The Lament of the Engineer

My name is Theck, and I’m an Engineer.

I feel like that admission belongs in a support group for underprivileged tanks.  Because admitting that you’re a tank with Engineering is tantamount to admitting that you’re willfully giving up effectiveness.  By forgoing a more “useful” profession like Blacksmithing or Jewelcrafting, I’m giving up 120 Stamina (or 80 mastery) compared to other tanks.

This is irritating on several levels.  First and foremost, the game has been moving away from the design where one or two professions are “correct” for each role, and the rest are significantly sub-optimal.  Since Wrath, most professions give at least the standard tanking stamina bonus (120 STA in Cataclysm).  Mining, Inscription, and Enchanting provide only the stamina option, while Blacksmithing, Jewelcrafting, and Alchemy all give the player a choice between several stat boosting options (including stamina).  While a leatherworker’s draconic embossment is equivalent to a 120-stamina advantage in itemization points, the lack of a competing Cata-era stamina option gives them a whopping 155-stamina bonus, because other professions are stuck with the 40-stamina or 50 dodge rating.  Herbalism, Skinning, Tailoring, and Engineering are all left out in the cold though.

Worse yet, the balance changes every patch.  Leatherworking vaulted to the forefront of the Stamina race in early Cataclysm, perplexing tanks everywhere.  While it makes some sense for a feral druid tank to be a leatherworker, it’s far less common for a plate tanking class to do so.  With epic gems being released in 4.3, but other professions not getting compensating increases in their stat boosts, Blacksmithing has jumped up to a 150-stamina benefit, making Leatherworking/Blacksmithing the most favorable tanking professions in a tier of content where the majority of dangerous damage is unavoidable.

Frankly, this strikes me as absurd.  This sort of paradigm has no place in a game as mature as WoW, where leveling a new profession becomes more and more expensive with each expansion.  Professions are a long-term choice for most players, and part of their character’s identity.  If min/maxing constraints encourage them to swap professions every other patch, the choice of profession becomes a lot less meaningful.  Instead of choosing a profession based on what feels right for that character, it becomes a simple analytical problem – “which profession gives me the most X?”

I think it’s fair to say that there’s a fundamental disconnect between the way players choose professions and the way professions are currently designed.  Most players, when they roll their first character, do not pick professions based on stat bonuses.  They might choose for thematic reasons, like Mining and Blacksmithing on a plate user, or Skinning and Leatherworking on a leather wearer.  Or they may choose based on a character concept, like a tauren paladin that chooses herbalism because of an affinity for nature.  But the important point here is that the choice is generally a personal, thematic choice, rather than one based on what the profession gives at max level.  It’s only us old-timers who are jaded enough to roll a character and think, “what should this character have to maximize its potential for raids.”

With that in mind, I think that professions should be primarily thematic choices.    There’s really no thematic argument that justifies Engineering (or Herbalists and Skinners, for that matter) being at a stamina disadvantage.  At least with Tailoring, the lack of a bonus makes some thematic sense, as there are no cloth-wearing tanking specs.  But any tank can make use of the herbs and leathers from the gathering professions, and anybody can take advantage of the “fun” perks of engineering.  Thus, the stat bonuses they provide should be more or less equivalent for all roles.  It’s fine for one or two to provide more versatility than the others – for example, the choice between 120 stamina and 80 mastery – but none should be as plainly inferior as Engineering is for tanking.

Perhaps most annoying is that this exact inequity was recognized and corrected for DPS specs.  In the beginning of Cataclysm, the Synapse Springs tinker only granted Intellect, leaving Strength- and Agility-using engineers without a stat bonus.  As you can imagine, this led to a significant amount of complaining by die-hard Engineering fans.  In patch 4.0.6, the tinker was updated to boost the highest of the three primary stats, and the duration reduced to give a time-averaged bonus of 80 stats, on-par with almost every other profession (again, with the exception of Herbalism and Skinning).  For the moment, we’ll ignore the fact that on-demand DPS stats are generally stronger than passive stats, making the Engineering tinker strictly superior in most encounters.

However, the point remains that this inequity was recognized.  Blizzard understands that it’s not reasonable for one profession to trail others so significantly when it’s a matter of DPS.  So why is it fair for tanks?  How difficult would it be to add a 120-stamina tinker (or, for that matter, similar benefits for Herbalists and Skinners)?

Now, at this point you may be asking yourself why I’ve been ignoring the other tinkers Engineering gets.  Certainly they must serve as compensation for the lack of stats, right?  Well, no.  The belt tinkers (Nitro Boosts and Grounded Plasma Shield) both have a chance to fail in spectacular ways, most of which nearly guarantee your demise and a wasted attempt.  That sort of gambling isn’t acceptable in raiding, where every attempt matters.  That goes doubly for tanks, because we strive for stability and regularity above all else.  The tank that wastes an attempt because they became susceptible to critical strikes is the tank that gets benched for a Jewelcrafter or Blacksmith.

And the Quickflip Deflection Plates are, in a word, pathetic.  It’s ~2% extra mitigation while it’s active, but only against melee attacks.  My healers aren’t going to act any differently during that period because they won’t be able to tell that it’s active.  In fact, that 2% really is noise to them, because boss swings fluctuate by at least that much. A measly 2% isn’t likely to save me on a burst all by itself, so it might as well not even be there. It just turns a few extra points of healing into overheal. I don’t think I’ve died very often in cases where that cooldown would have saved me (<1k overkill?).  And worse yet, it shares a 15-second cooldown with Mirror of Broken Images and other survival cooldowns, making it unsafe to use or unusable during many of the dangerous situations where you’d actually want it.
So despite all of the things I’ve said about how to “properly” use Holy Shield and how macroing it to CS is the sign of a bad tank, guess what I do with the engineering tinker?

Macro it to Divine Protection. :P

In fact, I recently noticed that I had forgotten to apply the tinker to my T13 gloves.  So I went through the majority of normal and heroic Dragon Soul progression without even having the tinker.  And nobody noticed, least of all me.  The fact that it has so little impact that it’s utterly forgettable as a profession perk should be enough to convince anyone that it’s completely worthless.

Now, if Blizzard were to buff the tinker to make it competitive, we might have a different story. If it gave ~4k armor on use, which would be comparable to what the other professions get in Stamina once you time-average the armor EH, then it might be worth keeping bound separately. It’d basically be giving engineers a second armor potion.  That’s the dangerous part about short-term cooldown-like effects: too weak and they get ignored, like it does now; too strong and suddenly every tank has to pick up Engineering.  I’d really rather see a static ~1k armor tinker (similar to what we had in Wrath, in fact) to bring Engi more in-line with other professions in terms of EH without making it too powerful.

But in the end, Stamina always ends up being king for tanks.  So why not just give us a 120 Stamina tinker and call it a day?  Or, better yet, keep the tinkers as fun but ultimately failure-prone gimmicks for soloing, but make use of the Cogwheel idea – Cogwheels could be Engineering-specific gems which go in any slot but are limited to 2-3 equipped at any time.  There’s a lot of potential for Engineering to be interesting and relevant past T11, it’s just not being realized by the profession design team.

So as a die-hard engineer, I have to ask: Why must engineers be relegated to being second-class tanks?

This entry was posted in Design, Raiding, Tanking, Theck's Pounding Headaches, Theorycrafting and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Lament of the Engineer

  1. Matt says:

    Get rid of profession stat bonuses. Problem solved. Get rid of epic gems while they’re at it.

    Otherwise I agree…people choose professions for fun, not raiding stat benefit. Even I, knowing about the raiding stat benefit, still choose mine for fun, or maybe what I don’t have yet. How many people are really that min-maxy that they would level another profession for 100 stamina?

  2. Rhia says:

    Minor nitpick, you mention JC in the same breath as BS at the start while they’re vastly different in terms of effectiveness in light of epic gems becoming more prevalent (especially for tanks, given their cost compared to the queen’s garnets all DPS are after). As I’m sure you’re aware JC gems give 26 stam per gem over epic stam gems, or 17 mastery. So a JC with full epic gems receives 78 stamina or 51 mastery over someone with an empty profession slot, compared to BS (150 stam or 100 mastery), or enchanting (120 stamina). So anyone thinking of dropping engineering for a more effective tanking profession – avoid jewelcrafting! If you’re looking to make gold with your profession on the other hand…

    • Theck says:

      I’m aware, though epic gems are still expensive enough on some servers that tanks aren’t kitted out with epics in every socket. It’s certainly a problem for high-end raiders that do go to such extremes, and it will become more problematic as gem prices come down. But the majority of tanks are still getting close to the 120 Stam benefit that the other professions grant. In any event, the point of this post was to highlight the inequity that existed even before epic gems were available, so I didn’t dwell on the current JC situation.

      It’s a tight spot though – if JC gems were immediately buffed when epics were released, then JCs would be at a fairly significant advantage in the first few weeks when epics were scarce, encouraging all high-end raiders to convert to JC. If they wait too long to buff the JC gems (which I expected to happen in 4.3.2, honestly), then JC trails the pack significantly.

      Of course, the problem here is the way epic gems were handled this expansion. If they were far more accessible, buffing JC on day 1 would be simple and fair. This silly system of limited availability is just helping create profession imbalances where they don’t necessarily need to exist.

      Alternatively, they could have taken the more obvious route: change the Chimera’s Eye (CE) patterns to require 1 CE and 1 colored gem. In other words:

      CE + Solid Ocean Sapphire -> Solid Chimaera’s Eye (101 STA)
      CE + Solid Deepholm Iolite -> Improved Solid Chimaera’s Eye (116 STA)

      Suddenly the JC bonus is static at 123 STA regardless of what gems are available. Of course, the Blacksmithing bonus would also have to be changed, but that’s easy enough: make BS-specific sockets only allow blue gems.

  3. Cynwise says:

    I have three 450+ Engineers. Two of them are tank-capable classes, one is an actual tank.

    I took Engineering for many of the same reasons you outlined, at first – thematically it made sense to the character. Then I took it for PvP. Then I started taking it just for leveling, to have access to all sorts of great helms and trinket while leveling. Then I took it for twinking – at level 70, having access to even one of the Cata tinkers is completely OP. I’ve leveled it to 150 and 225 dozens of times for lowbie alts.

    But I’m about to drop it on my tank because it really is that useless. As soon as I don’t need the Sonic Booster anymore – which will be level 80 – it’s gone.

    The Wrath tanking goggles – formerly awesome at 72 – are inferior to the heirloom tank helm.
    The Quickflip Deflection Plates, they do nothing. I did better with the Hand-Mounted Pyro Rockets macroed to my Taunt.
    Saronite Bombs are still viable for AoE threat – Rend, Thunderclap, Sbomb, Cleave, Shockwave is an acceptable trash rotation. (I tend to save them for casters and bad trash pulls, I’m leveling in LFD after all.)
    Nitro Boosts.

    That’s it.

    Thank you for helping to articulate my frustration with Engineering on my tank. I enjoy the profession perks, but with it getting limited first in Rated PvP and now being less effective than many other options, it’s helped me feel better about my decision to stop leveling it and drop it when it loses its remaining value.

  4. Klepsacovic says:

    An excellent post.

    I think the problem is that professions became another source of stats, where they used to be a thematic personalization element or a source of revenue and maybe the occasional bit of gear, but nothing mandatory by any stretch. But then we saw more and more profession bonuses added, twisting the reward structure from an intrinsic love of a particular profession’s feel to being just another expensive stat grind.

  5. Matojo says:

    Yes, thank you.

    I love engineering. It’s great during low-levels for providing a stamina boost in the form of goggles, and it’s just generally cool because of the pets and other little gadgets – but at the end of the road, it’s utterly useless (it does make some money, again ’cause of the pets, but…)

    This is… really unfortunate, and not exactly fair.

    So, yes, very good post, and unfortunately very, very true.

  6. flosch says:

    I can only stress Matt’s and Klep’s point. Giving bonuses to picking a specific professions was a mistake. Back in TBC, I found it cool to have a crafted, evolving weapon, even though I didn’t have it, because I was an engineer. But over the years I realized this system just twists professions into yet another raiding precondition.

    Instead, they should just make endgame much more craft-dependent. Have most bosses drop materials that you need to craft an item, or something like that.

  7. Jamie Turner says:

    i actually had a really cool idea for engineering perks where we got to have our main profession tinker on our belt and its a power source and we can stick all sorts of awesome items on our gear but they are all limited by the power source and there would be 4 too choose from the first a normal one none of your tinkers are affected by it the 2nd a quick charge one it halved the CD of your tinkers but also halves the effect so rocket boots would either be half as fast or have half as long a duration synapse springs would be the same shoulder mounted rocket launcher would do half as much damage etc the 3rd would be a slow charge and increase the CDs by 50% and increase the effect of your tinkers by 50% and lastly the goblin waist mounted unstable cold fission pack it would remove the CD from your tinkers but make them very very likely too back fire (would just be for throwing on for some laughs)
    for tinkers put 1 or 2 in each gear slot so you could have rocket boots on your feet a short range jet pack on your back (would basically give you a slower version of heroic leap) hydraulic acctuators on your arms (basically synapse springs) shoulder mounted rocket launcher which would deal AoE damage to everything around your target and an eye mounted laser which would deal single target damage
    this all sounds really OP but remember its all on shared CDs because of your belts power supply

    the other idea i has was similar except the power supply would basically be an additional power bar on your screen like rage or energy using a tinker would put so much heat into it and depending upon your current heat level the chance of a backfire increases so at 0% heat youll never have a backfire at 100% heat youll have a guaranteed one this would make tinkers alot of fun i reckon

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