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Vengeance, threat stats, and the future of tanking

Matthew Rossi

Personally, I love Vengeance, even with all of its ups and downs and redesigns. But a recent discussion of Vengeance by math guy Theck over at Sacred Duty has hit the forums, and Ghostcrawler responded with the following.

Ghostcrawler - Why make vengeance so complicated .. really.
We don't want tanks to do awesome damage just for being tanks. We want tanks to do awesome damage when they are actually tanking. That remains the governing philosophy behind the design.

Remember, Vengeance doesn't exist to give tanks something fun to do. It exists solely to make sure tank threat stays high when DPS characters are gearing for higher DPS while the tanks gear primarily for survival. Tanks only need to generate high threat when they are tanking, and typically threat is the most important on the most dangerous opponents, which also tend to be those who hit the hardest.

As an aside, if I was able to design WoW solely for me, threat would still be an important stat to gear for. Raiders would scoff at tanks who stacked only Stamina as being bad tanks because they couldn't hold aggro. It was fun for me back in BWL to try to generate higher threat than the warlocks. I don't think it was that fun for the warlocks though. I don't think it was that fun for the rest of the raid when I screwed up e.g. my Heroic Strike use and caused us to wipe without them feeling like they could do anything to resolve the situation except stop DPS. Fortunately, I recognize that WoW would have far fewer players if I got to design it totally around what I find fun. :)

Here's the thing: I used to gear for threat. As recently as early Cataclysm, before the 500% threat increase, I was arguing for hit and expertise gear on tanks. Threat stats and threat generation were important parts of gearing a tank. A good tank didn't just ignore those stats. Granted, I've always tanked on a warrior, and that's been the lowest damage (and thus, lowest threat) tanking class since The Burning Crusade. But I was always motivated to put out as much threat as I could feasibly arrange and stay alive.

So now I'm forced to consider: Is this a case where Ghostcrawler should be designing for himself? Yes, I understand the argument that it's not fun for DPS players to have to throttle themselves. But are our only options Vengeance and massive threat or throttling?

Vengeance, threat stats, and the future of tanking
I'm also not particularly inspired by the possibility that I may need a tank set without pants again. All this fiddling around with vengeance and discussion of tank DPS (a discussion that's been going on for years now) make me wonder: should we just scrap the whole idea? But I tend to ask that question more to prompt discussion than to actually hope it happens.

Let's assume the following are true:
  1. We want to keep tanking gear with dedicated tanking stats in the game. Dodge, parry, and mastery in some combination.
  2. We want to keep letting tanks do some DPS with their attacks because we want to let them solo and because it's more fun to play a tank if you get to do some damage.
  3. We want tank attacks to have some relevance to them.
  4. We want tank threat to scale with DPS as DPS gear up and add more DPS stats but tanks gear up and add more tank stats.
As both Theck and Meloree mention in Theck's post, Active Mitigation in Mists of Pandaria achieves point three. Tank attacks are relevant because you need those attacks to generate the resources you need to mitigate damage. While I don't necessarily agree that vengeance feels best when I don't notice it at all (and I'll get into that in more detail) I don't think it's possible to dispute this point. Active mitigation is designed to make a tank want to land attacks. That's what it does. It's not strictly speaking necessary for tanks to do good damage while they're tanking so long as their threat is high enough -- holding aggro is the goal, not to tank down mobs with your raw DPS. With the separation of Feral and Guardian Druids it becomes possible to design all four tanking specs to do less DPS overall although guardians are still going to be using agility leather, which has almost no tanking stats on it.

Vengeance is something you take

As much as I personally like vengeance (and man, I really do) I think a move towards more tanking gear with hit or expertise on it, making active mitigation value hit and expertise, and moving us towards actively generating threat is the ideal design. Vengeance is and has always been a band aid around the fact that DPS climbs as DPS players stack DPS stats and tank threat drops as tanks stack tanking stats and try to avoid threat stats as much as possible. I don't want to see tanking gear go away, and I don't like the idea of vengeance promoting tanks shedding armor in order to get more benefit out of it. The ramping of the proposed new vengeance is actually very elegant, so how do we keep that?

Well, for starters, why does vengeance affect AP directly? Have it affect strength or agility. That way, it would buff an avoidance stat (parry for DK's, warriors and paladins, dodge for bears) and increase threat. Keep the ramping exactly as this new design indicates, so that strength/agility wouldn't get out of hand in five mans. You'll still want stamina, but you really can't pick higher stam gear in most cases because they don't make much in the way of tank gear that has higher stamina and lower str/agi nowadays anyway. Admittedly, having vengeance affect AP would buff bear crit rates, but if that actually became an issue, vengeance could buff tank critical chance directly for plate tanks. (Please note that I said if.) Secondly, don't allow armor to detract how much benefit you get from vengeance. Making it so high armor value detracts from how fast your vengeance ramps up, or how much it ramps up to, just seems silly and counter intuitive. Finally, allow damage the tank deals to refresh the vengeance stack. More specifically, make it so a successful attack, not the damage of the attack but whether or not the attack lands can help ramp up vengeance faster.

Should seeking vengeance also make you harder to stop?

This would have two effects -- it would make vengeance provide some scaling mitigation, meaning that you could afford to gear for more hit and expertise because vengeance would be taking up the slack you lost by focusing on those stats, and it would make vengeance more active, based on landing attacks as well as simply standing there and being a meat shield. I admit I base this idea on the excellent Resolve of Undying trinket. Anything that makes you care about hitting, about landing attacks, is better in my opinion. A vengeance that made hit and expertise compelling would just accentuate the active mitigation system.

Now, I agree that vengeance's purpose is to buff threat and not to make it so tanks can blow through old content solo (as much fun as that is) or absolutely dominate the damage charts in a five man dungeon. But we have to consider Theck's point that tank damage in five mans inflates in AoE situations. On a boss, my H-DS geared prot warrior is very rarely ahead of any DPS unless they're either woefully undergeared or just plain terrible. I don't think it's my fault when a rogue puts out 10k DPS on Murozond. The AoE discrepancy is one that isn't vengeance's fault, really. It's because tanks need ridiculous amounts of snap AoE to keep trash pulls on them, and because at this point in the expansion CC is not being heavily used. It's certainly being used more than it was in late Wrath, mind you, but even so. As a result, tank DPS will be much lower in Mists five man dungeons when we start out not because of the vengeance changes, but because we're going to be doing a lot more CC again for the first few months.

I neither hate vengeance nor hate these changes, aside from the potential that these changes would make tanks want to not wear pants again. But I do think tanking was more compelling when you cared about your attacks and geared for threat. Active mitigation makes tanks care about their attacks - I think that it would be preferable that tanks did some work into generating threat via gearing rather than simply relying on vengeance and threat modifiers to do all the work. And if vengeance provided some mitigation in exchange, tanks could afford to gear for threat without worrying about losing survival. A lot of the problems with the vengeance band aid is that it removes actively caring about threat from the equation. Basically, I'd like to see some of what Ghostcrawler said he considered fun brought back to tanking, because I considered it fun too.

It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!

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