This got inspired by a comment I made on the wow forums.
Most bears these days don't gear exclusively for stamina like they used to - and that's the right choice. Stamina has always been a big win back in the day when the following was true:
- All that mattered was that a tank could take big, crushing hits one after the other but then get healed up almost immediately after a certain point
- Tanks were getting routinely smashed by nonpredictable damage (such as crushing blows)
- Bears got 25% more health from stamina (or more) compared to other tanks, making it a major gain for them
- Healer mana wasn't an issue
In Cataclysm virtually none of that is true. Sure, a tank needs to be able to survive the Giant Damage of Doom here and there, but after that stamina doesn't do much. It can increase your vengeance damage (and thus savage defense shields are better) but not nearly as much or as reliably as simply having more AP and more crit. Healers aren't going to heal you to full most of the time and certainly aren't going to be able to do it in one GCD or two at most. And bears (sniff) don't have a stupid OP amount of extra health compared to other tanks.
So it's clear that the strategy should be go for stamina until you have enough, then go for agility. Right? Good, so we can move on and...
This may shock you, but there are more choices to make than just agility vs stamina.
In particular, the advantages of armor and resistance continue to be massively understated for bears (and tanks in general).
Now I've talked about some of the secret advantages armor had over stamina, but that was just talking about effective health. Armor's primary advantage is shared with agility or any other avoidance - a reduced attack does less damage and thus requires less healing. This is a Big Deal in an age where mana matters for healers and tanks are left at partial deficits for longer periods of time. But now, I have some easy math to showcase this.
Thanks to Tangedyn's spreadsheet over at Inconspicuous Bear, I have an example of this. Namely, me. While I'm not remotely geared to the gills or anything of the sort, the changes should not be significant between me and a very well-geared bear - especially as far as armor is concerned. I'll play with it later with a more geared tank at some point in the future. And if you look at that spreadsheet, 1 point of bonus armor is worth .18 points of agility.
So clearly agility wins out, right? Well, that's where it gets tricky. Things like Bedrock Talisman have a veritable ton of armor - 1285 to be precise. That's equivalent to 231 agility on its own - but it also has a large chunk of avoidance that could be useful at various points and would cause a big reduction in damage too. Many of the other agility trinkets like Essence of the Cyclone have a ton of agility but nothing particularly useful for anything else.
But the big thing that wins here is that armor is predictable. While avoidance is nice - good even - being able to consistently mitigate damage from every single physical hit is very nice. Being able to plan on that incoming damage on a regular basis is great.
So how does this compare to the two best agility trinkets out there - Tia's Grace and Fluid Death?We'll assume reforging to dodge.
Tia's grace: 340 agility effectively + 171 mastery + 114 dodge.
Fluid Death: 380 agility effectively + 193 hit + 128 dodge
According to the spreadsheet, mastery is worth .2782 agi, dodge .9110 agi, hit .0838. So we get a total value of:
Tia's Grace: 491.42
Fluid Death: 512
Okay, but what's the value of the proc on Bedrock? In a perfect world you'd get 963 dodge for 1/3rd of the time (which is unlikely), meaning you get 321 dodge.
Bedrock Talisman: 1285 armor *.1808 + 321 dodge *.9110 = 524
Huh. So that means that in a perfect setting where you get procs all the time, Bedrock Talisman is actually better for time to live and dtps than Fluid Death or Tia's Grace. (at least for me).
How about someone more geared? Well, while it's not perfect let's go ahead and use Sejta from Paragon. (it's not perfect because while they're more geared they go for mastery and stamina over agility and dodge primarily)For them, bonus armor is only worth .1632 and dodge .8322 agi. Mastery is worth more (.323) as well, so for them the values of Bedrock are a bit lower - Bedrock, even in the best case, is still not as good as Fluid Death for Sejta. (And I'm sure that breaks his heart).
Still, the value of armor's predictability combined with the value of the mitigation is quite nice and something to consider. Especially if the pattern of damage would give you that high avoidance in spikes. Heck, even something trivial like Heart of Thunder can be good if the cooldown is more useful than avoidance would be (for instance, on something where you take predictable chunks of large magical damage.