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Vengeance

Holy shit, you guys. Holy. Shit.

Sorry for the messy UI; I haven't set up SBF and Xorcist to ignore any 4.0.1 effects yet.

This is Blizzard’s answer to everything about protection balance, from our low DPS not feeling fun, to prot PVP being OP, to how easy it is for us to solo low-level raids. If they want us doing it, Vengeance helps. If they don’t want us doing it, Vengeance hinders. It’s ingenious, really: they’ve solved all of their balance problems in one ability.

The basic idea is that the more damage you take, the more damage you do. Vengeance gives you AP equal to 5% of your damage taken over the past 10 seconds, and scales up to 10% of your max health at any given moment. This means that, after a 10-second stacking period, as long as you have at least 20% of your health in DTPS, you get 10% of your health in AP.

To put some numbers on this abstraction, my wartank has just over 50,000 health unbuffed, and around 3200 AP. With a full stack of Vengeance, her AP more than doubles, to a total of ~8200 AP. And unlike Wrath, in which many tank abilities (especially for shield tanks) didn’t scale with AP, Cataclysm has modified our abilities so that nearly all scale. The result is ridiculous numbers, like my 12k DPS on the first trash pull of ICC10 and my 6k on H Marrowgar. (Full disclosure: I single-tank H Marrowgar, so that’s with 100% HS uptime.) (Elaboration for the curious: I have always single-tanked H Marrowgar, so it’s not an indication of how OP the patch has made anyone. If anything, the fact that most people didn’t single-tank Marrowgar was an indication of how OP healadins were: the one-tank setup greatly simplified the encounter for our priest/priest/shaman heal team, and was key to us getting him down in the first place.)

The ridiculous damage I was producing was definitely due to Vengeance, by the way, not to warrior ability buffs. On dummies my abilities are hitting for half their previous amount, if that – Thunder Clap is doing maybe 20% of its previous damage – and my crit chance has fallen from around 20% from talents to a measley 2% unbuffed. (I haven’t taken Hold the Line, as though I’ve heard good things, I only have so many points to allocate to trash DPS; and Blood and Thunder! is not leaving my tree).

On top of that, I’m not even very good at tanking DPS. Or DPS in general for that matter. I never spam buttons as they come off cooldown, I’m often a GCD or two late on procs like Sword & Board or Revenge, and I’ll often go 2-3 GCDs at a time without hitting anything but HS/Cleave because my attention is focused elsewhere. (I still absently spam those, but since when I’m absent I tend not to be hitting much else, it hasn’t been a problem yet.)

Anyway, this article isn’t supposed to be about how I’m a bad tank, it’s supposed to be about how badass Vengeance is.

Vengeance as a Rage Clone

I look at Vengeance as a return to rage, for all tanks. Consider Vengeance as a resource and you’ll see what I mean. You start off with an empty bar, but your threat is balanced around having 10-20% minimum at all times; it builds up the more you’re hit; and if anyone besides you pulls, or peels off you early in the pull, the very act of peeling has deprived you of the resources to do anything about it. So, pretty much warrior threat from 3.0-3.2: as long as you have the mobs for the first 6-8 seconds, you’re in the clear for the rest of the fight; but if you don’t, you’re not going to have any fun at all.

Vengeance and DoTs

Back when the Thunderstruck talent originally hit the warrior beta tree, it was a Consecrate clone, causing Thunder Clap to leave a ground AoE where it was cast. The warrior community was thrown into an uproar. The majority derided Conseclap as a weak imitation of the paladin ability, which would nerf the insane snap threat we had grown to know and love in Wrath. (The few people in favor of the talent referred to the ability as Mansecrate instead. The warrior community is weird.) Unfortunately, though Conseclap was removed like the STD it was, the snap threat of Thunder Clap – the snap threat of all classes’ AoE abilities – was nerfed nearly to the ground. But our sustained threat is as good as ever – better, even. What happened?

AoE DoTs are what happened. Now all tanking classes hold AoE aggro with DoTs applied by their AoE abilities, with the exception of druids, who will gain this ability at level 81. (Sorry bears; you get to be OP at survival though.) And because of the changes to DoTs, Vengeance is now a huge part of their threat/damage. In 3.x and before, DoTs operated off the stats you had when they were cast: if you used an AP, haste or crit trinket after a DoT was already ticking, the DoT would not be affected. In 4.0, DoTs are updated in real time whenever your stats change, which with Vengeance is a big fucking deal. This is why despite our poor snap threat, our sustained threat can be insane: passive, ticking threat running in parallel to our rotations, based on our levels of rage clone.

Paladins get the short end of the stick here: if I understand correctly, Consecration is not currently based on AP, which means their threat DoT will not scale with Vengeance. This doesn’t seem quite right to me, as if Wowhead is to be believed Consecration doesn’t scale with anything except character level and Inquisition. If I do read this correctly, expect a change to a scaling mechanic in 4.1.

Off-Tanking with Vengeance

One unfortunate effect of the old rage mechanic was that it made off-tanking quite difficult. Gaining aggro on a fight like H Deathwhisper must be done with effectively no Vengeance. (Warriors have a slight edge on this problem with the new Vigilance, which I view as an apology card from Blizzard for us having always had to deal with this problem.) Similarly, on single-target taunt-switch fights the original tank runs the risk of pulling off of the new tank after a switch, as his Vengeance gives him more than twice the threat generation the as-yet running-on-empty new tank has. Tanks on switch fights will need to be aware of the scaling issues that Vengeance will cause during these 10-second transition phases, and react accordingly.

Maintaining Vengeance in Old Content

I’ve read criticism of the Vengeance mechanic which suggests that causing AP to scale with damage taken will reward poor play by encouraging tanks to take more damage. I can only assume that the criticizers have refused to ever run with a bear or wartank, as the rage mechanic, by awarding more damage/threat as we take damage, encourages us to play poorly and take more damage.

There is, however, a kernel of truth to this concern: if I step into a heroic 5-man geared to the teeth in my 264s with emphasis on bonus armor, I’m at a severe disadvantage when it comes to holding aggro. But that’s nothing new: it’s been that way for warriors since 3.2. I can see how it would make DKs or paladins uncomfortable, especially given that paladins can reasonably become unhittable against trash simply through reforging; so I’ll share the secret that wartanks have been using for over a year now:

We cheat.

It’s common practice among wartanks to keep a special gear set for running heroics. Historically this has usually been a handful of tanking pieces, most notably a threat-oriented 2p set bonus; enough PVP gear to be uncrittable for heroics (5.4% reduction, as opposed to the 5.6% for raids); and assorted DPS pieces, with an emphasis on hit to the heroics cap (7%) and expertise. Resilience kept us uncrittable, while the PVP and DPS gear kept us from avoiding or mitigating excessive amounts of damage, providing us with plenty of rage; the hit cap meant our AoEs would always hit (as they are considered ranged attacks and thus cannot be dodged/parried), and expertise kept our melee threat gen high as well.

Treating heroics as another kind of encounter to gear towards allowed us to overcome our disadvantages (all-or-nothing AoE, inverse scaling between threat and damage taken) and become arguably the best heroic tanks, threat-wise. Sure, it made the healers work a little harder; but at these levels of gear, “working a little harder” generally translated to “having to cast occasionally.” Blanket used to complain that when I wore my heroics set he could only play two MMOs at a time.

My survival set.

My heroics set. NB: Not properly gemmed or enchanted yet.

Build your heroics set around your two most threat-oriented pieces of tier gear and, for shield tanks, a slow (2.6 speed) DPS weapon. (Now that HS and Cleave are no longer on-next-hit, slow weapons are significantly better for warriors’ threat than fast weapons; slow weapons have been better for protadins for some time). Next, try to reach 7% hit, and stack some expertise too – you won’t want to have less than 20. You want to keep some tanking gear in your heroics set, so pull from tanking pieces with significant hit and expertise before you go hog-wild with DPS pieces. Accessories, especially rings and stat sticks, are often good for this. Fill in the rest of your slots with PVP or DPS gear.

With your intentionally gimped avoidance and armor you won’t want less than 35k health unbuffed, so consider this as you choose between PVP and DPS pieces. (If you’re at below 40k in normal tanking gear, you’re probably not at the point where you’d need to dress down for heroics). If your DPS 2p bonus is applicable to your tanking spec, consider meeting it. DPS trinkets are usually extraordinarily powerful for their item level, so you should save the trinket slots for them if you can afford it.

Please note, I only wear my heroics set for the original Wrath heroics and sometimes H ToC (depending on the healer). I consider the ICC 5-mans serious enough content to use my raid threat set (not pictured). Come Cata, you’re unlikely to need a heroics set until 4.2: it’s for content you extremely overgear only.

Vengeance in PVP

At a few times during this expansion, tanking specs (most notably paladins and warriors, as DKs and druids didn’t have dedicated tanking trees) have become significant threats to PVP balance. Vengeance seems intended to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

Because in a raid situation we can count on having Vengeance up nearly all the time, Blizzard has nerfed the base damage of most tanking abilities significantly. This means that, like prot warriors in 3.2, we will have a difficult time doing any kind of damage unless we’re being focused; but when we are focused, so long as we’re not dead, our damage will be insane. This turns all tanks into 3.2 prot warriors: worthless against anyone who knows enough to ignore us, and powerful only against noobs who don’t know any better than to attack us.

I was doing some BGs the other day, with Blanket along as my pocket healer, and the results were disappointing. Generally by the time I had taken enough damage to raise my AP to a respectable level, I was dead or nearly dead. Remember, going from full to 0 health only gives you 50% Vengeance.

That's me being slaughtered in a stunlock, unable to use any of the Vengeance it took me being slaughtered to build up.

Feral is the only tank spec that, in my mind, shows real promise. In Wrath, feral PVP spent most of its time in kitty, but would go bear if focused. This was pretty balanced, as going bear meant losing any significant damage, and was really only for survival emergencies as switching forms could only be done at a heavy resource cost. With Vengeance available as a bear form perk to kitty PVP, though, I expect feral to wreck faces. Instead of sacrificing damage for survival when focused, ferals will gain survival and possibly gain damage from Vengeance. The synergy between crit (the primary PVP stat) and Savage Defense will only make matters worse. Start leveling your ferals for season 9, because this is going to be Death Knights all over again.

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