On stamina, avoidance and healing in Cataclysm

I’m really enjoying the anticipation of Cataclysm, the news snippets from Blizzard which fuel more speculation and conjecture about what’s in store for us. Being a tank in Cataclysm, and not dying in two hits from a boss, will be quite refreshing. I’ve talked about this quite a few times before.

One of the age old topics of avoidance vs stamina recently came up, and for once it wasn’t a redundant circular argument; because in Cataclysm dodge and parry are going to matter again. This is because you will not die in two hits, it will take longer, so simply having a bigger stamina pool will not necessarily win the fight. Instead, keeping your healers in mana and allowing them more time for raid healing will make a difference, and avoidance goes towards that goal.

Splug and Satorri, in the forums, just contributed thoughtfully to this discussion starting on this page.

Satorri said:

The trick is not that Avoidance will take on some new function (though Parry is slated to), but rather that the value is being restored to it in a round-a-bout fashion.

Stamina is a fine option/alternative at the expense of Avoidance right now, but people don’t understand why that is. If you think it is because:
A.) RNG means you get hit unpredictably and that is not an ok way to reduce damage
B.) Diminishing returns make Avoidance dumb and weak the more you get
You are mistaken.

The reason it is ok to stack Stam at the expense of avoidance (note: not always the case currently) is because you get a decent baseline of avoidance from gear, and right now healing is available in excess in ideal situations. Taking less damage isn’t necessary because healers don’t often have to worry about efficiency.

Stamina increases your buffer zone, it does absolutely nothing to dictate how much healing you require (with the variable of self-healing which is only particularly a consistent and usable value for Blood DKs). If Blizzard manages to get things working they way they want, healers will need to have a mind for not wasting healing, and so suddenly two elements become important again:
1.) Tank damage taken. If you stack all health and nothing else you will take more damage than a tank who mixes in avoidance instead of just health in places (I am leaving out mitigation because we don’t often have a health vs avoidance vs mitigation option).
2.) Healers will have to pay a mind to their balance (which has been lost sight of in WotLK): healing power vs healing endurance. Where we decide between health and avoidance, they decide between increasing the scale and pace of their healing (spellpower/haste/crit) and the ability to deliver more healing over time (regen, cost reducing talents and trinket/use effects).

Splug replied:

Assuming things pull back closer to the state of TBC, the primary method of gearing resulted in a balance of avoidance and health (and threat, which was actually not an auto-win). Ideally, health/mitigation would be stacked to the point where bosses were not killing the tank in 3 swings, and then avoidance would be stacked past that mark. This gave a good buffer for healers to react to damage income and adjust accordingly, and then reduced the frequency of burst as much as possible.

As Satorri has outlined, the flaws with this model in WotLK are that 1) for the “scary” bosses, you can’t possibly reach 3 swings worth of health pool, 2) conserving healer mana is meaningless, and 3) two healers can render >70% health restoration every second. All three of these have been stated as design concerns that should be corrected in Cataclysm, which would pull things back closer to the old TBC mindset. Coupled with the nuances of parry and dodge having different results, this has the potential to not only end the effective health dynasty, but provide tanks with the largest breadth of legitimate gear customization the game has seen to date. There will be justification for different tank-gearing methods. But more importantly than letting tanks pick gear differently (which is largely an out-of-combat affair, and still prone to eventually succumb to numbercrunching indicating “the best” way to do things), it will vastly improve the healer’s gameĀ in combat, by making tank healing more interactive than mashing the largest heal button on your bar and throwing your cooldown when someone on vent says “halp.”

Now, here’s the big caveat: they’re not done with it yet. There’s a long road of development time ahead, followed by the gear altering things further; what works in Tier 11 content may be broken by Tier 14. But I am confident Blizzard will at the very least put a good faith effort to push the game in this direction, and in my opinion it is one much needed improvement to the game; arguably, it is the largest and most critical improvement we will see in Cataclysm if handled correctly.

There’s more to read on this if it piques your interest too. The thread is here.

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