Mastery, mastery, mastery.
Since the launch of Cataclysm, we tanks have been pretty lucky. While the value of mastery has fluctuated drastically for our Fury and Arms brethren, those strapping a shield to their backs have lived by pretty much one maxim - get as much as you can. The more mastery you find, the more you remove those horrid spikes when you continually get hit full in the face; and it's preferable to avoidance stacking, as it remains unaffected by diminishing returns.
The idea for T11 was to hit 73.4% combined dodge, parry and block in order to shove unmitigated (except by armour, of course) blows off the hit table when Shield Block goes up. Assuming you were gemming, reforging and enchanting correctly, while picking up gear pieces with mastery on them, this was easily achievable in full 359 gear, and without setting foot in heroic raids.
As my guild mate Felham likes to say, ezpz.
With T12 landing and all manner of new options opening up for gear, we're presented with more avoidance stats than are otherwise available and, obviously, plenty more mastery. This means that magic number of 73.4% becomes even easier to land on, while even factoring in threat stats like hit or expertise. Happy days, I hear you say - gearing remains easy for us tanks. But then you see this little puppy appear, and my synapses start firing:
I love my Mirror of Broken Images; it's a shiny mastery trinket, with an on-use that gives warriors the magical damage cooldown they've traditionally lacked. This offering from Beth'tilac is almost as good, as there's more mastery on it, but it lacks the on-use magical cooldown that I've grown to love. This made me think that it possibly remained weaker than our Tol Barad favourite, particularly in the Firelands where there is an awful lot of otherwise unavoidable magic damage flying around. But another look at the proc makes it actually pretty sweet, when you think about it. After all, the absorb is almost of the same value as the on-use from the Mirror, but applied passively for you when you need it. As a result, it's actually a pretty clear upgrade for our erstwhile mastery trinket so you should definitely be equipping it when you get the chance.
Marry it up with the Scales of Life and, lo and behold, your trinkets are updated for the tier. Awesome. Having a quick look around some of the other top warriors we know, this is quite common practice. I'm also quite happy with the way I've enhanced my gear, because I want a strong health pool that can cover me through the rest of the magical damage that is applied throughout the raid.
Right now, you're wondering why you've read something that's relatively obvious.
Well, take a look at Grafarion.
He's chosen not to replace his Mirror of Broken Images with the Spidersilk Spindle; he's combined the damn things. And in case constant tanking has numbed you to large and obvious blows to the face, the result is pretty staggering when you total it up.
He's about 3.5% away from the hard cap.
Not only does this mean that he's hardly ever taking an unmitigated blow, his critical block chance will be far higher than average and his Shield Block is essentially now a Holy Shield on steroids. He's reached that stage of being a mitigation powerhouse practically a full tier earlier than (your humble author) expected. The downside for me was always going to be the hammering his stamina has taken, especially considering the amount of unavoidable damage flying around. But in Grafarion, we're talking about a tank who's pushing cutting-edge content with a top class guild, something that surely implies that all this extra stamina I'm carrying around isn't necessary. It's worth bearing in mind that he's also playing with some of the best healers, but in normal content we're probably looking at a reasonable correlation between us working the normal Firelands bosses and Grafarion up there at the coalface.
Of course, let's not forget our overlooked friend the Eternal Shadowspirit Diamond. With the hard cap approaching, and warriors never being hit, this meta gem suddenly starts to look a whole lot more appealing. The tank in question hasn't gone for it himself, but it's hard to say if he's just waiting on actually hitting the hard cap prior to switching, or if the Austere version still beats it out.
This is not me telling all Protection warriors to go out there and bust a gut to hit the mastery hard cap in the Firelands. That would be silly. But it's well worth taking note that we're almost at the holy grail where warriors are never being struck, and that changes the game for us significantly.
We go from being the most fragile tank to the most durable, practically in the space of a trinket drop. The "stamina iz king lol" model appears busted beyond recognition.
May it rest in peace.