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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: But hitting buttons is fun!

Matthew Rossi

The Care and Feeding of Warriors is about warriors, those lovable, squeezable, strokeable bundles of pure joy who seethe with a burning inner fire, a rage that can only be quenched in blood. Matthew Rossi tries quenching it in delicious caffeinated beverages. You'd be surprised how often that works.

Honestly, believe it or not, I'd actually like to talk about DPS today. My current raiding guild has between three and four regular tanks who show up for most every 25 man raid. As you might expect, you don't need three to four tanks for ICC. At this point in the raid's life cycle, if you have two tanks you can get through most everything except Putricide and maybe Blood Princes. (We have used two tanks and a DPS for this fight, but we usually use our feral tank for it, so three tanks.) Marrowgar at this point can be done by two geared tanks and a plate DPS standing up there mashing away, although to play it safe we usually just use three.

So last night, after tanking Sindragosa, I got to DPS on Arthas, which is fun for a warrior. (Ah, Glyph of Cleaving, you make up for the mechanical deficiencies of my class.) Then I went and did some stupid fun heroics with a warrior tank, arms warrior, another fury warrior and a resto druid who kept healing in bear form. (I know they can't cast healing spells in bear form. He'd occasionally pop out and throw a HoT on folks. It was pretty much all we needed.) So it wall all sorts of DPS warrior fun last night.

And then I went and read this endlessly exploding threat on tanking and now I have to talk about it. Why? Well, first off, Ghostcrawler mentions Monte Cook. That hits all of my nerd buttons. (If only you'd thrown in a plug for Kingmaker, Greg.) Secondly, we both hated the old Shield Block mechanic and we both hate the current Heroic Strike one.

Ghostcrawler - Re: Just get rid of dodge and parry altogether
I understand your point, but I hated old Shield Block. It was always the right button to push whenever it came off cooldown. It wasn't an interesting decision – there was no point in saving it for the right moment and no penalty for using it at the wrong time. It's okay to have some relatively spammy buttons, but old Shield Block crossed the line (and current Heroic Strike still does).

If you don't hate how Heroic Strike works in tanking, you're not tanking on a warrior. Essentially, once you've used everything else (which you will have) if you have rage it should be going into Heroic Strike. I have it macro'd so that I never have to use the ability, it's just autofiring off of several other moves, because if I didn't and I had to actually queue the ability my fingers would shatter like glass and I'd be tanking with stumps right now. Hell, Heroic Strike sucks as a DPS move, too. But at least there are times when you won't be pummeling the button as if it were the tulpa of every humiliation you ever experienced in your life.

Ghostcrawler - But hitting buttons is fun!
If you don't think Shield Block is interesting enough today, that's a fine discussion to have. I'm a little surprised to see any nostalgia for the old model though. Hitting a relatively common dps button that plays into other talents and abilities is one thing. Having to constantly mash "make me slightly more survivable" is another. I'll grant you that it was fun on Illidan, but it took that mechanic specifically to make it fun.

Imagine how you'd react to this scenario:

GC: Good news, everyone! We lowered the cooldown of Shield Wall to 5 sec and balanced assuming you hit it every 5 sec.

Tanks: Um.... Thanks? Could you maybe just make it a passive at that point?

GC: But hitting buttons is fun!

I will be honest with you here. The second I read this, I knew it was going to be the title of this post.

Frankly, I think I'm on record as not always being supportive of Blizzard's design philosophy or goals. I don't subscribe to the notion that the development of the game is some sort of sacred cow that can't be criticized or what have you. But every so often the stars align and there is a moment where they and I become conjoined at the soul, and this is one of those times. No, Shield Block wasn't fun in the old days. No. It was not. I tanked back then too, I tanked Rag, I tanked Nef, I tanked the Twin Emps and C'Thun and the original Four Horsemen and Anub'arak back when you actually needed Nature Resist to tank him and up through Kara, Gruul, Mag, TK, SSC, Hyjal, BT, even Sunwell... no. No. No no no no no!

There was nothing fun about an ability that required absolutely no thought. Shield Block was up, you used it. The only time you ever saved it for anything was Shear. An ability that requires no thought on the part of the player is not a fun ability. We're not drinking bird toys here or metronomes. It's fine to have abilities that you'll weave into your rotation on a fairly regular basis... an arms DPS warrior is going to be hitting Overpower and Rend fairly often and not constantly analyzing whether or not he should, it's true... but Shield Block totally stepped over that line. I admit, I was used to it. We all were. But amazingly, being used to something doesn't make it good. I can still remember the first time I stepped into Kara and had to pray for Shield Block to keep me from getting crushed by Prince Malchezaar's Thrash ability. Remember Crushing Blows? Remember having to rely on Shield Block to get to uncrushable?

I'm going to admit that as a tank, I go out of my way to make sure I stay alive. I value threat stats. Indeed, I value threat stats more than most people (you will never ever see a post from me arguing that threat doesn't matter now, that you shouldn't gear for it, I've repeatedly argued just the opposite) but in the end I gear to stay alive. I gear for armor and stamina over avoidance because armor and stamina are more reliable. I'm not a gambler. Higher armor means less damage taken. Higher stamina means more damage can be taken. A streak of dodges or parries is great, but it's not reliable. Blocking an attack is fine, but ultimately a block is (currently, we all know it's going to change in Cataclysm) is functionally just mitigation with an annoying avoidance-like mechanic. Sometimes you mitigate some damage, sometimes you don't! Roll the dice!

But one of the flip sides to random abilities like avoidance mechanics is that their random nature tends to balance out with a much more potent effect. Sure, armor is always there. It always reduces how much damage you take. But if you dodge, you take no damage at all. Taking no damage at all is pretty sweet for a tank. So while I don't stack dodge, I don't avoid it, either. The idea that dodge and parry should be removed from the game is silly: randomization is what allows us to have doubt about the outcome of an encounter. Having doubt about the outcome of an encounter is part of the gameplay, it's what causes us to have to learn strats, make appropriate gear choices (and upgrade our gear) and use our abilities in the proper place and time to help the group as a whole overcome an obstacle.

Old Shield Block and current Heroic Strike are prime examples of abilities you almost never have to put that kind of effort into. Shield Block in the days of Crushing Blows and HS now are boring because there's no thought, you just spam them. Spamming an ability without doing anything else is the definition of boring. As I said to my arch-nemesis Ziebart the Destroyer this week as we were locked in battle over the yawning chasm deep within his stygaian pit of darkness, yes, hitting buttons is fun. But hitting the same button over and over again isn't, unless you happen to be a rat with electrodes hooked up to the pleasure center of your brain.

In short: hitting buttons is fun, when they're the right buttons, and not just the same buttons all the time. Gearing for mitigation/stamina is a fine choice but if you don't have to make choices then what's the point? We may find randomization annoying and work to minimize our having to rely on luck, and that's a fine and good choice. (I hate luck.) But asking for luck to be taken out of the game or asking for abilities that require no strategy or tactics to use (hit me over and over again to avoid being smashed into paste!) just doesn't seem like a good idea to me.

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