For WoW Tanks, It’s Time To Take Our Pants Off Again

OK, fellow tanks, it looks like it’s time to get our Magic Mike on again. Yep, along with Pandas and Pet Battles, Blizzard’s bringing back the tearaway pants for WoW tanks.

I’m sure many of you are giving this the full-on “WTH?” moment. Allow me to explain.

You might think that for a WoW tank, more armour is better. But that’s just not the case. As Blizzard have struggled to balance tank DPS to be useful but not overpowered, WoW tanks have gone through various phases where we could tank best by reducing our armour, taking more damage, and doing more damage and threat as a result. Traditionally, we’d achieve this by taking off items of clothing. And what single item has the most armour?


We thought this problem had gone away thanks to the introduction of Vengeance, and Blizzard’s subsequent attempts to improve it. But, as Theck demonstrates today, that’s not the case. In fact, MoP features yet another attempt to fix Vengeance, and as a result looks set to see the return of the pantless tank in a big way – and that’s not the only wierd effect the new Vengeance mechanic will have

“Tank DPS is also going to vary significantly across content in this system. Our output will fluctuate wildly with encounter mechanics, specifically bosses with large variances in time-off-target. Or for that matter, sections of an encounter where one tank is taking most of the damage, leaving the off-tank doing very little. And there will be a huge variation in damage not just between 10-man and 25-man versions of content, but between normal and heroic versions of that content. I can see that being a huge balancing nightmare on several fronts – a retribution paladin does similar damage whether you set the boss to normal or heroic mode, but your tank’s damage may vary by up to a factor of 2.

I also don’t see the point in having a significant difference in tank DPS between 10- and 25-man versions of content. Tank damage may be a smaller proportion of raid DPS in the 25-man format, but it’s no less important. For bosses with reasonably-tuned enrage timers (i.e., almost every meaningful heroic mode), tanks were already doing what they could to optimize damage. It really doesn’t need to be normalized to keep the players happy, and I doubt it’s a significant hurdle in balancing the encounters given the array of other, more noticeable differences between the formats.

Another side-effect of our DPS being dependent on boss DPS is that it opens up some really bizarre situations for our rotation. Our abilities don’t scale equally with AP, and as a result our optimum rotation changes based on whether we’re at 0% or 100% Vengeance. Amplifying this effect and making it vary per encounter is even worse, because it means that our ideal rotation can now change from boss to boss.

Now, you might say, “But wait Theck, DPS specs change their rotation from boss to boss too.” And you’d be right, but only in the trivial sense. They may perform different actions for different numbers of targets, or bosses with strange special abilities. But they don’t change anything when going from Patchwerk #1 to Patchwerk #2, which is their basic “nuke a single target” rotation, the bread-and-butter of their class. But with “new Vengeance,” a tank’s ideal rotation could be different depending on which boss they’re facing, what phase it is, and whether they’re the main- or off-tank.”

Theck’s talking about Paladin tanks, his speciality, but as far as I know the changes to Vengeance will mess with all tanks equally. And Theck takes us on a fascinating journey through all the potential ramifications in this post – not just pantless tanks and wierd DPS rotations, but BiS tanks being out-DPSed by alts in greens and more.

Even if you don’t care about WoW or tanking, this is a fascinating read from a game development perspective – some well-intentioned and reasonably well-thought-out changes turn out to have really, really unexpected emergent consequences. And if you are interested in WoW tanking, I’d say this one’s a must-read – if only so that you can start collecting your DPS set and preparing the appropriate emotes for when you suddenly have to whip off your outerwear…

Bow-tie optional.

So, will you be joining the Pantless Tanking Craze?