Another Take on Active Mitigation

Last week Theck posted about Active Mitigation, based on the glimpses we’ve had from the class talent calculators for Mists of Pandaria.  We had a very active email thread about that post.  He called me a philistine, and I called him a string theorist.  It was extremely vicious and bitter, but I’m going to post my counterpoint anyway.

A disclaimer, before we get too in depth: I recognize that we’ve seen glimpses of the final product at best, and that what we’ve seen can best be described as pre-alpha.  What we have seen is not in anywhere close to a final form.  I’m further going to contrast MoP talents and systems for paladins against the Death Knight we know and love from right now, because that’s the Active Mitigation system that Blizzard suggested they were using as a model – one that works.  I recognize that we haven’t seen any mechanics changes that might be intended for behind the scenes.  In many ways, I didn’t want to comment until more was known, but I’m going to go ahead and speak my piece anyway.

With that in mind, what stands out for me from the preview is that there are a number of huge problems left to solve for Active Mitigation.  These are not, by any stretch, unsolvable, but they’re things that I certainly hope Blizzard bears in mind as they proceed with sketching out the system and releasing the MoP Alpha and Beta.

Problem 1: Resource Storage

The current Death Knight has the ability to store resources – the ability to hoard Death Strikes against burst or healer movement, in order to manage their own survivability.  This is, in my opinion, a good model.  The DK can react to unexpectedly bad situations in a granular manner – more Death Strikes for worse situations, and using up their “stored” Death Strikes leads to having to store up another one for the next burst, a period of lower survivability.  But they have something in the bank, to deal with problems.  And that’s the heart of any Active Mitigation system.

The Paladin uses finishers for survivability, and any option uses up all of your Holy Power.  There is no real opportunity to store resources in order to react to a situation, unless the gameplay design is for us to simply sit on Holy Power until it’s needed.  Even then, we have one ability use before we’re forced to rebuild – we have no granularity on our abilities and no real storage – we don’t have the same give and take that makes the current DK system interesting.

Problem 2: Scaling with Encounter Buffs

Rune regeneration scales with haste.  To a smaller degree, rage generation scales with haste.  Holy Power generation… does not.  If our role as tanks will be to stay alive through use of abilities – through Active Mitigation, then when an encounter provides a buff it needs to lift all boats equally or not at all.  I picked on haste because we already have Bloodlust/Heroism as raid-wide haste boost, one that pays some survivability benefit for Death Knights, and will not for Paladins.

Encounter buffs are something that Blizzard loves to use, and it’s important to make sure that they affect all tanks in a similar way.  The huge haste buffs on Sinestra, or Madness of Deathwing are a huge benefit to DK tanks, less so to warriors/druids in the MoP model, and not at all to Paladins.  That’s fine for now, when none of the rest of us have Active Mitigation to worry about, but I can see that causing major problems in MoP.

Further, if one tank scales survivability better with hit/expertise, or with damage output, or damage input – all of these are knobs that have been tweaked in encounters before.  Baleroc, Alysrazor, Ultraxion all come to mind.  We don’t have to look far to find evidence of buffs as a part of encounter design, and with tank survival being dependant upon them, it’s not a lot to ask that we all scale similarly with them.

Problem 3: Passive Survivability needs to be reduced.

For an Active Mitigation Model to be meaningful, passive survivability needs to be reduced across the board.  All tanks should be easily two-shottable in heroic raid content unless they are actively mitigating, in my opinion.  Tanks who aren’t pushing the right buttons should be only barely more survivable than plate DPS.

That might sound extreme, but if Active Mitigation is the method by which Blizzard intends to engage tanks and make our button pushes meaningful again, then they need to go ahead and actually do it.  We should not be effectively healable without running an excellent rotation.  Otherwise, the model is broken from the beginning.

This makes life a bit harder on brand new/entry level tanks, and I sympathize, but I think that appropriate tuning of 5-man and normal-mode content can alleviate that somewhat, making it meaningful for one to press buttons while still being somewhat forgiving of errors.  Heroic mode content needs to punish failures in Active Mitigation, and it needs to punish them severely.  Otherwise Active Mitigation will fail spectacularly to make tanking more compelling.

Problem 4: Ability Parity

All tanks are going to need approximately the same tools.  Dress it up in whatever flavor you desire.  Right now the paladin for MoP has a proactive tool in Holy Shield, a reactive tool in Word of Glory, and a DPS tool in Shield of the Righteous.  Yeah, it’s got a meaningless buff attached to it – it’s a DPS tool right now, and we might as well interpret it that way until it changes.

By contrast, the Death Knight has one tool that hits all three bases – Death Strike.  Multiple tools vs all-in-one sets up a huge number of potential balance problems.  For example, any given tool in the paladin toolbox *must* be stronger than Death Strike at it’s role, because it doesn’t have any of the side benefits.  But then you’re forced into situations where one tool is sufficient, and the other is not.

I actually don’t know, offhand, what the “keep the tanks feeling distinct” solution to this problem is, but it’s a very real problem, and a very big one.  Blizzard has surely learned that the RNG aspect of Active Mitigation is pretty frustrating, with the Death Strike miss issue, and have since removed it – so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to tie other classes down to “chance to mitigate” mechanics.  That’s not putting survival into the tanks hands.

Final Words

I’ve tried to avoid dealing with numbers specifically in here at all – even aside from that being Theck’s job, none of the numbers that we do have are in any kind of context, quoting them would be meaningless.  I’m not nearly as hopeful as Theck that the glimpse we’ve seen is a good harbinger, though.  The problems listed above all need solutions, they’re all potentially gamebreaking for tanks.  And stepping aside from the mechanics of it for a moment – none of them look all that compelling yet.  They don’t look like they’re going to be any fun.

However, the system is, as I stated above and will state again, in a pre-alpha state.  There is time enough to address all the issues, and I sincerely hope that when we get a chance to look at a more finished product it will be shiny and wonderful and compelling.  Fingers crossed.

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18 Responses to Another Take on Active Mitigation

  1. Adam says:

    Our resource will change, no mana re-gen in mop for healer right? That would go for tanks also. Meaning prot could never get mana back and we would just be stuffed.

    I am sure that one of our ability’s will restore mana when used. We wont have the talent to restore when we take damage or anything in MoP so the only quick and easy option for blizzard (they like the quick easy options) would be to make a few ability’s generate resources. Or it will be a passive ability we are just given (not likely, they said they didn’t want mana re-gen like that right?).

    • Pliers says:

      Int won’t increase your mana pool. I’ve seen nothing about no regen for mana – that’d be absurd.

      • Jericho says:

        They have already shown that Judgement of the Wise and its Ret equivalent are there. Mana is a fairly dead resource for non Holy Paladins in PvE as long as we are Judging with regularity. With Judgement being a Holy Power generator, this will not be a problem.

  2. Adam says:

    Read this “″ down under the “Blue Posts – Healing” I did read it wrong but intellect wont be tied with re-gen, We dont exactly have spirit on our kit. Also i have not seen a talent in the new 5.0 tree that allows re-gen for tanking.

    So could it be re-gen will be based on how much “base” spirit we have or…… Perhaps like I said it is now a passive thing that when you take damage x% is returned as mana or when you deal damage x% is returned as mana.

    I guess they wont want tanks to run oom or risk of running oom and having active mitigation so something will be done. I just think things will be a little different from now when we can just put some tape over the mana bar and forget about it.

    • Meloree says:

      Mana is not a primary resource for Protection Paladins, and is unlikely to become a primary resource for Protection Paladins. The abilities we care about using, in this context, are fueled by Holy Power. That, and cooldowns, are the primary resources that we are concerned about.

      You may wish to re-read the article without considering mana at all. It’s not relevant.

  3. Esoth says:

    Problem 1: You need an ability to (or have all abilities) cost only one Holy Power. Save up to three to chain them if needed, or use as it comes up. Having everything always consume all HP removes the granularity, definitely.

    Problem 2: Hahaha, good luck. DPS have been arguing this for years and still scale wildly differently with haste. Ele are going to get screwed on heroic Madness and fire mages even more OP.

    Problem 3: This sounds like it would be difficult on the start of fights and phase changes, and possibly tank swaps (i.e. a warrior taunting with no rage because he’s not getting hit). Maybe.

    • Meloree says:

      I didn’t mean to imply that none of the problems have solutions. There may already be solutions in place in the mechanics changes we have yet to see. However, the abilities listed don’t seem particularly suited to being chainable. ShoR’s block buff could be kept up indefinitely while maintaining several HP for WoG/Holy Shield usage, if everything just cost one HP – that’s probably not ideal – it’s something that I’d just hope that Blizzard will bear in mind.

      Similarly, haste is an easy example stat, simply because it happens in every encounter (Bloodlust/Heroism) – but Blizzard loves encounter-based buffs. While DPS imbalances can sometimes be absorbed in 25mans, tank imbalances are much harder to deal with – you might manage to get a win or two for your wildly differently scaling DPS specs when some tanks “can’t” do an encounter because it has a haste buff (or a crit buff, or it doesn’t have parry, etc). If tank survivability scales wildly differently with encounter mechanics, I expect that Blizzard will have to take steps to address it.

      It’s not a problem at the start of fights if you have the option to generate some resources out of combat. DK’s start full up on runes, Paladins can currently generate 3HP (perhaps not in MoP), etc. Similarly, warriors and druids generate rage from white and using abilities in MoP, they’ll be fine in tank-swap situations. It’s a problem, though, if competent healers can completely cover for tanks. Passive survivability needs to be low enough that they can’t do that in real content.

  4. Pliers says:

    I’d like to see paladins get to hold 5 holy power, with our abilities keeping a cost of 3.

    This would allow you to store up a bit. If you want to use an ability back to back, you’d only need to fit in 1 CS, but it would take you almost 20 seconds to get back to that state.

    It would also allow you to bounce between 2 and 5 holy power on your normal rotation, and never be more than 1 holy power away from your needed ability.

    It is a pretty small change that would help address problem 1.

    As far as haste goes, you could have CS and J cooldowns linked to haste for prot, just like they will be for Ret. This would put them on more similar footing to other tanks, specifically DKs.

  5. Jericho says:

    Problem 1: Resources. Holy Power has been a good addition to the game. We all thought it was weird at first, but it turned out to be just fine. That being said, I do agree that with active mitigation, there needs to be a new Holy Power model. I really hope that Blizzard takes a hard look at the simplistic HP model for Prot Paladins. Since Mana is a dead issue, we are left with 1 resource that we can not use unless its full. This was interesting, but we need something more complicated than that. DK works because they are functioning in a realm where they have 4 resources. Three separate rune types and Runic Power. It will be infinitely more difficult to address Active Mitigation in an interesting way if we are limited to a single resource model. Whether that model be Holy Power or Rage.

    There are choices out there to use the single resource for sure. Changing it so every ability only uses 1 HP is a popular idea. Thus allowing you to store 3 abilities to chain when needed. Yet in a game where people want to press buttons, and that resource is created through using an ability rather than over time you stand to make things stagnant and no one wants that. Another idea being tossed around is to increase the total number of max Holy Power and keep the cost the same. This idea basically does a very similar thing as decreasing cost. By keeping costs constant but increasing available resources you are doing the same thing only in a proportional way that extends the need to generate rather than use.

    When HP was added it was supposed to be a secondary resource. Unfortunately, as Cataclysm has gone along, our primary resource was made moot. The only real way to solve the resource problem is to somehow link Mana back into our resource system. How to do that I do not know, but we need multiple resources in order to make an active mitigation system interesting.

    Problem 2: Meh. Yes its unfortunate that we do not scale with haste. I would love to see the ret paladin crusader strike global/cd reduction talent make its way over to protection, but this is not make or break. We do not need to benefit from heroism to be productive in our role. Does it help those that do? Yes, but even in a realm where active mitigation is the norm, there are other ways to balance the tank classes than making them all benefit from the same statistics.

    Problem 3: This is the biggest issue and in today’s era of MMO’s in general you are not going to see this happen. There was a reason we lost the threat game, LFG. Its here to stay and it brought its bastard child little sister with LFR. If you make Active Mitigation strong enough to matter, you increase the divide between the good and the average, but even more so you increase the divide between the good and noob to gargantuan scales.

    Death Knights are perfect in the Active Mitigation model. In normal mode/lfr/5mans you can tell if you have a good DK tank who knows when to use his Death Strikes. But a DS spamming noob can be healed through just about anything. In heroic mode fights, its actually even more noticeable and can make or break an encounter… or mean very little in others. What you propose would mean those DS spammers would no longer be “average” but on the verge of bad when it comes to the lower tiers of content. While the good DKs would merely be looked upon as “doing it right”. I personally love the DK model of active mitigation. I do not want to go to a place where I need to make the perfect choice everytime to survive. I want to live in a place where a good player/group can overcome a single bad choice and win.

    Problem 4: Ability Parity has little to do with what should be going on with WoW. With the exception of having similar DR cooldowns, we do not need to have the same or similar active mitigation mechanics. Asking that is asking for more dumbing down of all 4 classes. We have that. In fact we need more valid resources for Paladins Warriors and Druids, not more homogenization.

    All in all I am not a huge fan of this move towards making ALL tanks active mitigators. I think definitely there is a gameplay niche. I think passive mitigation with choice also has a lot to offer in the tanking model as well as a “correct moment” active mitigation. I think this is a huge opportunity for Blizzard to separate the tanking classes by creating multiple valid tanking models with similar balance. We have something now, that just needs tweaking and making one class more active is good.

    • Meloree says:

      To address your comments in order:

      Problem 1: Mana hasn’t been a primary resource for Prot Paladins since TBC. Our Primary resource since that time has been cooldowns, and an efficient rotation has involved the most efficient usage of cooldowns. CS is a cooldown, Judgement is a cooldown, Consecration is a cooldown. Our primary resource is – and is likely to stay – cooldowns. Holy Power is a secondary resource system, like combo points or runic power, and like rage appears to be in MoP – it relies on ability usage, and player button-presses to be generated.

      Problem 2: The problem is more general than “haste”, it’s a convenient example statistic, and more of a problem than heroism. The problem is that if tanks scale unequally with given stats, then encounter-buffs – like on Madness of Deathwing, for example – scale the tanks unequally, and may move them from parity to strong preference. FL and DS have taught us that Blizzard loves those buffs. Tanks *must* respond similarly in those situations.

      Problem 3: That’s a tuning problem for LFG. If Active Mitigation is going to matter for tanks, it absolutely has to matter in heroic raiding content, which means that it absolutely needs to require near-perfection in that content in order for you to stand a chance – in order for your button presses to be meaningful. Right now, tanks basically do their entire job by showing up, at all levels of content. I consider that a serious problem in the game.

      Problem 4: Again, consider the toolsets presented, and attempt to balance them. I can come up with several examples from current content which will make one or the other severely unbalanced, no matter what the numbers turn out to be. When one tank has an “all in one” tool, and another tank has a specific tool for every occasion, they cannot be effectively balanced in every situation. Active Mitigation needs proactive and reaction options for every tank in order to succeed – I cannot see a way around it.

      • Jericho says:

        Same reply method…

        Problem 1: That’s exactly my point. I truly believe that if active mitigation is to work with the other classes and not become a gimmick or simply just another “rotational” mechanic then Mana needs to come back into the picture somehow. As I said, DKs have not 1, not 2, but in essence 3 real resources systems (yes I consider blood and death runes separate resources.) The reason why their “correct moment” active mitigation choice works is because they have multiple resources to use besides those death runes.

        Taking a look forward we will have 2 tanks classes that will be using multiple resources with Monk having 3 resources for its own. I simply do not believe that Paladins can have a compelling Active Mitigation system with only Holy Power. Either we need another added resource or Blizzard needs to figure out how to make Mana as a resource viable. (Even when we relied on Mana in TBC, Mana was a moot point.

        Problem 2: I completely understand that you aren’t just referring to Haste or Bloodlust in general. I simply do not believe there is a real way to create balance in all stats for all tanks. What if instead of speed buff you got a much stronger version of Battle Shout for a fight? Druids (and Monks) would scale tremendously while the Str tanks would scale only slightly. Blizzard may not want complete niche fights but they have acknowledged that certain toolkits will rise “slightly” to the top during certain encounters, solely because of encounter design. While they do not want any more DK/Druid Sartharian level niche’s they are willing to push encounter design to give a small advantage over others. I believe you are asking far too much for them to make all stats equally important to all 5 tanks.

        Problem 3: I answer this with a question. Is the DK Active Mitigation tuned tightly enough for your purposes? If so then fine. I simply believe that if things are tuned that tightly for Heroic, then they will be either undertuned for everything else. I still believe that tuning for this active mitigation methodology will have to be undertuned for all but Heroic, meaning the tanking difficult between normal and heroic mode encounters will scale overdramatically. I hope I am wrong, but I have this feeling that I wont be.

        Problem 4: To put it simply, not every tank needs to be effectively balanced in every situation. They only need to be “pretty much balanced”. As long as there are no more Sartharian’s, no more Sheer mechanics, and no more Spell Reflect requirements a “semi balance” will work. The problem with giving every tank a proactive and a reactive mechanic is that even those mechanics can easily be imbalanced between them. Just look at our existing and past “tanking cooldowns” to see that. It took 3 expansions for all tanking classes to get a 40%+ DR cooldown. Where druids and paladins have a secondary 20% DR cd, Warriors do not. The reason for having multiple tanking classes is not simply to have them using similar abilities using different resources, but having them be unique. If moving towards a purely active mitigation system requires all tanks to have the same mitigation options then its a system we do not want.

        As I stated earlier, I would love to see Blizzard step back from its mission to make all tanks into this model and realize that what they have done with the DK is a huge step in the right direction for a single class. Trying to make every class play similarly is a bad idea.

      • Meloree says:

        Problem 1: Please don’t ignore cooldowns as a resource system. That is the real primary resource for Prot Paladins, and it’s arguably the real primary resource for warriors and druids. Argue that it’s not sufficient, but don’t ignore it.

        Problem 2: “Similarly” is not equal. I’m suggesting that one tank scaling *not at all* with a common raid cooldown and/or encounter buff, and other tanks scaling very well with it is a Sartharian-level problem. Argue if you will, but argue the point, not a strawman, please.

        Problem 3: DK Active Mitigation *was* tuned tightly enough in T11/T12. Less so in T13. Passive survivability is always just relative to boss damage output – for the system to be compelling to high end tanks, it needs to have consequences for failure.

        Problem 4: Exactly my point. Different toolsets create big balance problems, and we’ve seen it again and again for two full expansions now.

        • Jericho says:

          @Meloree’s last reply to me…

          Problem 1: I do not discount CD’s being a viable resource. We have a good number of cooldowns presently. Discounting Holy Shield as a “real” cd, we have 4 major self cd’s (AD, DP, AK and LoH). Looking at Druids and Warriors we hold a 2 cooldown advantage over them. If you look at DKs we both have similar CD numbers. With DKs having their 20% and 40% cds (Bone Shield and IBF). Toss into that VB, AMS, LB+DCx3, and Death Pact, DKs in fact have more CDs than Paladins currently.

          Lets move into the future though. Where we now can NOT be balanced around having access to the same CDs (neither can DKs). As we are losing our defacto “1 Up” as default. Yes we may as a majority decide to take the AD talent, but we can not be balanced around any given talent as a tank. These have to be choices, and if all of a sudden we are balanced over our choice in ANY situation, they all of a sudden cease to be.

          What does that leave us? 3 CDs? Well take a look at Druids, getting a third CD. DKs will always have at least 3, no matter what choice it is, they will have a 3rd and 4th CD. Warriors are even getting a CD based on the minor half of an exiting ability making them stronger Magic Tanks as well.

          The CDs themselves are a resource, but can not be discussed in an Apple to Apple way as to the need for a secondary resource like DK Runic Power vs Runes are. Mana is not a resource, we as Paladins have Holy Power alone and Warriors have Rage alone, and currently you could maybe, just maybe say that the closest tank to having a secondary resource is Druid thanks to the manner in which Lacerate and Pulverize work together, but that is a weak single use resource at best. In the end, these are definitely resources, but they are not a unique resource for the class, and they are an increasingly weaker resource when it comes to the future as they are giving us less default options to be balanced around.

          Problem 2: I still believe it is too much to ask that all classes scale with every stat. These raid buffs are often there to not only help the raid in general, but there to help certain classes close the dps or healing gaps that are still prevalent in the rank and file of your raid. Yes, I can get behind you that we as Paladins do not scale at all with haste, but I can also say that in my experience the amount of haste given by these buffs (yes 20% is large) is not a make or break when it comes to the tanks survivability. If in the case of DKs with the haste buff, it actually tends towards an over compensation for the lacking of the previous tier, things need to be done.

          There are ways to make haste matter for all 4 tanks, but do we want it to? Personally, I do not. So we can agree to disagree with this one. Yes, you were speaking of all of these “end boss buffs”, but in general when we are looking at them, I do not think you are complaining about %health bonuses, or healing received or movement bonuses.

          Madness is the second time a raid-wide buff given by an NPC that has been an actual stat boost. In past encounters we have had Health, Healing (both done and intake), Movement speed, immunity to death, Resource Regen, and damage %. Only twice have we seen a haste increase or an increase in any stat at all. I see where you are going when asking for us all to benefit from these, but is your answer honestly, is your job largely more difficult than a DK who gets an extremely minor benefit from it? Remembering that the Druids and Warriors have only 2 rage costing survivability tools between them. One of which is a base rotational ability and the other is a short cd ability where the player is obviously doing something wrong if they dont have that rage to use for their own mitigation.

          I can see your complaint that a 20% haste buff helps out DK rune recharge rate which does increase their overall survivability to a small degree. Wouldn’t that be easily fixed by changing that haste into 20% attack and casting speed? Instead of trying to rebalance tanking classes?

          Problem 3: I agree, it needs to have consequences for failure, but their is a problem. Its not with the tanking classes or even active vs passive mitigation. It boils down to the current paradigm of raiding. Where the “hard/heroic” modes first started (and were most successfully realized mind you) was in Ulduar. Where it was not necessarily the tank’s incoming damage that was the reason it was “heroic” it was overall encounter design. Moving forward it became more about tank and raid damage. Now we have a paradigm where LFR and Normal modes are simply not scaling nearly as high as the heroics. These other two modes are in one neighborhood while the heroic modes are for people living 5-6 blocks over. This is a problem. Mostly because in order to tune an entire system so it has “dire” consequences for one group and have “noticeable but not overwhelming” consequences for the others, is going to be increasingly difficult without changing the paradigm.

          I completely agree that the system needs to be “felt” for it to work. Its mostly why I believe that changing all 5 tanking classes in MoP to work in the same or similar active mitigation methods. Changing and rebalancing 5 classes on top of all the other changes and rebalancing AND adding of an entire new 1-90 class is a LOT of work and I believe that any attempts to do so, will be met with enough failure for taking on far too much in too short of a time.

  6. Angelflavor says:

    I think you missing out one one key point about Death Knights VS Paladin. Paladins mastery allows a chance passive 30% damage reduction. Death Knight on the other hand mastery is a combo that absorbs a % of how much Death Strikes heal. I think DKs will be more “skill” based then the other 3 tanks in game. Paladins Mastery will always leave some passive mitigation even if they suck at the active defense model while a Death Knight will always have to press a button to keep up with other tanks passive mastery. I’m not saying paladin players will be good or down bosses if they don’t press buttons, but a back pally will be better then a bad DK with = skill and gear. .

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