Tanking in Mists

Over the last few weeks I’ve strayed away from topics to do with WoW, mostly due to just having other things to talk about, but also partly because I realize that more universal posts can reach a wider audience. That said, I’m still doing this blog for myself rather than for readers (though it’s nice when people read and comment), and now that I’m back playing WoW you can expect a few more posts to do with it over the next couple months.

Todays post is about tanking, specifically about the direction it’s taking in Mists. Before I can get to that, however, I need to outline where the role is in the game now, to analyse the changes we’re seeing in the beta and the problems I foresee.

To begin, lets head way back to the end of Wrath/start of Cata. Tanks were in fairly short supply because the role was difficult, had more responsibility than any other role, and it was much easier to level and gear a DPS (and probably easier to gear a healer as well). This shortage was a real problem in the first Cata heroics – they were very hard, and required tanks to know what they were doing while asking for a pretty high DPS requirement. The problem was that bad tanks couldn’t get through a dungeon, and experienced tanks (me included) became frustrated by low DPS and refused to tank for anyone other than full guild groups. Tanking was far too frustrating in randoms for everyone, and so people just stopped doing it. While its true that the nerfs to the content helped with this, it’s important to note how people were still willing to random as DPS or healers, but not tanks. As well as make content easier, Blizzard had to find a way to entice players back to tanking after the horrible experience at the start of the expansion.

The route they went was to increase threat generation by tanks to the point where picking up and holding aggro was no longer difficult. People could now tank a dungeon relatively easily even without a lot of experience in the role, and experienced tanks could now blow through dungeons in a much more relaxed manner, akin to how easy it is to DPS a dungeon. This had an incredible effect on the tank shortage – a DPS queue for a random dungeon went from about 40 minutes to about 10. Every now and then the queue grows a little longer, but generally speaking the ratio of tanks and healers to dps is at a reasonable level.

The problem, then, is what’s coming in Mists. Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand where Blizzard was coming from when they announced the tanking redesign. They realized that tanking was the least popular role in WoW, and so figured that its because the role simply isn’t as fun as healing or DPS. Solution – redesign tanking to be more interesting. The problem that I see is that by making it more interesting, specifically for more experienced players, you risk making it difficult again. Blizzard often go on about simple to learn, difficult to master, but by making it so that how well you tank defines how much damage you take could mean that average tanks (kinda difficult to define what I mean by average, but I mean the majority of tanks you see in dungeon finder, who are alts or are non-raiding characters) may not be able to resist enough incoming damage to survive. This would end up with a lot of tanks going into dungeons, and then being kicked for not playing well enough, which in turn will lead to another tank shortage.

The obvious answer to this problem is to just make heroics easy, so that average tanks will survive fine and experienced tanks will take next to no damage. It wouldn’t hinder tank availability, but it would mean that heroics were considerably less fun for healers (who’d have nothing to do when grouping with good tanks) and good tanks (who wouldn’t see the point of putting effort into taking less damage when the content is so easy that they don’t need to). Considering that more fun is the design goal, this could be a problem, and getting the right balance between boring and too difficult is not a job I envy.

I’ve just got back into tanking, and I have to say that I’ve remembered why I enjoyed it during Wrath. When you’re with friends, or you’re tanking relatively easy content, it can be a really fun, rewarding experience. I understand why Blizzard is changing things, but I am slightly concerned that they’re going to change the role too much and put a lot of people off of it. Tanking will always demand a certain level of raid awareness, control, and leadership, and while its important to keep the people who have been doing that for years entertained, it’s not worth risking another tank shortage, which seriously hurts the game.

For now, I’ll be cautiously optimistic. I’m not particularly looking forward to having to learn how to tank again, but thats mostly because rage generation is changing and I’m going to have to relearn how to DPS as well. Time will tell how successful the tanking changes will be.

Thanks for reading. Remember if you want to be updated about new posts, you can follow me on twitter @heroicrant or sign up for notifications using the widgit on the home page. Failing that, just turn up every sunday/monday, I normally have new posts up every week.

/end rant


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