I am a skills competition more than a dunk contest kind of guy. I like teams playing small ball more than home run hitters. I like footballs teams with a strong defense or a solid ground game more than long passes and touchdown celebrations. I like long winded sports metaphors more than… uh hippies…*
*A complete listing of things I like less than hippies: Spiders, welfare, the City of Detroit
One of the things I have noticed in raids lately is that a clean kill feels really good. Pulling off a last second win with only 3 people stand (I am looking at you Reliquary of Souls from 2 weeks ago) is exciting, but not nearly as satisfying as a clean kill. The raid leader always says something like “Well, at least he is dead, please don’t play that poorly next next week because that was sloppy as hell”.
But those sloppy kills bring me to my topic – when do you use shield wall. Here is the scenario – a fight that generally last 8-10 minutes is at 3% hp. Your healers are dead/dying with little to no mana. Your dps are dead/dying with little to no mana. The common instinct is to pop shield wall and cross your fingers. I think that instinct is wrong.
Lets say that average boss X takes 7 and a half minutes for your guild to kill under full raid dps. That would mean that you can knock off 1% every 4.5 seconds. But in the scenario where you are trying to pull off the heroics, you aren’t going to have full raid dps, you will probably be at half capacity at best. And don’t forget that when it says the boss is at 5%, he could actually be at 5.999999% and the last percent is literally the longest percent since it goes from 1.99% to 0%. So if half your dps is down then your dps can do maybe 1% hp every 9 seconds but that is also assuming there is no raid damage like arcane orbs, whirlwind, earthquake, murlocs, spore bats, etc. slowly killing your dps off too. If you shield wall, you will stay up for another 10 or 15 seconds during which time your raid can MAYBE take off 1-3%. Then you will die and then the boss will start one-shotting people. Your dps might be alive long enough while the boss kills them one at a time to take another 0.5-1% out of the boss. So, in the very best case you can maybe take another 4-5% out of the boss while you are dying. But chances are much better that you will wipe at 1% and be screaming that the 1% took forever.
You might get lucky and kill the boss but it will be sloppy as hell and the raid leader will implore the raid not to suck as badly next week. But chances are that you will wipe and have to try again. Now check this it, next attempt the boss is at 70% but your healers are silenced or cut off by doomfire or out of line of sight or you just took a damage spike and now you are about to die, what do you do? You die because you used your shield wall the last attempt to try and be a hero.
Your shield wall is a panic button, not a hero button. 9 times out of 10 when you try for last second heroics you end up wiping anyway. But when you can use your shield wall as a panic button, you will live through the dire straits every time. Those 10 seconds are more than enough time for your healers to get back in position or unsilenced or whatever.
The only time I recommend using a shield wall at the end of the fight is to bring it home. On some bosses they just feel a little out of control no matter how many times you do it and you feel like you are always on the brink of a wipe. Archimonde is the worst when it comes to this kind of thing. Vashj is a little like this and so is Tidewalker. For fights like that, when tank death is just a parry-gib away, if I have my trinkets and panic buttons up going into the last part of the fight, I will turtle up and become unkillable for the end. I will pop a nightmare seed, then my dodge trinket from moroes (best tanking trinket in the game IMO), then last stand, then shield wall. Depending on the boss fight I will time it so that my cooldowns will last to the very end of the fight. During this time my healers can lay off me a little and make sure the raid stays up.
In conclusion, shield wall is a panic button and should be used as such and should be preserved for true panic situations. Last second, low % boss attempts are NOT panic situations, they are cross your fingers situations and you shouldn’t be burning a 30 minutes cooldown if the boss is at anything more than 1%. The only other time it is ok to use shield wall is at the end of an otherwise clean kill to make sure that it stays clean.
Keep this post in mind when you read my next post where I tell you that improved shield wall sucks.