In the last post, I ranted about time travel and lore. This time, I’m going to talk about some of the mechanical changes that were announced at BlizzCon.
Stats, Reforging, and Gear
There were a lot of different gear-related changes that I’m lumping together in this one category because they’re all somewhat related. It’s hard to say which is the “biggest” or “most important” of these changes, because several of them are (literally) game-changing. So we’ll go through them in no particular order.
First, gear will no longer have a specific primary stat. If a piece of plate drops, and you’re in Holy spec, it’ll have intellect and stamina as its primary stats. If you switch to Retribution or Protection, the item will suddenly have strength and stamina as primaries. This is a pretty huge change, because it basically makes the big three primary stats irrelevant on the bulk of gear. Every piece of plate, leather, and mail will always have stamina and whatever primary stat your spec uses. In some sense, it consolidates strength, agility, and intellect into one flexible primary stat.
I don’t think many players will argue that this is a bad thing. You’ll automatically have up-to-date gear for all of your off-specs, so hybrid classes aren’t punished as much for wanting to be fluent in more than one spec. The gear may still not be ideal because necks, rings, cloaks, and trinkets will only have secondary stats, some of which are only relevant to certain specs. But it’ll be a large improvement over always using last-tier’s gear for your off-spec, especially since you’ll have current-tier set bonuses.
We’re also getting a few new secondary stats, with the major three being Amplify, Readiness, and Multistrike. These should work much the same way the Siege of Orgrimmar trinket procs do. Readiness is just the cooldown reduction effect we’ve seen on trinkets, and will apply to a select few abilities based on your spec. Adding X% multistrike will give you two chances (X/2% each) to do an additional 30% damage (or healing) with each attack (or heal). And X% amplify increases your crit and multistrike multipliers as well as giving you X% more haste, mastery, spirit, readiness, and armor from gear.
It’s worth noting that all three of these stats can be considered “tanking” stats. Readiness gives you more frequent access to cooldowns like Guardian of the Ancient Kings, Divine Protection, and Ardent Defender. Multistrike works on healing as well as damage, so while the details are still a little vague, it’s likely that it will work on effects like Seal of Insight and Eternal Flame. Sacred Shield is a little dicier, but it could be made to work by simply having a chance to apply multiple absorb bubbles; it’s just not clear whether it will or not. Amplify is obviously a tank stat because it gives you more of everything: haste, mastery, armor, readiness, as well as larger crits (for Eternal Flame) and larger multistrikes.
Armor is also making a return as a secondary stat on specific items (namely necks, rings, and other non-plate gear), so we’ll have another secondary stat to throw into the mix. I didn’t lump armor in with the “major” three simply because armor isn’t really new. It’s still nice to have it back though, armor was always a powerful stat even though it’s passive.
Having four new “tanking” secondary stats is good, because the other bombshell piece of news is that four secondary stats are being removed entirely. Hit and expertise are gone, making juggling the hit and expertise caps a thing of the past. I predicted we’d see a change to these stats, but I didn’t anticipate both of them disappearing because it would reduce the number of possible stats on gear too much. But the addition of three new stats more than makes up for that. Also note that while bosses will still have a chance to parry attacks from the front (so that melee DPS still have to stand behind them), tanks will have a passive that bypasses that effect. So as a nice little side effect, the “tank expertise” penalty is going away as well.
I didn’t expect dodge and parry to be completely removed for similar reasons, though I did expect a change. But again, given four new secondary stats to play with, we really won’t end up missing these two. It’s worth noting that the dodge and parry mechanics aren’t going to be completely gone – we will still dodge and parry attacks passively, we just won’t have the ability to stack them via secondary stats. It’s likely that we will still build up dodge and parry over the course of an expansion through our primary stats just like we do today. So strength will essentially be our avoidance stat, and we won’t have to worry about choosing it since it comes on gear by default.
Of less concern to tanks, they’re changing the way that DoT snapshotting works. In short, it won’t snapshot anymore, it will dynamically update the tick amounts based on your current stats. This will mean that specs like Affliction Warlocks won’t be quite as skill-dependent, because your DPS won’t drop as much if you accidentally re-apply DoTs a little too early after buffs wear off. That’s good and bad – good if you think the skill differential between an average Affliction Warlock and an expert one was too big, bad if you didn’t think it was large enough. Since I don’t get enough time to play my Warlock enough to keep in practice anymore, it’s arguably a buff for me, so I’m not too worried. But I can see how some Warlock mains might be peeved.
Again, while it’s not of that much relevance to us, it’s worth discussing how the new mechanic will work. The tentative model I overheard during BlizzCon discussions is that every DoT/HoT will have its usual fixed duration, and we’ll just get partial ticks at the end. So for example, let’s consider Eternal Flame, a 30-second HoT that ticks in 3-second intervals. If we have 20% haste, those ticks will occur at 2.5-second intervals (3/1.20), so we’ll get 12 ticks instead of 10. If we increase that to 25% haste, the ticks will be 2.4 seconds long (3/1.25=2.4), so the first 12 ticks will take 28.8 seconds. Then we’ll get a partial tick at 30.0 seconds that will be half-strength (because it will be a 1.2-second long tick rather than a 2.4-second long tick, and 1.2/2.4=0.5). Presumably Sacred Shield will work in a similar fashion.
With the changes to hit, expertise, dodge, and parry, they’ve also decided that reforging isn’t necessary, and have removed that in 6.0. This sparked mixed reactions from the players I spoke with. Sure, we don’t need it to maintain hit and expertise cap anymore, or to balance our dodge and parry ratings. And the changes to DoT/HoT snapshotting will get rid of most (but maybe not all) relevant haste caps in the game. But reforging still narrowed the gap between a well-itemized piece and a poorly-itemized piece of equal ilvl. That has its advantages, especially when it comes to allocating loot in smaller raids. I’m not sure reforging absolutely had to go in this environment. But it seems the decision is that keeping reforging just isn’t worth the hassle when its impact is so marginal. It’s not a decision I’ll argue against, since I don’t have strong feelings about reforging either way.
They also talked about having fewer gem slots on gear and paring down enchants to cover fewer slots, though with more options for each slot. That means the level of customization we have on gear will be going down a little bit. Whereas now, we can stuff every socket full of haste gems and use haste enchants to rack up an extra 8% haste or so, we probably won’t be able to do the same thing in Warlords of Draenor.
One of the most significant announcements is something that wasn’t actually said outright, but merely implied. You see, one of my predictions was that all tanks were going to move to a “DPS tanking” model similar to what Monks, Druids, and now Paladins use. And while I don’t remember them explicitly addressing that topic (maybe they did in a panel that I’ve forgotten), they almost didn’t have to. The removal of dodge and parry from gear itself was enough to guarantee that such a transition was happening. The fact that all of the new secondary stats have a clear impact on survivability as well as damage output just further reinforces it. So we can expect to see big changes to Warrior and Death Knight mechanics once 6.0 goes into beta to embrace haste and crit as true survivability stats.
It’s not clear yet whether every stat will have to have a tanking impact. For example, right now Paladins don’t benefit much from critical strike rating unless they take Eternal Flame, and even then the impact is fairly small. It may be that crit rating will still be our dump stat in Warlords of Draenor. But it wouldn’t take much to make it at least a contender. If Seal of Insight were able to crit, that would give crit rating some baseline value. We could also get a secondary mechanic to help bolster it – something like a small HoT effect when certain spells crit, for example. We’ll just have to wait and see what Blizzard decides on that front, I guess.
Vengeance = VICTORY!
There is, however, no question as to my favorite change. While it wasn’t announced outright during the convention (again, maybe it was during the Q&A and I just missed it, but it’s doubtful), it came out during discussions with developers at the after-parties. While I got a chance to talk with a few devs in various degrees of detail at BlizzCon, I wasn’t the only one, so I don’t feel bad about sharing it.
-Vengeance changed to increase tanking abilties, rather than pure AP. He wants Tank DPS to be roughly 75% of a DPS’ output.
Is it tacky to declare victory? Because we’ve suggested exactly this solution several times before.
In all seriousness, this is a huge change for a number of reasons. Mel and I have been blogging about vengeance for a long, long, long, long time. Many of the more blatant problems have been cleaned up by hotfixes along the way, but some of the core problems remain. One of those is that our DPS as tanks depends sensitively on taking damage. That makes our damage drop off during off-tanking periods unless we play awkward taunting games to keep Vengeance high, and more importantly it makes playing through solo content infuriating because we do so little damage.
When 80% of your damage comes from having a raid boss nearby, dailies become an infuriating exercise. I no longer even think about doing dailies as prot, because for an entire expansion now, I’ve had to switch to Ret to be even remotely efficient with my time. And as I’ve mentioned in earlier blog posts, the feeling of loss of control over your own DPS potential is somewhat demoralizing, because it takes control away from a role that is obsessed with having control in the first place.
This change reverses all of that. If our default output is nearly 75% of a regular DPS class, we’ll actually be able to perform solo content in a sane amount of time. The only concern I have is that we may be too strong in PvP situations, but maybe that’s intentional. Players have been bemoaning the inability to PvP as a protection spec, so maybe this will bring that back. And anyway, it’s not like balanced world PvP exists anymore.
I’m ecstatic about this change for another reason: I’ll finally be able to evaluate my performance easily with logging sites again. It’s incredibly annoying to realize that you have absolutely no idea what DPS you should expect to be able to do on an encounter. You can compare to other guilds’ logs, but there are so many variables involved that the comparison is nearly meaningless. Your DPS swings drastically with a number of different factors, including your guild’s strategy and which of your tanks happens to be tanking first.
Un-linking Vengeance from DPS fixes a lot of that, which means I can finally make more useful comparisons between myself, my co-tank, and other tanks. It will also make tank DPS balance a little easier to achieve on Blizzard’s end, because the range of AP values over which the five tanking classes need to be roughly equivalent just became a lot smaller.
There’s really no connecting thread that links all of these different ideas, so it’s hard to come up with a conclusion for this post. The best I can do is to say that there are a lot of different exciting and awesome changes coming in Warlords of Draenor, and you should be as excited about it as I am!
Even though I think the story is sort of hackneyed, the mechanics changes are great and foreshadow what will likely be the the best expansion for tanks yet. We’re getting many of the significant changes that we’ve asked for during MoP: a less frustrating and more functional version of Vengeance, consistency between the stats we want and the stats that show up on our gear, the removal of boring stats like dodge and parry, the elimination of the tank expertise penalty, and much more.
That’s not to say there aren’t changes we can still hope to see. I plan on vigorously campaigning for Holy Wrath to lose/modify its meteor effect so that we once again have a functional many-target snap aggro tool. And Meloree will tell you that the game still lacks a good mechanic to tie DPS to tanks, completing the DPS-Tank-Healer trinity. That role used to be filled by threat, but I think that ship has long since sailed. But it’s hard to look at the wealth of other quality of life and toolkit improvements we’re receiving and not be very pleased with the direction Warlords of Draenor is taking.