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Tanking with a Vengeance – Semi-Hardcore #2

Posted Tue, Apr 20, 2010 by Messiah

In this week’s column I am going to take a look at something that isn’t even in the game yet.  As a tank I have a keen interest in all of the changes being made to the various tanking classes come Cataclysm.  One of the key changes is the newly announced Vengeance mastery ability for all tanking classes. 

For anyone who has not seen the information on this upcoming mastery ability, here is a clip from the Cataclysm Warrior Preview.

 
             

Vengeance: This is a mechanic to ensure that tank damage (and therefore threat) doesn't fall behind as damage-dealing classes improve their gear during the course of the expansion. All tanking specs will have Vengeance as their second talent tree passive bonus. Whenever a tank gets hit, Vengeance will give them a stacking attack power buff equal to 5% of the damage done, up to a maximum of 10% of the character's un-buffed health. For boss encounters, we expect that tanks will always have the attack power bonus equal to 10% of their health. The 5% and 10% bonuses assume 51 talent points have been put into the Protection tree. These values will be smaller at lower levels. Remember, you only get this bonus if you have spent the most talent points in the Protection tree, so you won't see Arms or Fury warriors running around with it. Vengeance will let us continue to make tank gear more or less the way we do today – there will be some damage-dealing stats, but mostly survival-oriented stats. Druids typically have more damage-dealing stats even on their tanking gear, so their Vengeance benefit may be smaller, but overall the goal is for all four tanks do about the same damage when tanking.

The Basics

Now we’ll take a closer look at how Vengeance is expected to work in game.  For these examples let’s look at my own character as a base.  He is a decently geared ICC 10 Paladin tank with roughly 44,000 unbuffed health which equates to right 60,000 raid buffed health. For sake of simplicity let’s count it at 45,000 unbuffed health.

That would mean that at the full 10% stack it would be 4,500 extra attack power.  Knowing that at level 80 it takes 14 AP to grant a 1 DPS increase it equates to roughly a base 300 DPS increase.  Past this number it is hard to figure out exactly how much extra real DPS and therefore threat you would gain since it depends on the abilities you use, their coefficient to attack power and the threat they generate. 

From my experience I put out between 2200 and 3000 DPS while tanking an average boss fight, depending on the mechanics of the fight.  It would effectively double my tank’s current attack power from just over 4,200 to almost 9,000 which would be a nice single target boost, especially at this stage in the game.  If we take the 300 DPS increase by itself that would mean a simplistic extra 10% boost to threat.  By looking at the fact of the doubled current AP we know it will work out to more than that but exactly how much is hard to calculate quickly.

Threat is usually not an issue early in an expansion but as DPS gears up at the end game their threat output can ramp up wildly.  Tanks meanwhile focus on health and avoidance and their damage changes very little.  This would take the stat that makes a tank a tank and turn it into extra threat.

How it Stacks

The stacking mechanic used takes a little while to understand, as it is not simply a 5% / 10% increase as some players have initially thought on the forums.  In fact it is a little strange and may require tuning or simplification since it appears at first glance a little clumsy and requires a lot of tracking in game.

Let’s look at two examples and the issues with each of them.

In this first example let’s look at a hard hitting slow boss, that hits for 15,000 damage each hit (after mitigation), roughly every 2.5 seconds. This means that you would gain about 750 AP after each hit that lands.  With an average dodge, parry, and miss of say 40% combined (which would be considered low anywhere other than ICC), that means roughly 10 swings by the boss before you have the full effect, or roughly 25 seconds! 

That is a long time, especially if the fight uses any kind of tank swap mechanic.  Think of Saurfang with a tank swap roughly every 20 seconds.  You would almost never get to the total bonus, and once you did it would likely fall off before it was your turn to tank again. In fact depending on how long the stack lasts, I’m assuming something like 15 seconds, it is entirely possible (although unlikely) that it could drop off while fighting an extremely slow hitting boss.  At 15 seconds it simply means a combination of 6 misses, parries, and dodges in a row against a 2.5 second per swing boss.  It’s unlikely at only roughly a 0.5% chance with a combined 40% mitigation or a 1.5% chance at a combined 50% avoidance, but it is still possible.

The second situation is a fast, light hitting boss. Think of a boss that hits every second with an attack and every three with an AoE or Aura attack.  Numbers streaming by for damage taken like: 4880, 2240, 6560, 1820, 3450, etc.  The attack power gain from each one is very low.  This means that your bonus moves up as follows: 244 to 356 to 684 to 775 to 947.5.

You would now be roughly 4 seconds into the fight and only about 20% of the way to the max buff.  The game has already done 5 state changes to the buff and 5 calculations.  Think of AoE tanking situations with high block values and its extra effect on this, where you take tons of very small hits. While the math behind it is simple, it still seems like extra cycles for little gain.

It may be better to simply stack 1% or 2% of base health attack power buff each time the tank takes damage than base it off of damage taken.  Also the fall off time needs to be long enough so that while tanks are trading agro the stack does not fall off.  After all DPS will be continuing strong threat generation and neither tank will have the buff to deal with it.

PvP potential

Something that could be abused with is this abilities’ potential in PvP.  Imagine a deep protection tank coming into an arena with 60,000 health and a potential bonus of 6,000 AP!  The more you hit the tank the stronger they get and more damage they do back to you, and there would be almost no way to burst them down with their health pool and defensive abilities.

While tanks may be rejoicing about this potential, since they are usually very weak in PvP, it could break PvP and result in a nerf of the ability in PvE. On the flip side Blizzard may indeed intend this and then it would force players to constantly CC or kite the tank, while dealing with the DPS or Healer in the group.

Tuning

One of the things I really like about this new ability is the simplicity of it.  Blizzard believes there will be a threat issue so increases tank threat based on their health.  The higher gear levels go, and therefore the more health you get, the more threat you produce.  Simple.

Even better, because it is based on a percentage of your health it is extremely easy to adjust as required without redoing any gear.  So if tank threat ramps up in the expansion and no DPS is anywhere close to us, Blizzard simply lowers the percentage to 5%.  If DPS threat ramps up and tanks just can not hold threat at all, Blizzard simply needs to raise the percentage to 15% or 20%.

Overall

While the mechanic used to stack the buff is a little convoluted and odd, the overall idea is extremely simplistic, and that is not a bad thing at all.  Some of the best ideas are based on the “KISS” principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid). 

If I had to nitpick something it would be that it may make even more tanks focus on stamina over everything else, even more than they do now.  Too many new tanks forget the importance of mitigation, avoidance, and the idea of “effective health” and instead just focus on health. This could reinforce that idea to those that do not understand the benefits of the other stats fully.  Like I said though, that is nitpicking, and really the tanks that do that are not raid tanks (or shouldn’t be) so it doesn’t effect me a whole bunch.

While the mechanic to gain it may need to change slightly, as a tank I can’t think of a single thing I do not like about the vengeance bonus.  More threat, more DPS, all earned from stacking your best basic stat, what a brilliant idea. If the rest of the expansion is filled with these kinds of changes bring on Cataclysm!


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