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Goodbye, Non-Tanky Tanks!

April 23, 2010

(I’ve had posts written and scheduled for the last couple days, but somehow they disappeared from my post list without being posted. Odd.)

Taking at look at the proposed Warrior changes for Cataclysm, I’ve noticed something: as much as Blizzard says they want to allow Warrior DPS specs to be able to tank end-level content they overgear by “slapping a shield on” – which I assume is an euphemism for “putting on an entire set of survivability gear” – and going to town with it, this idea will have to go away come Cataclysm. Why that? Mastery.

Nowadays, a bored DPS Warrior can equip a Shield and enough +defense gear to become uncrittable and basically Revenge, Cleave and Thunderclap his way through most heroics with relative ease. There’s even an entire Arms spec dedicated to doing exactly that, due to Unrelenting Assault reducing the Revenge cooldown to the point of non-existence. As far as I understand, as I haven’t got around to testing it yet, the Relentless Assault tank spec is powerful enough to be fun (fun enough to be powerful?), and some people enjoy doing that even if it’s not really an optimal spec for anything. Protection Warriors have more survivability, better AoE threat and single-target threat isn’t really an issue for us, relegating non-Prot tanks to a more niche “making-your-heroics-fun-slash-giving-the-healer-a-heart-attack” position. I don’t think they mind it too much right now, as it gives them something different to do.

Once Cataclysm (or just the pre-Cataclysm patch) hits, however, Mastery will make all non-Protection specs non-viable for anything but situations where the gaps between the content, the numbers DPS are pulling off, and the Warrior’s gear are truly amazing. And that’s assuming the numbers are skewed towards the prospective “Tank”. Paladins, Warriors, even Death Knights will be feeling that hit. The only tanking class excluded from that is the Druid, due to how its Physical DPS/Tanking tree and Mastery bonuses will be structured. Sure, activating your class’ tanking ability (Defensive Stance, Righteous Fury or Frost Presence) will still make you uncrittable as Defense won’t be on the table anymore, but there will be a yawning chasm between DPS and tanks in all aspects.

Passive survivability will go down the drain. Nowadays, most “reduce damage by X amount” talents are fairly high up on every tree, but even considering that, DPS Tanks (I know, odd) are already taking more damage than tanking specs. With Protection Damage Reduction Mastery filling in for those in Cataclysm, Tanks will be mitigating more damage passively than before, giving Healers more time to actually think about which heal they’ll use instead of simply spamming whatever is quicker to cast.

This also means characters without passive damage reduction will be subjected to taking even more damage than now from mobs/bosses and their normal attacks. DPS Tanks, already less survivable than the garden-variety Tanks, will become even harder to heal through due to not having neither the appropriate mitigation talents/skills nor the mastery to back them up. Not having their Classes’ unique Third Mastery abilities (Critical Block, Block Amount and Healing Absorption) will also put yet another dent on their survivability, most likely to the point of non-viability.

Tanking cooldowns are also current issues that don’t look like they will go away. Assuming Tanking cooldowns will remain as they are: Tanking classes will still have one or two non-talented cooldowns that are also improved in their respective tanking talent trees so they are more useful (shorter cooldowns? More useful!), DPS Tanks will still have weaker cooldowns in Cataclysm. That scenario sounds likely to me, as it works pretty well right now and Blizzard made no mention of changing how cooldowns are improved through talents (yet). So, DPS Tanks will still be stuck with weaker damage reduction or avoidance activated abilities than vanilla-flavor Tanks, only that now they’ll need those skills even more.

As for Threat… Vengeance will makes things dicey for non-Tanks trying to hold threat. Blizzard has already announced health pools will be even larger come Cataclysm, which means Tanks will get huge (and more importantly, scaling) attack bonuses off Vengeance simply by being slapped around. DPS and threat will be balanced around Tanks having Vengeance to bump their DPS and threat up. DPS Tanks won’t have that power, and it seems unlikely to me that they’ll be able to catch up with other DPS’ potentially exponential damage, even with while using their own DPS talents and gear.

So, unless you’re a Feral Druid, enjoy non-Tank Tanking while you can! Once Deathwing pops his Mithril-plated head up and says “boo”, it will all be gone!

(Repent! D8)

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