Royal Crest Of Lordaeron

The world’s smartest man poses no more threat to me than does its smartest termite.
 – Doctor Manhattan (Watchmen)

Threat has long been a large part of the game for tanks. That constant battle of keeping ahead of a Feral Druid, or Fury Warrior. Over the years Blizzard have added threat reduction mechanics to many classes; Cower, Feign Death, Wind Shear etc, in an effort to give players a way to lower their threat without having to back off on their damage. To an extent, these have worked, however some classes still have no way of reducing their threat in relation to the tank, Fury Warriors are a prime example of this.

With Cataclysm Blizzard tried something new. Rather than adding threat dumps to damage dealers, they added more threat to tanks in the form of Vengeance. It is fair to say that this helped but many tanks, myself included, have never been especially fond of the mechanic. It’s kinda clunky and during the first 5 seconds of a fight, or any fight where two tanks need to trade agro, it has serious drawbacks. The big problem being that it takes a while to ramp up to give it’s full potential and then decays fairly fast once you stop taking damage.

Yesterday Ghostcrawler posted a blog entry on the official site. The short version goes thusly:

  • For damage dealers: Doing damage is fun, watching your threat is not and having to stop attacking because you’re about to pull agro is even less fun.
  • For tanks: Tanks are busy, they have to manage their cooldowns, position the correctly for the damage dealers, trade agro with the other tank, avoid fire, keep an eye on that big debuff the boss does and all while keeping ahead of the group on threat.

Now, personally, that “micro-management” is what I love about being a tank but I can understand why a lot of people don’t. It’s hard work, you’ve got to be aware of any number of things at the same time, you need to be communicating with the group and you need to make sure that you know what a boss is going to do before he does it.

What’s the solution? Well, here’s what Ghostcrawler has to say:

  • Short Term
    The concept of threat is going to be made trivial. Tanks will now generate threat equal to 500% of their damage, compared to 300% before. This was, apparently, hot fixed in yesterday and Ghostcrawler has said that they’ll adjust this up further if damage dealers still risk pulling ahead.
  • Middle Term (likely patch 4.3)
    Vengeance will be changed to have an initial jump when you first damage damage, followed by a gradual increase (as it currently does) over the duration of the fight. It will still decay in the same way it does now.
  • Long Term (likely the next expansion)
    All tanks will be moving more towards to an “active mitigation” model, similar to Blood DKs. You can see this happening already with the changes in the last patch to Holy Shield. This model gives you more granular control over when you want to reduce your incoming damage through the use of abilities.

I see this as a positive change. Many people will argue that this amounts to “dumbing down the game” or “catering to casual players” and in reality both these arguments are at least partially true. However the simple fact is that, in order to give damage dealers a sense of progression, they need to give them constantly higher damage output. Tanks get… higher damage reduction? Yes, but not really. Damage reduction plateaus and it’s hard to progress beyond this point. What happens instead is that tanks have to start stacking threat stats (hit & expertise) to keep ahead of the damage dealers, but there’s a trade-off of survivability to generate maintain that lead. By making threat less important, tanks can focus again on their survivability and let the damage dealers go about their contest of topping the meters.

Blizzard are going to have some work ahead of them to balance tanks abilities such that you don’t end up 20 different “short cooldown” buttons to click, but I think that this could pan out really well. The key thing for me is going to be keeping each tank unique from the other three.