Archive for the ‘Tanking’ Category

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.

The Necessity of Focused Rage

17/12/2009

My previous blog made a number of assertions regarding a talent specialization and what a warrior should be prioritising. The one talent, however, that is a little difficult to quantify is Focused Rage. In fact, I’ll rephrase; it’s not hard to quantify at all, just difficult to establish a necessity for it.

Point before starting: This is not a discussion on the rage mechanic, so please don’t mistake it for one. It is specifically about the comparative value of the Focused Rage talent and where it is best used.

I previously stated that any tank leaving out three points in Armored to the Teeth would attract my metaphorical ire because they’re essentially punishing their performance by not picking up passive threat from a stat that a tank would have a lot of whether they wanted it or not. Yet, that’s exactly what Focused Rage does, too – by lessening the rage cost of every ability you ever use, you can ship a considerable need for rage and increase your passive threat output.

I’ll defend my position first.

To start with, it’s worth looking at where you would sacrifice three talent points to pick up Focused Rage (assuming you go 3/3). In the cookie cutter I previously linked, you’re still running with a lot of essentially free points so you can go right ahead and put them into Focused Rage with impunity. However, most people have talents that they would no longer do without and a pretty settled spec, and picking up Focused Rage means a sacrifice elsewhere in their spec.

I’d imagine the choice is between Deep Wounds and Shield Specialization for your three points. In saying that, however, picking up Focused Rage implies a desire for more DPS/TPS, which would effectively invalidate leaving out Deep Wounds in the same spec. Therefore, do you choose to pick up a little more threat from Focused Rage or a little more mitigation from Shield Specialization?

For me, you pick up five rage when you block, dodge or parry and you get more if you take damage. You can also use the Glyph of Revenge to cut back on the rage cost of your Heroic Strike, as well as taking three points in the namesake talent. By picking up the extra 3% block you’re not just increasing your block chance, you’re decreasing the chance to be fully hit by a swing by a full 3% – you can’t get that anywhere else for three points and you’re lowering the pressure your healers feel when you get spiked.

If you’re picking Focused Rage, you are essentially saying that threat matters more than survival. You only need to take one point in Shield Specialization for the 5 rage on avoidance, and that will be in your spec regardless of what else you’ve chosen. The main plus point here is that you would have to be awfully unlucky to end up rage starved, and you’re accounting for the use of Cleave which isn’t covered by talents or a glyph in the same way Heroic Strike is.

So, am I implying that Shield Specialization is for progression content and Focused Rage is for farm content and/or heroics?

Well, yes and no.

A freshly dinged tank could expect to take more damage than a well geared one, therefore, having less use for Focused Rage seems clear. Yet while a new tank is learning their trade, you never want to run out of rage; heroic instances (particularly in a PuG) often demand a lot from a tank. It’s also worth remembering that far more of that instance will be trash, so you’ll be using Cleave an awful lot more.

With progression content, you can also expect to take more damage and pick up rage from that, but there is the very real threat of enrage timers – would you want your DPS to hold off to the extent they’re pushing this timer? Of course, the value of block is often questionable in progression content when Shield Block is considered.

Of course, all of this assumes an appreciation of unlucky stretches of avoidance that slow the flow of rage to a crawl.

So… Can I summarise?

I don’t think either Shield Specialization or Focused Rage qualify for “necessary” points in a cookie cutter talent specialization. However, the real question is whether or not I should be considering Armored to the Teeth in the same vein, as it’s also passive threat.

I admit it; no. There is no requirement to add Armored to the Teeth as a necessary choice in the cookie cutter.

There.

I said it.

I was wrong.

Just don’t expect me to be removing Armored to the Teeth from my spec any time soon.

The Value of a good Talent Specialization

03/12/2009

Forgive the laziness regarding my first December offering, but I figure there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel; the following transcript is taken from a conversation I’ve been having on the WoW-Europe tanking forums, and relates to the benefits you get from selecting your talents carefully and actually reading the tooltips whilst understanding the context.

The first point is to do with the value of Deep Wounds when Protection warriors won’t be running with a high critical strike rating.

“Well… You actually get a lot more critical strikes than that from your main abilities. Incite gives more critical strike rating to Heroic Strike, Cleave and Thunderclap. If you were running the T8 set bonus, you got 5% more rating for your Devastate; and, of course, Critical Block also provided you with critical strikes that procced Deep Wounds from blocks (another reason for picking up Shield Specialization, but sadly ditched for 3.2.2), but you still get the extra 15% added to Shield Slam. Finally, Sword and Board gives you 15% critical strike rating on your Devastate, bringing it in line with all your other major abilities.

In short, the passive critical strike rating on your character sheet doesn’t factor in the additional percentages you get added from specific talents. Put simply, all of your main abilities (Shield Slam, Heroic Strike, Cleave, Devastate and Thunderclap) run at a base critical strike chance of 20%. Then, assuming a Feral Combat druid or Fury warrior, you’ve got 25% and that’s not including other common buffs such as Blessing of Kings or Gift of the Wild.

So… One in four blows will critically strike, and warriors are (typically) running two attacks every GCD due to our on-next-attack abilities Heroic Strike and Cleave.

Put simply, Deep Wounds is practically always up as passive DPS/TPS, and not taking it will see a significant drop in both.”

The next point was regarding points picked up in Improved Revenge.

“I still like using Revenge in low rage situations, and putting two points in it keeps its damage above that of Devastate. So, when threat isn’t an issue, Revenge is better than Devastate.

Personal taste, though; I wouldn’t say 2/2 Improved Revenge is a must.”

Next up, the value of block rating.

“The reason warriors and paladins are preferred to death knights and druids on Anub’arak heroic adds is because they don’t take a full hit; they either avoid it, or block it, meaning that block is never a bad stat to have. And to be fair, it also increases the procs on Revenge (which I like), so it’s an increase in DPS if you’re running 2/2 Improved Revenge.”

Finally, a point on Focused Rage.

“I don’t think Focused Rage is a necessity any more, if it ever was. As hinted, I use Revenge for the low rage situations, and I even glyph it for the following free Heroic Strike. Bearing in mind Heroic Strike is the main reason for rage starvation, and you’re also picking up Improved Heroic Strike, I’m not sure Focused Rage is vital.”

After all of this, the poster was very courteous for the time I’d taken and thanked me for doing so. As is often my wont, I had a couple of quick things to add regarding posting for advice/assistance on forums:

“I think it’s a common problem that people come to these forums and ask for assistance (any class/spec), pick up some potentially bum advice, and act on it without really knowing the “why”. Please don’t think this is a personal criticism, because it’s not; these forums are exactly the place to come to pick up ideas. It’s just that, very often, “advice” can be something of a Chinese whisper that gets to you via a 765458726th source.

And we all know what happens when you copy a copy of a copy of a cassette.

I’m not claiming that every idea I ever came up with was my own – it wasn’t. However, spending a bit of time going over your talents and abilities will often bring up some very strange surprises. They often have secondary effects that are not properly considered, or even primary effects that are not considered in context.

Armored to the Teeth: “It’s a DPS talent only”. No, it’s attack power for a stat you will, naturally, end up with a lot of, especially as a tank. It’s a wonderful passive threat stat, and I almost choke every time I see a tank without it. It’s also the reason armour is the better EH choice for a warrior.

Shield Specialization: “Block is naff”. An additional 3% (most tanks take 2/5) chance to pick up five rage, however, isn’t; nor the additional chance to avoid taking a full blow or simply getting Revenge up 3% more. Contextually, this is points well spent though, admittedly, not a necessity.

Improved Spell Reflection: “Spell reflect doesn’t work on most bosses”. Actually, it’s 4% additional chance to dodge spell damage completely – it has a place in any full survival spec.

Gag Order: “You can’t silence most bosses”. That’s true; but anyone not interested in picking up 10% damage from every Shield Slam they ever hit is doing their character a dis-service.

Vigilance: “I don’t need help with threat”. The threat management is only one part of this talent, so take a look at the Taunt refresh. If used imaginatively, you’ve just become an off tank with constant Taunt uptime.

All told, the warrior Protection tree has got a heck of a lot in it that people don’t bother looking at or reading when they copy the “top raid tanking” spec. The best advice I can give ANY warrior asking about their spec (which I get asked about a lot) is to read their talents and make their own decisions based on what they’re doing. As a result of this, here is what I consider the “cookie cutter” and it actually leaves you an incredible 12 points to spend where you like, depending on what you’re tanking and what you prefer (preferring Devastate to Revenge):

http://www.wowhead.com/?talent#LVZhZVItMx0didczsGo:cTdMom

And that was it.

Stamina over all?

30/11/2009

As you can see in this thread, the great “stamina over everything” debate has yet to be put to bed in any meaningful fashion.

I’m not necessarily linking this to continue a debate, but more as a mark of posterity to a topic that I’ve contributed to heavily.

The language is often colourful, but many valid points are made and it’s worth keeping an eye on it.

Enjoy.

Warriors still weaker than paladins – why?

20/11/2009

3.3 is (relatively) just around the corner, so the world’s tanks are about to hit Icecrown Citadel and storm the halls of the malevolent Lich King to dish out calculated, retributive justice to the betrayer of a crown, a nation and an entire race.

Okay, that was dramatic.

But we have a right to look forward to the final content patch of this expansion with excitement. New content. New gear. New systems. New opportunites to immerse ourselves in some of the greatest Azerothian lore. New talents, abilities or specs to play with. Except, no.

Where the hell are the warrior changes for 3.3?

In a world where warriors are currently the games weakest tank, and generally have been for the entire expansion, I was really hoping that the class would see some attention to level them out for Icecrown. Instead, all we see is a lowering in level for an ability (Victory Rush) that is rarely ever used, if at all.

Naturally, I’m not the only one bringing this up and Ghostcrawler himself has spent a large amount of time dealing with it on the boards, particulary on this thread. The argument, basically, is that the numbers don’t add up to buffing warriors, despite the facts, so no changes are incoming.

This is bad development. The developers can clearly see where warriors fall behind, yet don’t want to do anything to address it because most tanks are still warriors. An absolute myriad of reasons have been provided for this fact, yet that’s just too bad; warriors are still tanking content just fine, so the fact that they’re technically worse just doesn’t matter. On Kilrogg, the two top raiding guilds are Barbarians (25 man) and Saoirse (10 man), with both of these guilds now running with paladins as their main tanks when, prior to Wrath of the Lich King, they didn’t. Now, I’m not saying that every guild in the world is doing that; clearly, they’re not. They’ve had tried and trusted warriors for a long, long time and are not going to go with the current Flavour of the Month. But is it just coincidence that the top performers on my server now use paladins?

Probably not. And not including my contribution to this thread on the WoW-Europe forums, I’m going to point out exactly why there is currently so much resentment toward paladins at time of writing. I’m sticking with paladins, purely because they’re the closest to warriors in terms of gearing and performance and currently the game’s most numerous tank (though not, necessarily, in the higher-end raid guilds).

All we really need to look at are the talent specializations. For the purposes of this comparison, I’ll stick with the relevant protection trees and the options.

Paladins receive 15% more strength (Divine Strength).
Paladins receive 16% more healing (Divinity and Improved Devotion Aura).
Paladins receive 602 more armour (Improved Devotion Aura, not including higher base armour because of Devotion Aura itself).
Paladins receive 1% less damage reduction, but 20% additional reduction when below 35% health (Improved Righteous Fury, Shield of the Templar and Ardent Defender).
Paladins receive 6% more critical strike rating (Combat Expertise).
Paladins receive the same melee damage increase for two less talent points (One-Handed Weapon Specialization).
Paladins receive 8% more stamina (Sacred Duty and Combat Expertise).
Paladins receive 25% more block rating, with a 10% chance of a further 30% (Holy Shield and Redoubt).

Now, not considering that certain things offset this list (such as Shield Block or the higher base health of a warrior), it’s pretty obvious to anyone who looks at the talent trees that paladins are in a far better position than warriors are when tanking. In addition to this, the parses don’t lie; warriors take more damage, deal less damage and generate less threat on both single and multiple pulls. We can also look at the cooldown options of the classes and, again, see warriors considerably worse off than paladins in both cases. The comparison between Shield Wall and Divine Protection is particularly galling; despite spending two talent points (that effect nothing else) and a major glyph, warriors somehow end up with an inferior cooldown. And, please, don’t start me on raid buffs.

If you’re a warrior tank, you’re quite entitled to be wondering “wtf?”

Now, I can understand Ghostcrawler’s point to a certain extent; buffing the most popular tank seems like a self-defeating notion. But it’s alarmingly clear that class performance isn’t the main deciding factor in choosing guild tanks (as if it ever would be), so their current policy is doing absolutely nothing, other than penalizing warriors for being the most numerous choice and, as a result, penalizing their guilds.

It’s crazy.

Of course, that brings up the question as to why warriors remain the most popular if they’re the weakest. This could be for any number of reasons, or perhaps none of them. Perhaps they’re the most fun. Perhaps the “defender’s lore” resonates. Perhaps it’s the fact all races (bar one) can roll warrior. Perhaps it’s because only one race can roll druid, and one race can roll paladin. Perhaps it’s the fact that both paladins and druids have more raid spec options. Perhaps it’s the vanilla legacy. Perhaps guilds simply trust their old tanks who are warriors. All of these reasons are perfectly possible, and all of them valid. They’re reasonable.

What’s not reasonable is keeping a class demonstrably weaker than another because it’s more popular.

Yet, that is exactly what’s going on.

Fix it, developers. Whether you like it or not, it is your job to balance the game properly.

[N.B: To the death knights out there, I feel your pain. However, I’m not in a position to reliably comment on your class due to a general lack of knowledge about it. Suffice it to say, I would agree with any death knight who believes they’re falling behind; it certainly seems as though you are.]

Warrior: the metal-bound juggernaut

16/11/2009

We tanks are currently living in a world of effective health. Come Icecrown Citadel, the general view is that stamina stacking is going to be an even more important part of gearing up, due to the inclusion of Chill of the Throne and the 20% hammering our avoidance is going to take as a result. Irrespective of whether I agree with that assessment or not (I don’t), it’s worth having a look at the real implication as opposed to the simple one and how, as a warrior tank, we should approach it. Basically, the notion is that tanks are going to be hit more often, but for slightly less damage than they have been; depending on the scaling of gear and the appropriate content, of course. So, logically speaking, stacking stamina is the best way to make sure we’re surviving for decent periods of time when we’re not avoiding. This sounds great on paper, but it’s not exactly big news – warriors have generally been the worst tanks for taking damage throughout this expansion, so a certain amount of cushion has been required throughout. But the cushion is called effective health and not just health. There is another facet to effective health that seems, to me, to be continually overlooked.

Armour.

Warriors have access to plate, the heaviest armour type in the game. Our shields have a pile of it stapled on, we can enchant for it, we can gear for it and we can find loads of gear with armour where you wouldn’t normally expect to find it. Armour is effective health – it’s the X to the stamina Y. The question, I suspect, is how good armour actually is for a warrior tank when compared to other stats that you may look for on your gear. And as anyone who looks at my profile will be able to see, I’m pretty aggressive when it comes to stacking armour. I’ll tell you why.

Armour lessens the amount of damage you take per hit. No, really; I’m not kidding. If you look at your character sheet and hover over your armour value, you’ll see just how much physical damage you’re lessening with the armour you’re wearing. When you consider that the vast majority of damage you take in this game is physical, the correlation is fairly obvious. Those with more stamina have a higher health pool, but will take a bigger hit. Those with more armour have less of that health pool, but take less of the hit. What’s the difference? Feel free to ask your healer who they like healing more. Back during The Burning Crusade, healers weren’t often fond of the “mana-sponge” tank that constantly needed topping off.

The second and most important part of armour, however, is the added benefit of DPS. Just as paladins were previously getting more spellpower from stacking stamina, warriors get more damage from armour through the talent Armored to the Teeth. Only an idiot would underestimate just how big this passive increase to their DPS is and ignore it purely for stamina. In my case, I’m currently running with 27599 armour on my gear. Purely from the aforementioned talent, I’m picking up an additional 766 attack power (rounded down) unbuffed. In anyone’s book, that’s a pretty substantial damage buff to be picking up from gearing for the other side of the effective health coin.

I’m probably labouring the point. Suffice it to say that armour, for a warrior, is an extremely good stat to be picking up. Not only does it provide constant mitigation, you can grab an awful lot of threat from it when you take the points, as everyone should, in Armored to the Teeth. I appreciate that armour is no defence against large or prolonged magical damage, but these mechanics are typically dealt with by using cooldown rotations and should not be a hindrance to going for armour when you get the chance.

Get more armour. Go on. You’ll love it.

The Idiot’s Guide to Talents

05/11/2009

I can’t help myself; I look at the spec of every single warrior I ever group with outside the guild. Whether they’re a tank or a DPS player, I feel the need to inspect the choices they’ve made because, hopefully, it’ll tell me what type of performance I can expect. Similar to Veneretio’s blog on the same topic, a spec is something that is solely dependent upon level, with gold and loot luck playing absolutely no part in it whatsoever. There really is no excuse for a bad spec but, often, someone using something different is not always wrong – have a look at why they may have made the choices they have and whether or not their reasoning is up to scratch. That said, warriors will generally be using the same tanking specs for either threat or survivability with points spent elsewhere depending on preference. These preferences are where you’ll find out what style your warrior likes or, possibly, what type of content his guild is raiding.

In any event, the viable “preference” talents are listed below. I’m not including the talents that will always be taken in a generally standardized spec.

Improved Heroic Strike
Iron Will
Cruelty
Shield Specialization
Improved Spell Reflection
Improved Disciplines
Focused Rage

1. Improved Heroic Strike and Iron Will seem to be interchangeable when going for Deep Wounds. I would argue, however, that the former is better in almost all cases, because if you’re going for Deep Wounds then you’re not building an endurance spec, you’re going for threat. This fact makes Improved Heroic Strike technically better.

2. Cruelty is for more threat, plain and simple. I question the real value of taking them based on my own testing, but more crit should (statistically) provide more threat for you.

3. Shield Specialization is usually considered in comparison with Cruelty, and depends on what you want; more mitigation or more threat. However, the addition of rage on avoidance to this talent means that more and more tanks are taking the full five points in it because more rage also means more threat.

4. Improved Spell Reflection is usually only considered when building a survivability spec, but usually for the extra chance for damage spells to miss as opposed to reflecting more spells from team mates. Again, you’re not going to see this in any other spec.

5. Formerly, Improved Disciplines was only to be seen in the survival specs but has now found a place in some balanced ones, too. It will always be married with the appropriate glyph for Shield Wall, but it’s in the “preference” list because it will rarely find its way into threat specs where points can be better spent elsewhere.

6. Lastly, Focused Rage is something of an enigma. Rage is good. Always having some is awesome. But the fact is, depending on content and other talent points, rage may well be in plentiful supply. With rage coming in on avoidance, as well as later content hitting harder, you can often find there is no need for this talent, especially if you’ve picked up Improved Heroic Strike to limit where most of your rage is going out. However, with higher levels of avoidance, you can end up dodging four heavy strikes in a row that see you with no rage and where Focused Rage would help. This is potentially the biggest judgement call out of all the talents in this list, but judgement should be reserved regardless of what someone has chosen.

Now, let’s move onto talents that you should never pick up, for any reason. Luckily, most are obvious and you are extremely unlikely to ever see tanks with these. Alas, though, it does still happen.

1. Tactical Mastery = All of your necessary talents are now available in defensive stance, while Bloodthirst and Mortal Strike are not part of your tanking repertoire. Three points wasted.
2. Improved Bloodrage = Your normal Bloodrage is more than enough since 3.2. Two points wasted.
3. Improved Disarm = Disarm is too situational, despite the talent looking nice on paper. Two points wasted.
4. Puncture = Worse than Focused Rage in every conceivable way. Three points wasted.
5. Safeguard = The damage bosses are currently doing, any non-tank is likely to be killed when struck regardless of how much damage you soak up. Two points wasted.

So, that’s it. Whether you’re running an endurance spec, a threat spec or one that’s balanced (yes, there are options for all three), there are things you will see, things you might see and things you should never see. You now know the reasons why should you have to politely whisper and explain to someone where they should be putting their points.

And for those interested, this is the spec I’m currently running.

Let me wipe your tiers… Some considerations on armour sets

03/11/2009

You know, it’s amazing how many times my guild mates and I get involved in discussions about gear; particularly class sets and how good, bad or indifferent they are. I would imagine most guilds with a few chatty people have discussed the same issue at length, but perhaps my guild is also fairly common when lampooning the sets as poorly itemized and not very compelling. Either they don’t like the bonuses, they don’t like the stats or they just don’t like the look of the armour (placed in order of importance). Overall, however, I get the feeling there is a general misunderstanding of what Blizzard are trying to do with armour sets and why they itemize them the way that they do.

Personally, I really like the class armour sets and have been very happy with what Wrath of the Lich King has served up so far. Therefore, I’m starting from a position of positivity on them. Those who tend not to like them, however, seem to be forgetting one major point:

It’s a set and, therefore, should be treated as such.

The set is designed to compliment itself, not just for the actual bonuses, but also for the range of stats that you’ll find on the set as a whole. What that means is, that the set should not be compared statistically piece-by-piece, but as a group of pieces with a range of stats that you should want. Let’s look at the protection warrior tier 9 (iLevel 232) as an example:

Head: Defence rating, dodge, block value.
Shoulders: Defence rating, dodge, expertise.
Chest: Defence rating, dodge, parry.
Gloves: Defence rating, dodge, parry.
Legs: Defence rating, hit rating, block value.

So, what we actually have is defence rating (obviously), dodge and parry for avoidance, expertise and hit rating for threat, and block value for both. In short, every stat a balanced protection warrior could possibly want is present on the set. Ignoring the argument based around encounter mechanics and current values of certain stats for the moment, everything you would expect to see on a tank’s gear is there, with the exception of block rating. So, why not block rating? Well, you have to look at the 4-piece bonus to figure that out.

Decreases the cooldown on your Shield Block ability by 10 sec.

In short, you have a higher uptime of Shield Block from the set, meaning you’ll mitigate a lot more damage if you’re wearing it and actually using the talent consistently.

Ultimately, this is how we should be viewing the armour sets; as grouped baselines of gear that the rest of your slots should be built around, and not in lieu of. This is so that you can use the set regardless of whether you’re actually gearing for threat or for endurance and, of course, depending on what you’re going to be tanking.

Now, obviously, I’ve concentrated on the Protection warrior; but the same is true of all classes and specs. People are looking to upgrade a particular slot, looking at the set option and saying, “I can’t use that, I’ll lose to much [desired stat]”. They are not appreciating that if the set was worn as a whole, said stat would certainly be present and free up other options elsewhere in your gear.

Lastly, I can pretty much guarantee that set bonuses on all sets will see use. Whether it’s something you’ll get a lot out of is potentially up to how you choose to play, but I’d be very shocked if a set bonus popped up that was of absolutely no use to anyone, whatsoever. Therefore, on top of your balanced set of gear, you’re getting two (generally) passive bonuses to abilities that your spec uses, free of charge.

In short, like everything, picking up gear sets is a choice; just don’t be fooled into thinking the sets are bad on account of that one piece not having the exact stat you want.

Grab the full picture before making your judgement.

Picking the right partner

26/10/2009

When you first ding 80 and start gearing up for raids, it’s easy to forget that you’re not going to be tanking them alone. Yes, the odd encounter in Naxxramas will only call for a single tank (as will Malygos) but, for the most part, you’re going to be in there with another heavily armoured rude-dude who will be taking blows with you. The old terms of “main tank” and “off tank” have been dispensed with by many people in an attempt at political correction in an online sense, but the old titles still work because one of you is going to be tanking the boss and the other is not. And let’s be clear; for a successful raid, this person shouldn’t be considered “the other guy”.

He should be considered a part of your very own tanking repertoire.

Now, the guild often asks who the best tanks are, but they do so on a class to class basis. The truth, however, is that class doesn’t make an awful lot of difference when you’re going to fight the most dangerous bosses that Azeroth has to offer. What matters more is how the tanking team understands one another, exhibiting that understanding throughout the encounter and seeing a plan through to fruition. It’s often said that tanks are not the most important part of a raid, but to the more erudite they most certainly are. That is not to say it’s the hardest job (it invariably isn’t), but the tanks carry the responsibility of the entire raid on their shoulders and the entire battle plan hinges on their actions; the rest of your raid will react to how you act, basically. This means that your tanking team has to be as good as it can be, in every way, before you pull.

Enter, Thorian: accept no substitutes.

It just so happens that our raids are composed of a warrior main tank and a paladin off tank, often considered one of the best pair ups. In saying that, this has less to do with Devastate and Avenger’s Shield and more to do with Zellviren and Thorian as people.

Let me explain.

Since roughly the beginning of Wrath of the Lich King, Thorian and I have been the guild tanks. We’ve slotted in the odd warrior, paladin, druid or death knight for certain evenings, but there is no doubt throughout the whole set up who the main men are. This partnership has been deliberately cultivated and it’s one that is now, quite frankly, demanded by the rest of the raid group when we’re pushing content. The reasons for this are quite numerous and I’ll elucidate them for you here, in an effort to point out how you should best form your guild tanking team.

1) I enjoy conventional “main tanking” and Thorian enjoys conventional “off tanking”.
2) We complement each other nicely in playstyle and spec.
3) There is an understanding between us of what is expected generally, and specifically (considering encounter).
4) The rest of the raid trusts us, and we trust each other.

From the points above, you should note that points 2, 3 and 4 can be achieved through discussion and, above all, experience. The most important point, however, is point 1 – we both do what we actually like doing. There are occasions when we switch around for a bit of variety (and it keeps us both honest) but, when push comes to shove, we both like the roles we fulfill and wouldn’t want to change them.

I would suggest that is the most important thing to consider when fixing your tanking team.

Thorian and I got that by a bit of luck and, in many cases, that’s what you’ll need. But if your guild runs several tanks, you’re best assigning someone a role that they enjoy most, as you’ll get the most out of them by doing so. Whether the tank is a warrior, druid, paladin or death knight, they are all equipped with tools that allow them to do any tanking job.

Make use of preference.

You won’t regret it.