As the Cataclysm post-mortem continues (the latest one from Scott Mercer is a real laugh), I find myself having a lot to write about and not having the time to write it. Who’d have thought? But for today, I really need to revisit Ghostcrawler’s recent blog about stat changes in Mists of Pandaria and the almighty changes they’re looking at for block.
Because warriors are one of two shield-tanks, and our mastery is directly tied into block, these changes have the potential to be game changing.
And they are.
Despite Ghostcrawler recently stating that sweeping changes are to be avoided in a game this old, he goes ahead and does it again (hai, Mr. Feral) by completely altering the way block works.
Here’s the announcement we’re interested in:
”- The chance to block will be handled by a separate combat roll for each attack that is not avoided. In other words, we first determine if an attack misses, or is dodged or parried. If it is not, then the attack has a chance to be blocked.
- This gives block a consistent value, regardless of avoidance. Currently block becomes more valuable the more you have.
- Block will also have diminishing returns, much like dodge and parry. This doesn’t mean that the value of block will go down as you get more block. It means that it won’t go up by as much when you get more block.
- We don’t expect Protection warriors or paladins to get “block capped” other than during temporary effects, such as mastery procs on trinkets. Block tanks will be balanced around this change. Our intent is to make playing block tanks more fun, not to nerf them.
- Also notice how Shield Block and Shield of the Righteous have changed in Mists”.
That last part is actually very important because Shield Block works very differently to the way it works on live. A quick reminder:
“Raise your shield, blocking the next melee attack against you and increasing your block chance by 25% for the next 6 seconds. If your total chance to block exceeds 100%, your chance to critically block is increased by the excess”.
Oh, and a quick rundown of mastery to make sure we’re crystal clear:
”Increases your chance to block by 12% and your chance to critically block by 12%. Each point of Mastery increases your block chance by an additional 1.5% and your critical block chance by an additional 1.5%”.
Finally, to round out our block related bits and bobs, let’s not forget the Bastion of Defence talent we pick up at level 60. The first line reads:
”Increases your block chance by 15%”.
So here’s the rundown for our level 90 baseline, assuming no stats at all:
Baseline block of 27%, rising to 52% assuming permanent uptime of Shield Block (which is admittedly unlikely). Each block will have a 12% chance to critically block straight off the bat.
Those numbers don’t seem too bad, really. In fact, they look rather strong when you consider where we’re currently sat and how much mastery Protection warriors will be packing by default. At a guess, even if you reforged out of all your mastery, warriors are probably looking at 60% passive block with Shield Block incorporated, and a 20% chance of netting a critical block.
So far, so good.
What’s not so good is the complete devaluation of mastery as far as we’re concerned.
Mastery is currently the best stat for Protection warriors because it doesn’t suffer from diminishing returns (changing) and covers the single-roll combat table (changing). Not only that, our critical block mastery becomes stronger the more flat block rating we have, largely thanks to the above (changing).
Here’s what Blizzard are planning on implementing.
A boss will swing at the warrior, and a first roll will dictate whether or not this is avoided entirely (parried, dodged or the swing misses). If the swing lands on the warrior, a second roll is made to see whether or not the swing will be blocked. If not, the warrior takes the full hit and sucks it up like Charlie Brown. If the swing is blocked, a third roll will take place to figure out whether or not it was critically blocked.
Now, it’s accepted that “block-capping” (when no swing can hit you for full damage, you either avoid or block it) is a balancing problem when there are only two tanks that can manage it. It skews AoE situations or fast swinging enemies in favour of block tanks, particularly if the mechanics of being struck are particularly horrible such as Illidan’s shear or the armour expose of Anub’arak’s adds.
The snag is that this change both nerfs warriors pretty severely, and makes mastery comfortably our worst secondary stat and something to routinely reforge away from. If we can already get 52% block without a single point of mastery, as well as being guaranteed a block every six seconds (rage depending), putting all stock into flat avoidance is a monstrously better option. Also bearing in mind that mastery is about to suffer from diminishing returns as well, and I honestly don’t see why we’d consider putting any investment in it.
Of course, that’s just numerically. The real problem is that separate rolls makes block weaker the better avoidance you have or, more obviously, the better gear you’re wearing. The impact on critical block is also a pretty flat nerf because we’ll be blocking far less than we are now.
Verily, this voice veers most verbose. Unfortunately, we also have to consider the very fact that our mastery still doesn’t affect the most fundamental flaw warrior tanks have had for two expansions now. Namely, that it does absolutely nothing for damage that’s not physical. We understand that spell resistances are about to go the way of the dodo, but do we actually think that means magical damage is a thing of the past? I don’t. That means that block tanks are going to be the only two (no commentary on monks yet) who have a mastery which ends up WORSE the better gear you earn, and does nothing to help the invariably biggest threats to the life of a tank.
Even the most cursory glance at history tells you that the final tiers of the last two expansions have seen warriors fall woefully short in comparison to other tanks. In Icecrown, we were the only tanks who didn’t have the effective health to handle Soul Reaper when fighting Arthas. Move to Cataclysm, and we’re a bad choice for Dragon Soul thanks to the vast majority of dangerous mechanics being entirely magical in nature. Both the death knight and druid have the tools to handle this, the warrior and paladin don’t. At least in the case of the paladin, part of their mitigation toolset covers this shortfall – that’s not the case with warriors. Outside of major cooldowns, our answer to everything is Shield Block and that’s been horribly limiting.
As far as I’m concerned, the developers just don’t know how to handle block and the mastery that ties off it. The paladin mastery is almost infinitely better because they know what they’re getting with added value to each and every block – warriors have a chance of a chance of a chance to block critically, and that still won’t help against magical nukes. Clearly the new barrier ability is designed to do this, but it’s repeating the same issues of conventional block and doesn’t address any. The ability to keep barrier up throughout a heavy magical encounter is going to be overpowered without some form of delimiter, while being practically useless on other encounters. Incidentally, this isn’t telling me why I have to choose BETWEEN my physical or magical mitigation when no other tank has to. I can’t see why they simply didn’t alter Spell Reflect (similar to Divine Protection) to utilise a glyph that baked in the barrier effect so that it was a useful ability on bosses, rather than keeping it as “flavour” that has no use most of the time.
And how’s this going to play?
Because we have the concept of Shield Block guaranteeing a block when we need it, I suspect the class will be balanced around that fact. The problem is that this development team previously decided that they didn’t like that model of being able to guarantee a block. Of course this “balance” will probably come in the form of the crippling rage cost of Shield Block. If there’s an attack you really want to block you’ll be able to, while the rest of the time you’ll be hitting the button when it lights up.
Do I like the idea of having to sit on my resources for the right time, letting my overall mitigation slide in the meantime? No. The paladin gets his mitigation regardless due to how SotR works but, although he can never guarantee a block, he isn’t subjected to sitting around waiting for the right time to get his shield up in front of his face.
I don’t like to say things like this because it loses flavour, but they need to properly normalize the effect block has or accept that block tanks will either be too strong or too weak depending on the encounter. I’ve read many posts, mainly from paladins, essentially saying that block needs moving to a model that will always block an attack that isn’t avoided. It’s hard to see past that. In the end, mastery will stack up more block value (as it does now for the paladin) rather than doing anything to the rating, and that should only require a small amount of tuning to make it work.
Unfortunately, that’s a homogenizing step that I couldn’t support if they wheeled the same thing out for warriors. I’m happy with a loose example of paladins blocking 100% of the time for a flat 10% reduction, increased by mastery. I wouldn’t be comfortable if warriors blocked 100% of the time with an increased chance to critically block depending on mastery. Sure, it would be easy enough to balance - but then more identity is shipped, and that’s something I’ve recently complained about.
Blizzard, in my view, must move away from two tanks with a block related mastery. Whether they choose to have paladins or warriors as “the block tank” is fine with me, but this is a change that needs to happen for the good of the game. I’ve already argued that warriors should become the “armour” tank as it fits the warrior ethos better than any other tanking class, yet somehow that’s the druid route in the current view of Ghostcrawler’s merry men. Clearly leather and fur provides more armour than plate and shields.
Unfortunately however, knowing this team as we do, they’ll probably just remove block as a gameplay mechanic altogether while their inability to fix it will be sold as “block’s not fun”.
I don’t recommend anyone holds their breath.