I want to preface this with the fact that this is my own opinion, and as such you should take it with a grain of salt. If you want numbers, theory, and proof, please go to maintankadin, as Theck, Digren, and Ratanna have done some great work providing information for you.
I wanted to take some time to discuss gearing, our philosophies on gemming and my thoughts on why stacking stamina is not the only way to go. As I talk to the other protection paladins on my server, as well as the maintankadin community, there has been a growing trend of stacking stamina over all other things. If I take a look at most of the protection pallies on my server, there is a noticeable trend of paladins that are around 40k hp, with low armor, low avoidance and over all diminished statistics. These inadequacies are all in the name of stacking stamina. What follows is purely my opinions on gearing, gemming and enchanting philosophies and how they apply to the holistic view of progression tanking in Trial of the Grand Crusader. I believe that it is important to specify what raid one will be facing in order to understand my point of view.
The pros of Stacking Stamina
The main justification that stamina is king, is because it is pure effective health, or the ability to survive as long as possible with out getting a heal. It also increases the range of our recently nerfed ardent defender, meaning that the higher the health pool, the higher the threshold of ardent defender, and in turn the higher the threshold of taking 20% less damage. The combination of having a very large health pool and the ardent defender skill means that you have more chance to survive significant incoming damage from a boss or add. This is obviously paramount for any tank to consider, as it is our main job aside from threat. When stacking stamina, you can create a very very large cushion of life between full health and death, which gives you a better chance of survival.
When you take into consideration the types of fights that we are facing in the trial of the grand crusader, you have to understand that there are different types of damage that you are taking, and then plan accordingly. Stamina gives you the ability to tank an encounter with out fully understanding the mechanics and how you should use your cool downs, trinkets, pots, etc against them. If you have 55k buffed hp, then you will be more prepared to survive an incoming burst of damage than if you had 48k.
Where I see stacking becoming a disadvantage
So you have a choice when it comes to gemming and enchanting and you select the stamina route. You forsake all other attributes and drop a solid majestic zicron in every socket you have save one, you enchant your gear with health to chest, stam to shield, and you get the gladiator’s shoulder enchant. You are a beast, and you are proud to say that you have a significant health pool. The thing that you have forgotten is that you are one cog in a machine, and that machine runs on mana (the healer in me is coming out). By stacking stamina you have neglected avoidance, armor, and threat, and as a result you have become less of a tank. The only reason you should be stacking pure stamina is if YOU are the one who is dying first.
I am more than willing to concede that if a tank is dying because they can not take the hits, then they have to do something about their health pool and their avoidance. However, it has been my experience over the past few months that there is not a single boss in the Trial of the Grand Crusade that I have faced that can kill me first. What I mean by that is that the reason that my guild wipes is not because the tank died.
If you are not dying first, and your survival is not the reason that your guild is wiping on an attempt, then you are probably consuming more mana than you should be if you are gearing for pure stamina. From my perspective, blizzard has found a new formula when it comes to creating encounters and making them challenging: Throw out more raid damage. If you take a look at the trends that have been established for boss fights, you will see that AoE damage is king in this expansion, and it is the true test of a healing teams effectiveness. Gormok and Icehowl have stomps, Dreadscale has his burning bile, Jaraxxus has his infernals, the faction champions have their everything, the twins have their floating orbs, and anub has his locus swarm. All of the encounters that you will face in trial of the crusader and grand crusader are a test of your healers ability to keep the raid alive.
When you compare this to the tests on the tank, it becomes clear that mitigation, avoidance and in general taking less damage as a tank help support this by letting the healers focus on the raid, their own survival, and not staring at your health bar, spamming their heals like you are tanking brutallus.
The Benefits Avoidance and Mitigation
The way I see it, increasing your ability to completely avoid an attack, and your ability to mitigate damage before it even nocks your health bar down is something that is much more important as long as you know you can survive. It is that fine line that you must walk, understanding that you need the health pool to survive, but you also want to eliminate as much incoming damage as possible. By embracing the benefits of defense, dodge, parry, and armor, you will find that you take less damage and as a result your encounters go smoother. In other words, the less healing you need, the more the raid can get, and in the current state of blizzards boss encounters, that is an important thing.
I prefer the hybrid gems to stamina gems based on their increased health pool in combination with the added bonus of avoidance and mitigation. The combination of stamina and defense or agility gives you a potent increase in all around statistics. Your health pool grows with every gem you socket, however you also gain avoidance and mitigation through the defense and agility that you are gemming. Similarly, when it comes to enchants, I prefer defense and agility enchants to stamina. I like to weigh out the itemization points of an enchant and understand where I am going to get the most bang for my buck, so to speak. After approaching my gearing from a holistic point of view, I feel that I have the slight advantage over others. When I compare myself to tanks that have similar gear, I notice a trend in our differences. They have a about 2-3k more health than I do at the cost of 4-5% avoidance and close to 1000 armor. For me that is more than enough of a trade off to be the guy with only 38k hp.
I will be honest with you, I’m not Theck, in fact I am not even a math guy at all, I am just a scientist, and I like my trial and error, so I do not have any fancy graphs or equations that show that avoidance and armor are as good as 3k more stamina. All I have is my opinion, however in the end, my health pool has yet to be the cause of a wipe, and I have received a significant amount of feed back that I am one of the easiest tanks to heal from every one of my guilds healers. The way that you gear your toon is a choice that each person has to make, and I have made mine and wanted to share it with you.
The one Caveat to this train of thought
I am a very verbal supporter of the concept of gear sets. I talk about it a lot in this blog, and I have a guide on Maintankadin about it. There are certain times when my holistic gear itemization goes out the window, and that is when I am assembling my effective health gear set. To the extent that I can, with the gear that I have, my effective health set is itemized for pure effective health, and as such has quite a bit more stamina on it, both from gems and enchants, which boosts my health by nearly 4k and my armor by 2k at the expense of avoidance. The concept of that set negates the necessity for a holistic gem and enchant application. Remember, each set has a purpose, and a place of use. Selecting the correct set for the encounter will ensure that you put your best foot forward.