Friday, November 20, 2009

Teir Ten Four Piece Puzzle

We now have the stats on Tier 10 for Paladin tanks. Let me add in the normal PTR PSA. This stuff is on the PTR, it's subject to change between now and Live, yada, yada, yada.

But it's fairly rare that it does.

What I want to do is compare the Tier pieces to the non Tier peice drops available and to the Emblems of Frost rewards. This is especially an issue for 10 man raiders because Emblem of Frost gear is iLevel 264 which is a tier higher than Normal mode T10. This is also an important analysis because both your Tier gear and the non Tier gear will be competing for your Emblems of Frost.

For example, with Emblems of Frost, you can purchase your T10 Lightsworn Chestguard or the Cataclysmic Chestguard. which one should you get? You'll face a similar decision between Gauntlets of the Kraken and the T10 Lightsworn Handguards.

A large component of your decision will be how good the 4pc set bonus is. If the 4pc is very good, like T9's was, you are limited to only one slot of non Tier gear. For T9, I chose the Helm to be my non Tier piece.

So what is the Protection Paladin T10 4pc Bonus? 12% dodge when you hit Divine Plea.

First, let's make sure we understand this.

It's 12% dodge, which means it's unaffected by Diminishing Returns. Personally, I think they should call the buff you get from the Set Bonus "Warmed" because essentially what it does is to change Chill of the Throne from -20% to -8% for 10 seconds.

The buff only lasts for 10 seconds. Most Protection Paladins take Guarded by the Light which will refresh your Divine Plea on a melee swing. Refreshing Divine Plea WILL NOT refresh the buff from the 4pc Set Bonus. It's only up for 10 seconds. You have to wait for Divine Plea to cool down (1 minute) before you can activate it again. It's sort of like a Trinket.

Now the Bonus is very hard to evaluate. We do not fully understand the mechanics and nature of the damage that we will face in ICC, though we have gotten some idea through the PTR, and as a result we can not truly judge if 12 percent dodge is a good or bad cool down.

The Paladin Tier 10 Bonus gives us Avoidance. Every other Tank class has a 4pc bonus that provides Damage Mitigation. 12% straight damage reduction for Druids and Death Knights, and a Damage Absorbing Shield for Warriors. All three of those work against magic damage. The Paladin bonus does not.

I wonder how effective 12% dodge is compared to a flat out 12% damage reduction. If you get good RNG, it could prove better, but with Chill of the Throne, I think a flat reduction could prove to be the better.

I do understand that Avoidance is good. If we had 88% avoidance, 12% more would be incredible. Of course if we had 88% damage reduction, 12% more would make us invincible. No one is going to have anywhere near that much avoidance or damage reduction in Ice Crown.

If the tank killers are unavoidable hits like Impale, Spell Damage, Bleeds, DoTs, Plasma Blast, etc then 12% damage reduction (all other tanks) is much better than 12% dodge (Paladins).

The major issue is that as we look at past content, the tank killer moves were all just big enough that even a 20% damage reduction was enough. It pretty much had to be, or the Druid's primary cool down (Barkskin) would not be enough for a Feral Druid tank to survive. If this is the case in ICC, then the 12% damage reduction (all other tanks) will be better because its possible for a hit to get through avoidance (Paladin) and instantly kill you.

Furthermore, the data from the fights on the PTR looks like there is a TON of magic damage in these fights. Our set bonus is useless against it.

Our set bonus is completely reliant on the roll of the dice, and you won't even know if it was the set bonus that saved you. Did I dodge because of the Set Bonus or did I dodge from the existing dodge on my gear. All the other tanks have a guarantee that their set bonus will help them.

Now if you were on the encounter design team, which kind of set bonus would you assume your tanks had? Probably the type that 75% of tanks will have. We won't see this until Hard Mode encounters are tested because it's really only when you are doing Hard Modes that the Encounter Design team could reasonable expect a Tank to have the 4pc Bonus. I still believe that Mimiron Hard was designed with the idea the Tank would have an extra cool down like the Warrior T8 4pc Bonus.

I can't understand how the Developers think that 12% avoidance is roughly equal to 12% Damage Reduction. It's tough to balance either way. Either ours is superior or the other tanks are. It's hard to say they are equal. I've come to the conclusion, based on what I know today, that the Paladin set bonus looks really weak. If it was really strong, I'm sure the other tanks would be pointing out how they felt the Paladin bonus was superior. Warriors found an difference between Pally Tank Helm and Warrior Tank Helm on the PTR and immediately went to the forums to scream the Developers were trying to use itemization to "keep Paladins on top"! So if other Tank classes complain over small itemization differences, I would think they would complain over Set Bonus differences if they felt those Set Bonuses were inferior.

(Irony is, that is sort of what I'm doing in this blog post, however; I hope what I am doing is raising a potential issue for discussion, not screaming about some sort of imagined bias on the part of the Dev team.)

Is the set bonus bad enough to make us not competitive as tanks? It depends on if the Encounter Design team designs around the 4pc Bonus. Paladins will require additional external cool downs where every other tank does not. I doubt it would be so severe that Paladins would be be benched for other tanks, but that's a possibility.

I'd also like to address the idea that Paladins received a weak set bonus to offset the fact that Paladins are ahead of most other tanks right now. I reject the premise that Paladins have such a superior and unequivocal advantage.

And the Developers reject it as well. Allow me to quote from Lead Developers Ghostcralwer:

"if one or two of the tank classes have such a superior and unequivocal advantage in making a fight easier, why aren't more guilds using them, especially given the evidence that they have swapped tanks on previous encounters? I understand individuals of you may state it has happened to your guild. That's fine, but understand you are in a small minority. Overall, it's just not happening."

What's also concerning is that the issue may not come to light. As Ghostcrawler reported "the number of paladin tanks used to test Icecrown on the PTR has been almost imperceptibly low." Therefore it will be difficult to see if there is an issue with our 4pc bonus until it is already Live. I don't know if a 4pc bonus is the kind of thing you can fix in a hotfix or if Paladins will have to wait for a minor patch to get fixed.

Now the Developers see the entire picture where we do not. Perhaps there are fights, or aspects of fights, where we will love our 4pc.

With T9, we all went "wow, 30 sec off of our major cooldown, neat" and went on to get the 4-pc bonus with gear that was reasonably itemized. The bonus was essentially the same for all 4 tank classes. I can't understand why the Developers made the Paladin bonus so different from the other three tanks.

T9 wasn't the best itemized tier, but it was far from the worst. With T8 and T10, the 4pc is kind of situational. It can be good/bad/whatever. It depends on whether or not the gear is worth using over off-set pieces. With the evidence I have today, I can't see the 4 piece bonus being a major consideration when evaluating gear like it was with Tier 9. I believe the Developers want the players of every class to want their 4 piece bonus. In the case of Protection Paladins, they have not created a bonus that is, in the best case, simply not very attractive, and in the worst case, will make Paladins an inferior choice to fulfill their role, especially on Hard Mode Encounters.
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