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WoWMar 17, 2017 4:00 pm CT

Developers weigh in on Nighthold tank balance

krosus fires a beam

Tank balance has come to the fore in the Nighthold raid. World of Warcraft designer Sigma acknowledged as much in a post on the Official Forums.

Originally Posted by Sigma (Official Post)
We do feel that the damage profile in Nighthold caused tanks to be less balanced than we’d like on a handful of encounters.

The damage profile he is referring to is the large amount of constant magic damage.

Comparing kits

paladin under effect of seraphim

Nighthold bosses highlight the different ways each tank handles magic damage, and it has segmented the tanks in three tiers. In tier one, you have the Guardian Druids with their enormous health pool and Mark of Ursol. They have proven to have a superior kit for Nighthold’s boss encounters. Tier two has Protection Paladins and Brewmasters. Paladins can block spells and the Brewmaster’s Stagger mechanic doesn’t care about the source of the damage. Finally, you have Protection Warriors, Blood Death Knights and Vengeance Demon Hunters in a third tier. They have found their kit to be wanting.

At the Mythic level, some long time tanks are feeling pressure to reroll to Druids. This has a trickle down effect on Heroic and Normal mode guilds, although those players often don’t feel the urge to reroll to the current high preforming spec to the same degree.

Mark of Ursol

Originally Posted by Sigma (Official Post)

Abilities like Spell Reflection and Empower Wards are no worse than Mark of Ursol, when fighting a boss that does an occasional large magic attack that threatens to cause a killing spike. In fact, Mark of Ursol is usually weaker…

… The time this situation is flipped on its head is an encounter like Krosus, who somewhat rarely does a white autoattack but stacks a heavy consistent magical DoT. In this scenario, Mark of Ursol is essentially a free no-cooldown anti-magic “cooldown”, and we see this as the largest cause of the current behavior of Guardians in Nighthold.

The problem goes much deeper than Krosus. Star Augur Etraeus doesn’t auto attack while bombing away with various burst spells. Many other fights have a disproportionate amount of magic damage. While this is fitting with the lore of the Nightborne, it brings this area of tank balance into sharp focus. Mark of Ursol is the current concern, but Guardian’s tremendous Effective Health magnifies the issue.

Encounter design balance

Originally Posted by Sigma (Official Post)
“We do want tanks to have variance in how well they handle different situations, but we also want interesting encounters like Krosus and Etraeus that challenge them on unusual axes, all while not making it feel overly bad for a raid group attempting something with the “wrong” tank.”

While there’s a sense of accomplishment in succeeding as the “wrong” tank, most raiders don’t want to feel like they are holding their team back over loyalty to their class.

The developers need to manage two competing constraints. They need varied and interesting tank mechanics in raids, but they don’t want to homogenize the tank classes too much. They don’t want every tank to have all the same spells with different names and graphics. Protection Paladins and Protection Warriors are already too close to this situation for comfort.

It feels almost inevitable that variations in the kit given to each tank class will lead to some tanks handling some encounters better than others. This is not an easy problem to solve.

Sometimes having niches is offered as solution. In the past, this hasn’t been well received. The problem is every tank aspires one day to be the main tank. Raids only have room for two tanks and it was no fun trying to cover another tank’s niche. A tank needs to be an asset to this team in every situation.

Guardians spared the nerf bat

Originally Posted by Sigma (Official Post)
“For the short term, we are not adjusting Guardians in the 7.2 patch because 1) we avoid imposing significant nerfs at this point in a tier to a spec that many people have gotten comfortable completing the content with, and 2) the solution is likely not just a numbers change, but more fundamentally rethinking Mark of Ursol. With that context, the buffs to Protection and Vengeance aren’t intended to bring them up to the level of current Guardian, but are intentionally small adjustments to help people who are trying to finish Nighthold now.”

While this information must come as a relief to Guardians, it raises eyebrows. Comfort in playing a spec has never been a major driver for developers. When needed, they have nerfed classes TO THE GROUND! It didn’t stop them from adjusting Warriors during progression through the Emerald Nightmare.

The developers should acknowledge that they are in a tight spot. We are at the end of the tier. They don’t want to nerf Druids when that could stop a raid team from getting Ahead of the Curve. It may have been better for the developers to have stated this reasoning rather than talking about comfort playing a spec. They could add something along the lines that they will continue to watch tank balance as we progress in Tomb of Sargeras.

Protection Warrior and Vengeance buffs

As Sigma mentioned, Protection Warriors and Vengeance Demon Hunters are receiving buffs in Patch 7.2.

Originally Posted by Kaivax (Official Post)
Demonic Wards now reduces all damage taken by 20% (was 10%), and increases Armor by 75% (was 120%).

Vengeance trades physical mitigation for damage reduction against all types of damage. It should work out to the same physical mitigation as live, and increased magical mitigation.

Originally Posted by Kaivax (Official Post)
Gleaming Scales (Artifact Trait) increases Spell Reflection magical damage reduction by 20%. We’re also testing a new change to the Protection Legendary belt Thundergod’s Vigor that triples the rate at which your Thunder Claps reduce the cooldown on Demoralizing Shout

This will increase Warriors magical damage reduction. The problem is Gleaming Scales is one of the new traits coming in 7.2. It seems like an odd choice to balance Warriors only after they’ve opened the new traits.

All these changes coming so late in the PTR cycle means that they will get little in the way of testing. Some look at the Tomb of Sargeras and see a repeat of Nighthold’s issues. Until more people have done the new raid, it would be speculative at best to offer any assessment of how effective the changes will be.

Sigma stated that there would be no adjustments for Druids “in the short term.” If the issues persists, it would not surprise me to see some changes made to Druids in the early weeks of patch 7.2. Remember, your spec is always just one hotfix away from being either Flavor of the Month or “wrong.”

Tanks want their knowledge of the encounter and their ability as a player to be what separates them. They don’t want to show up on raid night knowing someone else could do their role better because their raid bar happens to be a different color.

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