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WoWMay 29, 2018 6:41 pm CT

Battle for Azeroth threat changes will make tanking a lot tougher

In Battle for Azeroth, tanking is going to be harder. There’s really no other way to put it: baseline threat generation is being nerfed by an astonishing amount. The current threat generation paradigm, rooted in the active mitigation model of tanking, has made threat much less of an issue for a competent tank, who can instead focus on proper use of abilities to generate resources and mitigate incoming damage. As long as a tank in current (read: Legion) content uses their rotation, they will hold threat.

But that’s about to change.

Wowhead reports that the change will reduce current tanking threat levels, which are between 10 and 20 times their DPS, to threat levels that are about four times their DPS. The current threat range is partially based in Artifact abilities — a leveling tank generates ten times their DPS as threat currently, since they don’t have a maxed-out Artifact. But come Battle for Azeroth, all tanks will only generate four times as much threat as they deal in damage.

What does this mean? Well, several things.

Tanks will have to work harder

The first is that unless tank DPS is a lot higher in Battle for Azeroth (it isn’t so far) then we’ll see DPS players outstripping tank threat, especially on the opening pull or AOE fights. (And it will only get worse as DPS increases over the duration of the expansion.) There are classes that easily output 10 times the damage of tank classes in AOE pulls, and likewise, at times healers who are forced to heal heavily in such situations will pull aggro. This is going to happen. Heck, it’s already happening now to some extent, but it will happen more commonly in Battle for Azeroth.

The second is that tanks who want to retain threat in these situations are going to need to use Taunt a lot more aggressively. Taunt has a threat multiplier built in, so tanks that want to keep aggro during those opening pulls and in AOE situations are going to need to develop the skill to tab target, use Taunt abilities, and then immediately follow up with the highest threat moves they can in order to get a threat jump on trigger happy DPS and desperate healers trying to keep them alive.

Feeling threatened?

A lot of players feel that threat is no longer a real concern in World of Warcraft and this seems to be an attempt by Blizzard to make it part of the game again. Tanks will no longer gear for pure survival (not that it really matters since tanks basically wear the same gear as DPS nowadays anyway) and will have to watch threat and take action to ensure that they’re generating enough of it. That doesn’t sound like a terrible idea, does it?

Yes. Yes it does. It’s a terrible idea. Here’s why:

Tanking is retaining the active mitigation model we’ve seen for several expansions now. Tanks are still expected to use their abilities to generate resources to spend on active mitigation, only now, they’ll also have to worry about how much damage and threat they are generating while they do it. Tanks will have to sacrifice mitigation for threat in a system that isn’t designed for such choice. It pushes the burden of keeping tanks alive even more onto healers, as tanks are forced to prioritize threat over staying alive. And tanks are less capable of keeping threat off said healers, who have to push themselves to keep tanks up because they’re focused on threat over damage mitigation.

The cascade of threat loss

This will only become more apparent on AOE pulls, when tanks will not have anything close to the ability to outthreat their DPS, and as a result healers are going to try and keep those DPS alive when they steal aggro. This will lead to threat to healers, and most tanks simply won’t have the strong AOE damage to get a handle on the cascade of threat. [A note from the editor, who happens to be a healer: Sorry, DPS, but you’re going to have to learn to manage threat if you want heals.]

Will some tanks cope with these changes? Yes. We had tanks back in Vanilla who tanked under similar conditions. But in The Burning Crusade when some tanks were much better at AOE tanking than others, guilds found themselves struggling in later content because so many tanks had quit. Tank burnout is a real thing. It’s a very stressful role, and multiplying its complexity when it already demands that you know how to keep yourself alive, keep track of boss abilities, keep targets positioned away from the raid, and gather up adds to be AOE’d down on the regular is only going to increase burnout.

A survivable change isn’t always a good one

I can only hope this is something they’re testing on the beta and rethink once they’ve seen it in action. I know that some tanks are absolutely going to adapt to these changes and masterfully juggle threat and mitigation and positioning and boss abilities and grabbing snap aggro to keep people alive. Some tanks always have. But a lot of players like to tank in lower stress environments and we’re going to lose quite a few tanks and see a lot more unhappy players if these changes go live. Especially with players undergoing such a massive item squish with the new expansion and many resources changing (Rage generation for Prot Warriors, for example). It’s just a lot of change for no real benefit as far as I can see.

I hope I’m wrong and Blizzard has plans to address the consequences of this change. Perhaps we’ll see a return of abilities like Sunder Armor and some increase threat stances. I mean, if we’re going to go back to Vanilla mechanics, maybe it’s time for tanking stances to return? But as it stands this feels like a terrible idea to me.

We’ll have fewer tanks and the ones we have will have to work harder and they’ll burn out faster. We’ll see longer queues and fewer tanks for pick up content. I can’t see an upside to this.

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