Threat was Good

recent developer blog has mentioned that threat is being, for all intents and purposes, removed from the game.  In return, so that tanks have something to do, at some point in the future all tanks will be moving to an Active Mitigation Model, along the lines of Blood DKs with Death Strike.  I’ve long been of the opinion that Cataclysm completely destroyed the threat game, but I don’t personally believe that the solution was to burn the whole thing down.  In fact, a few relatively minor tweaks could have made it an interesting part of the game again.  On the other hand, I’m a huge fan of the Active Mitigation Model idea – I’ve been very vocal in supporting moves in that direction, like Holy Shield, and tools that work in that way, like Word of Glory.  In addition, any change to Vengeance can’t help but be an improvement.  Rather than sing the praises of the good news, though, I’m forced to write about the bad.

I’m going to make the argument that Active Mitigation Model is not mutually exclusive with threat being meaningful – and in fact that it works better if threat IS meaningful.  This most basic assumption by the devs is flat out wrong, and everything else follows from it.  I’m also going to make the argument that threat is something that keeps tanks engaged in encounters, it’s something to make them feel like their button presses matter.  I’m further going to make the argument that threat in general is good for the game, and that it’s an important co-operative element that keeps DPS and Tanks feeling dependant on each other, almost like they’re part of the same team.  The last thing I’m going to do is talk about ways to solve the problems that the removal of threat introduced, given that it’s clearly not coming back.

Active Mitigation and Threat: Interesting Decisions.

Consider an Active Mitigation Model where a tank can use a resource either for threat (DPS) or survival.  It’s important to remember that GCDs and Time are all resources here – so even if an ability has threat and survivability components (Death Strike), your choice in using it one way or another is meaningful.  When threat doesn’t matter, there’s exactly one correct way to play: for survival.  It isn’t an interesting choice to CHOOSE survivability over threat – neither in the moment, nor strategically when gearing.

On the other hand, imagine a situation where threat DOES matter.  You can choose to gear for increased threat and allow yourself the option of playing more defensively.  You can choose to gear for pure survival, and play more aggressively, hoping to cover the threat gap with better play.  On a GCD by GCD basis there are interesting decisions to make based on the state of your healthbar, the state of Grid, and the state of Omen.  Processing information and making decisions is generally considered to be good gameplay.

The best part is: you would have the option of being wrong.  You would be able to make tactical errors, and see the results.  Choose survival when you should have chosen threat and a DPS dies.  Choose the other way and you die.  There is clear and direct feedback in such a system – something that has often been lacking in the tanking role.

Tying hit and expertise into survival may or may not work out – in practice we’re going to math out the survival value of hit and expertise, make a determination about the RNG tolerance we have in our playstyle, and take our chances.  We’ll debate for a little while, because we always do, but it’s going to feel like we’re just going through the motions.  It makes survival gearing a 6-way stat game, instead of just 4.  I don’t find it interesting or compelling – I think it’s going to shift the first 30 second RNG threat frustration into “I had my shieldwall parried” frustration.  And that’s where the debate will end up: How much RNG can we tolerate? Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t actually see 6-way survival choices as being interesting – there’s just too much stat proliferation for tanks in that situation.

Threat is Engaging

Threat is a mechanic with which tanks can directly measure their performance.  It hasn’t been very important in Cataclysm, and it wasn’t very important in Wrath, but it was something.  It has been possible, although increasingly difficult for the last three years, to be bad enough at running a threat rotation to threat-cap your raid.  That may not be a lot of fun, either for the tank or DPS, but it’s an incentive to keep pushing buttons, and to push them better.  It’s an incentive to learn when it’s safe to use utility, and when it isn’t.

Without threat as that engaging mechanic, good tanks will run good rotations essentially out of pride.  Tank DPS isn’t generally a significant portion of enrage timers.  Choosing to lose or gain a thousand DPS won’t make any difference to your raid.  It wouldn’t let you bring an extra healer if you boosted your DPS by 50%.  And that’s why everyone chooses survival right now: without threat as an engaging mechanic, and without tank DPS being important, the only option remaining is survival.

My point in this section, as obvious as it is, is that we need a reason to be pushing the buttons we’re given to push.  Threat was ostensibly that reason, but it’s been becoming a thinner and thinner excuse for years.  I’ve already been prioritizing having WoG available for emergencies over hitting ShoR, and that trend is likely to continue with a threat-less active mitigation model.  Standing around choosing not to do anything because you have no incentive to do something, and a strong incentive not to is not engaging gameplay.  Choosing to stand around despite an incentive to do something is an interesting decision, and that is engaging.

Threat is a Co-operative Element

Threat is an element of gameplay that keeps tanks and DPS playing the same encounter.  It gives them a reason to care about each others performance.  If your tank sets a low threat ceiling, DPS is threat-capped.  They need to adjust, with the tools at their disposal, there’s something to optimize around.  The raid in general can find ways to increase tank threat to increase that threat ceiling – it engages everyone in the tanks performance, in the same way that enrage timers engage everyone in DPS performance.

Imagine an active mitigation model where threat matters: The tank is continually making a decision between helping healers and helping DPS.  As a fight ebbs and flows, there are meaningful choices to make – you can make a meaningful impact on encounter success and failure.  It might just be me, but I personally consider it a Good Thing when players in a raid have the opportunity to make meaningful impacts.  Good healing can cover for bad tanking and bad DPS, because you can bring less healers and more DPS, or just brute force tanks through failures.  Good DPS can cover for bad healing – with threat, good DPS can cover for bad tanks, too.  When threat matters, good tanks can cover for bad DPS and bad healing – when threat doesn’t matter, you won’t notice good tanks.

Co-operative elements are generally good for the game.  That’s the reason we play a multiplayer game in general.  Removing co-operative elements can generally be considered to be a Bad Thing.

Solutions – I Have Some!

All is not lost.  There are solutions.  Idea the first: Quintuple the damage on all active abilities for tanks.  That roughly triples peak tank DPS.  It’s not as good as threat, but it does get tanks involved in the life of DPS.  Tanks can make meaningful contributions to enrage timers and DPS checks.  Good tanks can make up for bad DPS, and good DPS can make up for bad tanks.  Making tanks into strong DPS brings back the co-operative element, when in concert with Vengeance (only when tanking) and Active Mitigation (meaningful choices).

Believe it or not, I’m not being facetious.  Involving tanks in the DPS role solves the problem that removing threat creates.  It doesn’t solve it as well as making threat matter would – because threat is a direct element, and dps checks are abstract.

If we don’t like the idea of monster-DPSing tanks, we can flip it around: make DPS contribute to tank survival in more direct ways.  Sure, it doesn’t give a lot for the tank to do but stand there, but lets find a way to create that co-operative element.  Good tanks mitigate well enough for DPS to all out pew-pew.  Bad tanks fail at their mitigation requiring DPS intervention at the cost of some DPS.  I don’t know exactly how to make that work, although the ret paladin is a decent starting place, but it’s a co-operative element that gets DPS and Tanks involved in each other’s lives, and there are very few of those links remaining.  DPS will have a direct interest in their tanks performing well.  Tanks will have an incentive to perform well – not just because they’re at risk of dying, but because they’re at risk of letting down the side.

Wrapping up

We’re being presented with a change packaged up as a mutually exclusive choice.  Threat doesn’t currently work, so we’re going to try Active Mitigation, and we clearly can’t do both at the same time.  But I don’t buy it – I just don’t see what apparently should be entirely obvious: Why not?  I’ve actually TRIED to see the link there, but I don’t.  Instead, I come down on the opposite side: Active Mitigation clearly works better if threat is a meaningful gameplay element.

I believe the removal of threat creates a problem in the game.  I think that problem has a number of potential solutions, none quite so good as just making threat matter again – but I’m willing to bet that that’s off the table.  In 4.3 PTR there’s a major redesign of the whole tanking paradigm coming.  That’s our opportunity to get out there in force and find out what works and what doesn’t, and get the devs the feedback they need to make everything work.  While I don’t believe that the systems as presented will work well, there’s the chance to give the feedback that will cause the changes that will make it work.  Slim chance it may be, but lets seize on it.

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32 Responses to Threat was Good

  1. Kal says:

    On the notion of feedback for a tank, I hate that threat was the way to ‘measure’ a tank’s skill. DPS measure their performance by the meters, healers by effective throughput and overheals (though this is at best a proxy for it and is usually not great), but tanks? Measuring tanks by their threat production is like measuring a healer’s performance by their DPS.

    What we should be measuring is the damage taken per second along with some way of measuring burst (possibly maximum damage taken per 10 seconds or thereabouts). This active system where good tanks are rewarded for using their abilities intelligently and anticipating big damage goes a lot closer towards that model.

    Furthermore, the notion that tanks would trade threat for survival has never panned out. It didn’t in BC, it didn’t in WotLK, and it doesn’t now. While that might be an interesting choice if threat really, really mattered for whatever reason it almost never does, and when it does survival is still chosen.

    On this: “It doesn’t solve it as well as making threat matter would – because threat is a direct element, and dps checks are abstract.”

    Threat only matters if it’s a check on DPS. If you don’t care about beating an encounter’s enrage (or more accurately the enrage is unimportant) then threat doesn’t matter. If you do care, then you care more about doing more damage than you do threat. What you’re proposing here is that threat matter but the DPS of the tank not matter, which is the worst of all worlds as far as interacting with the fight. And even if it is fun to put out amazing threat compared to another tank it’s not fun to be the DPS that can’t do their job because someone else is holding them back.

    That’s the real part here.

    The tank’s job is to take the most damage the best way possible. It isn’t to hit the boss. Why not plan around that? Why not game around that?

    • Meloree says:

      Threat has never been “the” way to measure a tank’s skill, but it was certainly “a” way. Whether or not they lived has always been the other one. DTPS is a generally silly metric right now – it could be made to be important, but it hasn’t ever been in WoW. Measuring tank performance and measuring healer performance has always been a bit soft, and threat is a nice hard metric: you produce enough, or you don’t. And that was certainly part of what made one good or bad.

      The notion that threat can be traded for survival was absolutely important for Prot Paladins in TBC. We had the option of tanking spellpower gear (threat) or pure tanking gear (avoidance stats). We often mixed and matched. Particularly in the weapon slot, we almost never used tank weapons, we almost always used spellpower weapons. Why? For the threat. I challenge you to find a TBC prot paladin who tanked successfully with no spellpower gear.

      Fun is an odd term to choose. The fun is in the end product, individual elements don’t all have to be fun. I’m not sure “fun” is meaningful when discussing individual elements. And, in fact, I’m pretty sure that some individual elements have to be “unfun” in order for the final product to remain compelling. It’s important that there be consequences for failure. Failure might not be fun, but succeeding isn’t fun, either, if you don’t have the chance to fail. It might not be “fun” as a DPS to be held back by tank threat, but it’s certainly rewarding to coach them through it and make them better, or as a raid leader to figure out how to make it better. Again in TBC, we ended up sticking a resto shaman in the tank group for the first 30s of a fight to get them their Windfury to set the early threat ceiling before moving that shaman out. We didn’t generally have 5+ shamnan for Sunwell, we worked around it. WoW has social dynamics – the gameplay should encourage those, imo. Yeah, I’m going way back to get to a time when threat mattered and there was anything you could actually do about it. As I said, threat’s been getting steadily less important for years. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have some role. Call it “tank DPS” if you prefer, but I think the roles work better when tanks don’t also top DPS meters.

      What if I were to phrase it as “Part of the tank’s job is to take the boss damage, and the other part is to ensure that the boss keeps paying attention to them”. That’s the way it’s been phrased on every WoW tanking site for the last seven years. Sure, it’s changing, but there used to be a dual element to the role. Why not now? Why should it change?

      • Kal says:

        While you’re right about prot paladins using spellpower for their threat, chances are they didn’t go too far past the weapon and their tier gear. And TBC prot paladins are in general a fairly poor way of measuring what tanks were ‘supposed’ to do – were they supposed to not be able to tank certain fights meaningfully? Were druids not supposed to tank Illidan?

        My point about DTPS being a good measure is that this is what we should strive for. Threat isn’t a good measure at all, and it hasn’t been a relevant measure since TBC. DTPS isn’t a relevant measure now either, but it certainly could be, and I’d be a lot more satisfied with measuring a tank’s success or failure by the amount of damage they took.

        As to fun for a DPS – think of it this way. It’s simply not fun when you can’t do what your role is supposed to do for whatever reason. There used to be fights where we brought 4-5 tanks who had one role in the fight for a while…and then did basically nothing after their target was downed. Was that fun as a tank? Was that enjoyable if you were the one who sat there? It certainly wasn’t for me. Putricide was boring as hell if you 3-tanked it and were not driving or tanking Putricide. I do agree that social dynamics should come into play, but when the role you’re doing is literally not doing anything, that’s not fun. There are already consequences for bad threat and failing – enrage mechanics and transition times and mana. Why make the tank also part of that failure?

        Here’s one idea, Mel: instead of threat mattering and capping a DPS, what if threat actually improved the damage that DPS did. Not ‘could do’, but actually did. If you do subpar threat it wouldn’t stop the DPS from doing things and they wouldn’t have to slow down, but they’d not do as much damage as they could be. Make it cap, and make it similar to vengeance or something so it decays and grows incidentally.

        I miss threat mattering. I miss honing my gear and making it balanced for each fight. But ultimately I can very rarely imagine a fight where I’d trade threat for survival, and on that specific fight I’d probably just reforge. And given that choice I think I’d rather just make it so that the thing I’m theorycrafting about, planning on and thinking about all the time- the damage taken – is the thing that I can influence most.

        Another way to put it is this: right now tanks are not particularly in control of either the threat they put out (since it’s trivial and rotations are fairly boring) or the damage they take. Of the two, which would you rather have more control over?

        • Meloree says:

          Aside from tier gear, and a few very well itemized pieces of spellpower plate, and a weapon – you’re right, we didn’t wear a ton of spellpower gear. Frankly, for a lot of fights, we swapped in straight-up warrior offset stuff and ditched the spellpower completely. I swapped Unbreakable Will in and out mid-fight on a regular basis, too. Whether or not we were “supposed to” do it, we did – and it was good gameplay. It doesn’t bother me a lot if it was an accident – embrace the happy accident. After all, that’s how we got Penicillin.

          I’m all for the idea of threat mattering in a different way. I don’t personally love the idea of a tank as the raid’s highest DPS, it devalues the DPS role. But I also don’t think the idea of a tank with essentially no damage buttons to push works well in the WoW world – and certainly isn’t likely to be part of what goes into the next patch – so I still want those buttons to be meaningful. I would like there to be a tangible reward for me playing correctly. Right now, the difference between me running my rotation almost perfectly and mashing any random button on my keyboard is about 2000 dps. That’s equivalent to one of my DPS having a 5 second sneezing fit. It’s so far lost in the noise. The difference between a perfect rotation and being AFK is about 1% of my raid’s DPS.

          If good threat impacted the RDPS ceiling without impacting DPS specifically, that would work for me. I just want some feedback that says “these buttons mattered”. I pour over logs, I pay attention to my survival. I’ll grant, too, that DTPS could be a good metric in the right environment, but WoW hasn’t created that environment yet, for all their talk of triage healing.

          Healers and Tanks clearly have a lot going on between each other. DPS and Healers, as well. Right now, there isn’t a lot going on between tanks and DPS. I would like there to be mechanics that encourage that again. I recognize that I’m reaching back to Sunwell for successful examples of the paradigm. I recognize that it’s been a long time. I recognize that WoW has designed away from a lot of that. I’m not sure that it isn’t time for some of it to make a comeback.

          So, yes: I will happily grant you all of your points, save this: Why can’t we have both? Why can’t threat be brought back to where it’s at least a consideration (or Tank DPS, or threat as a DPS multiplier… pick your method for having tank “damage” buttons matter) while also making survival an issue. Active Mitigation Model type stuff sounds great, but if there isn’t any kind of tradeoff to debate – we’ll just go back to stacking our best stat once we work out what it is. “Threat” – or tank DPS output – is that tradeoff. But it needs to matter.

  2. honorshammer says:

    Excellent write up. This is really changing the tanking paradigm. I find it odd to try to accomplish that in a patch cycle, especially the patch that heralds the supposed end boss of the expansion. This seems like the kind of thing best done during beta of an xpac. The timing presents problems as well.

  3. Matty says:

    I am so confused. As always.

    In humble gratitude,
    Matty

  4. Zaephod says:

    Mel, you make some fantastic points here. My friend and I were talking about this issue and decided to take it a step further. How about the idea of active mitigation and avoidance? It could be a really interesting way to tank. Essentially, you make dodge, parry, and block activated abilities to be used to reduce your incoming damage. (Imagine if you, personally, were standing in front of the boss.) With threat being trivialized, it could make for a truly engaging experience.

    Placing this concept in a wow sense, activated mitigation cooldowns would still be there and just as useful as they are now. Dodge and Parry would be activated abilities whose either durations would extended by their respective rating or cooldowns would be reduced. Using either ability would offer you a high chance to avoid an incoming attack for a very short time, probably 0.5 to 1 second. Both could also fail, which is where the mitigation cooldowns would help out.

    A considerable amount would have to change about the game for this to work, like completely removing threat and having boss animations accurately depict when they’re doing stuff.

    I think it would make for engaging game play, though I’m not sure about fun and the carpel-tunnel aspect of it. Good tanks would be the ones who took less damage because they would time their avoidance abilities better and make better use of their cooldowns. Bad tanks would be exposed rather quickly. Finally, with tanks spending so much time trying to reduce their damage taken, there really wouldn’t be time to do damage, so wow could get rid of the notion of tanks doing some semblance of real damage and just have it trivialized like in BC.

    P.S. I am not discounting the fact that interesting and/or engaging isn’t necessarily fun. Just throwing out an idea.

    • Meloree says:

      With all due respect: That sounds like just a little bit too much button whack-a-mole for my liking. I can make half-second timing decisions. I’d prefer not to be doing that all fight long, though. I’m old, a slightly longer and more tactical gameplay, with strategic elements (gearing) suits me a lot better than focusing on ultra-fast twitch reactions full time. It would certainly be engaging, though. I just dont think it would be a lot of fun.

      • Zaephod says:

        It would absolutely be exhausting and unforgiving. The idea was really a step too far more than a real idea. Just think, with a little bit of extra work, you could integrate it with Microsoft’s Kinect! Really dodge those incoming hits :) Maybe combine it with a DDR style, that way you know which way you need to go :)

        Disclaimer (that should have been included with the original comment too): For entertainment purposes only. Not for actual consideration…please not for actual consideration.

    • Kal says:

      This sounds a lot like going back to the shield block system of TBC. I’m not sure that’s compelling.

      I’d much rather have ‘dodge’ and ‘parry’ be similar CDs to what holy shield was like. Longer duration, able to be used together or separately. If you simply don’t want to take any physical damage for a period of time use them together. If you want to take a somewhat average amount of damage, use them one after the other. If you want to wait until the boss enrages or does inferno blade or whatever, use it right before then.

    • bkw says:

      Not to mention half-second requirements don’t work in a world with network latency.

  5. Wulfstan says:

    I agree that the threat model needed reworking, but I wasn’t expecting this….

    We need snap AOE threat to make LFD bearable: I refuse to tank LFD because I’m fighting my group rather than the monsters. We have to recognise that the LFD playerbase far, far exceeds the raiding playerbase. I also acknowledge that undergeared tanks are facing an impossible situation vs geared DPS.

    As a raid tank, I take pride in my threat. However, given the vengeance problems, the first 30 seconds of every fight is chaotic, especially with 20-30% miss rates for tanks.

    I want to be rewarded (via survivability) for hitting the hit and expertise caps, and this will make our rotation less frustrating: hammering our skills and getting long miss streaks.

    A few suggestions:

    1. Reintroduce boss parry haste: this will reward expertise, and can be tuned to avoid insta-gibs.

    2. Introduce reverse vengeance: our sustained tank DPS debuffs the boss resulting to lower damage done. Rather than instantly applying attack speed reductions or damage done reductions, allow our sustained DPS to apply this. This will also reward hit / expertise, and gives a survivability reward to good tanks.

    3. Don’t make DPS and survivability either/or: allow us to keep our big SotR and Shield Slam hits.

    4. Reward good choices on when we use our survivability CDs, but don’t make too twitchy. Already planning CD rotations across a raid is complex, and is impossible for PuGs. Make us feel clever for strategic/tactical use, rather than having to spam them.

    How I want to feel when tanking:

    Against Trash: I want to be in-control, bossing the trash about, feeling powerful and strong. (e.g. like start of WotLK 5-mans).

    Against Boss: I want to be my raid’s champion, facing a battle of wills against the boss, a contest of equals, holding the bosses attention while my DPS (my footsoldiers :-) weaken the boss unnoticed.

    • Meloree says:

      Okay, as a paladin, with Hand of Reckoning and Righteous Defense we have no excuse for complaining about 5-mans.

      You can tank a 5-man without actually attacking. Really, you can, it’s actually good practice for your taunt reaction times and BoP/Salv macro usage.

      Sure, the LFD is “bad” sometimes, but the solution is to incentivize and teach good play, not to reward bad play.

      • Jaitea says:

        Until you have 3 different dps attack 3 different targets and all your doing is taunting which while us more experienced tanks might be able to do if we also use salv and bop but it’s a huge pain still

  6. bakedleech says:

    I think the two “fixes” are aimed at two totally different player populations. Raid guild main tanks don’t have the problem which the threat change addresses. They are skilled professionals. Raid guild main tanks are equally geared with their dps and healers, dont have threat problems now, and dont understand why the threat change is needed. They are excited about active mitigation. Pug heroic tanks, on the other hand, are often severely out of step withthe gear of their dps and healers. They hate their lives but still can’t put up with the dps queue, so even if they are skilled they grit their teeth through ZAs with valor point farmers two tiers ahead of them and gearing up noobs who don’t understand skull. I’m a glutton for tanking punishment, so I am both. :) I’m most looking forward to active mitigation, but damn is my alt pleased with the threat changes. Apologies if this is scrambled at all, it was typed on a phone.

  7. Jaitea says:

    i think part of the reason blizzard has given up on threat mattering is that it would be really really crappy to balance they would need to ensure that all tanks do the same TPS otherwise bringing the pally whos doing 10% more tps over the dk means a 10% dps gain for your raid and they would also need to even out all dps threat reductions otherwise hunters who have the best threat dropping abilities will be the highest dps since they dont have to worry about beating the tank on threat

    this problem would be further compounded if they make us constantly decide between threat and survivability for instance we all know how much threat warriors and dks are generating and they have no aggro dump mechanics why bring them on a fight like baleroc which is a dps and tank survivability check where they have to lower their damage to not pull threat and the tank needs to give up some survivability in order to keep threat by replacing them both with rogues your raids DPS goes up and so does your tanks survivability

    this could be beaten by normalizing threat reduction but if they just give every dps an amazing threat drop mechanic then whats the point in making threat matter

    and this threat buff finally got me gearing up my druid tank again i gave up after getting sick of people in amazing gear coming in then expecting me in my bad gear to hold threat against them when they dont even give me a chance to hit the mob b4 them

  8. Sarlalian says:

    They have some valid reasons for removing threat. Being an undergeared tank is painful for everyone involved because of threat. Really all it takes is 1 over geared DPS to make tanking a dungeon a royal pain. There aren’t any good fixes there that don’t break threat mechanics, besides giving tanks 2 or 3x threat in LFD.

    Even amongst raid level tanks, people play at a variety of levels, and the game should be (from a business stand point) appealing to all levels of play. For the good tanks, threat isn’t an interesting mechanic right now because its relatively easy to produce more threat than even the best dps. For bad / new / unskilled tanks, it is a complete nightmare, and turns people off of tanking. Possibly forever. It also makes any damage dealers or healers that group with them relatively miserable too.

    They could make it more interesting, but it would be more difficult, and therefore further limit the pool of available tanks.

  9. ironshield says:

    I’m afraid to say this post has now made me angry. But not for the usual reasons. I was OK with the threat change, basically because as I saw it, threat isn’t really an issue for experienced / geared tanks, but it will make life a lot easier for newbie tanks (much like the CC change made PuG’ing easier but really wasn’t a problem for skilled players).

    But much like the CC change made a lot of skilled CC’ers feel unappreciated, I did feel a bit like my role was being dumbed down and I kind of like the fact that tanking is hard and my life is easier as a result of there being a shortage (it’s not too hard for me to get a Dungeon or even a raid run as a tank whereas DPS feel constantly unappreciated). But this is completely selfish reasoning.

    The reason this blog post has made me angry is that you make so many good points, I can’t help but agree and now I feel more upset about the change :( Damn logical, reasoned arguments ;)

  10. Hana says:

    I have not tanked on my pally since WotLK, but I do serve as my guild’s back-up tank in Cata on my druid, and overall I like the threat increase.

    I have never worried about threat while raiding (except on rare occasions from our better geared bear tank who tanks full time). I know my optimal threat rotation and I apply it quite happily while dancing around the fire and other bad things.

    But in 5-mans… even in guild runs, I hated tanking. Snap aggro is so important in 5-mans and the dps in my guild can’t play in 5-mans the way they do in raids if I’m tanking. It’s just so much rougher. Most of the time I’d rather sit in the queue as my dps main spec and do dailies or something else while I wait.

    I do like your idea to make tank dps matter so there is still an active component in doing something to the enemy though. If that’s the exchange for increased threat that sounds good to me.

  11. Worloch says:

    I agree with what a couple of posters have already written here. Namely that the Threat Change and proposed active style change are separate from each other and aimed at different goals.

    In specific response, I have also felt that Tanks should do more DPS as a solution – bringing real damage to the table while still being survivable would be the hallmark of a great tank. However, this will not work due to PVP. No one wants to face a target they can’t take down that is still dishing out good damage. They would need to devise a method that makes it so Tanks can do good damage in PvE raids, but not in PvP.

    Finally, in my opinion, Vengeance was fundamentally broken as it scaled off of damage taken instead of scaling off group/raid DPS. As a Threat fix, the best way for it to work would be to put the tanks threat somewhere in the ballpark of the highest DPS, and then make the tank work to keep the edge.

  12. Kal says:

    “So, yes: I will happily grant you all of your points, save this: Why can’t we have both? Why can’t threat be brought back to where it’s at least a consideration (or Tank DPS, or threat as a DPS multiplier… pick your method for having tank “damage” buttons matter) while also making survival an issue. Active Mitigation Model type stuff sounds great, but if there isn’t any kind of tradeoff to debate – we’ll just go back to stacking our best stat once we work out what it is. “Threat” – or tank DPS output – is that tradeoff. But it needs to matter.”

    The model they’re going after is to make damage stats matter but not the output of the damage specifically with regards to threat.

    For example: Savage Defense. Right now there are links between savage defense and all the threat stats. It so happens that savage defense is incredibly weak and the stats that boost it don’t do so meaningfully or with a lot of feeling, but they exist. Crit increases the number of shield procs. Agi increases the size of the shields. Hit and expertise also increase the number of shield procs. Haste does as well. There can easily be a tie between doing your rotation well – by having a larger number of attacks, attacks that connect, attacks that crit – and getting more defensive ability.

    Also, I’d argue that the model for a player not doing damage to a mob is fairly successful: it’s called healing. While it would be pretty weird at first, the notion that a tank isn’t actually doing damage is not so weird to me, and it’s not that weird in the WoW universe either.

    I guess to me the disconnect is this: for DPSers, they do damage. They don’t mitigate damage o and they don’t heal. Healers don’t do damage or mitigate damage either: they heal. Why should tanks have to mitigate damage and do damage? I don’t mind it being some minigame, but at the end of the day I’d be a lot more satisfied with tanks figuring out how to take the least amount of damage.

    • Meloree says:

      Okay, Savage Defense has a number of interesting interactions, and part of that is that Druids run with primarily offensive stats – it needed to be tied in somehow. It’s something that you optimize gearing around, somewhat, and that’s great. It’s absolutely possible to tie offensive stats into defensive abilities. I’d argue that there’s yet to be any proof that Blizzard can make the model work, because Savage Defense is bad, but fair enough.

      But so what? Making offensive stats matter to defensive abilities just makes us want or not want the stats in greater or lesser weights. It’s fairly immaterial if we’ve just turned them into “more defensive stats”. If they’re actually offensive, and there’s a balance, there’s interesting trades to make, but otherwise it’s a 6-way stat trade that will be worthwhile or it won’t, and it’ll be the same old story of “reforge to king stat out of weak stat”. That’s not interesting, and more importantly: it’s not different.

      DPSers do damage. They ALSO mitigate damage. They do it by moving before finishing a cast, or by completing the cast. Good DPSers make good judgement calls about what damage to mitigate and what can be taken, and the tradeoff against their DPS. They do this in every encounter. Raid Leaders and guild culture will push that decision in one way or another. But DPS absolutely mitigates damage.

      And that’s the interaction which gives healers such a huge impact on RDPS. Good healing teams can allow DPS to be more aggressive, and generate higher numbers. Or maybe defensive DPS can lead to dropping a healer, and generate more DPS that way. Or a weak healing team can cost the raid DPS because the DPS must play more defensively. There is a very strong dependency between healing and RDPS, and it’s based on how much damage the DPS role players take. On every non-patchwerk encounter. I’ll even argue that fights like Freya3 were some of the best in the game *because* they made DPS think about survival.

      Healers absolutely heal and mitigate damage. Most of them even DPS. You don’t find a lot of encounters where you bring 6 healers who are all at max output for every minute of the fight. Damage ebbs and flows, fights have phases. Healers DPS. And they mitigate damage the same way DPS does: by not standing in shit. They have the same choice, too, for finishing casts or moving. Sometimes one is the right call, sometimes another, it’s situational. And that’s interesting gameplay.

      So riddle me this: If tank damage doesn’t matter in any way – not through threat, or through the actual contributed damage – and it doesn’t, the tiny DPS difference I’d get for being a perfect aggressive tank instead of a defensive on that WoGs whenever things look risky pales in comparison to basically any other tweak I can make from the real DPS – what incentive do I have to be good at that part of the game?

      Minimizing the damage I take is interesting, up to a point. But the problem with that model is that there is a performance ceiling. Beyond “playing good enough to live”, I have no performance headroom, unless it’s “playing great enough to drop a healer”. In the modern WoW era of crosshealing, that tends to be much more in DPS hands than tank hands anyway.

      Making threat meaningless – making tank DPS meaningless – is leaving me feeling more disconnected from my raid’s success than ever. I’m playing as close to perfectly as matters if I hit my cooldowns at the programmed time – perhaps one button every 15 seconds on average. That’s… pretty awesome.

  13. Kal says:

    Oh, don’t get me wrong – if they make everything like savage defense it’ll all suck. That’s lame. But DKs balance threat and survival and have a lot more going on in their active defensive arsenal, and it really shows.

    Here’s the thing that I think we’ll both agree on, Mel: we want tanking to have skill differentiation and have that actually matter. In the past that was somewhat threat; a good tank could put out significantly higher threat than a bad one, though I’d argue that this was really only true for warriors and only true in TBC, as the rotations for paladins and bears were laughably easy in WotLK and threat doesn’t matter at all now. DKs currently have a LOT of differentiation between being okay and being good, and a lot of that is their ability to self-manage damage. Now, it’s pretty hard, but it definitely shows.

    On defensive stats and reforging to king whatever: that’s a fair point, though I think that there’s the ability to min-max such that having a balance is good. Heck, if hit and expertise matter and are best, that right there means you can’t just pour whatever into a stat. Another possibility is having different kinds of mitigation paths depending on the stats. Suppose that hit/expertise were tied to one active mitigation that was better against faster swings and worse against slower. And haste was tied to mitigation of magic. You don’t think it would be interesting to have to figure out what the optimal set up is on each progression encounter and get the right pieces? To me, that’s the TBC era of awesome all over again – where you had 2-3 different sets of gear and swapped things out depending, and (most importantly) it really mattered.

    DPSers and healers don’t mitigate damage any more than a DK heals. Come on. If you’re going to say that they all do that because they all move out of the fire, then why are you complaining? The tank does TONS of damage by proper positioning, anticipation of mob placement and getting people in the right range and in the right facing. So you should be happy, right? Please don’t make that kind of argument; it’s beneath you. We’re talking about measurables, and while many guilds do look at things like firestanding and healing received as a measure of skill, it’s not the primary role they signed up for – and more importantly it applies to everyone.

    As to tank’s DPS not mattering: well,that’s the situation right now. Or before the 500% boost. It’s not like that affects you much at all in Fireland raiding with max vengeance. Threat was a joke, and it’s been a joke for 3 years. Tanking damage output is higher now (especially against multiple mobs) but it’s also not particularly relevant save in 10-mans. There’s not a lot of incentive now to get it right. So you’re complaining that they’ve made it so that there’s less incentive to get it right? I say that they’re giving you more incentive to get it right because it directly will affect your survival. If instead of doing 1% of the DPS of the raid you can reduce total damage done to the raid by 10%, isn’t that a substantial gain to the raid at large? Now, you can think about bringing one less healer or have healers DPS more. Now, you can look at the meters and proudly proclaim how much better you are than tank B because you took half the damage they did.

    I recall that in TBC too – when I went full avoidance and tanked Archimonde, looked at the meters and saw that I took less damage than the melee did. That was awesome. or when I looked at the damage I took on Brutallus compared to the warrior tank and saw how awesome I was. Isn’t that the sort of thing you really want – to be able to compare and show that you’re doing well? For your gearing choices and your play to matter?

    • Meloree says:

      I don’t think it’s beneath me at all to suggest that the judgement a DPS makes in completing casts or not – and whether they do it well – is a good indication of skill. There aren’t really any fights there everyone gets to spend 7 minutes standing and turreting anymore – the choices DPS makes, and the guild culture behind them – is of direct relevance to raid setup. We absolutely look at that sort of decision-making as one of the primary markers when trialling DPS. When we were chasing time parses in ICC, a lot of the discussion revolved around “Do we gain more DPS by adding a healer and standing in Mechanic X, or by playing defensively and getting one more DPS”. There is absolutely a relationship between healing and RDPS, and it’s almost entirely due to “optional damage taken”. That relationship is there even in progression heroic modes – you decide what you can heal through and what you can’t, and just how much DPS it’s worth.

      The tank does do tons of damage by proper positioning and movement. Except, y’know, when we’re in T12 and there isn’t any of that to do. But I absolutely take pride in my ability to move and position mobs, and to *keep doing threat while positioning*. It’s sort of a moot skill right now. I almost feel like I wasted all that time getting RP-walk onto a convenient keybind to be able to tap it to keep slow mobs in range when windwalk procs. Because honestly, who cares if I can hit the mob while moving it now.

      You’re right, I want skill to matter for tanks. I want my DPS to be engaged in my performance, too. I want to be engaged in theirs. We didn’t have the threat hotfix live on Tuesday, but we did last night, and I can tell you, I’ve rarely felt so demoralized in game. Honestly, if threat was going to be removed from the game, couldn’t it at least have been in a tier that had something else going on for the tanks?

      I love the DK model. I’d love to have more of it. I like the idea of more of my survival being in my hands. I don’t disagree at all. I still don’t see why it’s an exclusive choice, and I don’t see where tanks will have an opportunity to grow beyond the absolute demands of the encounter. Healers start to DPS more, and underheal things as they gear up and the raid gets good. DPS gets to keep doing more DPS and make the fight shorter. Tanks get to… not have to push buttons as much?

      • Kal says:

        The thing is, Mel, situational awareness is something all good players do. It’s not the role of a DPS to be situationally aware any more than it’s the role of a healer to be. It’s everyone’s job. And yes, it does make everyone’s life better when they are (and things like HLK punished this greatly when they weren’t) – but my point isn’t that people don’t do these things – it’s that you (as a tank, or a dps, or a healer) aren’t doing these things. You’re doing these because you play the game. It’s a great indicator of skill – often far better than raw DPS output – but it isn’t a good reason why tanks should do damage.

        By that argument it should also be said that healers should do significantly more damage than they do now and that DPS should do a lot more healing than they do now. Does that make sense to you? Because that’s essentially what you’re asking tanks to do when you say that you want the tank’s DPS to matter.

        I guess for me I am not that demoralized. My function as a threat outputter only matters in the first few seconds, and for that I’ve always had CDs or tricks or something. It really just hasn’t been an issue for a while. Positioning and interacting with the raid that way has always trumped it significantly.

        “I still don’t see why it’s an exclusive choice, and I don’t see where tanks will have an opportunity to grow beyond the absolute demands of the encounter. Healers start to DPS more, and underheal things as they gear up and the raid gets good. DPS gets to keep doing more DPS and make the fight shorter. Tanks get to… not have to push buttons as much?”

        It’s not an exclusive choice, but it’s a point of emphasis – and it’s based on prior experience that stated absolutely tanks don’t care about threat when given a choice between threat and survival. But I’ll take a shot.

        Healers get to DPS more. DPS get to do even more DPS. Tanks get to entirely eliminate a healer or bring undergeared DPS to a fight. If you get good enough you might be able to eliminate a tank entirely. All three of these things that you mentioned go towards adding more DPS to a fight and making it shorter. If you don’t need the heals because your tank is pro, you can get away with adding more dps. If you don’t need the duration because the DPS is pro, you can get rid of healers. If your healers are awesome and they don’t need to heal as much, you can get rid of healers. All of these things point to adding more DPS to me, and they do so organically out of the role that the person is playing. By comparison, what’s the advantage of having your tank do even more threat – that you can not tricks or MD?

  14. SmashNHeal - Grizzly Hills says:

    Personally, I just don’t have much faith that the developers see the game like raid tanks do. Despite the long list of GC’s reasons for why threat shouldn’t matter, it came off to me as a litany of excuses to cover for the main reason they are essentially eliminating threat: there continues to be a glut of tanks in the game, and they think the latest solution will fix the problem. I disagree with them and think it will serve only to create new problems, which will require more “solutions”. Allow me to lay out my argument.
    Blizzard first noticed the problem of tank shortage shortly after the launch of Cataclysm, when they saw the Q times for DPS in LFD hit 45 minutes on average. The majority of raid tanks had stopped using LFD once they had geared themselves enough to raid, because the chance of wiping in a 5-man pug for hours far exceeded the reward for sticking it out and completing the dungeon. The massive amount of party-wide damage coming from dungeon bosses (and some trash packs) usually caused the healer to go OOM and create a wipe scenario if the fight was prolonged by either low DPS output or dead DPS, which was a usual scenario when bad DPS were present. So rather than let the LFD system weed out the bad DPS via multiple Vote-Kicks per dungeon, Blizzard implemented a solution that provided an incentive for good tanks (and healers) to come back to LFD via the Satchel of Exotic Mysteries. However, I believe that this solution served only to create more problems.
    Despite the new incentive, the tank shortage was not eliminated by good raid tanks coming back to LFD, as the chance of a wipe was still high due to the continued presence of the aforementioned bad DPS. Instead, the shortage of tanks was eliminated by bad DPS that were tired of the long LFD wait times, and simply changed their off-spec to tank or rolled a tanking class (or even worse, simply selected tank role to get into a dungeon) because there was a nice shiny reward for entering LFD as a tank. What a cluster-f*ck! This created two new problems. The first problem, we now had those same fail players in LFD, but instead of them playing DPS, they were now playing tanks. This was evident upon zoning in and inspecting the tank, or shortly thereafter when the tank died on the first trash pack because he/she had no clue what to do as a tank. I attribute the mass QQ in the first 30 seconds of a dungeon to this problem. The second problem, there were now under-geared (or improperly geared/gemmed/reforged) and inexperienced tanks mis-matched with over-geared (but still bad) DPS in LFD. GC cites this exact problem as one reason to eliminate threat. If you agree with my argument and logic, it is evident that Blizzard created this problem with their last “solution” to fix the tank shortage problem. What new problem will they create with the solution of eliminating threat?
    The other completely separate part of my argument as to why I believe the developers don’t see the game like raid tanks do, is the implementation of vengeance. As a raid tank who watched 264 gear-level Warlocks rip aggro off me in ICC mid-way through a boss fight, I whole-heartedly understand and agree with the need to increase tank threat as gear levels escalate DPS output. But it is the implementation of vengeance that is completely wrong, in that vengeance is increased based on the amount of damage of tank takes. Hello? Isn’t the job of a tank to MINIMIZE the amount of damage taken? A good raid tank will gear, gem, and reforge such that they either avoid or block every single melee attack, resulting in lower overall damage taken. The same tank will also manage their cooldowns such that they mitigate big, telegraphed boss hits. A bad tank will gear, gem, and reforge less optimally, taking more overall damage. The same bad tank will also poorly manage their cooldowns such that they take the big, telegraphed boss hit in full, and then hit their cooldowns. Which tank has higher vengeance and therefore more threat? The bad tank, not the good tank. Blizzard is rewarding the bad tank with more threat and punishing the good tank. Had Blizzard simply scaled vengeance based on the amount of incoming damage that a tank avoided or mitigated, it would have rewarded good tanks by a long shot. But instead of reworking vengeance to scale with what good tanks do best, they are simply putting a band-aid on it in 4.3 and making it scale faster…but still based on the amount of damage taken. Or am I the only one who sees vengeance poorly implemented?
    My two arguments lead me to believe that the developers just don’t see the game like raid tanks do. Either that, or maybe they just aren’t interested in balancing the game around raiders. It wouldn’t surprise me given that talents and abilities are often balanced for PvP, but I digress.

  15. Adam says:

    “Hey, my active mitigation ability missed 2x in a row now i am dead.”

    “The boss burst me down really quick i hit my mitigation ability and got a parry then died.”

    “Sorry guys lagged for half a second and now i am dead.”

    “oh crap guys spam heal me i used mitigation ability to early”

    Oh yes i can see these kinda QQ posts coming for a forum near you soon.

    p.s i am a Death Knight tank i just love being punished for hitting the right button at the right time and getting miss/parry its so rewarding… /end sarcasm

  16. While in the minority, I enjoy the change in threat as it was the part of Tanking that I didn’t enjoy. Having to snap all the monsters from the dps at the pull was just a pain, especially when the dps out geared me.
    I Tanked on 2 toons in TBC, one in raids and two in 5 mans (Pally/Druid), then 3 tanks in Wrath, and I’ve avoided tanking in Cata mainly due to the unforgiving nature of the instances and the threat issues presence in the overall demanding job for Tanks.
    With this change I’ve tanked the ZG/ZA runs easily and frequently – and sometimes enjoyed it.

  17. Oh, and if you have not played a DK with our DeathStrike mechanic tied to Runes, which are also used for every other bloody power – use it and then tell me its OK. IMHO it is poor and needs to be altered.
    Making the bubble of health last 15-16 seconds instead of 10 would be a huge quality of life change, that would add flexibility into the usage of runes.

  18. Matt says:

    The Bear model is great, and frankly you do have a choice – eschew dodge for more expertise/crit/mastery and have your savage defense up more so you take steadier damage, or sacrifice these stats for dodge and take less total but spikier damage.

    Frankly I switched out my paladin for a bear on t12 because we have…dps issues in my raid. And i worked – I went from doing 11k to 16k on Beth’tliac (partially due to bearcatting) and we finally got a kill. The healers noticed little difference between my expertise-oriented bear and my mastery-oriented(but not yet block capped) Paladin.

    I think some combo of Bear type making threat stats work for defense, + DK/Paladin active mitigation (I loooooved the new Holy Shield) is what Tanking should ultimately shoot for.

  19. SO MUCH THIS.
    I think im in love :o)

    This is so well thought out. I do so hope the devs read this.
    I still want threat to matter, and a good tight rotation to matter.

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