With the release of Patch 4.3 there have been a number of changes to the Tanking part of the game. Ghostcrawler and the other members of the development team have stated that they want to change up tanking a bit, and the first part of that was to take place in this patch.
The changes that took place were pretty straight forward. The three biggest changes are a boost to tanking threat across all classes, a change to vengeance, and a set of abilities standardized across all tank classes via the Tier 13 raid gear.
We have all known that these changes were coming into the game for a while now. In fact I wrote about them a while back in an editorial called: Tanking without Treat. In it I looked at what the changes could mean and even tested some things out in the PTR with my son face-rolling on a keyboard, check it out if you haven't read it yet.
Now that the changes are live, and we have all had a chance to play with them for a while let’s look at how they affect the tanking aspect of WoW in the live environment?
Patch 4.3 Tank Threat Change - Threat X5
The biggest tanking change is that as of Patch 4.3 tanks now generate 5x threat as compared to the old 3x threat system. This means that any attacks they do while in tanking mode cause 5x the threat they would have compared to a normal attack.
In theory this is to allow tanks to hold threat as DPS ramps up through higher item levels of gear available in the Dragon Soul Raid. The problem is that it applies to everyone, not just the high end raiders. Why is this a problem? Glad you asked.
At the high end level of raiding where everyone has all the possible gear they can get, and max out DPS by analyzing stats, fights, and everything else to the microscopic level it is possible for tanks to have threat issues. This change does solve that by allowing tanks to stay ahead of the threat curve. The issue however is that at anything other than the uber high end of gear, threat has never been an issue if the tank has any skill at all, and the tank and DPS are anywhere close to each other item level wise.
If the tank is a complete idiot, or is way under geared compared to the DPS, then yes there can be issues with the old 3x threat system. In all other cases though, almost no one has had any problems with threat.
This change while needed at the highest level of raiding and gear, may in fact be needed (there is math to prove that threat scales far below DPS), however putting it in place for everyone has caused two problems.
Patch 4.3 Tank Threat Change - The Problems with 5x Threat
The First problem is now that Patch 4.3 is live, DPS players know that tanks have huge threat and are completely ignoring threat tables in 5 man instances. Any group you jump into the DPS just expects complete threat lock on each and every enemy in a group. What is worse they seem to randomly select enemies to attack, and go all out from second 1. This makes for very difficult to control pulls even with the additional threat, and makes DPS feel entitled to go all out on anything rather than paying attention to a fight.
The second problem, and maybe the far more insidious one is the affect it has on new tanks levelling up. I am thinking especially of those that will be joining the tanking ranks once the Monks come into the game when Mists of Pandaria is released. If a tank can hold agro almost without effort, then that is what they will do. This means they will not have to learn how to manage threat, how to create the most possible at key times, or how to balance threat when there are two tanks in a fight. All this will lead to lazy, unskilled, tanks that will be especially frustrated when and if they reach the end game and the raiding level. There they will be expected to know so much more than they will be forced to learn while levelling up. This to me is a great disservice to both the new tank players and everyone out there that then has to teach them how to really tank, or deal with the wipes they cause.
Patch 4.3 Changes to Vengeance for Tanks
The second big change is to the way that Vengeance works for all tanking classes. While the change is not drastic it is a change and has an effect. Vengeance used to ramp up slowly at the start of the fight and take a little while to come into full effect.
Now instead it immediately jumps to 33% of the damage taken by an attack. It also will always be at least 33% of the damage taken in the last two seconds. All the old limits are still in place and it still decays over time in the same way, but the initial threat it can grant jumps pretty significantly.
What this means is that DPS no longer has to allow the tank as much time before attacking or going all out. Instead of having DPS wait to the count of 5 on a boss, it drops it down to an almost immediate start. They should still give the tank some time to get a little breathing room, but most will not.
Patch 4.3 Tier 13 Tanking Set Bonuses
The other major change to tanks is that the tier 13 raid gear has had its set bonuses essentially normalized across all tanking classes.
The two piece bonus adds various forms of a damage shield or mitigation to each class. The four piece bonus adds a raid wide defensive buff. While each classes bonus is slightly different, and is obviously based on that classes abilities overall they provide much the same benefit for each class.
This obviously brings balance to the tanking classes and allows all of them to handle the much higher damage that is dished out in the Dragon Soul raid. It also allows all tanks to be able to help out mitigating portions of the AOE raid damage that is dealt in many of the fights in the new raid.
In theory this is all great, however in actuality all it does is homogenize the classes even more than they already are. I understand the need to be able to have all the tanks participate and be useful, I really do, however if they all end up being the same, why have 4 different tanking classes, why not just have a tank.
Also, players look forward to the new set bonuses each time a new tier of raid gear is released. They anxiously wait for the announcement, then get excited over collecting the gear and achieving the bonus. With this round, all the tanks I have talked to are sort of ho-hum about it. Sure its useful, and sure the bonuses relate to tanking for a change, but the fact that every class gets the same type of thing makes it all feel kind of bland.
Overall Tanking Feel in Patch 4.3
So far from several runs in the new patch while tanking with 2 different tanks, I have to say it all feels pretty much the same. The only real difference is that I do not even have to consider threat, as it always seems like I have way more than I need, and that I am not all that excited about the Tier 13 set bonuses. I am excited about the gear and the look of it, just not about the bonuses.
I have also already started to see DPS players caring less about threat and targeting and just going all out on whatever they choose. This is a bad thing, and is going to lead to trouble very quickly. At least as a tank I have the option to bail from a group when I run into that kind of player, and instantly get into another, but that isn’t fair to the other players in the group, so I try not to do that.