanking staff options, and try to determine whether its possible for the Earthwarden to truly be better than the Wildfury Greatstaff for threat generation. Then I want to shift gears to a very familiar situation for most of us: Low Rage tanking, often experienced when we're either overgeared for an instance, get a lucky string of dodges, or are offtanking an encounter such as Void Reaver or Gruul.

Earthwarden versus Wildfury:

First off, Wildfury Versus Earthwarden. In terms of overall mitigation, there is little question as to which is better: Wildfury gives us the same armor, coupled with more stamina and dodge, at the cost of some defense and expertise rating. With expertise doing so little for mitigation (one less parry every 67 swings yielding a faster autoattack), the only reason, mitigation-wise, to NOT use the wildfury is if losing the defense on the Earthwarden is needed to stay crit-immune.

The comparison is not so straightforward, however, if you consider threat generation. Wildfury has a whopping 280 more AP than the Earthwarden, but the Earthwarden essentially gives a tank 3% bonus to hit (via a 1.5% reduction in both dodges and parrys). But is it enough to make Earthwarden the better threat stick in any situations?

Well, first off, lets give the earthwarden every advantage we can. Lets say that we're in a zero-rage situation, and thus have to limit ourselves to a simple Mangle->Laceratex3 rotation, with no Mauls, thus maximizing the importance of our lacerates for threat. Lets also say we have 0 crit, and an obscenely high amount of AP: 4000. Assuming we're using Earthwarden, we get a threat generation of 809 TPS. If we add 280 AP, and subtract our the Expertise EW gave us, we end up with. . . 815 TPS. So even under the most absurdly biased circumstances I could come up with, the Wildfury Greatstaff still gives us more threat generation.

Don't vendor that hammer yet, though! There IS one reason to use EW over the Greatstaff, and its threat related. If you need to be absolutely sure that you get some threat on a target as quickly as possible, without an unlucky string of misses, throw on the 'warden, get a few hits on a mob to cement your aggro, then swap back to the Greatstaff. While your average threat goes down, the odds of an unlucky string of misses go way down, too. I still occasionally use my Earthwarden on pulls, and can be great for mid-fight pickups too, like when you need to grab a Hydross add or two.

Offtank Rotations; AKA Low-Rage Situations:

While its fun to look at our threat generation under near-infinite rage conditions, its often not realistic. Maintaining mangles, lacerates, and mauls is hard on our red bar. For our baseline example of a 2500 AP, 30% crit bear tank, we would need a supply of 11.4 rage PER SECOND from incoming damage to maintain all of our attacks at all times. According to Karthis, we get 0.0091 rage per point of incoming damage, so to maintain that threat generation, we need to be taking 1253 damage per second to fund our "infinite" rage cycle.

Now, if you stop and think about it, thats not too unreasonable, at least for 25-man boss fights, and even some of the 10-man fights. At least, not if you're actually taking hits. But what happens when you're the offtank, on fights like Void Reaver or Gruul, and any damage you take is unreliable at best? What happens when you dodge three Hurtful Strikes in a row, and that eternal wellspring of rage dries up?

The short answer is, we have to drop some attacks from our rotation. Most tanks' first reaction is to drop maul from the rotation, and if we look at our rage efficiency numbers, thats the right choice, as it is our most rage-inefficient attack. Dropping Maul from the rotation completely drops the rage we need to get from damage way down, to a meager 1.68 TPS, or about 185 incoming DPS. Even on fights where you truly aren't taking damage, that should be manageable via cave-ins, poundings, whirls, and whatnot. And if it isn't, you may just have to scale back your lacerates a bit to compensate. But never, under ANY circumstance, let yourself be out of rage when a mangle cooldown is up! EVER!

Now, most bears already know this. Never skip a mangle, only maul if you have the rage, blah blah blah. My point is, with the calculator, we can actually predict what our threat output will be under low-rage situations. By dropping Maul completely, we're only losing about 20% of our threat generation. A hefty sum, to be sure, but I'll bet if a warrior made a similar threat calculator, and compared their own infinite-rage rotation to a zero-rage rotation, they'd lose a LOT more. Thats why druids are so valued as offtanks in these situations.

Next time on ACLaBT: Threat generation for non-ferals, or, when spec really CAN be more important than skill. Barring an interesting topic suggestion, this will be the last installment of ACLaBT.

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