Vengeance, at time of writing, really is bloodied. It's lying on the floor, the snot kicked out of it, wondering if Caesar Street is going to give it the big thumb-down or find some digital physicians to kickstart its heart monitor and breathe new life into it. It was introduced roughly 10 months ago as a solution to a very specific problem, a problem which has since found a solution elsewhere. I suppose the obvious question at this point is whether or not Vengeance did its job, but you can't really answer that until you know exactly what job it was designed to do.
At its most basic, Vengeance was designed to make tank damage scale with gear so that threat didn't become unmanageable in later raid tiers.
The argument for doing this was fairly simple. As tanks gear up, they look for more mitigation and avoidance; they pay no attention to building more threat. Damage dealers, on the other hand, do everything they can do increase their output which puts a line where their threat generated will be more than tanks can handle. As stamina will increase across the board no matter what you do, it was used as the baseline statistic for Vengeance to scale from. From here, it was simply a case of giving tanks a percentage of attack power depending on how much damage they were taking. Some points to note:
Vengeance was NOT designed to pad tank damage; Vengeance was NOT designed to help on the pull; Vengeance was NOT designed to trivialise threat.
So we went live with a threat bandage that was apparently "more fun" than simply buffing threat modifiers, because tanks wanted to see a real contribution on those all-important meters. Generating lots of threat isn't enjoyable, it was cited; generating lots of threat by doing lots of damage had to be inherently more fun. Unfortunately, and as is so often the case, the playerbase arrived at a number of conclusions very quickly about the implications of Vengeance, magnifying the flaws in the system far beyond the theoretical problem the mechanic was designed to solve.
We know what Vengeance was meant to do, then - but what did it actually do?
- It inflated tank damage to needless levels in progression content.
- It unbalanced output to actually make it punitive in farm content.
- It made it impossible to relatively predict the damage a tank did.
- It utterly devalued hit and expertise ratings for tanks gearing up.
- It caused gear itemized with those stats to be viewed with toxicity.
- It made certain mechanics, like tank swapping, far more awkward.
- It stacked unevenly and inconsistently, again causing awkwardness.
- It provided no help with burst threat, the biggest traditional problem.
- It made up for sloppy play and badly performed tanking rotations.
Unfortunately, the biggest and most serious indictment has a place on its own - it didn't actually do what it was designed to. So much so, that on certain encounters, damage dealers were still finding they were catching up on geared and skilled tanks who had chosen to go the route of maximum avoidance. This, of course, led to the Vengeance death knell of Threat Level Midnight, where Ghostcrawler basically threw in the towel and relegated threat to the "not compelling" pile. Of course, the biggest casualty of all this, is the mechanic designed to help tanks make it manageable.
Now, I'm not one to kick someone when they're down. I'm really not. Unfortunately, though, I cannot see where Vengeance is supposed to go from here. If it was to pick itself up from the floor, it would be doing so in a world where the developers have decided that threat should no longer matter significantly to a tank. At this point, it's probably reasonable to make a couple of assumptions which may well be discussed this week at Blizzcon:
1) Blizzard want hit and expertise to matter, and the only viable way to do that is to make only attacks that hit contribute to mitigation.
2) If tank threat is low, Blizzard are now comfortable (where they weren't before) simply buffing all tank threat generated to compensate.
If we take these assumptions and call them logical conclusions, there is simply no place for Vengeance in the game any more. Personally, I still don't buy into the belief that there ever was such a place. But ignoring that view for a second, Blizzard have used other methods of addressing the issue reserved for Vengeance, and there's simply no need for a mechanic that does nothing other than give tanks a little more damage. Our output can easily be balanced without it and, I daresay, with far less of the inherent hassles that come with using something as inconsistent and unpredictable as a buff that stacks and falls depending on damage taken. I find it deeply ironic that it actually punishes tanks who gear defensively, as predicted, by seeing them stack up less of the buff they supposedly needed for threat generation.
I'm aware of some of the changes being made to Vengeance in 4.3, particularly with the percentage you get immediately and how much easier it is to keep it stacked reasonably. But the fact of the matter is that it simply doesn't have a viable role moving forward when you assume attacks are going to land; and for that reason, it's going to either have to change dramatically to keep it relevant or it will be removed from the game entirely.
For my part, I look forward to the back of something I always disliked and I won't shed a single tear as it's consigned to the Cataclysm dustbin. My sincerest hope is that it goes the way of many an idea in Cataclysm; gratefully forgotten in a more positive future.