Thursday, September 9, 2010

On gemming your bear tank (Stam vs Agi)

Gemming (and, to a lesser extent, gearing) a bear tank is somewhat of an interesting topic. After making sure you've met the hit cap and at least the dodge expertise cap, there's basically 2 schools of thought on what's important for bear tanks.
  1. Stam, stam, and more stam!
  2. Stam and Agi.
The first group of people are carry-overs from the BC days of Bear Tanking. Their view is that we are soak tanks. The idea of a bear was to take those punishing hits and just absorb them with our absurdly high health pool. To help us out, we had an absurdly high armor multiplier that put us way ahead of plate tanks in the area of mitigating the blows that did land.

Since then, a lot has changed for bears. Our health and armor multipliers have both been significantly reduced since pre-3.0 days (via nerfs to Heart of the Wild and Thick Hide). It's still not uncommon for us to be a little bit ahead of equally-geared plate tanks in those areas, but it's not by much. Certainly not by the margins we were used to.

To help us out, we got Savage Defense, which is kind of like Block. The mechanic is different: if we're not attacking something, we're not getting use out of it (which sucks when your job is to hold threat on something, but not kill it.) But at it's core, it's the same basic idea.

This is where the second camp comes in. Those who go for a balance between stam and agi. It's important to note here, what we get out of Agi as bears. Agi gives us Armor (mitigates damage taken), dodge (avoidance), and crit (Savage Defense procs). So yes, we may have less health than if we went straight stam, but we get quite a bit in the trade-off. And all of that other stuff is very important to bear tanks.

Like I mentioned above, stam stacking was the way to go in BC for Bear tanks. When we took the hit to our armor multiplier, people reasoned that stacking stam was even more important. When Chill of the Throne hit in ICC, there was argument that stam was even now more important.

It's an argument I just don't buy.

When people say that talent buffs and raid debuffs are hurting our chance to avoid or mitigate damage, and thus we should stack more health, what I hear is this: "I'm used to having water and food. But I'm having a lot of my food taken away. Rather than do what I can to get some of that food back, I'm just going to drink more water. In fact, I'm going to try to live off water alone and treat any food I do manage to get as a bonus."

That doesn't sound like a very good way to live.

Yes, there are always exceptions. All the Agi in the world isn't going to help you on fights where your chief source of damage comes from magic or bleeds. But all the Str, Block, and Parry in the world isn't going to help the plate tanks in those situations either, so it balances out. There are times when a heavy stam set is the way to go. I just don't believe they're meant to be the norm for bear tanks any more than they're meant to be the norm for plate tanks.

Now, don't get me wrong here. EJ supports claims that heavy stam stacking for bears in a legitimate strategy. It's also worth noting that looking at bears from several of the top ranking guilds in the world supports stam stacking (as they go with method). It still doesn't fly with me. It's forcing Bears into a former niche role that isn't always valid anymore.

If Dodge were the only thing we got out of Agi as bears, then I would be tempted to switch sides in this debate. The diminishing return on Dodge coupled with things like Chill of the Throne would definitely drive me towards stacking more stam. But with Armor and Savage Defense procs also factoring into the equation, it seems like a too-narrow view.

Now, more than ever, the stat meta-game of WoW is all about balance. Give and take. A little of this and a little of that. Don't sacrifice too much of any one thing in favor of something else.

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