Musings about the Active Mitigation Model

I was very happy with the latest Dev Watercooler article about active mitigation.  It seems that they’ve come to many of the same conclusions that I have, a number of which I posted last week. In particular, the upcoming change to Death Strike indicates that they agree about our emergency/reactive buttons not being tied to success rate, at least in the short term.  Hopefully they retain that philosophy as they work through the full re-design for 5.0.

In addition, their proposed implementations for active mitigation sound a lot like the “semi-active mitigation” I described.  I didn’t specifically mention a Holy-Shield-like finisher in that article, but the idea is one I’ve mentioned in forum posts as far back as the Cataclysm beta, and it fits the mold.  If implemented properly it’s not something you would save to use reactively, unlike WoG in most cases.  It provides a mostly passive result, probably in the form of block amount, that’s significant enough to want to maximize uptime.  And it makes threat stats moderately interesting, because now it’s a choice between those threat stats increasing your passive mitigation one way and dodge/parry/mastery increasing your passive mitigation another way.

Today I want to spend a few minutes musing about the way this finisher might be implemented.  Most of this will be pure speculation, of course, but there may be some nuggets of useful design insight to be garnered from the discussion.

“Maintaining a buff is boring”

The last time the community discussed this idea of Holy Shield being the protection Holy Power sink, one major outcry was that “maintaining a buff is boring.”  Many players wanted to smash things in the face with their shield instead.  There’s some merit in that statement, of course; building up resources just to maintain a buff isn’t that interesting.  Sure, other classes/specs do it, but they also have other sinks for their resources.  Rogues don’t spend all of their combo points maintaining Slice and Dice, they slip in Ruptures, Eviscerates, and so on in between S&D refreshes.  Similarly, Ret paladins don’t spend all their Holy Power keeping up Inquisition.

I suspect that the duration buff to Inquisition was rooted in this same philosophy.  Keeping a buff up is a good game mechanic if it’s not the only thing you do, such that you get ample opportunities to do other stuff with your resources (read: smash things in the face).  When the developers saw how much more smoothly Ret played with the T11 4-piece bonus, and perhaps more importantly how much more fun Rets said the class was with that bonus, I think they realized that maybe the baseline duration could use a buff.

Threat vs. Survivability

As a counterpoint, deciding to spend that Holy Power on threat instead of mitigation is just never going to be interesting — smart tanks will always use it to survive, as we saw before Protection had a Word of Glory cooldown.  -Ghostcrawler

As Ghostcrawler mentioned in the blog post, when it comes to survivability vs. damage/threat choices the proper choice for a tank is almost always survivability.  That’s why WoG needed a cooldown in the first place – our only choice was damage (SotR) vs. damage (Inq) vs. survivability (WoG), and the decision was pretty clear.  You were far more likely to survive by sitting on your holy power and waiting to reactively WoG, so that’s what a lot of us did.  Even now, some of us continue to do that on certain bosses, simply because they’re dangerous enough to warrant it.

That makes designing the Holy Shield finisher tricky (let’s call it “Holy Shield Block” or HSB, since that’s what GC called it several times in the article).  If the duration of the HSB buff is long, such that we can fit in other finishers, then it dilutes the whole idea.  A long duration means that we won’t care about threat stats, because we’ll generate enough Holy Power to keep it up 100% of the time without them.  We might even generate enough to fit a WoG in here or there, depending on exactly how long the duration of HSB ends up being.

On the other hand, if the duration of HSB is short, it turns back into a survivability vs. damage choice, and we already know what happens in that case.  The choice will be more interesting this time around because we’ll have two survivability options – survivability (HSB) vs. survivability (WoG) vs. damage (SotR).  The choice between HSB and WoG would be great, because it would be a meaningful decision.  But SotR still gets left out in the cold.

The future of SotR

If SotR even still exists in the new setup, we’ll rarely end up using it regardless of the duration on HSB simply because we have survivability options.  It would only fill an off-tanking niche, which isn’t very inspiring.  So my guess is that SotR is gone as a finisher.  In fact, SotR may simply be HSB; “Shield of the Righteous” is still an apt name for a defensive shield talent, after all. We’ve decided that the damage vs. survivability decision isn’t interesting, so why don’t we just throw it out altogether?

We can still address the “boring” part pretty easily.  There’s no reason that HSB/SotR can’t give a maintenance buff and deal damage.  That should satisfy both crowds – you still get to slam the boss in the face with your shield, but you’re doing it for both the damage and the mitigation benefit.  That should make the decision between HSB/SotR and WoG more interesting and help prevent WoG-spam, especially since WoG is likely to lose its cooldown.  HSB/SotR gives you the passive mitigation and extra damage, but WoG gives you the emergency heal you may prefer once in a while.

The damage of HSB/SotR should probably be reduced in that situation, which solves a lot of problems. Right now it’s our big finisher, and it’s a significant portion of our damage.  That makes the rest of the rotation pale in comparison to the CS/SotR cycle, and makes filler choices fairly meaningless.  Reducing the damage of SotR while still maintaining its importance via mitigation keeps us wanting to press CS/SotR, but opens up the door for fillers to be more meaningful.  If SotR hits for less, Avenger’s Shield can hit for more, which makes it a much more compelling proc to take advantage of.  And really, AS is our “spec-defining” ability, why shouldn’t it be our big hitter?

It also solves an annoyance problem.  If you miss with SotR, you get the joy of recasting it, often multiple times in a row.  That’s actually really annoying to me, for some reason, possibly because I have a herp-de-derp sound effect tied to it in MSBT to warn me that SotR missed.  I would much prefer it just gets “used up” if it misses so I can keep moving on with the rotation, because recasting SotR six times makes it feel like a long, boring lull in an otherwise reasonably-paced sequence.  But it does so much damage that we can’t afford that implementation.  If the damage was lower, then the damage portion could just go back to missing/hitting like any other normal ability and the buff maintenance part could be what “consumes” the Holy Power – hence no recasting.

Indirect effects of a Holy Power finisher

Changing up our finishers leads to a bunch of other things that may need to be addressed.  For example, it may make sense to swap AS and SotR in the talent system, or make SotR available earlier in the tree, so that low-level tankadins have a finisher to work with other than WoG (though to be fair, this is an issue even in the current system).

Perhaps more significantly, Ghostcrawler hinted at some Holy Power changes in the Dev Watercooler article when he talked about being able to “save” Holy Power to make it less imperative to use it immediately.  That’s a pretty big shift, but it makes sense in a system where you’re trying to accommodate a more complicated set of choices, especially when one is proactive (HSB) and another is reactive (WoG).  Under that sort of system, a “release valve” like SotR might even make sense.  This is an issue that has plagued the Holy Power resource system since its inception, and one I’ve written about before:

An implementation that turned Holy Power into a more granular resource, where we could efficiently spend smaller amounts or pool them to create combinations, would give the mechanic a lot more depth and make it more interesting to manage.  That type of overhaul is a pretty huge undertaking though, so I wouldn’t expect to see anything like that until the next expansion at the earliest.   -Theck

And I still think that Crusader Strike will be going back to a 4.5-second cooldown in the next beta for a number of reasons.  For one, it’s still not documented anywhere in-game – it just happens when you spec Protection without any sort of indication that it happened.  But the big reason is that mechanically, a rotation where CS is every other cast is very restrictive, which is enough of a reason all by itself.  A CS-X-X- rotation gives you ample room for more interesting filler choices, and since our finishers are mitigation-based, the longer time between finishers doesn’t feel as punishing.  Especially if the filler spells become important, like a heavy-hitting AS implementation would.

Even better, the combination of mitigation finishers and 4.5-second CS might let the devs de-couple CS and HotR.  I could imagine an interesting setup where HotR was independent of CS and was the only way to apply Vindication, but like Divine Storm it only generated Holy Power if it hit a certain number of targets.  That adds another filler spell to use instead of Holy Wrath and Consecration, helps cut down on empty GCDs in a 4.5-second CS system, and does both of those without excessively increasing Holy Power generation against single targets.  For multi-target situations, we’d shift to a HotR-X-X rotation and use CS as our extra filler.  It’s a pretty elegant solution that doesn’t break Holy Power and actually adds a bit of variety to our spell choices.

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4 Responses to Musings about the Active Mitigation Model

  1. zwinglisblog says:

    I recently started taking Cata dungeons on Caligan. I found myself only using SotR if WoG was on cooldown. I never use it as a finishing move. I thought that was what the HoW was for? But, I have been using SotR, combined with DP/AW/AS to see if I can start off w/ a big old SotR crit on a boss. But, that used to be important to gain a threat lead. With the nixing of threat as a issue w/ this last patch, there probably isn’t a reason to do that any more.

    Zwingli

  2. zwinglisblog says:

    Ok, I fail at typing… should have read, “I recently started tanking Cata dungeons…”

  3. Adam says:

    As a DK tank on my main and Paladin alt i really welcome these changes its about time you actually get rewarded for hitting your mitigation button at the right time rather than punished when it does miss/parry.

    I think the stacking mitigation thing will be interesting and it will sort out the good players from the bad. I really do look forward to this for my paladin because at the moment it feels a little to passive (I liked the holy shield change we had last patch though that made things a little more lively)

    More to control is not really a bad thing, you need to think about encounter design also i bet my left shoe lace that encounters in the future wont involve much tank movement, Any tank movement in the future is likely there for a good reason to make the stacking more fun and a challenge.

  4. Pingback: First impressions of active mitigation | Sacred Duty

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