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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: On Future Tanking

Matthew Rossi

The Care and Feeding of Warriors is about exquisite little bejeweled eggs crafted by master craftsmen over a painstaking six year period. Or maybe it's about angry dudes in plate armor hitting things. Matthew Rossi was going to write about DPS this week, but then there was much discussion about tanking and plans changed.

Frankly, we've talked quite a bit about prot warriors lately, and I wanted to discuss arms with the trauma change and what i see as fundamental limiting factors in the arms spec that do not need to be there. But if you read our Daily Blues feature, or just read the forums directly, you know that there's been some sustained discussion of warrior tanks and their tanking tools and I just have to jump in and comment.

I'm going to pick apart the posts Ghostcrawler made and respond where I think appropriate. Before we move on to that, let me make it clear: I do not now and I have never been of the opinion that at present tanking or threat generation is 'too easy' or that a design model that counts on a specific and painfully rigid talent spec or being given threat handouts by mechanics such as Tricks of the Trade or Misdirection is the way to go for any tanking class, warrior or otherwise. When I see a statement like "Tricks and MD take too much of a burden off of the tank / hide issue #3" that indicates to me that giving DPS classes these abilities has created a scenario wherein tanks can't even gauge their own threat generation abilities adequately. That is, plain and simple, bad design.

Do I hate Tricks or MD? No, of course not. But I hate that they've allowed real flaws in tanking threat design to be, effectively, masked or plastered over. A tank should be more than a big brick of meat that other people hand threat to, he should be working to generate threat. If scaling does not allow a tank to do this, then scaling is not working properly.

Let's look at this post in more detail.

Ghostcrawler - Re: Do warriors really need another Cleave?
The actual problem, in our minds, is threat scaling. Warriors (and all tanks) could AE tank just fine in Naxxramas.* It only became a problem over time when the dps of the dps classes grew so much more quickly than the tanks, largely because the dps classes have so many dps stats on their gear while plate tanks have Strength. Tank damage was pretty close to 50% of dps damage in the first tier of content, which was our goal, but has slipped to 25 to 30% of dps (your mileage may vary) in Icecrown.

We need a system that keeps tank damage scaling at the same rate as dps damage. However, that system can't be dependent on gear stats (unless you're willing to see tank gear go away) and can't be as ridiculous as deep talents that say "You get 5 AP per point of Strength."

I think you just notice threat issues more on AE pulls because things like Tricks and Misdirect mask any problems on single target pulls. Separate problem.

The first issue is, of course, your definition of 'just fine'. Warriors were as behind in AoE threat compared to other tanking classes in Naxx as they are now, of course. Still, it's a minor point: if you spec into a specific and very rigid tanking build that goes up the arms tree a full 15 points and use two major glyphs, you can AoE tank well enough that you most likely won't lose a tanking slot over it.

But take the idea that scaling has completely failed tanks and we start to see concern. First off, I disagree with the idea that gear stats can't contribute to threat without dismantling tanking gear. The problem is that stats like hit and expertise only contribute threat until they reach certain caps (the spell hit cap for thunderclap/shockwave/taunt, and a much lower hit cap for physical attacks and the hard expertise cap that pushes parries off the table entirely) and as soon as they're capped, that's the end of their usefulness for threat. Block Value was a solid threat stat for a while before it was recently nerfed for PvP reasons, making it toothless and hurting warrior threat scaling. You'll get enough block value just from strength at this point, stacking it just pushes you close to the diminishing returns and reduces other useful stats in the process.

Frankly, the threat system should indeed benefit from gear stat scaling. How? One possibility would be simple: static threat modifiers could benefit from mastery, for an example using Cataclysm gear stats. Now, it's fair to say that I fear static threat modifiers because when they're over-relied upon tanking specs end up struggling to kill trash mobs for quests and get frustrating to play. However, when used sparingly and creatively they're a necessary part of tanking and I don't want to see them abandoned, just used carefully. We also know that mobs in higher tiers of content will require higher hit and expertise targets so that's another possibility for gear scaling affecting threat generation.

As for "I think you just notice threat issues more on AE pulls because things like Tricks and Misdirect mask any problems on single target pulls. Separate problem." I'd hope my attitude is already clear on that one. Tricks and MD should be useful and good utility, but they shouldn't be so potent that they actually mask problems with threat scaling as content progresses and gear improves. I have no problem with the idea that the main risk of AoE tanking too much should be that you die instead of losing aggro, however. There should be a risk with biting off more than you can chew or again, tanks are just chunks of meat that stand there and do nothing, and a risky big AoE pull should cause a tank to need to use survival abilities to stay alive. That's why we have them.

It's fair to say that tanking classes can/should be designed differently and with some variety. I myself have expounded on the dangers of too much homogenization. I don't want my warrior tank to be a paladin tank with a red mana bar. But I also don't want him to be locked into a talent spec that allows almost no room for flexibility at all, ie the 15 arms/ 3 fury/ 51 prot (with 2 points to spare for now since Imp Revenge won't be good again until 3.3.3 drops) build.

In addition, in most cases at the high end of gear we're discussing here, in order to even have a hope of generating AoE threat at a reasonable level (i.e. to tank the ridiculous masses of undead mobs in Icecrown) a warrior tank would have to forgo the Last Stand and Shield Wall glyphs so useful for boss survivability for at least two major glyphs, either Cleaving and Sunder or Devastate and Sunder (and Cleaving as well). This isn't tenable in most cases, which is why I end up most raids carrying stacks of glyphs and switching them out between trash and bosses. At times I instead have two tanking specs I switch between with different glyphs and talent choices, one for when I know I won't be doing any AoE tanking at all.
I can't believe that it's considered ideal for a warrior tank to have two prot specs or to carry large stacks of glyphs around, much less that we're 'designed' with Incite/Deep Wounds as a required part of our AoE threat generation. However, we are.

I don't think warriors need more sustained AE threat. You have Incite + Deep Wounds for Thunderclap and also Shockwave...Yes, you're balanced around it. Yes, I can read the tooltip on the talents. I'm saying the solution, in our minds, is not "I hit Thunderclap and it autocrits, applies Rend to everyone and then ticks for 10,000 K for the next 30 minutes." We might as well just remove the cooldown from Challenging Shout if that's how Tclap is going to play.

Instead of that, how about designing our AoE threat abilities so that they're not so dependent on a 15 point talent in a opposing tree that there's no reasonable way I could decide to instead spend those points in the other opposing tree and successfully hold AoE threat against even moderately geared DPS unless they decide to give me a threat handout in the form of MD or Tricks? Could we do that, instead? No?

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