Here’s the deal with my long lack of posts in this space: in addition to my own innate laziness and the real-life challenges of the past few months (overcoming my depression-induced conditioning enough to actually look for a job, running around the country for interviews, spending the majority of the rest of my time curled up in bed clutching a dolphin and freaking out), I’ve also had some major apprehensions about the changes Blizz has been making to warriors, especially protection warriors, in the name of active mitigation. I didn’t want to jump the gun by stereotypically claiming that what was going on in beta was ruining the class, especially since until a week ago I had barely played on beta due to my internet situation.
I’ve played on beta now, and found that my suspicions were, for the most part, correct.
I’d like to clarify before I get into the meat of my whining that my problems with the 5.X warrior model are a matter of personal preference and class identity. As far as I know (though I haven’t been keeping up with the theorycraft as much as I should have, see above) there’s nothing about the new warrior model that makes them unplayable; they seem to be where they’ve always been, the dependable baseline of tank acceptability. Sure, DKs will still be the kings of magical damage, and the new bear mastery is WTFoverpowered, but my objections to the new direction of the warrior class are about enjoyment, not numbers. Whether this makes them more or less relevant is your call. Read more…
As you almost certainly know, Blizzard recently released pre-alpha information for WoW 5.0, The Mists of Pandaria. We as tanks have known that 5.0 would be a time of paradigm shift for us for quite a while, ever since Ghostcrawler confirmed that the active mitigation model he promised/threatened would not be present in patch 4.3; but we hadn’t expected the class system to experience such a paradigm shift as well. If you haven’t been keeping up with Blizzcon news, head over to MMO Champion to read the highlights.
As always for pre-release information, all of this may be subject to change.
If you don’t keep up with blue posts, I doubt you read this blog. Nonetheless, I should probably bring to your attention Ghostcrawler’s most recent Dev Watercooler.
This Week: 66% Threat Increase Hotfix
The threat generated by classes in their tanking mode has been increased from three times damage done to five times damage done.
(Yes, I know there’s more to GC’s remarks than just that; I’m taking them one at a time.)
Well, OK. Great, I guess. I know a certain shadow priest who’ll be ecstatic that he can switch his meta back to int+crit damage (Rhyolith was murder on him). At the same time, I feel like this isn’t really addressing the problem.
As you know, I play a warrior tank; you may not know that I tank alongside a bear, and that on seeing his example, I’m currently leveling a bear as a potential substitute for my warrior. The reason for this is that bears do a lot of damage, even when geared for mitigation. Bear threat is fine, and would continue to be fine even without this threat buff, because bear mitigation is based on a primary stat. Because of this their damage scales like DPS damage, which means their threat scales like DPS threat.
So yeah, great. Our threat will be nearly doubled, which will be an immense quality of life improvement for tanks and DPS alike. In fact, you’ve probably solved the problem for the rest of the expansion. But ultimately, you haven’t fixed the scaling problem – you’ve just patched it, and the perfectionist in me has a difficult time seeing that as a true win.
Upcoming Patch: Improved Vengeance Ramp-Up
Vengeance no longer ramps up slowly at the beginning of a fight. Instead, the first melee attack taken generates Vengeance equal to one third of the damage dealt by that attack. As Vengeance updates during the fight, it is always set to at least a third of the damage taken in the last two seconds. It still climbs from that point at the previous rate, still decays at the previous rate, and still cannot exceed the current maximum.
Nothing controversial here. Snap threat has been needlessly difficult since the implementation of Vengeance. Bravo and about time.
The one thing I do wonder is, how will this affect Vigilance? Depending on how the talent is implemented, it’s possible that it will retain the current Vengeance ramp-up instead of the improved version. Neither version would be particularly unbalanced, I’m just curious – though since the devs are making threat a non-issue, I may well find better use for that talent point elsewhere.
Plans for the Future: Survival On Hit?
That said, we ultimately don’t want tanking to be just standing there soaking boss hits and we would like to have more stats on gear that tanks care about. To solve those challenges, we want to shift more tank mitigation to require active management. We’ll still give all the tanks emergency cooldowns like Shield Wall and Survival Instincts. However, we want to move the shorter cooldowns like Shield Block, Holy Shield and Savage Defense so that they work more like Death Strike. Blood DKs have a lot of control over the survivability they get from Death Strike, but as part of that gameplay, they have to actually hit their target. The other three tanks will get similar active defense mechanics. This doesn’t mean everyone needs to use the DK model of self-healing, but they can use the DK model of managing resources to maximize survivability.
GC goes into a little more depth as to how this could be implemented on the blog; if you didn’t click the link earlier, here it is again. Check it out.
I’m going to give GC the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s talking about changes for the next expansion, because the specific examples he gave were largely either already present in game (e.g. Shield Block having a rage cost), or so out of sync with the current state of the game that I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that they would break the current balance of the classes (e.g. making Savage Defense an activated ability).
Even so, I’d like to offer my suggestions for how the devs could alter the tanking classes as they are right now to make us value threat stats more highly, without making us worry about threat:
- Give tanking debuffs longer cooldowns (internal in the case of those linked to major abilities, e.g. Thunder Clap) and/or fewer activating abilities. This makes misses with those abilities matter to damage taken, without being the pass/fail mechanic that interrupt hitting was.
- Give Savage Defense a small chance (10%?) to proc on hit, in addition to its 50% chance to proc on crit. You could also have the bubbles that procced on hit be half the size (or so) of the bubbles that procced on crit.
- Modify Hold the Line to have a small chance (10%?) to proc on hit in addition to its proc on parry; or, remove the proc on parry and give it a slightly higher chance (20%?) to proc on hit.
- Buff Impending Victory to the point where warriors begin to care. It doesn’t have to be a full Victory Rush, but a 15k heal isn’t very exciting. Make it heal for baseline 10% of max health instead of 5%; then, make a missed/dodged/parried Victory Rush not heal.
Paladins are in such an overpowered place right now that I can’t think of a good way to adjust them to care about threat stats, aside from the debuff suggestion of course. I think that the Seal mechanic would be a natural place to place survival benefits on hit, but given that Word of Glory’s healing eclipses Seal of Insight, I don’t think that would be much of an incentive.
The immediate threat modifier increase will barely be noticed in raids, except by a few high-DPS players. For the most part, they’ll simply make melee DPS less of a floorspec in 5-mans.
I think that we’ll see paladins become the test case for the new paradigm in 4.3. They are obviously in need of an overhaul – block capping is far too easy for them in 4.2, and they now have clones of both the druid and warrior minor cooldowns, putting them far ahead of the rest of the tanking pack in terms of survivability. It’s a given that the block chance offered by mastery will be reduced; and with block’s uptime safely secured below the cap, there’s a good chance that Holy Shield will return to being a passive upon the use of an ability that costs holy power. If this is the case, an implementation of the threat stats for survival concept would be easy: simply make Holy Power-consuming abilities use HP, and not trigger Holy Shield, even if the attack doesn’t land.
Warriors will likely receive a similar overhaul, but theirs may be slightly delayed as paladins are used as a test case. I don’t think druids will receive any active survival changes within Cataclysm, primarily because they are less likely than the other tanks to reject item level upgrades because of poor secondary stat itemization: the increased agility is often enough to make it an upgrade, however slight. Which, of course, brings me back to my first point.
Why is this Necessary?
The problem here isn’t threat, not really. The underlying problem here is that plate tanks are the only role in the game which values secondary stats significantly above primary stats, at all levels of gear. Threat stats aren’t “interesting” to plate tanks because for us, they’re competing with our most desired stats. If mages got more out of crit than int, you’d see them avoiding item level upgrades in favor of itemization too.
I think our lack of use for primary stats is the source of many of our design problems. It substantially alters the gear curve for plate tanks; it creates threat scaling problems between tanks and DPS; it negatively affects quality of life for raiders (can’t use feasts, can’t use flasks); it restricts serious plate tanks to the narrow band of professions that offer flexible stat bonuses (jewelcrafting, blacksmithing, alchemy, and arguably engineering); and it’s just plain poor design.
Before the next expansion, we will have a tier in which Effective Health is once again the paradigm to observe – but until then, it would have been nice if all of us scaled like druids.
As you know, a lot of buffs and debuffs were changed dramatically in 4.0.1. Categories of buffs were merged, buffs were strengthened and weakened to match each other, all that good nonsense.
Among the buff types that were completely changed were the AP debuff, which previously removed all or nearly all bonus attack power from a boss, and the -3% damage taken buff, which belonged to a couple healers and (at the time) a prot warrior’s Vigilance. The interesting thing to me was that they were changed into identical effects: 10% physical damage reduction. They were implemented in different ways – one as a debuff (-10% physical damage done by the mob) and one as a buff (-10% physical damage received by the player) – but given the amount of buff consolidation that was going on at the time I wondered if they would still stack.
Nobody else seemed to wonder. I guess I’m either really slow or a lateral thinker. Or a really slow lateral thinker.
As originally advertised, Vengeance was supposed to cap at 10% of our max health; but no one was reporting reaching this cap, so it has been widely assumed that stacking stamina to increase the Vengeance cap would have no effect on threat, or in the case of bears, Savage Defense. If we weren’t reaching the Vengeance cap at our current levels of stamina, adding more would be a waste!
Well, it turns out that Vengeance is not linked to max health after all, because the underlying mechanics of Vengeance were not implemented as advertised. Instead of being based on health, Vengeance scales at a 1:1 ratio with stamina. (It also has a small contribution from base health, but base health cannot be modified, so there’s no scaling – just a tiny bit of naked vengeance). Word from the blues is that this is intended, and that Savage Defense is balanced around this lower Vengeance value.
Sorry for the recent lack of content in this space; my WoW time over the past few weeks has been spent furiously leveling my hunter to 69 in order to catch a few exotic skins before the Shattering.
I’ve got a beginner-oriented post on the attack table in the works, to help the guildies who look to me for tanking advice understand dodge, parry and block, and how avoidance, block, and unhittability fit into the larger tanking picture. In the interest of being both thorough and accessible, I’m including a metric truckload of charts, which is where the holdup is.
In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about the different tank masteries and what kinds of (boss) fights which tanking classes will excel at.
Oh, and before we get started, I strongly recommend anyone interested in tank balance follow Zarko’s excellent post on the subject in the official forums. Yes, that is 38 pages so far of mostly on-topic, intelligent theorycrafting. No, you don’t need to follow anything beyond the first and second posts if you don’t want to: Zarko is updating the first post regularly as abilities change and the community discovers new things.
Anyway! Masteries and their relevance to different encounter types.