From Zero to Hero

Not really hero but zero to normal capability doesn’t sound as good. A couple of weeks ago I nearly gave up being a paladin. I’d tanked a couple of dungeons, and probed the Mogu’Shan Vaults trash, and I was in trouble. I couldn’t hold threat, my dps was in single digits and my survivability was poor. I started to wonder whether protection paladins had been killed, whether they were no longer viable. It didn’t help that two of the best prot pally’s that I know swapped to death knight and brewmaster. I love my paladin but I love being useful more, I seriously considered swapping classes myself.

However, before I took such a step I took to the theorycrafting world. I combed Theck’s posts and read Elitist Jerks till I thought my eyes would bleed from all the numbers. I talked with the paladin turned brewmaster, who despite class swapping had some useful tips. I discovered something quite monumental.

Stat weighting turned upside down
The magic number of 102.4% is gone in Mists. Paladins can no longer cover the CTC with avoidance. I knew that already but I thought that dodge, parry and mastery would still be our stats. They are still the stats that warriors want and paladins and warriors have a history of similar gearing strategies. This just proves that I shouldn’t assume and instead do more research. While dodge and parry aren’t quite dump stats they are now very far down the priority list. Hit and expertise are now the most important stats, getting hit and hard expertise capped is our first priority. This is a far cry from the days when we reforged out of any hit/expertise we had. It’s stat priorities turned upside down, it’s crazy but it works.

I used to go to Ask Mr Robot, plug my character in and methodically do whatever it suggested. I made the optimizer go green and I thought that was good. I didn’t understand the stat weights, the cocktail of dodge/parry/mastery with diminishing returns and how to get to 102.4%. I figured that at least I was optimizing my character, and I ignored that I didn’t understand any of it, and pretended I did understand if anyone asked. I was never comfortable with this but out of sight, out of mind. It was easy to ignore my lack of comprehension as outside of recalibrating when I got new gear, I never thought about any of the optimization. That all changed with this new system.

I went to AMR and I plugged my character in. The control method, where hit/expertise are the first stats, wasn’t one of the profiles offered. I still didn’t know how to set the stat weights but Theck posted them, then AMR was updated with it as a default profile. I ran my  paladin through it and for the first time I disagreed with what it was telling me. I knew that I wanted to cap hit and hard cap expertise as soon as possible, the optimization wasn’t going to get me that. So I picked my own gems, enchants and reforges. The reforging was annoying as I had to do it in order to see what the new percentage was, then if it wasn’t right I had to undo and redo until I got the right mix. It was a bit of a gold sink but it got me what I wanted, my stats capped.

Once hit and expertise are capped then the stats need to go into something else, or be wasted. There are two choices, which according to Theck are nearly equal and depend on what you’re comfortable with, haste or mastery. Haste means more boss attacks, it increases dps but more importantly it increases the number of hits for Seal of Insight.

Seals, glyphs and talents
Seal of Truth was the tanking seal in Cata, and in terms of tank dps still the seal in Mists. However, by far the more useful seal is Seal of Insight. This was the seal I always used as a healer so to use it as a tank seemed crazy. However, the paladin turned brewmaster told me that using Insight and Glyph of Battle Healer would help the healers out with aoe healing. He also told me to use the talent Light’s Hammer for the extra aoe ability and not to single target in a group, to Hammer of Righteous, Consecrate and Holy Wrath on cooldown. Now the stat changes were good but worth nothing if I couldn’t execute the correct rotation. I’d read in all the theorycrafting about Seal of Insight, but this put it into words I understood. I really can’t thank this guy enough for just explaining it as simply as he did.

Oh I forgot to mention Stamina, this is a primary stat of course so places differently on the priority list. Stacking stamina has always been a safe thing to do, even though sometimes it’s benefit was debatable. However, stacking stamina now is quite helpful that we don’t have the block capability that we did before. Having a larger health pool means the healers don’t have to panic when it takes a hit as we have more of a reserve. I’m currently running with two stamina trinkets and have 500k unbuffed health.

All of this in practice
I love my paladin again, I feel useful and capable with it. We finally killed the first boss, Stone Guard, in Mogu’Shan Vaults last night. I don’t know how many wipes it took but we finally got there. When we looked at the combat log afterwards I got a bit of a shock. I’d done 32k hps in that fight which had topped the healing meter. Now it was mostly self healing, 32% of it was from Seal of Insight with the next big chunk from Sacred Shield. Battle Healer contributed less than what I expected but it all added up to rather large numbers.

I’m fairly certain that this isn’t something blizz intended so it’ll likely get nerfed at some point. They nerfed Seal of Truth into the ground because tank dps went too high, well this is tank healing gone sky high. As an aside my dps was a respectable 37k for the final fight, still below all the dps but not bad for a tank. However, back to the healing, given the active mitigation model we are supposed to self heal so it’s a tricky one. Paladins were always the safe class, the class that could block and would take very predictable damage, as opposed to death knights which were very spiky. Paladins are now a spiky class, reacting to damage rather than blocking it, so you can’t take too much self healing away or the healers will despair.

If anything this has made me love my paladin more. I thought, for a moment, that I’d have to abandon it to be useful. For it then to prove me wrong and to come back has made me realise I am a paladin. I may have alts of every class but my main has proved that it’s strong, that it can fall into disaster and come out stronger for it. I love my paladin and I love tanking. I can’t wait to continue progressing through Mogu’Shan Vaults, it’s going to be so much fun.