Tank and Healer Goals for Legion

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.

WoW Dev Comments

In the latest Legion Alpha build, tanks and healers will notice significant changes to the tuning on many of their defensive abilities. These may appear to be “nerfs” at first glance, but are actually part of a widespread adjustment to improve overall tank (and tank healer) gameplay, that includes reducing the strength/frequency of defensive cooldowns, and adjusting creature tuning to compensate.

Over the course of Warlords of Draenor, tanks have been mostly self-sufficient, providing the vast majority of their own survival, with only minor direct assistance required from healers. Encounter design has unfortunately reinforced this, focusing tank damage into more and more bursty moments in an attempt to challenge tanks. This has made long-cooldown defensive ability usage more and more important, while also further trivializing direct healing requirements.

For Legion, we want to return the overall tank gameplay to a more stable environment. In that, we have laid out some specific goals that we aim to hit:

  • Tanks will require more direct healing. This will also improve on healer gameplay, as it’s more engaging when there’s a mixture of the types of healing that need to be used on any single encounter.
  • Active Mitigation abilities for tanks (such as Shield Block or Death Strike) should feel rewarding, allowing an experienced tank to meaningfully reduce damage taken.
  • Healers should care about the time and mana required to heal tanks, so that taking less damage as a tank is considered valuable.
  • Tanks and healers’ long-cooldown defensive abilities (such as Barkskin or Shield Wall) should feel like a valuable resource. These abilities should be strong, but not necessarily available for every danger during a specific encounter.
  • Tanks should have much more survivability than a non-tank. However, they don’t necessarily need to be extremely more sturdy. If the difference in ‘tankiness’ between tanks and non-tanks becomes too much of a gap, we then risk having situations such that if any one add gets loose, it’s likely to instantly kill any poor healer or damage dealer they hit–as the damage that these creatures deal would need to be exponentially higher to offset the sturdiness of the tank. This also brings a risk that tanks would opt to ignore enemy abilities that are designed to be dangerous to non-tanks, just taking those relatively minor blows rather than trying to avoid them as intended.
  • In raid encounters, tanks should spend more time tanking, and less time waiting for their turn to tank.
  • Tanks should be able to handle solo content quite effectively. They need to do less damage than dedicated damage dealers, but that difference can be moderate. It doesn’t have to be a massive difference.

Looking at these goals, we’ve made the following changes for tanking in Legion. We hope that these explanations will help you understand the bigger picture, in that these should be viewed as an overall improvement to the style of tank gameplay, rather than nerfs.

  • In order to ensure that tanks require direct healing from healers, we’re increasing the amount of damage that makes it past a tank’s mitigation. This will include reducing or removing passive defensive abilities, along with the below changes.
  • We’re toning down how frequently you’re able to use Active Mitigation abilities. This change will generally affect the length of their cooldowns, and not necessarily the strength of the ability. We believe these abilities are important to tank survival; but, when the uptime on these abilities gets too high, skill in knowing when to use them strategically matters less.
    EDIT: Passive healing from healers (such as Beacon of Light) will be toned down, and other tank heals adjusted to compensate.
  • There are many long-cooldown defensive abilities that will be able to be used less frequently, and, in some cases, these abilities may be weaker. Many of these abilities are currently either too numerous or usable too frequently, resulting in a strong cooldown for almost every threatening moment of every encounter.
  • Encounter design will be adjusted to account for these changes. Overwhelming burst damage will be toned down, in favor of more steady and consistent damage on tanks.
  • The damage of creatures that are intended to be tanked in group content will be reduced overall, in order to ensure that tanks can still perform their role just as well as before.
  • Damage output by tanks will be increased, and their scaling with gear will be improved. This is being done so that tanks can stay in-line with damage dealers as a group gears up together.

Please note that many of these changes are preliminary, and we’ll be tweaking our changes based on testing and feedback. We’ll continue making adjustments as the Alpha moves along, until classes are in a more balanced state, and we look forward to hearing your thoughts throughout this process.

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

Déjà vu

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.

Why is Resource Management Important?

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.