Sunday, May 06, 2007

Musings on Tanking and Paladins

There are four essential tanking stats, or groups of stats:
  1. Avoidance
  2. Mitigation
  3. Health
  4. Threat

Of these, the top three are the most important. They are what separate a "tank" class from a dps class. After all, there's a reason we don't let the mages tank. While Threat is important, a tank is the class which can deal with incoming damage in the best manner.

Initially, Avoidance is the most important of the top three stats. Avoidance is the route to eliminating Criticals and Crushing Blows. However, once Criticals and Crushing Blows have been eliminated, Avoidance becomes much less vital.

This is because pure Avoidance (miss/dodge/parry) is probability-based. Raid fights are long, with many attacks. It is highly probable that a tank will take an unlucky streak of hits at some point during the fight. A tank needs to be prepared for the worst case scenario. Unless you have 100% pure Avoidance, Murphy's Law will inevitably bite you.

Now looking at these three categories, it immediately jumps out that--unless something significantly changes--paladin tanking will always be an inferior option for raid boss tanking.

Why? Because paladins are inferior to warriors in all three important stat categories.

For Avoidance, warriors have Shield Block, which allows them to eliminate Crushing Blows much faster than paladins can with Holy Shield. This also has the additional effect of allowing a warrior to reduce the importance of Avoidance earlier, and get an additional lead in the other two important categories.

For Mitigation, warriors have 10% melee mitigation from Defensive Stance, versus 6% from Improved Righteous Fury. They have 16% spell mitigation, while a paladin only has 10%. Finally, because so much of a paladin's Avoidance is gear-based, a paladin loses a significant amount of Avoidance when switching into resistance gear. A warrior loses far less Avoidance because her Avoidance is an innate ability.

For Health, a warrior simply has more base Health than a paladin. Additionally, while the paladin is still gearing for Avoidance, a warrior tank can start gearing for Health, and increase her lead over the paladin.

Even Threat is not a clear-cut victory for the paladin. The paladin is a clear winner in AoE Threat, but warriors can actually put out a significant amount of single target threat. I am not yet willing to judge that paladin single-target threat is better than for warriors. For AoE or front-loaded threat, paladin threat is superior.

It is interesting to compare druid tanking with warrior tanking. Druids are clearly inferior in Avoidance, as they cannot parry or block. But they have superior Health. And Mitigation is close to a draw, as druids do have much higher armor, but no innate Defensive stance. Because druids are actually competative with warriors in two of the three categories, they are a reasonable alternative to warriors.

There is one situation where paladin tanking can be superior to warrior tanking. A fast attacking boss can eliminate the warrior's Avoidance advantage, giving the paladin superior Avoidance for a portion of the fight. However a warrior still has superior Mitigation and Health.

Finally, paladins require a fifth stat: Mana. Unlike warriors and druids, paladins need a stat unrelated to the true tanking stat categories to fuel their offensive and defensive abilities. Because of this, paladin tank gear will always be inferior to warrior tank gear as some of the total item budget must go to the fifth stat, reducing the amount available for the true tanking stat categories.

It is my conclusion that--for cutting edge content--paladins will always be sub-optimal tanks compared to warriors and druids. Paladins are inferior to warriors in the three most important stat categories, at best have a slight advantage in the fourth category, and--unlike the other tanks--require a fifth stat category in order to function.


  1. Interesting post on Paladin Tanking and skill requirements for tanking or lack of it. Been at WoW for less than 4 month so that's also my total time as paladin and lean a lot of stuff reading thru all your various post on Paladin Tanking. I'm now lvl 54 in my short time.

    I'm not a math guru to to be figuring out all the complexities of all things paladin like gear, spell damage and so on. So much i rely on many other WoW players blogs and their player experience of the paladin class to learn things or pick up things i need to know or should know. So better knowledge of my class, tanking, gearing, spec always help to understand much what i can't learn playing solo. So i like your blog posts. I don't always understand everything you post on because its knowledge i'm missing, but everything helps to understand what i don't as yet know and work it into my game play.

    Hardest part for me is just getting good gear, let alone deciding what basic stat on gear i need or should get compare to another armour piece. I'm basically in Warriors gear almost all the time. I do ok, i don't die on solo quests often. I don't have spell damage gear or the complicated armour gear yet. But reading your blog helps to understand what it is and why i may need spell damage gear vs crit gear as a tanking paladin or why more blocking is good. I still get confuse learning some stuff avoidance and stuff like that. When your kinda new at WoW and your not a WoW novice and playing paladin. Things vets talk about can seem confusing sometimes because ...well you just don't know and no one else ever really tell you. So again its why i read your blog and many others. I'm learning what i have yet to know and understand in hopes i can be a more knowledgable and more effective tank.

  2. Worth noting is that both Druids and Warrior tanking itemization has another advantage over Paladin tanking itemization: Agility. Look at the tank sets for Warriors. They all have, at a minimum, a decent amount of AGI (well at least the T4, 5, and 6 do... not sure about D3).

    This may not seem vital (I've rarely seen AGI listed as a prime tanking stat), but it translates to three other stats: More armor, better dodge, and more melee crits. The last of those three stats is pretty minor to us. White damage amounts to some threat, but not much, but the fact that we have less overall dodge and armor is a strike against us.

    This leads me to my point:
    The biggest thing I think is a problem with Paladin tanking itemization is that they are trying to make us equal to warriors in terms of abilities, instead of creating a style of play that's truly unique for Paladins beyond just using seals.

    To elaborate, I'll touch on Druids. Druids have no weapons to parry with and no shields to block with. As a result, other areas had to be brought up to compensate for their lacking. As you mentioned, druids have equal or better mitigation and health than a warrior to make up for the fact that they cannot become uncrushable. This shows a unique playstyle for Druids.

    Paladins itemization, on the other hand, basically makes us out to be "little Warriors", who have Spell Power and Intellect instead of Strength and Agility.

    I spent a good portion of Sunday brainstorming on this, and I came up with an idea. Let's imagine that tanking is a spectrum:

    On the far left you have Druids. This class centers around high armor, great dodge, and tons of health, because that's really all they have.

    On the far right you have Paladins. Where Druids focus on armor and dodge, Paladins focus on sword (or mace or axe) and shield, or parry and block. We have virtually no agility, which will translate to less armor and less dodge. Instead of trying to bring us up to equal on all respects to Warriors, we can excel in our own areas.

    Warriors would sit in the middle of this spectrum, having the ability to block and parry, but still having agility to give them respectable dodge. Not excelling in any one area, but being flexible.

    By giving Paladins a concrete ideology around which to base their tanking, the itemization can thus be built around it. Take a look at Palading tanking T5. Almost, if not every piece of it has some Dodge rating, and fairly little Block or Parry rating or Block value. It was trying to fill in a gap created by the lack of Agility on our gear, but instead, it screamed to me that it was spreading our already meager iLvLs too far.

  3. Also, one thing that I think would help paladin tanking itemziation immensely is having our +spell damage/healing stat changed to pure +holy damage. This would mean that we would have more points to spend elsewhere, since a single type of damage costs less points than equal amount of general +spell damage/healing. And really, if you're wearing tanking gear, you want it to deal holy damage, not heal. Maybe you can heal in a pinch, but if you're planning on healing, you will probably want to swap out your gear for a set of +healing armor.

  4. Wow, you are so wrong. As a pally tank, and not having any kara gear yet. I have over 20% in two of three categories and just under in parry. after I get the holy shield libram and with holy shield activated I'll have over 60% block without redoubt. if I blow a trinket and with redoubt... blizzard can't count the high of a percentage (no crushing blows for me). I have over 300 spell dmg which is all you need to hold aggro even with dpser's that are out dps'ing you 4 times over and if you salv them up, forget about loosing threat. I also have over 10k health and raid buffed I have over 13.5k. I have 7k mana pre raid buff. how am I less of a tank than a warrior?
    Evasion tankadin ftw.


    Don't know if you saw this (heck, this might have been what spawned your post), but if you didn't, have a look.

  6. You should bear in mind that druid tanking avoidance also suffers due to the paucity of +defense itemization on leather gear, but gets bumped back up again because we generally substantially more dodge than warriors.

    Good article, interesting.

  7. You left out some significant and often overlooked advantages to paladin tanking.

    1. Blessing of Sanctuary. I cant tell you how many times warriors will turn this down in favor of Kings or even Might... Silly warriors. This is amazing damage mitigation a paladin can keep on him/herself at all times, and is especially nice with the lvl 70 version (but we are talking about high end tanking). Not only does it mitigate up to 80 damage per hit, but adds holy damage every time you block..which should be a lot if your specced/geared to tank. And did I mention...holy damage=agro? It's an underrated blessing..and I use it every time over Kings.

    2. Argent Defender. It's true, warriors have more health than pallies. This talent helps make up for what we don't have when things really hit the fan. In effect, it adds 20% more health than what you might see on your HP bar. It still has some quirks such as a big crit leapfrogging the ability and your avatar dying before it has a chance to kick in and save you. Blizz is looking at fixing this in the near the meantime, try for 490 defense like any good warrior tank would and this won't be an issue.

    3. Pally tanking gear. Have you seen the "of righteousness" set? Its amazing stuff, and comparable to a warriors in "pure tanking" stats. Add aura of devotion and a tanking pally can have better overall armor than a warrior at the same level of raid or pre-raid gear.

    4. Survivability. I have both a Protection Warrior (who used to be my guilds MT pre-BC) and a Protection Pally (who is my guilds current MT). Putting numbers aside for a moment, when things get warrior is usually the first to die..and when he goes down, bad things happen. Conversely, my pally..just refuses to die. She just has too many tricks up her sleeve..and I'm not talking about Divine Shield. (It's usually a great way to get your friends killed because you lose agro.) Lay on Hands alone is a tremendous advantage. I judge seal of light before stacking Vengeance on a mob. 95 healing a tick may not seem like much, but think about it. In a fight with a boss with a crazy amount of health (think heroics), how many times will it heal you? Add it up and what ya get is the equivalent of significant damage mitigation..oh and by the way...everyone else hitting it is getting healed as well which means extra threat for you.

    5. If you and your group know what you are doing, your party will LOVE you. Mages and warlocks will slowly start to realize they can aoe at will without fear of pulling agro off the tank. groups of mobs die fast..which means, you take WAY less damage. Main healers will appreciate you throwing out an extra heal from time to time, or a blessing of protection when needed. I can do far more damage while tanking than my warrior can. I used to barely beat the healers for damage until I realized the importance of +spell damage. Now I get it. I'm only at about +250 spell damage and have beaten out well equipped rogues, mages and feral druids for damage...while MT'ing.

    I've had many dps'ers do their damnedest to pull agro off me and fail. One hunter, for example, was trying to pull a mob off into a freeze trap and just couldnt do it. This wasn't the mob I had targetted mind you. I replaced blessing of salvation with Might on him...still he failed. He finally got the timing down and pulled it to himself early enough to use his CC. He told me "I've never had that happen before".

    I'm not by any means saying paladins are better than warriors at tanking...I'm a firm believer that the player is 85% of how "good" you are, and 15% your spec/gear/talents, etc. I am saying that with some creativity, Pallies can main tank anything in the game..and do it well. Watch the video of the pally tanking Nightbane if you have doubts. I am saying that Warriors/Druids are not inherently superior as a tanks. It takes some serious dedication to do it right, more so even than a warrior (imo), but I find it completely satisfying, and much more fun than tanking with my Warrior..but that's just me.

    Feel free to check out my avatar in the armory.

    -Kashira lvl 70 Paladin Farstriders.

  8. Talonwraith, I am talking about the very specific case of tanking cutting edge raid bosses. I fully agree that we are fine 5-man tanks.

    1. Sanctuary - the 80 damage comes before armor. So if you have 60% mitigation, Sanctuary will prevent 32 of that damage. When the mobs are hitting you for 5K+, that's not a whole lot.

    I agree it's underrated. I use it a lot in 5-mans, soloing, and AoE packs. But Kings is better at the high end.

    2. Ardent Defender is good, but since it can be leapfrogged, it isn't as good as you think. If you have 15K health, AD triggers at 3K. Let's say you take a big hit and drop to 2K. A 4K attack will still kill you, and that is a normal size boss attack.

    While if you actually had the extra 3K health, you'd still be alive.

    3. Pally tanking gear is great for 5-mans. In a raid, you will be getting crushed, and thus taking a lot more damage than a warrior would be.

    4. Almost all those tricks can be done by a pally who isn't tanking.

    5. That's all well and good once know you can survive the fight. It's getting to that point which is the problem.

    Skill can take you a long way. But skill will not prevent you from being crushed. Skill will not help when the boss decides to do more damage than you have health.

  9. For any future readers the writer\commenter who said 3k to 15k has made miscalculations and seems to have a "Pally" hate attitude. 35% is just over a 3rd. This means Ardent Defender kicks in at around 5.5k which is quite a bit different. I must also say i do not think we lack anything, I am sitting at 60% (block not included) avoidance with kara level gear. Hell I'm still wearing 5 blues. With block I sit at 75% + holy shield = 105% uncrushable (w/ 13k health unbuffed and 325 spell dmg). In combat logs i usually take the same or less damage as Druid and warrior tanks in the raids (per hit). I think the mana bar is a benefit not a bad thing. It means we start with a full "rage" bar. It also means shammys, mana pots, and shadowpriests give us more rage. Imo Intellect isn't a bad thing either, as you should be regenerating your mana as you go not itemizing it into your stats. Pallys also jump on threat alot quicker, As soon as AS hits and you judge your sitting at 3-5k threat right at the start. Alot of the warriors i see start at 500-2k (2k) is pretty high end and I find on my shadowpriest waiting alot longer for warriors than pallys where i can just let go off the bat. I believe Pally threat is vastly superior because if you need more you simply equip more spell damage and it scales incredibly fast (2k+ tps with 500-600 spell dmg). (I know the blog is a year old but thought i'd rant a bit.) Kings is a better blessing imo, not just for health, but for an extra .5% avoidance from agility increase, more mana, etc. Holy Shield is also better than shield block in many ways, 8 charges means we can be uncrushable through even the fastest hitting bosses. On Prince in kara where warriors just eat crushing blows, pallys can sit uncrushable the whole fight. I find alot of warriors just getting all stamina, and using shield block to get uncrushable. This makes the healers do ALL the work. bringing 10 healers to raid to keep your 20k health bar up is ridiculous. Avoidance can be pretty reliable and when things get bad it is possible to be unhittable popping trinkets. DW bosses this is easy to do. Single melee bosses it takes amazing gear.

  10. "The paladin is a clear winner in AoE Threat"


    This is why paladins are not sub par tanks /sigh... this is what paladins are designed for. Try getting a bear mount with no pala tank, and good luck to you. Have fun kiting those murlocs on morogrim with no pala tank.

    The stats you posted, including the subparity of mana etc are of no practical value. Theorycrafting falls short in this case in the blatant face of the fact that some fights are desinged with paladin tanks in mind.

  11. Life is short and CC = epic waste of life. I know a pally MT in t5 gear that runs through heroic Mgt without stopping for CC or drink breaks. We do the whole thing before my cereal gets soggy. And like previous dude said, have fun running the gauntlet with no AoE tank. As for threat and mitigation and base HP, if you have done a little research pre-kara, any tank class can go in with no prob, carrying weak healers even. Just find the balance do the work and get in groups with Omen. Btw passive ability regening mana when healed ftw, no rage needed.