Scaling up, scaling back

Vidyala asks “How much is too much?” While she’s speaking more existentially, I wonder the same with regards to tanking. How much survivability is too much? At want point do we achieve effective immortality–alphabetically the next step after EH–and no longer fear death?

In my earlier post about armory data mining, there were many folks honestly disagreeing with me on the merits of my recommendations based on the level of content they are tanking. Some stick to heroics and thus seldom, if ever, experience tank death. Some are raiding ICC 10 or 25 and thanks to the buff are pushing past 60k hitpoints.

Those two experiences are like two sections of the same tanking möbius strip. Vastly different content, but the same indelible question: at what point do I hit diminishing returns on my survivability stats?

Actually, let’s scale back that question–is there such a think as too much survivability? Many might say yes, some of them having commented on the data mining post to that effect. I would say there is not. If you think there is such a thing, let me pose this question to you: what odds are you willing to accept for your survival? If you can gear to only die once every 100 encounters, but do 5% more threat than someone who gears to die only once every 1000 encounters, is that a worthy trade-off?

I personally would say no. In my mind I have one primary directive, to survive. Holding threat is secondary. I would always be that latter tank, gearing to prevent as many possible tank deaths as possible even if it means a little less threat. If you lose threat you can always taunt it back, or salv a dps, or what have you. It’s seldom the end of the encounter. If a tank dies, things can rapidly snowball into a wipe. I would posit that 9 times out of 10, a tank death will lead to a wipe more than a tank losing aggro.

So I ask, why would you increase the possibility of the former to prevent the latter?

An example: I saw a discussion of my data mining post elsewhere and someone brought up my commandment not to socket Nightmare Tears. The commenter said they saw a single Nightmare Tear as superior over socketing a single Shifting Dreadstone because, gosh, it’s a lot of stats for one gem. Sure, you lose five stamina, but you gain strength, intellect, and spirit. … And yet, the only bit of that that remotely reduces damage is the 5 block value you get (6.5 after talents).

So the survivability trade-off between a Shifting and a NT is this: Shifting gives you 55 hitpoints, and the Tear will let you ignore 6.5 hitpoints worth of damage when you block (if you block). How does a Tear remotely appeal?

My position is and will always be that survivability comes first. If we’re following the proper rotation and staying caught up on gear and your dps are not knuckle-dragging idiots, threat should never be an issue. We should never have to gem or enchant for threat, it should come organically from our gear. If we need to increase our threat, we put on a cape that has hit, or a pair of boots that has expertise. We don’t regem to gain a few more points of strength.

Coming back to the original question, I would say there is no such thing as too much survivability. Indeed, there’s no such thing as an immortal tank. Even a god can bleed. To that end, I will always gear, gem, and enchant to keep myself as optimally alive as possible. Once I have too much hp, I will focus on mitigation and avoidance. Never threat. That’s not my job.

14 Comments to “Scaling up, scaling back”

  1. Vosskah
    25 May 2010 at 2:55 pm #

    Good post and I will agree with you while disagreeing. Of course, you may dismiss my comment as being one made from a warrior. Things are a tad different for you pallies, or so I hear from Vidyala.
    I completely agree with you that my tanking gear is gemmed exclusively for survivability with only the minimum hit and expertise required. My job in ICC is to survive the encounter and prevent my healers from having a heart attack. With misdirect, TofT and the rest, my threat should be fine.
    For heroics though, I sometimes even dip a bit below the 535 defense (around 531) by putting on a lot of my fury gear on. I see my job in heroics nowadays to be as much about leading the group and surviving as putting out as much damage as possible. Many people are gearing up alts and it’s quite surprising the sheer number of dps not able to crack the 2k in heroic LFD. If I do get in trouble, that’s what my cooldowns are for. Higher dps allows everyone to spend less time in there as well as giving me more rage to play with.

    So yes, when tanking at your highest level (be it ICC, Ulduar, etc.) I think you need to gem and enchant this gear mostly to survive. The levels below, it’s for you to adjust by putting on dps gear depending on your healer’s skill.

    • Rhidach
      25 May 2010 at 3:29 pm #

      I would never discount someone’s opinion, even if they’re a warrior. Like Julius says in Independence Day during the Hebrew prayer session when the ex-SecDef says he isn’t Jewish, “nobody’s perfect.” :P

      • Vosskah
        25 May 2010 at 4:17 pm #

        I’ll reply to you by adding: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” And I guess that in this case, warriors actually are pigs. :-P

        • Rhidach
          25 May 2010 at 4:57 pm #

          It’s the shoulders, really.

  2. Rhabella 25 May 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    “Actually, let’s scale back that question–is there such a think as too much survivability? Many might say yes, some of them having commented on the data mining post to that effect. I would say there is not. If you think there is such a thing, let me pose this question to you: what odds are you willing to accept for your survival? If you can gear to only die once every 100 encounters, but do 5% more threat than someone who gears to die only once every 1000 encounters, is that a worthy trade-off?”

    I couldn’t help but think about the scene in Swordfish where Travolta asks Jackman how many lives is too many to sacrifice if you can prevent the loss of millions of others. As tanks, shouldn’t it be ingrained in us that one wipe because we geared for threat is one wipe too many?

    • Rhidach
      25 May 2010 at 3:21 pm #

      Thank you, my thoughts exactly!

  3. Wikid 25 May 2010 at 3:02 pm #

    I was having this same discussion with a friend of mine who just started tanking in the last couple months. He was poking fun at me because his new pally has more HP’s than mine, but my retort was that I avoid more damage than he does because I am not stacking a crap ton of stamina gems but rather balancing my avoidance with my stamina for more survivability. Somehow he got stuck on the fact that 60% avoidance was all he would ever need before focusing on threat and hit points. (gosh remember 102.4%? I miss crushing blows telling you who was a good tank and who was DPS in tanks clothing) I quite happily reminded him that if he stayed at 60%, the ICC debuff would have him at 40%, and his magic number goes bye bye… hopefully he thinks of that the next time he goes to gem a socket.

    • Rhidach
      25 May 2010 at 3:17 pm #

      Well, keep in mind that while it’s ok to look at avoidance, you want to make sure you have enough hp first. If your friend has 60k hp and 40% avoidance and you have 40k hp and 60% avoidance, the friend is invariably going to live longer than you in ICC25, for example. Make sure you’re maxing your effective health before you’re scaling back to avoidance.

      There’s nothing wrong with stacking stamina, existentially. It’s still the most efficient way to increase survivability. Avoidance is primarily good for (once you have a very comfortable level of EH) reducing how much attention you need from healers.

  4. Aric Clark
    25 May 2010 at 3:02 pm #

    Basically I agree with your point, but I think you oversimplify. At a certain point an increase in stamina does not actually increase your survivability at all. Not one second more on time to live. Because the boss is hitting you for more than those incremental gains anyway. If you can survive 3 hits by the boss, but not get enough stamina to survive 4 hits, any stamina in the middle is wasted. I’d agree with you if you can get enough stam/avoidance to put you up past another melee swing or tick of a major damage source, but when you are in between there is no advantage to greater survivability.

    Furthermore, threat DOES translate into survivability in the sense that it allows higher DPS which allows encounters to go faster which in turn means less tax on the healers and better chance of surviving. Threat is never a priority like stamina is, but by 55k in 10man ICC piling on additional health is not going to extend your time to live as a tank.

    Our raid never wipes because of tank deaths at this point. I am almost always the last one to die. The raid wipes because DPS stood in fire, or healers got out of position or silenced/stunned or some combination of those effects. More health won’t help at all with those situations. But higher threat (or higher tank DPS) could trivialize those situations by making the encounter shorter.

    • Rhidach
      25 May 2010 at 3:27 pm #

      With tank dps as it is, I don’t think it’s possible to increase your personal damage output to the point where it would have a noticeable impact on the length of the fight without severely reducing your own survivability.

      I can see what you’re saying, though. It’s the same principle behind considering Improved Hammer of Justice a damage reduction talent, because if you can interrupt a single frostbolt cast on Kel’Thuzad (random example) then you have reduced your damage taken. However, that’s you acting as a band-aid for your raid members, taking on their responsibilities. I don’t think that’s a worthwhile trade-off, since you’re sacrificing your personal survivability to cover up for those shirking their own jobs.

  5. Isa 25 May 2010 at 4:11 pm #

    I just think many raid tanks are too quick to say “stack stam”, as if it’s always going to be the best option. There is, as far as I know, currently agreement in the community that at around 60k health you should start gemming for avoidance (or threat I guess, but I don’t particularly care for threat over survivability either). But that’s for ICC. For whatever level of content you’re tackling, there’s going to be a point where your focus is best spent somewhere other than stamina. And while I don’t know where that point is for say, heroics, I do know it’s not anywhere near 60k. I often gem for avoidance and not stamina, and I’m confident that’s an excellent choice for my gear level and the content I run. Conventional wisdom is okay but isn’t always the wisest option and I feel like that gets ignored.

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  7. Meloree 25 May 2010 at 11:38 pm #

    Oh, sometimes it’s fun to toss on a bunch of threat gear, and maybe spec 2/51/18 and just go blow some stuff up.

    Nothing wrong with livening up farmnight a bit for the healers, and enjoying some big numbers. Maybe that perspective doesn’t work for everyone, but I do like the change of pace from time to time.

    Even in progression, there are times where it’s simply better to wear threat gear. I give you Hodir. That said, on “for real” progression bosses, I’m pretty much exclusively geared for survivability, so in that facet we’re in agreement.

  8. Ekaterine 26 May 2010 at 1:27 am #

    I think Avenging Wrathy touched on this idea about a month ago (when the ICC buff jumped to 15%):

    I think the important point to note from AW is that when the buff goes up 5%, if your hp was 50k last week, this week it will be 52.5k. That’s about 200 stam that you could happily ‘re-assign’ and still have 50k hp (in ICC). But to what? Tank dps isn’t something that will affect the outcome of any boss fights (and besides, that will go up 5% this week too) but if you feel that the dps are hot on your threat lead, then some +hit or + expertise gems can help with that. Theck’s threat analysis at Maintankadin is helpful in this regard.

    Ultimately avoiding damage and being ‘easy to heal’ are not easy to define. Out-threating the dps is fairly binary (i.e. you either have aggro or you don’t). There are certain talent and gems/enchants that are non-negotiable as a tank. There are other ones that are more flexible, and the only way to know which ones to hose is to look at your overall gear set, content, raid buffs and stats.