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Magister's Terrace and the meatshield: Drops to look for

Recently on the forums there have been a number of threads popping up wondering what the average tank's situation is going to look like, gear-wise, after patch 2.4 hits. Assuming you won't be raiding Sunwell Plateau anytime soon, the new 5-man dungeon Magister's Terrace is the obvious choice for new loot drops if you're raising a Warrior, Druid, or Paladin whose primary responsibility will be tanking. My guild is raiding Tier 6 at this point, but I have to admit: 5-mans are still my favorite part of the game and I've been looking forward to seeing Magister's Terrace more than anything else. But after running across a now-departed forum thread complaining that it was going to be even more difficult than usual pugging a tank for a dungeon where virtually no tanking loot drops, it occurred to me that spoiling myself a little with a look through the known drops might be in order, especially as I had heard rumors of a truly amazing drop.

Well, it turns out the forum poster was right. Sort of. Thankfully, so were the rumors.

If you're looking for an excellent first impression of Magister's Terrace from a tank, Adam Holisky has a write-up, but here we're going to take a closer look at the gear you can expect to see dropping.

There are four bosses in Magister's Terrace: Selin Fireheart, Vexallus, Priestess Delrissa, and the now considerably-less-mighty Lord/Prince/King/Poobah of the Blood Elves himself, Kael'thas. All have features of bosses you've probably seen elsewhere at one point or another, but I'm particularly excited to see that Kael has no intention of producing any less epic a fight here than he does at the 25-man level. Say what you will about the notorious guild-killer, but it's one hell of a scrap.

From any tank's perspective, Fireheart is primarily of interest as a source of offspec gear. There are items here for all three tanks - Gauntlets of Divine Blessings for Paladins, Leggings of the Betrayed for Druids, and the Sun-Forged Cleaver for both Warriors and Paladins. On heroic, Fireheart can drop plate dps shoulders, Shoulderplates of Everlasting Pain. All in all, some decent drops if you're looking to flesh out your healing or dps sets, but you're unlikely to use any of these for tanking.

Vexallus is a little more interesting, loot-wise. I initially thought the one-handed sword Latro's Dancing Blade possibly had potential as a Warrior tanking weapon (one of the tanks in my guild swears by the Executioner enchant for threat generation), but it's been designed to pair with Latro's Shifting Sword from Black Morass. However, there is an excellent tanking ring here on normal, the Band of Determination, which is surprisingly close, stats-wise, to the much older Ring of Unyielding Force available for 25 heroic badges. More expertise = fewer parries from the boss, so less damage taken as you're resetting his/her swing timer less frequently. The stats on the ring are probably best for a bear overall. That being said, it's sometimes very difficult for bears to stay defense-capped, especially as they advance their gear, and rings are among the primary sources of +defense or +resilience. Losing either in this slot hurts if you haven't already resorted to using PvP items like the Vindicator's Dragonhide Bracers.

Beyond that, Vexallus only drops items of offspec interest (primarily healing, including the very nice Rod of Blazing Light for Priests or Druids on heroic), so let's mosey on down to our next boss.

Priestess Delrissa might as well be named Moroes Revisited, and if you can master this type of fight, you've pretty much nailed the whole mechanic governing not only the grumpy steward of Karazhan, but also High King Maulgar, Fathom Lord Karathress, and the Illidari Council. On normal, you're once again left with only offspec items, including Bracers of Slaughter for Warriors/Paladins and Battle-mace of the High Priestess with stats of more use for a Paladin than a Druid. There's also the Cloak of the Betrayed for Druids if your moonkin set still needs +spell hit like mine does, but once again on normal you can't expect to find much that'll make your tank-self squeal with joy.

That would be heroic. The Commendation of Kael'thas trinket is one of the possible drops here. This trinket is amazing. It is, dare I say it, full of awesomeness and unadulterated win. This is the reason that a howling pack of tanks will be descending on heroic Magister's Terrace the day patch 2.4 hits.The stamina alone is fantastic if you're already happy with your mitigation otherwise, and the proc - +152 dodge for 10 seconds if you fall below 35% health due to a melee attack - is just jaw-dropping. While the 30-second cooldown is kind of a bummer, the fact that it's an equipped and not a use bonus makes it better as you won't have to worry about activating it manually in the heat of a bad fight, and it'll simply re-activate again once the cooldown is up if your health falls. Combined with the Protection Paladin talent Ardent Defender, this can help make our tankadin brethren even more insanely hard to kill past 35% health, but the trinket is almost a must-have for any of us versus heavy melee damage bosses. If you're using something like Darkmoon Card: Vengeance for all-purpose tanking but your threat generation is fine without it (and it should be!), then the Commendation is the logical replacement.

Yes, this trinket has obvious use in PvP. But it's amazing for tanks. It is breathtaking. It is a bundle of joy and goodness wrapped in a small trinkety package. Roll need on this puppy as anyone other than a tank for the first month after 2.4 hits, and you won't live to see the final boss, who just so happens to be -

Kael'thas himself. This looks like it's going to be a terrific fight with great rewards as he'll be dropping epics even on normal, but once again it looks like you'll mostly be here for offspec loot. The notable exception is the Cloak of Blade Turning, which has potential use as a tanking cloak (with stats, once again, that are generally better for Druids), but is still inferior in mitigation to Slikk's Cloak of Placation, which is already available for 35 badges. Resilience versus defense as a tanking stat is an old fight at this point (if you're not familiar with it, resilience is the cheaper means of becoming crit-immune and will also reduce any DoT's a boss will slap on you, but defense is the better mitigation stat all-around as it will also increase your chance to dodge/block/parry), but overall I don't ultimately see the cloak as being used by too many tanks as anything other than something to fill the slot if they don't have anything better. However epic the rest of the drops on normal, you are once again likely to be rolling on them as offspec gear.

Cudgel of Consecration from heroic, on the other hand, could see use as a Protection Paladin weapon. It's slightly inferior stats-wise to the weapon my guild's tankadin is using, the Amani Punisher dropping off Akil'zon (eagle boss) in Zul'Aman, but if you're not into raiding, the Kael mace is a decent upgrade to the Lower City exalted Gavel of Unearthed Secrets. For bears, Shoulderpads of the Silvermoon Retainer has potential as a tank piece if you're not raiding. Shoulders are definitely a problem slot for bear tanks, but here both the agility and +hit are extremely nice, even if the AC is not. The Netherforce Chestplate is getting some good buzz as excellent dps plate, but I'm unsure whether the stamina and sockets on it are quite enough for a Warrior to consider it as a potential tanking upgrade. All questions please to the guy who keeps rolling Warriors.

All in all, Magister's Terrace looks like it's going to be a fun dungeon, but there's a certain element of truth to forum complaints that most tanks can't expect much in the way of main spec upgrades, barring the Trinket of /Snoopy-dance on heroic. Warriors seem particularly unlucky this time out, although there's an array of wonderful tanking gear in 2.4 newly available with.......hundreds and hundreds of heroic badges. I occasionally wonder if the relative lack of tanking drops in 70's BC dungeons, and the abundance of it among very expensive badge gear, was deliberately designed to force tanks to keep running otherwise unproductive instances - any instance at all - simply because they need the badges and groups need tanks. While it would be a clever means of keeping tanks willing to run just about any dungeon, even if the only things they were likely to get out of it were badges and a repair bill, it doesn't really help the frustration that sets in when the dps you typically run with can upgrade significantly faster than you can. This also leaves tanks in the position of trying to hold aggro against increasingly well-geared dps while their own threat generation hasn't improved, and that doesn't leave anybody happy.

Are there any particular pieces you're looking for from Magister's Terrace, or are you simply hoarding badges in anticipation of 2.4?

**Edited 2/25/08 to address concerns raised in the comments over the suitability of the Cudgel of Consecration as a Paladin tanking weapon.**

Filed under: Druid, Guides, Bosses, Instances, Analysis / Opinion, Items, Patches, Warrior, Paladin, Classes

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