Stamina versus Balance, the debate rages on

Faction Champions Down!

Once again, after one night of wiping and perfecting our strategies, we go back into the Trial of the Grand Crusade and one shot the next boss. After assigning out all of our crowd controls, interrupts, and dps order, we pulled with double hungering colds, and a bubble divine sac. One by one, the champs dropped like flies and we only had one person die the entire encounter, twice LOL. Once again, the loot gods were not smiling on the tanks, and we did not get a trinket or a belt for our sets. Oh well, next week.

More on Stamina versus the rest…

On to the meat and potatoes of what I want to talk about today. In response to some of the comments that have been posted on Rhidach’s post about the Onyxia trinket, I wanted to go into a bit more depth on my philosophy of Stamina vs. anything else. I know that I will more than likely disagree with the vast majority of the paladin community, and the tanking community as a whole, however I feel that my perspective warrants a bit more discussion. The concept of stamina stacking is a very simple one to understand, the more health you have the more damage you can take. But the real question is, why take the damage if you do not have to. I will concede that there are certain situations when having the largest health pool is an advantage, but in my opinion, these situations are few and far between.

Since most of us are pushing trial of the grand crusade in one form or another, I will make use of the encounter mechanics to show you my point of view. There are two fights in the entire instance where more stamina may save your life (if we are forsaking armor), and those are Icehowl’s Ferocious Butt, and Anub’arak’s Freezing Slash. These are two attacks where there is nothing that you can do to avoid the damage, and you will be taking all of it right on the chin. The only thing that will save you here is Stamina and Armor. To me, this is where the effects of stacking stamina are beneficial, and it is also where the benefit ends. For all other mechanics that we encounter as a result of the Trial of the Grand Crusader, there are better ways to survive as a tank. Since I have been engaged in this debate for a long time now, and have tried my best to articulate my point of view in many different ways, I am going to lean on a respected tankadin to explain the point at which stamina is no longer the best stat (in my opinion):

I think the “EH until AD ain’t proccin'” rule of thumb is probably a good one for tanks that aren’t sure where they fit in the progression ladder. – Theck

Now whether his statement was meant to align with my gearing philosophies or not, I do believe that this statement is really the heart and soul of why I chose to balance my gear sets, stats, and abilities.

Ardent Defender’s Guardian Spirit and your Stamina

The way that I see it, If you have had the experience with tanking a good amount of Trial of the Grand Crusade, you are well aware of the amount of incoming damage that you are going to take, and you have a plan as a result. When I tank the Hard Modes, I have an effective health set that I wear. This set has dual stamina trinkets, however, it is not comprised of pure stamina gems. I feel that the balance of stats is much more valuable. In my experience with tanking Northrend Beasts, Lord Jaraxxus, and Twins, I have yet to have AD proc during the fight unless it was already called a wipe. The one exception to this is also the reason that we have AD. I have on multiple occasions survived the enrage when icehowl hits someone because of Ardent Defender, quick CDs and long strings of avoidance.

With that being said, what is the true benefit of having more stamina if you are not dropping down into the 30% range, let alone activating the GS life saver that is built into AD. The answer is not much. The largest argument of stacking stamina in my eyes is to extend the range of ardent defender by increasing the amount of health you have at 35%. Beyond this, if you are not dying, and you are not dipping into that 35% range regularly, there is no benefit. At this point, you are willingly taking more damage than you have to. If you alter your gearing philosophy to allow for the inclusion of avoidance and mitigation statistics once you have reached a health pool that safely keeps you alive, you are purely decreasing the amount of damage you take. Sure you can say that by increasing the range of your ardent defender, you increase your mitigation considerably, however if you are not regularly dipping down into the 30% range, then you are not utilizing the skill and your justifications are flawed.

The benefits of Armor and Avoidance

When it comes down to it, if your healers are doing their job, you should rarely have to use your Ardent Defender, and as such, more stamina is really not worth anything to you from a mitigation stand point. At this point, you can start leaning towards avoidance and armor to increase your survival, and your ability to take damage. Really, regardless of the justification that “healers have infinite mana right now” they still have a finite amount of healing based off of global cool downs. There is a point at which a decision has to be made by a healer, heal the tank or heal the guy that got X debuf as a result of the current encounter. If you are taking less damage because you are better at mitigating and avoiding damage, then you are an easier decision. The pure stamina tank will be taking more damage regardless of the amount of stamina he has, and as a result will require more heals. You will still live a long time, and be able to take a lot of hits, but you will be consuming more of your healers global cool downs.

In the times where blizzard thinks that making encounters challenging means making the raid and the tanks take LOTS of damage and nothing more, you have to see healers global cool downs as a commodity that is not to be squandered. The less healing you take the more the raid can receive, and as a result, the longer your raid will survive. As always, in the end your gemming, enchanting, and gearing philosophies are all opinions and are part of each tanks unique situation, however, I think that as a whole, the tanking community has lost sight of one of their most important duties to their raid and their guild. Each tank has a duty to be the one that takes the damage for the raid, however they also need to understand that less damage is always better.


3 Responses to “Stamina versus Balance, the debate rages on”

  1. September 29, 2009 at 11:01 am

    I think one of the reasons stam is king is because it’s a known quantity, there’s a certainty behind it. With avoidance you could gem and enchant and gear to have 70% avoidance (just to make up a number), but if the RNG decides that you’re going to take the next six hits in a row you’d be better off being able to eat those six hits and not die.

    I applaud your fight, and I wish it were different, but I think right now we’re stuck in a design rut where stamina is regrettably the best option and we have to act accordingly.

  2. 2 Wrathy
    September 29, 2009 at 11:13 am

    I agree that there is a certain amount of RNG involved that sucks, and in the end each tank has to decide on their own, I think the one thing I want to provide to the tankadin community is that you CAN gear other ways. I have tanked every fight in the game under current progression that requires an effective health set, save MTing Anub 25 HM, and survived every time.

    In the end though, I see where stamina is appealing, and why people gem and enchant for it. The other thing that I think is misleading in my posts is that I still rock 40k hp unbuffed in my EH set, it’s not like I’m a pure avoidance tank at 34k, I just sacrifice the extra 4k to put me at the top of the Pally community for some more avoidance and armor.

  3. September 29, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Congratulations on FC. Good luck with the Twins.

    Now, onwards to our ongoing debate. Having read the comments on Rhidach’s post, in order to familiarize myself with the debate, I too will be picking up that trinket and giving it a valuable spot in my bags, probably never to be equipped in a raid setting, except possibly at Anub in ye olde gimmick block set. It’s a great avoidance trinket, but the truth is that the bar none cheapest place to pick up stamina is in the trinkets, cheaper than health to chest, cheaper than skipping any socket bonuses. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever find myself using avoidance trinkets, it’s more likely that I’d trade stamina for threat.

    Allow me, perhaps, to expand on my perspective a little bit more, though. At this point, I’m not longer building my gearset towards current content. Aside from Anub (which I don’t MT, and would stack EH for if I did), all of the other fights are comfortably on farm. The delta between 67% raidbuffed avoidance and 70% raidbuffed avoidance will not make or break any current content attempt, ever. You can’t ever guarantee that it did anything, it’s well within the RNG for the small sample size of one given fight. My life does not currently depend on avoiding an extra hit. The extra stam vs. the extra avoidance is totally immaterial, neither one influences my survival in any significant way on current content. What I AM building my gearset for, and digging through parses for, is the next tier of content. And starting out in Icecrown blind, I’ll be wearing pure EH, with an emphasis on stamina. I do regem old EH pieces for more avoidance, just in case we find an avoidance-reward fight, and if we farm T9 for long enough, I’ll be grabbing duplicate pieces to build avoidance sets with. If current design methodology holds, I’ll never use them. But, hey, I’m glad I kept all that old T7 BV/BR gear, that was kind of a surprise.

    So, the argument for stamina isn’t a “farm content” argument, and it’s not really a “well understood content” argument, either. It has nothing to do with AD range, or bigger GS heals. It has to do with extending the length of learning attempts on content whose mechanics aren’t well understood, before the bossmods tell you when the burst is coming. When you don’t know what’s coming, the only thing you can rely on is EH. Avoidance might be optimal for a given fight. But the last avoidance-reward fight was Brutallus, and that was in a different era. In the modern era, with short-time cooldowns, avoidance DR, and available raid-cooldowns, Brutallus would be an EH-reward fight. You wouldn’t gamble on avoiding, you’ld guarantee survival. So, the modern era (including the current backdrop of avoidance-heavy gear, it’s part of the equation), and past history of boss-fight design all imply that going in blind, max EH maximizes your chances of success.

    Another part of the avoidance vs. stamina argument is about reducing mana expenditure from healers. The modern era for healers has nearly unlimited throughput and mana. When a holy paladin can put out on the order of 12000 raw healing per second, and can do it forever with the boomkin’s innervate, he’s not cancel-casting, and he’s not micromanaging his mana by studying WWS to check out his overheal and pick an appropriate spell rank, just bombing the big stuff at an almost unfair 1.2 seconds per holy light, it doesn’t matter if you avoid a hit or not. Your healing plan is based on 3-4 hit strings. Remember that the background here isn’t 0% avoidance vs. 70%, it’s 67% vs. 70%. Sure, that’s 10% reduction in incoming damage, but it’s a 0% reduction in the burst you’re planning your healing around.

    So, the last point to address is healer GCD choices. This isn’t about throughput at all, but granularity of target selection. This is a really valid point for your raid healers, but lets put it against a background. Our healing plans normally assign tank healers based on covering throughput damage plus partial coverage of unpredictable burst, and allows raid healers to react to any unpredictable burst to complete the coverage. Predictable burst is, of course, covered with cooldowns. It really only takes 1-2 attempts even in progression to nail this setup appropriately. What the raid and tank healers can do for cross-coverage of each other depends on a given fight’s damage patterns. So, given that kind of healing plan setup, what stamina does is extend the reaction time in unpredictable burst scenarios. What avoidance does is lessen the chance of unpredictable burst, but increases the severity, and necessity of reaction, and both of those functions are surprisingly granular. I suppose for this one, given a lack of simulation tools, it can be called a wash, but maybe it’s a win for avoidance. Either way, it’s pretty minor either way when you’re talking about EH over the fight minimum vs. avoidance over the baseline for the gear level.

    That said, this is what’s been working for me, as MT for Edge. In parsing logs, in talking with our healers, and in building healing plans, it’s what’s been working. What works for a given guild, and their healers/healing culture may be totally different.

    Damn, that was a long comment.

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