Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Avoidance vs Stamina

This is one of the hot topics of tanking and has been for a very long time now; essentially an argument, with one side arguing for the supremacy of their choice of tanking style, based on either avoidance or stamina. This means that one side prefers to stack gear that increases their dodge and parry, allowing them to avoid most of the hits that a raid boss throws at you. Stamina based tanking still has a lot of avoidance, but relies instead on a large health pool, letting more hits land and survives because he can take the hits.

Reading discussions like mmo-champion forum threads, gives me a strange sense that we have entire culture of tanks clashing, with avoidance tanks carrying themselves a lot like french nobility, sophisticated and demure, believing in supremacy through class. Their attitude towards stamina tanks seems very much like talking to hicks and hillbillies. Of course, this is not true but the general attitudes are fascinating :)

So, which side is right, which is better?

I would like to say that everyone are born equal but this is not true. Sadly, stamina tanks are just more reliable than avoidance tanks. The answer lies in studying current raid design, with bosses that hit massive. Anyone who has been tanking Ulduar hard modes know how much damage is flies around with bosses like Freya or the Assembly of Iron.

The general rule is that you have to be able to survive at least two boss hits without a heal. Shrewed but so is life. With Freya's hard mode, the hits that she lands on you are consistently around 18k. That means that as a tank, you much have more than 36k health after all the raid buffs, along with a healthy sortment of cooldowns because extra damage from ground tremors.

A tank with 39k health can survive this no problem. An avoidance tank, with 35k health will dodge most of the hits, but that is like playing russian rulet. Eventually the minority occurs and he will take two hits in a row, quickly dying, taking rest of the raid with him. This is what it essentially comes down to and each time the stamina tank is simply more reliable.

From a healer's point of view, this is even more desirable because healers like predictability. As a death knights, I'm no strange to healer-rage about taking heavy spike damage, so this is especially important for me. Avoidance tanks are prone for a lot more, big spikes of damage that can lead to unnecessary wipes, even in easier raids or even heroic dungeons, if a healer is unable to react quick enough.

And before you spam my mailbox, shouting that it doesn't happen with good healers, do not bother. I have been tanking with healers of all shapes and colors, so I know it happens more often than some like to admit. The same story is told by many avoidance tanks, feeling unfairly treated when they are removed from raids because of low health pools, even if they have the achievements to proove they can do it.

However, you cannot blame this on raid leaders. An experience raid leader wants reliable tanks. Running with an unreliable one is like driving a car with nitroglycerin for gas; could blow up at anytime and even more with pugs, can blow your raid up along with it. In the end it also just comes down to raid design and Ulduar is a prime example of this; an encounter's difficulty curve is not so much in the mechanics, but just in surviving the massive damage.

Take the hard mode of the Iron Council; once only Steelbreaker is left, it comes down to a dps race. The tanks literally sacrifice themselves to buy that time for them, with the first tank blowing his cooldowns until he blows up and then the second tank does the same thing. There, if you do not have the health to survive, you are useless and this is true for most Ulduar encounters.


  1. Greeting's Mate. If you dont mind i've linked this article in my own blog about tanking. We have somewhat opposite positions about this theme, but you do make a strong and truthfull case. In my own article i wish give the visitors (i hope there are some), another perspective and i consider your article the most solid one so far without making too many stretches to the theory. Besides...always better to advertise another fellow blogger over the big sharks in the sea. And if you dont mind i would like to add your blogg to the permanent links in mine. Wont do it without your permission though. Thank you and congrats for your solid work.

  2. its been a long time......finally a post!

    though now being a healer, i can only say i find it most disturbing when i have to heal tanks that loses a ton of health in the first hit and subsequently mroe in the later. DOes that mean the lack of dodge?

    There are also a few pally tank, which are even more unpredictable, because they can heal themselves, and thus have this health bar that goes up and down very quickly. That makes me real stressed up because i dun know when i am overhealing, or underhealing.

    Hmm maybe my comments dun make sense...bt just giving feedback from a healer's perspective..


  3. Aye, my apologies for the lack of posts jaclyn, I've had the misfortune to neglect my blog a bit. Will fix that soon though.

    For your thoughts, the amount of damage a tank receives is not directly linked to his avoidance. If a hit is avoided, as per parry or dodge, the damage is negated completed. If it hits, it is mitigated by the tanks armor and any cooldowns that he might be using.

    What a lot of avoidance does create, is spiky damage; when you observe a tank's health first not moving barely at all, despite blows falling on him, and then suddenly losing a lot of it, you can bet his avoidance is pretty high, for he is avoiding and getting hit at a very unpredictable pattern.

    Paladins and warriors are in a much better position than DK tanks actually, for they both use shields, thus they have a stat that we don't; block. I'm not the expert when it comes to this stat, but as I understand it, it is one of the aspects that makes warriors and paladins take steady and easy to damage, because you know the rate at which it will drop.

  4. Macklaud, a very nice and articulate post. Always nice to read and hear from other players and their thoughts on various subjects, especially ones so contested as this one. I much enjoyed reading (even if I occasionally wanted to but in :P) and you are of course free to link my blog.

    I will also do the same. It is surprisingly hard to find decent and good quality bloggers, so I will definitely add yours to my list.

  5. It always seems that when math becomes involved people shut their brains down. Your Freya example is a good one assuming the numbers you site are correct. But what you have not factored in is that the stam tank has a higher probability of taking 3 big hits in a row. By way of example, say a stam tank has 47% avoidance and an avoidance tank has 54% avoidance. If you map out 100 hits agains each and use a normal distribution the avodance will have positions 93-100 empty. Now the stam tank will reach 100 and still have to slot in 4 more hits, thereby guaranteeing that he will take 3 shots in arow 4 times! I understand RNG etc. and the randomness of the distribution. But you have to concede that point and re-evaluate what you have said.

    Sadly, why should a tank have to modify what is best for him because healers are lazy. A heal cast should be started even if the tank does not need the heal and then cancelled at the 80% mark or so of the cast and the next one started. So contrary to your statement, it is predictable. As a healer i will be casting and cancelling the heals and starting a new one immediately. No down time for Bonzo. I dare say the healing rotation should be very predictable

  6. Lets see if I got this right; through a long line of appealing mathematical jargon your conclusion is that stamina tanks have a higher probability to take three hits in a row, than avoidance tanks?

    I concede, yes indeed we do, as we have lower avoidance. But since our health pool is so much higher, when crap happens, it does not matter unlike for avoidance tanks who lack the same benefit and are at a higher risk to wipe the raid. Although why it takes a math degree to figure that out is beyond me.

    This is the logic, in all its simplicity and it really does not take more math than a five year old can handle: taking three hits in a row is not a problem for a stamina tank because we have enough health to survive the first two and before the third one strike we have already received heals. Avoidance tanks survive the first two because rather than taking the hit, they avoid one or both of them, except when the planets move out of the alignment.

    This is why I and so many others believe stamina is superior to avoidance; our survivibility is only limited by the amount of health we have.

    Also, trust that this is the last time I will allow this sort of commentary. I welcome criticism and challenges. If you disagree with me, feel free to express it but if you cannot resist trolling while doing so, I suggest you go back to mmo-champion forums where they enjoy catering to that kind of posting. Personally, I have a zero tolerance for it on my blog.