There's been a lot of news about class balance lately. Not only did the devs do a live Q&A recently (here are the important -- that is, the warrior-related -- answers), but they've also been commenting and clarifying on the forums. There's a lot of interesting stuff to consider, and so here we go considering it and the ramifications it all brings or will bring. Here's just one example.
Right now, mastery is decent for arms, terrible for fury, and very solid for protection warriors. Apparently, it's too good for protection right now. While both paladins and warriors use block somewhat differently (Critical Block and Shield Block work together very well), it's pretty easy for either to get pretty high block. Since the active mitigation tanking model didn't manifest in time for patch 4.3, it seems likely that the mastery and block issue will be addressed when that rolls out. It's frustrating, but right now all we can do is wait and see.
Where we've already been
We'll try and look at the more interesting ideas from the thread now. Things we won't be looking at because they're simple answers or because we've covered them before:
- Slam is going to be an arms-only ability. Wild Strike will replace it for fury warriors using Bloodsurge. Wild Strike will be an off-hand strike, no cast time, and Bloodsurge will allow you three cheap Wild Strikes on a reduced cooldown. Wild Strike has the MS debuff, replacing Furious Attacks in the fury tool kit.
- Warriors will have a basic Throw ability and Heroic Throw. Whether or not we'll still have Shattering Throw didn't come up in the Q&A.
- Both arms and protection will have access to Blood and Thunder.
- Intercept will be gone in patch 5.0 because warriors will be able to charge in all three stances, making it superfluous.
I find this interesting on a lot of levels. For one, whether or not the attack speed debuff caused technical problems on encounters or not, for a lot of us it's been beaten into our heads over the years that you have to have it. Furthermore, swapping over the Demo Shout debuff and then getting rid of Demo is another one of those Buddhas being met on the road by a semi. We're really into sacred-cow-slaughtering territory when Demo Shout and Sunder Armor are getting booted off of the tanking bus.
I'm sure Blizzard can balance encounters around a reduced amount of tanking debuffs. It's more conceptual than anything else. Frankly, it's probably better if we're intending an active mitigation model to pare down some of the must-hit tanking abilities to make room for new ones. And with Blood and Thunder remaining a baseline protection ability, it makes sense for Thunder Clap to survive over Demo Shout.
Tank like you've never tanked before
But what this is all saying to me is that if you're a warrior tank now, you need to brace yourself for some radical design changes in 5.0. (They may also be shredding and/or tubular -- I'm not sure yet.) If you've been tanking long-term like I have, you know full well that warriors still hold a lot of design elements as a legacy from being the only viable tank from original WoW launch. Expect those legacies to finally be done away with. Don't be surprised when it happens. With a fifth tanking class incoming, now is the best time to really get down to trying to establish tanking parity. And it definitely looks like that's exactly where we're going.
Tanks tend to look for the most survival and gear appropriately. In Wrath, that meant stacking stamina and armor and relying on bottomless healer mana to keep their mana-sponge buttocks upright. In Cata, warrior tanks have looked for dodge and mastery, because those stats (and parry) provide avoidance and/or mitigation of incoming damage, and damage you don't take is damage that doesn't cost limited healer mana to recover from. Hit and expertise simply were not attractive to most tanks, which led to threat issues for beginner tanks who were doing what the tanks in raids did and stacking survival over threat stats. This led to threat being changed to put more butts in the tanking seat, since there's a little-known secret I'll share with you now:
Tanking is not actually fun.
What makes being a tank fun is the exercise of skill in a high-performance role (you can't suck as the tank and get away with it), the camaraderie of the tanking corps in a guild, the consummate performance thrill of tanking a PUG and just pulling off complex mechanics with style and aplomb. Knowing your gearing, executing your abilities, staying alive through hard fights and bringing the other four, nine or 24 other people through with you is all terribly intoxicating.
But the mechanical game of tanking, the actual job, is constraint and labor. It's work. It's not fun. Anything you can do to reduce the work you have to do and the work your healer has to do, you're going to do. Throwing the responsibility for threat management onto the DPS or letting it get buffed to compensate for your gearing for survival is a no-brainer. You'll do it every time.
To sum it up again: Tanking isn't fun, but being a good tank is. So the entirety of the 5.0 tanking redesign is at least partially aimed at making tanking itself fun, by completely embracing the tanking tendency to emphasize survival and making that the game. By doing that, not only do more stats matter (which means gear can be designed that actually requires some thought instead of "reforge everything to survival stats" because a lot more stuff will be survival stats), but an active, button-hitting, battlefield-scanning playstyle will keep you alive. Knowing how to manage your resources will keep you up; it will allow you to be a good tank and show it.
I'm literally giddy with anticipation of this new approach and very much looking forward to hearing more about it. The only way I could be happier is if someone made a post saying "Yes, you'll be able to tank with a fury spec and Titan's Grip," because that's pretty much what I've wanted to do for three years now.
Next week, we'll be discussing either 4.3 DPS mechanics or heroic Ragnaros.
At the center of the fury of battle stand the warriors: protection, arms and fury. Check out more strategies and tips especially for warriors, including Cataclysm 101 for DPS warriors, a guide to new reputation gear for warriors, and a look back at six years of warrior trends.