ToTS: New Pet Defensive Abilities in Warlords

WoW hunter pet turtle Shield Shell
The Thrill of the Spreadsheet is a series in which we take a technical, more in depth look at huntering and hunter abilities.  If numbers aren't your thing,  you'll likely want to skip the end of this one.  

A while back, we received a datamined list of new pet abilities.  These largely come as replacements for buffs which are no longer in game, or as replacements for CC abilities which pets no longer bring.   By now, you've most likely seen, at least in some form, all of the new abilities, so I'm not going to go through them all.  But I did want to take some time to think about what some of the new defensive abilities might offer for Pet Tanking and Soloing.

As holding aggro isn't really part of pet tanking any longer (as you can generally gain more aggro from glyph of MD).  Because of that, many hunters have been using Beetles and Turtles for Hardened Carapace and Shell Shield.   When I first went to the Timeless Isle in ToT gear, I use Bloodtooth for his Shell Shield, so I could pull an Eternal Kilnmaster or two away from a Blazebound Chanter.   With the announcement that they planned to make the leveling experience more like the timeless isle, and more recently the introduction of Vignettes to the Alpha client, it may become worthwhile to keep pet around with more defensive abilities than just being tenacity spec'ed.   

That's definitely not a problem, because with WoD, we'll have a lot more defensive options.  To start off, a couple of new defensives are duplicates of the Turtle's Shell Sheild:

Solid Shell - Shale Spider 
Harden Shell - Crab

After that, we get into some slight modifications:

Thick Hide - Rhino - This is a passive ability which auotmatically applies a Shell Shield-like abilitiy when the Rhino goes below 40% health.  It's an interesting version of the same ability, but it lacks and ability to precast, so for mobs like the Eternal Kilnmasters, you couldn't use it to soak their charge.  In group pet-tanking, the passive nature of this ability will also make you unable to use it as a defensive CD when needed.

Stone Armor - Quilen - this is a slightly reduced damage reduction, only 30% and it lasts for only 8 seconds,  but during that time, your pet also gets an 8 sec HoT for 24% of their total health.   This will be great for bosses/mobs that don't have as spiky of damage, but have more damage overall.  

There's one other "healing" ability, though it doesn't come with a damage reductions:

Feast - Devilsaur - This is only feasible in the world, when fighting tough mobs, it most likely won't be viable in dungeons or raids.  However,  if you can line up a few easier to kill mobs,  then keep them around while you're fighting your tougher mob, this could come in handy.   I'm imagining using it over on the Isle of Giants,  where you could kill some little Direhorns, and then feast on them when killing the big Direhorn; or you could kill some little Raptors, then feast on them while trying to pet tank the big Primal Raptor.  

The last two true defensive abilities are particularly interesting to me because they're based around the concept of Agility, and therefor work more like a Monk Tank's, or a Rogue's defensive cooldowns:

Agile Reflexes - Fox, and Primal Agility - Monkey - Both of these increase dodge by 30% for 10 seconds. These are nice little benefits for hunters who just enjoy fox or monkeys, and I can imagine a situation or two where dodge of damage could be useful; however, in general these won't be making the cut for pet tanks.   

The Competition
While it's nice to have so many options, the reality is that of the actually new abilities, only Quilen's has a chance of competing with the good ol' Shield Shell.   So let's look at how they stack up against each other.

In the live version of the game, my turtle, with 580k HP, gets about 45k healing every second from glyphed Mend Pet (with other healing buffs, glyphs, etc) plus around 19k from Spirit Bond every 2 seconds, which simply means he would have to be taking more damage than that to need any defensive CD.  From Stone Armor, it should take about 26100 healing per second, or 208,800 over the entire 8 seconds.  That gives us a good place to start a comparison.

Stone Armor vs Shield Shell WoW Hunter pet tankingPatterns
If we're only dealing with absorbing one hit, then we have a very simple comparison; we need to solve for x where .5x < .3x + 208,800.   That means the one hit we would need to absorb would be < 1,044,000. With 50% Damage reduction we can live through a 1mil HP hit,  with the Stone Armor, we cannot.  If we could have negative health, Stone Armor would be better at that point, but since we don't, Shield Shell is going to do better.

For our single hit, we need to solve for .5x < .3x + 208,800, where .7x also less than 580,000.   That means for one single hit, the damage would have to be less than 828,571.

We probably aren't fighting something with only one hit we need to absorb,  the mob will surely have melee hits.   This is where Shell Shield starts to take over with it's longer duration.   If a mob's melee does x damage every 2 seconds,  the we can amend our equation to look like F/12 * .5x < (F/8 * .3x) + 208,800, where F is the frequency of the melee hits (every 2 seconds, in our make believe example). For melee hits every 2 seconds, they would have to be less than 116,000 damage each for Stone Armor to be the better choice.

The final wrench I'll throw into this is in the game we'll be fighting something with both melee hits and more substantial abilities.  To look at that comparison we'll need to make a fun graph, which I'm not going to totally explain here (ask in the comments or send me a message if you're curious and would like help figuring it out), but I imagine most who would bother reading this can guess where it's coming from. The graph is to the right beside all of this describes a situation with Melees every 2 seconds on the X axis, and one large hit on the y axis.  If you're below the line, then Stone Armor will be better, if you're above it, Shield Shell will be better.

If you'd like to plug in real game numbers, dust off your old TI-83 from highschool, and simply use .5y+F/12*.5x = (F/8*.3x)+.3y+.36*HP (where HP is your pet's HP).

One issue with this is we have significant healing already, in Spirit Bond and glyphed Mend Pet.   If you look at in game examples, in most of them you'll be overhealing a lot with Stone Armor, so the longer duration and increase absorb of Shield Shell still comes out ahead in nearly every example I tried.

The devs have stated that in WoD, the ratio of our total HP relative to the damage done will be significantly greater than it is right now.   This could put Stone Armor into a more competitive place, since it will increase the heal,  however, it will simultaneously increase the heal from Spirit Bond and Mend Pet.  Without a buff to the Damage Reduction from Stone Armor, or the length, there aren't going to be many situations where it wins out over Shield Shell.

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