If you’ve got one, you’re a statistical anomaly
I am of course referring to the Offhand-worn friends to tanks and healers, the Shield. The high Stamina and Strength shields are used by two specs, Protection for Warriors and Paladins. The Spell-power and Intellect Shields are used by three specs, Holy Paladins, and Restoration and Elemental Shamans. This wouldn’t seem like much competition, and indeed, given that in total the shield using specs add up to 5 out of all 30 specs, you’d see them on at least every 6th boss. Blizzard doesn’t agree. Oh sure, they make sure there’s one of each of the two types of shield per raid. In Naxxramas, they even went as far as doing two of each (that place was big though.)
However. Say you’re a 10 man focused guild doing ICC. People argue over how difficult the place is. I play with people I think are reasonably coordinated, excellent DPS, and organised tanks. Our healing team is very tight knit and efficient. We’re at the Lich King in progression, with Sindragosa not being a guaranteed down each week. It’s taken us this long, and the 15% buff, to get this far. That’s the kind of difficulty bar I like. However the only shield in ICC 10 that works for a healer is a drop off Sindragosa (the penultimate boss of the place.) The [Lost Pavise of the Blue Flight] looks nice and shiny. But even with its 19% drop rate, it’s so unobtainable it makes it practically pointless. Let me explain.
We progressed through the quarters in turn, finding the easier bosses that went on to farm quickly, and some of the tougher bosses that might take a couple of attempts each week. This went on for a long time, and a lot of epics dropped. My Shield was my only slot that was still low, the 232 shield from ToC 10 Normal. Because of how often we were clearing up to (but not including) Sindragosa, who came as the first real wall of difficulty for us, nearly everyone in our 15 strong rotation had every mainspec and offspec drop they could want off the first few bosses. Except me, and my healing Shammy buddy Riccah. We were both short a shield. Comparatively, the tank shield drops off Gunship battle, a guaranteed kill every week, and a 16% drop rate. All our tanks and offspec tanks have it. When we started joint 25 man raiding, we had access to Marrowgar. It’s the other way round there. The Healer shield is off the first boss (guaranteed kill), with a 21% drop rate. However, the competition is insane. The tank shield on 25 man drops off Lana’thel, and if you’re doing some form of Mainspec only rolls/bids then you should only have at maximum 2 other people interested. However, for that spellpower shield, at least in the early days, I had three healer shamans and two elemental shamans to compete against. I lost 4 of the 25 man Marrowgar shields before finally winning it (slightly guiltily) over Riccah. In short, it had taken me from the 16th of September 2009 till the 28th of April 2010 to replace one lousy item. One item that ties in closely with my talents, gives a significant boost to stats, and is iconic of how a Paladin healer looks and feels. 6 months. Half a year. I have no clue how long Riccah was struggling with exactly the same shield that I replaced, but my guilt was mollified slightly by her winning the Sindragosa 10 shield when we got our first kill of her the same week.
I’ve been looking at all the Lich King shields. They all have a drop-rate of around 20% or lower. I would happily increase the amount of competition for these shields if it would mean they dropped more. Example: I’ve killed Marrowgar 20 times now. I’ve been on every single guild run of ICC10. If they had put a shield on Marrowgar that drops 100% of the time, and everyone wanted it, we’d still have enough for 2 each by now. I would have certainly gotten it long ago. Because of how obscure Sindragosa is, and there’s still Riccah and I after it in ICC 10 (or there was, the 25 man shield is obviously better, and now she has the 10 man one) it makes the relative worth of that shield higher than any ilevel 251 upgrade in the place.
Allow me to take you back to ToC25 joint runs, and the Faction Champions encounter. After every kill, the box would open up. Without fail, every week, the shield would drop. That was kneeing statistics in the balls and running away, seeing as that particular shield has a drop rate of 8%. Read that number back. 10 times in a row, 8% drop rate. The probability of this happening is roughly 1 in 93,100,000,000. And I lost all of them. I lost 3 of them to other healers in Flames (one alt who isn’t often played, and two mainspec healers who have both quit.) I have no clue about the members in the guild we were partnering with, only that they had a large turnover in DPS and healers, and every week there were new people who wanted it, mostly Shamans. I lost one week with a roll of 99, to one of my own guildies’ roll of 100. The maths is a little too beyond me, but the improbability of it dropping every week and me LOSING it every week is reaching into the hundred billions.
This is why I don’t gamble.
This is why you’ll probably see Zal battling through Uldum and Grim Batol, AoEing up the raid with his Healing Hands and clad in full tier 11 and more. Still carrying his [Bulwark of Smouldering Steel].