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The Light and How to Swing It: How to evaluate your tanking with World of Logs

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.

While checking logs may seem to be the province of DPS and healers more than tanks, there's still value to be gained by diving into the numbers and checking out the numerical ins and outs of your tanking performances. There's much to learn and review when it comes to checking over the fine points of your threat rotation and survivability responses.

In this column, I'll go over three specific ways you can use a World of Logs parse to evaluate your efficiency casting Crusader Strike and how you handled damage spikes, determine what killed you, and discover how you could have prevented that premature demise.

Measuring your "heartbeat"

To steal a phrase often bandied about on the theorycrafting threads of Maintankadin, Crusader Strike can be considered the heartbeat of our rotation. It's consistent, predictable, and so important that it should occur every time it's available -- especially considering holy power flows from Crusader Strike, so the more often you're hitting that button, the more often you're generating that precious yellow stuff. (Note to self: need a less-gross alternate name for holy power.)

So the way you calculate your heartbeat efficiency is through some delicious arithmetic. First, find a good parse/boss fight to use, and then drill down to that specific fight or attempt. Select your Damage Done/Damage by spell view so you can see the ability breakdowns.

I like Baleroc because you're essentially standing still and doing your rotation; not much running around will occur. You can choose other fights, but make sure to drill down to just the expanse of the fight when you were going through your rotation.

Now, take the duration of the fight and work out how many seconds it lasted. For example, our Baleroc kill this week lasted 3 minutes and 44 seconds, or 224 seconds all together. Divide the 224 number by three. To use my Baleroc example, the magic number comes out to 74 for me. That's how many Crusader Strikes I theoretically had the chance to cast with a 3-second cooldown.

For the second part of the equation, add your total Crusader Strikes -- hits, crits, misses, blocks, dodges, parries, all of them. Then add up your Shield of the Righteous (ShoR) blocks, misses, dodges and parries, and divide those by two.

The reason for the division of Shields of the Righteous is because each "whiff" of that ability pushes back your next chance to hit Crusader Strike by one GCD until you get that Shield Slam off. Thus, if you miss two, that's a whole Crusader Strike that you could have cast but was stolen from you.

My magic number for Crusader Strikes and ShoRs in that Baleroc attempt came out to 68 (65 Crusader Strikes, and 6/2 ShoR "whiffs"). Divide that by the time/3 number given above (74, in my case), and you get .92. That means I was at 92% efficiency for casting Crusader Strike over the course of that fight. With 100% being the Olympus high that one can aspire to -- and probably impossible to achieve by anyone other than a Cylon -- my number is a decent showing. It could be better, but it's a great point to improve upon.

In summation, here's the heartbeat equation:

heartbeat% = (total Crusader Strikes + (ShoR whiffs/2)) / (fight duration/3)

Work the equation out for yourself and see what percentage you get. The person with the highest number gets airlocked for being a frakkin' toaster.

Spike mitigation

One of the best ways to use your cooldowns is preemptively, and the only way you'll learn the best times to use them is to get a handle on what the most dangerous aspects of the boss's toolbox are. Likewise, you also need to ascertain when the most dangerous moments of the fight are. Then you'll get the timing on when best to pop a cooldown and also what kind of cooldown you should pop (i.e., Divine Protection, for example, should be glyphed if we're looking at a dangerous magic attack).

So, let's dig in. Back in World of Logs, navigate to a boss attempt or kill and drill down to the Damage Taken view, to check out the graph of damage intake over the course of the fight. It should look something like the following screenshot, once you uncheck the rows for the other top damage takers and the totals.

Shannox damage
Select one of the spikes that looks suspicious. If it's a fight with a soft enrage toward the end, you can probably ignore the latter spikes, since they'll obviously be the result of the soft enrage ramping up.

With the first major peak selected around the first major spike, right-click on the highlighted area and choose "Set page to selection." Now, mouseover the Damage Taken link in the top bar and select the Log Browser open in the mouseover menu. Make a few queries, one for each cooldown (including Word of Glory; make sure source is set to you, in that case) and one that's Hits and Misses targeting you. This will show your attacks/cooldown uses and the boss's attempts to murder you.

In my case, the log for that first spike shows:

[21:37:46.032] Shannox hits Rhidach 7512 (A: 23853, B: 32646)
[21:37:46.582] Unknown Jagged Tear Rhidach 6120
[21:37:46.582] Shannox Arcing Slash Rhidach 95198
[21:37:49.729] Unknown Jagged Tear Rhidach Absorb (11016)
[21:37:50.125] Rhidach's Holy Shield fades from Rhidach
[21:37:51.471] Shannox hits Rhidach Parry

So within the 5 seconds surrounding the spike, I want to note the following:
  • What kinds of attacks hit me?
  • Did I block all those attacks if I'm block-capped?
  • Did I use any cooldowns during that period?
Basically, was there anything within my sphere of control that I could have done during that period to make it less dangerous?

To answer the questions: Looking at the excerpt, it looks like I started by eating a melee swing for 7,512 damage, which was thankfully knocked down a peg by both a generous absorb and an embiggened block (thanks, Holy Shield). Then, with three stacks of Jagged Tear -- which in total ticked for 6,120 damage at the appointed third second -- I was Arcing Slashed to a fourth for 95,198 damage. The DOT would tick for 11,000 damage immediately following that, but thankfully I absorbed it (through what looks like a priest bubble; thanks, Zilga). I also parried a melee immediately following, which would have hit for around 40,000-60,000.

Without all that providence via absorbs and boosted blocks, I would have taken approximately 165,000 damage in 3 seconds. Not insta-gib territory, but it was getting there!

So how could I have managed that spike better? The attacks that hit me were bleeds or physical damage, so I couldn't have depended on my Mirror of Broken Images or anything. Blocking thankfully did as much of its job as it could, though I also could have timed Holy Shield better to be available for that parried melee (though that might have requried a bit of precognizance on my part, perhaps).

And if I wasn't block-capped, then obviously one of the biggest changes I could have made to improve my survivability was gearing for more mastery. That block saved me 32,646 damage -- a solid quarter of the damage I would have taken if that block did not occur.

My only recourse to peel off more damage here in this particular circumstance was cooldown usage. I should have popped either an unglyphed Divine Protection or Guardian of Ancient Kings (though that might have been a tad drastic) to mitigate the damage. Word of Glory would have also been helpful to take the edge off.

The post-mortem

You can extrapolate out the spike checking process to ascertain exactly why you died. In World of Logs, go to the view specifically for your Damage Done/Taken/etc., and click the Deaths tab. Listed there, depending on which bosses you're viewing, should be all your death events with a few lines. Hitting the "(more)" link will expand it out to the 10 seconds or so leading up to your death.

Sometimes deaths boil down to things out of your control -- wipes were called, the healers died, someone triggered a raid-wiping explosion, etc. The deaths you want to be very concerned about follow spikes that killed only you. Those are ones where the fault lies possibly with the healers and possibly with yourself for not mitigating that spike and allowing it to murder you dead.

Approach deaths with the same methodology you take looking over spikes, asking yourself those three questions emphasized above. Was there anything you could do that you didn't? (You know, other than having Ardent Defender active.)

You can also use the analysis to help you gear better for a fight. If you're blocking melee hits in a spike but still dying to a large, unmitigatable followup attack (a spell, or Arcing Slash, or what have you), consider taking steps to increase your stamina pool. If you're finding that your spikes tend to center around physical damage you failed to block, obviously take steps to remedy that through picking up more mastery.

Ultimately, consider that death a lesson. Not to torture an analogy, but be like Scar the Raider from Battlestar Galactica, take every death as a learning experience. Note what killed you, figure out a plan of attack, and be prepared next time those damn humans come sauntering into your asteroid field.

However, if you were actively mitigating the incoming pain, the best course of action is to accuse the healers of being asleep at the wheel. In my experience, they love that kind of goading.
The Light and How to Swing It shows paladin tanks how to take on the dark times brought by Cataclysm. Try out our 4 tips for upping your combat table coverage, find out how to increase threat without sacrificing survivability, and learn how to manage the latest version of Holy Shield.

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