I must admit, my self-assurance wobbled a bit the other night in Baradin Hold. After my usual Commanding Shout, Shield Block, Heroic Throw, Charge, Shield Slam and Heroic Strike, I was ready to settle into showing this PuG just how awesome a tank I was - despite the fact Heroic Strike missed.
One Feral Charge, Mangle and Maul later, and I wasn't tanking at all.
I quickly consulted the ever trusty combat log, expecting an uncommon (but possible) occurrence of both that Mangle and Maul critically striking but, alas, that's not what happened. All those two attacks did was hit their target, and it was enough for a bear in significantly worse gear than me to reduce my proudly constructed warrior to a 2nd rate threat generator.
I'm not kidding when I tell you it stung.
The backdrop here is that I play with a death knight when tanking raids. It's long since been established that, all things equal, a DK will generate more threat than a warrior on both single targets and multiple ones. I also totally understand that my love for Revenge encourages me to use it far more than I need to, and that my use of Inner Rage (or general lack of) is far from strong. I'm also rubbish at remembering Rend despite the presence of a Feral in our raids, and I don't spec into Deep Wounds because I like the utility of other talents. In short, I'm totally aware that my threat output isn't as high as it could be. Of course I'd also heard the whispers that warriors were sub-par in the threat stakes but, as usual, I decided this wasn't worth serious consideration until it started to bother me.
Well, now it bothers me. Is warrior threat so astonishingly poor that a worse geared druid will pull off by default? Is this another case of having to pay the fiddler for the extra utility a warrior brings? Have Blizzard gone overboard with nerfs to Protection warriors? Am I personally just doing it horribly wrong?
I think this boils down to three issues that I need to address:
Burst threat, class balance and sustained threat.
Burst threat is an easy thing to identify problems with, and not something I'm generally that worried about. If it's burst threat I want, I'll do exactly what I did in the pull erstwhile described, but slot Concussion Blow in on my 3rd GCD (after Shield Slam and Devastate). If I'm being pulled off under those circumstances, assuming the attacks land, then I can't be held accountable for it and it's a balancing problem.
Balance is a bigger concern for me right now. Since 4.0, warriors have seen three significant changes to their threat generation mechanics and all play their part.
1) First of all, the great Heroic Strike nerf hit Protection warriors very hard - particularly if, like me, you were a fan of Revenge. This nerf was nowhere near made up for in the Devastate buff we got as a trade, as I was using Heroic Strike FAR more than I was using Devastate and it was contributing far more damage. I'm not 100% sure how much damage and threat I lost as a result of this, but we're talking about one Hell of a lot.
2) The removal of the additional threat component from Shield Slam has contributed. I simply assumed that the threat from Shield Slam must have been overpowered, hence the 100% nerf we got to the additional threat it generated. If its damage was fine but its threat was out of kilter, then it's fair enough to remove the threat. I also read that the warrior reliance on Shield Slam was a bit too heavy, thus spreading the load seemed sensible.
Those two combined make up for a substantial threat loss that I assumed was being made up for elsewhere. Warriors were not out-performing their tanking counterparts in either threat or DPS, certainly not significantly, so a flat nerf of such dizzying magnitude would have been unquestionably brutal. But looking back outside of the Devastate buff, it does appear to be exactly what happened. This brings me onto my third point.
3) The face of Inner Rage changed completely. From consuming more rage per ability to simply lowering the cooldown on our rage dumps, the developers basically admitted that the ability itself was practically useless in its original form and needed updating. So bad was the idea all told, however, they even threw it into the doldrums of the levelling experience, while replacing its Cataclysm plateau with an entirely new ability.
Here's where my eyes narrow and I focus on the issue.
In reality, the nerf to Heroic Strike hasn't shaken out as a nerf at all - what's actually happened is a cut to the damage of each swing, but an increase in the frequency of them. The damage buff to Devastate roughly equates with the threat nerf to Shield Slam if we want to really simplify it, so I'm left at the end of this napkin musing with a blood-boiling question:
Is warrior sustained threat now balanced around a mechanic that the developers vowed to get rid of?
I cannot comment on the overall output regarding comparable values of tank threat. I can't say for certain if warriors are indeed bottom of the pile all things equal, just as I can't comment on the real time impact of any threat nerfs the other tanks have seen. But if the developers really think it's acceptable for my spec to be relegated to something they admitted was a deplorable chore, then it calls for a pretty immediate explanation from them and might give a clue as to why the "Ask the Devs - Tanking" answers are taking so long.
This, of course, is a reactionary thought flow that is laced with frustration. It could be way off mark, the whole problem could be my playstyle/spec and it's much ado about nothing. But I simply cannot reconcile the problems I've been having recently with what's going on between chair and screen, so I'd really appreciate some input as to what is going on with my spec. Please, just put it to me if I'm being stupid here.
But if I'm seriously expected to be the tank that's routinely lowest on threat, while also being the most fragile, then it may finally be time to reroll to DPS. This has gone on since The Burning Crusade and "bezt tankz vanilla lol" is no longer a viable reason for it; nor is the spurious "utility" that is typically only of value in five-man dungeons.
If I'm the problem, I can work on it. If I'm not the problem, playing a class that's weaker by design is just not fun anymore.