Thursday, February 14, 2008

Stamina is for Warlocks!

Ok, first of all, I feel I should apologize for not posting anything yesterday. While technically I am not bound to any schedule at all, I made it a personal goal to post every weekday. Alas, yesterday I was in a particularly foul mood, and decided it was better to fall short of my goal than subject you to whatever I might have come up with while in that mindset.

Today, I want to talk a bit more about my personal gear philosophy, specifically addressing what I find is a health pool which is much smaller than most tanks. My views on stamina seem to fly in the face of what I see preached on the forums, and even most other bloggers (who I find usually have an IQ higher than 37).

There are four things which I consider key factors on tanking gear, and two secondary items I also try to keep an eye on. In order of dicussions, these are Crit Reduction, Armor, Dodge/Agility, Stamina, Strength, and Hit/Expertise. The first four factors directly affect our ability to take hits, while the last pair are strictly related to our ability to dish out threat.

Crit Reduction: 2.6% crit reduction is ESSENTIAL TO TANKING. I repeat: Crit Immunity Is Not An Option (CIINAO, pronounced See Now). Last week, I saw one druid tank on the forums claiming he has tanked all the fights in the game a druid concievably can (Everything but Reliquary phase 2 and Illidan, if I remember correctly) without maintaining 2.6% crit reduction. And maybe he had. But the fact of the matter is, if you are crittable, you are a liability to the raid. Steady incoming DPS doesn't kill tanks, burst damage does, and crits are about as burst damage as it comes, especially if you get two in a row. You can get away with taking crits in normal 5-man instances. You can even probably get away with it in Karazhan and Heroics (In fact, I know you can, since I tank those in cat gear mostly nowadays). But for progression raiding, you would be sidelined if I knew you didn't have full crit immunity.

Armor: Due to our huge 5.5x modifier, armor is perhaps THE most important tanking stat for a druid. As I have mentioned in the past, it was the driving force behind all of my gear choices until I hit 29k armor (where crit heal armor buffs start first are able to push you to the cap against level 73 mobs, actually about 28,750ish). Even past that, I have valued armor on gear, though I have started to favor high armor gear with agi and stam on it over the higher armor with less stats type gear. As far as I'm concerned, other than that one (minor) turning point, the only diminishing return on armor happens at 35,880.

But why is armor so important? Well, in addition to the fact that we get so much more bang for our buck from it, the reason armor is so awesome is that it is so reliable. Armor reduces the damage of EVERY incoming physical hit, regardless of whether its an auto-attack, crushing blow, cri. . . right, we don't ever get critted, CIINAO and all. . .

Anyhow, armor is a constant, reliable source of mitigation, which leads to a more constant, reliable stream of incoming damage for the healers to deal with. And that makes the healers' jobs easier, as well as making it less likely they need to blow their cooldowns and expensive "Oh, sh**" buttons just to keep your fuzzy butt vertical (er, does it really count as vertical when you're tanking on all-fours? Bah, whatever).

Dodge: Once a bear tank starts wandering into the 30k+ armor club, mitigation upgrades start to show up more as increases to dodge than as increased armor mitigation. This is both a function of the gear we have available to us, and also the fact that there is in place a 75% mitigation crap . . . er, I mean cap, to keep bear tanks from scaling. Dodge is a great thing, since even when you have 75% mitigation, dodging an attack still means you take 100% less damage than you would. Heck, when people were first wandering into Karazhan, there was a vocal section of the druid community preaching "Hit 20k armor, then stack dodge". While that group seems to have died out (I suspect they were re-roll players who thought all tanks should sit at warrior-level armor values, but I digress), the value of dodge is unquestionable, especially since it the value of more dodge actually goes UP the more of it you already have.

There ARE some drawbacks to dodge, however, that are not there when it comes to armor. First of all, if you've ever run an instance a dozen or more times waiting for that one item with a 25% droprate to actually drop, you know how much the Random Number Generator (RNG) sucks. Relying on dodge to keep you alive is like betting your life that the Stranglestaff will drop on your next Kara run. Additionally, the more you dodge, the more likely the hits you DONT dodge are to be crushing blows. Note: I did not say dodge increases the frequency of crushing blows, I am simply pointing out that dodging more makes you take fewer regular hits, but does not reduce the frequency of crushing blows. A bear tank with 0% dodge takes 85% regular hits, 15% crushing blows, while a tank with 85% dodge would take nothing but the 15% of swings that would crush either way.

Because of this, I do not view dodge as a mitigation stat, per se. I instead view dodge as a way to help the healers with mana efficiency. Every time I dodge an attack, the healers have to pump fewer spells into me, and can cancel their casts, saving them the cost of their spell, and possibly even allowing them to enjoy some spirit regen outside of the 5-second rule. Ultimately, though, I imagine that if I never dodged an attack, it would be hard to keep me (or any other tank) standing even if the healers had infinite mana.

Stamina: Stamina, or more generally health pool, is perhaps the most simplistic, most basic tanking stat. The more health you have, the more damage it takes to kill you. Having a large health pool is critical to any tank, to be sure.

So why do I list it last in terms of mitigation? Well, I dont really, it actually has a value similar to that of defense and resilience. That is, if I dont have enough to reach uncrittability (enough stamina to survive long enough for the healers to get me back up), I need to do everything in my power to get enough, but if I DO already have enough crit reduction (stamina), stacking more is pointless. Yes, thats right, all those people who are constantly saying "Stick 12 stamina gems in ALL of your sockets, and enchant all of your gear with stamina enchants" are neglecting the simple fact that there is, in fact, such a thing as enough stamina. Sure, it never hurts to have more than you need, but frankly, if you never drop below 30% health, the truth is at least 1/5 of your health pool is superfluous, and you would do better pulling out some of those 12 stamina gems in favor of, say, 8 agility for some extra dodge, since stamina does NOTHING for your mitigation, it is merely a health buffer. As an added bonus, that extra agility will also make it less likely for your health to drop down as fast, so you may not even see yourself dipping lower!

That having been said, my unbuffed health pool currently sits between 13,600 and 14,400 health, depending on whether I'm using my pocketwatch or my Darkmoon card (which I tend to wear for tanking 25-man content). This is considerably smaller than what many tanks of my gear level run with, but I find that it is basically all I need. For the most part, I use agility gems in my gear instead of stamina gems, for two reasons. First, I have enough stamina (though I'm working on scrounging up a bit more at the moment, as I do seem to be drifting close to empty on the health bar more often than I like lately), and second, agility is a universal stat, used for both tanking and DPS. Not only does socketing agility let me NOT gimp my dual-use gear in terms of DPS, but it also lets me better fill the most common druid tanking role, that of an offtank who can DPS when not needed for tanking (add tank on Lurker, shaman tank on Maulgar, etcetera).

Strength: Honestly, I dont even pay attention to strength when it comes to my tanking gear. It IS an important tanking stat, giving us the attack power needed to generate threat, but pretty much any high-armor leather (that is, druid tanking gear) already has a bunch of strength on it, if only because that gear is hybrid cat/bear stuff. Dont ever add more strength to your gear, its not worth it (this goes for cat gear too, agility is always the better bet unless you cant get it on a particular piece).

Hit: Unlike Strength, hit is something that I actually actively factor into gearing choices, on the rare occasions I actually find a tanking piece with any on it. While also purely there for threat generation purposes (unless you stretch a bit and consider Idol of Terror needing Mangles to hit for it to proc), hitting reliably can be especially important in a couple of situations.

First of all, as of 2.3, hit rating affects warrior and druid taunts. And while not every fight is conducive to taunting, it is very bad news if your taunt resists at critical times (Such as Nalorakk transitions). Secondly, hitting is CRUCIAL when first engaging a mob. If your first 2-3 attacks all miss, you had better hope that the mob missed too, or your healers are likely to get a surprise when that first green number flies overhead. And even if you dont get hit either, its likely in that situation that your DPS is going to lay into the boss before you get a decent amount of threat, and they're going to eat the dust. Often times, this situation can be avoided by having hunters misdirect to the tank, but sometimes that just isn't an option, at least not for all tanks involved (trash pulls, Hydross transitions, High King Maulgar).

And if you're fortunate enough to be able to fit some expertise rating into your tanking gear, you dont just benefit by hitting more often. Expertise has the unique advantage of reducing a mob's chance to parry your attacks. And as you all (should) know, whenever a mob or player parrys an attack, their next autoattack comes SOONER. I have seen WWS reports before of a tank geting absolutely torn to shreds on Gruul when the melee DPS, cut off from Gruul's backside by a badly placed Cave-in, moved to the front arc where parrys occur, and Gruul getting something like 8 parrys in short order from all of those dual-wielders, each. Trust me, parrying attacks can be an INCREDIBLE boost to DPS, take that from someone who now has a prot pally who delights in fighting half a dozen mobs at a time.

So, to summarize: CIINAO, armor is a bear's best friend, Dodge helps healers conserve mana, it is possible to have enough stamina without fully socketing/enchanting for it, strength can be safely ignored given current itemization, and hit, while a secondary concern, can nonetheless be a big help if you can get it on tanking gear.


Anonymous said...

I think, there is a tanking stat you missed out: expertise. Why is this? Every time a mob parries your attack, he gets its swingtimer reset. This means, the time between two attacks can be lowered down to 40%, which can be some really bursty damage.

So, there are very few alternatives. the only one I swap in when tanking hard hitting Bosses (ie Archimonde) is the neck from heroic badge loot.

SuraBear said...

Actually, it was mentioned in the Hit section.

Karthis said...

You seem to prioritize roughly the same as me. I have 14k unbuffed hp, and that has served me well.

My gems are mostly +sta, but there are a few that aren't. (My enchants are almost pure agility tho....)

Anonymous said...

I don't mean to be totally negative here, but I do believe your priorities between dodge and stamina are a bit backwards.

To me, bear tanking is all about soaking damage. You ARE a mana sponge, and there's nothing you can say or do that will change that. Why? Because bears lack many/most of the other mitigation abilities, ie, parry and block, that can make tanks uncrushable as well as just take less damage. So my philosophy is - if you're going to take the damage anyway, make it do as little harm as possible. This means stacking AC and stamina. Because the higher your AC gets, the more stamina is worth, meaning the longer you survive.

Also, you point out that you like dodge because it relaxes the strain on the healers. Actually, I find this to be the opposite. The same reasoning is used as with crits - you don't want to be crit because it causes burst damage. Well, I see it as: you don't want your dodge to be TOO high, or else any damage you take becomes "bursty" meaning the healers are going to have to concentrate more on "Should I heal or should I cancel, when is the next crushing blow coming?" etc.

Sure, dodge IS mitigation, therefore you take less damage, needing less heals, etc. But I believe it should be a lower priority than AC and stamina. Until you are sitting on enough health to tank a raid boss (maybe 20k for SSC roughly), then you shouldn't worry so much about "Do I need more dodge?" because overall, you will be increasing your survivability much more by stacking AC + stamina.

Not to mention that stamina is a very cheap stat as well, so you tend to get more of it easier, especially early on.

Anonymous said...

I also forgot to add in my last post... that having too much dodge can be a detriment because when you don't get hit, you don't build rage. This can be very bad especially in "lower" instances, ones that you are over-geared for. That's probably why you've taken to tanking Karazhan in cat gear - not only do you do more dps for more rage, but you are also getting hit a lot more and for a lot more to generate even more rage to hold aggro. And at that level, the damage isn't enough to overtax your healers either.

In general, I find dodge for a bear to be an over-rated stat. Sure, it helps, because you don't want to take TOO much damage. But in the long run your job as a bear tank is to 1) soak damage 2) build aggro. Dodge has its useful situations - but in general, I think it does not need to be focused on quite so much.

SuraBear said...

I dont have enough stamina to tank a raid boss? Thats interesting, because the only boss my guild has gone up against thus far that I HAVEN'T maintanked is Hydross, for obvious reasons.

And yes, dodge does lead to bursty damage, but no dodge leads to the same burst damage MORE of the time.

Oh, and if you get hit more often in your cat gear than in your tanking gear, I would suggest working on the cat set, I have MUCH more agility in my DPS set than my tanking set.

Regarding dodge making me rage starved: Yes, there are times where I get a string of dodges so long that I get rage starved. But at the same time, I get dodge via agility, which also increases my crit rate. And crits both increase the amount of threat I put out per rage spent, AND return 5 rage to me every time they land. I have yet to get to this magical high dodge that makes me incapable of building aggro, and I sit right around 50% dodge raid buffed.

One final thing: I never, EVER said I take dodge over armor. In fact, I said "Due to our huge 5.5x modifier, armor is perhaps THE most important tanking stat for a druid." I did, however, point out that as I start to approach the armor cap (where extra armor becomes completely worthless), I've begun to look at more than just the armor on my gear.

If you gear with the mentality that you're a mana sponge, and will never be anything else, so be it. I, in turn, gear to make my healers' jobs as easy as possible, a goal I have achieved if the feedback I get from said healers about being the easiest tank to heal is any indication.

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