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The Light and How to Swing It: It's the end of block as we know it

Matt Walsh

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Light and How to Swing It for holy, protection and retribution paladins. Protection specialist Matt Walsh spends most of his time receiving concussions for the benefit of 24 other people, obsessing over his hair (a blood elf racial!), and maintaining the tankadin-focused blog Righteous Defense.

Much like Commander Shepard and the Reapers, we've known for a long time that doom was coming for us block tanks, some way, some how. The stack has been on the nerf list for quite some time. We dodged the bullet in 4.2, and then in 4.3, the devs called off the dogs entirely, giving us a respite. However, with the recent publishing of Ghostcrawler's Mists stat changes Dev Watercooler, we now have an idea how our most favorite stat is going to be unceremoniously slice and diced.

The changes to block will have far-reaching consequences for our class (as well as protection warriors). Obviously, this is pre-alpha and thus a nerf only in theory, but it's obvious what the intent is here: the defenestration of block to prevent mastery from being the powerhouse stat and block from being the powerhouse mechanic that both were for much of the Cataclysm cycle. And while it's evident that something needed to be done to block in the long run, I'm not quite sure that the changes Ghostcrawler outlined were the best avenue to take.

A raft of changes

As outlined by GC, here are the actual changes that are currently slated for block:

  • The chance to block will be handled by a separate combat roll for each attack that is not avoided. In other words, we first determine if an attack misses or is dodged or parried. If it is not, then the attack has a chance to be blocked.
  • Block will also have diminishing returns, much like dodge and parry. This doesn't mean that the value of block will go down as you get more block. It means that it won't go up by as much when you get more block.
So there are two major differences in the mechanic from what we are currently living with. One, block will have diminishing returns, and two, block will no longer sit on the combat table as its own separate entity but will be a consequence of normal hit being rolled. More on that last point in a moment.

I don't have to tell you these are gigantic changes. What always made mastery such an attractive stat in Cataclysm was the combination of its providing (when capped) a huge amount of damage reduction against physical attacks and that you could stack it to the heavens with no ill effect right up to the cap. I think it goes without saying that the value of mastery as a stat will be markedly different (for the worse) in Mists.

The two-roll two-step

Like I said above, it's been obvious throughout the arc of Cataclysm that something needed to be done about block. Paladins and warriors had way too much of it, and the concept of block capping has been broken from the very launch of the expansion. This disparity led to buffs being given to druids and DKs in the final half of the expansion which, in the absence of block's potent shadow, will give those two tanking classes a marked advantage.

But I digress. My one major issue with Ghostcrawler's argument and changes is how Blizzard intends to modify the combat table to neuter block. As I've pointed out in the past, the most broken aspect of the mechanic is how it is the easiest stat on the combat table to stack; as a result, one can easily push more damaging attacks (like normal hits) completely off the combat table with the addition of enough block chance. This is less block's fault than the inevitable outcome of a linear system. It's like allowing someone to pour an infinite amount of water into a cup and being shocked when they manage to overfill it.

So the solution, as outlined, is to kinda-sorta take block off the combat table with this fancy two-step of theirs. Instead, in the place of normal hits, we have a new outcome called "flip to page two." Therein, a new combat table is rolled for to determine if an unavoided hit is just a hit or a block. Combine that with diminishing returns, and outside of corner cases posited by GC, we should never see that second combat table being 100% block.

My biggest issue with this is how unnecessarily complicated a solution it is. As Theck outlined in a recent blog post discussing the changes, creating a second combat table is essentially equivalent to nerfing block chance, but in a much more roundabout way. If the second block table had a 50/50 block chance, then the value of 1 point of mastery goes from 2% block to 1.4% block in a two-roll system.

Was it really necessary to add a second combat table when Blizzard could just nerf the mastery-to-block conversion rate? Much like the implementation of Vengeance, this is a complication that will only cause more issues in the end than it will fix.

Other tanking changes from GC's post

The Dev Watercooler had a few other interesting points for tanks looking ahead to the Mists expansion.

For one, like suspected, magic resistance is getting the ol' heave-ho. (This has just been an awful day for the Mirror of Broken Images, I'm sure.)

With regards to hit and expertise, boss-level mobs will have a 15% spell miss chance, 7.5% melee miss chance, 7.5% dodge chance, 7.5% parry chance, and 7.5% block chance. It remains to be seen how valuable hit and expertise will be in Mists, compared to present day. While that 15% spell miss chance looks hefty, apparently expertise will mollify dodge and spell miss at the same time, and then parry. Ultimately, it doesn't appear this will change much for tanks with regards to how we damage bosses.

The Light and How to Swing It shows paladin tanks how to take on the dark times brought by Cataclysm. Try out our four tips for upping your combat table coverage, find out how to increase threat without sacrificing survivability, and learn how to manage the latest version of Holy Shield.

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