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Cataclysm tanking changes expanded

Matthew Rossi

If you read Fox's post yesterday, well, I hope you braced yourself for more changes. Because here they are. When the devs said more specifics were coming soon, they were not kidding us. Also, Fox is mean to tanks, but he's a DPS player; we're used to their silly little ways. Anyway, let's take a look at the newly announced changes, shall we?

Zarhym - Re: Upcoming Tanking Changes
Here are a few additional changes we are making which will be applied in patch 4.0.3a:

  • Guardian of Ancient Kings -- Damage reduction changed from 60% to 50%. Cooldown still 2 minutes (talented). Duration still 12 seconds.
  • Icebound Fortitude -- Damage reduction changed from 30% to 20% (or 60% to 50% talented). Cooldown still 2 minutes. Duration still 12 seconds.
  • Shield Wall -- Damage reduction changed from 40% to 50%. Cooldown still 2 minutes (talented). Duration still 12 seconds.
  • Glyph of Shield Wall -- Now buffs damage reduction by 10% (to 60%), but only adds 1 minute of cooldown.
  • Survival Instincts -- Damage reduction changed from 60% to 50%. Cooldown reduced from 5 minutes to 2 minutes. Duration still 12 seconds.
  • Bear Form -- Stamina bonus lowered from 20% to 10% and Heart of the Wild health bonus from 10% to 6%. Bear health should be close to plate tank health with this change.
  • Vigilance -- No longer reduces damage by 3%, but will still reset Taunt cooldown and provide Vengeance for the warrior.

In addition to these changes, there was much expounding on the tanking design philosophy, which we will cover after that jump I hear so much about. Being a tank (and thus kind of slow mentally, according to Fox ... man, see if anyone taunts for him in Cataclysm dungeons), I need to go over these things in detail.

First off, these changes (except for the Vigilance one) all seem aimed at standardizing various tanks' "OMFG HE'S CHARGING HIS LAZORS" buttons. Everything lasts about 12 seconds, takes 2 minutes to cool down and cuts incoming damage by 50 percent. The Shield Wall glyph will allow warriors to increase that damage reduction by an additional 10 percent, but it will also increase the cooldown for 1 minute. This basically reduces the damage absorbed for everyone but warriors, who ended up with their baseline 40 percent increased -- but if I were a druid, I would be thrilled with the reduction in the Survival Instincts cooldown. A 10 percent damage reduction lost but being able to use it more than twice as often? Yes, please.

The Vigilance change makes an ability that threatened to become nearly mandatory for using on an off tank in a raid into one you'll still try and use on an off tank -- but he or she won't care, because that damage reduction benefit is gone, gone, gone. I'm starting to wonder if I'll even bother with Vigilance in my tanking build in Cataclysm.

Meanwhile, the Bear Form/Heart of the WIld changes are a pretty hefty nerf. They may be necessary to balance bears against plate tanks, but I can't imagine that any druids out there will be happy with them. Still, if all four tanks end up more or less interchangeable for the content, it means less being forced to sit for "supposedly optimal tanking class of the month," which will ultimately be a good thing. I still don't expect any druid tanks to be happy about it; I know I wouldn't be. Ghostcrawler (lead systems designer) talks more about why this was necessary in a later post quoted below.

Finally, GC went on at length about what the tanking design for Cataclysm is and how it differs or departs from Wrath of the Lich King (which I have got to stop misspelling as Wrath of the Licking). Take us away, GC.

Ghostcrawler - Re: Upcoming Tanking Changes
Q u o t e:
I'd like to point out that this hasn't been true for the entire expansion of Wrath of the Lich King.

The faster a cooldown has been available has determined its importance.

See: Heroic Beasts, Anub'arak, TLK, Sarth +3, Vezax, nearly every single tank death fight this whole expansion.

I believe you guys are just flat wrong.

I agree it worked that way in Lich King. Tanks were often at risk of dying within 2-3 boss hits, often faster than a heal could land. In that environment anything that can prolong your life at all is very valuable, and by extension anything not related to reliably prolonging your life (parry for instance) is not attractive.

This is also something we have set out to change. I understand that you personally don't believe we will change it, and since your vision of what the world will be like is at odds with our vision, it is unsurprising that the changes we make to bring about our vision might not make sense to you.

But if healer mana doesn't matter, our whole combat design collapses. Healers won't value cheap heals. Since mana won't constrain them, overhealing will be common, so they may start devaluing crit as well. DPS specs won't value talents that help them stay alive. And the only way to challenge raids will once again be to clobber tanks so hard that any missed heals will result in tank death. It doesn't have to be this way, and in fact it wasn't this way for much of the game. We were watching the new Nefarian fights and recalling the old Nefarian fights where, in the absence of a berserk timer, the fight could really last for a long time -- maybe 20 minutes or more -- if you had a lot of deaths. The tank wasn't in much danger of RNG dying, so as long as the healers didn't run out of mana, the raid could keep the fight going nearly indefinitely.

As we said above, in the beta raid tests, druids were easy to keep alive and the other tanks were dying in two hits. That wasn't the design we were going for, so we brought the druid down to the other tank levels and adjusted the damage accordingly.

So basically, all the changes so far are aimed at helping move us toward a design that does not rely on Mimiron-style, massive damage that forces your tanks and healers to get absolutely everything right, or watch as tanks die, then the raid dies. While as a tank, I've grown used to this kind of design (à la Soul Reaper), I can't say I'll miss it very much. And I do look forward to heroics that are slightly less grueling to tank and raid groups that care less what class you tank with than whether or not you know how to generate threat and help your healers keep you alive.

We will see how it all ultimately shakes out, of course. If the changes to Bear Form and Heart of the WIld end up balancing tank health and the cooldown changes make their survivability more even, we could be entering a pretty positive phase for tanking. At any rate, we're probably entering the phase of tanking where no one taunts off of Fox until he apologizes, which should be fun for us all.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it; nothing will be the same! In WoW Insider's Guide to Cataclysm, you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion (available Dec. 7, 2010), from brand new races to revamped quests and zones. Visit our Cataclysm news category for the most recent posts having to do with the Cataclysm expansion.

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