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The Light and How to Swing It: A career guide for tanks

Rhidach mixing up something with alchemy
Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Light and How to Swing It for holy, protection and retribution paladins. Protection specialist Matt Walsh spends most of his time receiving concussions for the benefit of 24 other people, obsessing over his hair (a Blood Elf racial!), and maintaining the tankadin-focused blog Righteous Defense.

This column is, if anything, the result of my recent switch from engineering to alchemy on my paladin. One of the biggest drivers for my decision (other than the maddening smackdown that engineering suffered after Wrath of the Lich King) was the desire to once again have a profession that bestowed some kind of meaningful bonus for raiding. Just about every facet of engineering that had some appreciable effect for tanking was neutered (as you'll see ahead), leaving the profession a dried husk and a sad remnant of previous greatness.

I don't have to tell you that profession bonuses are easily one of the best ways to get stat boosts, and using certain professions can be a powerful tool in the min-maxer's arsenal, in order to squeeze every last stat point out of their characters. Some are excellent; some are even so excellent they are overpowered; some are middle of the road; and others are just horribly lackluster. Let's take a look.

Alchemy

The big bonus from Alchemy is the Mixology perk, which gives you an enhanced duration and effect from all elixirs and flasks that you know how to make. Elixirs and flasks also have their durations doubled (not that one often lives long enough to see an elixir fall off). Nonetheless, for bonus effect, Mixology changes elixirs to offer the following bonuses: So if you go with the usual elixir cocktail for Firelands, a Prismastic Elixir and an Elixir of the Master, you're looking at an additional 40 mastery toward block cap (or, if over, 40 mastery you can regem to something else) and an additional 15 magic resistance.

The Prismatic Elixir in particular gains an awesome buff via Mixology. With all the normal magic resistance buffs, you'd normally have 285 resistance to fire, frost, and shadow damage, and 187 resistance to arcane and nature damage. For the former, this comes out to an average of 28.25% damage reduction, and for the latter 20.53%. With Mixology, the bonuses for each (respectively) goes up to 29.3% and 21.8% -- an additional 1% damage reduction to what is usually the burstiest damage in a raid.

And, of course, the stamina flask follows the usual (as you'll see) pattern of profession bonuses offering an additional 120 stamina.

Lastly, alchemy also has a pretty nice starter trinket.

Blacksmithing

Blacksmiths have the option of adding two new sockets to their equipment on their bracers and their gloves, which can offer a bonus ranging from an additional 80 mastery to an additional 120 stamina. With the impending introduction of epic gems, this will give a blacksmith a profession bonus of 100 mastery or 150 stamina. Many tanks tend to prefer blacksmithing for its flexibility with choosing which stats you would like to augment, rather than depending on specific recipes or crafted items.

Enchanting

Fairly boring - an enchanter can enhance their rings to each have an additional 60 stamina, adding up to 120 stamina total for the profession.

Engineering

Oh, engineering, where to start? Ostensibly the benefits are that you can make several toys or gadgets that have some noticeable situational uses. There are downsides to just about every tinker, though.

The most dependable of these are the Quickflip Deflection Plates, which can be activated for a nice boost to armor. However, hitting them will put your on-use trinkets on a short cooldown -- so, for example, you can't pop Mirror of Broken Images immediately after using the tinker. As a result, you really do not want to macro these to a commonly used attack, or you might find yourself locked out of an important trinket use at the worst time.

The Grounded Plasma Shield is the ultimate "buyer beware" tinker. While it looks great on its face, it has some horrible backfire possibilites. You run the chance of being stunned, taunting everything in the room, or giving yourself a 100% chance to be critically hit. As you can imagine, this makes it nigh-unusable in any raid setting.

The Cardboard Assassin was great for one brief, shining moment since it would taunt a raid boss for you and eat a few hits. But that was quickly quashed as well. Now it can only taunt mobs with a level no higher than 87. Basically, the last time this was truly useful in its nerfed incarnation was Nefarian, for giving you some breathing room with the adds.

The long bright spot right now seems to be the easy-to-obtain epic helm that you can craft and socket with mastery/avoidance for a great early start on gearing a new level 85 tank. Past that, though, it's lackluster.

Herbalism

This is a really bad choice for tanks. With Lifeblood, the heal is a pitiful, tiny amount on top of a haste buff that really doesn't benefit us in any meaningful way. In short: not a tanking profession.

Inscription

Scribes get to make the Inscription of the Earth Prince, which is worth 120 more stamina than the normal shoulder enchant for tanks, the Greater Inscription of Unbreakable Quartz. They also get to skip grinding Therazane rep, which might be the best perk of all.

Jewelcrafting

Jewelcrafters get to make three Chimera's Eye gems that offer enchanced stats. The two best options are the Fractured Chimera's Eye, worth 67 mastery, and the Solid Chimera's Eye, worth 101 stamina. All total, if you use three of the same gem, we're talking about the bonus ranging from 81 more mastery to 123 more stamina.

In terms of pure numbers, this makes jewelcrafting the second-best source of bonus stamina of all profession perks until epic gems are released.

Leatherworking

The best source of bonus stamina, you might ask? Look no further than leatherworking. Because there is no Cataclysm-level stamina enchant for bracers, the Draconic Embossment for stamina is worth 155 more stamina than any possible non-perk alternative. There's also the 50 dodge rating bracer enchant, which is decidedly lackluster post-block cap.

Mining

Miners are granted the profession perk Toughness, which is worth 120 stamina at max. Fairly standard; fairly boring.

Skinning

Another profession to avoid for your tank. At max, the Master of Anatomy perk is worth 80 bonus crit rating.

Tailoring

Again, not for tanks. All the special BOP item enhancements are caster-oriented.

So what professions are the best?

It depends where you are and what stats you're looking for. If you're still not block-capped, a combination of ewelcrafting and blacksmithing adds the most mastery you can gain from professions: 161. This will go up in 4.3, as well.

If you're already block-capped and currently gearing for stamina, then mathematically you can't go wrong with blacksmithing and leatherworking, especially once 4.3 hits. With epic gems, you're looking at 305 stamina -- 65 more than you can get from a combination of any of the 120 stamina-giving professions.

Of course, if engineering (and, for that matter, any profession that's ever been BiS) teaches us anything, a profession will be on top day and quite possibly terrible the next. Prepare yourself for that inevitable drop off the cliff, and always have an escape route planned out if you intend to min-max around what your character does as a day job.
The Light and How to Swing It shows paladin tanks how to take on the dark times brought by Cataclysm. Try out our 4 tips for upping your combat table coverage, find out how to increase threat without sacrificing survivability, and learn how to manage the latest version of Holy Shield.

Filed under: Paladin, (Paladin) The Light and How to Swing It

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