Crit immunity: why bother?

February 16, 2010 at 5:31 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

The role of defense in providing crit immunity is well known and is oftentimes considered essential.  The “magic numbers” of 535 (heroics) and 540 (raids) are commonly seen as the minimum thresholds for being able to tank.  In this post I consider the role of defense rating in tanking heroics in light of my own recent experience.

In heroics, bosses have a chance to score a critical strike of 100% extra damage against targets that are not crit immune.  The base chance to do so is presently 5.4% and can be reduced or eliminated entirely by defense rating.  Crit immunity is typically prized by tanks not for the overall damage reduction it offers (~5.2%) but rather for the reduction in spike damage.  That is, eliminating crits reduces the chance that a tank will die from only a few hits in a short span of time.  As a tank’s health pool shrinks, the percentage of a tank’s health pool that will be taken away by a crit increases.

In the current situation, many tanks wildly outgear most heroics.  It is not hard for me to enter heroics with substantially more health, armor and avoidance than I had when I began tanking them many months ago.  In particular, my health pool is roughly twice the size it was the first time I entered heroic UK.  Given this, is it time to revisit some of the assumptions about defense?

For the past few months I have been slowly adding more and more dps items to my ‘heroic tank’ set of gear.  At first I was very uneasy about the idea of dipping below the threshold for crit immunity, but my healers never complained.  My current set has ~2% crit reduction and last night an almost-fresh-80 shaman encouraged me to “make crazier pulls.”  I wasn’t sure if I should have taken that as a backhanded compliment or not, but neither my health nor the shaman’s mana ever dropped especially low through the entire run.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the primary motivations for crit immunity is to reduce spike damage.  But when my health pool is still in the 30-35k range, does spike damage pose a credible threat?  I’m inclined to say no.  I’m sure that sometime, eventually, the odds will catch up with me and I will get three straight unavoided blows that all crit and, it is possible, die.  But this is a small risk.  When anything is an issue in heroics, it tends to be threat.  I intend to continue reducing my defense rating and increasing my threat stats to see what happens.  At present, it doesn’t seem that defense rating is especially needed in the easier heroics, particularly when I have numerous cooldowns to get me through the rough spots.



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  1. Such a good question. I should tank more stuff with dps spec and tank gear, or a mix, or something aggressive like that.

  2. It’s a lot of fun tanking in DPS gear and specc. Especially if you know you can trust the healer.
    If you have good DPS everything dies in 1-2 seconds and you can have someone continually pulling.

  3. Gravity, I completely recommend going this route. I can easily hit 3k dps, even on bosses, without working too hard. With a healer I trust, it’s never an issue. With a slightly shaky pug healer, I usually swap one trinket (I add the Ony trinket).

    I’ve begun experimenting a little more with using some gear that gives a modest dps boost at the expense of a lot of stamina. This makes me very nervous, but I will keep trying it. I hope to report back in a few weeks with more results.

    One advantage I have noticed, at least for warrior tanks, is that my block value is very high due to all the strength on my gear. This means that my blocks absorb about 30% more damage than in my raid tanking gear. This makes Shield Block (+100% block chance) a much stronger cooldown in heroics. One nice result of this is that if I use Shockwave and Shield Block back to back I take almost no damage for the first 15 seconds of most fights. With good dps, that’s enough to take almost no damage at all.

    • In my first few heroics at 80 I still did not have my base defense skill up to 400 yet because I got in as soon as I dinged. We didn’t really have to much trouble IIRC though because my healer knew what was up and was with me throughout all SSC/BT content anyway.

  4. I’ve noticed that when the group over-gears the instance the Tank is better off going for a heavy threat gear set, rather than a heavy hit point or heavy avoidance set.

    My observation is that most heroic runs are tuned to challenge characters wearing a combination of nice blues to entry level epics (ilevel 200-ish, or 3600 to 3800 gs). That means if your tank set is moderate quality (ilevel 226+ average @ ~4800 gearscore) the major difficult is going to be getting snap aggro, and keeping threat from the guys in gearscores of 5300+.

    Then you’re spot on – grab some gear that for dps, or even grab a slightly less powerful item that you’re previously replaced, re-gem and enchant for threat and dps, and build a heroic tank set.

    As Gravity says too, switching trinkets is a huge boon for tanks too, and I suspect almost every tank has special sub-sets for the trinket config needed for different bosses. For H runs I have three: HP, Avoidance, and Threat/dps.

  5. My DK has a Blood raid tank spec, and a Frost DW dps spec. The blood spec, maximised for single target threat and survivability, is shocking in heroics just because the accepted pace these days means that the Retadin or Arms warrior are merrily burning their DS/BS before the first tick of Death and Decay.

    So I generally tank heroics in my dps spec for the snap agro of glyphed Howling Blast (awesome for a DPS tank). I throw on mostly tank gear (T9/10, ICC10/25/EoF), but use DPS rings, trinkets and weapon runes. Mostly nobody notices. I have 5% less avoidance and 10% less armor, but everything sticks to me like glue and with an average iLvl around 250 nothing is hitting too hard anyway.

    Then the other day I get vote kicked before the first pull, for being a ‘scammer’ who was pretending to be a tank in order to get a group. I must admit to having lol’d.

    • Sagramor, it’s fascinating that you are able to tank with a dps spec. My understanding of DKs is very incomplete, so is it the case that you still get most of your +threat via frost presence? One obstacle that warriors face in this respect is that switching stances also makes it impossible to use certain key tanking abilities. In other words, to tank as Fury I suspect that I would have to hold aggro strictly by staying ahead on dps.

      Also, it tickles my funny bone a little bit that you were kicked from a group for wearing your ‘heroics tanking’ set. I’ve gotten one comment to the effect of ‘are you defense capped?’ from a dps, but that’s it. Maybe people in my battlegroup are less observant.

      • Yup, frost presence gives you a threat modifier similar to defensive stance, but crucially it does not restrict the abilities/spells I can use. I do 15% less damage, but 100% (ish) more threat with Frost Presence on. A typical run has me about 3.5k on recount, more if I’m paying proper attention to Rime procs, so the DPS can pull about 7k AOE dmg without ripping.

        It wasn’t my gear that they were objecting to – I was sitting somewhere close to 34k health and 27k armour. Rather it was my spec. There’s a ‘holy trinity’ of 15 points that go into any serious DK tank spec (5% damage reduction, 5% dodge, 10% armour). As a DPS tank you don’t get any of that, although you do automatically debuff all mobs with Frost Fever with glyph of HB. No doubt the person that initiated the vote had had a bad experience of a dps ticking the ‘tank’ box just to get a group.

        I use this spec to tank the trash in ICC for my guild. It sweats our healers a little more, but I haven’t died yet (/touch wood) and it allows us to burn the trash down faster. So I chuckled at being deemed unprepared for heroic HoS. Most of the time the healers are grateful for having something to do other than /follow (or when I’m in my raid tank blood spec, furiously heal the arms warrior and ret pally ;-)

  6. I guess I’m fortunate in that I’ve been able to build a heavy block (value and rating) focussed set for trash and heroics specifically. Before Shield Slam was retuned and Block Value was subjected to diminishing returns, I could outdamage some of the DPS and regularly got 15k shield slams, but I’ll admit I was very lucky with some of the rarer block itemised drops (Shadow of the Ghoul is the one most tanks never see)

    Our guild tree druid actually “heals” heroics with me in her caster form, hurricaning mobs :p

    Armor pen gear is also awesome for “prot dps”. It’s nice to build different “prot dps” sets to tinker with, especially since heroics haven’t scaled at all since we all started running them with 25k health.

  7. […] reader, sometimes great articles pop out of nowhere. One such from mid Feb is a good article by Tanking notes, on the value of Crit Immunity. Go read if you’re interested in a discussion on getting Critical Hits while […]

  8. […] 2010 at 2:49 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment This is an update on my earlier post, Crit immunity: why bother?.  I continue to get a steady amount of traffic to that page as well as incoming traffic related to […]

  9. Something else to consider, which I brought up in regards to lower level tanking where defense on gear wasn’t widely available…

    Armor damage reduction from higher level dps gear reduces a need for avoidance as the hits simply don’t hurt when they hit.

    Larger health pools means when the hits that do hurt hit (crit) it doesn’t hurt that much because… large health pool.

    More DPS means less damage means the healer has less of a mana issue.

    All that said… us healers appreciate a check to make sure we’re ready and a heads up it’ll be a fun ride. My newly 80 priest recently joined a group where the bear went off running. I had to switch specs, was attempting to get gear and mana while running, accidentally pulled a mob because the tank was skimping and I was only 25% paying attention to the run while still attempting to gear because he ran with the pulls. After two bosses skipped (hey, new 80 and i do need gear) I simply decided I was done and left. The fact the tank was rude about the accidental pull that he skimped on helped with that decision.

    I love crazy pulls even at the early 80 because it’s more of a challenge. I love tanks that take risks. As a tank, please make sure that it’s cool to skip past bosses, go crazy, and be in dps gear so us healers can decide whether to be in dps gear to heal, or real healing gear and are just mentally alert that this run will be fun. Communication is key and can make everything smoother.

    • Hi Ralynn!

      Yes, making sure the healer is ready is one of those essential parts of tanking that don’t have to do with gear, spec or gemming. It’s probably best compared to using cooldowns preventatively, as I mention at the end of this article.

      That said, I’m at the point now where I can safely make most trash and boss pulls without the support of a healer. In terms of risk, it often feels about the same as soloing heroics from BC. The expansion can’t come soon enough.

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