Daily Thoughts: Fears of Tanking – Part 2

Posted: March 16, 2011 in Cataclysm, Daily
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In a recent post I divulged my fear of tanking heroics or at least my fear of failing as a heroic/raid tank. It’s a bit relevant to today’s subject so it might be worth a read. My death knight has finally reached level 85. I immediately queued for a regular to get my daily allotment of justice points and practice tanking some more. Naturally, I got Vortex Pinnacle (it’s my new Halls of Reflection) but the run was very smooth like most of the regulars I’ve done as tank. ALL of the dps even beat my damage done on each boss fight, a first for my dk. You might be wondering, “I thought you said you’d do heroics, pansy!” Well, I will, but…my gear isn’t ready. Not even the excuse I would use previously to myself, literally, I can’t queue for heroics yet due to item level. As I recall, 329 is the item level requirement to queue for a heroic and mine is only 323. Aside from that though, I started thinking. What really is the right gear level for running a heroic as a tank? Honestly I don’t appreciate when fresh 85 tanks who barely meet the gear required to queue at all are tanking for me. Usually they’re a strain on the healer to keep up, they can’t keep threat from the DPS so either there is deaths or if the DPS tone it down, things take a long time to kill. So when is it okay to start tanking?

The Gear

In Wrath there was a basic standard (aside from defense cap) that you needed enough health not to get one shot by anything and not to get kill in two hits by almost anything. In Cataclysm, there aren’t many attacks that can kill a player in 1-2 hits. Most of these attacks are mechanics that are avoidable.  Honestly, I cringe a little if the tank in a pug has under 140k hp and I probably visibly wince when they are under 130k, especially in an instance such as Grim Batol. As a healer though, I understand that health is not the best indication of tanking gear quality. Mitigation and avoidance end up being much more important because the tank doesn’t die often to large attacks taking most of the health in a short time. Instead, tanks are whittled away by taking too much damage over time that their healer can’t keep up with or when the healer goes out of mana from having to use powerful heals. So really, a tank needs a mix of overall good gear. Which leaves us back at the beginning, what level is that gear good enough? We have two objective measures of gear quality available, item level (which we have to view armory to see) or gearscore (which bases its score on item level). Both of these systems, although it’s really only one system and a score extrapolated from it, don’t acknowledge enchants or gems which play a major part in the overall defensive capacity of a tank.

The Skill

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Skill is greater than gear, I get it. I really do. I’ve had super geared tanks that were terrible at holding aggro or keeping themselves alive. But it is important to note, I’m not an amazing tank. I don’t really have super skills to counter bad gear. If my gear is at least decent then things aren’t a problem. Even without a great deal of practice I have pretty good situational awareness and thorough knowledge of trash and boss mechanics for all the heroics and the raid content that I might be seeing on an alt. I have seen a couple of tanks,  alts of players in WotLK, that did a solid to impressive job as a tank even in sub-par gear. Yes skill > gear, but gear sure helps.

The Last Word

So, this is a lot of talk, but where is that sweet spot when its okay for a tank to start on heroics? Extraordinary skill aside, you should be fully or 95% geared in regular dungeon gear. This means average item level of 333. Some pieces might be hard to get from dungeons in level 333 quality because earlier dungeons drop 308 or 316 gear, but you can upgrade those pieces with Uldum or Twilight Highlands quest rewards along with reputation pieces from honored/revered/exalted that you should have by the time you hit 85. For those of the gearscore persuasion, this would probably have you around or a little under 7k gearscore. On my death knight, with one stamina trinket and an item level of 333, I expect to be about 132k health unbuffed in blood presence. All in all I’ll be right on target. My mitigation and avoidance will be on levels I’m okay with, health should dramatically decrease the chances of being killed in just a couple global cooldowns and I’ll feel confident enough in my gear-support. Of course, gems and enchants (even cheaper ones) go a long ways. I’m hoping to reach my gear goal tonight and should be able to start tanking today or tomorrow… wish me luck!

  1. Minmon says:

    If you’re with a guild group, bear (pun!) minimum gear level is needed.

    If you’re pugging, I’d say 3/4ths ilvl333, 1-2 pieces that are 318, 1 346 piece from JP, 1-3 346 pieces from factions. cheap enchants on the 333s/318s, good enchants on the 346s. Reforge everything appropriately (I believe for DKs it’s mastery > dodge/parry, but I may be wrong).

    For your weapon, you need at least the ilvl333 weapon you can get from Twilight Highlands, otherwise your threat will be unacceptable. Also note that with PuGging your health will be inflated by a decent amount.

    As for tanking, the important thing is to not do stupid things, and to pull at the rate your healer will allow. In a run with Indy healing, I usually just mark skull, maybe sheep, then go without looking at Indy’s mana. When I’m with an unfamiliar healer I start slow, then ramp up depending on his mana bar. If DPS complains about pulling faster, kick him. 😀 A slow methodical run is much more relaxing than a run with a fast rate of pulling, but frequent wipes.

  2. realgdman4u says:

    I feel that with average skill, ilvl333 gear is good enough for heroics.

    I had slightly less ilevel on Zaren, my Prot Warrior and did just fine. I’m currently leveling my Death Knight and plan to tank with him also.

    It seemed easy to go from ilevel308 gear to ilevel 333 gear in the Normal Dungeons, but with my Death Knight it seems to be taking forever. He is at 83 currently and I don’t want to queue up as tank, cause I’m not sure of my rotation and gear yet. I know what it is like to have to deal with an undergeared tank. Even with appropriate gear, you are subject to abuse for the slightest mistake so I’m gonna try to cover all bases.

    With my Dps, I could sort of gage my effectiveness on practice dummies, but that doesn’t work too good for tanks. Rather than annoy a random pug, I’m gonna just jump a pack of npcs and see how well I survive. :p

    • Sharden says:

      Ya know, I’m working on a little mini guide to DK tanking that should be up in a couple days. Might help give you some ideas for rotations and what not.

      As for jumping into packs of mobs… you’ll find blood will let you take on a ton of them.

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