The only means of avoiding a crush was pushing your dodge/parry/block over 102.4%, which would nullify the boss' higher weapon skill and render the tank immune to crushing blows. And this is how tanks dealt with that individually:
Warriors would use Shield Block to push their dodge/parry/block over 102.4%.
Paladins would use Holy Shield to push their dodge/parry/block over 102.4%.
Bears would eat it. Prayer was often involved as well.
Bears have no form of avoidance beyond dodge. Because crushing blows were the last attack to be pushed off a boss' hit table, a bear would need more than 85% dodge even to avoid some
of them. While a gear set with >85% dodge was technically possible in late Burning Crusade
content (and something similar was used by Rogues
to tank bosses with predominately physical damage, which is why you saw all of those Rogue-tanking videos popping up
in late BC), the amount of agility you needed to pull it off left you with a tiny health pool and almost no rage generation. You wouldn't get hit, but you also wouldn't be able to hold aggro, so it was the sort of catch-22 that made the situation an amusing one to consider, but then you'd laugh and go back to your regular tanking set.
Without the ability to avoid crushing blows, a Druid's armor and health had to guarantee that: a). the blow would hit for less, and: b). they would have the health pool to absorb multiple, even back-to-back crushing blows, because there was nothing the Druid or raid could do to change the boss' 15% chance to crush.
The Druid's overall damage taken was thus heavily reliant on RNG. You might go minutes or more on a raid boss without once being crushed -- and then there was the time on Teron Gorefiend
where I was crushed on six successive attacks and we wiped. The only thing that could prevent that was better armor and more health, so Druids pushed their armor to reduce the damage, pushed their agility to avoid as many normal blows as possible, and then pushed their stamina to outlive the attacks.
The approach of Wrath and the new tanking paradigm
One of Blizzard's stated aims with the introduction of the Death Knight and the overhaul to existing tank specs was to address the chronic tank shortage
on most realms. They did this by reworking the Protection Warrior tree extensively, introducing the ability to frontload threat and CC in the form of Shockwave
, generate better reflective damage, and improving Thunder Clap
to function as a relatively good form of burst AoE threat. Protection Paladins were altered to have better single-target threat and more controllable aggro generation, which somewhat addressed their relatively weak off-tanking capabilities. Bears overall were changed least in their basic threat mechanics, but were given occasional burst AoE threat in the form of Berserk
, the removal of a target limit on Swipe
, and cooldowns in the form of Barkskin
in forms and Survival Instincts
(a clone of Last Stand
The net effect was to improve tank damage, soloing capacity, and threat scaling in an attempt to make tanks a little more user-friendly and fun to play. I would argue that in most respects Blizzard has accomplished that goal. The Death Knight
Death Knights were also meant to allay the tanking shortage by providing a new, cool-looking, and predictably popular class that began life at level 55 and utilized several unique mechanics.
However, the introduction of a 2H-weapon tank who lacked the ability to block was a problem for the concept of the crushing blow. In the absence of block, Death Knights would be unable to become uncrushable without increasing their total avoidance from parry and/or dodge beyond 85%. Increasing their armor or health to the level of a Druid's would also have made them the single most powerful tank in the game against any form of damage, which was problematic for Blizzard's efforts to standardize tank quality. Developers were probably already concerned about the potential effects of Death Knight tanking talents on PvP balance. As we later saw, the Death Knight's impressive mitigation and avoidance cooldowns, coupled with frightening damage and self-healing, has made them an unwelcome
and often resented opponent
in battlegrounds and arena.
If you cannot change the class to suit the game mechanic, then the solution is to change the game mechanic to suit the class. Crushing blows can now be performed only by NPC's 4 levels or higher than a player character. As the highest-level NPC you will encounter in a 10- or 25-man raid is level 83, crushing blows functionally disappeared from the game.
The reappearance of the "crushing blow"
A crushing blow by any other name is still a "crushing blow" -- it's just not a crushing blow as we're accustomed to understanding it. When I say that the crushing blow has reappeared in the game, what I mean is that -- on encounters that matter, we continue to see enormous burst damage on tanks. The difference in new Wrath
raid content (naturally we must exclude Naxxramas) is that the damage spike is typically magic in nature (e.g. Sartharion's Flame Breath
, Malygos' Arcane Breath
) which none of the three classic/BC-era tanks mitigates particularly well. Magic damage cannot be pushed off the boss' hit table and cannot be dodged, parried, blocked, or (for most raid bosses) interrupted or Spell Reflected
Because the majority of your gear, talents, and abilities are completely useless versus this damage, the two things that matter most are your health (the more, the better) and your cooldowns (should you have them). So what does each tank do about it?
Warriors eat it...which they are not designed to do.
Paladins eat it...which they are not designed to do.
Bears eat it, which is what we were
designed to do when burst damage was nearly all physical in nature.
Death Knights use cooldowns to mitigate most of the damage, which is precisely
what they are designed to do.
Why is this a problem?
Most of the time, it's not. In Wrath
, the current raid content is sufficiently easy that any guild that works at it can usually clear everything given time. Sartharion's Flame Breath without drakes up is not particularly dangerous, for example. Blizzard is entirely correct in saying that you can clear all of the game's current content with any tanking class at the helm.
However, the current measure of a raiding guild is the degree to which they've made the content artificially harder by doing achievements. Your guild is no longer evaluated by the content you've cleared. Guilds and players don't advertise themselves by saying "MH/BT guild," or "3/6 Sunwell" anymore if they're after quality players. Hit the PTR around raid times for Ulduar bosses, and this is what you'll see in general chat:
This is how a smart player or guild will advertise themseves, both on the PTR and on the recruitment forums. If you want to compete with the best, it is no longer sufficient to advertise what content you're doing, because the greater accessibility of raid content renders it fairly irrelevant as an outward indication of player quality.
So what matters?
And the most important achievements overwhelmingly favor a Death Knight, or secondarily a Druid, tank.