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.
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.