Threat – Should It Matter?

When I speculated on merging some sort of threat reduction into the otherwise lackluster Icy Reach, to make up for the loss of Subversion and to make it closer (although still not equal) in value to other similar reach talents, some commenters pointed out the recent blue post in which GC states that talented threat reduction will be done away with in Cataclysm. Excellent. That’s all well and good, until this popped up:

He’s certainly right when he states that passive threat reduction talents are boring. Of course they are; they’re just like passive damage increase talents, except at least those talents, mundane as they may be, are visible in effect – you see the slightly larger numbers and always benefit from them; you can’t actually see when you’re producing slightly less threat (aside from opening up a threat meter), and you only benefit from it when it prevents you from pulling aggro. With that in mind, it’s utterly unsurprising that if they’re getting rid of passive damage talents, they’ll get rid of passive threat talents – all of the same arguments apply, and then some.

Thus, getting rid of threat reduction talents for dpsers and then balancing tank threat around that as appropriate? Good, very good.

But, unfortunately, Ghostcrawler went on to write, “Furthermore, we don’t want threat to just not matter,” and, with those words, he’s going down a very slippery slope. It makes little sense to cause threat to matter, but at the same time, remove one of the few avenues of managing threat (as faulty and distasteful as it may be)!

Think about it: You’re a Death Knight playing in the game and, suddenly, threat is actually a factor. You do what you, as a dpser, are supposed to do – max out your damage (while not dying and all that junk, of course!). You suddenly have you’re screen flash – you’re 5% threat away from pulling aggro off the tank.

What does Blizzard expect you to do, in such a scenario?

The fact is, all you can do is start underperforming; stop attacking, intentionally mangle your rotation, resort solely to white damage, etcetera. All you can do is start doing less; less than you previous were doing.

Is that the type of playing they want to promote, where you’re punished for performing your job optimally? Doubtful.

The fact is, you can’t have threat matter and yet not give every class a means by which to manipulate their threat (beyond the basic mechanics of dealing damage and healing health, of course). You just can’t; not without the above situation where you’re left utterly helpless.

Now, yes, I’m sure Blizzard is striving for that happy medium, where threat only matters if the tank is inept or the dpser is attacking the wrong target, but the rest of the time – where the tank and the dpser are both doing their respective jobs adequately – threat is a non-factor. That’s actually where things stand right now.

But, by removing threat reduction talents (and providing no compensation in their place), all you do is give solid dpsers who get stuck with lackluster tanks – via pugs, dungeon finder, or whatever – punishment for doing absolutely nothing wrong.

I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve had a tank in a 5 man yell at me for pulling aggro simply through damage. If the mobs in heroics were actually challenging, such that pulling aggro could actually kill me, I could grab Subversion and be safe. In Cata, where the mobs in heroics are supposed to be genuinly difficult, and where I won’t have Subversion as an option… what am I to do? Just be bad?

If you want threat to matter, then dpsers need a way to influence it beyond their damage, and if you don’t want it to be via passive means, which is an understandable desire, then you need to provide an active manner in which to do so.

Or, you know, just forget threat. Have it be a joke unless someone involved is afk or otherwise horrid. It wouldn’t be dumbing down the game, so much as it would be removing a near-invisible element which (usually) punishes the person doing their job, not the one who actually messed up.

Threat matters + DPS have active management of it -or- threat doesn’t matter. One or the other. You can’t do the seemingly currently line of “threat matters, but you as a dpser can’t do anything about it, haha!”.

23 Responses to Threat – Should It Matter?

  1. Zeran says:

    I (both as a blood tank and unholy dos) think threat should matter, but only in raids. I believe threat should matter in raids because you (the raid) shouldn’t be tolerant of people underpreforming. That being said, I have no objection to putting a threat-dump in for dps classes. My level 70 rogue has huge threat issues because she outgears every tank she gets paired with, but she can feint or vanish if it gets out of hand. Not having the option to reduce your threat sucks, and that is why my Death Knight, Druid, and Paladin all leveled as tanks.

    • Consider says:

      Exactly. Threat mattering is fine, and I completely understand the sentiment – but it only works if both people involved (meaning the tank and the dpser) can affect it. Without threat reduction talents, there’s no relationship; it’s all on the tanks, and if the tank is bad, you, the dpser, are the one who suffers.

  2. Alrenous says:

    Really the whole threat game is busted. It doesn’t even make sense; for anything but the dumbest mobs, is a taunt really going to make them attack the chunk of metal needling them with a tiny sword over the squishy guy tossing enormous fireballs at their face?

    It was originally designed so that the tank’s threat essentially determined group dps, and there was a trade-off between survivability and not wiping, versus threat and thus group dps. This is a terrible idea for all the reasons mentioned, but now they’re stuck with a model that effective at implementing only a terrible idea.

    The model should be about physically intervening, which would make sense and suggest solutions to all these issues. However, that overhaul is just way too far, and so they’re stuck with the crappy threat model, which is always going to have some kind of issue like this. I could mention threat dumps for managing poor tanks, for example, and how people just didn’t use them.

  3. Karesh says:

    With the mechanic of threat it is the most basic form of difficulty raiser for encounters. Forcing the players to “manage” their threat generation in the form of either talents, spells or abilities. If we are to lose the talent which reduces threat then something else needs to be put in it’s place. For threat I think it is more the responsibility of the Dpser than the tank as the tank already is busy trying to hold the attention of the mobs the group is fighting and the only job that dps is to burn down the mobs in the current encounter. Saying that though dps should be given the means to manage thier threat, talents are an easy fix and which leads to the problem of crowded and boring trees, something more interactive should be used instead like a baseline power. For a DK to have a spell or melée attack which was designed to reduce ones threat which was very easy to activate like a small amount of rune power would be one way to do this, another could be via glyphs or even a weapon rune chant but I guess it could lead down the same path as having a talent.
    I would like to see the return of challenging 5-man dungeons as at this time it is just a zerg of mass aoe destruction and the need for skill seems to be sliding more and more.

  4. Anaroth says:

    I agree with removing all passive threat talents, they’re a boring way to attempt to address the problem. If they’re needed it is much better to implement it at the tank end rather than the dps one. If your tank sucks then replace the tank.

    Threat should matter, that’s pretty obvious too.

    Which leads using active threat management. The problem is then that their active threat modifiers are really inconsistently implemented. Some classes have heaps, other literally none. This is really apparent on heroic LDW. The only thing that is reasonably consistent is the taunts, and they had to iterate on that before they gave all the tanking classes one.

    I’d remove all threat reduction abilities, and give everyone a shadowmeld like ability except it only dropped threat by 50%.

    If DPS is otherwise equal then pet using classes have a bit of a threat break given their pet has it’s own threat.

    In other news, reading the leaked FnF forums, it seems there are 2 relevant haste effects for melee. it seems wind fury-like effects buff (only) your attack-speed, while melee haste buffs attack speeds and resource generation.

    Frost get 8% melee haste from mastery.

    Unholy presence is 10% of some sort of haste bonuses. With the improved presence buffing some (maybe all) of that haste by 3-6%.

    Melee haste will probably buff your pets (it does on live), but I’m still really curious about unholy presence, as buffing general haste would be more useful. Unholy unlike frost uses a lot of instant spells, so the gcd reduction would be useful, it is also more dependent on disease damage where the tick frequency depends on (presumably spell) haste. Little things sure, but they could make the difference between viability of the presence.

  5. Rebellion says:

    Well my concern is that Blizz will go back to the days where threat was important and you were totaly screwed for beeing a hybrid. The days of warrior-vanish (aka soulstone), the days where hybrids did even dps but half the dmg of “pure dps” classes because they couldn’t lower/reset threat. I have to admit I’m not eager to go back to these times.
    While it is common today to not take subversion in the first place in most unholy and frost specs, fights like lady deathwhisper HM give me always a hard time and make me reconsider taking them anyway. It might be due to our tanks be downright bad, but lets face it, that will always happen, because you can’t avoid bad players.

    Furthermore the whole issue is on the back of hybrids, because a rogue, a mage, a hunter or a warlock will never have to care about it, though the warlock still hast the shortest stick among these 4. Until now this was resolved by giving hybrids often stronger thread reduction, thought it was watered down in this expansion quire a bit. Furthermore, for the major part of this expansion the goal was for threat NOT to matter at all, why else give away ridiculous ways of building up threat like IT-spam. With them going back to a place where it matters and you can’t influence it at all by yourself, I fear blizzard forgot about some details. It is highly unlickly that they will spread threat reduction talents among hybrids, especially so among tanking hybrids, at least thats their stance for over 5 years now.

    That still leaves out the problem that ranged dps may get agro at over 130% threat while melee classes are – at least for now – stuck with 100%.

    • Consider says:

      The reason melee have a 110% threshold while ranged have 130% is relatively silly, but hardly matters – (almost) all melee dps get a passive 20% threat reduction, talent-less. We get it in BP/UP (even though it doesn’t explicitly state so, it’s there without talents), Ferals get it in cat form, Rogues get it, etc.

      • Rebellion says:

        Then our tanks are really just bad I guess, kind a misconception my part though, thanks for illuminatiing me. That still leaves the other part of my concern valid, including the one mentioned above by someone elese: Pet classes/specs are favored over non-pet specs when it comes down to threat, even if it is just 10-12%.

  6. Raaj says:

    Hey Consider, have a read of the suck DPS DKs are putting out in ICC25 (based on DeathGoddess blog report here:
    And let us know what you think.

    Here is my favorite quote

    “On examination of Normal modes, DKs started in the middle of the pack through Festergut’s tank n spank, and faded fast to the end. By the end of the 12 fights, the BEST DK spec, unholy, was beaten out by at least one spec from EVERY class except poor, poor shammies. Unholy came in as the 11th-best dps spec in the game, and frost was 14th. The by-now-abandoned blood spec came in dead last – 19th – of the specs I looked at.”

    So, with our best spec, Unholy, WHILE USING SHADOWMOURNE, we are the second worst DPS class currently in the game. Luckily this is balanced by the fact we can call ourselves “Heroic” and look down on those that had to grind from levels 1 to 55. Lol.

    I enjoy playing my DK. I am not enjoying my relative raid DPS dropping every single week since January as our raid gets better gear. YMMV.

    • Anaroth says:

      While I like her blog, that post is a bit of a beat up.

      Her numbers are majorly skewed by the inclusion of BQL. Firstly that fight has some insane dps numbers for the people getting the first bite which ideally you want to go to someone who can use it. It’s also rather anti-pet classes, In general it’s a pretty poor fight to include.

      If you remove that fight then the numbers are far more even with unholy being about even with retribution. Yeah shadowmourne skews things somewhat probably being worth 500 dps at least on an average fight. Accounting for that leaves pretty much all hybrids below the bulk of then pure dps specs, and unholy and frost smack in the middle of them.

      Fury is of course an outlier, especially on fights where they get rage from incoming damage . Blizzard have pretty much admitted that. There’s several pure dps specs that need fixing.

      Of course, moving forward to cataclysm, DKs are going through massive changes, so issues that might exist now may not matter so much in the future.

      It would be good if they did something to improve pet crit scaling. (And also perhaps base damage multipliers).

    • Olanai says:

      I think the “top 10” sampling method is flawed. There’s no guarantee that the top 10 Death Knights will be aggregately equal in skill to the top 10 Rogues, or Mages, or whatever. You are, by definition, looking at the top-end outliers by examining only the top 10. I’d ignore the top 10 and look at spots 11-100 instead for a better average (less outliers, more samples). Sure, the numbers won’t be as high, but I think you’ll see a better representation of the class as opposed to the players, which is more suitable for relative comparisons.

    • Bactide of Arathor says:

      I really don’t think we need to discuss this here. The statistical (and logical) flaws of WoL top parses by spec have been discussed at various length on numerous threads across multiple forums at EJ. The bottom line is that just looking at the Top 10 parses for any spec is, as mentioned, really looking at the statistical outliers (what happens on Festergut when you get all Strength DWB procs, zero spores, etc.) which represent the maximum potential damage output, but are not reflective of the logically-expected DPS numbers when RNG elements apply. Furthermore, the top lists are influenced severely by what spec is percieved to be most powerful which clearly creates a circular path which leads things like Subtelty rogues to be vastly underrepresented on these lists and have decidedly lower numbers than they would have should they be percieved to be better, and thusly draw people of higher skill level to play the spec.

      In all honesty, when looking at such numbers, you’re doing yourself a disservice in the interpretation thereof if you are including numbers that stray from +/- 2 standard deviations from the arithmetic mean (which represents 95% of all samples in a data set that follows a normal distribution).

      Not to mention that all pet classes are penalized to varying degrees on all fights that give their masters a buff which does not transfer to the pets (Unholy DKs on BQL hit close to home). Ultimately, glaring discrepancies such as these are why Blizzard has stated they want to make pets scale as close to perfectly as possible from all of their masters statistics. When they do not, it creates obvious scaling issues.

  7. dmdskitzo says:

    Well if things are going to really be crowd controlled which leads to targets getting marked again I am not really worried about pulling threat.

    I feel like they are trying to make us have to worry about aoe threat not single target threat.

    Also they say everything is going to be harder or rather they imply that it is but is it really? I have a video here of a dungeon run of that under water one. These people really do not look like they are struggling :P. part one part two

    • Rebellion says:

      I doubt they do this on heroic mode, they seem to wear current gear and the instance isn’t even finished yet (the work signsblizzard puts at some places are good indicator ;)). Besides most of the pulls consist of 3 or less enemies.

  8. dwism says:

    I’ve always thought that building on hunters misdirection and rogues ToT, was the way to go. So that you, as a good dps, can at times take a slight cut in your damage output, to help the tank along the way.

    I guess the fine line here, is finding a way of doing this without having tanks demand it at all times in order to handle adds, yet still have it be a viable way of lowering threat.

    • Roth says:

      Pets need to get every buff their owner gets. If the owner gets +100% damage (BQL bite) then the pet should too.

      As for threat…it would be nice if we got some form of a threat dump. ERW would be a very good skill to add a threat dump too.

  9. Vorga says:

    My experience:

    Generally I never have aggro issues. The only time I have to worry is when 1) the dps starts on the mob before I touch it 2) the dps doesn’t know how to set me as focus or follow kill order.

    In summary: if the dps know what they’re doing, they won’t die with me.

    Don’t forget bliz is scaling our damage using the mastery system, which was one of our major issues up until this point (poor threat due to a lack of our dps sclaing with the dps). This should take care of the pesky mages that do 10k dps on a boss fight for tanks that have aggro issues these days.

    Sometimes I’ll dps with a bad tank. When I get the aggro warning: stop dps. That’s all. Raids might have to change their mentality, and tanks might have to look at threat more actively. Doesn’t sound like a big deal in all… Blizzard would certainly know what they’re doing in terms of capping dps to tank threat, and I don’t anticipate that boss fights will go south because of a mechanism they implemeted (they’ll anticpiate the dps cap due to threat limitations and design encoutners that way).

  10. Mysiana says:

    I would really like to see every class given some type of aggro dump ability; however, to make it more meaningful so that threat *matters* put it on a longer cooldown than most of the abilities we see today. Maybe something along the lines of a 20% drop on a 3-5 minute timer? (I’m just throwing arbitrary numbers out there)

  11. Jonneh says:

    I’m of two minds really. A tank has to have more to worry about that simply surviving, and turning a frontal aoe attack away from the raid. A good example I guess is a fight like say… Illidan. You had to counter the shear, move the mob away from the fire rings, provide enough threat, even swap out and back in for another ranged tank and then decide if its worth running the mob to a dps increasing “trap”. I doubt there were many tanks who didn’t tanking illidan cause it was boring. (Except the fire res ones ofc ;p)

    Making threat not matter makes tanks damage a non-issue, which means they’re just there to point a mob at and /afk until shield wall time. I think there is a place for threat, but it should only be included intentionally as part of a boss encounter. Make it part of the mechanic, part of the challenge. Force the tank to move the boss, or to stop hitting the boss, or to have threat resets which require burst threat to keep your dps doing their job and the raid optimal.

    At the same time you can make it so there are some encounters where threat just doesn’t matter, the tank gets a massive boost (Festergut) or there is constant add killing (ala Suppressors on Dreamwalker) so when the DPS are on the boss they know that they can go all out and not worry.

    I think what I’m saying is pretty similar to what we’ve experienced before now. I think we can all remember fights where we had to worry about threat and others when we just didnt care.

    I do agree that all dps should have some say over how their threat management works, beyond a passive talent. The problem with it is, how do you give them that control without making it trivial? Let’s see rogues at the moment, full reset on 2 minute cooldown, and tricks which can reduce their own threat while increasing the tanks. Trivial. Hunters, trivial… Warlocks are a bit different, because if they use their cooldown to early and catch up again they’re in trouble, so there is a pressure to use it as late as possible so that you lose a larger chunk of threat ie: 500k vs 100k, depending on when you use it. Is that better? Probably not, because if they need to use it at 200k threat they either waste the cooldown early (and maybe end up having to stop later) or just stopping DPS to let the tank get ahead.

    Mages have it worst i guess because they lose dps to try and use their threat reduction, more so than the other classes, and it has a chance to fail!

    Seems like a bit of a crazy spread doesn’t it?

    The big question is, how do you make threat matter without making it frustrating and without making it a pointless loss of DPS?

    I really don’t know the answer. Maybe it should be part of the challenge for some encounters as I said above.

    • Sag says:

      Given what happens when threat is pulled I would say mages have it ok. Also last I checked a warlock’s soul shatter could fail/be resisted. Ice block can’t. Mages also have invis, yes that have to stop for it, but from talking to other mages, just a tick or two is enough instead of needing the full threat wipe, also mirror image wipes a significant portion of threat away, if not all of it.. So mages get 3 CDs.

      Hunters get Fd every like 30 seconds (I do not know if disengage removes threat anymore).

      Rogues also have feint along with everything else you mentioned, they do lose some DPS by using feint. but dead DPS = no DPS.

      Warlocks have soul shatter every 5 min and a SS cost with it. I fail to see how mages have it the worst.

      • Minaka says:

        Soulshatter now has a 3 minute cooldown, and is no longer affected by spell hit chance.

      • Jonneh says:

        Yeah locks cant fail anymore, and its just a global like FD or Vanish so, mages still have the worst one out of them all imo.

        Anyway, the point was to illustrate that the solutions they have in place atm for active skills to reduce threat are pretty crappy anyway, not to debait the benefits of the other classes.

        Also, rogues dont use feignt, at least i’ve never seen one use it. Its a DPS increase to use vanish and loose 100% of your threat, so why bother?

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