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Ulduar hard modes and how to approach them

Warning: Theorycraft inside.

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Ulduar hard modes and how to approach them

Postby The Puppet Master » Fri May 15, 2009 5:30 pm

As a tank who's slowly but steadily approaching Algalon, I felt the urge to discuss some of the truly harder fights of Ulduar with people who may have found themselves in the same situation.

I'm a self-admitted stamina/health whore, often recklessly ignoring stat values when it comes to stamina versus some other stat. I've often enchanted my chest with health instead of defense and my gloves with stamina instead of going for the better valued armor enchants - so sue me. I'm on a quest to reach 46k raid buffed hp. :)

Lately, however, I've begun to question my approach to gems and enchants, wondering whether avoidance and armor are the more effective ways to approach the hard mode fights. We've cleared the whole of Ulduar, and some of the 10-man hard modes (Thorim/Hodir/Assembly of Iron) - 25-man hard modes are the ones we're beginning to work on this week. This brings me to my point, the health vs avoidance/armor debate.

Considering hard modes like Thorim, where the tanks will be in constant danger of getting instagibbed after the stacks have been building up for some time, it sometimes feels to me that my health has rather little to do with whether or not I'll survive an unbalancing strike and a following melee strike that happens before the other tank manages to taunt the boss off me, and I'd much rather have an extra 5% of avoidance or so, to have a higher chance of avoiding back-to-back big hits, especially considering that the hit following the unbalancing strike can be a crit and my avoidance is already very low due to the debuff. We have only practised the Freya hard mode on 10-man (haven't gotten her down yet), and while the damage taken over there was less bursty for the tanks, I did find myself wondering if I could make my healers' job a little easier by avoiding more hits.

I'm currently sitting at 35509 unbuffed health, with 49,73% unbuffed avoidance. I'm uncomfortably well beyond block capped (Trying to get rid of it by getting the crafted belt for starters), with my unbuffed block value at 1992 with the libram buff's constant uptime. I've already begun to strive for slightly more avoidance and armour, by gemming agility+stam gems instead of the pure stamina gems in the blue sockets that give decent bonuses. (Yes, I'm fully aware of the differences between dodge rating and agility, and I prefer the added armour and crit rating, however small the differences may be. ;))

What kind of stats have you been using / striving for in your tanking gear when faced with the harder (hard mode) fights in Ulduar 10/25? The different bosses and their abilities do differ a bit of course, but in general. Have you intentionally gemmed and enchanted for armour and avoidance, when a stamina option was present? Has anyone gone through this kind of a phase, straying from health in favour of other stats, or even done the complete opposite? Do tell. At this point of the game it's kind of hard to get two separate Ulduar-level gearsets since you want the other tanks in your guild getting some love as well, so you kind of have to go for one or the other. :)
Tanking since Seal of Fury, dps'ing since Arcanite Champion

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Re: Ulduar hard modes and how to approach them

Postby Kihra » Fri May 15, 2009 6:19 pm

You're just wearing too many block rating, i.e., "trash tanking" pieces. I'm guessing these were just the first 226 ilvl pieces that happened to drop so you put them on because of the slightly higher Stamina. In my opinion, marginal gains in Stamina and Armor aren't worth losing a bunch of avoidance from your ilvl 213 items.

Here are some concrete loot suggestions for you. I'm going to assume that you like the T8 4pc bonus, so I won't criticize your gloves or shoulders. I happen to enjoy running around in T8 even though I know some of the pieces aren't ideal for progression tanking. I can't help it. It's pretty. :)

(1) Get the T8 chest instead of the Unbreakable Chestguard.

(2) Switch Signet of the Earthshaker back to one of your 213 ilvl rings. (Signet of the Impregnable Fortress or Sand-worn Band come to mind).

(3) Get the Indestructible Plate Girdle made. If you can't get that, consider just going back to Ablative Chitin Girdle.

(4) Saronite Animus Cloak is not as good as Platinum Mesh Cloak. The Dodge Rating on Platinum Mesh is much better. Don't trade that Dodge away for Parry Rating and negligible Hit, Strength and Stamina upgrades.

(5) Switch to Charred Saronite Greaves or Spiked Deathdealers for your boots. You can shunt the +41 stam gem into your legs instead.
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Re: Ulduar hard modes and how to approach them

Postby The Puppet Master » Fri May 15, 2009 6:54 pm

Kihra wrote:You're just wearing too many block rating, i.e., "trash tanking" pieces. I'm guessing these were just the first 226 ilvl pieces that happened to drop so you put them on because of the slightly higher Stamina. In my opinion, marginal gains in Stamina and Armor aren't worth losing a bunch of avoidance from your ilvl 213 items.

Here are some concrete loot suggestions for you. I'm going to assume that you like the T8 4pc bonus, so I won't criticize your gloves or shoulders. I happen to enjoy running around in T8 even though I know some of the pieces aren't ideal for progression tanking. I can't help it. It's pretty. :)

(1) Get the T8 chest instead of the Unbreakable Chestguard.

(2) Switch Signet of the Earthshaker back to one of your 213 ilvl rings. (Signet of the Impregnable Fortress or Sand-worn Band come to mind).

(3) Get the Indestructible Plate Girdle made. If you can't get that, consider just going back to Ablative Chitin Girdle.

(4) Saronite Animus Cloak is not as good as Platinum Mesh Cloak. The Dodge Rating on Platinum Mesh is much better. Don't trade that Dodge away for Parry Rating and negligible Hit, Strength and Stamina upgrades.

(5) Switch to Charred Saronite Greaves or Spiked Deathdealers for your boots. You can shunt the +41 stam gem into your legs instead.


1) I actually have been blessed with the T8 chest, our locks and priests have spent their badges on the chest tokens so I got mine rather cheap this week. Due to the prismatic gem, however, I'm currently using the block chest over it. I'm waiting on getting the Indestructible Plate Girdle made, as I hinted in my original post, and I'm planning to put the +41sta gem on the red socket on it. Afterwards, I can use my current chest and belt with my "block value" set, and the T8 and the crafted belt as my "more avoidance heavy" set.

2) I've got both of the rings you mentioned sitting in my bank, and while I would gain a percent or two of dodge, I'm not really happy about losing about two hundred health due to having to re-gem (in the case of Sand-worn Band) and Impregnable Fortress would actually have me gain very little in terms of avoidance, due to the "extra stats" alongside defense being hit and expertise, neither of which increase my survivability unlike block value. It would, however, leave some room for re-gemming.. I'll have to keep that option in mind.

To be honest, I entered Ulduar loving all the block value items, and considered myself extremely lucky to have them drop for me during the first few weeks. With the hard modes and heavy hitting bosses, however, its value has somewhat diminished in my eyes. I still like the extra threat it provides, though, and on most fights, it directly increases my effective health along with the items with block value providing higher stamina than naxx gear to begin with. Hence, fell in love with a lot of health and block, neglecting avoidance..

3) Covered in #1 :)

4) I actually like the 8 additional defense rating in the Saronite Animus Cloak - it allowed me to get 12 more stamina by changing one of my gems, bringing the total of stamina gained to 16. Also, I'm actually pretty reluctant to shrug off hit rating, even in small quantities - the taunt misses easily cause a wipe when fighting Thorim in hard mode, and I've actually once died to Steelbreaker in the 10-man hard mode, since I missed my cleanse, literally - and fusion punch destroyed me. :) I'm currently waiting for Auriaya's cloak - and in the distant future, hard moded Mimiron's.

5) That is an option I've been considering - however, the belt is higher on my priority list (due to it giving block rating instead of the parry rating given by the boots) and I'm not planning on spending 12 runed orbs in the near future - later, possibly. :) Charred saronite greaves are also nice, while being a little lower on total stamina assuming 8def/12sta gemming. I would like the additional hit, but as with Deathdealer's, I'd be losing more than 100 block value, and since I'm already giving up about two hundred on the belt and the chest, I'm leaning on passing the orbs/charred saronites to another of our tanks.

All in all, what you said about having too much block rating is true - it's a side effect of me loving every single point of stamina I can get my hands on. I've already destroyed some of my ilvl 213 loot that I've replaced with the block pieces, mainly the "clearly inferior" pieces.
There's still a couple of items I'm waiting for in the normal modes in Ulduar 25 man too - t8 upgrades and Heart of Iron, also the jewelry from Thorim and Freya come to mind for example. I'd probably be able to reach the 46k buffed hp with Heart of Iron and the chest+belt switches - leaving me with slightly lower block value, but overall more balanced avoidance ratings and most importantly no wasted block rating on my gear, which is what I'm trying to achieve now.
Tanking since Seal of Fury, dps'ing since Arcanite Champion

http://eu.wowarmory.com/character-sheet ... &n=Trystan
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Re: Ulduar hard modes and how to approach them

Postby Panzerdin » Sat May 16, 2009 4:15 am

Firstly, Stamina alone is not important. Effective Health (EH) is what matters. See this calculator.

Secondly, EH is a great thing to have. However, the progression is very jerky. Either some extra EH lets you survive the next hit, or it doesn't. Whether you can take 2.0 hits or 2.9 hits is irrelevant, because the third hit still kills you. So by all means stack EH, but don't stack worthless EH. Getting to the next EH 'level' (i.e. being able to survive an extra hit) is the best thing you can do to improve your survivability.

After this, you want enough Threat. And that's it. You want to be able to hold aggro with a decent margin, and nothing else. Having 78458904890x the threat of the DPS is worthless, because having 1.3x their threat means they won't pull aggro off of you. So have enough threat, but don't go nuts with it.

Finally, Avoidance. I personally don't rate it. Your healers are going to be spamming you constantly. That's a fact, assuming you have good healers. Therefore, minimizing damage bursts (i.e. taking multiple unmitigated hits) is no longer an issue, especially since Crushing Blows don't exist. Because of this, the worst that can happen is that you get hit repeatedly. This will happen regardless of how much avoidance you have, and since your healers should be spamming you constantly, you will survive it. Previously, when healers didn't always land heals (/stopcasting macros), reducing unavoided hits mattered, since there was a real chance healers would fail to heal you if you took two quick hits, not to mention the chance of a crushing blow. That doesn't happen any more, so avoidance doesn't do much.

That said, if you don't need more threat, and can't reach a significant next level of EH, get avoidance. It isn't doing you a huge amount of good, but it isn't doing you any harm either. So in order:

1. Get to the next significant value of EH
2. Have enough threat
3. Stack Avoidance
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Re: Ulduar hard modes and how to approach them

Postby majiben » Sat May 16, 2009 5:43 am

Your EH summary assumes no healing which is not how the actual game plays out.
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Re: Ulduar hard modes and how to approach them

Postby Panzerdin » Sat May 16, 2009 6:12 am

Well, either you get healed enough to cover the incoming damage (in which case it doesn't matter a damn) or you don't, your healers can't output enough HPS to keep you alive, and you're going to die anyway. Remember that these healers are spamming heals constantly with a fair amount of haste. You're going to be healed between swings. If that consistently doesn't get you to full, then you're going to die. If it does, then extra EH doesn't benefit you.
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Re: Ulduar hard modes and how to approach them

Postby majiben » Sat May 16, 2009 6:15 am

If we were to apply that logic then we would only care about have enough EH to survive one hit.
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Re: Ulduar hard modes and how to approach them

Postby Panzerdin » Sat May 16, 2009 7:00 am

Nope. Subsequent hits matter due to parries, environmental damage, or disruption to healers. Avoidance confers no survival benefit unless your healers aren't casting constantly.
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Re: Ulduar hard modes and how to approach them

Postby Dazhbog » Sat May 16, 2009 2:27 pm

I can't seem the find the bloody thing (wish I had bookmarked it) but there was a fantastic Tankspot post discussing the exact benefits of the avoidance/EH balancing act; if I recall correctly, EH directly affects time to live (TTL) by upping the number of hits you can take before you fall over dead, i.e. it's the amount of raw damage it takes to kill you. EH works.... sorta kinda in a healing vaccum, because it's the amount of health you have AS the next swing connects that matters. If your pool is larger, chances are you'll have more health to bring to bear against an incoming blow.

However, avoidance works to space out incoming damage, and plays a direct role with healing; by increasing the amount of time between swings that connect (on average), you increase the chance for the healers to get you topped off and/or stable, and able to survive the next blow. It's why avoidance was king on fights with very high, very fast incoming damage like Azgalor, because it lowered the DPS incoming on the tank (versus EH is strictly lowering each individual hit as a percentage of your total health). It was also why bears, with their massive amount of stamina/armor and high avoidance, worked very well for such an encounter, since they could do both at once (and why bears have seen a rather stiff nerf from their BC days, because they could get to very high levels of BOTH avoidance and EH).

Whether avoidance or EH provide a stronger benefit depends greatly on the fight, and why most of us have multiple gearsets to cover different contingencies. Fights with a lot of smaller hits (add tanking, e.g. the Thorim gauntlet or rubbles on Kologarn) plays to EH, as do fights with unavoidable damage of course (magic damage). Fights with single massive damage sources tend to favor avoidance, especially if the healers are disrupted for some reason, e.g. Gruul or General Vezax. Vezax actually favors avoidance to such a degree that it makes DKs the real go-to tank there, especially coupled with their ability to just stand and tank the 100% damage increase.

As I see it, if you can assume heals are incoming then you need exactly enough EH to survive the damage dealt to you between heals (i.e. don't get oneshot) and then avoidance to ensure heals are hitting more frequently then damage. In other words, if I take a hit, I can either gear to take a second hit (more EH) without healing, or gear to ensure a heal lands before the next hit (avoidance). Which path you take depends on the fight and your personal gear style.
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Re: Ulduar hard modes and how to approach them

Postby Dazhbog » Sat May 16, 2009 2:29 pm

Panzerdin wrote:Nope. Subsequent hits matter due to parries, environmental damage, or disruption to healers. Avoidance confers no survival benefit unless your healers aren't casting constantly.


That's actually a pretty valid assumption in a lot of the Ulduar fights where the healers can't just stand and nuke heals on you, due to various encounter conditions. EH does play a major role in being able to soak incidental encounter damage (so you don't takea boss hit, then die to some 2k lightning shock).
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Re: Ulduar hard modes and how to approach them

Postby Dread » Sat May 16, 2009 4:49 pm

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Re: Ulduar hard modes and how to approach them

Postby Dazhbog » Sun May 17, 2009 12:31 am

That thread has only served to convince me that my own Ardent Defender is crap >< I mean, it's not a shieldwall, but c'mon.

That said, tonight we slammed face on General Vezax because our DK wasn't there, and it made me a sad panda =( So another cooldown would be very much welcome.
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Re: Ulduar hard modes and how to approach them

Postby Panzerdin » Sun May 17, 2009 12:39 am

Dazhbog wrote:
Panzerdin wrote:Nope. Subsequent hits matter due to parries, environmental damage, or disruption to healers. Avoidance confers no survival benefit unless your healers aren't casting constantly.


That's actually a pretty valid assumption in a lot of the Ulduar fights where the healers can't just stand and nuke heals on you, due to various encounter conditions. EH does play a major role in being able to soak incidental encounter damage (so you don't takea boss hit, then die to some 2k lightning shock).

If your healers aren't going to be healing you for more than a few seconds, then they're just useless, given the amounts of haste currently going round.
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Re: Ulduar hard modes and how to approach them

Postby Dazhbog » Sun May 17, 2009 12:49 am

A few seconds no, of course not. But sometimes a healer needs to move to avoid a shadowcrash or a Freya seed, or they have to deal with a Ground Tremor, and you need to increase the space for Healer Reaction Time. Hence, avoidance. I just watched my warrior tank get nuked a couple of times on General25 due to the difference between his avoidance and my DK's, which refutes your comment about avoidance not being a survival benefit.
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Re: Ulduar hard modes and how to approach them

Postby Panzerdin » Sun May 17, 2009 3:39 am

No it doesn't. If your healers are doing their jobs right, there should always be at least two on the MT. If one moves to avoid a Shadow Crash and misses a cast, then the other should be more than able to help keep the tank up. Vezax takes three hits to kill a tank, there's no way even a tank with no avoidance at all should be dying. It's a problem with your healers, not your tank.
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