Posts Tagged ‘Gems and Sockets

02
Apr
10

New Theory on ICC Gemming

Transitions in Gear Enhancement

What does the  Strength of Wrynn (10%)Hellscream’s Warsong (10%) do for you with respect to gearing philosophy? For me, and a few select other tanks in the world, it will do nothing. There are a few fights which we are still facing where pure effective health, pure stamina stacking, and piling on as much armor as possible will still be the paramount goal of our gearing, gemming, and enchanting philosophy. However, for everyone else, there is an opportunity to be had here with respect to a more balanced gear set.

The crossing point where you can start to evaluate your gemming and enchanting philosophies, and return to a holistic and balanced way of placing gems in your gear, has to be an individual decision however the decision just got easier with the arrival the 10% buff. Any tank who is not currently working on cleaning up the last few hard modes in ICC can more than likely trade pure stamina for a more comprehensive balance of gems. I have at present run into tank death issues on only one fight, Sindragosa 25 man Hard Mode and Lich King 10 man Hard Mode. All of the other fights which I have killed do not present a large enough threat to my survival to warrant gemming pure Stamina. However for me, and the handful of tanks who are knocking on Lich King Hard Modes door, we can not change our stam stacking ways. This is due to the sheer size of melee hits, special attacks and overall damage which we will take on these encounters.

Gimme a number, whats the breaking point

For those of you who are working on normal mode or the early hard modes in ICC, it seems that the two most threatening attacks come from a Festergut Three inhale melee hit and Lich King’s Soul Reaper. Both of these are along the same lines when it comes to TTL as Festergut hits harder but Soul Reaper/Melee combos are very deadly with out proper cool downs. Last week, unknown to my guild, I tested something on our Lich King kill to prove a point to the greater community. In my previous blog about the EH minimum for three hits during the normal mode lich king encounter, I was using data which was slightly skewed because of the fact that I was diligent about using cool downs during soul reaper. Don’t tell Kitty (our Holy Paladin) but I didn’t blow cds last week at all, just to get a nice data set, since I knew that I out-geared the fight.

Now unfortunately, our WWS parser’s computer was taking a crap so he turned off his add on to parse the fight, however if you would like to take my word for it, I did not die, we one shot the boss, and everything is right with the world. I had 58.1k hp and 39k armor. These are stats which are above the EH minimum for the Lich King Normal encounter in 25 man ICC. I got close, quite a few times, and by close I am talking 5% or lower. While this is a lot of hand waving, and I am definitely not one who condones that on the MainTankadin site, this will have to do for now, until I can provide you with a WWS parse at a later time.

Stamina is King, why should I switch?

The benefit of being above the effective health minimum is that from the perspective of TTL, you are no better off by adding 300 hp as you are by adding threat or avoidance. Until you can overcome that next hit, you will be killed by a lot or by a little, but you will still be dead. This means that we want to gear towards the EH threshold which we set based on our healing and progression, and then we can enhance our gear as we see fit. Lets take a look at the benefits and tradeoffs of gemming holistically. This first link is my current gear set for hard mode encounters. I have almost exclusively gemmed and Enchanted for Stamina. There are a few exceptions which are either relics of ToTGC (my shield) or movement towards the new philosophy (my chest).  Click on the picture to take you to the Chardev link…

As you can see, I have 45k unbuffed health, with a significant amount of armor and reasonable amounts of avoidance. Now what I will do is change my gems around to a holistic approach for maximum survival (aka defense and agility gems as opposed to threat gems) and see what we get from those modifications. The important thing to remember is that while we have been in an era where stamina trumps all other stats (save armor in most situations), the ability to transition away from max stamina is possible. For most tanks, it may even be a wise choice to do so, because you will avoid more, or be able to produce more threat.

The trade off that we see here is 1290 health for almost a full 1% avoidance. While that does not seem like much, we are first and foremost talking about min/maxing our characters. Secondly that is 1% avoidance that you didn’t have before which you are getting for stamina that will not save your life from a pure TTL stand point. You are also gaining 60 armor and 0.57% crit. These are small numbers, but when we consider that we were all willing to trade off our gemming philosophies for 6 stamina here, and 9 there, it is the same value increases, only we are going from stam stacking where it was readily visible on our health bars to a slightly more intangible benefit.

Lastly, we can see what happens if we gem for something other than survival and avoidance. What happens if you are not concerned about your survival, as we rarely see tank deaths, but your dps is getting very geared and you are starting to have threat issues. Or from a different perspective, you just want to increase your threat output so you can brag about it. Lets swap all the red sockets with strength/stamina gems and the yellow sockets with hit and crit / stamina gems.

And now, we have gained attack power and block value, as well as a substantial amount of hit to increase our threat output while not sacrificing too much survival. In the end it is up to you to decide what you want to do with your gear, how you want to enhance it, and to what end. It is important to understand why you are modifying your gear. Is it to ensure that you are taking less overall damage and give your healers a bit more breathing room, is it because of the fact that your dps is very geared and you are having trouble out threating them, or do you still die to encounters as a result of your lack of health. Once you have answered these questions you can start to think about how you want to alter your gear to achieve these goals.

Modifying gemming is only the beginning. We can start to swap out our Gladiator’s shoulder enchants, our Chest, gloves, boots, shield and weapon enchants as well. These were sacrifices which we made in the name of stamina stacking which we can now change. While I did not provide these changes in the discussion above, as I wanted to focus on gemming, they are worth while and powerful modifications which will further trade health for avoidance or threat. If enough interest is shown for a complete overhaul, I will mock up two gear sets based off of gemming and enchanting changes.

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22
Mar
10

Post ICC buff gearing philosophies

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.

29
Oct
09

The death of avoidance, the loss of a soap box

Chill of the throne

Quote from: Daelo (Source)
For Icecrown Citadel, we are implementing a spell that will affect every enemy creature in the raid. The spell, called Chill of the Throne, will allow creatures to ignore 20% of the dodge chance of their melee targets. So if a raid’s main tank had 30% dodge normally, in Icecrown Citadel they will effectively have 10%.
Why are we doing this?

The high levels of tank avoidance players have obtained is making the incoming damage a tank DOES take more “spiky” than is healthy for raiding. Ideally, tanks would be receiving a relatively constant stream of damage over time. This allows healers to better plan their healing strategy, broaden their spell options, and simply give more time to react. Tanks could use their cooldowns more reactively. Instead, the current situation is that if we make a hard hitting melee boss and a tank doesn’t avoid two successive swings then the tank could very well be dead in that 1-2 second window. The use of reactive defensive abilities instead becomes a methodically planned affair, healers have to spam their largest heals just in case the huge damage spike happens.

We’ve been trying to do a fair amount to mitigate the effect of high tank avoidance on the encounter side of things during this expansion with faster melee swings, additional melee strikes, dual wielding, narrowing the normal variance of melee swing damage, and various other tricks. There’s a limit to what we can do, however. So to give us a bit of breathing room we’ve implemented Chill of the Throne. Going forward past Icecrown Citadel, we have plans to keep tank avoidance from growing so high again.

We’ll have this on the PTR soon so players can see the effects inside Icecrown Raid.

sunwell_800

Let me start out by saying that it has been a long and fun debate with most of the tanking community over gemming philosophies and the balancing of stats versus the stacking of stamina, but after a long and arduous journey, I am stepping down off my soap box and crossing the picket lines. Blizzard has beaten me into the ground and my philosophies on gearing have changed to adapt to the times. Every piece of gear that I will get from now on will follow what most of the tanking community already does, stamina, stamina, and wait for it….

More stamina

With the advent of the Chill of the Throne, and the base reduction of dodge by 20%, my theories on avoidance are really going out the window. Currently I sit with about 65% raw avoidance and 53k hp raid buffed with food and flask. If you look at other paladin tanks in our community who gear for pure stamina, forsake the shoulder, chest, and shield enchants, and also dual stam trinket, they buff up to aroun d 60% avoidance for an extra 4-5k hp. With the reduction of avoidance by 1/3 of my total avoidance, it is no longer valuable for me to continue to strive to get that number up. Instead I should gear for pure stamina, and hang up my avoidance hat, so that I can take more back to back hits. Currently my philosophy is that if I can avoid taking back to back hits, then a smaller health pool does not matter. Now, I can say that I will be taking back to back hits quite a bit more often. As a result, I have to prepare myself for that, and give my healers breathing room to get me back up to full. The introduction of Chill of the Throne will place all of the value of survival in the theory of Effective Health.

Now I want to clarify that while I have been a very outspoken and passionate advocate for balancing your set and trying to gear for avoidance, this does not mean that I ever had pipe dreams of walking up to a hard mode ToTGC boss with 45k hp raid buffed and a ton of avoidance. The theory and the discussion was all in the name of min/maxing. When you look at the pure stamina tanks, they only have a few thousand more health than me at the cost of a few percent avoidance. The first, and most important role of a tank, is to ensure that you can survive the encounter with out giving multiple healers heart attacks. Once you understand that you have a cushion of health between the bosses attacks and death, what you do from there is your own opinion. I chose avoidance and armor, others chose stam, but we both made sure that we lived first.

Where to go from here?

I will not be regemming and re-enchanting the gear that I already have, for Trial of the Grand Crusade, it works, my healers are used to my damage, and I have never gotten a complaint that I was “Hard to heal.” However, from here on out, every item I pick up from Trial of the Grand Crusade will get stamina gems and stamina enchants. That means that my 258 gear set will be all stamina going into Icecrown. And in all honesty, I only have 5 or 6 pieces of gear left to be BiS in 258 gear, namely the trophies for the T9.258.

If I got my one wish…

I had hopped that blizzard would counteract the growing phenomenon of stam stacking by creating more fights like General, or even creating a raid wide aura for mana regen. This would be something that would truly reward the tank that gears for avoidance and mitigation, this would validate my hard fought battle with the paladin community. Alas, we are recreating the mistakes of the past and this time I fear they will be even worse than sunwell. The bosses are probably going to hit hard and fast, and our avoidance will be down to nothing. With the fact that healers have an infinite mana pool and the damage that is going to be put out will be considerable, the only option tanks have is to stack a lot of stamina.

My vision of Chill of the Throne would have been something along the lines of mana regen reduction for healers. I am not sure how you would employ such a technique, but you could work out some sort of equation that would work for healers only, because as much as our stamina and health pools are getting out of control, so are the healers mana pools and regen capacity. This seems more along the lines of what blizzard has done throughout the entire expansion. Their solution to creating difficult fights is more damage, more places, more often. The concepts to employ this may have changed, may have been resurrected from Council in Black Temple, and some of them are just plain old do not stand in the fire.

If we could reward smart play, the tanks ability to mitigate and avoid damage, as opposed to soak it, and mana management on the part of the elite healers, we would once again be in a nice balanced place where the talented players would see results when it came to progression, and the people who were along for the ride would be dead on the floor as they were in BT and Sunwell. I remember the days of split second decisions, heal the dps in the fire or heal the tank, one or the other, and make it an efficent heal because your potion is on cooldown and your mana pool is at 15%. I found that there was a different caliber of healer in a successful raid back in Sunwell.

Such is the way of the world. Change is good, and change happens for a reason. The truly successful are those who can adapt quickly to a changing environment and tanks are the best of the best when it comes to that. I will see you all in the “50k unbuffed health” pool…

29
Sep
09

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.

24
Sep
09

Stamina versus Balance

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.

04
Sep
09

Min / Maxing and Socketing

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It may come as a surprise to some of you but I have a rather geared alt. When I first started playing Wrath of the Lich King, I wanted to play a pure dps class, so that farming, questing, earning gold, and raiding were a bit more “fun.” So I took my little level 39 twink hunter and leveled her all they way to 80. As soon as I started gearing her, I was asked to tank as a protection paladin for my guild. So my stint as a dps’er lasted a total of one week at 80. However after naxx got boring, and ulduar got on farm, I was able to gear up my hunter. I leveled as beast mastery, was one of the server’s first hunters to have a spirit beast (for those of you who only care about tanking, its an extremely rare cat that requires the 51 point beast mastery to tame and use), and Loved BM. Well, BM got nerfed, Survival got a huge buff, and off i went into the world of explosive shot.

Well, when we were in full hard mode gear in Ulduar and ToTC and farming for Emblems of Triumph took away most of my attention, my poor little alt was gathering dust. Last night we ran an alt ToTC 10 man and I brought my hunter. Well I’m in a mix of Naxx Best in Slot, Ulduar Best in Slot, and ToTC welfare epics, and I had to switch again, this time to Marksmanship. Where is this story about a hunter on a prot pally site going?

Min/Maxing – To ArP or Agi for a hunter

I want to use my hunter as an analogy for our tanks and our constant struggle to try to maintain the balance of stam, avoidance, and mitigation. As a survival hunter, agility is king, you gem agility the way most tanks gem stam, e.g. all the sockets but the ones to activate your meta. ArP is the number one stat for MM hunters as most of their damage comes from physical attacks (most of SV is explosive shot, or fire damage). So I am sitting on my alt, newly learning the MM rotation, full of agility gems, with no armor penetration in sight.

I start up a conversation with our token “i pull 9k dps regularly” MM hunter and he starts talking about ArP and how I should totally regem my alt so that I can gain a couple hundred DPS. Don’t get me wrong, I always strive to do more damage, however, dropping 10 epic red gems on an alt to go from 6k dps to 6.5k dps really is NOT my idea of money well spent. For my hunter, I will slowly gem ArP as I pick up gear until i am in the 600s and then go back to Agility.

What does this have to do with tanks?

The great agility versus dodge debate is an ideal candidate for this type of philosophy. Now most of the more hard core WoW players regemed the first day 3.2 came out, myself included. That tuesday night, I was standing in front of the gem vendor ready to blow every badge I had on 20 new shiny epic gems so that each of my gear sets, Threat, Avoidance, Effective Health, and Overall were full of epic gems. But what of the rest of us? What of those of us who feel like I do on my hunter? That is where the upgrade gemming philosophy comes in.

In the end we are talking about Min/Maxing, and not requirements (save 540 minimum defense rating), and as such gemming is really a preference. You can be that tank that really, really, really loves Stamina, needs Stamina, and craves the largest health pool on the server. But thats not me. I love balance. So if you are not engaged in the great agility versus dodge debate, and you have not caught up on Theck’s latests law of tank-ativity, Expertise, what do you do?

Well in my opinion you gem your upgrades, and you gem them according to your role, to augment your ability to do your job, and you gem them to enhance the piece to its fullest, and that is what I am going to do with my hunter. When it comes to the selection of gems for your tank, you have to take into account the benefit you will get from regemming. The dodge to agility switch is an expensive one if you gem like I do. If you are a stamina freak, then your gemming choices are simple and straight forward. In the end it all comes down to your desire to better your character, and how much you are willing to pay to get to that next level of stats.

13
Aug
09

Gems, Sockets, and You…

A detailed discussion on the theory of gem selection…

Last night when I was online, I had a fellow tankadin whisper me and ask me about my gem choices, as I replaced all of my rare gems with epics on patch day. With the advent of epic gems, I had the opportunity to re-evaluate how I wanted to gem my equipment. It got me to thinking about gem selection and the purpose of sockets. When blizzard first put sockets into gear, I was confused as to their motivation to do such a thing. I liked my T2 just the way it was, even though we never really achieved defense cap back in Vanilla. As I grew to understand the purpose of sockets and personalize my gear as I saw fit, I developed a certain strategy when it came to my gem selection.

The different gemming conventions, and the story of three pallies

Currently, there are tanks all around Azeroth that love to gem as much stamina as possible. Even on our beloved MT site, people love to talk about socket bonuses and only socket to the color if the bonus is 6/9/12 stamina, etc. I deviate from this train of thought and I wanted to have a discussion on my philosophies behind gemming that date back to the Sunwell Days.

When I was a healer back in Sunwell, I was part of a three paladin healing core and each of us gemmed differently. It brought a unique strength to the group of paladins as a whole and at the same time identified what each of us truly valued from a healing stand point. In retrospect, as individuals, we may have been inadequate from a theorycrafting stand point, but as a team, we had everything. One pally geared for mp5, one for crit, and I geared for haste. In concert we were ideal, big heals, long heals, and fast heals.

Why am I rambling on about healing in a tankadin blog? I mean come on, all we care about when it comes to healing is that the heals we receive are greater than the damage we take while mobs are alive. Well the story of the three healers and their gemming is a nice little anecdote for how tanks should be gemming and and for a lesser part enchanting their gear. Each paladin as an individual was lacking something. The mp5 healer did not have the crit or healing power that others had, making her heals smaller. However she was always the last one with a mana pool. The crit healer lacked the haste, so he always had a lot of over healing. I myself focused on spell haste, and I had the most HPS for the beginning of the fight, however there were fights that pressed my mana pool and potion timer (remember those, I was an Alchemy whore!).

Gemming your Effective Health Set – Theory and Application

As I have already touched on threat sets, I would like to use our progression set as the example here. When working on creating your effective health set, the combination of our most valued stats, Stamina, Armor, Agility, Dodge, and Parry are just as important to our survival as three holy pallies working in concert. The concept of Effective health and its practical application in gemming philosophy are very powerful, however to be short sighted and only see effective health as health is, in my opinion, a common misconception. Effective health, as explained by a MUCH smarter tank than I, is as follows:

Effective health “…is basically a measurement of how much raw damage a creature has to deal to kill you. It is a measurement of Armor and it’s relation to Stamina…

Effective Health is the measurement of how much breathing room your healers have to keep you alive assuming all other factors fail — assuming you do not avoid or block attacks or have a mana shield active. Effective Health is important for tanking heavy hitting creatures because of Murphy’s Law — if you can have long strings of not Dodging an attack, it will definitely happen. Raid tanking, ultimately, is about stability.” – Ciderhelm

To only increase your effective health by stacking stamina is to overlook the other key factors that contribute to your survival, namely armor, and to a lesser extent pure avoidance, and shield block value. You have to remember that effective health is a theory and a concept, not a holistic approach. To overlook your ability to prevent damage and as a result save your healers mana and blood pressure, is a bad judgement call.

With these key elements in mind, I like to balance my gems to ensure that I am working on creating the best overall effective health possible, which includes gemming for survival and not being a mana sponge. By increasing your avoidance, armor and health at the same time, you not only increase your effective health, but also reduce the amount of mana needed to heal you. The less damage you take, the less heals you need, and the more mana your healers have to drop big heals on you when you need them.

It is crucial to understand that in a pure effective health set, gearing stamina and armor in concert is the most powerful thing that you can do to prevent a tank death. Do not neglect one for the other. However this is only for Effective health. In terms of the total package, there are other factors that play into a tank that is fun and easy to heal, who holds great threat, and has the survivability to tank new encounters.

One other essential thing to take into account is that you always want to gem to the pieces strengths, not what you want the overall outcome of your gear set to be. The main reason for this is the fact that you will be using pieces in multiple gear sets, EH, Avoidance, threat, block, etc. and you do not want to just optimize for what you are wearing for one set, but for all of the sets. If you enhance the strengths of a specific piece of gear, it will always be the best choice for that slot for a given role.

Agility or Dodge?

In closing, I would like to address the decision of agility or dodge when gemming in 3.2. With the nerf to dodge, Agility has become an equal stat to dodge. Below are two links that will give you some reference to the theory and discussion around the balancing of avoidance sats and how Agility has surpassed dodge as the best EH choice for a red slot:

Some Preliminary Conclusions… on Avoidance in 3.2
Agility vs. Dodge, The Debate Rages On

Long story short, to increase my effective health via armor and dodge, and my threat via crit, I have used 10 Agility 15 Stamina gems wherever I would have considered a dodge gem in the past. Furthermore, when you are trying to evaluate what gem would be best for you, you have to take into account not only the benefits you will get from the increase in stats, but also the opportunity cost of each stat it self. The stamina gem may give you the most effective health or at least raise your health pool, but the piece may be better suited for a threat set, or an avoidance set. In these cases, the best opportunity cost for the socket may be an agility gem or a hit gem.

In the end the decision is yours, just  make sure you choose wisely!




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