Gear for Tanking Hard Modes

Gear is not everything…

Since I am so obsessed with gear, and its designed applications for different encounters and situations, I may go a bit overboard with the use of gear sets. I talk a great deal about how you should tailor the gear that you wear to the encounter which you are about to tank. This is a great philosophy for progression encounters, because it shows not only that you understand what is about to happen, but you are trying to maximize your survival. This is important when pushing the envelope of your progression, because a tank death is very very hard to recover from, but what you may not see is the healing stress that you cause from wearing the wrong gear, which adversely effects the rest of the raid healing.

All that sounds perfect, and will more than likely be the case for the top guilds in the world, but what about the rest of the guilds? Tengen over at Firstandtengen wrote a very nice post about the recent buff that Blizzard added to ICC. In his Price of Pride post, he outlines the internal conflict over this 5% buff and whether or not the people who are still killing bosses should feel like they should turn off the buff. I threw a comment up on his blog to relay my thoughts on the buff, and I will share them with you as well.

The thing to remember about the buff is that, while it is there and it is enflating your dps, there is really no reason that you should not use it if you still have bosses to kill.

The difference between the first few 100 guilds and the rest is quite substantial. You have to remember that top 100-200 guilds clear content in the previous tier of gear. The buff is the same as being a few weeks behind. The relative gain in raid dps/healing/ tank survival increases every week with the introduction of gear.

Think of the buff as that perfect week of gear dropping for you.

Now this comes from the perspective of a tank on the very precipice of that cliff between raiding in previous tier gear and current tier gear. When we killed Lich King, I had one more piece of 264 gear than the MT of Vodka did when they got their LK kill, however we did it two weeks later so our raid as a whole was more geared.

It is easy to say Gear isn’t everything if you have all the gear

I wanted to share a story with you today to show you that if you are a guild who is behind on progression in comparison to the best in the world, and you think that your roadblock is gear, you may be mistaken.

Aside: While I am aware of Gevlon’s experiments, and although they are intriguing, his perspective does not align with mine when it comes to people and this game.

A few nights ago, our 10 man group stepped into ICC 10 with the goal of knocking out every hard mode and any leftover achievements we could do on hard modes for our drakes. Our main competition from the alliance side, Crisis got theirs very early on and we feel that its time to push some hard modes so they are not the only ones with shiny new toys. Now I do not want to denounce what Crisis did, they are a great guild who out of no where snagged a top 20 world wide ranking in 10 mans and a US second Drake, if any of you happen to stop by, a congratulations is well deserved.

When we walked into the upper spire of the instance, I always swap back to my AoE spec and threat gear. This is just because of the amount of trash that is there and the fact that it is an AoE fest. Nothing says tanking is fun like 12k dps on trash. Soon enough, we found ourselves face to face with Festergut, and the Instance was set to Hard Mode. I will agree with some of the elite out there that once you understand the new mechanics of the fight, Festergut is quite easy to kill. However, that does not discount the fact that he hits like a truck.

The ready check came back, and I pulled the boss. About 10 seconds into the fight, I noticed that he was hitting a lot harder than usual, and my health was dipping quite a bit lower. It took a few more seconds to kick in that it should of because of the beer I had been drinking, but I was still in my threat set. That means I was about 5000 armor and 6000 health down. That is a very, very big difference when it comes to tank survival during the third inhale. The hidden bonus for me was my numbers were larger than life when i hit 9 stacks, dropped Righteous Fury, Salved myself, and went to town on the boss. I am happy to report that no one said a thing about my ease of healing, and the boss was one shot.

Reflection on gear and encounters

While I would never recommend to a tank who is new to this encounter to nerf themselves by that much (almost 10k effective health), it doesn’t mean that you need to be very geared to do this fight. A lot of people, myself included, thought that the 10 man version of ICC was a bit overturned for players in strict 10 man guilds. However, after that experience, I would say that this is a misconception. While I understand that my healers and dps were still geared to the teeth, it is important to note that I never got into AD range, and was able to manage the damage with properly timed cool downs.

I hope that people who are in the position of progression, struggling on a fight in ICC, understand that gear is not everything, and in fact it is a very small part of the contribution to your overall success. The more gear you have, the easier the encounters get, however they are doable in what ever you are wearing currently, you just have to play effectively.


4 Responses to “Gear for Tanking Hard Modes”

  1. 1 Kaelandros
    March 5, 2010 at 11:13 am

    It’s very easy to allow the general thought process of the raid to move towards “We’re smashing our faces against this boss because we’re not as well geared as we should be.” rather than trying to bring up the ugly fact that “We’re smashing our faces against the wall because we’re not very skilled, and our DPS can’t stay out of the bad.”

    We’re you’re not in a guild that has committed itself to hardcore progression, but rather prefers to call itself casual, drawing strict attention to individual failures is not so easily done. It’s frustrating.

  2. March 5, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    In Icecrown, gear has become, to me, much more of a “game within a game” than it ever has been before. Partly because I have only been raiding since slightly before Ulduar came out, it has taken me a long time to understand the way gear and fights work, but also because this is seemingly the best-itemized tier of gear yet. For every slot you’ve got multiple choices to fill it. If you need expertise, there’s pieces that have it, if you need armor, it’s there to be found, avoidance, yep, they’ve got that too. In my own neurotic way, with the lack of a mathematically obvious best in slot list for 90% of progression (taking into account that not all tanks swap gear around on a per-fight basis), I have a little hole inside me that hungers for one. While I’ve been converted to the per-fight gearing philosophy and with a plethora of choices per slot to help make this more viable than ever before, in the end, it comes down to the cold hard truth of “do the best you can with what you have available.” I know some classes have spreadsheets and simulation programs, but I have yet to find one that works effectively from a tanking perspective. So, in a place of infinite gear options (a simulation with hypothetically infinite gear options and combinations, like RAWR for example) I’m left to be disappointed that I can’t scratch my itch for stats with log reports because I just don’t have all the pieces of gear and lots of lockouts and willingly-sacrificial raiders to wipe over and over with me as I crunch numbers looking for the minute differences which explain the merits of avoidance over armor on fights like Saurfang, Festergut, or Blood Queen. So while I’d love to see which is a better way of capping my expertise for Blood Queen (using the Cat+Pillars+yayarmor or Tier+Tier+avoidance bonus) I don’t always have the gear available in real life to do these kinds of things. More than having gear to be a loot whore and peacock in Dalaran, I just miss having the opportunity to do these kinds of experiments. By the time I have every piece of gear for every slot, doing these kinds of things will be all but irrelevant. It just boggles my mind how the best people in the world figure out the best ways so fast.

    • March 6, 2010 at 2:09 am

      Icecrown’s myriad of options are somewhat of an illusion.

      You’re primarily choosing a trinket and a ring, fight by fight, for progression hardmodes.

      Plainly put, the bonus armor gear is the mathematically obvious best in slot for 90% of progression.

      My gearset for every hardmode, with the exceptions of Sindragosa and Deathwhisper, includes tier hat, armor neck, armor cloak, cat chest, gunship shoulders, armor gloves, armor belt, armor legs, dreamwalker boots, saurfang10 bracers (if they’d ever drop for me, I’ve got stopgaps in there now), togc10 weapon, togc10 ring, bql shield, stamina trinket.

      The only things that rotate are stamina trinket for armor trinket, and onyxia ring for exalted rep ring. Arthas gets dual stamina trinkets, just about everything else gets one stamina, one armor trinket.

      Icecrown is the return of the physical hitters. Where you’re not in danger, enough of the raid is that minimizing hit size is advantageous (Saurfang, BQL). When you are in danger, damage reduction from armor trumps avoidance (Festergut). As a general rule, the bonus armor pieces don’t trade stamina for armor… they trade avoidance or threat for armor. And most tanks will tell you that predictable damage reduction is greater than rng damage reduction.

      Sindragosa and Deathwhisper are exceptions because I wear a boatload of frost resist for both fights in hardmode. It requires some tradeoffs.

      • March 8, 2010 at 8:09 am

        as I said, I don’t really have any mathematical way to refute that kind of an argument. Like you, I always am always wearing a max-armor setup only changing out trinkets on a general basis, but, like you, I also don’t have every specific piece I’d like to have. It is primarily for my healers’ sake that I wear armor gear because frequent predictable medium-sized damage gives them less heart attacks than intermittent mac trucks. I have only heard anecdotally that other tanks claim to be taking less overall damage when using avoidance-leaning gear (paladins with their 4p tier, ghoul commander cuirass, bracers of dark reckoning). While it won’t matter much from a hard mode progression standpoint, I believe it is possible, when enough 277 gear is assembled, that avoidance will begin to level off or surpass armor for a few very specific fights. But, again, as I said, no math to back it up, and no real way to get it in any kind of timely manner.

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