Warlords Tanking Feedback

August 18, 2015

Warlords Tanking Feedback

You may remember that on our last episode of TankCast, Sunnier and I talked about some feedback we had regarding the tanking experiecne in Warlords. I wanted to share with you the written version of that feedback, since it formed the core of our show and some may find it more interesting to consume in a written format rather than audio. Further, I wanted to provide an avenue to comment on what we talked about and give your own impressions of tanking in Warlords.

Note: This post was co-written by both myself and Sunnier. It’s an attempt to summarize how we (and possibly others) felt about tanking in 6.0-6.2, trends we did/did not like, and what we’d like to see in 7.0. Our goal in this post is to just discuss general opinions on tanking as a whole, rather than focus on a specific class or spec.

Mob/Boss Movement
If you’ve listened to our podcast (http://theincbear.com/podcastgen) for a single episode, we’re sure you’ve heard our complaints about mob movement in this expansion. However it’s important to point out that it’s not necessarily a universal complaint about movement across the entire expansion. On the whole mobs with large hitboxes (Twin Ogron, Archimonde, Mannoroth) actually feel more responsive than in Mists. We remember tanking Horridon and almost feeling like we could kite him due to his unusually slow movement speed, and how sluggishly he responded to your movement due to how client-server polling worked back then combined with the size of his hitbox.

HOWEVER (and this is a big one) mobs with small hitboxes (Maidens, Velhari + adds, other orcs in general) are absolutely heinous, especially when combined with temporary movement buffs like Body & Soul from a Priest. On Maidens specifically it wasn’t uncommon to have Sorka or Marak go flying across the room during a “ship phase”. This is horrible for a couple of reasons. First it can quite often cause the mob to go behind you, thus making it both impossible for you to hit it while simultaneously allowing the mob to ignore your avoidance. Second for encounters with strict positioning requirements (Ner’zhul, Velhari) minor fluctuations in movement due to encounter mechanics (Infernal Tempest, Malevolence) can have horrible consequences. Taking a whole lot of movement damage in Velhari P1 purely because the Enforcer decided to fly across the room when you moved for Tempest is one of the most horrible feelings we’ve ever had while tanking.

Damage & Survival Tradeoffs
We think there are a lot of different ways to approach this topic, so we’ll start with DKs. Troxism and Mag have been big proponents of the idea that “Any survival after minimum requirements is useless and should be converted to DPS instead.” We don’t agree, but that’s not really the point. The problem is that not all tanks are equally able to shift survival resources to damage resources. DKs famously have BoS, but we think that’s fine in concept. Monks have Chex, and while this may not necessarily be directly comparable to BoS, it’s still an active choice that you have to make for a given encounter.

The rest of the tanks don’t really have those kinds of choices. The Paladin option (SoT v SoI) was removed during one of the Highmaul hotfix waves, but that was purely because the tradeoff balance was wildly in favour of SoT. Guardians don’t really have anything like BoS or Chex that can be used on any encounter (important qualification there). HotW does exist, yes, but it’s only usuable on encounters where one tank is sufficient for the duration. The tradeoff is also wildly in favour of DoC in any kind of progression content (I think Kromog pillars are an exception here).

It would be nice if all tanks had equally usable damage gains while sacrificing some amount of survival. Maybe everyone has a talent tier where there’s a “pure damage” option, a “pure survival” option, and some kind of hybrid option. We think this would be a great way to try and convince people to try different talent builds. In an ideal world every tank would have some kind of rotational way to support this gameplay, or at the very least changed on a fight-by-fight basis.

Stat Variances
One of the new things in Warlords was combining each classes’ tier set onto a single item for each slot. Many were happy with this, particularly those in swap positions (3rd tanks, swap healers). One of the compromises we had to make for this feature was that each spec would have to deal with the same itemization on a given piece of a tier set. In an ideal world this would be fine. However we’ve learned that it takes an outrageous amount of effort to tweak the effectiveness of each secondary to be within a certain variance. And it’s fine if it’s not something that’s possible.

BUT we have to have an alternative option. Tier sets specifically should be nearly ideally itemized for each spec. That’s the point. Otherwise everyone hates their classes’ other specs because as a Guardian I end up with Crit and Haste on my gear. Or a Feral ends up with Mastery and Haste. Either tier gear should be ideally itemized for each spec (or almost) and swap on spec change, or we need reforging back for tier gear specifically.

Removing reforging forced us to think about the native stats on gear, which is great, except for the four important pieces you don’t get much input on: whichever head/chest/leg/shoulder/gloves slots you fill with tier. Perfect stats on all tier isn’t necessary, but it doesn’t make us feel good to have such limited customization over a huge amount of gear. Picking a pair of bracers with your #1 and #3 stats over one with your #2 and #4 feels good. Being locked into a chest piece no matter what the stats are doesn’t feel good. Obviously there is still a choice available: you can drop your tier bonuses for better stats, and that’s a path many specs take, but it’s not a happy one.

The other option is to make sure each secondary is within a reasonable variance of the top stat, which doesn’t seem feasible to us.

Iterative Tuning
This is probably going to be a sore spot, but it needs to be talked about. Prior to week 5 of HFC (the Prot Paladin buffs) tank balance this expansion was wildly off in one way or another. DK and Guardian AoE was way too high at launch (and Guardian’s was subsequently nerfed a little too much), Guardians were way behind in Highmaul due to being unable to handle the magical melee swings from the adds reliably (because GoE was a cost increase), Prot Paladin DPS fell behind in BRF, Brewmasters were wildly too good in BRF, and Guardians started too strong in HFC. I’m sure I’m missed a few, but that’s kind of what happened.

We feel like tuning needs to be way more iterative than what we experienced this expansion. Preferably during the PTR cycle for a given patch.

We will say that balance now is probably the closest its ever been, which is a great achievement. We just wish it hadn’t taken an entire expansion to get here. The goal should be to start at this kind of parity, not finally reach it at the end of an expansion. Tanks also have the benefit of being almost completely absent from PvP, which means as long as we aren’t made unkillable in PvP it’ll be fine and the developers should be able to do as much tuning to tanks as they want.

This is one area where you won’t see us complaining at all. Replacing Vengeance with Resolve has worked out fantastically, and we see no reason to change it in 7.0.

Demon Hunters
Historically when a new class has been introduced to the game, they have been tuned (either intentionally or coincidentally) to be more powerful than their existing cousins. Sunnier and I were actually just talking about how it doesn’t feel right to introduce a new tank class when the role hasn’t really been fully fleshed out yet in the new “AM” world of tanking. Those two combined feel like this is potentially a recipe for disaster. Will this be another Wrath DK / Mists BrM? Or will it finally start out the right way? Impossible to tell right now but it’s definitely something that We hope the team keeps in mind.

Alternatively we’re worried that Demon Hunters may be designed from the ground up with both AM and dps/survival tradeoffs, much like how BrMs were designed with AM in mind originally. We don’t want any role design changes to be shoe-horned into the existing tanks.

Passive Mitigation
Does passive mitigation scale too well into the later tiers of the expansion? Highmaul felt considerably more deadly (spec balance issues notwithstanding) than BRF or HFC have felt so far when playing poorly. We talked about it, and it feels like the passive survival (or “EH”, temporary or permanent) has scaled way faster than incoming damage this expansion. Certainly with poorer active defenses incoming damage needed to scale less than in Mists, but this expansion almost feels like a reversal of the Mists trend. The “danger” that comes when you aren’t able to keep your defenses up needs to be more permanent throughout the expansion, instead of mostly existing during the initial “gear” phase. Since there are multiple things that go into EH (Armor, Stamina, passives, Mastery, etc), this is something that should be revisited for Legion.

External Cooldowns
We know this is something that Magdalena likes to talk about a lot, but we only really partially agree. Healers should have external CDs. I don’t think that DPS specs should bring external CDs though (and I’m dubious about tanks). HoSac has been probably the most constant problem in this space for Warlords. When something as powerful as an external cooldown has varying numbers available in a raid instance, how do you create enough instances for them to be used without potentially gimping some compositions? How many Ret Paladins and/or DPS Warriors do you assume the raid has? We feel like the easier solution would be to eliminate DPS external CDs to further integrate Healer and Tank gameplay.

Taunt Swaps
We wanted to spend a moment to cover the mechanics we saw to require two tanks, and what worked and what didn’t. Note that while most encounters could be “classified” under more than one category, we’ve typically selected the ones that are the primary reason(s) you have two tanks. In some cases there is more than one mechanic that “forces” you to have two tanks, but every time that 2nd one is some kind of debuff.

  • Heavy Handed (Saberlash) – Used thrice (Butcher, Kromog, Zakuun (I guess you can count P4 M-Darmac if you stretch it)). Interesting as long as it’s combined with something else, like heavy movement (making you pay attention to your cotank’s location) or heavy damage. In Warlords this worked rather well in the three cases it was used, and is quite frankly something we could see more of.
  • Run Awayyyyyyyyy – Used 4 times total (Ko’ragh, Imperator, Reaver, Kormrok (and I guess Sorka)). Fun if there’s something for the affected tank to do, like positioning, cooldowns, or a time limit, but if it lasts too long than it gets boring. Ko’ragh felt like we spent half the fight running around the edges being bored. If the duration is short enough (like Reaver/Imperator), then it’s okay.
  • Go Somewhere Else – Used 5 times total (Maidens, Blackhand, Gorefiend, Archimonde, H&F). This works because you are naturally doing a specific task when you’re forced to go somewhere else.
  • Raid Split – Used 3 times total (Blast Furnace, Thogar, HFA). Again this works because you’re naturally always doing something when the raid is split in these situations. I think we could see this more often as well, but these specifically affect the whole raid more than something like HH.
  • Council – Used 3 times total (Twins, Maidens, Hellfire Council). Too often a council fight means that tanks only have to deal with half of the pool of boss abilities, and it’s boring. Twin Ogron abilities had repurrcussions on both tanks, which made that fight interesting, but HHC was positioned separately so each tank didn’t have to pay attention to what the other was doing. Sometimes that’s okay, but you have to have other mechanics to compensate. Instead HHC ended up being rather bland from a tank perspective.
  • Split Roles – Used 6 times total (Kargath, M-Blackhand, Kilrogg, Socrethar, Tectus, Xhul’horac). Like a council mechanic, these work if both tanks are engaged in the encounter. Kargath is a great example of this, as both tanks are actively doing a job that involved reasonable amounts of movement and positioning. Socrethar less so. The person tanking Socrethar himself is generally bored out of their minds, while the robot tank is having a great time.

One “category” that isn’t listed here are debuff swaps. As long as a fight is interesting in other ways, a debuff swap to force two tanks is far better than the alternative. Debuffs are almost always used to avoid single tank situations, and many of the examples have some sort of added complexity to the swap. E.G. very precise swapping (Mannoroth), or swapping after another specific event (like waiting for Brackenspore’s breath). Fights where there’s nothing to do while waiting for your debuff to fall off are problematic, though. Flamebender and Gruul are prime examples of a failure in debuff swapping (though Gruul probably would have been more interesting if it wasn’t so easy to split between 3 groups).


The big summary of all this is: tanks don’t want to be bored for long periods of time, and pretty much all the failures in encounter mechanics for tanks include a stretch where all a tank is doing is dpsing or running away. That’s sort of complicated by the fact that tanks are often immune to other encounter mechanics, understandably (sucks if the RNG god selects a tank for something they can’t properly react to).

That again leads into having a dps/survival tradeoff. With the option to spend some resources on damage, at least those boring “dps while waiting for a debuff to drop” times are alleviated.

What are your thoughts? Anything that we didn’t talk about here that you want to add?

1 Comment

  • Kaaous says:

    I agree with almost everything you guys talk about. Though I am a fan of the DPS builds for some classes, I like the having a pure survivability build for others. I actually am a fan of having 1 pure survival tank and 1 DPS/Survival tank. Let that 2nd tank run the minimum and let him roll out as much damage as he can possibly muster. Though that then becomes a threat issue for certain classes if they don’t have a stance swap. :IE: BRM monks vs DK’s.

    One thing that made fights a bit more interesting this tier for me is for instance on council since we had an under geared healer we would only dispel marks of the necromancer if it wasn’t on a tank. That would make me actually watch my Cooldowns a bit because it actually started doing a bit more damage further into the fight when it’s been red for a while just before Dia drops her reap. But I do agree that there are many fights that can get quite boring. I also like being the tank who gets to hold the eye for the entire fight for Iskar it gives me more things to watch instead of mindlessly dpsing and waiting to taunt when a chakram goes out.

    I really like the changes of tanking styles between classes. I have raided on all classes and like how they play a bit differently. Now I know they’re not all THAT different. For instance if you look at Rune Tap, and Guard I put them in the same location because of the cooldown and 2 charges are similar (until you get the 4 piece on monk.) But again I enjoy the playstyle differences. I really enjoy this tier my Monk, Druid, and DK. I played a prot warrior a little bit this tier but not a ton, and my Paladin has been left out in the cold. (Sorry Pally maybe next expansion) I am interested to see how Demon Hunters will work for the next expansion and I can’t wait to figure out which classes will be my mains!

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