EDIT: I want to clarify that this discussion holds merit for every boss in ICC 25 man Hard Mode, save three: Hard Mode Lady Deathwhisper and Sindragosa (because you will be wearing frost resist gear), and Hard Mode Lich King (because he hits Significantly harder than anything else in the instance).
In response to a discussion that has started to brew in my comments, as well as a nice long discussion I had last week with Meloree, I wanted to take some time to discuss the current and future gearing philosophies in ICC as well as what the breaking points are. This is something that is quite difficult to define in pure numerical values with out a lot of math (which I unfortunately do not have the time to do yet), so we will have to settle for hand waving, theory, and overall general statements.
Disclaimer – This is a discussion regarding tanks who are in full swing in ICC25 man Hard Modes, where the normal buffed health pool is sitting in the 60k plus range while buffed armor is in the 44k plus range. These tanks make up less than 0.5% of the population. However as the Buff in ICC grows, so does the population where this philosophy is applicable.
If you do not have these types of statistics, or you have not started to progress deep into ICC hard modes, you probably do not have the gear to start gemming for anything but stamina, as your EH minimums are not high enough.
Prelude to the Hellscream Warsong
With the advent of Strength of Wrynn (5%) / Hellscream’s Warsong (5%), we have the opportunity to re-evaluate our gearing philosophies, however prior to this buff there was one general philosophy when it came to tank gearing. With the advent of Chill of the Throne, we saw a very large decrease in our ability to avoid damage. This prompted the theroy crafting community to understand what we could do to combat this. Generally speaking, an end game tank in full 258 gear had about 65% avoidance in ToTGC. This meant that they were deep into the diminsihing returns on dodge and parry, and as such, they were not getting as much out of said stats when gemming for them.
The relative damage reduction which one could gain from boosting their avoidance form 65% to 66% was quite a bit more powerful than if you raised your avoidance from 45% to 46%. Simply put, with Chill of the throne, the relative damage reduction went from good to bad because of the fact that you were still suffering from the diminishing returns of a tank in the high 60s even though you only had an avoidance percentage in the mid 40s. This made every point of avoidance harder to get, and relatively speaking, a weaker stat when we are talking about Time To Live (TTL).
This prompted most end game tanks to lean on the one stat which did not suffer diminishing returns, Stamina. With the focus on stamina, we lost some avoidance in the process, leading to a net increase in overall damage taken, however that damage taken was much more predictable, leading to healing throughput which was manageable and predictable. To combat this increase in damage taken, we were rewarded with a significant number of bonus armor pieces. While Naxx gave us a Cloak, Ulduar gave us legs, and ToT(G)C 1o gave us a weapon / 25 gave us a neck, we were only seeing a few pieces every patch. This changed in 3.3. We saw a myriad of pieces which would allow us to get near the armor cap!
This is the current state of end game tanks, Stam and armor stacking mana sponges. The reason for this is two fold. It provides for a foolproof and manageable tank health pool for hard hitting bosses, and healing in Wrath of The Lich King has deviated from a mana management game to a healing throughput game. Healers do not run out of mana at this point of WoW, and if they are, they are managing their healing poorly, or the raid is taking too much unnecessary damage.
A glimpse into the future
With the increase in raid wide buffs from 5% to the Strength of Wrynn (10%) / Hellscream’s Warsong (10%), end game tanks have the opportunity to re-evaluate their gearing philosophies, as the buff itself is compensating for the stamina stacking that we have been doing to compensate for hard hitting special attacks such as Soul Reaper, Full Runic Power DBS, and 3 inhale Festergut. While most cutting edge tanks have surpassed the EH minimum for two hits, they are quite a large amount of health away from a three hit EH minimum. As a result, we can lean on the 10% buff to keep us above that threshold where we can confidently take two hits back to back with out a heal, and start to move towards other gearing options.
What I mean by that is that we can start matching socket bonuses again, staring using more Agility/Stam gems (to a point) and more Defense/Stam Gems so that we can boost our avoidance, armor, and move more towards a preventative gearing philosophy. To show you what I mean by the two hit effective health threshold, let’s take a look at the best example of spike damage in the game, Soul reaper. The mechanics of soul reaper alone are not that threatening. It hits hard, however it is not to the magnitude (on normal) where it is a one shot to the tank with out a cool down. The problem is when soul reaper and a melee hit line up at the same time.
You have to understand that these numbers are based off of my gearing and cool down usage, so they will be different from your tanks numbers but they will serve their purpose. At the time I had approximately 38,000 armor and 58,000 health, and I always had a cool down up for it, whether it be bubble wall, DS/DG, or Hand of Sacrifice. As you can see, his average melee was about 14,000 damage and his average Soul Reaper hit was 22,500 (while the tick at the end was close to 35.5k). So the worst case scenario, which we should be gearing for, is a melee swing for 14k and a soul reaper tick for 35.5k. This is an overall chain which nets a 49.5k damage taken. This is the absolute minimum stamina which would be required to survive said hid, however you will have a problem with tank death’s if you send your tank in there with 50k hp. The three hit scenario for this (considering that a defile or a valk call could line up with this) is Soul Reaper Tick, Melee x 2. This is the conservative gearing health pool, and equates to a tank with 49.5k + (14 * 0.7)= 59.3k hp. This is the magic number which I have geared to for Lich King. (it is important to understand that this is one scenario, with one boss. Do not assume that 59.3k is the magic number for ICC 25. There are Hard Modes to consider, and different bosses which prove to hit harder).
After this number, the only thing you gain is a larger health pool, as you will need another 14,000 health to overcome the next swing and have an EH threshold for a 4 hit scenario. Also, a 4 hit scenario should be complete unlikely as you should be getting heals more frequently than every 5 seconds, and you can also take into account the heal that you get from JoL, HoTs, imp LoTP, and a Spriest if you have one. This means that Stamina is no longer the best statistic for survival after this, as it is wasted until you can reach that next hit threshold.
I’m Back! Holistic Theory Gemming
As we pass this threshold based off of encounter progression and maximum effective health needed to survive that arbitrary number of hits with out a heal, we can start considering our gemming and enchanting philosophy to further mitigate and completely avoid damage. There are some other breaking points when it comes to gemming theory which are worth mentioning, but the general rule of thumb should be that for a red socket, you should put a 10 agility / 15 stamina gem, and a yellow socket should contain a 10 defense / 15 stamina gem. There are still relative priorities and net gains and losses from gemming every socket per its color, and it is up to you to make that decision as to the breaking point of benefit. What I mean by that is that some tanks will consider a +6 stamina socket bonus worth it, while some will not. More will consider the +9 Stamina bonus worth it, and everyone should consider your helm’s +12 worth it.
In order to understand your relative priority, Digren over at MainTankdin has a great stickied post about it, where Meloree, Theck and Digren put the work in so that you don’t have to. The basic principals are as such, each gem and relative trade off for a net increase in stamina has a value. The more you value stamina and the less you value the other statistics, the lower the relative gain number you are willing to take. Most end game progression tanks are willing to drop that number down as low as possible, as we socket one red gem in our helm and the rest are stamina, as are our enchants. However, as we reach that stamina threshold with the aid of the 10% buff, we can start considering a higher value for avoidance. While avoidance has always been powerful, if we could not guarantee TTL, then we did not want to take that chance of a random string of attacks killing us.
There are a few other numbers which you want to concern yourself with when you start to trade stamina for other statistics. While Defense will never go out of style, and you can stack that to your hearts content, there is a point at which Agility is no longer as attractive to us as Dodge is, and that point is:
Theckhd wrote:Agility gets weaker as you gain armor, finally dropping below 100% at around 42.6k armor (fully-buffed). Note that once we hit the armor cap (49905 armor fully-buffed), the armor contribution of agility is no longer giving us any benefit, so the value of agility drops back to the 83.1% value expected based on our agi->dodge conversion ratio.
This is important to consider because of the fact that if you are going to be doing this, you are a Min/Max’er and you will start to gain more out of the dodge gem than you will out of the agility gem. After I finish some number crunching, I will put up a follow up post detailing the relative gains and losses from regemming a tank which is sitting on a hand full of 277 pieces and has past the EH threshold. For now, I hope this has satisfied your craving for the return to a holistic gearing philosophy.