I must admit that despite my prior misgivings, Protection warriors are shaping up very nicely for PvE in Mists of Pandaria. There are lots of things contributing to that (few more than the “new” Revenge, an attack I always loved, feeling a lot like the old Unrelenting Assault) but there is something that potentially concerns me because I feel it’s been overlooked. I like the idea of my warrior being strong, obviously, but I’m uncomfortable with something that could end up brokenly powerful.
I’m talking about rage banking, specifically the practice of sitting on all your rage and then dumping all of it into one burst of mitigation.
And while Shield Block might be used for this, I find Shield Barrier to be the most likely culprit. Essentially, the idea is to sit on 100 rage (120 if you pick up a certain glyph) and then dump all of it into three stacking barriers of 60, 40 and 20 rage respectively. Clearly, that looks good; surely rage banking has some utility and will add depth to the active mitigation system. But I’m a bit concerned that it’s going to be too good on certain mechanics.
This wouldn’t be the first time that players have cleverly used the system in order to fudge major encounter mechanics. In fact, it’s an extremely common practice. Particularly with absorbs, players have been maximising them in order to achieve some quite extraordinary results depending on the content. Traditionally, DK’s are the class who’ve been able to pile on the absorbs while simultaneously using some of their minor cooldowns to great effect. But they’re essentially constrained by the cooldowns themselves, and the refreshing of runes that stops them laying it on too heavily.
We saw DK’s very strong in Dragon Soul, but shield tanks were comfortably better in Firelands (paladins being good enough to be considered broken).
My question here is what the developer view might be when warriors start laughing off mechanics that are supposed to threaten them; all because of an absorb they can stack ludicrously quickly, and one that’s very powerful at higher levels of Vengeance. Up until now, the only real debate I’ve seen Ghostcrawler in has revolved around simply macroing Shield Block into all your abilities and why that’d be undesirable – the exact opposite of what I’m talking about here. I can also imagine many people simply thinking “great, feel free to play sub optimally and punish your healers who have to pour more mana into you”.
But that’s the thing. Consistent damage doesn’t kill tanks, because they’re invariably being spammed regardless. Spikes of damage kill tanks. And if warriors start taking higher consistent damage, but significantly blunting every spike, I worry that encounter mechanics, or the absorb mechanic itself, will have to be dramatically changed in order to stop it happening. Hell, you could even view the higher damage taken as a positive aspect because the higher Vengeance will lead to higher barriers.
Think about what this will do to Impales on Madness, or what happened when paladins started cheesing the scorpion saber-lash from Majordomo Staghelm. It’s understood that I’m talking about past content, but it’s pretty fair to assume that the future will see large magical nukes flying around as well, specifically designed to threaten the life of a tank.
I could be worrying about nothing. It’s entirely possible the developers have already considered rage banking, and tuned Shield Barrier sympathetically as a result. If so, all’s good in the world and warriors won’t be routinely turned to when tanks keep dying.
But if this has slipped under the radar, there’s the potential for sweeping changes to start happening during tier 14 when warrior tank popularity hits an all-time high because they can trade active mitigation for major-mechanic-immortality.
Worth keeping an eye on.