I had a very nice email earlier today, and after the crazy day I had, it was the perfect capper.
I was gonna talk about my crazy nutso kooky day, but what the hell… this question is about Bears, and the guy really hit the right chord with me, so I guess you folks that hate anything that isn’t about Druids on the blog win out.
Don’t push it.
Here is part of the email, from Stratus on the Darkspear server;
Hello Big Bear –
Anyway – have a question for you. Myself and another geared bear tank were discussing gemming. I essentially stam stacked my gems. Had some expertise in there because mine was so low, but would otherwise go +30 stamina gems – no matter what the color called for. Anyway, he basically stated I was a moron. I laughed of course (but inside I was like, damn, maybe I am a moron – lol). He went on to say by me stam gemming I am gaining health at the expense of damage mitigation. True, I replied, but I am counting on my gear to do that. I look at gemming for health power mainly.
I could not find any specific BBB blogs on this although you mention in one of your side articles about a blog on that – but I could not find.
Any words of wisdom or articles you could shove my way to look and ponder with regards to high level tank gemming?
Looking forward to your response whenever that may be.
Thanks for the really nice email, Stratus. The whole thing was very nice, and I hope you’ll forgive me for just excerpting the parts relevant to your question.
The question about choosing between Stamina and Agility is a great one, because it touches on the part of the game where judgment intercedes against ‘set in stone’ guides.
The short form answer to your question is, no, you are not a moron, because clearly you have given thought to your Bear and grasp the basics of mitigation (and I assume you’re lumping avoidance in with it) and health pools, but yes, you could be doing a little better in your gemming selection criteria.
As a Bear tank, when choosing between Stamina or Agility gems, you are making a choice between either a higher health cushion to eat the damage and last longer before healing is needed, or increased avoidance to do the “sidestep bear butt boogie” and avoid the damage entirely.
There is a fine line between having just enough health, and an overabundance of health as compared to Dodge.
Let’s start with increasing health. We’ll slip some Dodge tank in afterwards.
What your intent is with increasing health, is to have enough health to ensure that your healers are never drastically rushed in trying to get in that desperate last second heal to keep you from taking a dirt nap. When you increase your health pool, it appears that the more health you have, the more reaction time you are giving to the healer to respond to your incoming damage.
Healers these days are frequently responsible for healing the main tank, and also a bunch of other people too. If your health is consistently too low, the healer has to focus on healing you to the exclusion of everyone else just to keep that next blow you take from being your last.
Some of those other players may take damage, especially in fights like Ick and the ramp before the tunnel run immediately after in Pit of Saron, and die from lack of healing if the healer has to be all over you.
The more health you have, the safer the healer will feel in letting you get your face beat in while he or she is busy popping some much needed heals on the rest of the party. Right? That seems reasonable, amiright?
From hearing me talk, you might think that there is no better thing than having a huge health pool. After all, I’m implying that the more you’ve got, the more time the healer has to react, right?
Well, that is true, IF you have balanced your health with avoidance.
For the long time theorycrafters out there, please realize that I’m not speaking about armor caps and mitigation, or Defense or Dodge Rating, or comfortable Critical Strike levels for Savage Defense. We’re talking the basics of Stam vs Agi. It’s okay, trust me, I know you got this already.
Back to health balanced with avoidance.
You have been a dutiful bear tank, you have gotten new gear upgrades through drops and Emblems while following my lists, and along the way you have stacked Stamina like a madman. Er, bear.
You pop into Heroic Pit of Saron, and you are surprised to find that you feel very squishy. You have lots of health, that’s true, tons and tons and gobs and oodles of health.
Problem is, when the big hits come in, you go down like a… umm… wow, okay, for the adults, pretend there was a Navy shore leave joke there, and a good one at that. For everyone else, let’s say you go down like a stone dropped in a still pond. A pond with aerated water.
You have the big health numbers, but you’re taking massive damage, and that health pool is disappearing fast.
Now, if your healer is from a pug, or is generally unfamiliar with you, they might have seen your high health and assumed you were well balanced in gear. With that thought in mind, they might have given you scant attention, and focused more on keeping the party alive.
Suddenly, your health plummets, they abandon the party in a panic to spam mana-intensive big, fat, fast heals on you, and by the time they started you were already below half and dropping fast.
You’ve got a massive health pool. The healer is used to getting you topped back off to full and then going back to the party.
Low and behold, you’re NOT getting back to full, because you keep taking damage. The healer is trying to fill an infinite well with a thimble, the party members are yelping and trying to find the Potion or *gasp* Bandage buttons, while the DPS are frantically fending for themselves the damage going outbound slows down, and the fight takes even longer.
The healer quietly has a nervous breakdown while wondering what *they* are doing wrong.
I think you get the overdramatized point.
This is where Agility, and the avoidance it brings, comes into play.
As your Dodge (and Dodge Rating, Defense Rating, Armor, all the avoidance and mitigation stats) increases, the rate of speed of incoming damage slows down.
Mitigation is already reducing damage taken, and your Dodge is causing some attacks to be avoided entirely. As you increase Agility, the better your Dodge score becomes, and the more attacks that just go whizzing by your cute furry ear.
Agility also improves your Critical Strike Rating, and as your Crits become more frequent, your Savage Defense passive ability procs more often. Savage Defense, of course, causes the next incoming physical attack that does damage to be lessened by 25% of your attack power. It can proc as fast as you can crit, and your Swipe has the potential to cause an individual Crit from every single mob hit. That’s a lot of chain crits when swarmed, and that’s a whole lot of mitigation.
That is why stacking Stamina gems to a lower health level than you might think, and balancing the rest with Agility, can be such a powerful combination for your runs.
The healer may be taken aback by your seemingly low comparative health. Say, 40,000 health. A mere pittance, you think.
And then, as the fight begins, the effects of your 50%+ Dodge come into play.
Attacks will still strike you, but the frequency of successful attacks is reduced, you take damage at a slower pace, and the healer has a lot more time to react to the damage you HAVE taken. Time that can better be spent ignoring your invulnerable silly bear butt and paying attention to those DPS that forget to hustle their tushies out of the green fire. Again.
That is the point to balancing Agility and Stamina. Having the health to survive the big single blows and rapid damage spikes, and the avoidance and mitigation to slow the rate of incoming damage overall way the hell down.
So, how much should you take of both? What are the limits?
It depends purely on your understanding of how health and Dodge affect your role in your groups, and then basing your decision on the content you are trying to prepare to run.
I could link you to my character on the armory, Windshadow, assuming she is logged out in Bear gear (I have no Cat gear, I either tank or heal. No middle ground.) and let you see the choices I have made based on 5 person Heroic/no raiding gamestyles. But it’s not important, what is important is where I’m at just from non-raid stuffs, and how effective it can be.
In current gear, my health totally unbuffed is 36,587 and my Dodge unbuffed at rest is 43.39%.
That Dodge seems low, doesn’t it?
But wait, there is more than is immediately apparent that I’ve factored into my gear plan!
First, I have The Black Heart, for a frequently procced increased physical damage mitigation buff. You’d be surprised what an extra 7k armor can do against physical damage.
So, unbuffed base of 43.39%.
- Add 1.66% when Lightning/Mongoose procs (and it procs a LOT on group swipes).
- Add 3.89% when Darkmoon Card: Greatness procs.
- Add 2.02% when the Idol procs.
When all three buffs are up, which does happen quite often, I’m running around with 50.96% Dodge. Unbuffed.
Mongoose is damn near always up, and at least one of the other two is usually with it.
That health probably seems a bit low even after you’ve read all this Dodge gunk, but I always carry Runescrolls of Fortitude, so I know that when the Big Bear be tanking, I’ve got a Fort buff guaranteed.
The final result?
I cannot play without having any healer at all… but there have been plenty of times when the healer has gone down, and I have lasted a truly ridiculously long time without heals on a boss fight or against multiple mobs, because although my total health pool at start is lower than most tanks, if I am suddenly on my own, I have the option of popping Survival Instincts, Frenzied Regeneration and Lifeblood, and becoming a full-on energizer bunny, with the avoidance and mitigation to slow down the rate of incoming damage to a crawl.
The lesson to be learned as a Bear tank is, if you intelligently balance health and avoidance against the content you are running, throw in a well timed powerful self-heal and a temporarily increased health pool as needed, and use Barksin and Crit like a banshee, you’re going to be a favorite tank for healers… at least, the ones that like to know at least ONE idiot in the run won’t be driving them nuts.
Stratus, I sure hope this helps you gain a bit more insight into the considerations you make when looking at gemming.
At the very least, thank you for a nice, polite, friendly and well written letter. I hope you and your friend have plenty of fun chewing on all the things I intentionally left out.
Take care, everyone!