Wisdom of the Elders: Clerics from top progression guilds talking about cleric tanking in 1.6

December 13, 2011

This guide is co-owned and first released on


Hello everyone, this is the 2nd installment of my interview series talking with clerics from top progression guilds about cleric issues. In our first installment, we talked about cleric DPS in a raid setting. You can see that interview here or here.  Shortly after,  we received a 25% boost to our single target DPS through the usage of Mien of Aggression. The push for more cleric single target DPS was a collective effort by the cleric community and some clerics were so passionate about the issue that they ended up being temporarily suspended on the forums for a few days.

The idea of this interview series, like the previous one, was to give you an idea of tanking issues from the perspectives of clerics from the top progression guild.  Keep in mind that these opinions are that of their own and do not represent the opinions of their guild.  I am also hoping that I could get the developers at Trion to read it, in case they are confused about what the key issues the clerics are facing due to the amount of differing feedback they get everyday.

There are two clerics tanking changes you need to keep in mind. The first was a rather big change to the Justicars with patch 1.6. Essentially, we had one of our abilities, Shield of Faith, which reduces the amount of damage we receive, nerfed from 15% damage reduction to 10% damage reduction with 5/5 point allocation. To counter the nerf, there was also a change to Thorvin’s Law, essentially rewarding heavy investments in Justicar soul in return for more magical and physical mitigation.  Interestingly, 1.6 also introduced significant overhealing threat generation with Mien of Leadership to solve our aggro issues. However, this was rather buggy and did not work as expected. Thankfully, with 1.6.1 patch, we finally received a fix to this issue and now overhealing is working as intended for aggro generation.

Anyways, lets get to the interview!

Like last time, there are 10 questions and 3 participants. There are:

Quietmode, cleric tank from <Voodoo>

Radak, also known as Alovnek, author of the famous Justicar tanking guides.

Xitan, cleric tank from <Maximation>, also hosts a streaming channel here (justin.tv)

1. Can you give us a little background about yourself as a cleric tank?

Quietmode: My gaming history begins in 1999 but my Tanking history doesnt start until World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade. I was a Paladin tank originally in wow and tanked for my last 4-5years of WoW before joining rift. When i first read about Justicar tanks, i immediately fell in love. A healing based tank was always what i wanted my paladin to be. I played my paladin tank using my healing support as much as possible, utilizing any and all heals possible under specific cirumstances.

I started Pre-release as a Cleric with the intention of tanking and bought my 2nd role as soon as possible to be my justicar role. I accomplished server first runs as the tank for almost every normal dungeon while leveling up. I successfully tanked most T1/T2 in the first weeks of 50 even though i felt inferior to warrior tanks. (Greg in DSM T2 was near impossible without 2 healers on a cleric tank). I was really excited to hop into Tanking for GSB when we got a group together, but we were pushed behind rogues and warriors on tanking because of the high magic damage on many fights. I was fine with being pushed back because clerics were top 3 dps in most fights with the 31/11/24 spec. I still was the 3rd tanking option on most fights requiring tanks (Herald, hylas, Alsbeth). Tanking in HK went fine since we had our little niche in physical tanking.

Radak: Lets see here I originally started tanking on my dual wielding Death Knight alt in World of Warcraft and tanked most raids there (only on normal since I would join alt raids). The idea of a alternate tank was something that I liked and after I became bored of wow and found rift, this was something I wanted to continue.

I started tanking on my cleric around beta 5 at which time tanking as a cleric was a whole lot different and Convictions felt much more like combo points and you would have to juggle them around. During beta 6 and 7 I continued tanking on my cleric and I was able to tank all instances at that time (max level at end of beta 7 was 42). At that time cleric tanking was a whole lot more challenging then it is now and this is kind of a disappointment for me.

When the game released I leveled my cleric from 0 to 50 fully using a tank build and since I was one of the fastest levelers I was one of the few tanks around. As a result when people where looking for tanks in general chat I would almost always be taken. When I reached 50 there we only 2 others in my guild that had reached level 50 yet. As a result I started raiding with a different guild where me and another cleric tank where the 2 main tanks for the first 3 raids (after that the other cleric tank dissapeared and was replaced by a warrior). At the same time I joined that guild as still not anyone else had reached level 50 in my original guild.

Xitan: Hi my name is Xitan, I’ve been playing online games for roughly 12 years. I am a competitive person by nature and have a specific draw to MMO’s. In general I try to stay out of the spotlight and low key because I have a hard time communicating my theories and opinions. Unfortunately my ambition to stay out of the spotlight doesn’t stop me from getting noticed, such as when I got banned in AoC, just search “xitan age of conan” and you can see why.

My style of play is attrition which is part of the reason I enjoy healing classes. I’ve been playing healing classes for as long as I can remember, and really enjoy treating MMO’s as a second job. I take pride in my theory crafting and thinking outside of the box, often I go against the grain and common practice to find a way to make things work best for me.

Within the first two weeks of Rift I had the urge to do more then the normal healing role I typically play. One of the Clerics I did not get along very well with told me I could never tank as a Cleric in Rift. From then on out I became intrigued with the idea and started my research and path to become the mainspec Tank role I have today. Here is a launch week pic of me tanking an infinite spawn of mobs in Droughtlands, take a peek at the size of my character model. http://imgur.com/a/zFxQS#0

Shortly after the first week of Rifts release I was healing and tanking for T1 and T2 instances. The buddies I started with did not have as much interest in the game as I did so I ended up changed guilds and applied to a starter raiding guild. The shortness of tanks helped me practice and gear up very quickly. Upon the disbanding of the guild I sought out Maximation and applied as my most geared role, Tank.

2. With the release of 1.6, is 51 justicar the only viable tanking spec now for raids? (Quickmode’s calculations that has the best physical and magical mitigation). Is it a concern that we have to spend 51 points into our tanking soul?

Quietmode: I wouldnt say 51 justicar is the only viable tanking spec, but for a tank in a high progression min/max guild it should be the only spec considered, especially for magic fights. I wouldn’t recommend going below 44pt justicar purely because of the loss of Magic mitigation. Dropping to 44pts is probably only neccesary for precision roles such as getting purge or going for more of a offhealing role

Radak: No other specs are still viable. However 51 point builds are something I would advice for any fight that has some for of non-physical tank damage simple because of the superior mitigation. But when there is no or only a low amount of magic damage any 44+ build is more then capable of tanking the fight (in some cases even 38+ will do fine).

As for it being a problem that we have to spend 51 points into our tank soul. I don’t really see it as a problem for almost any fight. The only problem I see is that 51 builds don’t have any actual access to a purge without going below 51 or having to drop some points from shaman. This is currently not that much of a problem as the fights where a purge is needed aren’t really magic heavy. But when there comes a boss with high magic damage plus requiring purging this could become a problem and I would like to see this fixed in some way. Either by having our reliance or shaman being removes (by moving the talents to just in some way) or by giving justicar it’s own purge.

Xitan: Well this is kind of a loaded question. The viability of our tanking really depends on what your opinion of tanking is. If tanking means to you, the ability to hold aggro on a boss and survive without changing too much of the raid composition to do so. Then no, the gains you get from going 51 Justicar vs 38 Justicar are minuscule compared to the difference between a tank speced Warrior vs a tank speced Cleric.

I will however agree that 51 Justicar provides a significant magic mitigation boost compared to a competitive 38 Justicar. So if you need that extra magic mitigation you should be speced 51 points into Justicar. On the flip side 51 Justicar provides very minimal gains when it comes to physical damage mitigation. In my current gear (full set of HK gear, 5 of them relic set peices) I take 4% more physical damage in a 38 point Justicar spec.

I have had plenty of debates, even within Maximation, as to what is better for tanking. In my opinion there are many factors involved with tanking. I wont argue that taking less damage isn’t our up-most priority but I am a firm believer that it is important to bring as much as you can for the raid as possible, no matter what class/role you are. Rift allows each player to be very dynamic in their specific setup. In my case I may take a measly 4% extra physical damage, but I also bring a slew of other tools, most notable is a much more powerful Doctrine of Loyalty. These extra tools are important for progression pushes, if you determine you really need that 4% extra physical mitigation to tank a boss then by all means go 51.

3. Numbers wise, it looks like cleric tanks are behind in both mitigation and hp compared to other callings. Is this difference actually noticeable on raid settings? Can our heals compensate for this?

Quietmode: I have noticed a significant difference in damage taken between me and our warrior tank though i do not have any numbers handy to prove this. I seemed much squishier on any Dual MT fight and on trash he would hardly lost health tanking entire packs. In my earlier post on war vs cleric i pointed out the kind of support that a warrior tank brings in comparison to our heals/brez. In my opinion the unique abilities the warrior brings (5% dmg, 5% less armor, 5% less hit) in addition to the ones that they can buff versus a dps doing completely counters our heals. They also have the bonus of those abilities always being needed while our heals are marginal at best in some fights

Radak: Yes it currently does look like cleric tanks are behind a bit in both mitigation and hp however at the moment this isn’t really a problem and cleric tanks are more then capable of tanking any boss at the moment. It can become a problem if Trion will balance future raid content on the mitigation and HP levels of warrior tanks because in that case cleric tanks will have a serious problem. As for our heals they won’t really compensate for this problem because they hardly scale and as a result they don’t heal that much.

Xitan: Pre 1.6 Cleric tanks took more physical damage per swing then Warriors. Fortunately for us we had much higher hp pools, better incoming heals / self heals and better avoidance stats to boot. These extra tank stats allowed us to mimic Warriors and their ability to tank, from a healers perspective (the thing that counts most) we we’re very close in terms of tanking ability in 1.5. Essentially Warrior tanks where the Mitigation tanks, and Cleric tanks where the Avoidance tanks. Some fights lended themselves to Cleric tanks because of our ability to do close to the same as Warriors plus we added some extra AoE heals to the mix. Fights like Inquisitor Garau, magic damage heavy, were still the Warriors forte as they have always had much higher magic mitigation then Cleric tank counterparts.

In 1.6 all tanks got a buff. Often you will see that comment made, so if you are only concerned with tanking GSB/RoS/HK forever then yes Cleric tanks got some sweet buffs. In short Cleric tanks had their cooldowns buffed, magic mitigation increased and had a small 5% physical mitigation reduction (doesn’t come out to 5 full %). Warriors took a clear lead in amount of changes and received much bigger buff in comparison.

It is very easy to see that the new 1.6 Warriors make it considerably easier to tank the current content compared to 1.5. Now you can see guilds who are still progressing through HK effectively down encounters because their Warriors take much less damage then before, which allows them to sac healers to meet enrage timers or simply not get gibed as much as before. Maximation has made significant changes to our HK tanking with the release of 1.6. As one example, we can now solo tank Sicaron with one dedicated healer in the raid and everyone else as pure dps or some sort of hybrid.

Personally I am all about progression pushes where the skills, reliability and theory crafting really shine. If nothing is changed between now and then, and we assume the content is difficult, a Warrior tank will make the next tier of content significantly easier.

TL;DR Its not about the ability of a specific tanking class to preform its role, its about the relativity of that tanking class compared to the other two. Warriors have a significant leg up in the tanking department with 1.6.

4. With the recent buff to warrior tanks, it seems like warriors are better main tanks for most raid content and using warriors seems to trivialize some of the raid encounters. As a cleric tank, how do you feel about this? Are you content with being the offtank?

Quietmode: Personally, I love being a “Off-tank”. But by offtank i mean a role when i can have the opportunity to switch between mein of leadership and mein of honor and actually help on Heals, much like i do on my akylios kills where i switch weapons and heal more.

Radak: Like I said in the previous question I currently don’t see much of a problem with it. However I am kind of worried about what the future might hold. I myself wouldn’t be satisfied with just a offtank job while I have been able to main tank 90+% of the content up to now. And I can only hope Trion will do something to fix the differences between cleric, rogue and warrior tanks so they are all viable for all fights within a decent margin. One of the tanks being slightly better then the other on some fights is no problem as long as it’s not for every single fight and the difference should never be so big that the other tanks are simple incapable of tanking the encounter (like inquisitor before patch 1.6).

Xitan: Here is the way I look at it: I feel like the runt of the tanking classes that was shunned for even thinking he could tank pre-HK (mostly due to magic fights). Then when HK released suddenly I was the go-to-guy for making progression pushes easier. I was a super-star and a savior. Now that HK progression is over I have been put back into my place as the class that simply can tank but only if you already have the gear and there is no Warrior around to do the heavy lifting.

Contrary to popular believe, I am fine with this. The only issues I have with the changes is that they have been so dramatic. Trion has a history of things going from really effective, to not effective at all or visa-versa. On top of the fact that they do not give us a clear road map for what they want out of each class. Rift simply becomes a guessing game as to what you will be doing after the next patch.

I would love to be the stable offtank role over anything else. This would make it more acceptable to keep my more healing heavy hybrid tank spec so that I could support the raid more while offtanking. My only gripe is that they need to design encounters that promote offtanking. For example a perfect offtank mob in this game is the large golem add that spawns every time Herald Gaurath lands in RoS. The main tank cannot tank this mob because it puts a debuff on whoever it hits that makes the Gaurath’s breath hit for waaay more.

5. With regards to off-tanking, it has being mentioned that some of the raid content right now are not really designed MT and OT but rather two MTs, swapping back and forth. Do you agree with this? Is there even a place for cleric offtanks at all in raids?

Quietmode: I do agree that most fights are MT/MT. Really only Matron and Zilas has an OT role. The only problem with clerics as an offtnak, is that all of their offtank support is healing which isnt always neccesary or strained from the normal healers. If we were to be label more as a offtank/support tank we would need some similar debuffs/buffs as warriors offer.

Radak: I have to agree with this currently most fights require tanks to be equal a few easy examples are Warmaster Galenir, Murdantix, Matron, Sicaron and Darktide (to some degree). Currently there are very few fight that require true offtanks. So there wouldn’t be a real spot for cleric offtanks in the current situation. And in my opinion I wouldn’t like it if they designed fights for offtanks. I always thought are a bit of a let down. As a offtank it always seems like the devs needed to find a way to keep you busy. For example you might be tanking some adds half the time but the other half of the time you are just being bored and doing 200dps. So I much prefer encounters where there is either a tank swap or there is always something to tank for every tank required for the fight.

Xitan: I made a comment on the forums about this before. Tank swapping (MT and MT) seems to be a very common theme between most of Trion’s encounters. If all tanks where equal in terms of their tanking ability (mitigation or avoidance) I would be very happy with this. I honestly think that a majority of the community and the developers feel that Warriors should be better tanks, hands down. If all tanks are equal then MT and MT would be fine for me, if all tanks are not equal then they should make most of the fights have a true offtank role.

Since Warriors are so much better at taking hits with 1.6, MT and MT fights would mean you should bring two Warriors on progression. I’m not saying its not possible but you will need that extra healer, cooldown or have to adjust your raid to make the non-Warrior tank work. I do not like the idea of requiring additional help and having someone holding my hand because I have aggro.

If I was in charge of designing the tank balance I would have all tanks be vastly different. Warriors could take both physical and magical hits very well at the same time. Rogues could take magic hits just as good as a Warrior but have very crappy physical mitigation. Clerics could take physical hits just as good as a Warrior but have very crappy magic mitigation. Then, and most importantly, I would design each encounter so that they required three tanks. Warriors would take the MT role such that they would mitigate the heavy hits and debuffing the boss, Rogues would be the movement tank required to either kite through blinking or simply have to get somewhere fast and possibly absorb some magic hits, Clerics would excel at holding aggro on a group of trivial mobs that would have some mechanic to it (such that they MT could not possibly hold them when tanking the boss) and they could assist with AoE healing.

6. One issue cleric tanks seem to have is AoE threat. What is your personal experience with this matter? (note this issue was largely fixed with 1.6.1 with the fix to overhealing threat)

Quietmode: Our threat in general is fine versus DPS, but its a joke versus the Rogues planar vortex and warrior aoe threat. So its not really that our aoe threat is bad, its just that rogues and warriors have a tremendous lead over us.

Radak: Cleric AoE threat might be a bit lacking at the moment (possible because of a bug with overhealing threat). However I hardly every have problems keeping AoE threat from the dps since this patch. I think a lot of people are focussing to much on trying to keep aggro by healing. However most seem to have forgotten that every justicar ability now causes increased threat, including Even Justic, and by using a combination of tab targeting even justice spam smart use of DoA it’s easily possible to keep threat from more then 5 targets. However during raids you are hardly tanking more then 5 targets on your own and you have your fellow tanks that are also tanking. The only exception is Matron however in this case they simple inherit boss threat the moment they spawn so as long as your on top off the threat table they will instant target you and run to you and threat isn’t a problem on them because of the 130% threat treshold (this is also the reason why some people are reporting dps dieing when the adds spawn as they inherit actual threat, not the target of matron, so if the dps is at 110% of the tank matron won’t switch but when the adds spawn they do target the dps).

Xitan: Since initial release Clerics have had a tough time with AoE snap threat. Sustained AoE threat wasn’t too much of an issue if their was players to heal. During Maximation’s alpha testing of HK we where encuraged to give feedback on any aspects of the game (this was when MoL overhealing was 300%). I wrote a letter to the developers asking to implement overhealing threat (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1B8TfjVcJ9lCyJlaXojHqhe82iy_XrmaL9fVF-AfXUnQ/edit), I do not take credit for this change whatsoever but I would like to note that it took some time to get through the pipeline. 1.6 introduced overhealing threat but it did not work. 1.6.1 fixed overhealing threat and as far as I can tell, so their isn’t much of an issue here.

7. One of the big things from 1.6 is generating agro from overhealing. Many clerics have reported their frustration with this and Zinbik has posted his comments. Is this mechanism working for you? How are you using this? (note this issue was largely fixed with 1.6.1 with the fix to overhealing threat)

Quietmode: I havent seen much success from Using DoL or other overhealing mechanics having the effect they should. When i use a Call to entrench or Call to battle on my 50 warrior it almost feels like i taunted all the mobs from the snap aggro it gives. Same thing from my rogue tanks Planar vortex. The snap aggro these two classes offer is phenominal in my experience. I have tried running into mobs, and DoL’ing, but i still cant get aggro. I have given up using DoL has a main aoe threat gain and just use it when there is actually something to heal.

Radak: It indeed appears to be a bit malfunctioning at the moment when I really tried to use it. And as a result I now simple ignore it and noticed that the threat from our new ability modifier is more then enough to be able to keep aggro until it gets fixed. However even after it gets fixed I will most likely still continue using the default ability’s unless there is a advantange of using healing threat somewhere in the fight (like adds spawning very far away that need to be picked up ASAP).

Xitan: One of the most concerning thing for me is the fact that Zinbik was in much denial that 1.6 overhealing threat was not working. It took a lot of effort by the community to convince him that it was in fact broken. I saw plenty of threads on our forums with video links disproving what he thought was working. It took me a few minutes of testing to realize it was not working. So how much of the other changes are actually not working as they intended that we do not know about, for every patch?

Since the start of my tanking career I haven’t relied much on heals as part of my threat. 1.6.1 will help me on my AoE threat issues and I will be able to spam more heals and not worry too about losing threat if I get a lot of overhealing. I havn’t had much of an issue with single target threat so I wont need to use it for single target fights.

8. In general, how do cleric tanks compare with rogue tanks?

Quietmode: I’m not really sure, I havent really been tanking while he is tanking. Its normally me and the Warrior or the warrior and the rogue.

Radak: We don’t really use a rogue tank that often but at the moment I think rogue tanks have a slight edge over cleric tanks at the moment mainly because of there larger hp pool. But I think rogue and cleric tanks are currently fairly balanced. But like I said I haven’t looked that much into rogue tanking so I don’t have to much to compare.

Xitan: I feel bad that Rogues had the shaft in HK, its not that they could not tank the content, it just required much more work on the raid to make them work as effectively as a Warrior or Cleric. Unfortunately Maximation has not had a Rogue tank in quite some time so I cannot give any good comments about this. As far as I understand they are not up to par with Warriors. I feel they need a better niche then simply having teleports since Clerics have healing. As a plug, Maximation really really needs a quality Rogue tank we would much rather recruit one then have one of our current Rogues do the part.

9. Do you have anything you like to add about cleric tanking or anything you would like to ask Zinbik?

Quietmode: Not at the moment. I feel like it needs some sort of gameplay adjustments, but i dont have any ideas or suggestions.

Radak: There are a couple of questions/requests I would like to ask zinbik.

1: Removing our reliance of shaman by moving the mitigation and increased healing taken somewhere into the justicar soul. This will allow more variations in possible builds as we go from 58 fixed talent points to only 51 (still not actually fixed as you can go lower but oke). I think this will help a bit in getting more choose in different tanking builds. It also free’s up some talents for shaman for more dps oriented talents.

2: Move a purge somewhere into the justicar soul even though it’s available at only 10 points into inquisitor this is currently impossible to pick up in a 51 point build because of the reliance on shaman. Doing number 1 can help with this but this is another option.

3: Try to balance the 3 tanks a bit more to avoid one of the tanks becoming un-viable in future content. If new content would be balanced around the current warrior tanks cleric will have a very very hard time tanking that content.

4: Take a look at the threat issue again and please make wisdom superior.

5: I like that we might be avoidance tanks with over 40% dodge+parry however in this case our hp needs a boost to be able to survive 2 hits in future content.

6: Scaling will appear to be a problem for cleric tanks in the future. Parry is already hard capped and block is already over the soft cap. And because wisdom doesn’t provide much avoidance we are forced into str/dex for higher avoidance stats. However these don’t appear on our gear so there is a definite cap on how much we can get of these stats. As a result our scaling will be much slower in future content and might put us further behind warrior tanks then we already are in the future. (I can only hope Zinbik will contact me so I might be able to discuss the future of cleric tanks with him in regards to balance and scaling)

7: One of my most wanted things: Take a look at the old style cleric tanking from beta, I really liked the way convictions worked at that time. Currently they are just something that you can ignore 90% of the time because we only use it for DoA and PoR. The few exceptions are when heavy healing is required and we use DoL. But I would like to see convictions be used for more tank oriented ability’s.

Xitan: Overall I am torn with Cleric tanking, I feel like I am in limbo after 1.6, some players tell me Warriors will get nerfed but I am constantly reminded how Rogues where left out for all of HK. I do not feel like I am a go to tank on any boss encounters right now and honestly the only reason I am expected to tank is because I have gear or because a Warrior can do more dps then me if I tank.

I have a few tanking questions for Zinbik:

What is the direction of all three tanking classes, how are Rogues, Warriors and Clerics supposed to work relative to one another?

Are the dungeon teams planning on designing more offtank roles in their boss encounters?

Doctrine of Loyalty is known as a very powerful heal compared to all of the other Cleric heals. Is it intended that hybrid Clerics are to have access to this one-button healing answer?

10. Finally, what do you enjoy the most as a cleric tank?

Quietmode: Being able to support the raid with heals, effectively assisting as two roles in the raid.

Radak: I mostly like the fact that it’s a bit of a alternate tank with the ability to heal. However I think this concept should be taken a lot further and self healing should become a more important aspect (maybe combine this with the tank balance and the convictions idea).

Xitan: Simply put I enjoy being able to heal and tank at the same time. If I was unable to use any heals while tanking I probably would not be in the position I’m in today.

Thanks again to Quietmode, Radak, and Xitan for answering those questions!

One comment

  1. Great stuff. As someone who plays a Rogue, War and Cleric tank (I am a tank addict), my concern is in the neverending search for balance the ‘gap’ between Warriors and Rogue/Clerics I feel is always going to be hard to addressed based on the fact that the War spends 66 points in Tank souls to be ‘best’ whereas Rogue/Cleric have one soul for 51 points – so in terms of tanking prowess, the War spending 15 extra points is always going to be ‘better’. The purpose of Shammy having some tank abilities is so that the Cleric can essentially spend more than 51 points on tank related abilities, while removing that would allow more flexibility in builds, it would also mean again only 51 points spent for tanking

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: