Tanking paradigm moving forward

#1 - March 15, 2017, 10:06 p.m.
Blizzard Post
I think Nighthold taught us some valuable lessons about tank balance, however I think going in the direction of homogenization is the wrong one. With better design and balance, I think there could be very interesting gameplay with tanks.


1. Some tanks (Guardian, Brewmaster) were just too good at dealing with both Physical and Magical damage.
This one speaks for itself. When you have tanks with no weaknesses vs. tanks with weaknesses, it's really a no brainer that you'll pick the tank with no weaknesses.

2. Raid encounters amplify this imbalance
You might have the best physical damage tank in the world, but if there's negligible physical damage in the encounters, that tank is still not going to be good.


1. There needs to be a better balance of the tanks in game.
I think it is actually a good idea to have some tanks stronger at physical or magical than others, but not both like it was in Nighthold. Each tank should have strengths and weaknesses. This way every tank will get to shine and there wont be homogenization. Here is what I think the devs should aim for:
70% Physical, 30% Magical
Protection Warrior
Strengths: Best physical damage tank by far
Weaknesses: Cannot handle magic damage as well
60% Physical, 40% Magical
Protection Paladin
50% Physical, 50% Magical
Brewmaster Monk
Guardian Druid
Strengths: all rounder tanks
Weaknesses: does not particularly shine in any encounter
40% Physical, 60% Magical
Vengeance Demon Hunter
30% Physical, 70% Magical
Blood Death Knight
Strengths: Anti magic tank.
Weakness: More vulnerable to physical damage
Unfortunately it was more like 80% 80% for Guardian in Nighthold, so it will probably skew your perception a bit. Now you are probably thinking: wouldn't I just change tanks on a fight by fight basis? Thats where #2 comes in:

2. Raid encounters need a good balance of physical and magical damage
Despite the complaints about magic damage in Nighthold, I think it was a good thing. It added an extra element to tanking. The only problem was Guardians/Monks had too many tools, and there wasn't enough physical damage for Warriors to shine.

With balanced tanks and a more balanced distribution of Physical and Magical damage encounters, what will happen is all the tanks will shine and we will see a much healthier distribution of tanks in PvE. If you have a raid encounter where phase 1 is 65/35 physical/magical, phase 2 is 50/50 and phase 3 is 35/65, there is no longer a "best" tank to bring on an encounter by encounter basis.
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#10 - March 16, 2017, 2:25 a.m.
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The situation around Nighthold, tank balance, and magical damage has spawned a lot of discussion for us in recent weeks, ranging from immediate balance concerns to philosophical issues of how magic damage should be used. We do feel that the damage profile in Nighthold caused tanks to be less balanced than we'd like on a handful of encounters.

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, because you trade one activation of Ironfur for it, whereas there's no similar downside to activating Empower Wards. 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.

For the long run, a lot of the feedback on this forum has correctly identified some of the challenges and tradeoffs in how this should be addressed. 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. That's something we're going to continue to revise for future tiers of content, but of course that more philosophical discussion won't affect Nighthold.

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.

As people's focus turns more to Tomb in upcoming months, we welcome any discussion about to what extent people see similar problems arising there, and whether further class changes (beyond reexamining Mark of Ursol) are warranted for long-term balance outside of the specific context of Nighthold.
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#66 - March 16, 2017, 6:24 a.m.
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Something I wasn't clear enough about above: re-evaluating Mark of Ursol would still be before Tomb of Sargeras. Other broad class tuning based on PTR testing and other data closer to that point would also take place as usual, at the start of the new raid. But that's one concrete item we can already mention.
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#448 - April 7, 2017, 8:52 p.m.
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In my earlier post on this thread, I mentioned we were already considering what the right changes to Guardian would be going into Tomb, but that it was likely going to be for 7.2.5 and not 7.2. In the first 7.2.5 PTR, you can expect to see the following changes to Guardian:

--Mark of Ursol removed
--Maul costs 30 Rage (from 20), is now on the GCD, can now proc Gore, and damage increased by 400%.

I imagine the first change is most pertinent to those focused on the broader issue of tank balance. It may seem rather extreme, and that's part of why doing it mid-tier wasn't the plan we went with. But two factors that were important were 1) Mark of Ursol's design (trade your physical AM for a magical AM) was somewhat incompatible with any use of magic damage other than an occasional threatening spike, and 2) Druids had little in the way of identifiable weaknesses or things that potentially scare them. Even without Mark of Ursol, they have a mastery that's fully effective against magic, multiple medium to long cooldowns, Frenzied Regeneration, and some passives like Adaptive Fur. While we'll be continuing to watch this in 7.2.5 development, our expectation is that they will not struggle to complete content that involves magic damage--which the clearest test of why a button that allows them to mitigate it so much further is not needed at all.