Wednesday, December 24, 2008


It seems to me that expertise is the least discussed tanking stat for druids. Not only that, but it's often simply dismissed as a DPS or threat-stat. My approach to tanking differs quite a bit on this.

As I started researching my future as a feral druid, it became obvious that armour was the key to druid tanking. Mitigation is the most reliable way of reducing the damage you take, it smoothens your damage profile and makes sure your healers don't hate you(something that has always been at the back of my mind having my self been a healer for most of TBC). Beyond a smooth damage profile, it seemed stamina was the best scaling stat, indeed nothing increases TTL quite as much as stamina. But inflating your healthpool is only good as long as your healers are overhealing, and even then you best be aware that you do not do so at the cost of higher spikes of damage. At the end of T7 raiding I've settled into the groove of about 40k health(raid buffed), opting not to stack stamina from gems, gear nor enchants. Quite simply, what I get naturally has been enough, and I still see gearing for other things as being more beneficial to my tanking overall.

So then what am I left with? Most people would assume I then stack agility for high amounts of dodge, but as a former healer I never much liked the damage profiles of avoidance-tanks. Instead I've picked quite a few pieces of gear for expertise instead of agility and stamina. It's the stat I value the highest, and the reason is simple. As agility is both a threat and dps stat(ap and crit) and a avoidance(dodge) and slight mitigation(armour) stat, so is expertise a powerful offensive as well as defensive stat. Just as the golden rule for DPS is that if you don't land attacks, you lose more damage than if you stack a bit more AP or crit, so you lose more threat from getting parried than you would gain from the bit more AP and crit, especially with frontloaded threat abilities such as swipe now is. This means for good threat, stacking hit and expertise is key. But whilst hit only reduces incoming damage based on applications of infected wounds(if you've opted to take the talent, as I have), expertise reduces parry chance, and this in my opinion is the second best source of mitigation for a druid tank. Put simply, each parry has been shown to increase on average the speed at which the next attack comes in by 40%. That's nasty. That's spiky. That's potentially deadly and at the very least, it increases incoming damage by a truckload. This is all counter to my philosophy of having a stable and smooth damage profile. I'm currently sitting at 11.75% reduction to parry chance, and I'm intent on switching out a few gems to take it up to 12% or more. Early druid gear had the luxury of having a lot of expertise available, and the base 10 expertise we can get from talents helps us greatly. And there's nothing I love more than hearing my healers remark on how little damage I take and how steady it is over time. Simply put, do your healers a favour, don't forget to stack some expertise as well.



Anonymous said...

First comment! Just saw a referral over at kalon's blog. Nice pieces & clearly written & logical. Yes its cool to hear about your experience of expertise, I'm starting to get into it more as a stat, because I found the same thing as you: tons of stamina already without trying (more than I'll ever need) and great armor. Its either hit/expertise now (or more strength, which I'm reluctant to do). I've also realized the value of tuskarr's vitality over pure stamina, and will be re-enchanting my boots just as soon as I log in again. I bet a lot of tanks dont even consider it.

In terms of the future of bears in content not yet released: its interesting to think about, I hadnt considered these progressive end game scaling issues. I do think some sort of healability based on attack power is a nice option. I also wonder if this issue is generic to all specs, or to many others? It must be a constant juggling act. And in many more dimensions than merely one spec. All specs need to scale individually, and raids need to scale as a whole. These are very complex mathematical problems of optimization, with almost infinite ways to tweak the parameters....

GC already stated that the armor nerf was so important for future scalability, since without it we were so close to the cap post-naxx. They definitely think about the future of tanks, and I'm sure more so than ever now that their design is for all tank classes to be equally viable. They also hate things like sunwell raidiance :) What I'm saying is that its in their own best interests to ensure all tanking classes continue to scale intelligently in yet to be released content.

Shamad said...

Hello and welcome :)

I've got icewalker myself due to some annoying taunt resist early on, but I'm planning to enchant my next boots whenever they drop with tuskarr's as well. It's actually a upgrade of a popular tanking enchant that was in use in TBC and something I'm sure many tanks are already using. Running speed does help a lot for a tank, especially when there are adds running about.

I don't think anyone would want to deliberately accuse them of ignoring scaling issues, but it does happen that the devs do get things wrong(Elemental Shaman's went into the game scaling horribly bad and are now looking to receive a nearly 20% buff to their damage, something the Shamans of EJ had already vocally pointed out was needed before WotLK was released). Now while I do expect that once they come to the conclusion that there is a problem(if there is one), they'll act on it, but if they only figure it out after it becomes evident from real experience, then Druids are looking at possibly being sidelined for most of a whole progression raid cycle. That's not something we'd be overly thrilled about.

I'm actually planning on making a gear comparison between my tanking gear and my off-spec heal gear at some point to show what a difference there is when you have gear that's made for you, and gear that you are forced to wear in absence of something better.

Marino said...

Hey Shamad. Nice Blog. Got here from Kalon's blog but this one is bookmarked too.

I fully agree with the contents of this post. I wonder what your opinion is on the following:

Agility does threat (crit) and does avoidance (dodge).
Expertise does threat (less parry) and does avoidance (no parry buff for bosses).

I wonder at what point (if any) 45 expertise elixir will become worth more then 45 agility elixir.

Of course when expertise goes over the 60 mark (= 15% less parry) there is no real need for more expertise.
But lets say you are not on the expertise "cap" and you can fully use the 45 expertise.
On dodge there are diminishing returns. Meaning agility will be less worth when you already have a lot of dodge. So at a lot of dodge expertise seems worth more.

The question is how many dodge?

You think this is true? And if so is there any math that determines at what percentage dodge expertise is worth more?

Shamad said...

Hello Marino,

I'm afraid that whilst the math does interest me, my memory for detailed figures is quite horrible ;) However if memory serves the DR on dodge really start kicking in at around 50%. On the other hand, expertise doesn't lose it's value until you cap. The thing is though, the cap for expertise isn't always the same, and whilst boss-mobs are known to have up to 15% parry chance, normal trash does not. Therefore whilst capping expertise is valuable for any tank and in particular for maintanks, at a certain point(at around 12% would be my guestimate) the benefits for a off-tank start to drop off. So it really depends on what you're tanking, but I myself have resorted to using a combination of armor/agi elixirs for progression content(stoneblood flask for sartharion+3Drakes). I hope this answer was of some help to you :)

Flashalas said...

Trollwoven Gear is excellent to balancing expertise - with Primal Precision I'm up to 34, which is still a bit away from the expertise cap but I'm working towards it.

I notice there is very little in the way of expertise on T7 gear. I wonder is Blizzard will remember to keep it itemized going forward, especially since the Handwraps are getting nerfed and will lose some of their expertise as well.

Marino said...

Thank you for your responce. I know it is a hard thing to calculate and theorycraft ;)
What you say is true, the parry rate differs on trash and bosses. But there is no reason to die on trash (unless you get too much). Talking purely bosses here.
I don't really see where you define expertise being different on roles, OT or MT. Every tank has the healers assigned to him as needed, and an OT with a lot of expertise and a hotting druid assigned to him is easy ride / no fuck up ever needed.
I think 15% parry is something you should go for. Some bosses have a higher percentage, some maybe lower, but for steady damage taken I would aim for 60 expertise.

Shamad said...

I see you asked the same on EJ Marino ;) Let's hope you get an answer, but my point was that for MT's, hitting the cap is always favourable. On the other hand, as an OT on bossfights, there's still adds for you to tank and your job is to take as little damage as possible so as little healing as possible is sacrificed on you. In this case I'd reckon the extra expertise is often useless, making the extra dodge win out.

So if you MT bosses, always go for expertise(until cap). If you OT and are at around 12%, go for agi. If you OT and are below 12%, go for expertise.

Marino said...

Still doesnt answer my question fully haha :D
And yeah asked the same on elitist jerks. Wondered if someone knows some math. Not that it is a real big difference, but hey, everything you know about tanking will help you be better...

If you remember to watch fissures at 8 manning naxx 10.. which today I forgot and we wiped :P

Just to say.. everything is relative ;)

Marino said...

No way to edit unfortunately. Checked elitist jerks after posting.
Courtesy to Kalon.

In case it is no longer available tot he readers here, a short summary:
The answer to the question to avoidance agility vs expertise is that agi give 2 to 3 (depending on DR) more avoidance then expertise.

My conclusion:
Still for threat expertise is a lot better. So it is about what you like, more threat or more avoidance. Use elixirs/enchants/gems accordingly.