Like many warriors whose opinion I cherish, I was really excited when the concept of “active mitigation” was announced. I’d long agreed with folks like Veneretio when he spoke about tanks being judged on the damage they take, rather than the damage they do. With threat buffed to pointlessness (something I still disagree with), the idea that big changes were coming was the only comfort when I could suddenly charge in, press Rend, Thunderclap and Shockwave, and then do something else for the duration of a pull.
Active mitigation was the way ahead.
Unfortunately, as is often the case, I’m now looking at a promising expansion in Mists of Pandaria, but wholly disappointing gameplay from my warrior. I didn’t reckon with the power of bad design and the impact it could have on such a good idea. Essentially, as far as warriors are concerned, “active mitigation” is turning into a nasty belly-flop where we’re potentially going to end up MORE passive than we are now.
Long term warriors will know that, actually, we’ve been pretty active in the past. Even Cataclysm saw us having to maintain Thunderclap and Demoralizing Shout, while Shield Slam gave us a dispel and things like Pummel, Spell Reflect, Concussion Blow, Shockwave and Disarm helped to mitigate damage very nicely. Our mitigation cooldown was Shield Block (eventually helping with magical damage), while we also had Shield Wall, Last Stand and Enraged Regeneration for emergencies. Finally, toss all that into a preheated oven with gearing, speccing and playing correctly.
Not too shabby, really.
Blizzard, however, believed that there was a problem. Tanks were essentially leaving too much of their survival up to passive bonuses from gear and the fickle gods of RNG. What they were doing in combat wasn’t actually making much difference to their survival and combat itself didn’t feel “visceral” enough. In addition to that, traditional threat stats simply weren’t enticing enough because they didn’t do anything for a tanks survival. Taunts and interrupts could no longer miss, and Vengeance took care of threat all by itself; the net result was tanks routinely reforging away from all of their threat stats and asking Blizzard why on earth they bothered putting them onto tanking plate at all.
Now, despite painting a merry picture of an active Protection warrior earlier, I largely agree with Blizzard’s standpoint. I’d love to see a world where tanks take part in making themselves harder to kill with in-combat decisions, while also being rewarded for using the right buttons at the right time and still having the necessary tools to do their jobs.
Enter severe disappointment when I finally tried this in the beta.
The warrior implementation, at time of writing, is abject.
It’s not that easy to figure out where to start with this.
First of all, there were several options on the table according to Ghostcrawler’s blog, Threat Level Midnight; there were even a couple of wacky options put out by the players. The problem is that the designers have gone for the least compelling option available (in my humble opinion, of course), but simultaneously ditched the others lock, stock and barrel. The top and bottom of this is that Protection warrior “active mitigation” has been whittled down to Shield Block (or Shield Barrier, if there’s magic flying around). Worse than that, we’ve lost things like the Shield Slam dispel and Demoralizing Shout – its effect was put onto Thunderclap.
To compound the problem, Shield Block now effectively works the way it did during Wrath of the Lich King, blocking everything for a period of six seconds at a ludicrous cost of 60 rage. And while that sounds reasonable enough considering there’s no actual cooldown on it, it simply means we’re no more active than we were before – in fact, we’re less active thanks to the loss of Demoralizing Shout. Another point worth mentioning is that we still don’t know exactly how this will work with the new combat table system for block. For now, I’d assume that the first roll will be made against the avoidance table and then the second will be made against the block table at 100% coverage before the third roll for a critical block.
In other words, the value of our mastery (covered in another post) is taking a hammering and so is our active mitigation because avoidance will still be rolled first. It’s perfectly conceivable, especially in good gear, that Shield Block will do absolutely nothing for a cost of 60 rage because you avoid all attacks while it’s up. If Shield Block is rolled first, then using it is probably WORSE than not using it because avoiding an attack is still 70/40% better than blocking it.
What I honestly envision happening with Protection (should this go live) is players simply putting Shield Block into every ability via a macro so that it goes off when ready, or taking the macros out and sitting on their rage for Shield Barrier in fights when there’s magic flying around. In the best case scenario there won’t be any macros, but Shield Block will still be routinely used on cooldown unless an encounter calls for magical mitigation.
The other problem with this is that Shield Block is so poor, at such a high cost, as to keep warrior threat stats in the gutter. Rage is generated via white swings and Shield Slam, meaning that either missing will have an impact on how quickly you can get Shield Block up. The problem is that the acceptable target of 8% hit and 26 expertise will come at far too high a cost in avoidance stats for it to be even remotely attractive. Personally, I’d rather run the risk of getting Shield Block up a bit later than reforge away piles of avoidance to ensure I don’t miss.
Oh, and 26 expertise isn’t enough to stop your Shield Slam being parried.
Mastery is too weak thanks to the secondary combat roll for block, while Shield Block is nowhere near strong enough to consider ditching avoidance on your gear to increase its uptime. Now I can’t really comment on the other tanks because I’ve not tested them, but this is essentially going to cause warriors to reforge their mastery, hit and expertise into either parry or dodge depending on what’s already on the gear or diminishing returns. This has three particularly nasty side effects:
1) Warriors will end up as “avoidance” tanks, and it’s well established that avoidance tanks lead to spiky damage – spiky damage is what kills tanks because healers hate it.
2) The lack of hit and expertise will likely cause warriors to perform below expectations in raw damage output, once again keeping them the poorest choice for both threat and damage.
3) Mastery and threat stats now work against each other. High Shield Block uptime reduces the need for passive block, while high mastery reduces the need for Shield Block to be up.
I know I have a tendency to overstate things, and I’m often too critical when I really shouldn’t be; but frankly, this is shaping up to be pretty horrible as things stand. We’re no more active than we were before, our active mitigation is potentially useless at huge cost, and threat stats are no more attractive than they are now. Toss that all in with the fact healers are likely to despise the spiky damage we’re bringing (with the least options regarding mitigation cooldowns), and the complete lack of compelling talent-choice utility we offer, and warriors are going to be spending yet another expansion as the poor mans everything.
If ever there was a time for Ghostcrawler and his warrior team to read a post of mine, this is it. Either rethink the entire implementation for warriors, or at least provide a solid explanation as to why my fears are unfounded and “MoP will fix it”.
Right now, this is very, very, VERY worrying.