Why Tanking Stats Will Never Matter

Woo hoo! Ghostcrawler is back… Sort of. As we all know blizz had moved to a developer blog method as the primary contact with the developers, in lieu of posting in the forums. Today Ghostcrawler posted in a new type of blog post that promises to give the players a peek into the dev process in a way that is closer to the forum style, without the drawbacks of the previous methods (that, of course, remains to be seen).

In today’s inaugural post, in addition to laying out the rules, he decided to touch on tanking and the stats thy use. Specifically, he focuses on this thoughts on bringing hit and expertise back to an attractive stat for tanks.

My first reaction to his post is this: tanks pay attention to stats?

Now wait. Don’t stone me. Yes, I know we all pay attention to stats. Let me explain a little about what I mean.

Way back before I ever rolled my tank and started playing him at any competent lvl, I had only Fire, and his awesome dps-ness (new word, woot!). I was raiding Ulduar, and my group was heading back to Hodir in that god awful frozen cavern with the bazillion worm spawn points. Someone brought up that they would hate to ever tank, that it would be too stressful. To which our tanks laughed and said that it was, in actuality, pretty damn boring. That got me to thinking, what does a tank really even do?

A tank, as GC points out, has two major jobs. Threat and survivability. In other words, a tank has to take the punches and keep the mobs pissed off enough at him that they won’t decide to slug out your healer or one of your dps. Yes, the tanks other job is to appropriately position mobs and obey the mechanics of the fight, but no amount of expertise or dodge is going to help with that. That is the human element that makes the game so compelling. Since these concepts are wholly different, let me tackle them separately.

The Case Of The Inadequate UI

Blizz has a major problem with tanks.  Actually, it’s not so much with tanks themselves, but rather the Tank UI.  The simple fact of the matter is that the UI is really built from a DPS point of view.  It gives very little Tank feedback.

You see, when I am DPSing, (sorry blizz, no matter how badly you want me to adopt “Damage Dealing”, It just does not work) there is a TON of information flying at me.  Whether I am hitting or not, what my general threat status is, how much I am hitting, how much more damage I have to do to kill a mob, when that mob is going to cast something I need to interrupt, how much life I have left, etc…  I can refine that even more with addons that tailor this to my specific needs.

How much of that information is useful to a tank?  The only real thing that tanks need to have there is their health status – whether they are going to die soon or not.  Everything else is borderline completely useless.  Yes, even general threat status.  How important is it to know that you have aggro?  Pretty dang important.  But that you can tell just by looking at the mob, because it beats on you.  But the general threat status does not tell you who is coming up close to ripping off your mob, and how close that is to happening.  It only tells you that the mob hates you enough to be smacking you in the face.

As an extension to the pervious statement, when managing threat, the damage portion of the UI only matters because a tank needs to do damage to piss the mob off.  How much threat does 8,365 damage generate?  Approximately 3x that, right?  OK, great.  What does that mean?  Does that mean that I need to hit a mob for 2k more damage to move them from the green shade of general threat, to yellow?  How much do I need to damage them to keep them from ripping off of me and going to my lock and one shotting him? Where is that line?  The answer is this:  The default UI does not compensate for this.

Oh yes, this information can be obtained.  Omen is a great tool that everyone should use.  But even Omen has its limits.  If you pick up a pack of 3 baddies, omen will tell you the threat status of only your currently targeted mob.  You have to tab around, wasting precious time, to find out which one needs to be smacked in the back of the head most.  Threat plates are the best solution to this, that I have seen.

Let’s get back to the stats, though, because that is the focus of GC’s article.  Let me ask this – How much threat would 125 hit rating net you?  Well, in order to obtain this information, you would have to do a whole crapton of math – Translate rating to %, then figure out how much more you would hit than miss without this stat, then figure out what strikes hit effects, and how often you use them, then translate that over to damage, and back to threat based on that damage.  *whew*

DPS, if they wanted to know exactly what Damage that Hit net them, they would have to go through a similar process, but hit is so fundamental to DPS that it is a moot point – you always make sure you are at hit cap, otherwise you are losing a significant amount of damage to misses.  DPS does not think twice about hit because they know they HAVE to be at cap.  Plus, DPS does not have a need to know how much threat a specific stat would generate.  Because tanks have different strikes that do not use hit tables (taunt anyone?), tanks don’t always need hit, nor do they have such an ingrained need to be at the cap.

Also is the always present question – Do I even need to increase my threat, as opposed to survivability?

Are You Really Dying, Or Just Faking It?

Let me ask you the single most fundamental question in tanking – Are you going to die?

Threat can be dealt with – Lower the DPS output, give time to get threat and build it up a bit, etc.  But, being one shot, there is nothing we can do about that.

Let’s play some mind games here.  Lets say that you are in a normal group – A healer, three dps, and a tank.  How do you know you have enough survivability?  When you die?  That’s what the healer is for.  The healer is supposed to keep you up.  Is the healer not up to par?  How do you know?

OK, let’s remove the healer.  Can your DPS heal you?  Should the DPS be able to heal you?

Survivability has to be the single most nebulous concept – everyone knows it, but no one can really quantify it.  Survivability is so essential to the game – you have to be alive to play, yet because so many factors are involved, there is no hard and fast “This is what you need to have” guideline.  And without that guideline, without that threat of dying or putting massive stress on your healer – why should you take 125 block over 1250 armor?

Survivability is not a binary stat.  By that I mean, it is not “you survive or you don’t.” I know, that seems a bit counter intuitive, right?  But surviving an encounter is more like “you survive with the help of a stressed out healer, and dps that were doing some healing, or you don’t.” The simple fact of the matter is that in almost all circumstances, having a better geared, and more skilled healer is more important than you squabbling over 1% dodge or .5% hit – In the long run, the healer has to be able to compensate for the RNG and differences in tanking style, more than you having 1% less survivability than threat.  Being an undergeared tank can be compensated for.  But being an overgeared tank with an undergeared healer is not going to help you much.

Ok, I Lied

Stats do matter.  They matter as a game mechanic – you need to block, dodge, and have armor to be able to survive the incoming hits.  You must have strength and hit and expertise to generate enough threat to keep the mobs stuck to you.  But in the big scheme of things, the stats are really only present on gear to function as progression – I know X piece of gear is better than the other, because it has .5% more dodge on it.

But as a function of being an interesting mechanic for tanks – There needs to be a better measure, and a much improved UI to boot, than just “we got through this encounter.”  That puts too much of the responsibility on your healer and your dps (either for backup healing or dialing back their dps to compensate for threat).  There needs to be a finer line in threat and a finer line in survivability for stats to really matter.

Image courtesy core77.com

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