Basically, I think Blizzard’s newest experiment, the Mastery stat, has backfired on them a little bit — at least when it comes to Tankadins.
For Tankadins, the Mastery stat increases our chance to block attacks with our shield, currently by 2.25% block chance per point of Mastery skill. In the Cataclysm beta, it was appearing that it would be possible for a character in a carefully-selected set of entry-level raiding gear to amass enough Mastery rating to make themselves “block-capped.” In tanking lingo, this means that every attack that is not a miss, dodged, or parried, is blocked. Ordinarily, it is impossible for a boss to land a normal, non-blocked attack on a block-capped tank. These findings were posted on the Cataclysm Beta forums, and in response Blizzard changed our core talent Holy Shield from a +15% block chance (increasing your chance to block by 15%) to a +10% block value (increasing the amount of damage your blocks prevent by 10%, to a total of 40%) in an attempt to stave off the dreaded block-capping beast.
So what’s the problem with block capping? In short, when it becomes easy for Tankadins to become block-capped, encounters and class tuning must be designed with that fact in mind (with the assumption that a Paladin tank will be block-capped) in order for those encounters to not be trivialized. If it’s easy for Tankadins to reach the block cap, they will do so. Blizzard specifically changed Holy Shield to make block-capping harder to do, to avoid this very problem.
The problem is that, right now, according to extensive testing and modeling, Mastery rating generally reduces a Tankadin’s incoming damage more than an equal amount of Dodge or Parry rating. That means that, setting aside diminishing returns, Mastery will almost always be preferable to take on a piece of gear, a gem, or an enchant, over Dodge or Parry. (From memory, I believe that the cutoff where Mastery becomes better than Dodge and Parry is somewhere around 800 Dodge/Parry rating, but I could be a little off on that.) Compounding this is the fact that Mastery has no diminishing returns, where Dodge and Parry both do. This means that once you pass that point where Mastery becomes better than Dodge and Parry, it will always continue to be so, and in fact will become better and better than those other two stats. Because all tanking gear will generally provide a certain amount of unavoidable Dodge and Parry rating, this means that for all intents and purposes, Mastery will be the #1 survivability stat for Tankadins for all current and future raiding tiers, unless something is done to make Mastery a little less attractive. As this trend continues and gear levels continue to inflate, block capping seems like more and more of an inevitability.
Blizzard has already stated that they would like to get away from certain stats having hard “caps,” where they’re incredibly valuable up to a certain threshold, after which point they’re essentially worthless. Hit rating for DPS is a prime example of this, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that block-capping fits that description all too well, as well. If the cap is reachable and it’s proven to be highly beneficial to be at the cap, players will aim to reach the cap. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t want players to be capping themselves out, make it impossible to reach the cap. Blizzard’s already done this by removing the block chance from Holy Shield, but I have a suspicion that this is just putting a band-aid on the problem. With presumably three tiers of raiding and heroic modes for each, I think we’ll still see block-capping as commonplace before the end of Cataclysm unless something is done.
So what can be done about it?
One, they could simply nerf the amount of block chance that Mastery gives. This is largely boring, but would solve the problem with block capping within the Tankadin microcosm itself. One potential drawback is that if they were to go too far, Mastery could become nigh-worthless and we’d have a junk stat on all these gear drops that we would be going out of our way to avoid, which is probably even worse. What this would do to our performance compared with other tanking classes, I can only guess. Obviously, this would have to be counter-balanced against other class changes, and frankly, we’re long since past the point of making any of those sorts of changes for the first tier of Cataclysm raids. This isn’t outside the realm of possibility for a future content patch, though.
Two, Blizzard has already talked about inflating the hit cap for future tiers of raiding content. Perhaps they could implement a similar mechanic to reduce our hit avoidance as the raiding tiers increase, allowing for the amount of rating you need per raid tier to steadily increase, without requiring a full-scale gear reset to do so. Yeah, I realize that this basically sounds like a toned-down version of Icecrown Radiance, but there’s a reason that Blizzard has had to resort to those debuffs — because they were necessary to keep incoming damage tuning at sane levels when avoidance got too high. If block-capping becomes a fact of life, a similar thing could very well have to happen.
Crushing Blows 2.0
Another unfortunate side effect of near-block-capping becoming the norm is the de facto return of Crushing Blows. For tanks who haven’t been around quite as long, back in The Burning Crusade, bosses had a chance to deal a “crushing blow” with their attacks, dealing 50% increased damage, many times leading to a raid wipe. As such, TBC tanks were forced to become “uncrushable” as a prerequisite to any serious raid tanking. Druids were exempt from this due to their large health pools, and Warriors were (mostly) exempt due to their Shield Block ability automatically making them uncrushable on slow-hitting mobs like bosses. For Paladin tanks, however, it became essential to reach 102.4% hit avoidance to be able to raid, as doing so made it impossible to be hit with a Crushing Blow. Shield block rating was the name of the game for new raiders trying to reach “uncrushable” status.
What’s happening in Cataclysm is that when tanks reach exceptionally high block percentages (say, a 10% chance to be hit by a normal, unblocked attack), these unblocked hits are becoming what were essentially Crushing Blows in The Burning Crusade. For the sake of easy computation, let’s say a boss swings for 100,000 damage with a normal attack. (We’re also ignoring armor and other damage-reduction effects here.) Most of the time, the Tankadin will block the boss’s attacks, reducing the incoming damage by 40%. This means that a blocked attack would connect for 60,000 damage, and since most attacks from the boss will end up being blocked, this will be the “norm” for the fight. However, on the rare occasion that a hit makes it through the small gap in your block chance, you take the full unmitigated hit of 100,000. After being hit for 60,000 over and over and over, you’re suddenly taking a big 100,000 spike. In fact, this 100,000 unblocked hit is ~67% larger than the “normal” blocked hits. This means that these new “crushing blows” are even more damaging compared to regular attacks than the actual Burning Crusade crushing blows were.
Now, this may not be as big of an issue as it sounds, because Blizzard’s entire encounter design philosophy has changed a bit for Cataclysm. They’d like to do away with the massive spike damage, and have tanks able to withstand a few hits before giving up the ghost — making healer mana, rather than healing throughput (or your latency!), the determining factor in the tank’s survival. As such, perhaps even a “crushing blow” wouldn’t be that big of an issue in the big picture. Still, though, spike damage is spike damage, and if block-capping is still going to be the shiny carrot for Tankadins, these new Crushing Blows are going to be a fact of life. Being that Blizzard specifically wants to avoid crazy spike damage, I can’t help but wonder if they’ll be making any adjustments to get out of this corner that they seem to have painted themselves into with Mastery, so that they don’t run up against some unfortunate consequences later into Cataclysm.
I certainly hope so.
Take a journey forward through time with me here. Not by much, just by a couple weeks. At long last, you’re level 85. You’ve quested through the seas, the earth, the sands, and the skies. You’ve conquered a few dungeons along the way, and have a decent collection of nice equipment and trophies to show for it. The next sight on your horizon is raids. What should you do to ensure that you’re as prepared as possible? What sorts of resources are available to you to get prepared for the challenges you’ll face? The easy-mode days of Wrath farming are now over (for now); tanks who have done their homework will once again be set apart from those who seem to have merely clicked the “Protection” button on their talent sheet by accident. You want to press forward into the new raid dungeons as a shining example of preparation and steadfast fearlessness — act the part. Ideally, you should aim to be in full 346-level blue gear before stepping into raids, with a few scattered pieces of 359-level epics from crafting or faction rewards. This guide’s intention is to help get you there.
During the natural course of questing in the new Cataclysm zones, you will discover new factions and begin earning reputation with each of them. By the time you reach level 85, you will probably be at least Honored with all of the factions, and potentially even reach Revered with one or two. Once you reach level 85, it may be worth turning your attention to maxing out your faction reputations as soon as possible — doing so will enable you to purchase the following pieces of gear for little more than a song.
Guardians of Hyjal Exalted: [Wrap of the Great Turtle] (359 Back)
Therazane Revered: [Felsen’s Ring of Resolve] (346 Finger)
Ramkahen Revered: [Red Rock Band] (346 Finger)
Ramkahen Exalted: [Sandguard Bracers] (359 Wrist)
Dragonmaw/Wildhammer Revered: [Grinning Fang Helm]/[Crown of Wings] (346 Head)
Dragonmaw/Wildhammer Exalted: [Boots of Sullen Rock]/[Gryphon Rider’s Boots] (359 Feet)
Most of the epic gear on this list requires one or more Chaos Orbs to create, which at the current time are bind-on-pickup drops from Heroic dungeon end-bosses (think Primal Nether and Frozen Orbs, before they were made tradeable). This will mean that the crafter (if you’re enlisting the services of another crafter to make them for you) will have to supply their own orbs, which will significantly drive up the prices for these items for the first few months (and especially the opening weeks) of the expansion. If you want to buy many of the epic-level pieces in this list, be prepared to pay a lot of gold to do so if you cannot craft them yourself.
Neck: [Elementium Guardian] (Jewelcrafting)
Cloak: [Twilight Dragonscale Cloak] (Leatherworking)
Chest: [Hardened Elementium Hauberk] (Blacksmithing)
Waist: [Hardened Elementium Girdle] (Blacksmithing)
Finger: [Elementium Mobius Band] (Jewelcrafting)
Shield: [Elementium Earthguard] (Blacksmithing)
BoP Alchemy: [Lifebound Alchemist Stone] (359 Trinket)
BoP Engineering: [Reinforced Bio-Optic Killshades] (359 Head)
BoP Jewelcrafting: [Figurine – Earthen Guardian] (346 Trinket)
BoP Jewelcrafting: [Figurine – King of Boars] (346 Trinket)
Justice Point Gear
Depending on how much preparation you’ve done ahead of time, you may or may not be sitting on a cache of Justice Points when you reach level 85 (the cap at level 80 is 4000, so that’s the most you can realistically expect to bring forward into Cataclysm). If you happen to be sitting on some points, you’ll be able to pick up a piece or two right off the bat. If not, you’ll be able to earn Justice Points fairly quickly through Heroic dungeons. In either case, here are the pieces that you’ll want to be aware of. As always, your choices here should be dependent on what pieces of your gear set most need to be replaced. In most cases, your lowest-level gear should be replaced first, unless you can easily get a replacement piece elsewhere, such as via crafting or reputation rewards. You’ll get the most value out of your Justice Points by using them last, to fill in the gaps in your gear set once you’ve gotten whatever reputation and crafted gear you can.
All Justice Point gear is item level 346, which is equivalent to Heroic dungeon drops.
Head: [Helm of the Proud] (2200 JP)
Neck: [The Lustrous Eye] (1250 JP)
Shoulders [Avoidance]: [Sunburnt Pauldrons] (1650 JP)
Shoulders [Threat]: [Pauldrons of the High Requiem] (1650 JP)
Chest: [Chestplate of the Steadfast] (2200 JP)
Hands: [Numbing Handguards] (1650 JP)
Waist: [Girdle of the Mountains] (1650 JP)
Legs: [Greaves of Splendor] (2200 JP)
Shield: [Shield of the Four Grey Towers] (950 JP)
Once you’ve got a set of mostly 346/359 gear put together, kit it out with some blue-quality gems and the best enchants you can afford (see the “Gem & Enchant Guide” link in the sidebar for specifics on those), and you should be ready to tackle anything that Nefarian, Cho’gall, or Al’Akir can throw at you! Good luck!
Having spent most of the evening working on the Pilgrim’s Bounty achievements, I hadn’t made any big plans to say goodbye to the game world I’ve spent the past six years in.
I’ve only been Horde for about half of that time, and indeed most of my oldest and fondest memories are of Alliance-side exploits, in many places which are somewhat difficult for me to revisit, so I’ll have to forego those festivities. I’ve still grown plenty attached to ugly old Orgrimmar, in its brown, lumpy glory, though. While the new Orgrimmar is certainly a lot more shiny and modern-looking, there will be always be memories of the time spent in the old Org that can’t be replaced.
Goodbye, Orgrimmar, it was nice knowing you.
In our previous installment, I showed you a list of all of the notable Paladin tank gear available in dungeons, and via dungeon quests in roughly the first half of your journey from 80-85 — namely, the Blackrock Caverns, Stonecore, and Vortex Pinnacle instances. (There may possibly be some gear pieces available in Throne of the Tides as well, but as of the time of that post’s writing, Wowhead’s database listed no such items.) In this post, I intend to finish what I started, and list the items available from the latter half of the normal mode dungeons, mostly in the 84-85 region. Let’s get to the topic at hand!
[Umbriss Band] – Finger, ilvl 333, Grim Batol
From the first boss of Grim Batol, General Umbriss, comes this nice ring. The hefty chunk of Mastery is the standout stat on this ring.
[Throngus’s Finger] – Trinket, ilvl 333, Grim Batol
All avoidance, all the time, with static Parry and a proc that triggers on a successful parry. With Parry being a significantly better avoidance stat in Cataclysm, this one isn’t too shabby. This drops from (rather obviously) Forgemaster Throngus in Grim Batol.
[Mace of Transformed Bone] – Mace, ilvl 333, Grim Batol
Another solid tanking weapon, if you haven’t had luck finding any others.
[Earthshape Pauldrons] – Shoulder, ilvl 333, Grim Batol
These shoulders carry a nice bit of Mastery, along with Dodge. Dropped by the second boss of Grim Batol, Drahga Shadowburner.
[Shroud of Dark Memories] – Back, ilvl 333, Grim Batol (BoE)
This nice cloak is a BoE zone drop in Grim Batol. Sports both avoidance (Dodge) and threat (Expertise).
[Breastplate of the Witness] – Chest, ilvl 333, Grim Batol (Quest)
This chestpiece is a reward from the quest Closing a Dark Chapter, obtainable inside the instance from Baleflame. The quest asks you to kill the final boss of Grim Batol.
[Sand Dune Belt] – Waist, ilvl 333, Lost City of the Tol’vir
Quite a nice amount of Expertise — our best threat stat — without sacrificing avoidance or Stamina. Quite well-rounded.
[Ring of Three Lights] – Finger, ilvl 333, Lost City of the Tol’vir
Another ring with Mastery on it. Would be easily paired with the Umbriss Band if you’re trying to maximize your block chance.
[Impetuous Query] – Trinket, ilvl 333, Lost City of the Tol’vir (BoE)
Lost City’s BoE tanking item is this interesting trinket, with a large pile of Mastery, and a Parry use effect with a 1-minute cooldown. Lots to love about this trinket.
[Sun Strike] – Sword, ilvl 333, Halls of Origination
Another pretty standard tanking weapon — good 2.60 speed, Hit, and Mastery. Not much to say here, but certainly a solid weapon. Mastery is always good to have.
[Darkhowl Amulet] – Neck, ilvl 333, Halls of Origination
An avoidance-heavy necklace, but with a little bit of Expertise to supplement it.
[Helm of Setesh] – Head, ilvl 333, Halls of Origination
This is an excellent helm. Sporting a meta socket, dodge, and expertise. Drop a purple gem into the red gem socket to pick up the beautiful +45 Stamina socket bonus.
[Fingers of Light] – Hands, ilvl 333, Halls of Origination
More mastery! These gloves sport Parry rating and high Stamina as well, making them attractive to plate tanks of all types.
[Bulwark of the Primordial Mound] – Shield, ilvl 333, Halls of Origination
As shields seem to be few and far between in terms of dungeon rewards (world quest rewards notwithstanding), this may be something to watch out for. This shield appears to be obtainable from both Ammunae and Earthrager Ptah in Halls of Origination.
[Armguards of Unearthly Light] – Wrist, ilvl 333, Halls of Origination
The most notable stat here is probably the Hit rating — useful to hang onto if you later find yourself short of the hit cap.
[Ramkahen Front Boots] – Feet, ilvl 333, Halls of Origination (Quest)
These boots are obtained from the quest The Source of Their Power, which, like the Vortex Pinnacle dungeon quests, are offered inside the instance entrance, so they’re impossible to miss. Clear Halls of Origination once to claim these boots as your own.
[Alpha Bracers] – Wrist, ilvl 333, Halls of Origination
What’s that? Two sets of bracers from the same instance? Well, these ones aren’t specifically tank bracers — you won’t find any Dodge or Parry here, for example. What you will find is Hit and Mastery, both very solid Tankadin stats as far as we’re concerned. Drop a Mastery(/Stamina) gem in the yellow socket to make this an ideal high-Mastery piece.
[Temple Band] – Finger, ilvl 333, Halls of Origination (BoE)
A BoE drop from Halls of Origination. With a good amount of Stamina, Dodge, and Mastery, this is a very well-balanced survivability ring. Keep an eye out for it on the auction house if you don’t get lucky with drops.
Sometime soon, I’ll finish up this series with a list of pre-raiding gear, including notable heroic drops, reputation rewards, and crafted gear, to help get you ready for level 85 raiding. Until then!
Seriously, though, over the past week or so, I’ve gotten requests from another Tankadin in my guild to help identify ways that he can improve his performance, because he seemed to notice a drop-off in his threat generation after 4.0 hit. People that may not keep up to date with the latest theorycraft may be shocked to learn that even the most fundamental aspects of Tankadin gearing, glyphing, and speccing changed in the transition to 4.0 — requiring almost a complete relearn of everything you thought you knew! Now, things that didn’t matter before (or were even outright poor choices) in terms of stats, talents, or abilities are now quite viable and may even be the preferable route to take in some cases. So, what’s changed, then? Without further ado, let’s get down to it, as there’s a lot to cover.
As always, for the most in-depth (and up-to-date!) detail, check out the links in the “Tankadin 101” section of this blog’s sidebar, which will give you all of the information that you’ll need in case when this article goes out of date.
Most Paladins who’ve logged in since 4.0 should already be familiar with this — but for those of you who either haven’t logged in since the big patch or have just been standing around in Dalaran /flexing all day, I’ll give a brief primer on what the new Holy Power system is all about. Basically, Holy Power is like a Rogue’s combo points, except with two key difference: 1) the combo points stack on you, not your target, so you can switch targets (or go out of combat) without losing your points; and 2) you only have a maximum of 3 combo points instead of 5. Just like Rogues, each Paladin spec now has one or more “combo point generators,” as well as one or more “finishers” which consume all of your accumulated combo points to proportionally boost the finisher’s effectiveness. For Tankadins, our combo point generators are Crusader Strike and Hammer of the Righteous, and our finishers are Shield of the Righteous (a big-damage single-target attack), Word of Glory (a reasonably-sized heal that can be boosted with optional Prot talents), and at level 81, Inquisition (a temporary damage buff, kind of like Avenging Wrath).
The old faithful Tankadin rotation for most of Wrath, dubbed “969,” is no more. Crusader Strike has been made a baseline ability for all Paladins, and is intended to be our Holy Power generator for single-target situations, while Hammer of the Righteous is our Holy Power generator for most multi-target situations. Since both of these abilities are now on a 3-second cooldown, they can be used much more often than the 6-second abilities in the old 969 rotation. The rotation now can be dubbed “939,” but I think that’s a little bit confusing. Basically, you’ll use your Holy Power generator ability whenever it’s available. For all intents and purposes, any time you have 3 combo points, you will use a finishing move like ShoR or WoG. If neither of these things are true, then you’ll use whatever of these three abilities are available, in order of preference: Judgement, Avenger’s Shield, Holy Wrath. (That’s right, Avenger’s Shield and Holy Wrath are actual staples of our main rotation now.) If you want to think of it as a priority system, you could write it like this:
Finisher (3 CP only) > CS/HotR > Judgement > AS > HW
I personally like laying my keybinds out like this to make it easy to commit to muscle memory:
1: Crusader Strike
3: Avenger’s Shield
4: Holy Wrath
5: Shield of the Righteous
6: Word of Glory
Q: Hammer of the Righteous
So basically, my single-target rotation is going to be 1-2-1-3-1-5, 1-4-1-2-1-5, 1-3-1-4-1-5, etc. If I need heals or am way ahead on threat, I’ll swap in Word of Glory for the ShoRs wherever needed. By putting Hammer of the Righteous on Q, I can swap that in very easily to grab onto an extra target or two if I need to on a trash pull, if we get an add, etc. For large AoE packs, though, you’ll want to use a slightly different rotation that prioritizes Consecration and Holy Wrath.
As with all rotations for any class, try it out on a target dummy for as long as it takes for you to become completely comfortable with it. You want to be able to pound out this rotation while concentrating on other things, while moving the boss, while picking up adds, while calling out orders to raid members, or anything else that might require your attention. Be able to do it with your eyes closed. Be able to do it in your head even when you’re away from your computer. You get the idea.
You’re much less likely to have a wonky spec after 4.0 because the total number of talents in the tree is now so much lower than it was before, but it’s still possible. The key talents that you want to make absolutely sure you get are Judgements of the Just (which is essentially unchanged from the way it was pre-4.0, but it’s still every bit as good), Sanctuary, Wrath of the Lightbringer, Vindication, Holy Shield, Sacred Duty, and all of the “ability” talents (the ones with the thicker borders). The only talents that you almost definitely want to avoid are Hallowed Ground and anything in the Holy tree.
For reference, here’s my current spec at the time of this article. It’s basically a combination threat (Crusade and 1/2 Seals of the Pure) and survivability (Eternal Glory, Guarded By the Light) build. I opted to skip Grand Crusader because at the moment, the math seems to indicate that it’s lower TPS than most of our other talent options, so I chose to use those points on talents that would boost Word of Glory’s effectiveness instead. I also consider Improved Judgement immeasurably useful, as it gives you another ranged tool that can be extremely useful in a variety of situations, such as picking up adds or improving your threat-generating capabilities outside of melee range (Prince Keleseth or Dark Nuclei on Blood Princes, ooze kiting on Rotface, almost any trash pull or boss fight where you get unexpected adds, etc). For more spec configurations and suggestions, check out the Talent & Glyph Guide link in the “Tankadin 101” section of the sidebar.
Almost all of our glyphs are completely different now, but you may not have noticed that many of your old glyphs carried over to the new glyph system, even if they are no longer appropriate or even desirable. So check your glyphs, and swap them around if necessary! Remember that you can swap your glyphs any time you want for the cost of only a Vanishing Powder, so don’t worry about the cost of buying a glyph from the auction house. You’ll only have to buy each glyph once, ever! You can afford it.
Glyphs to get:
- [Prime] Shield of the Righteous: no-brainer here, it’s amazingly good. Get it and keep it equipped.
- [Prime] Seal of Truth: as long as it’s beneficial to use Seal of Truth (that is, as long as you’re below the expertise hard cap from your gear alone), this provides an absolutely huge threat benefit. Use it, and use Seal of Truth at all times.
- [Prime] Your third prime slot has some flexibility. You could use Crusader Strike or Judgement for a small single-target threat boost. You could use Hammer of the Righteous, but current math seems to indicate that it’s broken and only affects the single-target portion (not the AoE portion), which makes it terrible until it’s fixed. You could use Word of Glory if you want extra oomph to your self-heals. I personally run with Word of Glory unless I absolutely need to squeeze every drop of TPS out of my glyphs that I can, in which case I’d switch to Crusader Strike or Judgement.
- [Major] Focused Shield: for single-target boss fights only, that is. This glyph is an immense threat boost to your Avenger’s Shield, but it kills the spell’s utility on trash or multi-target situations. Keep lots of powder on hand to switch this glyph in and out as you need it.
- [Major] Divine Protection: you won’t often need this glyph, but when you do need it, it may very well save your life. It makes Divine Protection useless for physical damage, but it increases its magic defense to a whopping 40%. This is fantastic in magic-heavy fights, quite obviously. Don’t use it all the time, but like the previous glyph, swap it in when you need it.
- [Major] Holy Wrath: may only really be useful on trash, but Cataclysm is looking to be full of Dragonkin and Elementals, so it’ll likely be a lifesaver in dungeons and on raid trash. Grab it, there aren’t many other full-time major glyph candidates.
- [Major] Salvation: also very situational, but worth keeping in your bag of tricks. This changes Hand of Salvation to reduce the target’s threat to 0% for its duration, but restores all of the target’s threat once it fades, rather than reducing the target’s threat permanently. May be useful in two situations: 1) when you want to immediately shut down a DPSer’s threat in the case of a crit streak, or 2) when you need to perform a tank switch and want to prevent yourself from accidentally pulling aggro back from the other tank from residual DoTs or similar effects.
- [Major] Consecration: for AoE pulls and trash only. Enough said, really.
- [Minor] Lay on Hands: the only real useful minor glyph. Get it.
- [Minor] Blessing of Kings/Might: you’re bound to cast these spells more often than your Seals, so I’d recommend getting these two minor glyphs over the alternatives to round out your set.
Glyphs to avoid:
- [Prime] Hammer of the Righteous: as mentioned above, it’s kind of broken at the moment. It only affects the single-target portion of the spell, which, because HotR is our AoE go-to ability, means this glyph kind of sucks in its current state.
First, let’s run down what stats are now good for Tankadins. For threat generation, in order of priority, we have Expertise up to the first cap (26 Expertise skill), then Hit up to the 8% melee hit cap, then Expertise up to the second cap (56 Expertise skill), then Strength after that. You’re unlikely to be at the Expertise hard cap unless you’re in excellent gear, so in most cases, Expertise is a good stat to shoot for on threat gear. For survivability, not too much has changed, but there are still things to note. The heated Agility/Dodge debate of old is now moot, as Agility has been nerfed as a tanking stat — it no longer grants armor, and its Dodge contribution has been reduced. The diminishing returns curves for Dodge and Parry are now identical, so Parry is now actually a more desirable stat than Dodge, assuming your Dodge and Parry percentages are roughly equal. While I won’t delve too deeply into the notion of block-capping, I will mention that Mastery is a good stat for survivability purposes — it increases your chance to block, which in turn will help smooth out your incoming damage a bit, and your healers will have less heart attacks.
Back to the topic of threat generation for a moment, it’s important to note that while weapon speed never really made too big of a difference for us before, it seems that slow, hard-hitting weapons are where it’s at now, especially since white damage now plays a larger role in our threat than it ever has before. One unfortunate corollary to this is that if you were using a good-quality tanking weapon before, your threat may now be suffering simply because the weapon’s speed is on the faster side (below 2.0) because weapon speed now actually means something. If you can get away with it (and aren’t hurting for tank stats), using a strong, slow DPS weapon is an acceptable alternative to a traditional tank weapon. The Heroic Gutbuster that I’m currently using is a fairly good example of a DPS weapon that also delivers excellent TPS in the hands of a Tankadin. If you do find yourself using a DPS weapon, you can reforge a less-desirable stat (say, crit rating) into a better one (expertise) to try to optimize it a bit for a tanking role.
When it comes to gems, all of our old best-bet gem cuts are either gone, different colors, or no longer desirable stats. Defense is now gone. Dodge is now yellow. Hit is now blue. Mastery gems, while not currently in the game, will be yellow when they are implemented. And so forth. In a nutshell, here’s some good candidates for gems if you’re looking to match socket bonuses:
Blue: Stamina (possibly Hit for threat pieces)
Red: Parry/Stamina, Parry, Expertise, Expertise/Stamina, etc.
Yellow: Dodge/Stamina, Dodge, Mastery (Cataclysm only), Mastery/Stamina (Cataclysm only), etc.
Based on the current state of the Cataclysm Beta, it appears that Stamina will be much less of a big deal in Cataclysm than it is in ICC. It seems as though we’ll want to have a balanced set of stats, between avoidance (Dodge/Parry) and effective health (Stamina/Armor), while likely attempting to increase our block chance (Mastery) as much as possible. It seems that it will be much more difficult to reach the block cap in Cataclysm, because Holy Shield is being changed to no longer give a +15% block chance, but instead a +10% block value (making our shield blocks block for 40% reduction instead of 30%). The designers’ stated goal in making this change was so that “block capping” was not something that all Tankadins felt pressured to do, and also that it would not be something that encounters would have to be balanced around. In the end, it’s probably a positive change for all involved.
Well, that about wraps up this post. This turned out to be a much more lengthy post than I had originally intended it to be, but oh well. If even one budding (or returning) Tankadin finds this information useful or learns something they didn’t know before, it’ll have been worth the time I spent writing it.
So, say you’re like me, and you want to take a balanced approach to your progression from level 80 to 85. You’d like to level as Prot, solo quest a bit, run some dungeons here and there, perhaps do a little bit of crafting, and otherwise experience all there is to experience as you go along. In your travels, you’re likely to come across a large handful of gear upgrades from quests rather naturally, but do you know all the dungeon loot tables? What about those dungeon quests that you always seem to only learn about after you’ve already completed the dungeon? I’ve constructed a list of many of the standout tank pieces that you can expect to obtain from either dungeon quests or dungeon drops in roughly the first half or so of your journey to level 85, so you can identify the “key” pieces that you may want to be certain not to miss during your adventures.
Keep in mind that while all of these items can be obtained by level 82, I can’t guarantee that they’ll be easy to obtain, especially the Vortex Pinnacle loot. You may need to level a bit more for some of these if your group is having trouble surviving the dungeons.
[Raz’s Breastplate] – Chest, ilvl 279, Blackrock Caverns
This nice-quality chestpiece comes from “Ascendant Lord Incendius,” a quest to kill the final boss of the new Blackrock Caverns instance, a level 80-82 dungeon. Wowhead doesn’t yet seem to indicate where this quest begins, but that information should be added as we get closer to release and their database becomes more complete. By doing one run through this dungeon, you are guaranteed a nice 279-level chestpiece, which should do you quite well until you pick up something better a few levels later.
[Shield of the Iron Maiden] – Shield, ilvl 279, Blackrock Caverns
This shield is a drop from Rom’ogg Bonecrusher, the first boss of Blackrock Caverns. While likely not a huge upgrade for anyone coming from Wrath (especially with the 270 PvP shield being only 70 honor points), it’s a solid piece regardless. Mastery rating is always nice to have, too.
[Beauty’s Plate] – Chest, ilvl 279, Blackrock Caverns
While the previously-mentioned Raz’s Breastplate is guaranteed for you upon a successful Blackrock Caverns clear, an alternative exists in Beauty’s Plate, a drop from Beauty (duh) in the same dungeon. This one has heaps of Parry and Mastery on it, which makes this a very solid survivability piece.
[Stalagmite Dragon] – Relic, ilvl 316, Stonecore
This relic is a drop from the boss Slabhide in Stonecore, the dungeon within Deepholm. Seeing as relics are relatively few and far between, tanking relics especially, this may be one that you don’t want to miss.
[Phosphorescent Ring] – Finger, ilvl 316, Stonecore
This ring also comes from Stonecore, this time from the boss Corborus. With a load of Stamina, Parry, and Expertise on it, this looks to have a good balance between survivability and threat stats.
[Magnetite Mirror] – Trinket, ilvl 316, Stonecore
This thing sports a whopping 215 Expertise rating, and will quite likely be a very solid threat trinket. The Strength Use effect won’t do too much for us as Strength isn’t as good as it used to be, but it’ll still up our threat by a not-insignificant amount. You may have to fight with your melee DPS over this one, though.
[Leaden Despair] – Trinket, ilvl 316, Stonecore
This is another one of those really nice survivability trinkets in the vein of the Commendation of Kael’thas or The Black Heart, with loads of Stamina and an automatic survivability proc that gives you a boost of armor when you need it. Definitely will be one worth picking up.
[Elementium Fang] – Sword, ilvl 316, Stonecore
I love the model for this thing. Great stats (avoidance and Mastery) in addition to a nice 2.60 speed make this a definite candidate for a solid tanking weapon. Between this and the above items, I can see myself running Stonecore several times to try to pick up all of the great drops that seem to come from there.
[Darksky Treads] – Feet, ilvl 316, Vortex Pinnacle (BoE)
On the down side, these are Bind on Equip, so you may have angry group members that want an equal shot at these so they can sell them. On the up side, these are Bind on Equip. Even if you can’t get them as a drop, you can plan on buying these on the Auction House if you so choose.
[Headcover of Fog] – Head, ilvl 316, Vortex Pinnacle
This helm is a drop from Grand Vizier Ertan, a boss in Vortex Pinnacle. It’s got quite a load of Hit on it, but seeing how a lot of our other pieces from this gear level don’t seem to have much Hit on them, it may be very nice to have. Lots of Parry and Stamina round out this piece.
[Band of the Dead End] – Finger, ilvl 316, Vortex Pinnacle
This ring comes from a quest to kill one of the bosses of Vortex Pinnacle, Grand Vizier Ertan. Luckily, the quest is issued right inside the instance entrance (think Utgarde Keep), so it’s all but impossible to miss this one.
[Greaves of Orsis] – Legs, ilvl 316, Vortex Pinnacle
These legplates come from a quest to kill the final boss of Vortex Pinnacle, Asaad. Just as with the above ring, you obtain this quest inside the instance entrance, so you should have no problem finding this one.
Check back later for a follow-up article!
So, if my paladin’s been on the shelf for the better part of a year, how will I be spending my time between now and Cataclysm? In the few weeks that I’ve been back, I’ve already replaced a fair amount of my gear with 251/264 Justice Points items. I’ve also picked up a few lucky drops in raids as well. I’m still sporting a couple pieces of Ulduar25/ToC25 gear here and there, but it’s only a couple of slots at this point, so I’m not all that concerned about it. I might hit up the Elemental Invasion bosses to try to score some 251 bracers to replace my [Mimiron’s Inferno Couplings], but as I said, I’m not too concerned about it.
Raid-wise, I’ve been hitting up the bosses I’ve missed since I left — we’ve been working on H ICC 10, with only Putricide and Sindragosa left standing (I don’t think we’re realistically planning on devoting serious time into H LK attempts this close to Cataclysm). We also knocked out Ruby Sanctum just so a couple of us stragglers could see the content, despite laggy conditions. We made a run at H ToC, which was a cakewalk at our gear level, but wiped to Anub at 5% because we were, for all intents and purposes, 8-manning it (with no Bloodlust to boot). Maybe we’ll go back in and finish him off sometime, or maybe not.
Now that I’ve decided to make my Paladin my permanent main-main from here on out, I’ve also been putting in some time to catch him up to my Mage achievements-wise. I’m trudging through all of the Crusaders’ Coliseum daily achievements, as well as some of the other more random achievements that I need to do again. Although I was making a solid run at Insane in the Membrane on my Mage, there’s no way I’m starting that over on my Paladin — even with the removal of Shen’dralar rep. I just don’t care enough about that title anymore to do that all again. The only other big thing that I want to “re-acquire” on my Paladin is the Time-Lost Proto Drake mount, which I have on my Rogue and love dearly. I really hope to get the TLPD on my Paladin before Cataclysm hits, and then am planning to obtain the Cataclysm equivalent (the Phosphorescent Stone Drake) as quickly as possible. I don’t know what it is, but something about those ultra-rare drakes that require days or weeks of camping just for that one moment of truth, and then being able to ride the drake as a trophy just really excites me.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I’m planning to race-change to a Tauren once the option becomes available. I really can’t stand Blood Elves, and only chose one out of necessity. And everyone knows how good tank gear looks on Tauren. :)
In terms of actual productive preparations for Cataclysm, here’s what’s in my current plans:
- Being at the Justice Points cap of 4000. This is 4000 less Justice Points I’ll have to grind out at level 85, and will equal roughly two free pieces of level 346 (heroic-level) blue gear.
- Having as many daily quests as possible to turn in as soon as the level cap is raised. I’m not making a run at Realm First anything (I have to work the next morning, anyway), but I still want to speed along my leveling process as much as possible, since I’m making it my goal to be the guild’s most reliable and best-geared/prepared tank in early Cataclysm. I want to be level 85, full blues with a few purples (crafted epics and reputation rewards), with the best stats I can manage a week before our first scheduled raid night. I want to return to my role as the shining example of what a tank can be, as I have been before. And leveling quickly so I can begin devoting time to raising my reputations and getting materials together for crafted gear is an excellent first step down that path. Having a full stable of quests (daily or otherwise) ready to turn in once Cataclysm launches will, I hear, get me a good 20-25% of the way towards level 81 in a matter of minutes. I’ll take that. Collecting many daily quests in a single area (such as the Coliseum dailies) will make the turn-in process as fast as possible.
- Watching dungeon and encounter videos. I want to know at least the basics for each dungeon, heroic, and (eventually) raid encounter in Cataclysm. When I step into a heroic at level 85, when nobody’s familiar with the places, I want to be able to properly call sheep targets, explain boss fights, and pull trash correctly. Watching the myriad of videos that are now available on the internet is an easy way to prepare myself with that knowledge.
- Being current on theorycraft. This not only includes knowing how to spec and glyph smart, but also includes which gem and enchant choices to shoot for so as to best maximize my survivability for what will undoubtedly be some very rough first attempts on bosses like Cho’gall and Al’Akir. If we have problems getting a fight down, I don’t want the problem to be me. That much, at least, is within my power.
- Stockpiling as much gold as I can manage. I’m not at all one of those people that’s usually drowning in gold (I typically have 1000-2000 to my name at any given time), but I’m trying to make a concerted effort to retain as much gold as I can for when the expansion hits. Gems and enchants will be expensive, it should go without saying, so if you want to outfit yourself with the best, you’d better be prepared to pay for it. Remember when Abyss Crystals were actually quite expensive and you had to sell your left leg for an enchant like 63 Spellpower or Berserking? Get ready for those days to return. Luckily, the Coliseum dailies that I’m working on for other reasons has been helping to pad my bank account a little bit, at least by my standards.
What about you, dear readers? Do you have any plans to prepare for Cataclsym? Or are you just planning to “wing it”? (Avenging Wrath? Ha, ha, get it? Ha? No? Sigh.)