Thursday, 27 May 2010

Touch the sun

So I haven't been posting for a while because I had this brilliant "Guide to tanking the Lich King" post written, but, uh, we haven't killed him yet. We are consistently in the 20% range, but can't seem to get the last phase down.

And it seems that the kill is a ways off now, because my guild is in the process of a painful split. The personal differences between the various groups in the guild just got too much to bear, we were losing people all over the place, and there have been quite nasty moments in gchat and on the forum. What's worse, there was no push from the officers to fix anything (especially since some of them were the problem).

I decided to try to split the guild. I've set up a new guild called Icarus, and invited some old friends from around the server. I felt such a bastard for doing this - I'd been in my previous guild for nearly 5 years, and there is a core of players I've known for nearly all that time. It remains to be seen whether enough people will come so that we can organise a regular 10 man raid team but we'll see. I hope so - we have I think 6 or 7 members at the moment, plus I think I can rely on a few people from other guilds to come along too.

Still, everything changes I guess.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Stay on target...

Our best try at Arthas 10 so far is 38%. We have phase 1 and the transition phases nailed. We are pretty good at the Val'kyr phases, and hopefully we'll get a few really solid final phase attempts on Friday.

Each raid we get a little bit closer...

Friday, 14 May 2010

Last Word

I was called in to dps in one of my guild's 25 man raids last night and picked up the Last Word, which no-one else wanted and would otherwise have been sharded.

I've been trying to decide whether this weapon is any good or not. To compare, I am currently using The Facelifter, and I have Crusader's Glory which I might use for EH fights such as Saurfang heroic (if we ever get there). Leaving aside Crusader's Glory for the moment, and on the assumption that the Last Word proc has 100% uptime (which I believe it has), essentially the decision comes down to

Last Word
1.8 speed
+21.1 dps
+12 stamina
+60 strength
+300 healing received

The Facelifter
1.6 speed
+41 defence rating
+41 parry rating
+36 expertise rating

I think that the extra weapon dps and the harder devastates which derive from the strength (120 attack power), the weapon dps and the slower speed will be outweighed by the loss of expertise rating and the chance for fewer heroic strikes. So as a threat weapon, I think The Facelifter wins out although there is probably not very much in it.

The next consideration is defence. I use the two ilevel 264 crafter armour pieces and neither has +defence on it. I am about 20 defence over the cap, and so replacing The Facelifter with Last Word means that I will need to start gemming for defence. On the assumption that I will need to replace two +30 stam gems with +10 def / +15 stamina gems, and both of those new green gems will allow me to complete a +6 stamina socket bonuses (which I think is right), the overall effect of losing the defence rating is that I lose 21 defence rating and 19 stamina. Using that to restate the above gives me the following

Last Word
+60 strength (= 30 block value)
+300 healing received

The Facelifter
+6 stamina
+21 defence rating
+41 parry rating

The 6 stamina is trivial - 65 health or so, and so is the block value. We are therefore comparing avoidance on The Facelifter with the +health buff on Last Word.

The efficacy of the health buff is hard to measure and it comes down to the thorny old question of why tanks die. At present I never go from 100% to 0% in one hit. It simply does not happen. When I die it is often from a series of hits (soul reaper + melee on LK, or a string of unavoided hits on Festergut are the only times I can remember recently). Quite often my death lasts 3 or 4 seconds and is along the lines of - big hit - big hit - little heal - big hit - dead. The point is that I almost always get a heal of some kind during the burst period which leads to my death, be it an earth shield bubble popping, or a renew tick, or something similar. The +heals buff supplied by Last Word would be helpful in that scenario as follows (on the assumption that my healer is a holy priest, as she is now):

- Each renew tick would heal for an extra 200 or so (my rough maths based on EJ's overall coefficient of 3.3)
- A holy priest's flash heal would heal for an extra 320 -ish (EJ)

So on that basis, on the assumption that during the period of burst damage you get a renew tick and a flash heal the +health buff would be worth about 520 extra health, or about 47 stamina.

The +heal effect is broadly like +armour because you need less healing to go from an injured state into a state where you can survive the next hit. It might help if you think of it as an armour effect which is proportional to healing taken (and you don't know the healing taken because it will vary from occasion to occasion - you have to estimate based on what is reasonable).

There's a great quote about this weapon on Maintankadin

"the RNG of avoidance fails me roughly ~55% of the time; my healers, however, rarely fail me"

This makes sense to me - my healers normally manage to get a heal in on me, even if it's a small heal. Anything that makes that small heal better is essentially EH.

And there, I've made my decision! Once I've sorted out my defence stats, I'll be using this I think.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Shield specialisation

If you assume that at present the standard raid tanking spec includes deep wounds, then there are only a few spare points to throw around. I personally consider improved disciplines to be baseline too, which means that one of the key decisions that tanks make when speccing is whether or not they want to max out shield specialisation. Two points in this talent are required, and it often comes down to whether you want to add a further three talent points, or whether you want to go for three points in focussed rage instead.

In my opinion shield specialisation is unquestionably better for progression fights, whereas focussed rage might be superior for heroics and farm content.

My reasoning is that firstly shield specialisation provides mitigation. Tanking is all about taking less damage, right? Taking 1600 block value, and bearing in mind the 60% chance for critical block, you have roughly a 1% chance per swing to reduce melee damage by 1600 and a 2% chance per swing to reduce melee damage by 3200. You can refine this further by excluding avoided attacks and attacks which are already blocked - suppose dodge chance of 6%, parry of 21%, block of 16% and miss of 10%. This means that, assuming the boss swing connects, you have about a 2% chance to reduce boss damage by 1600 and a 4% chance to reduce boss damage by 3200.

Tank gearing is all about taking lots of small numbers then adding these together to make big numbers - lots of small mitigation abilities combine together to provide a significant degree of protection. I think the extra block chance provides meaningful extra mitigation.

In order for focussed rage to be better than maxing out shield specialisation, it needs to provide a good enough rage boost such that we are happy to forego the extra mitigation. So let's look at the benefits of focussed rage.

The first point to note is that rage is capped at 100. Suppose I have 100 rage. I use 3 abilities, reducing my rage to 40. The boss then hits me so hard that it would be worth 80 rage to me, but since I have 40 rage my rage gain is capped at 60. Note that focussed rage has been precisely zero benefit to me in that period. If I had specced into focussed rage I would have had 49 rage after having used my three abilities, so my rage gain on being hit by the boss would have been capped at 51 instead. I would have had 9 extra rage as a result of using focussed rage, but this extra rage would have been wasted as soon as the boss hit me.

"Aha!" you might say, "but what if you avoid the boss's attack?" Well yes, if I were to avoid a long string of the boss's attacks there is the possibility that I might save enough rage from focussed rage to get an extra attack when I would otherwise have been rage starved. Bear in mind however that avoided attacks also grant you rage under the shield specialisation talent.

For the purposes of this example let's assume that the boss hits you every 1.6 seconds (1.8 is the norm in ICC I think), you have a 1.6 second swing speed on your weapon, and your reaction times are not great so you press a GCD-limited attack such as devastate every 1.6 seconds. Thus you have 2 attacks - heroic strike and a GCD attack - for every incoming boss attack. Focussed rage saves you 6 rage between the boss's swings, whereas if you avoid the boss's attack you gain 3 extra rage from shield specialisation in that time. Therefore if you have a string of say 3 avoided attacks, which is pretty rare these days, taking focussed rage would have gained you just 9 extra rage over maxing shield specialisation - not even enough for a devastate. That's 9 rage over just under 5 seconds too, and if you hit revenge (5 rage), shield slam (20 rage) and devastate (15 rage) in that time, plus three heroic strikes (36 rage), you would still have rage left anyway.

So, in short, focussed rage is pretty useless when you are regularly getting whacked over 100 rage by a boss. Where it comes into its own however is when you are not getting whacked by the boss - when the boss is casting and when you are the OT in a tank swap fight. One of the most annoying things about the LK fight is running out of rage when you avoid the hit before he starts channeling something, and then you have four seconds of him casting before you start getting rage again. When the boss is not hitting you shield specialisation gives you nothing at all, and focussed rage shines.

So there you have it - shield specialisation gives a mitigation benefit that is not trivial in my view. When you are getting hit by a raid boss there is not much difference between the two. When for whatever reason the boss is not hitting you then focussed rage is a significant dps boost.

Your choice is whether you want the mitigation, or some extra dps when not getting hit. I have chosen the former.

EDIT - Corrected my napkin maths!