Once More – Into The Breach

It has been a plain ridiculous amount of time since I last blogged, for which I have received plenty of well-deserved flak, but such is how matters worked out, and it was probably for the best anyways. Perhaps it would have been better if I had been a bit more persistent with the whole thing, but I simply haven’t been terribly enthused about anything WoW related (or MMO related at all, for that matter) in a while, and writing without any motivation beyond “because I should” is just horrid. On the other hand, when you have a topic which truly interests you, which gets your brain racing in a dozen different directions trying to speculate, math, or reason out the possibilities… well, in such a case, writing is easy. The hard part in such a scenario is not how to start, but when to stop, and when you find yourself in such a situation, you generally welcome it… as I do now.

What, may you ask, has finally given me this sudden impulse to ramble?

No, it wasn’t the press release from last week which detailed Blizzard’s ingenius plot to merge Farmville, Pokemon, Kung Fu Panda, and, of course, Warcraft, to concoct a product which could rival crack or nicotine in terms of addictability (which isn’t a word, but should be).  For those who follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I’m actually pretty pleased with how Mists of Pandaria looks and I have few, if any, complaints. My largest concern isn’t that the expansion will be awesome, but rather that subsequent patches during the expansion’s life cycle may not live up to that initial joy. As I would argue was largely the case with Cataclysm, but that’s neither here nor there.

No, I wasn’t in the first wave of MoP beta, unfortunately, although such a thing is just a matter of time.  I did do the Annual Pass immediately, in combination with my account being open since January 2005 (which is crazy to think about, but another topic for another time, perhaps), so I’m not too concerned this time around.

No, it wasn’t some shocking Death Knight revelation any of the actual beta testers (curse their souls; unconcerned I may be, but jealous and envious of those with access all the same!) discovered. DK wise, things appear pretty much as expected, from what I read, which isn’t shocking – we didn’t get any drastic changes (beyond the ones inherent with the talent reform), as most of our mechanics stayed roughly the same, and our new abilities are all pretty unambiguous in their effects, so no real surprises there. If you’re happy with your DK now, you’ll likely be even happier in MoP. We didn’t get anything likeable taken away/nerfed (in usability; numbers are rather pointless to consider at the moment), and got plenty of quality of life improvements, on top of some new toys to play with. Which isn’t to say I won’ t spend some time during beta talking about Death Knights – I almost certainly will – just that I see little to talk about as of yet, and thus will hold off till we see a bit more/things develop/I get beta access.

The reason for this entry?

Warlocks, of all things. Crazier still, it’s about the potential of Warlock tanks – beyond the rare gimmick encounter like Illidan. The very, very real potential.

First off, before one entertains this possibility (and subsequently sees how amazingly close to reality it amusingly is), it has to be determined: beyond the game letting you queue as it, what does it take for a class to be able to tank?

Personally, I would break it down into seven different, but essential aspects.

  • Crit Immunity
  • Mitigation/Damage Reduction
  • Health Modifier
  • Avoidance
  • Taunts
  • Threat
  • Cooldowns
  • Gear Scaling

I don’t believe it’s necessary to expound on what I mean by each of these (or why I view them as necessary to the basic WoW tank design). They’re all pretty self explanatory, and I assume most people would likely agree with what I have listed. Sure, some might combine some categories (threat and taunts, perhaps), but that doesn’t change the points themselves. You need all eight of these available to you in order to be able to viably tank. Missing one doesn’t mean you can’t tank a specific encounter – there are plenty of fights where taunt is never used or cooldowns are needless. But to be able to tank any current content available to you, to be able to be a main tank, to be able to reliably fill the “tank” role in your raid during progression… you want all seven. You need them.

And every single tanking spec has them… as, in beta, does Demonology.

  • Crit Immunity? Metamorphosis – specifically, Nether Plating.
  • Mitigation/Damage Reduction? Metamorphosis – specifically, Nether Plating in combination with Glyph of Demon Hunting.  If anything, Warlocks would be far too strong in this area, but nothing that can’t be fixed with number tweaks.
  • Health? Grimoire of Sacrifice.
  • Taunts? Metamorphosis – specifically, Provocation and Soul Shatter, the latter in combination with Glyph of Demon Hunting.
  • Threat? Metamorphosis – presumably only with Glyph of Demon Hunting.
  • Cooldowns? Unending Resolve, Twilight Ward, Dark Regeneration,  and any of the tier three talents.
  • Gear Scaling? Metamorphosis – specifically, Glyph of Demon Hunting.

“But wait”, you might say, “Metamorphosis is a cooldown! That’s like saying a Rogue can tank with evasion up! True, perhaps, but meaningless if they can’t do it 100% of the time!”

Wrong there on two accounts; first, that even if a Rogue could have evasion up at all times, they could tank (they miss several of the aforementioned criteria – most importantly threat/taunts), and second, that Metamorphosis is a cooldown – in MoP, it no longer is (the catch being you need Demonic Fury, Demonology’s new secondary resource, to use many Metamorphosis abilities… but even that is solved by the introduction of GoDH, which lets you sustain yourself limitlessly).

Now, the attentive amongst you may have noticed I left out Avoidance.  This is the only area where Demonology lacks, and that is easily remedied with a simple passive/glyph/whatever which converts Haste Rating and Crit Rating to Parry Rating and Dodge Rating. An easy, elegant fix. Not only does it solve the lack of avoidance, it improves gear scaling (so you care about more than just mastery/hit/expertise) and would help tone down the spec’s damage (which, even with how GoDH affects mastery, could be a bit on the high side for a tank, at least in PvP). So simple, and I’m sure it’s something Blizzard has thought of – if that’s all that the spec ends up lacking, then it’s an easy matter to remedy.

And the fact of the matter is that, [i]yes[/i], that is all the spec lacks! It has everything covered, and by everything, I don’t just mean the essentials – it has interrupts, it has self-centered AoE, it has a gap closer, it has plenty of ranged abilities (but, to be clear, due to how GoDH affects Demonic Slash, you would need to be meleeing – or, at least, in melee range – most of the time, which is for the better. It would keep the spec balanced with that of other tanks), and so forth. It has unique (to the group of tank) mechanics with pets and with spells like Archimonde’s Vengeance. It could work.

Some have asked me why monks don’t interest me terribly, and it’s largely because there’s nothing all that special about them. Yes, they are a new class, and they have their unique attributes, but nothing totally out there. Nothing which just screams “you have to try this to believe it” or “no other class plays like this”. And, for the record, there’s nothing wrong with that. Monks are a very well designed class, simply not a revolutionary one. This is quite unlike Death Knights, who were something else at the beginning – in terms of raw power, yes, but more importantly in terms of mechanics. The first dual resource system (aside from energy and combo points, which was and, for the most part, still is quite simplistic), multiple specs that could tank, specs that could tank or dps, dps that could dual wield or use a 2 handers, pet or no pet depending on your preference, wild talents like Unholy Blight (never forget!), starting at level 55 with a unique beginner area, runeforging (which had more promise then than now), and so forth. Considering how explosive the introduction of DKs were, it’s likely for the best that Monks aren’t quite as overwhelming, and I see nothing wrong with those who choose to play one – merely explaining my lack of desire to do so.

Demonology Warlocks, on the other hand? [i]That[/i] is something crazy. Turning a pure into a hybrid, adding a role to a spec (the opposite has been done, sure, but not this)… it’s never been done. Yet the best part about it is that it fits! It makes sense. The tools are all there; it’s simply rearranging them, if you will, and fiddling around some numbers.  This is on top of the fact that Demonology in general – tank or dps – seems to be getting a much improved rotation and general flow-of-combat.

I’ll cut myself off now, but do expect more on this subject (assuming Blizzard doesn’t pull a 180). If there was anything to truly get me back to my theorycrafting roots, it was this. If there was anything to get me to test like crazy in beta, it was this. If there is anything which will have me blogging and posting feedback each patch, it was this.

Yes, I am excited and, even if you have zero care as to how this experiment turns out, you should be to. Why? Because it shows Blizzard taking a risk, innovating (in a way)… particularly when they don’t actually have to. It says a lot, and gives me a tons of hope for how the rest of MoP turns out, this gem aside.

Not to mention the practical benefits of quicker LFR queues, less gear competition (if your co-tank is now a Warlock instead of another plate wearer), and so forth.

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8 Responses to Once More – Into The Breach

  1. Mr. Tastix says:

    I am for and against the idea of warlock tanking, as viable as it may sound.

    I won’t go into huge detail but simply put, I’m for it because the idea just sounds neat and different. I’m against the idea because I feel there are a few other classes that just seem better suited for the job, even if they’d have to have a lot of the tanking necessities added.

    I also fear that if warlocks were given a tanking option then it would kill the current Demonology spec for dps, which I’ve enjoyed in the past. Blizzard don’t -have- to remove the dps function of Demonology to also make it a viable tanking method, but it’d simply anger me if they didn’t when they did so for Death Knights.

    • Consider says:

      What other class which doesn’t have the option available already has more mechanics which would lend themselves to tanking? I can’t think of one more fitting. The closest you can get is maybe (and this is a huge maybe) shaman, and that’s only because they have a shield and have a taunt. They have no threat modifier… nor a stance/shapeshift to tack it on to. They can’t simply reverse the mastery, so they would need to completely change it. They have minimal damage reduction CDs (less than most dps, for that matter). They have no health modifier. Etcetera.

      Warlocks, whether or not Blizzard ends up pursuing this whole idea, will still have more of these integral tank mechanics than any other non tank spec, and the few which they don’t have they can be granted more easily (i.e, with less complexity and shoehorning) than others.

      I will give you the issue with a dps and a tanking role coexisting with one spec. It hasn’t worked out well in the past – to the point where feral, where it’s been like that even predating DKs, is now split into two specs. Which, for that matter, is something Blizzard could entertain – it seems like it would be easy to add additional specs in MoP, since you wouldn’t have to change the talents themselves. But it would require them to be able to give this new spec an identity (beyond simply “it tanks” instead of “it dpses”) seperate from Demonology, flavor and mechanic wise. Which they could do, if they had to, but part of the elegance of the whole situation is how little they need to do already, so that would be a contradiction, in a way.

      Oh, the possibilities.

      • Mr. Tastix says:

        I acknowledged that most other classes don’t have the requirements you laid out that would make them suitable for tanking (a list I agree with), I just don’t know if I’m too fond of the whole “warlock tank” thing just yet, I’m sure it’d grow on me with time.

        Call me old-school or what-have-you, I am just far too used to age-old tradition of having bulky plate-wielding melee-goers as the “tank”.

  2. Kasty says:

    You gotta believe! I think it will be interesting to have 2 new options for tanking if they decide to.

  3. Dalavita says:

    Are you done blogging about death knights and moving on to warlocks then, or will us death knights get your thoughts over the expansion?

    • Consider says:

      I’m just blogging about whatever piques my interest. It just happened to be Warlocks and this unpredicted phenomena. I’m sure something with DKs will pop up and interest me, at some point, but at the moment, there’s just nothing terribly special about them in beta, not to my eyes. As I explained towards the top of the post, we didn’t get anything ambiguous in mechanics, terribly complicated in the math, questionable in regards to positive/negative effect on the class, etc. DKs are in a fine place in beta, but not one which lends itself to many talking points.

      Unless there’s something I missed, of course.

  4. Derah says:

    This is all very interesting, but it does baffles me a little.

    Why would blizzard split the feral tree into a DPS/tank exclusive tree (under the guise that it was OP/hard to balance a hybrid) and then add another hybrid?

    doesn’t make much sense, if they do end up going forward with this, they need to remove the Glyph of demon hunting, and simply add a warlock tanking tree. That way, DPS stays as DPS, tanks stay as tanks

  5. Derah says:

    =/

    well, the dream was nice while it lasted, but lock-tanking seems to be shot down to hell.

    maybe next expac?

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