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Conversations With the Masters: Satorri

In my guest post on upcoming changes to Death Knight Tanks in Cataclysm over at ForTheLore, I turned to who I personally consider to be the best source of DK Tanking information on the web, Satorri from TankSpot.com.

Since my guest post was directed at upcoming changes and a lot of what I talked about Satorri had to deal with our current stat situation, I wanted to make all of the information available but not have it all clustered up on Roger’s blog.

The “conversation” I had with Satorri came in the form of private messages on the TankSpot website, so it was a rather informal Q&A session of sorts with me sending questions and Satorri replying with answers.

You will find our conversation below, with my messages in green and Satorri’s responses in blue text and in blockquotes:


Satorri,

First I really must thank you for your amazing Book on Death Knight Tanking. I had completely written off the class as a possible tank after seeing so many fail at it. I have a blog about leveling and helping people understand and use their class in a given role so I decided to take on DK Tanking for myself to blog about it and your Book is by far the most detailed and informational source I found anywhere.

One of my fellow bloggers asked me to guest post on his blog about DK Tanking in relation to the upcoming stat changes in Cataclysm, and I wanted to talk to someone that’s more experienced than I am since I haven’t even reached the level cap on my DK yet. I thought for sure someone would have covered it here by now even if it were only in passing, but after going through 5 pages of search results I didn’t find anything.

For that matter it’s hard enough finding two people who actually agree on the priority of stats for DK Tanks. I know Strength is our threat stat, which also gives us some Parry, and that Armor and Stam are of obvious importance, but things get a bit fuzzy from there. For instance, some people seem to rank Parry high, where it’s pretty low on your list. With Parry switching from Avoidance on one hit to Mitigation on two hits, does it move up in priority or down? Does Dodge go up because of that, making Agility more appealing? Those are the kinds of questions I find hard to answer.

We don’t have the specifics of the stat changes yet, so I’m not looking for a real in depth analysis so much as your general thoughts on them. Any help you’re willing to give is appreciated.

Thank you for your time, and thank you again for your excellent contributions here at TankSpot.

Regards,

Psynister

Well, you did hit the nail on the head on one point: We don’t know how stats will work *exactly* or finally in Cataclysm so it is hard to discuss that now. I got the impression from the first half of your message that that was what you were interested in?

If you want to talk about stats now, maybe I can clear some things up. The first thing to be sure on is that it is much harder than some would lead you to believe to evaluate and compare stats, especially for tanking. Few stats are actually directly comparable since they will work through different methods or will dip their toes in multiple pools (for example, Agility gives you armor, dodge, and crit chance, and armor in turn can become AP). The value you get from different stats will often vary with many factors including what your current stats are, talents, and what you are facing.

If you are a tank, you have 2 responsibilities (things you *must* offer as opposed to what you could): threat and survival. You need to stick mobs to you, and you need to take the beating they give you. If you are interested in survival, there are 3 main features that you can group the stats into: avoidance, mitigation, and health.

Health is easy and obvious. When your health hits zero, you’re dead and no longer tanking. Stamina is the one way we change our health through stats.

Mitigation is tools that reduce the damage you take. This is armor, resistance (armor vs spells), and block/absorb mechanics. We don’t generally see the third, and resistances are usually a rare tool only used for specific fights since at any given time at least 70-80% of the damage we take is raw physical damage. Before t10 and the non-set gear, there was very little opportunity to get extra armor outside of the occasional piece of jewelry, cloak, or the odd trinket. Mitigation is generally a popular value with tanks because it just plain reduces damage taken. It’s always on and always active. We get this mainly from armor and bonus armor on gear, but also through agility-granted armor in smaller measure.

Avoidance is the tools that give you a chance to just plain not take damage. This is represented by things that increase your chance to be missed, dodge, and parry (defense rating, dodge rating, parry rating, and agility). Avoidance is much maligned, especially more as this expansion has gone on.The main reason for this is that the state of the healer balance and the damage taken by tanks is such that:
A.) Healers do not have easily reached mana concerns. It it possible to be run out of mana, but there are many tools to prevent that.
B.) Tank damage has been balanced to the point that healers are rarely encouraged to be tactical and generally can be more effective if they just pour healing on the group. Because of A this is reasonable to do, and as such it *appears* less important that tanks take less damage and more important that they can’t be bursted into the ground faster than heals can land.
The two combined mean that most tanks believe it is smarter to have 80k health than to take 30% damage (exaggerated for emphasis =D). The value of Avoidance, however, is that it interrupts the damage stream. It may be nice to some healers if the tank is just constantly being hit so they *know* what is coming and can spam heals in response, but for the sake of survival and all the times where healers are distracted or unavailable, avoidance allows you to just plain not take damage.

Because you asked specifically, there is one specific point to touch on: the reason parry is never smart to gem for as a DK is because of the passive spell effect “Forceful Deflection,” the one that turns Strength into Parry. Dodge and Parry rating both contribute essentially to the same thing, 1% Parry is the same as 1% Dodge for all intents and purposes (technically Parry will give us more threat but it is pretty small in scale). Because the two matching ratings also have the same exchange rate, the only thing that determines the difference in value of the ratings is that they have different caps they diminish to. Because of these caps there is an ideal line that will tell you when which stat is better (basically when your diminishing dodge is greater than 1.8x the size of your diminishing parry, parry rating is giving you more raw % avoidance). The catch with Forceful Deflection is that it keeps us so flooded with Parry rating that we have a hard time actually reaching a level of Dodge rating where Parry rating will actually be better again, and you certainly won’t unless you are actually stacking avoidance ratings (which next to no one does). For that reason, it’s pretty much never smart to gem for parry rating. It’s still a fine stat to have, and itemization is such that you will rarely lose total avoidance because you took the piece with parry instead of the one with dodge.

(Had to break here because of character limit, so Satorri sent a second reply)

Going into Clysm they’re talking about changing what it means to parry, which *could* make it a special sort of semi-mitigation ability, but I expect we’ll see a LOT of changes as the development cycle revs up as they figure out how to balance that best. It’s pretty premature to discuss anything now, unless it’s theoretical explorations of what you think would be a good idea for Blizz to do.

When it comes to threat and threat stats, as a DK tank I am generally of a mind for one simple method: Design your spec for threat concerns, don’t rely on stacking “threat stats” to support a spec that doesn’t support threat well. To understand the value of threat stats though you want to understand what you want from threat.

First off, we’ll assume you are not gemming, enchanting, or taking gear for threat with haste, crit, or armor pen. We will get them on weapons but that is rarely a consideration for what weapon we will choose, especially since the DPS on a weapon will always outweigh the stats. By the same measure I don’t expect it is worth adding Strength to your gear. It won’t hurt you, but if you are having trouble with threat that is probably not the way to solve it. There are 3 stats however that have significance to threat that will warrant consideration: agility, hit, and expertise.

Agility is an easy one to label but hard to place a value on because it is a very compound stat value. In short it is a delicious survival tool that gives you mitigation, avoidance, and adds a little bit of threat in the form of crit chance and a small amount of AP.

It may seem odd to put Hit and Expertise as values worth having when I say don’t bother with crit or haste, but let me explain. What do we need from threat? We need magnitude but with a smart spec and any set of tank gear appropriate to the level of content you’re running you will have fine Str/AP to support your threat. To that end we can expect a good player (read: smart spec and good play skills) can hold threat without an issue on the long run. However, the one thing that the best spec and skill cannot grant is reliability. To generate threat you have to hit the target, plain and simple. If you don’t hit you don’t generate threat and your group will have to compensate. If you are trying to make tight time tables the way most encounters are balanced, it will be hard for your damage dealers to respond well if your threat isn’t there when you expect it to be. Hit and Expertise are the answers to that.

So, to be clear, I don’t think either stat is required for your best overall threat, but I think they are very valuable for being able to apply threat the moment you need it, where you need it. The value from there is simply a variable based on how many spells you use vs melee swings, and what you want/need to rely on most. I prefer to stay as close to the hit and expertise soft cap as I can, though if I go over on expertise I’m not terribly worried as it is still a fine value, especially for me as Blood.

So, what exactly is it you were looking for, now that I’ve blathered on for a couple pages? =)

Satorri,

Thank you for the excellent reply, that helped me with some of what I’m dealing with right now (no idea how I missed Forceful Deflection’s existence) as well as where I’m going with this particular post.

The post is about how the proposed (as of right now) stat changes Cataclysm are going to impact DK Tanks. So I’m taking what we stack now vs. what we will want to stack in Cat according to the information we have right now.

In looking at what all we’re supposed to be stacking now I found you had a list:
– Armor
– Strength
– Stamina
– Defense Rating
– Dodge Rating
– Parry Rating
– Hit Rating
– Expertise Rating

You have them listed in that order, but I don’t know if that’s the order they actually belong in from a priority perspective. So for example, priority-wise do we stop stacking Strength because Parry becomes Mitigation and instead stack Agility because Dodge becomes the only Avoidance stat?

You mentioned the importance of Hit and Expertise. The notes we have on Cat right now mention that reaching those caps are going to be “much harder”, though they go on to say similar to the difference in hitting a level 83 mobs versus a level 80 mob which implies that it will be the exact same setup we have now only higher totals because of higher boss/mob levels (88 and 85).

Cataclysm notes also mention that Frost DK’s are going to get Haste and increased Runic Power Generation for their Mastery bonus, and they said we’re trying to loosen up the Rune system a bit so we’re not so strongly tied into a GCD system of burning runes, spending excess RP, burning runes, spending RP, etc. It’s hard to speculate with so little detail given, but we might see Haste becoming more important if they want us using RP more for tanking.

I guess in essence what I’m really after is which stats do we stack now versus which stats we should stack in Cataclysm based on the information we have right now. Do you feel we will ignore stats that we currently focus on (other than Defense Rating which is going away)? Will there be stats we “ignore” now that we may begin to stack come Cataclysm?

The list I posted isn’t a priority list, only a list of stats that we will see and care about on tanking gear.

Priority is a bit tricky since the values will vary as you get more of anything, as your gear changes, and depending on what you’re facing.

I have avoided touching anything on stats or proposed changes yet because I can promise you that everything you’re reading now is general enough and will change pretty seriously before the game goes live. I think it is a safe assumption that they are going to rebalance stats and their values. The specifics will take months to develop, and really I wouldn’t bother posting about it until the beta is actually underway.

From Blizzards posted stances though, I think it is safe to assume that:
A.) Health and Armor will always be desirable, that won’t change, they will always be central values.

B.) They want avoidance (and block) to be more attractive tools for tanks, particularly to the end of taking less damage. In BC it was a bad thing to be a mana sponge, if you needed constant healing it was predictable but you would also run your healers straight out of mana. They want that to be the case again, so it will be worthwhile to take less damage and take less consistent damage.

C.) They are adding the elements of Mastery that will go a long way to affect how different trees play, and probably what kind of benefits each spec of tank will be most keen on.

If they have been general about anything, they have been completely excluding DK info. They’ve made a point of saying they’re restructuring the way the class mechanics work particularly with the interests of smoothing out the kinks. They have not told us anything, but hinted that the changes will be significant, so there is another reason that it is very premature to talk about Cataclysm changes for DKs.

=)

And there you have it.

Satorri is a very active member of the TankSpot community with over 3,000 Posts, and hosts a blog on TankSpot as well, Satorri’s Blog.

And here is a link to the Comprehensive Guide to Death Knight Tanking if you would like to find out more about Death Knight tanking in all three trees.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2010 in Death Knight

 

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