On Episode 34 and Episode 35 of TankCast, Arielle and I talked about the latest blue post on tanking. The post goes over Blizzard’s goals for tanking and healing in Legion. The primary focus is making tanks easier to approach, improving active mitigation, and including healers in the tank survival equation. The whole post is below if you haven’t read it yet.
So in my own words, the goals are:
- Tanks will need more direct healing.
- Active Mitigation should feel rewarding.
- Healers should care about healing tanks and the resources they spend doing so.
- The difference in “tankiness” between tanks and non-tanks is too damn high, which means that bosses one shot non-tanks and boss spells that threaten non-tanks are little tickles to tanks.
- In raid encounters, tanks should spend less time waiting to tank.
- Tanks should do better damage.
Which means that the changes we might see are:
- Increase the amount of damage that makes it past a tank’s mitigation.
- Tone down the frequency of AM use. In return, AM should feel powerful when it’s up.
- Big Defensive Cooldowns will be less powerful. (Reduced effect, increased cooldown)
- Encounter design will accommodate these changes
What makes this different from every other time they’ve tried to do something similar?
Historically, tanks have been able to generate enough resources to fuel active mitigation more and more throughout an expansion. Brewmasters get more haste and crit, and have more uptime on Shuffle and Elusive Brew. Warriors get more haste and crit, and can use big Shield Barriers more often as they get better gear.
In addition to stat growth, resource generation has been largely tied to things you did. All your chi comes from Keg Smash and Jab, limited by your energy regeneration. Most of your rage comes from Shield Slam and Revenge, limited by procs.
Both of those items have contributed to an unbounded growth in tank power, quickly nullifying any goals Blizzard set for tanks early in an expansion. It’s hard to challenge tanks (and healers) when their absorbs eventually become frequent enough to sustain them without healers. With resources limited only by gear and player skill, it’s inevitable that they will increase survival to the point of irrelevance. Combine that with unexpected item level growth and the exponential increase of healer power, and tanks quickly get to a point where they can only be challenged by very large hits the require cooldowns.
Contrast that with Legion, where tank resource generation will be mostly passive and limited by time, and increased only slightly by things you do. This means it’s not possible to get to a point where you’re generating enough resources to keep AM active all the time. For Warriors and Demon Hunters, Shield Block and Demon Spikes are bounded by time, and cannot possibly be used more than their set cooldowns. Both gain their resource primarily by taking damage, a conversion controlled by the devs and not the player. They can slightly increase the resource gain through rage/pain builder skills, but those contribute a relatively small amount, and most are restricted by cooldowns of their own. The fact that these builders contribute a smaller amount of resources also means that any stats tied to using them more often, like haste increasing the usage of Tiger Palm for Brewmasters, means that gear will not greatly increase resources like it did in the past.
Similarly, Ignore Pain, Soul Cleave, and Ironskin Brew are bounded by resources. In a pre-Legion world, those skills would be spammed by the end of the expansion because tanks are swimming in rage/energy/etc. But in Legion, those resources will only see a small increase with gear, and thus Active Mitigation will stay at a stable power level.
At the end of Mists, I wrote about the importance of that happy place of resource generation. Constrained resources mean interesting choices. It’s difficult to feel engaged in your decisions as a tank when your active mitigation is up all the time, and it doesn’t matter when you use them. The relative value of a choice increases with the scarcity, and you feel more engaged when those choices exist.
On big Cooldowns vs. Active Mitigation
Here is more of unknown because so much of tank engagement comes from the encounters themselves. We know that big tank cooldowns, your Shield Walls and Dampen Harms, are reduced in effectiveness. Can we dare hope that the great CD nerf goes hand-in-hand with making AM more powerful? AM has largely remained in the realm of reducing boss auto-attacks, and CDs reduce boss specials. If CDs can’t always be up for boss specials, then hopefully AM can reduce them somehow.
I think one of the big failings of active mitigation is that it rarely feels important when you use it. It’s really great at reducing constant auto attack damage over the course of a fight, but rarely is it evident that the AM button you pressed actually helped you progress. A good tank might use their AM near a boss special to hopefully reduce the auto attacks before and after the big damage, but the big damage is still only effected by cooldowns. Your actions are more interesting when the buttons you press reduce a big scary thing than when they reduce overall damage. There’s immediate feedback of not dying to the obvious scary thing when you use a skill against it, whereas the feedback for reducing autos is largely after the fight in the “what can I do better” department.
The utility of big tank cooldowns should be in their lack of resource cost and their ease of use. If you messed up or a lot of bad things happen in quick succession, Shield Wall should be there to save you; if you know something big is coming up and are prepared for it, then Ironskin Brew should suffice.
This is a tanking blog, so it’s easy to forget about healers, but they’re important. Dayani (who we talked to in Episode 35, and I highly recommend listening to that to hear her insights) recently wrote about the exponential growth healers experienced in Warlords.
As for how this applies to us, healer power grows much, much faster than tank health, which means that their heals are extremely efficient at high gear levels. That brings up the problem of healers being able to passively contribute to tank survival in increasingly significant ways. Listen to the podcast for a better explanation of all that.