Archive for January, 2010

Getting your shield up to date for Icecrown

18/01/2010

I’m a shield collector; I admit it. I do like my weapons, don’t get me wrong, and The Sun Eater will always be my favourite drop ever. But I’m a tank, a warrior tank damn it, so my shield is like my heart because it’s constantly on display and ready to be deployed at a moments notice to protect myself and my allies.

So, following on from Veneretio’s post on weapon progression throughout this expansion, here’s the shield version for those who are wondering where to pick up the best options moving into Icecrown. I’m sticking to the five-man instances and ten-man raids, as that’s what my guild does and it’s where the most ease of access is to be found. Therefore, don’t look to find Hero’s Surrender, Wall of Terror or the Forlorn Barrier in this list. You certainly won’t be hearing about the Bulwark of Algalon.

Oops… You just did.

Anyway…

From the top – I’ll go in order of iLevel and let you know what’s worth it and what’s not.

Titansteel Shield Wall from Blacksmithing.

Pretty good starting shield, available pretty cheaply from the AH or from a local blacksmith you know of; potentially yourself. Its only additional stat is defence rating, but that’s nice for beginner tanks who are struggling to hit the magical 540. This is an absolute minimum for a tank heading into Icecrown.

Bulwark of the Noble Protector from Keristrasza (The Nexus heroic).

This is a blue shield, therefore, not as desirable as the nice purple ones. However, if you’re doing your daily heroics for a “raid-ready” shield then you should fit in the Nexus for this placeholder if the next entry won’t drop or the previous entry is too expensive.

Royal Crest of Lordaeron from Mal’ganis (The Culling of Stratholme heroic).

Picked up from the Culling of Stratholme, a nice training instance for burst threat on groups. This, essentially, was the shield to go for while you either farmed gold for the blacksmithing version or fancied a bit of hit rating. As above with the Nexus, put the Culling of Stratholme on your daily “to do” list in order to pick this up. Again, an absolute minimum before entering Icecrown.

Crygil’s Discarded Plate Panel from Emblems of Heroism.

Prior to 3.1, this shield was relatively common when you had nothing else to spend badges on and nothing else had dropped; maybe you didn’t want to spend gold on the Titansteel Shield Wall. In short, it was an off-spec shield when you had too many Emblems of Heroism. Nothing has changed. It’s a bad choice to use 50 Emblems of Triumph to get it, when there are other options that are FAR superior. Yes, I’d say it fits the minimum requirement – but it’s still not something you should be looking at unless you’re absolutely at your wits end.

The Skull of Ruin from Grobbulus (Naxxramas 10).

A shield I loved when I had it and something you should definitely farm for if you’re thinking of tanking the adds in the heroic Anub’arak encounter in future (though, a shield coming up is better), or you simply want a heroic block set. Unfortunately, beyond Naxxramas, block loses almost all of its priority in general terms and that makes this shield a pretty poor option for Icecrown. Yes, it’s not too bad. However, pretty much everything before and after the Skull of Ruin in this list would be preferable, save the Bulwark of the Noble Protector.

Barricade of Eternity from Malygos (The Eye of Eternity 10).

Again, prior to 3.1, this was pretty much THE shield. Expertise wasn’t easy to come by, making this one an excellent all round choice for both threat and the avoidance it provides. If your Icecrown tank has this shield, it usually means they have a bit of skill as tanking the Malygos encounter isn’t all that easy (even now). However, it would be rare to see it, as most people are disinterested in killing Malygos because it’s still pretty rough. Certainly a fine choice, though, and the best option on the list until this point in terms of quality.

Shieldwall of the Breaker from Auriaya (Ulduar 10).

Essentially, this is a direct upgrade to the Barricade of Eternity – just nowhere near as pretty. In saying that, it also has a blue slot for that lovely +30 stamina gem you’ve been holding onto and is an excellent shield to take into Icecrown if your guild can still find reasons to go into Ulduar. Oh, yeah; it’s an awesome instance. Go for it.

Splintered Door of the Citadel from Marwyn (The Halls of Reflection).

With the coming of 3.3, this shield became the one to take into Icecrown by default. It’s not wonderfully itemized by any means and, of course, it lacks the socket of the shield above. The true magic of this shield, however, is that it comes from a normal instance, which means you can farm it until it drops. Get a guild group, dedicate an hour to farming the Halls of Reflection, and get your hands on this. In my view, there’s really no excuse for not having at least this before facing up to Lord Marrowgar.

Northern Barrier from Hodir 25/Auction House.

I know I said I wouldn’t bring up 25 man drops, but this one is BoE so can be found at the auction house. Unfortunately, as nice as it is as a threat shield, it’s not a great progression shield as it’s simply not itemized around defence. They’re going pretty cheaply nowadays, but I would suggest anything over a 1.5k asking price is probably too much. And for the reason already mentioned, the Splintered Door would technically be better, anyway.

The Boreal Guard from Hodir (Ulduar 10, hard mode).

Yet to drop for me (I gave the one that DID drop to the off tank), this shield is still pretty close to being best in slot for 10 man content; certainly only behind the heroic version of the Aegis of the Coliseum/Bulwark of the Royal Guard, if anything. Two sockets for stamina, and with parry and block rating it’s not going to suffer from the Chill of the Throne. Again, not too difficult to get your hands on these days in a decent guild, but not known for having a high drop rate. In saying that, Shiver makes the trip to the Halls of Winter worthwhile.

Aegis of the Coliseum/Bulwark of the Royal Guard from Anub’arak (Trial of the Crusader 10).

Again, due to the ease of Trial of the Crusader, this is potentially the “default” progression shield moving forward. The blue socket is extremely worthwhile and block value will give you a bit more threat which is always nice, but it’s still not wonderfully itemized for progression. Certainly a nice option heading into Icecrown, though, and it shows completion of the previous tier of raiding on the part of your tank.

Aegis of the Coliseum/Bulwark of the Royal Guard from Anub’arak heroic (Trial of the Grand Crusader 10).

As above, this shield is pretty much the best you can get up to and including 10 man content, but I’d argue just behind the Boreal Guard. Equally, it’s the hardest to get your hands on as the Anub’arak encounter on heroic is no joke. If you’re in a strong guild and they’re still running Trial of the Grand Crusade, this is something to aim at. Otherwise, there are far simpler options and, in the case of the Boreal Guard, better options.

So, to summarize:

1) Save yourself the expense of the Titansteel Shield Wall and go for the starter options that are free; the Bulwark of the Noble Protector or the Royal Crest of Lordaeron.
2) Once you’ve got either of those and your gear is improving, farm Halls of Reflection on normal for the Splintered Door of the Citadel. You’re now at the minimum shield requirement for Icecrown.
3) Now, feel free to farm whatever shield is available if you want an upgrade. In order of quality (ascending), they are; Shieldwall of the Breaker, Aegis of the Coliseum, Aegis of the Coliseum (heroic) and The Boreal Guard.

Happy hunting and good luck with your new shield!

Balancing around encounters

11/01/2010

Well, it’s been a holiday period – sorry for the gap between my last entry and this one, but it may please you to know that I’ve had a great Yule period and that I hope everyone else did, too. Happy new year, one and all!

In any event, I want to move on and speak briefly about the notion of class “balance” and how it pertains to encounters. After all, the developers “absolutely balance around encounters” when it comes to all of the classes in the game, and not just tanks. But to set the scene, it’s worth mentioning what balancing by encounter actually means.

It means that the developers are comfortable with class imbalance on paper, using encounters to redress this imbalance by playing to the strengths of certain specs on a given fight. The phrase usually uttered by the developers is “we don’t balance by target dummies”; and this is further illustrated when Ghostcrawler correctly points out the flaws in the “my static DPS is too low – buff, please” argument.

I suppose the question for warriors is whether or not the developers have gotten it right. And, in the main, I’d say that they have.

Yes, certain things from a tanking point of view are frustrating. Having worse effective health, mitigation and damage reduction percentages than a paladin is hard to justify, for example, and seems like an oversight – especially considering how simple said class is to play. But, there is only one Patchwerk and you can soon find that interrupts, stuns, fast gap closing, disarming, spell-reflecting and practical immunity to crowd control can take so much more pressure off a raid when they really need some help. So far, the encounters in Icecrown Citadel (including the trash) have seen warriors open their entire box of tricks throughout and highlight the other tanking classes for what they really are.

Imitations. Copies. Replicas.

Imperfect versions of the original.

This isn’t a warrior call-to-arms and I’d be loathe to write such a thing. But it’s been a long expansion that, for the most part, has played to the strengths of the damage sponge with regard to boss tanks. This has been disheartening for most of Wrath of the Lich King and, as you’ll know, I’ve lost the faith more than once. But now, at the business end, we’re starting to see raids asking things of their paladins or bears and getting resigned head shaking. And now, at the summit of content, the Protection warrior is standing up and saying:

“Wait… I can do that.”

Protection warriors; still the original, and best.