Chill of the Throne thoughts

Thanks once again to the wonderful talents at MMO Champion, I woke up to all of this today.

The critical quote;

For Icecrown Citadel, we are implementing a spell that will affect every enemy creature in the raid. The spell, called Chill of the Throne, will allow creatures to ignore 20% of the dodge chance of their melee targets. So if a raid’s main tank had 30% dodge normally, in Icecrown Citadel they will effectively have 10%.

I will share all of the information MMO Champion shared as posted by Ghostcrawler further below so you can see all the details and reasoning. I just wanted to kick the big announcement out first so you can prime your mind. If you’re all caught up on this already, just mosey on down the post for some discussion!

For Icecrown Citadel, we are implementing a spell that will affect every enemy creature in the raid. The spell, called Chill of the Throne, will allow creatures to ignore 20% of the dodge chance of their melee targets. So if a raid’s main tank had 30% dodge normally, in Icecrown Citadel they will effectively have 10%.

Why are we doing this?

The high levels of tank avoidance players have obtained is making the incoming damage a tank DOES take more “spiky” than is healthy for raiding. Ideally, tanks would be receiving a relatively constant stream of damage over time. This allows healers to better plan their healing strategy, broaden their spell options, and simply give more time to react. Tanks could use their cooldowns more reactively. Instead, the current situation is that if we make a hard hitting melee boss and a tank doesn’t avoid two successive swings then the tank could very well be dead in that 1-2 second window. The use of reactive defensive abilities instead becomes a methodically planned affair, healers have to spam their largest heals just in case the huge damage spike happens.

We’ve been trying to do a fair amount to mitigate the effect of high tank avoidance on the encounter side of things during this expansion with faster melee swings, additional melee strikes, dual wielding, narrowing the normal variance of melee swing damage, and various other tricks. There’s a limit to what we can do, however. So to give us a bit of breathing room we’ve implemented Chill of the Throne. Going forward past Icecrown Citadel, we have plans to keep tank avoidance from growing so high again.

We’ll have this on the PTR soon so players can see the effects inside Icecrown Raid.

Our original estimations for tank avoidance would have worked fine had we not decided to add extra tiers of gear to reward heroic boss kills halfway through the expansion.

The Cataclysm design will keep tank avoidance at more manageable levels. The loss of defense skill counts for a lot right there. We are also considering giving bosses expertise or other ways of baking in Icewell Radiance — basically the concept that bosses scale with gear rather than just hitting harder and taking more hits.

Player comment: It would still be fine if the itemization team had designed the gear accordingly. In a full 258 setup for warrior tanks, precisely two pieces have anything but a 3 way split of pure avoidance stats on them. There’s 3 different avoidance stats on 3 different diminishing returns, and pumping them all up like that can really make avoidance numbers go way out of whack. Meanwhile, we lose out on things like Expertise, and the preciously rare Hit Rating which is available on *1* piece of 258 tanking gear and end up having to swap gear around to cover those deficiencies.
You are making the common mistake in thinking that our goal for itemization is to give you the best possible gear that we can. Itemizing your character is supposed to be a choice. There will be better pieces and worse pieces. There will be pieces that combine stats your really want with stats you don’t really need. Wearing the best gear for their character (which is not the same as wearing the best gear) is one way players have to demonstrate mastery of the game.

This is also why I always preach to take BiS lists with a grain of salt. Merely reaching for the item declared to be BiS by a spreadsheet or system you might not even understand could lead you to making bad gear choices, often of the variety of passing over the good upgrade because it’s not the best possible upgrade.

Player comment: Also, if you’re going to give mobs expertise, can you please make a spell or some kind of method to determine the level of expertise without us having to do parses?
Yes. We would probably just let you see the numbers directly. I consider it a design flaw that players have to experiment to determine thinks like hit and expertise caps. We’re all for experimentation and theorycrafting, but we don’t think it’s fair to require some players to go out and do a lot of work to generate specific numbers that all players feel like they need to know.

Player comment: Putting so much avoidance on gear isn’t a bad idea because other stats are better. It was a bad idea because it causes tank scaling to fail and makes Radiance necessary.
That logic doesn’t really work. It’s like saying instead of nerfing armor pen, we should have just put less and less on higher level gear.

If we had avoided avoidance on tank gear, then every piece of tank gear would have hit and expertise (and maybe crit, haste and armor pen). Stamina and armor are static amounts, and if they were not, then those pieces immediately become the only pieces players would pay attention to.

Player comment: If you want ICC damage to be steadier, why don’t you just walk over to the item team and say “Hey, we’d like less avoidance, can you cut out half of the avoidance from the ICC gear and replace it with stamina?” Or if you’re worried people will get too much stamina, make it Frost Resistance and put in so much Frost damage you couldn’t hope to survive long with TotGC gear alone.

We just don’t think that works. If you put very unattractive stats on gear then players just go back the previous tier of gear and complain that we don’t know how to itemize. If you put bonus stamina on the tier 10 gear, then that means the next tier of gear better have bonus stamina as well. If it has avoidance instead of that bonus stamina, tanks just shrug and go back to the tier 10 gear.

This is not a tank only problem. Casters won’t upgrade to gear that doesn’t have more spell power on it, because spell power tends to trump everything else for purposes of their dps or healing.

We put a little bonus armor on non-armor items (necks, rings, trinkets and the occasional cloak). We don’t put bonus armor on gloves and chests because that gear would be too good.

It’s an item level problem. If we added another raid tier to Lich King, we couldn’t just keep avoiding avoidance and avoid it for every tier going forward. We just need a system where you avoid a Naxx boss 30% of the time and an Icecrown boss 30% of the time, the same way the Icecrown bosses have e.g. 30% larger health bars and thus take 30% more damage to kill. Otherwise the stats don’t scale and bad thing happen (in this case the boss having to land so much damage to account for the fact that it misses so often).

Reasons behind the change
I’ll address this one more time and then leave it because I think players are more interested in trying to turn this into a huge tanking nerf than understand what’s going on.

We would not have this problem if Icecrown gear had been item level 245 or so, as we originally intended. We added a few extra tiers of gear to support heroic modes. We felt like we had to do that to have different difficulty levels and make raiding more accessible overall. We felt like we had to reward the harder modes with the better gear or nobody would have been very interested.

The proportions of relative stats on your gear are not the problem. They are proportional, give or take a little, at every tier except for stats like hit that cap out. The problem is not the class and item teams being out of sync. In fact, they are the same team.

Diminishing returns
The 20% nerf is applied after diminishing returns. That is why I am saying it won’t affect the relative value of dodge and parry. The Icewell Radiance won’t get you closer to diminishing returns by itself.

The whole point of this change is so bosses can hit less hard but more often, for the same damage over time but with fewer deadly spikes. That should feel better to everyone overall. The reason I am reluctant to say that is because some players are going to go into Icecrown, find it hard, and then expect us to buff their class.

It won’t be Brutallus hard, at least most of the bosses and at least on normal mode. We’re not going to be particularly sympathetic to players who find heroic mode too hard.

Stamina less important?
It arguably makes stam less important (though it will always be important for tanks). Many players are probably telling you right now that only stamina and armor are important because if you ever fail to avoid two boss hits in a row that you’re going to die. Under that environment, avoidance loses a lot of value.

If bosses hit for less in IC (which they will, since they will hit more often) then the value of avoidance for purposes of survival increases.

I still expect many tanks will die in two hits until they get geared up a little. But they will, and then the ability to survive two hits in a row won’t be as big an issue.

Effective Health
I am going to attempt to explain the disconnect the community and the developers have over effective health.

When I first learned to tank, long before I came to Blizzard, I learned that effective health is a measurement of your stamina in relationship to your armor. This is a pretty easy number to generate. It’s reasonable to include say shield block and other simple forms of mitigation into the calculation.

However, you cannot directly translate effective health into best tank. Avoidance matters. If it didn’t, we would have no reason to nerf it in Icecrown. Good tanks don’t depend too much on avoidance, but great tanks understand its value.

Furthermore, your estimations of effective health become less and less accurate the more variables you try to factor in. Most saliently, you can’t easily account for cooldowns. You can’t compare a short duration that reduces damage by 80% to a long duration that reduces damage by 10%. Mathematically they might generate the same effective health number, but in reality they work pretty differently and each has their own benefits in certain situations, which vary depending on boss mechanics. (I’d generally take the first one though.)

We purposely made the cooldowns difficult to compare from class to class. You shouldn’t then be surprised when we take your effective health calculations based on direct comparisons of said cooldowns with a grain of salt.

It’s fine to compare health, armor, avoidance or cooldowns. I would not recommend putting too much faith in one ubernumber that you generate by combining all of them.

Icecrown isn’t Naxxramas
I am pretty sure on day one of 3.3 going live this forum will be filled with tanks who died and respond with “I thought bosses weren’t going to hit hard.”

It’s Icecrown. It’s not going to be Naxx.

Avoidance relative value
If you conclusion is that anything that improves your avoidance is now bad as a result of this change, you should think through it a little more. If you didn’t like avoidance before, nothing changes. If you liked avoidance before, nothing changes. You just have less of it now. The relative value should not change, unless you get to the point where bosses no longer two-shot tanks so much, in which case the relative value of avoidance increases. (Source)

The first thing I want to draw your attention to, is the true shape of the discussion. This is not about nerfs or buffs. This is not about discussing how much or to what extent to change things. This is about combat design philosophy and mechanics.

The base issue is the way tanks in general endure damage in an end game raid encounter.

With the combat design system in place, and the gear itemization designs implemented to date, there are two methods of dealing with incoming damage; enduring but mitigating (lessening) the damage from a blow, or avoiding all damage from a blow entirely.

What we are being told is that mitigation is the design that Blizzard prefers to build around for scaling, because it’s easier to streamline.

Avoidance will still have it’s place, but if the current design to challenge tanks and healers tries to include Dodge as is in the equation for damage sustained over time, then if the random number generator decides to clump Dodges and hits taken rather than spread them out, you take more damage in a short time than planned, Healers get stressed more than intended, and tanks die from a situation that was out of their direct control to manage.

That’s the key. They want the encounters to be challenging, but they don’t want success or failure to depend so much on random, uncontrollable events.

We are being told that they will make things more challenging in the short term by reducing one avoidance stat, Dodge, by 20% for the purposes of this one raid alone, but leave us our full power levels for other content.

This is a novel idea. Ghostcrawler addresses changing stat balancing on items, and how if they changed stats allocation on one Tier people would just fall back on the previous Tier as a reason, but that argument neglects to mention one way they HAVE handled the avoidance issue in the past; a global formula change that affected avoidance at all levels of gear.

In the past Blizzard has changed the base formula used to determine how much Agility or other stats contribute to each classes’ Dodge, and they have also changed the base multiplier used in the Dodge calculation formula per class. 

Doing so would affect all Dodge, all across the board. I think they hesitate to do this because then all current Wrath content would be unbalanced except for Icecrown. Good reason? Yeah, I think so too. It’s still something they may decide to do when Cataclysm comes along, if Defense alone is not enough.

This is not about nerfing stats that are too good, this is about trying to find a way to balance end game raid challenges with a preference for mitigation, when trying to handle avoidance is causing balance issues. 

Now, one of the things I’d like to point out as we continue, is a comment Ghostcrawler made about how, in Cataclysm, part of this will be resolved with the removal of Defense skill.

When the removal of Defense was first mentioned at Blizzcon, I think that I, as well as other people, had thought they meant that the mechanic of Defense and how it works was being removed, but that something else was going to take it’s place. Something such as the Druid Survival of the Fittest talent, for example. This would be a direct case of foreshadowing removal of an avoidance mechanic in favor of a mitigation Talent.

I did not actually take the Blizzcon announcement as meaning that Defense skill is being removed with nothing taking it’s place. That’s kinda how Ghsotcrawler’s comment made it sound.

Obviously, if that’s really what they are thinking, then itemization priorities for other tanks will be hit a lot harder than Feral Druids. Just something else to think about.

What I’d like to point out here, is that the intent of this Chill of the Throne change is to cause tanks in general to take a lot more hits, and to have to rely more on mitigation to handle it.

They’re saying, “Yes, we WANT you to get hit a lot, we want Healers to be healing constantly, and we don’t want a tank to be one shot or two shot if we have encounter design that takes healers out of the equation for one split second at the wrong time.”

I’m sure we’re going to see a ton of commentary on this.

What I really wanted to address is how this affects Feral Druids.

I’ve seen a lot of sudden panic that this is a terrible nerf of Druid tanks, that this will hit Druids harder than other tanks based on our love of Dodge.

I’d like to remind you that this is actually a lot easier for us to deal with than you might think.

Remember, looking forward, we already do not rely on Defense skill for the bulk of our tanking survival. If there is a Defense change in Cataclysm, we are already prepared for it mentally.

As far as a Druid reliance on Dodge.

Our gear, based as it is on Rogue DPS leather, as much simpler tanking stat foundations than other classes.

We have armor value that we pursue for mitigation. We have Survival of the Fittest Talent, as well as other Talents for mitigation.

We do have a ton of Agility alongside our Stamina, and we do not have Parry, Block, or a requirement to have Defense Rating for being uncrittable.

Edited for clarity: What this means for us is that, by regemming and changing enchants from Agility and Dodge Rating to prioritize Stamina then we can increase our buffer that gives healers time to bring us back up, and by pursuing trinkets, rings and weapons that have armor value on them, we can work towards increasing our mitigation. I’m sure everyone is already working towards having the highest armor value on leather gear as it is.

So we CAN quickly modify our style to prioritize increased health and mitigation over Dodge. 

Also don’t forget that compared to other classes, our Dodge is huge. Even if we do reprioritize a bit, we’ll still have a big Dodge after 20% is cut off the top.

Yes, moving from loving Dodge to loving mitigation SUCKS, based on historical yoyo bouncing. We WERE the mitigation masters. It’s what we pursued from our leather gear, based on armor value multipliers for years. Just the knowledge that they nerfed the shit out of our armor multipliers and mitigation, just to announce that we really should focus on mitigation, is annoying as hell.

Yes, we know. You changed our focus for us to be the best we could. You know, that mastering the gear aspect? So we mastered it too well, you nerfed it in response, that’s kind of flattering, really. But to come back now and say that everything is messed up because we moved away from mitigation. Grrr.

Still, you deal with the hand you’re dealt. 

Flexibility. It’s our strength.

Let’s read what’s said, remember the lessons ot the past, anticipate how they may again change their minds when they approach future raid design, but always remember that we are the class of flexibility.

Semper Gumby!

Questions about Defense and Survival of the Fittest

In continuing this trend where I answer emails, here is another one on another topic of long discussion, Defense and Survival of the Fittest.

Long time lurker, first time e-mailer.  I loved when you were on the BRK podcast and you were my inspiration to actually roll a Druid.  I am trying to be the best druid I can be, so I am reading everything I can get my hands on.  Main spec is tank, off is resto.  I read something the other day and I had a question.  I decided to throw it your way and see what happens.

From the post:
Druid tanks do not need Defense gear.

The Survival of the Fittest talent reduces the chance to be crit by 2/4/6%, which means a Druid tank can achieve uncritable by only taking 3/3 SotF.

However, Defense is not totally worthless. Once you reach ~50% Dodge, due to diminishing returns, stacking Defense actually becomes better then stacking more Dodge.

Begin to stack Defense only after you have reached ~50% Dodge.

Note: Like with Crushing Blows, you must be Defense capped at 400 to be crit immune.


I understand that Crushing Blows are different from Crits.  And maybe this is a stupid question, but is Crit Immune and Uncritable the same thing?  I though that with 3/3 SotF talent you were Crit immune period.  You could walk out there with your bare bear backside (pun intended) and be crit immune.  You do need the defense to be crushing blow immune, and I am ok with that.

Love the blog.  I am in the process of Tattooing the Beginning Wrath tanking guide on my arms.  :)

Urak level 65 Driud on Cenarion Circle

Great email, Uruk. Thanks for the kind words!
The first part of that is the unstated expectation that your base Defense skill, which levels up as you take some smacks in the face, is at 400. If it is at 400, and you have 3/3 in Survival of the Fittest, then yes, even stark naked, you are uncrittable.
Uncrittable, Crit Immune, these are all terms developed by idiots like me that have to make the terminology for these things up as we go along. They all do basically mean the same thing; The boss enemy, that is exactly 3 or less levels higher than me, cannot score a critical strike upon me.
The math aspect to this is that Defense skill reduces your chance to be Dodged, Blocked, or Parried, as WELL as reducing the chance that you will be hit with a critical attack.
I flat out refuse to go over the combat table in detail again, I did it years ago in a Shifting Perspectives article for WoW Insider/, but in effect what kind of attack event that can occur has a place in a combat table. If you get high enough in some categories, such as Parry, it can push other attack possibilities right off the table. If you want to melt your brain like I have, you can find out more on your own at the website.
What’s important to the discussion is that the Defense skill you need to push critical strikes off the table changes depending on the level of your attacker, in comparison to yours.
Bosses in level 80 raid instances are set at an effective level, for the sake of Defense and what you need to hit them, at level 83. Survival of the Fittest provides exactly enough protection from critical strikes to remove the possiblity that a level 83 raid boss could critically strike a level 80 Bear Druid, when properly specced. Yes, even if naked.
What Survival of the Fittest does NOT do is provide any of the other bonuses to Dodge, Parry or Block that Defense skill does.
Now, the reason Defense skill is not considered a primary stat for Bear tanks is the same reason they gave us SotF; Bears cannot Parry or Block attacks. Therefore, we were previously (in Burning Crusade) stacking tons of Defense Rating on our gear to become uncrittable just like every other tank class, but we weren’t getting any benefit from the Parry and Block portions of the itemization.
Yes, there was a lot of whining about this fact. Including from me.
I personally did not resent it all that much… because the perception at the time was that Bear tanks weren’t supposed to be viable in the first place. I was too busy working at pioneering Bear tanking and proving them wrong than in whining about my Defense Rating.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. :)
There’s a few things to keep in mind about the SotF. First, the crit rate of enemies 1, 2 or 3 levels above you rises at a normal rate. Starting at 4 levels or more above you, the chance that they can successfully crit you rises dramatically. It just takes off like a rocket. If you are level 76 tanking a level 80 opponent with SotF, expect to still be crit at times. Also expect yourself to miss a lot. SotF, as I said, was aimed at erasing the critical strikes from enemies three or less levels higher than you, the situation that max level Bear tanks would encounter in raids. It doesn’t make you crit immune from everyone as you level.
Second, Critical Strikes as mentioned are not the same as Crushing Blows.As far as I was aware, Crushing Blows were removed from the game entirely. They just don’t happen anymore. Maybe I’m wrong on that, I’m at work and can’t access research sites or log in to check records, but that is my understanding. I don’t believe it’s a question of level or gear or Talents, I believe that Crushing Blows themselves were simply removed. Maybe that’s only from level 71 – 80 content, though.
Finally, as far as the Defense stacking versus Dodge stacking. As I said, Bear tanks cannot Parry or Block.
This next bit requires understanding itemization a little bit. Gear that is item level 200 and blue (rare) quality has a certain number of possible stat points that can be spread amongst armor value and the other stats and abilities. An item that is level 200 and purple (epic) quality has a larger budget of points.
Either way, when comparing two items of item level 200 (epic) side by side, for the same equipment slot, they are each supposed to have an equivalent number of potential points that could be allocated to stats.
Therefore, when analyzing gear upgrades, if an item is very good, and comparable to another, but the difference between them is that one has Defense Rating, and the other has Dodge Rating, then the Dodge Rating one is considered more valuable to a Bear tank because none of the itemization points were wasted on stat benefits Bears don’t get. Bears get all the potential benefit from Dodge Rating, and only get the Dodge benefit portion of Defense Ratings’ Dodge, Parry, Block and reduced chance of Crit.
This is where you see the phrase “that item has wasted stats” for some gear, because if the item didn’t have points allocated to that stat, then maybe something useful on the gear would be higher instead.
Oh, and I’m not going to go into the point allocation of gear itemization any deeper. I could, like how points get allocated if there is only one stat on a piece of gear rather than two stats, or three. But I won’t because my head still hurts from having combat tables brought to mind. Hint; if all stats on the gear are useful, then having more than one stat on the gear provides more total benefit, because you get more stat per point allocated if it gets broken up among multiples. No, I don’t know why.You might see an item with 55 Agility, and another that has 35 Agility and 35 Stamina. Oh, and no, 1 Agility does not equal 1 Stamina as far as point allocation goes, Stamina is actually cheaper when allocated than other stats, so you might see a 35 Agility/35 Strength side by side with a 35 Agility/50 Stamina… sigh. Shut up, Bear, you don’t want to start that discussion. Right, shutting up now.
The end result is that I think I broke down all of this Dodge versus Defense stuff in greater detail in my sticky on the website sidebar about Level 80 Hit Rating, Expertise and Dodge. I may be wrong, though. If you’ve got more questions (or just want to chat), just respond in the comments.
Thanks for the email, Uruk!
I hope I answered your questions in some way!

How to Bear Tank the Lower Levels Part 1: Gear

Hello, and welcome to what will hopefully be a helpful little series of mini-guides to tanking on your Feral Druid at the lower levels of content.

The situation is one I should have addressed a long, long time ago.

You make a Druid alt, your friend or loved one creates a squishy clothie alt, and the suggestion gets floated that you play together as you level, and the Druid levels as Feral and does the tanking.

First, welcome to the party! It’s good to have you here!

Playing a Feral Druid may seem daunting, especially if you’ve never played as a tank before, and especially if you’ve never leveled a class that tanked at lower levels.

“What do I do? How does this work? Why are those three mobs beating holy heck out of me?!? Hey, I thought I was a tank, and those suckers HURT!!! What am I doing wrong?”

Relax, and let your worries go. It’s really not that bad. There is a lot that you can choose to learn to help things go easy for you, but the core is fairly simple;

If you are tanking, your goal is to grab ’em all, hold ’em all, and still be standing at the end of the fight.

If you are already accomplishing that, then grats… you’re a tank!

See, this is what we mean by Rogue tanks and Boomkin tanks, etc. If you can grab ’em all, hold ’em all, and still be standing at the end, you tanked. Rogues have successfully tanked many things, through guile and kill and a smart mix of itemization, Talents, dodge-tanking and picking their targets wisely.

If, while accomplishing those three phases of the mission, you also did some decent damage, then it’s a bonus. But doing high DPS is mst definitely NOT required.  

The first part of this series of mini-guides will give you some guidance on what to look for in terms of gear, and why.

When soloing, the Cat form of a Feral Druid acts most like a Rogue, but without quite as many evil distracting and stunning tricks. For the purposes of this guide, I’m going to talk mostly about gear for the hopeful leveling tank. The gear you will choose will also be adequate to do solo kitty DPS. It just won’t be optimized for that role. I’ll explain the difference in a little while.

First, what do Bear Tank Druids wear?

Bears wear leather armor for preference, always looking for the highest armor value available.

In Bear form, which you can get at level 10, the amount of armor contribution you get from cloth and leather items is multiplied by 180%.

Additionally, Stamina is multiplied by 25%. We’ll go into that after armor.

Bear form lasts until level 40, when you can get Dire Bear form, which boosts that armor contribution up to 370%.

You can increase this contribution even more by taking three Talent points in Thick Hide for +10% armor contribution (available at level 8), and by taking 3/3 of Survival of the Fittest making you immune to critical strikes from enemies 3 or less levels above you, and +33% armor contribution from items (available at level 34).

The easiest answer to the “Why am I so squishy” question is usually, “Are you trying to tank three of four things at once at level 30? Because you’re tanking in the equivalent of Mail armor.”

Warriors and Paladins also get an armor boost at level 40, they go from using nothing but Mail, to being able to equip Plate. Bears are fortunate, we still use the same type of armor, we just get more out of it.

Why is a high armor value important? What does it do for me, anyway?

The short answer is, the higher your armor value, the less actual damage that gets through per hit from physical attacks.

Here’s a simple scenario. You are fighting three mobs, two Orc Warriors and an Orc Warlock. The two Warriors are up in your face, and beating on you, but they’re not doing much damage. Hey, you must be a badass! Then the Warlock starts casting, and your health drops like a big rock in a still pond. Thwump! Down you go.

Armor reduces, lessens, mitigates physical damage. It doesn’t do a blessed thing against magic. Hence, the age old battle cry, “Kill the casters first!”

Well, wait a minute. How the heck do I mitigate that magic damage, then?

Well, there are basically three ways to deal with magic damage.

First, have a ton of Stamina/Health to eat the blasts, and focus on killing the bastard first.

Second, wait until level 49 and be 100% in the Feral Talent tree, so you can be 3/3 in Protector of the Pack, which reduces all damage you take by 12%, including magic.

Or third, look for gear that has Resistance to the particular school of magic damage you’re going to suffer, like Fire Resistance or Frost Resistance. You used to see this a lot for raiding in places with mostly Fire based damage, such as Molten Core. You still see this with some tanks preparing for Sapphiron in Naxxramas. It doesn’t really have much business in the early levels, though.

Until you’re level 49 (assuming you DO go 100% Feral), your best bet is stack as much Stamina as possible, and target the casters first.

So, armor is covered.

Next priority is the Stamina. As I said, the higher your health, the better when tanking. Can’t go wrong choosing good Stamina. Your bear and Dire Bear forms and the Talent Heart of the Wild all multiply your Stamina, so when choosing between a flat Health enchant or a Stamina enchant, the Stamina is better.

After Stamina, the next core Bear stat is Agility. Put down, the pitchforks, I’ll explain.

Agility is a controversial stat when leveling a Feral Druid, because it does different things depending on whether you are in Cat form or Bear form.

In both forms, Agility provides an increased chance that attacks will be critical strikes, and also increases your chance to Dodge an attack.

  • In Cat form, 1 point of Agility gives you 1 Attack Power. Your attacks that get through do more damage.
  • In Bear form, Agility provides no Attack Power bonuses at all.

Strength, on the other hand, provides 2 Attack Power per 1 point of Strength in BOTH forms.

Strength is great for doing damage in both forms, and since the random enchantment on Leather gear that has Strength and Stamina is called “of the Bear”, it’s a reasonable assumption to believe it’s for Bear tanks.

Don’t get me wrong, Strength is great on your gear. But if you have a choice between Stamina/Agility and Stamina/Strength, take the Agility for the increased Dodge.

So, we’ve got Armor value, Stamina, Agility (and Dodge Rating at higher levels), and Strength.

After these, while you’re leveling, you will find Attack Power, Critical Strike, Hit Rating and Expertise very useful.

Once you are able to gain the Talent Primal Fury (available at level 26, technically), Critical Strike and Agility both combine to help your Rage generation, so Critical Strike moves past Attack Power and Hit and Expertise. You’ll be getting Expertise as soon as you take Primal Precision, anyway.

Once you can get 3/3 in Natural Reaction, so your successful Dodges also get you Rage back, you’ll be loving all that Agility and Dodge Rating you’ve been stacking.

that should do it for gear choices, until you get much higher level.

Once Defense Rating and Dodge Rating become pretty common, you’ll have to factor them in to your decisions.

In talking about Defense, there are two skills, Defense and Defense Rating. Defense is Defense. 25 points of Defense equals 1% Miss, Parry, Dodge and Block. It also serves to reduce the chance you can be struck by a critical attack (not so important with Survival of the Fittest for us Bears).

Defense seems pretty valuable, right?

Well, keep in mind Bears to not Block or Parry. We don’t use weapons, and we don’t have shields. So 2 out of 4 benefits of Defense are wasted. Alo, the biggest draw for the stat is reaching the Uncrittable cap, which Bears can ignore due to Survival of the Fittest.

Defense Rating is by far a key stat for Paladins, Warriors and Death Knights (I think, don’t know much about DK tanks, sorry), and really not a Bear stat. If something with it drops, please check for Plate wearing tanks that might want it before rolling on it, hmm?

Still, Miss and Dodge, mmm tasty, right? Why isn’t it a key Bear stat?

Well, hold on just a moment.

Defense Rating is not the same as Defense. It takes varying amounts of Defense Rating to get just one point of Defense. The higher you are in level, the more Defense Rating you need to get just 1 point. And it’s Defense Rating that’s on gear.

At level 80, you need 123 Defense Rating for 1% Dodge and 1% Miss. That’s a lot of Defense Rating.

Now, there is one other stat to think about and compare.

Dodge Rating.

Dodge Rating is more effective for Bear tanks than straight Defense Rating, because it only takes 45.25 Dodge Rating to get 1% Dodge.

No, you’re not getting Miss at the same time, but keep in mind that whole “When I miss I get Rage” thing. Getting 90/5 Dodge Rating gets you 2% Dodge, and that’s mighty fine.

Now, I’m not going to go into Diminishing Returns. I’m just not doing it again. This is supposed to NOT make your brain hurt.

Let’s just say taht, when you start tanking at low levels, the Agility and Crit and Expertise are all very potent. But as you level, it takes more of each stat to get the same effects. And as you really get high in level, and really get tons and tons of stats, the amount of stat you need for the same effect keeps growing.

Has no effect on you in the early game, just a way of making it super hard to ever reach a perfect 100% Dodge, that’s all.

As far as gear goes, just remember;

  • Armor Value (multiplies from leather and cloth only, not trinkets, rings, weapons or necklaces)
  • Stamina
  • Agility (and Dodge Rating later)
  • Strength
  • Critical Strike Chance (after Primal Fury)
  • Hit Rating (until you have enough to reliably hit your targets)
  • Attack Power
  • Expertise (don’t need that much, Primal Precision helps a lot at low levels)

What does this mean for Heirloom items, btw?

Well, it means that of the choices for Feral Druids:

Repurposed Lava Dredger 65 Emblems of Heroism
Two-Hand Mace
361 – 542 Speed 2.90
(156.0 damage per second)
+68 Agility
+103 Stamina
+15 Fire Resistance
Requires level 1 – 80 (80)
Item level 1
Increases attack power by 1417 in Cat, Bear, Dire Bear, and Moonkin forms only.
Equip: Increases your armor penetration rating by 45.
Equip: Increases attack power by 91.

That’s the best item of all of them right there. Agility and Stamina out the wazoo.

After that, believe it or not is the PvP Heirloom Shoulders.The Exceptional Stormshroud Shoulders have Agility, Stamina and Attack Power, while the Emblem shoulders only have Stamina, Hit Rating and Attack Power. Not bad at all, just not optimized. :)

If you have the Emblems, the new 40 Emblem of Heroism (or 60 Champion Seal) Chestpiece is quite nice, because it scales with your level, always providing you with a solid Armor Value for your level, plus good Stamina. My only wish is that they had put Agility on it instead of Attack Power. Ah, well.

See you again soon for pulling mobs and aggro management!

Thoughts while studying Bear gear

I’m looking at my gear lists, as I said I would, to develop the new Bear tanking lists for the new world order.

While I’m doing so, I had a couple thoughts I wanted to jot down now, while folks were just starting to gather voluminous Emblems of Conquest and Emblems of Triumph.

Just a couple things, really.

First, yes I know that you hate your Idol of Terror. You’ve been stuck with that puppy for tanking since Kara, and it hurts, my precious.

With the many Emblems of Conquest you are now getting from Heroics, I’m sure it seems like a no brainer to grab the Idol of the Corruptor for only 19 Emblems of Conquest.

Before you do that, I’d like for you to look closely at the Idol of Mutilation, which you can buy for 25 Emblems of Triumph.

For those that cannot see Wowhead links, Corruptor grants a chance of 153 Agility for 12 seconds after a Mangle. An über-Terror Idol. Mutilation, on the other hand, has both a Bear form effect, and a cat form effect, and both CAN be active at the same time if you are fast shifting. In Bear, your Lacerate and Swipe have a high chance of giving you 200 Dodge Rating for 9 seconds, and in Cat form your Mangle and Shred have a chance to grant you 200 Agility for 12 seconds.

PTR testing indicates that, especially with multiple targets for Swipe, it’s possible and even darn near likely to have the 200 Dodge Rating up 100% of the time.

So, all that being said… before you spend 19 Emblems of Conquest right out of the gate, think about whether you are willing to wait, save your Emblems of Triumph from doing the Daily Heroics (or for the raiding among us, your boss kill drops), and spend the Emblems of Conquest on something else first that may last you a bit longer.

Emblems of Conquest can also be used to purchase;

So, there are several other things you could upgrade first while you collect those Triumph Emblems.

As far as other choices in Triumph Emblem gear, you’ve got a non-Tier Helm, non-Tier shoulders, a trinket and a pair of rings. Most of the stuff, except for the helm, will be extremely good for a long time from Conquest Emblems ad won’t be superceded just from Triumph Emblems, so plan for what you want, what you really, really want.

I personally will probably buy the Conqueror’s Nightsong Headgear for 58 Emblems of Conquest first, because then I can stop feeling guilty about not doing PvP in Wintergrasp to get the Titan-Forged Leather Helm of Triumph.

Anyway, have fun, folks!

You cannot Avoid the nerfs of the future!

Linking from MMO Champion’s Bluetracker comes this post from Ghostcrawler about the upcoming changes to Avoidance;

The main goal of the change was to make parry not so much less attractive than dodge as an avoidance stat. Since tank avoidance is so high already, we wanted to do that by nerfing dodge a little, not by buffing parry.

This hurts druids slightly more than other tanks, but the emphasis is on “slightly.” This is not the big druid nerf that some forum posters have predicted. We will continue to evaluate tank survivability and threat generation based on PTR tests with “Patchwerk” to decide if druids need to be nerfed or DKs buffed or look at Prot warrior dps or anything else.

This is also not the big avoidance “come to Naaru” that some posters predicted. Overall, we think avoidance is too high and the game would work better with lower tank avoidance, but suddenly dropping everyone’s avoidance by 20 or 30% would be a very big change with many ramifications for healing and gear among other things. It would also feel like a big nerf to the many players who didn’t understand why it would be better for the game in the long term. But I still expect it is coming at some point.

Well, that’s a nice thing to wake up to this morning, I must say.

I’m always curious when I see a statement like this, about who Ghostcrawler is concerned with when big changes are proposed.

Do they only consider how an already fully geared and experienced raiding tank will be affected, or is any consideration given to how someone just getting started and only having starter Heroic and Crafted gear will do with the changes?

Normally, I’d be feeling pretty bad for someone excited at the idea of starting out tanking for the very first time suddenly faced with a big nerf bat, and getting frustrated at themselves for not doing as well as they think they should compared to the other bear tanks they’ve known in the past.

I say normally.

In this case, when the Avoidance changes go live in the new patch, the gear levels we’ve known won’t apply, because the gear available from Heroics for those ‘starting’ bear tanks will be ridiculously more powerful (with the new emblems). It’ll take longer playing Heroics to get the best gear you can, if that’s your goal before entering Naxx, but if you do take that time to do Heroics and get emblems, your tanking gear will bloody well be better than mine without ever setting foot in a ten man. So I think in this one rare instance, a new tank will have a pretty good starting position, regardless of Avoidance… so long as they can survive the first few runs into Nexus or Utgard Keep, and I think the nerf will be gentle enough that the job of tank with existing gear will still be quite viable. :)

So why mention it at all?

Well, first, it’s always disheartening for me, just a teeny bit, when I see that once again druids are messed with, without any overt reason. Again, someone tell me, I missed the memo… when was the last time end game raids preferred to bring druid main tanks over others due to our being OP? Did we really do so well that the rest of the tanks felt threatened? I missed that memo, but by gosh I’d love to hear the stories, it would make me smile and smile and smile…

And second… I figured having your hearts all stop for just a second at the idea that GC is actively considering a 20% to 30% reduction in current Avoidance levels would be a FINE way to start the morning.



It's hard to argue with logic like that

I took the day off from work.

My head has really been aching lately, the base of the neck spasms that tell me the stress at work is getting up there. It’s our 4th of July weekend in the States, we get Friday off from work as a paid holiday, so I decided to stretch it into a four day weekend.

Spent most of the morning rearranging and cleaning the furniture, setting up the entertainment center in the family room a different way.

I came across my Playstation that I bought just to play Final Fantasy Tactics on when the PS2 was in use.

A little lightbulb went off… I grabbed my stack of PS1 games, dusted off Spyro the Dragon, and spent the next couple hours teaching Alex how to play. He’s in there right now, happily flaming sheep. :)

So over lunch, chatting with Cassie over what to do, she’s been looking up reviews on dishwashers since our’s is dying from the pump (I think our hard water has caused long term damage), and she asks what my plans are.

I tell her that seeing Jardal working on prepping Bear gear at 80 has inspired me to write a new Bear gear post.

I outline my plans; I’ll have a simple breakdown, the best in slot for people who are leveling 70 to 80, consisting of regular instance rewards, crafted, quest rewards and such that will carry them into Heroics. A second section for those newly dinged 80 that they can seek, again best in slot from crafted, Heroic drops, Emblem rewards, Argent Tournament rewards and 10 man easy raids like Obsidian Sanctum and VoA, the items that will carry a person directly into Naxx 10 safely.

Finally, a section of best in slot, taking into account Emblem rewards, crafted, Naxx 10 and 25 drops, etc that will prepare one for walking into Ulduar.

Cassie looks at me, and says, “And the first five comments you will get will be someone that disagrees with one of your choices, someone that says you overlooked something, someone that links to someone else’s blog that they say did it better, someone that asks why they should listen to a noob that isn’t raiding Ulduar, and finally someone who will ask ‘who still raids Naxx lol’.”

I looked at her for a few moments, formulating a response.

She looked back at me.

Finally, she said “You are going to spend hours doing this, and you know I’m right.”

So I did what any red blooded American blogger would do.

I blogged about it.

As long as I'm repeating myself

As long as I’m repeating myself, , or *ahem* being recursive…

One of the things about writing a blog that, every once in a blue moon when the stars align, tries to be helpful is that once you post about something… you tend not to repost about the same thing.

I said it once. Saying it again would be redundant and wasteful of your time, right?


Yeah, um… I’ve been writing this thing a long time now.

Some of you… some of you may not have been around reading this tripe when I posted about somethng I use and find enormously helpful, say, a year and a half ago.

I never assume that new readers go back and read the archives.

I just assume I never get new readers.

I keep on going, assuming I’m talking to the same crowd that’s been hanging out since I started.

So, sure, why would I tell you all the same stuff? You already know it.

But I DO have newer readers, and there is one software tool that is well worth my reminding you of, or telling you about, just in case you haven’t come across it before.

And that is the ever awesome Rawr.

In the words of the author;

Rawr is a program for comparing and exploring gear for Bears, Cats, Moonkin, Healadins, Retadins, Mages, ProtWarriors, Trees, Hunters, Tankadins, HealingPriests, ShadowPriests, EnhShams, and DPS & Tank Death Knights, in the MMORPG, World of Warcraft. Rawr has been designed from the start to be fun to use, and helpful in finding better combinations of gear, and what gear to obtain.


  • Extremely user friendly, graphical, fast, easy to use interface.
  • Automatically handles items. The ability to load your character from the Armory, automatically download info about items it doesn’t know about, download info about possible upgrades, and download info about specific items you tell it to, ensure that you won’t need to type in any item stats with Rawr.
  • The most comprehensive, and most accurate system for calculating your character stats, and ratings for individual items, based on your current gear, enchants, and buffs.

I have used Rawr in it’s various forms for years. It may not be perfect, but it’s an incredibly powerful tool to help you figure out what gear upgrades you should be looking for, and where they come from for a LOT of different classes and specs.

If you used Rawr in the past, it used to only be for Druids, and feral druids at that. They’ve consistently expanded and added new classes and specs though, so go back and give it a shot. It’s a lot of fun to tinker with. :)

Sometimes there are items in it’s database that may indeed exist, but aren’t available to you to find from Wowhead, so it can be a mite difficult to track down where these upgrades actually can be found. It does happen.

But honestly… give it a go, have fun, and see what you think of it.

There are a lot of mods and addons and software choices out there. This is one that, if you are so inclined, ought to see a few donations from those that can, because the work and effort that has gone into making this a quality job is pretty great.

And for those of us that HAVE been using it for a long time… tell me what your personal experiences with Rawr have been for you. Have you found inaccuracies in it’s gear choices for your talent spec, even after you entered in your talents and your rotation in it’s guts? Did you just disagree with some of it’s recommendations? Or did it rock your world, chula, and make you a god among players?