Once again, we’re on the eve of a new expansion. Tonight, many of you will be logging in and starting the grind from 90 to 100. For the first time in a long time, many of you will actually be doing it in protection spec. But regardless of how you get there, at some point you’ll hit level 100 and want to know how to optimize yourself for raids.
When patch 6.0 dropped on live servers, I posted a Survival Guide focused on what has changed at level 90. This post is the complement to that, containing details on how things change at level 100. Some things are obviously the same, like the stat squish and changes to abilities, so I won’t be going over them again. I’m only going to talk about things that I either haven’t covered in that post, or have changed significantly from level 90 to 100.
Level 100 Talents
You may recall that I made a qualitative post about our level 100 talents a little more than a month ago. Now let’s look at them qualitatively. Below are the results of a multi-actor simulation containing a bunch of paladins with slightly different L75 and L100 talents. The specs should be easily inferred from the names, but there are a few minor tweaks I should explain.
Empowered Seals gives you a fairly wide range of options. For example, you can sit in Seal of Insight for maximum survivability, or you can ignore Insight and twist Truth and Righteousness for maximum DPS. Twisting all three seals gives you a middle-of-the-road option, which is what the default APL is set up to do. So to give a proper representation of Empowered Seals, I’ve added “_DPS” and “_SUR” actors. The “_DPS” actor twists Truth and Righteousness to maximize DPS, and the “_SUR” actor just sits in Seal of Insight to get maximum survivability.
However, that’s also not terribly fair to Seraphim and Holy Shield. After all, you could swap to Seal of Truth while using either of those talents for a significant DPS boost. So to show that, I’ve added two “_SoT” actors which use Seal of Truth, but are otherwise identical to their companion actor (e.g. SS_SW_Sera_SoT is identical SS_SW_Sera except for using Seal of Truth).
With that out of the way, let’s look at the data.
Holy Shield performs pretty well in these sims. It gives the best baseline survivability of the three by a slim margin. “Survival mode” Empowered Seals can match it, but at a hefty cost of around 3000 DPS. That said, it lags in single-target damage a bit compared to either of the other two options. It will lag even further if you spend time not actively tanking things.
Seraphim performs very well. With Seal of Insight, it produces higher DPS than the other talents (including the default Empowered Seals APL) at a small TMI cost (around 3k). With Seal of Truth active, it’s the flat-out highest DPS talent available. And the on/off nature of the buff can make it strong for tank swaps, provided the timing is right.
I think the balancing of these two talents is pretty solid. Neither is head and shoulders above the other, and both perform close enough to one another that they’re both perfectly viable. Seraphim gives you a little DPS edge when played perfectly, and gives you more control over when you get that DPS, but takes more concentration and makes you a little squishier while the Seraphim buff isn’t active.
Empowered Seals though… well, in short it just doesn’t keep up. It’s versatile, but that versatility doesn’t seem to pay major dividends. You can sit in “survival mode” at a large DPS cost, but your survival is no better than if you took Holy Shield. Likewise, you can sit in “DPS mode,” but you’re actually about 1k DPS behind using Seal of Truth with Seraphim.
The benefit is supposedly that you can do this all within a single encounter, without changing specs. But I think you’re probably actually better off with Holy Shield in that situation. Switching to “survival mode” costs you a large chunk of DPS compared to either of the other talents, but while in “dps mode” you’re only about 1000 DPS ahead of Holy Shield with Seal of Truth active. Unless you spend about 2/3 of the fight in “dps mode” and only 1/3 in “survival mode,” you’ll actually produce more DPS and have better survivability by just taking Holy Shield and swapping from Seal of Insight to Seal of Truth based on what you care about at the moment.
In other words… Holy Shield does seal twisting better than the “seal twisting” talent does.
The other thing I should mention is how each talent performs in AoE situations. In short, Holy Shield excels here as well. With as few as two targets, it’s nearly caught up with Seraphim in DPS and out-performs everything else for survivability. For three or more targets, it just plain dominates in both DPS and TMI. I won’t belabor that point with loads of plots, but if you’re curious here are some sims with two, three, and four targets so you can see for yourself:
So, with that said, my advice regarding level 100 talents is:
Take Holy Shield or Seraphim.
Holy Shield will be a solid choice on most encounters, especially cases where you have to tank multiple targets at once, and has the benefit of taking literally no attention away from the encounter. This makes it a perfect choice for learning a new boss fight, since you can pay more attention to the encounter mechanics that you need to learn rather than micromanaging your rotation.
Once you have the mechanics down, you may decide to shift gears to take Seraphim if the encounter suits it. It gives you better burst DPS, and more control over the timing of that DPS. Be aware, however, that the longer you delay Seraphim, the less effective it is. The DPS gains may disappear if you’re not casting it at regular 15-second intervals, so this talent is much more susceptible to sloppy play or mismanaged timings.
Also remember that you’re most vulnerable in the ~5 seconds before you re-apply Seraphim, because you need to be pooling Holy Power during that period to recast it. This is a good time to use Divine Protection, especially with Unbreakable Spirit talented. Another trick you can use is to sit on a Divine Purpose proc and consume it during that 5-second window, since you can’t use it for Seraphim anyway.
If you really enjoy seal twisting, it doesn’t hurt much to take Empowered Seals. It just isn’t really overly strong in any particular category, and it’s hard to justify the extra attention required to maintain multiple seal buffs. I could see this talent being more effective if we had a much emptier rotation, like some of the other tank classes now have. But without culling some of our rotational spells, that just isn’t going to happen.
You’ll note that I only used Sacred Shield in these sims. You can see the version with Selfless Healer and Eternal Flame included here. It doesn’t really add anything though – EF and SH are uniformly worse for TMI, and the small DPS gains that you achieve by not spending GCDs refreshing Sacred Shield aren’t really worth it.
One of the big changes is in our stat priorities. If you recall from the Survival Guide, at level 90 mastery was king, with bonus armor right behind it, and then versatility, haste, and critical strike rating trailing a little behind. The gap between the stats was not that large though, and even the lowest stat (crit) was still 2/3 the value of mastery.
All of that changes at level 100 though. Ten levels and a bunch of gear upgrades make a pretty big difference, but there are plenty of other factors that affect the stat weights as well. For example, at level 90 it took 20 haste rating to increase your haste by 1%, compared to 23 rating for crit or mastery. At level 100, it’s now 100 haste rating vs. 110 crit or mastery rating, which should weaken haste relative to the other two stats.
Level 100 talents can also have a fairly significant effect. Holy Shield favors mastery slightly because you’re blocking spells now, and the reactive damage adds to mastery’s DPS contribution. Seraphim and Empowered Seals will likewise favor certain stats more than others.
Finally, the gear set we use can make a difference. The T17H profiles, which use Holy Shield, have been optimized around that choice and heavily favor mastery. So to start with, let’s look at that situation. Below are scale factors calculated using the T17H profile against a T17M TMI boss:
Let’s analyze these results in a little more detail.
- Bonus Armor is head and shoulders above everything else in this sim. It’s just flat-out awesome, giving solid effective health against physical attacks and increased healing by increasing your attack power.
- Stamina and Strength are also strong. Stamina’s value is obviously dependent on how much you have and how willing you are to trade survivability for DPS, so YMMV there. Strength performs well thanks to granting a combination of AP and parry.
- Mastery commands a solid lead over the remaining secondary stats. Unlike at level 90, where it had several stats nipping at its heels, the next closest secondary stat is nearly a full 30% weaker. That said, this sim is using Holy Shield, which makes mastery a little stronger than usual.
- Crit and Versatility are roughly tied for the next place. The order in which these two show up depends a lot on the specifics of your gear, though I think that versatility tends to be a little stronger overall. This is one of those things you’ll just have to sim for yourself if you want more accuracy for your own character.
- Multistrike and Haste bring up the rear, with multistrike generally leading haste. Also note that this is a solo sim, so the effect of Shining Protector is underrepresented compared to a real situation. How much is one of those subjective questions that is hard to answer.
In summary, at level 100 the stat priority for survival seems to be
Bonus Armor > STR > Mastery > Versatility / Crit > Multistrike > Haste
I’ve left off armor and stamina since they’re not something we can actively choose in most cases, but the numerical values are there in case you want them.
In addition, note that the gear set I’m using here is already heavily biased towards mastery. In other words, even in a high-mastery gear set, stacking mastery instead of other secondary stats is a solid bet for survivability. At level 90, haste had finally managed to catch up to mastery once you stacked 55%-60% of it. It’s possible we will once we have T18+ gear and higher mastery percentages, but we’re not there yet in T17.
This is only half of the story though. Those are stat weights for TMI, but we also produce respectable DPS now, so in Warlords raids we may very well care about how each stat affects DPS. Those stat weights are below:
The obvious take-away here is that strength and bonus armor are great. They’re also two of our best TMI stats, which is convenient. With Holy Shield selected, mastery gets a slight edge over versatility, haste, multistrike, and crit, but they’re all pretty close to one another. Obviously stamina and armor provide no DPS contribution, hence they come out as zero (or close enough to it, within error) in this plot.
So to summarize, at level 100, the stat priority for DPS is
Strength > Bonus Armor >> Mastery > Versatility / Haste / Multistrike / Crit
I would be remiss if I didn’t address some of the earlier disclaimers I threw at you. For example, I mentioned that the choice of level 100 talent can affect the stat weights. Here’s what you get if you take this profile and swap Holy Shield out for Empowered Seals or Seraphim:
On the Empowered Seals plot, mastery drops a bit compared to armor, as does strength. But both still command a healthy lead over the remaining secondary stats. Versatility swaps places with crit, but otherwise the order is basically unchanged.
Seraphim works a little differently, in that mastery’s value drops, falling in line with the other secondaries. There’s a fairly good reason for this, which I mentioned a little earlier in the post. While Seraphim is up, you’re in very little danger, because you have lots of excess stats. But your most vulnerable time is the 5-second window right before you recast Seraphim, while you’re pooling holy power. That’s where your big spikes come, and unfortunately, that’s a period you are almost never covering with Shield of the Righteous, taking a lot of the wind out of mastery’s sails. We’re also simming with a very mastery-heavy gear set, which further reduces mastery’s value.
If we take these stat weights and re-optimize the gear set somewhat, we get completely different stat weights:
Suddenly haste is back in the spotlight! How does that even work?
This highlights one of the major problems with calculating stat weights. This sort of calculation is based off of the assumption of linearity. In other words, we assume that the increase due to each stat is extremely linear, such that our quick sampling accurately reveals the overall trend.
Unfortunately, that assumption of linearity isn’t always very good. One way to test it is to use one of SimC’s other features, called scaling plots. This sim takes longer, but generates a graph showing how your TMI changes over a range of values. To illustrate that thought, let’s look at the scaling plots for Holy Shield and Empowered Seals:
Since we’re looking at TMI, the stat that has the largest negative slope on these plots is the best, because it reduces TMI by the most per point. Both of these plots tell the same story that the scale factor bar plots did: bonus armor is far and away the best stat, followed by mastery, and then followed by the other secondary stats, which all clump together.
However, this is what the Seraphim plot looks like:
Kind of crazy! We see some of the features shown on the scale factor bar plots. Bonus armor is still awesome, and mastery is now back in the clump of other secondary stats. But the haste plot is all over the place, making it tough to trust values generated from just a single scale factor simulation.
What’s happening here is that we’re hitting haste breakpoints with Seraphim. It’s a little complicated, because it’s a mix of interactions due to the rigid 15-second cycle, the reduction of the GCD, the 5-second lockout period during which we pool HP, and a few other factors. I think that in practice, none of this is worth worrying about, as a real player will make enough errors to smooth this curve out.
What you should take away from this graph is that despite haste being much less linear than the others, over the course of the graph it doesn’t actually outperform the other secondary stats. Haste might sim above or below the other secondaries in any single scale factor simulation, but on average it just oscillates around the others as you increase the amount of haste you have. Here’s the associated plot from the alternate gear set, showing the same effect. So in practice, I think that the secondary stat weights for Seraphim should probably just be “Bonus Armor > everything else,” possibly with a slight bias towards versatility and crit since those do seem to consistently outperform mastery and multistrike.
Finally, it may be worth talking briefly about the DPS stat weights for Seraphim and Empowered Seals. There isn’t a lot of difference, but here are the plots:
As you can see, both Empowered Seals and Seraphim favor haste, crit, and multistrike a little in terms of DPS. That said, again, we’re in a mastery-heavy set, so this is sort of expected.
With all of that in mind, I recommend you follow the survivability priority we came up with for Holy Shield. Strength and bonus armor don’t generally compete for itemization, so you’ll still be maximizing both of those regardless of which you choose. Mastery is your next-best stat in both as well. For the remainder, the small differences in stat value really aren’t going to make or break your performance. If you want a quick-and-dirty rule of thumb, it would be:
Bonus Armor > Strength > Mastery > everything else
If you’re using Seraphim or Empowered Seals and want to eke out some more DPS, you can shift itemization into haste, multistrike, and crit and de-emphasize mastery, but the DPS gain isn’t going to be that great.
Now that we have stat weights, let’s talk about how this affects our gearing.
The stat weight results have some important, if subtle, implications for how we gear.
First, note that most of the time we aren’t going to be making tough decisions between gearing for DPS or gearing for survivability. Higher-ilvl gear has more of everything, but most importantly it has higher strength, stamina and armor. This means that a higher-ilvl piece will almost always be preferable to lower-ilvl piece because of the innate defensive boost from stamina and armor, and the boost to everything from strength.
Secondary stats are all similar for DPS, so we can almost ignore that aspect and select pieces based on which gives better defensive bonuses. In general, that means taking pieces with mastery on them, but again, it will usually still be a gain to take a higher-ilvl piece without mastery than a lower-ilvl piece with mastery just due to the huge value of strength, stamina, and armor.
I say almost above because it’s clear that bonus armor is an outlier here. It’s got a massive lead in both departments. There’s almost no reason you should ever pass up a bonus armor item as a result. Even a lower-ilvl item with bonus armor can trump a higher-ilvl piece without it. Bonus armor is the one stat you should be drooling over and hoarding. Luckily, only other tanks will want that gear, so competition should be low.
This manifests itself quite noticeably in one particular slot: trinkets. About a week ago, I ran a fairly comprehensive set of tests for the trinkets in tier 17, first individually and then in combinations. The two plots that most clearly summarize these results are below:
The top few DPS trinkets are either strength (Horn of Screaming Spirits, Tectus’ Beating Heart, Forgemaster’s Insignia) or bonus armor (Evergaze Arcane Eidolon, Blast Furnace Door, Tablet of Turnbuckle Teamwork). The top few TMI trinkets are stamina trinkets (Pillar of the Earth, Petrified Flesh-Eating Spore, Battering Talisman), but they’re followed closely by the bonus armor trinkets (BFD, EAE, and Pol’s Blinded Eye) and strength trinkets (HoSS, Bottle of Infesting Spores).
This is a bit of a departure from what we’re used to. For the first time in a long time (at least for 25-man raiding), there isn’t a huge survivability gain to be had from stamina trinkets. They’re a little better than bonus armor and strength trinkets, but only barely – and they come with a pretty hefty DPS loss. As a result, I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t bother using stamina trinkets at all this tier.
Of course, the usual disclaimers apply. This sim is only one potential scenario, a TMI boss that does ~75% physical damage, etc. Stamina may shine in an encounter with a lot of magic damage and so on. But bonus armor has really taken a serious run at stamina here, because it provides all the effective-health goodness that stamina does (at least, against physical attacks), but also gives us a lot of DPS.
In fact, the bonus armor trinkets are the ones that really shine here. The combination of Blast Furnace Door and Evergaze Arcane Eidolon give you nearly the best DPS possible and almost match the TMI you get with stamina trinkets. If you look at the sim with trinket pairs, you’ll see that the only way to improve DPS over the BFD+EAE combination is to pair a bonus armor trinket with a Horn of Screaming Spirits, and the gain is only about 100 dps. The only way to beat BFD+EAE in TMI is to replace one or both with stamina trinkets, for at best a reduction of about 2k TMI.
Obviously you’ll take what drops as it comes and adjust accordingly, but it seems clear that the two trinkets we’ll value most highly are BFD and EAE. And again, as bonus armor trinkets, you won’t be competing for them with your plate DPS guild-mates. It won’t hurt to keep a spare stamina trinket or Horn of Screaming Spirits in your bags to customize your load-out to the fight, but in all likelihood the BFD+EAE combination will be your go-to trinket setup for the entire tier, provided you can get your hands on them.
There’s one last gearing point to discuss, and that’s tier bonuses. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to say yet. Preliminary work suggests that both tier bonuses are worth getting, despite the fact that our tier isn’t heavily mastery-itemized. But I haven’t had time to do an exhaustive comparison here, and frankly, that sort of comparison won’t be relevant for at least a month or more thanks to the fact that the Highmaul raid doesn’t drop tier tokens. By the time we actually have access to them, I’ll have results to share. So expect a follow-up blog post on that topic.
Harsh Words > Alabaster Shield > Double Jeopardy (2T+) > Focused Shield (1T) > Final Wrath
This is with Holy Shield selected, which gives Alabaster Shield a boost (thanks to Holy Shield). It’s also using Divine Purpose, so Final Wrath may get a little stronger if you take Sanctified Wrath, but probably not enough to catch up to the next two choices (it’s behind by 300-some DPS). Note that you only get a benefit from Double Jeopardy if you’re properly cycling targets the whole time, and Focused Shield is a flat-out DPS loss whenever you can cleave to 2+ targets.
The only other thing to mention is that while Immediate Truth is a DPS loss against bosses, it could be useful while leveling. The difference in DPS is small enough that it’s almost certainly a DPS gain if the target doesn’t live long enough to build up a 5-stack of Censure, which is pretty common while leveling. So you may want to consider using that if you’re leveling with Seal of Truth active.
Not much has changed here, though I did add a Seraphim cooldown icon. I hope. I forgot to do it on beta, so I had to do it on live, which means I obviously can’t test it. But I will as soon as I get to 100, and it’s a simple icon so it should just work assuming I got the right spell id.
Here’s what they look like:
As I said last time, I removed a lot of the useless stuff. While I’m not using a Resolve bar, somebody asked for one, so you can find it on the WeakAuras page.
That’s pretty much all I have for you today. But I’ve been pretty busy lately, so it’s possible that I’ve forgotten something. Or that you might want to know more about something I mentioned, or maybe something I didn’t mention. So I’ll try to be around most of today to answer any questions you post in the comments.