Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Who Tanks It?

Prot paladins and feral druids often face a lot of adversity when they're raiding. The vast majority of guilds run with a warrior main tank, and that warrior main tank is always tanking the boss fights. Even the guilds that don't have a single main tank usually have a couple of prot warriors around, and the warriors are always the default choices when it's boss time.

Personally, I think this is a really bad idea, and not just because I play a prot paladin. It's true that warriors have the best all-around "grab bag" of tanking skills, but there are a number of fights where the high front-loaded threat of a paladin or the superior physical mitigation of a druid can make the fight easier on the whole raid. Making use of all your guild's tanking classes can make for smoother raids all around.

There's also player happiness to consider. Very few players are satisfied with benchwarmer status. I've known a few players with very solid off-tank roles in well-progressed guilds who got bored and left for a main tank position in a less-progressed guild. Sure, they're taking a step back progression-wise, but in the end they're having more fun, and isn't that why we play the game? Relegating some players to forever be "trash tanks" (and what a terrible name that is!) only leads to higher turnover.

Plus, it's important to remember: real life happens. If your warrior main tank is sick or on vacation, you need your other tanks to be able to step forward and fill his shoes, or you won't be raiding that night. Paladins and druids require subtly different strategies on some fights, in terms of healing assignments and dps performance. If your tanks and your raid don't have any experience working together on boss fights, you're dooming your raids to nights of frustrating wiping if real life takes your warriors away.

My guild handles boss fights, as it does most things, pretty informally. Just before boss time, all the tanks do a /roll, and the winner tanks the boss. This is one of the reasons I love my guild. All the tanks get the chance to tank, and the raid knows how to handle each fight with each different class.

There are exceptions, of course. I never bother to /roll right before Kaz'rogal, for instance. While it's true that a paladin can tank this fight, it's one of the few fights where having a paladin tanking will make things significantly more difficult, and increase your chances of wiping (dodge a few too many attacks, and--oops!--I blow up the melee.). Same for Archimonde (Why make the priests burn their fear wards on me instead of themselves?), or Kael'thas (I don't want to buy all the extra consumables I'd need to tank that!). But on any fight a paladin can reasonably tank, I have as much of a chance of doing it as any of the other tanks. And that, in my opinion, is the way it should be.


Typhoonandrew said...

As a glorified "trash-tank" I say praise be; spread the word!

Non-Warrior tanks are beautiful tanks in some places, and I can't imaging tanking any other way than Prot Pally. It just makes sense that you have abilities that gather everything to you.

That said - Warriors are damn tough to beat if done well, and all Tanks are totally viable, but players need to adjust strat as you already said.

I'm not sure that Prot Pally is always 2nd choice though. I've not often been overlooked as a tank for an instance based upon class. It might be easier for Druids and Warriors to get geared (especially damn druids), but once your Pally has the stats, they are popular as hell.

And certainly more popular than a Ret-pally as DPS, at least till Lich.

This might be different in Instances beyond ZA, but I have not been there to be able to comment too much. Can you do (Hydross?) that damn boss with all the Murlocks without two pallys in rotation?

I also think there has been a subtle backlash against non-warrior tanks by the Warrior community, which precipitated the changes coming in Wrath for Prot-Warriors. They are getting true multi-mob aggro powers, which will till then be the domain of the Pally.

There was a need, which Pally tanks filled perfectly; and Warriors want a piece of the action too. Fair enough, but only fair as long as Pallys get some of the abilities that make Warriors great too. Pally taunt is handy as an "oh shit" button, but really does not help with threat, where as Taunt is a majestically beautiful solution. Gimme some auto-threat jumps like Taunt and I'll be unstoppable.

Let the mage stand well back, unload like a FelCannon on speed, and then I'l pop my normal pally taunt, and follow with a Warrior taunt just as that expires. Ka-boom, more threat than the pesky glass cannon could ever generate.

I am afraid of the change in tanking coming. DKs being added to the Tank pool will shake the relationships to the foundations, and I expect Blizzard to protect Warriors and Death Knights before Druids and especially before Paladins in the Tanking role.

Why? = History

Pre-tBC non-healer pallys at end-game were an amusing sideline. In tBC Pallys have power to do all three in an OK manner. In the balance and counter-balance tweaking that Wrath is already showing, I expect a repeat of the respec-disease that Pallys had around the last lull before tBC. You do not change class fundamentals (Blessing of Huh?) without creating havoc.

As the classes get tweaked and updated, the community will adjust again to the new myths and capacities of each Tank class. This means the "Who Tank It?" question will also be in flux again. Damn it, I know that Warriors are the cornerstone Tank class, so they'll get first go. Then DKs will because there will be 10 million of them. Then I think the Druids as they can always switch out and dps if needed.

Chris @ Real Horses said...

Great blog but just had to let you know that there are some guilds, mine for sure, that love our druids and pally tanks just as much as our warriors. In fact i dare say we love our pally's and druids a fair bit more... I know i do.

Hugs to all the pally and druid tanks out there keeping this aggro queen safe ;-}

argent said...

Err, typhoonandrew -- I think you may be laboring under some misconceptions...

In Serpentshrine Cavern, you're talking about Morogrim Tidewalker, where I tanked the Murloc adds last night as the sole protection-specced paladin. The trick is to make sure you have a warlock available to heal *that no one else is healing*. I kept having to yell about Lifeblooms, but once the other healers learned that "you heal the lock, you tank the 'locs", it went pretty well (3rd attempt).

It would actually be lovely to have a protection paladin tank Tidewalker, but we seem to be in such demand for the add-tanks that I never get to do it. I end up tanking all the adds on each Hydross phase-transition, too. (Doing the work of 2-3 other tanks using Consecrate and Righteous Defense.)

The paladin taunt does work like a warrior taunt in that it raises your threat to be at the same level as the current target of each mob. Unfortunately, it has a longer cooldown than other taunts. It also has a 40-yard range (rather than 10 yard), and affects up to 3 targets via an interesting targeting mechanism which can be quite handy. If I see some squishy has aggro via Grid, I can target that squishy and just tap my taunt to bring most of his attackers back over to me.

A warrior taunt right after Righteous Defense would do nothing for your threat. I'm worried about Wrath, too, but I'm more worried that we're going to be Feral Druids 2.0 -- for a few months after TBC was released, bears were totally unstoppable. The resulting backlash pushed Ferals down several pegs, resulting in some of the problems they have today.

joshh1982 said...

If by saying that Feral Druids are easy to gear you mean that our starter kara gear consists of 6 pieces of crafted gear, 2 quest reward pieces, 2 pvp pieces, a World drop for a staff , and luck on some trinkets, then yeah, we're easy to gear cause we don't have to grind instances for gear, just lots of cash and mats for all our stuff....

Anonymous said...

Well said Sheepbreaker. I play horde, have for a long time, and I honestly don't know how we got along without paladins. Your ability to tank multiple mobs is just amazing and sets my little druid heart aflame with envy.

I think I read somewhere that paladins are supposed to remain the rulers of multi-mob tanking, Death Knights will be kings of magic-mitigation while Warriors will be able to take the most brutal of physical blows.

I'm a little worried myself because Blizzard has even themselves stated that druids don't have a niche yet. We aren't done, true, but will we be completed by the time I'm ready to be tanking again after going cat to level? It's quite a perdicament.

Typhoonandrew said...

@ Argent - I've never been to SSC as a tank, so was guessing about the strat. On my Warlock, thats what I saw, and the boss died. I'll teach me to pug less I guess.

Misconceptions? Maybe, aint we all. :)

But the use of the Pally taunt feels like a totally different tool to the Warrior Taunt. I use it for the oh-shit moments only, and a good run I shouldn't need it often.

- The selection of targets is 3 random enemies targeting your ally. That means that it may not pull the mob you want, however unlikely if there are lots. I've seen it happen.

- Warriors have a few taunt-ish options, Pallys have one with a healthy cool-down. They also don't slow down for mana between pulls, which can make them a quicker tank.

- In the off chance that you're taunting because of a range dps "oh shit" moment, you need to make a choice as to when to use it. As range changes the threat mechanics, if you taunt too far away, you'll not have the arrgo for long. I know thats the same for Warriors and the 10 yards, but its something that I didn't understand till recently.

eg. Warlock pings 130% and gets aggro, mob heads off running, Pally casts RD from 35 yards and hits the threat meter, but as the Warlock's dots keep ticking and he's also in melee range, he pings the 110% again, and the mob runs back.

Also the healers and range dps tend to stand together, which can mean your mob gains a new target, still not the pally. Say the healer who was trying to keep the Warlock alive. We have 15 secs to wait before RD comes up again.

Hopefully the Pally can judge/consec to keep threat.

Anonymous said...


All of the warrior's taunt-like abilities are "oh shit" buttons. Taunt itself doesn't generate threat, it sets your threat level at the current highest threat value of the mob. Unless someone has exceeded your threat, it doesn't have a use. The paladin's taunt is only on a 15 second cooldown, which makes it so you can't use it as often, but it's not THAT much worse than the warrior's 10 second cooldown. If someone is pulling monsters off of you more frequently than once every 15 seconds, there's a problem with either the Paladin's threat generation (which should NOT be a problem with Imp. Righteous Fury and proper gear), or some DPS doesn't know how to manage their threat.

As for Mocking Blow, it's on a 2 minute cooldown and only causes the target to attack you for 6 seconds. It causes no threat, so you must generate enough threat to keep aggro on you in those 6 seconds or else it'll go back to attacking whoever it was going after before. Yes, it's a nice thing to have, but BoP is pretty much just as good.

The only other ability a Warrior gets that is even remotely close to a taunt is Intervene, which just allows you to take a single hit for someone else that is 8-25 yards away from you, it generates no threat and can be used once every 30 seconds.

Paladins also have Consecrate which is amazing when paired with Imp. Righteous Fury for pulling stray mobs back to them. Sure, it's not a taunt, but it's not on a cooldown either. As long as your DPS is smart (which can be a real problem), Paladins shouldn't have any problem tanking.

Typhoonandrew said...

@clerianknight - as I've been pugging more recently I have a lot of issues with dps players - mostly based upon threat, and sometimes based upon who should pull. Sad and true.

Last night a boomkin and Spriest tried to tell me how to pull, and the boomkin even ran in "to teach us how". Wipe! Both guys were constantly trying to top the meter, and had the audacity to brag/post it party chat. Meanwhile the healer's threat was fine. Some of the worst dps I've seen in weeks.

The worst dps players seem to be new, or have never done anything else.

2ndNin said...

10s vs 15s is huge... its a 33% bonus, its being able to Taunt (3s) and only worry for 7s rather than 12s, the worry period is nearly twice as long.

Also Mocking Blow, Taunt = 9s, = 1s more of non-control = 12s of guaranteed aggro from a target... thats also huge, you can't compare that with a 3s control on a 15s cooldown

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