This week we return for the conclusion of our series examining the likely impact of the new Call to Arms system debuting in patch 4.1. If you're looking for last week's article, you'll find that here: Shifting Perspectives: Tanks, bribes, and player behavior.
To summarize the observations and argument of the first article as quickly as possible, Cataclysm returned players to the difficulty of The Burning Crusade instancing model without the benefits that tanks gained from building a reputation as competent players -- namely, the reasonable expectation that groups would cooperate with kill orders and any requests for crowd control. The dungeon finder, arguably a tool better suited to the ease and speed of Wrath of the Lich King heroics, has left tanks in an unfortunate position: They now attempt to lead groups through more difficult content with the unreliable vote kick as their sole defense against obstreperous players. That DPS queue times have soared under the present circumstances shouldn't arrive as a shock.
I'm going to try to explain why Call to Arms may very well result in more tanks queueing for 5-mans through the dungeon finder and who we're likely to see if and/or when this happens.
The most pertinent observation to be made here is that players aren't as easily separated into "tanks," "DPS," and "healers" as you might think. At any given moment, yes -- you have to be playing one of the three. But as the expansion advances, more and more people will have multiple geared toons at 85, and with the Call to Arms reward bag being BoA, they are theoretically more likely to to run a tank character through the dungeon finder if the potential rewards appeal to them. As of now, the bag's contents are a chunk of gold, randomly generated flasks, and a small chance at 5-man dungeon mount drops.
This article is written with two assumptions that I think are pretty reasonable: that most players have a designated main, and that they care the most about sending desirable rewards to this character over others. Most people are only interested in putting titles, mounts, and expensive/prestigious items on one toon at the most, given the amount of effort involved.
So who's out there tanking right now, anyway?
For the purpose of this argument, I think the game's tanks and potential tanks can be classified as follows:
- Raiding Professionals Main-spec tanks and off tanks in current raiding content. Their gear is often better than that of the general population, and they can usually be counted on to know the 5-man fights. For most people in this category, this is their main.
- Professionals Main-spec tanks in 5-man content. For whatever reason, they're not raiding, and the quality of their gear is necessarily restricted to badge and crafted pieces (granting them less margin for error with threat versus more geared DPS), but they know the 5-man fights. For most people in this category, this is their main.
- Apprentices Beginner to intermediate tanks still learning the dungeons, mobs, and pulls (and developing the sixth sense necessary to anticipate when that mage jumping around in the back is going to blunder into a patrol). This may or may not be a main character and/or reroll.
- Mercenaries Off-spec tanks. These are druid, warrior, paladin, and death knight players who have a DPS or healing main spec and reserve their secondary spec for tanking rather than PvP. May or may not be a main, and their experience with tanking runs the gamut from Apprentice to Raiding Professional/Professional level.
- Opportunists Just what the word implies -- players who tank in order to take advantage of some external incentive, not because they're particularly enamored of the role. Nowadays, as our commenter Snuzzle observed, the only reward for tanking is an instant queue. Of the five types of tank here, most likely to be an alt.
Why do any of these folks queue through the dungeon finder now?
- Raiding Professionals Beats the hell out of me. If you're in a raiding guild with competent DPS and healers, you're not likely to be pugging through the dungeon finder; the hassle just ain't worth it. It's for this reason that the maxim, "There isn't a shortage of tanks. There is a shortage of tanks willing to tank PuGs" is so commonly repeated on the Tanking forums to DPS exasperation over queue times.
- Professionals Valor points and little else. Like a Raiding Professional, if you're a Professional-level tank and you're guilded, there is no real incentive to run with a dungeon finder group unless you count masochism. Actually, as someone who's spent most of her in-game time alternating between the Raiding Professional and Professional categories, there is even less incentive to queue as a Professional because you run the risk of getting DPS who massively outgear you. Tanking for people who have a significant gear advantage over you is a slum and always has been.
- Apprentices The need to get experience with a wide variety of groups and dungeons. Naturally, beginner and intermediate tanks capitalize on the rapidity of tank queue times in order to do this.
- Mercenaries A main-spec DPS player is mostly going to pick the tank option to avoid the astronomical DPS queue time if he's not otherwise piggybacking runs off a guild tank.
- Opportunists Ditto, assuming that the toon is guilded.
I would argue that the people most likely to be experienced tanks (the Raiders, Professionals, and sometimes Mercenaries) are less likely to be attracted to present Call to Arms rewards (gold, flasks, and mounts) because these toons are largely mains with no real need for them. One of the great attractions of the tanking role is the ability to solo lesser content, and if you're at all interested in getting dungeon mounts on a tank main, you've had ample opportunity to do this already. More importantly, Call to Arms would also require these folks to queue randomly rather than with their guildies, and that's not an attractive prospect to anyone concerned. Guilds resent the loss of a convenient tank, and tanks resent having to take their chances through the dungeon finder.
To the extent that Call to Arms rewards are attractive, I think they're largely a draw to players who have rerolled a tank class and are "building" a new main or who want to send the BoA reward bags to their main from a tanking alt (e.g., if you're a priest without the ability to solo, say, heroic Utgarde Pinnacle for the Blue Proto-Drake you want but you've got a warrior tank alt). But in an odd way, Call to Arms is kind of a raw deal to a DPS main attempting to do this. Not only does these people still have to do their weekly dungeon runs on their mains for valor points, but they're now tasked with an extra set of runs on a tank alt under the worst possible circumstances -- a random PuG.
I have to conclude that Call to Arms, at least in its present form, doesn't convince existing tanks to pug as much as it attempts to add tanks to the population in the form of alts. So how is this going to work out in practice? Let's see what the DPS queue times look like in a few months.
Should we restrict the dungeon finder to same-server groups only?
This option was suggested frequently in the comments to last week's article. I think players are right to say that this should be an option, but limiting the dungeon finder only to your own realm wouldn't necessarily do much to address queue times on smaller servers. However, I would absolutely jump at the chance to queue for server-only groups. Being able to return to the reputation-driven tanking days of BC without having to spend the time to put a group together would be pretty neat.
- I thought Neirin's comment here was pretty cogent.
- One of the realities drilled into me over recent weeks tanking and healing the new Zul'Gurub and Zul'Aman on the PTR is that how demoralizing and humiliating it is to tank for uncooperative groups. I say this as someone who is normally very "up" on PuGs and generally enjoys the dungeon finder and the people I meet there -- but all it takes is one asshat to eighty-six a run.
- I think commenters are largely correct that vote kick is, at best, a clumsy tool for enforcing good behavior through the dungeon finder.
Shifting Perspectives helps you gear your bear druid at 85, tempts you with weapons, trinkets and relics for bears, then shows you what to do with it all in Feral Druid Tanking 101. We'll also help you gear your resto druid.