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Posts tagged “gear

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.


The Latisha Experiment, Update #4

At roughly 7:15 pm Eastern Daylight Time last night, the Latisha Experiment reached the conclusion of its first stage when Miss Latisha Morganson, twenty-year-old disowned rich daughter of a noble and unscrupulous Stormwind merchant family, hit level 80.  She did it while talking to a dead gnome (Arly, the gnome DK questgiver at Blackwatch in Icecrown).  Despite being level 80, Latisha is still squicked by dead gnomes, and still washes her hands frequently after interacting with them.  (She’d totally be carrying around a giant bottle of Purel, if the stuff had been invented by fellow dead-gnome-germophobes yet.)

Regular readers of Achtung Panzercow know that I rolled Latisha last year as an experiment to use my own So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior guides to actually level a warrior as hardcore Protection all the way from 1 to 80.  The goals were to validate my own guides; to prove that it was not only viable, but fun, to level solo as Prot; and so I had a tank Alliance-side on Feathermoon just in case I ever needed her.

Based on the results, I’d say all three goals were fully met and then some.  I used my own talent suggestions with only two minor variations (taking Improved Disarm early and not shifting out of it to pick up Vigilance until the mid-60s, and shifting the two points in Cruelty over to Shield Specialization to end up with a 15/3/53 build instead of 15/5/51).  She actually required virtually no outside money from Beltar while leveling.  I gave her some gold for bags to start with, and funded one 30-40 gold AH buying spree in her 20s, but other than that, she’s been completely self-sufficient, getting by on quest rewards, drops, and the money from mining and skinning auctions.  She arrived at level 80 with about 2600 gold to her name, and that was without really trying to stop the leveling process just to make gold.  She’s still only got a slow flying mount, and no dual-spec, but those were personal choices–I could’ve easily ground the money for either one, but I wanted to save the maximum amount to kit her out once she got her special present in the mail from Rhonin Sue.

As for leveling her, it was easy.  Yes, there were bumps, and yes, I’m still hearing the female human “not enough rage!” in my sleep, but quite honestly, I found it much easier leveling her than I did leveling my enhancement shaman Sakula last year.  I don’t know if that means I’m really good at Prot warriors or that I’m utter fail at enhancement shamaning (more likely the latter), but getting Latisha to 80 was really pretty unspectacular.  I borrowed some help from friends at times to hammer out group quests like the ones in Dragonblight (teaming with my wife’s 80 Draenei enhancement shaman to do every group quest in Dragonblight, Grizzly Hills, and Zul’Gurub in one run) and used the LFD tool extensively once she got into Northrend.  In terms of leveling, it’s still far faster to grind quests than dungeons, but the dungeons are where the loot is.

Actually, by level 79, thanks to the LFD tool and some trips to the AH, she was pretty well set for tanking normal instances.  She had several pieces of Tempered Saronite crafted armor off the AH, a Riot Shield from Violet Hold, various other blue bits from dungeons, topped off with a Crusader’s Resolution from questing in Icecrown, and the Crescent of Brooding Fury from killing Ragemane in Zul’drak.  She could get herself over 21,000 health with Commanding Shout up and had around 505 Defense.  I never had any significant issues with her tanking a Northrend regular dungeon.

Heroics, however, are quite another matter.  So as soon as she dinged 80, I immediately headed to Ironforge on a spending spree…and spend I did.  A Titansteel Shield Wall.  A Tempered Titansteel Helm.  A Tempered Saronite Belt to replace her Cobalt Belt.  Some gems (and thanks a ton, Arrens, for sending me those Enduring Eyes of Zul–a big help!) and enchants.  Then I flew around and picked up all of the faction tabards I’d need and did more shopping–grabbing the Special Issue Legplates from the Argent Crusade, and swapping that very slow (speed 2.60) axe for a nice fast (speed 1.50) Fang of Truth from the Wyrmrest Accord; even though it cost me Defense points, I’m far more used to tanking with a fast weapon and very much prefer it in instances.  (Plus, she desperately needed the +hit.)  By the time I was done, she’d gone from 2600+ gold to less than 10…and still only 527 Defense.  Not the 535 she needed to be crit-immune in heroics.

Accepting her non-heroic status, I ran a normal Utgarde Pinnacle to get some money.  Interestingly, from doing the quests in there, I picked up the Silver-Plated Battlechest.  Between that, and her raw Defense skill finally hitting 400…she had 537 Defense.  Y halo thar, magic number.

Unbuffed:  21,251 health.  22,450 armor.  537 Defense.  17.1% dodge, 15.46% parry, 14.48% block.  A Gearscore well south of 2900.

So of course, I queued to tank a heroic.

And the Wheel of Suck came up…Halls of Motherfucking Stone. Oh great.

Now I freely admit, I expected what sometimes happens when a low-geared fresh 80 tank shows up at an random instance…a chorus of “wtf??  u tank?” from DPS or healers with 6000+ Gearscores and egos to match, followed by some insults and group-dropping (or kicking).  Instead, to my utter astonishment, I found that my group was perfectly cool with me being there.  I had more health than everybody but the death nugget, and he only beat me by about 1200.  We were all roughly around the same gear level, give or take a bit.  For once, the LFD tool actually matched five people who realistically belonged in the same instance!

And thus, we ended up taking a 45-minute jaunt through Halls of Stone…but we did it.  Killed all four bosses with just one wipe (totally my fault when I screwed up a pull and got three groups) plus one extra death on Sjonnir.  No deaths on the Tribunal of Ages.  Let me tell you, I don’t work that hard when Linedan is tanking Arthas.  It was crazy, it was hard work, and it was stupidly fun to tank that place on a character that could’ve rolled need on half the loot that might drop.

So there you have it.  A tank, with no heroic or badge loot whatsoever, who bought her own gear and got herself to the point where she could tank heroic dungeons with very little outside help.  The only “gift” in all that loot are two of those Eyes of Zul from Arrens.  The rest, she’s earned via questing, drops, or bought on the AH with her own gold.

I know that life is harder for a tank at 80 than for a DPS or healer.  DPS can walk straight into heroics and get carried to an extent and gear up that way (I’ve done it, several times).  A healer needs to work a bit harder at it but can still move into the world of badge collection with not a huge amount of effort.  But a tank, at least a warrior tank, takes a lot of effort to get ready for heroic tanking.  But here’s the proof, guys, you can do it. Don’t despair if you’ve got a baby tank in the 70s and you don’t know how you’re going to get her into Badgeland.  I’ve done it.  Here’s proof.  It takes a bit of a judicious eye about loot, minimal faction grinding, and some gold (or friends willing to help you out).

At this point, life for Latisha diverges into two separate paths.  On Feathermoon, I will continue to tank with her, probably normals and heroics, and gear her up a bit.  In fact, she’s got 28 Badgers of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, so she’ll be able to get a piece of T9 very soon.  (Had I run more instances while leveling in Northrend, she’d already have at least one.)  Her “other” life will soon find her on Lost Isles, in the Cataclysm beta, just as she is right now as I write this, with no tier gear, no badge gear, and nothing over ilevel 200.  I already know how leveling is over there with a highly-geared raider…let’s see how it is with a fresh-faced 80 who’s never set foot inside a 10- or 25-man.

Maybe I can slow down and even get some roleplay in with her now.  We’ll see.  One thing’s for sure, I’ve grown attached to my six-foot-one poor little rich girl.  She may be my sixth character to level 80, but she’s definitely a keeper.


Let me axe you something

Awww yeah. That's one FINE piece of axe right there.

I haven’t been blogging a whole lot about raiding with The Anvil lately.  That’s because we’ve managed to get our collective ankles wedged firmly into a gap that Blizzard’s left in the content.

We didn’t have too much trouble getting through the Lower Spire in ICC 25-man.  Marrowgar, Lady Deathwhisper, the Gunship Battle, and even Saurfang fell before us with relative ease.  I wouldn’t call them pushovers the way that, say, Trial of the Wake Me When It’s Over was when we first started.  But we moved through Icecrown’s first four bosses in fairly good time, and prepared to assault the rest of the Lich King’s stronghold.

Then we slammed head-on into the Plagueworks.

If you’re just getting ready to head into Icecrown, 10- or 25-man, consider this a warning:  There is a big jump in difficulty between the first four bosses and the middle portion of the instance, the Plagueworks (Festergut, Rotface, and Professor Putricide) and the Crimson Halls (Blood Princes, Blood Queen Lana’thel).  That jump in difficulty has stopped us dead in our tracks.

We quickly reached a very unpleasant realization on Festergut, supposedly the “easiest” of the bosses…we couldn’t kill him.  Not “we can’t kill him because we’re making too many mistakes”–a totally unqualified “we can’t do this right now.”  We ran up against cold, hard math.  Festergut’s enrage timer is so short (5 minutes) and he has so much health (40.44 million) that how well we handled the mechanical aspects of the fight with gas spores and healing through his insane damage didn’t matter.  You need a five-minute average of roughly 135,000 dps from your raid to drop Festergut before he splats you.  Before last night, on our best attempt, we had 91,000.  No amount of sleight of hand or focusing on eliminating mistakes could get around the fact that if you don’t bring that 135,000 dps, you don’t kill Festergut.  Full stop.  Before last night, our best attempt on Festergut was hitting the enrage timer at 30%.  Not.  Even.  Close.

Rotface isn’t quite the insane DPS race that Festergut is, but it’s a crazy fight–Grobbulus on speed, with even more raid-wide damage and shadow-crash-style flying angry exploding poo-poos to dodge.  And you still need a ton of DPS, because otherwise, you get so many oozes running around that your coordination breaks down in terms of the kiting that’s required.  Our best attempt to date on Rotface is around 17%, which, considering the insanity of the fight and our relative DPS level, ain’t shabby.

Well, last night, we went to try and sell Arthas encyclopedias yet again.  We did it in the middle of the godawful crippling lag that has had the entire Cyclone battlegroup by the balls since the Love is in the Air event started up.  (Servers in Cyclone, Ruin, Bloodlust, and Reckoning have been getting crushed for days now with 5+ minute zone times, minutes-long loot lag and mailbox lag, etc.  Multiple maintenance downtimes haven’t done a damn thing to fix it.)  The lag was so bad that my wife couldn’t even join the raid, and then we lost two more regulars due to illness.  We managed to pick up enough subs to fill out the roster, and gave it a try.

Go figure, but it was the best raid night we’ve had in a month and a half.  Maybe the lag got people to dial it in and focus, or maybe the phase of the moon was just right, I don’t know.  Not only did we one-shot all four bosses in the front, but we had two near-perfect Festergut attempts and got him to 8%, and then 6%, before he enraged.  Magically, we’ve somehow picked up over 30,000 dps on that fight in just a few weeks.  If we find about 10,000 more in the glovebox and under the sofa cushions, we’ll own that mutant potato right in his ugly face…uh, OK, one of his ugly faces.  He’s got spares.

It was one of those nights that invigorates my desire to raid with this awesome bunch of maniacs I run with, because we were hitting on all cylinders and having a great time doing it.  The one sad part was that my wife missed it…especially when the druid loot dropped.

And out of all that, I got a new toy to play with:

Now, I got a whisper last night asking me why I’d blow a “suicide” on a one-handed DPS weapon that wasn’t a tank weapon, when my DPS offspec is Fury and thus needs two-handers.  It’s a legit question, deserving of an answer.  The short version is, despite it not being a tank weapon, it’s a significant upgrade for me.  Now, the long version–half because I’m paranoid and still justifying to myself why I took it, and half as explanation of why a tank sometimes gets very good use out of a “non-tank” weapon.

Right now, Lin’s tank weapons are a Titanguard and a Burnished Quel’serrar from 25-man Ony.  The Titanguard has been Lin’s bread-and-butter tank sword for almost a full year now, and while it’s an excellent item (it was our first hard-mode Ulduar loot ever), it’s a tier or a tier-and-a-half behind current content.  I picked the BQ up to use as a situational weapon when I had to bring more DPS as Prot; it’s been part of my block-heavy gear set, and also has been what I use to tank heroics.  But it’s not well-itemized, and despite the old-school cool factor of it being a Quel’serrar, I’ve never warmed to it.

True, the Scourgeborne Waraxe isn’t a classic +str/+sta/+defense/avoidance tank weapon.  It is, first and foremost, a rogue axe in no uncertain terms–not really itemized awesomely for hunters and way, way too fast for enhancement shamans.  But for starters, 48 dps more on the tooltip is damned hard to ignore.  It’s even faster than the Titanguard (1.5 vs. 1.6), and fast for a tank weapon is good.  The stat tradeoff is surprisingly even–I lose the +str from the Titanguard costing me 24 shield block value, but I end up net gaining about 10 attack power, the stamina is close to even (loss of ~110 health), and the extra agility gives me enough dodge that even after losing the 33 parry rating from the sword, I only lose a net of 0.30% total avoidance.  In return, I get a huge burst of +crit (over 2%), a token bit of armor penetration, and a sizeable damage increase over the Titanguard, both overall and at the top end for attacks like Devastate.  It’s going to be a significant bump in my threat generation.  And I’m already running with so much excess Defense (578 with the sword), I can afford to lose 7 points of it.

In the end, I had to make a quick decision when interest in the weapon was called; using Rating Buster‘s breakout of stat pluses and minuses (which I trimmed from the tooltip screenshot), I decided to go for it.  And once I get that new axe Mongoosed, it’s going to become my primary heroic and trash tanking weapon.  The Titanguard stays in my bag for situations where absolute maximum avoidance and health are needed and threat is less of an issue–for example, if I’m kiting on Rotface, playing kissyface with Muradin on the Gunship Battle, or eating saber lashes on Marrowgar.

Besides, just look at it, peeps. It’s beautiful.  It’s huge.  It’s so big it goes over my back instead of on my belt.  It’s not standard-issue Wrath of the Lich King Tier 9 Brown, unlike everything else Lin wears.  It has frigging spikes on the blade. How can I not have my Panzercow walking around with something that utterly badass in his humongous three-fingered hand?


“Good thing Da ain’t seein’ this.”

"Ain't natural."

“Right, lad, I hear what yer sayin’.  It’s a nice bow, ain’t denyin’ it.  I know it’s better’n me old gun.  But it’s a bow, lad.  Dwarves, we don’t use ‘ese here things, aye?  Bent sticks’o’wood w’strings onna back, ’em’s fer poncy elves prancin’ round th’forest.  A dwarf needs th’ feel o’a boomstick in ‘is hand, boy.  ‘Sides, last time I tried t’go on campaign w’a bow, ’bout damn threw m’shoulder outta joint fer a week.”

(EDIT AFTER THE FACT):  OK, the quick story behind this, and why Beltar is the Wildfire Riders’ resident loot trashcan extraordinaire.  While on last night, the call went out for a ranged DPS to help in Ulduar because Yva‘s connection crapped itself and she couldn’t get back on.  So I volunteered.  Despite his somewhat marginal gear compared to the rest of the 10-man, we got Hodir hardmode…and he got a nice cloak when the guy who won the roll saw that Beltar was still wearing a blue Cloak of Holy Extermination.  (Vent:  “BELTAR, GODDAMMIT, YOU ARE TAKING THIS CLOAK NOW.”)  Then we cleared Vezax trash…and the Golemheart Longbow dropped.  At that point, Yva got back on and I headed back out so she could take her spot back and they went on to get hardmode Vezax.


Hit rating: How much is too little?

If you’re reading this expecting an answer to the question above…sorry, folks, I don’t have one.  Because, see, it’s my question.

As I posted in my latest installment of So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior on endgame gearing, there’s certain magic numbers that you strive to hit when you first move up to tanking heroics or raids.  One of those numbers is 263 hit rating, otherwise known as the magic rating number that gives you +8% chance to hit–needed to push misses out of the picture completely.

If you’ve had a chance to run through Ulduar a bit, or have looked at some of the items that come out of there, you may notice that it seems like almost everything’s got +hit on it.  I know many melee DPS, despite their best gearing efforts, who came out of Titan Disneyworld way, way over the hit cap.  My wife, a feral druid who Knows What She’s Doing, is stuck with 313 hit rating–and that’s after replacing some Ulduar pieces with Trial of the Crusader stuff.  Our raid’s Chief Cat Herder was pushing nearly four hundred hit rating–11 or 12 percent +hit–at one point.  Even Lin’s arms gear, a grab-whatever-I-can-find hashup of badge, Naxx-25, Ulduar-10, Ulduar-25, and a couple of ToC pieces, sticks him with 300 hit rating and not nearly enough expertise to balance it.

Lin in tank mode was no exception through Ulduar.  Recently, I finally got his hit rating to about 265, with his expertise in the low 20s–not quite dodge-capped, but close.

Enter Trial of the Crusader and other Tier 9 content.

Suddenly, +hit is gonzo.  Last night, I got a nice upgrade from Faction Champions in ToC-25…the very tasty ilevel 245 version of the Belt of Bloodied Scars, to replace his Shieldwarder Girdle.  The BoBS is great for his “boss” avoidance set.  More strength, more stamina, lots of dodge, parry, and defense.  But…no +hit.  The Shieldwarder’s Girdle had a lot of +hit.

And so, I, der Panzercow, the guy who just told you aspiring nubwarriors last week that you need 263 hit rating…is running around with 159.  Three full percent below what you are supposed to have.  At least I have 28 expertise.

I almost didn’t take that BoBS because of what it’d do to my hit rating.  A couple of my fellow tanks had to smack some sense into me before I went ahead.  But now, here I sit, with a 3.07% chance to miss on every swing.  Every taunt.  Every…well…everything.

Now here’s the weird part.  I’ve spoken to two people, one in my raid, one in another raid that’s slightly ahead of us in progression.  And they’re saying that from what they’ve seen, it’s now no big deal for tanks to be running around at 5% or even lower +hit.  Because, apparently, just as it seemed like everything in Ulduar had +hit, stuff in ToC and Onyxia’s Lair 2.0 doesn’t.  So tanks are having to adapt.

That brings me back to the question at the title of this post.  If you’re tanking a raid at this level–hardmode Ulduar, normal or heroic ToC–are you doing it with less than 8% +hit?  If so, how is it working out?  What are you doing to mitigate the chance of misses, especially on taunt-sensitive fights like Gormok?  Am I being a nubsauce for worrying about this?  Why does it burn when I pee?  And, of course, are we there yet?


Latisha: putting the “tank” in “tankini”

latishatankini

"Take the damned picture already so I can put some clothes back on!"

Because protecting the femoral arteries is totally not important at all, right Blizz?

(BTW, the items in question?  Mail Combat Armor and Mail Combat Leggings, which obviously should be named Male Combat Armor and Male Combat Leggings.)

I’ll have a real update on the Latisha Experiment coming soon.


Vanity, for once, thy name is Linedan

I normally don’t care much about fashion on Linedan.  Some of my characters do care about how they look; I admit, somewhat grudgingly, that I picked one of my hunter Illithanis’ pets because it was red and most of her armor was matching red mail at the time.  But Lin?  Nah.  He’s a function-over-form kind of cow.  Besides, so much armor just looks strange on the weird proportions of the male Tauren–bracers disappear completely under the gloves, the legs are so small that pants are hard to even see much less admire, stuff like that.

So it is a rare moment indeed when I have a squee like this.  The Anvil did Flame Leviathan with one tower up for our first hard mode attempt in Ulduar last night.  (It really should be called “sorta kinda hard” mode…even with a tower up, Loot Leviathan still isn’t too bad.)  And he gave us a little something for our extra effort…the Anvil’s first ilevel 232 epic loot.

A Titanguard.

You can't see it, but there's a big stupid grin under that helmet.

You can't see it, but there's a big stupid grin under that helmet.

HOLY SWEET ZOMBIE JESUS DOES THAT THING LOOK INCREDIBLE OR WHAT.

Forget that it’s an epic.  Forget that unlike my old Broken Promise, it actually looks like a fecking sword you use to stab people with instead of a railroad signal.  Forget that I’m enjoying actually tanking with a fast weapon (1.6) again instead of a slow Broken Promise (2.5).  Just look at it, man.  It’s bacon-wrapped badass.  It screams, “hi, I’m Linedan, and I’m going to gut you like a fish and then hit you in the face with my shield until you stop moving.”

I have not been this stupid giddy gleeful happy about an upgrade in a long time.  And it’s not even because it’s a good weapon.  It’s just because of how it looks.  Crikey, next thing you know, I’ll be taking Linedan to the barber shop.

…nah.

(FYI, question for you cutting-edge tank types–what enchant should I put on this beast?  Right now I have a self-made Titanium Weapon Chain on it, which hit-caps me in my block gear and over-hit-caps me in my boss tank gear.  Is Blade Ward worth the ridiculous prices it commands, considering nobody in our raid can apparently do it yet (we’ve had lousy luck on drops)?  What about our old BC friend Mongoose?  You can see his Armory from the link at the top of the page if you’re curious.  Thank you!)


So you want to be a prot warrior: What do all those stats do?

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Prepare for the Great Wall of Text!

Up until about level 50 or so, gearing up your protection warrior is pretty straightforward.  You want gear with as much stamina and strength as you can stack.  Agility, crit, hit, and defense are good secondary stats, but not as important–at first–as strength and stamina.

But as you start heading toward being able to tank the high-end “vanilla” instances–Scholomance, Stratholme, Dire Maul, anything with “Blackrock” in the name–or to head to Outland, your gearing requirements begin to subtly change.  You have to start looking at more than just raw strength and stamina.  You have, in fact, a metric bleepton of stuff to take into consideration as you get closer and closer to level 80, and not all of the stats are as important as others.  You need to know what’s indispensable and what you can live without.

If your prot warrior isn’t your first character, you should already be familiar with Blizzard’s sliding-scale “rating” system.  Instead of increasing your abilities like Dodge, Parry, Block, Defense, etc. by a fixed amount, these “ratings” are variable.  If you get a piece of armor that has +20 Dodge rating, that increases your percentage chance to dodge more at level 50 than it does at level 60.  It’s designed to keep you constantly grinding for replacement gear, because your current gear becomes less and less effective as you level.

Now, for this part of SYWTBAPW, I’m not going to get too much into the math behind the numbers to tell you how much a point of Dodge rating gives you at level 60 versus level 69, for example.  Why?  Because until you reach the endgame, it really doesn’t matter that much.  With your newfound warrior abilities and some practice, at level 60 you can walk into any old-world instance and tank the place in any reasonable mixture of easily-obtained items.  You don’t have to start really pushing the min-max on your gear until you’re closing in on level 80.  That doesn’t mean that you won’t make choices and need to keep your items as updated as possible, but in general, you’re not going to be worrying about squeezing every single point out of what you wear.  At this intermediate stage of your career, the concepts are more important than the actual numbers.

(My suggestion, if you’re a number-cruncher like I am, is to go snag a wicked nice little add-on called Rating Buster.  This slick piece of work will convert ratings to percentages and put them right into your item tooltips.  You can see it in action on most of the tooltip pictures here on Achtung Panzercow.  I find it indispensable when I’ve got to make quick decisions about whether or not I’m going to ask for loot during our raids.)

So let’s talk about what each of these various ratings do, why we need them, and their relative importance for a tank…

Defensive Stats

Dodge. It’s pretty self-explanatory.  You dodge an attack entirely, taking no damage.  Since druids don’t have shields and can’t Parry, this is their primary method of avoidance, but it’s also quite important for warriors.

Parry. You parry the attack entirely, taking no damage.  Note that being parried, however, speeds up the mob’s swing timer so that it can hit you again faster.  Back in Burning Crusade, many tanks facing Prince Malchezzar in Karazhan fell victim to “parry gibbing” during phase 2 of the fight when repeated parries caused him and his axes to hit that much faster and spike a ton of damage. It’s still a good stat to have, though.  (EDIT:  Your Panzercow is a moron.  I got this completely backwards.  When you parry, your swing timer is decreased by up to 40%.  When a mob parries you, their swing timer is decreased.  So tanks got parry-gibbed on Prince Malchezzar not because they were stacking too much parry, but because they didn’t have sufficient expertise, and Malchezzar was parrying them or other melee stacked in front of them. This is one big reason for melee DPS to do their attacking from behind.  Thanks to Zippy in the comments for pointing this out!)

Block. Block is your chance to passively shield-block an attack, removing part of the damage.  Don’t confuse your block rating or block percentage with block value.  Your block percentage is how often you block; your block value is how much you block.

Defense. Defense is an interesting stat.  It does multiple things.  Its primary function is to reduce your chance to be critically hit.  Its secondary function is to provide small increases to dodge, parry, and block per point.  It can be a confusing stat to track, because it’s actually a skill, same as a weapon skill, and thus levels up from 1 to 400 as you level.  Additions to Defense from items use the same sliding-scale rating system as everything else; an item that says it’s got “+40 defense rating” might actually only improve the Defense score on your character sheet by, say, 12 points.  Defense is a vital stat for a tank to stack.  To give you an example of how important, at level 80, in order to reduce your chance to get critted by a raid boss to zero, you need 540 defense skill on your character sheet; that means +683 +689 defense rating from your items, gems, and enchants, assuming your Defense skill is maxed at 400.  That’s a lot. You can, of course, tank with less, but that leaves you risking getting critted for OMGWTF damage and making your healers cry.  (Thanks to ribby47 in the comments for catching my error on the needed +defense rating.)

Stamina. Hey, look, it’s your good old friend stamina.  Stamina is NEVER a bad thing.  Why?  Because you get hit in the face for a living, you doofus, and the bigger that pool of health is, the better.

Agility. Agility is both a defensive and an offensive stat; it provides a tiny increase per point to your dodge and your crit percentages.  That having been said, it’s not worth intentionally stacking it.  The returns are far too limited and you can get more from other things like stamina, or dodge rating.

Offensive Stats

Hit. Hit rating is good for tanks because, let’s face it guys, whiffing does not impress the ladies.  That, and whiffs give you no rage and generate no threat.  Fortunately, figuring out how much +hit you need is pretty easy.  You have a base 5% chance to miss an attack on a mob that’s the same level as you, and that number goes up by 1% for each level the mob is higher than you–since raid bosses are always treated as three levels higher than you, that means you need 8% extra hit at level 80 to never miss a boss.  The tooltip for hit rating tells you what percentage of +hit your current numeric hit rating translates into.  (At level 80, you need 262 hit rating to reach the magic 8%.)  If you’re a Draenei, or have one for a Siamese twin and are always grouped with them, the handy-dandy Heroic Presence racial means you only need 7% hit.  By the way, +hit does not affect whether a mob dodges or parries you.  That’s controlled by…

Expertise. Expertise reduces your chance to be parried or dodged by an opponent.  It’s a good stat to have, because you get no rage (and generate no threat) if you’re parried or dodged.  In order to not be parried or dodged at all, you need enough expertise to get 6% worth; at level 80, that’s 26 expertise points, or about 140 rating.  If you’re a human using maces or swords, or an orc using axes, of course, you need less due to your racial abilities.

Crit. Not so important.  You get +15% bonus crit to many of your best abilities from your talents, so unlike many other classes, you don’t need huge amounts of +crit to still deliver pain.  That having been said, if you’re building a set for daily grinding or other DPS use and not for boss tanking, crit can be useful.  (Full disclosure:  Linedan uses two crit trinkets in his “trash” tanking set for extra damage output.  Handy for powering through dailies or smashing instances he overgears, but when it’s time to head to Ulduar, he puts them away.)

Strength. Still very important, because as you know by now, 1 strength = 2 AP.  More AP directly translates to more damage dealt and more threat generated.  Strength also gives tiny increases to your parry chance, and to your shield block value.

Putting It All Together

So.  Now that you’ve got all this knowledge, how do you actually apply it?  I’m going to talk more about that when we get into endgame gearing for the 70s and 80s, but there’s a few principles that hold true through the 50s and 60s as well.

– Stamina and strength are, and will forever be, your friends.  More of those is always good.

– Defense is probably the best bang-for-the-buck tank stat there is.  It reduces your chance to take painful crits, and boosts all three of your avoidance/mitigation stats (dodge, parry, block).  Even in the 60s, good +defense pieces are worth their weight in gold.

– Stamina, dodge and parry are better if you are building a set designed to keep you alive fighting a big boss, because they remove all damage–if you dodge or parry, you don’t get hit at all, but you gain no rage from it.  Strength, block rating and block value are better if you’re building a set designed to generate high threat and high damage at the expense of taking more damage yourself; you only mitigate part of the incoming damage on a hit, but you get rage, and the extra strength and block value boost your Shield Slam damage and overall threat generated.  You will almost certainly end up building at least two sets of gear, one for avoidance/mitigation and one for threat/damage…but that’s a subject for another post, later on toward endgame.

– Don’t gem for +hit and +expertise if you can possibly avoid it.  The “bang-for-the-buck” on hit and expertise gems isn’t generally worth it.  You can pick up hit and expertise rating off your gear and save the gem slots for stamina, or defense if you’re approaching 80 and need to reach the defense “magic number” of 540.  You can also gem for strength if you need red slots to activate a meta.

Is this a pretty generic post?  Yep.  Because as with a lot of the other topics in SYWTBAPW, I want to give you the information and then let you use your own brainmeats to figure out how to apply it!  There is, for the most part, no One True Way to Tanky Enlightenment.  If you’re smart and take time to understand what the various stats do and how they interrelate, you should be able to see how your gearing choices will affect your abilities going forward.  And honestly, the game really is much more forgiving than it used to be when it comes to warrior itemization…until you get up to level 80 and the endgame.  But that’s a ways off yet.

Next time, we’ll talk about levels 61 through 70 and your fun vacation in scenic, fragmenting Outland.  You’ll come for our friendly fel orcs, but you’ll stay for our disintegrating magic-ravaged deserts!


Of unicorns and other imaginary things

See that right there?  That, my friends, is the Commendation of Kael’thas.  Back during the last part of Burning Crusade, this little trinket was the shizzle if you were a tank that, like me, had no real hope of seeing Sunwell or even much of Black Temple.  +57 stamina?  Awesome.  And look at all that automatic emergency ass-saving dodge!  I literally can’t count how many times this thing kept me alive when things went pear-shaped.

I got that on my first run into heroic Magister’s Terrace, believe it or not.  (Yes, that’s it, drink the tasty Haterade, peeps.)  And it was my constant tanky companion through Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep.  It was awesome to be rocking one of these back then.

When you’re offtanking Ulduar 25-man?  Not.  So.  Freaking.  Much.

My wife knows that if she wants to hear me rant, all she’s got to do is mention the words “tank trinket” and then dive behind the sofa.  Trinkets for raid-geared plate tanks are hard as hell to find.  There’s the Seal of the Pantheon from Halls of Lightning, of course, which is generally considered to be a necessary “entry-level” trinket just because of the massive +65 defense rating (Lin’s still wearing one, because stacking +defense is actually quite effective).  But getting into Naxx, well, there isn’t much.  There’s the Repelling Charge from Thaddius on 10-man…assuming you’re in a 10-man that can get to Thaddius, which I wasn’t for quite a while, and that it drops, which I’ve only seen once in 4+ months.  There’s the Defender’s Code, which is more of a druid trinket with the static +850 armor and the on-demand hefty +dodge, but doesn’t have any +stamina.  The badge trinket, the Valor Medal of the First War…again, all +dodge, and no stamina.

Which is why, weeks into Ulduar 25, with every other piece of Linedan’s gear at ilevel 200 or higher, he was running around with a damned item level 115 level 70 trinket still firmly glued into his first trinket slot.  Because tank trinket upgrades, like unicorns, leprechauns, and politicians that actually want to cut government spending, don’t really exist.  They’re just imaginary figures.

Until last night.

I’d like to thank Captain Crotchpocket, aka Ignis the Furnace Master, for supplying me with this lovely little item, the Heart of Iron.  Yep, that’s right, kids, that’s not a misprint…one hundred and sixty-two points of tasty, tasty stamina.  1717 health off one trinket, and some emergency dodge thrown in. 

Linedan now has almost 32,000 unbuffed health, and with full 25-man raid buffs is up over 41,000, competitive with our other two raid tanks.  And y’know, it still doesn’t feel like enough on some fights.  I’m beginning to wonder if Ulduar is harkening back to the Burning Crusade days where if you were a warrior, there was only one gem you ever put in your gem slots unless you had to activate a meta–stamina uber alles.  It seems that Ulduar is all about BIG NUMBERS…even the trash routinely spanks a pimped-out tank for well into five digits per hit.

Lin’s now one belt away from the Epic achievement.

It felt good to see the Anvil get back out of the ditch and put the hammer down last night.  Loot Leviathan, Razorscale, Ignis, XT, and Kologarn all went down without too much fuss.  Now we’re working on Auriaya, the Crazy Cat Lady.  And all I have to say about that fight is, now I think I know what a yarn ball feels like.


Needz moar skullz, IMO

Every raid, sooner or later, is going to have One of Those Nights.  Ours was last night.  Our MT was sick and our usual pally OT was ret-spec to provide extra DPS, because our #1 DPS fury warrior was out of town for his birthday.  We were down a couple of other regulars and couldn’t find enough subs, so when it came time to see the Four Horsemen, Sapphiron, and KT, we had 23 or 24 people, with a couple of lineup changes as we went along.

It was one of those nights were we were just having weird stuff happen.  I know I was way off peak performance, with several silly deaths and some flub-ups here and there.  In the end, after several wipes, we persevered, and finished clearing Naxxramas.  Dessert was a ragged, but ultimately successful, one-shot of Sarth +1 with 22 people.

After we were done celebrating killing Kel’Thuzad, I walked over into what turned out to be KT’s bathroom.  Having a bright idea, I managed to pry one of the doors off his medicine cabinet and use it as a shield (see above).  Thus, I give you Linedan’s first ilevel 226 epic:

So yes, Linedan is a walking, talking, skull billboard.  And if you think that medicine cabinet door is scary, you should see what his toilet seat lid looked like.  DO NOT WANT.