Tuesday, March 29, 2011

[Druidl] Antitanks in Cataclysm part 2: enchants, gems, gear and reforging

Continued from the last post.

While Reesi and Tangedyn (note: no guarantees they'll stay in their feral spec/gear) did an awesome job about what to do for the spec and glyphs for a hybrid build, I didn't see a lot on the gear. And...I still don't. Probably because it's a lot harder to evaluate.

Also a note on the glyphs: don't be afraid to take a stack of disappearing dust and swap glyphs as needed. You should be doing this on a case-by-case basis anyway. If you don't use feral faerie fire, the glyph for it is not great. If you're not hitting multiple mobs, why take maul? The prime glyphs are almost always going to stay the same for any fights that have you using hybridity, but if you're just tanking swap them out!

For this I'll give two choices: max DPS and max survival. The Max DPS will give some credit to survival (and vice versa) but ultimately what you need is up to your role; if you're primarily DPSing with occasional tanking light stuff max DPS should be fine. If you're tanking all the time you'll likely have to go with maximum survival.

Gear choices:
The best stat for a hybrid set is agility. Everything should have it. That's true for DPS or survival. The second 'hybrid' stat is mastery. This is the best secondary stat for cats and the second-best for bears. So far, not a lot changes, though your gemming priorities may change somewhat (favoring agility gems over anything else and disfavoring stamina over agility/hit gems).

For max DPS go mastery above everything else. For reforging, the primary reforging target should be mastery if the gear doesn't have mastery. The second one should be expertise (if below the dodge cap), then crit, then hit. Why? If you're planning on being a bear expertise is going to benefit you from a threat perspective and from a savage defense uptime perspective more than crit or hit as long as you're below the dodge cap. After that crit and hit are fairly similar. As has been shown recently, going hit/expertise/crit/haste/mastery is really a matter of choice more than massive changes in overall DPS value for a cat.

For survival, the best secondary stat is dodge. Reforge the highest non-mastery stat to dodge whenever you can, favoring haste, then hit, crit, expertise in that order.

Avoid tanking rings, necks and cloaks. They'll be basically horrible for dps and do not give enough survival gains to warrant their value unless they're significantly higher ilvl (2 tiers) more than what you have.

Tier pieces:
On Tier pieces: the 4 piece for cat is very, very strong when going cat 100% of the time. The problem is that whenever you switch out of cat the buff disappears completely. That means that on any fight where you're switching back and forth every 30 seconds the buff is just going to not be worth it; using 3 GCDs to mangle just to have the buff for 30 seconds isn't going to be as good as having suboptimal stats for bear or cat.The 4p is pretty nice for bears too, but the actual pieces really vary, and for hybrids (especially ones caring about survival primarily) the biggest importance is ilvl over basically anything else. If you have the choice of getting a heroic non-tier piece to replace the nonheroic tier piece - for a bear, this is a good choice. For a cat it's a harder choice but likely the right one.

Note that the 2p for cats is just perfect in this setup as the rake will keep on ticking while in bear form. Yay threat!

In terms of what nontier piece or pieces you should have, it depends. For non-heroic content, Tsanga's helm is the best. It is the only helm with mastery. The tier helm has hit and crit, the offset from Cho'Gall has haste and expertise (ugh). A second choice is the Poison Protocol shoulders, which also have mastery. The Double Attack Handguards are also not bad compared to tier; at least they don't have haste.

For heroic, the best bet is the Sark of the Unwatched, which has crit and mastery vs. haste and expertise.

The best tier piece is the legs, which have crit and mastery and nothing is better at either level. Then the head, then maybe the chest due to the socket bonus being better. In a perfect world I'd go for (non heroic) Tsanga's helm, Double attack handguards and purchasing Morrie's and then going for tier legs and shoulders. For folks getting most of their gear via valor points by necessity you'll likely pick up the tier chest; buy a helm and then work on shoulders and buy Liar's handgrips. For heroic mode go for tier legs and helm, then Double Attack handguards, Sark and Poison Protocol shoulders.

Trinkets are interesting. Ideally you will swap trinkets as needed for certain fights and use others for others, but there are some 'much more better' ones than others here and there.
Max DPS:
  1. Fluid Death has high agility and a reforgeable hit to mastery. Good stuff.
  2. Essence of the Cyclone has the raw agility but the proc is almost completely useless for bears.
  3. Unheeded Warning has lower agi than many of the choices here and has a proc that is completely useless for bear survival (it doesn't even affect SD). Still, it's one of the highest DPS trinkets that exist.
  4. Tia's Grace is almost as good as Fluid Death for cats and actually a bit stronger for bears on most non-Heroic Nef fights due to the extra mastery. (But don't use it for Nef tanking!)
  5. Quicksilver Talisman has tons of agi and reforgeable crit. The potion part isn't particularly useful but it's a good alternative for a second trinket.
  6. Prestor's Talisman also has high agility but has a meh proc for bears.
  7. DM: Hurricane is similar but even more useless to bears.

Max survivability:
  1. Fluid Death has high agility and a reforgeable hit to mastery. It's likely the best hybrid trinket.
  2. Tia's Grace is almost as good as Fluid Death for cats and actually a bit stronger for bears on most non-Heroic Nef fights due to the extra mastery. While Fluid Death has more overall agility the mastery can overtake it, especially when taking smaller hits. (thanks, Nica!)
  3. Mirror of Broken Images only has a survival proc, but that it is mastery as the main stat helps both specs and the actual on use ability is amazing for this tier's raiding content.
  4. Vial of Stolen Memories is horrible for DPS, but between the high stamina and the huge dodge use (which will be very high in an agi-centric gearout), it can be very good - especially on magic-heavy fights.
  5. Symbiotic Worm is a good but not great stamina trinket; use it if you don't have the vial or need a ton of stam for some reason.
  6. Quicksilver Talisman has tons of agi and reforgeable crit. The potion part isn't particularly useful but it's a good alternative for a second trinket.
  7. Prestor's Talisman also has high agility but has a meh proc for bears.
  8. Bedrock Talisman is good for survival but completely useless for DPS.
  9. Essence of the Cyclone has the raw agility but the proc is almost completely useless for bears.
  10. Unheeded Warning has lower agi than many of the choices here and has a proc that is completely useless for bear survival (it doesn't even affect SD). Still, it's one of the highest DPS trinkets that exist.
  11. DM: Hurricane is similar but even more useless to bears.
For me personally the choice is clear - Fluid Death is a win for both specs. An alchemist is probably in luck too. After that the generic one would be something like Unheeded warning or Prestor's talisman depending on what you have. For harder fights swap to a stam trinket + mirror of broken images. Trinkets are the easiest, best way to customize your gear on a fight-by-fight basis, so really do collect them all.


While 90 stamina is quite hefty you may be fine with the stamina you have - in which case the 60 agi beats 35 dodge rating any day. The haste is useless for bears, but it's okay for cats. Note that this is a very good place to get a ton of stamina cheaply, so consider doing so if you need more health.


While the Unbreakable Quartz enchant is solid, getting both agility and mastery makes up on the hybrid side compared to both. Again, if you need the stamina go with stamina - but otherwise this is a good place to compromise in favor of DPS and avoidance.

Max DPS/Max Survival: Peerless Stats
No real debate here. The stamina is nice but this gives enough overall value that it's worth it.

Max survival: charscale leg armor

Okay, so technically the dragonscale leg armor wins for DPS - but it's much closer than you think. 55 agility gives 110 AP as well as crit; based on weighings right now that's about 85 EAP vs 55 EAP, which is way smaller. So is 30 EAP worth 145 stam? In most cases you're not going to be able to find a better tradeoff than that. So I'd recommend in either case to go with the charscale legs.

Max DPS: Major Agility
Max Survival: Assassin's step

If you can afford it I'd go with assassin's step in either case, but technically major agility is better for cats since they gain nothing from the movement speed increase while in cat form. Lavawalker is also a good choice for a hybrid that favors a bear.

Max DPS/Max Survival: Enchant Bracer Agility

Easy choice here. For leatherworkers it's a bit more tempting to go for the stamina enhancement,but I'd recommend going for the superior agility there as well.

Max Survival: Glove reinforcements (old world)

Yes, the glove reinforcements are still just that good for bears. Sigh. The mastery enchant isn't too bad though.

Max DPS: Greater Agility (old world)
Max survival: protection
For this I'd recommend having two cloaks if you can or going max survival here; the old world enchant is not super strong (22 agi isn't huge) and 250 armor is quite good for bears (it's worth about 40-50 agi for bear survival depending on the fight).

Max DPS/Max survival: Mighty Agility

Fortunately this is an easy choice.

The primary goals for both specs is getting agility whenever possible. Where things differ is mostly in which hybrid gems you use and which sockets you go for.
For max DPS go for these choices:
Red: Delicate (agi)
Yellow: Adept (agility/mastery)
Blue: Glinting (agi/hit)

For max survival, go with these:
Red: Delicate (agi)
Yellow: Polished (agi/dodge)
Blue: Shifting (agi/stam)

Then we get to the metagems. And that's a problem. The metagem for DPS is at least a 3% dps gain overall; no single item or enchant or gem comes remotely close to how good it is. The metagem for tanking, however, boosts the one thing that bears are great at - armor. While that's a clear sacrifice, the second sacrifice is that the tanking gem also requires having multiple yellow gems, which are also a somewhat contentious choice. Ultimately what you choose is going to have a big effect, and since helms are hard to come by this may be really tough. Since I think that the hybrid build is about tanking first, DPS second I'd likely go with the austere - but either is a reasonable choice. Just make sure you understand what you're choosing.

[Druid]Antitanks in Cataclsym

(the antitank image from that article oh so long ago - because russian dogs with explosives strapped to them charging tanks needs to be shown at least one more time)

Recently we've got a lot - and I do mean a LOT - of various bloggers talking about the joys of feral hybrids and the greatness that is being able to do tanking and DPS in the same spec and the same gear. Reesi and Tangedyn from the Inconspicuous Bear do a great job of illustrating where it's useful and what the tradeoffs and considerations are for doing it. Alaron brought it up again (and that came from Wowinsider too). Even Jacemora got into the mix.

Hell, it's not like I hate it. I talked about it way back in the day. (Ironically the build is actually a bit less friendly now than it was then for this sort of thing.

It's all the rage! It's awesome! It makes you 100% more awesome than just having flight form!

And it's also really, really bad for some folks who want to play ferals. But I'll get to that at the end.

Here's the build I'd use (and am likely to switch to soon), if you were curious. The biggest pain point is the loss of feral aggression, which hurts. For doing dailies having nothing that boosts ravage also hurts, but not so amazingly. Because I took nothing that boosted FB, I did not take Blood in the Water either; while it is a DPS boost it is not such a tremendous one that it's required, and more importantly the chances to actually use it when you're tanking and swapping are pretty low, as you're not usually able to get a rip up and then reapply it with the CP necessary. The primary reason I'd switch is simply to get an idea of how to play a moonkin.

Here are some guidelines on when it is good and when it's not that useful.

When it's good:
  • When the tank is not tanking 100% of the time. Any time that you have downtime on tanking and would otherwise DPS is a time when the hybrid gear/hybrid spec can be significantly advantageous. As Reesi points out, doing 8k more DPS than the next tank is a good reason to bring you over another tank. Being able to do that regularly means that you can either afford to bring an extra tank and drop a DPS slot with little loss to raid viability or be able to bring more utility and survivability in your DPS and make up for raw damage with what you can bring. There are a lot of encounters in this tier where there are significant portions of the fight that you aren't actively tanking and which threat is not a primary concern (such as tank swaps) and Reesi does a good job of talking about them.
  • When you need to tank only for short amounts of time. Any time you're only tanking for a small chunk of time and that time can largely be covered by defensive CDs is a good time for a hybrid build. Druids are great for this because of things like barkskin.
  • When your raid for whatever reason likes letting tanks die. This is the herobear case Alaron talks about above, and it's vanishingly rare to happen - but if you find it happening a lot in your raid, consider this as a very useful piece of utility.
  • When bosses don't hit for a lot or avoidance is otherwise awesome. This one is crucial. This was the primary reason it was okay when I talked about the antitank stuff for WotLK - because bosses hit for almost nothing and avoidance was great since druids hit their stamina check very early, avoidance was much better - and because of that, agility was a big win. Aside from heroic Nef, the bosses this tier don't hit for a huge amount. As a result you can simply adjust gear slightly (using things like stamina trinkets) and have enough health to deal with most bosses while actually taking less overall damage. And since mana is an issue right now, this is a Good Thing.
Now the thing is that all of these things are true right now. That's good to realize. That's good to understand. But it's not necessarily going to be true in the future. Encounters will be designed with all tanks in mind, and those other tanks don't do things like get gear loaded with strength and crit on it. Bosses will hit hard enough to scare those tanks who are stacking stamina. Keep that in mind and make sure you understand when it's bad.

When it's bad:
  • When you're tanking 100% of the time. If you're the single tank with no swaps, there's not a lot of advantage to being a hybrid. You have more avoidance thanks to your gear selections, but you could have done that anyway if it was better - and chances are that you've reforged primarily to mastery, not dodge, which isn't as good. The difference between a bear in DPS gear and a bear in stam gear in terms of damage isn't so amazing; you get your dividends in dps not from doing it in bear with dps gear, but from going cat. So you're tradiing utility and potentially damage reduction (especially if you skipped infected wounds or perseverance) for...nothing.
  • When you're DPSing 100% of the time. Herobear notwithstanding, you are losing DPS if you're speccing this way. Even with pure DPS gear you lose somewhere between 5-10% DPS just from going this route depending on your talent choices. You can also lose some utility that most will expect from you - Nurturing Instinct is often the one that goes by the wayside, and a NI-powered tranq is about twice as good as a non-NI powered tranq. In this case, you're trading DPS and utilty for the ability to not get crit when...nothing attacks you.
  • When specialized gear really matters. Being able to hybridize is mostly a function of gear choice, not spec choice. The spec differences are fairly minor, and the glyph differences aren't going to necessarily kill you (though the 'important' ones are almost all kitty), but the gear choice is huge and is easily a 20-40% difference in damage for a cat. Between the meta, the enchants, the gemming and the reforging it's a very large swing in stats. If as a bear you need to have 200k health and a ton of dodge and mastery doesn't matter (like, for example, if you're going up against heroic Nef as the MT) being a hybrid won't help you. This was the primary death of the antitank in Ulduar times - things just hit too damn hard.
As Reesi illustrated above right now the number of encounters that require a 100% tank is not nearly as much as the ones that don't. And the fights that benefit from more DPS from a tank are more common than the ones that wouldn't. Right now, it makes quite a bit of sense.

Except...well, except the bad parts.

What are the bad parts? They're basically TBC all over again, is what.

If bears are the best tank to do things like tank some of the time, they will almost never be the tank that tanks 100% of the time on fights. If you like being a tank on every single encounter, this is bad news for you. If you like tanking 100% of the time on a single encounter this is also bad.

In raid guilds, bears will be deprioritized for tanking gear over the 100% tanks - and rightfully so. Why should they get that awesome tanking trinket if they only use it half the time? This is tough to deal with for some.

It's sometimes going to be a fight to get gear as a DPS as well. Why give it to you when you're just using it for offtanking? Shouldn't it go to a DPS who will use it to do more DPS more often?

Bears already have a prejudice towards them as being 'bad' tanks (mostly for their AOE threat and AoE mitigation). This isn't going to help.

And if you like being a cat - it's also bad news. If you don't care about tanking at all, if that's not interesting to you whatsoever and you like being a feral cat, chances are this is a huge hit. Feral DPS was already meh - but having the trend being doing DPS while not tanking and then tanking something? That's what raids are starting to expect from ferals. Being an awesome offtank means that a lot of time that's what they'll expect from you. They'll want that to be the case and want you to go tank and if you suck at it, or don't like it, or whatever - that'll be a knock on you.

And yes, it sucks hard for heroics. You'll miss having things like IW or skull bash on a 10-second CD, you'll miss that utility, and it'll not feel right. That's not a big deal, but it's something to consider; it's something I went through when I had my awesome spec for HAnub that didn't have 5 rage reduction on abilities. For HAnub it didn't matter; I was getting tons of rage and I didn't need it early. But for heroics? Ugh, it was like molasses.

And honestly? Feral DPS is so meh in raiding right now and ranged is so awesome that it makes a lot of sense to go feral hybrid/moonkin as your two specs; it gives a lot more flexibility while doing a hell of a lot more damage when not tanking. That's sadly the way it is this tier.

For me, personally, this is fine. I enjoy tanking, I enjoy DPS, and I plan on doing both in raids when I'm raiding. If it makes sense to go hybrid on fights because of tight DPS checks, then it's great. Being able to make other tanks cry unfair can be fun.

But it can also be fun being the main tank. And it can also be fun being competitive with rogues and warriors on DPS. And as long as hybrid builds are possible and having 'high dps while tanking some of the time' is a feature, it will be very, very hard to get improvements to tanking or DPS for ferals. Keep in mind that for every TBC-era feral that loved being the best offtank and loved being able to do tanking or DPS depending on what mood fit them and loved the herobear, there was a feral that was pissed off their class wasn't being considered for MT and didn't want to screw around with being a DPS - or a feral that loved being a cat but didn't want to tank at all. Hell, in Fire and Blood we had all three kinds of ferals at the same friggin time.

I guess that's where my animosity comes from (if I have any) - from remembering the arguments from people in my own guild that said that I clearly couldn't get the things like barkskin or shield wall or even a reliable interrupt because I can dps, and you shouldn't be able to both be as good a tank as anyone AND be as good a DPS as anyone. The niche of being the best offtank is not the most fun for a lot of people, and there is some genuine frustration there. Or not being able to be buffed for DPS because hey, you can tank! That changed quite a bit in WotLK, but there's a chance that things are going back to the old way.

My gut feeling is that because this is the opening tier things aren't hitting super hard - but they will. That tank damage and danger will start ratcheting up, and EH will start ruling the roost once again. When that happens and stamina, armor and resistance start making more of a sway on gearing choices I suspect that it won't matter on hybridization, and if you're a hybrid you'll be doing tanking only very rarely because you'll need two tanks who can be hit like a nail. But that's just a guess.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

[Bear] Agility vs. stam? No, that's not right

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.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Congrats Fasc!

Just saw over at MMO-Champion the loot lists for Zul*, and lo and behold Fasc - a longtime contributor to bear tanking and general tanking theory and help - got an item named after him.

Congrats, Fasc!

What's awesome about the loot list: a freakin wrist item!

What's not? No feral weapon.