Gear Check: Tanking Must-Haves and First Grabs

Making people merry, one blog post at a time

One thing that is always daunting for the majority of PvE content is gearing up — and our effectiveness being 50% dependent on that gear. Mention that only one or two pieces drop in a single dungeon, and it makes a new tank just a tad hesitant to move into a full-time job.

Tanking doesn’t have end-all, be-all rules and guidelines that other roles must strictly follow. It’s one of the more forgiving archetypes to play (as long as you’re able to get the job done, of course).

The most favorable stats are different depending on your class, such as Druids having little to no use for Parry.

I won’t proclaim to be an expert at this point, especially since  Tanking stat priority is still heavily disputed in the community right now as to what’s most favorable, but prevailing theories claim the following:

Warriors: Stam > Parry > Dodge = Mastery > Hit = Expertise

Druids: Stam > Agil = Dodge > Mastery = Hit = Expertise

Paladins: Stam > Parry = Dodge = Mastery > Hit = Expertise

Death Knights: Stam > Mastery > Dodge = Parry > Hit = Expertise

I list Stamina on top for every class, because personal experience dictates that stacking it is the most reliable way to provide effective mitigation, giving more time for healers to launch their spells. It also relies less on the Random Number Generator.

Example 1

Boss is hitting for 25k every 3 seconds, and you have 175k. That gives the healer 21 seconds to get at least one heal off.


Example 2

Boss is hitting for 25k every 3 seconds, and you have 120k HP. That gives the healer just under 12 seconds to get some sort of heal off.

Read on to see my final analysis of Tanking stats and a full list of gear that will put you over the threshold and into Heroics, to then have fun progressing there!

What good does high Stam do if we’re not being attacked because we can’t generate enough threat due to not hitting our target? We need to be Hit/Expertise capped. With blizzard’s new built-in stat UI, it’s easy to tell whether you currently are or not.

For avoidance, it’s based on what your class uses. Death knights are privy to Dodge over Parry because Dodge gains more % per point than Parry does. Druids don’t use parry because they can’t, and Warriors and Paladins are pretty balanced.

Mastery is heavy, but it’s on just about every piece of gear, as of late I’ve been reforging from Mastery for Hit, and I’m still around 35% Block (which my Mastery affects).

Rule of Thumb #1: If it has 2 Stats that are more favorable on a piece, while you lose 1-3 less favorable, it’s an upgrade.

Rule of Thumb #2: When obtaining gear (crafted, via Justice Points, or otherwise), first buy what is the biggest upgrade.

Rule of Thumb #3: Socket in color. The socket bonuses are normally Mastery or Stam, and a lot of it. Blue sockets should be pure Stam, and others use mixed or pure, depending on what you need  (such as Hit/Expertise if you’re under the cap).

With Cataclysm bringing six new factions to the table, it’s hard to pick which one to start earning reputation with first when each has something to offer. I’ve listed them in top priority – to me – with a few others to give you some decisions.

  1. Helm / Shoulder Enchants
  2. Epic Cloak (you won’t replace until raiding – might as well get it now)
  3. Epic Bracers (easier to upgrade in regulars / questing / crafting than cloaks, but still should get soon because you won’t replace them until raiding)
  4. Epic Boots (less uncommon than bracers – but you still won’t replace them until raiding)

Neither Baradin’s Wardens (Alliance) or Hellscream’s Reach (Horde) have items for Warrior and Paladin tanks. Death Knights might want to look at Blade of the Fearless (Both) and Druids the Spear of Trailing Shadows (Both)

Now for the annoying part, actually farming the gear. All items that drop in both Throne of the Tides and Blackrock Caverns are replaced by the other regulars, so it’s a waste of time to farm those. Listed below are items from the more viable dungeons, with their respective iLvls and slot types trailing. If you need help finding the dungeons first, check here.

Now that you have all that farming done — or if you still have some holes to fill — hopefully you’ve earned enough Justice Points to get something. Remember when deciding what to get to stick to Rule of Thumb #2. Don’t worry about spending them, just about all of them are BiS out of raids, so if you stick with the Rule of Thumb, you’ll be in good shape. Here’s the list below, first for Plate, then Druids.

Here are the locations: (Alliance/Horde)

  1. Warrior / Paladin / Death Knight
  2. Druid

These don’t fill every slot, but they sure to fill near most of them! As iTZKooPA mentioned, make sure to do all those quest chains, they offer some high-end gear. Warriors and Paladins might want to complete the Hero’s Call:Twilight Highlands! / You Say You Want a Revolution Quest chain for Truthbreaker Shield / Twilight Mirrorshield because I didn’t replace it until I got Shield of the Iron Maiden.

Hope this helps the rest of you tanks busy gearing up out there!


  1. finally! Someone posting a gearing up guide for tanks. Thank you Mordil! I imagine that gearing up for raids means hitting/getting the Heroic versions of the above mentioned gear?

  2. I think that’s how it goes for most classes, as there is really no other way to further increase your ilevel once you’ve gotten the best out of the options presented above. I wouldn’t say you need a perfect Heroic set to get into raiding, but it certainly helps to have as many pieces as possible.

  3. I slightly disagree with the Hit/Expertise priority.

    I’m fine with a tank who doesn’t have a lot of HP as I can usually heal through that, but when a DPS is generating more threat than the tank and all the mobs start running around, then I get pissed.

    I know for a fact that having a good amount of Hit/Expertise is a MUST for raiding, but it’s also a really good stat for Heroics.

  4. i would like to add one thing Mordil. i would place Mastery above dodge/parry for a pally. since our mastery increases our dodge chance exponentially.

  5. @Kyndranigar

    I haven’t looked at the stats from Heroic Blackrock Caverns, Throne of the Tides, Shadowfang Keep, or Deadmines versus what I mentioned above. I think generally those four can fill in upgrades from regulars, until you get the heroic versions mentioned here. These are the best (heroic version) pieces of gear you will get (aside from other crafted / BoE Epic / Tier 11) gear you will get outside of raids.


    I didn’t mean that you shouldn’t worry about it – sorry if that was mislead. As I stated, the first thing stat-wise one should worry about is Hit/Expertise. You need to hit, or be near that mark, before you stop gemming for them / reforging / looking at them as an upgrade stat.


    A Paladin’s Mastery does not affect dodge from what I see here: Divine Bulwark. I could always be wrong.

    It’s just from what I see from them, looking at everything raw, they’re pretty balanced when it comes to avoidance stats.

    Again, this is just to get you ready for heroics, and I do not proclaim this is 100% correct nor that I know 150% of what I’m talking about.

    Feel free to continue to discuss and dispute, and I’ll do the same to reply with my stand and why I say what I do. This is the fun part of blogging!

  6. oh snap, i totally posted that wrong,lol. my bad your right it doesnt affect dodge, but makes us alot more likely to block than say a warrior. but they major downside is we have to stack a sh**-ton of mastery to really see any benefit. its there, but in small increments.

  7. the gear guide is pretty much on point from what i see. but all tanks, cept warriors will beneifit from the tanking relic.

  8. Critical Block for Protection Warriors.

    I’m sitting at 38.98% with 834 Rating (12.65) and I’m reforging from Mastery into Hit / Expertise. Mastery, again, is on a ton of items, with obtuse amounts of it.

    The thing with avoidance, is that even though we’re at around 12%-15% on Parry / Dodge (unless you’re stacking as a specific class), we will have our avoidance increase overall back to the 20-25% range each as we gear up into higher tiers.

  9. oh yeah def. im sitting at around 40% block with about 15-18% dodge/parry. now im not 85 yet so i havent even begun to reforge for hit/expertese. but i do agree with that even with the low end gear i have now, it has a crazy amount of mastery on it. almost too much i think.

  10. Dodge still goes above parry as parry, while now improved still only mitigates 50% of oncoming damage from 2 attacks and only begins DR after that point, while dodge mitigates 100% of the damage and immediately hit’s it DR. Granted it is now a vastly improved tanking stat from it’s predecessor.

    And Expertise does not equal hit. Both cap’s must/should be reached as soon as possible. However there isn’t enough hit based gem’s or gear currently in game (outside of the highest teir gear that is) that posses that. So stick to reforging Hit/Exp from Mastery>Parry>Dodge, and check for stam/hit/exp gem combos. I currently only sit at 5% chance to miss a hit on the highest level mob and have No threat issues.

  11. Well, when I put [Stat 1] = [Stat 2] it’s that it means they’re of equal priority on that level of priority…

    If you know what I mean.

  12. @Nextgener

    There’s quite a bit of dodge on our gear, and along with mastery, so there’s not much need to socket / reforge for dodge, unless it’s in color and you’re less than 11%.

    Especially when you use combo trinkets like:

    Leaden Despair with Throngus’s Finger

    That combo is my recommendation for both Paladin’s and Warriors, and maybe DKs if they would agree with me (I’m not sure if it’ll work vs. other combos).

    At least for this tier of Cataclysm, because there’s epic versions of those type of trinkets in raids.

  13. I jsut stumbled onto your site at work today, and I’m very happy I did.
    My to-do list when I get home is off the charts, thank you.

    I also would like some priority based on my gear. I seem to be going wrong on my gear choices and reforging/gemming.

    I’m not holding threat and my stam is too low.

    2 strikes and I’m kicked from the party, sometimes before we even kick off.
    I cannot access my armoury to link, but it’s

    I’m in desperate need of some criticism and direction.

    character name: Glockta
    real name: Gorefiend

  14. @Glockta

    I can’t check Armory right now, but right off the start in regards to threat: Are you missing, or being dodged / parried? That’s normally the issue with threat. Past that it’s rotation, and past that is DPS not giving you enough time or not Misdirecting / Tricks of the Trade to you.

    Hope that little tid-bit helps, I’ll give more when I can check Armory.

    If you need more help, e-mail me at:


    and if you need help in-game, add my real id:


  15. I’ve stumbled across some numbers for capping and I am curious if they are flat out wrong.

    block cap = 102% avoidance + block (impossible to reach with current gear)
    hit cap: 8% (961 rating)
    expertise: 26 to 56

    Last night I tweaked a bit and cued for Grim Batol. The healer told me to put my tanking gear on. (I have 130k health unbuffed. At this tier, in the current 333 gear, is that typical?)

    We did JUST. FINE. and it was a good time, and threat was no issue.

    Thanks Mordil

  16. @Glockta

    I still haven’t looked at your Armory page, but from all the information you’re saying; it’s just because you’re not “geared”.

    Around 130k HP was where I was around when I first got into Heroics. If you’re in 333 gear, then I’m not surprised. Don’t worry – it’ll go up in time. Just make sure you’re getting those faction reward Epics, crafted epics (if you can afford / create / can overall) and save up your points for the Justice Points and/or Valor Point vendor rewards.

    I wouldn’t stack Mastery / Block only because there’s already a high amount of it on, and we still have other talents / trinkets that proc and work because of Parry and Dodge. (I’m assuming you’re a warrior)

    Again, feel free to ask more questions or have any answers clarified – I’m really happy to be of help.

  17. Looking at your gear now, Glockta, the only advice besides hanging in there for those upgrades:

    Really go after those rep rewards. Starting with The Earthen Ring perhaps, or in order like I said – they’re a huge help.

    The only… “gripes” I have with your gear is perhaps your gun, Sword, bracers, Impetuous Query, and your boots. I know it may not be necessarily possible to upgrade those, but you really should get the gear with parry/mastery/dodge (combination of those) instead of STR / Crit / Hit / Mastery etc. because those are Plate DPS items.

    Past that, it really is the issue of this expansion: You have to be geared, or you can’t do it. Just hang in there; you’ll get there eventually.


  18. Thanks Mordil,

    I’ve been grinding guildies thru regs to gear them up and get my points/rep for gear.

    Thanks for checking out my set-up and the advice as well.

    I’m thinkinging while I wait, I’m gonna get a DK to 85 for some PvP action.

  19. Mordil,

    175k health vs 120k health? That’s not even a heroic geared tank…175k vs 150k is a more viable option. Stam does not, and has never made THAT big of a difference, ever.

    As of right now, mastery is the way to go for warriors, and honestly always has been. Now, stam stacking might be a viable option, but unless you have the mitigation to back that stam up, there is absolutely no point in stam stacking. Your theories are incorrect, your assuming that the boss is going to be hitting you for the same amount of damage between the two setups, but this is wrong. Let’s say this, boss hits tank 1 for 25k every 3 seconds, tank 1 has 185k health, but only about 30% block rating and 13%-15% dodge/parry due to stam stacking. That lost mitigation is INCREASING the damage done to the tank, therefore it completely voids all of that stamina you worked so hard for.

    Now example 2, boss hits tank 2 for 18.5k every 3 seconds, tank 2 has 165k health, and 45% block, 17-19% dodge/parry. The reason tank 2 is getting hit for much less is because of that mitigation. Now, I’m aware that these are very close numbers when compared, but what I’m ultimately saying is that it comes down to a matter of choice. Sure, stam gives you the idea that you can last longer, but what most don’t realize is that if you are at the mercy of the boss. If that boss hits you for 45k on tank 1, more than about 3 times and your healer isnt ready, your dead, simple as that because you couldnt mitigate that damage. Whereas the tank who has gemmed and enchanted for mitigation and gone for gear with mitigation is only going to tank about 65% of that damage because he dodges/blocks alot more than the stam stacked tank. Just some food for thought.

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