Tanking for Dummies

Blue Post Alert: Messing with Block
May 29, 2009, 12:01 am
Filed under: Analysis, Rants | Tags: , , , , ,

Ghostcrawler is at it again.  Now he is teasing us about Block:



Think about it this way.

Avoidance is good because it removes a lot of damage. Avoidance is bad because it is unpredictable. If you stack too much avoidance, you are likely to give your healers coronaries.

Mitigation (armor and straight damage reduction) is good because it’s consistent. As you all point out, you can start to learn how much a blow will actually do to you. Mitigation is bad, from a player’s perspective, because it can’t save you. If you have 10 health and dodge, you might live. If you have 10 health and hope your armor will save you… well, it won’t. You become the dreaded mana sponge because you are never avoiding damage completely.

Mitigation also has a risk from a design-perspective that when fights get too predictable they become too easy and unexciting. Imagine a tank with 75% damage reduction and no avoidance. You could calculate from the moment of the first attack whether you will survive the encounter. Heck, you might be able to not even heal the tank and know you’ll survive depending on the specific abilities used by the boss.

Block as a mechanic is somewhere between avoidance and mitigation. Ideally it removes a fair amount of damage (vs. all damage) reasonably often (vs. rarely). If block is up 100% of the time it just becomes armor that you improve through a different stat. We have let block chances creep up frankly because the amount blocked is pretty trivial when bosses are hitting for 40% of your health pool every swing. If this still strikes you as too RNG, imagine abilities like Shield Block and Holy Shield that could guarantee 100% chance to block for a short period of time.

We don’t think block is cutting it as a mechanic, but the direction we are likely to take it is probably more of a change than you are considering.

We also don’t think it’s necessary that every tank rely on avoidance, block and mitigation in equal amounts. They can’t get too far apart or someone will come to dominate for certain encounters, but we don’t think the tanks need to be completely homogenized to get what we want either.

If (to make up numbers) the DK and druid get hit for 20K every swing that hits, but the warrior and paladin get hit for 24K half the time and 16K half the time, then that seems like it would work. When the boss emoted that his big hit was coming, you could make sure you had your cooldown ready to guarantee a block.

So you’re looking at Block, eh?  Sort of like you’re looking at Heroic Strike?  I’ve got your number crabby.  That’s a discussion you started in February.  Where’s the beef?  Or, should I say, where’s the gumbo?

You know what gets me 30 rage faster than crustaceans that talk big then say nothing for 4 months?  Crustaceans who take a good point (that from the perspective of raid tanking, block has become more and more useless as damage outpaces block value) and then say something totally inane like that last paragraph.

Oh sure, it “seems like it would work” on paper, but what it really translates to is “people with shields die first on Thorim” or perhaps “Oh look, a healer died, get the DK in there so we don’t accidently have a dead Warrior.”  I thought we had this discussion on why spike damage is bad back when you removed crushing blows.  This is putting aside the fact that as a mechanic it makes no fucking sense that if you have a shield you take more damage sometimes.  I’m going to have to take away your nerf gun and drag you out to watch some SCA Heavy Fighting.  You’ll notice that the shield makes it harder to hurt them.

But, that’s okay crabby.  I understand you’re polling for feedback.  So here’s my take on how you can make this more managable:

Remove Block.

Yeah, I know, heresy right?  But lets face it, no one is stacking block right now save to try and generate massive Shield Slam crits.  The reason is that you designed encounters around regular and predictable amounts of damage with easily anticipated use of cooldowns.  This means we don’t need one more stat to get in the way, we need more fucking cooldowns you ninny.  You know, cooldowns we don’t need to glyph for to be on par with a Death Knight.  Give us Shield Wall on a one minute cooldown.  Make a shield the giant piles of Armor we need to keep up with the better scaling of Frost Presence and Dire Bear.  If you want to keep your little Shield Block ability, maybe make it more like Bone Shield.  You made your encounters to love Death Knights, so now you need to deal with the problem that you made cooldowns more important than avoidance or mitigation.  Oh, and Bears need some cooldown love to.

I’ve got my eye on you crabby.  Between this and Heroic strike, you’re wading into dangerous waters.  I’ll have my spice cabinet ready.

with love, Tarsus.

with love, Tarsus.


9 Comments so far
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If I get hit for 24k half the time, then I want a ton more health than the druids and DKs to make up for it!!

Also, I wonder why they can’t make block scale better and work on some kind of percentage basis. It’s being stuck at a fixed block value that makes it so lame imo.

Comment by spinks

@ spinks – My read of GC’s comment was the fact that DKs and Bears don’t have block makes it difficult to balance any changes. That’s somewhat why I propose dumping it entirely.

Comment by Tarsus

Now I know we’re talking about fantasy land here with magic fireballs and cow-people, but to me, block always seemed like it should have been avoidance. You block the attack, you take no damage. That seemed the advantage to being a warrior or paladin, you have a shield to avoid the damage taken, otherwise, why bother?

I’m no expert on tanking at all, but to me that’s the way I always thought it should work, more like avoidance, not mitigation.

Comment by Troutwort

In fairness I should point out that the heroic strike-related comment wasn’t “we’re gong to change heroic strike” so much as “we don’t really thing it’s a great ability and it’s something we might change in the future.” Although really I’m not sure that any changes to the ability would actually make it more interesting.

I’m also not convinced that cooldowns make tanking more interesting. It’s clearly the direction it seems to be moving, and I can understand the thinking behind making “use abilities to survive” the thing that tanks have to learn to do content, but it just seems like a kludge to make up for the fact that threat is such a non-issue. I’ve always found tanking more interesting when I’m having to fight to keep ahold of something than when I have to fight to keep it from loloneshot’ing me *shrugs*

Comment by Yuki

@ Troutwort – In the real world shields aren’t indestructible by any means, and there are weapons that can go right through them (a military pick for instance). Let’s not also forget that getting hit while wearing one can often give you that teeth vibrating feeling you get when you hit a wall with an aluminum bat. Whether those things translate into loss of “health” I’ll leave up to you.

Yuki – The flavors of the comment were similar is why it caught my notice. Regarding cooldowns and tanking, however, that’s the game they’re making right now, and that being the case I would like to be able to use my “fun button” more than once every 5 minutes. I think it is amusing that Shield Block’s offensive use is significantly more useful than it’s defensive one.

Comment by Tarsus

Well, they did add the Shield Wall glyph in 3.1 that knocks three minutes off the cooldown, but reduces the effect down to 40%. So if you took 3/3 Imp Disciplines and glyphed for it, you could have a 1-minute cooldown 40% damage reduction. (Otherwise known as Icebound Fortitude, lulz.)

Sounds like they’re not quite sure what they’re going to do with the whole shield mechanic. I sure hope they don’t mess it up worse than it is now. I came from playing Everquest, and there, warrior tanks (the only kind of warrior there was because we did basically no damage) DID NOT USE SHIELDS. Warrior tanks dual-wielded two fast weapons and spammed Taunt. That was the only way to hold threat. Shields were for paladins, who didn’t tank, and basically contributed nothing to mitigation at all. At least in WoW, the shield actually means something and is vital for the warrior tank.

Comment by Lewis

Why do people keep saying this? Shield Wall, with any tank spec fully glyphed and talented, a 2 minute cooldown. The glyph knocks TWO minutes off of the ability and Imp Shield wall knocks off ONE more. It’s a FIVE minute cooldown to start off with. 5-2-1= 2. Also, quicker cooldowns isn’t necessarily the answer unless you’re for the complete homogenization of tank classes. Blizzard’s ideal solution is to come up with a way to make block useful on every boss and not just the ones that hit quickly for pansy amounts.

Basing block on some type of perentage calculation like ArP might be the direction to take it as it would scale based on the hit taken. As long as the percentage was balanced at the right spot, warrior/paladin mitigation over the duration of the fight would balance out with druids/DKs.

And once Blizz is done fixing block, we need something useful for mitigating huge magic attacks. We’ve had Spell Reflect for forever now and I can count on one hand how many bosses it was usable against while DKs have AMS which is usable on virtually any magic attack in the game.

Comment by Kittoes

@ Lewis & Kittoes – I am basing this on Ulduar of course, but it seems to me that the need for a 1 minute high damage mitigation ability like Icebound Fortitude is being written into the encounter designs. There’s just no equivalent “strength” for warriors right now unless you want to count add tanking. That you need to Glyph AND Talent to get close to that level of utility is not so good from a design standpoint.

@ Lewis – Sony still owes me 350 dollars and two years of my life back. God Everquest got away with such bullshit by being the only ride in town.

@ Kittoes – From the perspective of what to do with Shield Block, making the Tier 8 bonus baseline would be similar to AMS. Not ideal, but more of a semantic problem than a utility problem.

Comment by Tarsus

[…] put in my two cents about this before, which pretty much comes down to “I’ll believe it when I see it.”  […]

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