Icecrown pwns you for 20%, and healing in Cataclysm

Icecrown is going to nerf your dodge by 20%, with an aura similar to Sunwell.

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Why are we doing this?

The high levels of tank avoidance players have obtained is making the incoming damage a tank DOES take more ‘spiky’ than is healthy for raiding. Ideally, tanks would be receiving a relatively constant stream of damage over time. This allows healers to better plan their healing strategy, broaden their spell options, and simply give more time to react. Tanks could use their cooldowns more reactively. Instead, the current situation is that if we make a hard hitting melee boss and a tank doesn’t avoid two successive swings then the tank could very well be dead in that 1-2 second window. The use of reactive defensive abilities instead becomes a methodically planned affair, healers have to spam their largest heals just in case the huge damage spike happens.

We’ve been trying to do a fair amount to mitigate the effect of high tank avoidance on the encounter side of things during this expansion with faster melee swings, additional melee strikes, dual wielding, narrowing the normal variance of melee swing damage, and various other tricks. There’s a limit to what we can do, however. So to give us a bit of breathing room we?ve implemented Chill of the Throne. Going forward past Icecrown Citadel, we have plans to keep tank avoidance from growing so high again. Source.


For tank gemming, you are basically just dealing with your discretionary gem slot and enchants, maybe you can choose one ring or trinket over another too. Probably you can vary your character by +/- 5% avoidance and +/- 337 stamina (those two ranges have similar item budgets).

So, just stack stamina. Don’t gem for avoidance. At such low levels of avoidance, the relative gain from avoidance isn’t great (at high levels it gets excellent, even with diminishing returns).

Stamina will win in Icecrown. Be sure to also read my follow-up post; you’ll read how spike damage is reduced through avoidance at even low levels.

Encounters will be tuned around ‘lower’ avoidance, so you can more confidently stack stamina in all slots (keeping just enough hybrid gems for your meta slot activation, with stam/expertise possibly). For avoidance, dodge still has the greatest gain of all the avoidance stats (the ratio remains valid), but I do not think its gain is enough compared to stamina.

How to test if you have enough avoidance, or not, is by looking at your healers’ throughput and whether they can keep you alive. We won’t know til more PTR testing can be done. If you’re simply dying because the Heals/sec are not enough, then you need more avoidance. If you can stay alive for 6 seconds or more without a heal, then you’ve probably got enough avoidance and can focus on stamina gearing. (How many seconds is to be seen; the old rule of thumb was to survive 2 or 3 hits from the boss, but with the new faster/smaller hit bosses we’ll see in Icecrown, I expect we’ll need to look at time-to-live again).

Death Knights will see a reduction in their rune strike procs, but since most DKs do not convert 100% of their rune strike opportunities into actual procs (because you can’t RS twice between one melee swing, and because you might be RP-starved), it’s hard to work out the actual net reduction; but I have seen one analysis showing about a 5% loss of threat.

Ghostcrawler entered this very important discussion.

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Our original estimations for tank avoidance would have worked fine had we not decided to add extra tiers of gear to reward heroic boss kills halfway through the expansion.

The Cataclysm design will keep tank avoidance at more manageable levels. The loss of defense skill counts for a lot right there. We are also considering giving bosses expertise or other ways of baking in Icewell Radiance — basically the concept that bosses scale with gear rather than just hitting harder and taking more hits.

It would still be fine if the itemization team had designed the gear accordingly. In a full 258 setup for warrior tanks, precisely two pieces have anything but a 3 way split of pure avoidance stats on them. There’s 3 different avoidance stats on 3 different diminishing returns, and pumping them all up like that can really make avoidance numbers go way out of whack. Meanwhile, we lose out on things like Expertise, and the preciously rare Hit Rating which is available on *1* piece of 258 tanking gear and end up having to swap gear around to cover those deficiencies.
You are making the common mistake in thinking that our goal for itemization is to give you the best possible gear that we can. Itemizing your character is supposed to be a choice. There will be better pieces and worse pieces. There will be pieces that combine stats your really want with stats you don’t really need. Wearing the best gear for their character (which is not the same as wearing the best gear) is one way players have to demonstrate mastery of the game.

This is also why I always preach to take BiS lists with a grain of salt. Merely reaching for the item declared to be BiS by a spreadsheet or system you might not even understand could lead you to making bad gear choices, often of the variety of passing over the good upgrade because it’s not the best possible upgrade.

Also, if you’re going to give mobs expertise, can you please make a spell or some kind of method to determine the level of expertise without us having to do parses?
Yes. We would probably just let you see the numbers directly. I consider it a design flaw that players have to experiment to determine thinks like hit and expertise caps. We’re all for experimentation and theorycrafting, but we don’t think it’s fair to require some players to go out and do a lot of work to generate specific numbers that all players feel like they need to know.

Putting so much avoidance on gear isn’t a bad idea because other stats are better. It was a bad idea because it causes tank scaling to fail and makes Radiance necessary.
That logic doesn’t really work. It’s like saying instead of nerfing armor pen, we should have just put less and less on higher level gear.

If we had avoided avoidance on tank gear, then every piece of tank gear would have hit and expertise (and maybe crit, haste and armor pen). Stamina and armor are static amounts, and if they were not, then those pieces immediately become the only pieces players would pay attention to.

If you want ICC damage to be steadier, why don’t you just walk over to the item team and say “Hey, we’d like less avoidance, can you cut out half of the avoidance from the ICC gear and replace it with stamina?” Or if you’re worried people will get too much stamina, make it Frost Resistance and put in so much Frost damage you couldn’t hope to survive long with TotGC gear alone.

We just don’t think that works. If you put very unattractive stats on gear then players just go back the previous tier of gear and complain that we don’t know how to itemize. If you put bonus stamina on the tier 10 gear, then that means the next tier of gear better have bonus stamina as well. If it has avoidance instead of that bonus stamina, tanks just shrug and go back to the tier 10 gear.

This is not a tank only problem. Casters won’t upgrade to gear that doesn’t have more spell power on it, because spell power tends to trump everything else for purposes of their dps or healing.

We put a little bonus armor on non-armor items (necks, rings, trinkets and the occasional cloak). We don’t put bonus armor on gloves and chests because that gear would be too good.

It’s an item level problem. If we added another raid tier to Lich King, we couldn’t just keep avoiding avoidance and avoid it for every tier going forward. We just need a system where you avoid a Naxx boss 30% of the time and an Icecrown boss 30% of the time, the same way the Icecrown bosses have e.g. 30% larger health bars and thus take 30% more damage to kill. Otherwise the stats don’t scale and bad thing happen (in this case the boss having to land so much damage to account for the fact that it misses so often). Source.


On healing in Cataclysm

I think this next post from Ghostcrawler is worth reading in its entirety. He talks about healing encounters which your tank totally overgears.

A few nights ago, I was in my first heroic on the new DK (got the very embarassing ‘you have earned one emblem’ achievement). I reassured the party “I used to MT and RL Ulduar 25, I’m no noob” and proved myself by not sucking ass. The dual Tankard of Terror meant my green/blue geared DK did reasonable DPS.

Anyhow, the Coliseum-geared tankadin had 40k health with priest buffs. Solid. The healer had nothing to do except on bosses. Pretty dull, I’d imagine.

I’ve talked about predictions for how tanking and healing will work in Cataclysm, how bosses damage will scale differently, and this latest post from GC concretes my thinking.

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Healing has always been challenging and to some extent thankless in WoW. I don’t think LK fundamentally changed that.

When I heal, I like to be challenged. Just buffing healing overall, or taking some of the challenge away from the healers, I don’t think makes the game more fun for them. It might be fun for a week as everyone thanks you for doing such an amazing job all the time, but playing any game in godmode typically gets old after the initial rush.

What I mean is that one of the most boring experiences I can have in the game is to be a healer for a milk run in which a wipe is unlikely and nobody is going to take much damage. By contrast, you can still have fun in that situation as a DPS spec. You can see how fast the boss dies. You can see how much damage you can do. It can even be fun as a tank, because you can usually afford to drop some of your defenses in order to improve your dps and try and make the fight shorter. At the very least, you can try and see how much damage you can mitigate. It’s possible to do some pulls and even weaker bosses with almost no incoming damage. All a healer can really do is try to heal as little or efficiently as possible, which really just means you’re standing around a lot. Maybe you’re tossing the occasional Wrath or SW:Pain or something, but that dps contribution is pretty trivial even compared to the trying-to-DPS-a-little tank.

Where I will agree we need to improve healing in WoW is in relationship to how much damage the tank is taking (or even a teammate in PvP). Damage to health is too high in almost all scenarios, such that only the really big, really fast, or really broad (group-based) heals count for much. Things that are fun for a healer, such as trying to be mana-efficient or matching the right heal to the right damaged character go away when you’re just spamming like mad. None of this should come as news to readers of this forum, because it’s the kind of thing we’ve said before.

What I would like to see in Cataclysm is higher health pools but also lower heals (and tank avoidance) overall. Hopefully everyone won’t be on the verge of almost dying, yet the risk of overhealing will be more real such that you can’t just madly spam all of the time if you want to make it to the end of the encounter.

A similar thing is true for PvP. If health pools are larger, but heals smaller, then you see folks with health in between 100% and 0% more often. Source.


I believe Cataclysm raids will feel different to those we have now. More strategic. Blizzard already designs superb encounters; imagine how good they will be when the underlying mechanics also allow a more epic fight.

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12 comments to Icecrown pwns you for 20%, and healing in Cataclysm

  • I’m not sure if you’ve seen yet, but the 20% hit comes after DR:
    I have to think that overall this is a better fix than scaling up the damage and attack speed.  A little silly how it will affect our gemming choices, but hopefully two times hitting this brick wall will push them to just scale boss stats next time.

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    Thanks, hadn’t seen it yet. (I’d blogged  before GC had said that.)

    Applying it after makes it even worse, because like GC says it doesn’t favourably change the relative value of dodge. You’d avoid dodge because effectively of every 10 rating you add to dodge, you lose between 40% and 75% of it (depending on how high your dodge was before), so 10 rating actually ends up being worth 6 or 3 rating, putting its ratio of rating:avoidance% at the very bottom.

    Like if you were at 30% dodge, this change means you’re losing 66% of your dodge (that’s simplified maths, it’s actually worse), so each dodge rating is worth one third of its displayed value.

    Stamina ftw.

  • Chev

    “In 25s you get more of that whack-a-mole feeling where you’re competing just as much with other players to heal someone first and nothing feels very organized or efficient.” – GC
    So true. I know that with dps classes there is usually a spec and playstyle that is a bit harder and requires more skill and thought, which rewards you with (sometimes just slightly) higher dps. Healing could go further into this area too, rewarding both skill and a bit of strategic thinking with higher healing performance. Also the whole area of healers mitigating damage and increasing the tank’s effective health (a’la Disc priests) could go a lot further, in a lot of interesting directions. Anyway, bring on more strategic healing!

  • Gemming for Stamina.
    I was looking at my gear and I have all the gemming bonusses and I don’t understand why people would use all blue gems and not get the 6-12 stamina bonus and some more stats instead of putting in a 30 sta gem
    A Yelow socket
    Bonus 6 sta
    If you put a blue in here you get a 30 sta extra
    If you put a eye of Zul in it you get a
    +Hit and 15 sta + the 6sta bunus = +hit and 21 sta that is a net loss of 90health but a gain in threath and adding an important tanking stat. You can add any +sta gem to it as long as it is yellow.
    Same goes with the red ones.
    Why would we get a full blue sta gem and win max 9sta per gem and lose all these nice stats :)
    I do understand that if you have 9 slots x 9 stamina = 81 sta loss or gain :) and that is 1k with buffs and all

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    Kenshi, there’s a line where the socket bonus is worth it (if its avoidance) that Splug thinks is about 6, for non-blue sockets. Great discussion on gem strategy is at dkinfo. I think however in Icecrown, stamina is king again.

    Chev, yah. I remember healing on my druid often felt like whack-a-mole! I do like the point about more disc-priest-style healing changes; that could be fun.

  • I’m not sure that the “gem for stamina” approach is right. The whole point of gemming for stamina is that because the bosses hit so hard then three (or two, or one) unavoided hit will kill us. The liklihood of that is unpleasantly high where you have few large hits.
    Bear in mind that GC said (somewhere) that boss dps will not exponentially increase. He means that bosses will hit faster but for less, meaning that you need a longer string of unavoided hits to die (notice the comparative there – GC did say that the dungeon is not going to be easy). If you can survive three unavoided hits (say 6 seconds) then your healers have time to react – this means that we may feel safe enough to stack mitigation stats such as armour, dodge and block.
    I think it makes avoidance more attractive compared to stamina, not less. This is their design goal after all.
    As for the application after diminishing returns – I agree that this is less ideal, but I would wait for the maths to come out before you are so certain about that. Remember that pre-Icewell Radiance dodge was still exponentially better the more of it you have. I wonder whether or not the nerf will be sufficiently hard to reverse this.
    Ultimately, the boss damage will be what it is. If it’s too high they’ll nerf it fast. I don’t think special gearing for normal at least will be necessary, and for heroic you’ll probably need to stack stamina anyway like you always need to for hard modes.
    They’ll have to change that tanking trinket though!

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    I see what your saying.

    My premise is that healer throughput is not the problem (ie. health/second healed), therefore stamina is going to net the most tanking benefit relative to avoidance, given parry is crap (diminishing returns) and dodge is now worse (aura), meaning also defence gems are less valuable for DKs (new thought:  maybe defence will be more valuable for block tanks since it improves block too?). Avoidance helps offset low healer throughput.

    If healers have enough throughput, then stamina gives a great return (which is my view at the moment).

    If I’m wrong on healers, then avoidance will have some value even in its diminished/aura’d state. How much would take more maths.

    On avoidance, if you have 60% avoidance now, you’ll have 40% in Icecrown (if you had > 20% dodge, which is a reasonable assumption). In Icecrown if you add 1% avoidance, that’s a gain of 2.5% avoidance, or inversed (more useful), you take 1.7% less damage (ie. 59% damage recieved instead of 60% received). In contrast outside Icecrown, at 60% if you add 1% you gain 1.6% avoidance and take less 2.5% less damage. We know this, just re-stating it for convenience. At high avoidance levels, an incremental 1% is worth a lot more than at low avoidance levels in terms of how much damage you take. Therefore, since the total avoidance is now 20% lower, my view is the gain (1.6% less damage) is not as great as what you get from stamina.

  • I think you could be right on healers – but by reducing spiky damage from bosses the devs are reducing healing challenge. I think it’s reasonable to assume that they will seek to challenge healers in other ways (otherwise ICC will be easier than intended!). Without the massive nerf to regen/mana pools that I expect from 4.0, I guess we will see lots of raid damage, targeted incapacitate effects, plus mana burn-type effects.

    On the stamina point – I agree that healer throughput is a key driver, and it remains to be seen how much “wiggle room” we have in gearing to gear for reduced damage rather than having to stack stamina to be a mana sponge.

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    Agreed, good counterpoints. Fascinating change isn’t it!

  • Gravity
    Twitter: gravitydk

    I think Vexill just pwned some logic I had in why I don’t like dodge anymore, see here.

    So, I think he’s right, and what it means is dodge is still the best avoidance stat, because you can’t deliberately gem/gear yourself below the 20% dodge threshold, which was the premise I had relied on. I changed my OP above to reflect this now, also commenting on time-to-live as a good measure for avoidance vs stamina.

    That said, the second string of my argument holds: avoidance, at such low levels, does not have the same relative gains as it does at high avoidance levels, so it’s (imho) not worth it compared to stamina. That’s for the same reason stamina is currently (and always has been) so popular.

    Recall, this is only in regards to your discretionary item budget, which is gems and enchants, so perhaps ~5% at most avoidance, or its equivalent in stamina about 337 stamina (3400 hp or so).

  • Forwarding this onto my guild forums.  This needs planning and discussion, and I need to reread it after a coffee!

  • [...] avoidance and introduce more steady streams  of damage. (Gravity wrote about the change over at and has the blue posts embedded if you missed [...]

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