The Vengeful Polyglot

Tanks for the Threat!

Posted on: August 17, 2011


Earlier today, Ghostcrawler came out of his self-induced, whiskey-filled desert isle seclusion (or so I imagine!) to write a new Dev Watercooler about tank threat. Specifically, how it’s no longer going to be an issue. Already the hotfix has gone live bumping threat generation from 300% to 500%, and the Vengeance change is slated for the next patch (4.3?).

Overall, I’ve got to say… I think I agree with him. Sure, this is a fairly sizable paradigm shift that I never really thought, given Blizzard comments in the past, would come to pass, but having tanked at least some on all four classes (and having gone through tanking Heroics and BH on my Alliance DK) I can say that I personally never found threat stats to be too compelling versus survivability.

Sure, as he mentions, I did grab what hit and expertise came my way for Death Strike, but my main focus was on making sure I didn’t immediately faceplant the moment a pull went wrong. I really do enjoy the self-healing bit of Blood tanking; because of Death Strike being a net “defensive” ability, my threat stats weren’t really going toward threat — they were going toward making sure I could self-heal effectively when I needed to, which was “really” survivability.

Given my inconsistent experience with the other tanking classes (druid and warrior are still sub-40, but paladin is 84, and other DK is 83!), I can say with moderate certainty that I would enjoy having a bit of the (to paraphrase GC’s last tanking post) “manual” experience of tanking on my DK show up in the other, more “automatic,” tanking specs. Actually, the idea of more actively controlling my health bar seems like a really positive change; right now, a lot of survivability stats are stack-and-forget — either you dodge or you don’t, and it’s based off how much rating is on your gear and not much else. That’s not too exciting or interesting.

I can’t say I’m entirely surprised that Blizzard has decided to go this way. Given the tanking community in general foregoing threat stats for survivability stats, either they had to continue trying to force tanks to really care about something that clearly wasn’t compelling, or change their priorities. Threat stats aren’t interesting. Caring about threat isn’t a meaningful mechanic anymore. What it has become is frustrating. Especially in the age of the Dungeon Finder, where that arcane mage isn’t going to go easy on the target you clearly aren’t attacking just because you’re a noob in quest greens. It’s not your friend who you can chew out for being a jerk. It’s just “some guy.”

Beginning tanks are constantly thrown into groups full of unknowns and expected to take a leadership role. It’s intimidating as all get out. Imagine trying to tank a random for the first time. In addition to likely being undergeared and, therefore, focusing as much as possible on your EH and not making your healer want to kill themselves, you also put out very little threat. Putting aside all the random Heroic horror stories your hear about bad groups, if you just get one or two moderately-geared DPS who are there for their VP, just how fun is that going to be for you? I can tell you it certainly wasn’t for me.

The barrier to entry on tanking has just been too high. Adding threat into the have-to-be-geared-to-tank-have-to-tank-to-get-gear sinkhole is just a bit too much. At the very least, as a tank, if I’m using a fairly good rotation and doing my best not to get squashed, I don’t want a lock slowly creeping up on me in the meters, just because I only just started tanking, or he’s got raid gear and I’m in JP gear. And the lock doesn’t want to have to throttle his DPS just so I can keep things stuck to me. Instead of being a meaningful mechanic, worrying about threat has become something that can stress you even if you’re absolutely on the top of your game — and what does that say about the fun in tanking? It just becomes needless anxiety, especially for people just getting started. I don’t think things will be made “less” fun by making mobs stick to you just a bit more easily, especially in this age of “Adds! Adds!”

I stayed in regulars forever before heading in to tank Heroics in Cata. I tanked all through Wrath on a paladin and two DKs, but… it just wasn’t the same. All of a sudden the things hit harder and just didn’t like me quite as much. I was always worried about threat. Even now, I won’t tank ZA/ZG, despite my ilvl being high enough. Just too scary! Need better gear. I always need better gear for tanking. I only ever tank things I’m overgeared for, just so I can minimize threat problems and have an extra health buffer. Given the shortage of tanks, I don’t think I’m the only one who was intimidated. Something probably had to give.

Of course, I don’t think tanking should be faceroll, either (see Bunnykittens’ anguished face up top). I don’t want to stand in the middle of mobs and not have to push any buttons to keep them their attention — I’m here to push buttons. That’s one of the reasons I think a paradigm shift is a good move. Instead of making me push buttons frantically trying to get everyone in the same place, have me push buttons that actively control how well I survive. If tanks are made to take a beating, let me have something to do, aside from gearing up, which effects how much of a beating I can take. That, I think, would be an even more interesting skill to have, and probably hard to master. That’s okay, though. I like feeling skilled when I do something right. I don’t think I’m too afraid of tanking being “harder” overall — already, it’s pretty hard, and threat management has a lot to do with that. I don’t think there should be much of a change in the difficulty, since some things will be easier than others. I think it’s a solid design choice.

Anyway, my two cents! We’ll have to see exactly how they change survivability into an active consideration before the verdict can really be known.


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Blog by a programmer cum linguist cum writer cum total geek. One who pretentiously uses "cum" in place of any other logical connectives. Direct questions to the Ask Lauren page!

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