Tanking for Dummies


Defense is for Flexibility
March 16, 2009, 12:01 am
Filed under: Gear | Tags: , , , , ,

It is a well known fact that 540 defense skill (689 defense rating from gear at level 80) is the “defense cap,” the point at which a tank can no longer be critically hit by a mob that is level 83 (the max level in the game currently, used for raid bosses).  Veneretio over at Tanking Tips has even laid out why stacking defense is the new black. What often goes unstated, however, is the need to retain flexibility in regards to your defense rating.  The ability to increase defense as necessary has never been more important, or harder to do than it is at this moment.

Rightly skeptical you are.

The truth I will elucidate.

An all too common scenario…

Presume, for a moment, that you are a fresh level 80 Warrior that wishes to tank.  It would be fair to assume that you would look for gear that you can acquire quickly.  You would naturally gravitate towards things like these delightful pieces made by your local blacksmith:

Daunting Handguards

Daunting Legplates

Or god for bid that you have some cash, then you might be considering:

Tempered Titansteel Helm

Tempered Titansteel Treads

Titansteel Shield Wall

Much as I love running instances over and over again for great drops, let us be frank, the guarantee of delivery is worth a pretty penny.  That is, after all, why we go to such lengths to make the pretty dragons like us.

But I digress.  Continuing with our presumption, you have managed to reach the defense cap and, by the grace of fortune, you are tanking Naxxramas.  You are running down a pipe filled with toxic green goo.  You are falling, FALLING, into the maw of an angry undead Corehound.  You shield slam, and run backwards as fast as you can.  Your co-tank taunts, you taunt, there are shouts over vent about zombie hordes, visions of the monster who must clean up after this thing dance in the back of your mind like the cries for help coming from the door behind you.

And then it is done.  There is rolling involved.  Before you can catch your breath you are the proud owner of a brand new Hero’s Surrender.  You equip it and examine it’s rough forged beauty.  Those zombie scum won’t be laughing at you now that you are toting three hundred pounds of fire breathing saronite.

But wait, your eyes glance over your character tab with trepidation, something is wrong.  That number!  It dropped!  You cannot equip it after all, and an upgrade will lounge in your bags until you can find some way to make up for the lost numbers.

…or why every Warrior needs a Seal of the Pantheon

I am sure I am not the only warrior who has had a similar experience to the above.  If getting to the Defense Cap is insufficiently challenging for you, then surely maintaining that cap is an expensive and painful endeavor that often can cast a pall over potentially massive upgrades in gear.  This is, because of some reason unbeknownst to me, the crew over at Blizzard decided that raid level tanking gear needed to be itemized with less defense than the tier that was immediately below it.  Now, through enchanting, gemming, and the love of euphemistically inclined giants it is entirely possible to get the defense rating you need.  However, unless you are in the habit of cluttering your bags with Scrolls, freshly cut (and non stacking!) thick gems, and other oddities, you are going to be caught in the situation above – unable to equip your new gear until after raid is finished.

Depending on how Saphiron is going for you, that might be a long time.

And that, dear reader, brings me to the subject of trinkets.  Particularly trinkets with defense on them.  It is a discouragingly short list, a list that you might recognize is sparsely populated with guarantees – those elusive gearing options arriving from faction rewards or quests.  In fact, I might venture to mention that a certain key trinket particularly, the highest defense rating outside of a raid, drops only from one of the most difficult non-heroic/raid encounters in the game at the moment.

Yeah.  I’m looking at you Loken, and your damn Seal of the Pantheon .  No I don’t have one yet, dammit, and it isn’t for lack of trying.  I haven’t managed to get a Repelling Charge either.  Let me tell you I’ve missed them both.

The skinny on this is that I haven’t gotten an upgrade from a raid this expansion that I have been able to equip prior to dropping a few hundred gold on item enhancements.  Now, I would have probably done this anyway, but maybe – just maybe, I wanted to enchant something besides defense or put something other than thick gems in yellow sockets.  If I had a defense trinket, this would be possible.  In the meantime – it is not.

That means I not only lack the ability to equip my upgrades, but I also lack flexibility.

And that is the bottom line.

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10 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Arrrgh! Defence trinkets!!

I feel your pain, I’ve been really unlucky with those also this expansion. And the one time Repelling Charge did drop, someone else won it.

Comment by spinks

I generally don’t expect to be able to equip a piece of gear until I’ve enchanted/gem’d/kit’d/buckled/etc it, even as DPS. It’s relatively rare that a piece is an actual upgrade without them due to the smaller gaps between tiers (coupled with the larger contribution by the aforementioned enhancements) in the expansions.

Comment by Yuki

@ Spinks – Good to know I’m not the only one!

@ Yuki – The difference here, I think, is that I tend to have to replace other enchantments or gems with defense in order to equip an upgrade. It’s not like I’m simply replicating defense enhancements.

Comment by Tarsus

My Seal of the Pantheon is the one blue item I still have equipped. Every other slot is nicely purpled out (well, other than my Commendation of Kael’thas–lawl still using an ilevel 115 trinket at level 80) but that Seal still rides in my bottom trinket slot in my “boss” tanking set, and probably will for a very, very, very long time. We’re 1 for 7 on even seeing a Repelling Charge so far, and of course our MT got it as he should’ve.

Plate tank trinkets in general are in a pretty sorry state. The badge trinket is, uh, 84 dodge and nothing else? Awesome for Yogi, not so awesome for a plate tank. Ditto Defender’s Code. Seal of the Pantheon is just a frustrating grind to get, I got lucky with mine. Repelling Charge might as well be a unicorn or the Loch Ness Monster for as often as it’s sighted.

Comment by Lewis

@Tars: To some extent, it’s true, although I did have to regem/enchant fairly extensively after a few upgrades put me over the melee hit cap without them. Of course part of that is that my spec has One Right Answer.

Comment by Yuki

Got the seal the first and only time I went through that place, before I even knew it dropped. The Repelling charge has yet to be seen though.
If I ever want to drop the Seal of Pantheon I will have to re-gem alot of stuff, so I am still using it on boss fights.

Comment by Spleen

@Yuki – It’s that whole itemization priorities thing. Fortunately, at least, tanks actually get something nice out of defense over 540.

@Spleen – You’ll eventually get the defense to be without it I bet, but I would still keep it around for the flexibility. You never know when a nice upgrade might tank your Defense rating.

Comment by Tarsus

I hear ya. Our last Naxx raid I got the goodies, including Skull of Ruin off Grobb. I also decided to buy the dodge trinket. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get to 540 def again. I had to get a lot of def enchants replacing all my threat boosts. I also do not have the Seal and for desperate moments of gear replacement always have my old Adamantine Figurine from Shadow Labs with me.

Comment by Kadomi

@ Kadomi – I would totally advise anyone leveling a tank to grab and keep those defense trinkets. Adamantine Figurine is a good one, but even the one from Helfire is better than nothing.

Comment by Tarsus

[…] again we’re seeing the kind of variations in Defense numbers that make me wish Loken would cough up a Seal of the Pantheon already.  It’s a fairly rare piece on that list that has higher defense numbers than we’re […]

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