The Problem with Passive Tanks
One of the questions I saw popping up a few times in the Ask a Dev: Tanking thread concerned the lack of active defenses for tanks. That is, tanks rely on passive stats like dodge, parry, block/Savage Defense, and base damage reduction to survive. Death Knights, with Death Strike, Blood Shield, and a handful of minor cooldowns actually have a healthy amount of active control over their defenses, so this question doesn’t apply to them as much as it does Druids, Warriors, and Paladins.
I find Death Knight tanks fascinating because they are so interactive. They can heal themselves every 30 seconds with Rune Tap. They can recover from burst with the healing from Death Strike or prepare for burst damage with Blood Shield. Good death knights can set themselves apart during a fight, and play an active role in their survival.
For the rest of us, we have a myriad of cooldowns that give us control over our survivability, but those cooldowns are at best only available once every minute. Every one to three minutes, tanks get to make a decision that effects their survivability. Everything else is up to the healers to make good decisions. This is boring, and keeps the skill cap for tanking low compared to other roles.
I find it funny that most of my efforts towards my survivability actually take place before we even pull the boss. I can theorycraft, pick my trinkets and consumables, and analyze damage beforehand, but as soon as I cast that first Faerie Fire, I’m at the mercy of my healers and the random number generator. I would love to have more opportunities to help my healers during a fight, especially during a “tank n spank” style encounter.
What I’m proposing is to give tanks some ability to kinda-sorta save themselves, in the same way that a well timed heal can save you, but not an ability that crosses over into full-blown cooldown territory. Something like Word of Glory or Death Strike but for druids and warriors would make the tanking game much more interesting to veterans, increase the class’s depth, and bring WoW’s defense model up to modern game standards. It would be awesome if druids (this is a bear blog, after all) had access to a skin-saving ability with our own flavor.
In the long term, a model like a death knight’s Death Strike rotation would be very engaging and possibly enjoyable, but we can’t expect major changes like that to happen until the next expansion; it would require too many overhauls and redesigns at a time when everything is actually pretty balanced. Let’s stick with small goals like a new mini-cooldown until then.
These ideas shouldn’t be attempt to give one tank an advantage or to be the equivalent of a full blown cooldown, or be something that is used every time it comes off cooldown. They should be small, helpful things that give the tank an opportunity to intelligently contribute toward his survival on a regular basis. They should be minimal enough that a novice can still tank successfully without it, but powerful enough that they can set an experienced and skilled tank apart.
- An ability with a short cooldown (~10s) that guarantees a Savage Defense proc. It would require you to watch for a current SD so that you don’t accidentally overwrite one, but paying attention to your procs isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Because it has a chance of not being effective at all, it should have a short cooldown. Great for those times when you’re praying for an SD proc to save you, but can’t seem to crit hard enough.
- An ability that guarantees a crit. Not quite a SD proc, but a lot more likely to give you one. I think tying this to Pulverize would be fun. Instead of increasing the damage of Pulverize per lacerate stack, it increases its chance to crit by 25%/50%/75% per lacerate. It wouldn’t be such a huge bonus that you hold off on actually applying the Pulverize buff, but it would be enough to refresh it early or late. However, a bear might feel pressured to use only Lacerate and Pulverize to maximize mitigation, which wouldn’t be fun at all.
- A heal on a 20 or 30 second cooldown like paladins and death knights. Boring because it’s already been done, but proven to be useful. Both paladins and death knights have to sacrifice something (usually threat) to activate these abilities, so it can’t just be a freebie heal. Maybe instead of Pulverizing three Lacerate stacks, we could have a similar ability that consumes Lacerate stacks for a heal. (That actually reminds me of the Blood Draining enchant.) That would be sacrificing a long term defensive option for a short term instead of sacrificing damage, but it still an interesting decision.
- A shield on a 20 or 30 second cooldown. I’m thinking something that looks just like Savage Defense, but doesn’t overwrite it and doesn’t require a proc. A shield is a different flavor than a heal, though it still reeks of homogenization.
- An ability that guarantees a dodge or increases dodge rate. Bring back Ghostly Strike and give it to bears this time. :D I have a feeling that if it increased dodge rate, it would be simply used on cooldown, which I’m not a fan of. A guaranteed dodge would be pretty powerful.
- An activated ability tied to dodge that does any of the above. Actually, I just want Revenge; but why not take that dream and turn it into something cooler! Wouldn’t it be fun when a dodge activates some ability with a high crit rate or a guaranteed SD or a heal? Bears dodge a lot, so maybe it could only be a chance on dodge. If the activation lasted long enough (just a few seconds, but enough so that you might not use it immediately), you could save your activated defensive ability for a time of need.
- An activated ability tied to Mangle that does any of the above. (Again with the Revenge jealousy.) If Mangle crits, you activate some defensive ability that you can use in the near future. This would be interesting because it gives us a defensive reason to push Mangle to to use up Berserk procs.
- Tie Savage Defense to Mangle. Similar to Death Strike, though removing the chance to proc based on crit would devalue yet another common stat on feral gear.
If you have any other ideas on how to make tanks more interactive (not just bears), let me know in the comments!