I don't know about you guys, but I'm getting hugely excited about what the developers are planning for active mitigation.
Ghostcrawler's latest blog, Bloody Mitigation, goes into a little more detail about what they think the model might look like, but he's also happy to admit that some of the changes might be too big for even a major patch; the largest changes have "expansion" written all over them. The most compelling part of the whole blog, as a warrior, is that the language is familiar to us (further proof that warrior is the tanking class) and that they're looking at both the positive and negative aspects of what Blizzard considers the three most viable models.
Amazingly, this is high quality stuff from a development team that's floundered throughout Cataclysm. As a Protection warrior who occasionally plays Arms, I'm comfortable saying that I've been spoiled with high quality development; most of the other classes, however, simply haven't been as lucky and some examples are more glaring than others. But nevertheless, and despite some class weaknesses persisting, I'm still happy to report that playing a warrior is an absolute blast.
Despite the years put into Zell, I still love playing her (sometimes him).
But let's get to the meat and potatoes - here's the three models that the crafty crab has in store:
1) Tank DPS matters.
It's very rare these days where a DPS check factors tank damage into it. This was a significant problem back during WotLK because Protection warriors were an absolute mile behind the other classes, but it's potentially viable now (even though in 10 man content, warriors are still statistically propping up the other three). The problem, of course, is that it changes nothing; the letters "TPS" get changed to "DPS" and we proceed as we are now with very little changed.
2) DPS buttons provide mitigation.
This model makes buttons matter because they will provide mitigation. Revenge will give a short duration parry buff, Shield Slam a short duration block buff. This is being touted as "the" way and only a brave man would bet against it. Hell, it even brings back a point to hit and expertise rating. The problem, of course, is when you're not conventionally tanking - some kiting or picking up of adds, or generally moving from fire can hammer your mitigation.
3) DPS buttons build resources.
We already have this with the paladin to an extent, and the idea is the same. Your attacks build up Rage, Runic or Holy power and you use that resource for mitigation from things like Shield Block, Holy Shield, Savage Defence or Bone Shield. While this sounds good at first glance, the problem is that it could be both too formulaic (as paladins are seeing now) or simply too complicated and punitive on mistakes. There is also a huge risk of homogenisation.
And that's roughly it.
Now, predicting the way this is going to go in 5.0 is notoriously difficult because the developers themselves still seem on the fence about it. While there are strong reasons to go in each direction, we see the potential problems and pitfalls that can turn this positivity on its head and shove the number of tanks in the game down still further. While a percentage of tanks might really like the sound of model 2, for example, those who support model 3 might get horribly alienated by something they find too passive. The absolute key here is the Triforce (!) of game design; easy to pick up, hard to master, fun to play. Blizzard have to take the direction that carries the least risk, but will be the most enjoyable for both long term tanks and people picking up the role for the first time. That borne in mind, how the heck do they pick the right one?
Well... They don't.
They take all three.
If we lived in a world where tank damage mattered, your attacks gave you better survival and provided you with resources, just think of the repercussions. Hit and expertise become valuable to tanks, performing your rotation well is important to everyone, and intelligent use of resources will depend on the encounter while also separating the good tanks from the great tanks. The 5.0 talent tree revamp can continue to include DPS talents that will remain compelling instead of cutting them, and new tanks coming to the role will still be able to maintain a baseline of survival while they learn the ropes.
A warrior, therefore, would look a bit like this:
Our main rotational attacks are Shield Slam, Revenge and Devastate. As the latter already has a debuff attached, we'd be looking at our mitigation coming from Shield Slam and Revenge. Shield Slam will increase your block chance for 4 seconds in accordance with your mastery, while Revenge increases your parry for 6 seconds in accordance with your strength - this will ONLY apply if the attack hits, while also counting a boss parry (going for the expertise hard cap is unrealistic). I've deliberately chosen 6 seconds for Revenge to provide a bit of leeway in its application, as using it on cooldown isn't always practical. I've also deliberately chosen only 4 seconds of block, and this is for two reasons - good use of Sword and Board procs will have net benefit, but there will also be periods where you don't get a proc. This will make warriors permanently crushable again which, in my view, is a positive thing for balance.
All the while, your attacks are doing something else. They're generating rage. You know, that resource that causes it IRL? Well, this system FINALLY fixes the inherent problems with rage, at no cost. All we need is compelling choices regarding what to do with that rage... And we have them; Shield Block and Heroic Strike.
Naturally, I know what you're thinking. We've been through this with the "choice" between Shield of the Righteous and Word of Glory. It didn't work then because smart tanks always chose the heal. But then again! We're now in a world where tank DPS matters, and it's not as if the model has to be identical. Let's say whichever ability you use, your entire rage pool is depleted; Heroic Strike would do more damage the more rage went into it, while the Shield Block duration is increased rather than its strength. That way, you can keep your shield up while also weaving in more damage when you manage the resource nicely.
Of course, this still presents the problem of being too formulaic. After all, it would be mathematically worked out when to use rage to refresh Shield Block, and then how many times you could Heroic Strike in between. But we have depth in the decision whether to get off lots of smaller strikes, or meaty big ones. And also don't forget, we also have other abilities that could consume rage rather than generating it. When AoE tanking, Thunderclap could generate rage while Shockwave or Cleave uses it up. If Concussion Blow and our buff shouts generate rage, we can spend it with Demoralizing Shout, Disarm and Spell Reflect. Hell, depending on what abilities are thrown into the mix warriors could be absolutely spoiled for choice on what we want to do outside of our basic rotation.
I fully appreciate that this may get complicated. But then again, I cannot see what would be wrong with that if I'm honest. The new or (I HAVE to say it) bad tank would still at least get most of their parry and block rating covered, while invariably using Shield Block when they remember their rage bar. The more skilled a tank becomes, the more abilities he'll fit in when weaving an intricate and beautiful web of well-chosen balance between defence and offence.
But at the end of the day, we warriors can look on the future with renewed hope that we'll once again be the classic progenitor that our tanking sisters are all based around. The ingredients are already in the bowl for the most delicious cake; let's just hope we get the culinary treat of a Delicious Chocolate Cake and not the gristle of an Unidentifiable Meat Dish.
Easy to pick up; hard to master; fun to play.