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The Ron Popeil WoW Tank – Set It and Forget It

This is interesting. (And thank you to Spinks for the tip). For as long as I can remember, WoW has suffered from a tank shortage. Over the years, Blizzard has done a lot to try to overcome this phenomenon with, quite generally, temporary results. According to this latest dev log, it seems that Blizzard has decided to remove threat and its management as a concern almost entirely.

We expect the community to gradually stop using threat-tracking mods as players realize they don’t need them. It’s an important distinction that the concept of “aggro” will still exist. If a DPS spec attacks an add the second it shows up, then the creature is going to come at her. However, if a tank gets an attack or two on a target, then the target should stick to the tank. Worrying about who has the creature’s attention should generally only be a concern at the start of a fight or when additional creatures join the battle.

Since tanks generate more threat than other classes as part of their normal rotations, these upcoming changes will essentially mean the first few hits generate more threat than anything a DPS can  do. White on rice. Stuck.

It would be very easy to cry out that this is one more way in which Blizzard is “dumbing down the game,” but that’s not the approach I’m going to take. Believe it or not, I support this change. Tanking has long been the singular role people avoid most. It carries the most responsibility, requires the most strategy, and the person playing is most often seen as the reason a group wipes; not to mention that it also asks the player to do much more research outside of the game.

Reading this, though, several thoughts comes to mind that we need to consider. Taking one of my favorite blogger’s leads, let’s move to bullet point format.

  • Without threat, what fun is there in tanking? Holding aggro is what defines every aspect of playing a tank. If that’s no longer a concern, how is playing a tank any different than playing a DPS? Management is what makes any class fun. What do we now need to manage? And don’t say cooldowns — yours or otherwise.
  • Tanks will be rated on comparative DPS. If threat management as a skill is no longer a consideration, it becomes a matter of survivability (which shouldn’t be an issue if the classes are balanced properly), damage, and buffs/debuffs. Since tanks have always been designed around being buffed first and buffing others second, damage will now be a primary differentiator. A whole new balance issue arises.
  • Will this really solve anything? I don’t think the tank shortage has a lot to do with the mechanics of tanking. More than anything, I believe it’s related to the perception of leadership. Not everyone wants to shoulder the burden of leading their group and being responsible for its success. I don’t say that to sound cocky, but the expectation of leadership is something every single tank has to face at some point. Most players, I firmly believe,  just want to “roll with it.”  Removing threat and reworking stats doesn’t address the underlying issue that DPS is simply more fun to the vast majority of players.
All that said, this is a big step in the right direction. I find tanking fun. Managing my threat, coordinating my pulls, and swooping in to save the clothie are things that I enjoy. If taking threat out as a consideration gets more people to try it out, I support it. For as many people that will be upset by this — and I understand why, see the first bullet — this is the kind of big change that needs to happen to shake things up. Bribes aren’t enough. Re-working mechanics, well, now we’re on the right track.
Still, there are some big questions to be answered here. How will Blizzard change tank classes whose rotations are nigh-entirely based on threat generation? I don’t know a single tank who’d rather be a shoddy DPS. How do they keep tanking challenging without re-hashing tank switches and dance circles in every encounter? More importantly, how do they convince people that tanking is something they would enjoy anyways? The culture of fear inherent in trying something new has no stronger place than in the pointman of the holy trinity.
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5 comments

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  1. Jeremy S.

    I’m having trouble recalling the exact differences between threat and aggro, plus, I think Runes of Magic has their own terms – and if that’s not enough, some of the addons like threatmeter aren’t labeled to be technically correct.

    I think RoM never had threat. I think it only ever had aggro, but you can lose aggro if other classes are outputting enough DPS. There’s also a few questionable mechanics. I’m a Priest/Rogue built to output some good DPS, but, even so, I use a rune that adds(reduces) aggro by -49%(or somewhere around that number). Yet, I still sometimes accidentally pull mobs off the tank, even at times that a tank is carrying me and I’m not fighting at all(simply healing).
    Jeremy S. recently posted..Forget about balance already

  2. Chris

    In WoW terms, threat is a number value that determines who the mob attacks. Different abilities have higher or lower threat generation. Aggro is simply whether or not the mob is attacking you. The tank should always have aggro on the target mob. The changes in WoW look like they’ll make it much easier for tanking classes to hold aggro, to the point of boosting generating abilities by another 60% of the threat they produced previously — and it wasn’t hard to keep threat, so long as you used abilities from your tanking tree. It makes tanking more of an on-off switch than something that needs to be actively paid attention to.

  3. Starseeker

    I’ve never played a tank in wow…but in everquest 2 I did, and in Rift I am one of our raid tanks.

    While the idea of this sounds great…grab threat at the beginning and the mob never moves, I think it will be detrimental to the tanking population as a whole.

    There are a lack of tanks usually (unless your in eq2 for some weird reason). And I agree with you that it probably has less to do with the mechanics and more to do with the perceived leadership. This doesn’t change that though. The tank still has to pull and get the group through the zone, even if the mobs do stick to him after a few hits. The Leadership role is unchanged.

    All this will do is sku the balance even more, because when a tank isn’t trying to hold agro they are DPS. This doesn’t translate well across game. If I spent 2 years tanking in wow with their grab it and go methods, and then go into Rift or EQ2, or any other game, I am going to be a very bad tank and out of practice doing my job which is HOLDING AGGRO, because I will be used to the easy mode lick and stick.

    Just cant’ say this will be a good thing for the tanking community. Although it might be a good temporary fix for WoW, until tanks get bored of being less DPS than a rogue or mage, and want to play just pure DPS and forgo tanking all together.

    A better solution would be to mix up the mobs in the zones, and have other classes required to tank them. Rift and EQ2 have both had these…so that not all the responsibility falls on the tank. Make a zone that requires a rogue tank, or a druid tank. Or just the occasional named.

  4. Maxivik

    It was my impression they are moving tanking to more active mitigation, similar to how death knights work currently. For those of you who do not know, Death knights are considered to be active mitigators, through their use of well timed death strikes and use of other slightly longer cool downs. In 4.2, you can see a drastic difference between a good DK tank and a bad DK tank, in terms of damage mitigation through abilities, not even factoring in gear.

    Personally I think this is a good thing, it will allow them to design more content like Alysazor, where threat is a non-issue and requires tanks to manuever around doing various things while being hit, and trying to mitigate that damage as best as possible.

    I’ve never really cared for threat meteres being a necessity, and the idea of requiring tanks to actively mitigate damage rather then just get good gear to do it for them is a good thing im my book.

  5. Gazimoff

    I play DPS characters almost exclusively, and WoW is no exception. Most of the time these days I’m raiding or running heroics on my mage.

    Back in TBC threat was twitchy. It was incredibly easy for me to generate too much threat and make the tank’s life difficult. Nowadays things are much easier – threat is becoming one less thing for me to worry about.

    The problem I have is that with the removal of things like this, my role is becoming easy to the point of boredom. The hardest part of my job is sorting out gear and spell rotation optimisation. Beyond that I just push my buttons and do my thing. Even mana can be ignored as a resource depending on which spec I play.

    While I think that making the job of other classes easier is fine, I think us DPS have it way too easy as it is already…
    Gazimoff recently posted..Getting the Most out of Game Time

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