The recently-announced Vengeance revamp gives me a chance to revisit one of my favorite rants. Vengeance isn’t exactly a new topic for us, as you may already know. I’ve covered it in this blog post, and this one, and Mel’s covered it here and here. As much as I like beating a dead horse, I’m going to leave it to the reader to revisit those posts and bring themselves up to speed, so I can focus on the more immediate issue, which is what effects this new implementation brings to the table.
First, the good: the new ramping mechanism is great. Vengeance feels good when it behaves like a permanent, static buff that boosts your damage, and a better ramping system facilitates that. It’s more or less what Mel and I suggested in several previous blog posts, among other places. This system mitigates some of the reliability issues by stacking the buff faster and extending the buff on an avoid, finally conquering the RNG monster. This is the sort of change we’ve been hoping for since the mechanic’s implementation. So hooray for small victories.
Unfortunately, that’s about the only good thing I have to say about the new system. Now for the bad.
I don’t think this will truly fix the 5-man damage discrepancy that Ghostcrawler described. The over-representation of tank damage in 5-mans is primarily caused by AoE on trash groups. Looking at boss parses alone, the discrepancy resolves itself, and DPS specs easily out-damage the tank. It’s only when looking at overall damage done that a tank pulls ahead, and Vengeance isn’t really the root of that problem. I’m fairly certain we’re still going to be on-par with our DPS counterparts in that regard. Our AoE damage sources simply aren’t as limited as a DPS spec.
The lack of a cap will cause a variety of problems. For starters, Vengeance will now be a significantly larger part our our AP than it was before, which means the damage disparity between tanking and not tanking is going to increase. In a follow-up post, Ghostcrawler quoted some numbers for warriors – around 25k AP baseline, and an additional 68k AP from Vengeance. With numbers like that, well over 2/3 of our output will be dependent on Vengeance. This “on/off” damage discrepancy was a major issue with the mechanic already, and it’s going to be worse now.
As an example, consider early-fight tank swaps. When I taunt off of another tank, and they have full Vengeance while I have none, it is very difficult to maintain aggro. Frequently, the other tank just tears aggro back through brute force, even if all of my abilities connect. There’s literally nothing one can do short of taunting it back (and remember, we’re losing our second taunt) or having the other tank stop attacking.
It’s not a fun or intuitive mechanic to have to stop attacking when someone taunts off of you. It’s just annoying and frustrating, because it’s another one of those instances where the game asks you to stand around and wait rather than continue to be active and engaged with the boss. It also heavily encourages you to use a threat meter just to monitor these situations (so you know if you should hold back). While the faster ramping of “new Vengeance” helps combat this, the discrepancy in damage output is going to make it worse overall.
In addition, “new Vengeance” is going to make protection leveling even more excruciating. I’ve been leveling as protection on the beta, and I can tell you that it’s abysmally slow because during questing, you simply don’t have any Vengeance to work with. I made this point rather well in the previous blog post, and I encourage you to read (or re-read) it rather than reproduce it here. Suffice to say, there’s no way in hell I’m going to level as protection when Mists goes live. It’s simply not efficient or fun. I’m going to give in and go retribution for the bulk of it, only switching to a tank spec for dungeons. It simply doesn’t make sense to level as protection when everything dies 5 times faster as retribution.
The lack of a cap introduces even weirder effects that I don’t think were explicitly intended. For example, a tank’s DPS is primarily determined by the boss’s DPS rather than our own gearing. That takes control out of the hands of the player and reduces or eliminates the effect that Vengeance was intended to fix in the first place – namely that tank damage should scale with gear. Now, our gear scaling is basically irrelevant, because our scaling is primarily determined by raid content. A newly-minted character will do as much DPS as a heavily-geared character while tanking the same raid boss. That revocation of player control is really demoralizing.
Worse yet, the newly-minted character may do more damage than the heavily-geared tank, because he’ll have less armor. If the new Vengeance value is calculated as post-armor-mitigated boss DPS, which is how it’s been explained, then we’ve introduced the same inverse-scaling paradigm that we had before Vengeance. To do more DPS as a tank, you’re encouraged to sacrifice survivability in the form of armor, or in a more general sense by standing in fire and/or taking unnecessary damage. We’re back to the “tank with your pants off” paradigm of Wrath. Rather than keep wearing your tanking gear for 5-mans, you should swap to Ret gear. With the introduction of Challenge Modes, this is an even more serious issue than it was when 5-mans weren’t much more than a stepping stone to raids.
Another strange oddity: consider that most protection paladins used a combination of Tier 12 retribution and Tier 12 protection gear for Ultraxion progression, because both 2-piece set bonuses (to CS and SotR, respectively) were large enough to offset the AP loss by using last-tier’s gear. If personal stats are less important to DPS, and we offset or make up for the STR-based AP loss by losing a bunch of armor, those set bonuses will continue to be obscenely powerful in T14+ content. This is the sort of unintuitive behavior that this version of Vengeance can cause. I’m sure they can (and will) nerf the T12 set bonuses, but that’s just a band-aid fix to cover up the underlying mechanical problems with Vengeance.
Tank DPS is also going to vary significantly across content in this system. Our output will fluctuate wildly with encounter mechanics, specifically bosses with large variances in time-off-target. Or for that matter, sections of an encounter where one tank is taking most of the damage, leaving the off-tank doing very little. And there will be a huge variation in damage not just between 10-man and 25-man versions of content, but between normal and heroic versions of that content. I can see that being a huge balancing nightmare on several fronts – a retribution paladin does similar damage whether you set the boss to normal or heroic mode, but your tank’s damage may vary by up to a factor of 2.
I also don’t see the point in having a significant difference in tank DPS between 10- and 25-man versions of content. Tank damage may be a smaller proportion of raid DPS in the 25-man format, but it’s no less important. For bosses with reasonably-tuned enrage timers (i.e., almost every meaningful heroic mode), tanks were already doing what they could to optimize damage. It really doesn’t need to be normalized to keep the players happy, and I doubt it’s a significant hurdle in balancing the encounters given the array of other, more noticeable differences between the formats.
Another side-effect of our DPS being dependent on boss DPS is that it opens up some really bizarre situations for our rotation. Our abilities don’t scale equally with AP, and as a result our optimum rotation changes based on whether we’re at 0% or 100% Vengeance. Amplifying this effect and making it vary per encounter is even worse, because it means that our ideal rotation can now change from boss to boss.
Now, you might say, “But wait Theck, DPS specs change their rotation from boss to boss too.” And you’d be right, but only in the trivial sense. They may perform different actions for different numbers of targets, or bosses with strange special abilities. But they don’t change anything when going from Patchwerk #1 to Patchwerk #2, which is their basic “nuke a single target” rotation, the bread-and-butter of their class. But with “new Vengeance,” a tank’s ideal rotation could be different depending on which boss they’re facing, what phase it is, and whether they’re the main- or off-tank. That’s not just unintuitive, it’s frustrating and annoying, especially for less experienced or less hardcore players.
Why this change?
I also don’t think a change is required. Active Mitigation already gives us an incentive to care about our rotation, this new version of Vengeance isn’t needed to achieve that. The new version doesn’t do anything to scale tank threat with tank stats, and converts it to a mechanic that exists solely to make tanks contribute more DPS in raid content. The problem is that there’s no reason for tanks to do more damage in raid content anymore. In Meloree’s words:
..we could do zero DPS in raids, and be balanced around doing zero DPS in raids, and the encounters could be balanced around that, and it would be fine. We have an incentive to run our rotation, thanks to [Active Mitigation]. Imagine Vengeance was along the lines of “You do 100% less damage in raids, but no mob will ever stop paying attention to you unless someone else taunts it.” That’s not all that far off from current threat mechanics, barring the low-vengeance swap. And it’s not all that far off from how important tank DPS isn’t in 25H content. That Vengeance isn’t really that much of a stretch. But it would really suck if we did zero actual damage while solo.The point is mostly that new Vengeance and/or high tank DPS isn’t in any way required to cause tanks to engage in content, or for balance. Doing big numbers is fun, sure. I’d be annoyed if we did, in fact, do zero damage. But it’s not mechanically required in any way that tanks do damage in raids. It might be simpler if they didn’t do any.
If the rationale is that this version helps tank survival abilities scale equally with incoming damage, as Ghostcrawler suggested in his post, then AP is hardly the most intuitive stat to use for that purpose. There are better ways to do that, and the alternatives don’t open a Pandora’s Box of unintuitive side effects. If the problem is that WoG and Shield Barrier don’t stay competitive with SotR in 25’s because they are being balanced around 10-man damage intake, it would be simpler to give WoG and Shield Barrier the Death Strike treatment. Give them bonus healing based on recent damage taken. It’s essentially the same mechanic, but confined to the appropriate area of applicability, without all the side effects.
And it’s one step closer to “why bother having tank gear at all anymore.” This solution encourages tanks to move further away from “stack survival” and towards “stack just enough survival, then DPS.” Our returns on DPS stats will be a disproportionate increase to RDPS thanks to the goofy amounts of AP we’ll be sitting on.
How to calm Vengeance
My recommendation is to re-institute a stamina-based cap on Vengeance AP, which is basically reverting the change (but keeping the good changes to ramping). That ties it back into our gearing and keeps our output more constant from situation to situation. I think it was already a bit much that half of our AP was dependent on a boss hitting us, having 2/3 or more of my output being dependent on it just feels depressing.
Though as I’ve been saying for a long time now, Vengeance just feels like a fundamentally flawed mechanic. The problem that Vengeance was intended to solve was always a “numbers problem.” And instead of getting a “numbers solution,” it got a complicated, unintuitive, and frankly un-fun “mechanics solution.” Instead of seeing a nail and grabbing a hammer to fix it, a developer saw a nail and decided to smack it with the business end of a power drill. It doesn’t feel elegant or right, and both of those factors permeate into how it feels while playing.
When does Vengeance feel like it’s working properly? As I said before, it feels right when you don’t notice it’s there. In other words, when it acts like a permanent, always-on, static AP buff. Whenever that condition is violated, Vengeance feels clunky, frustrating, annoying, fickle, and all-around a pain in the ass. If there’s one mechanic I absolutely loathe about tanking, it’s Vengeance, because it’s out of my control and often tries to subvert what I’m trying to do. It’s one thing for a boss to do that – they’re supposed to be working against me. My own abilities shouldn’t be.
So, once more with feeling, I appeal to the developers: Fix Vengeance properly, once and for all. How, you ask? The same way I suggested in February:
Vengeance – Your attacks deal 50% more damage to NPCs. This value increases as you gain more Stamina.
That’s it. That’s all there is to it. It’s a simple solution that fixes every single one of the problems with Vengeance without creating any new ones. No more pathetic DPS while soloing or off-tanking. No more taking your pants off on farm content to make sure the boss hits you hard enough to hold aggro. No more giant threat differentials or aggro losses immediately after a taunt. No more concerns about excessive tank DPS in PvP. And it fulfills the stated purpose of Vengeance: our DPS will still scale with a “tanky” stat. You get the same net effect in a more elegant, more intuitive, and just plain better form.
Yes, it introduces an artificial difference between PvE and PvP. But the recent hotfix does that anyway, and the current form of Vengeance isn’t much less artificial than what I’ve proposed. As they learned with Colossus Smash, sometimes the best solution is to recognize that PvE and PvP are different beasts, and adjust accordingly.
If the developers are absolutely dead-set on tanks doing more damage in 25-man raids than 10-man – despite the fact that I haven’t seen a good argument for why they should, and despite the fact that it’s going to be a divisive feature and increase the animosity between 10’s and 25’s – then there are easy ways to do that. Vengeance could scale with party size:
Band of Heroes – Your fellow adventurers inspire you, causing your attacks to do X% more damage to NPCs for each player in your party or raid.
X can scale with stamina and be chosen differently for 5, 10, and 25-man groups. It’s not elegant in its conception, I’ll admit. It’s artificial. But it would at least work, which is something I’m not convinced the new version of Vengeance will. And arguably, the current version hasn’t been doing all that well either.