Category Archives: Tanking

Stamina for Some, Miniature American Flags for Others

There’s quite a bit of discussion going around this tier, on private forums and public forums and blogs and all that sort of thing, about Stamina. Paladins don’t really know where to go after getting blockcapped and some are going there, Warriors don’t really know where to go after getting blockcapped and some are going there, and it’s even an interesting stat for the other two tanks too. We all need Stam to live. Gemming Stam is an idea that does come up from time to time, even on the serious business-est of private forums.

This isn’t a new thing

Some serious, top-end tanks have been heavily stamina-biased, and successful with it, all the way back to December. Paragon’s druid is the example most people use, but there’s lots of others. Even though people have been saying Stamina shouldn’t be stacked for pretty much all of Cataclysm, there are some tanks of all classes (yes, all four, even Paladins) that have been doing it and still stick by full-Stamina builds in heroic raids.

When the first guilds started cleaving their way through heroic tier 11, they found that tank damage was pretty high. Magmaw hit quite hard, but with his slow swing timer it wasn’t really a problem. Chimaeron was similar, but Chim didn’t really have much burst. Maloriak had heavy spellburst, but if you were doing Heroic-25 you could load your tank up with plenty of CDs and externals and absorbs to get away with not having a lot of Stam. Once guilds got through the early bosses, they found ones beyond that where the tank damage gets absolutely frightening, where tanks getting straight up bursted became a real possibility. Heroic Cho, Nef, Sinestra, and Al’akir with a certain strat all have tremendous tank burst, often with high raid damage at the same time. When you have very solid, reliable (sometimes infinite) tank healing, survival on those fights can become less about reducing damage and more about making it through bad bursts of damage. Welcome back to Wrath.

Don’t try this at home

Going heavy Stam is not in itself a bad idea. It has a legitimate use and that use continues to be valid in heroic t12. It’s important, however, to understand the point where enough Stamina is enough. For some tanks in some situations that point is “never”, but those situations are pretty rare. Maybe you’re a druid who wants to go full Stam. Maybe you’re a paladin or warrior who wants to blockcap first, then go Stam. Maybe you don’t want Stam at all, or maybe you’d rather have Stam than blockcap. All of these have specific situations where they’re valid and situations where they aren’t ideal. Doing your homework to figure out what works for what kind of content you tank is important.

My raid is different from yours

Different fights are different. Some of them call for more Stamina than others. The bigger difference, however, is your raid setting. If you’re like me and raid the more popular format (10-mans), your needs are going to be different from someone who tanks 25s. Heroic versions of both raid sizes call for more Stamina than normal modes, but the most important difference between the raid sizes is your healing throughput. I don’t have 6 healers watching my raid, with 2-3 healers assigned to watching me at all times. Bosses typically hit about as hard on Heroic-10 as they do on Normal-25, but 10-man raiders have to find a way to make it work with half (or less) as much healing. That solid, super-reliable tank healing just doesn’t exist on 10, and as a result we have to gear a little differently.

That said, Heroic-25 tanking brings with it slightly different challenges than tanking Heroic-10s. When encounters are balanced around the idea that you’re going to have 2-3 healers on you at all times, damage gets pretty fierce. Getting bursted from full-to-dead in just a few seconds, even outside of high-damage phases where you’d cooldown appropriately, becomes a much more common possibility. Adding Stamina becomes quite useful, to the point where some serious tanks of all stripes go full Stam, shouldering the burden of taking more total damage on their healers in favor of being able to survive the baddest spikes around.

I can’t do that. Fortunately Heroic-10s don’t quite hit that hard, even though they do hit plenty hard when you consider that I only have 1 healer on me, and it’s rare that I have more than that. Heroic Baleroc Decimation? I have one healer. Heroic Rhyo? One healer. Sinestra p3, even after Red wears off? One healer. Heroic Chogall? Not only do I only have one healer, that healer also has to heal the raid at the same time. Reducing the damage I take and eliminating spikes becomes a lot more important. I can still get bursted from full-to-dead, if the RNG goes catastrophically wrong or I make a mistake, but it’s not quite as likely. At the same time, if I mana-sponge and take an unreasonably large amount of total damage, I’m going to die that way too. My healer’s going to fall behind or he’s going to just flat out oom, even if that large amount of total damage is perfectly smooth.

Be flexible

For Heroic-25, Method advocates having one tank go full Stamina (theirs is a paladin, Paragon’s is a druid) and one tank go full damage reduction (theirs is a warrior, Paragon’s is a paladin). That works pretty well most of the time for the content those kind of guilds face, and when it didn’t work for Paragon on a boss in tier 11, the fact that they have a sizeable bench of raid-ready alts made up the difference. Most guilds don’t have a bench even a tenth as deep as Paragon, if they even have a bench at all. Getting swapped out is no fun anyway, and you can avoid the need for a bench tank by gauging how much Stamina you want for the encounters you fight, and then being able to switch to that amount when you need to. Trinkets are good for this, if you don’t want to carry swap-gear or you raid 10-mans and the slower gearing means you don’t have swap-gear available.

Being able to shift the amount of Stamina you have based on the fight is quite useful. It takes a little bit of experience tanking though to be able to recognize where you want more Stam and where you don’t. Even if you don’t want more Stam, now that we’re in the second tier of the expansion there’s another wealth of items out there to tank with, so gear-swapping for specific fights in this tier is a fair bit more common. Last tier we only had 346/359/372 items to choose from, this tier we’ve got 353/359/372/378/379/384/391, and in Paragon’s case that cool 346 trinket. More items to choose from naturally means you can optimize differently for specific fights, whereas last tier the one set of gear you put together was largely it. I don’t use a lot of Stamina very often when I tank these days, but I still do make a lot of adjustments to my gear in between bosses. These adjustments generally help deal with the challenges of Heroic Firelands, and helps my raid move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards progression.

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Warriors Rule II: Rule Harder

It’s been a while since my last post, which was about how freakin’ awesome prot warriors are. This one’s going to be about how awesome prot warriors are again, because we’re that good right now. Yes. We are. We’re not as OP in Firelands as one specific, non-tank spec happens to be, but wooo-ooah we’re in a good place. Warriors were fantastic tanks in tier 11. Warriors are even better in tier 12. My most common catchphrase of “well done, friends” is seriously, someday going to be overtaken by the battlecry “Warriors Rule” at this rate. There is literally no stopping me in Heroic Firelands right now.

My last post listed a lot of special tricks Warriors can pull off. We can do pretty much everything and it’s pretty sweet. We’re the only tank class in the game that has the tools to pull off both sides of the raid tanking game without being at a disadvantage in either one. We went from having the best block in t11 to having the best block in t12. We went from being the tanks with the worst singletarget threat to unstoppable hatchling murdering machines, without losing our AE threat advantage, thanks to cool buffs in 4.2. I broke 100k burst tps on Heroic Staghelm-10 tonight. In heroic tier 11 I’d top out at about 40k, and I’d consider that pretty amazing. I went from being the guy who takes the least damage but oh, our paladin tank should open to get a threat lead, to being the guy who takes the least damage and cannot be outthreated by dps, at the same time. My one weakness is no more. Warriors rule.

I promise the next post won’t be about Warriors Rule, unless we get buffed again, which could very well be possible! I certainly didn’t expect to get buffed in 4.2.

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Warriors Rule

In addition to talking on my blog about raiding, I often talk with my friends about raiding. So it happened last week that I was talking with my friend Millya about raid tanking. She mentioned that her guild has been doing pretty well (and they are, grats on 7/13), but she added the caveat “for having a warrior tank.”

Those are fightin’ words.

I reacted about as well as one could expect, for someone who plays the best class in the game and was just told Your Class Sucks. If Millya played a tank seriously and was passionate about a tank class, this could’ve ended bad. Instead it was mostly just me rattling on about how much Warriors rule. I could rattle on for a long time about just how much warriors rule (and I probably will later in this post), but it really boils down to one sentence – one sentence that should strike literal fear in the hearts of mortals and raid bosses everywhere.

We’re a block tank with DK cooldowns. How in the goddamn hell do you stop that?

It gets better (here comes the rattling). Warrior block is the best block. Warrior Shield Wall is the best Shield Wall. We can fly. We can chilblains. We have an external. We have a raid cooldown. We have two different Paladin Hands. We can block-cap on demand. We have lots of weird, goofball tricks that end up being pretty awesome (Charge on Alakir, Warrior leap on Cho’gall, Spell Reflect on Cho’gall before they broke it, Chilblains on Maloriak, Shockwave on Nefarian, Pain Suppression on Tron Council, as well as even more secret tricks). I got so much utility the Electric Company is giving out free shades. Yeah.

Warriors didn’t always have it so good. I was around for the Dark Ages of warrior tanking, both the first one in late BC where Warriors were subpar for 5-mans, as well as the second, far worse one during Ulduar, where you brought as many Death Knights as you could, and if you wanted to kill certain hardmodes you were actually sabotaging your chances by bringing a Warrior tank. Those were bad times. Tier 11 is not bad times. Warriors are legit tanks, all tanks are legit tanks, and while I don’t agree that all tanks are equal, there is no clearcut “worst tank” like there usually is every tier (and Warriors were during tiers 7/8). Paladins held the crown of “best tank” for months early on, but now that more than 3 specs in the game have raid cooldowns, they aren’t as required as they used to be. The idea that Warriors are weak though, compared to how weak we used to be? No way.

Like every tank though, Warriors have weaknesses. I’m not going to go into them all in a post called Warriors Rule, but I will say that our biggest weakness is single target threat. We have the lowest single threat and it’s really noticeable. All things considered, when your class’ biggest weakness has to do with threat, you’re in a pretty good place. I’ve tanked everything in the game on Heroic-10, and there is no fight where I feel weak. What I feel is that warriors rule, and I’ve said this so often to my guild that it’s been a catchphrase since way before I ever thought of posting this.

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Is the 4.2 Battle Shout nerf intentional?

Occasionally, a tanking issue comes up that I feel like I have to speak out about. I did it when Rallying Cry was on the 4.1 PTR, and Rallying Cry ended up getting changed. Now there’s an issue on the 4.2 PTR that I’m speaking out about, because one of the changes to plate tank gearing is also going to affect an important raid buff.

This is the change –

Death knights, paladins, and warriors no longer receive any bonus to their chance to dodge from Agility. Their base chance to dodge is now a fixed 5%.

 

Death knights, paladins, and warriors now receive 27% of their Strength bonuses as parry rating, up from 25%. This conversion still only applies to Strength above and beyond their base Strength.

The problem that Blizzard is trying to solve is that some plate tanks have been using a piece or two of Agility gear, in slots where there isn’t really a good Mastery alternative or where there isn’t a 372 tanking item at all. Blizzard does not want plate tanks to use Agility gear and I’m fine with that. What I think they overlooked though, is the fact that plate tanks get a large chunk of Agility from a legitimate source – Battle Shout – and we’re going to be losing the dodge from it. That’s a substantial nerf. Here’s what I posted (it’s long) –

I want to preface this by saying that I am in complete agreement with the idea that plate tanks should not desire Agility on actual gear. I think it was unfortunate that that’s what some top-end tanks did this tier, even though it had more to do with the lack of 372 tanking itemization than it had to do with Agility being good.

 

There’s a significant side effect of the Agility change for plate tanks, however, and even though it’s possible that the increase in Parry from Strength (to 27%) was intended to offset the damage, this will remain a substantial nerf as-is.

 

In Cataclysm, Battle Shout (Horn of Winter, Strength of Earth Totem) went from being a completely terrible buff that no one cared about, to a very significant buff for both tanks and dps. Currently on Live, it provides a variable buff of about 1.7 to 2.5 percent avoidance, depending on diminishing returns and the class of the tank. It is one of the rare few buffs that actually matter to tanks, and it is nice having a buff from someone else actually be important (the only other external buff that substantially reduces physical damage taken is Inspiration/AF).

 

The 4.2 change, while serving the legitimate purpose of making Agility gear undesirable to plate tanks, also brings with it a significant nerf – plate tanks will be losing the dodge portion of Battle Shout avoidance. The harm that this nerf will cause will vary – Druids will be completely unscathed, Paladins will be hit the worst since Paladins currently get more benefit from Agi than other tanks. In addition, lesser-geared and newly-85 tanks will be hurt moreso than high-end tanks due to Battle Shout being a flat buff.

 

I realize that not everyone might understand just how important Cataclysm Battle Shout is to a tank. So here are some numbers –

 

My warrior (368 equipped, 13/13H and fully heroic raid geared)
– 33.43% total avoidance unbuffed, 35.25% with Battle Shout + Mark, a gain of 1.82% (1.02% dodge, 0.80% parry)

 

My druid (353 equipped, does not raid)
– 40.17% total avoidance unbuffed, 42.42% with Battle Shout + Mark, a gain of 2.25% (2.25% dodge)

 

My paladin (341 equipped, new 85)
– 26.84% total avoidance unbuffed, 29.27% with Battle Shout + Mark, a gain of 2.43% (1.56% dodge, 0.87% parry)

 

The current version of Battle Shout gives a roughly equal amount of avoidance to all three tanks once diminishing returns are accounted for. Unfortunately, the 4.2 change will take away the dodge contributions of Battle Shout from the Warrior and Paladin, making it a 0.80% and 0.87% avoidance buff instead of 1.82% and 2.43% respectively. At the same time, the druid continues to retain a full 2.25% avoidance. The 4.2 patch is already providing a fairly-large, separate buff to Druid tanking, as well as a nerf to Paladin tanking, so I don’t feel like a disparity in avoidance from buffs is warranted on top of that.

 

The change in Parry from Strength does very little to make up for this. It hurts lesser-geared tanks progressively worse, as they don’t have gigantic amounts of Strength to make up for such a large loss. My Paladin stands to gain 53 Parry rating, a paltry 0.20% avoidance. My heroic raid-geared Warrior will gain 81 Parry rating, about 0.32% avoidance. Both of them lose a considerable sum of avoidance, while the Druid loses nothing. While I understand and respect that different tanks are different (and should have differing amounts of total avoidance), I don’t feel like Battle Shout of all things is the place to differentiate them. There currently isn’t a disparity, so I don’t feel like there suddenly should be one.

 

There are several ways to solve this disparity, while still keeping the desired outcome of Agility gear being undesirable to plate tanks. One method is to make it so that Agility from sources that are not gear (Battle Shout, Mark, flasks, Tol’vir pots) will still contribute to dodge for plate tanks. This seems like it might be complicated and difficult to hotfix in time for 4.2, though that doesn’t rule it out as a future solution. Another method is to give Battle Shout/Horn of Winter/Strength of Earth Totem a flat, undiminished 1% parry chance, to make up for the avoidance that plate tanks are going to be lacking. There is a precedent for this (Rune of Swordshattering), and the only side effect of this change is a meaningless, very minor avoidance buff for rogues, hunters, and enhancement shaman. Such a change would mean Battle Shout gives my Warrior, Druid, and Paladin tanks 1.80%, 2.25%, and 1.87% avoidance respectively (instead of 1.82%, 2.25%, 2.43%), which combined with the Parry conversion change would mean the Paladin only loses a tiny sliver of avoidance, instead of a very harsh drop. It doesn’t quite eliminate the disparity between Druids and non-Druids at the new-85 level, but it does reduce it to the point where it won’t be a big, confusing hole. This change seems like it might be easier to hotfix in before 4.2, to do something about the problem before it occurs.

 

It’s my hope that something is done about this before 4.2 actually drops. Battle Shout is an excellent buff for tanks, and I don’t feel like plate tanks should be punished this severely just because a few top-end tanks decided to go for Agility gear. Thank you.

Even though I agree that plate tanks shouldn’t be encouraged to use Agility gear, it’s my opinion that the nerf is being done too broadly, and that Blizzard didn’t even consider the effect this would have on Battle Shout and total avoidance in general. Rallying Cry ended up getting changed after I posted a big thread about it, maybe this will too.

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