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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Where the Action is Not

Matthew Rossi

The Care and Feeding of Warriors once more shuffles forth clad head to toe in clanking metal, devoid of holy light, harnessed death magic or any of that fancy stuff, to bash things about until they cough up shiny pixels. Matthew Rossi has been bashing things about for their loot since January of 2005. He'll be doing an analysis of the Warrior Q&A soon, he promises, please don't stab him with pitchforks.

Honestly, I'd like to rant more about how Warrior DPS is still way too low in PvE. Especially since I keep seeing posts on the forums from the blues telling me classes with equal or better DPS are in fact too low. It's sort of maddening, really. But as much as I'd like to go on a written rampage about encounter design serving as an arbitrary limiter to warrior DPS in Ulduar, and how paradoxically my DPS is at its best on fights that are supposed to be hard mode fights (this week, for instance, my personal highest DPS numbers were recorded on XT - 002's Heartbreaker mode, where two Warriors including myself finally managed to break the top four and were ahead of the other hybrids) due to the mechanics of those fights actually allowing the warrior some uninterrupted DPS time.

But unfortunately, a whole lot has been said about tanking this past week. So as maddening, vexing, downright baffling as I find the encounter design limitations of Warrior DPS in some cases (really, not much can irritate me like knowing my DPS time was broken up by big chunks of having to run away, run around, get out of the way of lightning or exploding seeds or any of the sixteen things Mimiron does that make me unhappy to be alive) that rant's going to have to stay confined to these opening paragraphs. (For a simulation of what I sound like during a raid, get four angry woodpeckers and have them attack your keyboard while you scream "Oh, COME ON" every few seconds and imagine you're the Gravity Bomb again.)

So what happened with tanking this week, you ask? Well, more was said about block, about avoidance, and about tanking specced players as DPS and in PvP. So let's go over what was said.

First off, let's talk about the avoidance changes. As I stated last week, I am aware that these changes will hit some classes harder than warrior tanks, who are one of two tanking classes that can use all three stats (Dodge, Block and Parry) so that they don't have to depend on any one of them. However, what I saw in the discussion that interested me was the following quote from Ghostcrawler.

  • This is also not the big avoidance "come to Naaru" that some posters predicted. Overall, we think avoidance is too high and the game would work better with lower tank avoidance, but suddenly dropping everyone's avoidance by 20 or 30% would be a very big change with many ramifications for healing and gear among other things. It would also feel like a big nerf to the many players who didn't understand why it would be better for the game in the long term. But I still expect it is coming at some point.
First off, I'm not sure that I agree that avoidance is too high unless we're also saying that overall mitigation and stamina are too low. (This goes for all tanks, although I'm most knowledgeable about Warrior tanking and will be focusing there.) I think it would be more accurate to say that avoidance is too influential in encounter design at the moment, that knowing that tanks will stack as much avoidance as they can has lead designers to focus on those hits that do get through hitting like finding your girlfriend in bed with your father. This means that tanks are trapped to some extent - they have to stack avoidance because there's not enough mitigation possible to make taking two of those big hits back to back very survivable, which traps designers, because when they're working on the next content they have to design it with tanks stacking all that avoidance in mind, which leads to bigger and bigger and bigger hits that require more and more avoidance to survive. This rapidly moves tanking into two almost completely different universes, boss tanking where sets are designed almost exclusively at taking as little damage as possible, and trash tanking where threat is all you care about.

We all remember Sunwell Radiance, which was put in purely because fully geared Druid tanks who'd been farming Hyjal and Black Temple were almost unstoppable by physical damage, they'd dodge almost everything a boss would throw at them. It was kludgy and inelegant and had the effect of punishing a tank for having made the reasonable assumption that he or she was supposed to use all of this gear that benefited him. If tweaking dodge downwards and parry upwards keeps this from happening again, or allows for an equilibrium in encounter design between avoidance (dodge and parry) and mitigation (block, armor, stamina) then that's fine. It has to take into account those thanks who can't use as broad a selection, of course, because at this point I'm frankly terrified for the future of the warrior class if warrior tanks become too popular. In the past few months the developers have shown a frank willingness to tour the warrior protection tree and its design far in excess of its actual performance in the game at the moment.

What I believe we need to see in encounter design is a more even distribution of damage that is lowered by our various mitigation options (returning Block to a place where it's actually a worthwhile stat) and the occasional big whack of damage that cooldowns and avoidance can be counted on to reduce. This has to be done without placing any one tanking class (not even Warriors, as much as I love them) on top of the totem pole, because if one class is clearly superior it will be chosen over other tanks, and then it will be nerfed. Furthermore, an avoidance heavy paradigm in tanking design actually goes against the core of the class as tanks. Warriors are supposed to be hit. Laying on the dodge so that you take as little damage as possible leads to rage generation that looks like a crazy amusement park ride, all dizzying highs and stomach lurching lows.

Now that we've talked about that, what about warrior tanks as DPS and in PvP?

  • We want Prot warriors to do decent damage in PvE. We don't want them to do as good damage as actual dps specs -- there needs to be a trade-off for such high survivability. This means we need threat multipliers or you won't be able to actually hold aggro. It's okay if Shield Slam can make big (yet not absurd) numbers, since you don't Shield Slam all that much. That's fun. As I said above though, it would probably work better if Shield Slam hit hard because your Strength was high, not because you built a gimmicky set.
Okay, first off I cannot believe the obvious answer eludes. Rather than buffing block value at all, remove the stat from all gear. Keep block rating, and have damage reduced be a function of how much strength you have. Say that you have 1200 strength as a tank, (that's about how much I have in my tank set) - let the amount of damage you block as a tank be based entirely on strength, so that 1200 strength becomes 1200 block value. Any gear that currently itemizes block value can itemize that amount of strength instead, and have Shield Slam's damage be entirely based on strength. Tweak the numbers up and down via PTR testing to ensure that overall DPS doesn't climb too high and you're good to go. It would even allow you to have warrior tanks do more damage in a well rounded, even way, rather than stacking block value so that one ability hit very, very hard. You would instead have all abilities hit slightly harder.

Yes, Warriors (and other classes to some extent) are always going to need threat multipliers, but we have to always remember that threat multipliers are never as compelling, lead to scaling issues (there's a reason Paladin tanks are still the kings of AoE tanking - take a paladin tank to Emalon and give him the adds to tank and his DPS will rival some of the actual DPS players, despite what Ghostcrawler has said above about not wanting tanks to do as much DPS as DPS specs) and in general lead to the sensation of 'overgearing the instance' which keeps being brought up, when you can't hold initial aggro unless everyone stands around doing nothing for a few seconds because the mobs don't hit the warrior tank hard enough for him to generate any rage to get threat in the first place.

In general I find this idea that warrior tanks are asking for (or even want) to do as much DPS as pure DPS specs, or even hybrids specced to DPS, to be kind of absurd. We just don't want to be the lowest DPS of the tanks. At present, there's absolutely no danger of a tanking warrior doing as much DPS as any other tanking class, especially when not tanking. If you have three tanks in a fight, and one of them is a Warrior, he'll be by far the bottom of the barrel. (My fresh 80 DK tank, who has only been gearing up for a week or so, can do as much damage as a tank spec as my Ulduar geared warrior - all hail Howling Blast.) This is not just important for hard modes where you need to squeeze as much DPS as possible from an encounter and therefore will always choose tanks who do more DPS while tanking, it's also important because of the impact seeing other tanks put out twice to three times as much DPS has on the fun factor for warrior tanks. There's nothing fun about feeling like last year's model.

In short (too late) it's not that I even object to what's being said so much as I find the lack of motion for the warrior class perplexing. Warriors as tanks are the twitchiest, require the most effort to tank well with (I do not recommend you roll a DK for tanking if you want to continue to enjoy warrior tanking) and while they have a very nice assortment of skills and talents they're still at the absolute bottom of the totem pole for DPS while tanking. No matter what anyone says, a Prot Warrior who will not be tanking for a particular fight is of much greater utility to the raid if he uses Dual Talent Specialization and goes Arms or Fury than he will be trying to pump out damage in his tank spec. It's simply not tenable.

Next week, hopefully I get to have that rant about encounter design and DPS warriors.

Check out more strategies, tips and leveling guides for Warriors in Matthew Rossi's weekly class column: The Care and Feeding of Warriors.

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