Last week, we talked about gearing for heroics: what stats to focus on, which ones to avoid, and what sources you can exploit to gear yourself quickly for that first step into the endgame. Well, here we are just a week later (wow, you geared fast! ... er, right?), and now it's time to take that next great leap forward smack dab into your first raid.
There's a whole new set of priorities that you should carry into Blackwing Descent, Bastion of Twilight, or any of the other tier 11 raids. Dig into the wealth of tanking gear available in the heroic 5-mans, and then we'll explore the deal with threat and how best to boost your survivability. And in no time, you'll be standing before the dripping mandibles of Magmaw, shield in hand, prepared to survive a good chompin' while lesser tanks are munched into something resembling a squeezed can of spoiled Spam.
I'll avoid the droll "not in Kansas" metaphors, though there is an element of truth in them. Raids are a completely different ballgame from the heroic 5-mans; you're going to get hit harder, and in turn, you'll be dishing out much more threat thanks to our crazy little friend, Vengeance. Altogether, you'll find that some of the rules you learned in heroics are reinforced, while others are flipped on their heads.
Let's talk about survivability
Mastery is still the big kahuna when it comes to our survivability. Each skill point of the stat is worth 2.25% block chance, which adds up quickly to help you fill out that combat table. You'll find that combat table coverage (or CTC, as it's known) will be your driving focus for most of the fights in normal tier 11 content. (A side note about CTC: Someone in the comments last week rightly brought up using agility gear for tanking. He's definitely correct -- but that's a topic for another day, since there's a lot of explanation underlying. Please forgive my glossing over it for another week.)
That's not to say mastery is your one and only concern. That little cut-out man with his hand raised aloft and proclaiming "your stamina must be this high" is a bit taller, and that's one more thing you'll have to adapt to.
The trick, as always, is to find the proper balance between the two. Accumulate stamina until you're at a safe enough level that you won't get gibbed when your tank healer gets incapacitated for a few seconds. Obviously that's a constantly shifting scale, and once you start setting foot into heroic raids, the "minimum" stamina required is going to shoot up again.
Be smart about gauging your comfort level, and tweak your gear as needed to move your hitpoints higher or lower -- or your mitigation/avoidance, for that matter -- to make sure you have an ample cushion, but not so much that you're making yourself harder to heal.
What about threat?
Hrm, what's a nice way of saying threat doesn't matter? Well, that's not entirely true. Allow me to rephrase: After the first 10-20 seconds of a raid fight, threat doesn't matter anymore. There we go.
You might be asking how that can be, and the answer is simple: Vengeance. Thanks to that mechanic, as we get hit by a boss, we start to accumulate stupid amounts of attack power. This continues to the point that if you can launch yourself ahead of the pack and hold a steady lead until your Vengeance caps out, no suicidal DPSer can catch you (within reason).
For this reason, you'll often see most raiding tankadins completely avoid expertise and hit, our two biggest threat stats. One of the leading lights in the tankadin community, Meloree, has declared the complete lack of hit and expertise (aside from the free expertise provided by Glyph of Seal of Truth) as a "nirvana."
He might sound crazy, but the truth of the matter is he's absolutely right. In a world where threat is generally irrelevant, there is no sense in reducing your survivability an iota to boost it. Misses suck and whiffing Shield of the Righteous feels awful, but that's no reason to jeopardize your ability to avoid the specter of death by mastication, as I painted above.
Job #1 for tanks is to do everything in your power to not die. Job #2 is to hold threat. Since the latter is basically obviated for us, we're left to focus all our energy on the former.
Nonetheless, if you want to add hit and expertise (perhaps for a farm set), be mindful that you want to first get expertise to 26 skill (10 is free, so you need 16 more skill or 481 rating) for the soft cap. Then you'll get the most threat out of taking hit to the 8% raiding cap (961 hit rating).
What kind of gear do heroics hold for me?
Last week, I already knocked out three of the big pre-raid sources -- faction quartermasters, the justice points vendor, and crafted epics -- so all that's really left to list are the pieces available in heroic 5-mans. As such, please consider this list as a supplement to the previous one, and consult both for all your pre-raid gearing needs.
Remember: Pieces that are master+avoidance stat (dodge or parry) are always going to add up to more survivability than mastery+threat or avoidance+threat. If you're gunning for max survivability for your first raid, definitely go for mastery+avoidance above all others.
- Helm of Setesh (heroic) Drops from Setesh in Halls of Origination heroic.
- Headcover of Fog (heroic) Drops from Grand Vizier Ertan in heroic The Vortex Pinnacle.
- Burned Gatherings (heroic) Drops from Karsh Steelbender in heroic Blackrock Caverns.
- Billowing Cape (heroic) Drops from Asaad in the heroic The Vortex Pinnacle.
- Carrier Wave Pendant (heroic) Drops from Ascendant Lord Obsidius in heroic Blackrock Caverns.
- Darkhowl Amulet (heroic) Drops from Temple Guard Anhuur in heroic Halls of Origination.
- Earthshape Pauldrons (heroic) Drops from Drahga Shadowburner in heroic Grim Batol.
- Raz's Pauldrons (heroic) Drops from Ascendant Lord Obsidius in heroic Blackrock Caverns.
- Beauty's Plate (heroic) Drops from Beauty in heroic Blackrock Caverns.
- Alpha Bracers (heroic) Drops from Anraphet in heroic Halls of Origination.
- Armguards of Unearthly Light (heroic) Drops from Isiset in heroic Halls of Origination.
- Shackles of Undeath (heroic) Drops from Lord Godfrey in heroic Shadowfang Keep.
- Fingers of Light (heroic) Drops from Rajh in heroic Halls of Origination.
- Gloves of the Greymane Wall (heroic) Drops from Baron Ashbury in heroic Shadowfang Keep.
- Iron Will Girdle (heroic) Drops from Lord Walden in heroic Shadowfang Keep.
- Sand Dune Belt (heroic) Drops from Augh in heroic Lost City of the Tol'vir.
- Triton's Legplates (heroic) Drops from Neptulon's Cache in heroic Throne of the Tides.
- Baron Silverlaine's Greaves (heroic) Drops from Baron Silverlaine in heroic Shadowfang Keep.
- Entwined Nereis (heroic) Drops from Lady Naz'jar in heroic Throne of the Tides.
- Phosphorescent Ring (heroic) Drops from Corborus in heroic Stonecore.
- Ring of Three Lights (heroic) Drops from Siamat in heroic Lost City of the Tol'vir.
- Umbriss Band (heroic) Drops from General Umbriss in heroic Grim Batol.
- Leaden Despair (heroic) Drops from High Priestess Azil in heroic Stonecore.
- Heart of Thunder (heroic) Drops from Asaad in heroic The Vortex Pinnacle.
- Porcelain Crab (heroic) Drops from Mindbender Ghur'sha in heroic Throne of the Tides.
- Stalagmite Dragon (heroic) Drops from Slabhide in heroic Stonecore.
- Sun Strike (heroic) Drops from Rajh in heroic Halls of Origination.
- Smite's Reaver (heroic) Drops from Admiral Ripsnarl in heroic The Deadmines.
- Mace of Transformed Bone (heroic) Drops from Erudax in heroic Grim Batol.
- Elementium Fang (heroic) Drops from High Priestess Azil in heroic Stonecore.
- Cookie's Tenderizer (heroic) Drops from "Captain" Cookie in heroic The Deadmines.
- Axe of the Eclipse (heroic) Drops from Altairus in heroic The Vortex Pinnacle.
- Bulwark of the Primordial Mound (heroic) Drops from Earthrager Ptah in heroic Halls of Origination.
- Shield of the Iron Maiden (heroic) Drops from Rom'ogg Bonecrusher in heroic Blackrock Caverns.
You've accumulated the gear -- now what?
Next week, I'll wrap up my whirlwind primer to the world of gearing your tank with an overview of gemming, enchanting, and reforging so that you can squeeze every last drop of tanking goodness out of your kit.
The Light and How to Swing It tries to help paladins cope with the dark times brought by Cataclysm. Check out our protection 101 guide and our suggestions for protection paladin addons.