Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hotfix Rodeo: INC Massive Threat Changes

It's been a hot minute since we have had worthwhile hotfix news. I guess in reality no news is good news, amirite? Anyway today Blizzard dropped a potential bombshell on the community with some startling news: threat may just be headed the way of the dodo. What is that you say? One of the most quintessential MMO gaming mechanics of all times, even bleeding into single player RTM games (ahem FF13) is now potentially on the chopping block? As with most of Blizzard and their cryptic jibbah jabbah, they mean to say well yes and no. For a more indepth look into one hell of a confusing change, as well as POV opinions from our tanking and DPS staff, take the jump....but not too hard you might pull aggro.

So what exactly is happening with threat?
To make a LONG story short, it's generation is being increased to be less of a concern for tanks. That said there are much more delicate ways to explain this and what effect it will have on the community at large.

In the original post from Ghostcrawler (found here) he talks about a few varying opinions, mainly why to have threat and why NOT to have threat. The long standing belief is that threat is a mechanic that makes tanking challenging and rewarding which creates interesting encounters. Without the idea of threat tanks would simply be waiting to use cooldowns and maybe positioning the boss. Enter Ghostcrawler: He suggests that there are a plethora of benefits to removing or reducing the notion of threat. A few of these include;

Throttling - Without the concept of threat, dps is not throttled by a tank and can perform optimally without a tank performing just as optimally.

Situational Awareness - Tanks today have much to worry about, from the positioning of the boss and themselves as well has picking up adds or tank swapping, etc. This would mean one less thing for the tanks to worry about.

Threat Stats - Given how most other roles have around 3 stats to focus on, asking tanks to be aware of 5-6 stats makes the experience more stressful than fun.

What is actually changing?
With a recent hotfix threat generation has moved from 3x the damage done to 5x the damage done. Think of this has almost doubling threat generation, save for a tiny bit. That is a fair substantial buff when you think about it. In a future patch they intended to change the way vengeance works as well. Instead of ramping up, it will be a more immediate tool used to generate that threat.

From Gordrin (Protection Paladin)
I have a feeling I will soon be telling stories about, "back in my day we had to do individual threat rotations on all mobs in an AoE pack or the damn DK/Warrior/Mage would face pull and get themselves killed."

A few things jumped out at me from reading the post.  
  • Blizzard wants me to have more reactionary and on-use cooldowns or abilities while tanking.  
I was really sad when they put the large cooldown on Word of Glory. I used it all the time to help heal my healer while he was healing me and quick spot heals during large AoE damage phases, but it now acts as a self-heal cooldown when needed. I'd like more options like that as a tank, I want the finesse that makes a tank great. Ask anyone I am a huge compiler of how long we have in a fight and how often I can use abilities, so I know if I can use my Guardian of the Ancient Kings or Lay on Hands twice in the same fight, or if I even need to. Knowing that they may want to throw another tool my way that I hope wouldn't just be mapped to crusader strike like Holy Shield is at the moment would be awesome.
  • Blizzard likes making me do a lot of work in a fight without worrying about threat.
I really think Blizzard wants to make the fights more and more complex for the Tank, which I am also in favor of. I love fights where I constantly have to be monitoring things, working on timing of cooldowns with other thanks and swapping adds/bosses. With this change in threat mechanics they could easily now have a new add appear in a fight and require a huge burn phase because DPS won't pull the add off of the tank. They could make a fight where the tank can't stop moving or fall over dead because they won't have to worry about the long range threat of the Tank while kiting. It opens quite a few possibilities, my guess is they had a mechanic in a boss fight they really liked and it didn't work because threat couldn't be kept while doing whatever job it would be so they are just "fixing" threat.
  • Blizzard actually maybe likes DPSers and Healers.
So add fights like Lord Rhyolith and Nefarian before him would be made easier with the threat changes. No more Druid hots or Paladin spam healing pulling aggro off of a tank trying to pick up all the adds to stack them up for ranged to AoE them down. Bloodlust can be used right at the start of the fight (It could before if your tank knew what they were doing.) without worrying about a DPS pulling aggro and getting killed. I'm interested to see if they do change the stat make-up on the gear dropping in 4.3.

Final Thoughts
The issue I have had with tanking is teaching new paladins how to properly load up threat at the start of the fight and then move into how to know and when to use their survival cooldowns. Looks like we will now be able to concentrate teaching new players the mechanics of the class first instead of "how to threat like a BAOWWS!" I will be looking forward to testing vengeance on the PTR to see how much I can not pay attention during random 5 mans and still get away with holding aggro. Who knows maybe this is just a fix to help my friends who are clickers keep up with those of us who smash keybinds and macros.

From Goreblades (Protection Warrior)
When I read this, I was very excited for the changes that Blizzard is making to threat. It has been a while, but I am unashamed to admit that I have had threat issues in the past. These changes will allow me to spend more time in boss fights making sure I get that critical interrupt off, or to move out of the bad--thus enabling my healers to stop pulling their hair out over me.

I am sure I will take heat for saying my point this way, but very little of what Blizzard has me doing these days is actual nitty-gritty, stand-there-and-take-it-to-the-face tanking. There is positioning, interrupting, positioning, add control, positioning, swapping, oh yeah, and positioning. All this movement and divided focus is not the most effective way to hold bosses, and there have been times where, because of all this divided attention, I have lost control of a boss and gotten my healer, or our top DPSer, killed (sorry guys). I have lost control of Sparks of Rhyolith, of entire bosses, and aberrations in the Maloriak encounter (I still shudder when that fight comes up) all because a warrior's ability to threat on the move is undoubtedly the weakest of any of the tanking classes.

By making this initial change via a hotfix sometime this week, I see it as allowing tanks to fulfill their roles in a more effective way. Look at it from this point of view: more are asked of tanks then of any other role in a raid (and I say that with pride). We are overall responsible for the safety and well-being of the party, as well as controlling boss encounters and making sure that everything goes off without a hitch. We interrupt, we pick up adds, we position (and reposition as necessary), we swap from MT to OT at a moments notice, and we hold the line in ways the DPSers and healers can and should marvel at. ON TOP OF ALL THAT, we must manage our rotations with near perfection, or risk it all going to hell-in-a-hand-basket because of an overzealous Death Knight who has two attack speeds--"balls to the wall" and "dead." By throttling up our threat generation, Blizzard is allowing us to focus on these other aspects of the fight--the aspects that keep the fight going smoothly.

The Vengeance change does not excite me as much. As a warrior, I put my Vigilance on the other tank, and as he gets smacked around, my Vengeance goes up, so by the time its my turn to smack the boss, my Vengeance is already layered on pretty thick (a mechanic that--once we realized it was happening in the Chimeron encounter--made Titelist and I giggle because my threat was blowing his out of the water due to this mechanic).

Final Thoughts
I am excited about these changes. I think this will allow us tanks to focus more on the boss, and less on which abilities we are clicking on (thats right--CLICKING). Like Gordrin, though, I am wondering what is on the horizon that Blizzard is introducing this to us now .......

From Titleist (Frost DPS Death Knight)
Ironically I don't have too much to say on this topic. As one of a few classes without threat modification or a threat drop I'm pleased to hear about this. Normally the tanks I run with are strong enough to allow me unbridled dps, however that isn't without saying it might be stressful as hell for them. With these changes I'm assuming it will allow that much more of a comfort gap between the tank and myself.

I will say given my experience in bear tanking, this hotfix is really no big deal. The change is a welcome change in regard to AOE tanking, while I think single target will remain largely unchanged. Bears naturally produce an astronomical amount of threat single target however for AOE tanking this will basically be bringing us as close back to swipe spam as possible at this juncture. I know some people will complain about this, but lets face it, the days of long trash pulls and targeting down one at a time is long gone. Blizzard changed tanking to that AOE tanking was a thing of the past, yet it buffed AOE damage through the roof. Those two mechanics working against each other may have been the exact reason we are seeing the problems (and solutions) we see today.

There are two situations where I'll appreciate the changes: The first is a situation where the target is moving and the tank is not. An example of this is Shannox. While learning this encounter I would find myself pulling aggro on the dog (who is untauntable btw) and basically scrap an entire attempt. This would occur while the dog was running back to the tank, who was dropping stacks and lining Mr Hellhound up for an immolation trap. The second situation that receives the hotfix and it's blessing would be a fast burn phase. An example of this would be the drones during Beth'tilac. Having a tank innately have a thread lead when I turn to literally kick a mobs face would do nothing more than allow me to execute the mechanic as intended.

Final Thoughts
I'm looking forward to this for my weekly heroic runs. Seldom a run goes by where a tank doesn't complement my 30k DPS while making a side comment about my threat. I never take offense to those comments, I know I'm a like a caged wildebeest ready to strike. It will be nice to know it's making their life just a bit easier and I'll think twice less often about unloading that crit Obliterate into the boss.

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