How Mastery Works
First, it's important to understand two basic abilities we have in our arsenal. The first is Savage Defense and the second is our mastery talent, Savage Defender. In it's most basic terms our mastery affects the strength of our Savage Defense. For the sake of players who may be new to bear tanking, I'll go into a bit more detail.
The Savage Defense (also known as SD or SD Bubble) ability has been with us since Wrath of the Lich King, and was Blizzards response to our inability to block. Traditionally bears had super high armor and stamina to offset this but once Blizz normalized stamina and armor between the tanking classes there was an obvious gap we had to overcome. Enter the fun world of SD. The basic idea for SD is when we crit we have a 50% chance to form a bubble, reducing the amount of damage we take from the next incoming attack by 35% of our attack power. Math Alert - If you have 10,000 attack power and crit, forming a SD bubble, it will reduce the following attack by 3,500. Seems pretty basic, right?
|I can haz bearbubble?|
Taking this knowledge of how these abilities work together is helpful in evaluating just how useful it is. Mastery can be a very powerful tool but it is not without it's cons. For instance, mastery is only good if we are attacking the boss to gain our SD. A prime example of where this doesn't occur is the shield phase in Omnitron Defense System. During that phase we are stuck eating full melee strikes like a bunch of suckers. This may seem overly situational, but it's still worth noting. Another example of where mastery is less than helpful is when we tank a group of adds or a mob who attacks with many fast attacks. You may be asking, "Why would a bubble not be helpful here"? Because SD only absorbs the next attack, regardless of how much damage is dealt. For example if my SD bubble is able to absorb 5k damage, whatever the next hit might be (10k melee strike or 1k dot tick) will "pop" the bubble. It is true that SD does help us somewhat when fighting groups or fast hitting mobs however the basic limitations to the mechanic means that stacking mastery in these cases is not as effective. As a result a slow, hard hitting mob / boss will maximize the potential of mastery.
How Dodge Works
To avoid getting too involved in the numbers game I'll attempt to explain this as easily as possible. I'm sure there is a more accurate method of explaining this but I'll just shoot from the hip. Regardless if I massacre this, hopefully I can reach one person. Even if that person is my mother, HI MOM!
|my brain hurts....|
As bears we get dodge from a variety of sources. The main source (or at least it should be) of our increased dodge is from agility. We also get this from various gems, enchants and reforging methods be it dodge or agility. Regardless of the source, dodge is one of the most vital aspects we have to help us stay alive. What makes this ability so great is rooted in that attack table we discussed earlier. For example, let's say you are tanking the adds on Maloriak. By the end of each phase you will be tanking (or at least should be) 9 adds. Each of those adds is attacking you at the same speed, however they are landing their attacks are different times. Regardless of this, the attack table (and in turn determining what type of attack will land, if any) is hard at work for each individual attacker. Herein lies the strength of dodge, it's a very broad and all encompassing defensive stat.
While dodge and it's "separate table for each attacker" may seem like a win-win, there are situations where dodge falls short. Magic attacks are unable to be dodge and increases dodge will have no effect on magical attackers. Granted during this tier of raiding there seems to be less magic damage, it's still something important to note. Another situation where dodge is less than helpful is based purely on the player positioning. You cannot dodge an attack from a mob that is attacking you from behind. This is why a big part of tank strategy is positioning and boss movement. If you understand the limitations of dodge and polish your tanking method, you can use this stat to increase your survivability and reduce the strain on your healers. All good things.
|it's a trick.....get an axe|
This seems to be a very common questions in recent months. Considering that dodge and mastery are right next to each other in the current stat weighting, I can see the confusion. Also most bear optimizers (such as Ask Mr. Robot, Rawr, EJ gear lists) all suggest placing an emphasis on agility or in circumstances where agility is unattainable, dodge. So who is right? Well this is one time where I will lay my chips down on the side of the number crunchers. Dodge is a much more valuable stat to increase when compared to mastery in terms of increasing survivability and decreasing strain on your healer. The reason is rooted within the very mechanics of each, mainly the inability of SD to operate on as wide of a span as dodge currently does. What happens if the Firelands raid brings tons of magical damage? Would that be enough to turn the tables? In all reality probably not. The only time mastery will outweigh dodge would be if every single mob is a slow hitting caster - that is probably as likely as rogues getting a FoK interrupt back. I do predict a return to magic damage in raids to come but I think it will be handled with effective health more-so than an increase in mastery.
For more information on bear tanking in general or to find various resources, check out my Level 85 Feral Tanking Guide.