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The Light and How to Swing It: 4 tips for upping your combat table coverage

Matt Walsh

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Light and How to Swing It for holy, protection and retribution paladins. Protection specialist Matt Walsh spends most of his time receiving concussions for the benefit of 24 other people, obsessing over his hair (a blood elf racial!), and maintaining the tankadin-focused blog Righteous Defense.

With the advent of the Holy Shield buff, there's simply no such thing as too much mastery -- except, you know, past the hard cap for raid bosses. That's too much. But! Up to that point, you should approach mastery the same way a grizzly bear approaches a tumultuous beehive: You want to inhale as much of that sweet, sticky mastery as you can before you get stung to death by the swarm.

I've talked about combat table coverage before in one of my first columns, and while not much has changed since then, the advent of a new tier has made complete CTC all the more attainable, and the introduction of the new Holy Shield has made it all the more desirable. The more normal hits you are able to take to the face, the less potent your Holy Shield is going to be.

We want to mitigate (har, har) that downside to the cooldown, and to do so, we need to stack as much mastery as we (safely) can. I add the word "safely" -- scare quotes and all -- because safety is key. If the mastery is the delicious treat, the ornery bees are the constant threat of scooping up too much mastery in your greedy paws and suffering from a survivability loss as a result. There's always a break point between just enough mastery and having so much that you're trading off too much stamina and avoidance for it. In the end, you'll have to feel that out for your own purposes.

That said, in this column, I'm going to outline four easy ways to boost your combat table coverage -- by hook or by crook -- so you can scrape your way to the magical 102.4% number. I'll go over an amazing addon that'll visualize the process for you, a spreadsheet that can remove the fog of war from the whole process and make gear choices much more transparent, proper consumable choices you can make, and more.

But first, how to visualize the combat table

One addon I cannot recommend enough is Visual Combat Table, which puts a resizable bar on your screen that divides itself according to how much avoidance, block, and normal hits you are subject to from your target. If you want to see how close you are to 102.4% CTC, click on the raid boss-level target dummy in your home city and check out the polychromatic bar of awesomeness on your screen.

If no orange is showing (mouse over the bar to see the specific numbers and make sure you don't have some normal hits lurking in sub-one%s), that means you're good to go and you'll be avoiding or blocking any incoming melees. If there's some orange showing, you still have work to do.

Use the proper consumables

I know the cheapest and easiest way to get your Well Fed and guardian/battle elixir buffs is to just grab whatever Fish Feast or cauldron was hucked to the ground or to throw back that Flask of Steelskin you toting around in your bags. Normally, that's well and good, but if you really want to up your CTC, you'll want to indulge in some more expensive offerings.

For food, munch on some Lavascale Minestrone. This will buff you with 90 mastery or 1.13% block chance. Instead of flasks, you'll want to chug the much more potent Elixir of the Master for 225 mastery or 2.82% block chance.

For a boost to CTC at two different points in the fight, you can pre-pot a Golemblood Potion for 1,200 strength (or 1.45% parry), and then chug one again in a tight spot for a similar parry bump.

The best piece for the job

Gear can sometimes be highly deceptive when you're evaluating which piece is the best for the job, especially in this age of reforging. For example, the dissection of the two valor points bracers in last week's column:

The Bracers of Regal Force, when the dodge is reforged to mastery and the yellow socket is gemmed for mastery, is worth 1.56% block chance, roughly .58% dodge, and .47% parry from the rating and the extra strength (after diminishing returns for the avoidance), a total of 2.61% CTC. In contrast, the Gigantiform Bracers are worth 2.17% block chance, .21% avoidance from the hit being reforged, and .09% parry from the extra strength (again, after diminishing returns for the avoidance), a total of 2.47% CTC.
How many people, when looking at the two, are going to say, "Oh, lots of mastery -- those are totally the best choice!" and pick them up. Meanwhile, sneakily, the dodge/parry bracers manage to eke ahead with some excellent usage of reforging and a mastery gem. The point being, don't always assume at first glance one piece or another is best; crunch the numbers first.

To do that, I humbly offer the CTC Calculator spreadsheet available here on my blog. I'll spare you all the walkthrough, but it should be pretty straightforward. Put in the pre-DR dodge and parry numbers from your armory, and follow the numbered directions from there to compare two different pieces to find which is the better source of CTC.

Gear some trade-offs for extra mastery

If you're comfortable in your current state of survivability vis à vis the content you are tanking, you might be willing to make some stamina/avoidance trade-offs for extra mastery.

One such trade-off is to swap out the Arcanum of the Earthen Ring for the Arcanum of the Dragonmaw. You're losing 90 stamina and 35 dodge (.16% dodge change) for 60 strength and 35 mastery (which totals up to .51% CTC). The sum gain of the switch is .35% CTC at a cost of 90 stamina. Like I said, it's a trade-off and one that probably is not best for everyone. But if you're comfortable and you're in that home stretch, .35% additional CTC might well be worth it!

Another trade-off you can make is gemming mastery much more aggressively. You can evaluate what's best for you, but the first step would be to ignore any stamina socket bonuses and gem straight mastery in those (watch your meta requirements, though!). Then if you're not satisfied, consider nullifying avoidance socket bonuses as well. If you have to choose between 10 parry rating or an additional 20 mastery rating (i.e., going from a hybrid mastery gem to a straight mastery gem), then you can pick up around .20% CTC from the swap.

I'll repeat the caveat again: It's called a trade-off for a reason!

Don't leave any avoidance on the table

Okay, admittedly, this tip is small potatoes, but it's the principle that counts. Because parry and dodge have the same diminishing returns curve, if you allow one to vastly outpace the other, the higher of the two is going to be losing pieces of itself to DR. You can, however, mitigate this by shaving off the excess via reforging and keeping the two relatively balanced.

Because you'll be picking up parry from Blessing of Kings and Horn of Winter, you'll want to keep your dodge about 200 rating higher than parry. Eating Fish Feast will lower that a bit, but if you're seeking to maximize your CTC, I'm expecting you'll be sticking with the mastery elixir.

With dodge and parry in balance, you're looking at a gain in avoidance in tenths of a percent. That may seem minuscule -- okay, I admit it, it totally is -- but I'd rather claim that extra avoidance than leave it on the table.
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.

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