Home > Mechanics > The Attack Speed Debuff

The Attack Speed Debuff

Author’s Note: This is the first third or so of a much longer post, which I originally released as one gargantuan wall of text. I’ve decided to split it into its three conceptual parts, and will be releasing them every few days to avoid overwhelming anyone who cares.

With hunter pet abilities newly released in the most recent Cataclysm beta build, I think it’s a good time to discuss tanking debuffs.

Obviously, tanks benefit from many of the debuffs placed on mobs, including sunder armor, faerie fire, trauma, etc. But only two types of debuffs a) reduce a tank’s damage taken, and b) are commonly applicable to boss mobs. These are the attack speed debuff and the AP reduction debuff.

The Attack Speed Debuff

The attack speed debuff lengthens your enemy’s swing timer – the time between autoattacks. If the enemy normally swings once every 2 seconds, and you apply a 20% attack speed reduction, he’s now swinging once every 2.4 seconds. That’s an extra .4 seconds, 20% more time, for your healers to get that life-saving heal in before the next blow lands. It’s also a significant reduction in autoattack damage taken over the fight.

Chart of damage taken w/ and w/o debuffHow is that? Let’s compare two tanks, with 0 avoidance for the sake of argument, tanking a boss that hits for 10,000 damage every 2 seconds. The first tank’s boss has no attack speed debuff applied to him – he’s hitting every 2 seconds – while the second tank’s boss has a 20% attack speed debuff, and is thus hitting every 2.4 seconds.

By the time the 12 second mark rolls around, the un-debuffed boss has done an additional 1 hit, or 10,000 damage to his tank. When 24 seconds arrives, the gap is 2 hits: 20,000 damage. After five minutes of this, the tank with the un-debuffed boss will have taken 250,000 damage more than the tank with the debuffed boss.

Naturally, no one runs bosses with 0 avoidance; but over all, avoidance isn’t going to change the proportion of damage the two tanks are taking. Let’s say now that both tanks have 50% avoidance, and for the sake of convenience, let’s say that they both avoid exactly half of the attacks they receive. Now over the course of 24 seconds, the tank not using the debuff has taken 6 hits, while the tank using the debuff has taken 5. Again, it’s a 16.7% reduction in the number of autoattacks taken and (presumably) in damage.

Please keep in mind that a 16.7% reduction in autoattacks is not, usually, the same as a 16.7% reduction in damage. Attack speed debuffs don’t reduce the rate at which bosses use special abilities, including both spells and melee specials.

Attack Speed Debuffs in Wrath

In Wrath, the attack speed debuff is provided only by the tanking classes (and one item), and is reasonably available to almost all tanking specs. Please note that while many of these abilities will stack (i.e. not overwrite each other in the debuff panel), the slowing effects themselves will not stack.

  • Thunder Clap (Protection and Arms Warriors): 10-20% slow (3 points), 30 second duration, 6 second cooldown, AoE, 8-10 yd range (glyph).
    • Thunder Clap is a hard-hitting AoE attack that is the centerpiece of both protection and arms warrior AoE. Generally warriors will not Thunder Clap in single target unless they’re responsible for applying this attack speed debuff. Nearly all protection warriors talent into the improved slow, but only the relatively rare Incite (arms-sub-prot) spec Arms warriors do.
  • Frost Fever (Death Knights): 14-20% slow (3 points), 15 second duration, single-target/AoE, 10 yd range.
    • Frost Fever is one of the death knight class’s two diseases. It is applied via the core rotational ability Icy Touch, and can be spread to all targets in range with Pestilence. Frost Fever is the only attack speed debuff which also causes damage, and every spec of death knight, for DPS or tanking, considers it a priority to keep it up on at least the primary target at all times – so effectively, having a death knight in the raid will give you at least the 14% bonus passively. Many specs of DK will talent the improved slow, including both tank and DPS frost DKs, higher-geared unholy DPS, and occasionally blood tanks.
  • Judgements of the Just (Protection Paladins): 0-20% slow (2 points), 20 second duration, 10-8 second cooldown (2 points), single-target.
    • Judgements of the Just is applied when the talented paladin hits with any of their Judgements, which are core rotational abilities. Only protection paladins can provide this debuff, as the talent is deep in the protection tree.
  • Infected Wounds (Feral Druids): 0-20% slow (2 points), 12 second duration, single-target/multi-target.
    • Infected Wounds is applied when a talented druid hits with Shred (cat only), Mangle or Maul (bear only), which are core rotational abilities. All of these are single-target abilities, however, using the Glyph of Maul the debuff can be applied to two targets at once. Both kitty and bear druids can in theory provide this debuff, but the talent provides no DPS benefit, so kitties are unlikely to be specced into it.
  • Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker: 20% slow, 12 second duration, single-target.
    • I’m just including this for kicks; no one uses it anymore, primarily because every tanking class has the option to spec into the debuff without gimping their threat this much.

There’s usually a lot of shouting about who should provide what in terms of non-stacking debuffs, and the attack speed debuff is no different. In my personal opinion, the ranking of who should be applying the debuffs is as follows: Frost death knights or death knights who would otherwise be speccing Improved Icy Touch > protection warriors > protection paladins > bear druids > Incite spec arms warriors > non-Improved Icy Touch death knights > arms warriors > cat druids.

Attack Speed Debuffs in Cataclysm

In Cataclysm, Improved Thunder Clap and Improved Icy Touch are gone – warriors and death knight get their improved versions baseline. Paladins and druids will still need to talent into their attack speed debuffs, and for the moment, each talent still costs 2 points. Interestingly, while the druid talent remains deep in the talent tree, Judgements of the Just has been moved down to a position where it would be available to retribution or holy paladins; however, judging by the talents available in the early holy and retribution trees, it is likely to be prohibitively expensive for either of these specs to talent into. (I don’t play a paladin, so if any paladins out there would mind taking a look at the tree and giving your opinion in the comments, please do).

In addition, two hunter pet families are gaining the attack speed debuff as well: foxes and tallstriders. I like the overall direction that Blizzard is going with hunter pets. According to the data mining of the new beta build on mmo-champion, it seems that hunter pets are being given more significant, raidwide benefits, so that the choice of a hunter’s pet is more likely to change based on raid composition, instead of forcing the highest personal DPS choice, which has in WotLK been the wolf. It calls back to what they’ve done all along with a few of my favorite pets – carrion birds, rhinos, wasps and worms. More on pets later.

Click here to read part 2.

I’ve seen figures ranging from a 4% to a 30% boss damage reduction from keeping a fully improved AP debuff up. Ghostcrawler ballparks the damage reduction from a fully-improved AP debuff at 20% for autoattacks and up to 50% for specials, though given the casual context of his remarks I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual values were half that.
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  1. September 15, 2010 at 12:17 am

    like the blog man.

  1. September 28, 2010 at 7:35 pm
  2. November 7, 2012 at 11:17 am

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