Late last night, it was announced that we’d be seeing some hotfixes during server maintenance this week. There were two announcements concerning protection paladins. The first was a nerf to the RPPM proc rates of the intellect legendary cloaks (caster and healing), which was probably warranted. My own testing suggested that using the caster legendary cloak was about a ~7k DPS increase over using the melee DPS legendary cloak. While I wouldn’t equip it on a fight that seriously challenged my survivability (for example, Garrosh Hellscream, where both of our kills involved at least one cloak 1up proc), it was certainly fun for padding meters on more trivial survivability tests, especially encounters with adds:
Disclaimer: I didn’t blog about this for a few reasons. First, I was so busy last week that I really didn’t have time. More importantly, I was also pretty sure it would get fixed pretty quickly, and didn’t want to encourage players to drop 7k gold on an extra cloak that was likely to be useless in a week or two. Most players doing serious heroic progression were already aware of the trick, even though they may have been playing coy about it in the hopes that it didn’t get fixed. But with that many top-tier players using the intellect cloak, Blizzard was bound to see it sooner rather than later.
However, the more important change is a significant nerf to EF:
Eternal Flame’s heal-over-time effect is increased by 50% when used on the Paladin (down from 100%).
That’s a pretty substantial nerf, reducing the effectiveness of the HoT by 25%. So it’s worth re-visiting the Eternal Flame vs. Sacred Shield debate to see which is the more intelligent choice.
You may remember we went through this prior to patch 5.4. And while the conclusion there was that EF was solidly better across the board, we were also looking at a very limited sample of gear sets. Since then, I’ve noticed that the results vary a lot from character to character. So in the wake of this nerf, I felt it was worth doing a more complete assessment of the two talents to see how they scale across gear sets.
Each of these simulations is 50k iterations and pits the player against the T16Q boss, with all other options left at the defaults. For the “pre-hotfix” data I’m using the latest release version of SimC (540-2). For the “post-hotfix” data I’m using the trunk of SimC, so it’s an early preview of 540-3, but should be essentially identical to version 540-2 for our purposes. Except, of course, that I’m tweaking the Eternal Flame coefficient in the post-hotfix version to simulate the new behavior.
I’m using the T15H, T16N, and T16H profiles that are already set up in SimC, with minor modifications. I set them all to use the same glyphs and talents:
Talents: Unbreakable Spirit, Light’s Hammer
Glyphs: Focused Shield / Alabaster Shield / Divine Protection
Since it’s not clear which of our level 75 talents is preferable, I decided to sim both Divine Purpose and Holy Avenger so we could compare them. After I finished the second round of simulations (post-hotfix), I realized that I should probably have included Sanctified Wrath, so I went back and ran those sims as well. I didn’t have time to revert the EF nerf and run them again to get pre-hotfix results for SW, but it probably doesn’t matter much since those results aren’t relevant going forward anyway.
Since the T15H profile uses an older action priority list, I’ve retrofitted it so that it’s using the same one that T16N and T16H use, with the addition of the Lao-Chin’s Liquid Courage /use command from the existing T16H profile. The actions for each profile are therefore:
I’ve also added another gear set, which I’m calling “T16F” because F is a fun letter and this is my blog so I can do what I want. The T16F gear set is identical to the T16N gear set, but with the 4-piece set bonus artificially turned off using the option:
This gives us a benchmark to see what gear upgrades alone do, i.e. if you used off-set pieces instead of the tier pieces. It also lets us get a clear comparison of exactly how important that tier bonus is.
All of the html results from these sims can be found here, in case you want to analyze them yourself:
Side note: I need to find a better way to host these, since clicking on one from google sites ends up downloading it rather than simply displaying it in a new tab. If anyone knows how to get that functionality from google sites in a bulk fashion (i.e. not having to set up a “New Page” for each report), please let me know. Alternatively, if anyone has a good suggestion for a different host, I’m open to other options. I may eventually just host them on sacredduty.net if that ends up being the easiest option.
In any event, here are the results in table format for easy comparison. First, the relevant stats for each of the gear sets:
|Set||STR||STA||Health||Melee Haste||Spell Haste|
Next, let’s look at the pre-hotfix results that tell us how things stood before Tuesday:
This data is pretty straightforward. The T15H gear set, which has both 2T15 and 4T15 set bonuses, clearly favored Eternal Flame by a huge margin in all configurations. It’s just grossly overpowered compared to Sacred Shield. This is consistent with what we saw in the previous post with Slootbag’s gear set, though even more pronounced. At that gear level, it seems that Divine Purpose + Eternal Flame is the best overall combination of talents for pure TMI minimization.
And that ordering continues as we increase the gear level. Note that by upgrading from T15H to T16F, we get an overall reduction in TMI, so the raw stamina gain has more than offset the loss of the set bonuses. It’s possible that a hybrid set that used only 4 pieces of double-upgraded heroic T15 would match or exceed the T16F performance, but probably not by much, if any. Either way, EF still dominates in T16F gear.
Turning on the set bonus has no significant effect on SS, but makes a fairly big difference with EF. It’s hard to tell that from these results because the TMI is so low already that the difference looks small, but remember that TMI is an exponential scale. So reducing it from 65 to 34 is similar to reducing it from ~2k to 1k; in both cases you’re getting around a factor of 2 improvement, which is around a 5% reduction in maximum spike size. I’m hoping to update SimC with a more complete T16 boss set so that we have harder-hitting bosses to pit ourselves against, but I haven’t had time yet.
The T16H data is not very illuminating, again because the TMI values are pretty small. The T16Q boss has become trivial at this point, but EF still holds a strong lead over SS, even though the absolute difference doesn’t look that large.
So all in all, this is pretty good evidence that EF was overpowered across the board. Which is basically what I said in the last post on this topic:
It feels like the 30% Sacred Shield nerf or the 40% Eternal Flame buff would have been sufficient to make the two equally valid choices in that talent tier. But the combination of both effects seems to just swap the two; rather than Sacred Shield being the hands-down, no-brainer choice that all paladins take, 5.4 just puts Eternal Flame in that spot.
So the next question you’d want to ask is whether a 25% nerf is enough to bring it back into line. So let’s look at that data:
The answer here seems to be, “not quite.” But the results are a lot closer. For the T15H and T16F gear sets the two talents on the same order of magnitude, but EF is still ahead by a factor of 4, which is about a 13% reduction in spike size. It could probably stand to be nerfed some more to bring the two into line with one another.
That said, the results are close enough that you could feasibly choose either one, especially if the encounter gives you reason to prefer absorbs more than usual. I still think EF is a solid default pick here, but you won’t be gimping yourself too badly by using SS. While this is assuming perfect play, but very simple EF usage (refresh whenever BoG > 3 stacks and remaining duration is less than 2 seconds), so the EF results aren’t that strongly dependent on player skill in this case. A skilled player may be able to make even more effective use of EF in practice by timing it to react to damage rather than blindly refreshing.
Regardless, once 4T16 enters the mix, EF pulls solidly ahead again. The T16N/H gear sets show the same clear preference for EF that we saw in the pre-hotfix data.
Yesterday I tweeted that SS might have a slight advantage in the absence of 4T16. After looking at the results more closely, though, I realized I had left a stray “emergency EF” conditional in the action priority list, which was artificially making the EF results worse. If you recall from the post where we looked at Sloot’s character, these sorts of emergency WoG conditions were always a net loss in TMI (as in, they made you more susceptible to spikes, not less!). They also hit EF harder than SS because you’re not just voiding 3 seconds of Shield of the Righteous coverage, you’re also over-writing a strong EF with a weaker one. With that stray conditional, EF was slightly behind SS; removing it put us back in the situation we see in this data.
So, in short, EF is still very, very good, even after a 25% nerf. Arguably still your go-to talent in that tier, and definitely your go-to talent once you get 4 pieces of T16 gear. While SS still lags, the gap has narrowed enough that it’s at least a reasonable alternative, if not on equal footing. At the risk of giving anyone at Blizzard any ideas, they’re going to have to nerf EF harder if they want the two to be almost equal in performance for tanks.
Narrowing the gap has certainly made it more likely that SS would excel on a boss-by-boss basis, though. As we mentioned last time, a boss that tests instantaneous effective health (ala Talon Rake) might still favor SS, and that’s even more true now that it’s not so far behind. Though honestly I can’t think of many (any?) in normal-mode T16 encounters. In fact, I ran with EF for every fight this week, with one exception: Paragons of the Klaxxi. And that was a special case due to the particular boss I was tanking (Rik’kal – I found that juggling holy power for EF was more of a pain than usual when SotR had to be up on every Injection, so I went with the passive, no-HP-cost talent option).
I could imagine using it for heroic Immerseus…. but I didn’t. And as we saw at the beginning of this post, heroic Fallen Protectors wasn’t threatening enough to make me want to wear the tanking cloak, let alone worry about which talent was best. I have heard that some of the later heroic bosses are hitting tanks for 700k under certain circumstances, which may end up being a situation where Sacred Shield thrives.
The other conclusion I came to from this is that I really need to finish the automation scripts I’ve been working on. Hand-editing and running each of those sim configurations one at a time is a giant pain in the ass.