MoPping up Mastery, Part II

Yesterday, we discussed some of the pros and cons of our current mastery implementation, and briefly considered the limitations of a bounded system like the combat table.  Today I’m going to toss around some ideas for new mastery implementations that could be used in MoP to avoid the complications caused by block-capping.

Diminishing Returns

The first, and most obvious answer, is that they could apply diminishing returns (DR) to block.  There are certainly some advantages to that approach.  It would give block a similarity to dodge and parry, and would allow for more complicated interplay between the three because the “best” stat would depend on the amount of each that you currently have.  If the numbers are tuned properly, it would completely eliminate the ability to reach block cap.  All in all, it seems like a fairly easy solution to implement.

However, there are some problems.  For starters, no other classes have DR on their mastery bonuses.  Paladins and Warriors would be the only ones who are punished for stacking more of their “awesome” stat.  Admittedly, the same is true for dodge and parry, so tanks are used to it, but it’s a valid criticism of simply slapping DR on block and calling it a day.  It would mean that mastery procs and buffs would have less value for a shield tank than a DK or bear, which makes itemization trickier.  That may not be a critical problem, but it’s enough to make us consider some of the other cool ways they could change mastery.

Expandable Combat Table

For a slightly more radical idea, we could completely change how the combat table works.  Right now, the roll is made between 0 and 100, and the combat table is adjusted according to current stats.  What if, instead, the combat table expanded to fit the possible options?

For example, you start out with 5 “points” of dodge, parry, miss, and block, and about 30 “points” of taking a regular hit.  We’ll ignore crits for now, since those get removed by spec bonuses.  Instead of rolling from 1-100, the combat roll would be from 0-50 (5+5+5+5+30=50).  So without any gear on, you’d have ~60% chance to take a regular hit, and a 10% chance to dodge, parry, or block.

As you load yourself up with gear, all of your stats increase, but so does the combat table.  So if you end up with 20 dodge, 20 parry, 5 miss, and 50 block, your roll is between 0 and 125 (20+20+5+50+30=125).  Your chance to take a regular hit has decreased to 30/125, or 24%, and your chance to block has increased from 10% to 40%.

This system is very similar to putting the stats on DR, because there’s no way to push “hit” off of the table anymore.  You can increase your stats indefinitely, but there will always be that small chance of taking a full hit.  Except in this model, the stats all scale linearly in “points,” but share the same DR formula when converting from points to percentages.

It’s a neat idea, but ultimately I think it’s worse than just putting DR on block.  For one thing, the system is a little less obvious.  A player may understand what “20% dodge” means, and the character sheet could still provide that number, but it’s unintuitive and confusing that adding more block reduces their chance to dodge.  At least with diminishing returns, you get the independent scaling of each stat, so that adding extra mastery doesn’t cause collateral damage to avoidance.

Neuter Block

As we discussed yesterday, one of the big reasons that mastery is so attractive has to do with the strength of blocking itself.  Shaving 30% off of an attack makes a very significant difference.  But if block was weaker, then mastery would be as well.  They could “nerf” blocking to prevent only 10%-20% of the incoming melee attack, which would reduce the impact of blocking on survivability.  In that system, you’d still be able to block cap, but it would no longer be as super-powerful to do so.

Unfortunately, this idea has more problems than diminishing returns.  It makes mastery our weakest damage prevention stat by a wide margin.  It doesn’t fix the discontinuity you arrive at when reaching block cap.  Even though this is not all that unlike the discontinuity that DPS players have to juggle with hit/exp caps, there are also no proc- or buff-based hit and expertise effects in the game.  But there are mastery procs, and it would be advantageous for those procs to be attractive to all five tanking classes.

Block Chance Fixed (BCF), Mastery Increases Value

In this idea, block chance becomes a fixed amount for warriors and paladins.  Instead of increasing your block chance, it’s set at 30%-40% as soon as you choose a tanking spec.  Mastery then has to play a different role entirely, and the logical choice is to focus on increasing the amount blocked.  Warriors could keep an incarnation of Critical Block, where additional mastery simply increases the chance of doubling the amount blocked.  Paladins could simply get an increase in the amount blocked, at roughly half the rate warriors get Critical Block.  For example, the same amount of mastery rating it would take to give warriors a 50% to critical block would give paladins an extra 15% block value, so both would yield an average of 45% damage blocked.

There’s a lot of merit to this idea.  It’s simple.  There’s no obvious bounding issues, because the scaling can easily be tweaked to make sure that 100% Critical Block chance isn’t achievable.  While paladins get the more reliable block amount, neither class has a particularly “smoother” damage profile because block-capping is out, so full-sized hits still occur at a more-or-less fixed rate.  Interestingly, dodge and parry get more attractive here as well, because they suddenly provide the only source of increased Combat Table Coverage.  That may devalue mastery enough that we don’t pursue it at all costs, which will keep us from lusting after high-mastery DPS plate.

I can’t really think of that many drawbacks, either, aside from mastery falling behind dodge and parry in attractiveness.  Again though, that could be considered a positive, and there are other classes who value mastery less than other secondary stats.  The only fear is that this makes it so weak that we actively avoid it, which is unlikely.  However, there are ways to fix that….

BCF, Mastery Generates a Proc

Using the same “fixed block chance” base as above, in this case mastery also generates a proc-like effect.  This could be its own stand-alone effect, or it could be in addition to an amount of bock value (or crit block) to make sure that mastery remains attractive.

The proc itself could be any number of things.  A proc that gave us a few seconds of a Holy Shield buff, increasing our block value during that time, is one interesting option.  For warriors, it would either be a buff that grants a chance for a Critical Block (with a longer duration or higher crit chance to compensate for the double-RNG), or simply a shorter-duration buff that grants the full 60% block value.  Not only does this idea have enough parameters to tweak to make it attractive compared to dodge and parry, but if the proc trigger is melee attacks it gives us a reason to like hit, expertise, and even a traditionally-eschewed stat like haste, something Mel has written about before.

On the other hand, this system brings block chance back to the table as an option.  A proc that gave us +30% chance to block for a short duration could work; the uptime probabilities involved produce a natural diminishing returns effect, such that you can never guarantee full CTC, and extra mastery rating gets less and less valuable automatically.  Or the proc could be a Shield Block-esque buff, which guarantees that the next melee attack will be blocked but is consumed by that event.  Again, probabilities give you a natural DR mechanism and automatic anti-cap control, and a proc triggering off of damage dealt gives value to DPS stats (hit, exp, haste).

Or the trigger could be defensive instead of offensive.  For example, it would be neat if every successful block had a chance to proc a heal or short-duration absorb bubble.  Mastery would increase the proc chance and the absorb/heal amount.  This is an interesting proposition for two reasons: it procs defensively, much like the reactive damage of the old (BC-era) Holy Shield, and it’s ex-post-facto.  The second part is the important one – it means that the heal will rarely be wasted (unlike offensively-procced heals like Mending and Souldrinker), and that the effect isn’t as powerful as a straight-up increase in block value, because you need to survive the larger-sized hit before the absorb/shield bubble is granted.

A more controllable alternative might be for a successful block to grant a bonus to Shield of the Righteous, Holy Shield, and Word of Glory.  The bonus could increase damage/healing/absorb done and duration, and mastery would increase the potency and proc chance.  This has the advantage of tying the mastery into the Holy Power system and giving the player some choice in how that benefit gets used.

You could imagine any number of other, less block-centric proc-based benefits.  For example, SotR could proc an absorb bubble or mini-heal that gets consumed on the next unblocked attack, as a way of smoothing out damage.  That’s getting closer to what DKs and bears have, though, and veers outside of our self-imposed “must involve blocking” constraint.

BCF, Mastery Converts Blocked Damage to Absorb/Healing

Taking an idea from the previous section, and removing the proc mechanics, mastery could simply convert blocked damage to healing or damage absorption.  Block chance could remain fixed, while mastery gave a small increase to block value and increased the conversion factor.  So when you block, you might reduce the damage by 35% instead of 30%, and get half of the amount blocked as a free heal.  Absorb bubbles would give more damage smoothing than the heal, if that sort of mechanic is desired.

This has the advantage of being RNG-less outside of the inherent combat table rolls.  It’s not particularly easy to math out because it’s boss-dependent, but it’s something you can easily identify and analyze in parses.  The disadvantage is that it’s similar to the druid and DK mastery effects, though it’s triggered and calculated in a different way.  Unfortunately, it’s also a primarily passive effect, in that nothing you do can increase the trigger rate, unlike Savage Defense.  But so is the current incarnation of block chance mastery.

BCF, Mastery Grants Rollover Minutes

Using another idea I touched upon earlier, what if our mastery gave us “rollover minutes?”  Blocking a melee attack could grant credit towards a buff which causes a heal or absorb bubble on the next unblocked attack.  The idea is that it’s a Lifebloom-like effect that triggers off of a guaranteed damage spike.  Mastery could determine the conversion rate, just like above, or could adjust the proc chance if a more unreliable mechanic is desired.  And again, the concept here is that every block continues to contribute to the buff (hence “rollover minutes”), so that multiple blocks in a row will result in a bigger heal when the effect triggers.

This wouldn’t be that hard to implement, and there are more than enough parameters to tweak to make it an interesting mechanic.  It does share some similarities with druids and DKs, but the proc and usage mechanics should be enough to make it feel unique.  But again, it’s a passive effect rather than something the player can control or influence.

Get Rid of Tank Plate

On the more radical end of the spectrum, we could consider getting rid of tank plate entirely.  After all, druids already use the same DPS leather gear that rogues do, and monks will be doing the same in MoP.  At that point, dodge and parry rating go out the window too, and get the same “fixed amount” treatment that block does in some of the earlier suggestions.  By choosing a tank spec, a warrior or paladin automatically gets 20% dodge, 20% parry, and 30%-40% block.  Our mastery would then have to trigger off of damage dealt, making hit, exp, crit, and haste more attractive.

There are several ways one could go with this idea, many very similar to the BCF solutions.

  • Mastery could grant a stacking block amount buff from successful melee attacks (maybe ~5% amount per stack, up to 6 stacks, consumed upon a block event), with mastery rating increasing the amount per stack.
  • Alternatively, you could grant block chance, again with a per-stack amount that’s consumed upon a successful block.
  • Or with either of those methods, the stack properties could be dependent on damage done, tying crit into the mix as a useful stat.
  • Or the stack properties could be fixed, and mastery simply provides the proc chance per successful attack, possibly double for crits.

However, this idea isn’t without it’s host of problems.  If all tank plate gets eliminated, then plate DPS gear becomes far and away the most highly-represented gear selection in raids.  There are already 2 warrior specs, 2 DK specs, and 1 paladin spec fighting over DPS plate; adding 3 more tanking specs to the mix will require it to drop even more often, which isn’t good for drop tables (or, for that matter, for other classes!).  In addition, this would require a re-working or replacing of all tanking gear in the game, from level 1 to 85.  That’s a lot of developer time, and I’m not sure it’s worth it when there are other, arguably better solutions on the table.

Closing Thoughts

In this post, I’ve provided a number of possibilities for the paladin (and warrior) mastery implementations in MoP.  Some of them were a little far-fetched, others were very down-to-earth.  I think that the “BCF,” (block chance fixed) solutions hold the most potential for a reasonable implementation.  They’re all fairly straightforward, and easy for a new player to understand.  They work within the current combat table system, and with current gear, and thus don’t need heavy restructuring of the game’s fundamental mechanics.  Most of them grant hit, expertise, and haste survivability benefits.  And finally, they completely eliminate the problem of block-capping by removing the mechanism that gets us there, while giving us other neat effects to compensate.

And of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list.  Given more time and thought, other solutions could certainly be found.  I’d be willing to bet that our readership has their own innovative ideas.  If you do, please don’t hesitate to share them in the comments.

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6 Responses to MoPping up Mastery, Part II

  1. Will says:

    Thank you for this post Theck! I’ve really enjoyed reading it and thinking about what changes could be made to improve the situation. I for one really latch on to the final comments you made about gear.

    I think the game would be in a much better place to make more efforts to reduce the trinity equation. I think healers should be less effective, all dps and healers should take longer to kill and for everyone’s dps to matter more. It would make game play much more interesting. I thought this was one of the goals of Cataclysm (that may be recollecting through rose colored glasses though). I know Guild Wars 2 is looking to kill the trinity, but I’d like to see a more normal MMO take a stab at it.

  2. I think that as long as you are blocking a massive amount of hits (40% is quite a lot) anything suggested will be problematic. That being said, probably the best solution in that case is to put it on DR. DR works, it’s annoying but does make sense and does require balance. It’s not hard to figure out what mastery should provide as far as block rate either since block value is fixed.

    On mastery improving block value instead of block rate – the warriors have that system and it’s just okay. It’s not great. One major problem with it is that it’s very hard to balance appropriately; even as a percentage it is still just a way to reduce some of the damage some of the time, which is the most problematic part of block. It’s what makes you want to do avoidance instead, or armor instead. Mathematically it’s okay but I think it wouldn’t be as big a hit with most people – it makes block more like dodge, when tanks really want to make block more like armor.

    • Theck says:

      I think in some sense that’s the problem. As tanks, we like to minimize RNG, so of course we want block to be more like armor – something always-on and reliable. However, that’s the exact reason that block is powerful and hard to balance. Sometimes what’s good for the player isn’t necessarily good for the game, so to speak.

      The devs have been pretty clear about not wanting us to block-cap in MoP. So I think it’s fair to assume that we’re going to be stuck with a little more RNG. Thus, the question is not whether to change mastery and block, but how to do it such that it remains an interesting and attractive mechanic.

      • That’s the thing though – as long as block is more like avoidance and you can’t cap it tanks aren’t going to like it that much. It’s not going to be that exciting or interesting.

        But if it’s going to be in that category anyway, just make it like the rest of avoidance and deal with it. It’ll still be a more attractive value prop than dodge simply because reducing 3x the attacks by 1/3rd the damage is more interesting most of the time than the one dodge – at least to those that care. One issue with block compared to non-block tanks is the idea of a ‘blocked’ attack not triggering certain procs (offense or defense), and all those issues. If they do trigger, then block is most of the time significantly worse than dodge. If they don’t, block is hugely better than dodge.

        I wonder some times if tanks should only have two kinds of avoidance (of three) and we deal with it. If warriors could block and parry, paladins could dodge and block, DKs and druids can dodge and parry then maybe that’s okay. Just make it all 100% BV and make it exactly like the rest.

  3. Zaephod says:

    I’m going to throw my hat in this discussion with some nice conjecture. The devs have mentioned on multiple occasions that they want tanks to care about offensive stats and that they want them to matter more than an increase in threat/dps to us. That to me sounds like they’re going to want us to care about dodge, parry, mastery, crit, haste, expertise, and hit. That’s a bit much don’t you think? That doesn’t even count primary stats.

    My guess is that Theck’s right on the money with gear changes. Were they to remove both dodge and parry rating from tank gear, you’d end up with 5 stats to care about instead of 7, i.e.; the same gearing situation dps is in. Each class/spec has their own stat priorities, but each operates with 5 stats to care about (4 for casters, they just need a lot more hit).

    That change is not as massive as you’d think to gear, looking at changing just tanking plate since they already removed tanking leather. Plus, the nice side effect is that every plate dps and melee leather wearer would be moderately geared to tank, just in case. Maybe that would aid in the tank shortage (though probably not).

  4. Pingback: Folie à Block | Sacred Duty

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