12 April 2011

Warriors & Paladins: Mastery.

There are a lot of similarities and differences between warriors and paladins. As tanks, we both use shields, both tend to have similar functioning cooldowns, but one uses the powers of the Light and the other does not. The battle between which class is better has been in debate for a long time, and really, I'm not here to add to either argument. I have both classes, and I am better at my warrior than my paladin, thus, I write about my warrior.

Today I'd like to talk about block and mastery, and how it differs between warriors and paladins. It occurred to me that a lot of tanks compare their stats to each other, and will often base their (sometimes massive) e-peens on who has more hit off the attack table. I'm clarifying how both are different, and why comparing oneself to another class is usually futile.

First, we'll take a look at the protection paladin mastery, Divine Bulwark. It's a pretty solid mastery, and one that makes it quite easy to gear up and reach unhittable status. Compare it to the protection warrior mastery, Critical Block. At first glance it seems that warriors got the shaft. Divine Bulwark not only starts at a 6% higher base, but each mastery point gives 1.5 times more block than warriors get! Early in the gearing process, this can seem daunting. Paladins without argument have an easier time launching off. This is one reason why one might have heard that paladins are easy to learn how to tank with. I found this to be the case myself, and I can urge beginning tanks to learn how to tank on a paladin.

However, there is more to Critical Block than what I just mentioned. There is of course the idea of critical blocks. Blocks which will block not for 30% of a hit, but 60%. What happens is, when an attack happens, the normal attack table is checked, and if it is blocked, a separate roll is made that checks to see if it's a normal block or a critical block. Essentially, what this means is, the more warriors stack mastery, the higher chance we have of critically blocking. The changes made a few months back to the ability Shield Block allow us to reach unhittable when it's popped at 77.4% unhittable. If you remember from a few entries ago, unhittable is dodge + parry + block + 5 = 102.4%. What's interesting to note about Shield Block is that it says when you reach 100% the excess is turned into critical block chance. So even at 77.4% unhittable, warriors will still be getting 2.4% extra chance to critical block! This means that with even higher levels of unhittable status, every excess is going to block. For example, at 82.6% unhittable (57.49% of which is block), popping Shield Block for 25% more block would give a total of 107.6% unhittable, which would convert the remaining 7.6% into extra critical block, which stacks on to the 57.49% for a total of 65.09% chance to critical block when I roll a chance to block with Shield Block up.

This is where the warrior mastery excels. Until reaching a point where unhittable is possible, paladins have a distinct advantage, they require less gear to get better attack tables. The warrior's path is a bit more difficult, however, eventually it pays off exponentially. They stack mastery as high as possible and it has no real ceiling on it's usefulness. Even beyond 102.4% unhittable base (which is impossible in this tier), we are still stacking mastery for the extra critical block chance. The only time it becomes useless is if our block chance alone eventually reaches 100%, which is a ceiling Blizzard will never allow us to reach, as it would also make our critical blocks reach 100% as well, allowing us to never take a hit for more than 40% of it's normal damage. That would be too overpowered, by anyone's count.

Coming back to paladins, they do have a ceiling to reach on their mastery. Once they are able to reach 102.4% unhittable, they can stop, as it has no additional benefit to them. If they're able to, they can put some stats into stamina. Anything else but mastery, really. This is perhaps why they are able to accrue block at such a rapid pace compared to warriors. They don't want or need as much. Don't take that the wrong way though. Until they reach that cap, they still want to be stacking mastery as much as they can. We are alike in that regard.

In the end, you can see how mastery is a fantastic stat for both classes. But they use it in very different ways. Before warriors get too full of themselves bragging about how their mastery is "better", keep in mind a lot of people still gauge their tanks by how many hit points they have. The paladin's mastery cap allows him to eventually get some other stat. As warriors, mastery is literally all we want this tier, which will often put high end paladins at a higher hit point total, assuming they are gearing correctly. Make sure your guild and raid know the facts before choosing which tank for which role, and your raid will do a lot better.

Thanks for reading, and if you liked the entry or found it helpful, leave a comment!

30 March 2011

The Ideal Build.

Simply put, the way things are now, there is no "ideal" build. At the moment, I primarily use this build, but I would in no way say it is the "best" build. I use two tank specs for different situations. Neither is the be-all end-all of tanking. Let me explain why there really is no tank spec that is perfect.

First of all, our goals as tanks are different from say DPS. We don't pick our talents based on what does the most damage. Our goal is simply to protect our team mates and to survive. Except for a few essential talents like Bastion of Defense, we are free to pick and choose what we acquire based on our own individual play styles. Using just the bare minimum points to get to the bottom of the tree, I was able to pick up all but four talents. This allows me to keep ten points to do whatever I want with. From the selection, there are quite a few play style choices, but not one of them will make or break your game. Each will help you in some way or another, each will either let you live longer, allow you to keep threat better, allow you to save rage, whatever you so desire or require.

Min-maxers will do everything in their power to tell you what is best. But there really is no best anymore. Need more single target threat? Put some points into Incite and Cruelty. Having problems staying alive during the enrage phase? Put some points into Impending Victory and Blood Craze. This avoidance of a "best" spec is actually liberating, as I've said before in this entry. The lack of having a perfect spec no longer pigeon-holes you into playing a certain way. You can easily customize your talents to your gear or play style without having to go an outside source to see how to talent.

That's really the best part of this new talent system. It used to frustrate me that all the information I needed to play at my best was never actually in game. The recent gutting of class specific quests from the game has further made it harder to learn how to play your class in game. The new talents have really made outside sources less of a necessity. One can surmise what buttons are best to push based on what your talents buff, and you can select your talents based on what you want to do. The inability to delve into the other trees until you've completed your first tree really streamlines things for new players as well. As there will be a lot less confusion and people won't end up part way through every tree. Easy, convenient, with a lot less "junk" talents that bloat the trees.

That said, I can highly recommend my secondary talent build which I linked for starter tanks who want to just have something to put in. Just please don't be misguided into thinking it is the best or the only spec. Learn what's best for you and your gear, adapt to your style and the style of the groups you run with, then change your talents accordingly.

Thanks for reading!

25 March 2011

Why I Stack Mastery.

I've gotten a lot of questions from friends, guildies, even total strangers in game asking me why I stack mastery to the detriment of anything else. The most common points of confusion originate in either a Wrath mentality, where stamina was stacked and nothing else, or from a belief that parry and dodge are better because they allow no damage to come through, rather than merely a 30%-60% reduction like block does.

Let me start by stating what a warrior's mastery does. Critical Block is the name of our mastery, and if you mouse over the link, you'll see that it increases our block. Back in Wrath, block was a pretty miserable stat. There were two ratings one had to increase, block rating, and block value. The former would increase the chance to block, the latter, the amount blocked. Needless to say, to get any sort of interesting value from the stat, one had to stack quite a bit of both, and while effective against trash, really didn't do much against bosses. Block for warriors today is much more interesting. It blocks a solid 30% of the incoming attack, and has a chance to critically block for 60%.

Dodge and Parry

So the question remains, why stack mastery over any other stat? I can explain this simply for each individual stat, and explain why mastery trumps anything else easily. First, consider dodge and parry. Their main advantage over other stats is the fact that if you dodge or parry an attack, you simply get no damage. They used to be somewhat different stats, but these days they're pretty much exactly the same. In fact, that's why they are no good to stack anymore. They're exactly the same, and start to be affected by diminishing returns at the exact same rate. Diminishing returns is simply the tendency of a stat to lower in value the more of it you have. For parry and dodge, it starts almost immediately. This means attempting to stack them, even evenly to get the most out of them, will only yield very small returns. It's like trying to swim upstream, we're not really meant to do it. The advantage mastery has over these two stats is that it suffers from zero diminishing returns. You can stack mastery until your eyes bleed and never start to suffer in stat gain. This is important because the more you increase at least one of these three stats, the more it pushes normal hits off the hit table.

What is the hit table? Simply put, the boss has 102.4% chance to hit you with an attack. It rolls an invisible die and checks it against your dodge, parry, block, natural miss chance, or hit. Critical hits are taken off the table due to the talent Bastion of Defense, which every tank should have. So, the higher your mitigation and avoidance stats are, the better your chances of not being hit by a "hit" attack are. That is to say, a full unmitigated punch to the face. Once your dodge + parry + block + 5 = 102.4% or higher, you are officially "unhittable". Please don't take this to mean you cannot be hit, merely you have pushed the "hit" attack off the attack table of the boss. That 5 by the way indicates any mob's chance to naturally miss you. Also, each skull level mob is considered three levels above you, and that gives them a +0.8% chance to hit you for each level, adding up to 2.4%, which is why it's not an even 100%.

So that alone explains why mastery far outweighs lesser stats like dodge or parry, it's lack of diminishing returns allow you to add up your totals much faster, and hopefully get them into the seventies or eighties. Combine this with Shield Block and you are over unhittable status, and any excess becomes critical block, allowing you to block for 60% reduced damage. Quite a powerful stat!


The next argument that people make is that stamina is still better than mastery, because it allows you to soak up more damage. There are many very simple problems with this logic that are immediately apparent. First of all, stamina is like a bucket that has a hole in it. There is a hypothetical maximum, but one is usually being hit enough that this maximum doesn't really ever get reached. To get your hit points filled up, someone has to heal you. Constantly. The more hit points you have, the more they have to dump their own bucket's water (their mana pool) into yours. Before long, their bucket is dry, and you can only watch the remainder of your water slowly trickle away until you're dead. Healers cannot spam heal and keep tanks topped off through a hundred seventy thousand hit points. Healers who are quitting the game and spending all their time on the forums complaining about how healing isn't fun are usually healing incorrectly, and have tanks who gear incorrectly. Wrath was about healing people through massive damage, Cataclysm is about avoiding that damage in the first place.

Your job is to make the healer's life easier in any way you can. Having a massive health pool is the opposite of that. The stats one sacrifices (like mastery) to gem for more stamina, are not worth the added damage one takes. Which brings up another point. The bosses in Cataclysm don't hurt as hard as Wrath's when done properly. Their normal auto attacks are not in danger of killing you in one shot. So why do you need massive health pools? That was the very reason we stacked stamina in Wrath, was to avoid the insane damage the bosses would deal in a single attack. Then the healers would pop us back up with a massive heal that cost nothing, and we'd be back at it. It's not like that anymore. Damage tends to be a lot more manageable now, and high stamina is not as important as reducing the damage that comes in. Mastery does this better than any other stat. It cuts the damage down in sizable chunks and makes the healers sweat a lot less. They can use their slower heals and not worry I will go down before it goes off.

The last reason I want to see stamina stacking go away is to avoid people's false idea that the tank with the most health is better geared. This is not the case. Unbuffed I have less health than a good number of lesser geared tanks in my guild who stack stamina. But healers don't like to heal them, because they have no mitigation and they end up using their entire mana pools keeping them up. If nothing else, avoid stamina stacking for your healer's sake.

Gemming and Reforging

Now that we've established that mastery is the best stat by quite a lot, the question remains how to gear for it. Enchanting is something I rarely talk about as there is usually one accepted "best" enchant per slot, so that leaves gemming and reforging.

Simply, I gem for pure mastery. I use Fractured Amberjewel and nothing else. I see a lot of tanks either avoiding it as a whole, or using whatever half/half mastery gems they can to get the socket bonus. I can tell you flat out that socket bonuses are rarely if ever worth it. You often end up sacrificing 20 mastery for 30 stamina and 10 dodge, or something equally as poor a trade. If the bonus is 20 mastery or more, then it might be worth it, but so far I haven't seen any bonuses that good.

Reforging is a generally simple process for the warrior tank, and where we actually can get the most out of our stats if we really tweak them. There are two simple rules we follow:

1) If it doesn't have mastery, get mastery. (Hit or expertise are ideal stats to trade)

2) If it does have mastery, reforge to keep your dodge and parry ratings as equal as possible.

That's it. The reason we keep the two equal is because they suffer diminishing returns at the same rate, so you get more bang for your buck if neither is higher than the other. Keep in mind I said dodge and parry rating which means you'll have to mouse over their percentages to see the numbers. Their actual percentages might vary by as much as 1% or so.

Developer's Intentions

The final reason to stack mastery is because it fits the thematic intention of the developers. This is usually a safe stance to take, as usually remaining true to the class will best results. It is only people who try to hack the system or use something beyond the intention of Blizzard that get nerfed eventually and end up crying about it. Starting out on the right foot will keep you honest and allow you to really see what makes the warrior such a great class. Simply looking at the Protection talent tree reveals why mastery is meant to be the best stat. Shield Specialization is proof on its own. It provides a good deal of rage every time you block. The more you block, the more rage you'll accrue, the more threat you'll deal. If anything, this talent makes the stat almost a threat stat. Hold the Line is a talent people point to when justifying why they are stacking parry, but the fact of the matter is, adding 10% to a stat you're not stacking doesn't really do much. The talent, if anything is meant to add even more block when you do parry, not be an excuse to only parry.

I hope this has efficiently explained my reasoning behind stacking mastery to the detriment of everything else. I've been experimenting with it for several weeks now and have had great success. Healers who previously would end up out of mana after a trash pull are now able to keep up with me as I chain pull an instance. It's really quite an effective gearing strategy, and I highly recommend it for your own warrior. Thanks for reading!

01 March 2011

Burnout And The 4.1 Patch.

It's been a while since I've updated. I've been considering not playing anymore. While I decided to give the game another chance, I did take a break for a time in February to prevent burnout. Cataclysm has officially dropped, and been out for some time now. I can see that Vengeance is such a powerful stat that what I said earlier about being hit and expertise capped was wrong. I couldn't have predicted it would be so useful, and until the recent nerfs to Cleave and Heroic Strike, I was frequently in second or third place for dps in my raid due to Vengeance.

Most everything I said in previous entries was for a Wrath world, and sadly, most of it no longer applies. The once great Vigilance has been reduced to a shadow of its former self, and things in general are similar, but different. Cleave and Heroic Strike being off the global cooldown and off the on-next-swing has shaken things up from the previous spamming of those abilities, something I couldn't be happier about. Threat is generally held by liberal use of Rend and Thunder Clap, and intelligent use of priorities. Personally, I really enjoy where tanking has gone in the last few months. But in the first two months of playing the game, I grew quickly bored of the game. I had gone through all the new zones, did all the new quests, leveled two new toons to level sixty to test the revamped zones, ran every dungeon on regular and heroic a hundred times, and quickly ran out of things to do. When I wasn't raiding, which was most of the time, I found myself very bored. I maxed out all my reputations, got all my pre-raid gear, and generally sat around twiddling my thumbs after my profession dailies were done.

I can't say what about the game was boring me. I was just dissatisfied with the content after I had done all there was to do. I didn't feel like farming, leveling again, or doing those dungeons for the two hundredth time. I have the sense that I am in need of a new world to explore. A new game where I can be the wide-eyed noob wondering what every little thing is. A lot of my friends in game have turned to looking at Rift, Tera, or quit in anticipation of Guild Wars 2. I myself have considered strongly quitting Warcraft when Star Wars: The Old Republic starts, unless my situation in game has improved enough. Perhaps my guild is faltering. In the long wait for Cataclysm, most of my guild has stopped playing, and our raid group has suffered. Now that Cataclysm has dropped, the game seems smaller. Staying in Stormwind, taking portals to every new zone, it all creates a feeling of disconnection. I think I liked the previous model of having all the zones connected and having to fly to them. The portals to the new zones make everything seem almost too close. The ultimate in catering to lazy players, who already have 310% flying.

The biggest reason I chose to update today was noticing some significant changes to the protection spec coming in patch 4.1 and wanting to comment on them. The biggest thing I've noticed off the bat is the number of whining pvp prot warriors. First of all, prot was never designed to pvp in the first place. There was no intention for that to occur, and so there really is no basis to start complaining when they take away their usefulness. With that said, let's look at the changes from the perspective of a raiding protection warrior, instead of someone who's trying to eat steak with a spoon.

Pummel is now usable in all stances: This change by itself seems confusing, until you see the next change. Essentially it made little sense to have two different interrupts for the same class that one spec could use and the others couldn't. This just makes warriors have a single interrupt, no matter the spec. Perhaps some warriors were attempting to eke out more interrupts by stance dancing, which seems misguided to me, but whatever the reason, I'm fine with this change. Though I will be sad to have one less ability I use my shield for. As long as this doesn't become a trend, I'm happy.

Shield Bash has been removed from the game: Simply logical removal seeing that we now have Pummel.

All non-damaging interrupts off the global cooldown will now always hit the target: Though a general change, this is one of the best changes I've seen for protection specs yet. Most dps classes stack hit to the point where missing interrupts was not an issue, and healers either don't interrupt or have spirit to hit talent converters already in place. The only issue was tanks. While some tanks will advocate stacking hit and expertise, Vengeance is so high that missing isn't really that big a deal. Literally the only argument left for hit stacking was the interrupt issue. Now, that issue is effectively nullified.

Rallying Cry (new ability) temporarily grants the entire party or raid within 30yds 20% of maximum health for 10 seconds. It has a 3-minute cooldown, and shares a cooldown with Last Stand: Some warriors are complaining that this change will hurt them when they can't pop Last Stand, that ability having 10% more health and lasting 10 seconds longer. Personally, I see it as an opportunity to better protect my raid team, which is the entire reason I'm a protection warrior. In a fight where the tank is taking heavy damage, and the raid is not, I pop Last Stand. If a fight calls for the tank to take steady damage and not do much, but the raid is scrambling to stay alive, I pop Rallying Cry. I cannot tell you how much I would have loved to have Rallying Cry while learning fights such as Professor Putricide or Festergut. If anything, it gives me even more chances to be the hero and save the raid.

Spell Reflection cooldown has been increased to 25 seconds, up from 10: This is where most of the protection pvpers are complaining. They seem to feel that Spell Reflection was their saving grace ability and without it they would die. I propose that if one ability is what's keeping you alive in pvp, you are not as good as you think you are. From a raiding perspective, I am a tad saddened to see such a great and fun ability get nerfed, however, I can see why they did it. I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but the number of reflectable abilities in Cataclysm is huge. In Wrath, you'd be lucky if one in a hundred spells were reflectable in pve. Now, I can reflect almost anything, which is where its problem was. On a ten second cooldown, the ability was spammed, used every time it was available to reflect anything it so happened to hit, just in case. This change puts it back into the category of having to think about when to use it. Which means when we reflect an ability, even a boss' ability, we will have to time it like a proper cooldown, like we time all our cooldowns. If anything, this change allows them to put in more reflectable abilities in the game, as we will have to use our skills and good judgement to gauge when to use it.

Shield Mastery no longer affects the cooldown of Spell Reflection, however, it now allows Shield Block to reduce magic damage as well: Amazing. A-MAZ-ING. This change is the best thing to happen to us since the patch that brought us Warbringer. The change to Spell Reflection is negligible, for the reasons stated above, but now the ability to have our main defensive cooldown reduce magic damage as well is mind-blowing. How much magic damage will be determined, and how it works is still in question, such as whether it uses your block chance to actually block magic or whether it will work on a flat number. Either way, it's a massive upgrade from having no magic defense on the ability at all. This change alone negates any sort of complaining about Spell Reflect I can think of. I would rather reduce all magic incoming for that time period that reflect just one ability that could be really weak. This change alone will help warriors in pvp more than Spell Reflect ever did. And in pve, I couldn't be happier.

Gag Order now only affects Heroic Throw: The final change is the only one I can think that would be considered a definite nerf. The loss of Shield Bash from the talent and not replacing it with Pummel makes silencing a problem for protection warriors. Especially if we need to silence a magic user so we can properly place him. This leaves Heroic Throw to do that, which is still on a 30-second cooldown with this talent. All in all though, not a bad set of changes.

Though not warrior related I am glad to see Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub return as 5-mans. I have run ZG more times than I care to remember and was sad to see it and the Zandalar tribe go. I must admit I had my suspicions that it would return when I took an alt through Stranglethorn Vale after the expansion and saw the awesome storyline Blizzard had laid out there. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss.

For myself, I'm eagerly awaiting patch 4.1, something I haven't been able to say in a while. Oh, and I know it's old news, but I am quite happy with the changes to Inner Rage last patch. I wrote a while back that tanks don't have threat cooldowns. Well now we do! If I feel someone is getting close to my threat, through a serious of crits or good placement, I can pop Inner Rage and spam Heroic Strike so fast that I quickly pop back up on top. I love it!

Thanks for reading!

01 December 2010

Survivability Vs Threat.

The old question of whether to gear for survivability or whether to gear for threat is usually the first a new tank, or any tank entering new content, will ask. Essentially, the only answer that fits all situations is: what do you need? If you're dying a lot, survive more. If threat is a problem, work on that. What is most important for any raider is always to live. If you are dead, you cannot tank, heal, or dps. So for entering new content for the character, survivability is king. That means stamina, armor, dodge, parry, mastery. Luckily for tanks, stamina is becoming more of a threat stat as well due to Vengeance. Obviously it relies on being hit often and hard, but it will help. Only once dying is no longer a constant danger should it occur to a tank to start gearing for threat. Obviously your fellow raiders will be getting gear that noticeably improves their dps and therefore their threat, so a tank, in order to not get yelled at by his fellow raiders, must gear accordingly.

It seems a lot of tanks, warrior and non, have been having trouble with their threat. More so than before the patch, anyway. The solution to threat is part gear adjustment, part personal adjustment, and part happy joyful world where everyone waits until you have threat to dps. The last part isn't going to happen, although a good number of my guild mates imagine a world where all the "gogogogogo" people have quit WoW due to the slower pace of the dungeons, I don't see that occurring at all. People are the way they are, and slowing dungeons down will merely make them want to go even faster so as not to waste any excess time. So the burden lies upon you.

The first step is to find a 2.6 speed weapon. This is because due to the lack of "on-next-swing" attacks, the speed of our weapons no longer matter, and since a good deal of our attacks are reliant on our weapon damage (most importantly for us Rend), a slow hard-hitting weapon is perfect for us. All tank weapons in Cataclysm will be 2.6 speed, but for now, I'd recommend picking up something easy like Wrathful Gladiator's Cleaver since it no longer requires arena points. It's not strictly speaking a tank weapon, but until the expansion is released, it's a solid threat producer.

Second, make sure you are hit and expertise capped. The current expertise cap is 23, but will be 26 again at 85. Reforge if you have to. Nothing will make you lose aggro faster than a missed hit.

Third, I'd like to address a lot of people's concern with the Rend/Thunder Clap combo. It seems from reading various forums that people find it "lackluster", "awkward", or just plain terrible. I've given it a lot of thought and there always seems to be a few things in common with these complaints. A lot of them haven't taken the steps necessary to really take advantage of the ability. Many of them haven't utilized the new 2.6 weapon speed, which changes Rend's damage significantly. Several of them have terrible hit rating. Others complain that as they Charge in, then Rend, they must wait a whole GCD before they can do anything and then they lose aggro. This has a lot to do with the fact that people don't seem to realize that abilities like Cleave are off the GCD. The proper way to pull is more like Charge, Rend/Cleave, Thunder Clap. Obviously starting from dry this isn't always possible, so start out with a shout before the pull. Others complain that even charging in will pull people to the healer immediately. Personally, I think that's a problem with healer aggro having gigantic radii since the patch, but if it's a problem, take Blitz (which any 5-man spec should have) and you'll be stunning three targets as well as gaining a lot of early rage. The point is, the Rend/TC combo is a fantastic ability that gets even better the longer the fight lasts. People just need to learn how it works, rather than try it once without proper preparation and running to the forums to whine. I read one forum goer who complained that he didn't like it because his Rend was in an awkward position and he had to move his hand around oddly to get it. MOVE THE KEYBIND NUMB NUTS!

Survivability is easy and usually just a matter of gear. It will come in time and eventually be a non-issue. But until it is, it is without a doubt the most important thought in a tank's mind. With how the developers have claimed Cataclysm raiding will go, the healers will be under less duress to pop out insane numbers to save you from instant death, which means it may even be something obtainable rather fast. Threat is where the tank's resources will be focused on constantly I believe, and it will be important as you level to 85 and in these remaining few days before the expansion to cultivate good habits and practices. By abandoning Rend/TC, a lot of tanks are getting rid of our only effective method of AOE tanking, something which a lot of warriors have whined incessantly for years for. Blizzard finally gave it to us, and I love it.

On a side note, I am really really disappointed in how my all-time favorite ability Vigilance has been treated this last patch. In 4.0.3a, Blizzard removed the 3% damage reduction from it, and made the ability go from awesome to just another ability. While I will be keeping it for my raiding spec, due to how valuable constant tank taunting can be, as well as the free stacks of Vengeance, it has lost it's heart. The reason Vigilance was so amazing was not because of its 3% damage reduction, but because it had 3% damage reduction and infinite taunts and Vengeance. The combination of all three in a single buff was ridiculously awesome. With only two now, any two, it has died. It's just another ability now. Not bad, but not great either. I don't approve of the tank homogenization. I am a warrior, I don't want to be a paladin 2.0. Well, rather, I don't want paladins to be warriors 2.0.

25 October 2010

Vengeance And Vigilance.

Back in February, I extolled the virtues of Vigilance as the best tanking ability in the game. I spoke about how to apply it to tanks, despite the marginal and wholly unimportant threat loss. Now they've changed it, and guess what? It's even better than it ever was before. Before patch 4.0.1, tanks would more often than not whine incessantly about their infinitesimal threat loss when a warrior tank rightfully applied Vigilance to them, now, all I hear is the "revolutionary idea" to put it on another tank. This idea is far from revolutionary, as I know for a fact I'm not the only tank to apply it to another before the patch. As a result of the patch, Vigilance has gone from completely amazing to mind-bogglingly awesome. Not only does it retain the 3% damage reduction, as well as the infinite Taunt refreshing (the two abilities that made it so great), but it also has forgone the lackluster threat transferring in exchange for a direct attack power increase based on Vengeance as if 20% of the damage was done to you.

What is Vengeance? Essentially, Vengeance is a stacking buff to the damage we deal, based on the damage we receive, capped by a percentage of our stamina. It's a passive ability given to every tank spec, designed to give us increasing threat gains (by way of stronger attacks) the higher tier gear we access. So moving into a higher tier of raiding, we get hit harder, so we deal more damage due to Vengeance. As we start to get gear for that level of raid, we're being hit less hard, however, we have much more stamina, further increasing our maximum Vengeance stacks to compensate. Due to this passive ability, we never have to worry about the dps getting out of hand due to our gear stacking just as well as theirs, a common problem in later Icecrown tier raiding.

So, Vengeance will work quite well for tanks all around due to being scaleable, as well as allowing us to hit surprisingly hard for a tank. The other day while in Icecrown, a warlock forgot to dismiss his pet and jumped down the hole after Blood Queen Lana'thel, and his pet ran to him, dragging the entire procession of trash along one side with him. I did my tankly duties and grabbed the mess up as well as I could, in the process taking massive damage and stacking my Vengeance to insane heights. I easily topped over ten thousand attack power, and because I was able to attack so many targets, I quickly found myself doing over eleven thousand dps! Only our resident star death knight was able to top me. This example just goes to show the amazing power held within Vengeance, which will reach even more astonishing numbers by the time we reach Cataclysm raiding, where tanks will have one hundred thousand to one hundred fifty thousand health!

How does this all relate to Vigilance? Since Vigilance now gives a portion of Vengeance to you, putting it on a dps is almost pointless, unless they're not too bright and tend to pull first most of the time. Putting it on another tank, will copy 20% of that Vengeance to you, giving you a significant advantage over other tanks, especially in a single target situation. You're not stealing their threat, or their Vengeance, so they have nothing to worry about, you're merely boosting your own. This makes tank swap fights even easier, due to your already considerable attack power bonus. The only danger is in accidentally pulling before you're supposed to, which may happen on more than one occasion if one is not careful. Before these changes, I recall doing 10-11k tps, and it was a pretty big deal. After the changes I can easily reach 14-15k tps, and with other bonuses I can occasionally reach beyond 20k tps.

There is only one downside I foresee happening as we enter into Cataclysm, which I was hoping to avoid after the single-mindedness of Wrath's tanking community. That is, with Vengeance capping with your maximum stamina, I can see a lot of tanks heading into the expansion with the idea to stack stamina derpa-derpa. Unfortunately, the way the ability is set up at the moment, there is very little reason not to. In Wrath, I resisted the fad to stack stamina at the expense of other stats like armor, because a healthy balance of stats is always better. Sadly, stamina has now become king and armor has been nerfed to a shadow of its former glory, making single stat stacking a very appealing idea. As I go into the expansion, I will be maintaining that a balance of stats like mastery as well as stamina and armor will be the ideal way to go as a tank. I guess the only way to find out will be to play the game and see.

Thanks for reading, and tune in next entry for: Survivability Vs Threat.

22 October 2010

Hit Rating, Expertise, And You.

When I initially intended to write this entry, hit rating and expertise, while nice, were pretty low on the tank's list of important stat requirements. Most of a tank's attention was toward survival and threat was usually a minor issue. The whole entry was going to be about why not to worry about hit, as so many tanks seemed to do, and to accept it when it was on gear, but to never gear with it in mind. But now that patch 4.0.1 has dropped, the World of Warcraft is a different place, and suddenly hit and expertise are back in a big way.

Threat in all it's forms has changed, and with it so must we. Our AOE capabilities have remained mostly the same, but unfortunately, no one else's has. I personally have found paladins, mages, and death knights to be more troublesome than they used to be, sometimes even in single target situations. My first random when the patch dropped was pretty pathetic. I had thought with the normalization of rage, I perhaps wouldn't need the rage talents. Boy was I wrong. I was completely rage starved the entire run. So I changed my talents to receive more rage when I charged or blocked, and as a whole my starter problems were alleviated. Still though, at times the dps would catch up to me, and I realized I needed more hit rating and expertise. If you can't hit, you can't deal threat. Before, a simple Revenge was sufficient enough threat to overcome most problems, and missing often was rarely a problem, before long, I had so much threat as to be boring. I would throw in random abilities just to mix it up. Now that threat is designed to be something tanks are supposed to work on the entire fight, suddenly hit became so much more important. Not to mention, the basic design philosophy for warrior tanks has changed. I'll illustrate that philosophy below.

Essentially, warrior tanks have now become all about their shield and mitigating damage, rather than avoiding it completely. I've heard of a lot of tanks gemming for dodge and parry, and reforging for them as well. That would be a mistake, since when we avoid an attack, we get a grand total of zero rage from it. With the normalization of rage, we want as much rage as we can possibly get, and avoidance will simply hurt that. No rage means no threat. No threat means everyone dies.

Our mastery stat is Critical Block, which means the more mastery we stack, the more we block. Mastery is designed to be a stackable and desirable stat from 80-85, so we can see how our design is being pushed toward block. Now a lot of tanks may reject that logic right offhand because block has been a fantastically sucky stat for the last several years. However in patch 4.0.1 it's received a massive overhaul, and now mitigates a flat 30% of the incoming damage one receives, with 60% being reduced with a critical block. This is what warrior tanks are all about now. In Cataclysm, our health pools will be ridiculous, 150,000+ and that's just to start the expansion, and enemies will be hitting less hard then they currently do (relatively). What does that mean? Less spike damage, and therefore, less reliance on dodge and avoidance as a whole. Mitigation of the incoming damage will be how to survive, and the best way to get rage in this world will be through one of the best new talents we have available. Shield Specialization. We stack block, we live longer, we get Shield Specialization, we get massive rage the more we block. Block block block. Mastery mastery mastery. It may seem like we take more damage now, and for a time, we will. Because Wrath of the Lich King raiding isn't built around the idea of tanking like that. Entering Cataclysm will be where the changes really start to gel.

Leave avoidance to the bears, leave parry to the death knights, and revel in the glory of your shield! Remember the best reason to be a warrior, an unstoppable fighting machine that brings the battle to the enemy, charging in and shouting, not dealing with sissy dodges when a simple block will do. Bask in the rage that blocking will pour upon you. With that rage, pummel your enemies in the face and for crying out loud don't miss!

The first problem you must fix is to never waste the rage you have, and to get more expertise and hit. Expertise first, as it's still better than hit. Reforge your armor to mastery, and dump all that dodge and parry, with the Icecrown debuff gone, you won't miss it anyway. With the loss of Damage Shield I even put Titanium Shield Spike back on my shield to further aid my threat gain on trash. These simple changes made sure I was always on top of my threat, and never lacking for rage.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned next entry for: Vengeance And Vigilance.