The Department of (no more) Defense
To me, one of the best tanking changes that’s come along with Cataclysm and patch 4.0.1 is the complete removal of the Defense stat from WoW. At first, when I heard about it, I was a little annoyed, because I thought it was going to upset the whole apple cart in terms of how I geared. Then when I heard about the trees, I was a little annoyed that I’d have to blow two of my precious first 31 points in the Prot tree in order to be uncrittable.
I was, as usual, completely wrong.
The removal of Defense from the game opens up a veritable world of possibilities for us as tanks. Think about it. By putting two talent points in Bastion of Defense, we’re accomplishing the same thing as stacking 689 (I think) Defense rating, or 140 Defense points, on our gear at level 80. And honestly, you’d almost certainly take Bastion of Defense anyway because of the 10%/20% Enrage chance on a successful block, dodge, or parry. So it’s all gain, no real loss. We can equip anything and we’re still uncrittable.
In this strange interregnum before the world falls apart, where we’re dealing with classes balanced for level 85 stuck at level 80, where we overgear 95% of the content, this removal of Defense is having something of an odd effect on one of our common tanky pastimes…the random heroic. Yeah, I know, running random PUGs is about as much fun as a prostate exam (or a pap smear for you ladies) these days, but there’s still reasons that we have to do it–snagging Justice Points for offset upgrades, or heirlooms for your alts, or gearing up guildies.
Now if you’ve tanked some heroics the past two weeks, you know that your AOE threat is down a bit, or maybe more than a bit depending on your class. At the same time, the badge to Justice Point conversion has let some people drastically upgrade their gear, as their stockpile of Triumph badges let them buy some more Tier 10. Add in the huge DPS increases that some classes got (yes, mages, you can stop cackling gleefully now), and the fact that people still cannot grasp the concept of “wait two seconds to let the tank get agro,” and I’ll bet you’ve been having a moderately frustrating time running your heroics.
Well, ol’ Uncle Panzercow is here to give you a tip:
Run them in your DPS gear. Or your PvP gear.
You do have DPS gear, right? I imagine that most tanks do have a DPS offspec. Many of you have probably accumulated some PvP gear, maybe even the high-quality arena stuff. Some, I know, do have dual prot or other tanking specs, or no offspec at all, and if you do, that’s OK, but you still might want to rummage around for some DPS gear here and there. Here’s why.
If you are badge-geared in T9 or T10-level tank stuff, you overgear the hell out of every single heroic out there–yes, even Halls of Will You Idiots Line-of-Sight the Goddamn Phantom Mage, Please. You’ve got so much avoidance stacked, you’re starved for rage because you aren’t getting hit. Your crit%’s in the single digits and you’re rocking far north of 40,000 health, maybe more than 50,000. Healers fall asleep because you never get in trouble. Thing is, though, with the 4.0 threat changes, now you’re probably having a lot more trouble keeping agro on trash packs when the DPS decide to go “DUUUURP BIG NUKE” right at the start of the fight. No rage, no threat, and here comes the spew in /party of “zomg wtf ur bad tnak.”
Now suppose you have a near-equivalent set of DPS gear–again, T9ish or higher. Try an experiment. Stay in Prot spec and Defensive Stance, but put the DPS gear on with your tank weapon and shield. Now look at your stats. You do still have some dodge and parry percentages, I’ll guess they’re in the high single digits. Your block percentage hasn’t changed much, it’s 30% plus whatever mastery you’ve reforged onto either set of gear. Your AP is probably up (remember, no Armored to the Teeth anymore), your crit% is way up, and your health isn’t down nearly as far as you thought. Most DPS plate still stacks a big chunk of stamina on it, and you still get that +15% to your stamina from mastery. If you have PvP gear? Same thing, with even more stamina.
Voila. You’re basically in tank gear a tier or two below your “real” tank gear…except your DPS is going to skyrocket.
I’ll use a real-world example with Linedan. He’s fully geared in sanctified T10, ilevel 251 and 264 tank items. In a random heroic, that gives him, eh, 23% dodge and parry each, 55,000 health buffed out, 27k armor, 2.6% base crit, 3600 attack power. If I swap over to his Fury set, but stay in Prot spec/Defensive Stance, use his Scourgebourne Waraxe as a weapon, and keep his shield equipped? 9% dodge, 13% parry, about 22k armor. But…try 35% crit, 4400 attack power, and still well over 40,000 health.
I have tanked a couple of heroics using the hybrid DPS gear/Prot spec setup and let me tell you, it’s been brilliantly effective. The acid test was in Forge of Souls last night. We had a death nugget, a boomkin, and a rogue for DPS. The rogue liked to sneak forward and had an odd knack for picking the wrong target to attack. And we all know that boomkins can be serious threat monsters now. Also, don’t forget that FoS is one of the trickier instances for pulling and gathering due to the wide spacing of the trash groups between the entrance and Bronjahm.
It turned out to be probably the smoothest and fastest FoS run that I’ve ever tanked…and I didn’t do anything differently from how I ran it in 3.3. Except in my Fury gear, I was generating insane threat. Enough to keep a slightly trigger-happy rogue, a critchicken, and a T10-geared DK alive with only a few taunts here and there. Blood and Thunder was very effective, and I was getting enough rage from incoming hits that I could use Cleave and Thunder Clap reasonably often to hold threat over the healgro. I ended up pumping out an astonishing 3600 dps for the run, just behind the DK’s 3800 and just ahead of the rogue and boomkin. That’s not half bad for a warrior tank in an heroic.
Now, was I getting hit more? Yep. Did that make the healer (a priest) work harder? Well, technically, yes, but when’s the last time you saw a healer have to work at all to keep a T10-geared tank up in a heroic? The priest never went below 70% mana, and I rarely went below 70% health. In fact, it was a good thing that I was getting hit more. Remember Vengeance? I take more damage, I get more attack power, I deliver more damage, which means more threat, which means the DPS can go harder? It’s the great Circle of Pain, as Elton John might sing.
Now, DPS gear is viable for tanking any content that you outgear, certainly not for progression stuff. I don’t think I’d try taking on Arthas in my T10 Fury gear, and I probably wouldn’t even use it in Trial of the Oh God It’s The Same Round Room Again Kill Me Now, but weekly raids in Naxx or Ulduar or Eye of Eternity? Heroics? Yep. I’d do it in a heartbeat…after clearing it with the healer(s) and the raidleaders. You will get hit more, and you’ll need to be careful of encounters that toss out a lot of damage–for example, I put the real tank gear back on for Devourer of Souls in FoS, simply because Phantom Blast hits very hard, and I wanted a little cushion in case I missed a Spell Reflect or interrupt and something went sideways with the healing. But for trash? DPS gear, kids. It works.
In fact, come Cataclysm, I think it may work better for us to level as Prot in our DPS or PvP gear. I didn’t try it much on the beta but I probably should’ve. We would still get the benefit of Prot’s survivability, with higher DPS. It’s definitely something to think about.